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Russia Report: January 26, 2000


26 January 2000, Volume 2, Number 4
PAN-REGIONAL ISSUES: TITOV CRITICIZES DUMA BOYCOTTERS...
Most Russian regional leaders reacted calmly to news of the walk-out from the first session of the new State Duma by the factions of Fatherland-All Russia, Union of Rightist Deputies, and Yabloko, but presidential candidate and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov offered his support for the boycotting factions. He declared on 19 January that the "parliamentary crisis showed the fragility and dissipation of Russian democracy." However, by 25 January, Titov, who is a member of SPS, said he does not support SPS's decision not to accept any committee posts, including the chairmanship of the legislation committee, in the new Duma. He explained that as soon as the alliance accepted voters' support, it assumed the responsibility to compete for leadership posts. JAC

...AS MOST REGIONAL LEADERS NONCHALANT ABOUT DUMA SPLIT.
Right after the split first occurred, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that "nothing extraordinary" has happened in the State Duma, while North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov said the refusal of some factions to participate in the new Duma is "not useful." Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov and Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko both hailed news of Seleznev's re-election as Duma speaker. Rakhimov called Seleznev "one of the most experienced and capable of compromise politicians in our country," according to Interfax-Eurasia. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 19 January that he does not think that the alliance between the Communists and Unity will last long. He told Interfax the next day that emotions played a large role in factions' walking out and that he hopes the conflict will be settled soon. Yakovlev, Rakhimov and Shaimiev were all members of OVR. JAC

CENTER TO IMPOSE STRICTER CONTROLS OVER REGIONAL FINANCES...
In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 21 January, First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin outlined the procedure by which the federal government will ensure that all regions eliminate the debt to state sector workers, such as teachers. He said that the finance ministry has calculated that "if regions do nothing except set aside 40 percent of their revenues for wages, then the overall debt will amount to 6.2 billion rubles ($229 million) by 1 April." However, he noted that some regions will be able to eliminate only part of their wage arrears while some might even increase them. And for these regions, the center is willing to transfer extra money for which Moscow will "set forth a number of requirements to establish stricter control over expenses and to distribute revenues more efficiently." On 24 January, the administration of Sakhalin Oblast reported 15 million rubles of the 1 billion rubles that the federal center has set aside for regions to repay budgets will be transferred to the oblast. JAC

...AND TO GATHER MORE DATA ABOUT REGIONS, LOCAL ENTERPRISES.
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 January that the Tax Ministry is working on a project to develop tax "passports" for Russian regions. These "passports" would list the full tax-paying potential of each region as well as its tax obligations to the federal budget. According to the daily, the curiosity of tax officials "has no limit": they want to know not only everything about each region but also about every Russian taxpayer. Recently in Volgograd Oblast tax officials started compiling an information register about the region's enterprises, which includes data about the enterprises' activities, its directors, number of employees, investment projects, etc. The daily reports that it is possible that this initiative will be extended to other regions and in that case, tax officials will have "total control over tax (paying) organs." JAC

NEW DUMA POINT PEOPLE ON REGIONS NAMED.
On 19 January, State Duma deputies voted to approve a resolution appointing a number of chairmen to committees in the lower legislative house (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2000). Among those appointments were Leonid Ivanchenko (Communist) as head of the committee on Federation Affairs and Regional Policies. Ivanchenko, who is a former governor of Rostov Oblast, headed the committee in the last Duma. Valentina Pivenenko (Otechestvo) was appointed chair of the Committee for Problems of North and Far East. She is the former head of the republic of Karelia's legislative assembly. Pivenenko was elected from Karelia's single mandate district, where she was registered an independent. Now, however, she is a member of the People's Deputy group. No chairman has been named yet for head of the Nationalities' Committee, but the Agricultural-Industrial deputies group nominated Aleksandr Tkachev for this post on 24 January. The website, http://www.polit.ru, reported that deputy Svetlana Smirnova (People's Deputy) and Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) have also expressed their interest in the position. JAC

WORST REGIONAL OFFENDERS IN DUMA ELECTIONS LISTED.
In an article published in "The Russia Journal" in its issue dated 24-30 January, Georgii Satarov, president of the Fair Elections Coordination Center, concluded that gross violations of electoral laws were widespread during the 19 December elections to the State Duma; however, the regions where the most violations were seen were Moscow, Irkutsk, Tver, and Orel Oblasts and the republic of Komi. Among the most frequent violations were campaigning outside of the dates fixed by law and campaigning by members of local election commissions and local government. Satarov cited as one of the most egregious examples the fact that election candidates themselves were on the election commission of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug. JAC

FEDERAL OFFICIAL SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCACY UNPOPULAR IN REGIONS.
In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 19 January, Vladimir Kartashkin, chairman of the presidential commission for human rights, acknowledged that "some leaders of regional administrations mistrust commissions for human rights" and that his commission "has various problems with policies in the regions." He said that his commission is currently concerned about draft regulation from the plenipotentiary for human rights in Tatarstan that stipulates that the plenipotentiary will consider complaints by citizens of Tatarstan and people without citizenship but does not mention Russian citizens. According to Kartashkin, one of his office's most urgent cases before the commission this year was that of extreme overcrowding in detention cells in Yekaterinburg. He said that in some detention cells there were less than one square meter per person compared with the European standard of four square meters per person and the Russian standard of 2.5. JAC

CHUKOTKA: AIR CARRIER'S GROUNDING CUTS OFF FAR EAST.
Flights to the Far East have been practically paralyzed after one of Russia's largest domestic airlines, Domodedovo Airlines, canceled all of its flights on 20 January, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The airline announced it was canceling all its flights after the federal tax inspectorate froze all of its bank accounts. Domodedovo services around 70 percent of all flights to cities in the Far East such as Vladivostok, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and Khabarovsk. Only Domodedovo services some cities such as Anadyr and Yuzhko-Sakhalinsk. The airline owes the federal government some 16 million rubles ($560,000); however, the company claims that government owes the airline more than 200 million rubles. On 22 January, the company made an exception to its ban on all domestic flights, and the regularly scheduled passenger flight between Moscow and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk began again. JAC

JEWISH AUTONOMOUS OKRUG: COMPETITION EMERGES FOR GOVERNOR'S SEAT.
A second candidate, the head of the administration for municipal education in the Oktyabrskii Raion, Gennadii Sirotkin, for gubernatorial elections in the okrug scheduled for 26 March was nominated by an initiative group on 21 January, according to Interfax-Eurasia. In order for his nomination to be valid, Sirotkin and his supporters must gather more than 2,500 signatures by 13 February. Incumbent Governor Nikolai Volkov has already declared that he will seek re-election (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 19 January 2000). JAC

KIROV: ZHIRINOVSKII MAY RUN FOR GOVERNOR.
"Nezavisimya gazeta" reported on 20 January that sources in Kirov Oblast believe that Vladimir Zhirinovskii, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, may participate in gubernatorial elections scheduled there for 26 March. Those elections were recently moved up to coincide with presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Federation Report" 12 & 19 January 2000). Zhirinovskii lost a governor's race in Belgorod Oblast last May and was disqualified from running for governor in Sverdlovsk Oblast. Kirov Oblast's incumbent Governor Vladimir Sergeenkov has declared that he will seek re-election. JAC

NOVGOROD: ANOTHER REGIONAL BUSINESS EXECUTIVE MURDERED.
Yevgenii Shulman, director of the Promyshlenny Kompleks Splav, a company that produces oil and gas industry equipment, was murdered in his office in Veliky Novgorod on 24 January. According to Interfax-Northwest, Shulman sustained head injuries. Shulman also served in the Novgorod Oblast legislature. So far, Shulman is the third prominent regional executive killed this month (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 12 & 19 January 2000). An executive killed in Tomsk this month also worked in the oil and gas industry equipment sector. JAC

PSKOV: MAYOR'S SUPPORTERS TRY TO PUT NEWSPAPER IN THEIR POCKET.
In advance of the end of February mayoral elections in the city of Pskov, an important political struggle is taking place over the main city newspaper, "Novosti Pskova," according to RFE/RL's "Korrespondentskii chas" on 15 January. The newspaper, which was established by the city administration, city duma and a journalists' collective, is the only newspaper in the region which supports Pskov Mayor Aleksandr Prokofiev and openly opposes Pskov Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov, RFE/RL's Pskov correspondent reported. Despite the newspaper's pro-city orientation, the Pskov city administration would prefer to leave little to chance and at the end of December tried to guarantee the future political sympathies of the publication by establishing a new non-commercial entity which would publish the city newspaper. Journalists who currently work for the newspaper are supposed to transfer to the publishing house and conclude work contracts with it. The chief editor of the newspaper along with a number of the journalists are opposed to the measure and have appealed to the city's legislative assembly. However, city legislators cannot resolve the issue of the newspaper's legal status. Therefore, the question will likely either be left to the courts or will be made moot by election results. JAC

SMOLENSK: CITY PROPOSES ITSELF AS NEW CAPITAL FOR NEW UNION.
Smolensk Governor Aleksandr Prokhorov confirmed that the city of Smolensk wants to become the capital city of the future union of Russia and Belarus, Mayak Radio reported on 22 January. According to Prokhorov, Smolensk is ideal because of its location halfway between Moscow and Minsk. JAC

TATARSTAN: FOREIGN INVESTOR INTEREST IN TATNEFT REVIVING?
"The Moscow Times" reported on 25 January that Moscow-based brokerages are currently rating Tatneft stock a "buy" or "speculative buy." It also reported that according to Tatneft's annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on 20 June 1999, current and former Tatneft employees are being allowed by the Tatarstan government to split off oil fields from the company and form separate production entities. And, by 15 June of that year, newly formed oil companies held licenses for 24 oil fields. According to the report, "it is unclear whether these transfers were fully in compliance with Russian law." The daily also notes that Tatneft borrowed $1.2 billion on capital markets over a two year period and has not managed to boost its oil production or launch large capital intensive projects. JAC

UDMURTIA: REFERENDUM ON PRESIDENCY SCHEDULED.
Legislators in Udmurtia's legislative assembly voted on 24 January to adopt changes to the republic's constitution so that a referendum that would introduce the post of the presidency can be held. The referendum will now be held on 26 March, simultaneous with Russian presidential elections. Legislators missed an earlier deadline to adopt changes to the constitution so that the referendum might be held on 19 December and the republican presidential elections could then be scheduled to occur at the same time as federation presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 December 1999). JAC

REGIONAL INDEX
Cancel That Transfer To Kudymkar
In a survey of regions within Russia conducted by the weekly, "Interfax-VREMYA" issue dated 20 January, Moscow ranked the first in terms of quality of life. The republic of Bashkortostan ranked second and Krasnodar Krai came in third. The rankings were based on three criteria: percentage of cash revenues to the minimum living wage, the number of square meters of housing space per person, and the number of registered crimes per thousand persons. Among the areas that scored the worst in terms of quality of life were a number of autonomous okrugs and oblasts.

Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug scored the worst of all federation subjects with 7 times less revenues, 21 times less living space and three times as much crime as the city of Moscow. The region, which is located in the Urals, forms the north-western corner of Perm Oblast. In 1998, life expectancy in the okrug was 10-11 years less than in the rest of the country and the level of education among its rural residents (about 70% of the total population) was 2.5-3 years less than the average for Perm oblast, according to "EWI's Russian Regional Report." The Komi-Permyaks considers themselves to be ethnically Komi and speak the Komi language, which is a Finno-Ugric language. JAC

Top Ten Best Places to Live

1. Moscow city

2. Bashkortostan Republic

3. Krasnodar Krai

4. Belgorod Oblast

5. Tatarstan Republic

6. Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

7. Samara Oblast

8. Sakha Republic

9. Lipetsk Oblast

10. Republic of North Ossetia

10. Kabardino-Balkaria Republic

Ten Worst Places to Live

1. Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug

2. Jewish Autonomous Oblast

3. Chita Oblast

4. Tyva Republic

5. Agin-Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug

6. Novosibirsk Oblast

7. Magadan Oblast

8. Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug

9. Primorskii Krai

10. Altai Republic

Source: Interfax-VREMYA, 20 January 2000

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