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Russia Report: February 9, 2000


9 February 2000, Volume 2, Number 6
PAN-REGIONAL ISSUES: CENTER TO BRING REGIONAL LAWS IN LINE WITH FEDERAL...
Justice Minister Yurii Chaika announced on 7 February that an interdepartmental commission on questions related to the protection of the constitution will be created, Interfax reported. The commission's basic work will be to check the compliance of the laws in federation subjects with the federal constitution. He noted that around 20 percent of local laws violate the constitution and "our task will be to bring some order to this question." Chaika's comments follow statements by acting President Vladimir Putin on 31 January that he wants to declare war on the "legal chaos" in the regions, "Segodnya" reported on 1 February. Putin also mentioned that the "laws of a number of federation subjects conflict with federal legislation." On 4 February, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated that "governors" will not like a unification of regional and federal legislation because it will mean "apart from reduced powers, a potential reduction of incomes derived from all sorts of legal gimmicks." The newspaper also reported that there is growing discussion that the Kremlin is pondering a fundamental reform of how the federation is organized, including the possibility of making the office of governor appointed rather than elected. The daily, which is backed by business magnate Boris Berezovskii, concludes that such a plan is highly theoretical and the leaking of such information may be primarily designed to "tell governors that 'Putin is the boss.'" JAC

...AS TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT SOUNDS DEFIANT...
On 2 February, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev told reporters that 15 February will mark the sixth anniversary of the power-sharing agreement between Tatarstan and Moscow and that once certain privileges have been granted, they cannot simply be taken away, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. He agreed that it is necessary to bring the constitutions of the Russian Federation and Tatarstan into agreement, but he noted that Tatarstan's Constitution was adopted earlier. According to Interfax, Shaimiev said that "our people--including the president--are not ready for any kind of limitation on the agreement." Shaimiev also remarked that states in the U.S. and Germany have more rights than Tatarstan and that it has become necessary for Russian regions to study the experience of other countries with federalism, Interfax reported. However, it is already impossible to turn away from the basic principles defining the powers of the regions and the center. "It is important that the center control questions for the raw materials monopolies and decide the fateful questions, but all remaining issues are local ones," he said. JAC

...AND BASHKORTOSTAN'S PRESIDENT SAYS HE LIKES STATUS QUO.
When asked about routine violations of the constitution in regional laws, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov said that his republic is in favor of a sharp differentiation according to "competence" so that national problems are resolved at the level of federal laws but regions still have the opportunity to decide their own affairs independently. In an interview with "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 8 February, Rakhimov said that he "is against the revival of a unitary model of government.... Today Moscow's old influence will not return." Rakhimov added that "currently our Republic of Bashkortostan has the optimal amount of rights and powers in relationship to the federal center." On 4 February, Rakhimov signed a decree establishing a commission for the development of proposals for coordinating Bashkortostan's laws with the federal constitution, Interfax-Eurasia reported. JAC

PUTIN RESHUFFLES REGIONAL PERSONNEL.
On 1 February, acting President Putin signed decrees naming presidential representatives to Orenburg and Belgorod Oblasts, Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, and the Republic of Tyva. These are Vladislav Shapovalenko, Vladimir Gerasimenko, Vladimir Kurikov, and Mikhail Kozlov, respectively. Putin also sacked 17 presidential representatives to Russia's regions, "Segodnya" reported on 3 February. Among those dismissed were Sergei Kizin from Belgorod Oblast, Valerii Borodulin from Samara Oblast, Valerii Adrov from Astrakhan Oblast, and Vladimir Shapovalenko from Orenburg Oblast. Aleksandr Kosarikov was relieved from his post in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast following his election to the State Duma. Putin dismissed Sergei Tsyplyaev from his post in St. Petersburg, replacing him with Aleksandr Bespalov, a former colleague of Putin's in the St. Petersburg mayoral administration. Representatives in Kursk and Kemerovo were also dismissed, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 4 February. According to that daily, most observers link the large-scale firings to a policy aimed at strengthening the role of the center in relations with the region. JAC

SIBERIA TO GET NEW HIGHWAY.
Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, Khakassia head Aleksei Lebed, and Altai Republic head Semen Zubakin signed an agreement with the Russian Road Fund on the construction of a road passing through Khakassia, the Kuzbass, and Altai Republic, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 2 February. According to the agency, construction of the highway will be paid for from the debt of oil and gas enterprises to the road fund. JAC

BELGOROD: CIVIL DEFENSE TRAINING FOR CHILDREN.
Governor Yevgenii Savchenko has issued a decree stipulating that residents of the oblast are to receive training in how to respond in the event of "hostilities or terrorist acts," ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. The order applies to all residents over the age of seven. Training will take place at schools, institutes of higher education, and enterprises as well as within residential complexes. JC

BURYATIA: PUTIN PASSES ON NEW YEAR'S CELEBRATION.
Acting President Putin has given the head of Russia's Buddhist Church Xambo Lama Damba Ausheev an antique tea service and a Swiss watch, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 4 February. The head of the local Federal Security Service Valerii Khalanov presented the gifts and best wishes for the new year on Putin's behalf. Ausheev had earlier asked Putin to visit Buryatia for the celebration of the Buddhist new year on the night of 5 February. Putin was born in the year of the Dragon, and according to Buddhist astrology, this year should prove particularly "complicated" for him and will to a large extent determine his fate for the next 12 years. JAC

CHELYABINSK: RESIDENTS DEMONSTRATE FOR--NOT AGAINST--NUCLEAR POWER.
More than 500 residents of Chelyabinsk demonstrated at the building site of the South Chelyabinsk nuclear power station demanding that work on it be resumed, "Vremya MN" reported on 1 February. According to the newspaper, construction on the plant was halted 10 years ago after a much larger group of residents picketed the plant protesting its construction. On 28 January 2000, the administration of Chelyabinsk Oblast adopted a decision to write a letter to acting President Putin asking him to revive the project. However, local businessmen in the coal industry remain skeptical: Chelyabenergo chief engineer Vyacheslav Seredkin said "I very much doubt that the project will be realized. It's simply too expensive." Local environmental activist, Natalya Mironova of the Movement for Nuclear Security, said that the project has become "obsolete from a moral and a technological point of view." JAC

OBLAST TRIES TO REIN IN PRESS.
Starting 25 January, journalists in Chelyabinsk Oblast were denied access to previously open weekly sessions of the oblast's administration on heating and energy issues, RFE/RL's correspondent in Chelyabinsk reported on 29 January. The chairman of Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin's press service explained to a local television station that the oblast had decided to rethink its relations with mass media organizations. As a result of the move, coverage of the region's complex energy situation has suddenly gotten much simpler. For example, "Chelyabinskii rabochii" reported on 20 January that Governor Sumin had confirmed rumors about a pending energy crisis; however, more recently it said only that "Governor Sumin sharply wanted the general directors of Chelyabinsk Coal and Chelyabenergo to work together to resolve all controversial questions without involving the press in the process." According to "Korrespondentskii chas" on 29 January, the oblast's media coverage of the battle between various energy interests was quite varied, with some media outlets striving for objectivity while others appeared to take sides. JAC

IVANOVO: TAKING TIME OUT TO STUDY THE INTELLIGENTSIA.
For most of the last decade, experts at the Ivanovo State University have been studying that peculiarly Russian phenomenon--the intelligentsia. "Vremya MN" reported in its 3 February issue that in particular, the experts have been carrying out "both scientific and scientific-methodological" work on various issues related to the cultural elite of the country. Their findings have been published in some 300 published works, including articles and monographs. Now the Ivanovo experts want to see their work expanded on a national level: they have appealed to the federal Ministry of Education to introduce a new "scientific-academic discipline": Intelligentsia Studies. JC

KALMYKIA: STATE DUMA DEPUTY ACCUSES ILYUMZHINOV OF MEDDLING.
The Central Election Commission on 4 February rejected an earlier decision by an okrug election commission in the Republic of Kalmykia to declare the results of the State Duma elections in its single-mandate district invalid. Elections officials in Kalmykia charged that the victor in that race, Aleksandra Burataeva (Unity), violated campaign spending rules by accepting an anonymous donation of 300,000 rubles ($11,000) and also violated the election law by continuing to work at Russian Public Television, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 February. Burataeva earlier accused the local election commission of following the orders of Kalmykia's President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who "is above all beholden to [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov." Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina, was defeated in that race by Burataeva. Unity faction leader Boris Gryzhlov also called the decision of the local election commission "politically motivated." JAC

KHABAROVSK: ANOTHER REGIONAL BUSINESS EXECUTIVE KILLED.
Bogdan Kovalyuk, head of the timber company Khabarovskglavles, was shot and killed while entering his apartment on 2 February by two unknown assailants, Interfax-Eurasia reported the next day. According to the agency, the company is owned by the krai's administration. JAC

MAGADAN: NUMBER OF RESIDENTS LIVING IN POVERTY DOUBLES.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta-regiony" reported on 25 January that more than half of the population of Magadan Oblast earns less than the minimum subsistence wage. According to the semi-monthly, the standard of living in the region during the first nine months of last year significantly worsened. In comparison with 1998, the number of residents below the poverty line doubled. JAC

ORENBURG: COURT SIDES WITH WAHHABIS OVER SEIZURE OF MOSQUE.
The Buguruslan municipal court has refused to initiate legal proceedings against a group of Wahhabis who seized a local mosque late last year, barring other Muslims from entry, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. The news agency quoted Talgat Tadzhuddin, the chairman of the Central Islamic Board of Russia and the European part of the CIS, as saying that this situation has arisen because of the presence of two muftiates in the oblast: the "legal" one in Orenburg and an unsanctioned one in Buguruslan. The leadership of the Buguruslan mosque intends to turn to a higher court. JC

ST. PETERSBURG: JOURNALISTS FORM ANTI-YAKOVLEV ALLIANCE.
"The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 8 February that a dozen or so local journalists have formed a "Liberal Club" whose goal is to thwart Governor Vladimir Yakovlev's bid to be re-elected in the May 2000 ballot. The journalists invited local politicians from Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces, and the Bloc of Yurii Boldyrev to join their club and help find an alternative candidate capable of beating Yakovlev, who currently enjoys a strong lead in opinion polls. According to the newspaper, most anti-Yakovlev politicians believe that former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin would be the best such candidate and the one most likely to unite the city's rightist forces. Stepashin, however, has so far declined to commit himself to taking part in the St. Petersburg ballot. JC

SUSPECT IN STAROVOITOVA CASE DETAINED TWICE IN ONE WEEK.
St. Petersburg police took into custody 50-year-old Larisa Ploskova early last week on suspicion of involvement in the November 1998 murder of popular State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova, Russian media reported. A local Federal Security Service official said that because no evidence was found of her involvement in that crime, she was released three days later--only to be detained the very same day by the St. Petersburg Prosecutor-General's Office. That office said Ploskova was being held in connection with the case against local deputy Yurii Shutov, who is charged with having organized a number of high-profile contract killings, but observers believe that law-enforcement agencies were trying to gain time to gather evidence against Ploskova. "The St. Petersburg Times" on 8 February quoted Ruslan Linkov, Starovoitova's aide who was seriously wounded in the November 1998 attack, as saying Ploskova has links to a former Russian OMON member whom Latvian police detained last month in connection with Starovoitova's murder. JC

CITY BLAZES TRAIL FOR REVIVAL OF SAVINGS BOND MARKET.
The city of St. Petersburg is set to become the first region in Russia to revive its savings bond market following the latter's collapse in the wake of the August 1998 financial crisis, "The Moscow Times" reported on 3 February. The new issue is worth some 50 million rubles ($1.75 million) and will mature in five years. The city's Finance Committee said at a press conference late last month that the new issue is targeted at private investors only, and it hopes that up to 100,000 people will participate. The last time St. Petersburg issued savings bonds was in 1996. Those bonds matured last year at 112 million rubles. JC

COURT RULES AGAINST FIN MIN OVER PROJECT FUNDING.
A St. Petersburg city court has upheld a ruling by a district court last November ordering that the federal Finance Ministry pay its debts to the State Hermitage Museum, the Russian National Library, a Gulf of Finland dam project, and a toxic waste storage facility. State Duma deputy Sergei Popov of the Yabloko faction initiated the case in order to challenge the Finance Ministry's practice of distributing budget funds at its own discretion rather than in accordance with the budget passed by the parliament. The case itself was based on a provision of the 1998 federal budget stating that cuts in expenditures caused by revenue shortfalls must be applied across the board in a proportional manner, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 4 February. But St. Petersburg projects funded from the federal budget received anything between 7 percent and 40 percent of the amount earmarked in that year's budget. The ministry is now reported to be appealing the case to the Supreme Court. JC

SVERDLOVSK: URALMASH POISED TO ENTER JAIL RATHER THAN STATE DUMA.
Sverdlovsk Oblast's prosecutor has launched criminal proceedings against the crime group known as Uralmash on suspicion of murder and other crimes, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 4 February. According to the agency, the band operates on the territory of Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk Oblasts, Moscow, Sochi, Hungary, and Ukraine. Its members, 32 of whom are facing charges, allegedly committed 25 contract murders. Uralmash's leader, Aleksandr Khabarov, recently lost in a district in the oblast in 19 December State Duma elections. The majority of voters in that district selected none of the above, causing elections to be rescheduled there for 26 March 2000. JAC

TOMSK: GAZPROM SUBSIDIARY MAKES BID FOR PETROCHEMICAL PLANT.
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 February that a subsidiary of the national gas monopoly Gazprom is to seek the oblast administration's help in securing control over the Tomsk Petrochemical Combine, one of Russia's leading producers of plastic, which since 1996 has been under external management, having accumulated debts totaling some $20 million. Vostokgazprom has reportedly drawn up a program whereby the administration would assist in extending the period of external management for seven-and-a-half years; thereafter control would be handed over to Vostokgazprom, which would invest some $39 million for restructuring and guarantee supplies of raw materials. That guarantee would doubtless be welcomed by the ailing company, not least because only last month Vostokgazprom itself had threatened to cut off supplies. Other parties interested in gaining a controlling stake in the Tomsk Petrochemical Combine have refrained from comment. A meeting of the combine's creditors on 14 February is slated to decide whether to conclude an agreement or continue the period of external management. JC

YAROSLAVL: LOCAL LAWMAKERS SEEK TO OUST DUMA REPRESENTATIVE.
The oblast legislature has appealed to acting President Putin to check the accuracy of the biography submitted by Sergei Zagidullin before the latter was elected a State Duma deputy in last December's elections, Radio Mayak reported on 7 February. The 34-year-old Zagidullin had claimed to be a Yaroslavl local and to have served in all hot spots of the former Soviet Union in his capacity as an Interior Ministry officer. However, since the election campaign, it has reportedly transpired that he is not a local, and when the regional election commission requested his personnel file from the army recruitment office, it was told the file had "disappeared." Zagidullin is also charged with having partly financed his campaign with funds from his own private security company, SOBOS, which is based in Yaroslavl. JC

REGIONAL INDEX: Prices For Goods And Services Across Russia
Services, prices in rubles (28.76 rubles/$)

Region_______Cavity filling____Hair Cut_____Monthly Rent (One-Room Apart.)

Moscow_______250__________65_________2900

St. Petersburg___200__________40_________1700

Novosibirsk_____70___________45_________1400

Yekaterinburg__150___________60__________700

Vladivostok_____200___________50_________1300

Krasnoyarsk_____95___________65_________ 1200

Samara________350___________45_________1500

Kazan__________80___________40__________800

Rostov_________60____________40__________800

Ufa____________65____________40__________400

Goods, prices in rubles (28.76 rubles/$)
for one loaf of bread, one pack of sterile syringes, and one pair of men's socks

Region________Bread____Syringes________Socks
Moscow________5.9_______20___________25

St. Petersburg____5.4_______18__________20

Novosibirsk______3.8________11_________20

Yekaterinburg_____4.3_________12_________30

Vladivostok______5.0_________13_________18

Krasnoyarsk_____5.8__________14_________20

Samara_________5.1__________35_________22

Kazan__________3.5___________7__________7

Rostov_________5.27__________44.6_________10

Ufa____________5.5___________10_________19

Source: "Kommersant-Daily" 4 February 2000
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