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Russia Report: April 26, 2000


26 April 2000, Volume 2, Number 16
PAN-REGIONAL ISSUES
PUTIN SEES REGIONS PLAYING ROLE IN RESOLVING LAND QUESTION.
On a visit to Orel Oblast on 25 April, President-elect Vladimir Putin called for the passage of a basic law establishing the right to own land, but he added that each of Russia's regions determine the degree of freedom to pursue this right. At the local level, Putin said, "residents and the leadership are more familiar with the conditions of agricultural production." In Orel Oblast, for example, "an individual can be a landowner but the right to dispose of the land is limited." Putin also praised Orel for being a "an example for reform--reform in the necessary direction, carefully, cautiously and in the direction of the market." AFP reported that when he arrived in Orel, Putin "was mobbed by thousands of students--some of them with tears in their eyes." The next day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" interpreted Putin's words in Orel to mean that although the problem of land ownership will be "solved by the federal center, the opinions of regional leaders will be taken into account." "The Moscow Times" reported last month that although Saratov Oblast passed its own law legalizing the sale of land three years ago, only about 0.06 percent of the region's total agricultural land has been sold. According to the daily, one reason is "local laws cannot act in a federal legislative vacuum." JAC

MOSCOW PUTS MORE PRESSURE ON UFA...
The federal Tax Ministry is suing the Republic of Bashkortostan for some 5 billion rubles ($175 million) in unpaid taxes owed to the Federal Roads Fund from 1997-1999, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 21 April citing Tatarinform. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 April that Ufa believes that Pochinok's suit has no legal basis. That is because Bashkortostan paid--or did not pay, as the case may be--its taxes in the usual manner as agreed upon with the central government. A spokesman for Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov told the daily that the Pochinok's action smacks of a "political intrigue," and he added that if a suit is going to be brought, it might be more appropriately directed at the previous federal government which concluded its agreement with Bashkortostan. Last month, Rakhimov and then acting President Putin signed an agreement in Ufa in which Bashkortostan agreed to funnel all money through the federal treasury and relinquish its right to collect federal taxes and directly finance federal programs (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 23 and 29 March 2000). JAC

...AS KAZAN SAYS IT WILL NOT BE NEXT TARGET...
When asked whether Tatarstan should expect a similar action from the Tax Ministry, Tatarstan's Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shvetsov said that the Federal Roads Fund had consented to Tatarstan retaining 900 million rubles in 1999 taxes that were to be transferred to the fund, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The money will be used by Tatarstan to maintain 547 kilometers of federal highways and to construct a bridge over the Kama River in Sorochyi Gori-Murzikha. JAC

...AND LUZHKOV OBJECTS TO TAX MINISTRY OFFENSIVE.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told the Federation Council on 19 April that he is disturbed by recent attempts to stop regional authorities from granting local enterprises relief from the profit tax, Interfax reported. According to the agency, Luzhkov was responding to a letter signed by Tax Minister Pochinok that had been received by one regional leader. He suggested that the right of regions to grant such relief gives them the opportunity to support those enterprises which might be saved from bankruptcy. Luzhkov suggested that Pochinok be invited to the council's next session on 17 May to address the issue. JAC

MOSCOW SINGLES OUT REGIONAL DEADBEATS.
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 25 April that during the first quarter of 2000, Russia's regions collected more taxes than expected and that 89 percent of them were collected in cash, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the federal government had expected regions to collect some 119 billion rubles in taxes on their territories; but in the event, they collected some 8 percent more or 128.3 billion rubles. Despite this overall record, Khristenko added, five regions--Yamalo-Nenets and Evenk Autonomous Okrugs, the republics of Buryatia and Khakassia, and Chita and Amur Oblasts--had collected only 40 percent of planned revenue. Khristenko also listed the regions that are behind on paying wages to state sectors workers: The republic of Tuva is more than two months behind, while the republic of Kalmykia, Altai Krai and Omsk and Kemerovo Oblasts are more than one month behind. JAC

ANOTHER GOVERNOR CALLS FOR MAKING OFFICE APPOINTED.
At a press conference on 18 April, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov said that while all legislative offices should continue to be elected ones, all executive positions with the exception of the president of the Russian Federation should be appointed, ITAR-TASS reported. Ayatskov, who was recently re-elected, would not be eligible for a third term under Russian law. He added that the president should have the ability to dismiss governors provided such a "lever" doesn't violate the law. JAC

BEREZOVSKII NEWSPAPER CLAIMS YABLOKO LOSING REGIONAL SUPPORT...
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 25 April that members of Yabloko's Central Council three days earlier had "paid special attention" to the work of Yabloko's cell organizations in Russia's regions. According to the daily, which is financed by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, recent elections show that Yabloko has been losing supporters and followers; for example, 12 percent of the electorate in Rostov-on-the-Don has drifted away from the organization. Regional Yabloko representatives reportedly complained that Yabloko needs to find new slogans and approaches to become attractive again. According to the daily, Yabloko's Central Council believes that the recent announcement of an alliance with the Union of Rightist Forces should help in this effort and that the joint sponsorship by Yabloko and SPS of a single candidate in St. Petersburg will serve as a model for future cooperation. JAC

...WHILE REGIONAL EXPERT CONTENDS OTHERWISE.
Last January, speaking at a conference at the London School of Economics on "Russia's Regional Transformation," Grigorii Golosov of the European University of St. Petersburg concluded that on the basis of results in the 19 December State Duma elections, Yabloko's effort to expand into the regions had "mostly succeeded." He also noted that Yabloko-nominated deputies in Rostov's legislature had established "very cozy relations with Rostov's governor, a scenario scarcely consistent with the party's programmatic standing." JAC

RUSSIAN ROMA ACHIEVE CULTURAL AUTONOMY.
Russia's one million Roma appear to have finally achieved some measure of national-cultural autonomy, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 April. According to the daily, the formation of the Roma's autonomy was registered by the Justice Ministry last month and on 20 April the Roma were granted formal representation on the Ministry for Nationalities and Federation Affairs. Ruling over the autonomy is a special council under the leadership of Professor Georgii Demetr. According to the council, not one school for Roma exists in Russia nor is there a single newspaper, radio, or television station. They also contend that national television has turned reportage about the Day of Remembrance for those Roma killed in Nazi camps into a "farce," while stations have been silent about the "horrible pogrom" waged against Roma at the Luzhniki stadium market outside of Moscow. The daily concludes that having created their own cultural autonomy, Roma are hoping that they can now count on the support of the federal government to which they are entitled under the law on small peoples. JAC

TURKIC, FINNO-UGRIC ETHNIC GROUPS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR CONFEDERATION.
A conference of representatives of 10 regions in the Volga basin and Urals inhabited by Turkic or Finno-Ugric peoples took place in Ioshkar-Ola, capital of Mari El, on 24 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Participants expressed their unanimous support for the proposal by the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center to create a confederation of Turkic and Finno-Ugric peoples of the region with its own parliament. They also agreed to hold conferences in August and October 2000 of teachers and journalists respectively, and to create an Idel-Ural Fund which will sponsor a newspaper that will report on events in the region. Rais Kashapov, who heads the Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center, told RFE/RL that conference participants expressed concern that since Vladimir Putin's appointment as acting Russian President Russian internal security bodies have intensified their surveillance of organizations that represent ethnic minorities. LF

ARKHANGELSK
WORLD BANK TO FUND NATURAL GAS PIPELINE.
An official in Arkhangelsk Oblast's administration told ITAR-TASS on 25 April that the World Bank has agreed to provide a $1.18 million loan for the construction of a 635-kilometer gas pipeline and for converting three local power plants to use natural gas. According to the agency, Arkhangelsk Governor Anatolii Yefremov has stated that construction of the pipeline is critical so that region can end its reliance on refined petroleum products for home heating. JAC

IRKUTSK
SEAL POPULATION IN LAKE BAIKAL DECLINING SHARPLY.
Representatives of Greenpeace Russia told reporters in Moscow on 24 April that their preliminary research suggests that the number of Nerpa seals, who live only in Lake Baikal, continues to fall. According to Greenpeace, the seal population is declining because of unlicensed hunting and poaching. An exact count of the number of seals will be made available after the beginning of May when members of an ecological expedition complete their research. Once these numbers are confirmed, Greenpeace plans to call for a complete ban on hunting of the Nerpa. JAC

KRASNOYARSK
LOCAL WOULD-BE POLITICAL REFUGEE IS RETURNED.
Former head of Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Anatolii Bykov was transferred to a jail in Krasnoyarsk on 24 April. Earlier in the month, Bykov lost his bid to be granted political asylum in Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2000). ITAR-TASS reported on 25 April that the legislature of Krasnoyarsk Krai will have to give its consent in order for Bykov to be prosecuted since he was elected to that body and therefore has legislative immunity from criminal prosecution. On the other hand, Bykov's term is due to expire in a year and a half and an unidentified local law enforcement officer told the agency that investigation of the charges against him could take that long. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed promised to protect Bykov in order that he may be put on trial: "I need to bring him here to remove his Robin Hood mask. There are dozens of corpses behind it." He continued, "We definitely need Bykov alive. I will guard him like a brother, around the clock, so that not a single hair falls from his head." JAC

MARII EL
UNEMPLOYMENT EXPECTED TO CLIMB.
While only 9,000 persons are officially registered as unemployed, the actual figure is closer to 45,000, RFE/RL's correspondent in Ioshkar-Ola reported on 15 April quoting Oleg Shinkarev, head of the department for Marii El Republic at the State Employment Service. (As of January 1996, the republic's estimated population was 766,000.) According to "Korrespondentskii chas," 2.7 percent of the republic's economically active population is unemployed but this figure could rise to 3.7 percent by December as a result of massive lay-offs in the defense and agricultural enterprises. The chief cause of unemployment in the region among younger workers is currently a lack of practical experience, and among older workers it is a lack of familiarity with new technology. At the same time there is a mismatch between the skills of local workers and the demands of the regional labor market. For example, 66 people applied for an opening as a cashier while only 18 applied for 135 vacancies for a bricklayer. JAC

ST. PETERSBURG
MORE ELECTION VIOLENCE AVERTED...
A bomb was found and defused on 22 April in the car of Sergei Ivanov, who had been a candidate in 14 May gubernatorial elections in that city, ITAR-TASS reported. NTV reported the same day that St. Petersburg election commission canceled Ivanov's registration as well as that of Vyacheslav Marychev because they had falsified some signatures on the lists supporting their respective candidacies. Ivanov is head of the legal department for the Baltic Financial Industrial Group, while Marychev heads the movement Working Russia. On the same day Duma deputy (Yabloko) Petr Shelishch withdrew his candidacy voluntarily. JAC

...AND THEN THERE WERE SEVEN.
According to "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 20 April, two other potential competitors of Yakovlev, Yurii Belyaev, chairman of the National Republican Party, and Nikolai Bondarik, leader of the St. Petersburg nationalists, withdrew from the race and urged their supporters to vote for [incumbent Governor Vladimir] Yakovlev." As of 25 April, there were seven candidates remaining, "Parlamentskaya Gazeta" reported. JAC

IS STEPASHIN STILL CONSIDERING GOVERNOR'S POST?
"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 26 April that the new head of the Audit Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, intends to establish order in his hometown of St. Petersburg. That newspaper, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, argued that Stepashin, who had been considering running against Yakovlev, still wants the post but is adopting a less direct route than participating in elections. Instead, he has agreed to take a post "that will allow him to conduct audits and gather materials needed for defeating Vladimir Yakovlev." The paper speculated that "after a scrupulous audit, Yakovlev will be forced to resign" and his post may be taken by someone such as the head of the Audit Chamber. JAC

SARATOV
REGION REWRITES CRITICAL ARTICLE.
"The Moscow Times" reported on 20 April that an article critical of recently re-elected Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov in the national newspaper "Izvestiya" was altered to be less critical when it appeared in Saratov Oblast. The original article charged Ayatskov with never keeping his promises, striking his opponents off the ballot during the 26 March gubernatorial election, and rigging the results of that poll. But readers in Saratov were told that Ayatskov sometimes keeps his promise and that his opponents complained about his election victory. According to the daily, "Izvestiya" has filed a complaint with the office of the Prosecutor-General. JAC

REGIONAL INDEX

Regions Contributing the Greatest Share of the Federal Budget, 1998

Region______________Share %

Moscow City_____________33%

Moscow Oblast____________7%

Khanty-Mansii Aut. Okrug____5%

Samara Oblast____________3%

Sverdlovsk Oblast__________3%

Perm Oblast______________2%

Yamalo-Nenets Aut. Okrug__2%

Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast_____2%

Krasnodar Krai_____________2%

Tatarstan Republic__________1%

Kemerovo Oblast___________1%

Bashkortostan Republic______1%

Chelyabinsk Oblast__________1%

Source: Steve Solnick, "Russia's Asymmetric Federation: Are All Differences Alike?" (see http://www.columbia.edu/~sls27/Content/CV/SLS_LSEv1_1.pdf) citing Natalia Zubarevich and Andrei Treivish, "Sotsialno-eckonmicheskoe polozhenie regionov" in Regiony Rossii v 1998.

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