20 September 2000, Volume
FEDERATION REFORM PUTS CENTRAL, VOLGA REGIONS IN DOMINANT POSITION.
In an analysis of recent economic data, Ben Slay of PlanEcon writes in the firm's "Monthly Report" for September that the new federal scheme dividing Russia's regions into seven federal districts has created two new economic powerhouses, the Central and Volga districts. Together, in 1999 these regions accounted for 60 percent of Russia's retail trade, 55 percent of new housing constructed, 40 percent of industrial output, and 47 percent of its population, Slay writes. By contrast, the Southern and Far East districts accounted for only 15 percent of Russia's industrial output, 18 percent of housing constructed, and 13 percent of retail trade. While the Central and Volga regions are the economic powerhouses, the Urals district is the wealthiest, with monthly wages averaging $139 last year compared with the national average of $78. Slay concludes that the Urals district's small size and strong industrial base will make it one of the easiest districts to manage "at least in economic terms." The much larger Central and Volga districts each have a number of Russia's poorer regions. For example, while the Central District hosts the city of Moscow, one of Russia's richest regions with an average monthly wage of $112 in May 2000, it also includes Ivanov and Tambov Oblasts where the average monthly wage was below $40 (see also "Regional Index" in "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 August 2000). JAC
DONOR REGIONS COMBINE FORCES TO RESIST NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET...
At the 13 September session of the Federation Council, representatives of Russia's donor regions treated Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev to a chorus of complaints about the draft 2001 budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline" and "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 September 2000). Responding to Ulyukaev's suggestion that the central government wants to centralize some child welfare payments, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov accused him of trying to "build socialism," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii criticized some recipient regions for their practice of dispensing privileges such as free transport and subsidizing the prices of certain foods, practices that, he said, even some donor regions cannot afford. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, Tatarstan's State Council Chairman Farid Mukhatmetshin told a meeting of representatives of donor regions that the budget should be drafted in such a way that regions' economic growth is boosted and the living standards of the population are not lowered. He also noted that the draft 2001 budget in its current form contradicts the Constitution and many federal laws, such as the Budget Code, which fixes regional income at the level of 50 percent of total revenues. JAC
...AS LIKELY WINNERS, LOSERS MADE CLEAR.
"Vremya MN" reported on 14 September that at the session, Ulyukaev announced a list of regions that will lose revenues as a result of the new planned division of tax revenues between the center and regions. Included were the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, Samara Oblast, and the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. The newspaper noted that the list of regions that would benefit from the changes is much longer, as regions of the North Caucasus, Far East and Eastern Siberia will receive the "lion's share of resources" from the soon-to-be created compensation fund. JAC
GOVERNORS TURN TO PR FIRMS FOR HELP WITH RE-ELECTION.
"Novaya gazeta" reported in its issue No. 48 that a number of governors who are up for re-election in the near future "are currently besieging the largest PR firms in Moscow." According to a survey of such firms conducted by the weekly, the firm Nikkolo-M is the most popular and has 20 governors among its clients, including Ryazan Governor Vyacheslav Lyubimov. The weekly reports that political consultants believe a gubernatorial campaign usually costs about $1 million or $5-$6 million for larger regions, while existing election regulations put a limit of 1 million rubles ($36,000) on such campaigns. JAC
GERMANY, RUSSIA COMPARE NOTES ON FEDERALISM.
At a Russian-German conference on "Regions in the Federal Parliamentary Mechanism: The Experience of Two Countries" held in Moscow on 18 September, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev stated that he thought the number of subjects in the Russian Federation would decrease over time, Interfax reported. However, he noted that such a theme in Russia is "very sensitive" and that it is therefore important to proceed carefully on the matter with regard to public policy. Seleznev also noted that only 12-15 regions appear to have achieved a measure of economic self-sufficiency and that it is difficult to speak about the realization of all of the rights of the federation subjects in the full sense of the term. "It is for us an ideal, which we might achieve in several more years," he said. Speaking at the same conference, Bundesrat Chairman Kurt Biedenkopf expressed his opinion that it is obviously "necessary to discuss the number" of subjects of the federation. He added that Germany had paid special attention to the matter 10 years ago during the process of reunification, noting that "large countries in the context of globalization can work successfully if they develop along the path of decentralization." According to ITAR-TASS, Biedenkopf also went on to say that the state systems of the two countries have many problems in common: "Control over power is the key question of any democracy. It is for this purpose that most countries adopt the separation of power into the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, as well as opt for a vertical division of authority between the center and the regions." An additional thing in common that Germany and Russia have, according to Biedenkopf, is that the economic potential of their constituent elements varies widely. In Germany, he explained, assistance to the regions comes not only from the central government but also from stronger federal constituencies to weaker ones. This and other experience can be applied in Russia, he said, according to the agency. JAC
GOVERNMENT TO PROMOTE EURO-REGIONS AS INTEGRATION TOOL?
In an interview with "Novye izvestiya" published on 13 September, Valerii Shlyamin, the minister for external relations of the Republic of Karelia, said he believes that Euro-regions along Russia's border will play an important role in integrating Russia into a new united Europe. According to Shlyamin's definition, Euro-regions are formed by border territories of two or more two countries united by a common social and economic strategy beneficial to all sides involved. Moscow is currently working on a border cooperation concept, he noted, adding that it is clear that Euro-regions will play an important role in that concept. Shlyamin himself was one of the initiators of the Euro-region formed last February by Karelia and three Finnish border regions. JC
REGIONS EXPERIENCE NEW ROUND OF HIGHER PRICES AT THE PUMP.
A number of regions are reporting both shortages of motor fuel and rising gasoline prices, according to the Russian Fuel Union, Interfax-AFI reported on 18 September. According to the union, the price of Ai-92 gasoline in Saratov Oblast rose by 1.25 rubles to 8.5 rubles per liter in one week. Ten percent of the gasoline stations in the region are reportedly closed, while 40 percent do not have the full assortment of fuel. In Novosibirsk, the price of Ai-92 fuel reached 8.50 rubles per liter--a 50 kopek hike from the previous week, while 17 percent of stations are not open. In Tambov Oblast, some 60 percent of the gas stations have reportedly closed. Shortages have also been reported in Tatarstan, Khakasia, Kursk, Omsk, Tula, and Tomsk. JAC
FORMER SAKHALIN REPRESENTATIVE NAMED DEPUTY TO FAR EASTERN ENVOY.
Presidential envoy to the Far East federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii named his deputy on 18 September, Vitalii Gulii, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, Gulii was born in Sakhalin Oblast and has worked at a journalist for "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and as the presidential envoy to Sakhalin Oblast. JAC
COMMUNISTS TO BACK ADMIRAL IN SECOND ROUND.
"Kommersant-Daily" on 16 September quoted Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov as saying his party will not support incumbent Governor Leonid Gorbenko in the upcoming gubernatorial elections. The Moscow newspaper interprets this as meaning that the Communists will support Gorbenko's main challenger and the Kremlin's favorite, Baltic Fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Yegorov, in a second round of voting. The Communist candidate, State Duma deputy Vladimir Nikitin, currently has some 11 percent backing in the exclave and could thus be in a position to bolster support for Yegorov in a run-off. Last week, Zyuganov announced that his party might support General Vladimir Shamanov in his bid to unseat incumbent Ulyanovsk Governor Yurii Goryachev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). JC
GOVERNOR ESCALATES WAR OF WORDS WITH ZYUGANOV.
In article he authored in "Trud" on 15 September, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev criticizes at great length the leadership of the Communist Party. Tuleev notes that "with every election campaign," the position of the Communists is "becoming weaker" and their faction in the Duma is "too obedient to the government on many unpopular questions." He also notes that Communist party leader Zyuganov and other top officials "keep talking about Russian rip-off capitalism, but look at what kind of cars they drive, what their apartments look like.... It is hardly likely that they could live so prosperously on the membership fees of ordinary penniless Communist party members." Tuleev also declares that he "has never been a member of the Communist party," nor has he ever sought the party's support in running for governor. JAC
ATHLETE'S BROTHER PLEADS GUILTY IN PLOT TO KILL TULEEV.
Viktor Tikhonov, the younger brother of Olympic champion biathlete Aleksandr Tikhonov, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder Kemerovo Governor Tuleev, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Aleksandr Tikhonov, 53, who was detained around the same time as his brother, was hospitalized last week following a concussion. Supporters of the elder Tikhonov say his arrest is linked to a feud between Tuleev and the MIKOM metals holding. Tikhonov is a close friend of MIKOM head Mikhail Shivilo (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 August 2000). Commenting on 16 September on the plot to kill him, Tuleev called on legal authorities "to show their strength to those who are trying to physically liquidate regional leaders." JAC
REGION PLANS TO ESTABLISH GOLD RESERVE...
Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed has announced plans to create the region's own gold reserve, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 18 September. According to Lebed, the gold reserve will reassure nervous investors contemplating projects in the region. Lebed also claimed that there are a number of precedents for regions creating such a reserve. JAC
...AS VOTERS GET 20 MINUTES MORE OR LESS OF GOVERNOR.
The state television and radio company, Tsentr Rossii, will produce a 20-minute program with Governor Lebed next month that will air twice a month, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 18 September. A year ago, oblast authorities asked that a monthly television program called "Governor's Hour" in which Lebed responded to questions from local citizens be canceled. JAC
NEW WEEKLY SEEKS TO PROMOTE TOLERANCE TOWARD HOMOSEXUALS.
A new weekly devoted to the problems faced by sexual minorities has begun publication in Nizhnii Novgorod, Interfax reported on 18 September. According to a source in the new publication's editorial office, "Piramida" is Russia's first publication for homosexuals that is of a cultural-educational nature and is aimed at promoting tolerance of homosexuality. Contributing to the publication are psychologists, doctors, the Nizhnii Novgorod center for fighting the spread of AIDS, and local human rights organizations. It is hoped to increase the weekly's circulation to 15,000 by the beginning of next year and to extend its distribution to all regions belonging to the Volga federal district. JC
YABLOKO, SPS TEAM UP FOR BY-ELECTION.
The Coordinating Council of Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) has approved the decision of the two groups' St. Petersburg branches to run a joint candidate in the State Duma by-election in District No. 209 (Sergei Stepashin had represented that district in the lower house until his appointment earlier this year as head of the State Audit Chamber). The two groups have agreed on Yabloko member Anatolii Golov as their common candidate. However, Ruslan Linkov, a member of the local branch of Democratic Russia (which belongs to the SPS), has said he intends to participate in the by-election, despite the two groups' decision to back Golov. "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 September quoted Linkov as saying he will run as an independent nominated by a voters' group. According to "Segodnya" the same day, the SPS-Yabloko Coordination Council also agreed on two joint candidates for elections to the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, while "Izvestiya" reported on 19 September that the council will run joint candidates also in Ryazan, Chita, and Vladimir. JC
CITY CHARTER COURT APPOINTED.
The St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly has appointed the seven judges who will preside over the new City Charter Court, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 19 September. Their task will be to ensure that local legislation and gubernatorial decrees do not violate the City Charter. According to the semi-weekly, the judges, who were nominated by factions in the assembly, represent an even balance of political opinion. The charter, a kind of local constitution that was passed by deputies in 1998 and sought to increase the powers of the Legislative Assembly while limiting the right of the governor to rule by decree, was at the center of the dispute last fall over Governor Vladimir Yakovlev's attempt to hold early gubernatorial elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 October 1999). Opposition deputies argued that bringing forward the elections violated the City Charter, and the Supreme Court later ruled against the move. No date has yet been determined for the City Charter Court to begin its work. JC
MAYOR, INCUMBENT GOVERNOR TO BATTLE IT OUT FOR TOP JOB.
Five candidates will compete in the gubernatorial elections scheduled for 22 October in Sakhalin Oblast. Incumbent governor Igor Fakhutdinov will vie against Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Mayor Fedor Sidorenko, Sakhalin Oblast Duma deputy Vladislav Rukavets, Sakhalin-Sapporo director Nina Filippova, and chairman of Sakhalin Center for Standarization and Metrologii in the U.S. Anatolii Chernyi. Most analysts believe the main battle will be between the first two candidates. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 September, Farkhutdinov has the support of more than 150 workers collectives in the oblast, the regional party branch of Unity, as well as many nationally known policymakers such as Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu. Also in Farkhutdinov's favor was the recent visit of President Putin to the oblast. Backing Sidorenko is a coalition of such diverse groups as the Communist Party, the Union of Rightist Forces, Russian National Unity, and a number of public organizations that joined together two months ago to form the social-political movement Our Island. Sidorenko's campaign has focused on a critique of the oblast's current administration, blaming it for many of the region's problems. JAC
CEASE-FIRE ACHIEVED IN FACTORY STANDOFF.
Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii has managed to achieve a truce of sorts between two armed and battling factions fighting for control of Uralkhimmash, a chemical factory in Sverdlovsk Oblast. On the night of 13 September, a new would-be director of the factory, Andrei Vikharev, appointed by one group of shareholders, entered the factory's premises with a team of guards and employees and installed himself in the director's office. When the current director, Aleksei Glotov, who is supported by another group of shareholders, heard of this development, he and a team of factory workers entered the locked factory with the help of a crane, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 September. According to RFE/RL's correspondent in Yekaterinburg, a local oligarch, Pavel Fedulov, is behind Vikharev, while the majority of the factory's workers support Glotov. According to ITAR-TASS, Glotov is also supported by the Gaikin brothers. On 15 October, Chernetskii, who was himself a director at the factory several years ago, held a meeting with Fedulov and the Gaikin brothers to agree to an extraordinary shareholders meeting in early October to elect Uralkhimmash's leadership. ITAR-TASS also reported that Fedulov quit the battle and sold his stock in the company to the head of the Severgascomplekt company. JAC
THE CASE OF THE MISSING INSTITUTE.
Ahead of a financial inspection ordered by the Russian Academy of Education (RAO), the Tomsk-based Institute for Education in Siberia, the Far East, and the North has "disappeared" without trace, according to "Izvestiya" on 13 September. A subdivision of the RAO, the institute--or whatever is left of it--is rumored to have "re-located" to Novosibirsk, while its employees are left wondering to whom they should report for work. As a federal-financed establishment, the institute continues to receive funds from Moscow, but local law enforcement agencies have seized its bank account in order to prevent those funds disappearing too, along with the furniture and office equipment. The RAO has asked the oblast prosecutor-general and department for combating economic crime to investigate the case. JC
UNITY TORN BETWEEN TWO MILITARY MEN...
Since Unity leader Sergei Shoigu announced that his party will support General Vladimir Shamanov in the December gubernatorial ballot, the Ulyanovsk branch of Unity has been in a quandary, "Simbirskii kurer" reported on 24 August. Local Unity members are inclined to favor incumbent Governor Yurii Goryachev, and some of Goryachev's associates, including Vice Governor Aleksandr Pavlov, are to be found among the party's members. In order to resolve the dilemma of whom to snub--either Shoigu or Goryachev--the political council of Unity's Ulyanovsk branch has sent a letter to Shoigu pointing out how well Goryachev is managing affairs in the oblast and suggesting that a new person, "particularly a military one," will find it very difficult to govern the region ("Simbirskii kurer" notes that the letter's authors clearly forgot that Goryachev is himself a military man, with the rank of colonel general). JC
...AS NEWSPAPER SUGGESTS NEW PRETENDER TO DEFEAT SHAMANOV.
"Simbirskii kurer," meanwhile, has suggested that incumbent Governor Goryachev may step down before his term ends to make way for a younger man who is thought to have better chances of beating Shamanov at the ballot box, the website regions.ru reported on 14 September. That man, according to the newspaper, is Sergei Ryabukhin, the chairman of the local legislative assembly. Ryabukhin has been a member of the Federation Council for five years, apparently enjoys good relations with council speaker Yegor Stroev, and is well known among government circles and in the State Duma. JC
REGIONAL INDEXTHE RUSSIAN MEDIA UNDER ATTACK -- A BAROMETER
Every month, "Versiya" publishes data compiled by the Fund for the Defense of Glasnost of conflicts between the press and authorities. While July was a busy month, with three journalists killed and another three missing, August also proved quite active (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 16 August 2000). In Pskov, Yurii Kosov, a top official of the oblast's administration, grabbed journalist Tatyana Mustaikina by the hair, pulled her from the entrance of the building, where Pskov Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov was meeting with workers of the collective farm, Krasnyi Luch, and tried to throw her to the ground. JAC
Number of instances of direct censorship: 3
Number of refusals to provide information: 15
Journalists attacked: 5 (two in Moscow, one each in Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Pskov)
Number of refusals to publish newspapers: 6
Number of issues seized: 1
Number of instances that programs were taken of the air: 6
Source: Fund for the Defense of Glasnost as cited in "Versiya," No. 35, 12-18 September 2000