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Russia Report: April 28, 1999


28 April 1999, Volume 1, Number 9
PAN REGIONAL: OTECHESTVO, NEW REGIONAL BLOC FORM ALLIANCE...
Yurii Luzhkov, Moscow mayor and leader of the Otechestvo (Fatherland) political movement, reconfirmed his willingness to form an alliance with the new electoral bloc called Vsya Rossiya (All Russia) at the movement's second congress on 24 April. Earlier, Luzhkov had said that Otechestvo and Vsya Rossiya share many goals and principles, including the need to elect a new State Duma that would focus on achieving "practical results." However, Luzhkov stressed that the alliance would not entail the absorption of one party by another, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 April. According to the daily, Luzhkov is hoping to insure himself against the possibility of early parliamentary elections, in which Otechestvo's relatively last-minute registration would not allow it to participate. According to "Izvestiya," the goal of the creators of Vsya Rossiya is to make its influence and that of parties allied with it predominant in the Duma and thereby radically increase the promotion of the interests of regional elites. Sergei Markov, director of the Moscow Institute of Political Studies, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that the alliance between the two groups may experience some problems since "Luzhkov tolerates only subordinates," not collaborators or partners, and "Luzhkov and the presidents of the national republics have very different approaches to what Russia's federal structure should be." JAC

...AS BLOC'S ROSTER SET TO GROW.
In addition to those regional leaders initially announced as members of the bloc, including Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, and Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev, the bloc now includes the presidents of the Adygei and Chuvash Republics and the governors of Khabarovsk and Perm Oblasts and Khanti-Maniisk Autonomous Okrug, "The Moscow Times" reported on 23 April (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 April 1999). Rostov Governor Vladimir Chub also announced his intention to become a member, "Komsomolskaya Pravda" reported on 24 April. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, the leaders of Chelyabinsk and Penza Oblast as well as of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug are also expected to join, and Russian Regions faction leader in the Duma, Oleg Morozov, is expected to be the new bloc's coordinator. One member of the new bloc, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, said on 23 April that Vsya Rossiya will not put forward a candidate for the 2000 presidential elections, Interfax reported. Yakovlev added that Vsya Rossiya will not have a formal leader. JAC

PAN REGIONAL: FEDERATION COUNCIL DEFIES YELTSIN AGAIN.
Members of the Federation Council rejected the resignation of Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov for a second time on 21 April. Only 61 votes of the necessary 90 were cast in favor of approving Skuratov's resignation; 79 votes were cast against. "Izvestiya" the next day called the decision evidence that "Russia is becoming a parliamentary republic" and that "political decisions are no longer made behind the Kremlin's walls." "Segodnya" interpreted the action not only as bad news for Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who had actively been seeking the chamber's support in his effort to dismiss Skuratov, but also as a blow for Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who made a last-minute appeal to the senators to bounce Skuratov. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed had said earlier that the vote is not a question of a feud between Skuratov and Yeltsin and if Skuratov remains, it will mean the end of presidential power, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. JAC

PAN REGIONAL: SHIPPING TO REMOTE REGIONS AT RISK.
Protesting the government's failure to pay them, shippers are delaying shipments of food and fuel to remote regions in Russia's Far North and Far East, "The Moscow Times" reported on 24 April. Regional leaders have expressed concern about the delay since ships have only about a month, namely May, in which to move up the Yenisei, Tuguska, and Lena Rivers before those waterways become too shallow for large vessels. Aleksandr Bokovikov, head of the Evensk Autonomous Okrug, told the daily that his primary shipper, Yenisei River Shipping, refuses to ship until the government pays its 50 million ruble ($2 million) debt from last winter. Meanwhile, goods in storage have completely been depleted. Other regions facing a similar problem are Magadan Oblast and the Yamalo-Nenets, Chukotka and Taimyr Autonomous Okrugs. JAC

BELGOROD: LDPR PROMISING INFLUX OF LIBYAN MONEY, OTHER.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, who recently confirmed his plan to run for governor of Belgorod Oblast, promised that if he is elected, "Libya will grant $17 billion to Belgorod Oblast," "Tribuna" reported on 21 April. The daily noted that this sum is three times greater than what Russia is expected to receive from the IMF. Later State Duma deputy and LDPR member Aleksei Mitrofanov explained at the party's ninth congress on 24 April that Belgorod Oblast would become "a genuinely prosperous region" if Zhirinovskii were elected, ITAR-TASS reported. "We will help Belgorod through the pooled efforts of the party tapping all of our capabilities," he said. At the same time, Mitrofanov sharply criticized Otechestvo leader Yurii Luzhkov for "promising money to the regions" as a means to build his political bloc. JAC

BRYANSK: COMMUNISTS HELP PENSIONERS GO TO COURT.
The local committee of the Communist Party has set up a consultation center to assist, free of charge, those pensioners who wish to appeal in court the level of their pensions, "Vremya MN" reported on 21 April. In this way, the Bryansk Communists are following the example of their colleagues in Novosibirsk, who established such a center after a local pensioner successfully won a case to have his pension raised in keeping with the Law on the Procedure for Calculating and Increasing State Pensions. The pensioner had found, after studying the law, that the coefficient used to calculate his pension was too low. Hundreds of older citizens in Bryansk have expressed interest in filing similar cases and are seeking the advice of the local Communists. Meanwhile, Governor Yurii Lodkin and oblast Duma chairman Stepan Ponasov have sent a letter to Moscow protesting violations in the procedure for calculating pensions. JC

CHELYABINSK: PROSECUTOR FIRED FOR 'EXCESSIVE INTRIGUE.'
At the initiative of Governor Petr Sumin, a Chelyabinsk prosecutor has been dismissed for "excessive intrigue and ties to corrupt structures" while examining the privatization of several thousand of the oblast's firms, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 April. When Sumin issued a decree in 1994 to study how some 4,000 companies were being privatized, Anatolii Bragin responded only too eagerly to that order, according to the newspaper. He began to launch criminal proceedings into various businessmen on the slightest grounds or, in some instances, without any grounds whatsoever, the newspaper said. The majority of those cases did not get beyond the investigation stage. But in one particularly egregious instance, Bragin openly took sides with an enterprise director engaged in a dispute with the enterprise's former head, whom Bragin appears to have wrongfully accused of acquiring a 30 percent stake in the company. That display of bias seemingly proved Bragin's undoing. Sumin sent a letter to the Chelyabinsk prosecutor-general citing examples of Bragin's transgressions and demanding that the prosecutor be dismissed from office. JC

CHITA: TAX DEADBEATS THREATENED WITH BANKRUPTCY.
Chita Oblast Governor Ravil Geniatulin threatened the directors of several of the oblast's large industrial enterprises that the government will initiate bankruptcy proceedings against their companies within 10 days if they do not make good on their debts to the local budget, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 April. According to the agency, unpaid taxes total 80 million rubles ($3.3 million) and because of this gap, the backlog of unpaid wages to state workers has reached 40 million rubles. JAC

KHABAROVSK: NO RELIEF SEEN FOR ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE IN AMUR BASIN.
Participants in an environmental forum in Khabarovsk concluded in a statement issued on 23 April that Russia's slump in industrial production has not resulted in the expected reduction of the human impact on ecological systems in the Amur River basin, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, the basin is about 2 million square kilometers, two-thirds of which lie within Russian borders. However, more than 70 million Chinese live there compared with 5.5 million Russians. According to the forum statement, the region's water systems are deteriorating, its reservoirs are polluted, and the life expectancy of its residents is growing smaller. JAC

KURSK: RUTSKOI SEEKS CHANGE OF OBLAST POWER STRUCTURE.
"Izvestiya" reported on 21 April that Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi is seeking local residents' consent to assume control over municipal authorities in the oblast. According to the newspaper, Rutskoi intends to hold a referendum in each raion to determine whether residents are in favor of local self-government or whether they would prefer "to return to [the system of] Councils of People's Deputies and Executive Committees." Recently, the governor published in "Kurskaya Pravda" an appeal to the oblast's residents to support his position that municipal leaders should be appointed by him. In that appeal, he portrayed the raion authorities as robbing the people and creating an "army of managers," while the oblast administration "works indefatigably" for the good of the people. Earlier, five bills radically changing the power structure of the oblast sailed through the Kursk Duma, which is dominated by Rutskoi supporters. JC

MAGADAN: LOCAL AUTHORITIES DEVISING NEW VERSION OF FREE ECONOMIC ZONE.
Oblast authorities are preparing new legislation intended to free the region from its chronic problem of underfinancing, "Magadanskaya pravda" reported on 30 March. The bill is a new version of the legislation creating a free economic zone in Magadan which President Yeltsin vetoed earlier. Under the legislation, local enterprises would be exempt from paying federal taxes and custom duties. When it is ready, Governor Valentin Tsvetkov will submit it to the State Duma. JAC

NIZHNII NOVGOROD: GAZ PLANS AUTOMOBILE ASSEMBLY IN IRAN.
The joint-stock company GAZ, one of Russia's leading automobile producers, is planning to launch the assembly of its vehicles in Iran, Interfax reported on 23 April. That undertaking is to take place at an assembly plant on the outskirts of Teheran, where a total of some 30,000 GAZ cars are expected to be assembled annually. According to the news agency, the parts for some 20 cars have already been sent to Iran and those for another 2,000 are expected to follow within the next two months. JC

PRIMORYE: FORMER MAYOR BECOMES FORMER CANDIDATE.
Viktor Cherepkov, the former mayor of Vladivostok who has been twice removed from office, has been disqualified from running in elections for the city's legislative assembly, "Izvestiya" reported on 23 April. The district election commission ruled that Cherepkov had made mistakes in his registration to run in the election scheduled for 16 May (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 April 1999). The commission also rejected six other potential candidates including three supporters of Cherepkov. JAC

PRIMORYE: FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY SUSPECTED OF MISDEEDS.
Local law enforcement officials in the Primorskii Krai are investigating the involvement of General-Lieutenant Viktor Kondratov, former presidential representative to the Primorskii Krai and former head of the Federal Security Services (FSB) directorate in that region, in the illegal sale of two trawlers belonging to a local large fishing enterprise, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 23 April. President Yeltsin dismissed Kondratov in February from the post of presidential envoy. At the time, deputy head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev said that the move was designed to give Kondratov more time to concentrate on his duties as regional FSB head, but he was later stripped of that post as well. According to the agency, investigators recently searched the homes of Kondratov's son and nephew. JAC

SAMARA: FSB PRESSURING LOCAL NEWSPAPER.
The Federal Security Service (FSB)'s directorate in Samara Oblast has initiated criminal proceedings against the newspaper "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" for its alleged disclosure of state secrets, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 21 April. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 April that FSB investigators have been interrogating some of the newspapers reporters for more than two months. According to the daily, the "unpleasantness" started after the newspaper published an article about the blaze that destroyed the FSB building in January. The newspaper's editor, Valerii Ivanov, said that investigators approached practically all reporters at the newspaper and were particularly interested in their sources within law enforcement agencies. JAC

TATARSTAN: PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER VISITS KAZAN.
Nawaz Sharif arrived in Kazan on 22 April at the head of a 60- person delegation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The following day, Sharif met with Tatarstan's Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov to discuss the prospects for trade and economic cooperation, in particular the purchase by Pakistan of KamAZ trucks or their assembly in Pakistan. The two sides also agreed on the creation of a bilateral working commission. The Pakistani delegation also visited the Kazan helicopter plant and optical works. LF

RADICAL TATAR PARTY CAMPAIGNS TO ABOLISH PRESIDENCY.
The national independence party Ittifak has begun collecting signatures in support of the abolition of the post of president of the Tatarstan Republic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 24 April. The party's chairwoman, Faustiya Bayramova, told the newspaper that "the institution of the presidency has not justified the hopes of the people. It has deteriorated into an authoritarian regime." She characterized incumbent President Mintimer Shaimiev as "the shame of the nation," accusing him of silencing the opposition and amending the republic's constitution to strengthen his own position. LF

ULYANOVSK: RESIDENTS PROTEST PRICE HIKES.
Following the Ulyanovsk municipal authorities' decision to raise the cost of housing and communal services by one-and-a-half times, local trade unions are seeking to mobilize residents to protest the hikes, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 April (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 April 1999). Pickets and meetings are being organized outside the building of the Mayor's Office to demand that the authorities pay all arrears and index wages and pensions before raising the cost of services. The trade unions say if those demands are not met, they are prepared to launch proceedings to recall the mayor and municipal deputies, according to the news agency. JC

VOLGOGRAD: REBURIAL WITHOUT CEREMONY FOR FALLEN GERMAN SOLDIERS.
The Volgograd authorities have canceled a ceremony, planned for 15 May, marking the opening of a cemetery for German soldiers killed during World War II, Reuters reported on 21 April. Last month, the State Duma approved a petition that the ceremony not take place on account of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. Officials from Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) and the German ambassador to Russia had intended to attend the opening of the graveyard, where thousands of German soldiers who fell during the Battle of Stalingrad have been reburied over the past three years. Both sides sustained massive losses in that battle, which raged from August 1942 to February 1943 and marked a turning point in the war to the advantage of the Allies. JC

VORONEZH: MAYOR REJECTS 'VLADIVOSTOK SCENARIO.'
At a recent session of the Voronezh Municipal Council, a group of 16 deputies, mostly Communists and enterprise owners, sought to oust Mayor Aleksandr Tsapin and to remove the mandates of several deputies who simultaneously hold positions in the city administration, "Izvestiya" reported on 23 April. After the mayor's supporters walked out of the session, the "mutineers" introduced amendments to the city statutes and proclaimed a new mayor: deputy Vasilii Kochergin, who earlier had unsuccessfully sought the post of President Yeltsin's representative in the oblast. Both the oblast election committee and prosecutor-general immediately declared those moves illegal, while Tsapin commented that he would "not allow a situation to develop based on the Vladivostok scenario." The following day, "Izvestiya" reported that the two sides had reached a truce. Following meetings with presidential representative Boris Kuznetsov and Governor Ivan Shabanov, those sides have agreed that both Tsapin and the deputies simultaneously serving in the Council and the city administration will remain in office pending a federal Supreme Court ruling. JC

LABOR ACTIONS: KHAKASSIA.
Coal miners trade union head Sergei Ivashkevich began a three-day hunger strike on 21 April to protest unpaid wages worth 60 million rubles ($2.4 million) ... SVERDLOVSK. The strike called by some 227 construction workers building the subway system in Ekaterinburg continued for its seventh day on 23 April, Interfax-Eurasia reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 April 1999). Sverdlovskmetrostroi General Director Vladimir Surin told some of the workers who are on a hunger strike that the federal money owed to the construction company would not be transferred until the end of the month. He did not say whether this sum would be enough to cover the 11-month back log of unpaid wages.

CORRUPTION WATCH: ST. PETERSBURG.
"RFE/RL Russian Federation Report" on 28 April 1999 cited an incorrect ITAR-TASS report about criminal charges filed against St. Petersburg legislative assembly speaker Yurii Kravtsov. According to "The St. Petersburg Times" on 20 April, the city's prosecutor filed charges on 16 April against Kravtsov for overstepping his authority as speaker in 1996 and 1997 by providing 300 million old rubles in credits to the daily newspaper "Smena." Kravtsov calls the charges absurd since the granting of such credits was within his power and labels the effort by the city's prosecutor politically motivated. According to the daily, Kravtsov has been charged with a variety of crimes, all of which were either later dismissed or ruled groundless by the court.

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