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Russia Report: May 13, 1999


13 May 1999, Volume 1, Number 11
PAN-REGIONAL: REGIONAL LEADERS MOSTLY LAMENT PRIMAKOV'S DEPARTURE.
St. Petersburg Governor and leader of the North-West regional association Vladimir Yakovlev told reporters on 12 May that the resignation of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov "might lead to the destabilization of political life in Russia." The head of Pskov's oblast administration, Yevgenii Mikhailov, expressed the sentiment more strongly saying that the president made the decision guided by his emotions rather than from a concern for stability in the country, Interfax reported. Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev also expressed regret that Primakov had been dismissed, saying that Primakov "had just established control over the economic situation." He added that work "to coordinate territorial resolutions and programs with the government has proved to be a wasted effort," since it will have to start over again. Bashkortostan President Murtaz Rakhimov predicted that social tension in the country will only increase, the economic situation worsen, and the effort to impeach Russian President Boris Yeltsin will not succeed. JAC

NEW, IMPROVED REGIONAL MINISTRY TO EMERGE?
Citing only unofficial sources, "Vremya MN" reported on 7 May that a new Ministry for Nationalities and Regional Policy will be created sometime in May. According to the daily, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said in a meeting with 19 regional governors on 20 April that the decision to split the old Ministry of Nationalities and Regional Policy into two separate ministries last fall had been a mistake. According to the daily, there are three potential candidates to head the new ministry: Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, former deputy chief of the presidential staff Sergei Shakhrai, and former leader of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, Aleksandr Shokhin. JAC

CHERNOMYRDIN TO CONSULT WITH REGIONAL LEADERS ON KOSOVA.
After returning to Russia from the U.S. on 5 May, Viktor Chernomyrdin, presidential special envoy to Yugoslavia, said that he considers it necessary to seek the advice of leaders of Russia's regions on the Kosova conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, he also praised the regions' willingness to welcome refugees from the Balkans and provide humanitarian assistance. The same day 30 ethnic Adygei refugees fleeing Kosova arrived in Sochi, Interfax reported. The Adygeis will join 150 of their countrymen who arrived in Russia last fall. Adygei Deputy Prime Minister Ruslan Panesh told ITAR-TASS that day that his government knows very little about the fate of another 100 Adygeis living in Kosova. Meanwhile, Buddhist clergy of Russia issued a statement on 28 April expressing their "concern" over ongoing NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. JAC

REGIONS OUTSIDE MOSCOW ATTRACTING ONLY TRICKLE OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT.
In 1998, Moscow ranked highest of all Russian regions in terms of attracting foreign investment, Interfax-Vremya reported in its April issue. It achieved a rate of $682.70 per capita, compared with $80.24 for Russia as a whole. After Moscow came the Koryak Autonomous Okrug with $231.64 per capita, Sakhalin Oblast ($221.61), Magadan Oblast ($218.34), Omsk ($207.46), Sakha Republic (Yakutia) ($196.25), Komi Republic ($188.64), and Tatarstan ($181.03). JAC

EU GRAIN ARRIVES IN MURMANSK, AS SOME OTHER REGIONS SAY NO THANKS.
Some 17,000 tons of wheat that arrived in Murmansk harbor earlier this month are being distributed among the northwestern regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 May. The grain, which is destined for Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, and Vologda Oblasts as well the Republic of Karelia, has been sent by the EU as humanitarian aid. Rice from Spain has also arrived at the northwestern port, as have 10,000 tons of rye from West European countries. According to the news agency, several shiploads of grain from the U.S. and Canada are currently en route to Kola Bay. According to "The Moscow Times" on 7 May, about 30 percent of the regions that originally signed up for EU food assistance have dropped out of the program. Some regions rejected the aid saying that it is too expensive; others refused to accept French grain because of its allegedly substandard quality; and in some regions, local administrators did not want to assume responsibility for ensuring that the profits from the sale of the food actually went to the Pension Fund. JC/JAC

BURYATIA: OTECHESTVO MAKING INROADS.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo movement now has a registered faction in the legislative assembly of the Republic of Buryatia, which is the second-largest, totaling 19 of 65 deputies, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Regiony" reported on 27 April. What's more, the new faction has among its members the chairman of three of five committees in the People's Khural as well as the assembly's deputy speaker. JAC

CHELYABINSK: STALIN'S GRANDSON TEARFUL IN TANKOGRAD.
Commenting on his visit to the museum of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory, known as "Tankograd" during World War II because of its 1941 conversion to military production, Yevgenii Dzhugashvili told ITAR-TASS on 5 May that he had had to fight back tears because the "history of the factory is the history of our state and the establishment of its might." Harking back to the era of his grandfather, Soviet leader Josef Stalin, he paid tribute to the factory workers' "great contribution" to the Soviet victory over the Nazis. Dzhugashvili is being accompanied by Viktor Anpilov, leader of the radical left-wing Trudovaya Rossiya (Working Russia) party during a tour of Russian cities. According to the news agency, Anpilov is introducing Dzhugashvili as leader of the extreme left-wing election bloc, which favors the "revival of Soviet power without any reservations." JC

KALMYKIA: SLAIN JOURNALIST REMEMBERED.
The name of journalist Larisa Yudina has been added to those engraved on a memorial on the bank of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., to journalists slain in the line of duty, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. Yudina, editor of the opposition newspaper "Sovetskaya Kalmykiya," was slain in June 1998 in what then Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin described at the time as "a contract murder" and a "political murder." In October, the U.S. granted three former associates of Yudina refugee status as "victims of political repression" in Kalmykia because they all had received death threats, one a beating and one confinement in a psychiatric institution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1999). JAC

KRASNOYARSK: WOMEN FED UP OVER UNPAID WAGES.
A local women's movement led by Nadezhda Sapronova announced on 5 May that it will begin collecting signatures on a petition to hold a referendum to remove the krai's governor, Aleksandr Lebed, "Segodnya" reported. The movement itself has almost 4,000 members, according to the newspaper, and will need to gather 40,000 signatures. Their primary complaint against Lebed is his failure to reach an agreement with the Finance Ministry in Moscow for the payment of state workers' wages. The Finance Ministry alleges that Lebed's government ignored an instruction to devote 40 percent of the regional budget for the payment of such salaries and 80 million rubles ($3.3 million) transferred from Moscow for this purpose were "misused." JAC

LENINGRAD: ESTONIA TO HAVE NEW REP IN LENINGRAD?
A new candidate has emerged in the governor's race in Leningrad Oblast, where elections are scheduled for 19 September. The head of the Association for Russian Citizens in Estonia, Vladimir Lebedev, told the Baltic News Service on 4 May that he will run without the formal support of any political party, but he added that some politicians and businessmen in the oblast have promised to back him. Lebedev added that as governor or even as one of six deputy governors he could protect Estonia's economic interests. JAC

PENZA: STUDENTS ACT AGAINST 'WORTHLESS DIPLOMAS.'
Students at private institutes of higher education in Penza have formed a "Society to Protect the Rights of Consumers of General Education Services," "Izvestiya" reported on 5 May. That move is aimed at preventing students and their parents from falling victim to "swindlers" among the private education system. According to the daily, private high schools in the oblast have been offering tuition without the necessary license and accreditation, meaning that the diplomas they issue are worthless. The newspaper notes that such schools target their advertising at "well-off parents" who want their offspring to acquire high-school diplomas "without any special difficulty." JC

PRIMORYE: FORMER MAYOR/FORMER CANDIDATE BACK IN THE RACE AGAIN.
The city election commission upheld on 11 May former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov's right to run in upcoming elections for city's legislative assembly, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The commission rendered its decision after reviewing an earlier ruling of a district election commission that Cherepkov could not run because he had improperly registered as a candidate. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov appealed to the head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin, to ensure that elections for Vladivostok's legislative assembly scheduled for 16 May actually take place, Interfax reported on 5 May. In a letter to Voloshin, Veshnyakov expressed his concern about that city administration's refusal to provide financing for the elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 5 May 1999). "Vremya MN" reported on 27 April that acting Mayor Yurii Kopylov is refusing to transfer 2.5 million rubles ($104,000) needed to hold the elections because, according to him, the chairman of the election commission "cannot be trusted with the people's money." JAC

TULA: BACK TO THE USSR.
On the initiative of economic managers in Tula Oblast's Plavskii Raion, which suffered some of the worst effects of the 1986 Chornobyl accident, the Soviet-era "trudoden" (work day, referring to a means of accounting wages on collective farms) is being reintroduced and the payment of wages in farm produce and other goods officially established, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Regiony" reported on 27 April. Those measures are being described as temporary, although in practice rural residents have long been paid in grain, potatoes, milk, vodka, or even manure. The newspaper comments that in some of the oblast's more remote villages, residents have not yet seen bank notes in the "new" ruble denominations and have long since forgotten what the old ones look like. JC

YAMALO-NENETS: IS IT THE NEXT REGION SET TO DEFAULT?
The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug is about to default on a $100 million payment on the principal of a loan from an international banking syndicate, "The Moscow Times" reported on 5 May. According to the daily, regional authorities are negotiating with their creditors to restructure the loan. Robert Devane, an independent investment adviser, told the newspaper that "it is unclear if the governor [of Yamalo-Nenets] fully understands the repercussions to his political career of allowing a default." JAC

YAROSLAVL: SALES TAX HERE TO STAY?
The Russian Supreme Court has overruled a decision by the Yaroslavl Oblast Court on the 5 percent sales tax introduced in the oblast at the beginning of this year, Interfax reported on 3 May. Immediately after its introduction, a group of local residents lodged an appeal with the oblast court, arguing that their economic interests were "endangered" by the new levy. The oblast court made a decision in their favor, but the Supreme Court rejected it, invoking a 1998 Constitutional Court ruling that states until the passage of a federal law "On Appeals against Normative Acts," lower courts do not have the right to consider appeals against laws, resolutions, and decrees passed by the president or by federal or local legislatures. JC

LABOR ACTIONS
CHITA. Teachers in 36 schools in Chita Oblast are continuing their month-long strike protesting unpaid wages, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 May. The strike has lasted so long that authorities fear that students may not be able to take their final exams ... SAKHALIN. About 1,000 coal miners on Sakhalin Island declared a strike on 6 May to protest a 10-month backlog of unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS reported.

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