Accessibility links

Russia Report: July 21, 1999


21 July 1999, Volume 1, Number 21
PAN REGIONAL: SUPREME COURT TO RULE ON EARLY ELECTIONS?
RFE/RL Russian Service's "Vybory-99" reported on 15 July that the Central Electoral Committee has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to rule on the legality of bringing forward gubernatorial elections in Novgorod, Omsk, and Tomsk from December to September. Those moves, taken by the regions' local legislatures, could be appealed in the Supreme Court, according to "Vybory-99." Pending such an eventuality, preparations for the elections continue unabated in the three oblasts. Indeed, the determination to proceed with the ballot preparations may be based on the Belgorod experience: even though the Supreme Court nullified the Belgorod legislature's decision to bring forward the gubernatorial ballot, the court's presidium subsequently overruled the court and the vote took place more than six months ahead of schedule (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 26 May 1999). Mikhail Prusak, the incumbent governor of Novgorod and the likely winner of the 5 September vote, told "Vybory-99" that he believes "everyone recognizes that in such a difficult economic situation, it is impossible to hold elections in December and at the same time prepare the oblast for the winter." JC

PAN REGIONAL: FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN'S AUTHORITY CHALLENGED.
Ingushetia President Ruslan Aushev told "Vremya MN" on 15 July that the terms for the chairs of the committees, speaker, and the latter's deputies at the Federation Council should be changed so that they not exceed a year and later should be occupied on a rotating basis so that "all senators will be able to head the Federation Council." According to Aushev, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev "has divided members of the Federation Council into first and second class citizens" and "makes announcements on behalf of the entire senate" when many regional leaders have different opinions. Aushev also accused Stroev, who is also the governor of Orel Oblast, of using his office so that special projects are carried out in his region. According to Aushev, one result of this influence is that Orel Oil Company was established even though the region has no oil. According to the daily, Aushev explained that he was forced to "mutiny" against Stroev because of the speaker's failure to place the issue of Ingush refugees on the agenda of the upper chamber as had been previously agreed. JAC

TOP REGIONAL BLOC OFFICIAL PANS PLANS OF COMPETITOR BLOC...
In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 15 July, Oleg Morozov, Russian Regions faction leader in the State Duma and Vsya Rossiya (All Russia) reckoned that if realized, the potential coalition between Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) with Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) would prove singularly unpopular among other regional leaders and voters since the formation would be more politically "right" than "center" no matter how its leaders try to characterize it. "I cannot think of even one person right now who would follow [Golos Rossii informal leader] Konstantin Titov to [coalition] with Right Cause." According to Morozov, only Vsya Rossiya and Otechestvo [Fatherland] occupy Russia's political center. JAC

...COMMENTS ON OWN ALLIANCE FORMATION PROGRESS.
Morozov added that Vsya Rossiya officials consult with their counterparts at Otechestvo on an almost daily basis. Its leaders are also engaged in frequent dialogues. Morozov added that Vsya Rossiya will hold its second congress at the end of August in Ufa, Bashkortostan. Commenting on an earlier report in "Kommersant-Daily" that the bloc's first congress was paid for by the city of St. Petersburg's budget, Morozov suggested that the bloc should reveal all sources of financing for the congress, which had sponsors such as LUKoil. JAC

REGIONAL LEADERS LAMENT, PRAISE ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH WEST.
At a recent forum in Vologda, representatives from Russia's regions recommended that federal and regional authorities enact legislation on the status of borders territories that might overcome trade barriers faced by Russian goods in Western countries, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 July. In a meeting between governors of Russian border regions and Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin earlier in the month, regional officials reported that cross-border trade was falling. For example, Ukraine's share of the Rostov Oblast's foreign trade turnover amounted to 24 percent in 1998 compared with 48.9 percent in 1995, "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" reported on 10 July. Belgorod Governor Yevgenii Savchenko explained that one person might be required to pay 100 rubles more to Russia's custom service for the same product than he would have to pay to Ukrainian customs. He asked: "Why can't our leaders just get together and abolish all of these duties without adopting additional laws that may take years?" Kaliningrad Governor Leonid Gorbenko, on the other hand, said that his region had no problem with cross-border cooperation and although it is one of the smallest regions in Russia, it ranks among the top five in attracting foreign capital, the daily reported. Minister for Federation and Ethnic Affairs Vyacheslav Mikhailov seemed afraid that Kaliningrad might be cooperating too closely with the West. He said without an active presence of federal authorities in distant territories, such as Kaliningrad and the Kuril Islands, Russia "may well lose these regions." JAC

PAN REGIONAL: STATISTICS AGENCY REPORTS MIXED PICTURE FOR REGIONAL GRAIN STOCKS...
As overall grains stocks slipped 76.8 percent as of 1 July compared with the same date the previous years, regions in central Russia have been increasing their reserves while others have depleted reserves to almost nothing, "The Moscow Times" reported on 17 July, citing information from the Russian Statistics Agency. The republics of Altai, Sakha (Yakutia), Tuva, Ingushetia, and Karachaevo-Cherkessia have grain reserves totaling only 300-400 tons, while Magadan Oblast has zero stocks. Meanwhile, St. Petersburg and Novgorod Oblast both increased their reserves by 120 percent in July from the previous month, according to the newspaper. JAC

...AS SIBERIA'S PREPAREDNESS FOR WINTER ASSESSED.
As of the beginning of July, Sibirenergo's coal reserves were 13 percent and its fuel oil reserves were 40 percent short of targets, Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais revealed on 15 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Nevertheless, Sibirenergo chief Leonid Andronov claimed that most energy facilities in Siberia are ready for the winter season except Omsk and Novosibirsk Oblasts. JAC

BELGOROD: CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST ZHIRINOVSKII FOR SLANDERING SAVCHENKO.
According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 July, a criminal case has been opened against Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii for slandering and repeatedly offending Governor Evgenii Savchenko in the runup to the May gubernatorial election. The case was launched by the prosecutor-general of neighboring Voronezh Oblast, who had been approached by his Belgorod counterpart in the interest of securing an "objective decision" on whether to proceed with criminal proceedings. JC

KARELIA: NEWSPAPER'S INDEPENDENCE AT RISK.
Over the past several months, "Severnyi Kurer," Karelia's oldest daily and only independent newspaper, has increasingly been targeted by circles allegedly close to the republic's executive who want to "buy up the votes" of the publication's founders/editors, RFE/RL's "Korrespondentskii chac" reported on 3 July. Chief editor Sergei Kulikaev has received threats of physical violence if he does not meet demands to cede his stake in the newspaper, and local entrepreneurs have appeared in the offices of his newspaper in order to put what Kulikaev described as "psychological pressure" on the daily's staff to sell their shares in the publication. According to Kulikaev, such circles have already secured control over one-third of the shares. Well-known Petrozavodsk journalist Anatolii Tsygankov sees these latest developments as part of the executive authorities' bid to gain control over all mass media in the republic--a mere 20 percent of which, he estimates, have managed to retain their independence. JC

KEMEROVO: THIS YEAR'S BUDGET PASSES WITH A FEW BLANKS REMAINING.
Deputies in the oblast's legislative assembly finally passed the oblast's budget for the second half of 1999 the previous week, "Vremya MN" reported on 14 July. The budget for the first half of the year was passed only on 3 June. Under the budget for the entire year, expenditures total 7.7 billion rubles and revenue 5.3 billion rubles; the resulting deficit is 31.2 percent of expenditures, which represents progress of sorts over the previous year, when the budget was 50 percent of expenditures. However, not all expected expenditures are provided for under the current budget. According to the daily, the budget does not provide the 730 million rubles needed to raise wages for state sector workers 50 percent starting in the second half of the year as required under local law. In addition, monies to cover the backlog of unpaid wages to state sector employees were also not provided. JAC

KEMEROVO: TULEEV, STROEV PROTEST DEATH SENTENCE.
Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev has demanded that Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo ask the government of Chechnya for an explanation of the death sentence passed by a North Caucasus Muslim theological council as punishment for his reported conversion to Christianity, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 14 July (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 14 July 1999). Two days later, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev issued a statement expressing his indignation over threats to Russian regional leaders by "extremist" organizations, ITAR-TASS reported. Stroev said that the death sentence that "was widely reported in the press" was "a cynical act of provocation" and "yet another example of kompromat that can kill [ideologicheskoe informatsionoe killerstvo] against inconvenient leaders." JAC

KRASNODAR: LOCAL HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP NOT ALLOWED TO REGISTER.
"Vremya MN" reported on 15 July that officials at the Justice Ministry's regional directorate in Krasnodar Krai have refused to register the local Association for the Protection of Human Rights, which has been operating in the area for five years. According to the daily, the group has 89 members locally including lawyers who--among other things--analyze the region's laws and see how they correspond with federal and international laws. The director of the Krasnodar Justice Ministry directorate, Natalya Ivashchenko, said that the group's intention to participate in elections "violates existing legislation." JAC

MARII EL: DOZENS OF PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS FACE EXTINCTION.
In the Marii El Republic, more than 100 public organizations face liquidation because they have not been reregistered by the Justice Ministry, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 July. By law, public organizations were required to reregister with the Justice Ministry by 1 July or face loss of certain legal rights, such as that of participating in elections or owning property or a bank account (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). JAC

OMSK: REGISTRATION OF CANDIDATES BEGINS.
As the registration of candidates for the 5 September gubernatorial elections got under way earlier this month, the two main challengers for that post appeared to be Leonid Polezhaev, the incumbent for the past nine years, and Aleksandr Kravets, the local communist boss and the party's chief ideologist. According to "Kommersant-Daily," this will be the first time that such a high-ranking Communist (Kravets may be considered the party's No. 3, after Gennadii Zyuganov and his deputy, Valentin Kuptsov) runs for the post of governor. Polezhaev, following the example of some of his colleagues, moved up the date of the election from December to September, when the vote for the Omsk mayoralty is also due to take place. Meanwhile, Sergei Baburin, the deputy speaker of the State Duma and a native of Omsk, announced to journalists in the oblast his intention to run for the presidency, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 15 July. There has been speculation that he, too, would take part in the Omsk gubernatorial ballot. JC

SAKHALIN: KURIL OFFICIALS ASK VISITORS TO BRING THEIR OWN FUEL.
A severe shortage of fuel is threatening to isolate the southern Kuril islands from the outside world, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 July. Phone service has been cut off on the island of Shikotan and a rapidly dwindling supply of fuel at a electricity plant in the Vladimir Zema raion threatens phone service there. According to the agency, the southern Kuril administration has appealed to those Japanese citizens wishing to visit the island to bring canisters of diesel fuel with them. JAC

STAVROPOL: TOP COP SACKED.
Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo dismissed the head of the Stavropol Oblast's Interior Ministry directorate, General Mikhail Shepilov, following increasing attacks on police officers and civilians along the region's border with Chechnya, Interfax reported on 15 July. Police officers are the most frequent victims of terrorists along the Chechen border, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 July. Since the beginning of 1999, armed bandits have committed 73 assaults on police posts and patrols of Interior Ministry troops, with the result that 45 police officers were killed and 85 wounded. On 18 July, the bodies of two policemen and four young women were found in the Kursk raion in Stavoropol Oblast, Interfax reported. JAC

TOMSK: KALYUZHNII MAKES BID FOR GOVERNOR.
Federal Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii is collecting signatures to run in the 19 September gubernatorial vote, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 13 July. Kalyuzhnii is a native of Tomsk and was president of the Eastern Oil company. He is reported to have already set up his election headquarters in the oblast's capital. JC

TVER: CIRCUMVENTING THE BANKS.
Of the transactions taking place within the oblast, 20 percent are carried out by bank order, 25 percent in cash, and 55 percent by barter and other non-monetary channels, according to a report delivered by Aleksandr Bezdolnyi of the Central Bank's Tver department, "Tverskie Vedomosti" reported on 2 July 1999. Bezdolnyi pointed out that this means 80 percent of all transactions are taking place outside the banking system, which, he argued, is having a negative impact on the development of the economy. Bezdolnyi delivered his report to a meeting chaired by the presidential representative in Tver and attended by officials from the regional administration and legislature. JC

VOLGOGRAD: SHOP OWNERS' PROTEST AVERTED.
A protest by local shop owners over an imputed earnings tax was averted at the last moment when the Volgograd city authorities intervened, "Vremya MN" reported on 15 July. The shop owners had been planning to close down their businesses to protest the introduction next month of that tax, passed by the Communist-dominated oblast Duma. But the evening before the planned action, both the mayor and the chairman of the city council issued a statement recognizing the negative consequences that the tax would have on businesses and promising to do everything in their power to help meet the shop owners' demands. The latter are threatening to go ahead with the protest if their demands are not satisfied by the end of the month. But, as the daily comments, the Communist Duma deputies are likely to opt for the "lesser evil" of accommodating the "bourgeoisie" rather than risk a confrontation with angry shopper-voters. JC

CORRUPTION WATCH: JEWISH AUTONOMOUS OBLAST.
The former mayor of Birobidzhan, Viktor Bolotnov, has been detained by police for questioning, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 July. According to the agency, unidentified "reliable sources" claim that Bolotnov is suspected of misusing budget funds...KEMEROVO. The former deputy of the former head of the Kemerovo Oblast administration, Sergei Loparev, was arrested on 9 July on suspicion of misusing 127 billion old rubles that were sent to the oblast from the federal budget...ROSTOV. The Prosecutor-General's Office concluded its investigation of Rostov na Donu's former prosecutor Mikhail Berezhnoi for suspicion of abuse of power, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 July. Acting Prosecutor-General Yurii Chaika must decide whether a court case will be brought against him. JAC

FROM OUR TRAFFIC DESK: TOYOTA LAND CRUISER VERSUS ZHIGULI, 1-0.
Last week, the "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report" presented a partial roster of the official cars of Russia's regional political elite. The day after that report came out, the Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to Tula Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev struck a Zhiguli in downtown Moscow, Interfax-Moscow reported on 15 May. The 40-year old driver of the Zhiguli received a concussion and some broken ribs, while Governor Starodubtsev and his driver walked away unhurt. According to the agency, both cars sustained "mechanical damages" JAC

XS
SM
MD
LG