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Russia Report: August 11, 1999


11 August 1999, Volume 1, Number 24
PAN REGIONAL: STEPASHIN SACKING LINKED WITH GOVERNORS' GROUPINGS.
On 7 August, "Kommersant-Daily" characterized former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin's recent whirlwind tour through the Volga region as a last-ditch effort to persuade President Boris Yeltsin not to dismiss him by convincing regional leaders to back the Kremlin's candidates in upcoming parliamentary elections. Stepashin, who was later dismissed on 9 August, attended a meeting of the Greater Volga interregional association in Ulyanovsk on 7 August. In that town, Stepashin called for reviving the Union of Governors and, according to ITAR-TASS, stressed the importance of that group's activities for preventing "bandits and swindlers from being elected to the State Duma." He said that President Yeltsin had instructed him to call a meeting of the group on 31 August. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, who met with Stepashin in Kazan during the latter's swing through the Volga region, supported Stepashin's proposal, saying "it is necessary to think about how to revive" the union for regional heads. Political analysts suggested that the Kremlin was hoping to somehow disengage the governors' bloc, All Russia, from Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland, either by having Stepashin become its leader or by declaring his backing only for the former group and not the latter. On 3 August, Sergei Zverev, whom Yeltsin dismissed from his post as deputy head of the presidential administration on 2 August, had predicted that a conflict between the Kremlin and Stepashin would occur if the former decided to oppose the new alliance between Fatherland and All Russia. He said that Stepashin would not agree to participate in such a confrontation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999). JAC

GOVERNORS' ALLIANCE WITH MOSCOW MAYOR CALLED HARMFUL FOR FEDERATION UNITY.
Dmitrii Rogozin, head of the Congress of Russian Communities, said the coalition between Fatherland and All Russia is threatening for the unity of the Russian Federation, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 August. According to Rogozin, Luzhkov has "paid" for the support of the regional leaders by renouncing many of his own policies. As a result, Luzhkov now supports a further widening of the sovereignty of the republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Ingushetia, whose leaders are members of All Russia. The congress had been expelled from Fatherland in July. Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 6 August, Boris Kagarlitskii of the Academy of Sciences' Institute for Comparative Political Studies made a similar argument, suggesting that "in exchange for the regional leaders' support, Luzhkov must promise them a level of independence that risks turning the Russian presidency into a nominal post." He continues, "Naturally, these promises can be subsequently reneged on, but the autonomous presidents will not allow themselves to be so easily tricked." JAC

REGIONAL MINISTER SAYS TOO MANY REORGANIZATIONS REDUCED WORK.
In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta--Regiony" on 30 July, Valerii Kirpichnikov, minister for federation and nationalities policy, said that too frequent reorganizations within his ministry have "noticeably reduced [his] organization's effectiveness." Various nationality and other issues are once again under the purview of the State Committee for Northern Issues, and as a result, whole series of normative documents must be revised. On the other hand, Kirpichnikov noted that the last government reshuffle removed a layer between himself and the prime minister. He used to have to answer to First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov and then directly to former Prime Minister Stepashin. According to Kirpichnikov, the new law on "the principle and order of the distribution of responsibilities of organs of the Russian Federation and subjects of the federation," which went into effect on 30 July, is likely only one in a series of new laws clarifying the relationship between the center and the regions, particularly since the new law does not resolve the problem of interbudgetary relations (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 August 1999). JAC

BAN ON GRAIN SHIPMENTS ACROSS REGIONAL BORDER IN EFFECT IN LIPETSK...
Local militia stopped Anatolii Kaprov, a farmer in Terbuny, from transporting his grain outside of the oblast's boundaries in keeping with Lipetsk Governor Oleg Korolev's ban on such shipments, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 August. Kaprov has threatened to protest the ban by either dumping his grain in a local pond to feed the fish or in the middle of Terbuny's central square at a monument commemorating Soviet authorities' expropriation of grain from peasants. JAC

...AND ORENBURG.
The oblast administration of Orenburg Oblast, one of the main grain-producing regions of the Russian Federation, has imposed limits on the amount of grain and grain products that can be transported outside the region's borders, Interfax reported on 9 August. According to the administration press service, this measure is aimed at ensuring that local needs are met and deliveries to the state grain reserves guaranteed. The news agency quotes federal Anti-Monopoly Minister Ilya Yuzhanov as saying at the beginning of July that limits imposed by regional administrations on the "export" of goods constitute a gross violation of the law. JC

BASHKORTOSTAN: LOCAL, FEDERAL AUTHORITIES CLASH OVER CONTROVERSIAL RIVER PROJECT.
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov has ordered local authorities to resume construction of the Yumaguzinskii reservoir on the Belaya River, a project that the Soviet Union's State Committee for Ecology suspended 10 years ago, RFE/RL's "Korrespondentskii chas" reported on 31 July. At a Bashkortostan government session last fall, Rakhimov called the earlier decision incorrect and populist. The Russian Federation's State Committee for Ecology has followed in its predecessor's footsteps, ordering Rakhimov to stop construction. Committee Chairman Viktor Danilov-Danilyan said that the Belaya River flows not only in the Bashkortostan Republic, adding that the project and Bashkortostan officials' measures to promote it violate not only the Russian constitution but also several federal codes and laws. RFE/RL's correspondent in Ufa concluded that so far Bashkortostan authorities are paying little attention to the federal protests (see also "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 14 July 1999). JAC

BASHKORTOSTAN: YET ANOTHER REGION GRIPPED BY BREAD SCARE.
Shoppers in Ufa, the capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan, have been buying up bread, Interfax reported on 4 August. Buyers line up early in the morning and buy two or three loaves to hedge against a further price increase or shortage. Prices recently increased by an average of 30 percent and temporary shortages occurred reportedly because of the shutdown of a main supplier for sanitary treatment. In Kemerovo Oblast, where panic buying was reported last month, the price for a 600-gram loaf of bread increased by 43 percent on 2 August, from 3 rubles (12 cents) to 4 rubles and 30 kopeks, Interfax-Eurasia reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 July 1999). According to the agency, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev had recommended that the price be raised to only 3.5-3.8 rubles, but Kemerovokleb Director-General Vladimir Safyanov noted that the cost of producing one loaf is 4-4.5 rubles. JAC

KHABAROVSK: RAINS PUT OUT SOME FIRES IN FAR EAST.
Heavy rains extinguished most forest fires in Khabarovsk Krai, where Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev earlier declared a state of emergency, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. Interfax-Eurasia reported on 2 August that heavy rain also put out all fires in Sakhalin Oblast. However, the Emergencies Ministry announced the same day that the fire situation remains serious in Russia's central, northwestern, Siberian, and Far East regions. JAC

KURSK: AUTHOR UNKNOWN.
Deputies of the Kursk legislature allege that unnamed oblast administration officials have introduced changes into the law on Kursk Oblast (the equivalent of a regional constitution) without the deputies' knowledge, according to "Izvestiya" on 4 August. Those changes, which are not specified, were allegedly never discussed by the legislature. The daily also reported that legislature deputies consider Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi's declared intention to lower their wages to be a revenge act for their refusal to sign a letter to the prosecutor-general aimed at securing the release of two of Rutskoi's former deputies. The two officials were arrested one year ago on embezzlement charges. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August that Rutskoi has cut the wages of regional administration members by 30 percent and suspended the payment of bonuses until pension and wage arrears have been paid in the oblast. JC

NIZHNII NOVGOROD: MAYOR WANTS TO SELL METRO.
Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Yurii Lebedev has announced his desire to turn the municipal-owned metro into a joint-stock company in which the city authorities would retain a controlling share, "Vremya MN" reported last week. A Nizhnii special representation is being set up in Moscow in a bid to attract foreign investors to take part in that project. How successful that bid will prove is a moot point. Currently, the metro is barely making enough money to pay employees' wages (as of 1 August, public transportation fares doubled in the city). Moreover, it is not yet complete and owes construction workers some 5.5 million rubles ($220,000). JC

OMSK: OBLAST COURT DECLARES EARLY ELECTION LEGAL.
An oblast court has declared that the gubernatorial ballot scheduled to take place on 5 September is legal, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 5 August. Incumbent Governor Leonid Polezhaev had the oblast legislature bring forward the date of the election from December to September, but that move was contested by local Communists. Following the oblast court ruling, Vladimir Dorokhin, the leader of the Communist minority in the Omsk Legislative Assembly, announced he will take the issue to the Supreme Court. Last month, RFE/RL Russian Service's "Vybory-99" reported that the Central Electoral Committee has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to rule on the legality of bringing forward gubernatorial elections in Omsk, Tomsk, and Novgorod (see "RFE/ RL Russian Federation Report," 21 July 1999). JC

OMON BRUTALITY REPORTED.
At a recent press conference called by Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Aleksandr Kravets, leader of the party's Omsk branch, revealed that OMON troops, seeking to disperse an authorized protest action outside the regional administration building, recently beat women who had gathered there to demand the payment of child benefit arrears, Interfax reported on 4 August. That protest had begun on 26 July but was broken up several days later by OMON forces shortly before Russian First Deputy Premier Nikolai Aksenenko's scheduled visit to the oblast. Zyuganov announced that the leadership of the Communist Party faction in the State Duma will appeal to the federal government to investigate the incident. JC

ORENBURG: PRIMAKOV TO ADVISE GOVERNOR.
Former Premier Yevgenii Primakov has agreed to accept the post of adviser on geo-political affairs to Governor Vladimir Yelagin. "Segodnya" on 3 August quoted Yelagin as saying that with Primakov's help the oblast would be able to increase its ties abroad. The daily also speculated that in agreeing to assume that post, Primakov likely wants to support Yelagin in the run-up to the December 1999 gubernatorial vote in Orenburg. JC

PRIMORE: SOUTH KOREA FUNDING COLLECTIVE FARMS FOR ETHNIC KOREANS.
South Korea is providing financial support for a project that gives ethnic Korean Russian citizens farmland in Primorskii Krai, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 28 July. According to the daily, six collective farms have already been established for the ethnic Koreans who have moved from Central Asia. The project is called the "New Village" program. The daily reported on 30 July that plans to construct a "Canadian Village" had recently been postponed indefinitely. JAC

ST. PETERSBURG: ST. PETE TV DENOUNCED FOR ANTI-SEMITISM.
The social-political movement Civil Control will appeal to the St. Petersburg Prosecutor-General's Office to launch criminal proceedings against St. Petersburg Television for its "overt anti-Semitic orientation," "Segodnya" reported on 4 August. According to the daily, anti-Semitic pronouncements have become a frequent occurrence at the television station, whose share-holders include members of the St. Petersburg and regional administration. More recently, that trend peaked in a series of shows in which viewers were invited to take part in polls asking whether "ethnic purges should be carried out in St. Petersburg" and, more specifically, whether in the event of such purges viewers would "take part or defend the victims." JC

TULA: SHUT OUT BY THE BISHOPS.
The head of the Tula diocese has banned Larisa Kovyrzenkova, director of the oblast Department of Culture, from entering the Cathedral of the Assumption at the Tula Kremlin, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 August. Kovyrzenkova is accused of having committed blasphemy by standing directly in front of the altar of the cathedral. According to Church canons, women are not allowed in the immediate vicinity of that part of the church. JC

VOLOGDA: STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED IN AGRICULTURE.
Declaring a state of emergency in the oblast's agricultural sector, Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev announced that an additional 30 million rubles ($1.2 million) has been earmarked to help farmers buy fertilizers, equipment, and fuel, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. As a result of the hot, dry summer, more than 60,000 hectares of rye, barley, and oats have been destroyed, along with 3,000 hectares of flax. An official from the regional food and agriculture administration said that farmers are currently focusing their efforts on securing sufficient fodder for cattle during the winter, but he warned that there will be a shortfall. JC

REGIONAL COMMERCE:
Dividing the Spoils

Argumenty i Fakty reported in its August issue that heads of the country�s oil companies divided up Russia into spheres of influence back in the mid-1990s; as a result, effective monopolies on gasoline retailing exist in certain areas. According to the publication, governors do not facilitate competition between the oil companies, because they can frequently reach an agreement with the dominant company in their area that benefits them both. One example is the recent agreement between Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Yukos head Mikhail Khodorksovskii. According to the publication, Lebed gave Khodorkovskii part control over two of the largest refineries in the krai, and the krai in return is guaranteed twice as much gasoline as it actually needs. The table below lays out the alleged division of the country among domestic oil companies.

XS
SM
MD
LG