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Russia Report: February 5, 2004

5 February 2004, Volume 4, Number 4
By Jonas Bernstein

At one level, President Vladimir Putin's speech to the prosecutor-general's board on 30 January, in which he highlighted Russia's high crime rate and called on the Prosecutor-General's Office to improve its work and for increased coordination between the country's law-enforcement agencies, did not seem out of the ordinary, particularly in light of the impending presidential election. But the president's remarks took on a greater significance coming as they did against the backdrop of rumors about a possible restructuring of Russia's law-enforcement agencies.

The rumors of possible changes in the law-enforcement system were apparently sparked in January when Rashid Nurgaliev was picked to replace Boris Gryzlov, who had stepped down from the post in order to enter the State Duma, where he is now speaker. Some analysts attached significance to the fact that Putin named Nurgaliev only as acting interior minister, despite the fact that Nurgaliev has a resume that could only please the ascendant "chekists." He holds an advanced degree in economics, rose through the ranks of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to the post of deputy director and then went on to become a deputy interior minister in charge of the ministry's criminal investigation service, and, as "Moskovskie novosti" wrote on 13 January, is valued as a "distinguished professional" and "a person of high moral qualities."

Yet Rashid Nurgaliev is unlikely to become the full-fledged interior minister, at least according to "Moskovskie novosti." Citing sources in the State Duma and the presidential administration, the weekly reported that a large-scale restructuring of the entire law-enforcement system is in the offing, "drawing completely different figures into the orbit of high-level appointments." The possible "radical changes" would involve taking the investigation functions away from the Interior Ministry, FSB, and Prosecutor-General's Office and creating a Federal Investigation Service, possibly under the aegis of the Justice Ministry. In addition, the Interior Ministry and FSB would no longer be charged with fighting terrorism, economic crimes, contraband, or narcotics; these functions would be transferred to a new structure -- "a certain committee has not yet been discussed," "Moskovskie novosti" reported. According to the weekly, the FSB will probably be renamed the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service (the name Russia's domestic intelligence agency had from January 1994 to April 1995) and be limited exclusively to rooting out spies.

"Moskovskie novosti" also quoted its sources as saying that if these changes are indeed instituted, Sergei Smirnov, currently the FSB's first deputy director, will be probably be named interior minister. The most likely candidate to head the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service is deputy Kremlin administration head Viktor Ivanov, who, the newspaper reports, is himself a former FSB department head. The FSB's current director, Nikolai Patrushev, is likely to be named secretary of the Security Council. That Kremlin advisory body, which is currently "dead," will become "one of the key structures for coordination" between the various special services and law-enforcement agencies, the weekly wrote. Meanwhile, deputy Kremlin administration head Dmitrii Kozak is likely to become the new prosecutor-general, and "serious" consideration is being given to moving the Prosecutor-General's Office from Moscow to St. Petersburg. If this radical restructuring does indeed take place, it will happen after the 14 March presidential election, "Moskovskie novosti" reported.

The scenario that "Moskovskie novosti" put forward for a shake-up of the law-enforcement sector is not the only one that has been making the rounds of late. "Novye izvestia" reported on 13 January that the Interior Ministry might be divided into municipal and federal police forces. Like "Moskovsie novosti," the daily predicted the creation of an agency similar to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. It also cited an "informed source" inside Unified Russia as saying the Interior Ministry would be holding closed meetings about the possible changes, under which the municipal police force would be responsible for maintaining public order in the localities while the federal police force would be put in charge of fighting terrorism, economic crimes and money laundering.

Several observers gave a thumb's down to the idea of splitting the Interior Ministry into two police forces. "Each armed formation has in mind the existence of an influential sponsor, who will use this force not to achieve public security, but for personal interests," Georgii Zubovskii, chairman of Moscow's Capital Collegium of Lawyers, told "Novye izvestia."

Jonas Bernstein, who edits the American Foreign Policy Council's "Russia Reform Monitor," worked in Russia as a journalist from 1992 to 2000.

Several media outlets -- including "Yezhenedelnyi zhurnal," No. 55, "Nezavisimaya gazeta," and "Zavtra" -- reported this week that, according to sources within or close to the Kremlin, the presidential administration is concerned that Motherland faction leader and would-be presidential candidate Sergei Glazev could prevent President Vladimir Putin from winning in the first round of presidential elections scheduled for 14 March.

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 February asked experts to explain why the presidential administration apparently fears Glazev's participation in the election. Analyst Sergei Markov told the daily that the administration sees Glazev "as a potentially dangerous competitor" in the 2008 presidential elections. National Strategy Council member Valerii Khomyakov argued that Putin's high approval rating can only go down because further growth is simply impossible. At the same time, he said, Glazev "has the potential for even larger results."

However, Vladimir Rimskii of the INDEM Foundation commented that he does not think anyone is afraid of Glazev, and that the lobbying groups that supported Glazev and the Motherland bloc during the 7 December Duma elections are still smarting from the fact that Unified Russia has monopolized all leadership posts in the new legislature.

"Yezhenedelnyi zhurnal" reported that potential financial backers are afraid to give Glazev money because they fear punishment from the Kremlin. An unidentified source told the weekly that "if once Glazev could ask for money from [oligarch Oleg Deripaska's holding company] Base Element, he cannot now."

In a commentary on on 2 February, Aleksei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies predicted that Glazev's chances of being registered for the presidential race are even lower than those of former Union of Rightist Forces co-Chairwoman Irina Khakamada.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission (TsIK) voted unanimously on 2 February to register President Putin as a candidate. The commission checked at random 600,000 of the 2.5 million signatures and found only 1.16 percent of them invalid, ITAR-TASS reported. The next day, Putin's campaign headquarters was officially opened. First deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak will be heading Putin's re-election effort. Kozak will take a leave from his official duties once the election campaign officially begins on 12 February. "Yezhenedelnyi zhurnal" (No. 54) suggested that Kozak's star has been rising for some time within the presidential administration, and he was chosen over Vladislav Surkov, another deputy presidential administration head. Surkov is widely credited with Unified Russia's success in the December State Duma election; however, the weekly quoted an unidentified source who said that Surkov's "usefulness is being questioned now." He is reportedly being blamed for how independently Union of Rightist Forces council member Irina Khakamada and Motherland faction leader Sergei Glazev have been conducting their presidential campaigns. (Julie A. Corwin)

At least five candidates are seeking to compete in the 14 March gubernatorial election in Altai Krai, Interfax reported on 3 February citing the krai election commission. In addition to the incumbent Aleksandr Surikov, Altaienergo General Director Sergei Shabalin, deputy director for the department of external economic activities for the krai administration Vladimir Nikullin, former State Duma Deputy Vladimir Semenov, and first pro rector of the Novosibirsk Humanitarian Institute Aleksandr Rusanov have all registered their intention to run but either need to submit the necessary signatures or election deposit to ensure their registration. Nikullin is the head of the local branch of the Motherland bloc, according to "Vremya novostei" on 14 January. Surikov was previously elected with the support of the Communist Party, but has subsequently aligned himself with Unified Russia. Local Communists, though, are still supporting Surikov, according to on 3 February. Former Communist State Duma Deputy Vitalii Safronov told reporters in Barnaul, "We nominated Surikov, and now Unified Russia is trying to privatize him." JAC

The Koryak Autonomous Okrug Election Commission met on 2 February to consider complaints against the local edition of "Komsomolskaya pravda" and against "Kamchatskie vesti," reported. The publications, which are reportedly distributed throughout the okrug, are accused of having damaged the business and moral reputations of two candidates in the okrug's 14 March gubernatorial election. The report did not specify which of the eight candidates were allegedly defamed. On 29 January, okrug Deputy Governor Vasilii Myshlyaev announced his resignation. He told reporters in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski that his resignation is not connected with the criminal charges pending against his boss, Governor Vladimir Loginov. Loginov faces charges of misusing budgetary funds, Regnum reported on 29 January. Myshlyaev said he is resigning because of threats against him, his family, and his unborn child. In addition to telephone threats, unknown people entered his home and threatened him with a knife, warning him not to participate in the gubernatorial elections. Myshlyaev said he hasn't reported the incidents to police because they cannot protect him. JAC

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 January that the gubernatorial elections in Ryazan Oblast have attracted the interest of two competing groups in the Kremlin. According to the daily, deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov supports State Duma Deputy (Motherland) and former Airborne Troops Commander Georgii Shpak, while first deputy presidential head Dmitrii Kozak backs the incumbent Vyacheslav Lyubimov. According to the newspaper and subsequent articles in other publications, Kozak's influence is on the rise as Surkov's wanes. Kozak was recently named to head President Putin's re-election campaign. The newspaper concluded that Shpak, who resigned his military post, in part because of promised Kremlin support in this election, has been put in an awkward position by the new shift in the fortunes of Surkov. Before Shpak entered the race, Lyubimov's main competitor was thought to be the former Ryazan Mayor Pavel Mamatov. "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 January suggested that Mamatov was counting on the support of the party of power, Unified Russia. JAC

The chairman of Yabloko's Sverdlovsk branch, Yurii Kuznetsov, told on 2 February that the Sverdlovsk Oblast Election Commission has blocked the registration of opposition candidates in the 14 March elections to the oblast legislature. Kuznetsov charged that the commission has "consciously tightened the procedure for registering agents for parties' and blocs' financial accounts, so that rivals to the present authorities cannot register." The commission on 27 January declined to register either the local branch of the Motherland-Patriotic Union bloc or the Justice bloc, reported. The Justice bloc is led by State Duma Deputy Anton Bakov (independent), who finished second in the oblast's gubernatorial election in September. Unified Russia, the Agrarian party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Party of Life, the Communist Party, and the Party of Pensioners have been allowed to register, reported on 2 February. JAC

IN: Legislators in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug on 29 January approved retired General Vladimir Spitsnadel to replace Aleksandr Yevstifeev as the okrug executive branch's representative to the Federation Council. Yevstifeev will become chairman of the Arbitration Appeals Court in Moscow. Spitsnadel is a former head of the Main Punishments Administration for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast and a former adviser to Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov.

TRANSFERRED: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has dismissed Deputy Communications Minister Nikolai Pozhitkov, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 January. Pozhitkov will now represent the legislature of Orenburg Oblast in the Federation Council, replacing Viktor Nefedov, who was elected to the Duma from the Unified Russia party list in December.

STILL IN: Former Deputy Prosecutor-General Valerii Kolmogorov has been named an adviser to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, reported on 2 February. Last week, the Federation Council released Kolmogorov from his position as deputy prosecutor because he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 60.

OUT: Anzori Aksentev-Kikalishvili informed the TsIK in writing on 27 January that he is withdrawing from the presidential campaign, Russian media reported. According to ITAR-TASS, the letter did not specify the reason for his decision. On 28 January pharmaceutical tycoon and former State Duma Deputy Vladimir Bryntsalov also withdrew from the race. He said that the election would draw too much attention to him personally.

5 February: Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev will visit Moscow

5 February: Meshanskii court in Moscow will consider the case of former Yukos-Moscow head Vasilii Shakhnovskii

6 February: Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will participate in informal meeting of NATO countries' defense ministers in Munich

6 February: Central Election Commission will consider the registration of Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov as a presidential candidate

6 February: Supreme Court will consider the complaint of former Central Bank Chairman Vladimir Gerashchenko, who is seeking to overturn the Central Election Commission's decision refusing to register him as a presidential candidate

7 February: List of registered presidential candidates to be finalized

12 February-12 March: Period during which free airtime will be provided to presidential candidates

16-20 February: Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will visit Moscow at the invitation of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, according to Interfax

19 February: Cabinet will examine the preliminary results of the first stage of the administrative reform of the Russian federal government

20 February: Presidential-election ballot papers to be printed

23 February: Defenders of the Fatherland federal holiday

23 February: 60th anniversary of the 1943 deportation of the Chechen people by Stalin's NKVD

24 February: Next hearing in the St. Petersburg trial of the accused murderers of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova

27 February: Early voting in presidential election to begin for citizens in remote areas of the Russian Federation

March: Audit Chamber investigators will start on site inspections in probe of federal budget expenditures in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

8 March: International Women's Day observed

9-14 March: Publication of results of opinion polls about the presidential election banned

11 March: EU-Russia ministerial troika to be held in Dublin

14 March: Election for president of the Russian Federation

14 March: Gubernatorial elections in Voronezh, Murmansk, Chita and Arkhangelsk oblasts, Altai and Krasnodar krais, and Koryak Autonomous Okrug

14 March: Republican-level presidential election in Udmurtia

14 March: Repeat State Duma elections in single-mandate districts in Ulyanovsk and Sverdlovsk oblasts and St. Petersburg, where no candidates succeeded in garnering sufficient votes on 7 December

25 March: Date by which prosecutors must either complete their criminal investigation of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii or ask a Moscow court to extend his period of pretrial detention

26 March: Date by which official presidential-election results will be released

30 March: Date by which prosecutors must either complete their criminal investigation of Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev or ask a Moscow court to extend his period of pretrial detention

31 March: Date by which prosecutors must either complete their criminal investigation of St. Petersburg legislator and accused murder conspirator Yurii Shutov or ask a St. Petersburg court to extend his period of pretrial detention

1 April: Administrative reform of Russian federal government will be completed, according to Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin

4 April: Second round of federal presidential election to be held, if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in the 14 March first round

June: Communist Party will hold congress to hear reports and elect new party officials

1 June: New deadline for exchanging Soviet-era passports for new Russian passports

19 June: End of State Duma's spring session.