26 March 2004, Volume 4, Number 11
NOTE TO READERS:
COMPLETE REACTION AND WRAP-UP OF RUSSIA'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Get comprehensive analysis and all the breaking news about the Russian elections at RFE/RL's dedicated webpage "Russia Votes 2003-04": http://www.rferl.org/specials/russianelection
HUGE SUPPORT FOR PUTIN.While President Vladimir Putin won more than 50 percent of the vote in every region of Russia in the 14 March presidential election, voter turnout and support for Putin varied considerably from region to region. However, analysts suggest that this variation says less about the true level of support for Putin than it does about the relative strength of local administrations and their control over the electoral process.
In an interview with polit.ru on 15 March, Center for Political Technologies Deputy Director Aleksei Makarkin commented that turnout was extremely impressive in the regions with the strongest authoritarian rule and also in regions "that are not very well developed in terms of population and the economy." Kabardino-Balkaria and Chechnya both had turnouts above 94 percent. In Bashkortostan, turnout was 89.3 percent, and in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, it was 79.9 percent, according to Regnum.
In major urban centers, turnout was much lower. In the city of Krasnoyarsk, for example, just 47.77 percent of voters came out, according to RosBalt on 15 March. In Irkutsk, only 44.7 percent of eligible voters had voted as of 6 p.m. on election day, despite cars with loudspeakers cruising city neighborhoods to remind people to vote, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 March.
Support for Putin was also lower in urban areas like Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk than the astronomically high levels reported in Chechnya and Daghestan. Writing for gazeta.ru on 19 March, Dmitrii Oreshkin of the Merkator group said that he interpreted the result in Chechnya very simply: "[Chechen President Akhmed-hadji] Kadyrov did everything necessary for such a figure, but neither Kadyrov nor Putin knows the real attitude of the Chechen population." Oreshkin also noted that support for Putin in the European part of Russia -- about 55 percent -- was lower than in the country as a whole by 15-20 percent. However, he argued, this is not because the local elites didn't want to fulfill the Kremlin's orders; they simply couldn't.
Oreshkin concluded that on the surface the system of subordination has been strengthened, but this system is to a significant degree "virtual." "[They] control the figures, but not the real social processes," Oreshkin said. It's a military system of values, according to Oreshkin, in which reports should be optimistic, claiming a 100 percent readiness. But then, at the necessary moment, the rocket doesn't launch. "Elections as a mechanism of communication between the authorities and society will stop fulfilling their basic function," Oreshkin warned. (Julie A. Corwin)
Region______Percentage of Votes for President Putin
Jewish Autonomous Oblast____67.87
Source: Central Election Commission
Compiled by Tomas Liptak
SKINHEADS TAKING THEIR CUE FROM OFFICIAL RHETORIC?Despite official statements condemning ethnic violence and President Vladimir Putin's occasional warnings to perpetrators, violence by right-wing extremist groups is on the rise in Russia. The increase in attacks committed by Russian fascist skinheads is perhaps the most reported and researched indicator of this disturbing trend. Last month, sociologist Aleksandr Tarasov of the Moscow Committee for Human Rights released a report that concluded that the number of Russian skinheads is increasing, as is the number and scale of violent, racially motivated offences. Tarasov contributed an article on the topic to strana.ru on 27 February.
According to Tarasov, Russian skinhead groups formed during the perestroika years and became increasingly popular as a result of the structural and economic dislocation that occurred in the wake of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. He specifically cites the decline of the educational system and "social catastrophes" such as drug and alcoholism, prostitution, the rise in sexually transmitted diseases, and extreme poverty.
Over the past two years, the number of skinheads has increased from 30,000 to 50,000, according to Tarasov and the Moscow Human Rights Bureau. Growth has been especially rapid in Moscow and St. Petersburg, although the phenomenon can be observed nationwide. A total of 85 "organized extremist groups" exist across the country, mostly concentrated in urban areas where evidence of social and economic disparities is most pronounced. The usual targets of skinhead attacks are migrants from the former Soviet states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and from the Russian North Caucasus regions. Violence against African, Asian, and Indian students is also increasing in several regions.
Acts of ethnic violence have grown more severe over the past two years, with an alarming increase in the number of murders. Tarasov attributes the increase in "brazen" attacks, including murder and large-scale vandalism, particularly since last fall, to a different set of factors than those that gave birth to the Russian skinhead movement. He draws a parallel between the increasing popularity of the skinheads and the increasingly nationalistic rhetoric and ideas in the mainstream of current Russian politics. Radical groups have been emboldened by "the legalization and legitimating of great-power and imperial ideologies."
Tarasov also notes a change in the composition of skinhead groups over the past decade, as well as a shift in their ideology. He finds that the skinhead population has changed from low-income people with little education to become increasingly middle class, including young men from families that own small to medium businesses. Ideologically, the skinheads initially espoused a "racist, xenophobic, militaristic, and anti-intellectual" program. However, they are presently more "consciously fascist, anticommunist, Russian Orthodox fundamentalist, and anti-Semitic."
Tarasov concludes that there is growing evidence that "Nazi skinheads are being encouraged, organized, and used by Russia's ruling circles in their own interests," "Izvestiya" reported on 20 February. For example, Tarasov's report states that Moscow Interior Ministry special troops were training skinheads in 2002, although the daily did not say what that training involved.
There have also been reports of connections between the pro-Putin youth group Walking Together and Moscow skinheads. The two forces have been known to work together on some protest marches and rallies. In September 2002, "Novaya gazeta" reported that Aleksei Mitryushin, a leader of a local Moscow Walking Together branch, formerly headed a skinhead group called Rabid Stallions. The same issue of "Novaya gazeta" quoted an unidentified alleged member of a skinhead group called United Brigade-88, who claimed that Moving Together gave them money to break up a demonstration in defense of NTV at the Ostankino television center (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2002).
Also in 2002, however, about 200 Walking Together activists in Rostov demonstrated to demand that local police do more to protect foreigners from attacks by skinheads. That demonstration came in the wake of a spate of local attacks against foreign students from Latin America and Africa (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). (Heather McGee)
RED GOVERNORS FIND THEMSELVES IN THE HOT SEAT.Two of Russia's few remaining Communist Party governors -- Kamchatka Oblast Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev and Ivanovo Oblast Governor Vladimir Tikhonov -- are facing criminal investigations by local prosecutors.
Mashkovtsev faces a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years if convicted of exceeding his authority and causing serious harm, RIA-Novosti reported on 17 March. An inter-raion prosecutor in August 2002 launched a criminal case against Mashkovtsev on suspicion that he illegally issued an order allowing an unlimited catch of fish from local rivers. At the time of Mashkovtsev's order, then-Justice Minister Yurii Chaika and first deputy presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District Gennadii Apanasenko warned Mashkovtsev that he would be held criminally responsible if he lifted limits on the salmon catch (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2002).
In Ivanovo, the oblast prosecutor has begun investigating Tikhonov's real-estate transactions, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 March. On 19 March, investigators seized documents from the oblast administration relating to how the construction of an apartment for Tikhonov was financed. A 140-square-meter apartment in the center of Ivanovo was built for the governor in 2002 at the cost of 2 million rubles ($70,000), which came from the oblast budget. A year later, the apartment was privatized.
Both Tikhonov and Mashkovtsev have claimed that the cases against them are politically motivated. Both oblasts will hold gubernatorial elections in December, and both governors have already declared that they will run again. Tikhonov said in 2002 that he expects his main competition to come from Anatolii Golovkov of Unified Russia, Sergei Sirotkin of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and well-known local businessman Pavel Pozhigailo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002).
Not only Communist governors have faced prosecutorial scrutiny in recent months. In September, then-Tver Oblast Governor Vladimir Platov was charged with abuse of office for allegedly helping an associate win a multimillion-dollar government contract during the run-up to the oblast's 7 December gubernatorial election. In January 2000, Platov won a second term after weathering allegations of corruption when one of his deputies, Valerii Rumyantsev, was arrested just before the election on suspicion of embezzling 2.4 million rubles ($90,000) (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 19 January 2000). Platov was supported by the pro-Kremlin Unity party, and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who headed the party at the time, visited Ivanovo on the eve of the election in a show of support.
But four years later, Platov was targeted by prosecutors, and his bid for a third term was derailed. He failed to qualify for the second round of the election. Dmitrii Zelenin, a former Norilsk Nickel manager who won the second round, was supported by Unity's successor, Unified Russia.
Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov has also had difficulty with both local and federal law enforcement officials. But in his case, his real crime might have been showing excessive zeal in literally trying to following the path blazed by President Vladimir Putin. In April 2003, Butov allegedly punched a St. Petersburg traffic police officer, who stopped Butov's car for trying to drive immediately behind Putin's motorcade. (Julie A. Corwin)
DUMA OKAYS CREATION OF NEW REGION...The State Duma adopted several bills on 19 March, the most important of which was a presidential bill establishing the procedure for the creation of a new federation subject based on the merger of Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, Russian media reported. The bill was passed in its first, second, and third readings, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 March. It received 423 votes in its first reading. Because it is a constitutional bill, it needed 300 votes to pass, RosBalt reported. Under the provisions of the bill, Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak will cease to exist as of 1 December 2005, and the new entity, Perm Krai, will come into being at the same time. An election for the governor of Perm Krai will take place on 4 December 2005. JAC
...ALLOWS TERRORISM SUSPECTS TO BE HELD LONGER WITHOUT CHARGES...Duma deputies on 19 March also approved in its first reading a bill amending the law on the government of the Russian Federation so that only Russian citizens can be named prime minister, Russian media reported. The vote was 424 in favor. According to lenta.ru, the government opposed the bill, which was introduced by State Duma Deputy Andrei Klimov (Unified Russia). Also on 19 March, deputies approved a bill amending the Criminal Procedure Code to increase from 10 days to 30 the amount of time individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism can be held without charge, Interfax reported. The vote was 372 in favor. The bill was introduced last year by then-People's Deputy group leader Gennadii Raikov. Deputies on 19 March rejected a bill that would have required political parties to participate in televised debates during legislative elections, RosBalt reported. The bill was introduced last fall by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and the Communist Party to protest a decision by the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party not to participate in televised debates in the run-up to the 7 December State Duma elections. The vote was 113 in favor, just half of the votes needed for the measure to pass. JAC
COMINGS & GOINGSIN: The Omsk Oblast legislature confirmed on 18 March Sibneft Vice President Valerii Oif as its representative in the Federation Council, Interfax reported. Oif replaces former Deputy Tax Minister Valerii Tikhomirov, who served in the upper legislative chamber for two years.
IN: Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov announced more appointees to the federal government on 19 March. He named State Communications Inspectorate Deputy Director Valerii Bugaenko to head the new Federal Communications Oversight Service, which is subordinated to the Transportation and Communications Ministry, RIA-Novosti reported. Former Rossiya state television and radio company head Nikolai Shipel was named director of the Federal Air Transportation Agency. Former Deputy Transportation Minister Vyacheslav Ryksha will head the Federal Sea and River Transportation Agency. Former Deputy Communications Minister Dmitrii Milovantsev will serve as director of the Federal Communications Agency. Former Deputy Agriculture Minister Anatolii Mikhalev will head the new Federal Agriculture Agency, which is a part of the Agriculture Ministry. On 20 March, Interfax reported that Fradkov appointed former Pension Fund Deputy Chairman Vyacheslav Prokhorov to head the Federal Health Care and Social Development Agency. Boris Simonov, former director of the department for innovation and development at the Industry and Science Ministry, is the new director of the Federal Intellectual Property, Patents, and Trademarks Service.
IN:Prime Minister Fradkov on 20 March named former Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii to head the new Federal Press and Mass Communications Agency, which is subordinated to the Culture and Mass Communications Ministry, Russian media reported. Seslavinskii, 40, has also served as a State Duma deputy and as director of the former Federal Television and Radio Broadcasting Service.
IN: Prime Minister Fradkov made more appointments on 17 March, Russian media reported. Fradkov named former First Deputy Transportation Minister Aleksandr Neradko to head the Transportation and Communications Ministry's new Transport Oversight Service. Fradkov also appointed former First Deputy Railways Minister Mikhail Akulov to head the new Federal Railways Agency, Interfax reported. Also on 17 March, Fradkov appointed Andrei Krotov director of secretariat of government chief of staff Dmitrii Kozak, RIA-Novosti reported. Krotov previously served as director of the secretariat for Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's chief of staff, Konstantin Merzlikin.
POLITICAL CALENDAR.28 March: Sibneft will hold an extraordinary shareholders meeting
28 March: Agrarian Party will hold a meeting in Moscow to discuss party structure and leadership
28 March: Arkhangelsk and Ryazan oblasts will hold second round of gubernatorial elections
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
30 March: The Moscow City Court will pronounce sentence on those convicted of murdering State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov
30-31 March: Georgian Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili to visit Moscow
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
End of March: NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to visit Russia, according to Interfax
Beginning of April: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to visit Moscow, according to ITAR-TASS
1-2 April: French President Jacques Chirac will visit Russia
2 April: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will pay a brief working visit to Russia
4 April: Second round of gubernatorial elections will be held in Koryak Autonomous Okrug and Altai Krai
6-7 April: Foreign ministers of five Caspian littoral states -- Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran -- to meet in Moscow
8 April: Cabinet of ministers will discuss tax reforms
Mid-April: Interior Ministry to withdraw 3,000 troops from Chechnya
16 April: An international conference on "Russia-EU Neighbors: Questions of Cooperation Across Borders" will be held in Pskov
23 April: First anniversary of the killing of State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov
24 April: Second congress of the People's Patriotic Union Motherland, which is headed by former presidential candidate Sergei Glazev will be held
May: Federal Atomic Energy Agency head Aleksandr Rumyantsev to visit Iran, according to ITAR-TASS
1 May: Date by which Russia expects talks with EU and its future members to conclude
3-4 May: Labor Day holiday observed
7 May: President Putin will hold his inauguration
9 May: Date by which a decree elaborating functions of newly restructured ministries will be adopted and departmental statutes will be ratified, according to Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov on 16 March
10 May: Victory Day holiday observed
30 May: 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
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
20 June: Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney will perform a concert in St. Petersburg's Palace Square
28-29 June: President Putin expected to attend NATO summit in Istanbul
2 July: End of State Duma's spring session
September: St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum plans to open the Hermitage Center, which will exhibit works from the Hermitage's collection, in the city of Kazan
November: Gubernatorial election in Pskov Oblast
December: Gubernatorial elections in Bryansk, Kamchatka, and Ivanovo oblasts