Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia Report: March 3, 2004

3 March 2004, Volume 4, Number 8
When nominating him to be Russia's next prime minister on 1 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized Mikhail Fradkov's administrative skills, his familiarity with international economic affairs, and his experience fighting corruption while heading the Tax Police. State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov also emphasized Fradkov's experience fighting corruption. Writing on, Center for Political Technologies Deputy Director Aleksei Makarkin reported that Fradkov's career has been connected with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov since 2000. When Ivanov was Security Council secretary, Fradkov was his first deputy. Later, Ivanov recommended him to head the Federal Tax Police.

However, analysts pointed out that Fradkov is not a "silovik." In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, former Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin commented that "in no way was Fradkov a silovik. He [is] an experienced specialist on international economic relations." Moreover, Unified Energy System (EES) head Anatolii Chubais spoke well of Fradkov, calling him a professional of high standing with formidable experience, according to Interfax. The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, which controls more than 300 votes in the Duma, announced on 1 March that it will back Fradkov's candidacy, as did the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS).

Makarkin suggested that because Fradkov is not an obvious silovik, his appointment is not likely to frighten foreign investors. Foundation for Effective Politics head Gleb Pavlovskii said that Fradkov's recent stint as Russia's envoy to the EU means the nomination will send "a friendly signal" to that organization.

While Fradkov is not a silovik, he is a technocrat. According to Makarkin, Putin picked a "technocrat" because is not interested in creating a "diarchy or making the prime minister a co-ruler." Fradkov, according to Makarkin, should not be considered a possible successor to the president. He will instead serve as a kind of lightning rod for criticism of "a series of unpopular reforms" that Russia will undertake.

Ekspertiz Foundation head Mark Urnov predicted that Fradkov will serve only the first half of Putin's second four-year term, assuming -- as widely expected -- that Putin wins a second term on 14 March. After that, "it will be necessary to declare a successor," Urnov said, according to on 1 March. (Julie A. Corwin)

Prime Minister-designate Mikhail Fradkov was born 1 September 1950 in Kuibyshev (Samara). He graduated from the Moscow Machine Tool Institute in 1972 and from the Foreign Trade Academy in 1981. From 1973-75 he worked as an economic counselor at the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi, India, and then held various posts in the Tyazhpromeksport foreign-trade enterprise of the Soviet State Committee for Foreign Economic Relations (GKES). From 1984-88, Fradkov was deputy head of the GKES's main department for deliveries and from 1988-91 he was first deputy head of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Economic Operations' main department for coordinating and regulating foreign economic operations. During 1991-92, he was senior counselor for the Russian mission at the offices of the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, as well as Russia's deputy representative at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Fradkov became Russia's deputy foreign economic relations minister in 1992 and first deputy foreign economic relations minister the following year. While serving in those posts, he served as a member of various governmental committees and commissions, including the interdepartmental commission on stimulating industrial exports, the governmental commission on food, and the interdepartmental commission for protecting state interests and the rights of consumers and domestic producers in the production and sale of alcohol products.

In April 1997, then-President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree naming Fradkov foreign economic relations and trade minister, a post in which he served until the following year, when the ministry was abolished. In May 1998, he was named chairman of the board of the Ingosstrakh insurance company, and in May 1999 he was named Russia's trade minister. When the Trade Ministry was replaced by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry in May 2000, President Vladimir Putin named Fradkov first deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council. In 2001, he was named director of the Federal Tax Police. After that service was abolished in 2003, he was named Russia's ambassador to the European Union. In June 2003, Putin named Fradkov his special envoy to the EU.

In November 2001, Fradkov, who was then chief of the Tax Police, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that up to 40 percent of Russia's economy was "in the shadow sector" and that around $20 billion was leaving the country annually. He cited tax evasion by oil companies as a particularly acute problem, and said that in order to ensure Russia's economic security, it was necessary to "influence big business" to become more "law-abiding." That same month, "Novaya gazeta" (No. 82, 12 November 2001) reported that in December 1993, when Fradkov was deputy foreign economic relations minister and a member of the government's food commission, Alfa Bank subsidiary Alfa-Ekho won a government contract to supply Cuba with 1.5 million tons of oil per year in exchange for 500,000 tons of Cuban sugar per year. "It was even difficult for experts to imagine the damage Russia suffered from that 'epochal' deal," "Novaya gazeta" wrote. Fradkov had previously worked under Petr Aven, who served as Russia's foreign economic relations minister before going on to found Alfa Bank.

After Putin nominated Fradkov as prime minister on 1 March, wrote that "despite all his efforts and promises" while he was Tax Police chief, Fradkov was "unable to astound the country by discovering major tax scams." The website claimed this was not because "the unscrupulous oligarchs" were impossible to catch, but because "many of them were Fradkov's friends and partners." also cited allegations, detailed by "Izvestiya" back in May 1996, that the Kremlin's Control Administration and the Finance Ministry investigated the Foreign Economic Relations Ministry in 1995 and found that ministry officials had "illegally spent" 4.9 billion non-redenominated rubles on themselves in 1994. According to the website, the money was used to pay bonuses to top ministry officials -- amounting to 10 official salaries a year to each -- and to provide them with "material assistance" in purchasing apartments and in constructing dachas. The documents disbursing this money were reportedly signed by then-Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davidov and by Fradkov, who was then Davidov's deputy. According to the website, Fradkov had allocated himself money to purchase cement, bricks, and timber for a "mansion" he was building outside of Moscow, and although auditors allegedly discovered 120 million rubles in accounts in Fradkov's name, the case was "hushed up."

Although the Russian mass media continues to provide only the most sober and most respectful depiction of President Vladimir Putin going about his day, a satirical website ( shows a different kind of president. This one is easily manipulated by those around him, dreams of resigning, and calls everyone "bro." In a recent entry, Putin names Mikhail Fradkov the new prime minister in order to avoid a scandal about his failure to pay taxes for both of his dogs. According to "Novaya gazeta," No. 14, at one point in the recent past, the fictional Putin sings this song, which was penned by rock musician Nail Borzov:

My name if Vova, modest Vova.
I know three words, three curse words
One for Kasyanov and two for Luzhkov.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, I understood recently that they will hardly
threaten to impeach me.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, I am so glorious, I am so nice.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, they will reproach me because the special
service will help me.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, let them help, they do so only out of friendship.

Presidential candidate Sergei Glazev on 28 February charged that regional and local authorities are interfering with his attempts to meet with voters and journalists, Interfax reported.

He said that an alleged bomb threat was the pretext for disrupting a scheduled press conference in Yekaterinburg. Similarly, he had to conduct a press conference outdoors in Nizhnii Novgorod after the building where the event was scheduled suffered a power cut. Everywhere he goes, Glazev said, he has trouble arranging meetings with voters and has to hold campaign events outside.

Glazev also said he suspects he is constantly being followed. He again vowed to stay in the presidential campaign until the end, despite what he described as intimidation designed to force him to drop out of the race.

Glazev has predicted that the presidential election will go to a second round if Russia's "patriotic forces" manage to avert "massive falsification" on 14 March, reported on 26 February. Although opinion polls suggest that Putin will easily exceed the 50 percent of the vote he needs to win outright, Glazev argues that Putin's real approval rating is around 45 percent, and that turnout will be low. (Laura Belin)

Committee 2008 is urging all of President Vladimir Putin's rivals to drop out of the presidential race and is calling on voters to boycott the 14 March election. Leaders of the new organization, which seeks to become a broad democratic front, agreed on the strategy at a meeting that ran late into the evening of 1 March, reported the next day. World chess champion Garri Kasparov; former Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov; and Sergei Parkhomenko, the former editor in chief of the weekly "Itogi," are co-chairmen of Committee 2008, which they founded in January.

Turnout below 50 percent would invalidate the election under Russian law.

Advocating a boycott puts Committee 2008 at odds with Irina Khakamada, the only presidential candidate from the "democratic" wing of the political spectrum. She has vowed to stay in the presidential race. Like Nemtsov, Khakamada is a former co-leader of the SPS. The SPS leadership was also in disarray during the 2000 presidential race, with some prominent members backing front-runner Putin and some favoring Samara Governor Konstantin Titov. The party declined officially to endorse any candidate that year.

Although the organizers of Committee 2008 did not invite Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii to join their ranks in January, they ultimately came to share Yavlinskii's belief that nothing is gained by contesting an election that is no real contest. Yavlinskii announced soon after the 7 December parliamentary elections that he would not run for president because, he alleged, the parliamentary election was marred by massive electoral fraud.

Committee 2008 announced its stand on the presidential election on the group's website ( The full text of the appeal follows:

"The 2004 presidential election began as a farce and is ending as a farce.

"It's a farce, not a genuine election, because the participants were unequal from the very beginning: the current head of state, Vladimir Putin, is elevated to the rank of 'main candidate,' known to be unsurpassed in his greatness, and the other contenders are put in the position of helpless extras without rights.

"It's a farce because the whole machine of state power is working to provide yet another planned-in-advance election triumph for Vladimir Putin.

"It's a farce because the official federal television networks, followed by all the print media that are directly or indirectly controlled by the state, have become an instrument of open and massive campaign propaganda for Vladimir Putin.

"It's a farce because large-scale falsifications and fraudulent vote counts have become a typical practice of the Russian 'election industry.' And the Kremlin's staging of a national expression of loyalty to the current president, Vladimir Putin, in no way provides defense mechanisms against such abuses.

"Committee 2008: Free Choice is convinced that those who recognize their civic duty and value their civic dignity cannot and should not participate in this kind of farce.

"We call on all officially registered candidates for president to end their participation in this mockery of an election and withdraw their candidacies. This should have been done sooner, but it's not too late to resolve to do so now, leaving the authorities to play out this shameless spectacle on their own.

"We call on responsible and free-thinking voters, in turn, to refuse to participate in the voting. One cannot obediently and unthinkingly hand the authorities a mandate for the dictatorship they are seeking.

"This is an election without a choice. It's not democracy; it's a crude imitation. It's not people power; it's a lie.

"We call on our fellow citizens: don't let yourselves be deceived." (Laura Belin)

RENEWED: Lyudmila Verbitskaya was re-elected on 1 March to a third term to the post of rector of St. Petersburg State University, Interfax reported. According to the agency, there were no other candidates for the post.

IN: President Putin nominated on 1 March his special representative to the EU and former head of the Federal Tax Police, Mikhail Fradkov, for prime minister. Putin dismissed former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his government on 24 February.

4 March: Communist Party candidate Nikolai Kharitonov will meet with his election agents in Tula

5 March: State Duma will consider the nomination of Mikhail Fradkov as prime minister

6 March: The founding congress of the political party to be formed by the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees

7 March: The all-Russian public organization People's Patriotic Union-Motherland, led by Sergei Glazev, will hold its first congress

8 March: International Women's Day observed

8 March: Last day for presidential candidates to withdraw from the election

9-14 March: Further 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 are to 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

End of March: NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to visit Russia, according to Interfax

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

6-7 April: Foreign ministers of five Caspian littoral states -- Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran -- to meet in Moscow

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

1 May: Date by which Russia expects talks with EU and its future members to conclude

3-4 May: Labor Day holiday observed

10 May: Victory Day holiday observed

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

November: Gubernatorial elections to be held in Pskov