22 April 2004, Volume 4, Number 15
PUTIN'S STEALTH AUTHORITARIANISM (Part 2)(The first part of this article appeared in the last issue of "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly." To see the article in its entirety, go to http://www.regionalanalysis.org.)
By Gordon Hahn
Fourth, autonomous associations, including opposition political parties, are allowed to exist within society. However, the opportunities for parties and autonomous organizations to shape policy and pursue political office and power are limited by a mix of legal (institutional design such as election laws) and illegal measures (the misuse of administrative resources). Under stealth authoritarianism there are no arrests of opposition activists or bans on opposition parties, as under hard authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.
Instead, the laws on elections and political parties are designed to limit the ability of parties with no access to state resources to function, and state institutions -- including election commissions, prosecutors, police, and the courts -- tilt their actions in favor of the Kremlin and its allied parties and candidates. The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia, for instance, was disproportionately represented in comparison with other parties on numerous regional election commissions prior to the December 2003 State Duma elections, in violation of the law.
More interestingly, the administration of President Vladimir Putin has encountered considerable success in creating corporatist structures to co-opt and marshal the resources of various professional and social groups and their representative associations. In a sense, the party of power, Unified Russia, is an extension of stealth authoritarian corporatism to the realm of the Russian bureaucrat. In business, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) has been infiltrated by oligarchs loyal to Putin and essentially subordinated to the Kremlin's will. Instead of functioning as an independent business leaders' association at least occasionally in opposition to the authorities, it has become a Soviet-like transmission belt passing to the authorities ideas on legislation that are in their interests on a tactical level, while leaving the strategic and much of the tactical levels under the Kremlin's full control. Nothing symbolizes the RSPP's taming more than its mild criticism of the 25 October arrest of one of its leading members, Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, and its complete silence after Putin demanded that the RSPP and others "cease the hysterics" surrounding the Khodorkovskii case. The "hysterics" on the RSPP's part consisted of a request to meet with Putin. Subsequently, a proposal emerged, perhaps from the presidential administration, to merge the RSPP with the two other leading business associations in an apparent bid to fashion a universal "business vertical' under the Kremlin's full control.
Similarly, upon Putin's arrival to power, the Kremlin created a state-sponsored Media Union, headed by nomenklaturshchik Aleksandr Lyubimov, as an alternative to the independent Russian Union of Journalists to co-opt representatives of the mass media.
The Kremlin has also played favorites with competing associations of the Jewish and Muslim communities, respectively. The Kremlin created a pro-Kremlin Jewish organization, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR), and ensconced as its head Rabbi Berl Lazar. The rabbi was associated with Sibneft oil company head and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich and with diamond magnate Lev Levaev, both of whom were willing to eschew politics upon Putin's demand. This was untrue of the main backers of the hitherto leading Jewish organization in Russia, the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) -- Vladimir Gusinskii and Khodorkovskii. After Gusinskii's forced exile, the RJC fell into decline, and the Kremlin's FJCR has emerged as the leading association of Russian Jewry, more readily able to lobby the Kremlin because its creation was the brainchild of presidential administration deputy head Vladislav Surkov.
Among Muslims, the Kremlin first co-opted the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (TsDUM) headed by Talgat Tadzhuddin. However, in the wake of Tadzhuddin's declaration of jihad against the United States after the beginning of the war in Iraq, the Kremlin switched horses and now has co-opted the Council of Muftis, headed by Ravil Gainutdin. Previously the council had been competing feverishly with TsDUM for the Kremlin's favors, charging Tadzhuddin with ties to Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in an effort to discredit the competing suitor. The co-optation of corporate associations is achieved largely through the use of state largesse, which is now enjoyed by the Council of Muftis. Gainutdin is now the Kremlin's choice when it endeavors to showcase Muslims' loyalty to Moscow in various media and at various forums. The most recent sign of the Kremlin-Gainutdin relationship came during the recent presidential campaign. When the Kremlin sought to ensure a high turnout, it gave Gainutdin the nod for a television appearance calling on all of Russia's Muslims to vote.
The fifth and perhaps most important element of stealth authoritarianism is the often subtle -- but sometimes heavy-handed -- use of state administrative resources against targeted autonomous opposition actors who are prepared to use their financial and other resources to assist opposition forces. The Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, the Federal Tax Service, and the Federal Security Service (FSB) are often the agents of this selective law enforcement. They are deployed, often in collusion with the courts, to pressure such actors and to redistribute property in favor of supporting clans and against opposing ones.
Thus there are no mass arrests of autonomous and resource-rich capitalists or bans on private ownership of business, as under communist totalitarianism. The Putin regime has forced into exile and/or arrested oligarchs Gusinskii, Boris Berezovskii, and Khodorkovskii for alleged violations of the law especially during the 1990s privatization of state assets. Meanwhile, oligarchs who likely committed similar acts in the past but who now promise to stay out of politics or support the Kremlin and its allies are allowed to thrive: Sergei Pugachev, Vladimir Potanin, Oleg Deripaska, Vagit Alekperov, Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and others. The same is true of regional governors and other officials who break the law.
The political intent of the law-enforcement organs' selectivity was signaled early in Putin's tenure by his betrayal of his so-called godfather, Berezovskii. It is of particular interest that federal prosecutors on 4 November 2000 dropped all criminal charges against Berezovskii related to the Aeroflot case, involving the laundering of money through the then-Berezovskii-controlled airline. This occurred shortly after Berezovskii had brought Putin to power by promoting Putin as President Boris Yeltsin's designated successor and by funding the new pro-Putin Unified Russia party.
After Berezovskii refused to afford Putin independence from the so-called Family, he was charged with a series of criminal violations and forced to flee the country. Shortly after his self-imposed exile, Berezovskii was again charged in connection with case involving the Swiss company Forus, which was a part of the original Aeroflot money-laundering investigations, bringing the Putin-Berezovskii relationship full circle.
The sixth feature of stealth authoritarianism and the most important in terms of defining the present form of rule as one that is more authoritarian than democratic is the direct application of administrative resources and other so-called technologies during elections to create outcomes in the Kremlin's favor. Administrative resources are used by the authorities to limit the campaign venues for opposition candidates, to shape the field of candidates and parties that might participate in any given election, and to help in general to determine the outcome of the election so that the need to engage in massive electoral fraud is largely eliminated. Such methods address the problem posed by allowing opposition parties to exist. Where there is an opposition party, there is no problem, paraphrasing Stalin, because opposition parties' and candidates' chances of winning are reduced to near nil.
How does administrative-resource work get done? In the last days of November, some 10 days before the 7 December 2003 State Duma elections, the administration of St. Petersburg reportedly summoned all the heads of St. Petersburg's raions and warned them that if they did not produce a high vote for Unified Russia their jobs would be on the line, according to a local-election official who spoke on condition of anonymity. This strong-arm method was exercised down the administrative chain of command. Administrative heads told department and committee heads to rally votes for Unified Russia or else. They, in turn, pressured the heads of enterprises, universities, schools, and other institutions dependent on budgetary funding to produce votes for the party. Thus school principals were warned that repairs to the schools' physical plant would not be funded if they did not secure the votes of their students' parents.
During the presidential campaign, presidential candidate and Motherland bloc leader Sergei Glazev charged in a March 2004 letter to Putin that the administrations of Moscow, Ulyanovsk, Samara, and Penza oblasts and those of "a number of other regions openly demanded from officials dependent on them under the threat of being firing that they 'secure' no less than 70 percent of the ballots in your favor and a turnout of no less than 70 percent." Thus during a campaign swing in Nizhnii Novgorod, a contract permitting Glazev to hold a news conference was torn up just before the event and electricity was cut off to the premises. Just two days earlier, during a campaign stop in Yekaterinburg, authorities evacuated the building where he was holding a news conference, claiming there had been a bomb threat.
Administrative pressure during the 2004 presidential campaign went so far that a hospital in Khabarovsk Krai reportedly refusing to admit patients who could not produce absentee ballots This gambit was undertaken apparently in response to an order from the Health Ministry's local department instructing state-budget organizations under its charge to help get out the vote because the Kremlin feared that turnout might not exceed the 50 percent required to validate the poll.
Extra insurance against second rounds or in favor of large parliamentary majorities is provided by a subtle form of falsifying election results. Voters are increasingly reporting, especially on talk shows on radio stations like Ekho Moskvy, having strange encounters at the polls. After receiving their ballot, they are told that other family members of voting age have already cast their votes. They are then presented the voting roll showing a check next to each family member's name, indicating that they have voted. Upon returning home, the recent voter asks everyone if they cast their ballots; and to the mild shock of all, one or more say they did not vote. On one of last year's election days, I visited a voting station with a Russian friend who cast his vote, and we returned to the family's apartment and had this very experience.
How are these additional votes inserted into the results if election observers from opposition parties and international organizations are eyeing every stage of the vote count and reporting process? The short answer is that election observers do not watch every stage of the process. This was acknowledged in a report sent from the Central Election Commission (TsIK) to the Communist Party of Russia (KPRF). That party, along with Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), conducted an alternate vote count, found meaningful discrepancies with the official results using the same official voting protocols, and appealed to TsIK to investigate. TsIK reported to the KPRF that the divergence in the two counts came about when local "additional protocols" (povtornye protokoly) were composed by the election commissions in the absence of observers, who earlier had received copies of the primary protocols. This would allow commission members -- under administrative pressure to produce a particular outcome -- to insert a different vote count based in part on votes assigned to registered voters who failed to come to the polls. Importantly, such a practice not only produces or enhances desired election outcomes; it also boosts the turnout, which is increasingly important given the high level of voter apathy and fatigue.
A wide variety of other administrative pressures and dirty technologies, however, make falsification either unnecessary or a matter of fine-tuning an extra percentage point or two. Instead of banning political parties, those other than Unified Russia that perform political tasks that assist Unified Russia are allowed to benefit from state administrative resources, despite the fact that they reduce the vote for the party of power. This reinforces the appearance of a democratic multiparty system. In many races, candidates appear whose sole purpose is to file lawsuits against opposition candidates during the campaign. Instead of arresting or otherwise harassing opposition candidates, the Interior Ministry mildly harasses the opposition's campaign workers on a carefully targeted basis. The presidential administration presses supporters of opposition parties and candidates to cease participating in their election campaigns, offering a careful mix of carrots and sticks. Sticks often include threats to begin criminal or corruption investigations or to leak kompromat about their targets. The same tactics are used to get the most viable candidates to drop out of races.
The dubiously constitutional apparatuses of the federal districts' presidential envoys are used in various ways as well. Federal inspectors to the regions try to persuade supporters of opposition parties and candidates not to support their campaigns through various carrots and, most likely, sticks. Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko was reportedly doing the Kremlin's bidding in early 2004 by seeking out kompromat on Motherland-Patriotic Union leader Glazev as he ran for the presidency against Putin in the March election and by blocking his access to buildings where he could meet with journalists during a campaign swing in Nizhnii Novgorod. FSB officers reportedly also harassed police officers accompanying Glazev at the time until they presented their police identifications.
The use of administrative resources, falsification, and dirty technologies -- while characteristic throughout the Russian Federation -- are particularly prevalent in the national republics, oblasts, and okrugs. Even political scientist Dmitrii Oreshkin, hired by the TsIK to analyze the results of the presidential election on national television on election night, wrote in the election's aftermath that, in addition to the effect of a "managed electorate" in the republics, "there is no reason to doubt that administrative resources were applied to the final result." He added that this amounted to at least a 10-15 percent increase in the vote for Putin, giving him the 71.2 percent he got nationally, according to official figures. This means that the distorted vote in these regions, plus more limited administrative resources and dirty technologies in the remaining republics, ensured Putin's first-round victory.
A highly disproportionate share of Putin's take in the 2000 presidential election and of Unified Russia's more than 37 percent of the vote in December's State Duma elections came in national autonomies. In the 2004 presidential election, the national autonomies, especially the national republics where the titular ethno-national group is Muslim by tradition, produced record-breaking returns for Putin that could not be achieved by anything approaching democratic methods. Only six of 32 autonomies produced a percentage vote for Putin less than his national 71.2 percent: the republics of Buryatia, Marii El, Sakha, Khakasia, and Chuvashia, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. (See table below.)
In nine autonomies, the Putin vote exceeded 85 percent, including in seven republics -- five of them Muslim-titular. All seven of the republics gave Putin more than 82 percent of their votes, and five exceeded the astonishing 90 percent barrier. Even the so-called democratic stronghold of St. Petersburg is catching up with the national autonomies, giving Putin 75.1 percent. This not only indicates the extent of pro-Putin St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko's loyalty, it also marks a growing trend toward stealth authoritarianism outside the autonomies as region after region comes under the control of pro-Kremlin chief executives and Unified Russia-dominated legislatures. That "only" 69 percent of Muscovites voted for Putin is a rather dim bright spot.
Election campaigns in the autonomies, especially the republics, now often resemble those held in the sultanist Central Asian regimes of leaders like Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov or Turkmenbashi Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan. These men head the two most authoritarian regimes in the former Soviet Union. Similar regimes in Russia's autonomies apply in healthy doses what might be categorized as covert and overt administrative resources. Covert administrative resources are those rooted in the patrimonial structures left over from the Soviet regime through which voters are mobilized on state farms, state industrial enterprises, and within other state or state-connect organizations to turn out and vote in a particular way under the unspoken threat of material punishment -- wage cuts, wage delays, difficulties in obtaining enterprise-provided social services, dismissal -- by the enterprise's management. Such resources are more deployable in rural areas than urban ones and where native elites resisted reforms and did not aggressively oppose Yeltsin's revolution from above, fearing nationalist liberation revolutions from below.
One example of the overt use of administrative resources will have to suffice. In Tatarstan, elections to the republic's parliament, the State Council, were held on 14 March simultaneously with the Russian presidential election, in which, as noted above, Putin won 82 percent of the republic's votes. On 3 March, Yelena Chernibrovkina, the editor in chief of the local weekly newspaper "Puls zhizni," a newspaper tied to the republic's Party of Life branch, issued a statement detailing how administrative resources were deployed in the republic. During the night of 28-29 February, some 30 people in civilian clothes seized 143,000 copies of a special preelection edition of the paper, along with preelection materials highlighting three of the party's candidates to the State Council -- numbering 20,000 copies for each candidate. Also seized were 38,000 copies of a Tatar-language insert for the newspaper.
The head of the local Party of Life branch (the party is led at the federal level by Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov) is Refget Altynbaev, the former mayor of Tatarstan's second-largest city, Naberezhnye Chelny, and subsequently Tatarstan's senator to the Federation Council. He was appointed to the Federation Council by Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev in order to remove him from the local political scene, where he was considered by most political observers to be the main challenger to Shaimiev. He was removed from the Federation Council in 2003, as he began to develop ties in Moscow as a springboard for his return to Tatarstan politics. Moreover, Altynbaev has declared his intention to run for the Tatarstan presidency in 2006. Although as the legal situation now stands, Shaimiev cannot run for a fourth term, Altynbaev could foil Shaimiev's attempt to have his handpicked successor -- likely to be present State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshein -- elected the next Tatar president.
The pattern of the newspaper seizure suggests official involvement. Quoting from Chernibrovkina's statement:
"Unknown automobiles shadowed the truck carrying the editions from Ioshkar-Oly [capital of the Republic of Marii El] where the paper is printed. Police stopped the truck with the copies for three hours to check documents along the way in Zelenodolsk. No violations were found, and the truck traveled on.
"However, at the city limits of Kazan, militia again stopped the truck at a control post. Upon traveling to the control post after a telephone call, 'Puls zhizni' Editor in Chief Yelena Chernibrovkina and journalists from the newspaper discovered the entire edition lying on the side of the road in the wet snow. Unknown people in civilian clothes guarded the paper; according to the editor's count, they numbered 32.
"Not one of them presented identification to the editor, documented grounds for why the newspapers were seized, or gave any verbal explanation. Then the officials of the editorial board called the police. The people in civilian dress did not present any documents to the police who arrived in a patrol car in five minutes. Instead, walking further away, they quietly explained something. The patrol car slowly drove away, the police promising to send detectives. However, the detectives never came.
"A little to the side of newspapers stood two high-ranking police officers of the Tatarstan Republic. However, they also refused to explain what was going on or to present their identification to the chief editor of 'Puls zhizni,' stating that they had ended up there accidentally.
"In the course of more than four hours -- from 9 p.m. to nearly 2 a.m. -- the unknown civilians four times placed and replaced the newspapers around in the wet snow, sorting them by number, sticking tape to each pack, and signing and numbering each one. In the course of this, part of edition was ruined.
"At 2 a.m. the editor was given a copy of a protocol describing how the truck had been stopped and searched, and the editions of the newspaper 'Puls zhizni' had been found on the side of the road. According to the protocol, it was drafted by senior lieutenant of the administration for the fight against economic crimes of the Interior Ministry of Tatarstan. No basis of any kind for the seizure of the editions of 'Puls zhizni' is indicated in the protocol. Nevertheless, the entire edition of the newspaper, including the insert and the three special editions, was taken away."
Leaders of the Tatarstan regional branch of the Party of Life and the editorial staff of "Puls zhizni" charged that the incident is a "conscious violation of the federal laws on the mass media, on political parties, on the basic guarantees of electoral rights and the right to participate in referendums of citizens of the Russian Federation, as well as of the republic's law on elections of peoples' deputies of the Republic of Tatarstan."
They also charge that "this is hardly the first attempt" in Tatarstan to harass the party. In July 2003, a special commission of the Executive Committee of the Party of Life went to the republic to "sort out the numerous facts of violations of the law on political parties and discrimination against members and allies of the Party of Life because of their party allegiance." Nor apparently was it the last. In the days following the seizure of the newspaper's election editions, police continued to harass the paper, visiting its office three times a day.
When the inflation or deflation of voter-registration records to suit the authorities is added to these methods, the picture is complete. It appears that the number of registered voters was willfully deflated prior to the presidential elections by 900,000 as compared to those for the December Duma elections in order to help guarantee that the turnout would reach the necessary 50 percent.
In sum, under stealth authoritarianism, Russian elections are in danger of losing even the smallest element of fair competition. Since free and fair elections are the minimal requirement for qualification as even an "illiberal" democracy, we have grounds for characterizing the condition of the regime under Putin as more authoritarian than democratic. Some might argue that the same methods were used under Yeltsin. They would be correct, except that these methods were used far more sparingly and nearly as much against the Yeltsin administration as in its support. Suffice it to say that throughout most of the Yeltsin era, the State Duma was dominated by a majority that opposed the executive branch.
Beginning with the rise of Putin to the premiership and the formation and victory of Unified Russia in the 1999 Duma elections, this balance was changed. With Putin's victory in the 2000 presidential and Unified Russia's in the 2003 Duma elections came the gathering of most, and then all, state administrative resources into the Kremlin's direct or indirect control, the end of pluralism, and the onset of stealth authoritarian rule.
The limits of authoritarianism here are that, as noted above, the Kremlin still loses or at least plays on the fence in some elections of regional chief executives and lets the campaign play out as it will with limited interference from Moscow. Last year, a coalminers' union leader won the Norilsk mayoral election against a candidate backed heavily by Kremlin-tied oligarch and Norilsk Nickel owner Vladimir Potanin, head of the Interros financial-industrial group.
Most recently, the Kremlin seems to have lost or at least refrained from aggressive interference in three gubernatorial races. The careful calculus made by the Kremlin in executing stealth authoritarianism is reflected in the fact that each race was in a less-than-strategically-vital federation subject. On 4 April incumbent Altai Krai Governor Aleksandr Surikov was defeated by comedian and television personality Mikhail Yevdokimov. Putin gave a halfhearted performance during a televised meeting with Surikov days before the vote in a lackluster effort to save the governor. At the same time, however, there were rumors that Yevdokimov was backed by Unified Energy Systems (EES) and its director, Anatolii Chubais.
On 28 March, in Ryazan Oblast, Colonel-General and former commander of the Airborne Forces Georgii Shpak -- a leader of the recently formed, left-center Motherland election bloc -- defeated foreign intelligence Colonel Igor Morozov, a member of Unified Russia. However, ambivalence appears to have plagued the Kremlin here, as the campaign manger of Shpak's campaign was Unified Russia Duma Deputy Mikhail Babich. Thus, the Kremlin's strategy here and in some other cases appears to have been to play on both sides and let the best candidate win.
In an even less clear case, Arkhangelsk Governor Anatolii Yefremov was soundly defeated in a runoff against local dairy-factory director Nikolai Kiselev, although the Kremlin appeared rather complacent about this campaign. Moreover, last spring then-presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Matvienko was harshly critical of the state of affairs in the oblast and of Yefremov's administration. Kiselev has stated insistently that he supports President Putin, so the outcome there might actually have been to the Kremlin's liking.
The Vote for President Putin in Russia's National autonomies in the 2004 Presidential Election (as a percentage of the total vote). Regions with percentages higher than Putin's national average are preceded by an asterisk(*).
TITULAR MUSLIM NATIONAL REPUBLICS
*Republic of Ingushetia______________98.2
*Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria______96.5
*Republic of Daghestan______________94.6
*Republic of Chechnya_______________92.4
*Republic of Bashkortostan___________91.8
*Republic of Tatarstan_______________82.6
*Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia___82.3
OTHER NATIONAL REPUBLICS
*Republic of Mordovia_______________91.4
*Republic of North Ossetia___________91.3
*Republic of Tuva___________________87.5
*Republic of Kalmykia_______________79.2
*Republic of Altai___________________76.6
*Republic of Adygeya________________76.4
*Republic of Udmurtia_______________76.0
*Republic of Karelia_________________74.1
*Republic of Komi___________________73.6
Republic of Sakha____________________69.8
Republic of Marii El__________________67.3
Republic of Chuvashia_________________67.1
Republic of Buryatia__________________66.5
Republic of Khakasia__________________61.4
AUTONOMOUS OBLAST AND OKRUGS
Jewish Autonomous Oblast____________67.9
(Gordon Hahn is a William J. Fulbright visiting professor at the School of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University in St. Petersburg.)
PAN REGIONAL ISSUES
REFORMING THE RUSSIAN BUREAUCRACY: A PROGRESS REPORT
By Julie A. Corwin
President Vladimir Putin continues to make appointments to his newly restructured presidential administration. Like government ministers who had to trim their number of deputy ministers, Putin's administration chief, Dmitrii Medvedev, will now have just two deputies. In addition, the administration's structure has become more pyramidal, with the top trimmed and additional directorates created closer to the bottom.
Since appointments are still being made, it will naturally take some time to measure the impact -- if any -- these changes will have on the Kremlin's day-to-day operations. But it is possible now to examine another presidential institution that nearly four years ago Putin reformed, even created: the presidential envoys to the regions.
Putin inherited from former President Boris Yeltsin a system in which almost all of the 89 federal subjects had their own presidential envoy. In 2000, he introduced a streamlined structure of seven presidential envoys, each representing a federal district comprising the smaller regional units: oblast, republics, krais, and autonomous okrugs (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 and 24 May 2000).
"Vremya novostei" reported on 8 April that in the opinion of some analysts, the institution of presidential envoys is at present "practically useless," in part because they have already fulfilled their primary function of bringing local legislation into conformity with federal laws. Center for Political Forecasting General Director Konstantin Simonov said the institution has become simply a "form of political exile for visible figures in the government." Simonov is likely referring to the two most recently appointed envoys: former Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Yakovlev, who is now presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District; and former Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who is now envoy to the Northwest Federal District.
Dmitrii Oreshkin of the Merkator Group had a slightly different take. He said that in theory the envoys have additional spheres of activity, including exercising control over regional elections, "Vremya novostei" reported. However, the envoys' opportunities are limited by the way their powers were defined. They may not give orders to governors, but may only offer advice. Nevertheless, Oreshkin said he believes the office of the envoys will not be dismantled, since Putin will hardly want to destroy his own creation.
In an interview with "Novyi region" on 23 April 2003, Agency for Regional Research General Director Rostislav Turovskii also gave the envoys a mixed review. On the plus side, according to Turovskii, the envoys have contributed a "unique and exclusive" flow of information about what is happening at the regional level. In addition, the envoys have often played important roles regulating regional-level conflicts.
However, Turovskii added that the institution has some serious deficiencies. The office exists only within the framework of a 13 May 2000 presidential decree. It is enshrined in neither the constitution nor federal law, which limits its legitimacy. Another drawback, according to Turovskii, is that the envoys are not sufficiently controlled by the presidential administration. "In the name of the federal center, the envoys have not infrequently simply pursued their own personal, mercenary interests, and none of them has ever been punished for this," he said.
Turovskii was speaking before General Viktor Kazantsev was dismissed from his post as envoy to the Southern Federal District last month. Kazantsev was sacked without being given a new assignment -- one of only a handful of government officials that Putin has ever fired without immediately offering them a new position. Some of the few other examples are former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov and former Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, both of whom were dogged by allegations of corruption. The latter is facing criminal charges.
Writing in a policy memo, No. 284, for the Program on New Approaches to Russian Security, University of Oklahoma Professor Brian Taylor raised another issue regarding the envoys. He reported that one consequence of reasserting central control over local law-enforcement organs has been that regional "law-enforcement officials are now subject to manipulation by federal and district-level politicians and oligarchs." The Prosecutor-General's Office, for example, according to Taylor, has been unleashed against the political opponents of the Kremlin and the presidential envoys.
"The same problems that previously afflicted Russian bureaucratic behavior continue to exist under Putin, just at a different level," Taylor concludes. In other words, Putin might have reduced the number of presidential envoys, but he replicated some of the problems that have bedeviled Russian officialdom since long before Yeltsin: cronyism and corruption.
LIVELY DEBATE REPLACED BY TAPED DISCUSSION IN TATARSTAN.Russian Television Academy President Vladimir Pozner traveled last week to Kazan to host a roundtable television program on the state of freedom of speech in Tatarstan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 April. The program, titled "Direct Connection," was heavily advertised in advance as a live call-in show featuring, in addition to Pozner, republican Deputy Prime Minister Zila Valeeva and representatives of the republican media-holding company Tatmedia. However, when the show was broadcast, it featured a streaming announcement that the telephone number shown was not active and the show had been taped for broadcast. No explanation for the change was given. (Robert Coalson)
COMINGS & GOINGSIN: Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on 20 April named himself the chairman of six federal commissions: the Federal Military-Industrial Commission, the Federal Intellectual-Property Commission, the Naval Collegium, the Federal Economic Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Commission, the Federal Economic Integration Commission, and the Federal Commission on the World Trade Organization and Other Economic Cooperation Organizations.
IN: Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on 20 April named Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov head of the Federal Legislation Commission and the Federal International Humanitarian and Technical Aid Commission. He also appointed government apparatus head Dmitrii Kozak to head the Federal Administrative Reform Commission. Culture and Mass Communications Minister Aleksandr Sokolov will head the Federal Religious Organizations Commission.
IN: Former Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Arkadii Dvorkovich has been named head of the presidential experts department, Russian media reported on 19 April. According to media reports, Dvorkovich is considered one of the most liberal economists in the government and is a close ally of Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and presidential aide Igor Shuvalov.
IN: The People's Party on 17 April elected Duma Deputy Gennadii Gudkov (Unified Russia) as its new leader during a Moscow congress. Gudkov replaces Duma Deputy Gennadii Raikov (Unified Russia), who asked to be removed, saying that he is too busy with his work as chairman of the Duma's Mandate Commission.
KILLED: NFQ advertising company President Boris Goldman was killed in Moscow on 12 April when a motorcyclist placed an explosive on top of his car while it was waiting at a stoplight. Goldman was the intended victim of a similar bomb attack on 20 October 2003.
KILLED: Abu al-Walid, a Saudi-born militant who played a key role in the Chechen resistance following the March 2002 death of fellow field commander Khattab, was reported killed in Chechnya on 16 April.
FORMED: A group of politicians, business leaders, and public figures gathered in Moscow on 15 April to form a new "club" called Democratic Alternative, Russian media reported on 16 April. The project was initiated by independent Duma Deputies Vladimir Ryzhkov and Mikhail Zadornov, and other founding members include Federation Council member Ivan Starkov, INDEM foundation President Georgii Satarov, and several representatives of Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS).
FORMED: Duma Deputy Gennadii Semigin (Communist) announced that he will form a new leftist political movement called Patriots of Russia, Russian media reported on 12 April. The Motherland bloc announced that it will not join Semigin's movement.
IN: President Vladimir Putin on 9 April named Rosoboroneksport General Director Andrei Belyaninov as head of the Federal Defense Procurement Service. He also named former Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Dmitriev to head the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service. Media reports predicted that Rosoboroneksport Deputy General Director Sergei Chemezov will be named to succeed Belyaninov at the state arms-export monopoly.
FREED: Arjan Erkel, a Dutch employee of Doctors Without Borders who was abducted in Makhachkala in August 2002, was rescued on 11 April by law enforcement agencies. He returned to the Netherlands the same day.
POLITICAL CALENDAR21 April: Cabinet to discuss pension reform.
22 April: Cabinet will discuss the issues connected with the further privatization of state property
22 April: Arrival of an European Commission delegation headed commission President Romano Prodi to arrive in Moscow
23 April: First anniversary of the killing of State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov
24 April: Second congress of Motherland, which is headed by former presidential candidate Sergei Glazev
25 April: Opening of hearings in Qatar in the case of two Russian secret-services employees charged with carrying out the February assassination of former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev
28 April: A working group of the presidium of the State Council will meet in Vladivostok to discuss the development and competitiveness of Russia's fishing industry
May: Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director 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 Vladimir Putin to be inaugurated for his second term
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
14-28 May: Metropolitan Lazarus, head of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, will visit Russia, according to Interfax
19 May: Agrarian Party must settle its financial accounts with the Central Election Commission or face a ban on political activity
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
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
1 July: First anniversary of the creation of Federal Antinarcotics Agency
2 July: End of State Duma's spring session
3 July: Communist Party will hold congress to hear reports and elect new party officials
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
31 October: Presidential elections in Ukraine
November: Gubernatorial election in Pskov Oblast
22 November: President Putin to visit Brazil
December: A draft law on toll roads will be submitted to the Russian government, according to the Federal Highways Agency's Construction Department on 6 April
December: Gubernatorial elections in Bryansk, Kamchatka, and Ivanovo oblasts.