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Russia Report: January 23, 2003

23 January 2003, Volume 3, Number 4
In a long article from the journal "Politburo" reprinted on on 17 January, analyst Rostislav Turovskii argues, among other things, that Russian business groups will play an important role during this year's round of gubernatorial and presidential elections. In many cases, Turovskii says, they will reinforce the trend of electing incumbents. For example, in Vologda Oblast, Severstal is firmly backing incumbent Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev, which will make unseating him virtually impossible. Likewise, the stable relations enjoyed by Sibneft with Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhaev and Yukos with Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress make those elections fairly predictable affairs.

According to Turovskii, the results of 10 or 11 of the 17 gubernatorial/presidential elections can be easily predicted, although the date of these races has not yet been set. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov announced earlier that such races could be held on the same date as the December State Duma elections or the March 2004 presidential election.

Turovskii argues that many of the incumbent leaders are practically assured victory because "for many years, they have eliminated any alternatives and have built up their own administrative opportunities." Tambov Oblast Governor Oleg Betin, Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov, Mordovia head Nikolai Merkushkin, Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak, Belgorod Oblast Governor Yevgenii Savchenko, Tomsk Governor Kress, Vologda Governor Pozgalev, and Omsk Governor Polezhaev are all extremely likely to be re-elected, Turovskii writes.

However, in the few regions where the large corporations would like to unseat the current regional executive, the races are likely to be the most interesting and unpredictable. In Novosibirsk, Siberian Aluminum and Alfa Group together would like to "dismiss" Governor Viktor Tolokonskii, who has tried to hinder their attempts to take over the Novosibirsk Electrical Factory, Turovskii writes. They may tap Ivan Starikov, who is currently a representative for Kostroma Oblast in the Federation Council and who earlier lost a bid to become head of Novosibirsk in the last race. Or they may seek a completely new candidate. In Yaroslavl, the privatization of Slavneft disrupted relations among the local economic elite, and the attitude of Gazprom, Sibur, and of Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich toward incumbent Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn remains unclear. Turovskii asserts that the race in Leningrad Oblast will feature the most "complex and rich intrigues" of this election season because of the competing interests in the region, such as Surgutneftegaz, MDM Group, Siberian Aluminum, and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. In Sverdlovsk Oblast, incumbent Governor Eduard Rossel is considered to still have a fighting chance, despite the Kremlin's distaste for him, because of the strong role that will be played by Eurazholding, YGMK, SUAL, MDM Group, Sibneft, Tyumen Oil Company, Gazprom, Itera, and the Urals Pipe Factory. JAC

Region____________Date of___________Interested Economic
__________________Election__________Entities at Federal

___________________________________Gazprom, Alfa
___________________________________Group, YGMK


Mordovia__________16 February________Yukos

Belgorod__________December________Metalloinvest, Interfin
___________________________________group of Yelena

Vologda___________December________Severstal, Gazprom

Leningrad__________September or_______Surgutneftegaz,
___________________December________Transneft, SUAL,
____________________________________MDM Group,
____________________________________possibly LUKoil,
____________________________________various interests of
____________________________________the St. Petersburg

Magadan___________2 February_________IST Group,
____________________________________Rossiiskii Kredit,
____________________________________Interros, Rosneft,
___________________________________Roman Abramovich,

Moscow Oblast______December or_______Gazprom, Istlain,
___________________March 2004_______Severstal, Vladimir
____________________________________Bryntsalov's group,
____________________________________various Moscow

Novgorod___________September or______Akron, weak
___________________December________interest by group of

Novosibirsk__________December or______Alfa Group,
___________________March 2004_______Renova, group of
____________________________________Deripaska, group of
____________________________________Anatolii Chubais

Omsk_______________September or_____Sibneft

_____________________December,______YGMK, MDM
_____________________or March 2004___Group,
____________________________________Sibneft, SUAL,
____________________________________TNK, Gazprom,
____________________________________Itera, group of
___________________________________Zelimikhan Mutsoev

Tambov_______________December______weak interest of
___________________________________agricultural holdings

Tver__________________December or____weak interest of
______________________March 2004____the group of
____________________________________Anatolii Chubais,
____________________________________groups of Vladimir
_____________________________________Lisin, Oleg
____________________________________Deripaska, Roman
____________________________________Vladimir Potanin,

Tomsk________________September or____Yukos, Gazprom,
_____________________December______Alyans, YGMK

Yaroslavl______________December______Sibneft, TNK, group
____________________________________of Oleg Deripaska,

Taimyr_______________26 January_______Norilsk Nickel

Yelena Baturina: wife of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and head of Inteco

Roman Abramovich: former head of Sibneft, governor of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

Yevgenii Nazdratenko: State Fisheries Committee chairman and former governor of Primorskii Krai

Vladimir Bryntsalov: pharmaceutical-company executive and former presidential candidate

Oleg Deripaska: head of Russian Aluminum

Anatolii Chubais: head of Unified Energy Systems

Zelimikhan Mutsoev: State Duma deputy and head of the Urals Pipe Factory

Vladimir Lisin: head of Novolipetsk Metallurgical Company

Vladimir Potanin: head of Interros Group

Source: Rostislav Turovskii, "Gubernatorskie vybory-2003 i kadrovyi krizis v regionakh," in "Politburo," No. 1, 2003, as reprinted on

The State Fisheries Committee has assigned 50 percent of the national fish quota for 2003 to Primorskii Krai, while Khabarovsk Krai and Magadan Oblast were together allotted just 10 percent, despite the fact that their combined shoreline is four times longer than that of Primorskii Krai, reported on 16 January, citing RIA-Novosti. An unidentified federal official told the news agency that the unusual quota distribution stemmed from the personal interests of the committee's chairman, Yevgenii Nazdratenko, a former Primorskii Krai governor whose relatives work in the krai's fishing industry. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated the same day that it is unlikely the news item appeared without the approval of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. The daily noted that Nazdratenko was appointed to his job by President Vladimir Putin and not by Kasyanov, who had his own person in mind for the position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February and 1 March 2001). JAC

The unidentified government source cited by RIA-Novosti also commented that the fishing sector in Primorskii Krai is one of the country's most criminalized and said an estimated $2 billion worth of fish is sold illegally to Japan each year. According to "Kommersant-Daily," Japanese media have reported that Japanese companies have paid some $10 million in bribes to the State Fisheries Committee for rights to fish in Russian waters. On 8 January, TVS reported that an announcement earlier in the month that the krai's fishing quotas would be cut by 30 percent triggered protests from the Primorskii Krai administration and the local fishermen's trade union. Sergei Soloviev, deputy chair of the krai's union, said President Putin has apparently reneged on a promise made to local fishermen to give them preferential treatment. JAC

The same unidentified government source also told RIA-Novosti that former Magadan Oblast Governor Valentin Tsvetkov was one of the initiators of a protest by Khabarovsk Krai and Magadan Oblast against the fishing-quota allocations prior to his killing in Moscow in October. At the time of the killing, some analysts speculated he had been trying to determine what happened to a $75 million credit granted to Magadan Oblast by the federal government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2002). JAC

More than 1,500 people participated on 16 January in a protest in the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast town of Balakhna against a planned hike in utility rates, NTV reported. The picketers are calling the pending rates extortionate. On 1 January, the city duma decided to make a transition to the federal standard of requiring residents to pay 90 percent of the cost of housing and communal services. The current local standard is 62 percent, RosBalt reported on 15 January. The city administration believes the switch to the new system will bring more than 900 million rubles ($28 million) a year into the city budget. Last spring, thousands of residents of Voronezh took to the streets to protest a planned reform of the local housing and communal-services sectors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 16 April 2002). Municipal workers in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii went on strike for more than five weeks this winter to protest similar reforms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 16 December 2002 and 6 January 2003). JAC

Kaluga Oblast Governor Anatolii Artamonov lost his chief political opponent this week when the head of the Kaluga branch of Sberbank, Aleksei Demichev, resigned his post, reported on 16 January. The report did not say why Demichev resigned or what his plans are. Demichev ran against Artamonov in the 2000 gubernatorial elections. After his defeat in that race, according to the website, Sberbank began to "sponsor" the local newspaper "Kaluzhskie gubernskie vedomosti," which regularly criticized Artamonov and his policies. JAC

"Izvestiya" on 17 January published a long article about the social programs that the oil company Yukos is implementing in various regions, particularly in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug where it is based. According to the daily, Yukos is active in 42 Russian regions, pays about 120 billion rubles ($3.8 billion) in taxes annually, and employs more than 100,000 people. In Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, according to okrug Governor Aleksandr Filipenko, the company participates in the region's housing program and builds facilities such as sports complexes in various cities. The company also runs its own educational program in the Federation of Internet Education, in which students receive stipends from Yukos and eventually jobs. According to the daily, participation in the program is considered prestigious, and the atmosphere in the classes is unlike that in regular schools, with girls dressed in white blouses and boys in jackets. In the summer, the students get a trip to camp run by the youth movement New Civilization, which was also organized by Yukos. According to the daily, the residents of Nefteyugansk "love" Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii and "seriously believe that when he flies to the city it becomes warmer." Prior to a recent visit, the temperature in the city had been hovering at minus 40 degrees Celsius but rose upon Khodorkovskii's arrival to minus 12. JAC

Yukos is prepared to donate $70 million to the Communist Party over the next five years, reported on 16 January. According to the report, the purpose of the assistance would be to neutralize the party's "radical left wing," which has been active in recent months and is reportedly seeking an alliance with magnate Boris Berezovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2002). Yukos would presumably be acting on behalf of the Kremlin and, in exchange for the money, would receive a number of slots on the Communist Party's party list. The company would reportedly also place its representative, former KGB Major General Aleksei Kondaurov, as chairman of the People's Patriotic Union's (NPSR) executive committee. The NPSR's current head is Duma Deputy Gennadii Semigin (Agrarian). The website was launched in October by consultant Gleb Pavlovskii's Fund for Effective Politics. Semigin was the subject of a 20 January article in "Gazeta" that reported that Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov is unhappy with him. Semigin is reportedly suspected of being a Kremlin "mole" and of abusing his financial authority. JAC

Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev is conducting meetings with the heads of various Cossack regiments to discuss the possible role of the Cossacks in stabilizing the sociopolitical situation in the south, reported on 14 January. Kazantsev is meeting with the atamans from the Don, Kuban, and Tersk Cossack troops. On 13 January, RFE/RL's Krasnodar correspondent reported that an unspecified number of Cossacks in the Leningrad Raion of Krasnodar Krai have been participating in pickets and meetings to protest the recent arrest of Viktor Bradulo, the ataman for the Umanskii Cossack Station. Bradulo is accused of acting as the intermediary in conveying a bribe of 400 rubles ($13). Local Cossacks told RFE/RL they believe Bradulo's arrest is linked to a conflict between the Cossacks and local police. The Cossacks say they have been delivering poachers from Cossack-controlled forests to the police, who have not been prosecuting them. In addition, the Cossacks claim to have destroyed 10,000 plants from which unspecified narcotics are extracted. They say, however, that local police were protecting the drug dealers, because they were getting a share of the profits. To protest his arrest, Bradulo has declared a hunger strike. JAC

The city of Novgorod is essentially bankrupt, with debts amounting to 67 percent of its revenues, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 January. If the local-government reform currently pending in the Duma were already enacted, then external administration over the city's finances would have to be introduced. Although the oblast has long enjoyed a favorable reputation among investors, foreign investment in the region overall fell by 41 percent last year compared with 2001. According to the daily, the poor state of the city's finances was revealed during last month's mayoral race by one of the candidates, Vladimir Kondratev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 2002). The daily suggested that Kondratev, backed by several major local entrepreneurs, participated in the mayoral race as a kind of warm-up for the oblast's gubernatorial election in September. JAC

Union of Journalists head Vsevolod Bogdanov reconfirmed on 16 January that the local authorities in Perm Oblast do not own any mass-media outlets, making it the only region in Russia where this is the case, reported on 16 January, citing Region-Inform-Perm. When the governor does not have his own newspaper, this is a luxury, Bogdanov said. "This means that the governor is sure of himself and does not need the artificial support of administered media," he added. Earlier, Perm Oblast was named the most democratic region of Russia based on a variety of different measures in a multiyear study carried out by Nikolai Petrov, formerly of the Carnegie Moscow Center (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). In November, local agents of the Federal Security Service in Perm searched the offices of the independent regional newspaper "Zvezda" and confiscated documents and computers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002). At the time, the head of the local branch of the Union of Journalists said the search was most likely prompted by the newspaper's investigations of local criminal groups. JAC

Political analysts in Yekaterinburg are considering the consequences of a possible further diminution of the power of Unified Russia General Council head Aleksandr Bespalov at the party's 29 March congress, reported on 15 January, citing "Novyi region" (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 16 January 2003). Analyst Konstantin Kiselev said that a redistribution of power among the leadership of Unified Russia would significantly damage the lobbying opportunities of the Sverdlovsk party organization, which is headed by Sergei Nosov. According to Kiselev, Nosov, who is the general director of the Nizhnii Tagil Metallurgical Complex (NTMK) and who is considered a possible challenger to Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel in elections later this year, enjoys warm relations with Bespalov. However, if Bespalov's influence in Unified Russia wanes, it could increase that of State Duma Deputy Valerii Yazev. Yazev is a member of the Unity faction and was elected from a single-mandate district in Sverdlovsk Oblast. Yazev is considered an ally of Rossel. JAC

The election for a new governor of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug will take place on 26 January with seven candidates competing. The election has been called to replace former Norilsk Nickel head Aleksandr Khloponin, who was elected governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai in September. The front-runner in the Taimyr race is Norilsk Mayor Oleg Budargin, who is the former personnel director of the Norilsk Mining and Metallurgical Complex (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 2002). JAC

Meanwhile, Valerii Melnikov, leader of Norilsk Nickel's trade union, announced on 20 January that the company's personnel might go on strike next week, Interfax reported. Workers are seeking an increase in monthly wages from 24,000 rubles ($755) a month to 28,000 rubles, as well as extra vacation time to compensate for hazardous working conditions. Aleksandr Bugaev, president of the All-Russia Labor Confederation, told RosBalt the same day that Norilsk Nickel's new management is trying to reduce all company social programs to a minimum. Bugaev added that the current management is also struggling directly against the labor union by using "KGB methods" such as "spreading negative information about union activists" and convincing people "one by one" to leave the union. JAC

In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 11 January, Irek Murtazin, former head of Tatarstan's State Television and Radio Company, said his dismissal in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002) was partly motivated by political intrigues connected with the struggle to replace Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev. Shaimiev is not expected to seek a fourth term when his current term expires. Murtazin was pressured to resign in November after airing a discussion program during the 23-26 October hostage crisis in Moscow. He was accused of sympathizing with the extremist ideas of the Chechen fighters who took over a Moscow theater. According to Murtazin, during the program he asked the question: "What is happening in Moscow? Is this terrorism, banditry, or the desperate act of people trying to attract attention to the Chechen problem?" However, this question was altered on a videotape of the program that was distributed in Moscow so that the end of the question was turned into a statement. According to Murtazin, certain unidentified political forces decided that he must be gotten rid of because he is loyal to Shaimiev. Murtazin explained that Moscow is seeking someone to replace Shaimiev who will be more manageable. JAC

David Richardson, a U.S. citizen and former intelligence worker, has been fired from the faculty of the Tomsk Polytechnic University for absenteeism, Interfax reported on 16 January. In November and December, Richardson reportedly missed without a valid reason 22 of the 32 hours of English-language classes he was supposed to teach. According to the agency, Richardson has more than 10 years' experience in radio intelligence in the United States and "participated in U.S. special services' operations against the Soviet Army in Germany, Afghanistan, and Indochina." The 45-year-old Richardson came to Tomsk in the middle of 2002 to marry an employee of the Tomsk Oblast Duma with whom he had corresponded by electronic mail for more than a year. The ceremony is scheduled for 21 January. The would-be groom is currently in Vilnius waiting to get a new visa, according to the agency. Interfax also noted that there is one other teacher of English at the university, identified as Tim Estes, who earlier worked for 15 years as a police detective in Nebraska. JAC

Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko on 15 January was elected chairman of the board of directors of Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 January. Aviastar is an aircraft manufacturer, in which the Egyptian company Sirocco owns a 25 percent stake. According to the daily, Aviastar is also within the sphere of influence of oligarch Oleg Deripaska's Russian Aluminum. In October, Kirienko told TVS he would like to leave government for a job in the private sector in two or three years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). JAC

OUT: Boris Jordan has been dismissed as head of Gazprom-Media, Russian agencies reported on 17 January. He will also be replaced as general director of NTV by Nikolai Senkevich, former deputy head of Gazprom's department of information policy, Ekho Moskvy reported on 22 January

OUT: Aleksandr Levin, producer of TVS, has been dismissed effective 31 January, Ekho Moskvy reported on 21 January.

22-24 January: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will visit Moscow

23 January: Prime Minister Kasyanov to oversee government session on reform of railway transportation

24 January: Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to meet with European Union ministers in Athens

26 January: Gubernatorial elections will take place in Taimyr Autonomous Okrug

30 January: International Monetary Fund mission scheduled to visit Moscow to evaluate the development of Russia's economy

End of January: Date by which the issue of whether Colonel General Gennadii Troshev will resign from the armed forces will be resolved, according to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 5 January

Early February: President Putin will visit Paris

1 February: New Labor Code will come into effect

1 February: New Civil Procedure Code will come into effect

2 February: Gubernatorial elections will be held in Magadan Oblast to replace Valentin Tsvetkov, who was killed in Moscow in October

3-7 February: Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo to visit Urals Federal District

4 February: President Putin to attend opening ceremony of the Year of Russian Culture in Berlin

16 February: Elections will be held in the Republic of Mordovia to elect the head of the republic (not called a president under republican law)

February: Labor Ministry expected to submit to the government a list of jobs to which young men seeking to perform alternative service (as opposed to military service) could be assigned

February: NATO-Russia Council will hold conference in Rome

4-5 February: A national conference on "Information Security in Russia in a Global Information Society" will be held in Moscow

27-28 February: The Union of the People of Chechnya movement will meet in Moscow, State Duma Deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov announced on 18 December

8 March: International Women's Day observed

23 March: A referendum will be held in Chechnya on the republic's draft constitution and draft laws on the election of the president and parliament

24 March: Terms of members of the current Central Election Commission will expire

29 March: Unified Russia party will hold a congress

May: St. Petersburg will celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding

31 May: Russia-EU summit will take place in St. Petersburg.