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Russia Report: April 4, 2003

4 April 2003, Volume 3, Number 14

"RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" will appear next on 16 April.
The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party held its second party congress in Moscow on 29 March, Russian media reported. Addressing the more than 500 delegates assembled, Interior Minister and party High Council Chairman Boris Gryzlov quoted from the party's new manifesto, which contains Unified Russia's main ideological tenets and its platform for the upcoming national elections. In an interview with "Gazeta" on 28 March, Oleg Morozov, a member of the party's General Council and Russian Regions leader in the State Duma, explained that a manifesto is less specific than a party program, but it explains the differences between Unified Russia and other parties. The party has concrete goals rather than an ideology, according to Morozov, who was one of the manifesto's authors. These goals are reducing taxation and waging a real battle against poverty. "The poor person is dangerous to the rich, because if grinding poverty is dominant in the country, then the poor will rise up against the rich sooner or later," Morozov explained.

In his address, Gryzlov also listed the party's three most important tasks as constructing an efficient party structure, attracting new members, and continuing its constructive legislative activities, ITAR-TASS reported. Gryzlov also criticized the current government's economic policies. Gryzlov slammed the idea of raising domestic energy prices to global levels, saying that "this is like demanding bananas cost the same in Brazil as they do in Finland," according to Reuters. He also said the party will push for a cabinet of party members and lamented the undue influence of oligarchs on the country's political system.

An analysis of the congress that appeared on the pro-Kremlin website on 29 March deemed the harsh criticism of the government the most unexpected event of the entire proceeding. It reported that other comments by party leaders suggested there are "two mutually antagonistic moods within the federal government." It concluded that the rumblings of change within the country's upper ranks might be heard. "One part of the elite, comprised of younger and more ambitious 'new people' along with the old governors, who were pushed aside by the last State Duma elections to the fringe of the political process, are thirsting for a revanche over the other group within the establishment, which received maximum material gains during the rule of former President Boris Yeltsin and the continuation of this course by Vladimir Putin." However, it argued that the degree of readiness to undertake such an intra-elite "revolution" varies among the party's leaders. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who declared that the government should be subordinated to the Duma, wants the government changed immediately, while Gryzlov is "less radical." State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent), in a commentary for "Gazeta," was dismissive of the party's claims to want to establish a government based on a parliamentary majority. Ryzhkov argued that "the Russian bureaucracy is a dog, [and] Unified Russia is its tail: The tail can [only] dream about forming a government."

"The Moscow Times" on 31 March also detected signs of an intra-elite struggle, but attributed this to the ongoing tug-of-war between members of the so-called "Family," or coterie of individuals that rose to prominence around former President Boris Yeltsin and the St. Petersburg "chekisty." According to the daily, the "Family" "has gotten the upper hand" in terms of control of the party, despite the appointment of two high-ranking officials with KGB backgrounds: Valerii Bogomolov, chief of personnel at the Federation Council's apparatus, and former Federation Council representative Yurii Volkov to senior party positions (see "Comings & Goings").

The daily also noted the appointment of Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev, "a loyal supporter of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov," to the High Council. And it cited Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center as saying that "Bespalov's resignation upset the balance of power because he is a St. Petersburg man...and under his leadership there was a clear line aimed at weakening Kasyanov." In a comment to "Kommersant-Daily" on the same day, Politika Foundation head Vyacheslav Nikonov suggested that although the little-known Bogomolov has been named the secretary of the General Council, the party "as an instrument of victory in the elections will really be managed from within the Kremlin," from which such reputed managerial talents as deputy presidential administration head Vyacheslav Surkov operate.

Both Kasyanov and Surkov are considered members of the "Family." On 1 April, Surkov's deputy, Leonid Ivlev, was named deputy secretary of the party's Executive Political Committee. This appointment could be seen as further evidence of gains made by the "Family," or as a sign that a careful balancing of the interests between the two groups or clans is being maintained. After all, the new head of that committee is Volkov, another "chekist." (Julie A. Corwin)

A large demonstration against the U.S.-led military action against Iraq was held in the center of Cherkessk, the capital of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, on 25 March, Russian media reported. Interfax-South reported that the rally was attended by about 5,000 students carrying slogans such as "Hands off Iraq," "Shame on the American aggressors," "Bush is a hick," and "We are for peace." ITAR-TASS reported that the demonstration was three times as large, citing organizer Aleksandr Belanov, chairman of the republican commission for youth affairs. Belanov said rallies were held in several cities and villages in the republic and were not only permitted by local authorities but had the "moral support of republican head Vladimir Semenov." JAC

An antiwar demonstration was held in Vladivostok on 25 March, Radio Rossii reported. About 50 people burned U.S. and British flags and asked passers-by to kick a dummy representing a U.S. soldier. The protest was organized by the People's Deputy club and was also supported by State Duma Deputy Viktor Cherepkov's Freedom and People Power party, reported, citing Primorskii Television and Radio. The protestors also reportedly burned an effigy of U.S. President George W. Bush. According to TVS, a group of veterans in Vladivostok has prepared a complaint against Bush to be filed with the World Court in The Hague. TVS also reported the same day that some legislators in St. Petersburg have called on the government to rescind the invitations to the city's upcoming 300th anniversary that were extended to Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. The presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, Valentina Matvienko, commented that since the invitations were issued by President Putin it is up to him to decide whether to take them back. JAC

Presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii was expected to discuss with President Putin on 26 March the desirability of seeking the resignation of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii Mayor Yurii Golenishchev, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that day. Golenishchev has been blamed by many for the energy crisis affecting that city (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 2002). In addition, Pulikovskii suggested at a recent press conference that Blagoveshchensk Mayor Aleksandr Kolyadin should "resign in order to preserve his honor." According to the daily, Pulikovskii is dissatisfied with the 500 million ruble ($16 million) debt the city has accumulated with local energy suppliers, and he compared the situation in Amur Oblast to the one that existed in Primorskii Krai in 2000. On 25 March, Amurenergo cut off electricity supplies to the city. According to the daily, United Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, who met with Pulikovskii in Blagoveshchensk the previous week, said the reasons for the energy crisis are disorder and theft. JAC

Legislators in Altai Krai approved on 27 March an appeal by an initiative group composed of top krai officials favoring the unification of the krai with the Altai Republic, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. However, the press service of the republican administration issued a statement saying that Altai Republic residents responded to news of the krai legislators' actions with indignation, reported. The republican administration believes that such initiatives could be taken as aggressive interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign republic. According to the daily, republican officials do not wish to return to a position of subordination to the krai. Prior to July 1991, the republic was an autonomous oblast within the krai. JAC

A recent court ruling in Karelia may establish a legal precedent that would allow thousands of residents to receive financial compensation for the damage to their health caused by the Nadvoitskii Aluminum Factory, RosBalt reported on 1 April. On 28 March, a local court awarded 50,000 rubles ($1,600) to the plaintiff in a lawsuit, Dmitrii Kuzin, whose health has suffered because of environmental pollution in the vicinity of the factory. Both sides plan to appeal the decision to the republican Supreme Court; the factory does not agree with the judgment, while Kuzin feels that the compensation awarded is inadequate, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Andrei Kozlovich, the director of the Ariston environmental foundation, told RosBalt that around 5,000 local residents suffer from the same illness as Kuzin, which causes a softening of bone tissue. However, Kozlovich said the foundation does not plan to launch further lawsuits because this would lead to the bankruptcy of the firm, where many locals work. However, the environmentalists hope to convince the plant to agree to provide phased-in financial compensation to residents who are ill. JAC

Acting Mayor Vladimir Sinyagovskii was elected mayor of Novorossiisk on 23 March, RIA-Novosti reported the next day. Sinyagovskii received more than 72 percent of the votes, compared with 24 percent cast against all candidates. Sinyagovskii's two competitors, Ivan Nudnoi and Petr Kashirin, both of whom are pensioners, each received less than 1 percent of the vote. Prior to the race, the city election commission refused to register three other candidates who might have given Sinyagovskii stiffer competition, including Duma Deputy Sergei Shishkarev (People's Deputy), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 March. Shishkarev said on 5 March that the participation of Nudnoi and Kashirin in the race "provides the appearance of a competitive election and an easy victory for Sinyagovskii, whom the governor of Krasnodar Krai has already once referred to as the future mayor." On 18 February, city police announced they had foiled an assassination attempt against Sinyagovskii and that investigators believe the plot was linked to the forthcoming election, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

Some 300 farmers gathered on one of the main streets in Kurgan on 28 March to protest federal government agriculture policy, REN-TV reported. According to the station, the farmers were burning wheat and threatening to come to Moscow and burn their wheat in Red Square. The farmers complain they have no working capital, and they are demanding that the government write off all debts for agricultural enterprises, reduce energy rates, and limit agricultural imports. In February, the managers of three Kurgan agricultural enterprises refused to start their sowing campaigns because of the lack of capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003), and their ranks have subsequently swelled tenfold. JAC

On 27 March, agrarians in Krasnodar Krai sent an appeal to President Putin saying that unless their current problems are resolved the future development of the agricultural sector in the krai and in Russia as a whole is impossible, reported. Agriculture Minister Gordeev said the same day that due to the late arrival of spring this year, farmers must finish sowing swiftly, Prime-TASS reported. So far, the amount of spring grain planted is about 10 percent of that sown last year by this date. JAC

Observers of the 30 March legislative elections in Rostov Oblast were surprised by the large number of protest votes, RFE/RL's Rostov correspondent reported the next day. The percentage of voters voting against all candidates ranged between 22-28 percent in several districts, particularly in the oblast's smaller cities and in certain neighborhoods of Rostov-na-Donu. Incumbents also did not fare well. Of the 45 deputies seeking reelection, only 20 were successful. The Unified Russia party, however, did well in the race. According to the party's executive committee, Unified Russia did not nominate its own candidates, but it supported 42 candidates, 39 of whom won. The Communist Party fared poorly, with only one of its 24 candidates winning a seat. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 March, representatives of Unified Russia concealed their party membership. Four members of the party's regional branch participated in the race, but only one of them publicly declared his affiliation. Another group that did well in the election was local businessmen. According to "Vremya novostei" on 1 April, 31 of the 45 seats were won by enterprise directors. JAC

As of early March, the Rostov Oblast campaign appeared to be following a pattern established by previous local races, with well-known candidates facing little competition, the RFE/RL correspondent reported. For example, in a city election in 2000, the deputy mayor of Rostov-na-Donu competed against a mild-mannered Chechen businessman, and everyone understood how that race would be decided. In 2001, incumbent Governor Vladimir Chub faced a single opponent, an obscure regional official, while the head of the local Communists was not allowed to participate in the race. In this year's race, there are only two candidates in 14 of the 45 districts, and in a number of these districts the "competitor" is a complete unknown. In addition, the oblast election commission declined to register any of 11 would-be candidates from the Communist Party. JAC

Little was being written or broadcast about the 30 March race during the lead-up to the ballot by local mass media outlets because of a strict local law on elections, RFE/RL's Rostov correspondent reported on 6 March. The law forbids the "creation of a positive or negative attitude of the electorate toward a candidate." According to the correspondent, there has also been little paid political advertising. On 21 March, the State Duma passed in its first reading a bill amending several laws that would increase restrictions on media coverage of elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 March 2003). JAC

Vladimir Yakovlev announced on 2 April that he will not run for reelection in 2004, Interfax reported. He said on a live local television broadcast that he could have made "the necessary amendments to the City Charter to allow him to run for a third term," but that he has decided against that course. "In order to continue democratic reforms in Petersburg," Yakovlev said, "we must acknowledge that if a law exists, it must be followed, no matter how imperfect it might be." Yakovlev's decision, which seems to have ended a long-running controversy over his expected effort to seek a third term, came shortly after President Putin reportedly urged him not to run again (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003). SS

In a 6 March interview with RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent, local political analyst Boris Vishnevksii said that former Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, who was recently named presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, will not be able to boost her popularity with voters. According to Vishnevskii, the district's presidential envoy is by definition not the most popular figure in the city because this person does not answer for anything concrete and does not offer citizens significant help in resolving their problems. He concluded that a viable candidate does not necessarily have to be charismatic, but voters must have some hope that the person can solve the city's major problems. On 27 March, State Duma Deputy Oksana Dmitrieva (independent) told RosBalt that she hasn't decided whether she will run for governor or will support someone else. She suggested there are plenty of worthy potential successors to Yakovlev, such as Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin, St. Petersburg Mining Institute Rector Vladimir Litvinenko, and Federation Council representative Mikhail Mikhailovskii. JAC

The Audit Chamber on 31 March accused St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev of "systematically ignoring Audit Chamber decisions," RIA-Novosti reported. According to the chamber's information and public-relations department, the chamber has not yet received an answer to a letter it issued about the alleged misallocation of more than 1 million rubles ($32,000) intended for local road construction. The chamber has been conducting an audit of expenditures of federal funds by municipal authorities for preparations for the city's 300th anniversary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February and 24 March 2003). In April, the Audit Chamber will check whether Yakovlev has taken any measures in response to its earlier findings and, if not, will "take legal steps against the St. Petersburg administration." JAC

Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel issued on 1 April his second warning to Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii regarding the latter's failure to fulfill a 2000 local court decision requiring the indexation of the wages of budget sector workers, Novyi region reported on 1 April. According to the agency, Rossel issued the warning in line with the federal law allowing governors to dismiss municipal heads if a court rules that they have failed to enforce federal laws on more than one occasion. The first warning was issued on 30 April 2002. Aleksandr Shemelev, a lawyer with the Moscow-based Political Jurisprudence, told the agency that so far no mayor in Russia has been dismissed under the law, but two attempts have previously been made in Krasnoyarsk Krai and in Vladivostok. JAC

One of the labor union leaders at Norilsk Nickel, Valerii Melnikov, has declared he will run in the Norilsk mayoral elections scheduled for 20 April, "Vremya-MN" reported on 27 March. Earlier, Melnikov participated in a hunger strike along with other labor activists at Norilsk Nickel's Zapolyare branch (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2003). According to the newspaper, there are seven candidates in the race so far, and the favorite is the chairman of the city council, Sergei Shmakov, who "is completely loyal to the metals company" and is the preferred choice of Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin and Norilsk Nickel General Director Mikhail Prokhorov. Last month, reported that three of the candidates at that point were unemployed men. According to "Vremya-MN," an additional candidate is Aleksandr Gliskov, a lawyer from Krasnoyarsk, who paid a fee rather than collecting signatures in support of his candidacy. He said that his rights as a candidate will allow him to follow attentively all violations of election legislation. According to the daily, no one in Norilsk doubts Gliskov is looking for legal grounds to challenge Melnikov's candidacy. JAC

IN: Valerii Bogomolov, chief of personnel at the Federation Council's apparatus, will replace Aleksandr Bespalov as secretary of Unified Russia's General Council, Russian media reported on 31 March. Bogomolov, in addition to being a former colleague of President Putin's at the KGB in Leningrad, also worked as a correspondent in Hungary for the newspaper "Rabochaya tribuna," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 31 March. On 29 March, Yurii Volkov, former representative to the Federation Council, was named chairman of the party's Executive Committee, RIA-Novosti reported. On 1 April, Leonid Ivlev was named deputy secretary of that committee, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 April. Ivlev will retain his position as deputy head of the presidential administration's chief directorate for internal policy.

IN: Unified Russia delegates voted on 29 March to approve seven new members for the party's High Council, six of whom are governors. The new members are Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev, Orel Governor Yegor Stroev, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev, Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev, Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev, Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub, and Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin, RIA-Novosti reported.

OUT: State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) will not assume a leadership post in the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party as some media sources had reported earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 2003), "Vremya novostei" reported on 1 April. According to the daily, which cited "well informed" but unidentified sources, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov spoke categorically against including Rogozin in a noticeable position in the party. According to the daily, although Rogozin was once a member of Luzhkov's Fatherland party, he and the mayor are not on good terms. Rogozin was expelled from Fatherland in August 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 1999).

OUT: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a resolution on 28 March dismissing Anatolii Pivovarov as deputy director-general of the Russian Agency for Conventional Weapons, RIA-Novosti reported. Also dismissed was Mikhail Ivankov, first deputy railways minister, who has been "transferred to another position."

IN: Legislators in Mordovia confirmed a new representative for the executive branch head of Mordovia in the Federation Council, Nikolai Bychkov, on 27 March, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Bychkov is a former president of Yukos-RM. Bychkov replaces Leonid Nevzlin, who is also a former vice president of Yukos and former president of the Russian Jewish Congress.

OUT: State Duma deputy Khasan Mirzoev announced on 1 April that he is leaving the faction of the Union of Rightist Forces, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The official reason for his departure is disagreement with the party's leadership on a series of presidential bills.

2-4 April: Annual Russian Economic Forum to take place in London

3 April: The World Bank's Board of Directors will consider a $150 million loan to Russia for the fight against AIDS and tuberculosis, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 March

4 April: Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov will meet with Iranian Ambassador to Russia Gholam Reza Shafei

7-10 April: Russian-Mongolian Forum on Economic Cooperation to be held in Ulan Bator

7-8 April: Russian-U.S. Working Group for Energy Cooperation will take place in Washington

9-11 April: Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to visit Japan

11 April: Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov will participate in a session of the joint Russian-Belarusian Interior Ministry Board in Pskov

15 April: Court hearing in the trial of writer and National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov will reconvene

20 April: Mayoral elections will be held in Norilsk

22-25 April: The Sixth General Assembly of the Northern Forum will be held in St. Petersburg. Governors from 28 countries are expected to attend, and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov will head the Russian delegation, ITAR-TASS reported

24-25 April: Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda will visit Russia

25 April: State Duma will consider bill reforming local government in its second reading, according to RosBalt on 1 April

29 April: Deadline for completion of the first stage of Russia's chemical-weapons disarmament

30 April: Russian government will consider a financial plan for 2003-05, according to RosBalt on 12 March

May: St. Petersburg will celebrate its 300th anniversary

May: New weekly publication called "Rezonans," produced by some of the staff of the now-defunct newspaper "Novye izvestiya," will debut

1 May: Deadline by which the government is expected to finish preparing a package of legislation establishing a mortgage system, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 February

11 May: Parliamentary elections will be held in North Ossetia

13 May: Extradition hearing in London scheduled for tycoon Boris Berezovskii and his associate Yulii Dubrov

18 May: New law on railway transportation will come into force

25-27 May: Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Russia

30 May: Russia-European Union summit will take place in St. Petersburg

15 June: Karachaevo-Cherkessia will hold presidential elections

16-22 June: A meeting of 25 Nobel Prize laureates on the topic of "Science and the Progress of Humanity" will be held in St. Petersburg

17-21 June: Seventh International Economic Forum will be held in St. Petersburg

27 June: Gazprom will hold annual shareholders meeting

July: Month by which a working group of European and Russian legislators wants to create a "road map" for implementation of the joint Russian-EU accord on Kaliningrad of 11 November 2002, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March

1 July: Date by which Russia may ratify a border treaty with Lithuania, according to State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin on 27 March

September: Second Russian-U.S. Commercial Energy Summit will take place in Moscow

14 September: Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel's second term officially expires

23 September: The first European-Pacific Ocean Conference will take place in Vladivostok devoted to improving dialogue among intellectuals in European countries and the Pacific region, reported on 6 March

October: Days of Bulgarian Culture will be held in Russia

29 October: 85th anniversary of the founding of the Komsomol