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Russia Report: April 25, 2003

25 April 2003, Volume 3, Number 16
In a conversation with a reporter from "Vremya novostei" just hours before he was killed on 17 April, State Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov, 52, confided that he was tired of being a legislator. He reportedly said he would not seek a spot on his party's party list for the December State Duma elections and that he would not run in a single-mandate district.

It's not difficult to understand why, after serving more than 10 years in the legislature, Yushenkov would decide he needed a break. If press accounts are accurate, Yushenkov was a man who underwent a major philosophical change at the beginning of the perestroika years, but after that his political values remained stable. He did not keep changing his views to fit current political fashions, and consequently he probably became disenchanted with the Duma as it metamorphosed from a feisty collection of colorful personalities in the mid-1990s to its present incarnation -- a quiescent club for rubber-stamping government initiatives.

Yushenkov began life in a family of collective farmers in what is now Tver Oblast. He studied first at an agricultural-technical college, but then transferred to a military-political school in Novosibirsk, where he trained as a political officer. In 1980, he entered the Lenin Military-Political Academy in Moscow, where he also pursued graduate studies. From 1987-90, he taught Marxist-Leninist philosophy at the academy. He achieved the rank of colonel and earned a kandidat's degree in philosophical science, according to

In addition to having an agile mind capable plumbing the twists and turns of dialectical materialism, Yushenkov was also graced with an exceptional sense of humor, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 17 April. He not only wrote short pieces and feuilletons -- many of them under the pen name Yegor Shugaev -- but he also wrote parodies of legislation -- one of which, entitled "on the hereditary succession for the office of Duma deputy," several of his colleagues took seriously.

In 1990 Yushenkov made the jump to a career in legislative politics. That year, he was elected to the Russian Congress of People's Deputies from a Moscow district and served on the Mass Media Committee of the Russian Supreme Soviet. Yushenkov played a prominent role in defeating the August 1991 attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and, according to "Vremya novostei" on 18 April, Yushenkov considered that event one of the highlights of his life. In March-April 1992, Yushenkov was one of the founders of a pro-government legislative faction, and in September of that year he was one of the initiators of a campaign for the resignation of Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov.

The year 1993 turned out to be another critical period in Yushenkov's career when he became deputy for Mikhail Poltarinin, who was then head of the Federation Information Center. At the time, Poltarinin was one of the most influential activists in President Boris Yeltsin's circle, and through him Yushenkov became acquainted with a circle of "elite democrats," "Nezavisimaya gazeta -- figury i litsa" reported on 22 February 2001. In 1993, when the pro-government Russia's Choice faction created its party list for the newly created State Duma, Yushenkov had a spot in the top 20 right after Poltarinin. In 1993, Yushenkov's career peaked in terms of political power, when he was given the chairmanship of the Duma's Defense Committee.

However, Yushenkov was unable to use his power as chairman to transform the committee into a real opposition force, not even on issues about which he cared deeply, such as the first war in Chechnya, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued. The publication commented that Yushenkov should have tried to make the committee into a kind of alternative to the Defense Ministry for information about what was really going on in the armed forces at the time and that Yushenkov should have been telling President Yeltsin what Defense Minister Pavel Grachev was not telling him. Denis Myuller, the author of a profile of Yushenkov in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," suggested that while Yushenkov might have been a very honest, principled -- and perhaps overly idealistic -- legislator, he wasn't necessarily that effective at the real, and sometimes dirty, work of politics. Yushenkov loudly and publicly declared his opposition to the first Chechen war. He even tendered his resignation but he didn't -- and/or couldn't -- do anything to stop that war.

But after eight more years in the Duma, by October 2001, Yushenkov had apparently learned enough to do battle with tycoon Boris Berezovskii and win. In that month, Yushenkov was able to maneuver the self-exiled Berezovskii out of the Liberal Russia party, which he co-founded and bankrolled to the tune of $1 million. Yushenkov not only expelled Berezovskii, but he also got rid of those regional party heads, who tried to resist Berezovskii's ouster and apparently managed to locate alternative funding for the party. Within days of Berezovskii's departure from the party, the Justice Ministry finally agreed to register it, making it eligible to participate in the December State Duma elections.

The real danger might have been not that Yushenkov wasn't effective, but that Yushenkov was too effective, and this is what cost him his life. Politicians who do not try to make waves -- who accept, rather than trying to extort, cash gifts -- don't get killed. They try to avoid making anyone angry. But from fairly early on in his career, Yushenkov managed to antagonize people -- some of them senior officials. In January 1995, he annoyed Grachev enough to prompt the latter to call him a "vile toad" on national television. Months later, the former deputy chairman of the Russian National Unity party, Aleksei Vedenkin, also declared on television that he would execute Yushenkov and fellow Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev if he came to power.

The day after Yushenkov was killed, commentator Andrei Cherkizov on Ekho Moskvy identified at least three groups who might have "needed" Yushenkov dead: certain Defense Ministry officials, persons who profit from the continuation of the war in Chechnya, and persons who want to expedite the process of extraditing Berezovskii from Great Britain. Another group that could be added to that list are those Federal Security Service (FSB) officers angered by Yushenkov's well-publicized efforts to prove allegations that the FSB was involved in the apartment-building bombings that killed some 300 people in 1999 and which served to galvanize public support for the second military operation in Chechnya. According to "Izvestiya," Yushenkov frequently talked with reporters in the Duma about the bombings and would say, "It's all obvious, but no one will write about it." Perhaps too many people already have. (Julie A. Corwin)

Although Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov declared this week that "people are not murdered for politics in Russia," the table below shows that working in the State Duma has proven deadly for at least nine legislators since the Duma was formed in 1993. Also during this period, at least six other deputies have been shot at or beaten severely, although they did not die as a result. At a closed session on 23 April devoted to the status of the investigations into the slayings of Duma deputies, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov told deputies that six of eight killings of State Duma deputies -- not counting Yushenkov's -- have been solved. Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev also reported that of 53 assaults on Duma deputies, only 16 cases remain unsolved. According to "Kommersant-Daily" of 18 April, the two cases that remain open are the August 2002 murder of Vladimir Golovlev and the December 1996 murder of Yurii Polyakov. Of the "solved" cases, according to the daily, the alleged murderer of Andrei Aizderzis, who was killed in April 1994, has been identified, but law enforcement officials have not found him yet. In the case of the November 1994 slaying of Valentin Martemyanov, the Interior Ministry declared that the criminals had been arrested, but it has never released their names to the public, and no trial has been held. JAC

Date________________Name of deputy___________Location of killing

26 April 1994_________Andrei Aizderdzis____________Moscow

1 November 1994_____Valentin Martemyanov________Moscow

2 February 1995_______Sergei Skorochkin__________Moscow Oblast

26 November 1995_____Sergei Markidonov__________Chita Oblast

3 December 1996______Yurii Polyakov_____________Krasnodar Krai

3 July 1998___________Lev Rokhlin_______________Moscow Oblast

20 November 1998_____Galina Starovoitova_________St. Petersburg

21 August 2002________Vladimir Golovlev____________Moscow

17 April 2003__________Sergei Yushenkov____________Moscow

(Source: "Kommersant-Daily," 18 April 2003)

State Duma deputies on 23 April approved a presidential package of amendments to the Criminal Code in its first reading, Russian media reported. The vote was 281 in favor, with 77 against and two abstentions, according to ITAR-TASS. Presidential representative to the Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov said the amendment will "substantially humanize criminal law" by imposing lesser penalties for minors and drugs addicts and milder punishments for minor crimes. In addition, criminals will be fined rather than have their property confiscated, unless they are found to have obtained their property illegally. According to RosBalt, the bill contains about 100 amendments. JAC

Deputies on 23 April approved in its third and final reading a bill allowing Russian citizens to mine gems and precious metals, with 280 votes in favor, RosBalt reported. But they rejected a draft code of conduct for government officials in its second reading, RosBalt reported. The latter bill -- authored by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), Yabloko, and the Fatherland-All Russia factions -- was approved in its first reading last May, but deputies now believe it needs to be reworked, according to ITAR-TASS. The bill got only 179 votes of the 226 needed. JAC

Duma deputies on 18 April voted to approve a new version of the Customs Code in its second reading, Russian media reported. The vote was 396 in favor, with one against and no abstentions, according to Interfax. The bill was passed in its first reading in November 1999 and has been stalled in the Duma since then. A chief goal of the new version is to simplify the number of customs procedures and reduce the period for gaining customs approval. According to "Vremya-MN" on 19 April, compromises had to be hammered out between the State Customs Committee (GTK), Duma deputies, and representatives of the business community on around 4,000 amendments. Some members of the business community remain dissatisfied. Severstal Chairman Aleksei Mordashov told "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 April that the GTK will retain much of its power to interpret the law. However, Duma Customs Subcommittee Chairman Valerii Draganov told "Vremya-MN" that the most important feature of the bill is that it allows citizens to appeal to the Supreme Court concerning conflicts with customs officials. According to "The Moscow Times," GTK First Deputy Chairman Leonid Lozbenko said he expects the bill to pass remaining legislative hurdles quickly and be signed by the president in time to come into effect by 1 January. JAC

On 16 April, legislators approved a presidential bill on the state-service system in its second reading, Russian media reported. The vote was 243 in favor and 148 against, according to RosBalt. The bill stipulates the division of the state-service system into three categories: federal-government civil service, military service, and law enforcement service. It also establishes a government civil service for the federation subjects. The bill also expands the range of posts that are considered civil service, ITAR-TASS reported. The Communist, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), and Yabloko factions and the Agro-Industrial group voted against the bill. The proposed state-service bill contains a controversial amendment introduced by People's Deputy faction head Gennadii Raikov that would repeal the existing ban on civil servants being members of political parties or religious organization. In effect, this amendment means the cancellation of the main achievement of Russia's postcommunist transition -- the decision to remove the Communist Party from the federal bureaucracy -- TV-Tsentr commented on 16 April. In the late 1980s, the Soviet leadership rescinded Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution, which obliged civil servants to be members of the Communist Party. If Raikov's amendment is included in the final version of the bill, it would mean the co-option of the bureaucracy -- including the security organs and the military -- into the "party of power" during an election year, TV-Tsentr argued. JAC/VY

Also on 16 April, deputies passed in its first reading a bill aimed at preventing gender-based discrimination, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 342 deputies voted in favor of the bill, according to RosBalt. The legislation declares -- among other things -- that men and women should have equal access to the economic resources of society, including property and real estate, land, and financial resources. In addition, state organs at various levels "should be [staffed] with [both] men and women." The government opposed the bill for reasons not specified by the news agencies. JAC


Name of law____________Date approved____________No. of reading

Criminal Code____________23 April___________________1st

On mining gems__________23 April____________________3rd
and precious metals

Customs Code____________18 April___________________2nd

On the system of state_______16 April__________________2nd
service in the Russian

On state guarantees of______16 April___________________1st
equal rights and freedoms
for men and women and
equal opportunities for realizing them

IN: At the Party of Life's first congress in Moscow on 19 April, delegates voted nearly unanimously to elect Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov as chairman of the party and chairman of the presidium of the party's national council.

ON VACATION: Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref is taking a vacation from 21 April to 10 May to recover from an unspecified illness, Interfax reported on 21 April, citing Gref's press secretary. The Kremlin on 22 April rejected a report in that day's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that Gref intends to resign, reported.

IN: President Vladimir Putin appointed on 19 April Major General Aleksandr Burutin as a presidential adviser on military technology. Burutin previously served in the General Staff's Main Directorate for Operations.

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

25 April: President Putin will arrive in Tajikistan for an official visit

26-29 April: Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin will visit North Korea

28-29 April: Energy Minister Igor Yusufov will lead a Russian delegation to the International Energy Agency ministerial conference in Paris

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: U.S. President George W. Bush to visit Russia

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

May: Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi will visit Vladivostok

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

9 May: Victory in World War II celebrated

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

16 May: State Duma will consider ratification of the Russian-U.S. Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty

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

18 May: Leonid Parfenov's program "Namedni" scheduled to return to the airwaves on NTV after a three-month hiatus

20 May: Legislative elections in Leningrad Oblast will take place

21 May: Foreign ministers from Russia and the EU along with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will attend a signing ceremony for the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program for the Russian Federation in Stockholm, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov announced on 21 April.

22 May: The current term of presidential ombudsman for human rights Oleg Mironov expires

25 May: Gubernatorial elections to be held in Belgorod Oblast

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

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

31 May-1 June: Czech President Vaclav Klaus will visit St. Petersburg

1-3 June: G-8 summit will take place in Evian, France

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 the new State Committee on Drug Trafficking will be created and new Federal Service for Economic and Tax Crimes will be formed, according to the committee's head Viktor Cherkesov on 8 April and ITAR-TASS on 10 April

1 July: United Arab Emirates national airline will begin regular flights from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport

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

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

September: Gennadii Seleznev's Party for Russia's Revival will hold a congress 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

October: President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will meet in Yekaterinburg, Novyi region reported on 14 April

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