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Russia Report: September 3, 2003

3 September 2003, Volume 3, Number 35
By Vladimir Kovalev

The onset of the so-called "managed democracy" that national political analysts predicted during the first few months after President Vladimir Putin took office in the Kremlin in 2000 has became a bitter reality in St. Petersburg this summer. The city's gubernatorial election campaign, which got under way immediately after former Governor Vladimir Yakovlev was appointed deputy prime minister responsible for communal services on 16 June, does not seem to have left St. Petersburg residents with much of a choice. Valentina Matvienko, former deputy prime minister and now presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, was put in the center of the local stage by the Kremlin and has overshadowed the 10 other candidates, none of which is able to match the advantages Matvienko has as Putin's envoy.

Shortly after Yakovlev left the city, the Kremlin took over control of Peterburg television, which is co-owned by the city government and the Leningrad Oblast administration, placing Igor Ignatiev, former deputy head of the St. Petersburg branch of state-owned RTR television, in charge of the station. At the same time, three political and analytical programs were shut down and their hosts left the channel. "It is clear this was done to cut St. Petersburg residents off from information that would allow them to make objective decisions," said Daniil Kotsyubinskii, host of the "Posfactum" analytical program, one of the shows cancelled in June. "It was done to make life easier for one candidate -- Matvienko." At the end of May, local media reported that St. Petersburg-NTV news editor Andrei Radin had been taken off the air for two weeks because he was supposedly not presenting enough reports about Matvienko and was showing rival candidate Deputy Governor Anna Markova rather too often.

However, it would have seemed strange if NTV, a private company that claims to be objective and that has had its own run-ins with Putin's Kremlin, had not reported Markova's 5 June declaration that she would defend local democracy from pressure by the presidential envoy's office.

"It is clear that during the last two months, we have seen an election campaign run by one person. Now the governor is facing pressure to leave. This is coming out from the presidential envoy's office," Markova said in a speech to the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly on 5 June. Shortly after this, she disappeared from public view for nearly a month and the city committee that she headed was abolished by a 15 July City Charter Court ruling. She became, in essence, a deputy governor with no chair to sit in.

The example of St. Petersburg television is just one small episode in a broader clean-up operation seemingly designed to pave the way for Matvienko to take the governor's seat. That operation apparently started in January, when a new St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly that was elected in December 2002 began working. In that campaign, then-presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Viktor Cherkesov entered the fray to battle against those Legislative Assembly deputies who supported Yakovlev's declared intention to seek a third term. Using a parliamentary majority of which the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia faction formed the nucleus, Cherkesov's office managed to elect Vadim Tyulpanov as the assembly's speaker, to break up the pro-Yakovlev United City bloc and to end Yakovlev's dream of staying in office until 2008.

Soon after Cherkesov completed his job, he left St. Petersburg to head the new State Committee on Drug Trafficking in Moscow. However, his replacement, Matvienko, continued his work. Her office was reportedly directly involved in replacing St. Petersburg Election Committee Chairman Aleksandr Garusov. Officially, Garusov was replaced in accordance with a request from the new city prosecutor, Nikolai Vinnichenko, who said Garusov had to leave because he does not have a doctorate or other advanced degree in law, as demanded by Article 29.12 of the federal Election Code.

Vinnichenko replaced pro-Yakovlev city prosecutor Ivan Sydoruk in March, shortly after Matvienko took over Cherkesov's position. On 26 June, the city election commission head's seat was given to Aleksandr Gnetov, a former employee of the Northwest Customs District. According to Garusov, before he went into a local hospital, one of Matvienko's deputies, Yevgenii Makarov, asked him to resign. "On 16 May at 2:30 p.m., I went to [the presidential envoy's office]," Garusov said in a 10 June interview with "Yes, I was asked to leave my post as election commission head. When I asked why and what claims [there are] against me, I was told that I was 'pro-governor stuff.'"

When Garusov returned to his office in Mariinskii Palace, he found an RTR television crew set up by his desk sitting and waiting for him to announce his resignation. The road to the governor's seat was almost completely cleared for Matvienko by this time.

The administrative resources that Matvienko has at her disposal as presidential envoy -- although officially she is on a leave of absence for the duration of the campaign -- are impressive. The doors of all state-owned and most large private companies are wide open for her to hold her campaign speeches. Managers of some state-owned companies have reported receiving requests from Matvienko's headquarters that middle managers sign pledges to gather specified numbers of employees to participate in meetings with the candidate. Matvienko also began her effort long before the official 20 August starting date for campaigning. Her name was prominent on posters throughout the city, and local media stepped up reports mentioning her and praising her achievements.

According to the Agency for Social Information, a local polling agency, Matvienko currently enjoys about 40 percent support, strong evidence that managed democracy produces the desired results. None of the other candidates have even 10 percent backing, meaning that there is a good chance Matvienko will win the governor's office in the 21 September first round. Seemingly, the only chance for St. Petersburg to resist being "managed" is if an embarrassingly large percentage of voters cast their ballots "against all" the candidates. This, however, seems unlikely to happen.

Vladimir Kovalev is a reporter with "The St. Petersburg Times" in St. Petersburg, Russia.

At a meeting of the Open Forum in Moscow on 28 August, politicians and political analysts expressed the opinion that the Communist Party, Unified Russia, and Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) will finish first, second, and third in the 7 December State Duma elections, reported. The LDPR's efforts were singled out for special praise. State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent) said Zhirinovskii recently visited his home district in Altai Krai, where he handed out 100-ruble ($3) bills to voters. Polls there suggest the LDPR will take 9 percent-14 percent of the vote. Zhirinovskii has been handing out cash in other cities, and political analysts think this tactic has been very popular (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July and 8 August 2003). Ryzhkov predicted that the LDPR will be able to increase significantly its number of seats in the Duma. Foundation for Effective Politics head Gleb Pavlovskii noted at the forum that only the LDPR has begun its campaign in an interesting way, while all the other parties' campaigns have been lackluster so far. JAC

Writing for on 28 August, commentator Andrei Kolesnikov predicted the newly formed left-patriotic bloc led by State Duma Deputies Sergei Glazev and Dmitrii Rogozin will reach at least 1 percent of voter support by mid-fall. He characterizes Glazev's bloc as one of the "most eclectic in the world of coalitions," since it unites under one banner "the Union of Russian Orthodox Citizens and the Federal Lezgin National-Cultural Autonomy." The Lezgins are an ethnic group in Daghestan. Kolesnikov suggests that Glazev himself will certainly win a seat in the next Duma from a single-mandate district, but his bloc does not necessarily have much "collective charisma," with its upper leadership composed largely of representatives of the Soviet nomenklatura. Kolesnikov concluded that the bloc represents a "clear false start" for Glazev, but he "will undoubtedly remain in politics" and in the next election cycle he will compete to head an invigorated communist movement. JAC

Foundation for Effective Politics head Gleb Pavlovskii told reporters in Moscow on 2 September that in his opinion the election strategy of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) has been lagging, and therefore the party might not make it into next Duma, RosBalt reported. Pavlovskii is overseeing the campaign for Unified Russia, "Novaya gazeta," No. 58, reported. He added that the comments and activities of SPS leader Boris Nemtsov and other members of the party strongly contradict each other, and the inclusion of Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais in the No. 3 spot on SPS's party list will not boost the party's chances. SPS's main competitor, Yabloko, has a somewhat different electorate and therefore has a chance of surpassing the 5 percent barrier to enter the lower legislative house (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 August 2003). JAC

On 2 September the Yabloko Without Yavlinskii movement held a press conference in Moscow at which the movement's leader, Igor Morozov, chatted with other members of his movement in other cities via an Internet connection, reported. Morozov said he has collected some 30,000 signatures calling for Yavlinskii's resignation as party leader. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General's Office has directed prosecutors in Moscow and St. Petersburg and in Rostov and Perm oblasts to investigate the Yabloko Without Yavlinskii movements in those areas in connection with a complaint filed by State Duma Deputy and Yabloko Deputy Chairman Sergei Mitrokhin. JAC

Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov said on 2 September that he is considering an offer from LDPR leader Zhirinovskii to occupy one of the top three slots on LDPR's party list for the 7 December State Duma election, Interfax reported. Anpilov's party was denied registration by the Justice Ministry in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003). Zhirinovskii told reporters that Anpilov would cooperate with LDPR only on a personal basis and that the LDPR is not contemplating a forming a bloc with Anpilov's party. JAC

The Justice Ministry refused to register the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), Interfax reported on 29 August. Aleksandr Kudryavtsev, head of the ministry's department for social and religious organizations, said the decision to refuse to register the NBP, which is headed by radical writer Eduard Limonov, was made after studying its founding documents and other materials it had submitted. Kudryavtsev added that the basis for the decision was made exclusively on legal -- not political or ideological --grounds. The NBP's press service released a statement from the party's central committee calling the decision an "act of arbitrariness and political violence" and vowing to conduct hunger strikes in all regions where it has branches, reported on 29 August. The party claimed it was refused registration because of a 27 August incident in which TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov was hit during a speech by mayonnaise allegedly thrown by a NBP member (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2003). (Jonas Bernstein)

Agricultural authorities in Kostroma Oblast on 27 August declared their region a disaster area, Regnum reported, citing Kostroma-TV. Farmers there have reportedly gathered just 6 percent of the grain necessary for local needs. Weather conditions, including heavy rain and winds, have made it impossible for farmers to operate their machinery. There is less than one week left for harvesting, and forecasters are predicting more bad weather for at least that long. According to preliminary estimates, losses total 11 million rubles ($360,000), and local officials are going to ask Moscow to compensate them for the lost harvest. JAC

Police in Krasnodar have detained an unspecified number of people on suspicion of involvement in three bomb explosions in central Krasnodar on 25 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2003), Russian media reported on 27 August. The detentions resulted partly from the numerous tips authorities received from the public via a special hotline. "The hope remains that those arrested were not simply snatched up randomly," commented. "It is no secret that after a terrorist act, law enforcement officials frequently round up suspects in order to [publicize] their success. And only after that, when they are released, the real investigation begins." Three explosions occurred in Krasnodar on 25 August, leaving three people dead and 20 injured, Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev told RTR that day. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 26 August, the homemade bombs detonated during the morning rush hour. According to, the local newspaper "Burevestnik Kubani" had reported recently that local media had been warning for several days that a terrorist act was in the works, but krai authorities brushed these reports aside, saying they were false. JAC

Five of the seven candidates in the 7 September gubernatorial race in Novgorod Oblast are asking the Central Election Commission (TsIK) to annul the registration of incumbent Governor Mikhail Prusak, "Vedomosti" reported on 27 August. The petitioners allege that only Prusak has so far been able to avail himself of the free campaign-advertising space allotted to all candidates by law. However, neither the petitioners nor local political observers expect their effort to be successful, the daily reported. Prusak has long been favored to win a third term in office. He has the support of the local branches of Yabloko and the SPS. An unidentified source reportedly close to the office of presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Matvienko told the daily that the envoy's office "does not consider it necessary to support Prusak, because he can get himself elected very well." According to the daily, Moscow-based political analysts agree with that assessment. Running against Prusak are LDPR regional branch leader Yurii Yakovlev, private businessman Nikolai Zakharov, head of the Union of Russian Entrepreneurs and Industrialists' St. Petersburg branch Vladimir Dugentsev, National Power Party co-Chairman Aleksandr Sevastyanov, Rosa commercial enterprise Director Yurii Dannik, and Novgorod Oblast legislative staffer Olga Yefimova. JAC

Less than a week after local legislators confirmed 7 December as the date for an election to replace the late Sakhalin Oblast Governor Igor Farkhutdinov, the media are already speculating about the likely candidates in that race. According to "Vremya novostei" on 3 September, from the local elite, acting Governor Ivan Malakhov and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Mayor Fedor Sidorenko are considered probable candidates. An unidentified source within oil giant Rosneft and Rosneft-Sakhalin told the daily the company will definitely back someone in the election, but they have not yet picked a candidate. JAC

On 2 September, "Izvestiya" also reported that unidentified sources within Rosneft confirm that a candidate representing the interests of the company -- either directly or indirectly -- will participate in the election. One example of an "indirect" supporter, according to the newspaper, could be the oblast legislature Chairman Vladimir Yefremov. Citing another unidentified source, "Izvestiya" reported that Federation Council First Deputy Chairman Valerii Goreglyad, who represents Sakhalin, is not planning to run. "Vremya novostei" suggested that Goreglyad would prefer to hold onto his Moscow post and will support Malakhov to head the island. According to Regnum, State Duma Deputy Artur Chilingarov (Unified Russia-Fatherland) has already declared his intention to run. JAC

President Putin added deeds to his verbal support of the candidacy of presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Matvienko in the 21 September gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg, "Vremya novostei" reported on 3 September. The previous day, in a meeting with Matvienko that was shown nationally on state-run RTR television, Putin said he supports her proposal to provide additional benefit payments for people who lived through the Leningrad blockade during World War II. Putin also said he "sincerely wishes [Matvienko] victory in the elections." They daily noted that "such open support for a particular candidate by Putin in an election is unprecedented" and suggested that it might have been necessary because Matvienko's position is not as strong as it appears. It reported that according to a "competent" and reliable pollster, Matvienko's recent rating was less than 40 percent, which would not be enough for her to win in the first round. Meanwhile, a lawyer for competing candidate Deputy Governor Anna Markova said Markova will complain to the TsIK and the Prosecutor-General's Office that Putin and Matvienko violated election rules when their meeting was shown on national television. JAC

Alfred Kokh, the Yeltsin-era privatization chief who was tapped in May to run the parliamentary campaign of the SPS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2003), will occupy the No. 2 position on the party's St. Petersburg regional list for the December election, Interfax reported on 1 September. The list was approved during a meeting of the SPS's regional branch in St. Petersburg. Yurii Gladkov, deputy speaker of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly, will have the top spot on the SPS's St. Petersburg regional list, while Grigorii Tomchin, chairman of the party's regional branch, will fill the No. 3 spot. SPS co-Chairwoman Irina Khakamada said that Kokh, as the party's campaign manager, will get more involved in the campaign in St. Petersburg now that he is on the party list there, RosBalt reported on 1 September. Kokh, for his part, said the SPS will be competing against Yabloko in the election given that "approximately one-quarter of the SPS's electorate intersects with Yabloko's electorate," Interfax reported on 1 September. JB

State Duma Deputy Aleksei Melnikov (Yabloko) sent a letter on 28 August to the Prosecutor-General's Office asking that it revive a criminal investigation of Kokh, but he withdrew his request the following day, "Vedomosti" reported on 1 September. Kokh was investigated in 1999 for allegedly handing Norilsk Nickel to Vladimir Potanin's Oneksimbank in a 1995 loans-for-shares auction for $140 million less than the starting price, but the case was later dropped. According to "Vedomosti," Melnikov said in a letter to the newspaper that he decided to withdraw the request after reading an editorial it ran on 29 August. The editorial noted that Sergei Ivanenko, deputy head of Yabloko's Duma faction, condemned the Prosecutor-General's Office back in 2000 after it demanded $140 million from Potanin for Norilsk Nickel. Ivanenko accused the prosecutors of scaring off investors. The editorial also noted that Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii voiced similar concerns about Russia's investment climate in July after Platon Lebedev, co-owner of oil giant Yukos, was arrested for allegedly illegally privatizing a fertilizer company in 1994. JB

Damning new evidence concerning Kokh's relationship with Oneksimbank during the privatization of Norilsk Nickel surfaced recently. On 25 August, "Novaya gazeta," No. 62, cited an internal Oneksimbank document indicating that the bank opened a $6.5 million expense account for Kokh on 1 September 1997. That was less than a month after Oneksimbank gained full ownership of a 38 percent stake in Norilsk in a highly controversial auction that resulted in Kokh's forced resignation as deputy prime minister and State Property Committee head and prompted then-President Boris Yeltsin to comment that "some banks are apparently closer [than others] to the heart of Alfred Kokh, and this is not proper" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 14, and 20 August 1997). According to "Novaya gazeta," the Oneksimbank document indicates that Kokh spent $176,714 in 1997 and $155,360 in 1998. Such information, if true, is unlikely to help Kokh's already controversial reputation. In February 2002, the Leningrad Oblast legislature chose Kokh to represent it in the Federation Council, but he declined the job, purportedly under pressure from the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2003). JB

A women in her 30s who allegedly stole a cake from a bakery in the Vladimir Oblast city of Kovrov has been charged with robbery and is facing a sentence of up to five years in prison, Regnum reported on 28 August. According to the agency, the cake in question cost about 100 rubles ($3). When called to the scene, police were able to quickly apprehend the alleged thief, who had not managed to flee very far. JAC

5 September: EU General Secretary Walter Schwimmer will arrive Moscow for a visit

5 September: State Construction Committee will present its plan for restructuring the debt of the housing and communal services sector to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov

6 September: State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's Party of Russia's Rebirth will hold a congress in Moscow

6-7 September: Yabloko party will hold a congress in Moscow

7 September: Sverdlovsk, Novgorod, Novosibirsk, and Omsk oblasts will hold gubernatorial elections

7 September: Murmansk will hold mayoral election

7 September: Moscow-based exhibition of Federal Security Service archival materials relating to the 1922 expulsion of the intelligentsia will close

8 September: Union of Rightist Forces will hold congress in Moscow

8-9 September: Prime Minister Kasyanov will visit Hungary

9 September: State Duma's fall session opens

10 September: Special party congress of the Communist Party of Russia to be held

11 September: General Council of Unified Russia party will meet in Staraya Ladoga

14 September: Volgograd will hold mayoral elections

14 September: The left-patriotic bloc lead by State Duma Deputies Sergei Glazev and Dmitrii Rogozin will hold its founding congress

17 September: Deadline for regional election commissions to be formed for the State Duma elections

19 September: Mikhail Gorbachev's Social-Democratic Party of Russia will hold a party congress in Moscow

19 September: First reading of the 2004 budget will be held in the State Duma

19 September: CIS Summit will be held in Yalta, Ukraine

21 September: St. Petersburg and the Leningrad and Tomsk oblasts will hold gubernatorial elections

22 September: Registration begins for candidates in the 7 December State Duma elections

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

23 September: The murder trial of slain journalist Dmitrii Kholodov will reconvene

24 September: Federation Council will hold its opening session after summer recess

29 September-3 October: The Third World Conference on Climate Change will take place in Moscow

30 September-2 October: The Second All-Russian Sociological Congress will take place at Moscow State University

October: Second Civic Forum will be held, according to presidential Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova

October: President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will meet in Yekaterinburg

1 October: Thirty-three percent salary hike for budget-sector workers will go into effect, pending the passage of legislation being revised by a conciliation commission

1 October: Monthly minimum wage to be raised to 600 rubles ($19.80), according to Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov

1 October: Visas for travel between Poland and Russia will be required

5 October: Presidential election to be held in Chechnya

6 October: British court to consider Russia's request to extradite tycoon Boris Berezovskii

9 October: The commission for administrative reforms chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin will submit its proposals to the government, according to "Izvestiya" on 14 August

23-26 October: First anniversary of the Moscow-theater hostage crisis

25-26 October: Russian Forum on the development of civil society will be held in Nizhnii Novgorod

26 October: Repeat mayoral elections will be held in Norilsk

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

5 November: President Putin will visit Italy for the EU-Russia summit in Rome

7 November: Campaign for the State Duma elections officially begins

19 November: Deadline for investigators working on the case against Yukos security official Aleksei Pichugin

20 November: Fifth anniversary of the death of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova

7 December: Bashkortostan will hold a presidential election

7 December: Novosibirsk and Sakhalin oblasts will hold gubernatorial elections

7 December: Moscow expected to hold mayoral election

7 December: State Duma elections will be held.