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Russia Report: October 3, 2003

3 October 2003, Volume 3, Number 39
Media Minister Mikhail Lesin declared on 2 October that the recently adopted election laws restricting media coverage of campaigns are keeping the country's mass media from fulfilling its mission of informing its readers and viewers about ongoing election campaigns, Russian news agencies reported. Lesin pointed to recent decisions by local election commissions, one in the city of Moscow and the other in Bryansk Oblast. The Moscow commission said that "Kommersant-Vlast" had violated the prohibition of reportage that creates "positive or negative attitudes toward candidates" by publishing an item, entitled "Aren't you tired of Luzhkov?" The weekly posed that question of a number of prominent businessmen and politicians. The Moscow city government's "Tverskaya, 13," was cited for material covering Luzhkov's visit to the Gubkin Oil and Gas University and a press conference in which he laid out his future plans. This material allegedly violated the ban on reporting on "the activities of a candidate not connected to his professional activity" and publishing material with an "obvious predominance of information about one candidate."

Lesin said that "now many mass media outlets are afraid to publish anything -- not just [controversial] materials on an election theme." And as a result, voters could develop a negative attitude toward voting, which could exacerbate the problem with voter turnout. Lesin suggested that regional election commissions should concern themselves not only with strictly enforcing the letter of the election laws, but also with "creating an atmosphere in the federation subjects, in which the electorate will know who the candidates are and as in the case of Moscow and the candidates for the mayor of that city, will discuss these problems on the pages of the local press."

Commenting on Lesin's remarks, Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 2 October that he shares Lesin's concerns about the administrative zeal that certain regional commission are showing, Interfax reported. He pointed out that the Bryansk commission did not have the authority to issue warnings to three local publications. However, Veshnyakov did not draw any broad conclusions about the current legal conditions under which journalists must operate.

On 13 October, the Constitutional Court will consider the constitutionality of recent changes in federal election legislation affecting media coverage. A quick decision in the case could still affect coverage of this year's campaign season, which is set to start officially on 7 November. JAC

At its session on 28 September, the Central Election Commission (TsIK) ruled that the activity of the Yabloko Without Yavlinskii movement is unlawful political campaigning, and has asked the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office to end it, and other Russian media reported on 29 September. The complaint was filed by the Yabloko party.

TsIK Chairman Veshnyakov said that Yabloko Without Yavlinskii is not a registered organization and is not being financed from any campaign fund, even though its activity is directed against Yabloko and its leader, Grigorii Yavlinskii. "We must figure out who is standing behind it," Veshnyakov said, according to RosBalt on 29 September.

The Yabloko Without Yavlinskii movement, which is headed by Igor Morozov, appeared earlier this summer and has generated numerous media reports attacking Yavlinskii. Movement activists also collected signatures in major Russian cities on petitions calling for Yavlinskii to step down.

Yabloko has charged that the movement is a black public-relations tactic on the part of the party's political opponents. Some party members have attributed the movement to Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) campaign manager Alfred Kokh.

Morozov, who on 29 September declared that he will run for the Duma from a single-mandate district in St. Petersburg, has filed suit against Duma Deputy and Yabloko Deputy Chairman Sergei Mitrokhin for slander in connection with his statements against Yabloko Without Yavlinskii. RB

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and 27 other governors and republic presidents on Unified Russia's party list were supposed to have announced by 1 October that they are taking leave from government service until the end of the campaign for the State Duma elections, but have failed to do so, reported on 1 October.

According to one reading of the law on the election of State Duma deputies, any category A state official who obtains a spot on a party list must go on leave no later than three days after the party is officially registered and remain on leave until election day or face exclusion from the elections. Unified Russia's party list was registered with the Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 28 September.

Not only did the two ministers and 28 regional leaders on Unified Russia's party list fail to go on leave within three days after the list was registered with the TsIK, but Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, and Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin announced they would go on leave only on 7 November, the official date for the beginning of campaigning, the website reported. Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev said he is "psychologically prepared" to go on leave on 4 November, reported. Unified Russia's candidates apparently believe they are not violating the law on the election of State Duma deputies.

According to, the law is unclear about whether a party is officially "registered" for the elections when its party list is registered with TsIK or when its special campaign-financing account is opened and it begins campaigning. The website called TsIK's press service for an answer, but was told to send the question in writing and was promised that it would be answered within "the period of time stipulated by law."

Interior Minister Gryzlov, who is head of Unified Russia's Higher Council, said on 1 October that the governors and mayors on the party's election list joined it in order to ensure that there is "civic control over the organs of power," RIA-Novosti reported. "It is now necessary that those mechanisms of civic control that exist are used with maximum effectiveness," Gryzlov said. "I am convinced it is necessary to use as fully as possible the positive management experience [gained] in both federation subjects and on the level of local self-government. Therefore governors and mayors have joined our party's federal list." Gryzlov also argued that it is a positive development that officials are not hiding their political convictions, are openly talking about their programs of action and their goals, and are presenting their principles and records to the voters. JB

This week Moscow-based political analysts were predicting that Yabloko's electorate could play a key role in the 5 October second round of St. Petersburg gubernatorial elections, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 September. In that round, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko will compete against St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova.

Analyst Dmitrii Orlov told "Izvestiya" that the Yabloko electorate in St. Petersburg is larger than the 7 percent polled by Yabloko candidate Mikhail Amosov in the first round. Mark Urnov, director of the Expertise Foundation, said he believes a mass-media campaign -- most noticeable on REN-TV -- has been organized to try to interpret the results of the first round as a defeat for both Matvienko and Yabloko. However, in Urnov's opinion, 7 percent was a very positive result for Amosov, since he had a very small campaign budget and had no administrative resources at his disposal.

Meanwhile, Markova is reportedly trying to change her image before the second round. She is trying to distance herself from former St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev and appeal to the city's intelligentsia, which normally supports Yabloko, according to Regnum on 30 September.

In an article paid for by her campaign that appeared in "Komsomolskaya pravda v Peterburge" on 29 September, Markova declared that "it's time now to state the obvious -- the group of former Governor Yakovlev has been defeated and today there is no kind of political force that represents [him]." In another advertisement in the same paper the next day, Markova slams the party of power for trying to "plunge Russia into a lethargic zone" and "slam the window to Europe shut."

Markova will likely face an upward battle winning votes from Yabloko supporters, since the party called on its supporters in the first round to vote against Markova, calling her the "successor to former St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev." During the lead-up to the second round, the St. Peterburg branch of Yabloko issued another statement on 1 October calling on citizens to vote for Matvienko. JAC

Viktor Surzhikov, the former head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate for Kursk Oblast and, later, for Volgograd Oblast, has won the 28 September mayoral election in the city of Kursk according to preliminary results available the next day, ITAR-TASS reported.

In an election where a simple majority is sufficient for victory, Surzhikov received 32.86 percent, compared with 20.7 percent for State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Fedulov (independent). Incumbent Mayor Sergei Maltsev came in third with about 8 percent. About 40 percent of voters turned out for the nine-person race, with nearly 12 percent voting "Against All."

The main issue in the race was a long-standing confrontation between the city administration and local electricity provider Kurskenergo, a branch of Unified Energy Systems (EES). quoted an unidentified member of Maltsev's administration as saying that pressure from Kurskenergo became "the main campaign resource for Surzhikov's team" and the main reason for Maltsev's defeat. Maltsov was also hobbled by a criminal investigation against him launched last year. Maltsev was suspected of using almost $80,000 in city budget funds to purchase an Audi A-8 for himself. Maltsev denied the charges, saying that the case was the result of a political order. The new mayor, Surzhikov, was reportedly backed by Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Mikhailov. JAC

Former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov informed the local media in Krasnoyarsk on 2 October that he will run for a seat in the State Duma from the Achinsk single-mandate district in December elections. "Vremya novostei" reported on 3 October that Bykov also intends to run for a seat in Krasnoyarsk Krai's legislature, although it did not explain how Bykov would be able to get around a prohibition in the legislature's charter which prohibits persons with criminal convictions from serving as legislators. Last month, Bykov had to resign from his seat in the krai's legislature because of that ban. In June 2002, Bykov was convicted on charges of participating in organizing a murder and was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison but was immediately released on probation after the sentence was announced.

According to "Vremya novostei," a majority of local experts believe that Bykov's decision to seek elective office is an indication that he has decided to enter into an open conflict with local authorities. According to "Vedomosti," local experts also rate Bykov's chances at success in his campaign for the State Duma very highly unless the Kremlin tries to stop him. JAC

IN: Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov named on 27 September Aleksandr Kalugin the ministry's special envoy for peace in the Middle East, replacing Andrei Vdovin, Interfax reported. Vdovin was transferred to another position.

2-3 October: Fourth annual Congress of Historic Cities and Regions of Russia to be held in Pushkin

4 October: Deadline for parties and blocs to submit documents registering their federal lists and candidate lists for single-mandate districts to the Central Election Commission

5 October: Presidential election to be held in Chechnya

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

15 October: The Duma will consider the 2004 budget in the second reading

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 killing of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova

7 December: Bashkortostan will hold a presidential election

7 December: Novosibirsk, Sakhalin, and Moscow oblasts will hold gubernatorial elections

7 December: Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug will hold referenda on merging the two regions

7 December: Moscow will hold mayoral election

7 December: Kabardino-Balkariya will hold parliamentary elections

7 December: State Duma elections will be held