Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia Report: October 17, 2003

17 October 2003, Volume 3, Number 41
By Julie A. Corwin

The second round of Sverdlovsk Oblast's gubernatorial election last month marked the beginning, rather than the end, of the election season in that region. On 7 December, the oblast will host a number of highly competitive races in State Duma single-mandate districts and a fierce struggle for the leadership of Russia's third-largest city, Yekaterinburg.

In many ways, the gubernatorial election was a kind of primary for the coming races. It was a way for local political and financial interests to flex their muscles and to measure their own candidates as well as the competition. Once incumbent Governor Eduard Rossel secured the backing of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party last summer, few people doubted that he would win a third term.

The real puzzle was not who would win that election, but why would other candidates bother participating? But participate they did, and at considerable expense. The campaign to elect Andrei Vikharev, Federation Council representative for Kurgan Oblast, spent some 8.2 million rubles ($270,000) according to an official tally on 2 September, and considerably more by unofficial estimates. Oblast legislator Anton Bakov had much less to spend -- he claimed at one point that he would have to sell his car to replenish his campaign coffer. But he mounted a vigorous campaign, capturing media attention with a stream of corruption charges against Rossel.

According to local journalists, Vikharev has grand ambitions. He has reportedly not ruled out running for the presidency of Russia one day. When asked earlier this month whether he might run for governor of Sakhalin Oblast on 7 December, Vikharev did not rule out that idea either. It is equally likely that Vikharev will seek another office closer to the Urals.

Just four days after the 21 September second round of the Sverdlovsk Oblast gubernatorial election, local Channel 10 television aired a long hagiographic documentary about Vikharev. Channel 10 is controlled by local oligarch Pavel Fedulov, who backed Vikharev. Such a broadcast, of course, made sense before the election, but the logic for doing so afterward was less clear. A top adviser to Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, Sergei Tushin, who heads the municipal committee for analytical work, told RFE/RL that the city administration is watching Vikharev to see whether he will run for mayor. The 27th of October is the last day for mayoral candidates to register with the city election commission for the 7 December race.

The Yekaterinburg race promises to be hard fought. Incumbent Mayor Chernetsksii did not participate in the gubernatorial election, in large part because Rossel had arranged for such strong opposition to Chernetskii in the mayoral race that would follow just a few months later that the mayor couldn't afford to risk dividing his attention, according to Yekaterinburg-based political analyst Anna Trakhtenberg.

Chernetskii's main rivals in the race are likely to be Yurii Osintsev, deputy head of the oblast government, and Aleksandr Khabarov of the Uralmash Public-Political Union (OPC). According to local lore, OPC really stands for "organized criminal society," and Khabarov is better known by the underworld moniker "Khabara."

Bakov is not expected to run for mayor, despite his strong showing in the oblast gubernatorial race. His support in that race was particularly weak in Yekaterinburg. Bakov was rumored to have enjoyed financial and organizational support from Chernetskii during the gubernatorial race, apparently under the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Chernetskii and Rossel are long-time bitter rivals. Tushin, however, rejected the idea that Chernetskii offered any financial support to Bakov, and suggested that the rumors were planted by Rossel's headquarters. A source close to Chernetksii's office told RFE/RL that while Bakov might have not received money, there was at least an effort to coordinate efforts.

For Bakov, the gubernatorial race turned out to be a trial run for a race for the State Duma seat from the Serov single-mandate district in the northern part of the oblast. Throughout the gubernatorial campaign, Bakov denied that he was going to run in that race, but his strong showing in the Serov district -- his home district -- might have changed his mind.

Still, Bakov will have his work cut out for him. The Serov race promises to be a tough one. The incumbent State Duma deputy from that district, Valerii Vorotnikov, is running again with strong support from the People's Party. Vorotnikov has the No. 11 spot on the People's Party party list. Andrei Selivanov, chairman of the State Duma Labor and Social Policy Committee, is also running in the race, with the support of his party, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and that of some local industrialists and businesses.

In addition to the Yekaterinburg mayoral race and the battle for the Serov district, two single-mandate districts in Yekaterinburg also promise to be hard fought, according to Ilya Gorfinkel, chief adviser to the presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District, Petr Latyshev. The Artemov district (No. 161) and the Verkh-Isetsk (No. 162) district will be the most interesting in the oblast, because both of them have attracted a large number of strong candidates.

In the Artemov district, incumbent Deputy Svetlana Gvozdeva (Unity-Unified Russia) is not seeking reelection, and vying to replace her will be Communist State Duma Deputy Vladimir Kadochnikov and Igor Barinov, an Alfa special forces unit commander for Sverdlovsk Oblast. Barinov is supported by Unified Russia. Fedor Sobolev, an Interior Minister investigator into organized crime, has also registered.

In the Verkh-Isetsk district, incumbent Deputy Yevgenii Zyablintsev is seeking reelection, with the backing of the People's Party. Nineteen candidates, including well-known Urals banker Oleg Gusev, have declared they will run, and three more are expected to do so, according to on 13 October.

By Julie A. Corwin

While the ranks of politicians on the party lists for the 7 December State Duma elections have become increasingly less colorful, the single-mandate districts continue to attract candidates with checkered pasts, if not vibrant personas.

Anatolii Bykov, the former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head who was recently convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and released on amnesty, is running for the Duma in Krasnoyarsk Krai. In Kurgan Oblast's 96th single-mandate district, Sverdlovsk Oblast entrepreneur, former inmate, and former local legislator Pavel Fedulov, 35, is adding excitement to the race.

Fedulov has inspired a variety of descriptions during his career. In 2000, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel called him the "best entrepreneur in the Urals," according to "Novaya gazeta" on 25 September 2000. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 May 2000 described Fedulov as one of the "most odious figures in Yekaterinburg."

Like Bykov, Fedulov has not only been a major player in the local minerals market, he has also spent time behind bars. In 1991, Fedulov spent two months in pretrial detention, accused of extorting property by threatening to commit murder, according to "Vremya MN" on 2 November 1998. The case against him was later dropped --over the objections of the chief investigator on the case -- when it was deemed that Fedulov did not pose a threat to society.

Six years later, Fedulov got into another scrape with law enforcement officials. A criminal investigation was launched into suspicions of a swindle regarding the selling of shares in Kachkanarsk Ore-Processing Complex and the Serov Metallurgical Factory. Fedulov claimed at the time that the case against him was manufactured by "aluminum barons" Lev and Mikhail Chernyi, in cooperation with the Uralmash crime group.

An arrest warrant was issued in July 1998, but Fedulov wasn't taken into custody until January 1999. After spending a year in pretrial detention in Nizhnii Tagil, he was unexpectedly released. Soon after his release, the management of the Kachkanarsk plant was changed to a team that both Fedulov and the oblast government supported. Since then, Fedulov has avoided tangles with the law.

Fedulov also has experience with murder attempts. In May 2000, his Mercedes was fired upon by unknown assailants, injuring three of his bodyguards, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 May. At the time, Fedulov was on his way to meet with the Sverdlovsk Oblast first-deputy governor.

Fedulov reportedly bankrolled Rossel's Transformation of the Urals party in the mid- and late 1990s. More recently, Fedulov reportedly financed the campaign of one of Rossel's rivals, Kurgan Oblast Federation Council representative Andrei Vikharev, in the Sverdlovsk Oblast gubernatorial election this summer. In September 2000, Fedulov reportedly backed an effort to install Vikharev as head of Uralkhimmash.

The conventional wisdom in Yekaterinburg is that Fedulov purchased the seat in the Federation Council for Vikharev in Kurgan Oblast because it was cheaper to buy one there than in Sverdlovsk Oblast. Fedulov had tried to become senator for Sverdlovsk Oblast himself, but the effort was blocked by the oblast prosecutor, according to "Vremya-MN" on 5 May 2002.

Vikharev did not do well in the Sverdlovsk gubernatorial campaign. On 12 September, less than a week after Vikharev failed to make it into the second round of the race, media in Yekaterinburg reported that Fedulov had concluded an agreement to buy a controlling interest in local television Channel 10, "Kommersant-Yekaterinburg" reported.

Analysts in Sverdlovsk believe Vikharev will be tapped to run in more races in the Urals. If Fedulov is unable to win an election himself, he might have more luck with his proxy and with the support of his new local television channel.

Federal election laws regulating campaign spending were revised prior to the current Duma election to bring them more in line with actual spending figures. However, campaign consultants interviewed by RFE/RL last month argue that the revision did not go far enough.

Figures on official spending still only reflect a fraction of what is actually spent, but they can offer at least some guidance on the differences in the size of various candidates' and parties' campaign coffers. In several recent regional races, the candidates who had the most money according to official accounting were also deemed to have the most money by the estimates of their rival candidates and local political analysts.

For example, St. Petersburg Governor-Elect Valentina Matvienko had several times more money than her main rival, St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova, according to both official data and unofficial estimates.

The Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 14 October released data about the campaign funds of the political parties participating in the 7 December State Duma elections, reported. According to the TsIK figures, which were current as of 8 October, the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party had the largest amount of money in its campaign war chest -- 141 million rubles ($4.7 million) -- while the Agrarian Party had the smallest amount -- 22,000 rubles. Unified Russia has also spent the most so far -- some 70 million rubles.

In an interview published in the most recent issue of "Moskovskie novosti," No. 40, Nikolai Levichev, chairman of the political committee for Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov's Party of Life, commented on how expensive mounting a Duma campaign can be. According to Levichev, rumors that the Party of Life has already spent $10 million on its campaign do not correspond with reality.

"Today we cannot boast of such a budget, although we cannot say either that we are very poor," Levichev explained enigmatically. One big expense, according to Levichev, is that the party hired Nikollo-M Co-Director Igor Mintusov to manage its federal campaign, although the party has not given the firm "carte blanche" and is also relying on its own intellectual resources. "As one German political consultant who specializes in Russia said, 'Lunch with Mr. Mintusov costs 2,000 Deutsch marks," Levichev remarked.

The Party of Life is not expected to surmount the 5 percent barrier to qualify for Duma party-list seats. A political consultant working in the Urals who preferred to remain unidentified described the situation for Nikollo-M as ideal. "They have lots of money," he said. "And they aren't expected to win." (Julie A. Corwin)

Russian television channels, including state-owned RTR and state-controlled ORT, are planning to broadcast prerecorded election debates, and reported on 14 October.

The stations have reportedly decided not to air live election debates in order to avoid being accused of violating a controversial law regulating media coverage of election campaigns. That law is currently being reviewed by the Constitutional Court.

Television host and Russian Television Academy President Vladimir Pozner told Ekho Moskvy that recorded debates are a "farce," arguing that viewers will lose the acuteness and spontaneity of the events. Commenting on recent legislation to regulate media coverage of elections, Pozner said: "If this is a sincere attempt to combat 'black public relations,' then one can only be amazed by its stupidity. However, I think the move [was] not that naive, and had other motivations."

Yelena Dubrovina, Yabloko's representative on the Central Election Commission, said that recorded debates are simply a logical continuation of the Kremlin policy of "managed democracy," reported.

On 15 October, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov urged the networks to reconsider and to show the debates live, and other media reported. "We recommend maximal use of live air," Veshnyakov said.

He added that candidates themselves would bear responsibility for any violations of election legislation, not the media outlets.

In September, it was revealed that several formerly live political talk shows, including ORT's "Basic Instinct" and NTV's "Free Speech," were being prerecorded. The shows did not inform viewers of the change and continued to maintain the appearance of live broadcasts. Aleksandr Prokhanov, editor in chief of the newspaper "Zavtra" who was a guest on both shows in September, said that the host of "Free Speech" told him the switch was made in order to avoid violating the law on campaign coverage. (Julie A. Corwin and Robert Coalson)

The State Duma on 15 October approved the draft 2004 state budget in its second reading, Russian media reported. The vote was 236 in favor, with 157 against and one abstention. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii told Ekho Moskvy that he welcomes the increase in military spending envisioned under the current draft. Deputies on the left of the spectrum were less happy and, according to NTV, spent four hours during the session trying to get their amendments to the budget approved. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who also heads the Party of Russian Rebirth, said the budget does not include raises for public-sector workers and, as a result, "the move toward poverty in Russia" will continue. Legislators also approved in their second reading two bills aimed at "debureaucratizing" the economy, ITAR-TASS reported. The first bill simplifies the procedure for registering businesses and creating tax accounts for legal entities and individual entrepreneurs. The second bill provides easier access to credit for small businesses. JAC

On 14 October, legislators adopted amendments to the law on obligatory automobile insurance in their first reading, RIA-Novosti reported. Some 249 deputies voted in favor of the amendments, which were authored by the People's Deputy group. Under the bill, the law would come into effect on 1 July 2004 and fines for not carrying car insurance would not be levied until 1 January 2005, rather than 1 January 2004. The representatives of both the presidential administration and government recommended that a rival bill authored by Unified Russia be supported. Also on 14 October, 351 legislators passed in its second reading a bill on lotteries, RIA-Novosti reported. The government-sponsored bill would regulate the procedures for organizing and holding lotteries. The bill would ban political parties and movements from conducting lotteries to raise money. JAC

President Putin has signed a decree dismissing Ingush Interior Minister Colonel Akhmet Pogorov and the head of Rostov Oblast's main Interior Ministry directorate, Major General Vitalii Shevchenko, NTV reported on 14 October. Anatolii Belozerov, former head of the Interior Ministry in Orenburg Oblast, will replace Shevchenko, according to Shevchenko is suspected of falsifying documents relating to a criminal case involving his son, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 October.

INDICTED: The Prosecutor-General's Office has completed its investigation of former Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and has sent his case to the courts, Russian media reported on 13 October. Aksenenko is accused of abuse of office and large-scale embezzlement, according to The case was first opened in October 2001 and Aksenenko resigned in January 2002.

UP: President Putin has signed a decree appointing former Acting St. Petersburg Governor Aleksandr Beglov as first deputy presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, Russian media reported on 15 October. Beglov has been acting governor since former St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev resigned from the post last June, and he heads the local branch of the pro-presidential Unified Russia party.

IN: Viktor Loshak, the former editor of "Moskovskie novosti" who was recently replaced by television personality Yevgenii Kiselev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003), has been named editor of "Ogonek," reported on 9 October. Loshak said he will not initiate "any revolutions" at the journal.

17 October: Duma to consider amendments to the law on citizenship and a bill on insider information

18 October: Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii to visit Saratov for meetings with local party activists and city residents

19-21 October: President Putin to attend APEC summit in Bangkok

20 October: Yabloko will begin campaign for registering its candidates in single-mandate districts for the State Duma elections, according to "Politburo," No. 38

21-22 October: President Putin to make official visit to Thailand

23 October: President Putin to attend Russia-Kyrgyzstan Investment Forum in Bishkek

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

30 October: Date set by Moscow city court for Menatep head Platon Lebedev to remain in custody

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

21 November: State Duma to consider 2004 budget in its third reading

28 November: State Duma to consider 2004 budget in its fourth reading

7 December: Bashkortostan will hold a presidential election

7 December: Gubernatorial elections in Moscow, Tver, Yaroslavl, Kirov, Orenburg, Tambov, Sakhalin, and Novosibirsk oblasts

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

7 December: Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and Tyumen will hold mayoral elections

7 December: Kabardino-Balkariya will hold parliamentary elections

7 December: State Duma elections will be held

10 December: Federation Council to set date for presidential election