Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia Report: October 22, 2003

22 October 2003, Volume 3, Number 42

THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION VOTES. Get comprehensive analysis and all the breaking news about the Russian elections at RFE/RL's dedicated webpage "Russia Votes 2003-04":
A working group has completed a new draft of the law on local self-government, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 October (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 18 September 2003). In an interview with the bureau, one of the bill's authors, presidential adviser Sergei Samoilov, said the group spent almost two months on the task and has suggested changes in 100 Russian laws. The new version specifies several types of municipal formations. Samoilov admitted that the money necessary to enact the law is not currently available. However, he hopes that by the time amendments to the Budget and Tax Codes come into force, the money will be found. Oleg Sysuev, president of the Congress of Municipal Formations, said that adopting the law doesn't make any sense without the necessary financing in place. Gennadii Sumenkov, head of the legal administration for the city of Tula, echoed Sysuev's conclusions, saying the law is "good, if financial resources are boosted in advance." JAC

A poll by the Public Opinion Foundation has found that 57 percent of Russians are dissatisfied with the situation in their regions while 34 percent are satisfied, Interfax reported on 19 October. The poll, which was taken among 1,500 Russians on 11 October, also found that 66 percent believe the situation in their regions is largely dependent on the local authorities, while 21 percent believe it is mostly dependent on the federal authorities. At the same time, 45 percent of those polled indicated that they view their regional leaders favorably, while only 18 percent said they view them negatively. Likewise, 48 percent said their regional leaders have done more good than bad, while 8 percent said the opposite. JB

The Ufa branch of the Russian Fund for Free Elections has created a public council whose main task will be to combat the use of so-called administrative resources during the 7 December presidential election in Bashkortostan, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 October. The council comprises trusted representatives of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's main rivals in that election, former LUKoil Vice President Relif Safin and former Mezhprombank official Sergei Veremeenko. According to the daily, local observers believe the creation of the council could result in the opposition eventually uniting behind a single candidate. At the same time, local party branches of the Communist Party and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) have received warnings from the republican Interior Minister Rafail Divaev that provocations are being prepared against them. According to the daily, local Communists are interpreting Divaev's message as a suggestion to "be quiet." At a press conference on 20 October in Ufa, Rakhimov said that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Malaysia, Putin expressed support for his re-election bid and gave him permission to use pictures of the two men together in his campaign materials, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. JAC

Writing in "Moskovskie novosti," No. 40, Merkator Group analysts Dmitrii Oreshkin and Vladimir Kozlov concluded that Bashkortostan is the only region in Russia where it is possible to predict the results of the State Duma elections in the single-mandate districts. The authors noted that the United States has the term "gerrymandering" to refer to the act of creating electoral districts so as to benefit one party, while Russia has its own version of this practice: "murtaza-ing," after President Rakhimov. Under this system, any candidate that the Bashkir presidential administration doesn't like can be deprived of his electoral district without legal grounds by the arbitrary whim of regional authorities. RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 13 October that republican presidential candidate Relif Safin has been banned by the city administration from campaigning. The city has refused to allow him to stage a show featuring well-known actors and performers. JAC

More than 70 apartment buildings and two kindergartens remained without heat and hot water in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii on 20 October, Interfax reported. Kamchatka Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev promised on 20 October that heat and hot water will be totally restored in the city by 23 October. He also claimed the situation in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii is not critical. "The situation on Kamchatka is far from the critical one that some people would like see," Interfax quoted Mashkovtsev as saying. "The situation in other oblasts is more critical, but the media are silent about it." Mashkovtsev, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), said Unified Russia is continuing to wage the "war" against "red" governors that it declared six months ago, reported. JB

Kamchatka's regional prosecutor, Aleksandr Voitovich, has said that preparations for winter in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii's housing and communal-services sector have been unsatisfactory and residents' constitutional rights to life, health, and other social guarantees have been seriously infringed, Interfax reported on 20 October. On 22 October, the Kamchatka Oblast Court will consider charges of criminal negligence filed by local prosecutors against Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii Mayor Yurii Golenishchev in connection with the heating crisis, Interfax reported. Golenishchev is already being investigated for abuse of power on suspicion that his administration misused 30 million rubles ($1 million) sent by the oblast government to pay energy suppliers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2003). Meanwhile, a commission sent by Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Far East Federal District Konstantin Chaika to investigate the situation in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii has begun working, Radio Mayak reported on 20 October. The commission will report its findings to the federal Prosecutor-General's Office. The oblast administration, for its part, will decide on 22 October whether to introduce direct gubernatorial rule in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, reported on 20 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2003). JB

The government of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic -- with the verbal support of Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Yakovlev -- is planning to seek private financing to complete construction of the rail line from the republican capital Yakutsk to the Baikal-Amur mainline, RTR reported on 13 October. Work on the Yakutsk line began in 1985, but the project ran out of money when the Soviet Union collapsed. The recent falling levels of the Lena and Amur rivers are making them less navigable, especially in the summer, and deliveries of supplies to the Far North are becoming increasingly difficult. This has renewed interest in the rail line, which would cost about 30 billion rubles ($1 billion). According to the station, the republican government will offer concessions to develop mineral deposits along the route to attract investment into the rail line. JAC

The State Duma on 17 October approved revisions to the 2003 budget requested by the government that will add 68.7 billion rubles ($2.3 billion) in spending, RIA-Novosti reported. The bill, which was approved in a third and final reading by a vote of 326-1 with no abstentions, will increase funding for national defense, law enforcement, foreign-debt repayment, agriculture, education, support for regional budgets, and road building. On 15 October, the Duma passed the 2004 financial blueprint in its second reading without any changes. The government wants the bill, which calls for a budget surplus for a fifth consecutive year, passed before the 7 December State Duma elections, "The Moscow Times" reported on 20 October. JB

State Duma deputies approved on 17 October in all three readings amendments to the law on citizenship, Russian media reported. The original law on citizenship, which had been authored by the presidential administration, was adopted last year amid criticism that it was making it impossible for some citizens of the former Soviet Union to become Russian citizens. According to Interfax, the amendments will make the procedure for applying for citizenship easier for citizens of the former Soviet Union. People who were born in the Soviet Union and had residence registration as of 1 July 2002 will be entitled to use a simpler application procedure for citizenship if they declare by 1 January 2006 that they want to become Russian citizens, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

IN: The Federation Council confirmed on 16 October Aleksandr Sabadash as the representative for the administration of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, RosBalt reported. Vodka magnate Sabadash oversees several businesses in Leningrad Oblast and is reportedly close to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska.

RESHUFFLED: "Gazeta" Editor in Chief and former "Kommersant-Daily" Editor Raf Shakirov has been named editor of "Izvestiya," replacing Mikhail Kozhokin, Russian media reported on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003). "Gazeta" First Deputy Editor Mikhail Mikhailin has been named to replace Shakirov, reported. Kozhokin said he is leaving to pursue other media projects

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

24 October: State Council to discuss state transportation strategy

24 October: Russia and China hold bilateral negotiations in Moscow on Russia's entry to WTO

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

26 October: Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi to make official visit to Mongolia

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

30 October: Date set by Moscow city court by which investigation of Menatep head Platon Lebedev must be completed

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-Balkaria will hold parliamentary elections

7 December: State Duma elections will be held

10 December: Federation Council to set date for presidential election

11 December: Last plenary session of the current Duma


By Julie A. Corwin

The number of candidates running in the 7 December Sakhalin Oblast gubernatorial race reached 16 as of 16 October, Interfax reported. The election is being held to replace former Governor Igor Farkhutdinov, who was killed in a helicopter accident in August.

The leading contenders in the race so far are acting Governor Ivan Malakhov and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Mayor Fedor Sidorenko. Malakhov announced his candidacy on 10 October, the day after an appeal from members of the local and Moscow political elites was published in "Sovetskii Sakhalin."

As the pro-oblast administration daily pointed out, among the signatories were people whom political analysts have tipped as potential contenders for the seat. These included Federation Council First Deputy Chairman Valerii Goreglyad, Rosneft President Sergei Bogdanchikov, and some representatives of the local fishing industry.

Goreglyad was chosen by Farkhutdinov to represent the oblast administration in the upper legislative chamber. Ramil Valitov, head of Rosneft-Sakhalinmorneftegaz, who also signed the appeal, earlier expressed the view that the new governor should be an arbiter in the conflicts between the two leading competing business interests in the oblast. "The new governor should be neither from the oil [industry] nor the fishing [industry]. He should simply be the governor of Sakhalin Oblast," Valitov told "Izvestiya" on 20 September.

The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party has not yet announced which candidate it will support, but such an announcement is expected soon. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 October, the party's faction leader in the Duma, Vladimir Pekhtin, visited the island recently and met with Malakhov, as well as with members of the regional branch of Unified Russia.

Although he lacks the important backing of Rosneft, Sidorenko should not be discounted. He has run for the governor's seat three times in the past. In his last attempt in 2000, a strange alliance of the local Communist Party organization and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) supported him, and he polled some 21 percent of the vote. Local observers also predict that oblast legislator Nikolai Dolgikh will also provide tough competition for Malakhov, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 October.

Still more candidates are expected to register before the 27 October deadline.