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Russia Report: March 14, 2002

14 March 2002, Volume 2, Number 8
At a seminar for regional members of the Unified Russia party on the art of political struggle last month, deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov lambasted members of Russia's newest "party of power," saying that he has not seen one interesting party initiative from below, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 February. "There is no sense among party members that they must struggle for power now," he said, "Many party members believe that all this is done in the Kremlin." He called on delegates to "cut the umbilical cord and swim on their own." Apparently, Surkov's comments had some effect since the process of merging Unity and Fatherland parties in the regions has not gone exactly according to Moscow's dictates. In a number of cases, local members of Fatherland, Unity, and All Russia have decided "to cut the umbilical cord" by ignoring or challenging Moscow's requests.

In regions, such as Altai and Khabarovsk krai, the Orel and Lipetsk oblasts, and Jewish Autonomous Oblast, the regional political elite and the local governors tried to elect Unified Russia party leaders who were not recommended by Unified Russia party's General Council, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 March. In Novgorod Oblast, the majority of Unified Russia party members voted to exclude from even being nominated a candidate that the secretary of Unified Russia's General Council Aleksandr Vladislavlev had flown to Velikii Novgorod to promote, "Vremya MN" reported on 6 March. Vladislav's candidate, State Duma deputy (Russian Regions) Yevgenii Zelenov, is a long-time rival of Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak. Likewise in Pskov Oblast, Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov managed to block the selection of one of his long-time opponents, State Duma deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) Viktor Semenov, who was the General Council's choice to lead Unified Russia in Pskov. And in Sverdlovsk Oblast, the director of the Nizhnii Tagil Metallurgical Combine, Sergei Nosov, was picked to lead the local party -- not Vladimir Maltsev, head of the regional organization of All Russia, whom federal authorities supported, according to regions. ru on 27 and 28 February.

In almost a dozen other regions, members of the local political elite simply failed to select a new leadership -- Moscow-approved or otherwise. For example, in Smolensk Oblast, at a meeting held at the end of February, local leaders of Unity and Fatherland could not agree on what procedure to use to elect leaders for Unified Russia, reported on 21 February.

In other regions, local political leaders have successfully challenged or are challenging new leadership foisted upon them. For example, in Chelyabinsk Oblast, the leaders of Chelyabinsk's Unity, Fatherland, and All Russia branches complained that they were not even invited to a 2 March meeting at which the new Unified Russia party was founded and a new leader selected, local businessman Georgii Lazarev, "Chelyabinskii rabochii" reported. Local allies of Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko in the oblast administration and in local business and industry had reportedly conducted a kind of mini-coup in electing Lazarev, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 March. On 4 March, Unified Russia's central political council declared the Chelyabinsk meeting invalid and set aside confirmation of Lazarev's election.

In Saratov Oblast, several local Unity party members have accused Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction leader Vyacheslav Volodin of organizing an "intrigue" to exclude them from Unified Russia's membership, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 March. Volodin was a former deputy governor in Saratov before he took over leadership of OVR. The spurned Unity officials are appealing to Unity leader Sergei Shoigu and Unified Russia General Council Chairman Aleksandr Bespalov to intervene on their behalf. And, in Kalmykia, Duma deputy (Unity) Aleksandra Buryataeva has accused State Duma deputy (OVR) Gennadii Kulik of lobbying the interests of Kalmykia's president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Kulik has supported Batr Vankaev, deputy head of the republican government, for the leadership of Kalmykia's Unified Russia branch, while General Council Chairman Aleksandr Bespalov supports Buryataeva, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 March. Buryataeva is considered a political rival of Ilyumzhinov.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, Surkov's remarks have reportedly also had an effect on Unity faction leader Vladimir Pekhtin. "Vremya MN" on 7 March suggested that Unity faction leader Vladmir Pekhtin suddenly started criticizing the cabinet in order to demonstrate that Unity was capable of independent thought. On 4 March, Pekhtin accused the cabinet of being "dangerously slow" in preparing legislation and said the Duma is forced to consider "raw initiatives" in undue haste, correct them, and adopt laws of "vulnerable quality." However, according to "Vremya MN," all this is "only fake opposition." "No one can be so naive as to think, even for a moment, that Unified Russia cares about the reforms. Unified Russia lacks the intellectual resources and personnel to become the designer and driving forces of economic change. It lacks that political will, charisma, and creativity," the daily concluded. Nevertheless, it is possible that by creating the appearance if not the reality of a lively debate, Pekhtin has provided just what the Kremlin ordered. (Julie A. Corwin)

POLITICAL DREAM MAKER: Aleksei Yurevich Koshmarov
Last year in an interview with "Kommersant-Daily," political consultant Aleksei Koshmarov, 47, revealed that his life has so far been threatened three times -- each time during an election -- twice in St. Petersburg and once in Krasnoyarsk. With last week's announcement that Koshmarov and his firm, Novokom, have been hired to direct the campaign effort for Unified Russia in the upcoming election for Sverdlovsk Oblast's legislature, it is not difficult to imagine that Koshmarov may soon be facing death threat number four. The campaign promises to be a fractious one. Less than six months ago, the legislature was threatened with dissolution by presidential envoy to the Urals federal district after work in the chamber had been stalled for months over a leadership conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001).

Widely acknowledged to be Russia's king of "black P.R.," Koshmarov might best be compared to the late Lee Atwater, a U.S. Republican Party operative known for doing whatever was necessary to win a race. (In one congressional race in 1980, Atwater dug up information about a rival candidate's shock treatments for depression at the age of 16 -- and then leaked the information to the press.) Koshmarov first captured national attention when he oversaw Vladimir Yakovlev's successful campaign for governor of St. Petersburg in 1996. That election was denounced by politicians all along St. Petersburg's political spectrum as one of the city's "dirtiest." Two years later, he organized the campaign effort for Yakovlev's allies in the city's legislature and then later Yakovlev's successful re-election campaign in 2000.

Among the tactics Koshmarov favors is the registering of "doubles," or candidates with the same name and electoral blocs with almost the same name. In St. Petersburg, two persons with the name of Yurii Boldyrev were found to run against candidates who were running under the bloc of Yurii Boldyrev. A Yabloko-St. Petersburg was registered, which had nothing to do with the party run by Grigorii Yavlinskii. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" in 1998, Koshmarov did not deny using the technique, but said that he did not invent the use of "doubles" and that it had been used in various regional elections in Russia since 1990. And in an interview with "Izvestiya" last year, he equated the practice with "play" and said such techniques are "ineffective if professionals (on the other side) know how to fight against them."

Other techniques Koshmarov has used, according to Panorama, is late-night telephone calls to voters in the name of rival candidates and the pasting of campaign leaflets for rival candidates on cars in non-washable glue. In the 1998 Krasnoyarsk gubernatorial election campaign, Koshmarov ran the campaign of incumbent Governor Valerii Zubov, during which he was widely credited with organizing a march of homeless men through the streets of Krasnoyarsk carrying signs, such as "Lebed -- Our Existential Leader."

That action backfired, according to the local newspaper "Segodnyashnyaya gazeta," when the electorate guessed the real scheme, and Aleksandr Lebed won. Koshmarov also oversaw the losing campaign of Yurii Chekoev in Volgograd's gubernatorial race in 1996 and the losing re-election campaign of Orenburg Governor Vladimir Yelagin in 1999, but if Novokom's website is a reliable guide, Koshmarov has had more victories than losses. He was behind Nikolai Kondratenko's victory in Krasnodar Krai's 1996 gubernatorial election, Anatolii Lisitsyn's victory in Yaroslavl Oblast in 1999, Vladimir Yegorov in Kaliningrad Oblast in 2000, and Tula Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev's re-election in 2001. And during the 1999 State Duma election, 11 of 15 of his clients running in single-mandate districts won.

But Koshmarov's precise role is not always clear. According to Panorama, rival political consultants often credit him or his firm with dirty tricks that they themselves have played. And the national and local media reports often place Koshmarov in races that either he denies taking part in or his firm's website does not confirm. For example, two local newspapers as well as a number of local political observers reported that Koshmarov organized the losing campaign of Gennadii Apanasenko in Primorskii Krai's gubernatorial election in 2001. However, Novokom's website does not list Apanasenko's campaign as one of its activities during that year. In light of Apanasenko's miserable showing following a non-stop advertising blitz in the region during the lead-up to the ballot, likely few political consultants would want to advertise their involvement in that effort.

Last month Koshmarov himself wrote a letter to the Volga-Inform news agency informing them that he did not lead Komi President Yurii Spiridonov's losing re-election bid in December 2001, saying that he didn't want to deprive fellow political consultant Gleb Pavlovskii of the credit.

Also unclear is how Koshmarov got started in the political P.R. business. He told "Kommersant-Daily" in 1998 that Yakovlev's 1996 gubernatorial bid was the first election campaign he and his firm experienced. However, the firm's website reports that it participated in former U.S. President Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 as well as 1995 State Duma elections -- possibly he was just being modest.

What is clear that Koshmarov did start early in politics, becoming a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1977 at the age of 23. A native Muscovite who attended Moscow State University, Koshmarov spent the bulk of his early professional life working at the Moscow-based Committee for Youth Organizations. Around the time of the August coup, he resigned from the Communist Party and the following year joined the Russian Movement for Democratic Reforms and became the director of the movement for "Future Leaders of the New Century." He also started his firm, Novokom, that year, and by 1994, it organized the P.R. strategy for Menatep bank.

While fulfilling that task, it is likely that Kashmarov's path crossed that of Vladislav Surkov, the current deputy presidential administration head (see item above), who was then deputy director for public relations at Menatep (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 1 May 2001). Last January, the not-always-reliable Agency for Political News reported that Koshmarov not only managed Apanasenko's campaign but has worked closely with Surkov over the past two years. Last March, the more reliable "Izvestiya" identified Koshmarov as someone who advises the Kremlin. And while Koshmarov's role in the Primorskii race is uncertain, Surkov's interest in that race is well-established. He traveled to Primorskii Krai during the lead-up to the gubernatorial election. And, according to local legislators, he allegedly threatened them with the imposition of presidential rule in the region if they did not support Apanasenko (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 May 2001).

But neither local legislators nor voters responded, and Apanasenko was back at his old job as deputy presidential envoy of the Far Eastern Federal District just a few months later. In Sverdlovsk Oblast, Moscow and Surkov are apparently hoping that Koshmarov will secure a victory for Unity and Fatherland in next month's elections for that oblast's legislature. Gubernatorial elections in this important donor region are expected soon after, and the federal center is no doubt hoping that Koshmarov will be able to make its "dream" of establishing firmer control in Yekaterinburg a "reality." (Julie A. Corwin)

Duma deputies adopted a law on bankruptcy in its first reading on 6 March, Russian agencies reported. The government considers the draft bill, which updates a 1998 legislative act, one of its highest priority pieces of legislation, according to ITAR-TASS. Under the law, a debtor can file for bankruptcy in an arbitration court only if he or she has a debt of no less than 1,000 minimum monthly wage units (an artificial number used for indexing inflation) that has gone unpaid for at least three months. Under the current law, that minimum is set at 500. Mikhail Yemelyanov (Yabloko), deputy chairman of the Duma's Property Committee, said that the legislation is more progressive than the existing law because it defends both the debtor and the creditor. In addition, it takes into account the special conditions faced by defense enterprises or companies that have an effective monopoly. However, the Yabloko faction spoke out against the bill, saying that it preserves too many of the insufficiencies of the old law, reported. In particular, Yabloko's specialists believe the minimum debt level should be set at 10,000 minimum monthly wage units. The vote was 253 in favor, with 39 against and three abstentions, according to JAC

Also on 6 March, deputies adopted a bill amending the law on the use of atomic energy in its third and final reading. The bill regulates the import of spent nuclear fuel onto Russian territory. The bill established a special 20-member presidential commission, composed of five representatives each from the office of the president, the Federation Council, the State Duma, and the government, according to ITAR-TASS. Under the law, the commission has to sign off on any transport of spent nuclear fuel from a foreign country. The commission must also present the president with an annual report on such shipments. The law passed with 347 votes in favor, two against, and zero abstentions, according to JAC

Legislation_________Date Approved______# of Reading

On bankruptcy_____________6 March_____________1st

On the use of atomic_________6 March_____________3rd

UP: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov appointed Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute for the Problems of Globalization, as his aide/speechwriter, reported on 7 March.

UP: Aleksei Gorshkov, formerly deputy head of the government information department, was promoted to head the department, Russian agencies reported on 4 March. Before working in government, Gorshkov worked for YUKOS from 1995-1999. From 1992-1995 he worked at Interfax, according to "Rossiiskaya gazeta." Gorshkov replaces Andrei Korotkov, who was appointed on 28 February as first deputy communications minister. On the same day, Kasyanov also appointed Yevgenii Nazin as deputy agriculture minister and Kirill Filippov as deputy media minister. Filippov was deputy chairman of the All-Russia Television and Radio Company.

13 March: A new round of meetings at the deputy foreign minister level between Russia and Japan will take place in Moscow

13-15 March: International forum on "Russia: Oil, Energy, Progress" will take place in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug

15 March: State Duma to consider law on the Central Bank in its second reading, according to

15 March: Date by which natural gas prices should be indexed by 20 percent

17 March: Tuva Republic will hold elections for head of the republic

17 March: A new round of bilateral talks on Russian ascension to the World Trade Organization will begin in Geneva

20 March: The first draft of a report on Russia's efforts to join the WTO by the task force devoted to this quest will be ready

24 March: By-elections to be held in single-mandate district in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug for State Duma seat vacated by Aleksandr Ryazanov, who went to work for Gazprom

24 March: The Watan Party together with the Fund for the Development of Muslim Peoples plan to hold a conference on the status of Tatarstan in Moscow's Asadullaev House, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau

27 March: Tender for TV-6's broadcasting license

27-28 March: International conference on combating terrorism to be held in St. Petersburg, according to Interfax on 24 January

March-April: Russia will issue up to $2 billion in Eurobonds, according to Vneshekonombank head Andrei Kostin on 15 November

end of March: CIS Interparliamentary Assembly will hold its 19th plenary session

April: Norwegian Energy Minister Einar Steensnes will visit Russia, according to ITAR-TASS on 19 February

April: Unified party of Unity and Fatherland to officially register as a political party

April: The St. Petersburg Dialogue, a Russian-German forum, will hold its second conference in Weimar, Germany, according to ITAR-TASS

April: Gubernatorial elections in Penza Oblast

April: Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman will visit Russia, according to Foreign Minister Ivanov on 24 January

2-3 April: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will visit Moscow, according to Interfax on 1 March

7 April: Presidential elections in Ingushetia

14 April: Gubernatorial elections in Lipetsk Oblast

22 April: State Duma will hold a hearing on the buying and selling of agricultural land, according to Interfax on 17 January

late April: Summit of five Caspian states to be held in Ashgabat, according to First Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kaluzhnii on 24 January

28 April: Presidential elections to be held in the Republic of Karelia

14-15 May: Foreign ministers of NATO countries and Russia will meet in Reykjavik

19 May: By-elections to be held in Altai Republic for State Duma seat left vacant by newly elected Altai Republic President Mikhail Lapshin

19 May: Gubernatorial elections in Smolensk Oblast

23-26 May: U.S. President George W. Bush to visit Russia

28 May: Russia-EU summit to be held in Moscow

31 May: CIS summit to be held in Chisinau, Moldova

June: Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit to take place in St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported

June: Baltic Sea State Council meeting to be held in St. Petersburg

June: Government will have drafted a federal program for putting Russia's armed forces on a professional basis, according to Prime Minister Kasyanov on 7 December

June: Russia and the U.S. will have drafted an agreement on radical cuts in strategic offensive weapons, according to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 18 December

9 June: Repeat elections for legislature of Primorskii Krai

23 June: Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Buryatia

26-28 June: Group of Seven summit to be held in Canada

12 August: Second anniversary of the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine

September: Symposium and investment fair for atomic power plants to take place in Vladivostok

10-11 September: The fourth annual conference of the regional administrations of countries in Northeast Asia will take place in Khabarovsk

9-16 October: All-Russia census

26-27 October: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to be held in Las Cabos, Mexico

7 November: Day of Reconciliation and Agreement