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Russia Report: April 9, 2002

9 April 2002, Volume 2, Number 11
The State Duma approved on 5 April in its second reading amendments to the Law on the Central Bank that will reduce the bank's independence, reported. The vote was 365 in favor with 3 against and one abstention, according to Interfax. According to one amendment introduced by Yabloko faction member Mikhail Zadornov, the National Bank Council (NBS) that currently governs by Central Bank will have 13 members -- four members from the Duma, three from the presidential administration, three from the government, two from the Federation Council, along with the chairman of the Central Bank. The amendment would also change the role of the Central Bank chairman, who currently has the same voting power as the all other members of the NBS combined. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said the government opposes Zadornov's amendment and will fight for the return of the old division of voting powers. JAC

On the same day, deputies passed in its third and final reading amendments to the Law on Mass Media that impose additional constraints on the registration of names of mass media outlets, RIA-Novosti reported. The vote was 249 in favor. The restrictions include banning the use of words in the name of a publication or media program that are considered to be part of the country's historical and cultural heritage, as well as the family names and titles of historical figures without first receiving the consent of their successors . The existing newspaper, "Sovetskaya Rossiya," would not be affected because the law is not retroactive, according to the agency. Yabloko faction deputy Sergei Mitrokhin noted that the amendments will offer the Media Ministry "extra tools to close unwanted mass media." JAC

Name of law______________Date approved________________# of reading

Law on the Central Bank_______5 April______________________2nd

Law on Mass Media___________5 April______________________3rd

OUT: Nikolai Troshkin has turned in his resignation to Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Interfax reported on 6 April, citing an unidentified source in the Russian parliament. According to the agency, Seleznev passed the resignation on to the Duma Council the same day. On 8 April, the coordinating council of the four pro-presidential Duma groups approved Russian Regions deputy Aleksandr Lotarev to replace Troshkin, reported. However, the website also reported that Oleg Kovalev, chairman of the Duma's Regulations Committee, considered Troshkin's resignation "half-hearted."

IN: State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Vladimir Zubov has been named to take over the Committee for Credit Organizations and Financial Markets for the departing Aleksandr Shokhin. Zubov is the former governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai. Shokhin is leaving the legislature to join the private firm Renaissance Capital.

IN: Vladimir Basov, a lecturer at the Volga-Vyatskoi Academy of Government Service, won a State Duma by-election held on 31 March in a single-mandate district in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, Interfax-Eurasia reported the next day. Basov won 35.66 percent of the votes, compared to 20.38 percent for his closest competitor, Alina Radchenko, the coordinator for the noncommercial partnership for Associations of Entrepreneurial Organizations in Russia in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. The Duma seat has been vacant since July 2001 when Gennadii Khodyrev was elected governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast.

RESHUFFLED: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a decree on 29 March, making a series of appointments and dismissals to federal ministries and departments, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 April. Valerii Yanvarev and Sergei Bystrov have respectively been appointed first deputy minister and deputy minister of labor and social development. Sergei Mazurenko has been appointed deputy minister of science, industry, and technology, replacing Gennadii Tereshchenko. Nataliya Fonareva has been dismissed as first deputy minister for antimonopoly policy, according to the daily. Aleksandr Voronin has been appointed deputy minister of energy. According to the newspaper, Voronin, who previously worked at Slavneft, will be responsible for external economic relations with energy departments of countries of the former Soviet Union or the rest of the world. Dmitrii Skobelkin has been appointed deputy chairman of the Committee for Financial Monitoring, and Aleksandr Potapov has been appointed deputy general director for the Agency for Conventional Weapons. Potapov has worked for Tupolev aircraft research and was deputy general director for the Federal Debt Center, according to the AVN Military news agency. JAC

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

9-10: Russian-German interstate consultations on the entire agenda of "bilateral relations and key international problems" will be held in Weimar, Germany, according to Interfax

10 April: Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes to visit Moscow

11 April: Swedish Foreign Minister Bjorn von Sydow to visit Moscow

14 April: Gubernatorial elections in Lipetsk and Penza oblasts

18 April: President Putin to deliver his annual message to the State Duma and Federation Council

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

23 April: State Council will consider question of sale of agricultural land

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

middle of May: First session of the coordinating council for legislation of the Federation Council

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

20 May: International press center for the 300th anniversary in St. Petersburg will open

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

4-7 September: APEC investment forum will take place in Vladivostok

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.

Although it had been expected for some time, when the redistribution of committee assignments in the State Duma finally came to pass, many were surprised -- particularly the Communist Party's leadership (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 26 March 2002). More than a year ago, People's Deputy leader Gennadii Raikov suggested "reforming" the Duma's committee structure by reducing their overall number. And both Unity faction members as well as the presidential representative to the Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov all suggested that stripping the Communists of some of their committee assignments was a good idea. Nonetheless, the Communists appeared to be caught off guard and responded to their losing seven out of nine committees on 3 April by resigning from the other two and declaring themselves in "firm opposition" to the Kremlin. Their allies in the Agro-Industrial group followed suit, giving up control of their two committees.

Although Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov made it clear that he thought fellow Communist faction member Gennadii Seleznev should resign from his post as speaker, Seleznev, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and other members of the Communist Party's membership appeared less sure. Putin told journalists in Moscow on 4 April that while he did not intend to meddle in internal Duma affairs, his personal opinion was that there "are no grounds for changing the speaker." After meeting with Putin, Seleznev himself said that he had come to the conclusion that his "six years of experience shouldn't be scrapped by an emotional decision." And on 8 April, the Communist Party's Central Committee presidium could not reach a decision on Seleznev's fate after hours of discussion. Zyuganov told reporters that Central Committee members wanted to consult with members of the People's Patriotic Union as well as governors before reaching a final decision on 10 April. Zyuganov told reporters that a plan exists whereby Seleznev would give up his party membership but the details of this plan had not yet been elaborated.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 4 April, Yabloko faction member Sergei Ivanenko predicted that Seleznev might remain at the helm of the Duma "in a personal capacity or as the leader of the Rossiya movement, which he created and, as I understand it, plans to take to elections." When Seleznev first launched the Rossiya movement in the summer of 2000, Russian media predicted a split in the Communist Party, noting the long history of tension between Seleznev and Zyuganov. For example, in 1996, when Yabloko deputy Yelena Mizulina proposed putting to vote a motion to strip Seleznev of his post as chairman, Zyuganov voted with Mizulina in favor of holding the vote, according to "Izvestiya" at the time (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 25 June 2001). Communist Party leadership may fear that by forcing Seleznev to choose between his post and his party, he may choose the former. In fact, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 April, without reference to sources, that Seleznev has applied to withdraw his party membership.

Duma expert Thomas Remington of Emory University links the earlier pressure on Seleznev and on Nikolai Troshkin, head of the Duma's apparatus, to deputies' desire to start preparing for the 2003 State Duma elections and to use the resources of the apparat for this purpose (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2002). In terms of the distribution of committee assignments, Remington also notes that the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction probably wanted a "reward" for joining the pro-government coalition in the Duma and Unified Russia party. So far, OVR has gained the most from the redistribution of committees, gaining control over three new committees while the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) gained only two, Yabloko one, and Russian Regions one. People's Deputy won no new committees. Remington also notes that Unified Russia's public approval rating is falling, and the Kremlin is pressuring it to come up with a workable electoral strategy. The party probably sees "the Duma committees and apparat as a viable source of electoral resources."

In the meantime, at least some members of the Communist Party are not losing sleep over having lost their status in the lower legislative house. Deputy Aleksandr Kravets told Ekho Moskvy on 3 April that he believes the Kremlin has acted stupidly, and the consequences of its actions will "work in the Communists' favor." Political analysts apparently agree that it at least won't hurt them: Both Georgii Satarov of the Indem Foundation, and Boris Makarenko of the Center for Political Technologies predicted in interviews with "Izvestiya" that the Communists will manage to hold onto their electorate -- despite having fewer financial resources. (Julie A. Corwin)

The following table shows the new distribution of committees within the Duma by faction. As of 8 April, four committees have not yet been assigned: the Committee for Public Associations and Political Organizations, the Committee for Culture and Tourism, the Committee for Nationality Issues, and the Duma Mandate Commission.

Faction/Group_____# of Members____# of Committees

People's Deputy_________57______________5
Fatherland-All Russia_____49______________5
Russian Regions_________47______________2

Source: ITAR-TASS, 3 April

Committees that changed factions and leadership:

Committee for State Construction
Chairman Valerii Grebnikov (OVR)

Committee for Federation Affairs and Regional Policy
Chairman Viktor Grishin (OVR)

Committee for Agrarian Questions
Chairman Gennadii Kulik (OVR)

Committee for Labor and Social Policy
Chairman Andrei Selivanov (SPS)

Committee for Economic Policy
Chairman Grigorii Tomchin (SPS)

Committee for Industry, Construction, and Scientific Technology
Chairman Martin Shakkum (Russian Regions)

Committee for Education and Science
Chairman Aleksandr Shishlov (Yabloko)