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Russia Report: April 17, 2002

17 April 2002, Volume 2, Number 12
Two years into his presidency, Russian President Vladimir Putin's power probably remains more formal than real, Peter Reddaway of George Washington University argues in the most recent issue of "Post-Soviet Affairs" (vol. 18, no. 1). According to Reddaway, Putin has a "short bench of personal loyalists on whom to draw," and he has not created a strong personal power base by creating his own political party. However, in formal terms, his job description couldn't be more executive: he is president, commander in chief, chairman of the Security Council, as well as Russia's "chief international diplomat." Putin has been unable to consolidate his personal power in federal officialdom because Russia's oligarchs or magnates continue to subvert the loyalty of key bureaucrats, Reddaway argues. Reddaway notes that Putin lectured the magnates in private in July 2000, but "has done little since then to make them obey him." Also Putin has "deplored bureaucratic corruption, but has done nothing effective to combat it."

Reddaway adds that with regard to Russia's oligarchs, Putin has not managed to trim substantially their power or influence. And -- with the main exceptions of Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky -- he even maintains good relations with them. Putin sometimes "tries to frighten a particular magnate or minister or general by having him investigated, [but] no senior figures are ever actually sentenced and jailed." For example, one could add, former Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov left the cabinet under a cloud of corruption allegations but so far have not been charged.

What strength Putin does have, according to Reddaway, comes from his ability to play the role of balancer between the three main factions in the Kremlin -- the Family, the "siloviki" or members of the special services, and the St. Petersburg "economic liberals." Putin plays the role of "balancer and implementer of the lowest common denominator of the interests of Russia's elite groups." Putin's policies are designed not to offend any group too deeply. And in return for Putin's "efficient" performance as balancer and his "noninterference in the great majority of their affairs," the magnates cooperate by not publicly interfering in high politics in the way that Gusinsky and Berezovsky once did. However, they continue to pull strings behind the scenes, as they influence policies "discreetly."

But the cozy relationship that Putin has managed to maintain with the oligarchs could soon be tested. Along with some other recent commentators (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 28 January 2002), Reddaway thinks that Putin will face a key challenge, if he "seriously tries to achieve one of his most important declared goals of this year": the clear demarcation of responsibilities between the regional and municipal governments (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 May 2001). This effort, Reddaway believes, appears to be aimed at the tendency of magnates to develop joint political and business interests with governors and local elites that undermine the interests of the federal government. "Moskovskii komsomolets" commentator Aleksandr Budberg notes that disrupting this relationship would "seriously affect the business interests of many magnates, who have been feeding happily off both regional and municipal budgets."

Leading this effort from Moscow is deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak, who heads the commission to delineate powers between different levels of government (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 June 2001). And in the regions, it is Putin's seven presidential envoys. The envoys together with Kozak have had some success with their earlier effort to harmonize regional laws with federal, while Kozak oversaw the effort to craft legislation reforming the judiciary and legal systems. He was forced into many compromises, but most experts believe that if implemented, the judicial reforms will represent a step forward. The harmonization effort, on the other hand, has been more of a success in the realm of public relations. The laws appear to be aligned, however, local legislatures continue to pass new legislation that conflicts with federal law. And, as Reddaway notes in his article, "aligning federal and regional laws does not achieve very much, if the regional courts are still -- as seems to be the case -- subservient to the regional executive on important issues." One concession that Kozak made with the judicial reforms was to continue to allow regional governments to provide judges with apartments (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 18 December 2001).

Putin's earlier effort to reduce the power of regional governors has also had limited success, and Putin "has increasingly come to terms with them," according to Reddaway. For example, legislation was passed with the Kremlin's approval that allows the bulk of them to seek a third term and -- in some cases -- even a fourth (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 June 2001). It is therefore not difficult to imagine that Putin and his administration will follow the same pattern that Reddaway so convincingly describes was observed during Putin's first two years. Despite the reform rhetoric, accommodations to the oligarchs will again be made, and Putin, the balancer, will probably be allowed -- if not encouraged -- to seek a second term. (Julie A. Corwin)

State Duma deputies voted on 12 April to approve a bill in the first reading that would introduce a new system for electing regional legislatures, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the bill, regional legislators would be elected according to a method similar to that used to elect the State Duma: One-half of deputies to regional legislatures would be selected according to party lists. The bill was initiated by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and the Agro-Industrial group. JAC

On the same day, deputies voted to approve a bill in its first reading that amends the law on advertising to restrict beer ads, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 March. Advertisements that suggest that beer can help a person achieve a higher social status or improve his physical or emotional well-being are banned under the bill. The bill also forbids advertising aimed at teenagers as well as the use of well-known politicians, actors, cultural figures, and athletes, according to the daily. Some 304 deputies voted in favor of the bill with 13 against and one abstention. JAC


Name of law___________Date Approved___________# of reading

On general principles______12 April_________________1st
of organizing legislative and
executive organs in federation subjects

On advertising___________12 April_________________1st

In an article published last month, "Moskovskii komsomolets" provided a glimpse at the inner workings of the Duma's factions and groups, noting how membership tallies have changed as deputies have left the Duma for other work or switched to a group more to their liking. The daily notes that Yabloko faction dwindled from 21 to 17. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's (LDPR) ranks have dropped from 17 members when the Duma first convened to 12. SPS had 38 members in September 2001 compared with only 32 now. Four members left recently to join Boris Berezovsky's Liberal Russia movement. Russian Regions has added to its ranks.

The daily also provided a few tidbits about how the deputies interact. For example, SPS member and former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, while maintaining a low public profile, reportedly maintains an iron grip on all bills relating to tax payment, budget, and property. It also noted that first deputy SPS faction leader Boris Nadezhdin entertains his fellow deputies with songs. Nadezhdin is reportedly a gifted singer/songwriter/guitarist with a love for animals. (He keeps a male lynx as a pet in his apartment. The lynx lives in one room of the apartment, Nadezhdin, his wife, and son in another.)

According to the daily, a number of the factions celebrate holidays together. As one would expect, the Communist faction ignores the holidays marking the adoption of "Yeltsin's" constitution and the independence of Russia, but members gather together at New Year's, on 23 February, and International Women's Day. Relations between the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction members are reportedly quite friendly, and members gather together for both holidays and birthdays. Deputies Yevgenii Primakov and Stanislav Govorukhin are toast-masters and joke-tellers. The smallest faction, LDPR, gathers for a joint celebration only for special "party" holidays such as 25 April -- LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii's birthday. JAC

Communist Party faction
Leader: Gennadii Seleznev
First deputy leader: Valentin Kuptsov
Total membership: 84

Unity faction
Leader: Vladimir Pekhtin
Deputy leaders: Frants Klintsevich, Vladislav Reznik
Total membership: 83

People's Deputy group
Leader: Gennadii Raikov
Total membership: 57

Fatherland-All Russia faction
Leader: Vyacheslav Volodin
Deputy leaders: Konstantin Kosachev, Farida Gainullina, and Valerii Ryazanskii
Total membership: 49

Russian Regions group
Chairman: Oleg Morozov
Deputy chairmen: Mikhail Bugera, Andrei Klimov, Aleksandr Lotarev, and Aleksandr Chershintsev
Total membership: 48

Agro-Industrial group
Leader: Nikolai Kharitonov
Co-Chairmen: Gennadii Semigin, Ivan Aparin
Deputy leaders: Valerii Shituev, Nikolai Kosterin, and Nikolai Kiselev
Total membership: 43

Union of Rightist Forces faction
Leader: Boris Nemtsov
First deputy leader: Boris Nadezhdin
Deputy leaders: Irina Khakamada, Aleksandr Barranikov
Total membership: 32

Yabloko faction
Leader: Grigorii Yavlinskii
Deputy leaders: Sergei Ivanenko, Valerii Ostanin, and Igor Artemiev
Total membership: 17

Liberal Democratic Party of Russia faction
Leader: Igor Lebedev
Total membership: 12

Sources: (updated as of 4 April 2002), on 9 April 2002, "Moskovskii komsomolets" 19 March 2002

IN: State Duma deputy Vladimir Oseev, who was elected from a single-mandate district in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, has joined the Unity faction, reported on 9 April.

IN: Russia's Olympic hockey team coach Vyacheslav Fetisov has agreed to head the State Sports Committee, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 April. Fetisov is also the former assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils.

OUT: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has signed a decree dismissing Vladimir Simonov as general director for the Russian Agency for Control Systems, the government agency that oversees radio electronics, Interfax reported on 13 April. He will be replaced by his first deputy, Vasilii Ilichev.

TRANSFER: Anatolii Kozeradskii has been named chief federal inspector for Nizhnii Novgorod, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 April. Kozeradskii had been representing Nizhnii Novgorod's legislature in the Federation Council and had served as the chairman of the oblast's legislature (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 14 January 2002).

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 Council 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, Turkmenistan, according to First Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi on 24 January

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

28 April: Second round of presidential elections to be held in Ingushetia

1 May: Deadline by which commissions for organizing the nationwide census should be formed in each of the seven federal districts, according to Interfax on 15 April.

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

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: World Bank's Board of Directors to discuss its Russia strategy

29 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.