21 August 2002, Volume 2, Number 27
NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" will appear on 4 September.
NIZHNII RACE OFF TO A DIRTY STARTBy Oleg Rodin
The first round of mayoral elections will take place in Nizhnii Novgorod on 15 September. Virtually no one doubts that there will be a second round, since no clear front-runner has emerged. The electorate is still divided into almost equal parts among a few favorites, including incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev, State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov (People's Deputy), and convicted felon Andrei Klimentiev. But opinion polls have consistently suggested that the number of voters who plan to stay away from the polls or to vote against all candidates is likely to be higher than the tally of any single candidate. Moreover, there is a real threat that the elections will be nullified due to insufficient turnout -- voters are tired of the political gamesmanship and the increasingly "dirty" tactics being used ahead of the elections.
Political analysts believe that Lebedev started the campaign with a lead. Last January, at Lebedev's initiative, the city launched an experimental program offering young men the chance to perform alternative civilian service in lieu of military service. At the time, military brass and some politicians said the program was designed not merely to offer citizens the chance to exercise their constitutional right of alternative service but also to strengthen the popularity of the mayor on the eve of elections. President Vladimir Putin five months ago warned against any "experimentation" on the issue until there was a law governing alternative military service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2002). Unfortunately for the mayor and for the 20 young men who participated in the pilot project, the city program does not meet the preconditions of the federal law on alternative civil service that was recently adopted by the State Duma and the Federation Council and signed into law by Putin. The program's 20 participants thus remain subject to the draft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002).
Lebedev's rating has remained high in Nizhnii Novgorod despite the controversy surrounding the alternative civil-service program and some public failures in delivering some basic services, such as light and heat. City streetlights were turned off for a whole month last year, for instance, and residential homes and public facilities -- such as hospitals, schools, kindergartens, and even maternity wards -- were deprived of heat for one month last year and again this spring. Hot water was turned off to residents for two months at the end of May, and some 120,000 people did not have potable water for half that time. But Lebedev remains one of the top three candidates, perhaps in part for other deeds such as giving invalids new cars paid for from the city budget. He has also doled out small gifts for pensioners and the needy, such as small exemptions in housing and public-utilities payments, while levying fees on the construction of new houses and business centers. In general, Lebedev freely makes promises and assurances to citizens regarding their concerns. Not all of these promises have been fulfilled, but many people still believe in the "good master" who is concerned primarily for the well-being of his subjects.
Meanwhile, one of Lebedev's chief rivals, State Duma Deputy and entrepreneur Bulavinov, has built his campaign around criticism of the mayor's policies. Bulavinov sent a statement to the prosecutor-general and the local parliament about what he considers to be Lebedev's illegal, free transfer of municipal property -- the city's heating plants -- to a new private structure that will be as concerned with its own profits as it is with the supply of heat to the city. The result, Bulavinov suggested, could be a steep rise in the price of heat and hot water. Bulavinov charged that the city has been ruined by the activities of the current leadership and promised to do everything possible to restore the citizenry's welfare if he is elected mayor.
Bulavinov is supported by presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko and the Unified Russia party. However, he also has opponents who are willing to go to considerable lengths to attack his image, as evidenced by events during last year's gubernatorial campaign. Ahead of that voting, leaflets were distributed throughout the city in the candidate's name soliciting money for his campaign. This rubbed some voters the wrong way, particularly the poor, since Bulavinov is considered wealthy. In addition, environmentalists waged a campaign against him, accusing him of seeking to import spent nuclear fuel into the oblast. Now, the backing of the so-called Union of the Naturals is working against Bulavinov; that group advocates combating homosexuality by virtually any means and favors the candidacy of Bulavinov, who has reportedly suggested he supports the criminal prosecution of homosexuals.
The work of the Union of the Naturals is reminiscent of aggressive campaign tactics invoked against a candidate in the last gubernatorial race, businessman Andrei Klimentiev. In March 1998, Klimentiev actually won a mayoral election in Nizhnii Novgorod, but he was soon stripped of his post after his arrest and conviction for embezzling a state credit. During the gubernatorial campaign, houses and fences were pasted with bright posters declaring "The Mafia for Klima" or "Gays for Andrei." Such slogans invoking Klimentiev's name contributed to his fifth-place finish in the first round of polling. This time around, Klimentiev is seeking to recapture the mayor's post, and his rating has gradually risen, despite the fact that there is still no kind of open campaign for him (see Nizhnii Novgorod item, below). Support for Klimentiev can be viewed as a protest of sorts, and he is therefore popular among the disgruntled and the poor.
The mass media -- primarily newspapers and television -- have already participated in some "dirty" aspects of the campaign. Journalists at various media outlets generally praise one candidate and disparage the others -- directly or indirectly. In addition, they publish starkly varying results of sociological surveys and ratings of candidates as they try to change or form public opinion. New free newspapers have appeared with print runs of around 500,000. These newspapers are distributed on the streets, on public transport, in stores, and are put in mailboxes. Voters can learn both real and fictional aspects of the lives of the candidates from these newspapers, since in general the information is rarely absolutely false but is often inexact, misleading, or distorted.
But television is far more influential. Candidates are praised or humiliated based on their payments to television channels, some candidates have charged. A candidate might be shown in an unflattering way, with a grimace on his face or awkwardly foreshortened -- with a consequent effect on his popularity even if there is no verbal commentary. This is the way that local television has shown oblast legislator Mikhail Dikin, who is supported by the local branch of the increasingly unpopular Union of Rightist Forces and is trailing in opinion polls. Sergei Kocherov, a regional television commentator, noted that graffiti such as "Dikin is not a robber!" has appeared. And although the message at first appears positive, it creates an association in the voter's mind between Dikin and larceny, Kocherov noted.
Another candidate, First Deputy Governor Yurii Sentyurin, has been subject to criticism simply because he does not appear to have been born in Nizhnii Novgorod, though nothing truly negative has been said about him. But the election campaign has just moved into its final phase, and further dirty tactics may yet be unveiled to target other candidates. After all, human inventiveness in the production of dirty tricks appears to be getting not only more sophisticated but ever more bountiful. (Oleg Rodin is an RFE/RL correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod.)
NEWSPAPERS, LOCAL OFFICIALS SPECULATE ON NATURE OF NEW FEDERAL REFORMS..."Nezavisimaya gazeta" claimed on 30 July to have obtained documents outlining deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak's plan for overhauling the federal system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002). According to the daily, while the plans of the Kozak commission for demarcating responsibilities among various levels of government cannot be called "revolutionary," they nevertheless constitute "the most significant overhaul of Russia's system of governance -- from top to bottom -- in a decade." Budgets at the federal, oblast, and local levels would be formed differently, affecting the work of hospitals, clinics, kindergartens, and schools. There would be two autonomous police forces. Overall, according to the daily, the reforms "will concern each and every person." The daily also noted that the commission's plan makes no mention of the seven federal districts or the presidential envoys who oversee them, adding that only time will tell whether this omission reflects the Kremlin's thinking or Kozak's alone. A survey carried out in July showed that the public is unenthusiastic about the envoys. According to the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), only about 30 percent of respondents in a recent poll expressed confidence in the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts, regions.ru reported on 6 August, citing Region-Inform. Thirty-eight percent said that they do not approve of their activities. In contrast, 50 percent of the respondents said they trust governors, and 73 percent said they approve of President Putin. JAC
...AS FURTHER RECENTRALIZATION FEARED.Meanwhile, an article published in the EastWest Institute's "Russian Regional Report" on 12 August quoted an unidentified local government official in St. Petersburg as saying that a "major recentralization of power" is being planned for Russia by the Kozak commission. According to the official, the Kozak commission is sending out "trial balloons" to various local government officials to determine just how negative their reaction will be. The fortnightly publication also noted that before moving to the presidential administration, Kozak developed the local government system for St. Petersburg. Under that system, there are 11 local government councils that deal with a limited set of issues, and their funding accounts for only 2 percent of the city's consolidated budget. According to the publication, Afgat Altynbaev, chairman of the Federation Council's Local Government Committee, has said that local government will become a reality in Russia only when it controls 30-35 percent of the country's revenues, not the 5-7 percent it controls on average today. JAC
WILL MANAGERS REPLACE MAYORS?The Kozak commission might include a mechanism for replacing elected municipal executive-branch heads with hired managers, gazeta.ru reported on 16 August. "At present the idea of contract managers is only being discussed. But if it is accepted, then local administrations will have the opportunity to hire managers," Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister and commission member Vitalii Shipov told the website. Duma Deputy Nikolai Brusnikin (Union of Rightist Forces) commented that mayors and mayor's offices should be "merely corporations for providing services to the population." He added that hired managers "would not be able to hide behind their mandates" and would focus their energy on their work rather than engaging in politics. However, Novgorod Mayor Aleksandr Korsunov, who is also a member of the Kozak commission, considers the idea "bad for Russia." He said that it would give the Kremlin another tool of control, since it would be able to pressure local administration to hire managers it supports. RC
PUTIN SUGGESTS MAKING LOCAL ADMINISTRATIONS MORE TRANSPARENT...At a government meeting on 5 August, President Putin called for making public the details of regional budgets and regional-level backlogs of unpaid wages to state-sector workers, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin suggested that such a measure is necessary so that the public can know the real state of affairs, Interfax reported. Trade union leaders have been suggesting for some time that greater transparency of regional government finances might help eliminate situations in which regional governments use money earmarked for the wages of teachers and doctors for other purposes (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 March 1999). They have argued that if information about budget transfers from Moscow is reported in local newspapers, then it might be possible to track how the money is spent. Also at the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko reported that 16 regions are currently behind in paying wages. However, she added, these backlogs will be completely paid off by 1 September. JAC
...AS LAID-OFF WORKERS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE FOR UNPAID WAGES...Seven workers who were recently dismissed from the Lenarchenergo enterprise have launched a hunger strike until back wages worth more than 13 million rubles ($412,000) are paid, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 August. The enterprise is based in Ust-Kut in Irkutsk Oblast, the same city where 14 doctors who worked for the local emergency service also staged a hunger strike for back wages earlier in the month. JAC
...AND UNIFIED RUSSIA TELLS WORKERS NOT TO WORRY.Meanwhile, VolgaInform reported on 9 August that a tour by the leadership of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party of several Russian regions this summer was accompanied by a massive advertising campaign that included billboards telling state workers who have not been receiving their salaries on time "not to lose hope." According to the agency, "Vedomosti" reported that the cost of the party's advertising campaign was 7 million rubles ($226,000) a month, which is more than the large consumer-products manufacturer Proctor & Gamble typically spends on advertising in Russia. However, that estimate likely understates the party's real advertising expenditures, VolgaInform reported. According to information from the information firm Mediaplanning and the Russian Public Relations Group, Unified Russia has likely been spending up to 20 million rubles ($645,000) a month -- not 7 million rubles. Recently, Unified Russia overtook the Communist Party in a number of opinion polls. JAC
PUNDIT BELIEVES KREMLIN READY TO REDUCE NUMBER OF REGIONS.Writing in "Trud" on 10 August, Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation, argued that the Kremlin appears ready to take on the long-discussed problem of consolidating Russia's 89 regions. As evidence, Nikonov cited the fact that presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii recently said he considers it necessary to reduce the number of regions. According to Nikonov, none of the official representatives of the president "has earlier gone on the record against Putin's position." He wrote that Drachevskii's statement suggests that he supports Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin in the 8 September gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai, since Khloponin has been a consistent advocate of a merger between Krasnoyarsk Krai and Taimyr Autonomous Okrug. Nikonov himself concluded that Russia's current political structure is not justified from "either a scientific or practical point of view" and is instead an "intricate combination representing orders issued by Russian emperors, Bolshevik nationality policies, the spontaneous disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent 'parade of sovereignties'" that occurred when individual regions declared their independence not only from the Soviet Union but also from the Russian Federation. JAC
GOVERNORS STEP IN TO PROTECT FARMERS AHEAD OF THEIR FEDERAL COUNTERPARTS...Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev has signed a decree that calls on local authorities to impose temporary controls over the supply of bread and bread products to the oblast population, "Krestyanskie vedomosti" reported on 8 August. According to the newspaper, the decree establishes a monthly volume of expenditures from a regional resource fund for wheat and rye and flour, so that the supply of bread at stable prices will be guaranteed for the third quarter of this year. Stroev is the latest governor to attempt to control prices or imports in bread or dairy products. Earlier in August, Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub took control over the prices of bread and grain products in his region by issuing an instruction creating a special commission that will control the formation of wholesale prices for grain, flour, bread, and bread products to ensure the price of bread does not jump sharply. Included in the commission will be representatives of the local inspection agency Roskhlebinspektsii, the oblast's legislature, and various oblast ministries. JAC
...AS LOWER GRAIN PRICES EXPECTED.On 7 August, President Putin met with Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev to discuss steps to prevent a plunge in grain prices this autumn and stabilize the domestic grain market, Prime-TASS reported. Analysts predict the average grain price in the 2002-03 market year will be 15 percent below the previous year's due to large unsold stocks from the previous harvest, according to Prime-TASS. There is a grain surplus despite the fact that this year's grain harvest is expected to be 5.2 million tons lower than last year's level of 85.2 million tons. According to the agency, last autumn the federal government managed to keep prices relatively stable by carrying out "intervention buying." JAC
ANYONE CAN BE A COSSACK.For the first time since the tsarist era, Cossacks will be included in the national census in 2002 as a separate "nationality," "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 August. According to the daily, the motivation for the Cossacks to participate in the census in this fashion is financial. As General Ataman Viktor Vodolatskii explained, "If the census shows that a large number of Cossacks live compactly on the territory of the All-Great Forces of the Don, then we can compete for federal allocations." He noted that the people of the Engels Raion in Saratov Oblast live well, "with good roads, gas, and electricity," because that region has been designated an area inhabited by Volga Germans and is therefore eligible for additional federal funds. The All-Great Forces of the Don unites Cossacks living in Rostov, Voronezh, and Volgograd oblasts, and the forces' apparatus intends to launch a wide-scale campaign among residents of those oblasts to identify themselves as Cossacks, an identification "whose authenticity Ataman Vodolatskii will promise in advance not to check." JAC
FAR EAST MAYOR IN ONE-CAR ACCIDENT.Aleksandr Kolyagin, mayor of the Far Eastern city of Blagoveshchensk, rolled his car just outside the city early in the morning of 20 August, regions.ru reported, citing press-center.ru. The report states that Kolyagin was slightly injured and suggests alcohol may have been involved. Police reportedly have not determined whether a criminal case will be filed. On 21 August, regions.ru reported that the car was traveling over 100 kilometers per hour at the time and that a female passenger in the car was seriously injured. RC
TURKISH CITIZENS ACCUSED OF SPREADING RADICAL ISLAM.Law-enforcement officials in Bashkortostan issued a warrant on 9 August seeking the deportation of three Turkish citizens from the Russian Federation for taking "actions contrary to Russia's national interests," such as allegedly teaching a radical version of Islam, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 12 August, citing BashInform and "Izvestiya." The three Turks, Caliskan Seydi and two associates who were not named, are reportedly followers of the radical Suleymanji and Nurdjular Islamic sects, which are banned in Turkey. Seydi began his activities in Oktyabrskii, where he opened up a boarding school in September 2001. The branch of the Federal Security Service in Bashkortostan told "Izvestiya" that the children attending the school came mostly from Oktyabrskii's orphanages and from poor families, suffered from malnutrition, and that the only type of literature allowed at the school was of the extremist Islamic variety. JAC
PLANS APPROVED FOR REBUILDING CAPITAL.The Russian government has approved a plan for rebuilding Grozny over a period of five years, Interfax reported on 17 August, quoting Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov. Ilyasov said it is anticipated the city will have 600,000 residents. The more polluted areas in the west of the city will not be rebuilt, but instead a new district housing 100,000 people will be built on the southeastern outskirts. On 16 August, the Energy Ministry said it will spend 150 million rubles ($4.78 million) from the export of Chechen oil on restoring public buildings in Grozny to provide temporary housing, Interfax reported. LF
CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S REPRESENTATIVE, RYBKIN DRAFT NEW PEACE PROPOSAL.Meeting in Zurich on 15 August, President Aslan Maskhadov's representative, Akhmed Zakaev, and former Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin reached agreement on "serious, realistic" measures for resolving the Chechen conflict peacefully, Ekho Moskvy radio reported. The two men declined to divulge details of their plan, which they intend to present to Maskhadov and President Putin. Rybkin said only that if Putin demonstrates a clear sign of goodwill, hostilities could be halted immediately. Rybkin appealed to Putin in an open letter in late June to embark on peace talks with Maskhadov. LF
RUSSIA DENIES VISA TO DALAI LAMA.Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Malakhov said that Moscow has decided "to refrain at this stage from hosting a visit of the Dalai Lama to Russia's Buddhist regions of Tuva, Buryatia, and Kalmykia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2002) because of the political nature of the visit, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 16 August. Apn.ru reported on 16 August that the visit was canceled at the initiative of the Defense Ministry and its head, Sergei Ivanov, who was reportedly warned by his Chinese counterparts that it could jeopardize Chinese arms contracts to Russia worth $3 billion. Meanwhile, a group of Russian Buddhists organized a demonstration near the Foreign Ministry. About 30 demonstrators participated and police detained a number of them. A spokesman for the demonstrators said that similar protests were held in Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva, RosBalt reported. A spokesman for the Russian Buddhists, Jampa Timpley, said on NTV that the Foreign Ministry similarly refused to admit the Dalai Lama on 17 August 2001. VY
DIRTY TRICKS DEPLOYED IN SIBERIAN ELECTION...TV-6 reported on 7 August that although the 8 September gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai is still a month away, local voters have already twice found compromising materials about leading candidates in their mailboxes. In the most recent case, copies of the newspaper "Nashe Delo" were distributed that carried an embarrassing article about Krasnoyarsk Krai legislature speaker Aleksandr Uss. Before that, copies of another newspaper were circulated with articles about Uss's main rivals, Krasnoyarsk Mayor Peter Pimashkov and Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin. JAC
...ALTHOUGH ELECTIONS HEAD PROMISES A CLEAN FIGHT.A delegation headed by Central Elections Commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov arrived in Krasnoyarsk on 8 August to oversee the election campaign, ORT reported. Veshnyakov told ORT that his commission intends to work out new organizational approaches to holding elections during this campaign. He said the finances of all the candidates will be thoroughly examined, all complaints will be investigated, and commission members will meet regularly with candidates and voters. Veshnyakov also said that, although the campaign so far has not gone completely smoothly, there have been no serious violations. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 7 August, Veshnyakov added that the commission has "worked out a new project for monitoring the media" in order to ensure that all stories and advertisements comply with election law. RC
'DOUBLES' MAKE APPEARANCE IN MAYORAL POLL...The Nizhnii Novgorod Elections Commission has completed registration of candidates for the city's 15 September mayoral election, strana.ru reported on 19 August. In all, 20 candidates will vie for the post, including State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov, businessman Andrei Klimentiev, Deputy Chairman of the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast legislature Mikhail Dikin, and incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev. The list of candidates includes at least two "doubles," as candidates named Vadim Bulavinov and Mikhail Dikin were registered at the last minute. The use of doubles is a widespread dirty trick in regional elections. Sergei Rodin, head of the Elections Commission, told RIA-Novosti that the doubles are not a significant problem because "the voters are not that stupid and can figure out who is who." He noted, however, that his agency does not have the right to refuse to register doubles. RC
...AS FELON MOVES INTO LEADING POSITION.According to the latest polling in Nizhnii Novgorod, businessman and convicted felon Klimentiev is gaining popularity, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 August. The poll, conducted by the Academy of Science's Institute of Sociology, showed that Klimentiev has moved into a virtual tie for first place with Bulavinov (People's Deputy). The poll found that 18 percent of voters support Klimentiev and 17 percent support Bulavinov, a difference that is less than the poll's margin of error. RC
BUSINESSMAN PROFILED IN 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' SHOT ONE DAY LATER.Andrei Chunyak, who was featured in an article about his cafe in Vladivostok in the "The New York Times" on 30 July, was killed the next day, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Chunyak was shot four times in the head and chest with a nine-millimeter "Baikal" pistol with a silencer, according to the agency. According to "The New York Times," in addition to being a co-owner of Studio Coffee, Chunyak was a trader in scrap metal. Chunyak dismissed questions about the connection between organized crime and his sector. "What you see on TV -- it's rubbish. The main thieves are the bureaucrats. They are the mafia," the newspaper quoted him as saying. The article profiled the trend of "businessmen" turning from "thuggery to tamer, more lawful business." JAC
ANOTHER ST. PETERSBURG POLITICAL PARTY REPORTEDLY IN THE WORKS..."Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 August that Vladimir Litvinenko, deputy chancellor of the St. Petersburg Mining Institute and a close associate of President Putin, is planning to set up a counterpart of sorts to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RCPP), which, according to the daily, might even provide the RCPP with some competition. According to the daily, Litvinenko was initially involved with Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov's Party of Life but gradually disassociated himself from it, saying it is duplicative of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party. As regards Litvinenko's as-yet-to-be-created group, he says it will "of course participate in the [upcoming State Duma] elections, as economics is impossible without politics." According to the daily, the potential membership of the grouping remains secret, but it suggests that many business leaders may join the new association while continuing as members of the RCPP, Yevgenii Primakov's Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and other elite business groups. Litvinenko's name has been floated in a number of stories as a likely candidate for a high-level position, such as Gazprom head or natural resources minister, but such an appointment has not yet materialized. Most recently, it was suggested that he might be tapped to lead state diamond monopoly Alrosa (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2002). JAC
...AND ONE-THIRD OF PUBLIC BELIEVES ST. PETERSBURGERS DISPROPORTIONATELY REPRESENTED IN POWER.Sociologists with the Monitoring.ru group conducted a recent poll of 1,350 Russian citizens that found that 32 percent of respondents agree with the statement that "persons from St. Petersburg occupy all key posts in the government," ntvru.com reported on 9 August. Forty-one percent of respondents disagreed. Older respondents were more likely to agree, while only 24 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that St. Petersburgers dominate the federal government. JAC
URALS METALS OLIGARCH SAID TO BE NEXT SEASON'S POLITICAL LEADER.Yekaterinburg-based political analyst Ilya Gorfinkel is predicting that Sergei Nosov, the director of the firm Nizhnii Tagil Iron and Steel (NTMK) and leader of Sverdlovsk Oblast's Unified Russia party, will occupy one of the top three places on that pro-Kremlin party's list for the 2003 State Duma elections, regions.ru reported on 5 August. According to Gorfinkel, the party has a marked deficit of new faces and the "old" leaders of Unity and Fatherland have noticeably lost the trust of voters. Gorfinkel says members of nearly all social strata react positively to Nosov and he is also "photogenic" (for photo, see http://www.3-millenium.ru/tagil.htm). JAC
NATIONALISTS TO OBLITERATE FASCISTS.Members of the Sverdlovsk Oblast chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) announced that they will begin painting over neo-fascist and anti-Semitic graffiti in Yekaterinburg, regions.ru reported on 19 August. The action follows the example of the party's Perm chapter, which has already several times painted over such graffiti there. The Yabloko faction has held similar actions across the country in recent months, but it is unclear whether it will join forces with LDPR. RC
TENSIONS RISE IN RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN KAZAN, MOSCOW."Argumenty i fakty," No. 32, argues that tensions between Kazan and Moscow continue to ratchet up in the ongoing battle over Tatarstan's 1994 power-sharing agreement, which Moscow would like to abandon. According to the weekly, Kazan is refusing to drop the agreement and has "essentially slammed the door" in the face of federal officials. The situation, according to the weekly, resembles that which existed in 1993, during which Moscow contemplated the use of armed force. As evidence of the republic's "hardened" stance, the weekly noted that President Mintimer Shaimiev recently met with Tatarstan nationalist leaders, while a number of local Muslim women have appealed a federal Interior Ministry policy that does not allow them to wear headscarves in passport photos (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 5 August 2002). Meanwhile, Moscow is applying counterpressure on local authorities through its promotion of a draft law on setting up an oil-quality bank, which Tatarstan vigorously opposes. If adopted, the bill would restrict access to export pipelines for producers of oil with a high sulfur content, such as Tatarstan. JAC
TATAR MUFTI DISCUSSES POSSIBLE U.S. INVASION OF IRAQ.Iraqi Ambassador to Russia Abbas Khalaf was in Kazan on 30 July for a meeting with President Shaimiev on expanding cooperation between Iraq and Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 31 July. Shaimiev said the ambassador's visit, which came soon after his 1 July appointment, demonstrates Iraq's interest in -- and respect for --Tatarstan. Khalaf responded by saying his goal is to raise relations to "a new level." Khalaf also met with Tatarstan Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gusman Iskhakov in Kazan, islam.ru reported on 31 July. According to the site, various topics were discussed, but the first priority was the possible invasion of Iraq by Great Britain and the United States. The director of the presidential department for external relations, Timur Akulov, sat in on Iskhakov's meeting. Khalaf and Iskhakov also discussed possible cooperation in the field of religious education, islam.ru reported. Khalaf said that Iraq is ready to send two teachers to higher Islamic education institutions in Kazan and to invite Tatar students to come to Iraq for training at Saddam Hussein University. Khalaf also invited Iskhakov to visit Iraq to fully acquaint himself with the religious life of the population. JAC
LOCAL NGOS TAKE UP PUTIN SUGGESTION ON TRANSPARENCY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT.Following President Putin's call for public disclosure of budget practices at the local level (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002), a group of nongovernmental organizations in Yaroslavl Oblast is preparing to monitor the activities of local officials at all levels of power, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 6 August. At each municipal raion, public organizations in the oblast are forming partnerships called the Citizens Coalition to promote transparency and openness about the budget resources of municipal organizations. As part of this effort, Citizens Coalition has organized seminars and master classes on budget analysis and on conducting public hearings in local legislatures. The group is supported in part by the British Westminster Foundation for Democracy. JAC
POLITICAL CALENDAR21 August: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to visit China
20-22 August: Russian-Iranian consultations on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction to take place in Moscow, according to Interfax
23 August: Russian and U.S. trade officials plan to initial an agreement on Russian exports of cold-rolled steel to U.S. market
23 August: President Putin to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Vladivostok, according to media reports.
26 August: A commission set up by the government, Federation Council, and State Duma will consider five draft laws on the reform of the power industry and whether they should be submitted to the Duma, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 August
26 August: Government will submit its draft 2003 budget to the State Duma, according to Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 6 June
28-29 August: World Tatar Congress will be held in Kazan, Tatarstan
Beginning of September: Prime Minister Kasyanov to visit Johannesburg, South Africa
September: Symposium and investment fair for nuclear-power plants to take place in Vladivostok
1 September: New Arbitration Procedure Code comes into force
1 September: Deadline by which heads of regional branches of the Union of Rightist Forces must submit names of candidates for single-mandate districts in the 2003 State Duma elections, according to regions.ru
7 September: State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev's Rossiya movement to hold founding congress in Moscow
8 September: Gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai
10-11 September: The fourth annual conference of the regional administrations of countries in Northeast Asia will take place in Khabarovsk
11 September: An IMF mission will arrive in Moscow to assess Russia's financial sector, Prime-TASS reported on 8 August
14-23 September: The World Association of Female Entrepreneurs will hold its 50th international congress in St. Petersburg
15 September: Mayoral election will be held in Nizhnii Novgorod
15 September: Government will submit to the Duma amendments to the law on Russian as a state language
18 September: First plenary meeting of State Duma's fall session
26-27 September: Association of Election Organizers from the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe will hold a special conference in Moscow, according to "Izvestiya" on 17 June
29 September: By-election in single-mandate district in Omsk Oblast for State Duma seat formerly occupied by Aleksandr Vereteno, who died in April
1 October: Ferry service will start between Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg, according to deputy presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Andrei Stepanov
5 October: Criminal investigation by Prosecutor-General's Office of oligarch Boris Berezovskii to end officially
7 October: CIS summit to be held in Chisinau, Moldova, according to Interfax on 13 May
12-14 October: Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi will visit Russia
20 October: By-election in single-mandate district in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug for State Duma seat once occupied by Aleksandr Lotorev, who now directs the Duma's apparatus
26-27 October: Putin to attend APEC summit in Los Cabos, Mexico
14 November: Meeting of united political council of Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko scheduled.