2 October 2002, Volume
PUTIN APPOINTS SIBERIAN GOVERNOR...
After the Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission refused on 2 October to certify the 22 September gubernatorial elections and instead insisted on 2 March 2003 as the date for new elections, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on 3 October that the current acting governor of the krai, Nikolai Ashlapov, was resigning, leaving open the possibility for Putin to appoint someone to the post. Putin said that he was appointing Aleksandr Khloponin, who had earlier been declared the winner of that election, as governor. Putin stated, that the "fact that Aleksandr Gennadyevich Khloponin received the most votes is not disputed by anyone, including the territorial electoral commission. What the argument is about is the way the election was held, and I believe that this argument has to be concluded, in the manner prescribed by law, by the territorial or the Central Electoral Commission." A Krasnoyarsk Krai court had on 1 October rejected the commission's decision to cancel the election, but the election commission remained defiant. The commission's chairman, Georgii Kotrykin, told Krasnoyarsk State Television on 30 September that his office had been receiving congratulatory telegrams all day long. Voters in Krasnoyarsk were reportedly thanking him for being "so brave and resolute." JAC
...AS ELECTION SHENANIGANS CALLED THREAT TO DEMOCRACY.
Meanwhile, an article in "Vremya novostei" on 1 October charged that the election scandals in Krasnoyarsk Krai and Nizhnii Novgorod represent the latest attempts to discredit the election process. According to the daily, the two races show that it is not important how people vote, but rather what kind of arguments one finds to persuade judges and election commission members. Articles in "Novye izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on the same day made similar arguments. According to the latter daily, "the latest events in Russian politics might logically be followed by the abolition of democratic ways of expressing the people's will." Also on 1 October, the general council of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party called for immediate changes to election legislation so that "a single criterion for conducting elections at all levels is established," Interfax reported. According to the party's council, elections for heads of cities and regions should require a minimum level of support of 50 percent of registered voters and, failing that, regional leaders should be appointed by the president. The party made similar suggestions in the form of a draft bill discussed earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 February 2002). JAC
MEDIA SPECULATE ABOUT KHLOPONIN'S BRIGHT FUTURE...
Moscow-based media have already been discussing whether Khloponin would run for president in 2008, regions.ru noted on 27 September. Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation, told "Vedomosti" the previous day that he considers Khloponin "strong and dynamic," but much of his political future will depend on his performance as governor. Valerii Fedorov, director of the Center for Political Situations, suggested that 2008 is too soon, but 2012 is a realistic possibility. However, he added, it would be essential that Khloponin not become "tied up in the problems of the krai." "Moskovskie novosti" on 24 September also raised the question of whether Khloponin would make a good presidential candidate in 2008. JAC
...AS OPPONENT SAYS HE WON'T RUN AGAIN.
At the same time, Khloponin's second-round opponent, Uss, told journalists on 30 September that he will not participate in new gubernatorial elections if they are held, NTV reported. "For me, the elections ended last Monday," Uss said. He added that he also does not intend to participate in any court cases stemming from the vote. "I have doubts that the elections were conducted honestly, but the election commission's decision was fairly unexpected for me," Uss said. He also called on the media not to overdramatize the situation and suggested that it might be better if regional executive-branch heads were appointed rather than elected. RC
PHOTO FINISH IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD...
The city election commission for Nizhnii Novgorod confirmed on 1 October that State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov (People's Deputy) won the 29 September mayoral elections by a narrow margin -- some 2,200 votes, Interfax reported. Bulavinov received 35.9 percent (138,647 votes) of the total vote, compared with 34.53 percent (136,412) for incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev. Almost 2,000 ballots were declared invalid, while 110,061 voters voted against all candidates. Bulavinov was widely considered to be supported by both oblast and federal authorities. According to RFE/RL's Nizhnii Novgorod correspondent, State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov won the most votes in three of the city's districts, while incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev also won in three districts, and the choice "against all candidates" won in two districts with 29.5 percent of the total vote. At one point, when Bulavinov and Lebedev each had about 35 percent, Bulavinov asked a local court to stop the count (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002), but he subsequently withdrew that appeal and the counting resumed. The first round was also quite close. According to the official results, current Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Yurii Lebedev received 31.47 percent (98,699 votes); Bulavinov polled 30.85 percent (96,747 votes); and 30.35 percent (95,168) voted "against all." JAC
...AS MAYORAL RACE CALLED PROTOTYPE...
In an article in "Vremya MN" on 26 September, analyst Dmitrii Furman wrote that the mayoral election cycle in Nizhnii Novgorod can be viewed as a template for processes occurring nationally. With the last-minute cancellation of former Mayor Andrei Klimentiev's registration as a candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002), the authorities once again showed they can decide that someone should not win and that to struggle against them is futile. Some polls showed Klimentiev leading in the race prior to his exclusion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2002). However, the Kremlin's victory in this case, according to Furman, will be "Pyrrhic." "In the eyes of Nizhnii Novgorod residents, whoever becomes the next mayor will be seen as illegitimate and cannot rule without the support of federal authorities," Furman concluded. JAC
...AND KREMLIN STRIVES FOR LESS SPONTANEITY IN PUBLIC REALM.
Furman also argues that the federal authorities are striving for more control and predictability in politics and in elections, but this attempt "to turn something living -- which is therefore unpredictable, irrational, and dangerous -- into something dead and safe" is not likely to succeed. "Society is alive just the same; it changes and develops," he writes. "Therefore, if from above the surface everything appears peaceful, then that means the real processes are taking place underneath the surface." JAC
ANOTHER ELECTION CANCELED DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST.
State Duma by-elections in a single-mandate district in Omsk Oblast failed on 29 September because of insufficient voter turnout, Interfax reported. Only 11.51 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast their votes, rendering the ballot invalid. The election was called after the previous deputy from that district, Aleksandr Vereteno, was killed in a boating accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2002). Vereteno's older brother, Vladimir Vereteno, had been one of the candidates for the mandate, as was Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) local branch head Nikolai Yefimkin, an unemployed worker, and a pensioner. JAC
FOREIGN MINISTRY DISCOUNTS TALK OF CHINESE EXPANSION...
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement to Interfax on 26 September criticizing domestic and foreign reports about the alleged "Chinese expansion" into Russia's Far East and the Baikal region. According to the ministry, the number of Chinese citizens in Russia does not exceed 150,000-200,000, compared with 6 million ethnic Chinese in the United States. The ministry said press reports claiming otherwise are based on incorrect statistics. Last June, "Versiya" reported that while the Interior Ministry estimates that there are 2 million Chinese in all of Russia, other unnamed sources believe that there are 5 million, compared with just 250,000 five years ago, according to Carnegie Moscow Center figures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2002). JAC
...AS ENVOY SAYS NOT ALL TIMBER TRADE WITH CHINA IS IN RUSSIA'S INTERESTS.
Meanwhile, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 September, presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii discussed Russian-Chinese economic relations. According to Drachevskii, the claim that much of China's economic growth over the past few years has come as a result of trade with Russia is "exaggerated." Trade between Russia and China amounts to about $10 billion annually -- of which one-fifth is with the Siberian Federal District. "Therefore it is natural that many Chinese firms work primarily in the Russian market," Drachevskii was quoted as saying. At the same time, he noted there are many instances of economic cooperation with China that are not in Russia's interests. For example, he said, west Siberian timber is sold to China at "extremely low prices." According to trade statistics, Russia sells timber to China at $52.70 per cubic meter compared with $80 per cubic meter to Eastern and Western Europe. In addition, he said, "It is no secret that a significant proportion of Chinese firms' goods reach Russian territory by illegal means." JAC
REFERENDUM EXPECTED NEXT YEAR ON MERGING OF TWO REGIONS...
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov told legislators in Irkutsk Oblast on 18 September that the upper legislative chamber will create a working group on the question of merging subjects of the federation, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. He also said that he believes that Irkutsk Oblast and the Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug have all the necessary preconditions to form a single administrative unit. On 17 September, Irkutsk Governor Boris Govorin and Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug Governor Valerii Maleev reportedly expressed their desire to move more decisively toward a union of the territories during a meeting with Leonid Drachevskii, presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District, the daily reported on 18 September. According to Interfax-Eurasia, Maleev told local legislators that if the two regions are merged, then the resulting new entity should have a new name and elect new leaders. He suggested that it might be called Pribaikalskii Krai. The chairman of the okrug legislature, Aleksei Khorinoev, said that he believes a referendum on the question will most likely be held next year. JAC
...AS RICHER REGION WORRIES THAT CENTER TRYING TO SHIFT BURDEN OF POORER REGIONS.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 24 September that federal officials participating in the recent Baikal Economic Forum in Khabarovsk were as interested in the question of reducing the number of federation subjects as they were in regional economic development. However, several participants in the forum thought a merger of Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug and Irkutsk Oblast would not be economically desirable for Irkutsk. According to the daily, these sources believe that residents of Ust-Orda live "tolerably" on federal subsidies, are actively engaged in construction projects, and do not experience problems paying the wages of state-sector workers. At the same time, Irkutsk Oblast does not receive federal transfers and is a donor region, and it is in no shape to act as a kind of "tugboat" for the poorer Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug. JAC
LOCAL COURT JOINS CAMPAIGN OF PRESSURE AGAINST POLITICAL OPPOSITION IN KALMYKIA.
Candidate registration for the 20 October presidential election in the Republic of Kalmykia has closed, and nine candidates have been registered, strana.ru reported on 23 September. Among them are current President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Natalya Manzhikova, the head of the local branch of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS). According to "Vremya MN" on 21 September, a municipal court in Elista, the republic's capital, has ordered the SPS branch to accept 150 new members. SPS has been resisting doing so because they believe that the sudden petition of 150 people to join the party is a ploy by local authorities to overwhelm the small organization with its own people and elect new leaders for the branch. Earlier, the party's press service reported that members of the local political elite had allegedly been pressuring local SPS members to accept alternative leadership with threats against their lives and livelihoods (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"31 July 2002). JAC
CENSUS TAKERS DISCOVER REMAINING MEMBERS OF LOW-PROFILE RELIGIOUS SECT.
Census takers working in the deep taiga of the northern Republic of Komi have discovered a village of members of a sect of Old Believers called "skritniki," who shun all contact with the outside world, polit.ru reported on 24 September. Three elderly women live in the village and do not accept pensions or any other kind of social subsidies from the state, so little is known about them. The windows of their homes are always shuttered, and they venture out only at night. Members of the sect, which was founded in the mid-19th century, believe that complete withdrawal from the world is the only path to salvation. Experts had believed the last members of the sect died some 20 years ago. JAC
FEDERAL PROSECUTOR TARGETS DEPUTY GOVERNOR IN KUBAN REGION.
The Prosecutor-General's Office has filed a request for the dismissal of Krasnodar Krai Deputy Governor Leonid Baklitskii, "Novaya gazeta," no. 71 reported. According to accounts in the central press, Baklitskii has violated a number of laws and presidential decrees and has actively lobbied the commercial interests of third parties. The Prosecutor-General's Office believes that Baklitskii might also be guilty of misappropriating state property and budgetary funds, according to the weekly. JAC
PROSECUTOR HANDS OVER INVESTIGATION OF MASS GRAVE TO MILITARY COLLEAGUE.
The Leningrad Oblast Prosecutor's Office will not investigate the possible mass grave of Stalin-era terror victims recently discovered near the oblast town of Toksovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2002), Interfax-Northwest reported on 30 September. According to Irina Flige, an official with the human rights group Memorial, the grave -- which might contain as many as 32,000 bodies -- was discovered in the jurisdiction of the department of the prosecutor for the Leningrad Military District. Flige told the agency that she does not rule out the possibility that the military prosecutor will also refuse to undertake an investigation. She recalled a similar case in July 2001 when Memorial found a mass grave in the Kovalevskii District and the prosecutor's office declined to investigate. The body of poet Nikolai Gumilev is thought to be buried at the Kovalevskii site, and that of philosopher Pavel Florenskii might be buried at Toksovo. JAC
VOLGA REGION APPEALS TO CENTER FOR DEBT RELIEF.
Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev has sent an appeal to President Putin asking him to postpone the oblast's payment of 670 million rubles ($21 million) to the federal Finance Ministry from the end of this year to next year, "Vedomosti" reported on 20 September. Khodyrev noted that the oblast needs the help this year because it must pay $50 million to external creditors. The region took out a Eurobond for $100 million in 1997. An unidentified source at the ministry told "Vedomosti" the Kremlin is unlikely to agree to Khodyrev's request because it has refused other regions in similar situations. JAC
LOCAL RESIDENTS DOGGED BY ADS.
In the city of Penza, a homeless dog bearing the logo of LUKoil painted on his fur can be seen running around the streets of one neighborhood, ntvru.com reported on 18 September, citing "Molodoi leninets." The dog was reportedly lured with pieces of sausage and then the company's name was painted on its fur. According to the website, dogs bearing the brand names Sony, Camel, and Dosya have also been seen on city streets. Specialists at the oblast veterinary laboratory said that the practice raises questions not only of ethics, but health. Chief veterinarian Ivan Samushkin said, "Smear yourself with oil paint, walk around for a week, and then let's see whether it affects your health or not." JAC
COURT THROWS COLD WATER ON ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR'S THIRD-TERM PROSPECTS.
A St. Petersburg court that decides matters relating to the City Charter ruled on 1 October that St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev is currently serving his second term of office and is therefore not eligible to run for another term, NTV and other Russian news agencies reported on 2 October. On 1 October, a group of "honored citizens" of St. Petersburg introduced a proposal to the city's Legislative Assembly asking it to amend the charter so as to allow Yakovlev to seek a third term. Yakovlev told NTV that he has "not made any official announcements" about whether he intends to seek a third term so it is "premature" for him to comment on the court's decision. Yakovlev told RosBalt on 2 October that he "does not intend to challenge the court." He added, however, that the voters are "a more powerful organ" than the courts and that "if they gather together and say, 'You have to run,' I will say 'yes' and run." RC
GOVERNOR OUTLINES OLIGARCH SYSTEM IN HIS REGION.
In an interview with "Novyi region" on 25 September, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said it is possible to resolve all the economic issues of the region by turning to the directors of the seven largest industrial holdings. According to Rossel, SUAL head Viktor Vekselberg "comes to me and we can sit down and discuss what is necessary to do." Rossel added that there are six other industrial magnates of this stature in the region, including United Machine-Building Plants President Kakha Bendukidze, Yevraz Kholding head Aleksandr Abramov, UGMK President Iskandr Makhmudov, and Trubnaya Metallurgiskaya Kompaniya head Dmitrii Pumpyanskii. Rossel also said he expects his oblast to lose 2 billion rubles ($64.5 million) under next year's federal budget, but he nevertheless expects the budget to be approved easily. "Even our own deputies vote against the interests of Sverdlovsk Oblast," he said. JAC
PROSECUTOR-GENERAL STILL DOESN'T LIKE TATARSTAN'S CONSTITUTION...
More than 50 points in the newest version of the constitution of Tatarstan have been deemed to contradict federal legislation, polit.ru and RIA-Novosti reported on 26 September. Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev has sent a complete list to the republic's Supreme Court. The news agency cited him as saying that the republican legislature refused to consider a similar list that he sent to that body earlier this month. Zvyagintsev added that although the new version of the constitution, which was adopted in March, has eliminated a number of articles pertaining to republican sovereignty, it still contains problematic articles regarding the separation of powers between republican bodies and the office of the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District. RC
...AS MUSLIM LEADER MAKES BID FOR GREATER TATAR UNITY.
Galimzyan Bikmullin, chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims in Tyumen Oblast, has called on local ethnic Tatars to identify themselves on the national census as simply Tatar rather than as Siberian Tatar, islam.ru reported on 25 September. However, at the same time, the representative of the Tatar national-cultural autonomy in the oblast, Faizulla Kamalov, has expressed the opposite opinion. Kamalov believes that Tatars in Siberia should identify themselves as Siberian Tatars so that they can receive the status of a "native people." The question of whether the Tatar ethnic group should be divided into many different categories on the census has been a controversial one, with a number of officials in Tatarstan arguing that federal authorities are trying to undermine the group's cohesiveness and status by introducing additional categories (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2001 and 15 and 20 March 2002). JAC
REGIONAL OFFICIAL REPORTS BRIBE ATTEMPT.
Ulyanovsk Oblast Deputy Governor Sergei Ilinskii on 23 September discovered 150,000 rubles ($4,800) in cash in a desk drawer in his office, regions.ru reported, citing the Privolzhe news agency. Ilinskii told reporters that the money might have been a bribe connected with an application to open a new municipal alcohol warehouse. He said that he had faced numerous bribery attempts in the past, and most of them were connected with the alcohol industry. Ilinskii also refused to dismiss the possibility that the money could have been an attempt to compromise him. He told journalists that he will ask the governor to install a video camera in his office and said that he intends to remove the door separating his office from his secretary's. RC
DUMA PASSES AMENDMENTS TO ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING LEGISLATION JUST IN TIME...
The State Duma passed the law on bankruptcy in its second reading on 27 September, Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 293 in favor to 104 against, with two abstentions, according to polit.ru. The law establishes a basis for declaring a debtor bankrupt. It had originally been approved by both the Duma and the Federation Council last summer, but was vetoed by President Putin on 25 July. Deputies also approved the same day amendments to the law on money laundering in its second and third readings, according to RosBalt. Deputies also approved in its second reading amendments to the Administrative Code, which set fines for violating money-laundering regulations. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 September, the international Financial Action Task Force will meet in Paris from 9-11 October to consider -- among other things -- removing Russia from the list of countries that do not take sufficient legal action to prevent money laundering. JAC
...AND TINKERS WITH ELECTRICITY RATES.
Also on 27 September, deputies approved changes to the law on state regulation of tariffs for electricity and central heating in its third reading, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was 368 in favor with none opposed and one abstention. Under the bill, electricity and heating rates for commercial organizations are set annually in the federal budget. According to "Izvestiya" on 1 October, the bill was sponsored by the Fatherland-All Russia faction. On 9 October, the Duma will take up of the issue of electricity reform more broadly. JAC
Name of law_______________Date approved_________________# of reading
On bankruptcy_______________27 September_________________2nd
On the prevention of__________27 September_________________3rd
legalizing revenues received by illegal means__________________
On state regulation of _________27 September__________________3rd
tariffs for electricity and heating
COMINGS & GOINGS
President Putin has signed an order naming the new composition of the rotating Presidium of the State Council, gazeta.ru reported on 26 September. According to the order, the presidium will comprise Chukotka Autonomous Oblast Governor Roman Abramovich, Vladimir Oblast Governor Nikolai Vinogradov, Vologda Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev, Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin, Novosibirsk Oblast Governor Viktor Tolokonskii, Chavash Republic President Nikolai Fedorov, and Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub.
The Federation Council confirmed Aleksandr Skorobogatko as a new member, representing Kaliningrad Oblast on 25 September. Skorobogatko, who will replace Valerii Ustyugov, has a law degree from the St. Petersburg Interior Ministry Academy. He previously represented Karachaevo-Cherkessia in the upper legislative chamber.
Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov has recalled his representative to the Federation Council, Yurii Volkov, Russian agencies reported on 1 October. The press service for the okrug's administration said that Volkov was being recalled for "being insufficiently active in defending the region's interests." Volkov is a former KGB administrator and former deputy presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District. He also previously represented the Komi Republic's president in the upper legislative chamber.
3 October: Court case against Colonel Yurii Budanov on charges of murdering a young Chechen woman will reopen in Rostov-na-Donu
3-4 October: Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen will visit Russia
4 October: President Putin will meet with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos
5 October: Criminal investigation by Prosecutor-General's Office of oligarch Boris Berezovskii to officially end
6-7 October: Russian President Putin will attend CIS meeting in Chisinau, Moldova
7 October: President Putin will celebrate his 50th birthday
8-10 October: Netherlands Foreign Minister Jaap G. de Hoop Sheffer will visit Moscow
9 October: State Duma to consider reform of electricity sector
9-16 October: National census will be taken
11 October: Sweden's Queen Silvia will visit St. Petersburg
11 October: State Duma will consider president-sponsored bill on holding elections in Chechnya
11-12 October: Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov will meet with the head of the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi
12-14 October: Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi will visit Russia
13 October: The 450th anniversary of the conquest of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible will be marked
15-19 October: Mozambiquean Foreign Minister Leonardos dos Santos Simao will visit Russia
18 October: State Duma will consider 2003 budget in its second reading
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
20 October: Presidential elections in Kalmykia
22-23 October: State Council will meet to discuss local self-government
23-26 October: Fourth World Congress of the Russian Presss will be held in Berlin
26-27 October: Putin to attend APEC summit in Los Cabos, Mexico
1 November: State Duma to consider law on elections to the Duma in its second reading
5 November: Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov to visit the U.S. to observe elections
6 November: Tenth anniversary of the adoption of Tatarstan's Constitution
14 November: Meeting of united political council of Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko is scheduled
15 November: Russian and French foreign and defense ministers to meet in Paris for the Russia-France Security Cooperation Council
1 December: Date by which Gennadii Seleznev's Russian Revival Party will be registered at the Justice Ministry, according to party spokesman Sergei Kostornoi on 30 September
8 December: Parliamentary elections in the city of St. Petersburg
1 January: Date by which Unified Energy System plans to redeem 80 percent of its debts to Russian coal companies, according to company statement on 29 August