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Russia Report: October 22, 2001

22 October 2001, Volume 1, Number 26
PUTIN CLEANS HOUSE ONE ROOM AT A TIME. Following months of speculation about an impending major government reorganization, Russian President Vladimir Putin, with a little help from Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, has tried to trim his cabinet of three members and one ministry (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 2 February and 1 May 2001). Anatolii Dondukov, minister of industry and science, and Aleksandr Blokhin, head of the now defunct Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationality, and Migration Policy were fired under a presidential decree of 17 October. Two days later, Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko was summoned to the Office of the Prosecutor-General where he was informed that criminal proceedings against him on suspicion of abuse of office have begun, NTV reported. Aksenenko has reportedly signed a document promising not to leave Moscow in order to avoid immediate arrest, but did not resign as earlier reported. But Aksenenko has decided not to go quietly, which puts Putin in a difficult position. If he had agreed to do so, Putin would have lost not only three non-St. Petersburg natives, but also rid himself of an affiliate of the so-called Family and of Boris Berezovskii, Aksenenko. All the same, because Aksenenko is facing criminal charges, Putin will not have the bother of having to find him another position, as he had to do with former Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, who is now secretary of the Security Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2001).

Perhaps because of the huge build-up, last week's changes inspired neither gasps of surprise or oohs of appreciation. "Vedomosti" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" both dismissed the departure of Dondukov and Blokhin as mostly cosmetic. First deputy head of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) faction Viktor Pokhmelkin commented that it is still necessary to raise "more seriously" the accountability of federal authorities, and that the most recent changes were of a "local character." According to many observers, giving Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov dual responsibility as a deputy and as minister for industry and science was seen as merely a codification of the status quo. Klebanov already oversaw the ministry's work under Dondukov, a reportedly low-key, low-energy minister.

Another possible source of criticism is that the changes seem to reflect more indecisiveness on Putin's part -- despite his recent more confident approach to foreign policy. Dondukov is being dismissed after less than 17 months in office, although it was Putin himself who elevated him to this position. Likewise, the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationality, and Migration Policy is being eliminated after Putin himself had ordered its expansion only a year ago when it absorbed the migration service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2000). Now, the migration service is being transferred to the Interior Ministry. For some employees, this will be their third home in less than 18 months.

The firing of Aksenenko would have been the boldest move, but that is being handled indirectly through the Prosecutor-General's Office, which has been the locus of the moves against the Kremlin's list of "bad" oligarchs Vladimir Gusinskii and Boris Berezovskii. During the last cabinet reshuffle, another minister suspected of corruption, Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgenii Adamov, was simply dismissed rather than prosecuted (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 12 March 2001), but he was never, at least according to media reports, suspected of misdeeds on the same scale as Aksenenko.

Over the long term, however, the move of greatest significance may be Putin's elimination of the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationality, and Migration Policy. "Vremya MN" on 18 October placed the ministry's disappearance in the context of other changes initiated by Putin in regional policy, and suggested that the Kremlin is further concentrating its control over regional policy. According to the daily, "The liquidation of the ministry is explained by the fact that with the appearance of the institute of the [presidential envoys to the federal districts] and the beginning of the verticalization of federal power, all problems of federal construction fall in the sphere of competence of the presidential administration." According to "Vremya novostei" and ITAR-TASS, the defunct ministry's functions will be split three ways with the issues of "regional relations, municipal formations, and local self-rule" going to the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, migration policy going to the Interior Ministry, and the handling of matters relating to Russian compatriots abroad going to the Foreign Ministry.

A separate presidential decree called for the appointment of a minister without portfolio to coordinate the "implementation of nationalities policies," according to Interfax. "Vremya novostei" reported on 18 October said that the right person for the job has simply not been found yet, and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" provided some insight into why the search for a suitable candidate has been so tough. It noted that that new appointee will have "to harness [in one team] Foreign Minister [Igor Ivanov], Economic Development and Trade Minister [German Gref], and Interior Minister [Boris Gryzlov] as well as Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko who also oversees federal relations." Commenting on the difficulty of filling that position, Georgii Satarov of the Indem Foundation told Ekho Moskvy on 17 October that he does not imagine anyone could coordinate the activities of such diverse ministries. "In the best-case scenario, a person taking this post will bargain for the title of deputy prime minister. However, ethnic policy will not materialize just because of this."

But, if Sergei Markov, writing on the pro-Kremlin website,, is correct, then Moscow having no ethnic policy will not be a problem, since ethnic separatist tensions have faded away. According to Markov, Russia "is now living in a new situation in which there is no longer a threat that Russia could disintegrate.... And that is the reason why the Ministry for Federation Affairs -- as a separate agency for averting the disintegration of Russia -- is being eliminated." (Julie A. Corwin)


1991-2: The State Committee for Nationality Affairs was created.

February 1992: Valerii Tishkov, director of the Institute for Ethnology, is named the committee's director.

December 1992: Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai is named chairman of the committee.

1994: The state committee is transformed into the Ministry for Nationality and Regional Policies.

16 May 1994: Former Krasnodar Krai Governor Nikolai Yegorov is named to head the ministry.

July 1995: Vyacheslav Mikhailov is named to head the ministry.

1996: The ministry is renamed the Ministry for Nationality Affairs and Federal Relations.

11 May 1998: Former speaker of Perm Oblast's legislature Yevgenii Sapiro is named to head the ministry.

25 September 1998: The ministry is divided into two parts, the Ministry for Nationality Policy and the Ministry for Regional Policy. Ramazan Abdulatipov is named to run the former, and former President of the Union of Russian Cities Valerii Kirpichnikov, the latter.

25 May 1999: The ministry is again reunited and renamed the Ministry for Regional and Nationality Policy. Vyacheslav Mikhailov, former head of the united ministry, is named to head it.

7 January 2000: Aleksandr Blokhin, former Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan, is named to head the ministry.

July 2000: The Federal Migration Service is dissolved as a separate entity and its functions transferred to the newly renamed Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationality, and Migration Policy

17 October 2001: President Putin abolishes the ministry with one decree and in another calls for the appointment of an unnamed minister to coordinate the implementation of nationalities policies by federal agencies

Sources: "Vremya novostei," Interfax, "RFE/RL Newsline,"

THE MUSLIM FACTOR. The dissolution of the ministry devoted to federation affairs at this particular time -- when President Putin is forming Russian foreign policy vis-a-vis U.S.-British air strikes against an Islamic country, Afghanistan -- may strike some observers as a little odd. After all, President Putin, unlike some other world leaders, has to take into account the likely reaction to his initiatives among Russia's sizeable Muslim population -- about 10 million officially. Already, NTV has carried two reports of Tatars in Tatarstan volunteering to help their Taliban co-religionists (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 October 2001).

But Putin was not even a glimmer in Boris Yeltsin's eye the last time that Russian foreign policy ran afoul of sentiments among its ethnic population that is traditionally Muslim. During NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999, a number of regional leaders, including Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, raised objections to various aspects of Moscow's policy (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Policy, 21 April 1999). Shaimiev, for example, raised objections to the recruitment of volunteers in his republic to fight on the side of Kosovar Albanians.

This time round there is little talk of sending Russian -- that is non-Muslim -- volunteers to Afghanistan. But there is a new problem, arising from the fact that during the last decade many of Russia's young Muslims underwent religious training in Arab countries -- because of the lack of opportunities to do so in their own country, according to "EWI's Russian Regional Report" on 17 October. In an interview with Interfax, Ravil Gainutdin declared that there is a real threat of extremism among Russia's Muslim population, because young people after returning from training in Arab countries "seek the same conditions for our Muslims that exist in Muslim countries." Gainutdin called for setting aside state money to aid Russia's Muslims, warning that "if the situation does not change, in several years we will face radical and extremist groups of people." Meanwhile, in a recent survey of the state of Islam in Russia on 17 October, "Izvestiya" concluded that "the Islam which traditionally existed in Russia undoubtedly is under threat" from both "the processes of the post-Soviet rebirth" of that religion and the negative impact of foreign "well-wishers." (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2001) (Julie A. Corwin)

Ethnic Groups in Russia That Are Traditionally Islamic

Name of Peoples___________________No. of persons, in thousands

Peoples of Dagestan*____________________1,749,000
Crimean Tatars_____________________________21,000

Source: 1989 Soviet census as reported by "Izvestiya" on 17 October

*This includes the Avars, Dargins, Kumyks, Lezgins, Laz, Tabasaran, Nogai, Rutuls, Aguls, Tsakhurs

NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET EASILY CLEARS ANOTHER HURDLE... The 2002 draft budget passed in its second reading on 19 October without strong opposition. The vote was 297 in favor with 126 against and one abstention, according to ITAR-TASS. Opposing the budget were only the Communist and Agro-Industrial groups. Members of the pro-Kremlin bloc -- Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, People's Deputy, Russian Regions, and the Liberal-Democratic Party groups -- all voted solidly in favor the bill, while the majority of the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko were also supportive. State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev was one of only four Communist deputies who voted in favor of the budget. During the second reading, expenditures were increased by 75.5 billion rubles ($2.5 billion) -- of this amount 23.7 billion rubles were earmarked for social programs and pensions. For national defense and law-enforcement activities, almost 10 billion rubles were added. Despite the budget's quick progress through the lower house, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that the third reading is likely to be "difficult and tense." JAC

...AS PUTIN'S FOREIGN POLICY GET ANOTHER NOD... Deputies also approved on 17 October a second declaration, expressing their support for President Putin's antiterrorism policies (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 1 October 2001). The vote for the declaration, "In connection with the military operations against international terrorism on the territory of Afghanistan," was 268 in favor with 101 against and two abstentions. The Communist faction opposed the measure, in part because not one of their proposed amendments to it was included. Communist deputy and former Politburo member Yegor Ligachev told his fellow deputies that "in essence the most powerful country in the world is leading a war against the weakest, in which bin Laden will be left alive, while the remaining people will be killed." Ligachev said this faction will suggest holding a joint session with the Federation Council at which President Putin will be invited to speak about the issue. JAC

...THE ISSUE OF IMPORTED NUCLEAR WASTE IS REVISITED... On 17 October, deputies also approved in its first reading a bill that allows working pensioners to receive the full amount of their pensions. The vote was 320 in favor, 74 against with no abstentions. According to, the Pension Fund is strongly opposed to the bill, which it considers an expensive, populist gesture. On the same day, deputies approved a bill in the first reading amending articles 188 and 189 of the Criminal Code. Some 297 deputies voted in favor of the bill, according to Interfax. The basic aim of the changes would be to widen and define more precisely the number of objects which can be illegally transferred abroad, such as materials or equipment that could be used to create weapons of mass destruction. Also approved was a bill sponsored by Yabloko deputies Sergei Mitrokhin and Oleg Shein, which its sponsors described as an attempt to make the Duma reconsider its previous decision allowing imports of foreign spent nuclear fuel. Greenpeace, which supports the bill, is trying to educate deputies through the distribution of a brochure entitled, "They will turn Russia into international nuclear waste dump," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 October. Deputies also approved the second part of the Tax Code, which keeps a 5 percent sales tax in effect until 1 January 2004, according to "Vremya MN" on 18 October. JAC

...CITIZENSHIP RULES ARE TIGHTENED... On 18 October, deputies approved in its first reading a president-sponsored bill "about citizenship," which tightens the rules for becoming a citizen of the Russian Federation. The bill was passed with 273 votes in favor, 117 against, according to RIA-Novosti. An alternative version of the bill drafted by Communist deputy Anatolii Chekoev failed to win the support of the pro-Kremlin factions, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 October. Under the law, would-be citizens are required to live in Russia for five years as opposed to three years under the old law. A simplified procedure will be put in place in a different bill for former citizens of the Soviet Union now living in CIS countries, according to "Vremya novostei" on 19 October. JAC

... AND ADVERTISING LIMITS LIGHTENED. A bill amending the law on advertising passed in its second reading. The vote was 331 in favor. The bill provoked heavy criticism when deputies first considered it, because of what was seen as excessively strict limitations on advertising during children's programs and movies. Those restrictions have been modified and now advertisers are allowed to interrupt films and radio programs but no more than every 15 minutes, TV-Tsentr reported. The bill still prohibits ads from being broadcast at a louder level than the original program, and there will be no breaks during education, religious, and children's' programs. Deputies also passed a bill providing for more transparency in production-sharing agreements by requiring that they be published. One of the authors of the bill, Yabloko deputy Aleksei Melnikov, told "Kommersant" that "any contract will contain information which could be considered a commercial secret, but there is the issue of state control, including by the parliament," according to JAC


Name of Law__________Date Approved______# of reading

Budget 2002______________19 October___________2nd

On advertising_____________18 October___________2nd

On citizenship_____________18 October____________1st

On production-sharing_______18 October____________1st

Criminal Code____________17 October_____________1st
(articles 188 and 189)

On state pensions_________17 October_____________1st

Tax Code, 2nd part_________17 October_____________2nd
(article 20)

About the preservation of____17 October_____________1st
our environment____________18 October_____________2nd

COMINGS & GOINGS OUT: According to a presidential decree reorganizing the Russian government (see item above) issued on 17 October, Minister for Science and Industry and Technologies Alekandr Dondukov has been transferred to an as-yet-unnamed new post. Kasyanov suggested that Dondukov would like to return to the "aircraft-building industry where he had achieved remarkable success." Aleksandr Blokhin, minister for federation affairs, nationalities, and migration policy, has been dismissed following the elimination of his ministry. The decree also noted that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is to retain five deputy prime ministers, but only addresses three of these, Deputy Prime Ministers Klebanov, Aleksei Gordeev, and Kudrin, according to, However, sources in the government told Interfax on 17 October that Deputy Prime Ministers Valentina Matvienko and Khristenko are likely to keep their posts.

RESHUFFLED: Following on the heels of a cabinet reorganization, various positions in the Foreign Ministry have also been shifted, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 October. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will now have 15 deputy ministers as opposed to 13. Aleksandr Saltanov has been named as a new deputy foreign minister to oversee relations with Middle East countries and Africa. He had previously been head of the Middle East and North Africa department. Valerii Loshchinin has been named to the post of state secretary of the Foreign Ministry, replacing Vasilii Sredin, who has been transferred to an as-yet-unnamed post. Loshchinin most recently had been overseeing CIS relations as a deputy foreign minister.

OUT: State Duma deputy Viktor Petrukhin has been expelled from the Unity faction in the Duma, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 13 October. Petrukhin was reportedly kicked out for having written a letter to President Putin opposing plans to merge the Unity party with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland. Petrukhin had been a member of the political council of the Moscow branch of Unity.

IN: Aleksandr Vinidiktov was elected to the State Duma from the single mandate district in Amur Oblast on 7 October.

MERGER: Former President Boris Yeltsin's youngest daughter, Tatyana, has married former presidential administration head Valentin Yumashev, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 19 October. According to the daily, news reports last June that Tatyana had divorced her husband and Yumashev, his wife, have apparently been proven true.

POLITICAL CALENDAR 21-22 October: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to visit Moscow

22-23 October: French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to attend meeting of Russian-French cooperation commission in Moscow

22-23 October: OSCE Chairman-in-office and Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana will visit Moscow

25-29 October: Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio will visit Russia

25 October: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to visit Moscow

26 October: Officials from five littoral states bordering Caspian Sea tentatively scheduled to discuss oil and gas reserves in Ashgabat

27 October: Unity and Fatherland party to hold joint congress in Moscow

28 October: Gubernatorial elections in Orel Oblast

29 October: Espionage trial of political scientist Igor Sutyagin to resume in Kaluga Oblast

30 October: Presidium of State Council together with the Security Council will hold a joint session on development of the military-industrial complex, Interfax reported on 9 October

31 October-2 November: Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will visit Russia

End of October: French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to visit Moscow

Early November: The Russian-U.S. Group on Afghanistan led by First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to meet in Moscow

November: Russian-EU working group for the creation of a single European space to meet, according to Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko on 3 October

14 November: Nationwide act of protest to be organized by independent Russian trade unions, according to "Vremya novostei" on 27 September

16-17 November: Civic Forum, a gathering of more than 250 NGOs, to be held in Moscow

21 November: Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov to address Duma on efforts to combat corruption within government ministries

21 November: Justice Minister Yurii Chaika to address Duma on the prison system

28 November: Federation of Independent Trade Unions to hold congress in Moscow

30 November: CIS summit to be held in Moscow

30 November: Duma will consider 2002 budget in its third reading

End of November: Fatherland to hold an all-Russian congress of agrarians, according to TV-Tsentr on 3 August

December: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to visit Brazil

Early December: President Putin to visit Greece, according to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov

1-3 December: Constituent congress of the united party of Unity, Fatherland, and All-Russia

1-12 December: International chess championship to be held in Moscow, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 August

16 December: Presidential elections in Altai, Chavash, and Komi republics

20-21 December: An international conference on the topic of "Islam against Terrorism" will be held in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 October

23 December: Presidential elections in Sakha Republic

28 December: Duma's fall session will come to a close, according to ITAR-TASS on 13 July

January: Presidential elections in North Ossetia

13 January: Presidential elections in Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygeya

16-17 January: President Putin to visit Poland

9-16 October 2002: All-Russian census will be held.