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Russia Report: December 18, 2001

18 December 2001, Volume 1, Number 32

"RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" will take a break for the holidays and reappear 31 December 2001.
SERGEI MIKHAILOVICH MIRONOV: A FRIEND IN DEED Russian President Vladimir Putin has not publicly expressed support for proposals to move Russia's capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg, but a transfer of some sorts already appears to be occurring. Rather than picking up and moving all of Moscow's bureaucrats up north, Putin has instead decided to transfer St. Petersburg's cadre to Moscow -- one official at a time.

The most recent transplant is Sergei Mironov, former deputy speaker and former acting speaker of St. Petersburg legislative assembly, who was elected on 6 December as chairman of the Federation Council. Mironov had already been serving in the Federation Council since June as deputy chair of the constitutional legislation committee. He represents the St. Petersburg legislature.

If Mironov's first weeks in office are any indicator of his future performance, he should prove a most loyal ally for the presidential administration. Just two days after he was appointed, Mironov suggested that the presidential term should be lengthened, because the four-year term already provided for under the Russian Constitution was simply too short for the leader of a country in transition. NTV noted on 10 December that Putin had many meetings during that day with journalists, but he did not use those opportunities to dismiss Mironov's suggestion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2001). On 12 December, President Putin declared that revising the constitution was off the table, but during that interim period between Mironov's suggestion and Putin's dismissal of it, the presidential administration got the opportunity to watch its trial balloon float through Moscow.

Mironov's call for a longer presidential term is only the most recent example of a service that he provided either for Putin personally or for a cause Putin favors. In 1996, Mironov's help proved essential on the floor of the St. Petersburg legislature in moving up the date of the mayoral election, an effort that the supporters of then incumbent Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, including then-Deputy Mayor Putin, believed would help Sobchak get re-elected. That year, Mironov also headed the Revival of St. Petersburg construction corporation, which according to "Vremya novostei" on 29 November 2001 co-sponsored Sobchak's mayoral campaign. From 1997-98, Mironov "openly" supported Putin when the latter's "influence in the city on the Neva was at its minimum," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted on 14 December 2001. In 2000, Mironov again lent Putin his help, organizing the political movement the Will of Petersburg (VP), whose acronym some locals quipped really meant the Will of Putin. It was in this organization that Mironov reportedly led the initial efforts to launch the local election campaign effort for then-acting President Putin. Mironov later served as deputy head of Putin's presidential campaign headquarters, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta."

In addition to fighting on the same side of several political battles, Putin and Mironov have a number of other things in common. The two men are of the same generation, the same hometown, and the same law school. Mironov, 48, was born in the city of Pushkino in Leningrad Oblast just four months after Putin, who was born in the larger neighboring city of what was then called Leningrad. They both attended law school at Leningrad State University. However, Mironov graduated in 1998 -- some 23 years after Putin and 13 years after deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak. (Mironov trained first as geophysicist at the Leningrad Mining Institute, where presidential office head Igor Sechin later studied.)

Putin and Mironov also share a similar temperament. Mironov, like Putin, is a phlegmatic individual, not given to emotional outbursts or passionate speeches. "Novaya gazeta" noted on 3 December that Mironov never raises his voice, and his political views may be best characterized by the word "moderate." Grigorii Tomchin, a Union of Rightist Forces deputy in St. Petersburg legislature, told that Mironov has "liberal" views in the economic sphere, but in the political sphere, his positions line up more with those of other "center-right" colleagues from Unity, such as Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and Unity faction leader Vladimir Pekhtin. And also like Putin, Mironov is not considered a charismatic politician.

In yet another similarity with Putin, Mironov also came to a career in politics later in life. Like many other Russians from his generation, Mironov reinvented himself in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and became a private businessman. From 1991-93, he was executive director of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and from 1993-94, he was executive director of the Revival of St. Petersburg construction company. In 1994, he made yet another transition, and won election to St. Petersburg's legislative assembly, where he eventually rose to become first deputy speaker and acting speaker.

When Putin was elected president, Mironov's possible transfer to Moscow and the realm of "national politics" was reportedly spoken of in the halls of the St. Petersburg Duma as a "done deal." And although it took more than a year for Mironov to be offered his "transfer," the call finally came. And Mironov won not just a job in Moscow but a particularly prominent one, as head of the country's upper legislative house -- a national forum from which Mironov could potentially launch an independent national political career. (Julie A. Corwin)

LEGAL REFORMS TAKE GIANT LEAP FORWARD. Next month, Union of Rightist Forces deputies are expected to introduce the next package of bills reforming Russia's legal system. The most controversial element of this legislation would impose a ban on the death penalty. Russia has been observing a moratorium on the death penalty since 1996 in compliance with an agreement with the Council of Europe. This fall, both chambers passed key elements of the legal and judicial reform that provoked some opposition from prosecutors and judges across the country (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 19 March and 1 May 2001). And on 17 December, President Putin signed the bills into law.

Last week, "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" spoke with Peter Maggs, Peer & Sarah Pedersen Professor of Law at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (, to get his views on legal reforms pursued by the Russian presidential administration so far. (Julie A. Corwin)

RFE/RL: There were three bills that recently passed the State Duma and the Federation Council, one on the Constitutional Court, the judicial system, and the status of judges. In addition, the new Criminal Procedure Code was also approved. How would you sum up these efforts? Is this the beginning of judicial reform for Russia? Or is Russia perhaps already halfway there with the passage of these bills?

MAGGS: As far as the Criminal Procedure Code is concerned, they are essentially all the way there. Although there are some problems. In terms of the judicial reform, the big problem is that you cannot transform overnight a low-quality, undereducated, underpaid judiciary into a high-quality, well-educated, high-prestige, well-paid judiciary. That takes a very long tradition such as we have in the United States, where top lawyers fight to become judges and where they are paid enough to live on. After 80 years of making the judiciary an unattractive career -- and 70 years of the profession being not only unattractive because of the bad pay but also because judges were not independent under communism -- it cannot suddenly become a high-prestige attractive career. You can't do that just by passing a law.

A second challenge is, suppose we now make being a judge a high-paying career, you still have all of your old judges there. The new legislation has tried to force some turnover by its retirement age provisions.

A third problem is that a number of these laws take a good deal of money to make them work, and the money has to come from somewhere. If oil prices stay up, then there will be at least some money in the short run. The introduction of jury trials for crimes punishable by more than 10 years in a labor camp will be costly. Jury trials are very, very expensive.

RFE/RL: Why? Because the jurors have to be paid?

MAGGS: You've got to pay them something more or less decent while they are on jury duty, but it is also an expensive management problem for the courts. One of the advantages of a jury system is that the prosecution has to do a much better job than it did in the old Soviet days. And, doing a better job means putting on a better show at trial. So it's show business, and in show business it's expensive to put on a good show. It takes a lot of preparation and things like that. In the old days it took relatively little to convict someone. Now the prosecutors actually have to do their job.

Likewise, the requirement of judicial approval before search and wiretaps means the retraining of judges. And a certain percentage of judges are going to spend a lot of time considering those requests. That is the reason they postponed some of these things in the law -- many things go into affect at various dates in the future. The reason is that organizationally and financially, you can't suddenly have juries. You have to call them in. You need to create a bureaucracy from scratch. They are going to try to save some money at the bottom end of the system with things like justice of the peace courts and by moving a little more towards a plea-bargaining system. If we didn't have a plea-bargaining system in the U.S., then we couldn't have jury trials for everybody accused of a felony. It would be too much of a burden.

RFE/RL: How are they moving towards plea bargaining?

MAGGS: Many countries do not have plea bargaining. Most of them say that we will give some recognition if you acknowledge your guilt, but they don't have plea bargaining in the sense that you do in the U.S. where it's an actual contract, like a contract to buy a house, where you can go to court and force the prosecution to live up to its side of the bargain. That is rather distasteful not only to the Russian tradition but to the European tradition. The Russians are looking for a middle ground. One example of this is in the new Criminal Procedure Code. The first question that they ask you in the investigation is, "Do you admit that you are guilty as charged?" And if you say yes, then consideration of your case will be put on a fast track. And one of your advantages is that you get out of the horrible holding jails which are usually worse than labor camps, where you have a good chance of being killed by your fellow inmates or getting a strain of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis. That is an incentive to try to cut short the investigative stage. You start your sentence earlier in a less horrible place. And you'll also get credit for your admission of guilt when sentencing. But they don't have plea bargaining with written agreements.

RFE/RL: Do any of these laws do anything to address one of the main problems in the regions, which is the lack of independence of the judiciary?

MAGGS: One of the reforms that they did not do -- and this one is thing they were criticized for -- is that they are still going to allow local governments to provide apartments to judges. Real reformers have said judges should get a high salary, and it should be illegal for any person or organization to give them another kopek besides their high salary, which makes sense. The existing practice naturally reduces the independence of judges if they are dependent for their apartment or dependent on moving out of a bad apartment into a good one on local authorities.

RFE/RL: We've talked a lot about how these laws will reform the judiciary, but what about the prosecutors?

MAGGS: The Criminal Procedure Code substantially reduces the powers of the prosecutors. Once it is phased in --in a couple of years -- they can't authorize search, seizure, wire taps, etc. They have to go to court. Secondly, the procedural advantages that the prosecutors used to have in court trials are gone. It will be more like a civil trial, where the plaintiff and defendant are treated with equal rights. The attorneys will now have many more things that they can do. So the prosecutors' rights have been reduced and the defense attorneys' rights increased.

But what is really scary for the prosecutor is the prospect of jury trials, because they will actually have to prove their case. That's a very frightening thing, because a prosecutor's reputation rests upon getting a very low percentage of acquittals. And with a jury you don't have any control over that. As you know in the late Soviet period, acquittals sort of disappeared and cases bounced around, and no one ever quite got acquitted except in rare cases. Not only will a jury produce acquittals, it will also produce an atmosphere in which acquittals are seen as something that happens. And all that will be tough on prosecutors.

RFE/RL: So the espionage case against [former military journalist Grigorii] Pasko is reminiscent of the good old days?

MAGGS: That case has kept bouncing around with no final conclusion as in the old system. But if he had a right to a jury trial then it might have been a different story.

RFE/RL: I understand how these laws will diminish the power of prosecutors, but it seems that a big problem with prosecutors in Russia is that they are beholden to political powers. In other words, they pursue cases because they're ordered to? For example, some people charge that Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov pursued the case against Media-MOST more aggressively than he might have....

MAGGS: The Prosecutor-General isn't called a "general" for nothing. It's a service organized with a military hierarchy and uniforms and so forth. Neither an Attorney General nor a Prosecutor-General is going to be completely independent. Policy is set from above.

RFE/RL: So you just have to expect that?

MAGGS: Yes, to some extent. Essentially the Prosecutor-General's Office is more a part of the executive branch, while the judiciary is separate. The new Criminal Code recognizes this by removing the special privileges that were based on the theoretical independence of the prosecutor.

RFE/RL: So is there any way to address the general problem of laws being selectively enforced against certain people's political enemies? Can that problem ever be addressed?

MAGGS: Well, if these people are truly innocent and they are accused of a crime serious enough to warrant a jury trial, then they could get acquitted. That's the great advantage of the jury system -- it's a kind of structural reform that brings a lot of pressure to bear. But since a jury trial is only for crimes that would bring 10 years or more, prosecutors could still cause somebody a lot of trouble with a five-year crime. Prosecutors can also always bring up a lot of lesser charges.

Generally, they don't put people away for that long if they ever do put people away. They just give them trouble for years. So I'm not sure the jury trial will work on that, but what it will do is put a stop to incompetence by the prosecutor. They'll have to be more competent and have to have some real proof.

ON THE WEB According to Professor Maggs, the following websites are a good resource for readers interested in following Russian law. -- This site follow bills through the State Duma, Federation Council, and their signature into law by President Putin. -- This site offers full texts of Russian law online. Free access is provided for users during evenings and weekends, Moscow time. -- This site also offer full texts of Russian laws for a fee. -- This is another site providing full texts of Russian laws for a fee. -- This is the official website of the Constitutional Court. -- This is the official website of the Supreme Court. -- This is the official website of the High Arbitrazh (Commercial) Court.

DEPUTIES GIVE NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET THEIR FINAL APPROVAL... Last week, State Duma deputies approved the 2002 budget in its fourth and final reading on 14 December. The vote was 280 in favor in favor with 106 against and three abstentions, according to RIA-Novosti. Only the Communist faction and Agro-Industrial group voted against the bill. The draft budget sets spending at 1.947 trillion rubles ($65.5 billion) and revenues at 2.125 trillion rubles. GDP is forecast at 10.95 trillion rubles. Average inflation is predicted to be 12 percent, and the ruble/dollar exchange rate is set at 31 rubles and 50 kopeks per dollar. The largest expenditures are for social policy (430.3 billion rubles), debt servicing (285 billion rubles), national defense (284.1 billion rubles), financial aid to budget at all levels (265.4 billion rubles), and law endorsement and state security (173.8 billion rubles). Following the budget's acceptance, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin expressed his certainty that the Federation Council will approve the bill when it considers it on 26 December. JAC

...GIVE TERRORISM BILL AN INITIAL NOD... Last week, deputies passed on 14 December in its first reading a bill on terrorism, which amends both the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. The legislation toughens sentences for groups found guilty of engaging in terrorism, according to Interfax. The bill was passed with 367 votes in favor, zero against, and one abstention, according to ITAR-TASS. The bill was supported by the Kremlin, but the Supreme Court objected to it, noting that the corresponding legal base for the struggle with terrorism does not yet exist. A proposal by Yabloko to send a letter to the U.S. condemning its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty fell short of passage by 44 votes, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

...INCREASE PROSECUTORIAL INDEPENDENCE AND APPROVE ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES... Deputies also approved on 14 December legislation in the third and final reading amending the law on prosecutors so that the extra-budgetary fund for the development of prosecutors is liquidated, according to Interfax. The vote was 389 in favor. According to the agency, the majority of the deputies felt that the fund, which had been created in 1998, had led to a kind of "commercialization of the law enforcement organs." The previous day, deputies adopted on final reading the bill legalizing the use of electronic digital signatures. Under the bill, documents with electronic signatures are recognized as having the same legal basis as paper documents, according to RIA-Novosti. JAC

...AND CHANGE THEIR SCHEDULE FOR NEXT YEAR. State Duma deputies approved on 13 December on first reading a constitutional law allowing regional parliaments and local governments to display the Russian state flag on their buildings on a constant basis, reported. Some 302 deputies voted in favor of the bill. Previously, the flag was only allowed to be displayed on state holidays. Deputies also approved amendments to the regulations governing the Duma's work. Beginning next year, the lower legislative chamber will hold plenary sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays, reported. This year, the chamber met on Wednesdays and Thursdays. JAC


Name of law_____________Date approved_________# of reading

2002 Budget______________14 December__________4th

On prosecutors (art. 52)______14 December__________3rd

On changes and amendments__14 December___________1st
to legislative acts of the
Russian Federation (terrorism)

On electronic signatures______13 December___________3rd

On the Russian flag__________13 December___________1st

COMINGS & GOINGS IN: Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov was elected head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 14 December. The organization represents more than 20,000 enterprises and organizations in Russia, according to

IN: President Putin signed a decree on 14 December adding seven new members to the presidential commission on power-sharing agreements headed by Dmitrii Kozak. The new members are the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts, according to Interfax.

POLITICAL CALENDAR 19 December: State Duma will consider four bills on intellectual property and the draft Labor Code in its second reading

19 December: Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov will address the State Duma on measures that have been taken to increase security on Russia's passenger airlines

19 December: State Council will hold its next meeting and will discuss the problems of small and medium-sized businesses, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 23 November

19-20 December: Russia and the U.S. to hold consultations on Iraq

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

20 December: Duma to consider a draft law establishing a five-year ban on cloning human embryos

21-22 December: President Putin to visit Great Britain

21 December: A court in Ulan-Ude, Buryatia, will hear the complaint of former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov regarding the cancellation of his appointment to the Federation Council

20-22 December: Second presidential judo tournament will be held in Novokuznetsk, Kemerovo Oblast

22 December: Liberal Russia movement will hold a congress in Moscow at which it will be transformed into a party, Interfax reported

22-23 December: Yabloko will hold a congress in Moscow

23 December: Presidential elections in Sakha Republic

24-25 December: Qatar leader Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani will visit Russia, according to ITAR-TASS

25 December: Council of Ministers of the Russia-Belarus Union will meet in Moscow

26 December: Supreme State Council of the Russia-Belarus Union will meet in Moscow

26 December: Federation Council will consider the 2002 budget

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

January: State Duma deputies from the Union of Rightist Forces are expected to submit legislation amending the Criminal Code so that capital punishment is banned

11-15 January: Three auctions for the rights to acquire marine bioresources will be held in Moscow

13 January: Presidential elections in Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygeya

14 January: Extraordinary shareholders meeting for the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation, the proprietor of TV-6

16-17 January: President Putin to visit Poland

Second half of January: Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to visit Japan, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 November

Second half of January: Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev will visit Moscow

19 January: Communist Party extraordinary congress to take place in Moscow, according to TV-6 on 1 December

25 January: Unified Energy Systems board of directors to meet and discuss the restructuring of the company

27 January: Presidential elections in North Ossetia

February: Newly established committee for financial monitoring will begin working, according to Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 1 November

February: Spain's Crown Prince Felipe will visit Moscow

23 February: Proposed new state holiday honoring "Defenders of the Fatherland," according to ITAR-TASS on 3 December

3 March: By-elections for Primorskii Krai's legislature to be held

March: Presidential elections in Ingushetia

March-April: Russia will issue up to $2 billion in Eurobonds, according to Vneshekonombank head Andrei Kostin on 15 November

end of March: CIS Interparliamentary Assembly will hold its 19th plenary session

April: Unified party of Unity and Fatherland to officially register as a political party

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

April: Gubernatorial elections in Penza Oblast

May: Russia-EU summit to be held 30 May: CIS summit will be held in Chisinau, Moldova

June: Government will have drafted a federal program for putting Russia's armed forces on a professional basis, according to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 7 December

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