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Russia Report: January 9, 2002

9 January 2002, Volume 4, Number 1
At a meeting with his presidential envoys from the seven federal districts on 28 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the envoys' main task in 2002 would be to focus on the distribution of power between the various levels of government. In particular, between governors and mayors, "Izvestiya" reported the next day. According to the daily, the president will hold at least two meetings with Russian mayors. At one, the envoys will gather mayors from their federal districts for a meeting to be attended by Putin. And in the second, Putin will meet personally with mayors of cities whose populations are over 1 million people. Russia has 13 cities in this category, the daily reported. These include Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Samara, Perm, Kazan, Ufa, Volgograd, and Saratov. The envoys' previous task of harmonizing local and federal laws is considered finished and has entered the stage of being "permanently controlled." However, the independent newspaper "Otechestvo," based in Ufa, Bashkortostan reported on 26 December that some 72 percent of that republic's legislation, including 184 laws and 179 decrees issued by the Cabinet of Ministers, violates federal law, according to RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent. JAC

A number of regions have selected representatives from St. Petersburg as their last-minute choices for the Federation Council. For example, the Tuva Republic selected Mezhprombank head Sergei Pugachev as its representative to the Federation Council, Russian agencies reported on 25 December. Pugachev, who hails from St. Petersburg, has been touted by many sources as one of a new wave of oligarchs who are close to the presidential administration (see also item below). Around the same time, Tula Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev selected as his representative Anatolii Vaskov, who was most recently the deputy head of the Federation Council's administrative apparatus. Vaskov is a former aide to St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. Irkutsk Oblast Governor Boris Govorin announced on 8 January that he will send Dmitrii Mezentsev, president of the Center for Strategic Research, reported. Mezentsev was born in St. Petersburg, and he later worked in the mayor's office there from 1991-96, overlapping with President Putin. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev tapped Deputy Governor Mikhail Mikhailovskii to represent his interests. JAC

Pskov Oblast legislators selected a representative who, although not from St. Petersburg, nonetheless has ties to President Putin. He is Nikolai Medvedev, who is perhaps best known for heading the public office of President Putin's election bureau, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 December. Aleksandr Kazakov, a former deputy head of the presidential administration and more recently a top Gazprom official, will represent Rostov Oblast's legislature. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 December, Kazakov is a long-time comrade in arms of Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais. Other Muscovites tapped were Vladimir Nikitov, the former head of the Federation Council's apparatus, who will represent Smolensk Oblast's administration; former auditor from the Audit Chamber Sergei Onenyshev, who will represent legislators in Altai Krai; and Konstantin Meremyanin, the Prosecutor-General's Office envoy to the Federal Assembly, who will represent legislators in Krasnoyarsk Krai. Other regions stuck closer to home. Aleksandr Zelepukhin, the first deputy governor of Orenburg Oblast, and Viktor Nefedov, the deputy speaker of the oblast's legislature, will represent Orenburg. Novosibirsk Oblast's legislature elected Yurii Alaferovskii as their representative. Alaferovskii previously headed the territorial organ in Novosibirsk of the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationalities, and Migration Policies. In Vologda Oblast, legislators elected Gennadii Khripel, the former speaker of their parliament, as their representative, Interfax-Northwest reported. JAC

Members of the Federation Council are expected at a 25 January session to confirm the selection of three deputies to Council Chairman Sergei Mironov as well as the heads of high-profile committees, reported on 8 January citing Uralinformbyuro. According to the website, Sverdlovsk Oblast's senators, Valerii Trushnikov and Andrei Shmelev, who were only appointed as of 1 January, lack any committee leadership assignments because bargaining over which senators would get which committees has already been concluded. For the entire Urals region, of which Sverdlovsk Oblast is a part, Kurgan Oblast Senator Andrei Vikharev has the highest post, that of chairman of the Committee on Social Questions. JAC

As the Orthodox Christmas holiday of 7 January approached, residents in a number of regions were experiencing a variety of outages of key services. On 4 January, almost 98,000 residents of Arkhangelsk were left without water in their homes because of an accident to a water pipeline, RIA-Novosti reported. Drinking water was being delivered to the area by trucks. In Volkhov, Leningrad Oblast, some 11,000 residents were left without heat on 3 January; however, by 5 January, the press service of the oblast's governor's office said heating had been restored, ITAR-TASS reported. Also left without heat on 3 January were more than 8,000 residents in the city of Ust-Kut in Irkutsk Oblast, Interfax reported. Their heat was also later restored, Interfax reported on 8 December. JAC

For other residents, the outages were not the temporary result of an accident but symptomatic of a longer-term problem. For example, in Murmansk Oblast, residents of several raions plan to appeal to the prosecutor-general because they have not had working telephones since last fall as the result of a conflict between the local telephone service provider and railway, reported on 6 January. JAC

In the past few weeks, the newspaper "Respublika Tatarstan" has carried interviews with national-level officials criticizing President Putin's federation reforms. In an interview published on 27 December, Oleg Morozov, the leader of the Russian Regions group in the State Duma, charged that the current system for interbudgetary relations between Moscow and regions smacks of "feudalism," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 28 December. Morozov was elected to the Duma from a single-mandate district in Tatarstan. According to Morozov, the current system suits only those regions that rely on federal subsidies to fund more than 60 percent of their expenses. Morozov added that the strengthening of vertical power is unavoidable, but noted that it is still unclear which model of a federative state will emerge from that process. In addition, he said the institution of presidential envoys was created without the necessary legal groundwork. Morozov also criticized the existing process for forming the Federation Council and called for elections for that body. And in an interview on 5 January, Vasilii Likhachev, Russia's diplomatic envoy to the EU and a former speaker of Tatarstan's legislature, said President Putin's recent appointment of Vladimir Zorin as a minister without portfolio overseeing nationality issues in the Russian federal government "begs numerous questions," according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2001). According to Likhachev, interethnic relations need to become a permanent concern for the president, the presidential administration, and the federal parliament. Likhachev also spoke approvingly of the Russian regions' power-sharing treaties, calling them a legal institution provided for in the Russian Constitution. He said that, as a model of treaty-based relations, they meet with the general European trend in regional policies. JAC

As TV-6 faces a crucial court hearing in Moscow on 11 January that may determine its future, television viewers in Omsk saw TV-6 for the last time at the end of 2001, RFE/RL's Omsk correspondent reported on 3 January. Several months ago, the leadership of the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Company (MNVK), which controls TV-6, canceled its agreement with local television company Agava for rebroadcasting TV-6's programs. Local observers connect TV-6's disappearance from local airwaves with the larger plan by oblast authorities to monopolize regional television. In Lipetsk Oblast, TVK, the local channel that currently owns the rights to rebroadcast TV-6, went off the air at the end of December due to a legal dispute over control of the company, reported on 31 December. TVK journalists have charged that the station's takeover is motivated by the upcoming gubernatorial elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2001). JAC

As expected, Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin won in the second round of the presidential election in the Altai Republic on 6 January. According to preliminary results, Lapshin polled 68.15 percent of the vote compared with 22.98 percent for incumbent President Semen Zubakin. According to Interfax, Lapshin, who is currently a State Duma deputy in the Fatherland-All Russia faction, had the support of the All-Russia party of Unity and Fatherland, while Zubakin was supported by the Union of Rightist Forces. Upon learning of his victory, Lapshin told voters about his future plans for the region: "Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] particularly wanted to say that the republic of Altai is an ideal place for the development of winter skiing," according to JAC

Lapshin added that he also intends to work for the renewal of the republic's agricultural sector. Meanwhile, TV-6 reported that Lapshin is waiting for the presidential administration to put forth nominations for the republic's representative to the Federation Council. According to the station, Lapshin said that as a head of a republic, he does not wish to complicate relations with Moscow. JAC

The mayor of Ust-Kut, Yevgenii Korneiko, resigned on 27 December following complaints from a local youngster to President Putin, reported, citing the regional news agency "Sibirskie novosti." According to the website, the city started receiving attention and assistance from federal officials following President Putin's nationwide telephone chat on 24 December (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 31 December 2001). A fifth-grader from the town telephoned Putin and complained that the cancellation of classes at his school because of a lack of heat might mean that he and his classmates will have to repeat a year of school. Putin promised that the Irkutsk governor would do something to address the situation, and the following day Irkutsk Oblast Deputy Governor Sergei Brilka announced that school No. 4 in Ust-Kut will have its heat restored by 7 January, when classes resume. JAC

The Jewish Autonomous Oblast administration has decided to increase the number of foreign workers it allows in its region by one-third, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 3 January. However, the number of applications for work continues to exceed the number of permits. According to the agency, authorities in the oblast's capital, Birobidzhan, have received more than 2,000 applications from foreign workers, and some 1,868 permits have been granted, mainly to Chinese citizens. The timber industry is expected to employ many of the additional foreign workers. JAC

A Moscow district court on 4 January turned down an appeal to release former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov from custody pending the next hearing in his case for conspiracy to commit murder, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. Bykov is accused of trying to arrange the murder of businessman and alleged criminal Vilor Struganov. Law-enforcement officials earlier faked Struganov's murder in order to snare Bykov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). Meanwhile, despite his incarceration, Bykov continues to play a significant role in Krasnoyarsk politics: The Bloc of Anatolii Bykov came in second in elections for the krai's Legislative Assembly held on 24 December. Candidates in Bykov's bloc attracted 17.13 percent of the total vote, compared to 15.26 percent for the "For Lebed" bloc and 8.8 percent for the pro-Kremlin Unity party. Aleksandr Lebed is the governor of Krasnoyarsk and foe of Bykov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 December. JAC

The mayor of Yakutsk plans to hold a lottery during the second round of presidential elections in the Sakha (Yakutia) republic, the main prize for which will be a Volga automobile, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 8 January. During the election's first round last month, Yakutsk authorities were offering residents who voted in presidential elections there a 100-ruble ($3.30) rebate on their monthly housing payments as well as a reduction in arrears on electricity payments. However, the local election commission ruled that the offer seemed too similar to a bribe, and city authorities were forced to extend the offer to all residents regardless of whether or not they voted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 2001). This time, Yakutsk's mayoral administration says that the lottery will be conducted in a legally correct fashion. Alrosa President Vyacheslav Shtyrov will compete against SAPI industrial group head Fedot Tumusov on 13 January. Shtyrov won the 23 December first round with more than 45 percent of the vote, compared with 18 percent for Tumusov. However, he needed more than 50 percent for an outright victory. JAC

Sverdlovsk Oblast newspapers on 28 December published a new law that will allow incumbent oblast Governor Eduard Rossel to seek a third term. Legislators in Sverdlovsk Oblast's Duma voted on 21 December to support an amendment to the oblast's existing laws that makes the number of terms the same person may be elected as governor the same as under federal law, according to ITAR-TASS. According to, Rossel accused the Moscow-based leaders of the Union of Rightist Forces of trying to pressure local legislators into not supporting the new legislation. Meanwhile, the website reported on 8 January that local political analysts believe that since the recent "warming" of relations between Rossel and presidential envoy to the Urals federal district Petr Latyshev, longtime Rossel foe and Mayor of Yekaterinburg Arkadii Chernetskii has lost Latyshev's support and can no longer rely on the tactic of criticizing Rossel's administration. JAC

Following reports that Tuva had selected oligarch Mezhprombank head Pugachev as one of its representatives to the Federation Council, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 December that Pugachev is close to Tuva President Sherig-ool Oorzhak, whose interests he is tasked with representing in the upper legislative house. The daily said observers in Kyzyl believe that Pugachev has promised to fund Oorzhak's re-election campaign in the spring of 2002. Meanwhile, the Tuvan legislature chose Chanmyr Udumbara, the head of the republic's FSB directorate, to represent it. JAC


In Russia:
______Number of people using the Internet regularly: around 3 million
______As a percentage of the total population: 2 percent
______Number of people using computers: 9 million
______As a percentage of the total population: 6 percent
______Number of people who have used the Internet at least once: 4.3 million
______As a percentage of the total population: almost 3 percent

In Irkutsk Oblast:
______Number of Internet cafes: 20
______Number of people using the Internet in cities such as Irkutsk, Angarsk, Bratsk, and Shelekhov: around 30,0000
______Percentage of local firms with their own websites: 15 percent

In Krasnoyarsk Krai:
______Number of Internet cafes in the city of Krasnoyarsk: 2
______Number of people regularly using the Internet in krai: around 1 million
______Number of local Internet service providers: around 30
______Percentage of local firms with their own websites: around 30 percent

In Tomsk Oblast:
______Number of Internet cafes in the city of Tomsk: 15
______Number of people regularly using the Internet: 100,000
______Percentage of that group who live in the city of Tomsk: 90 percent
______Number of local Internet service providers: 10
______Number of local firms with their own websites: 400
______Rank of region in terms of most personal computers in Russia: 5th place
______Percentage of families with their own computer: 10-15 percent

In Altai Krai:
______Number of Internet cafes and clubs in Barnaul: 10
______Number of people regularly using the Internet: 50,000
______Number of local Internet service providers: 3
______Percentage of firms with their own websites: 5 percent

In Novosibirsk Oblast:
______Number of Internet cafes in city of Novosibirsk: 7
______Number of local Internet service providers: 24
______Number of local firms with their own websites: 35 percent
______Rank of oblast in terms of largest number of computers connected to the Internet: 1

Source: "Kommersant-Daily," 14 December 2001