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Russia Report: January 3, 2001

3 January 2001, Volume 3, Number 1
At a local ceremony inaugurating the new head of Norilsk late last month, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed said that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to issue decrees at the end of January and the beginning of February that will eliminate the separate status of autonomous okrugs and incorporate them into the oblasts of which they are a part, "Segodnya," which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST Group, reported on 28 December. Lebed predicted that his own krai would be enlarged by the addition of Evenk and Taimyr Autonomous Okrugs. And he said that the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, "created by the whim of comrade Stalin," will be abolished. According to the daily, the Kremlin is considering not only the abolition of the autonomous okrugs, but also a more serious restructuring of the administrative-territorial map according to the principle of the "fewer the better." It reported that some regional leaders expect that there will be no more than 30-40 federation subjects in place of the present 89. Responding to the report, Minister for Federation Affairs, Nationality and Migration Policy Aleksandr Blokhin told Interfax on 28 December that the status of federation subjects is established by the constitution, and that "there is no basis for suggesting that the President will amend it." Speaking to the agency on the same day, an unidentified high-level presidential administration official also denied the existence of any plan to liquidate the autonomous okrugs and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. That source added that such a task could not be accomplished by a presidential decree and would require amending the constitution, and no such amendments have been announced to date. JAC

In an interview with Russian Public Television, Russian Television and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to weigh in on the debate over whether the powers of his presidential envoys to the federal districts should be augmented (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," tk December 2000). Putin declared that his personal envoys to the seven federal districts should act strictly within the limits of their powers "and never interfere in the sphere of local leaders," adding that their task is "to coordinate the activities of the federal districts, not govern them." The next day, State Duma Committee on Federation Affairs Deputy Chairman (Russian Regions) Vladimir Lysenko told reporters that he considers the office of presidential envoys to the regions a temporary one. After they have performed three tasks -- the restoration of a common economic and legal space and interregional cooperation and coordination of the functions of district federal structures -- the office must "disappear," he said. Lysenko's remark echoes an earlier comment by presidential envoy to the Volga district Sergei Kirienko, who predicted that the office would eventually "fade away" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000). JAC

Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev announced in a letter published in the local newspaper, "Kuzbass," on 21 December that he will resign from his post so that gubernatorial elections can be brought forward to 22 April 2001 from October 2001, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Tuleev said that holding elections in April at the same time as the vote for the oblast's legislative assembly will save the region some 15 million rubles ($538,000). Tuleev also claimed that he received some 2,000 letters, telephone calls, and telegrams asking him to take such a step. A number of incumbent regional leaders have sought to move up the date of regional elections, believing such a move gives them an advantage by catching their opponents off-guard and under-prepared (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 19 January 2000). JAC

Foreign intelligence services have targeted Murmansk Oblast as a "priority" area for their activities, Nikolai Zharkov, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate in Murmansk Oblast, told Interfax North-West on 28 December. According to Zharkov, since the beginning of the year, 12 foreign intelligence actions involving 15 foreign agents have been foiled in the oblast. Security officers also put a stop to unlawful actions by foreign correspondents following the sinking of the Kursk submarine off Murmansk's coast in August. Zharkov also revealed that foreign governments frequently "pursue their own interests" under the cover of environmental organizations. For example, a U.S. fund, which he did not name, supposedly has earmarked funds for the destruction of the last, not the earliest, generation of nuclear submarines, which he said is not only inexpedient from an environmental point of view but also raises a number of other questions. RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 21 December that Murmansk Oblast received $7.5 million from Great Britain for the construction of an enterprise that will process domestic and imported nuclear waste. JAC

Following a meeting with President Putin on 25 December, presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii stepped up his earlier criticism of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, telling reporters that after a presidential commission completes its investigation of the region's energy crisis, Nazdratenko may be dismissed, ITAR-TASS reported. Pulikovskii explained that "this governor does not bear and does not want to bear responsibility to his voters...He is feverishly trying to find out whom he failed to please--the president, the administration, or Pulikovskii. In fact, he failed to please his voters," according to Interfax. He added that Nazdratenko should "roll up his sleeves and get to work, and I feel sorry that he does not understand this." On 23 December, an unidentified high-ranking official from the Kremlin's Control Department told Interfax that the commission could finish its probe by the end of the year. According to the source, sorting out who's to blame is proving difficult: "Governor Nazdratenko explains the current energy crisis by the fact that he spent a lot of money coping with the consequences of the flood, failing to receive federal monies for this purpose. His opponents take the view that fuel was bought at exorbitant prices there, while the governor maintains that you cannot buy fuel at any other prices in Primore." On 26 December, the krai's adminsitration issued a statement characterizing Pulikovskii's remarks as an "element of a purely political game, which bears no relationship to what is really happening." It continued, "unfortunately, judging by [Pulikovskii's remarks], we can expect from the presidential envoy only repeated, groundless, unobjective criticisms instead of support for a resolution to Primore's problems." JAC

"The Moscow Times" reported on 21 December that ten luxury dachas under construction in the elite Sanatornaya suburb of Vladivostok are the "future homes of the close-knit group of top officials" who rule the region, such as Nazdratenko, Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov, First Deputy Governor Konstantin Tolstoshein, regional prosecutor Valerii Vasilenko and regional police chief Aleksandr Vasiliev. In order to make room for the houses, a private school and a clinic for handicapped children have been given eviction orders. According to "Narodnye veche," Tolstoshein's residence has marble staircases, a large fireplace, a hot tub, a greenhouse that will enclose a winter garden, a wine cellar and, naturally, a private heating system. Nazdratenko's future residence reportedly encompasses some 1100 square meters. JAC

In the seven gubernatorial elections held on 24 December, four incumbents, two generals and one oligarch won. Incumbent President Aleksei Lebed of the Republic of Khakasiya was re-elected by a hefty margin, reportedly with the strong support of aluminum titan Oleg Deripaska. First runner-up Vasilii Astanaev, a deputy director of a department in the Emergencies Ministry, one of four candidates competing against Lebed, managed to gain only 13 percent of the vote. Incumbent Governor Viktor Shershunov of Kostroma Oblast was also re-elected in a run-off election, besting his closest competitor, Kostroma Mayor Boris Korobov. Shershunov was supported by the Communist Party. In Volgograd Oblast, incumbent Governor Nikolai Maksyuta defeated his closest rival, local factory director Oleg Savchenko and others. Maksyuta is considered close to the Communist Party and LUKoil. Incumbent Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin won with 58.77 percent of the votes; besting his closest competitor State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Mikhail Grishankov. Grishankov, who worked in the Federal Security Service's branch in Chelyabinsk Oblast before becoming a legislator, was reported by some media to have the Kremlin's support; however, a visit by President Putin just before the election seemed to benefit only Sumin but not Grishankov. State Duma deputy (independent) and former Sibneft executive Roman Abramovich won the gubernatorial election in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug with a hefty 90 percent margin. The previous week, incumbent Governor Aleksandr Nazarov withdrew his candidacy in the race, thus ensuring Abramovich's victory. Abramovich's closest rival, Vladimir Yetylin of the scientific research center Chukotka, captured only 3 percent of the vote. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, in the lead-up to the election, sausages, vodka and other foodstuff were distributed among residents of the remote region, courtesy of Abramovich. JAC

Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, a former top commander in Chechnya, won election in Ulyanovsk Oblast with 56 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Governor Yurii Goryachev, who garnered only 23 percent. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Shamanov had the support of the Communist Party and the local branch of the Union of Rightist Forces. He was also widely considered to have the support of the Kremlin. In Voronezh Oblast, the head of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) regional directorate, Vladimir Kulakov, defeated incumbent Governor Ivan Shabanov. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov earlier accused the FSB of using its entire network of agents in the campaign against Shabanov, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Kulakov was supported by Unity and the People's Deputy group. Three incumbent governors supported by the Communist Party, Shershunov, Maksyuta, and Sumin, won, while one incumbent governor, Shabanov, lost. JAC

Chukotka_____Roman Abramovich (90.6%)___Vladimir Yetylin (3%)
Kostroma_____Viktor Shershunov (63.1%)___Boris Korobov (24.6%)
Chelyabinsk_____Petr Sumin (58.8%)___Mikhail Grishankov (16.7%)
Khakasiya_______Aleksei Lebed (72.2%)___Vasilii Astanaev (12.3%)
Volgograd______Nikolai Maksyuta (36.5%)____Oleg Savchenko (28.4%)
Voronezh_______Vladimir Kulakov (59.98%)___Ivan Shabanov (15.6%)
Ulyanovsk_____Vladimir Shamanov (56.3%)___Yurii Goryachev (23.5%)

Sources: Interfax-Eurasia, ITAR-TASS

Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters on 26 December that 14 of the 44 governors elected in 2000 are holding governors' posts for first time--every third governor is thus a "new man." (The only female governor was unseated.) Among newly elected corps, there are five Duma deputies and four former military officials. The smallest number of candidates, two, was registered in Khabarovsk and the largest number, 13, ran in Stavropol Krai and Pskov Oblast. Turn-out varied from 34 percent in Vladimir Oblast to 74.99 percent in Saratov Oblast. Saratov Oblast also had the highest number of voters who voted against all -- 20.28 percent. Khanty-Mansii Governor Aleksandr Filipenko had the largest number of votes in his favor--90.8 percent--with newly-elected Chukotka Governor Abramovich coming in a close second (see above). Incumbent Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov in Pskov Oblast had the smallest number of supporters with 28 percent. JAC

The Incumbency Advantage

By Julie A. Corwin

Last year, almost half of Russia's 89 federation subjects conducted elections for their regional leaders. At first glance, it appears that candidates supported by the Communist party performed best. But a closer review of the results of 2000 gubernatorial elections shows that incumbency bestows the best advantages, while party identification and/or support means little. The results also illustrate that the Kremlin's ability to influence regional voters' gubernatorial selections is severely limited.

Of the 44 regional elections, 29 incumbents were re-elected (see table below). And, in two additional regions, Krasnodar Krai and Kaluga Oblast, the "successor" tapped by the governor, who chose not to seek re-election, won. In almost every case where incumbent governors managed to move up election dates and therefore give their competition less time to prepare, the incumbent won. For example, the elections held on 26 March to coincide with Russian presidential elections resulted in a clean sweep--seven victories for seven incumbents.

Both Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Unity leader Sergei Shoigu have hailed the results of the 2000 gubernatorial elections as mandates for their parties. At the end of last month, Shoigu was so pleased about the outcome of regional elections that he boasted that Russia has a new "belt" -- a "Unity belt" instead of a red belt, while Zyuganov claimed that the results of elections held on 19 December, in particular, represented a "notable success" for the Communist party.

The Communists managed to hold on to many regions. Twelve communist incumbents were re-elected; only three incumbents were defeated, former Novosibirsk Governor Vitalii Mukha, former Voronezh Governor Ivan Shabanov, and former Ulyanovsk Governor Yurii Goryachev. However, in Ulyanovsk, the Communist Party withdrew its support for the incumbent Yurii Goryachev in favor of General Vladimir Shamanov, who won. In Kursk, former Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi had won originally with Communist party support, but in this election, the party backed Duma deputy Aleksandr Mikhailov instead, who won after incumbent Rutskoi was taken out of the race by a court decision. Communists also won in two additional regions, Ivanovo and Kamchatka Oblasts, unseating incumbents from other parties.

But the ties of the winning Communist candidates to their party in many cases are quite loose. Most winning candidates, not just Communist victors, emphasized their allegiance to the practices and person of President Vladimir Putin. In Kamchatka Oblast, for example, Mashkovtsev, a Communist Party obkom secretary, presented himself during his campaign as a like-minded comrade-in-arms of President Putin and his presidential envoys, pledging to rid the region of corrupt bureaucrats. At the same time, incumbent Communist governors also de-emphasized their party affiliation, stressing instead their support for and from President Putin and the stability that their re-election would ensure. "Itogi" of 26 December noted that the fundamental difference between the 2000 regional elections and those held in 1996-7 is that during the earlier round of elections all contenders emphasized their independence from the center and the unpopular former President Boris Yeltsin.

Unity's performance in the 2000 elections demonstrates even more strongly the weakness of Russia's political parties. On the one hand, almost a dozen candidates backed by Unity were elected. On the other hand, three incumbents supported by Unity were unseated, while two more, former Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov and former Kursk Governor Rutskoi, either withdrew or were withdrawn from the race just before their elections were held. In a number of regions, the local branch of Unity either backed or tried to back a candidate different from that supported by Unity's Moscow-based organization. Also in a number of regions, the local Unity branch backed the same candidate as the Communist party.

Of course, from its very beginning Unity's leaders adopted a more pragmatic than ideological posture. But more recently, at its second congress last October, Unity declared itself the "the party of presidential authority." For a "presidential" party, Unity appears surprisingly clueless about who the president, or rather, his administration, favors in a given region. In Udmurtia, for example, the local Unity branch favored a challenger to the incumbent Nikolai Volkov, while Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko both visited the republic shortly before the elections, boosting Volkov's chances. A local Unity branch also supported former Kursk Governor Rutskoi, despite numerous reports that the presidential administration would favor almost anyone but Rutskoi.

Unity members weren't the only election-watchers guessing about the presidential administration's preferences in a variety of regional races. After President Putin openly backed Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko in her failed effort to unseat St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, the Kremlin wisely chose not publicize its preferences henceforth, adopting an official position of neutrality towards all regional elections. Nevertheless, Moscow-based newspapers carried a variety of reports about the Kremlin's plans in specific regions. "Novaya gazeta" even claimed to have a document detailing a number of specific scenarios for several regions.

As the table below shows, 13 candidates that the Kremlin did not support were successful, while only 7 of its candidates were victorious. Of these seven, two were incumbents in relatively successful regions; three others were challengers in regions with unpopular governors with administrations dogged by charges of corruption, such as Kaliningrad and Voronezh Oblasts and Marii El Republic. The victor in Marii El, Leonid Markelov, was only supported by the Kremlin in the election's second round. Another candidate, Colonel General Vladimir Ruzlyayev, had the Kremlin's initial backing. Despite reports that the Kremlin was seeking to install former military or intelligence officers as the heads of regions, only four were actually elected. And one of these, Moscow Governor Boris Gromov, was not supported by the presidential administration.

The presidential adminstration's apparent inability to decisively influence the outcome of regional elections makes it even easier to understand why President Putin made a reform of how the federation is administered one of his first acts after his election. Since the Kremlin is likely to be stuck with whomever voters select as their regional counterparts, the best way to implement their own agenda is to ensure that governor's office itself is weaker.

2000 Gubernatorial Races



Moscow Oblast___Boris Gromov________OVR__________N

Novosibirsk_____Viktor Tolokonskii______nk____________nk

Tver___________Vladimir Platov (I)_____Unity__________nk

Murmansk______Yurii Yevdokimov (I)____OVR_________nk

Saratov_________Dmitrii Ayatskov (I)____Unity_________nk

Altai Krai________Aleksandr Surikov (I)___KPRF________nk

Jewish__________Nikolai Volkov (I)_______NVR_________nk

Khanty-Mansi_____Aleksandr Filipenko (I)__OVR_______nk

Yamalo-Nenets____Yurii Neelov (I)_________nk_________nk

Kirov___________Vladimir Sergeenkov (I)__KPRF_______nk

St. Petersburg____Vladimir Yakovlev (I)____KPRF________N

Samara_________Konstantin Titov(I)______SPS,O_______N

Udmurtiya_______Aleksandr Volkov(I)______nk__________Y

Kursk__________Aleksandr Mikhailov_____KPRF________N

Sakhalin________Igor Farkhutdinov (I)______Unity_______nk

Agin-Buryat______Bair Zhamsuev (I)________KPRF______nk

Chita___________Ravil Geniatulin (I)_______OVR_________N

Magadan________Valentin Tsvetkov (I)______Unity_______nk

Kaliningrad______Vladimir Yegorov______Unity, SPS______Y

Kaluga_________Anatolii Artamanov (i)___Unity, KPRF____N

Pskov___________Yevgenii Mikhailov (I)____Unity________N

Ust-Orda________Valerii Maleev (I)________SPS__________nk

Kurgan________Oleg Bogomolov (I)_______KPRF_______nk

Marii-El________Leonid Markelov________Unity__________Y

Krasnodar______Aleksandr Tkachev (i)___KPRF, Unity_____nk

Stavropol______Aleksandr Chernogorov (I)___KPRF_______N

Arkhangelsk____Anatolii Yefremov (I)________O__________N

Astrakhan_______Anatolii Guzhvin (I)________O_________Y

Ivanovo_______Vladimir Tikhonov________KPRF________N

Kamchatka____Mikhail Mashkovtsev_____KPRF__________nk

Perm__________Yurii Trutnev_________independent_______N

Ryazan_______Vyacheslav Lyubimov (I)__KPRF__________N

Komi-Permyak___Gennadii Saveleev_____independent______nk

Koryak_________Vladimir Loginov_____independent________nk

Bryansk________Yuri Lodkin (I)________KPRF___________N

Vladimir________Nikolai Vinogradov (I)__KPRF__________nk

Kostroma_______Viktor Shershunov (I)____KPRF_________N

Khabarovsk_____Vladmir Ishaev (I)_________O__________nk

Voronezh_______Vladimir Kulakov_______Unity__________Y

Volgograd______Nikolai Maksyuta (I)______KPRF__________tk

Khakasiya______Aleksei Lebed (I)_______independent_______nk

Chelyabinsk____Petr Sumin (I)______KPRF, Unity_________nk

Chukotka______Roman Abramovich______independent_____Y

Ulyanovsk_____Vladimir Shamanov_______KPRF__________Y

i=tapped by incumbent as successor
nk=not known
OVR=Fatherland-All Russia
SPS=Union of Rightist Forces

Sources: RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, East-West Institute's "Russian Regional Report," "Kommersant-Vlast," "Izvestiya," "Itogi," "Obshchaya gazeta," "Novaya gazeta," "The Moscow Times," "Vremya MN," "Segodnya," "Nezavisimaya gazeta," "Kommersant-Daily," Interfax-Eurasia