25 July 2001, Volume 3, Number 22
HAS THE FEDERATION COUNCIL FINALLY BEEN TAMED?"Vremya MN" reported on 21 July that according to several unidentified members of the Federation Council, one of the seven presidential envoys to the federal districts issued "orders" to the representatives of regions in his districts about how to vote in that chamber's last session on 20 July (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 23 July 2001). According to the sources, representatives were sent a fax in which a plus sign appeared next to agenda items that should be supported and a minus next to those that should be rejected. The article did not specify which presidential envoy was the sender of the fax. The newspaper noted that when the new rules for forming the Federation Council were announced, pessimists predicted that the new senators would fulfill the orders of the regions only when the proposed law concretely affected the socioeconomic situation in their region. "As it has turned out, the pessimists came close to the truth, but even their prognoses were too optimistic." In another article on the Federation Council in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 July, the daily asserts that the upper legislative chamber has been tamed and in the future, it will "obediently reform the country according to the presidential model." The daily argues that the recent passage of the bill amending the law on the police would have been unthinkable during President Boris Yeltsin's administration. That law gives regional leaders only a minor say in the appointment of top regional law enforcement officials. Finally, the daily concludes that the most appropriate word to characterize the upper legislative chamber now is "boring." JAC
MORE MUSCOVITES TAPPED FOR UPPER CHAMBER.The Federation Council confirmed on 20 July, the last day of its spring session, two new members, Yurii Sharandin, former deputy in the Moscow city Duma, as a representative for Evenk Autonomous Okrug, and former Alfa-Eko Group President Gleb Fetisov, who will represent Voronezh Oblast. Former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has been nominated to represent the Republic of Buryatia, where he was born, but an initial vote on his candidacy in the republic's legislative assembly failed to attract enough votes, the website polit.ru reported on 20 July. His candidacy will be reconsidered in September. Meanwhile, on 24 July Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel signed a decree nominating the deputy speaker of Sverdlovsk Oblast's legislative assembly Valerii Trushnikov as his representative to the Federation Council. JAC
GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR REGIONS MEASURED.In an interview with "Novye izvestiya" on 24 July, Sergei Kolesnikov, deputy chairman of the State Statistics Committee, explains that while there has been impressive growth in incomes for Russian citizens over the past five months, the effects nationwide have been differentiated. For example, in the first quarter of the year, the incomes for the top 10 percent of the country, or the richest regions, amounts to 14.1 times as much as the incomes for the bottom 10 percent countrywide, or the poorest regions. In the city of Moscow, which is one of the richest regions, the ratio for these two groups is more than three times as great. In Tyumen, the ratio is .5 times higher. Kolesnikov also pointed out that the difference between the most and least expensive regions in terms of purchasing food products is 3.5 times. According to Kolesnikov, in terms of real cash incomes, the most prosperous regions in the country are Moscow, Tyumen, Kaliningrad, Samara, Tambov, Astrakhan, and Saratov oblasts, and Komi, Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and Sakha (Yakutia) republics. The least prosperous are Ivanov, Bryansk, Kirov, Penza, Sverdlovsk, Omsk, Chita, Kamchatka oblasts, and the republics of Marii El and Khakasia. JAC
BASHKORTOSTAN SENDING MORE TAXES TO MOSCOW.Galiya Lukmanova, the deputy head of the Russian Tax Ministry's Bashkortostan Board, said on 20 July that the republic over the last six months has collected 23.8 billion rubles ($820 million) in taxes and transferred 11.6 billion rubles to Moscow, 2.4 times the previous year's sum, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 20 July. Firms paid 68 percent of the total. PG
KABARDINO-BALKARIA ADOPTS NEW CONSTITUTION.The parliament of Kabardino-Balkaria adopted a new constitution on 19 July that excludes the republic's existence as an independent entity separate from the Russian Federation, Glasnost North Caucasus reported citing ITAR-TASS. In addition, the legislation of the Russian Federation takes precedence over local laws. The rights and freedoms of citizens of the republic are now defined by federal, rather than by republic laws. In particular, the republic's leadership no longer has the right to ban meetings and rallies. LF
ILYUMZHINOV DEVIATES FROM MOSCOW'S POLICY ON TIBET.In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 20 July, the president of the Republic of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, called for international recognition of the independence of Tibet -- a stance at odds with Russia's official foreign policy position. According to Ilyumzhinov, Tibetan leader Dalai Lama will visit Kalmykia's capital, Elista, within a month, although there has been pressure on Kalmykia to rescind its invitation to the Dalai Lama out of deference to Russia's relationship to China. According to Ilyumzhinov, the two other regions in Russia with significant Buddhist populations beside Kalmykia, Tuva and Buryatia, have recalled their letters of invitation. He characterized the political situation regarding Tibet and China as very troubling for the people of his republic. Ilyumzhinov said, "The last time the Dalai Lama was in Kalmykia was in 1992, and at all meetings that I go to, all the babushki, the especially elderly people, directly beg me, plead with me that the Dalai Lama could visit the republic [again] before they die." JAC
BATTLE OVER PRESS CONTINUES IN LEAD-UP TO ELECTION.Governor Boris Govorin appealed on 23 July to the local prosecutor, Interior Ministry department, and the oblast Election Commission to defend him against libelous materials appearing in the local press, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Govorin is running for re-election in a ballot scheduled for 29 July, which he is expected to win. The head of Govorin's campaign headquarters told journalists in Irkutsk the newspaper "Vostochno-Sibirskie vesti" incorrectly reported that Govorin has not paid all of his taxes. Last month local police seized that newspaper -- the 19th such seizure (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 June 2001). Meanwhile, an RFE/RL correspondent in Irkutsk reported on 5 July that an observer for the Glasnost Defense Fund recently found that the pro-governor mass media in the oblast, particularly regional television, continues to openly violate election legislation. JAC
KREMLIN PRESSURES VOTERS NOT TO SUPPORT COMMUNIST...The presidential administration is considering moving the capital of the Volga federal district from Nizhnii Novgorod to Samara or Saratov in the event of the victory of a Communist Party-supported candidate in Nizhnii Novgorod's gubernatorial elections on 29 July, Interfax and the website strana.ru reported on 24 July citing unidentified sources in the Kremlin. Incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov is competing in that election against State Duma deputy (Communist) Gennadii Khodyrev, who won the most votes in the election's first round (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 July 2001). Former Nizhnii Novgorod Governor and Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov told reporters in Nizhnii Novgorod that "the election of a 'red' governor would be dangerous for the region because it would lose money and status," and the transfer of the federal district's capital away from Nizhnii would mean that the oblast "would lose unique opportunities," according to the website. Unofficial presidential advisor Gleb Pavlovskii added that a Communist victory would also likely mean a loss of foreign investment funds as well as the possible transfer of the capital to "Samara or Kazan." Khodyrev told Interfax on 24 July that he met with members of the administration the previous week and the question of moving the capital had not been raised. JAC
...AS VOLOSHIN CONGRATULATES INCUMBENT FOR RUNNING SMOOTH ELECTION.Meanwhile, at a meeting on 22 July with incumbent Governor Sklyarov, presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin expressed the "sincere gratitude" of President Vladimir Putin for the legality with which the first round of elections were conducted on 15 July, the website strana.ru reported the next day. However, on 19 July, State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Vadim Bulavinov, who had been the favorite in the race, filed a complaint with the oblast court challenging the election results, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 July. On 17 July, Bulavinov along with fellow candidates Khodyrev and Dmitrii Savelev (Union of People's Deputy) held a press conference in which they accused Sklyarov of rigging the election. According to Bulavinov, there were instances in which incomplete protocols were signed in the local Election Commission, and the votes of deceased and other voters who did not bother to come to polling stations were counted. JAC
CHEREPKOV CHARGES THAT NEW GOVERNOR IS UNDER VOLOSHIN'S THUMB...In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 24 July, State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) and former candidate in the Primorskii Krai gubernatorial elections Viktor Cherepkov charged that presidential administration head "Voloshin is personally ruling Primore in the interests of oligarchic structures close to him" and is "manipulating [newly elected krai] Governor Sergei Darkin" to secure a redistribution of property there. Cherepkov also charged that the delay in the Supreme Court's examination of his appeal to overturn the elections is connected with the desire of the presidential administration to retain an additional lever over Darkin. To ensure his complete obedience, they are threatening him that the court will declare the elections invalid. JAC
...THAT MAYOR WILL BE REPLACED WITH DARKIN CRONY...Cherepkov also predicted that Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov will soon be dismissed. Two of Kopylov's deputy mayors were recently charged with abuse of office, following an audit of the financial activities of the committee for administering city property. Last year, the committee conducted a number of sales of city property, some of which were sold at below market prices to relatives of city officials, according to RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). But the real reason for Kopylov's dismissal, according to Cherepkov, will not be corruption but the desire of the new governor to put his own person as head of the region's capital city. Cherepkov, who is a former mayor of Vladivostok, said that he would participate in early mayoral elections if they are held. JAC
...AND THAT NAZDRATENKO GANG HAS CLEARED OUT OF PRIMORE.Cherepkov also told RFE/RL that former Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has already lost his opportunity to rule the krai from Moscow, because his people have been cleansed from the krai's power structures. JAC
ALTAI.The acting head of the administration of Tyumentsevskii raion in Altai Krai, Valentina Alferova, has been charged with misusing public funds; in 1996 she used money that had been earmarked to buy coal for the raion to build herself a house, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 20 June. Also in the krai, the former head of the directorate for the struggle against economic crimes, Igor Petrenko, was sentenced to five years in prison for swindling on 27 June, according to Interfax-Eurasia. ... CHELYABINSK. Criminal proceedings have been launched against the first deputy head of the administration of the city of Zlatousta on charges of embezzlement of budget monies, the website strana.ru reported on 25 June. ... NOVOSIBIRSK. The deputy head of the Siberian Customs Department has been accused of accepting bribes, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 July. ... PSKOV. A military court in Pskov is hearing a criminal case brought against persons in a border detachment who are accused of embezzlement of some 500,000 rubles ($17,000), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 July. Also in Pskov, the oblast prosecutor has charged the deputy head of the oblast administration, Dmitrii Dervoed, with embezzlement and grand theft, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 July ... ST. PETERSBURG. Criminal proceedings have been launched against Deputy Governor Valerii Malyshev on suspicion of accepting a bribe, Russian agencies reported on 11 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2001). ... SMOLENSK. First Deputy Governor Yurii Balbyshkin has been arrested on charges of abuse of office in connection with his role in the sale of an alcohol plant in the oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 July. ... STAVROPOL. The former head of Stavropol Krai Main Directorate for Internal Affairs, Lieutenant General Aleksandr Volkodav, has been charged under 5 articles of the Criminal Code including illegal listening to private telephone conversations, Interfax reported on 20 July. ... TYUMEN. The prosecutor of Tyumen Oblast uncovered evidence that a local crime group is headed by the chief of a local correctional colony of the federal Justice Ministry and a worker in the state fire service in the city of Tobolsk, strana.ru reported on 25 June. JAC
IS ANOTHER CHILLY WINTER AHEAD?As was the case last year, a number of regions in the Far East are again lagging behind in terms of their fuel purchases for winter, the deputy head of administration for Unified Energy Systems (EES) Mikhail Abyzov told reporters in Vladivostok on 20 July. At the beginning of the week of 16 July, energy systems of the Far East had accumulated just 85 percent of the planned amounts of coal and 75 percent of the planned amounts of fuel oil, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 20 July citing Abyzov. The regions whose companies are most far behind are Primorskii Krai, and Amur, Kamchatka, Khabarovsk, and Sakhalin oblasts. Dalenergo of Primorskii Krai was the furthest behind, having purchased only 42.3 percent of the coal supplies that it should have procured by mid-July. And, on 24 July, the krai's deputy governor announced that the government is 1.3 billion rubles short of the necessary funds to complete its preparations for winter. Also facing a difficult situation are residents of Kamchatka, where oblast legislators are considering cutting social programs in order to fund their region's fuel purchases for winter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001).
Meanwhile, data from EES's energy sales department shows that the number of instances in which electricity is being shut off to nonpaying customers is increasing, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 July. According to the department, in the week of 9 July alone, the company was planning to turn off electricity to some 6,900 deadbeat customers. In one case, the local company, Arkenergo in Arkhangelsk Oblast, opted not to turn off electricity to the firm Sevmash, since that company was engaged in the operation to raise the submarine "Kursk." The head of the energy sales department, Arkadii Trachuk, told the daily that the "responsibility [for the debts] should be placed with the governors and municipal heads, then they will find money for the budgets and the enterprises will start to pay better."
Vladimir Klimov, State Duma deputy (Unity) and member of the energy committee, agrees that regional leaders should share a large amount of the blame for the rate of indebtedness, the daily reported. In one recent example, according to Klimov, legislators and the oblast administration in Kirov wrote a budget for this year which earmarks less funds for municipal enterprises and establishments than they need to pay for their electricity. However, Klimov thinks that resolving the problem will not be easy and new federal legislation is required. According to Klimov, deputies are working on changes and amendments to the law on state regulations on tariffs for electricity and heat as well as a law on federal energy systems, which would strictly divide the responsibilities of federal, regional, and municipal organs on question of responsibility for heat and electricity consumption. JAC
Company_________Debt in ___________# of months of
________________thousands of rubles___unpaid debts
Source: EES Russia as of 1 May 2001, as cited by "Kommersant-Daily" on 17 July
END NOTEIs There A Quebec In Russia's Future?
By Paul Goble
A major Kazan newspaper has urged that Tatarstan's leaders work to transform that republic into a Russian version of Canada's Quebec province, a regional unit capable of bargaining with the center and "of advancing its just demands."
An article in "Zvezda Povolzhya" last week said that in structuring its Tatarstan's ties with Moscow and the rest of the Russian Federation, Tatarstan is moving toward a strategy of open bargaining, in which Kazan is in a position to demand money or concessions for anything Moscow seeks to have it do.
"If each amendment Moscow wants in our constitution is paid for in this way," the paper continued, "that is not so bad." Indeed, it may become the basis for creating a prosperous Tatarstan capable of standing on its own, "Quebec-like," and thus able to defend itself within or even against the system.
Along with Chechnya, Tatarstan is the only subject of the Russian Federation whose relations are not governed by the federation treaty. Kazan did not sign that document and instead negotiated a power-sharing arrangement accord. In recent months, Russian officials have suggested that accord may have to be reworked or even canceled.
Quebec's relationship with the central Canadian government has certain parallels. Constitutionally, it has exactly the same status as the other provinces, but the francophone movement there has forced Ottawa to make special concessions to it, concessions that have often infuriated other provincial leaders.
According to the Kazan paper, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev is "much more of a democrat" than either Boris Nemtsov, the leader of Russia's Union of Rightist Forces, or Anatolii Chubais, the head of the Unified Energy Systems of Russia. And his government is much more interested in defending democracy than are they.
But even that, the paper said, can be the basis for making demands on Moscow. It argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin can hardly afford to have the Communists gain in strength in more regions, just as they are now doing in Nizhnii Novgorod, the former stronghold of the Union of Rightist Forces.
Consequently, the paper concluded, Tatarstan can achieve quite a lot, making demands on the center, getting paid for what the center wants done, and always being in a position to demand even more, just as the francophone nationalists in Quebec have done over the last two decades.
What is most striking about this argument is the very different ways in which it is likely to be viewed by Moscow, by the Tatars, and by other leaders in the Russian Federation.
Many in Moscow are likely to celebrate this statement as effectively marking the end of Tatarstan sovereignty. The history of Quebec secessionism in Canada has been a history of failure. By defining themselves in terms of Quebec, the Tatars are acknowledging their fate within Russia.
The Tatars, on the other hand, are likely to view this analysis quite differently. For them, Quebec has been a success: That province has continued to attract ever more resources from Ottawa precisely because Quebec has a credible but not yet successful independence movement.
The Tatars are therefore likely to see the Quebec model as a means to extract ever more resources from Moscow, thus creating a situation in which, in the short term, Kazan rather than Moscow can set the agenda and over the longer haul Tatarstan can gain the independence many Tatar nationalists seek.
Consequently, the description of Tatarstan as a Russian Quebec is likely to lead at least some Tatars to increase their demands for special treatment, secure in the knowledge that Moscow almost certainly will be willing to continue to try to buy them off, as it appears to be doing with a special five-year investment program there.
But the most interesting and fateful reactions are likely to be among the other non-Russian groups now inside the Russian Federation. Putin has explicitly tried to rein in the regions and republics of his far-flung country, by reducing the ability of the federation subjects to act on their own.
The Russian president has repeatedly indicated that he will not tolerate secession and does not want the regions and republics to contradict the policies of the center. But in staking out those positions, Putin has perhaps unwittingly created the basis for a new ethnic politics in Russia itself.
Because that kind of politics points not to a drive for independence by Tatarstan but rather to its continuing participation within the Russian political system, many in both Russia and the West are likely to see this kind of ethnic politics as a victory for Moscow. But because Tatarstan's politics, like those of Quebec, are based on the mobilization of ethnic sentiments, Moscow, like Ottawa, may find this situation difficult to sustain.
If the Russian government continues to try to buy off one republic, Moscow is likely to find that other republics and regions will make new demands, seeing the use of populistic nationalism as the key to more resources.
But if Moscow does not provide sufficient funds to Tatarstan or the others, it may face, much as the central Canadian government still does, the risk that Tatarstan or another republic could become a Russian Quebec, the kind of continuing challenge that Moscow may find it difficult to meet.