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Russia Report: September 24, 2001

24 September 2001, Volume 3, Number 26
The reaction of regional leaders to the terrorist acts in the U.S. on 11 September was not unlike that of world leaders -- a mixture of horror and shock coupled with efforts to bolster security at home. Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev called the incident a "barbarous act of terrorism" that threatens "the entire civilized world," and suggested that Russia should call a session of the State Council to discuss measures aimed at preventing terrorist acts on Russian territory, Interfax reported. In Sverdlovsk Oblast on 12 September, leaders of local law enforcement structures met with members of the Sverdlovsk Oblast's government in Yekaterinburg to discuss the regional security problems. Security officials expressed their concern about the increase in illegal immigrants from countries in Central Asia, primarily Tajikistan, and suggested that legislation should be drafted that will make migration policy stricter, the website reported. According to police data, the number of persons illegally arriving in Sverdlovsk has reached 50,000-70,000 a year. "Vremya novostei" reported on 14 September that Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel agreed with the recommendations of "his generals" and has ordered officials in the government, police, and prosecutor's office to mobilize against illegal immigrants "first of all from the Muslim countries of the former Soviet Union." In Khabarovsk, the mayor issued an order on 14 September calling for preventing measures against acts of terrorism, including strengthening checks on the passport regime. According to "Izvestiya" on 13 September, Interior Ministry forces have increased security in "practically all regions of Russia." JAC

Meanwhile, the brothers Lebed, Khakasia Republic President Aleksei and Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr, both warned the U.S. against any military involvement with Afghanistan. (Both brothers served in the Soviet army during the war in Afghanistan.) In an interview with Interfax on 17 September, Aleksei Lebed declared that the U.S. should be concerned about repeating the mistake of the Soviet Union. He said that while he understands the desire of the U.S. president to punish the terrorists, air strikes against population centers would likely wind up hurting only the peaceful population, while the "Taliban and [Osama] bin Laden sat [them] out in the mountains." Lebed considers a land operation equally futile, predicting that within two-three months the U.S. Army would sustain "major losses." Aleksandr expressed a similar point of view, saying on 19 September, "Of course, it is possible to level Kabul, leaving only a hole in the ground, but only the simple Afghan people will suffer." "I am profoundly convinced that Osama bin Laden and his closest circle long ago hid themselves underground below the cities," he concluded. JAC

After conducting a check of how federal budget monies have been disbursed, an unnamed representative of the Audit Chamber told Interfax-AFI on 19 September that the regions' share of tax revenues has been steadily declining. "In 1997, the share exceeded 60 percent, in 2001 it was 49 percent and next year it is expected to reach the level of 45.2 percent," the official explained. Such a split is a violation of a provision of the Budget Code which requires that revenues be split evenly. According to "Vremya novostei" on 17 September, the Finance Ministry would like to eliminate this provision of the Budget Code, but the "cabinet is not in a hurry to propose such an initiative because it would aggravate relations with the upper house." JAC

In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 September, Sergei Samoilov, secretary of the presidential commission for dividing responsibilities between the center and regions, said that the task of the commission is neither to centralize nor decentralize governmental decision-making. Instead, the commission will look at which organs of power have which functions, which resources, and how these various functions are stipulated by law, and then redistribute these responsibilities most effectively. Commission members will also examine new draft laws -- which have only passed in their first reading in the State Duma -- so that the necessary changes are made sooner rather than later. According to Samoilov, one half of the commission is composed of bureaucrats from federal organs and one half from regional and municipal and scientific organs. JAC

Meanwhile, members of the presidential commission met on 20 September and decided to limit the time that will be allowed to bring power-sharing agreements between regions and the center into compliance with federal laws, Russian agencies reported. According to the website, federal and regional officials have until 1 May 2002 to alter their agreements. After that day, the commission can decide to initiate judicial proceedings to examine or change the agreements. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," some 42 treaties and 570 agreements exist. According to Interfax, First Deputy federal Prosecutor Yurii Biryukov cautioned commission members to remember that violations of federal law exist not only at the regional but also at the municipal level. The commission will meet again in October, Interfax reported. JAC

The pro-Kremlin Federation group within the Federation Council will propose new regulations for the upper legislative chamber which would alter both the office of the chairman of the chamber and the chamber's apparatus, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 September. Federation member and Saratov Oblast representative Ramazan Abdulatipov had announced earlier that the group would seek to reduce the powers of the speaker. That post is currently held by Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 July 2001). According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," the group has proposed to introduce the new post of first deputy chairman of the Federation Council. It also wants to limit the chairman's term to two years. If approved, the regulations would come into effect in January 2002. JAC

President Putin signed a decree on 18 September naming new members to the presidium of the State Council, Russian agencies reported. Appointed were leaders of some of the largest grain-producing regions, such as Tambov Oblast Governor Oleg Betin, Leningrad Oblast Governor Valerii Serdyukov, Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin, Magadan Oblast Governor Valentin Tsvetkov, Altai Krai head Aleksandr Surikov, Mordovian President Nikolai Merkushin, and North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov. Both "Izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted on 19 September that there are no "political heavyweights" among their membership unlike the first two convocations of the State Council. (State Council presidium members serve six-month terms, and one representative from each of the seven federal districts is chosen.) "Izvestiya" also noted that one problem with the rotation system for the council will soon become apparent, since the number of regions in each federal district is uneven. For example, there are only six regions in the Urals federal district and 15 in the Siberian district. Therefore, some regional leaders will be up for a "second round" at the council before other regional leaders have even had one go. According to the State Council apparatus, the first session of the new presidium will be held at the beginning of October, when council members will look at the situation in the country's grain market and problems of exporting grain. JAC

Aleksandr Lebed also commented on the work of the State Council on the occasion of its first anniversary last month. Lebed said that he thinks the council has become "a peculiar buffer between the president and his administration and the public." Asked to offer his evaluation of the State Council, Kemerovo Governor Tuleev was more positive, telling the agency that the council gives regional leaders an opportunity to be involved in "strategic planning" for the country at large. Regarding the council's future, Tuleev said that "lies exclusively in the hands of the head of the government." Writing in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 9 September, Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika foundation, argued that the State Council performs at least two functions. President Putin "uses [the council] to work on economic and social development programs and as a form for agreement between government and regional interests before the programs' realization." In addition, the council serves as "a convenient instrument for lobbying the interests of federal executive power in the regions and even in the center." JAC

At a meeting of regional election officials from around the country in Barnaul on 13 September, Central Election Committee (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov announced that the commission intends to submit to the State Duma a package of legislation that will improve the election system in the country, "Izvestiya" reported. According to the daily, TsIK want to gain the right to nominate two candidates to the staff of regional election commissions as well as the chairmen of the commissions. (Currently, regional election commissions are selected by the local legislature and governor.) And if members of the regional commission reject all of the TsIK's nominees, then TsIK would have the right to name the chairman of the commission independently. According to ITAR-TASS, Veshnyakov promised that the legislation will also stimulate the development of political parties in Russia, which he said currently tend to work only around election times. JAC

Russia has never allowed the non-Russian peoples freedom to develop, and so they must create the necessary conditions to do so either individually or in cooperation with each other, Ekhter Bosqynov, who heads the Ural Bashkir People's Center, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 12 September. Acknowledging that "Tatarstan has always been a model for us," Bosqynov advocated creating a popular front in Bashkortostan comparable to that in Tatarstan and which would set as its priority the defense of the right to self-determination of the Muslim peoples of the Russian Federation. Bosqynov also accused Moscow of planning to abolish the republican status of both Tatarstan and Bashkortostan and lower their status to that of an oblast or krai. He called on the leaders of both republics to cooperate in opposing those plans. LF

While a number of other regions around Russia, such as Kamchatka Oblast and Primorskii Krai, continue to report deficits in supplies set aside for winter, resident of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug reportedly have enough supplies to last until August 2002, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September. According to the agency some 10,000 tons of food supplies have already been delivered to the okrug by ship from Seattle, Washington. On 14 September, the region's only poultry farm began operating again after an eight-year hiatus with the arrival of 11,000 Dutch chickens. The chickens were purchased by a subsidiary of Sibneft, the company once led by Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. The farm is expected to yield some 8,000 eggs a day, which should meet the area's demand. JAC

According to preliminary data on 24 September, incumbent Governor Vladimir Chub was re-elected in elections the previous day with more than 76 percent of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported. The only other contender, Zimovnikovskii raion head Petr Voloshin, had 7 percent of the vote. According to the local election commission, more than 47 percent of registered voters participated in the ballot. Chub was expected to win following the failure of local Communist Party leader Leonid Ivanchenko to overturn the local election commission's decision to cancel his registration. JAC

As the 25 September deadline set by President Putin for reconstructing the city of Lensk approaches, a number of federal officials have criticized the efforts of local Sakha officials in the rebuilding effort. At a joint session between federal Finance Ministry personnel and the Sakha government on 13 September, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu criticized local authorities for the pace of construction work. He also criticized the company Alrosa, which has completed only 16 houses of the 80 planned. The previous day, in an interview with "Vremya MN," Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov called the restoration effort in Lensk extremely ineffective. After his trip to Sakha, where he conducted a check of how monies to liquidate the effects of last spring's flood have been spent, Kolmogorov concluded that dozens of useless commissions have been created to cope with the disaster, but their activities frequently lead to muddles and abuses of office. Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, echoed those criticisms in an interview with "Izvestiya" on 15 September. He acknowledged that there were certain shortcomings in the restoration, but said that these can partly be attributed to the fact that the work had to be completed in three months when ordinarily 28 months would have been required. Pulikovskii added that the local Sakha government did nothing to assist the construction workers. For example, he claimed that local authorities failed to prepare a list of the people being resettled. JAC

Members of the State Council of Tatarstan said on 20 September that a letter opposing Tatarstan's plans to shift from a Cyrillic to a Latin-based alphabet that was published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 14 September and purported to be from well-known Tatars was a forgery, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 September 2001). Several of those whose names were appended to the letter have denied signing it, the Tatarstan leaders said. Despite this, Moscow continued its campaign against the shift to the Latin script. Also on 20 September, Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, told Interfax, "We, the Muslim clergy of Russia, do not support the shift of the Tatar language to the Latin script. This will divide the Tatar people. We will be cut off from the culture and language of the people if Tatarstan shifts to the Latin script." PG

The amendments that Moscow requires be made to Tatarstan's Constitution must be submitted to a republic-wide referendum, Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin stated on 17 September, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. LF

Tatarstan's ongoing transition from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet was dictated not by linguistic but rather by political considerations, the website quoted Tatar Turcologist Edham Tenishev as saying in Moscow on 17 September, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Tenishev argued that a referendum should be conducted on the issue. LF

A court has opened proceedings against the former chairman of Kursk Oblast's administration, Boris Khokhlov, on charges of embezzlement, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 September. ... ST. PETERSBURG. A city court found on 12 September that the former speaker of the city legislative assembly, Yurii Kravtsov, had exceeded the responsibilities of his position when he directed money from the duma's budget to support the newspaper "Smena," "Kommersant-Daily" reported. But the court also ruled that he should be released from prison where he has spent the last two years. ... VORONEZH. Law enforcement officers have arrested a former deputy in the oblast's legislative assembly, Anatolii Naumov, on charges of swindling, appropriation of another's property, and other offenses, the website reported on 4 September.

The following table ranks Russian regions by the number of bribes to public officials , according to data gathered by a research institute affiliated with the Prosecutor-General's Office that was published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 September. The daily also provides a list of more than a dozen examples of former governors, mayors, deputy governors, deputy mayors, regional administrative heads, and administrative deputies along with amounts they accepted in bribes. JAC


1. Moscow city
2. Krasnodar Krai
3. Moscow Oblast
4. Rostov Oblast
5. St. Petersburg
6. Bashkortostan
7. Tatarstan Republic
8. Stavropol Krai
9. Belgorod Oblast
10. Vologda Oblast
11. Voronezh Oblast
12. Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast
13. Novosibirsk Oblast
14. Samara Oblast
15. Sverdlovsk Oblast
16 Chelyabinsk Oblast

Source: "Nezavisimaya gazeta," 7 September 2001


By Nonna Chernyakova

After the first shock from the news of the terrorist attack on America, many residents of the far eastern region of Primore say they fear the start of a third world war as U.S. aircraft carriers sail toward Afghanistan.

Despite sometimes rocky relations between the United States and Russia, Russians grieved over the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Many called the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok to express their condolences, or they brought candles, flowers, and wreaths and placed them along the walls of the consulate building.

Marina Stupnitskaya, a professor of French and German at Vladivostok State University of Economics and Services, said she first heard the news from her husband who had gotten up early and watched TV. "I called a friend of mine and asked her, 'Did you hear the news?' She said, 'No.' Then I told her and started crying."

Tatiana Nikulina, a housewife, said: "This freezes our souls. How can anyone use innocent people to kill more innocent people? I don't think this ever happened before. It is so scary."

However, the terrorism panic immediately started among those who had their savings in dollars at home (many Russians save dollars as a hedge against the rapid drops in the value of the ruble that periodically hit the country). People ran to exchange offices of the local banks, which took advantage of the situation.

In Vladivostok some banks paid 20-23 rubles per dollar, while the official rate was 29.4. In the mining town of Kavalerovo, panicked residents accepted 13 rubles (45 cents) per dollar, the weekly newspaper, "Konkurent" reported. People rushed to jewelry stores and bought gold jewelry.

But although the banks paid reduced amounts for dollars, they sold dollars for the same rate as before 11 September. So many of them broke the law by exceeding the 15 percent margin between selling and buying rates. "Konkurent" estimated that banks nationwide earned a $1 billion profit off the rush to sell dollars. The panic finally stopped when Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko announced on 12 September that the dollar would remain at its previous rate throughout Russia.

With President George W. Bush announcing plans to punish terrorists and the countries that host them, the local press started discussing the possibility of Russia's involvement in a war on terrorism. But 60 percent of the newspaper coverage and the television and radio time is still dedicated to the news from America.

Much of the public now worries that America's actions will lead to a third world war. Primore Muslims distributed a statement in the local media warning against substituting a war against terrorism with a war against Muslims. Signed by Vladivostok's Imam Abdullah and the manager of a local Muslim association, Reef Kharisov, the letter states, "We are outraged by the terrorist act in the USA and feel deep sorrow for what happened." The Muslims expressed their condolence to the families of all the innocent citizens of America and other countries who perished.

"But we seriously fear that the fight with international terrorism will turn into a fight with Islam and persecution of Muslims ,who will be accused in the horrible crimes," the letter continues.

The letter appeals to Primore citizens with a request to be tolerant and respect each other.

Vladivostok's Council of World War Veterans appealed to American World War II veterans through the U.S. Consulate to prevent a global war. Chairman Yakov Kan, who fought in the Finnish war and lived through the siege of Leningrad, said the veterans do not want people to suffer even more from the horrible tragedy.

"All the bandits should be caught and brought to justice," Kan said. "We are not indifferent to what is going on in America. But if a war starts, we know that a huge number of innocent people will die."

Vitali Zhuravlev, a member of the Council of Afghan War Veterans, said that Afghanistan will be impervious to an American bombing campaign. "Our experience proved that bombing is not effective in this country," he said. "America should show the work of its secret services, satellites, the way they do in the movies."

Zhuravlev, one of the last Soviet soldiers to leave Afghanistan in 1989, said the Afghan populace's anger against invaders was intense. "Hatred surrounded us everywhere," he said.

And guerrillas had a commercial interest in warfare: They were paid according to the number of Soviet soldiers they killed, he said. "The same way it happens now in Chechnya: For each killed Russian soldier or officer they were getting money," he said.

In Moscow, the Russian State Duma started its first session after its summer vacation with moment of silence commemorating the victims of the 11 September terrorist attacks. The only deputies who refused to stand were members of the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Likewise, the chairman of the LDPR's office in Primore, Anatolii Kolupaev, explained that the party's goal is "to support Arabs."

"Russia shouldn't get directly involved in the conflict," he said. "Americans can fight only until the first blood. Very soon they will understand that Afghanistan is 100 times worse than Vietnam. The mujahedin are fanatics -- this is more horrible. Russia should unite with all Arab world -- Iraq, Libya, Iran."

But the message of condolence from most Russians got through. Alexander Hamilton, consul for politics and economics, said at a press conference that he and his colleagues were touched. He expressed gratitude to the Russian people for sharing Americans' pain.

Nonna Chernyakova is a freelance writer based in Vladivostok.