31 October 2001, Volume
ANTHRAX SCARE PUTTING PRESSURE ON LOCAL BUDGETS?
A number of regions reported possible cases of anthrax spores but all so far have turned out to be hoaxes. Since the beginning of October, health officials in Irkutsk Oblast have had to investigate four possible cases including an envelope with white powder received by the oblast administration, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 October. Local epidemiologists told the daily that each hoax deprives the meager budget of the health service of tens of thousands of rubles. "Inostranets" reported on 23 October that over 30 reports of suspicious white powder were made in Moscow in one week. Similar incidents were reported in Khabarovsk and Primorskii krais, the republics of Chavashia, Bashkortostan, Marii El and Mordovia, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, and the Tomsk, Sakhalin, Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, Vladimir, Nizhnii Novgorod, Ryazan, Samara, Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk oblasts. JAC
AFTER MEETING WITH PUTIN, TATARSTAN PRESIDENT BREAKS SILENCE ON AFGHAN CONFLICT.
Two days after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 24 October, Mintimer Shaimiev told diplomatic representatives from the European Union visiting Kazan that he hopes Russia will not be drawn into the war with Afghanistan, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Previously, Shaimiev and the head of another predominantly Muslim republic, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, refrained from commenting on the U.S.-led air strikes against Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 October 2001). Shaimiev added that both Muslims and Christians condemn the organizers of the terrorist acts of 11 September. Meanwhile, Rafis Kashapov, chairman of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center branch in Naberezhnye Chelny, confirmed earlier reports on TV that around 70 people of various nationalities have approached his group over the last month, wanting to fight for the Taliban against the U.S., Interfax-Eurasia reported on 30 October. JAC
BATTLE TO REPLACE STROEV AT HELM OF FEDERATION COUNCIL BEGINS IN EARNEST...
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev's recent victory in Orel gubernatorial elections (see item below) sparked a new wave of speculation about his likely successor at the helm of the upper legislative chamber. An unidentified Kremlin source told ITAR-TASS on 29 October that it is most unlikely that special legislation will be prepared so that Stroev will be able to hold onto that position, as at least one newspaper predicted some months earlier. "Vremya novestei" suggested on 30 October that the two most likely successors to Stroev are Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko and former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov. However, neither is currently a senator, which, the daily notes, would be necessary for them to be elected as speaker. The daily also reported that the pro-Kremlin Federation group within the council has its own candidate in mind to replace Stroev: Valerii Goreglyad, a representative of Sakhalin Oblast. According to "Vedomosti," an unidentified Kremlin source identified Goreglyad as the most likely successor to Stroev. In the meantime, the speculation is likely to continue since an unidentified source close to Stroev told "Kommersant-Daily" on 30 October that Stroev does not intend to vacate his post as head of the Federation Council before 1 January 2002 -- the last day he can hold the post under the new rules for forming the upper legislative chamber. JAC
...AS NEW SENATORS EYE NIGHT CLUB PREMISES.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 October that the new senators working on a "permanent" basis are having problems allocating resources for their own offices. So far, the new senators do not have service vehicles or special number license plates. They have not been able to charge business trips taken over the summer to the Federation Council, and many senators' offices do not have telephones, let alone electronic mail. During a recent meeting of a commission set up by the Federation group to monitor the expenditure of Federation Council funds, it was reportedly "discovered" that the Federation Council owns a building on Moscow's Tsvetnoi Boulevard; however, little of the building's current activities are connected with the upper legislative house. Similarly, another building on Novyi Arbat is also owned by the council, but some of its offices are occupied by private companies, including a night club. The daily added that by revealing these irregularities, Federation members were hoping to provoke a scandal, but so far there has been none. JAC
FORMER BIG FISH TURNS TO SMALLER POND.
Agrarian Party leader and State Duma deputy (Fatherland-All Russia) Mikhail Lapshin has decided to compete as a candidate in the 16 December presidential elections in the Altai Republic, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 October. According to the agency, Lapshin confided that leading the republic would require "working slavishly day and night, not as in the Duma." Lapshin's own political fortunes and those of his party are considered to have waned with the announcement of a new agrarian movement to be formed under Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland party (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 1 October 2001). On 26 October, "Vremya novostei" cited Lapshin's desire to switch to local politics as illustrating a broader trend among national legislators. According to the daily, many feel that they are losing their status and influence in Moscow and have decided to pursue opportunities in the regions, where they can play a larger political role. Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Inter-Regional Foundation for Political Programs, also put the trend in a generational context. He noted that "politicians of the new generation have reached the federal level. They are completely different, so prominent but older politicians feel like they don't belong anymore." JAC
ELECTION HEAD SAYS ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR THIRD TERM FOR CHAVASH LEADER.
Speaking to journalists in Cheboksary on 25 October, Central Election Commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that even if a bill limiting the rights of regional leaders to seek third terms is approved, it will not affect the situation in Chavashia because "under Russian law, after an election campaign begins the rules cannot be changed," strana.ru reported. Chavash presidential elections are scheduled for 16 December, and Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov has already declared his intention to seek a third term. Also expected to run are State Duma deputy (Communist) Valentin Shurchanov, and Federal Security Service Lieutenant General Stanislav Voronov (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 October 2001). JAC
AUTHORITIES DEPORT ROMANY FAMILIES.
More than 100 people -- the members of some 16 Romany families -- were expelled from a village in Oktyabrskii Prikubanskii Raion on 12 October, RFE/RL's Krasnodar correspondent reported on 20 October. The Roma are being sent to another village in Voronezh Oblast, where they are officially registered. The deputy head of the Krasnodar administration said that the Roma were being deported because they had seized land on the territory of Krasnodar and built homes without permission. According to the correspondent, the families had constructed some 20 different buildings not far from the Krasnodar-Rostov highway. A family head, Vyacheslav Mikhai, explained that they had left Voronezh because their children were becoming sick due to the radiation from a nearby nuclear plant. According to the correspondent, the families were loaded into two buses and their belongings quickly packed into 12 trucks with the assistance of more than 200 policemen. JAC
OBLAST LABELED WORST OFF IN THE URALS.
At a press conference in Moscow, the presidential envoy to the Urals federal district, Petr Latyshev, described Kurgan Oblast as the most problematic region in his district from an economic point of view, Interfax reported. According to Latyshev, the mostly agrarian region is experiencing a recession and more than 60 percent of its budget proceeds come from the federal center. However, help is on the way, Latyshev claims. The Agriculture Ministry held an extraordinary session on the region at which a series of decisions were taken about the agro-industrial sector. In addition, the region's debt to Unified Energy Systems will be restructured. JAC
STROEV WINS THIRD TERM WITH IMPRESSIVE MARGIN.
As expected, Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev easily won re-election to his post for a third term in elections held on 28 October. According to preliminary results the next day, Stroev attracted 91.7 percent of the vote. The selection "against all candidates" was second with 3.8 percent of the vote compared to 1.6 percent for the next closest contender, Vladimir Zyabkin, a professor at Orel State University. In the Trosnyanskyi Raion, voters were particularly enthusiastic about Stroev, with 98 percent of votes cast in his favor. Local observers believed that at least one of the other candidates in the race, Stanislav Mats, general director of a silicate brick factory, ran mostly as a favor to Stroev so that the elections would look "democratic," "Vremya MN" reported on 25 October. Mats got less than 1 percent of the vote. JAC
WINTER PROCEEDS AS USUAL IN VLADIVOSTOK...
Although outdoor temperatures have started to dip to zero degrees Celsius, Vladivostok's chief heating supplier, Dalenergo, has so far not turned on heat to a large number of residences in the krai, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported on 29 October. Dalenergo maintains that the city's administration has not signed an agreement to restructure an outstanding debt of 28 million rubles ($943,400). In addition, all of the city's electric transport, such as the trams and trolleys, have been stopped, and thousands of citizens had to walk to work in the morning in freezing temperatures. Meanwhile, by order of the mayor, OMON troops continue to guard an electricity substation in Partizansk to prevent electricity to that city from being turned off (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2001). JAC
...AS ENVOY PROMISES ONLY 'TECHNICAL' DISRUPTIONS OF HEATING SUPPLY.
The presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, said on 26 October the energy crisis that Primorskii Krai experienced last winter will not be repeated. At a press conference in Moscow on 30 October, Pulikovskii clarified "I will guarantee that the difficult situation like that experienced last year will not reoccur." He added that there might be accidents due to the aging of the heating pipe infrastructure, but expressed confidence that possible problems will have only a "technological character." JAC
ANOTHER REGIONAL BROADCASTER GOES OFF THE AIR.
Pskovenergo has restricted electricity supplies to the oblast radio and television broadcasting center in a number of raions in the oblast, Interfax-Northwest reported on 24 October. Tatyana Churikova, the deputy director of Energosbyt, an affiliate of Pskovenergo, said the reduction of electricity supplies is due to the center's outstanding 3 million ruble ($102,000) debt, which has been allowed to accumulate over a period of 10 months. Programs of ORT, RTR, and the Kultura channel as well as Radio Mayak have been affected by the cuts. JAC
INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN SAKHA FACING POLITICAL PRESSURE...
Officials from a local communications inspectorate suspended broadcasts of the independent Viktoriya radio station in Yakutsk on 30 October, Ren-TV reported. The communications officials charge that the suspension was necessary because the station lacks the proper technical documents. According to Ren-TV, they are also trying to get the Media Ministry to pull the station's broadcasting license once and for all. However, station General Director Aleksandr Glotov charged that the real reason for the suspension is that local authorities are trying to control independent media during the lead-up to 23 December presidential elections. Vyacheslav Zhevalun, acting general director of a joint stock company that controls the independent CTC TV station, concurs. He said that communications inspectors are conducting inspections more frequently and have asked that a report about one candidate, Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov, be aired. According to some media outlets, Kolmogorov is the candidate preferred by the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 October 2001). JAC
...AS VESHNYAKOV PUNTS ELECTION CONTROVERSY TO THE COURTS...
Upon his return from Moscow where he met with President Putin, Sakha (Yakutia) President Mikhail Nikolaev told reporters in Yakutsk on 26 October that Putin expressed support for Nikolaev's bid for a third term, Interfax-Eurasia reported. At the same time, an unidentified high-level source in the presidential administration told Interfax that during the meeting, the election situation in Sakha was not brought up in any way. The source added that the controversy over whether Nikolaev will be allowed to participate in the 23 December election should be resolved solely in accordance with existing legislation. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic decided on 29 October to postpone until 1 November consideration of whether Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev has a right to run for a third term in office. The republic's election commission decided on 24 October to register Nikolaev as a candidate, a decision which sparked condemnation from Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov. However, on 30 October, the TsIK decided not to render a decision on the republican commission's registration of Nikolaev. Veshnyakov explained that because "a court procedure has already started, we have no right to interfere." JAC
...AND CONTROL OVER DIAMONDS SEEN WHAT'S REALLY AT STAKE.
Meanwhile, two representatives of the diamond production company ALROSA have also registered as presidential candidates: ALROSA President Vyacheslav Shtyrov and ALROSA-Sakha head Mikhail Sannikov. "Kommersant-Daily" suggested on 16 October that Shtyrov will become the favorite in the race, should current President Mikhail Nikolaev continue to prove unable to register as a candidate. The daily also reported that according to an unnamed Kremlin source, the presidential administration considers Shtyrov to be a worthy candidate. The analytical website strana.ru suggested on 17 October that the Kremlin will try to accomplish at least two things with Shtyrov's election: transform ALROSA into a federal company and take back certain privileges that Sakha won during the rule of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, such as the right to sell some of its diamonds independently. JAC
TATAR NATIONALIST GROUPS FACING CRIMINAL PROSECUTION FOR GATHERING.
The office of Tatarstan's prosecutor is preparing materials to present in court against some of the organizers of events held in Tatarstan on 14 October to mourn those who defended the city against Ivan the Terrible in 1552 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001). According to the prosecutor's press service, organizers such as the All-Tatar Public Center, People's Front, and Idel-Ural gave speeches and used slogans, which "threatened the constitutional security and territorial wholeness of the Russian Federation." According to the website regions.ru, the organizers of the action will be accused of violating Tatarstan's regulation on order of conducting public meetings and demonstrations. If found guilty, the organizers face a fine of five minimum wages or two months of corrective labor. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, some demonstrators called for the creation of an Idel-Ural confederation, the rejection of Russian passports, and the transfer of law enforcement and military bodies to "local authorities." On 25 October, Tatar groups such as the Tatar Public Center and Creation organized a picket outside of the republic's legislature in Kazan. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, President Shaimiev stopped to talk with the 30-odd demonstrators and reminded them that it is necessary to maintain civilized relations with Moscow and that the republic's leaders are defending their position on several controversial paragraphs of the constitution. The demonstrators were carrying signs that read: "Deputies, defend Tatarstan's Sovereignty or Lose Your Authority," "No to Unitarism-Fascism," "Disobey Putin's Antipeople Policy," and "Defend Our Laws." JAC
TATAR OFFICIAL SEEKING COMPROMISE IN DISPUTE OVER SCRIPT?
At a commission meeting of Tatarstan's legislature on 18 October, leading republican politicians expressed their concern about State Duma deputies' and federal government officials' recent interest in the transition from Cyrillic to Latin script of the Tatar alphabet, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 September 2001). Meeting participants suggested that Moscow's interest has made the issue a political rather than a linguistic one that should be solved by Tatars. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Valeeva said during the meeting that "the main purpose of the law [on the transition to Latin script] was to protect tradition and assist in the [cohesion] of the Tatar nation." She added that it is necessary to amend the law and sign an agreement with the federal Education Ministry allowing Tatar schools in Russian regions to switch to Latin Tatar. Valeeva emphasized that "it is essential to obtain the approval of Tatars living outside Tatarstan for the switchover -- otherwise it would split the nation, which will lose a common system for graphically depicting the language." JAC
The Prosecutor-General's Office has asked that the State Duma strip deputy (Union of Rightist Forces) Vladimir Golovlev of his immunity because of allegations of "financial abuse" when Golovlev was head of the State Property Committee in the region, Ekho Moskvy reported on 30 October. ... KARELIA.
The republic's prosecutor has asked that the region's legislature strip Andrei Demin, a fellow legislator and mayor of Petrozavodsk, of immunity from criminal prosecution, because Demin has allegedly exceeded his authority and that the city budget is short by more than 15 million rubles ($508,000), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 October. ... NENETS.
Two Muscovites, Vladimir Lappo and Aleksandr Solovev, have been accused of swindling more than 1.3 million rubles of federal money earmarked for transferring some residents of Nenets to central regions of Russia, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 October. ... NIZHNII NOVGOROD.
Vladimir Prozorov, head of the local committee to protect the environment in the city of Dzerzhinsk, has been accused of embezzling 3.5 million rubles, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 October. ... TOMSK.
The oblast's prosecutor has launched a criminal case against Vyacheslav Kovrizhnyi, chairman of the health care committee, regarding the expenditure of 6 million rubles from the oblast budget on expired medication, Interfax reported.