5 December 2001, Volume
SAKHA JUDGES AGAIN DEFY FEDERAL COUNTERPARTS...
Supreme Court justices in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) again on 28 November failed to cancel incumbent Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev's registration in 23 December presidential elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November 2001). According to ITAR-TASS, the judges decided to once again refer consideration of the issue to the federal Constitutional Court. Commenting on the situation on 1 December, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov charged that the Sakha Supreme Court's recent rulings have "discredited" it. He noted that the consideration of complaints against incumbent President Nikolaev have been "artificially delayed," since the maximum time for considering a complaint is 10 days while the delay in Sakha has lasted for one month. Soon after the ruling, Veshnyakov said that there is no possibility of rescheduling the republic's presidential elections. JAC
...AS DIAMOND OLIGARCH RESTORED TO LEADING SPOT.
Meanwhile, the federal Supreme Court overruled the Sakha republican court and reinstated on 30 November the candidacy of ALROSA head Vyacheslav Shtyrov. Sakha's Electoral Commission fulfilled the court's decision the following day, Interfax reported. Also on 30 November, the Audit Chamber announced the results of its investigation into how the city of Lensk was restored following a devastating flood in May. Auditor Mikhail Surkov announced that, as a result of the audit, more than 500,000 rubles ($16,801) from the republic's budget has been frozen. RTR television noted that the auditors have not named those "guilty of financial violations," but for the time being "the whole Yakutian government occupies the role of unscrupulous customer." In a report on 22 November, Mikhail Sokolov, political correspondent for RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, citing an unnamed Kremlin source, reported that opinion about the election is divided within the presidential administration. There is a minority that is willing to resign itself to the re-election of Nikolaev to a third term, while there is another faction that supports ALROSA head Shtyrov. These latter officials are convinced that Shtyrov is ready to transfer a significant package of shares in ALROSA to Moscow. The daily "Gazeta" reported on 4 December that Shtyrov is the "new favorite" in the presidential election race. JAC
POWER SHIFTS IN FEDERATION COUNCIL...
As expected, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev officially tendered his resignation on 4 December, Russian agencies reported. Aleksandr Nazarov, representative for Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, told reporters that Stroev nominated Sergei Mironov, former deputy speaker of the St. Petersburg legislature, as his replacement, Interfax reported. Mironov is considered a long-time ally of President Putin from the latter's tenure as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Yurii Korgunyuk of the INDEM political research group told AFP on 29 November that Mironov is a man with few enemies. "He is absolutely new to Moscow, a compromise figure who gives the Kremlin a chance to iron out any potential discontent in the council," Korgunyuk said. JAC
...AS ANOTHER REGIONAL LEADER CALLS FOR ELECTING SENATORS.
In an interview with Interfax on 1 December, Ingushetia President Ruslan Aushev said he does not approve of the current system for forming the Federation Council. He said the current principles "do not express the spirit of 'parliamentarianism,' and today's chamber cannot fully express the interests of the regions" because the majority of the new senators live in Moscow and have "only an approximate understanding of how people in the regions really live." Aushev called for introducing amendments to the federal constitution that would make membership in the Federation Council an elected position like that of Duma deputies. JAC
PROSECUTORS ACCUSED OF INTERFERING IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS.
In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio on 29 November, former Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev charged that there are "clear signs of interference by the Prosecutor-General's Office in the election struggles in the regions." He continued, "It is completely obvious that in Yakutia prosecutors are carrying out various activities that do not fall under general judicial procedure." Kovalev accused the office of acting in support of Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov, who is a candidate in the race. On 27 November, the republican prosecutor charged three election specialists who had prepared campaign leaflets about incumbent President Mikhail Nikolaev's rival candidates in the race -- including Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov -- with slander, inciting ethnic hatred, and vandalism (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 November 2001). JAC
REGIONAL COUNTERPARTS OF NATIONAL PARTIES TRY TO CONSOLIDATE...
As Russia's best-known political parties hold meetings in Moscow to form larger nationally-based parties, their regional counterparts were engaged in a similar process (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2001). For example, on 22 November, Unity, Fatherland, and All-Russia created a new regional grouping in the Urals federal district. On 27 November, in Kurgan Oblast, founders of the so-called pro-presidential parties established a new grouping called "Single Russia," strana.ru reported. Single Russia elected three delegates to the All-Russian congress of Unity and two for Fatherland. And in Kostroma, the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko conducted several joint actions and plan to support the same candidates in local elections, regions.ru reported on 1 December. Nevertheless, "Izvestiya" noted on 27 November that "in the majority of regional elections parties usually do not play a noticeable role, with the possible exclusion of the Communist Party and Unity." According to the daily, in those regions where the Communist Party is traditionally strong, such as the Novosibirsk and Tomsk oblasts and Kamchatka and Krasnoyarsk krais, the Communists put forward the maximum number of candidates. JAC
...AS ALL PARTIES LOSE IN NOVOSIBIRSK.
But even in a traditional strongholds such as Novosibirsk, the Communist Party may be losing ground. Of the 49 available seats in 2 December elections to the oblast's legislature, Communist Party candidates won 12 seats, and the Agrarian Party won six, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 3 December, citing preliminary results. Commenting on the results, Novosibirsk Oblast Governor Viktor Tolokonskii noted that while the Communists fared better than any other party, they now have fewer seats in the legislature, falling from 16 seats to 12. Only one candidate supported by Unity won in the elections -- the remaining 30 seats will go to independent candidates, according to ITAR-TASS. According to strana.ru, candidates from Fatherland and Yabloko failed completely, despite the fact that Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky traveled to Novosibirsk in November to try to build support for his party. JAC
PRIME MINISTER TELLS GOVERNORS TO POSTPONE BIG CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS...
Speaking before the Duma on 30 November, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov pledged that the government will take all the necessary steps to help regions balance their budgets and ensure that state sectors workers are paid. But he noted that, "[I]t is necessary for leaders of federation subjects to acknowledge their own responsibility and make the payment of wages a priority rather than the construction of new churches and office buildings, etc. It is necessary to stop such expenditures or postpone them until better times." Meanwhile, in an interview with "Krasnodarskie izvestiya" on 11 November, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky explained that his party favors "reducing the political power of the governors and increasing their economic power." Yavlinsky spoke in favor of maintaining the 50/50 split in revenue between the federal government and regional governments, noting that "it is better to give [regional governors] the money at once then send it to Moscow and then try to get it back." JAC
COMMUNIST CANDIDATE HOPES TO STAGE COMEBACK.
As the 16 December presidential election approaches, the main contenders appear to be incumbent President Nikolai Fedorov and Valentin Shurchanov, leader of the Chuvash Communist Party branch and State Duma deputy, RFE/RL special correspondent Karen Agamirov reported on 22 November from Cheboksary. Shurchanov led the republic 11 years ago when he headed the republic's Communist Party branch and was also chairman of the republic's legislature. Shurchanov told RFE/RL that under Fedorov, the local economy has declined. According to Shurchanov, wages at the republic's best enterprises are on average between one-half and one-third the average wage in Moscow. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov arrived in the republic on 4 December to campaign for Shurchanov, Interfax reported on 30 November. According to Interfax-Eurasia, Zyuganov refused to meet with current President Fedorov. JAC
...AS GOVERNORS COMPLAIN OF CHAIN OF INDEBTEDNESS.
Some regional leaders are complaining that the situation regarding indebtedness in their regions is close to disastrous, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 November, citing a telephone conversation the previous day between Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko and a number of regional governors. According to the governors, consumers are in debt to housing and municipal services and the power industry. And these groups are in turn in debt to local and federal budgets. For example, a deputy governor from Arkhangelsk Oblast reported that Arkhangelskenergo has outstanding debts exceeding 3 billion rubles ($104 million). Meanwhile, Valentina Pivnenko, chair of the Duma's Committee for the Problems of the North and Far East, told reporters on 3 December that financing of the Northern delivery -- the supply of fuel and goods to the Far Northern regions for the winter -- under the 2002 budget will be increased 1.35 times and will total 8.9 billion rubles, Interfax-AFI reported. The extra money will be disbursed between the programs "Children of the North" and "Economic and Social Development of the Far East and Trans-Baikal," among others. JAC
NEW PLAN FOR ETHNIC GROUPS UNVEILED.
In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 29 November, Abdul-Wahid Niyazov, a State Duma deputy and leader of the Eurasian Party, said that he plans to propose a bill that will call for a national referendum on giving ethnic-cultural autonomies special status within Russia's federal structure. Under such a system, for example, German ethnic districts in the Altai Krai or Karelians in Tver Oblast would be formed as special administrative units within those regions. According Niyazov, the current federal structure does not properly address the needs of ethnic groups. "The Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug cannot handle the problems faced by Khanty and Mansii people; instead it is forced to deal with matters of importance to oil companies," he said. JAC
MAYOR CLAIMS CRIMINAL PROSECUTION IS POLITICAL PERSECUTION.
Andrei Dyomin, the mayor of Petrozavodsk in the Republic of Karelia, has been charged with exceeding his official duties by signing a deal for the purchase of 25 used Mercedes buses, TV-6 reported on 29 November. Prosecutors in Karelia charge that the city paid too high a price for the buses and damage was thus caused to the city's budget. The republic's legislature voted in November to strip Dyomin of his immunity from criminal prosecution. Dyomin told TV-6 that the case against him is politically motivated and that the republic's prosecutor is deliberately dragging the case out so that Dyomin will be hampered during mayoral elections next spring. If found guilty, Dyomin faces a possible prison sentence of seven years. JAC
ARE RUSSIAN POLITICAL LEADERS ALREADY JOCKEYING FOR POSITIONS WITH RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION?
Another Russian political leader reportedly has a job lined up with the Russia-Belarus Union: Kirov Oblast Governor Vladimir Sergeenkov reportedly will resign soon in order to assume a post in the union's administration, regions.ru reported on 3 December citing the Gorod news service. According to unidentified unofficial sources, Sergeenkov will resign before the end of the year in order to head the union's ministry for social questions. Last week, gazeta.ru reported that former Russian President Boris Yeltsin is being actively discussed to head the union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2001). JAC
SOLDIERS RETURNING FROM CHECHNYA EXPERIENCE ADJUSTMENT PROBLEMS.
Medical specialists in the city of Krasnoyarsk have found that almost all of the most recent group of soldiers returning from the Chechen conflict require psychological help, RFE/RL Krasnoyarsk correspondent Aleksandr Makarov reported on 17 November. According to the specialists, the majority of these young men have difficulty controlling themselves in the most inoffensive of everyday conflicts. And their close relatives report that many of them say things such as, "If only I had a gun at that moment, I would have shot the creep." Almost all of them dream about returning to the war, in part because they feel lost in the civilian world. Social services to ease the soldiers' transition to civilian life are few; soldiers are mainly eligible for free dental care. According to local psychologist Valentina Snegireva, most of the returning soldiers, as a rule, have no higher education and usually want to work as security guards for a rich commercial firm or bank. Local specialists fear that an entire generation of young, strong men has grown up in Russia well-trained at only one skill -- killing people. JAC
MILITARY MAN TOUTED AS KIRIENKO REPLACEMENT.
Presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko may soon be replaced, nns.ru reported on 23 November, citing a Samara-based publication. According to the website, Kirienko will be replaced with Airborne Troop Commander Georgii Shpak -- not because of the Kremlin's dissatisfaction with Kirienko's performance but because of a perceived need to strengthen a district that includes two Muslim republics. In the 1990s, Shpak served as the commander of the Volga military district in Samara. JAC
LUFTHANSA EXPANDS FLIGHTS INSIDE RUSSIA.
Lufthansa's Nizhnii Novgorod office reported that on 1 December the airline increased its flights along regional routes in response to rising demand, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 December. According to the agency, the city of Perm has started receiving flights from the German carrier. The airline already services Kazan, Samara, and Nizhnii Novgorod, and passenger traffic on those flights has risen this year by 48 percent, 21 percent, and 16 percent, respectively. JAC
NAZDRATENKO RETURNS TO STUMP FOR CANDIDATES...
RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent, Marina Loboda, reported on 22 November that State Fishing Committee Chairman and former Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko recently returned to the krai to campaign for those candidates whom he supports in upcoming elections to the krai's legislature. According to Loboda, Nazdratenko supporters are competing in the race against a second group which supports Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov. If elected, the latter group is expected to pose serious opposition to current Governor Sergei Darkin. Local analysts estimate the cost of a single campaign for a legislative seat at between $40,000 and $200,000. As a result, at least half of the candidates to the legislature are local businessmen who can finance their own election. In November, Aleksandr Drozdov, deputy presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, charged that more than 50 candidates in the krai race as well as in legislative races in Khabarovsk and Kamchatka have links to organized crime, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 November. NTV had reported earlier that Drozdov said that 50 candidates linked to organized crime were in the Primore race alone (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 November 2001). JAC
...AS CHEREPKOV HOPES TO LAUNCH NATIONAL PARTY.
Former Vladivostok Mayor and State Duma Deputy (independent) Viktor Cherepkov was elected chairman of the new Russian Party of Freedom and People's Power at its founding congress on 2 December, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 4 December. Cherepkov told reporters in Vladivostok that his party is the only "non-nomenklatura" party in Russia. Cherepkov announced in November that he was leaving the People's Deputy faction in the Duma because it did not really represent the people's interests (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 December 2001). JAC
DUMA DEPUTY SAYS MOSCOW CONDUCTING CAMPAIGN OF PRESSURE AGAINST TATARSTAN.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 November, State Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin (Russian Regions) said Moscow is guilty of using pressure and legal attacks during the process of seeking the harmonization of the constitutions of Tatarstan and Russia. According to Safiullin, Moscow is trying "to drive all of the republics into one barn," and thus form a unitary state. Safiullin added that a recent article in the newspaper "Zavtra" represented a direct call for an anti-Tatar pogrom addressed to Russians living outside of Tatarstan, many of whom he claims are ignorant about Tatarstan and Tatars. The daily claimed that Tatars have destroyed a monument to Ivan the Terrible in Kazan, but, according to Safiullin, most Russian citizens are unaware that such a monument never even existed in Kazan. Meanwhile, several of Safiullin's colleagues in the State Duma have filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court challenging a provision of the Tatar Constitution that requires the president to speak both Russian and Tatar. JAC