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Russia Report: January 12, 2000

12 January 2000, Volume 2, Number 2
In a number of regions across Russia, action committees and initiative groups have been formed to nominate acting President Vladimir Putin for the 26 March presidential elections. Such groups now exist in the Marii El, Daghestan, Bashkortostan, and Tatarstan republics, Altai Krai as well as in the Chita and Sakhalin oblasts. ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January that regional branches of the Assembly of Russian Nations in the republics of Daghestan and Udmurtia and the oblasts of Orenburg and Voronezh have called on the All Russia movement to support Putin's candidacy. Regional leaders have also expressed their support for Putin. According to Interfax, Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov even expressed interest in working on Putin's campaign, although Amirov until recently headed the local campaign headquarters for the Fatherland-All Russia alliance. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel said that the leadership of his oblast will support Putin in presidential elections. JAC

Samara Governor Konstantin Titov told Interfax on 11 January that with Putin's removal of First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko from that post, the promotion of Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu to deputy prime minister as well as other cabinet changes, Putin has demonstrated that he is an "independent" candidate for president and has managed to evade dependence on certain political figures and the "Family." Titov is also the chairman of the Federation Council's Budget Committee. Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak said that Putin's cabinet changes are evidence that Putin has achieved more political independence than he had when he first assumed the post of prime minister. JAC

The rescheduling of presidential elections from 4 June to 26 March has triggered a number of similar changes in election dates for regional offices. For example, the Central Election Commission announced that repeat elections for State Duma seats in eight districts where the majority of voters rejected all candidates will now be held on 26 March rather than 19 March (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 5 January 2000). Legislators in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug voted on 10 January to hold gubernatorial elections there at the same time as national presidential elections. Kirov Oblast Duma deputies have approved an initiative by incumbent Governor Vladimir Sergeenkov to bring forward the region's gubernatorial ballot from October to 26 March, and the Murmansk Oblast legislature similarly endorsed Governor Yurii Yevdokimov's proposal to hold gubernatorial elections in late March instead of early December, ITAR-TASS reported. Vladivostok, meanwhile, will attempt to hold mayoral elections on 26 March, according to Interfax-Eurasia. JAC/JC

First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii told Interfax on 10 January that acting President Putin has signed a bill amending the law on economic support for regional newspapers. According to Seslavinskii, money for regional newspapers will now come directly from the federal budget rather than being channeled through local government organs. He said that recent gubernatorial elections showed that "unfortunately very frequently media are completely economically dependent on local authorities." He added that the amount of money in the federal budget for media support increased from around 60 million rubles ($2.1 million) in the 1999 budget to 150 million rubles this year. JAC

"Vremya MN" predicted on 24 December that if the newly elected State Duma turns out to be loyal to the Kremlin, the role that the Federation Council has traditionally played will become less significant. The daily noted that when the previous Duma was continually initiating votes of no confidence or impeachment proceedings, the Federation Council acted as a go-between in conflicts between the Duma and the Kremlin. In return, senators could expect the Duma to pass laws that they needed and the Kremlin to provide payments and privileges. Now, a Kremlin alliance with the Duma may force the upper house into the role of opposition. The daily quoted Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev as saying that it is a mistake to imagine that relations between the parliament and government will be idyllic, but it also noted that Stroev made a goodwill gesture to the Kremlin by suggesting amendments to the constitution that would allow the introduction of direct presidential rule in any part of the country. On 10 January, the Council's Legislation Committee confirmed that constitutional reform is on the legislature's agenda for the first six months of 2000. JAC

At a conference on the problems of forming constitutional courts in Russian regions on 24 December, the head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin, called for "preserving a single legal field in Russia." According to ITAR-TASS, Voloshin said all laws must be based on the supremacy of the federal constitution, but at the same time legislation of each region should be logical and meet local requirements. He noted that the federal state faces two dangers, a slide toward unitarianism and one toward fragmentation, and he called on constitutional courts to establish clear procedures for implementing laws and coordinating the interests of regions and the federation. He noted that where some regions' constitutions and laws conflict with the federal constitution, regional constitutional courts exacerbate this problem. Federal Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai told conference participants that another important problem is the lack of coordination between the federal Constitutional Court and its regional counterparts. JAC

On 10 January, "Izvestiya" profiled Minister for Federation and Nationality Affairs Aleksandr Blokhin, who was appointed to that post on 6 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1999). According to the daily, prior to taking his last post as Russia's ambassador to Azerbaijan, Blokhin was director of the Interior Ministry's department for relations with federation subjects. According to the daily, Blokhin is not known as having been particularly successful in his post in Baku: "his greatest accomplishment there may have been the absence of clear failures in a country where Russia's interests do not at all correspond with the oil interests of philanthropic Europeans and Americans." The newspaper concludes that Blokin's appointment illustrates that Putin believes the country's first "nationalities" problem is the Chechen one and that resolution of this problem does not require "diplomatic methods." JAC

General Boris Gromov won 48.09 percent of the vote in gubernatorial elections held in Moscow Oblast on 9 January. Gromov, an ally of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and a member of the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, commanded Soviet armed forces during the last stage of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. Gromov's deputy governor will be Mikhail Men. Gromov's opponent, former State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev (Communist), who had been expected to win, has demanded a recount, Interfax reported. However, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that he sees no basis for questioning the validity of the election results. "Vedomosti" noted on 11 January that Gromov, with his military background and experience as a deputy interior minister, will be a good candidate for the chairman's spot on the Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee, which was vacated when Tambov Governor Aleksandr Ryabov was defeated on 19 December. JAC

Novosibirsk Mayor Viktor Tolokonskii defeated Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Starikov in the second round of gubernatorial elections in Novosibirsk Oblast on 9 January. According to preliminary results, Tolokonskii captured 44.32 percent of the vote, compared with Starikov's 42.17 percent. More than 12 percent of voters voted against all candidates. Novosibirsk's incumbent governor, Vitalii Mukha, was eliminated during the first round of voting on 19 December. Tolokonskii won the support of the oblast's trade unions by promising to force the region's employers to pay wages on time and get the unions' approval for the appointment of deputy governors, ITAR-TASS reported. Tolokonskii also reportedly has the support of business magnate Boris Berezovskii. JAC

Incumbent Tver Governor Vladimir Platov won re-election during the second round of elections on 9 January. (He did not win during the first round, as "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report" incorrectly reported on 5 January 2000). Platov defeated former State Duma deputy (Communist) Vladimir Bayunov by less than 0.5 percent, according to unofficial results, Interfax reported. Platov had been expected to win, having garnered the most votes during the first round of elections. JAC

A group of voters in Kemerovo Oblast has nominated Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev as a candidate for national presidential elections, Interfax reported on 6 January. Tuleev told the agency on 8 January that he does not doubt that Putin will win the election, but he believes that there should be more candidates for the post. Tuleev added that while Putin has achieved some successes on the military front, little is known about his economic successes. "Take the coal sector, for example, no one knows what [is planned]. And nothing is clear about the direction of the Russian Federation, interbudgetary relations and corruption," he said. JAC

Khabarovsk's Legislative Assembly voted on 9 January to approve a 2000 budget with a deficit of just over 3 percent of revenues, ITAR-TASS reported. Last year, the city's budget had a 10 percent deficit and the previous year it was 47 percent. According to the agency, the city has slashed spending on housing and public utilities, but it also expects to collect 260 million rubles ($9.3 million) more than in the previous year, which is about 19 percent of total projected revenues of 1.385 billion rubles. JAC

Ilya Vaisman, the finance director of Russia's leading brewery Baltika, was shot dead at his St. Petersburg home during the night of 9-10 January. An unidentified assailant or assailants reportedly fired through the window of Vaisman's apartment, hitting him in the chest. The 36-year-old beer executive, a native of Belarus, died immediately. Founded in 1990, Baltika is run by Baltic Beverages Holding, a joint venture between the Norwegian conglomerate Orkla and Finland's Hartwall beverages group. Baltika has an estimated 21 percent share in the Russian beer market and a 35 percent share in both St. Petersburg and Moscow. Baltika representatives were quick to point out that this was the first murder in the company's 10-year existence. But Vaisman is the latest victim in a string of high-profile assassinations that have taken place in St. Petersburg over the past year or so. In the past few months alone, several prominent businessmen have been murdered in the northern city: Pavel Kapysh, head of the Baltic Financial Industrial Group, who was shot in his car in August; Oleg Chervonyuk, director-general of the Metropress Joint Stock Company, who was gunned down in an apartment building in October; and Dmitrii Filipov, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Menatep St. Petersburg and formerly head of the Petersburg Fuel Company, who was killed by a remote-controlled bomb in October. And in the same month, Legislative Assembly deputy Viktor Novoselov was assassinated in a car bomb explosion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999). JC

Citing local press articles, "Izvestiya" on 6 January reported that a new youth organization of the National Bolshevik Party has been founded in Volgograd under the name of "Young Followers of Beria" (Yunye Berievtsy). Expressing bewilderment that youths of today should wish to be recognized as adherents of the head of the Soviet secret police under Stalin, the newspaper notes that a dozen or so children aged 10 to 14 have signed up for membership in the organization and their numbers are likely to grow. The youngsters are to engage in propaganda on behalf of the party and its ideals, and some have begun work on putting out a newspaper called "Limonka i Dinamit." JC

The Vologda Prosecutor-General's Office has launched a criminal investigation into alleged vote-buying during the 19 December elections to the oblast Legislative Assembly, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 December. Reportedly the main suspect is local parliamentary deputy and leader of the Vologda National Movement, Mikhail Surov, who has been dubbed the local Zhirinovskii on account of his nationalist outbursts and outlandish behavior. Surov has a criminal record dating back more than 20 years and most recently, in 1997, was given a two-year suspended sentence for slander. In last month's ballot, he was re-elected as a deputy in the regional legislature. JC

A losing candidate in recent State Duma elections, Aleksandr Krasnoshtan has been arrested on suspicion of embezzlement. According to ITAR-TASS, Krasnoshtan, chairman of a local seamen's union, has been accused of appropriating others' property and renovating his own apartment with union funds. ... KRASNOYARSK. The head of Krasnoyarsk Krai's tax police, Vladimir Shakhin, has been arrested for abuse of office, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. Shakhin is also suspected of conspiring to murder a local journalist, who had been investigating corruption among local officials. JAC

"Ekspert" magazine published in its 18 October issue its second annual ranking of Russian regions according to their "investment potential." The rankings were based on eight factors such as the areas' natural resource and labor base, transportation and security infrastructure, budget resources, and the local population's purchasing power. The cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg and the Sverdlovsk and Samara oblasts retained their top ranking, while Leningrad Oblast moved up 13 places to 22nd. Amur Oblast rose from 54th to 47th position. Tatarstan fell from the top 10 to 14th place. JAC

1. Moscow city

2. St. Petersburg

3. Moscow Oblast

4. Sverdlovsk Oblast

5. Samara Oblast

6. Krasnoyarsk Krai

7. Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug

8. Perm Oblast

9. Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast

10. Kemerovo Oblast

11. Rostov Oblast

12. Krasnodar Krai

13. Bashkortostan Republic

14. Tatarstan Republic

15. Chelyabinsk Oblast

16. Irkutsk Oblast

17. Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

18. Sakha Republic

19. Novosibirsk Oblast

20. Belgorod Oblast

21. Saratov Oblast

22. Leningrad Oblast

23. Primorskii Krai

24. Voronezh Oblast

25. Volgograd Oblast

26. Altai Krai

27. Khabarosk Krai

28. Stavropol Krai

29. Orenburg Oblast

30. Tula Oblast

31. Murmansk Oblast

32. Kursk Oblast

33. Omsk Oblast

34. Vladimir Oblast

35. Tyumen Oblast

36. Udmurtia Republic

37. Yaroslavl Oblast

38. Ulyanovsk Oblast

39. Tver Oblast

40. Bryansk Oblast

41. Vologda Oblast

42. Kaliningrad Oblast

43. Lipetsk Oblast

44. Komi Republic

45. Ryazan Oblast

46. Kaluga Oblast

47. Amur Oblast

48. Chuvashia Republic

49. Chita Oblast

50. Penza Oblast

51. Arkhangelsk Oblast

52. Smolensk Oblast

53. Kirov Oblast

54. Daghestan Republic

55. Orel Oblast

56. Tomsk Oblast

57. Tambov Oblast

58. Buryatia Republic

59. Ivanovo Oblast

60. Mordovia Republic

61. Astrakhan Oblast

62. Karelia Republic

63. Kurgan Oblast

64. Novgorod Oblast

65. North Ossetia Republic

66. Magadan Oblast

67. Pskov Oblast

68. Kabardino-Balkaria Republic

69. Kostroma Oblast

70. Marii El Republic

71. Sakhalin Oblast

72. Khakassia Republic

73. Adygei Republic

74. Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

75. Kamchatka Oblast

76. Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic

77. Ingushetia Republic

78. Taymyr Autonomous Okrug

79. Jewish Autonomous Okrug

80. Tyva Republic

81. Kalmykia Republic

82. Chechnya Republic

83. Altai Republic

84. Ust-Ordinskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug

85. Evenk Autonomous Okrug

86. Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug

87. Aginskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug

88. Koryak Autonomous Okrug

89. Nenets Autonomous Okrug