16 August 2000, Volume
MOSCOW TO INVESTIGATE OIL COMPANIES' TIES TO GOVERNORS?
"Moskovskie novosti" argues in its issue number 31 dated 8 August 2000 that the federal government is planning a thorough investigation of the relationship between certain oil companies and the authorities of regions where they are based. The publication recalls the wide attention given to the Ministry of Finance's report on the large discrepancies in tax payments of Russia's largest oil companies to the federal government and notes that some oil companies have during the past year won tax privileges from regional authorities allowing them to liquidate much of their tax debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000). According to the weekly, Omsk Oblast, where Sibneft is based, ranks extremely low compared with other regions in terms of the collection of federal taxes, yet the oblast is "hardly one of the country's most economically backward." At the same time, in Tomsk Oblast, YUKOS's homebase, the indebtedness of enterprises to the federal budget over the last year doubled. The weekly concludes that it is not unlikely that the center wants to replace governors in the oil regions with its own hand-picked representatives, noting that Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhaev, Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii, and Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress are all in their second terms in office. (By law governors are allowed to seek only two terms in office.) JAC
PRO-KREMLIN DEPUTIES GROUP PROPOSES REDUCING THE NUMBER OF REGIONS.
In an interview with "Segodnya" on 10 August, People's Deputy group leader Gennadii Raikov suggested that the number of regions in the Russian Federation be reduced from 89 to 12-15. However, he noted that the consolidation of the federation cannot be achieved by means of altering the constitution. He suggested that a constitutional assembly could take up not only this issue but also the current principles for forming the lower legislative house and the proposed State Council. According to Raikov, the current draft bill on holding a constitutional assembly could be passed with sufficient additional work or an alternative might be proffered by the president. The presidential administration's position so far on amending the constitution appears to be that it is not ruling it out but at the same time it is in no hurry to initiate the process (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2000). JAC
PRESIDENTIAL ENVOYS TO HAVE MULTIPLE COFFERS TO DRAW FROM...
As President Vladimir Putin's presidential envoys to the seven federal districts prepare to celebrate their 100th day in office, the Russian federal government continues to sort out exactly how it will fund their activities. Citing Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 August that the governor-generals will have three sources of financing to draw upon. They are the funds of the business management department of the presidential administration, an allocation from the federal budget designated for the envoys, and the "financial resources of various ministries, which must establish their offices in the seven districts." JAC
...BUT PRIME MINISTER WILL NOT HAVE HIS OWN AMBASSADORS IN REGIONS AFTER ALL.
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced on 10 August that the federal government will not set up representatives' offices in each of the seven federal districts as he reportedly had stated earlier (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 August 2000). Commenting on the reversal, "Kommersant-Daily" concluded that someone in the Kremlin apparently figured out that the government was planning to have one of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's representatives sit along side the representative of President Putin and decided that this would not enhance the strengthening of vertical power. Boris Berezovskii owns a controlling interest in that newspaper. According to Interfax, Khristenko reported that Kasyanov will sign a decree regulating interaction between local branches of federal ministries and the presidential envoys. Khristenko explained that the main goal of interaction between the ministries and envoys should be the realization of Russian legislation on all territories of the country. This is necessary, he noted, because economic reform can be conducted effectively only in the territories and should not be confined to walls of the government cabinet offices. JAC
STATE COUNCIL TO BE SMALL, ADVISORY BODY?
Following his call to legislators in both of Russia's houses to present their proposals for the proposed State Duma, President Putin conducted consultations in Moscow with State Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on the same topic. After meeting with Putin on 10 August, Seleznev told reporters that Putin said that "the absolute majority of the governors, if not all of them, must be represented in the State Council." However, Seleznev added that in his opinion, the council must be a "compact consultative body with about 50 members chaired by the president" since "a body of 200-300 members will not be able to work productively." Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev did not comment on Putin's remarks after their meeting but said that he also believes that the new body "must be compact and must reflect the interests of the regions." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 August that according to its unnamed sources in the Kremlin, the administration is planning for a new body that will include only about 20 members: leaders of Duma factions, outstanding representatives of the intelligentsia, governors, and probably some representatives of the large business. (For a discussion of some of the historical precedents of the State Council, see also "RFE/RL Security Watch," 14 August 2000). JAC
REGIONAL LAWS TO BE SENT TO CENTER FOR SCRUTINY.
President Putin signed a decree on 11 August establishing a federal bank for regional legislation. The regional laws will be sent to the federal Justice Ministry within seven days following their passage. On 14 August, Putin signed a decree suspending an earlier resolution of Tula Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev regulating the licensing for gathering, processing and selling scrap ferrous and non-ferrous metal, ITAR-TASS reported. The Tula resolution of 12 April 2000 contradicts a number of provisions of the Russian Constitution and the Civil Code as well as other federal laws, according to the presidential press service. Last May, Putin suspended decrees of a variety of regional officials which violate federal laws (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2000). JAC
ENTERPRISES ACROSS SIBERIA HAVE ELECTRICITY SHUT OFF.
In Altai Krai, around 1000 enterprises have had their electricity shut off because of unpaid debts to Altaienergo, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 14 August. Consumer debt in the krai to the electricity supplier currently totals 1.34 billion rubles ($48 million), of which industrial enterprises owe some 273 million rubles. Meanwhile, in Tomsk Oblast and Buryatia, electricity supplies have begun to be shut off at enterprises there which are in debt to their local suppliers. In Buryatia, more than 230 enterprises have been affected. JAC
JULY PROVES BUSY MONTH FOR PRESS CENSORSHIP.
"Versiya" published in its issue number 30 for 8-14 August 2000 monthly data complied by the Fund for the Defense of Glasnost which monitors press freedom across Russia. According to the fund, three journalists were killed in July--Igor Domnikov of "Novaya Gazeta" of Moscow, Nikolai Kolesov of "Revdinskii rabochii" of Sverdlovsk Oblast, and Sergei Novikov of the radio station "Vesna" in Smolensk, while another three are missing -- Sergei Semenduev of Makhachala, Viktor Petrov of the telecommunication company RIO in Samara, and Vladimir Yatsina of ITAR-TASS in Moscow. Also in July, six journalists were attacked: Mikhail Sidulin of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in Moscow, Yurii Vasiltsev of "Vechernii Novorossiisk," Andrei Barys of "Uralskii rabochii" of Perm Oblast, Sergei Melnikov of the telecommunication company ASB-Prestizh in Ekaterinburg, Aleksandr Tsaplin of the telecommunication company Magnit in Belgorod, and Anton Zharov of "Mayak" radio in Moscow. In addition there were five cases of printers refusing to publish newspapers; four of these were in Penza Oblast and one in Moscow Oblast. The fund also reported that official press censorship appears to be occuring in Kaliningrad Oblast, where a new state position, deputy governor for information security, has been created JAC
EMIGRATION TO ISRAEL FALLS SHARPLY.
For the first time in the last several years, the number of persons in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast emigrating to Israel has fallen, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 14 August. In the first half of the year, the number of persons leaving for Israel dropped by 77 percent compared with the same period last year. Representatives of local Jewish organizations told the agency that many Jewish families prefer to emigrate not to the Middle East but to European countries or the U.S.; however, to get a visa to go to those places is extremely difficult under present circumstances. JAC
ATHLETE IMPLICATED IN PLOT TO KILL GOVERNOR.
Former Olympic champion biathlete and businessman Aleksandr Tikhonov was arrested and charged on 11 August with conspiring to murder Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, Interfax reported. Three days earlier, four people were arrested in Moscow and Novosibirsk for planning to murder Tuleev, shortly after which Tuleev issued a press release hinting that the assassins were hired by MIKOM, a Moscow-based metals group (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 2 August 2000 and 15 December 1999). When asked about Tikhonov, Tuleev said he had never met Tikhonov and was familiar with him only through his career as an athlete. According to "Izvestiya" on 12 August, Tikhonov runs a bread company and has no obvious motive for wanting to kill Tuleev. Meanwhile, the head of the press service of MIKOM reported that its general director, Mikhail Zhivalo, is not missing or "on the run" as was previously reported. He is on a business trip in St. Petersburg, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC
LEADER PROMISES TO SHUN GOVERNOR-GENERAL.
Khakassia President Aleksei Lebed has reportedly declared that he does not plan to use Leonid Drachevskii, presidential envoy to the Siberia federal district, as a conduit for his communications with the federal center, "Parlamentskaya gazeta" reported on 9 August. Lebed said that he intends to continue to rely on the interregional economic association, the Siberian Accord, in order to coordinate his work with the president and federal government. The daily reported that Lebed also declared that he will liquidate the apparatus of the presidential envoy on his republic's territory. JAC
OBLAST PROVES MILLIONAIRE MAGNET?
Perm Governor Gennadii Igumnov told reporters on 10 August that his oblast will remain a member of the Urals Interregional Economic Association although it is a member of the Volga federal district, the website, http://www.finmarket.ru reported. Igumnov also claimed that Perm occupies the first place in terms of wages among member of the Volga association but the cost of consumer goods in Perm is the second cheapest. Data from the State Statistics Committee confirms Igumnov's claims: the average monthly wage in Perm during the first six months of 2000 was $77 and Perm ranked 24th highest in terms of wages (see "Regional Index" below). "Finansovaya Rossiya" reported in its August issue an even more unusual statistic about Perm: most Russian millionaires live either in Moscow or Perm Oblast, according to data released by the Tax Ministry. The data, however, might not present a complete picture, since according to the publication, only some 7000 people in all of Russia declared personal incomes higher than 1 million rubles ($36,000) in 1999. JAC
TATAR OPPOSITIONIST CALLS FOR UNANIMITY WITH AUTHORITIES.
In an interview with TatarInform on 11 August, Rafis Kashapov, who heads the Chally branch of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center, argued that the republic's authorities and democratic organizations should combine forces as a first step toward defending the republic's sovereignty, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 August. Then, he said, they should align with other republics in the Volga-Urals region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2000). Kashapov blamed security forces for thwarting earlier attempts to create a united front. "If things continue the way they are going, Tatarstan will become a 'guberniya,' we'll lose our president and constitution. If we remain silent, we'll face baptism, the annihilation of our language, culture, religion, and national traditions," he said. LF
TOP REPUBLICAN LEADERS TO JOSTLE FOR PRESIDENCY.
The 15 October ballot for the republic's first president will be contested by the main regional elite, according to Interfax on 10 August. Taking part in that vote will be chairman of the State Council Aleksandr Volkov, deputy chairman of the State Council Pavel Vershinin, and Prime Minister Nikolai Ganza. According to a poll conducted by Veritas among 900 local residents, Volkov has 38 percent backing, Vershinin 19 percent, and Ganza 12 percent (while 11 percent said they would vote against all candidates). Some "outsiders," however, may seek to prevent a local candidate from winning the presidency. Earlier this month, Interfax reported that the local branch of the Communist Party intends to propose State Duma Deputy and former First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov as its candidate in the ballot. Until now, Udmurtiya has had a parliamentary form of government (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 March 2000). JC
SHAMANOV MULLS SYSTEMIC CHANGES IN EVENT OF ELECTORAL VICTORY.
Lieutenant-General Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the 58th Army of the North Caucasus Military District, told a gathering of local entrepreneurs in Ulyanovsk on 10 August that if he were elected governor in the December ballot, he would change the structure of government in the region, including the composition of the cabinet. Shamanov also noted that he would introduce a "serious economic council" in a bid to kickstart the local economy. At the same time, he took the opportunity to take a swipe at Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, pledging not to indulge in nepotism--a "sin" that Rutskoi is guilty of. Shamanov has yet to confirm that he will take part in the December vote. JC
PAYING THE PRICE FOR A FREE EDUCATION.
RFE/RL's "Korrespondentskii chas" reported on 5 August about the lamentable state of funding for schools in the city of Cherepovets. According to the broadcast, it has long been a tradition that parents of the city's school children have helped to pay for the refurbishing of crumbling premises, for school equipment, and even for the wages of security personnel. This year, however, those same parents are being asked to dig even deeper into their pockets and come up with funds for their children's text books (many of which have been newly published following recent changes in teaching methods). Taking into account that a child may require up to 30 such books, the cost of which can range from 30 rubles ($1.08) to 70 rubles, "Korrespondentskii chas" calculates that the total amount required is equivalent to the average monthly wage in the city--meanwhile the Russian Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to a free secondary education. JC
REGIONAL INDEX: Regional Economic Trends, First Half 2000
Geographic Unit____________Avg. Monthly_______Ranking*
Nenets Aut. Okrug____________$160_________________7
St. Petersburg City______________$85________________22
Marii El Repubic__________________$37_______________59
Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast_____________$56______________41
Komi-Permyak Aut. Okrug___________$38_______________58
Khanty-Mansii Aut. Okrug____________$257______________2
Yamalo-Nenets Aut. Okrug__________$303________________1
Chelyabinsk Okrug_________________ $68_______________31
Taimyr Aut. Okrug____________________$220______________3
Evenk Aut. Okrug____________________$119______________14
Ust-Ordinskii Aut. Okrug_______________$34_______________61
Aginsk Buryat Aut. Okrug_______________$37______________59
FAR EAST DISTRICT__________________$107
Koryak Aut. Okrug_______________________$157___________8
Jewish Aut. Oblast________________________$66___________33
Chukotka Aut. Okrug_____________________$194___________5*Due to multiple regions with the same average monthly income, the rankings stop at 61.
Source: PlanEcon, Washington, D.C.