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Russia Report: November 1, 2000

1 November 2000, Volume 2, Number 40
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told reporters on 25 October that he supports the drafting of a law that would define the powers of the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts. Stroev asserted that until these powers are clearly defined, differences will continue to arise between the heads of federation subjects and the envoys, Interfax reported. Presidential envoy to the Far East district Konstantin Pulikovskii responded to Stroev's suggestion that there is no need for such a law because Putin's decree establishing the seven federal districts covers everything, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 October. However, that newspaper pointed out that each envoy seems to have a different perception about what his duties are, as do Kremlin and government officials. For example, Sergei Samoilov, head of the Territorial Department in the presidential administration, reportedly believes that the envoys should be engaged not in managing their districts but in coordinating the activities of regional authorities, while Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko thinks the envoys' duties will be determined on an ad hoc basis, that is, "by life itself." The daily, which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, argued that the Kremlin probably does not want the envoys' duties defined on paper since that might "frustrate its plans"; however, setting down their duties by law or in the constitution might not be in the regional leaders' interest either since it would mean a new administrative-territorial division of the Russian Federation. JAC

On 27 October, Leonid Roketskii, governor of Tyumen Oblast, which is part of the Urals District, told Interfax that he believes more conflicts will arise between envoys and those regions that aspire to a "privileged role" in the federation. Commenting on the recent conflict between Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel and presidential envoy to the Urals district Petr Latyshev, Roketskii remarked that Rossel has come into conflict with federal authorities on more than one occasion previously, always winning, but "today the situation has changed." He continued by saying that "then he had the powerful support of the so-called Yekaterinburg groups, today Rossel is all there is." Roketskii added that he thinks that there is no opposition to Latyshev in the district. In an interview in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 October, Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin also took a nonchalant attitude toward the envoys, saying that he does not feel that any of his rights are being diminished by Latyshev and that the envoys will not command or rule over the governors. However, in an article he authored in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 October, Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov, whose republic falls under the Volga district, was more critical, accusing the Kremlin and the new presidential envoys of "having taken real power into their own hands." He charged that "Putin's federal bureaucracy is multiplying so rapidly that Russia is running out of office space for it: officials are even moving into youth recreation centers. In the near future, each federal district will have a kind of government of its own." When Latyshev set up offices in Yekaterinburg, he took over a palace that was being used as a children's recreation center, while presidential envoy to the Northwest district Viktor Cherkesov took over a palace in St. Petersburg used to hold weddings. JAC

Presidential envoy to the Central district Georgii Poltavchenko opened a reception office in Moscow (at 39 Kutuzovskii Prospekt) on 30 October for businessmen operating in the 18 regions in the Central district to sort out their problems with local officials, ITAR-TASS reported. The office will consider specific complaints from entrepreneurs as well as investment proposals. Igor Zubnov, who will run the office, told "The Moscow Times" the next day that after the facts are double-checked and a complaint is found worthy, "we can, like every other Russian citizen, write a letter to the prosecutor's office and ask them to sort the problem out." But unlike the average citizen, he continued, the presidential representative "will surely be answered quickly and efficiently." Zubov also revealed that the office plans to promote investment projects it finds deserving and issue them a certificate stating that they have the envoy's support. The idea, he said, is to protect investors from greedy local officials. "They would probably think twice before interfering with a company that has our approval," he concluded. JAC

The "St. Petersburg Times" reported on 31 October that presidential envoy to the Northwestern district, Viktor Cherkesov, last week established a security coordination agency called the Council for Military Management and the Solution of Emergency Problems. Officials from the Leningrad Military District, the regional branch of the Federal Security Service, the Baltic and Northern Fleets, the regional departments of the Border Guards and Emergencies Ministry attended the council's first meeting on 25 October. Aleksandr Chizhonok, a spokesman for Cherkesov, told the newspaper that the above-mentioned structures "are subordinate to the state, and it is not a governor's business to deal with them as has been the case in the past." The office of St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev was nonplused about Cherkesov's move, noting that "it is Cherkesov's job to control structures such as the military and the FSB. But at the same time he will never be building roads or keeping order in the city." JAC

In an article he authored in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 October and in an interview with "Novoe vremya" in issue no. 43, Chuvash President Fedorov, a former federal justice minister, offers stinging criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin's federation reforms. In short, Fedorov accuses Putin of trying to establish a "dictatorship of law" by breaking the country's highest laws. In "Novoe vremya," Fedorov declares that all three of Putin's bills are unconstitutional and violate the three principles on which the constitution is based, that is, federalism, the rule of law, and the separation of powers. Fedorov suggests that it is not Putin himself but his confidants who have misled him into supporting a kind of Russia that consists of "a strong president supported by an overdeveloped bureaucratized administrative machine, with the security services and secret services at the helm." In the Federation Council, Fedorov has spearheaded an effort to subject the three laws to the scrutiny of the Constitutional Court, an effort which he recently put on hold because he said that the presidential envoy to the Federation Council Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov has said that Putin has agreed in principle to discuss amending the three bills (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). Fedorov joins a list of regional heads--such as Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak and Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Rossel--who have recently spoken out publicly against Putin's federation reforms (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000). JAC

In October, the monthly catalog of actions against the press that "Versiya" publishes based on information compiled by the Glasnost Defense Fund included one murder: On 3 October, the general-director of the Togliatti-based television channel Lada-TV Sergei Ivanov was killed outside his home in a contract-style murder. According to the monthly (issue No. 40), Ivanov's colleagues are convinced that the killing was connected with his professional activities. The previous day, the director of the local radio station, Ekho Rostova, Aleksei Sharavskii was beaten up by unknown assailants in a public square, but nothing was taken from him. Soon after the attack, the director of Ekho Rostova's news department, Aleksei Pavlovskii, told "Segodnya" that since the crime was committed in a place where there were many people, it was likely meant as a warning rather than an actual attempt on Sharavskii's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). In Sakhalin Oblast, "Sovershenno verno" was shut down just before the 22 October gubernatorial election. The official reason for its closure was that it had refused to publish a statement by one of the gubernatorial candidates, Sergei Ponomarev. However, according to the media law, the closure is only valid in the case of questions over the newspaper's registration with the Media Ministry or if the publication had called for authorities' overthrow or in the case of inflaming interethnic tensions. "Sovershenno verno" editor Yevgenii Antonov attributed the newspaper's closure to the introduction of political censorship in Sakhalin. In Bryansk Oblast, a local television station, the 60th Channel, had its electricity turned off, and for two full days journalists prepared and transmitted their broadcasts using a diesel generator. The station, claiming that it had paid its electricity bill in full, appealed to a local court. Workers at the station believe that the electricity shut-off was a "punishment" ordered by Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin, who is frequently criticized in the station's reports. JAC

The Federation of Independent Trade Union has established representative offices in five of the seven federal districts, Interfax reported on 30 October. A search for candidates to serve as representatives of the federation in the Far East and Urals districts continues. JAC

Following Unity's second congress in Velikii Novgorod on 28-29 October, Unity head Sergei Shoigu told reporters which candidates his party will support in some upcoming regional gubernatorial elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 October. According to Shoigu, the party will back Baltic Fleet Commander Vladimir Yegorov in Kaliningrad Oblast, head of the Emergencies Ministry's North Caucasus Regional Center Ivan Teterin in Marii-El Republic, Vladimir Loginov in Koryak Autonomous Okrug, State Duma Deputy (Agro-Industrial Group) Aleksandr Tkachev in Krasnodar Krai, incumbent Governor Petr Sumin in Chelyabinsk Oblast, incumbent Governor Valentin Tsvetkov in Magadan Oblast, incumbent Governor Gennadii Igumnov in Perm Oblast, and General Vladimir Shamanov in Perm Oblast. Regarding Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Shoigu said that the party had not yet reached a decision on whom to back, but he personally has decided to support incumbent Governor Aleksandr Nazarov (see item below). Last August, Unity announced that it would support mostly incumbent governors in gubernatorial ballots (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 23 August 2000). Although speculation has been rife in the media that Unity might be losing its preeminent position in the Kremlin, its choices might still be seen as fairly safe guide to the presidential administration's likely favorites in these races. JAC

On 25 October, the pro-Kremlin web site founded by Gleb Pavlovskii's Fund for Effective Politics,, predicted that a number of scandals similar to that which recently occurred in Kursk Oblast, where incumbent Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi was removed from the ballot, will mar upcoming regional elections. The site argues that in Bryansk Oblast, "the Kremlin feels it must make an effort to remove from office" communist incumbent Governor Yurii Lodkin. It also predicts that a scandal is likely in the 12 November election in Pskov Oblast, if only because incumbent Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov is a member of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and "wherever Zhirinovskii is involved scandals will follow." Other regions likely to experience a scandal of some sort involving the incumbent governor are Voronezh, Chita, and Kaliningrad Oblasts. On the same day, "Izvestiya" reported without reference to sourcing similar information about which candidates the Kremlin does not support. Reportedly, it is opposed to the incumbents in Kaliningrad, Kursk, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kostroma, and Ryazan Oblasts and Koryak Autonomous Okrug. JAC

Some three weeks after beginning its work, a commission tasked with investigating allegations of President Vyacheslav Kislitsyn's ties to criminal circles has come up with a number of findings. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 October that at a meeting attended by representatives of federal structures in Marii El and of the republican government, deputy presidential representative to the Volga District Valentin Stepankov, who heads the commission, reported on those findings. In particular, he pointed to the practice of the use of state funds to buy apartments and cars for government officials as well as the creation of extra-budgetary funds to pay for, among other things, medical treatment abroad for those very same officials. Some 70 normative acts have been passed in the republic granting "unjustified privileges" to those in power, according to Stepankov, while the republic itself is "practically bankrupt." The deputy presidential representative accused the Marii El leadership of "third-rate management" over the past four years. Kislitsyn's administration, for its part, has lashed out at Stepankov for "interfering in the campaign" for the 3 December presidential elections in Marii El, Interfax reported on 24 October. JC

Earlier this week, Marii El President Kislitsyn announced in the local media that forces both inside and outside the republic are seeking to destabilize the situation in the republic and create an atmosphere of "fear and suspicion," Interfax reported on 30 October. He accused Volga District officials of bringing pressure to bear on the republican leadership and also charged that his administration's access to newspapers subordinated to the federal center has been "severely restricted." The same day, Vyacheslav Rassanov, identified by Interfax as minister of the republic, urged Kislitsyn not to take part in the 3 December elections if the federal center asks him to decline to seek re-election. The news agency reported that Rassanov's appeal was conveyed by Sergei Loskutov, the head of the presidential information department, at a press conference in Ioshkar-Ola. JC

Ravil Geniatulin has been re-elected as administration head of Chita Oblast, winning 57.5 percent of the vote in the 29 October ballot, according to preliminary data cited by ITAR-TASS on 30 October. Geniatulin, who reportedly had the backing of the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 September 2000), had a large lead over his nearest rival, State Duma deputy Colonel-General Viktor Voitenko (People's Deputy), who garnered only 16 percent. Prior to the ballot, Geniatulin had been accused of engaging in dirty campaign tactics: On 18 October, 19 deputies from the State Duma complained to the Central Election Commission about widespread violations of election law, accusing local television, which supports Geniatulin, of increasing its coverage of the governor's activities. In addition, they charged that local police have been detaining members of the campaign staff of competing candidates. Earlier in October, ballot papers had to be reprinted because police had seized more than 100,000 unauthorized "extras" from a local printing house. Also on 29 October, Bair Zhamsuev won re-election as administration head of the Aginskii Buryat Autonomous Okrug with 95 percent backing. ITAR-TASS reported that his only two rivals were local school teachers. JC/JAC

In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 October, Chelyabinsk Governor Sumin comes out in support of reducing the number of regions in Russia to about 50. According to Sumin, "regions that cannot live without help from the federal center can join together in a larger more self sufficient region." He continued that "I do not see anything strange in this, but I don't think it should be done quickly, since such a reform would require the introduction of changes in the Constitution." JAC

Deputies in Kemerovo Oblast's legislative assembly, the Council of People's Deputies passed on 25 October a law in its first reading increasing the terms in office of the council and the governor from four years to five, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the Council's Deputy Chairperson Emiliya Zhigulina, the measure has been suggested as a cost-saving device, saving the regions some 20 percent of the resources they now spend on elections. It should also, according to Zhigulina, increase the competence and professionalism of cadre of elected officials. She added that the law will not take effect until after the next elections for the council and governor. The legislation will be considered in its second reading on 8 November. JAC

The Pskov branch of the Communist Party, having found funds to acquire printing presses for its two local publications, has put that equipment at the disposal of independent newspapers forced to find printers outside the oblast, "Obshchaya gazeta" reported on 19 October. Among the publications using printers in other regions, mainly St. Petersburg, are "Panorama" and "Tak nado!"--both of which came under increasing pressure from the authorities earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 June and 30 August 2000). JC

"Obshchaya gazeta" also reported on 19 October that the oblast administration has bought a 75 percent stake in what was until now Pskov's only remaining independent and radio company, Telekom. Gubernatorial elections are scheduled to take place in the oblast on 12 November. JC

First deputy administration head Mikhail Gavunas announced his resignation at a press conference in Pskov in late September. "Pskovskaya pravda" reported on 21 September that Gavunas's stated reason for giving up his post was that the governor's team includes "new people with whom he would be unable to work well." Gavunas was reported to be an unpopular figure in the oblast who is held responsible for the illegal privatization of a local distillery. Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov had sent him on an "extended trip" outside the oblast earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 14 June 2000). JC

Tax police in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on 27 October detained Nina Filippova, general director of the firm, Sakhalin-Sapporo, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 27 October. Filippova had just competed unsuccessfully in gubernatorial elections held on 22 October. According to the agency, witnesses say that men in camouflage seized Filippova from her car while it was waiting in traffic, carrying her off by her legs and arms. Filippova told reporters after she was released that she has been given five days to gather the necessary documents for an audit of her firm. JAC

The local department of the Federal Security Service has detained Yurii Balbyshkin, the vice governor of Smolensk Oblast with responsibility for economic affairs and investments, in connection with the ongoing investigation into the July 2000 murder of Sergei Kolesnikov, a deputy in the oblast legislature and head of the oblast's largest distillery. According to the local prosecutor, Balbyshkin is likely to be charged soon with abuse of power. "Kommersant-Daily" on 26 October pointed out that there was little love lost between Balbyshkin and Kolesnikov. According to the newspaper, Balbyshkin allegedly sought many times to replace Kolesnikov as head of the Bacchus distillery with "one of his own men." Kolesnikov, for his part, had no intention of quitting that post and had intended to buy other enterprises in the oblast. Moreover, as head of the oblast legislature's legal committee, he would have been able to withstand any pressure exercised by the oblast administration, the Moscow daily commented. Kolesnikov was killed by unidentified persons equipped with submachine guns as he was traveling in his car on the Smolensk-Moscow highway. Several weeks earlier, Sergei Novikov, the head of the independent radio station "Vesna" and chairman of the board of directors of a glass factory, was shot dead in the doorway to his home in Smolensk. In previous months, "Vesna" had sharply criticized the administration, and one day before Novikov's murder, it had accused Balbyshkin of links to organized crime groups and dubbed him the most corrupt official in the oblast. JC

Doctors at several hospitals in the oblast have come under pressure to help ensure the re-election of incumbent Governor Yurii Goryachev. "Simbirskii kurer" reported on 5 October that each doctor has been tasked with collecting 10 signatures supporting the candidacy of Goryachev in the 24 December ballot. The order reportedly came from the respective managements of the hospitals, which according to the local newspaper "were promised that hospital staff would receive their wages without any problems if the signature collecting campaign proved successful." The newspaper points out that even those patients opposed to Goryachev might find it difficult not to sign when requested to do so by the doctor treating them. Goryachev's main rival in the December vote is thought to be General Vladimir Shamanov, a Russian army general in Chechnya. JC

Dmitrii Solonnikov, head of the administration of the committee for publishing and connections with the community has been accused of embezzling 194,000 rubles ($7,000) of budget funds, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 October... SMOLENSK. Yurii Balbyshkin, deputy head of the regional administration, has been detained by investigators from the regional prosecutor's office and Federal Security Service and is likely to be charged with abuse of power, Interfax reported on 25 October (see item above). ...TULA. Four police officers have been accused of fraud in Tula Oblast, RFE/RL's correspondent reported on 18 October.