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Russia Report: November 15, 2000

15 November 2000, Volume 2, Number 42
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has ordered that heating supplies in Primorskii Krai and Arkhangelsk Oblast be monitored on a daily basis, Interfax reported on 13 November. Kasyanov said the government is extremely concerned about the situation and wants careful monitoring of those measures that local authorities take to alleviate the situation. According to the government information office, federal budget monies earmarked for preparations for the winter heating season have already been disbursed. However, the same day Primorskii Krai Deputy Governor Viktor Chapek told reporters that situation regarding heat in the region is not critical, claiming that 95 percent of residences have heat, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported. However, acts of protest are occurring in Nakhodka, Artem, Ussuriisk, and Kavalerii. According to "Segodnya" the next day, snow has begun falling in Artem and Kavalerovskii Raions, and protestors there carrying signs that say "Fuel for our district" and "We do not want to die" have blocked a federal highway. Because of the cold, schools in the district extended their fall vacations. In Khasanskii Raion, the majority of schools and kindergartens have also been closed. Also on 14 November, residents in 13 five-story buildings in Kavalerii reported that their radiators have started to freeze over, Interfax-Eurasia reported. And because residents there are relying on electric heaters, some electric wiring has overheated, resulting in fires. According to the agency, hundreds of residents in the areas without heat have sent letters and telegrams with appeals for help to the krai's governor as well as to presidential envoy to the Far East district Konstantin Pulikovskii. JAC

"Izvestiya" reported on 11 November that according to its unidentified sources, the presidential administration has virtually completed a draft decree that will give presidential envoys the right "to issue regulations" to regional leaders. According to the daily, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, a serious battle over the decree has erupted with the presidential administration's Territorial Department in opposition. An unidentified senior official in that department told the daily that the envoys and the department cannot stand each other: "The envoys are trying to abolish the territorial department, and the department is in turn trying to set up the envoys to prove their ineffectiveness." The envoys, however, reportedly have key support from Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov. JAC

Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, presidential representative to the Federation Council, told Interfax on 14 November that he considers the motives of Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov and his appeal to the Constitutional Court to be "exclusively political." Earlier in the month, Federov sent an inquiry to the federal Constitutional Court asking it to rule on whether some of the provisions of President Vladimir Putin's legislation reforming the Russian Federation are constitutional. "Segodnya" reported on 3 November that Federov's claim has a solid enough legal basis that some lawyers believe that Fedorov might win. Fedorov is a former federal justice minister. According to Khizhnyakov, Federov is not engaged in a struggle to preserve the "purity and perfection of Russian laws"; rather, he wants to create some "political advertising" for himself. Khizhnyakov asked that if Fedorov is truly worried about the laws, why did no one in the Federation Council and in particular, Fedorov himself question the president's initiative when it was first floated. Khizhnyakov also noted that the majority of senators do not see any basis for such an appeal, and the council's Committee on Constitutional Legislation itself recently decided against such an appeal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). In his inquiry, Federov questions whether Russia's president should have the right to dismiss an elected governor even if he or she has issued a decree contradicting federal legislation. He also questions whether the State Duma should be allowed to dismiss a local legislature for a similar reason. JAC

Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Vladimir Platonov has also filed a separate claim with the Constitutional Court questioning the legality of Putin's reforms, "Segodnya" reported on 13 November. When asked why he didn't file a joint appeal with Fedorov, Platonov told the daily, which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST, that while he shares "Fedorov's point of view on many things, signing his appeal was difficult for me." He continued, "As I see it, Fedorov is partially guilty of what is now happening. Only a year ago, Fedorov defended at the Constitutional Court the president's power to do something not written in the Constitution. I mean relieving the general prosecutor of his duties on the basis of criminal charges filed against him." JAC

A series of labor actions by educational workers are planned before the end of the year to protest what those workers consider the meager wage hike proposed in the draft 2001 federal budget and the failure to eradicate wage arrears in a number of regions, Deputy Chairman of the Union of Education and Scientific Workers Galina Merkulova told Interfax on 13 November. Next year's budget calls for a 20 percent raise in wages for workers in the educational sphere. According to the union, a four-month backlog continues to exist in Tuva Republic, two-three months in Altai Republic, Amur Oblast, and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, and one-two months in Primorskii and Khabarovsk Krais, the Republic of Mordovia, and Kurgan and Ulyanovsk Oblasts. Wage arrears also exist in other regions. On 10 November, more than 1,000 teachers in Ussuiisk in Primorskii Krai blocked a federal highway linking Russia with China demanding unpaid wages for the past three months. On 13 November, teachers in Talmenskii Raion in Altai Krai began a three-day strike to protest the fact they still have not received their wages from September and October. On 14 November, more than 300 teachers from seven schools in Chemalskii Raion did not begin the second quarter of the school year to protest a four-month backlog of wages. JAC

Yevgenii Mikhailov was re-elected governor in the 12 November ballot, narrowly overcoming the low election threshold in the oblast to become head of the region. This summer, the oblast legislature had amended local election legislation to state that a candidate for the governorship need receive only 25 percent of the vote in the first round to win election. Mikhailov, according to preliminary results reported by Russian agencies the day after the ballot, garnered some 28 percent of the vote. His nearest rivals, entrepreneur Viktor Bibikov and State Duma deputy (independent) Mikhail Kuznetsov, received 15.12 percent and 15.04 percent, respectively. Until last year, Mikhailov had been a member of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia but then opted to join the pro-Kremlin Unity. Since then, he has significantly tightened his grip over the oblast's media, acquiring stakes in the few remaining independent outlets and ensuring that non-state newspapers no longer have access to oblast printing houses (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 6 June and 1 November 2000). Shortly before the election, several of Mikhailov's opponents brought a lawsuit against the governor for alleged abuse of office during the campaign (one of the charges that was brought against Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, who was then banned from running for re-election), but the case was dropped just days before the election. "The Moscow Times" on 14 November quoted Mikhailov as saying that he was "never afraid" of the lawsuit and has a "good working relationship" with the Kremlin. JC

According to preliminary results, Vice Governor Anatolii Artamonov garnered some 57 percent of the vote to win the 12 November gubernatorial vote in Kaluga Oblast during the first round. Governor Valerii Sudarenkov, who declined to seek a second term in office and is described by the website as the most popular politician in the region, chose Artamonov as his designated successor. Artamonov's main challenger, head of the Kaluga subsidiary of Sberbank Aleksei Demichev, received some 16 percent of the votes cast. Demichev is well known in the republic not only in his capacity as head of the local Sberbank but also for the various posts he held in the Communist Party during the 1970s and 1980s. According to "The Moscow Times" on 14 November, Kaluga Oblast was among those regions reportedly included on a blacklist of adminstrations deemed undesirable by the Kremlin, which was published by "Novaya gazeta" in its issue No. 62. The latter newspaper had predicted that, in accordance with the "Rutskoi model," Artamonov would be struck from the ballot for violating election campaign regulations. JC

Baltic Fleet Commander Admiral Vladimir Yegorov, who won the first round of gubernatorial elections in Kaliningrad Oblast on 5 November and will compete against incumbent Governor Leonid Gorbenko in the 19 November run-off, has support from a wide spectrum of political forces. The Kremlin and Unity have both long backed Yegorov in his bid to win the governorship of the exclave, and the Communists let it be known earlier this fall that they would support the admiral in a second round of voting (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 September 2000). Earlier this week, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) publicized its preference for Yegorov: Grigorii Tomchin, a member of the SPS's State Duma faction, said during a working visit to the exclave that the SPS faction believes that Yegorov's victory at the ballot box will mean "big changes" in the region. He urged voters to take part in this weekend's run-off and to vote the same way as on 5 November. Governor Gorbenko is considered to be among those regional leaders whom the Kremlin is particularly keen to see ousted in this fall's elections. JC

In virtually identical interviews published in the 9 November "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Aleksandr Mikhailov rejected claims that President Vladimir Putin had supported Kursk Oblast main federal inspector Viktor Surzhikov in the 5 November run-off gubernatorial elections, which Mikhailov, a Communist, won with 55.5 percent of the vote to Surzhikov's 37.9 percent. Rather, Mikhailov suggested, his victory was the result of the Kremlin and the Communist Party's joint fight against Boris Berezovskii and what he called the "All-Russia Jewish Congress." Berezovskii, according to Mikhailov, "stood behind" former Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, who was barred from seeking re-election, allegedly at the initiative of the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report, 8 November 2000). "We beat [Berezovskii and Rutskoi] here [in Kursk]," Mikhailov noted, adding that with this victory, Russia will begin to rid itself of "all the scum that has accumulated over the past 10 years. In this, we and the president are allies. [Putin] is Russian, and so am I. But Rutskoi has a Jewish mother." "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" are both controlled by Berezovskii. Rutskoi has said he will sue Mikhailov, while the Russian Jewish Congress called on Putin and other leading federal officials to respond publicly to the new governor's remarks. Only Putin's representative to the Central District, Georgii Poltavchenko, responded to that call, however; he told reporters that Mikhailov's comments were inadmissible and "an indecent anomaly" that cannot and should not exist in society, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov was more muted in his response, saying that the new governor should concentrate on the economy rather than "digging up other people's genealogies." JC

Members of the Communist Party, the clergy, and Cossack formations in the city of Taganrog have all expressed their fears that the opening of a mosque in their city will increase the threat of Wahhabi fundamentalism spreading to their region, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 November. According to the daily, they expressed their fears to presidential envoy to the Southern district Viktor Kazantsev as well as to Russian President Putin. The oblast government believes that a mosque can be established, as long as it is done according to the law and that "Muslim communities have the right to restore mosques." The daily, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, reported that Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo visited the region recently and reportedly hinted to Archbishop Panteleimon of Rostov and Novocherkassk and Mufti Jafar Bikmaev that the two leaders should try to reach agreement on the issue or federal authorities will intervene. JAC

"Novaya gazeta" reported in its issue No. 63 on how the campaign for the 3 December gubernatorial ballot has been colored by the anti-Semitic slogans and sentiments that some local politicians are cultivating. In particular, the newspaper points to posters that can be found throughout the town featuring a photograph of the leader of the local branch of the Union of Rightist Forces, Mikhail Malakhov, alongside Boris Nemtsov and Sergei Kirienko, and the inscription "The Jews Once Again" (I opyat evrei). Malakhov, "Novaya gazeta" points out, was the only candidate in the gubernatorial ballot to openly condemn the attack on a Jewish Sunday School earlier this fall (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 September 2000). The newspaper also notes that local media have reported that one man is thought to be behind the anti-Semitic campaign in the oblast: Valerii Ryumin, a former mayor of Ryazan and a well-known anti-Semite who is running in the 3 December election. His response to the Sunday School attack, like that of some local law enforcement officials, was that he could see nothing criminal in the incident. JC

During an official visit to Kazan on 13 November, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika awarded Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev a gold medal for his enforcement of Russia's legal system, that ministry's highest honor, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 November. The medals were also given to Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov and Tatarstan Constitutional Court Chairman Sayfikhan Nafiev. Chaika met with Shaimiev the same day to discuss the issue of bringing Tatarstan's laws into conformity with federal legislation. During Chaika's visit, Shaimiev reminded reporters that the power-sharing treaty between the Russian Federation and Tatarstan's state bodies emerged owing to the lack of conformity between the federal and Tatarstan Constitutions. He added, "That's why during our last meeting with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin we agreed that we would rely on provisions of the treaty." Before leaving Kazan, Chaika did not manage to have an agreement signed with Shaimiev on bringing Tatar laws into conformity with federal laws, as had been planned, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, Shaimiev said that the talks yielded concrete results, but discussions on the agreement will have to be continued. JAC

"Izvestiya" reported on 11 November that Sergei Sobyanin, a senior deputy presidential envoy to the Urals federal district, is reportedly planning to run for the office of governor of Tyumen Oblast during its 14 January gubernatorial elections. According to the daily, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Yurii Neelov is also planning to compete against incumbent Governor Leonid Roketskii. The daily suggest that Neelov is running in Tyumen because he is anticipating the consolidation of Russia's 89 federation subjects into a smaller number. The merger of Tyumen Oblast with Khanty-Mansii and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs would be one of the first, most logical actions by the center. JAC

On the evening of 7 November, the 83rd anniversary of the October Revolution, unknown individuals set fire to the premises of the independent newspaper "Inter" in downtown Volgograd, causing damage estimated at some 300,000 rubles ($11,000), "Kommersant-Daily" reported two days later. A criminal investigation has been launched into the incident, and according to sources in the local police force, the most likely culprits of the arson attack are thought to be a local ultranationalist group. The chief editor of "Inter," Yefim Shusterman, is well known in the oblast not only for his journalistic activities but also for his active fight against anti-Semitism. JC


Food Prices Across Russia.
The following table shows the price of a basket of 25 food products in various regions of Russia at the end of October.

Region__________________Price, in rubles at the end of October

Russia (overall)_____________________704.90





St. Petersburg______________________795.60




Source: State Statistics Committee reported by Interfax, 4 November 2000