Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia Report: December 6, 2000

6 December 2000, Volume 2, Number 44
State Duma deputies on 29 November approved in the first reading a bill that would allow some regional leaders to seek a third term in office. The vote was 240 in favor with 155 against and seven abstentions, according to ITAR-TASS. Two more readings and approval by the Federation Council are required for the bill to become law. The bill would amend an existing law, passed in October 1999, that forbids heads of regions to serve more than two terms in office. That law has proved controversial, particularly with respect to Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, who has already served two terms but is allowed a third one under that republic's constitution (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 8 November 2000). According to ITAR-TASS, the Fatherland-All Russia faction lent the bill its support by insisting that the Duma reconsider the bill only after a long pause following the legislation's initial presentation to the lower legislative house. It then took three votes until enough support was mustered for the bill to pass in its first reading. According to "Segodnya," if the bill finally passes, some 26 regional leaders will be able to seek re-election, including the presidents of Tatarstan, Komi, Sakha (Yakutia), Chuvash, and Tuva republics and the governors of Orel, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk, and other regions. JAC

During the debate, Duma deputy (Yabloko) Yelena Mizulina criticized the legislation, calling it "an attempt to suspend the effect of the Russian Constitution in the regions." After the vote, Yabloko issued a statement on its website declaring that its Duma faction had voted unanimously against the bill and promising that it will resist the "assault against basic principles of democracy" by "every legal means available to us." According to the statement, the presidential administration "showed weakness by succumbing to the pressure of the presidents of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan." Yabloko further concluded that the "reform of the federation has not succeeded, the center cannot provide for efficient control over the actions of regional authorities and is thus acknowledging its own powerlessness." JAC

Presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii told reporters on 1 December that he believes that Primorskii Krai is experiencing a political rather than an energy crisis. According to ITAR-TASS, Pulikovskii suggested that the krai administration has been less than straightforward and that he has informed Russian President Vladimir Putin about the "real state of affairs in Primore." He added that a commission composed of members of the presidential administration's Control Department and the Finance Ministry is being sent to Vladivostok. The commission, which is being sent on the orders of President Putin, will assess the activity of the krai's leadership and its ability to supervise the regional economy and energy industry. Pulikovskii did admit that Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko's criticism of the federal center for not paying its debts to krai had some basis in fact. On the issue of Nazdratenko's dismissal, Pulikovskii said that is "up to the president and the government to decide." Pulikovskii's charges follow an announcement by the Finance Ministry on 28 November that it is allocating two credit lines worth some 70 million rubles ($2.5 million) and 100 million rubles to the region to solve its energy crisis. JAC

The same day, Nazdratenko called on the Control Department of the presidential administration to audit expenditures of federal monies by krai authorities; however, it was not clear whether he was echoing a decision that Moscow had already made. The Control Department was once headed by Putin. On 4 December, RIA Novosti reported that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov ordered Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu to form a working group devoted to stabilizing the heat and energy situation in Primorskii Krai. JAC

In one of 11 regional elections in the Russian Federation on 3 December, voters in Krasnodar Krai overwhelmingly elected State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Tkachev (Agro-Industrial) as governor. Tkachev, the head of the Duma's Committee for Nationalities and Federation Affairs, received 82.2 percent backing and replaces Nikolai Kondratenko, who is known for his scathing comments about Jews and other minority groups. Kondratenko declined to seek re-election, citing poor health. In Perm Oblast, Yurii Trutnev, the mayor of Perm, won 51 percent of the vote to unseat the incumbent, Gennadii Igumnov, according Interfax on 4 December. ITAR-TASS reported the same day, citing preliminary results, that in the tiny Koryak Autonomous Okrug, the head of the Koryakgeoldobycha company, Vladimir Loginov, won 50.76 percent of the vote to become new regional head. Loginov replaces incumbent Governor Valentina Bronevich, the only female member of the Federation Council, who mustered some 33 percent backing. According to ITAR-TASS, more than 12,000 out of the okrug's 18,700 registered voters cast their ballots. JC

The only incumbent regional leader to win outright on 3 December was Astrakhan Governor Anatolii Guzhvin. According to Interfax the next day, citing the regional election commission head, Guzhvin scooped up 80 percent of the vote in the southern oblast. Born in the oblast in 1946 and a graduate of the Astrakhan Technological Institute, Guzhvin was first named governor in 1991 and then elected to that office in 1996. JC

Elections in other regions on 3 December failed to provide a winner and will now go to a run-off. Stavropol Krai Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov will seek to keep his seat in two weeks' time. Chernogorov, who gained some 29 percent of the vote, will compete against former head of the krai's administration Stanislav Ilyasov, who got 19 percent of the vote. Komi Permyak Autonomous Okrug head Nikolai Poluyanov is to run against the head of neighboring Perm Oblast's Audit Chamber Gennadii Savelev. Their respective shares of the vote were 25 percent and 26 percent. In Ryazan Oblast, incumbent Governor Vyacheslav Lyubimov collected 40 percent of the votes cast and will face president of the regional building association Valerii Ryumin, who had 12 percent backing. In Arkhangelsk Oblast, incumbent Governor Anatolii Yefremov received 49.7 percent support, according to Interfax, while his challenger in the runoff, head of the government Nikolai Malakov, secured 34.3 percent of the vote. Marii El President Vyacheslav Kislitsyn trailed his challenger in the second round of voting: he received 25.2 percent backing, while local manager Leonid Markelov obtained 29.2 percent of votes cast (see also below). In Ivanovo Oblast, Vladimir Tikhonov, a State Duma deputy (Communist) and first secretary of the local branch of the Communist Party, will compete against head of the local government Anatolii Golovkov: their respective levels of support were 48.6 percent and 32.3 percent. And in Kamchatka Oblast, where incumbent Vladimir Biryukov declined to stand for re-election, first deputy administration head Boris Sinchenko and local parliamentary deputy (Communist) Mikhail Mashkovtsev will seek become Biryukov's successor. According to ITAR-TASS, Sinchenko polled 27.5 percent of the vote, while Mashkovtsev had 20.5 percent. The previous week, on 26 November, Kurgan Governor Oleg Bogomolov secured his place in a run-off, to take place on 10 December, against local entrepreneur Nikolai Bagretsov. Bogomolov garnered 44 percent of the vote, compared with 24 percent backing for Bagretsov, according to ITAR-TASS. JC

"Novaya gazeta" argued in its issue No. 67 that Boris Berezovskii is hoping to establish a regional empire in defense against pressure from the Kremlin. According to the weekly, which receives financial backing from Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST Group, "Berezovskii's team" has already won regional elections in Omsk, Vologda, and Novosibirsk oblasts and the Republic of Udmurtia. The next battles, it says, will be for Volgograd, Perm (see above), and Tyumen oblasts and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. In each of these regions, Berezovskii is supporting a "young, energetic businessman with an impeccable past." In Volgograd, this is Volzhskii Ball-Bearing Factory head Oleg Savchenko, in Tyumen Berezovskii's candidate is Pensioners Party head Sergei Atroshenko, in Perm, State Duma deputy (Unity) Pavel Anokhin, and former Sibneft head Roman Abramovich in Chukotka. "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 28 November also suggested that Berezovskii would play a role in an upcoming regional election--as a candidate. Without reference to sourcing, the daily reported that Berezovskii plans to compete for the governorship of Irkutsk Oblast in the summer 2001. According to the newspaper, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and has long been critical of Berezovskii, Berezovskii wants controls over the region's strategically important enterprises and the immunity from criminal prosecution afforded to candidates in election races. According to the daily, Berezovskii can register for the race even while abroad. JAC

A district court in Bryansk has prohibited the broadcast of a television program critical of Governor Yurii Lodkin, the website reported on 28 November. Lodkin had filed a complaint with the court that the program entitled "60 minutes with Eduard Bryansk," which is put out by the 60th Channel television station, "damaged his honor and dignity." The television station responded that the court's decision signals the "de facto start of censorship in Bryansk Oblast." This could be one of the last times, however, that Lodkin, a member of the Communist Party, is able to exert influence over the media in the oblast. According to, the Supreme Court is to decide on 8 December whether Lodkin can run in the gubernatorial elections scheduled to take place two days later. Lodkin was elected governor of Bryansk in April 1993 but removed from office six months later under a decree issued by then President Boris Yeltsin. In December 1996, he was elected for a second time. The State Duma recently passed in the first reading a bill that would allow regional leaders to run for a third term in office if they were elected for a second term before October 1999 (see above), but the final passage of that bill would come too late to help Lodkin, should the Supreme Court rule against him. Russian media have named the incumbent Bryansk governor as one of several regional heads whom the Kremlin allegedly would like to see replaced. JC

Simultaneously with the inauguration last month of Baltic Fleet Commander Admiral Vladimir Yegorov as Kaliningrad governor, federal Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo signed an order dismissing Major General Vladimir Litvin as head of the local Interior Ministry department, "Segodnya" reported on 1 December. No reason was given for Litvin's dismissal, but since he had been put on extended leave two months or so earlier, Litvin could hardly have been surprised by the move. The Moscow daily notes that in May, a team from the federal Interior Ministry had unexpectedly turned up in the exclave to carry out an inspection and that neither Rushailo nor presidential representative for the Northwestern district Viktor Cherkesov appear to have given Litvin's department a chance to turn over a new leaf. According to "Segodnya," Kaliningrad has traditionally belonged to those regions where "grave and especially grave" crimes account for a high proportion of the total crimes committed: while national average stands at some 60 percent, in Kaliningrad that figure has been 65-68 percent in recent years. JC

Two days before the 3 December gubernatorial ballot (see above), the Supreme Court of Marii El rejected an appeal to disqualify President Kislitsyn as a candidate in that vote. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 November that Kislitsyn had committed election procedural violations by failing to declare seven of his assets and understating the size of his house by 100 square meters. Noting that former Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi had been barred from running on the eve of the ballot in his region for "lesser offenses," including not mentioning a six-year-old Volga car that he had ceased to own but was still registered in his name (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October 2000), the newspaper, along with other media outlets, had predicted that Kislitsyn would experience the same fate as Rutskoi. In the runup to the election, the Marii El president came under considerable pressure from the center, which is widely believed to want to see him ousted as regional leader. A special commission sent to the republic and headed by the deputy presidential representative to the Volga District found numerous instances of corruption among the Marii El leadership (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 8 November 2000). JC

"Vedomosti" on 28 November interviewed unofficial presidential adviser Gleb Pavlovskii regarding the upcoming 14 January gubernatorial election in Tyumen Oblast (see "End Note" below). Pavlovskii denied local media reports that he plans to become campaign manager for Sergei Sobyanin, who is a candidate in the race. According to the daily, an unidentified source in Sobyanin's campaign office confirmed that LUKoil, Transneft, and Gazprom will all assist Sobyanin. Meanwhile, an unidentified executive at Tyumen Oil company said that they will support incumbent Governor Leonid Roketskii. Surgutneftegaz is also reportedly backing Roketskii. Pavlovskii suggested that such rumors are planted by political consultants who are trying to depict their candidate as the one favored by the Kremlin. He added that Sobyanin's emergence as a rival to Roketskii indicates that there is no consensus among political elites in the region and that the elites of the neighboring autonomous okrugs, Khanty-Mansii and Yamalo-Nenets, have not been integrated into the system of governing. Pavlovskii concluded that Tyumen is too important a region to be allowed to become a battlefield between opposing elites. JAC

The federal Supreme Court upheld a 23 November appeal by Kyzyl Mayor Aleksandr Kashin and declared parliamentary elections in Tuva Republic invalid. Kashin, who had previously declared a hunger strike to protest the elections, said he will continue to refrain from eating because the Tuva republican government wants to get rid of him, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 November. Kashin said that he will maintain his hunger strike until a federal commission, composed of members of the office of the Prosecutor-General, Central Election Commission, Interior Ministry and presidential administration, reports the results of its investigation into the administrative situation in the republic, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 November. Since his hunger strike, which was declared in October, Kashin has lost some 6 kilograms and now weighs 127 kilograms. Kashin gave "Izvestiya" the background to his current conflict with Tuva Republic authorities: "In the past two year, I have survived two impeachments, seven criminal proceedings, a case concerning the alleged illegality of my appointment as mayor, an onslaught of audits, and the murder of my first deputy Genrikh Epp. Now, the administration of the Tuvan president intends to use members of the parliament to dismiss me." According to a law recently passed in Kyzyl, the mayor is selected by the parliament rather than directly by voters, according to the daily. JAC


By Pete Glatter

Vladimir Putin's leadership is often presented as following a path of systematic, even irresistible, centralization--downgrading the Federation Council, stripping the governors of their immunity, intervening in gubernatorial elections to knock the opponent out and get its man in. But the October elections in Kursk Oblast, and those due in January in Tyumen Oblast, suggest a rather different story, one in which a crucial role is played by a faction in the regional elite prepared to do business with the center.

There were, of course, clear signs of central involvement in the disqualification of incumbent Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi on the eve of the Kursk gubernatorial election. But the center's man, Viktor Surzhikov, chief federal inspector and former regional head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), did not get in. He lost to local Communist Party (KPRF) leader, State Duma Deputy, and apparently rabid anti-Semite Aleksandr Mikhailov. So the center could hardly be said to be sweeping all before it in Kursk. Mikhailov, who, along with Surzhikov, played a leading role in getting Rutskoi disqualified, is not alone: the Kursk Oblast Duma also has a communist majority, although it is up for re-election in January. Both Mikhailov and his legislative colleagues seem to be emphasizing their solidarity with Putin, a solidarity that does not, however, extend as far as outright identification. The Kursk Duma is expected to approve a new charter that would be in line with federal norms, while Mikhailov told NTV after the election: "Putin is not Boris Nikolaievich Yeltsin, objectively we are allies with Putin." Given that the KPRF opposition to Yeltsin was much stronger on rhetoric than on substance, and given that Unity's ( that is, Putin's) alliance with the KPRF in the State Duma was swiftly concluded after the elections in December 1999, the Kursk election represents a significant regional turn toward the presidency.

Nevertheless, it was a direct victory not for the center but for a regional faction fundamentally independent of Moscow and which has strong roots in the Kursk elite.

Evidence of such factions in other regions was offered by the announcement, on 10 November, that Sergei Sobyanin, first deputy to Petr Latyshev, the presidential representative in the Urals Federal District, intends to stand as a candidate in the elections for governor of Tyumen oblast in January 2001. This was presented by Petr Akopov in "Izvestiya" on 11 November as part of the center's strategy. Akopov saw Sobyanin's candidacy as a reaction by the center to the failure of its candidate in Kursk: he suggested that it had decided to abandon the tactic of getting rid of the incumbent in favor of concentrating on promoting its own candidate. However, Sobyanin, despite his youth (he was 41 at the time of the announcement), has a long record and a leading position in the oil-rich Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (KhMAO), one of two key territories in Tyumen oblast, not to speak of the national prominence he gained as an activist member of the Federation Council. As for being a creature of the center, he spent only four months as Latyshev's deputy before becoming a gubernatorial candidate. Prior to that, he had been the chair of the KhMAO legislature or, as "Izvestiya" put it, "second man" in one of the most economically important places in Russia.

As it happens, Putin and the regional branch of Unity are not backing Sobyanin at all. They have decided to stick by the incumbent, Leonid Roketskii. Putin made a point of announcing his support for Roketskii at a late evening meeting on 24 November with Latyshev, Roketskii, Sobyanin, Filipenko, the governor of the KhMAO, and Neelov, the governor of the other key territory in Tyumen oblast, gas-rich Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YNAO). By contrast, Putin was markedly cool about Sobyanin's candidacy, which he admitted he did not know about, although it had been an item of discussion in the national media for nearly two weeks.

Asked about this by a local journalist, YNAO governor Neelov remarked, "He probably didn't know that Roketskii was standing either." Earlier this year, Sobyanin was described in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" as the only person in KhMAO Governor Filipenko's circle capable of challenging Filipenko himself. He became better known than the governor through his prominence on the Federation Council. The expectation was that, given his youth, he might consolidate his already powerful position and stand against Filipenko in 2004. The fact that he is standing now and that he is going for the leadership of the entire oblast, apparently without support from the Kremlin, is intriguing.

One possible reason for it is that Sobyanin could be, as YNAO Governor Neelov has suggested, the joint candidate of both okrug elites. The okrugs used to be subordinate to the oblast authorities. The equalization of their status with that of the oblast and their effective independence from it precipitated a series of disputes that have dominated the political life of the region. The conflict reached a climax during the last election for oblast governor, in December 1996 and January 1997. As a result, Tyumen Oblast Governor Roketskii ended up having no mandate from and little authority in either of the okrugs. Having raised the issue of centralization to such prominence, Putin's team would probably like to reinstate something along the lines of the old oblast-okrug hierarchy as part of a restored chain of command, especially given the critical economic importance of these particular okrugs. Consequently, it makes sense for the okrug leaderships to put up their own man for what might become the key position in the whole region.

There already seem to be cracks in Roketskii's support. The regional branch of Unity may be supporting him. But its Nizhnevartovsk town branch in the KhMAO is backing Sobyanin. This may not be particularly surprising, since Unity is hardly a monolithic organization. But something similar seems to be happening elsewhere. Surgutneft, which has been placed as third out of the four Russian oil majors, has come out for Roketskii. But one of its subsidiaries, Surgutneftegazspetsstroi, has gone for Sobyanin. Sobyanin looks like having a fair amount of media backing in the okrugs, and the administrations seem keen to present him as a powerful figure. Although five other candidates have been officially approved, Sobyanin and Roketskii are the clear front-runners. And it seems difficult to describe either of them as "the center's man."

Pete Glatter is preparing a special collection of informal/unofficial Russian publications at the British Library and is completing a PhD on Russian regional politics at Wolverhampton University.