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Russia Report: December 13, 2000

13 December 2000, Volume 2, Number 45
Legal experts who gathered for "the first congress on Russia's constitutional structure" were shown a draft of a new federal constitution that removes any differences in the rights of regions and ethnic republics, "Segodnya" reported on 9 December. According to "Izvestiya" the previous day, the draft also forbids any region to establish its own citizenship. The draft was prepared by Mikhail Fedotov, Georgii Satarov, and Mikhail Krasnov of the INDEM foundation, among others. These were the same people who prepared the current federal constitution. "Izvestiya" reported that the government is prepared to discuss this new version of the constitution, but its official position is that Russia does not need a new constitution yet--only amendments. JAC

Satarov told reporters in Moscow on 7 December that he and his colleagues who worked on the draft believe that changes in the federal and regional constitutions should be synchronized, in part because such synchronization would increase the chances for removing any remaining legal loopholes, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking on behalf of the group to reporters on 7 December, INDEM president Georgii Satarov said that one example of such a "loophole" is in the current federal constitution, that is, Article 65. Because of this article, Khanty-Mansii and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs are both considered parts of Tyumen Oblast and simultaneously subjects of the federation, and because of this "dual" status, several legal "clashes" have occurred. In their new version of the federal constitution, the group of experts suggest that there be only two types of federation subject, republics and "guberniyas." According to "Izvestiya," the draft foresees the total number of regions at "about 60." Authors of the new draft constitution are at the same time proposing a sharper demarcation of the powers of the federation and its subjects. Also on 7 December, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed told reporters that he supports the idea of reducing the number of regions in Russia. For example, he suggested that St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast should be joined. He also noted that in his krai, the Evenk Autonomous Okrug is territorially part of Krasnoyarsk Krai but also has the status of a separate federation subject. It has a population of only 19,500 but has 1,054 federal bureaucrats, according to Lebed. Lebed suggested that this situation can hardly be called normal; with the joining of the okrug to the krai, the number of bureaucrats would fall, he pointed out. JAC

Speaking to reporters in Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, on 9 December, President Vladimir Putin said that while it is too early to evaluate the work of his representatives to the federal districts, they generally have lived up to his expectations, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that he is pleased with the work of his envoy to the Urals federal district, Petr Latyshev. "On the whole Latyshev works effectively," Putin declared, Interfax reported. JAC

Putin added that he believes that the process of bringing regional legislation into conformity with federal laws is nearing completion. He also remarked that it is necessary to continue work on defining the responsibilities of the federal center and the federation subjects. JAC

"Segodnya," which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST Group, reported on 9 December that the Media Ministry's plans to create a joint-stock company based on the transmission networks of All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) will seriously impact on how television and radio companies function in Russian regions (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2000). According to the daily, under the plan, to which President Putin has given his preliminary okay, there will be only 11 regional TV and radio companies rather than 89--in other words, one company per time zone rather than one company per region. The daily concludes that the government needs these measures in order to counter the influence of regional leaders and elites and strengthen the "power vertical." JAC

In a poll conducted at the end of November among 650 people who could be considered part of Russia's opinion-making elite, ROMIR-Gallup International found that 27.8 percent consider corruption the greatest threat to Russia's security, Interfax reported. The gap between the center and regions alarmed only 14.7 percent. Other threats perceived included an unstable political situation (20.8 percent), NATO policy (17.3 percent), and Islamic fundamentalism (16.2 percent). JAC

State Duma deputy (Unity) Vitalii Lednik submitted to the Duma Council a bill on 6 December that would give the president the right to appoint governors by amending the law on general principles of self-government, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 December. According to the daily, the earliest the bill is likely to be debated is February or March 2001. Unity faction leader Boris Gryzlov has spoken out against the bill, saying that "the election of regional leaders is an achievement of Russian democracy, which we must not lose." Dudnik said that he worked on the bill on his own initiative, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 December. He added that in preparing the bill he was guided by the "history of Russian government and his own experience." Without Unity's support, the bill is expected to have a difficult passage. JAC

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 11 December, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshyakov proposed that an amendment should be passed that would make it impossible for courts to eliminate candidates from elections less than two days before elections. He said that most complications with candidates' registration are caused by the candidates' own confusion about their property and income. And he added that he believes that election legislation should define more precisely the information candidates must provide in order to rule out different interpretations. Last October, former Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi was removed from the ballot in gubernatorial elections there just one day before the vote took place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). Last October, the Union of Rightist Forces faction in the Duma proposed an amendment to the election law stipulating that an election commission can disqualify a candidate no later than five days before the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). Under the amendment, if the candidate wishes to challenge a commission's ruling legally, the relevant court should make its decision no later than three days before the election date. JAC

Residents of five Russian regions opted for continuity in gubernatorial elections that took place on 10 December. Vladimir Ishaev, the incumbent governor of Khabarovsk Krai sailed to victory in the first round, while his colleague in Vladimir, Nikolai Vinogradov, took an impressive two-thirds of the ballot, similarly obviating the need for a second round of voting. Yurii Lodkin, whom the Kremlin allegedly wanted dislodged from his post as governor of Bryansk, will serve another term in office; he won less than a third of the votes cast but required only a simple majority to claim victory, according to ITAR-TASS and the website In Kurgan Oblast, Governor Oleg Bogomolov succeeded in holding on to his post in a runoff election against local entrepreneur Nikolai Bagretsov, although the latter, apparently benefiting from the protest vote of Bogomolov's opponents, put up a valiant fight. In Kostroma Oblast, incumbent Governor Shershunov was well ahead of his nearest rival but failed to overcome the 50 percent hurdle to snatch re-election in the first round. JC


Bryansk_______1_____Y. Lodkin (31.8%)_____N.Denin (20.2%)____None required
Khabarovsk_____1_____V. Ishaev (88%)______S. Zhukova (6%)____None required
Kostroma______1_____V. Shershunov (43%)___B. Korobov (23%)___24 December
Kurgan________2_____O. Bogomolov (53.4%)__N. Bagretsov (42.5%)____--_____
Vladimir_______1______N. Vinogradov (66.3%)--Y. Vlasov (15.6%)___None required

Source: ITAR-TASS, 10 and 11 December 2000.

Some doctors in Blagoveshchensk, a city bordering China, believe that the uncontrolled flow of Chinese immigrants to their city is increasing the incidence of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, RFE/RL's Blagoveshchensk correspondent reported on 2 December. According to the correspondent, beginning in the late 1980s Chinese citizens regularly visited Amur Oblast, bringing goods to trade in Blagoveshchensk's Central Market and leasing food establishments. Only in the last year have medical examinations been required of those seeking business visas, and more than 100 have been found to have tuberculosis, meningitis, and HIV-infection. However, medical examinations are not required for tourist visas, and traders suffering from illnesses can still enter Russia and conduct business, according to the correspondents. This fall, the security detail assigned to Blagoveshchensk's Central Market closed down the activities of one team of Chinese citizens, who had arrived in the city on a tourist visa and leased a space next to the market to sell lapshi and pelmeni (noodles and dumplings). However, those locals who sampled their food started to complain they were feeling poorly, and many wound up in the hospital. Pavel Shevchenko, head of the police of the market, told RFE/RL's "Korrespondentskii chas" that his officers found that the food had been prepared under the most unsanitary conditions and that those preparing the food had not undergone any kind of medical examination and could have had tuberculosis or some other disease. The Chinese workers were deported, but "in a day they will be back here," Shevchenko said. "They only [have to] pay for a tourist visa and again they show up in our market." Tensions between Russian citizens and Chinese workers have also been reported in Far Eastern cities, where locals resent the flood of illegal aliens and believe that cheap Chinese imports are shoddily made (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 September 2000). JAC

On orders from the federal Media Ministry, the independent privately-owned MAKS-TV in Sochi was closed on 8 December, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported the next day. According to the ministry, the station had violated both the law on advertising, by running a commercial for Ararat cognac back in September, and the law on elections in early December, RFE/RL's Sochi correspondent reported. On one of the station's program, "Political meetings" on 1 December, the host of the program discussed with Fatherland political council member Konstantin Zatulin the possible link between a local newspaper and a candidate in city's upcoming mayoral election, Vadim Boiko. The city election commission decided that the show represented illegal campaign activity, because it defamed Boiko's reputation and honor. In response, the TV station offered Boiko free time to respond, an opportunity that he turned down. As it happens, Boiko is acquainted with Media Minister Mikhail Lesin. Lesin participated in the founding of the Fund for the Reconstruction of Sochi, which was set up by Boiko in September 2000. Lesin told RFE/RL that there is nothing strange in the fact that a federal bureaucrat participated in the establishment of a non-commercial public organization such as the fund. He added that "We have done everything legal, perhaps, a little bit at the wrong time." The mayoral elections were held on 3 December. Boiko won the largest share of the votes with 27.17 percent and will compete against Yuri Medvedev, a deputy of the Krasnodar Krai's legislative assembly, according to ITAR-TASS. The run-off election will take place on 17 December. JAC

The Office of the Prosecutor-General in Krasnoyarsk Krai has dropped charges of complicity to murder against Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov for his role in the death of a local businessman, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 December. According to one of Bykov's lawyers, it was this charge that resulted in Bykov's extradition from Hungary to Russia last spring (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 April 2000). Bykov remains in Lefortovo's pre-trial detention center in Moscow. He is suspected on conspiring to commit the murder of criminal kingpin Pavel Struganov, whose "death," it was later revealed, had been staged by a Moscow prosecutor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). Meanwhile, in elections held on 10 December for the legislative assembly in the city of Krasnoyarsk, the Bloc of Anatolii Bykov received 40 percent of the votes, besting by a significant margin the movement of Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Lebed, according to the website on 11 December. JAC

The oblast Prosecutor-General's Office has decided not to bring charges against Governor Aleksandr Mikhailov for anti-Semitic comments he made during an interview published in the Moscow press shortly after his election victory (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 November 2000). Those comments, according to the prosecutor-general, "cannot be regarded as inciting national, racial, or religious hatred." Moreover, they were of a "one-off nature" and "had no consequences." Mikhailov had maintained that both he and President Vladimir Putin were united in seeking to rid Russia of all Jewish "scum." He had also referred disparagingly to the Jewish origins of his predecessor, Aleksandr Rutskoi, who had been barred from seeking re-election in October, reportedly on the initiative of the Kremlin. JC

In putting together his cabinet, Mikhailov has retained the deputy prime minister responsible for economic and financial affairs who had served not only in Rutskoi's government but also under the previous four leaders of the region (both first secretaries of the local branch of the communist party and governors). That decision is seen as controversial because Eduard Mosolov, the longest-serving official in the oblast administration, with some 20 years' experience, was at the center of a scandal that emerged shortly before the October ballot, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 December. Mosolov, together with another member of the administration's financial committee, is suspected of having illegally transferred some 129 million rubles ($4.6 million) in budget funds to a car plant in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. A criminal investigation was launched, and Mosolov disappeared from the political scene on "extended vacation." The investigation into his case continues. JC

Speaking to journalists in Magnitogorsk on 9 December, President Putin said that the "slovenliness and irresponsibility" of local officials should be fought by authorities, "including law enforcement agencies," ITAR-TASS reported. He then went on to single out certain districts in the Far East that are undergoing an energy crisis. He continued that "unfortunately, much still remains unregulated" with regard to the rights and obligations of various levels of political power; as a result, he added, "no one is responsible for anything." According to the agency, Putin discussed the situation in Primorskii Krai the previous day with Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is in the krai heading an interdepartment working group to stabilize the situation there. Shoigu told journalists in Vladivostok on 7 December that the real cause of the crisis is the irresponsible attitude of the municipal authorities toward residents, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 9 December. According to Interfax, the Emergencies Ministry released a list of 11 people it considers responsible for the energy crisis. The list includes the heads of several companies, the directors of municipal heating organizations, and local executives, including the deputy chief of the Kavalerovo raion and the deputy mayor of Artem. Shoigu suggested that the krai declare an emergency situation in three villages in Kavalerovo Raion where schools have been closed for 10 days. So far 11 criminal cases have been brought in connection with the heating crisis in the krai, according to the daily. However, "Izvestiya" the same day put the total at 17 criminal cases. JAC

That newspaper reported on 8 December that members of the opposition in the krai's legislative assembly are charging that a scheduled meeting of the parliament was canceled by deputies loyal to the krai's administration. The opposition deputies had planned to make an appeal to President Putin to declare a state of emergency in the krai, take control over finances and energy supplies, and remove krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko from power. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 9 December that Primorskii Krai administration officials have filed law suits against presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Konstantin Pulikovskii and several central media organizations, such as the government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta," NTV, Ekho Moskvy, and RIA Novosti, for defamation. In particular, krai authorities object to the newspaper's allegation that they have done nothing to alleviate the crisis situation in their region (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 6 December 2000). JAC

By agreeing to guarantee a loan that the oblast administration proposes taking from a Moscow bank, the regional legislature appears to have ensured that the gubernatorial ballot in the oblast will go ahead on 24 December, as planned. The website reported on 9 December that several days earlier, the head of the local election commission asked the administration of Ivan Shabanov to transfer some 16 million rubles ($575,000) to the local election commission, noting that recently there have been virtually no payments necessary to organize the upcoming ballot. Pleading that it does not have the requisite funds to make that transfer, the administration turned to the lawmakers with the request for a loan guarantee. It also noted that it would be seeking a loan from a Moscow bank because it already has debts "with all banks in Voronezh." According to, 16 million rubles were earmarked in the 2000 oblast budget for the purpose of organizing the gubernatorial ballot. The website quoted a local legislature as expressing "bewilderment" that "even in a situation where the budget has been over-fulfilled, about which the leadership of the oblast administration and government likes to talk recently, there is no money in the coffers even to finance those articles that were included in the law on the 2000 budget." Late last month, cited the results of an opinion poll showing Shabanov trailing well behind the head of the local department of the Federal Security Service, Vladimir Kulakov. The Kremlin is widely believed to support Kulakov's candidacy in the upcoming ballot. JC

According to the findings of a poll published by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" earlier this month, the Presidium of the State Council appears set to become a principal forum for lobbying for the interests of Russia's regions. (The current members of the Presidium, each representing one of the seven federal districts, include Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii, Tomsk Oblast Governor Viktor Kress, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev, Daghestan's State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev.) Some Presidium members have already improved their standing as regional lobbyists through their work in the new body, which convened for the first time at the end of September. Kress and Roketskii, for example, lobbied "not without success" in October for the introduction of a tax on oil companies, the revenues from which would benefit regional coffers--President Putin is reported to have instructed the federal government and the State Audit Chamber to study their proposal. At the same time, the poll shows a worsening in the ratings of those leaders who have openly opposed Putin's reforms, including Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel, and Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov. A total of 67 leading figures from the media, the business sphere, and state, academic, social, and other organizations took part in the poll. They were asked to give their ratings on a scale of zero to five, in which zero represents very weak and five very strong effectiveness in lobbying for regional interests. JC


NO._NAME/REGION ______________OCT. 2000_SEPT. 2000

1.__Mintimer Shaimev (Tatarstan)_____4.45_______4.41

2.__Yurii Luzhkov (Moscow City)_______4.41_______4.38

3.__Yegor Stroev (Orel)______________4.13_______4.15

4.__Aman Tuleev (Kemerovo)__________4.07_______4.01

5.__Vladimir Yakovlev (St. Petersburg)____4.05______4.03

6.__Mikhail Prusak (Novgorod)__________3.98_______4.01

7.__Konstantin Titov (Samara)__________3.90______3.86

8.__Aleksandr Dzasokhov (North Ossetia)__3.77______3.81

9.__ Murtaza Rakhimov (Bashkortostan)___3.75______3.89

10._Eduard Rossel (Sverdlovsk)__________3.72______3.96

11/2._Aleksandr Lebed (Krasnoyarsk)______3.70_____3.76

11/2._ Magomedali Magomedov (Daghestan)__3.70____3.71

13._Dmitrii Ayatskov (Saratov)___________3.58_____3.49

14._Anatolii Lisitsyn (Yaroslavl)___________3.07_____2.85

15._Yevgenii Nazdratenko (Primore)________3.05____3.32

16._ Leonid Roketskii (Tyumen)___________2.98_____2.85

17._Viktor Kress (Tomsk)________________2.57____2.39

18._Viktor Ishaev (Khabarovsk)____________2.55____2.43

19/20._Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (Kalmykia)_______2.51____2.65

19/20_Yurii Neelov (Yamalo-Nenets)________2.51____2.62

21._Vyacheslav Pozgalev (Vologda)_________2.48____2.43

22._Boris Gromov (Moscow Oblast)__________2.46___2.41

23._Nikolai Fedorov (Chuvash)______________2.32___2.42

24/5._Igor Farkhutdinov (Sakhalin)__________2.30___2.26

24/5._Petr Sumin (Chelyabinsk)____________2.30___2.28

Source: "Nezavisimaya gazeta," 2 December 2000.