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Russia Report: November 3, 1999

3 November 1999, Volume 1, Number 36
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed to members of the Far East and TransBaikal interregional association that they discuss the idea of establishing a new federal ministry for affairs of the eastern territories as well as a state company that would guarantee deliveries of vital supplies to the northern territories, "Vedomosti" reported on 28 October. According to the newspaper, the idea was not greeted with enthusiasm by several regional leaders. The head of Magadan Oblast's Legislative Assembly, Vladimir Pekhtin, for example, said that "a new department in Moscow will only make matters worse." Another participant in the meeting said that what would be most useful for the economies of the North would be to conclude supply agreements with oil companies directly. JAC

Speaking at a meeting of the Union of Polar and Far East Northern Cities on 27 October, Fatherland-All Russia leader Yevgenii Primakov said that "the North needs state support" for a program that would provide "not for a one-way movement" of people to or from the North but "for a rotation of people working at oil, gas-extracting, and other enterprises so that the North can develop" and so that "workers will retain their benefits after they return from the North," ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov added that the state "should exercise control over the extraction and distribution of oil and gas" and "protect the interests of the internal market" but the state should "not replace the market." JAC

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters in Khabarovsk on 30 October that federal prosecutors should investigate why the governments of three regions in the Far East have not laid in sufficient fuel supplies for the winter even though the federal government transferred funds for such purposes months ago, ITAR-TASS reported. Shoigu, who also leads the interregional movement Unity, said that these three regions still have only 5-12 percent of the fuel they will need for this winter. Two days later, Shoigu made a similar remark to reporters in Krasnoyarsk, this time citing the Taimyr and Evenk Autonomous Okrugs, Interfax-Eurasia reported. He noted that the situation was particularly complex in Evenk because that region lacks not only fuel but also food products. According to Shoigu, Krasnoyarsk Krai has procured 72 percent of its necessary supplies for the winter. "Tribuna" reported on 30 October that Shoigu is on a trip through Siberia and the Far East, where he will visit Krasnoyarsk, Primorskii and Khabarovsk Krais, Irkutsk and Novosibirsk Oblasts as well as the Republic of Tuva. The official purpose of his trip is to check how regions are prepared for the winter, but the newspaper reports that political opponents have not failed to interpret the trip as part of Unity's election campaign. JAC

Army troops seized several power-relay stations in Altai Krai to protest Altaienergo's decision to cut off electricity to military bases in the regions because of an unpaid power bill amounting to 44 million rubles ($1.7 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 27 October. Under federal law, local power suppliers are prohibited from turning off electricity to Russian military bases. While on a trip to Krasnoyarsk, Emergencies Minister Shoigu reported that the federal Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and some institutes of higher education owe Krasnoyarskenergo 130 million rubles ($5.0 million), according to Interfax-Eurasia on 1 November. JAC

"Izvestiya" reported on 28 October that the government of the Republic of Komi has reached agreement with President Boris Yeltsin on drafting a presidential decree stipulating greater rights for the republic. Among other things, the newspaper noted, the decree would allow the republic to set up its own "gold reserve fund." According to a system of transfers approved by the federal government for this year, Komi receives no subsidies from the center (see EWI'S "Russian Regional Report," 28 January 1999). JC

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters in Moscow last week that the federal government will not rush to help Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast meet its obligations toward holders of its Eurobond, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. Khristenko said that the government cannot "indiscriminately" say it will assist the oblast because this would "provoke a wave of similar illusions among issuers" of such bonds. Besides Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, the only Russian regions to have issued Eurobonds are the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. According to a "Western source" on the creditors' committee who spoke to ITAR-TASS on 28 October, an agreement on the restructuring of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast's Eurobond could be reached this week. JC

"RFE/RL Russian Federation Report" on 20 and 27 October incorrectly referred to the city of Nizhnii Novgorod as having technically defaulted on its Eurobond. It is in fact Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast that issued the Eurobond and is therefore responsible for the technical default.

With the campaign for the 19 December gubernatorial ballot under way, "Novaya gazeta" reports in its no. 41 issue that the main battle for that post is between Vladimir Yelagin, the incumbent governor, and director-general of the NOSTA metallurgical plant Pavel Gurkalov, whom the newspaper describes as the only Soviet-era head of a leading metallurgical enterprise to have retained his post until now. Gurkalov's candidacy is unanimously supported by the oblast's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which Gurkalov heads. This body, which is led by Arkadii Volskii on the national level, holds Yelagin and his first deputy, Aleksandr Zelentsov, responsible for the oblast's industrial decline. "Novaya gazeta" reports that the oblast administration has sought to obstruct Gurkalov's election bid: the regional press has engaged in discrediting him, and there have been attempts to bring a criminal case against him. Such endeavors, however, may have failed so far: according to some sources, Gurkalov has the highest ratings among the region's electorate. Other contenders for the governor's post are Orenburg Mayor Gennadii Donkovtsev, who earlier had been reported to be running neck-and-neck with Yelagin in opinion polls, and local Communist-Agrarian boss Aleksei Chernyshev. JC

Interfax-Eurasia reported on 29 October that former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov and former chairman of the board of directors of Vostoktransflot Anatolii Miloshevich are registered as candidates for the State Duma elections in a single-mandate district in Vladivostok Okrug. On 2 November, the agency said that the Central Election Commission had excluded Cherepkov from the party list of the Bloc of General Andrei Nikolaev and Academician Svyatoslav Fedorov because Cherepkov failed to declare ownership of two Nissan automobiles. Earlier, Cherepkov and Miloshevich had expressed their interest in running for the post of governor of Primorskii Krai. However, so far 12 other candidates are registered for that race, including the incumbent, Yevgenii Nazdratenko, and State Duma deputy Svetlana Orlova. JAC

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak confirmed in a 27 October interview with Interfax that he will run for the post of governor. He stressed he made that decision when incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev's supporters in the city legislature "crudely violated the law" to bring forward the ballot to 19 December 1999, the date of elections to the State Duma (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 October 1999). Sobchak said he wants to ensure that Yakovlev is not re-elected for another four years. Meanwhile, Igor Artemev, a former city Finance Committee chairman and first vice governor, has announced he, too, will run for the position of city head, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 2 November. That announcement followed a 30 October meeting organized by Yabloko, whose local branch Artemev heads. Yabloko deputies in the St. Petersburg legislature were among those who appealed the vote to bring forward the gubernatorial ballot, and party members stress they will continue to fight that move. A court decision on the vote's legality is still pending. JC

The economy of Sverdlovsk Oblast registered the fastest industrial growth in the Urals region during the first nine months of 1999, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 October, citing the oblast's government. The daily did not provide a figure for overall industrial growth but reported that growth in the machine building and metal-working sectors grew by 7.6 percent, construction materials by 3.9 percent, and timber by 0.5 percent. Tax revenues have also shown a corresponding increase, soaring by 60 percent during the first nine months, compared with the same period last year to 11 billion rubles ($422 million). The government also claimed that wages were paid to state employees in the oblast without any delays. However, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 October that the oblast still owes state sector workers 42 million rubles ($1.6) JAC

The leadership of the Republic of Tatarstan is seriously considering holding the next republican presidential elections in June 2000, at the same time as the Russian presidential poll, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 October. The next Tatarstan presidential election is not due until March 2001, but the republic's political elite is afraid that should Russian Prime Minister Putin be elected president, then he would seek to replace Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, one of the supporters of the Primakov-Luzhkov OVR alliance. Moreover, Shaimiev's popularity rating is rapidly sinking as the republic's economic situation deteriorates. LF

In a bid to stem the outflow of workers to the capital (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 October 1999), Tula Mayor Sergei Kazakov has suggested introducing special taxes and higher rents for those who opt to find employment outside the oblast's main city, according to "Vremya MN" on 28 October. The newspaper also reported that the mayor is in favor of drawing up an electronic data base that would list the names, places of residence, and various other personal details of all the city's residents. Such information would be intended to increase control over the distribution of social benefits--namely ensuring that such aid reaches the truly needy--but could clearly be used for other purposes, including keeping track on the whereabouts of the city's workers. The daily quotes an legal expert as saying that the introduction of special taxes that would directly or indirectly limit or prevent the economic activities of individuals or organizations is illegal. JC

Six months after a group of mostly Communist deputies of the Voronezh Municipal Council sought to oust Mayor Aleksandr Tsapin along with deputies who simultaneously hold positions in the city administration (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 April 1999), an arbitration commission has announced that legislative and executive powers in the city will be separated and the mayor elected by popular vote, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 October. The conflict between Tsapin's supporters and those of Municipal Council deputy Vasilii Kochergin peaked in the summer, when Kochergin and a group of armed men forced their way into the Voronezh Mayor's Office in a bid to seize power in the oblast capital (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 August 1999). That bid failed, but the conflict reportedly continued to paralyze the work of the Municipal Council. In addition to the separation of powers and direct mayoral elections, the arbitration commission decided that direct elections to the mayoralty will take place in December 2000, at the same time as the gubernatorial ballot, to ensure that the mayor's post is not used as a "trampoline" to the governor's seat. Also, double-mandate electoral districts are to be abolished in favor of single-mandate ones. According to "Izvestiya," Voronezh will be the 19th regional center in the federation to introduce the separation of executive and legislative powers. JC

EYE ON REGIONAL MEDIA: Less Free Than Meets the Eye.
Participants in the Public Expertise project released on 27 October a "Freedom of Access to Information" index of 88 regions in Russia, not including Chechnya. The index, which is based on analysis of such indicators as the number of violations of press freedom and the ratio of periodicals printed by government-owned presses to those printed by private presses, shows that the press and access to information is considerably freer in such large cities as St. Petersburg and Moscow than in some outlying republics. Out of a possible 100 points, rankings ranged from a low of 10 in Bashkortostan to a high of 63 in Moscow. A map depicting the results graphically is available at The project is sponsored by the Union of Journalists of Russia, the Fund for the Defense of Glasnost, Internews, the National Institute for Social-Political Research, the Center for Rights and the Media, the Commission on Access to Information, and the Union for the Distribution of Publishing Products. (JAC)

Freedom of Access to Information Index
Region________Index Summary


Sakha (Yakutia)____13.7


Altai Republic____16.3






Vladimir ____48.2

St. Petersburg_____50.5

Moscow (city)_____63.1