24 November 1999, Volume 1, Number 39
PAN-REGIONAL ISSUES: MOSCOW GIVES BASHKORTOSTAN A DEADLINE...The legislative assembly of the Republic of Bashkortostan issued a decree on 20 November canceling broadcasts of the "analytical program" hosted by the controversial Sergei Dorenko on Russian Public Television as well as the "Zerkalo" program of Russian Television, RFE/RL's correspondent in Ufa reported. The decree cited federal and republican election laws. Dorenko, who is reportedly a protege of business magnate Boris Berezovskii, has aired a number of programs focused on Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's financial dealings. Luzhkov is one of the heads of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance. Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov is a prominent member of OVR. Media Minister Mikhail Lesin called the Bashkortostan Legislative Assembly's decree canceling broadcasts of two "analytical programs" on republic TV "unconstitutional," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 November. Lesin added that "we are leaving the door open and are giving Bashkortostan's State Council two days to review its decision." "Vremya MN" reported the following day that according to its sources in the Media Ministry the ministry has already prepared five possible courses of action, two of which are "especially harsh." Andrei Richter, director of the Center for Law and Media at Moscow State University, told "The Moscow Times" on 23 November that although he is sympathetic to Rakhimov's view of the ORT and RTR programs, the republic's decision was a "serious violation of the law, and it sets a dangerous precedent, giving each governor the right to "show only those programs that he likes." JAC
...AS RADIO STATION FINALLY SILENCED.The administration of Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has succeeded in closing the independent Radio Lemma, the "Vladivostok News" reported on 19 November. Vladivostok city policemen ejected the staff of Radio Lemma from their building on 19 November. The journalists had been broadcasting using a gasoline-powered generator after the city cut electricity to their building. Most observers believe that Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov, who was appointed by Nazdratenko, was acting on his patron's behalf. City officials said that the police were called in to clear the building because flammable liquids had been stored there illegally. The same day that the police raid was carried out, the former Mayor of Vladivostok Viktor Cherepkov announced that he is withdrawing from the 19 December gubernatorial elections to protest the closure of the radio station. He added that he does not believe fair elections are possible in Primorskii Krai. JAC
OFFICERS OF THE COURT MARCHING TO GOVERNORS' TUNE?"The Moscow Times" on 23 November reported that a number of high-profile cases across Russia reveal a pattern in which bailiffs choose to execute court orders backed by the regional government or federal official even though they may also have conflicting orders requiring opposite or different actions. By way of example, the daily cites the takeover of Vostoktransflot with the assistance of bailiffs, an action that Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko supported. Sergei Ruban, the head of the federal Bailiffs Department of the Justice Ministry, told the daily that for a single case, bailiffs may receive 10 different court orders, some of which directly contradict one another. His deputy, Aleksandr Popov, told the newspaper that bailiffs often "come across problems that they can resolve only through applying to the court again to gain a ruling on how the previous decisions should be carried out." According to Ruban, some 11,000 bailiffs carry out more than 18 million court decisions a year and each officer may have just 40 minutes a day to study the documentation and then implement a court decision. JAC
YAVLINSKII WINS TITOV'S SUPPORT IN EFFORT TO TRANSFORM UPPER BODY."Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 November that Federation Council Budget Committee Chairman Konstantin Titov intends to help Yabloko carry out its idea of introducing an amendment to the Russian Constitution that would make membership in the Federation Council an elected office. According to the daily, Yabloko will submit a draft amendment to the Duma. Titov is also the governor of Samara Oblast. A recent effort to make leadership positions in the upper legislative body rotate has stalled for the immediate future (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 November 1999). JAC
IVANOVO: GOVERNOR CHALLENGED OVER BREAD FACTORY'S FATE.In what RFE/RL's "Korrespondentskii chas" on 6 November described as a rare show of unity, deputies from the oblast Legislative Assembly and from the city Duma as well as Ivanovo Mayor Valerii Troeglazov all sent letters to Governor Vladislav Tikhomirov early this month urging the oblast head to reconsider his decision to privatize the oblast's last-remaining bread factory that is fully state-owned. That enterprise accounts for one-third of all bread products sold in Ivanovo. It is also described as the only such enterprise to regularly turn a profit; thus as long as the oblast authorities retain control over the factory, they can maintain control over bread prices throughout the oblast. The signatories to the letters fear that once the factory is privatized, existing legislation on price controls will be unable to protect the population from having to dig deeper into their pockets for their daily bread. JC
KHABAROVSK: JOURNALIST TARGETED.Unknown assailants attacked on 23 November the chief editor of the newspaper, "My City," Aleksandr Kugushev, RFE/RL's correspondent in Khabarovsk reported. the leader of the krai's My City movement said that Kuznetsov was severely beaten in connection with his professional activities as a journalist. Kugushev is a also a member of the My City's political council. JAC
LENINGRAD: OBLAST FAILS TO MAKE LOAN PAYMENT.Leningrad Oblast has missed a $2.3 million interest payment on a $50 million syndicated loan, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 23 November. That payment was due on 3 November, but the oblast was granted a 17-day grace period, which ended on 20 November without any transfer having been made. Ten banks are participating in the syndicated loan, including Russia's Sberbank, the Bank of America, the London-based Moscow Narodnyi Bank, and Austria's Adria Bank. Earlier this year, Western banks taking part demanded their money back under an option clause inserted into the original loan agreement, but when the oblast proved unable to make such a payment, the banks agreed to continue negotiations on restructuring the loan. No restructuring agreement has been signed to date. According to the newspaper, the oblast has foreign debts totaling $69 million and domestic debts of 658 million rubles ($24.6 million). JC
MARII EL: OWNERS OF LUXURY HOUSES TARGETED.Marii El President Vyacheslav Kislitsin has ordered his government to form a commission to ensure that private homeowners are paying taxes on their property, according to "Vremya MN" on 23 November. The main targets of Kislitsin's order are those constructing so-called luxury houses, which are reported to have appeared everywhere in recent years, particularly in the capital, Ioshkar-Ola, and its environs. Many of those houses are half-finished and have been so for some time, particularly since August of last year; during this prolonged construction period, house-owners reportedly tend to consider themselves "freed" from paying taxes. If the commission discovers that an owner is not paying taxes, it will demand to know where he got the money to build his new home. According to a government official quoted by "Vremya MN," civil servants are to come under special scrutiny. JC
PSKOV: 'DEATH CAMP FOR THE ELDERLY.'In its 12 November issue, "Komsomolskaya pravda" ran an article with the headline "Death Camp for the Elderly," which describes a home for invalids, veterans, and pensioners in Opochetsk Raion at which one-third of all residents have died over the past eight months. The main reason for the large numbers of deaths, according to the newspaper, is hunger. There have been no deliveries of butter, cheese, eggs, or milk in more than a year, while meat and fish have not been served there for even longer. Those residents who are mobile were able to nourish themselves in the summer by gathering sorrel from the local forests and in the fall by doing odd-jobs at private dachas or elsewhere in return for a bowl of soup. With no such possibilities available at this time of year and with no funds in sight from the raion administration, there are fears that the death rate will be even higher over the next few months. JC
ST. PETERSBURG: ARTEMEV SAYS FIRE WAS AIMED AT DESTROYING SIGNATURES.According to local Yabloko leader and former Deputy Governor Igor Artemev, the 16 November fire that broke out at party headquarters in St. Petersburg was laid by political forces intent on thwarting his bid to become governor in next month's election. The fire, he said, was an attempt to destroy the lists of about 40,000 signatures supporting his candidacy for governor, which were in the office at the time, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 19 November. The deadline for submitting the necessary 70,000 signatures to the election commission was 19 November. JC
SOBCHAK OFF THE HOOK.Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak announced on 19 November that the Prosecutor-General's Office has dropped its criminal case against him, Interfax reported. In September 1998, the Prosecutor-General's Office had opened that case on charges of bribe-taking and abuse of office. Sobchak recently announced his intention to run in next month's gubernatorial election (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 November 1999). JC
ST. PETE'S CURRENCY RATING RAISED.The international rating agency Fitch IBCA has raised its long-term local currency rating for the City of St. Petersburg to CCC. The agency recently affirmed the city's long-term foreign currency rating at CCC and its short-term foreign currency rating at C. Reuters on 19 November quoted Fitch IBCA as saying that St. Petersburg has distinguished itself from many other Russian regions and the federal government by remaining current on all its external and domestic obligations. JC
SAMARA: OBLAST DOESN'T WANT TOURISTS FROM MIDDLE EAST?Thirty-one foreign nationals from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Jordan suspected of belonging to "Muslim armed groups" have been arrested in Samara Oblast, according to ITAR-TASS on 20 November. Authorities said that those arrested claimed to be tourists but had no luggage, visa, or money and carried only passports and little paper bags for their personal effects. The agency also reported that more than 500 foreigners have been detained in the oblast over the last three weeks. JAC
TATARSTAN: REPUBLIC'S PRESIDENT DENIES ELECTIONS WILL BE BROUGHT FORWARD.Mintimer Shaimiev on 17 November denied Russian media reports that the Tatarstan presidential elections scheduled for March 2001 will be held at the same time as the June 2000 Russian presidential elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). Shaimiev said it is up to the parliament of the Tatarstan Republic to set the date for the poll. He added that "elections will be held according to the republic's constitution, but I would not make guesses who would run for the office and for what term." Shaimiev is currently serving his second presidential term, but the republic's constitution sets no limits on the number of terms an individual can serve. LF
VOLGOGRAD: OBLAST MOVES TOWARD PRICE REGULATION.The oblast legislature has passed in the second reading a bill providing for the creation of an agency that would regulate the prices of essential goods and services "when necessary," "Izvestiya" reported on 16 November. That agency would decide when such regulation is required and would be authorized to ensure that it is enforced. Moreover, the agency would have the power to transfer its duties to the local authorities. The bill "On Price Policy" must now be put to a third and final reading. Meanwhile, the local anti-monopoly commission argues that the draft law contravenes existing legislation, including the law on competition. JC
REGIONAL VOICES.Sergei Sobyanin, chairman of the Duma of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 November, comments on the draft 2000 federal budget with regard to the northern regions:
"Today around 80 Federation subjects in Russia are to one degree or another dependent on federal budget transfers. But there are also a few donors who in general receive no money from the center. There are about eight of these in all. Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug is the largest donor after Moscow.... For us, the most important factor in our relations with the center is stability. However, in recent times, despite the introduction of the law establishing a 50-50 split in revenues between the center and the region, there have been attempts by the center to change this balance. Last year the split was changed by 3 percent. This year, I am sure that the balance will be 40-60 percent in favor of the center."
"It seems to me that there exist in Russia two governments. One within [Moscow's] Ring Road and the other at the level of regions in the provinces.... More and more we are fulfilling the functions of the federal government, such as providing healthcare, education, housing, and road repair and construction."
REGIONAL INDEX:Industrial Output Expressed as Percentage Change in First Half of 1999 Compared with First Half of 1998.
Source: PlanEcon, Washington, D.C.