8 December 1999, Volume
CRACKDOWN ON REGIONAL MEDIA MARS CAMPAIGN.
According to information collected by the Fund to Defend Glasnost, November 1999 was an especially busy month for local authorities cracking down on opposition press, "Novaya gazeta" reported in its issue No. 45. In addition to expropriation and banning, authorities are deploying new modern methods such as evicting publications from their premises and confiscating entire print runs as well as publications' property. During November, a printing press in one Mordvinian town suddenly "lost" an entire page of a local newspaper that happened to contain critical material about the city's administration. In Yekaterinburg, a local opposition newspaper, "Vechernii Yekaterinburg," was evicted from the House of the Press by the local Property Ministry. In Rostov-na-Donu, local policemen conducted an illegal search of Radio Rostov's premises, seizing two computers and one notebook. The computers were returned after several days cleansed of any kind of documents. In Novosibirsk, 50,000 copies of the local newspaper "Gorodovoi" were seized because, as local officials openly explained, they contained "too many materials critical of the activities of Novosibirsk's Mayor Viktor Tolokonskii" (see next item). And in Vladivostok, a local appeals court overturned the decision of a lower court that had ordered the seizure of the local opposition newspaper "Arsenievskii vesti." But the print runs of the newspaper continue to be confiscated and the newspaper's editor "apparently must resort to appealing to the federal Justice Ministry and prosecutor-general." JAC
BEREZOVSKII ALLEGEDLY REACHING INTO REGIONS...
"Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 4 December that business magnate and so-called oligarch Boris Berezovskii is extending to Russia's regions the tactics he used to consolidate his power at the federal level. According to the newspaper, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and LUKoil, Berezovskii is placing his proteges in key positions and "seizing with their assistance the most delectable and profitable pieces of property." In Siberia, Berezovskii's efforts so far have met with mixed success. In Omsk, incumbent Governor Leonid Polezhaev, who is loyal to Berezovskii, was re-elected; meanwhile, in Tomsk, Governor Viktor Kress defeated a Berezovskii protege. According to the daily, the next battle will be gubernatorial elections in Novosibirsk Oblast, where Novosibirsk Mayor Viktor Tolokonskii, who is close to Berezovskii, is favored to win. JAC
...AS ABRAMOVICH WOOS VOTERS IN CHUKOTKA.
Meanwhile, Berezovskii ally and Sibneft head Roman Abramovich has made three campaign trips to Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, where he is running for a seat in the State Duma. "Die Welt" reported on 3 December that Abramovich has already visited 12 of 26 localities and towns in Chukotka. On one recent trip to the region, Abramovich brought with him the head of Vnukovo Airlines, Aleksandr Krasnenker, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30 November. Krasnenker announced that his airline is launching a weekly flight from Moscow to Chukotka and that announcement alone, according to the daily, may be enough to get Abramovich elected. JAC
SOME REGIONS GETTING GRIMMER LOOK AT CHECHEN CONFLICT.
Local television stations, which cannot compete with their larger national counterparts in terms of on-site coverage, are providing coverage of the Chechen conflict that focuses on local soldiers at the front, some of whom have returned in coffins, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 December. Television stations in Tomsk and Yekaterinburg have sent reporters to Chechnya with the Soldiers' Mothers organization and with a local OMON unit; other stations have covered funerals of local soldiers and crowded military hospitals. The daily concludes that practice of regional television stations of covering the death of local soldiers "may explain the regions' lower approval ratings for the Chechen campaign." Seventy-seven percent of residents of St. Petersburg and Moscow approve of Russia's conduct, compared with only 64 percent of Russians nationwide, according to a recent poll by the Public Opinion Foundation. JAC
LUZHKOV TO UNLEASH FEDERATION COUNCIL IN BATTLE WITH KREMLIN?
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told reporters on 6 December that he plans to urge the Federation Council to defend the rights of regions against the Kremlin. According to ITAR-TASS, Luzhkov was alluding to President Boris Yeltsin's recent decree dismissing Deputy Interior Minister and Moscow Police Chief Nikolai Kulikov from his job. At the time, Luzhkov criticized the decree for a number of reasons, among them the fact that the appointment and dismissal from the position had to be approved by a regional official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 1999). JAC
REPUBLIC ALLOCATES BUDGET MONEY FOR CHURCH FIX-UP.
The government of the Republic of Buryatia announced on 2 December that it has allocated 1.8 million rubles ($67,000) from the republic's budget to accelerate the restoration of the Svyato-Odigitrievskii Cathedral in Ulan Ude, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 December. According to the agency, the money is being allocated in order that the cathedral may be ready to be transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church in time for the 2000th anniversary of Christianity. Some documents housed in the cathedral will be transferred to the Museum of the History of Buryatia, where special equipment must be present to preserve the documents and relics' safely. The church, which was constructed in 1741, was transformed into a history museum in 1920 and used to house rare documents including the atlas of Tibetan medicine (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 September 1999). JAC
CONTRABAND TO DECORATE AMBER ROOM?
According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 November, amber confiscated from smugglers at Kaliningrad's borders may be used for the restoration of the Amber Room at the Summer Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, near St. Petersburg. That room's amber panels were plundered by Nazi troops during World War II. The newspaper reports that the semi-precious stone is increasingly being smuggled out of the exclave to Poland and Latvia. Local amateur "gold-diggers" who, like the rest of the oblast's population have been hard hit by last year's financial crisis, are capitalizing on the easy access to an open quarry some 50 kilometers west of the oblast capital and selling their booty to dealers from neighboring countries. A recent haul of 383 kilograms of amber discovered by Russian border police in a single truck could be worth some 160,000 rubles ($6,400), according to the newspaper. JC
FIVE PARTIES CLAIM ELECTION LAWS BEING VIOLATED.
Leaders of the regional branches of the Communist Party (KPRF), Fatherland-All Russia, Yabloko, Our Home Is Russia, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia have appealed to the Central Election Commission to investigate violations of election laws, "Segodnya" reported on 4 December. According to the daily, city and raion governments are handing out campaign literature for the interregional movement Unity, while local television stations are broadcasting programs biased in favor of Unity. According to the appeal, the local election commission has refused to take any action. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported earlier that Governor Aman Tuleev, who is listed as the fourth candidate on the Communist Party's party list, has in fact been supporting Unity candidates for single mandate districts in Kemerovo rather than candidates backed by the KPRF (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 November 1999). Last April, opponents of Governor Tuleev charged that elections to the oblast's legislative assembly had also been rife with numerous irregularities. In that election, the electoral bloc led by Tuleev won 34 of 35 electoral seats (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 April 1999). JAC
BATTLE WITH DALENERGO TAKES NEW FORM.
Some 250 workers at a heat and power station in Vladivostok went on strike on 6 December, demanding payment of some five months of unpaid wages, according to ITAR-TASS. RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reports that the strike followed a statement by Primorskii Krai's Deputy Governor Yurii Likhoida that Dalenergo was deliberately withholding the wages from its personnel in order to aggravate the political situation in the krai on the eve of 19 December gubernatorial elections. Dalenergo, on the other hand, blamed the krai's administration for provoking the strike action and for causing the wages to go unpaid because of the krai's unwillingness to raise energy tariffs. On 7 December, some 350 workers at another power station in the krai also went on strike demanding some seven months of back pay. Last month, addressing reporters on 27 November, Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais said that his company has asked the Office of Russia's Prosecutor-General to stop what he called Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko's "campaign of terror against the region's energy system," which has included "threats, blackmail, attempted searches and attacks" on the director-general of Dalenergo, Vladimir Peshkun, and his family (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 1 December 1999). JAC
REPUBLIC AIMS TO BOOST DIAMOND PRODUCTION.
Sakha's President Mikhail Nikolaev announced on 6 December that his republic, which was once known as Yakutia, may produce as much as $1.7 billion worth of rough diamonds by 2005 as new mines go into production, Interfax reported. Sakha also plans to increase production of cut diamonds by some $50 million worth annually. JAC
SECRET TUNNEL PLAN MOVING FORWARD?
First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told reporters on 6 December that the Railway Ministry has started drawing up a feasibility study for constructing a tunnel between the island of Sakhalin and mainland Russia. A final decision on the project will not be made for another year, but Aksenenko reckons that "the odds that it will be profitable to build are very high." Last March, secret plans to construct such a tunnel from the Russian mainland to the island of Sakhalin were discovered in Khabarovsk (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 February 1999). Several hundreds of kilometers of railroad lines were built during Stalin's rule leading from Komsomolsk-na-Amure to Cape Pogibi in preparation for digging the tunnel. JAC
KREMLIN TURNS THE SCREW ON YAKOVLEV...
Governor Vladimir Yakovlev is at the center of an investigation launched by the federal Interior Ministry concerning the source of funding for a meeting of the All Russia movement that took place in St. Petersburg's Tavricheskii Palace in May. Independent local deputy Aleksandr Shchelkanov first raised questions about how that meeting had been funded when he sent a letter to Yakovlev in June and, on failing to receive a satisfactory answer, applied to the local prosecutor. "The St. Petersburg Times" on 3 December quoted Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov as saying his ministry has evidence that city budget funds were sent directly to a company that paid the hotel where conference delegates were lodged. Moreover, that company has been found to have false registration documents. Yakovlev is a leader of the All-Russia movement and the number three candidate on the election list of the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, after former Premier Yevgenii Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Meanwhile, the federal Interior Ministry is also investigating charges brought by several St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputies that Yakovlev supporters in the parliament tampered with voting procedures to bring forward the gubernatorial ballot to 19 December (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 October 1999). JC
...WHILE COMMUNISTS OFFER HIM SUPPORT.
The Communist Party has announced it will back Yakovlev in this month's gubernatorial election, Interfax-Northwest reported on 4 December. Local communist leader Yurii Belov told journalists in St. Petersburg that while Yakovlev's program does not "fully coincide" with that of the Communist Party, "he is the most professional of all registered candidates." Yakovlev, for his part, told ITAR-TASS two days later that he does not fear a negative reaction from the anti-communist electorate, saying that the "governor works for all people in the city." JC
SHUTOV SET TO RUN FOR DUMA.
St. Petersburg prosecutor Ivan Sydoruk has lost his bid to prevent local parliamentary deputy Yurii Shutov from running in the 19 December State Duma elections, Russian media reported on 2 December. The Municipal Court ruled against overturning the decision of the district election committee to register Shutov, who is currently detained on charges of arranging several contract killings. Sydoruk had argued that Shutov was not eligible for registration because he had failed to identify the source of his election fee, which was transferred anonymously, and omitted important items from his property declaration, including an apartment in Abkhazia and a car (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 December 1999). Documents submitted to the court by Shutov's lawyers claimed that the names and addresses of those who paid the fee were supplied to the election commission, while the Abkhaz apartment turned out not to belong to Shutov and the car to be the property of his former wife, "Segodnya" reported. JC
GOVERNOR THREATENS MEDIA BOSS.
The weekly "Novaya gazeta" reported in its issue No. 45 that Vladimir Orekhov, the director-general of Tver Media, has lodged a complaint with the oblast prosecutor-general over threats he says he received from Governor Vladimir Platov during a face-to-face meeting in the presence of witnesses. The incident occurred after the oblast head had turned up for the recording of a program in which he had sought to appear but had been denied an invitation to do so. During the recording, the governor was reported to be angry at what the program participants were saying about him. Afterward, he took Orekhov to one side and made threats against the life of the media boss and two witnesses. Platov's press service has denied that the governor made any such threat and suggested that the allegations stem from his "dishonest" opponents. Gubernatorial elections are to take place in Tver next month. JC
GOVERNOR SEEKS WOMEN'S VOTE.
Some 18 months after promising to improve the situation of the oblast's female population, Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn submitted to the local legislature a bill "on the protection of the rights and interests of women in Yaroslavl Oblast," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 December. Besides seeking to ensure that women are not discriminated against and receive equal pay, the bill includes various social guarantees, including financial support for jobless women who give birth and job quotas for female invalids, single mothers, and women who have a large number of children. It also provides for stipends to be granted on a competitive basis annually to some 40 women who want to have a higher education. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," meanwhile, points out that during his term in office, Lisitsyn has been unable to ensure that child benefits are paid on time: the arrears for such payments now exceed some 300 million rubles ($14 million). Gubernatorial elections are due in Yaroslavl later this month. JC
Industrial Output in First Three Quarters of 1999 Expressed as Percentage Change from First Three Quarters of 1998
Western Siberia _+5.9
Source: PlanEcon, Washington, D.C.