DEBTS TO STATE EMPLOYEES
Izvestia, May 26, 1999, p.2
At a selective conference with regions which took place on May 25, acting Vice Premier Valentina Matvienko and First Deputy Finance Minister Victor Khristenko were quoted as saying that the situation with wage payments to state employees is indeed difficult and that they would request that the Finance Ministry understand their position and grant a loan for state employees.
The situation with payments of wages and pensions currently looks a lot better than it did last autumn and even last winter. While at the beginning of the year there were only 14 happy regions (where delays in payments were a month at most) and 35 unhappy ones (where delays were over three months), by May the ratio had been reversed. Currently, 10 regions have no debts on wage payments to their state employees, and 17 more (including the Vologda, Murmansk, Leningrad, Bryansk, and Kaluga regions) have at most one month’s delays. The most unhappy regions, where delays stretch back between three and seven months, include the Kemerovo, Omsk, Chita, Magadan, and Sakhalin regions, the republics of Altai, Khakasia, and Buryatia, and the Koryak and Chukotka autonomous okrugs.
UNCLE STEVE DOES NOT SAVE
Izvestia, May 26, 1999, p.1
The acting law “On Weapons”, which was adopted in 1996, is a unique creation: according to it, firearms can be owned and stored, but they may not be carried or used for defense purposes.
Annually, 200,000-300,000 weapons are confiscated from illegal ownership in Russia every year, but this does not add to law and order in society when the state does nothing to protect citizens.
FACES OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT
Moskovsky Komsomolets, May 26, 1999, p.2
Nikolai Aksenenko has been appointed first vice premier, and he is close to Boris Berezovsky, Roman Abramovich, and the so-called “railway lobby”. His personal interests lie in the Roads and Transportation Ministry.
Mikhail Zadornov has also been approved first vice premier. He is in his third government already and gets along with any supervisor.
Vladimir Shcherbak has been approved vice premier for agriculture. He is an advanced rural liberal and close to former Vice Premier for Agriculture Victor Khlystun.
Valentina Matvienko has taken the post of vice premier for social policy; she is close to Yevgeny Primakov and enjoys great popularity among governors.
Vyacheslav Mikhailov has been appointed regional and ethnic policy minister. He is a professional civil servant who has been dealing with ethnic problems from time immemorial. Lately he has sided with Chernomyrdin’s clan, for which he suffered under Kirienko.
Leonid Drachevsky has been appointed minister for CIS affairs. He has a diplomatic background (his last post was deputy foreign minister, and before that he was the Russian ambassador to Poland).
Vladimir Rushaylo has been approved as interior minister. He is considered to be a person who knows which side his bread is buttered on. He is in close cahoots with Berezovsky.
Mikhail Fradkov has been appointed trade minister. He is a professional foreign economy civil servant. He is thought to be inclined to “the old guard” – Chernomyrdin, Urinson, and Yasin.
A CRAVING TO BE A VIP
Trud, May 26, 1999, p.2
The arrival of LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Belgorod, where he intends to occupy the governor’s office, has started with a disagreeable scandal at the airport. Many passengers and employees of the Belgorod air enterprise witnessed the extremely shocking actions of the politician.
As employees of the airport stated to the corespondent of “Trud”, they had undergone an attack by the local “Zhirinovsky falcons”, who were meeting their leader and demanded that the leader of the Duma faction be served in the best way possible, with a red carpet and jeeps on the runway.
Unfortunately, the resources of the Belgorod airport do not accommodate VIPs, as the zealous representatives of the candidate for governor were informed. Nevertheless, the “civil servant” from the Duma did not wish to make his way from the plane to the hall together with the rest of the people. Incensed, he called on the administration of the airport, endeavoring to “start a scuffle immediately”. Everything ended when first the pilots, followed by the passengers, told Zhirinovsky their opinion about him right in the exit from the airport.
ZERO GROWTH AHEAD
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, May 26, 1999, p.1
Zero growth or a decrease of 1% compared to last year may be expected in Russia in 1999, stated Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov at the Second Congress of Accountants and Auditors.
According to Zadornov, this tendency took shape in January-April 1999 and will probably remain as long as the inflation rate is 2.5%. Compared with January 1999, when inflation was 8.5%, this is considerable progress.
Zadornov also announced that, between January and April 1999, cash revenues to the budget increased by 1.5% of the GDP and totaled on average 12.2% of the GDP, which considerably outstrips the level of 1998. The minister stated that budgetary expenditures will be financed by 100% in 1999.
THE NEW GOVERNMENT IS ALMOST COMPLETE
Russian Television, Vesti, May 25, 1999, 20:00
On May 25, the formation of the Russian government was almost accomplished. Several hours ago Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin returned from Sochi, where his two-day consultations with the president ended in the signing of decrees on new appointments and holdovers in the Cabinet. Most members of the Cabinet were retained, although there are both new posts and new appointments.
Among the new posts is vice premier for defense, who is to be appointed in the next few days.
Among other appointments, the following are noteworthy: Vyacheslav Mikhailov was appointed head of the Ministry for Regional and National Policy (Mikhailov occupied the same post in Chernomyrdin’s government). Ramazan Abdulatipov, who was Ethnic Policy Minister in Primakov’s government, lost his portfolio and met the same fate as Nikolai Travkin and Yevgeny Yasin, who head the list of ministers without portfolios. Mikhail Fradkov is to head the Ministry for Trade, as he did in Primakov’s and Chernomyrdin’s governments. Minister for CIS Affairs Boris Pastukhov will be replaced by Leonid Drachevsky, a former deputy foreign minister. former Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Victor Kolyuzhny will head the Fuel and Energy Ministry. Thus, the government is 80% complete.
UKRAINE TO MOURN FOR COAL MINERS
Russian Television, Vesti, May 25, 1999, 20:00
In Ukraine, 39 coal miners perished in an explosion of methane in a mine last Monday. Experts are now proposing another explanation of the tragedy: an explosion of coal dust. The real reason for the tragedy will be disclosed only after the relevant governmental committee accomplishes its work, which will be within 10 days. Their main task is to organize funerals for the 39 coal miners.
NEW APPOINTMENTS IN THE GOVERNMENT
Independent Television, Segodnya, May 25, 1999, 14:00
Mikhail Zadornov was appointed first vice premier and finance minister. Thus, the key appointment have been made and the basic scheme of the government which Stepashin insisted on is in place. Zadornov came to the Finance Ministry from the Yabloko movement. He was criticized for the fact that he led the Finance Ministry on August 17, when the financial crisis erupted. But the decision to appoint him finance minister was made in absentia and his reputation did not suffer.
Valentina Matvienko has kept her position and she is still responsible for social issues. Vladimir Sherbak was appointed vice premier for the agricultural complex.