SOON PUTIN’S POPULARITY RATING WILL EXCEED 100%
Izvestia, January 21, 2000, p.2
Over 80% of Russians are ready to participate in the Russian presidential elections; if the elections took place this Sunday, acting President Vladimir Putin would gain 62% of the vote, according to the Regional Political Research Agency, based on the results of a blitz-poll of 1,600 Russians conducted on January 14-16 in 90 cities and villages in 52 regions. The margin of error in this poll is 2.5%. The respondents have named over 40 people whom they are ready to support in the presidential elections. Putin is followed by leader of CPRF Gennady Zyuganov (19%), former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov is third (7%), followed by leader of Yabloko Grigory Yavlinsky (5%), chief of LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovsky (3%), and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov (1%). If Putin’s popularity rating continues to grow so rapidly, by voting day it will exceed 100%; this is the comment made in jest by sceptics who do not trust results of opinion polls, which in our country often do not reflect reality.
ON THE WAY TO THE G-8
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, January 21, 2000, p.2
Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi is expected to meet Mikhail Kasyanov, First Deputy Russian Prime Minister, who will arrive in Tokyo on January 22 to participate in the G-8 financiers meeting. It should not be ruled out that the first deputy Russian prime minister will hold other bilateral meetings in Tokyo.
Central Bank chairman Victor Gerashchenko will also take part in the meeting of G-8 financiers.
Representatives of Russia will report to their colleagues about the macroeconomic and financial situation in Russia, which will be followed by a free discussion.
Alexander Livshits, Presidential Envoy to the G-8, will arrive in Tokyo on January 22, at the same time as Kasyanov.
BORDER GUARDS HEROES HAVE TWO PROBLEMS: HEROIN AND MIGRANTS
Tribuna, January 21, 2000, p.1
Over 4,000 trespassers across the state border were detained last year.
On January 20, at a press conference on results of activities of the Federal Border Guard Service, its Director Konstantin Totsky stated that the tense situation on the state frontier was connected, firstly, with illegal migration, and secondly with smuggling, including drug trafficking.
Some 1,200 illegal migrants were detained on the border with Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Many trespassers were detained also on the border with Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, and Mongolia. The border guards confiscated 1.7 tons of drugs, while the share of heroin sharply increased: from 26 kg in 1997 to 600 kg in 1999.
VYAKHIREV AND KALYUZHNY ARE IN KIEV
Trud, January 21, 2000, p.1
It seems that as soon as within 30 to 50 days the process of Russian-Ukrainian “gas clarifications” (inter-government clarifications on the point of the total amount of Ukraine’s debt for supplies of Russian gas) will be accomplished. It was facilitated by the arrival in Kiev of Gazprom Director Rem Vyakhirev and Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Victor Kalyuzhny. When the information was delivered to Moscow, the negotiations in Kiev continued.
They are advancing in two directions: between Gazprom’s management and Ukraine’s Neftegaz, and also individually between Kalyuzhny and Prime Minister Yushchenko of Ukraine. The negotiations touch on the current state and prospects of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation in the fuel and energy sector, and the procedure of mutual offsetting for energy resources.
The total debt to Gazprom of the Neftegaz Ukrainy state company and commercial structures is not yet fixed in documents – it is at the stage of adjustment and mutual verifications. However, Victor Yushchenko named the figures which will be used in the negotiations which will resume within weeks: $1.7-2 billion. The issue is the overall sum of the debt, which also includes a consolidated debt of private gas traders which they have owed for several years. According to the prime minister of Ukraine, the Russian side showed readiness to consider the issue of restructuring the debt since the new Ukrainian government is now very tough about establishing order on the gas market, and also prosecuting those state officials and agencies who confuse their own pockets with the pockets of the state.
RIGHT-WING FACTIONS CONTINUE BOYCOTTING THE DUMA
ORT, Novosti, January 20, 2000, 15:00
The leadership of the Fatherland-All Russia, Yabloko, and Union of Right Forces factions decided to continue boycotting Duma meetings, but at the same time to prepare bills, the vote for which will require the presence of deputies in the conference hall. In the opinion of Duma observers, the three factions have not yet made any concrete suggestions, apart from declarative statements concerning the boycott. Our sources in these factions say that their leaders are waiting, having taken a political timeout until Monday, since the Duma Council will assemble on Tuesday and judging by whether the faction leaders will attend it or not, their further tactics can be predicted.
MEETING OF THE GOVERNMENT
ORT, Novosti, January 20, 2000, 12:00
Today’s meeting of the government was chaired by Vladimir Putin personally, for the first time this year. He defined the principal tasks of the Cabinet. They concern Russia’s economic development, first and foremost. Putin remarked that there were certain achievements in 1999, such as 8% production growth and implementing of the budget, and emphasized that these trends must be maintained.
Vladimir Putin: There is every reason to believe that we will cope with analogous tasks in 2000. This is our number one aim. We must make use of positive trends observed at the end of the last year, maintain and develop them.
The law on the budget must become the main instrument for the work of the government. Putin said that this issue is problematic but feasible and remarked that no reduction in the expenditure on social services can be tolerated. The standard of living in Russia is rather low even under current circumstances.
Putin: Russia ranks 71st in the world. Even Belarus takes 70th place, regardless of its economic problems, which, in the opinion of many people, call the necessity of the unification with it into question.
The acting president said that Russia’s influence over international economic processes has decreased, and declared it necessary to carry out radical economic reforms under the strict control and with the active participation of the government. Putin said that the state authorities must strengthen their positions, in order to keep criminals out of the economy.
MILITARY OPERATION IN CHECHNYA
NTV, Segodnya, January 20, 2000, 14:00
The active stage of the military operation in Grozny, i.e. the storm of the city, has been going on for four days already. The troops have advanced, for the most part, in the northern and eastern directions. The guerrillas in the south and west have prepared themselves well for defense, which hampers the clean-up. Aviation and artillery do the main fighting. Shells and mines are constantly being delivered to the front line. While the federal forces are storming Grozny, the guerrillas try to draw part of them into the mountains. The military reports several attempts at breaking through in the Argun canyon.
V. Timchenko, deputy chief of the operational staff of the united group of forces: The more effort we make to destroy the guerrillas here, in Grozny, the more active the forces which want to help those who defend the city become. We realize that they are trying to break through the barrier. The most heated battles are now in the Argun canyon.
Yesterday the guerrillas lost over 30 men in the mountains. The military states that as soon as the Grozny operation is completed, the remaining bandit formations in the mountain districts will be destroyed. No specific date for the completion of the operation has been defined, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev stated. According to him, the principal task is not to complete the operation by some specific date, but to totally destroy the guerrillas with the fewest possible losses among Russian servicemen.