THE FSS CHECKING REPORTS OF "CHECHEN" MONEY
Izvestia, February 4, 2000, p.3
On February 3 Major General Alexander Zhdanovich, Director of the Assistance Programs’ Department said that the Federal Security Service (FSS) was checking reports that a large sum of money in foreign currency had been poured into promoting the interests of the Chechen separatists in the Russian media.
Earlier there had been reports that a large amount of foreign currency collected in some Arab states for humanitarian aid to Chechnya was actually used to launch a media campaign to discredit the Russian military command and its actions in Chechnya.
Zhdanovich: “This money (about $1.5 billion) had been brought into Russia in order to destabilize the situation. We took note of this information.”
The general did not disclose details of how reports are being checked, but said that some Russian journalists had been threatened. Zhdanovich said that the viewpoints of those journalists had not suited the Chechen separatists.
GAZPROM HAS LAUNCHED BLUE STREAM
Izvestia, February 4, 2000, p.3
On February 3 Gazprom started construction on the Blue Stream pipeline, which will allow supplies of Russian gas to Turkey to be increased, bypassing transit states. The first junction of the land part of the pipeline was welded on February 3 near Krasnodar, reports Interfax. The total length of Blue Stream is about 1,200 kilometers, including 375 kilometers along the floor of the Black Sea, and 444 kilometers on Turkish territory. The Blue Stream project envisages direct supplies of 365 billion cubic meters of gas over 25 years, totaling some $22-25 billion depending on price levels. It is expected that the first supplies of Russian gas will be received in 2001.
TAX COLLECTION TARGETS FOR JANUARY EXCEEDED BY 27.4%
Izvestia, February 4, 2000, p.4
In January, the Ministry for Taxes and Duties collected over 40.4 billion rubles of federal taxes (taking into account revenues in purpose-oriented budgetary funds), which exceeds target figures by 8.7 billion rubles (27.4%), reports Interfax.
The report states that federal budget received over 37.7 billion rubles (excluding receipts of the Federal Road Fund and the Resources’ Replenishing Fund), which is 210% of the figure for January 1999. A third of the collected taxes was received from the largest taxpayers: Gazprom, RJES, Roads and Transport Ministry, and 18 oil companies.
YAVLINSKY: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT RATE IN RUSSIA IS ALMOST ZERO
Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 4, 2000, p.2
Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko Duma faction, has returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Meeting with journalists, he said that “there are no prerequisites for significant economic growth in Russia over the next three next years, and they will never appear if in the immediate future we do nothing to create the necessary initial conditions”. The rate of economic development in Russia is almost zero, believes Yavlinsky, while the national restoration program requires detailed and considered amendment. All these issues were in Yavlinsky’s report at the World Economic Forum.
Yavlinsky supported the proposal to carry out a two-stage tax reform, where he proposed to substitute direct taxes for indirect taxes, which are easier to collect. It is thought that if acceptable tax rates are set, taxpayers will legalize their transactions. The second stage envisages restoration of income taxes, which will become possible owing to a sharp contraction in the shadow economy.
The banking system requires significant reconsideration as well. Yavlinsky favors abolishing the Central Bank’s independence. He says that “Western banks borrow money from people and invest it in the industry of their own countries, while Russian banks borrow money from the budget and transfer it to Cyprus”.
PUTIN SACKS 17 REGIONAL PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES
Komsomolskaya Pravda, February 4, 2000, p.2
Acting president Vladimir Putin has dismissed 17 regional presidential representatives. Formally, all presidential representatives lost their positions after Yeltsin’s resignation. However, Putin ordained that they carry on with their duties until the presidential election; seventeen have been unlucky.
It is clear that staff changes have taken place in those regions of Russia which are the most significant economically and politically. For instance, in St. Petersburg, first-wave democrat Sergei Tsyplyaev has ceded his position to Alexander Bespalov, who had worked at the St. Petersburg mayor’s office at the same time with Putin. Presidential representatives have also been replaced in the Orel, Kursk, Belgorod, Kemerovo, Nizhny Novgorod, and some other regions.
Most observers link the scale of staff changes with the fact that Putin has started to implement a policy aimed at strengthening the so-called power hierarchy – strengthening the role of the center in its relations with regions.
PUTIN HAS A DUBIOUS TEAM
Pravda, February 4, 2000, p.1
“The personnel policy of the acting president is not good enough,” said Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov via the media outlets that Putin’s team is distinguishing with its high professionalism and wide experience.
The reliance on certain people who have either been brought in from St. Petersburg or “inherited” from Yeltsin’s circle is the most considerable drawback. Many of these people have a dubious reputation. The fact that they remain in power is shameful for Russia in the light of information provided by Russian and foreign law enforcement agencies.
Zyuganov has once more confirmed his intention to arrange a public debate between his team and Putin’s. He has confidence in the time-tested staff of specialists, whose activities were open to the public and CPRF over the last several years.
STROEV ON GOALS AND PRIORITIES
Tribuna, February 4, 2000, p.1
On February 3 the Russian parliament held the first joint meeting of both houses. Opening the meeting, Chair of the Federation Council Yegor Stroev drew attention to the necessity of forming an integrated system of Russian legislation, and regretted the absence of such a system at the moment.
Among the reasons for such a situation, Stroev saw an absence of long-term goals for national development, and state strategies on this issue. Therefore, “the intention of acting president Putin to develop such a program can be welcomed and supported”, said Stroev.
According to Stroev, “now a chance to strengthen the market economy and consolidate civil society is available”. At the same time, said Stroev, “pressure from oligarchs and separatists does not ease”, and parliament should set a barrier to all of this.
MEETING OF COUNCILS OF BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
ORT, Novosti, February 3, 2000, 15:00
Today a joint meeting of the Councils of the upper and lower houses of the Russian parliament was held in the Federation Council. The legislature meets quite seldom and the current meeting testifies to the fact that there are many issues to be discussed by parliament members.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky: We must define our priorities. For instance, the problem of national security must be solved. The electoral system must be reconsidered. The deputies have 34 lawyers today. It’s a disgrace!
Boris Gryzlov: The current Duma lineup is more positive. I think we will establish constructive relations with the government. You can see that we already have constructive relations with the Federation Council. Today’s meeting is an example.
Lyubov Sliska: I think, it is too early to speak about any bills today, since we need more consultations. Today’s meeting of the two councils will help the two houses coordinate their initiatives.
The principal innovation of this form of work, as parliament members themselves confess, is a desire to help the government and Vladimir Putin with active lawmaking. However, it is not planned to discuss specific bills.
The meeting lasted for two and a half hours. Yegor Stroev did not speak to journalists; Gennady Seleznyov made the final speech instead.
Gennady Seleznyov: We have agreed that we will hold such meetings once every four months. The next meeting will take place in the Duma. We discussed interaction between the two houses of the Federal Assembly. I think we will solve all urgent issues, because we want the legislature to work as a united mechanism.
We asked Ivan Sklyarov, governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, to comment on the new agency to coordinate the work of the parliament.
Ivan Sklyarov: I think that the main result of our meeting today is our mutual interest in creation of a commission, which must set about coordinating lawmaking activity of the both houses as soon as possible. I think that this decision is of the highest importance. There are many laws to be passed in the near future, and we must specify those which can help strengthen state power, develop federative relations, strengthen the economy and security. I also think that the issue of social welfare for pensioners and all people who are in need of such care is of top priority. Thus, our main issue is that of the order in which to pass laws.
YURI LUZHKOV WILL NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT
ORT, Novosti, February 3, 2000, 15:00
Yuri Luzhkov will not run in the presidential campaign. In his interview with “Obchshaya Gazeta” he repeated that during the Duma election, a campaign of lies and slander was launched against him. “When I spoke about my participation in the presidential contest, I could not have foreseen such a development,” Luzhkov said.
MEETING OF INTERIOR MINISTRIES OF RUSSIA AND ARMENIA
RTR, Vesti, February 3, 2000, 13:00
A meeting of the United Board of the Interior Ministries of Russia and Armenia opened in Yerevan today. The Russian delegation is headed by Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo. When speaking at the opening ceremony, his Armenian counterpart Aik Arutyunyan emphasized that Russia is relentlessly fighting terrorism and Armenia entirely supports all measures taken by Russia in its struggle against bandit formations in Chechnya. Vladimir Rushailo, in turn, stated that a meeting of officials of law enforcement agencies is an important new step in cooperation between the two countries. He also paid a great deal of attention to the situation in the North Caucasus.
Vladimir Rushailo: Right near the Caucasus republics which are members of the CIS, Chechen separatists have imposed their will upon a whole people by means of violence. With wide international support they have deployed large-scale subversive activity, they invade adjacent regions, carry out terrorist acts against civilians. Their purpose is to create a kind of pirate republic in Chechnya, where they could train international terrorists and plan their operations throughout the world, produce and spread weapons, drugs, and forged currency, take hostages, organize large-scale financial and other criminal schemes. This is an unprecedented situation, dangerous for the whole international community.