ST. PETERSBURG WANTS TO BE THE CAPITAL CITY AGAIN

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ST. PETERSBURG WANTS TO BE THE CAPITAL CITY AGAIN

Trud-7, May 4, 2000, p. 3

Some politicians are once again promoting the idea of moving the capital of Russia away from Moscow. St. Petersburg used to be the capital. The idea of making it the capital again has been discussed repeatedly. It was raised by former mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak; it is being raised now by Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Several years ago, some publications even suggested – with a certain degree of irony – moving the capital to Novosibirsk.

This time the idea of moving the capital north is being advocated by Duma Chairman Gennadi Seleznev and Governor Yakovlev. They have decided to begin with the parliament, and the public has been shown on TV a model of the future parliamentary center. Seleznev and Yakovlev believe that both houses of parliament would be better off in St. Petersburg than in Moscow, and that this would also bring money into St. Petersburg. The deputies and senators would live in the central city. Yakovlev is convinced that construction of apartments in St. Petersburg would cost less than half of the Moscow price.

It goes without saying that Moscow authorities are doing all they can to shoot down the idea. Vladimir Platonov, Chairman of the Moscow Municipal Legislature, admitted as much last Tuesday. According to Platonov, Seleznev and Yakovlev have failed to provide any solid arguments, and “the whole idea will die as soon as the gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg is over.” Platonov says that Moscow is the capital of Russia according to the Constitution.

Sergei Stepashin, Chairman of the Auditing Commission, supports the idea of moving some federal institutions to St. Petersburg – the Ministry of Culture, the Academy of Sciences, and the Academy of Arts. As for the idea of moving the Duma, he says that it is up to the Duma itself.

Everybody is waiting for Vladimir Putin to speak out on the matter, but he does not seem too eager to solve the problem for the parliamentarians. Particularly since nobody has calculated the cost of moving the Federal Assembly to St. Petersburg yet…

SELEZNEV SUPPORTS MOVING THE FEDERAL ASSEMBLY TO ST. PETERSBURG

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, May 4, 2000, p. 1

Duma Chairman Gennadi Seleznev is leaving for a meeting of heads of European parliaments in Strasbourg. He will deliver a report there on the problems of international terrorism, and on what Russia is doing to counter this threat in Chechnya.

Before his departure, Seleznev gave his opinion on the idea of moving the federal parliament to St. Petersburg. According to Seleznev, the idea came from St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. The city intends to house parliamentarians in its historical central zone. Seleznev intends to discuss the matter very soon with leaders of Duma factions.

MASKHADOV’S WIFE AND DAUGHTER PASS THROUGH GEORGIA

Komsomolskaya Pravda, May 4, 2000, p. 3

Kusama and Fatima Maskhadov, the Chechen leader’s wife and daughter, left South Ossetia for Georgia on Tuesday.

According to available information, the Maskhadovs were previously living in the settlement of Redant (outskirts of Vladikavkaz), on the premises of North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov’s residence.

The Maskhadovs reached Tbilisi accompanied by an official representative of the North Ossetian authorities, their press secretary Luiza Saidullayeva, and Chechen bodyguard Said Bersanov. They took the Military Georgian Road through the Russian checkpoints at Verkhny Lars and Kazbegi.

According to the federal forces, they had no reason to detain or harrass the Maskhadovs. Their papers were in order. Only two videotapes were “confiscated” – the federal forces lacked the facilities to check them on the spot.

Valery Chkheidze, Commander of the Georgian Border Guards, says that the Maskhadovs spent only a few hours in his country before leaving for Turkey. Preliminary reports indicate that Kusama Maskhadov intends to go to Malaysia to meet with her son. Mrs. Maskhadov herself says that she will return to Russia in mid-May.

Meanwhile:

President Aslan Maskhadov, who is somewhere near Gudermes according to some reports, signed an order demoting almost twenty commanders (majors, colonels, and even three brigadier generals) for “cowardice displayed when they begged for an amnesty from the Russian authorities…”

Apti Batalov, Maskhadov’s Chief-of-Staff until recently, who is now in the Lefortovo prison in Moscow, is also on the list…

PRIVATIZATION CONTINUES

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, May 4, 2000, p. 1

Today’s Cabinet meeting will discuss results of privatization for 1999 and goals for 2000. The State Property Ministry is actively seeking effective asset holders.

Last year, the Treasury received just over 8 billion rubles from privatization of state assets – or 40 per cent less than had been planned. In 2000, the State Property Ministry is prepared to do better. State packages of shares in 79 enterprises are being prepared for sale.

ON PUTIN’S SCHEDULED VISIT TO INDIA

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 4, 2000, p. 1

Vladimir Putin is expected to visit India in early October. This agreement was reached during the visit to New Delhi of a Russian governmental delegation comprised of Secretary of the Security Council Sergei Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, and Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov. A protocol on cooperation was signed between the Indian National Security Council and the Russian Security Council, and a joint working commission was set up.

BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE: AN UPDATE

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 4, 2000, p. 2

Washington has convinced Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to sign an agreement on construction of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, which does not involve oil transportation across Russian territory. Experts say, however, that this is not yet a full-fledged victory.

At least three factors make the project less attractive. Firstly, specialists are concerned about the cost. The signatories estimate it at only $2.54 billion, but the cost may actually reach $10 billion.

NEW DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER APPOINTED

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 4, 2000, p. 3

Vladimir Chernukhin, former deputy chairman of VneshEkonomBank (Foreign Trade Bank), has been appointed deputy foreign minister by Vladimir Putin’s decree.

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