SUPREME ARBITRATION COURT DENIES BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS

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SUPREME ARBITRATION COURT DENIES BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, August 26, 2000, p. 1

Veniamin Yakovlev, chief justice of the Supreme Arbitration Court of Russia, has denied accusations of taking bribes. He said: “I can say with certainty that none of the judges on the Supreme Arbitration Court, including myself, has ever taken a bribe, since accepting any money in our system is completely pointless.” The Supreme Arbitration Court recently considered an appeal from Tatyana Loktionova, former chief justice of the Primorye Arbitration Court, about her dismissal. At the hearing a witness said that he gave money to Loktionova’s husband in order to have the court make the decision he wanted. According to the witness, some of the money was supposed to be passed to Yakovlev.

Yakovlev explained that court decisions on bankruptcies can be appealed against by either side at any point in the proceedings (most bribery allegations against the Supreme Arbitration Court involve the results of bankruptcy cases). Besides, in the court of appeal and court of cassation cases are considered not by one official, but by a whole collective. Yakovlev also said that he never makes decisions alone on cases sent to the Supreme Arbitration Court; they are always considered by the presidium of the court.

RUSSIAN FOREIGN TRADE IS STILL UNSTABLE

Vremya MN, August 26, 2000, p. 3

According to the latest data from the State Customs Committee, in the first six months of 2000 Russia’s foreign trade turnover totaled $63.2 billion (38.7% more than for the same period of 1999): exports have risen by 53.7%; and imports have risen by only 6.8%.

Russia’s major exports are still natural resources. According to the State Statistics Committee, in the first half of this year the volume of exported petroleum products increased by 10.5%; gas exports have grown by 5.3%; crude oil by 2.6%; unprocessed aluminum by 9.2%; nickel by 11.7%. At the same time, electricity exports have fallen by 2.2%(all percentages are based on figures for the same period of 1999).

It is too early to speak about a win for Russian industry – it is an open secret that Russian exports are successful as long as world prices are favorable. As for Russian imports, in the near future they are likely to increase, since a decision to reduce import duties is imminent. Now the most important thing is that a fall in world prices and reduction of import duties in Russia should not coincide, since this would cause a sharp swing in the ratio of exports and imports, not in favor of Russian industry.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO KURSK DISASTER

Segodnya, August 26, 2000, p. 1

The General Military Prosecutor’s Office has started a criminal investigation into the Kursk submarine sinking, using an article of the Criminal Code on breach of traffic and operation safety rules for rail, air, and water transport, leading to the deaths of two or more people. The Criminal Code stipulates jail sentences of four to ten years for this crime. In his interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, Pavel Krasheninikov, head of the Duma legislation committee (Union of Right Forces faction), said he was at a loss when he learned that the aforementioned article had been selected as the basis for the criminal investigation. According to him, “there was a great tragedy, in which 118 people died”, while this article could also mean that “those who navigated the submarine could be charged with causing its sinking”.

AMAN TULEEV: STOP HARASSING THE PRESIDENT!

Komsomolskaya Pravda, August 26, 2000, p. 4

In his interview with the RIA-Novosti news agency, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev said: “I cannot speak about this, nor do I wish to comment on the event in the Barents Sea. It is a national tragedy and our common grief. However, I cannot suppress my feelings when I hear or see the TV reports of many Russian journalists. It seems to me then that they live in another country, not in Russia, and that they work for these other countries. There is always some malicious pleasure in Russia’s loss of its “imperial ambitions”, in the loss of its status as a great power; there is some jubilation over the difficult situation in the Russian army, and unsubstantiated accusations against leaders of the Navy, the government, and especially the President of Russia. It is so unpleasant to see that a national tragedy is being used for partisan purposes, in order to defame the president, to harass him, to incite people against him, to make all kinds of sick suggestions. Is Putin to be blamed for the lack of emergency and rescue services, with teams of deep-water divers, which were shut down back in the mid-1990s? Is he to be charged for the lamentable state of the Russian Armed Forces, including the Navy? To my mind, the president is doing his best to improve the situation, to pull the Russian army out of the abyss into which it was driven by previous leaders.”

BYKOV CASE: THE INVESTIGATION MUST GO ON

Novie Izvestia, August 26, 2000, p. 2

General Vladimir Kolesnikov, an aide to the General Prosecutor, believes that the decision of a Krasnoyarsk district court to release aluminum tycoon Anatoly Bykov from prison is, to say the least, unexpected.

General Kolesnikov is convinced that judge Gordienko has committed serious breaches of accepted criminal law procedure in releasing Bykov from detention. For example, those who interceded for Bykov and who are currently his guarantors have not been officially warned about their liability if Bykov breaks his bond. Another error by the judge was an attempt to evaluate the evidence available for the criminal case. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, they had nothing to do with the question of releasing Bykov from detention. It is not clear why Bykov did not give a written undertaking not to leave the area, as is usual in such cases.

According to Krasheninnikov, the General Prosecutor’s Office will examine the validity of the Krasnoyarsk court decision. He has no doubt that Bykov’s release will “not entail any suspension of the investigation proceedings, which will certainly be taken through to their end. The case will go to court.”

THE CONFLICT IS SETTLED

Novye Izvestia, August 26, 2000, p. 2

At a meeting between Roads and Transportation Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and Anatoly Chubais, head of Russian Joint Energy Systems, which lasted over three hours, the parties reached a consensus on almost issues under discussion. It was decided to establish a special commission including representatives of both bodies, which is supposed to verify the sum of the debt before September 1.

RJES was forced to concede that the Roads and Transportation Ministry had acted responsibly in not stopping trains loaded with coal and bound for power plants, despite the debt owed by the coal-mining industry for transportation (2.5 billion rubles). In turn, RJES owes 4.4 billion rubles for the coal it has consumed. The debt which the ministry intends to receive from the coal-mining companies would become the main source of paying its debts to RJES, said Aksenenko. Disputes between ministries should have no effect on people who need heating and light, said Aksenenko.

Aksenenko said that setting rates for federal consumers of electricity, such as the railways, should be handled by the Federal Energy Commission. The current system of setting rates, at the level of regional commissions, leads to overloading of local enterprises by major federal consumers.

However, despite the agreements reached, power black-outs continued on August 25 on the following railway lines: the North Railway to Sheksino, and the South-East Railway to Skryabino.

GRIEF BY THE RUBLE

Segodnya, August 26, 2000, p. 3

Despite the fact that some families of Kursk nuclear submarine crewmembers still do not believe the crew is dead, the Cabinet has set compensation payments for all families. On August 25, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko met with relatives and close friends of the crew at the Vidnevo settlement, handing out compensation payments allocated from non-budget sources. Each family has received a bank account with a balance of 720,000 rubles (about $25,000).

Moreover, Matvienko promised “no delays” in paying insurance benefits valued at 145 times the minimal monthly wage for every family (a total of 25 million rubles) by the Military Insurance company. The government also promised to provide housing for every family which wants to leave Vindnevo, which lies north of the Arctic Circle, for any other region. Using money from non-budget sources, the government has purchased 11 apartments in various regions already, as Matvienko reported.

There are laws which give the authorities the right to set such compensation payments, but the procedure for distributing them is not subject to the right of inheritance; it is entirely at the discretion of the government. Since in this case the payments have been handed over to representatives of the families, the distribution of payments within each family will probably depend on the decision of the most powerful family members.

The question of whether compensation will be paid to common law families of the sailors (some were not married to the women who bore their children) also depends on the discretion of the government.

RESCUERS RETURN

Moskovskii Komsomolets, August 26, 2000, p. 2

President Vladimir Putin and Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu concluded during a meeting yesterday that the Naval Rescue Service should be re-established.

Sergei Shoigu said that three naval rescue centers would be established in the near future: in the Baltic and Northern fleets, the Black Sea fleet, and the Pacific fleet. During his meeting with the president, Shoigu discussed the future staffing requirements, equipment and location of these centers.

PEACE OR HATRED

Moskovskii Komsomolets, August 26, 2000, p. 2

The latest poll conducted by the National Center for Public Opinion Research shows that attitudes to the military operation in Chechnya are changing.

In June, 55% of respondents supported continuing the operation in Chechnya; now support has dropped to 50%. Support for negotiating with the guerrillas has risen in the same period from 33% to 39%. Moreover, 77% of respondents expressed concern that the president has not yet dealt with the Chechen problem, i.e. has not ended the military operation. Even though the majority of respondents (51%) admitted that “they have no negative feelings about Chechens”, 44% (against 35% in June) said they hate Chechens or “want revenge” on them.

NORWEGIAN ADMIRAL COUNTERS RUSSIAN STATEMENTS

Moskovskii Komsomolets, August 26, 2000, p. 2

Norwegian Vice Admiral Einar Skorgen has accused the Russian military bureaucracy of providing misleading information during the Kursk submarine rescue effort. In an interview with the Nordlandposten newspaper, Skorgen said that during the rescue operation the Russian side had constantly been misinforming him.

Skorgen was especially critical of reports about a “strong underwater current” and “seriously damaged rescue hatch”, since Norwegian divers found no evidence of these during their mission. Skorgen refuted statements by senior Russian military officials that they accepted foreign assistance “in good time”. Skorgen said he phoned the Commander of the Northern Fleet Vyacheslav Popov three times, and each time encountered resistance from “Russian bureaucracy”.

Now the British and Norwegian rescuers have completed their missions in the Barents Sea. Retrieving the bodies of the crewmembers is unlikely to be possible before the Arctic winter is over, reports a spokesperson for Stolt Offshore company. The LPS British mini-submarine, which has never been used, is heading back to the UK.

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