LEGAL CONFERENCE IN ASTRAKHAN
Izvestia, October 10, 2000, p. 2
On October 4-8 a seminar on “Federalism, regional politics, local government, and the democratic institution of ombudsman” will be held in Astrakhan. It is organized by the Moscow School of Political Studies, with the help of the Council of Europe. More than ten human rights envoys from various regions of Russia will participate in the seminar, as well as a number of well-known lawyers. According to Alexander Lando, Saratov region human rights envoy, the meeting will facilitate the exchange of experience between lawyers, as well as to increasing their numbers. At present, only 12 Russian regions have a human rights envoy.
KRASNODAR GOVERNOR NAMES HIS SUCCESSOR
Izvestia, October 10, 2000, p. 4
According to official sources, a number of leaders of regional branches of the Fatherland party have joined the initiative group for the support of Alexander Tkachev, who is running for governor in the Krasnodar region. Tkachev, a front-runner in the Krasnodar race, had a long talk with incumbent Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko before agreeing to run in the election. During this meeting, Kondratenko confirmed that he would not be seeking re-election; in fact, he gave his blessing to his now-official successor, Tkachev.
Tkachev has eight rivals in the election race.
TATARSTAN PRESIDENT SHAIMIEV SPEAKS OF CLEAN ELECTIONS
Izvestia, October 10, 2000, p. 3
At the October 3 meeting of the State Council presidium, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev announced that he does not think it essential to hold the presidential elections in Tatarstan on the previously scheduled date, December 24.
According to Shaimiev, “The main point of the elections is to keep them clean. There must be no doubts about the legitimacy of the elected president.”
It was decided to reconsider the question of postponing the elections; the State Council plenary session will do this on October 9. The session is likely to override its earlier decision, and the Tatarstan elections will be scheduled for March 2001. Undoubtedly, some plausible explanations will be found in order to allow the Tatarstan parliament to save face; but the main point is clear now – the scheme has failed.
This idea of an early election seemed risky the very beginning; and it was clear that its main objective was to provide comfortable political conditions for Mintimer Shaimiev, in order to allow him to run for a third term in office. At the same time, the Tatarstan government was naively trying to create the illusion that President Shaimiev had nothing whatever to do with the events: at the time, Shaimiev was on vacation abroad, and he had never mentioned his intention to seek re-election.
It became clear that the scheme had failed when President Shaimiev broke off his vacation (it was announced earlier that he would be resting until October 3), and returned from the Turkish resort of Anatalia not only via Moscow, but via President Putin’s office.
According to local analysts, it was his talk with President Vladimir Putin, not the words of Alexander Veshnyakov, head of the Central Election Commission (who said that the decision of the Tatarstan State Council could be challenged in court) that forced Shaimiev to start speaking of clean elections.
STATE DUMA ON PENSIONS AND ELECTIONS
Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 10, 2000, p. 2
Today the Duma will consider questions which are of particular interest for the Duma deputies: the pension system for former elected representatives of the people, and amendments to the law on Duma elections.
Viktor Pokhmelkin, a member of the Union of Right Forces Duma faction, has turned out to be a very embarrassing colleague for many Duma deputies. From time to time, he has forced the Duma to face the question of whether its members are prepared to curtail their own privileges. As a rule, the Duma has not been ready to do this. Today the Duma will have to decide if former Duma deputies will receive pensions like any ordinary mortals (currently, former Duma deputies receive 75% of their previous monthly salary, or about 5,000 rubles a month). Undoubtedly, the Duma will reject Pokhmelkin’s malicious suggestion.
At the same time, there is no doubt that the Duma will eagerly support the proposal to amend the election law which says that if any of a party’s top three candidates are denied registration by the Central Election Commission, the whole party is disqualified. It should be remembered that in December 1999, a number of parties had problems of this kind in the parliamentary elections; and the entire party list of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia candidates was disqualified.
SOMETHING FOUND NEXT TO THE KURSK NUCLEAR SUBMARINE
Trud, October 10, 2000, p. 1
Yesterday two dozen Russian divers and rescuers traveled from St. Petersburg to to a Northern Fleet base located in an area of Russia lying within the Arctic Circle. There they will train to carry out rescue operations on the Orel nuclear submarine, which is of the same class as the Kursk. After the divers have thoroughly drilled all the elements of the rescue operation, the Russian divers will go to Norway, where they will continue training underwater descents using the Halliburton rescue equipment. Halliburton has recently signed a contract on a joint operation to raise the Kursk nuclear submarine.
According to the Russian Navy General Staff, the first diver will reach the Kursk submarine on October 18 or 20.
Meanwhile, the “Akademic Mstislav Keldysh” research vessel has finished examining the sunken submarine. Using the Mir-1 and Mir-2 deep-sea craft, the researchers ascertained that radiation levels in the area are not dangerous; this means the sub’s nuclear reactors are safely shut down. The researchers made another interesting discovery: “some objects” were found on the seabed next to the Kursk, and brought aboard the “Akademic Mstislav Keldyshev”. Their origin remains to be determined. If it turns out that the objects are parts of the hull of a foreign submarine, Russia will have conclusive evidence for the theory that the Kursk nuclear submarine collided with another submarine.
TODAY’S DUMA AGENDA
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, October 10, 2000, p. 1
This week in parliament is likely to be dedicated to discussing the 2001 budget; the first reading of the budget bill is to be held on Friday.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov ordered his subordinates to spare neither time nor effort in working on the Duma deputies. Moreover, Kasianov has become involved in the process himself. Yesterday he invited leaders of the Duma factions to the Russian White House in order to discuss the prospects of passing the nation’s major financial document.
Some Duma faction leaders were sincerely surprised to get an invitation from the prime minister. Nikolai Kharitonov, leader of the Agrarian faction, said: “We met with the president only two weeks ago, and spoke out frankly on the budget draft prepared by the Cabinet. Now here is this invitation from the prime minister. Why? I think the prime minister wants to see us just to check once again if we are firm enough in our inclinations.”
At today’s meeting Duma deputies will probably consider the issue of Yugoslavia. The International Affairs Duma Committee and the LDPR faction have prepared two draft resolutions on this issue; however, these have not been included on the agenda. But Aleksei Mitrofanov (LDPR) does not rule out that the Duma will agree to consider the question today, rather than postponing the debate until Friday, since this topic is very urgent.
PRIMORYE SCIENTISTS ACCUSED OF COLLABORATION WITH CHINA
Izvestia, October 10, 2000, p. 3
The Primorye (Maritime Territory) department of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has started a criminal case against scientist Vladimir Schurov. On October 3 he was charged with a number of crimes. He could face up to 27 years in prison.
On August 31, 1999, the customs service intercepted telemetry equipment which was being sent to Xuifenhe in China. The equipment came from an oceanographic sound laboratory which is part of the Pacific Oceanology Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Far Eastern division. This institute is headed by Vladimir Schurov. It was searched by the FSB. Schurov was outraged: “I can’t understand the essence of the accusations. Yes, we were taking out the equipment: in accordance with the schedule of scientific work on a contract between our institute and our Chinese colleagues. The equipment was supposed to be installed on a research vessel, which was to be provided by our Chinese partners. Then the equipment was to be returned to Russia.”
This research lab is the last one in Russia to be doing work in this field. The achievements of Russian sound engineers could be used for creating a system for submarine detection. So far, the US is the only country in the world which has such a system. There is a theory that China would be glad to secure its shores with the help of such a system.
Meanwhile, the work of the laboratory has in fact been paralyzed. Schurov has been forced to give a written undertaking not to discuss the investigation and not to leave the area. The report that Vladimir Schurov had been charged was provided by an independent correspondent of Izvestia.