HUNGER STRIKERS DEMAND POCHINOK’S HEAD
Izvestia, October 27, 2000, p. 2
On Ocotber 26 in the city of Tula, people who had worked on clean-up operations after the Chernobyl disaster went on a hunger-strike in protest over a new law on welfare benefits.
The strikers intended to scuttle the new law, which alters the principle of calculating benefits. Currently such benefits are proportional to wages. If the law is passed, the sum paid will depend on the severity of medical conditions.
From the government’s point of view, the new law is more fair than the previous one. It levels out the benefits paid to Chernobyl clean-up workers (some of them now receive about 30,000 rubles a month, but most receive about 500-600 rubles) and improves their situation. The strikers say the new law must not worsen their situation.
This week the law ought to have been passed in the third reading. But as a result of the hunger-strike, the Duma did not support it. But the Duma decided to reconsider the law in the near future. The strikers reacted immedately to such news: “We demand the dismissal of Labor Minister Alexander Pochinok and Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko.”
AHMAD SHAH MASUD ASKS MOSCOW TO SUPPORT HIM
Izvestia, October 27, 2000, p. 4
Abdul Mutmen, a representative of the Taliban, stated: “Russia will face serious problems and suffer substantial losses.” According to him Moscow must stop interfering in the Afghanistan conflict. The indignation of the Taliban was caused by the recent meeting of Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev with Ahmad Shah Masud, leader of the anti-Taliban opposition.
The talks between Sergeev and Masud were held in Dushanbe on the eve of the meeting of the CIS defense ministers. They discussed the situation in Afghanistan and measures aimed at averting the Taliban threat.
After a series of military failures, Masud’s forces are in retreat. They control about 5% of the territory of Afghanistan. If Moscow considers Masud its ally, or at least a tool in the fight against the Taliban, it must support him.
RUSSIA PLANS MORE PRIVATIZATION AND PAY RISES FOR STATE-SECTOR EMPLOYEES
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 27, 2000, p. 2
Yesterday the Russian Cabinet held a meeting, where two questions were discussed: the expected results of implementing the 2000 federal budget and measures for improvement of the activities of state representatives in governing bodies of joint stock enterprises. According to Farit Gazizulin, minister of property relations, currently, the state owns shares in 33,509 joint stock enterprises. Interests of the state in stock enterprises are monitored by 3,217 employees. Unfortunately, the activities of these people have no system. At the end of the meeting the minister announced sensational news: it is planned to decrease the number of stock enterprises with a state-owned controlling interest to 500-700; however, the question has not been settled yet. According to the results of the meeting, it was decided that the Property Ministry and the Russian Fund of the Federal Property should carry out an inventory of federal controlling interests and to present by March 1, 2000 some suggestions on selling the controlling interests that the state does not need. In fact, this will be another stage of privatization.
According to Deputy Finance Minister Tatiana Golikova, this year additional budget revenues will amount to 272 billion rubles because of the growth of world oil prices. The majority of the additional revenues will be spent on repayments of domestic and foreign debt. However, 134 billion rubles is planned to go to defense spending, and aid to regional budgets.
From December 1, the wages of military personnel, state-sector employees, and employees of courts and prosecutor’s offices will be increased by 20%.
RUSSIA TO BE INHABITED BY PEOPLE FROM THE CAUCASUS?
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, October 27, 2000, p. 2
The Federation Council has discussed the most acute problems of Russia: the August 1998 crisis and the problem of refugees. According to Alexander Blokhin, minister of federal affairs, ethnic and migration policy, most of the money allocated for the housing of people, who arrive from former Soviet republics is spent on other needs. Since 1996, one third of this money has been spent on Chechnya (all kinds of allowances, restoration of housing and the economy). Besides, Russia’s outskirts are being quickly occupied by refugees from neighboring republics. According to Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko, “Forty percent of Sochi residents are currently Armenian refugees. The Armenian diaspora has a great deal of money, and many connections, so they buy up houses, stores, offices. Besides, Turkish refugees are also moving to our region en masse. And Moscow does not respond to out inquiries, demands and requests.”
V. Sitnov, head of the Taimyr autonomous territory, supported Kondratenko. According to him, the north is being actively taken over by people from Azerbaijan. And nobody can prevent it.
None of the governors are against migration as such, or against people from the Trans-Caucasus living in Russia. But it turns out that ethnic Russians who have previously left for Baltic republics or Central Asia now have nowhere to return. Unfortunately, no good news is expected in migration policies. First, this area is hardly funded at all. Secondly, according to Russian reality, having arrived in any region of Russia, people from the Caucasus do not need any registration – since they are supported by their diasporas, which usually have a lot of money.
Currently, the Ministry of federal affairs has registered 54,000 refugees; most of them are Russian. Most of them have no means of earning a living.