FOREIGN MINISTER WILL VISIT THE MIDDLE EAST
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 4, 2000, p. 3
On November 3, President Vladimir Putin received the Foreign Minister of Quatar, Khamad bin Djasem Al Tani. Putin said that the situation in Persian Gulf is extremely important for Russia, because of the current exacerbation of the situation in the Middle East and the crisis surrounding Iraq. The meeting was also important for Russia because Qatar will soon start its term chairing the Islamic Conference Organization.
On the morning of November 3, the Qatar foreign minister met with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, who noted after the meeting that Russia and Qatar have rich opportunities in the economic and trade spheres, particularly in the gas sector.
On November 3, Igor Ivanov also met with Abdelaziz Mezian Belfkikh, Special Envoy of the King of Morocco. They discussed the situation in the Middle East and prospects for cooperation between Morocco and Russia.
After that Igor Ivanov met with Japanese Prime Minister Yohei Kono. During Kono’s visit a meeting of the commission for work on the peace treaty took place.
Igor Ivanov will soon visit the Middle East and Persian Gulf. The trip will take place on November 13-19. According to our sources, Igor Ivanov intends to visit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, and Egypt. He may also visit Israel and the Palestinian Autonomy.
DMITRY AYATSKOV IS READY TO RESIGN FROM FEDERATION COUNCIL
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 4, 2000, p. 3
Saratov Governor Dmitry Ayatskov has announced that he may resign from the Federation Council before the due term if the State Council proves to be an effective body. In his opinion, this will be clear after the State Council’s first meeting, scheduled for November 22. Thus, Ayatskov is ready to leave the Federation Council right after New Year. The governor of the Saratov Region believes that other senators may do so too.
POVERTY IS A VICE – FOR STATE OFFICIALS
Vedomosti, November 4, 2000, p. A2
Minister for Taxes and Duties Gennady Bukaev recently argued that public service reform is necessary. He explained that if the state will not pay normal salaries to its employees, the private sector will.
The State Auditing Commission has found out that when Bukaev headed the Moscow Tax Inspectorate, he organized a scheme according to which private companies, such as Gazprom, MTS, the Moscow Inter-Bank Hard Currency Exchange, Sberbank, etc. factually paid auditors – and Bukaev personally – a second salary, which was not taxed.
According to the State Auditing Commission, the companies contributed to a charity fund and thus received profit tax breaks. The fund issued loans to officials of the Moscow Tax Inspectorate.
When this information was published in “Vedomosti,” Bukaev held a press conference to explain everything. However, this scheme was absolutely legal, and the State Auditing Commission has announced that it will not send its materials to the General Prosecutor’s Office. However, Bukaev took advantage of this opportunity to declare that a situation when an average tax inspector earns 1,500 rubles a months is unacceptable.
According to the minister, tax inspectors’ salaries should be flexible: their salaries should be proportional to results.
However, this proposal has also an ethical aspect. There are many other state officials who earn low salaries, and it would not be fair to increase their salaries only because they have power.
In this connection, it is worth heeding the proposal of Yaroslav Kuzminov, Rector (Director) of the Higher School of Economics, on the reform of the public service. He has suggested that the number of state officials be reduced, and their salaries increased. For instance, a minister should get $5,000 a month. Of course, this cannot be done quickly, but it is necessary at least to move in this direction. There is no other way to fight legal, illegal, and semi-legal forms of “humanitarian assistance” to state officials.
TOKEN OF DISAGREEMENT
Izvestia, November 4, 2000, p. 2
On November 3, the Zamoskvorechye Inter-Municipal Court of Moscow failed to reconcile Media-Most and Gazprom-Media, although 12 hours before the beginning of the hearings the holdings were ready to sign a peace agreement.
At first the judge Marina Petrenko asked the plaintiff why Appendix No. 6, According to which Gusinsky is guaranteed security in exchange for shares, was missing from the case. Gazprom’s lawyers Alisa Turova and Yelena Kutyina explained that there is only one copy of this notorious document, which is held by Gusinsky.
When the judge asked if the parties were ready to sign the peace agreement, Gazprom lawyers announced that they did not think it possible even to start hearings without Media-Most lawyer Pavel Astakhov, who is currently defending Edmond Pope. The judge was surprised. She cast a glance at Gusinsky’s second lawyer Geralina Lyubarskaya, and exclaimed, “But Media-Most has another lawyer, doesn’t it?” At the same moment Lyubarskaya herself stood up too and exclaimed, “I have a right to represent Gusinsky in court. Yesterday, at 9 p.m., our negotiations were over, and we were to sign a peace agreement today. If Gazprom-Media has changed its mind, it should openly say so – not lay the blame on Astakhov.”
At the plaintiff’s request, the hearing was rescheduled for November 16.
VYACHESLAV LEBEDEV OPPOSES EMERGENCY COMMITTEES
Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 4, 2000, p. 3
Vyacheslav Lebedev, Chief Justice of the Russian Supreme Court, comments on current moves on judiciary reform.
Question: Vyacheslav Mikhailovich, when will the judiciary reform be over? It seems to me that it will never happen.
Lebedev: Some people are displeased with its pace, others are displeased with what has been done within the framework of this reform. As for me, I go by the facts: the laws on the status of judges and magistrates have been passed, and the Court Department handling activities of courts has been set up. Previously, it was the executive branch that used to handle all technical and material problems of courts. Therefore, the executive branch could influence decisions of courts. The Justice Academy has been set up. However incredible it may sound, there had not been any educational institution that taught professional judges. As for the judiciary reform itself, I think it cannot last forever. I have suggested more than once that a standard act be adopted, according to which all laws necessary for the judiciary reform should be passed by 2003.
Question: What else do courts lack?
Lebedev: The judiciary system lacks a new Criminal Code, Civilian Code, and the Code of Administrative Violations.
Over the past few years the Supreme Court has submitted 36 bills to Parliament aimed at improving the justice system.
Question: There are many disputes about whether it is worth limiting judges’ terms in office. For instance, Herman Gref’s program suggests that judges’ terms be limited to 15 years. And you are said to be against this measure.
Lebedev: Indeed, there are many rumors about it, but I have seen neither this program nor this proposal. And I cannot oppose what I have not seen. However, what I’ve heard from Economic Development and Trad Minister Herman Oskarovich Gref has made me his supporter. His aims coincide with mine: he wants to make justice available to all, and effective. We are grateful to him for his statements that it is necessary to considerably raise judges’ salaries. At present, these salaries are humiliating. As for limitations of tenure for judges, in most countries judges have a lifelong status, protecting them from external pressure. However, they have age limitations. In some countries judges must retire at the age of 65, in other countries at the age of 70.
Question: The Supreme Court has introduced a law on administrative courts to the Duma. These courts have been called “emergency committees.” How would you comment on this decision?
Lebedev: Frankly speaking, when this law was submitted to the Duma, I thought that everyone would support it. Article 118 of the Russian Constitution states that justice in the Russian Federation is provided for by civilian, criminal, and administrative courts. It also states that it is prohibited to set up emergency courts. Therefore, neither Lebedev nor the Supreme Court meant to create an institution of emergency courts. In administrative courts, criminal cases will be considered by three professional judges. This will help to consider a case more objectively.
IT IS DIFFICULT FOR RUSSIANS TO DEFEND THEMSELVES
Vremya MN, November 4, 2000, p. 2
November 4 was the 50th anniversary of the European Human Rights Convention. On the eve of this event, the expert council on human rights in Russia considered the issue of observance of this document in the Russian Federation.
Most Russians have no idea about what opportunities this Convention gives to every citizen of the Russian Federation, and how they can defend their rights in the International Court. Despite this, Russia hold fifth place in Europe on the number of complaints, after Poland, Italy, France, and Germany; and second place on the number of appeals registered by the International Court, after Italy.
Decisions of the European Court are binding on all state bodies. However, members of the expert council have stressed that there is no legal mechanism in Russia that would make all organizations obey the European Court’s decisions.
Moreover, most laws of the Russian Federation don’t meet European standards, and need to be brought into compliance with them.
INFORMAL WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION
Vremya Novostei, November 4, 2000, p. 2
Informal talks on Russia joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) ended in Geneva on November 3. The Russian delegation met with its partners from the European Union and representatives of 20 countries. On the eve of the official negotiations, Russian officials wanted to tell their foreign partners about Russian customs policy.
The final terms for Russia joining the WTO will depend on how soon Russia and its trade partners can reach a compromise.
The next meeting of the working group on WTO membership for Russia is scheduled for mid-December, and will be held in Washington.
STATE FUNDS GOING ASTRAY IN CHECHNYA
Vremya Novostei, November 4, 2000, p. 2
The State Auditing Commission (SAC) has finished its check into the appropriation of budget funds sent to Chechnya. Chairman of the SAC Sergei Stepashin has promised to publish the results of this audit at the end of November. Judging from his gloomy tone, the SAC has again found gross misappropriation of state funds sent to Chechnya. He said, “Financial stabilization in Chechnya is out of the question. People do not receive salaries, practically nothing is restored, and money is circulating in banks.” Therefore, Stepashin considers that until the situation in Chechnya is stabilized, all financial channels should be controlled by the federal government.
These problems have been discussed at a closed Duma meeting. Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev announced that this meeting was aimed at learning from representatives of the relevant ministries and agencies what had been done in connection with a recommendation made by the Duma in September.
Chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Dmitry Rogozin said, “We have found out that a great deal has not been done. The most unpleasant thing about it is that tents in refugee camps have not been changed yet, Chechens have not been provided with ID papers, and judiciary boards are not operating. Representatives of ministries do not follow our recommendations, and do not want to acknowledge their fault.”
PUTIN AND MORI WILL HAVE TO MEET MORE OFTEN
Kommersant, November 4, 2000, p. 2
Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono has left Moscow. He and Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko signed a memorandum on economic cooperation, but no progress was made on the issue of the Southern Kuril Islands. Since the Japanese want a peace treaty to be signed by the end of the year, it was decided to hold further meetings between President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.
On Wednesday, Kono gave the Russian president Yoshiro Mori’s message, in which he politely noted that Putin’s latest visit to Japan “started a new phase in Russian-Japanese relations.” The Japanese foreign minister called on Vladimir Putin to “activate work on creating a favorable climate surrounding the territorial issue.”
Japan wants the Russian authorities to tell people how much Japan has done for Russia. In the past few years Japan has provided Russia with about $6 billion in credits and investments. In particular, on Wednesday Kono and Khristenko signed an agreement granting Russia an extra $200 million for joint projects on disposing of plutonium and nuclear submarines.
However, nothing new has been said about the issue of the four Southern Kuril Islands. Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Yasushisa Kawamura has denied rumors that for the sake of a compromise Japan is ready to return to the text of the declaration of 1956, and consent to take back only two islands of the four. Tokyo still insists on signing a peace treaty only after getting all the four islands. It is worth noting that the fact that Russia has acknowledged the declaration of 1956 as a legitimate document does not mean that Russia is ready to return the two islands to Japan right now.
FINANCIAL AMNESTY BEFORE FINANCIAL POLICY
Kommersant, November 4, 2000, p. 2
On November 3, Vyacheslav Soltaganov, Director of the Federal Tax Police Service, announced that a financial amnesty in Russia is necessary.
Soltaganov is not an economist. Investment is not the main point for him. He said, “I am convinced that a financial amnesty is necessary, since law enforcement methods alone will not help us return money.”
Soltaganov was talking about money illegally laundered and taken abroad as capital flight. Economic Development and Trad Minister Herman Gref agrees with him that it is impossible to return this money by administrative or law enforcement methods, but he does not think it possible to amnesty all those who have misappropriated billions of dollars.
Soltaganov thinks that it is first necessary to declare a financial amnesty and then introduce monitoring of all financial channels in Russia. This will be a function of a financial police force.
However, this does not mean that once the money taken abroad is amnestied it will return to Russia. There are no guarantees that Russia will accept civilized financial rules thereafter.
The idea of such an amnesty will not appeal to the West, and will hinder Russia’s negotiations with international financial organizations. The West wants to involve Russia in combating money laundering, and an amnesty for laundered money comes into conflict with this intention.