HOW MUCH DO RUSSIANS NEED?
Novoe Vremya, No. 46, November, 2000, p. 21
According to the latest opinion polls done by the Agency for Regional Political Research, 7% of Russians believe they could get by on 400 rubles a month. Another 20% have slightly higher requirements: they think their minimal income should be 500-1,000 rubles a month (around $27). This figure is close to current Russian and international statistics, according to which two-thirds of Russian citizens are living on $30 a month, sometimes less.
Only 13% of respondents said they would be satisfied with a minimum income of 1,000-1,500 rubles a month. This opinion is especially popular among residents of small towns, with a population of up to 100,000, where the unemployment rate is very high and people are ready to take any job. However, the majority of young people with higher education and some work experience are unsatisfied with such an income level: only 9% of those aged 25-34 years say this would be enough for them.
The next group, 18%, would be glad to receive 1,500-2,000 a month; the majority of them, 23%, live in large cities, with a population between 300,000 and 1 million, and in the countryside – 22%.
Then, there is a gap in people’s estimates which divides all Russians into two major groups according to their requirements. Only 5% say 2,000-2,500 would satisfy them as a minimum income. Then, requirements start rising: 16% of respondents said they want no less than 2,500-3,000 rubles a month; 19% believe their minimum income should be over 3,000 rubles a month. People with higher requirements mostly live in major cities, with a population exceeding one million. Most entrepreneurs, 60%, insist on more than 3,000 rubles a month. There is an interesting political division too: the majority those with higher requirements, 55%, support the Union of Right Forces.
SPACE PENSIONER TO BE DROWNED IN THE OCEAN
Finansovaya Rossia, No. 44, November, 2000, p. 21
There are 111 Russian satellites orbiting the Earth. This is fewer than in Soviet times: the USSR had almost 190 satellites. The remaining satellites are in far from ideal condition; 80 of them have already passed their intended service lifetime, and others are close to it. For instance, only 11 of 24 navigation satellites currently in orbit are still operating.
The most problematic piece of metal flying over our heads is the Mir space station. When this wonder of technology was created, its service life was estimated at three to five years. However, the pride of Russia’s satellite fleet has recently marked its fifteenth anniversary.
Metal on the space station has already started to corrode. Moreover, this process is becoming uncontrollable. According to Sergei Kontev, head of the Rosaviacosmos (Russian Aerospace) agency, 70% of the station’s surface is impossible to examine.
In short, no one can guarantee that the whole station will not fall out of orbit any day, without any command from below.
If Mir falls, it will be a very noticeable event. The station weighs about 130 tons. According to expert estimates, while Mir is breaking up in the atmosphere, fragments up to 700 kilograms may split off, which will hit the ground with enough force to break through a two-meter concrete plate.
The possibility of a Mir crash has led the Russian government to allocate 750 million rubles from additional budget revenues to sinking the space station in the ocean. The sum is quite insignificant, especially if one takes into account that keeping Mir in orbit costs 2 billion rubles a year.
RICH RUSSIANS PREFER SMALL FAMILIES
Kommersant-Dengi, No. 46, November, 2000, p. 96
According to the latest poll done by the National Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM) and the Russian Family Planning Association among well-to-do families in Moscow and other large cities, “new Russians” prefer to have no more than one child. About 50% of respondents have one son or daughter. Only 20% of respondents said they would like to have two or more children. Oddly enough, the main reason why rich Russians do not want to have big families is… “uncertainty about the future”.
RUSSIA TO BREAK UP BECAUSE OF POWER CUTS?
Zavtra, No. 47, November, 2000, p. 1
According to our sources in the federal secret services, the Kremlin has decided to drastically cut all Russian security services. The main object of this action is “to demonstrate to the United States that Russia is willing to cooperate, on any terms”. At the same time, troop strength cuts in the Armed Forces and the Federal Security Service are supposed to weaken the position of Moscow in the inevitable upcoming social upheavals, soon to be provoked by a wave of electricity and heat service disconnections implemented by Russian Joint Energy Systems (RJES), especially in the northern regions of Russia. Moreover, by mid-winter there are likely to be reconciliations among the regional elites in the most “troublesome” regions of the Russian Federation (Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, the Far East), which will pose a real threat of the “direct break-up of Russia”.
BASHKORTOSTAN FINALLY AGREES WITH MOSCOW
Expert, No. 44, November, 2000, p. 60
Bashkortostan has brought its constitution into compliance with the federal Constitution. Sergei Kirienko, presidential envoy for the Trans-Volga federal district, is celebrating a victory; nationalist radicals in Bashkortostan view this as “a loss of sovereignty”.
Despite the extension granted by Moscow to Bashkortostan and Tatarstan for bringing their regional laws into compliance with federal law, the parliament of Bashkortostan has already amended the constitution of the republic.
President Murtaza Rakhimiv of Bashkortostan has always been aware of the boundaries to his “sovereign” ambitions, the line which couldn’t be crossed in his confrontation with the federal government. He knew this not only because of his innate caution; Rakhimiv has always had to maintain a balance between three ethnic groups – Russians, Tatars, and Bashkirs – whose interests are very diverse, as are their attitudes toward the activities of the Bashkortostan government. For instance, the Bashkirs, an ethnic group making up only 22% of Bashkortostan’s population, have always strongly supported the idea of sovereignty for the republic; but ethnic Russians and Tatars have always been doubtful about it. That’s why President Rakhimov, unlike his Tatarstan counterpart Mintimer Shaimiev, who manages to control the situation in his republic better, has always had to make compromises and concessions.
SERGEI SHAKHRAI RETURNS TO POLITICS
Kommersant, November 25, 2000, p. 2
On November 24, Professor Sergei Shakhrai of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations was appointed deputy chief of staff at the State Auditing Commission. In January, the tenure of Deputy Chairman of the State Auditing Commission Yury Boldyrev will expire, and Shakhrai could replace him.
AKHMAD KADYROV: THE PRESIDENT FULLY SUPPORTS ME
Izvestia, November 25, 2000, p. 3
Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the provisional government of Chechnya, has come to Moscow to take part in the first State Council meeting. He was interviewed by our correspondent Yevgeny Chubarov.
Question: Do you think Moscow is interested in restoring peace in Chechnya?
Ahmad Kadyrov: I think the president wants peace in Chechnya, and he will achieve it.
Question: Has any funding been allocated to Chechnya?
Kadyrov: Yes, financial support for Chechnya has been resumed, and I hope it will not be interrupted again. On October 27, we received 132 million rubles from the federal government. This money has been spent on healthcare and insurance for state-sector employees. Prime Minister Kasianov recently signed a decree allocating another 173 million rubles.
Question: How are your relations with Bislan Gantamirov going?
Kadyrov: Our relations are normal. We have decided not to quarrel with each other, in order not to exacerbate the situation still further.
Question: You have appointed Adam Deniev, head of the Adamallah movement, as your new deputy. What will he be handing?
Kadyrov: Deniev will be responsible for Chechnya’s relations with Arab states. He will attract Arab investment into Chechnya’s economy.
NTV SHARES TO BE SOLD
Kommersant, November 25, 2000, p. 2
On Monday, a special representative of Deutsche Bank will arrive in Moscow for talks on selling Vladimir Gusinsky’s business to a foreign investor. According to our sources, there are several applicants already.
Gazprom-Media and Media-Most signed an agreement to clear Media-Most’s debts on November 17. According to this, 25% of the NTV television network should be sold to a foreign investor.
According to our sources, among the interested buyers are Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and some companies linked with Silvio Berlusconi and Ted Turner. Our sources have also said that one potential buyer is ready to buy not only 25% of NTV shares, but also 25% plus one share in all other Media-Most companies, valued at $262 million. Gazprom-Media CEO Albert Koch has not confirmed this, but neither has he denied it. Media-Most spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky refused to comment on these rumors at all.
Thus, 25% of NTV shares will belong to a foreign investor; 40% will be held by Gazprom-Media; and other shareholders, including Vladimir Gusinsky, will own 35%. No one will have the controlling block, and any decisions can be made only if at least two of the major shareholders agree.
RUSSIAN FRIGATE FOR INDIA
Kommersant, November 25, 2000, p. 2
On November 24, a 1135.6 class frigate produced by the Baltiysky Shipyard was launched in St. Petersburg. This frigate was made for the Indian Navy. This is the first of three ships to be produced under the Russian-Indian contract. The contract is worth $1 billion, and should be fulfilled by 2003.
ONE PERSON CHARGED OVER KURSK REGION ASSAULT
Kommersant, November 25, 2000, p. 3
The Kursk Regional Prosecutor’s Office has laid assault charges against Vasily Aleinikov, who allegedly took part in the beating of former deputy governor Sergei Maksachev. Meanwhile, new Governor Alexander Mikhailov of the Kursk region has appointed former Regional Prosecutor Nikolai Tkachev as his senior deputy.
On November 19, Maksachev was locked in an office in the regional government’s building, and beaten up. The people who attacked him demanded that he hand over compromising materials on former governor Alexander Rutskoi. According to Maksachev, Tkachev was one of the three people who attacked him, along with Aleinikov.