PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH PERFORMANCE OF THE FEDERATION COUNCIL

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PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH PERFORMANCE OF THE FEDERATION COUNCIL

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, November 29, 2000, p. 1

President Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin yesterday with Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev. They discussed cooperation between the Federation Council and the new State Council.

The major topic on the agenda was the most recent session of the Federation Council. The President said he was satisfied with the performance of the upper house of parliament, and said that the Federation Council is still a constitutional legislative body, with all the consequent powers as stipulated by the Constitution and laws of the Russian Federation.

According to Stroev, President Putin “does not support the idea of re-distributing the powers of the Federation Council or transferring some of them to the State Council.”

As for reorganizing the future operation of the Federation Council according to the new law on its formation, Putin and Stroev paid special attention to the need for legislative reform to confirm the status of the new Federation Council members as soon as possible.

The president also supported the idea of heading the Trust Council of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. Stroev reported to President Putin on preparations for the fifth Forum in summer 2001. The president “agreed that it is necessary to give the Forum a higher status, and supported the idea of himself, the prime minister, and members of the Cabinet participating in the Forum.”

The upcoming meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus was also discussed. This will take place on November 30 in Minsk. President Putin will participate in the meeting; Stroev will also take part in the work of the Supreme State Council.

CHECHNYA WILL HAVE A NEW TREASURER

Izvestia, November 29, 2000, p. 2

Yesterday President Vladimir Putin signed a decree establishing the post of federal minister for improving coordination between federal executive bodies involved in the socio-economic development of Chechnya. Vladimir Yelagin was appointed as the new minister with this lengthy title.

The issue of changing the form of government in Chechnya has been discussed for several weeks, as rumor and leaks. Several factions, including the group of Akhmad Kadyrov, Malik Saidullaev, and even Duma deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov, who heads the commission on protecting the rights of the Chechen people, have competed for the new “funding distributor” position. It is still unknown who was eventually responsible for the promotion of Vladimir Yelagin, former governor of the Orenburg region – a post he held for nine years, from the revolutionary 1991 to 1999.

Yealgin has always shown himself to be a good manager: his wonderful ability to manage federal funding allocated for infrastructure in the Orenburg region is an obvious plus for his future work in Chechnya.

MILITARY PERSONNEL AND TAX EXEMPTIONS

Izvestia, November 29, 2000, p. 2

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov held a meeting yesterday on a topic which has earned many Cabinet members some reprimands from the president: abolishing tax exemptions for military personnel, and compensating for this by raising wages; as well as extending this process to other social groups currently entitled to tax breaks.

After consideration of several possible methods of compensation for the loss of tax-exempt status, developed by a special working group headed by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin, it had been decided to introduce monetary compensation from April 1, 2001. But now the Cabinet is refusing to give any detailed comments on this question. It only says that the system will be spelled out in details in the amendments to the Constitution which are to be approved by the parliament in the first quarter of 2001. It is clear why the Cabinet is being so cautious about resolving this problem: it hopes to extend the chosen method to all categories of citizens who currently have tax-exempt status. The originator of the idea, Deputy Prime Minister Kudrin, is convinced that implementing this plan will be another step toward restoring Russia’s financial system.

GOVERNMENT COUNTS DEBTS IN THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST

Trud, November 29, 2000, p. 1

Yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov visited Vladivostok. According to Klebanov, he was ordered to go there by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov, to clear up the situation with heat and electricity supplies in Primorye (Maritime territory), as well as funding for the Pacific Fleet. According to the Primorye government, the Pacific Fleet is one of the major debtors to energy suppliers and housing departments. Meanwhile, the federal government is verifying the amount of debts and preparing the paperwork for transferring funding and delivering fuel to Primorye. According to Primorye Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko, this is being done very constructively and efficiently. Nazdratenko also noted that Primorye is not begging the federal government for aid, but insisting on the federal government’s debts to the region being paid.

PRESIDENTS NEED A CLOUDLESS OLD AGE

Moskovsky Komsomolets, November 29, 2000, p. 3

President Vladimir Putin and former president Boris Yeltsin will be waiting for news from the Duma today: there will be a debate on the law on guarantees for former presidents and their families.

On December 31, 1999 Putin signed a “guarantee” for Yeltsin and his family. However, a decree is different from a law… So in August President Putin submitted a bill to the Duma on guarantees for former presidents.

The bill is almost exactly like the decree, except for the immunity clause: according to the new version, former presidents will be immune from prosecution for any action take during all their years in power (usually the main reason for attacks).

The opinions of all Duma factions, both right and left, are amazingly similar: yes, guarantees are necessary, but not so many of them! Former presidents of a country where 30 million people are still living below the poverty line should be more modest… According to expert calculations, President Putin’s proposals (including security guards, an official country residence, monetary allowances) will cost about 45 million rubles a year. Duma deputies believe this is too much. Besides, many deputies pretend not to understand what a president’s family has to do with all this. Moreover, who is to be considered a member of the presidential family?

However, the major objections of the Duma deputies are not about the cost of the guarantees. The conclusion of the Duma’s lawyers is that according to the Constitution, even an incumbent president can be held accountable (for instance, for treason) – but this bill would make it impossible to prosecute a former president at all.

However, despite the enormous number of objections, few deputies doubt that the bill will be passed in the first reading. As usual, the deputies hope to make all significant amendments in the second reading; especially considering that Alexander Kotenkov, presidential representative in the Duma, has assured them about this. But judging by previous experience, such hopes are not always realized.

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