SERGEI KOVALEV ABOUT THE NEW LAW ON PARTIES
Versty, January 13, 2001, p. 1
Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev, a leading human rights advocate, has strongly criticized the new bill on political parties. In part, he said, “Neither the initiators not the authors of the new bill on political parties conceal that this bill is aimed at reducing the number of parties. They constantly highlight the advantages of a two-party or three-party system.
“Of course, a small number of political parties with distinct political and economic platforms would be good for the state administration. However, in the civilized world such systems are based on voter preferences rather than on artificial barriers imposed by the state. The government’s attempt to regulate the political situation in Russia has nothing in common with democracy. The regime even has the nerve to promote the idea of a manageable democracy now. But democracy may only manage, not be managed. Otherwise, it is not democracy. Therefore, the claim that this law will help develop democracy is a complete and deliberate lie.”
IS RUSSIA REALLY INSOLVENT?
Versty, January 13, 2001, p. 1
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov’s recent announcement that Russia will not make payments on Soviet debts to the Paris Club in the first quarter has shocked Russian society, since both the president and the Cabinet had been assuring everyone that Russia would easily handle this problem. Moreover, it was even said that unlike previous Cabinets, this one would manage to get by without more foreign loans.
According to ROMIR opinion polls in September, 51% of respondents were sure that Russia was incapable of paying its debts. However, three months later the number of such pessimists had almost halved.
Another poll was done among 500 members of the legislative and executive branches, the private sector, and executives at major state-owned enterprises. Two-thirds of these people were sure that Russia would resolve this issue independently, without borrowing money from foreign funds.
What has happened? What is the reason for this failure?
LAW ON PARTIES IS HAVING AN IMPACT ALREADY
Novye Izvestia, January 13, 2001, p. 2
It seems that the bill on political parties will soon have another high-profile opponent: Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev.
This event will run counter Seleznev’s loyalty to all the Kremlin’s initiatives, which he has been displaying for quite a while now. Besides, he is a member of the Communist Party, which is the main supporter of the president’s version of the bill.
However, Seleznev also leads the Rossiya movement, which will not count as a party according to the proposed law. And the status of a public movement will deprive Rossiya of any chance at the next elections.
VLADIMIR LUKIN ACCUSED OF FORGERY
Kommersant, January 13, 2001, p. 2
There is a new scandal in the Yabloko party. The Moscow regional Yabloko branch alleges that Vladimir Lukin, Yabloko member and deputy Duma speaker, amended the agreement on a coalition between the Moscow regional Yabloko branch and the Moscow regional branch of the Union of Right Forces – to declare himself a co-chairman of this coalition.
According to our sources in the Moscow regional Yabloko branch, the draft of the coalition agreement was approved by the authorities of the branch and the members of the central council of Yabloko. However, before the document was signed, Lukin made some changes to it, according to which the co-chairs of the coalition became Lukin and Mikhail Men, deputy governor of the Moscow Region.
Members of the Moscow regional Yabloko branch are outraged at this, because Lukin did not even have a right to sign this document, since he had ceased to be chairman of the Moscow regional Yabloko branch six months earlier. Besides, they are displeased with the candidacy of Mikhail Men; after being elected deputy governor of the Moscow Region in January 2000, he quit Yabloko, which was seen as a betrayal on the eve of the presidential election.
Lukin has not clarified the situation. It is only clear that this scandal will not improve Yabloko’s reputation, which was damaged by two other scandals last year. In November, former deputy chairman of the Yabloko Duma faction Vyacheslav Igrunov disagreed with Grigory Yavlinsky on the issue of party-building. In December, the Yaroslavl Yabloko branch called on its colleagues to abolish the party and merge with the Union of Right Forces. In both cases, the leaders of the party behaved as if nothing of any importance had happened. However, such scandals could lead to the party itself being discredited.
RUSSIAN SHIPS WILL GO TO THE INDIAN OCEAN
Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 13, 2001, p. 4
According to the Main Staff of the Navy, a detachment of ships of the Pacific Fleet is preparing for a long expedition to the Indian Ocean. The expedition will be led by Deputy Commander of the Pacific Fleet Vice Admiral A. Konev, and will include the large anti-submarine vessels Admiral Vinogradov and Admiral Panteleev, and the tanker Vladimir Kolochitsky.
Along with combat training tasks, our ships will pay official visits to the Indian port of Mumbai (Bombay) and the Vietnamese port of Danang. They are supposed to visit India on February 14-20. This visit will be dedicated to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of India’s independence. Over 70 vessels from 25 countries will take part in a naval parade.
KURT WELDON MAY BE APPOINTED AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA
Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 13, 2001, p. 4
George W. Bush has already started thinking about future relations between the US and Russia. In part, he intends to appoint a new US ambassador to Russia. According to our sources, the main candidate for this position is 53-year-old congressman Kurt Weldon, co-chairman of the Duma-Congress working group.
Weldon is known as a harsh critic of Bill Clinton’s policy on Russia.
Weldon’s spokesman said that although Weldon has not received an official offer yet, he would view such an offer as a great honor, and would gladly agree to take this position.
However, it is not clear if Moscow will be glad too. Weldon is reputed to be a fervent supporter of national missile defense – an issue which has caused a lot of arguments between Moscow and Washington.
IS THE MOSCOW GOVERNMENT GUSINSKY’S ACCOMPLICE?
Vrwemya MN, January 13, 2001, p. 2
The General Prosecutor’s Office has charged Yury Korostelev, head of the Moscow municipal finance department, with abuse of office and negligence.
According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, the allegations are connected with financial relations between the Moscow city government and Most-bank. To all appearances, the General Prosecutor’s Office views the fact that the Moscow government did not close its accounts with Most-bank – even when it was undergoing a serious financial crisis – as “criminal negligence.” Furthermore, part of the “suspended” money was later rescheduled as Media-Most bills.
The Moscow Mayor’s Office has called this event a provocation. According to deputy mayor Yury Roslyak, Moscow was sure to get its money back; otherwise, it would have appealed to the courts.
RUSSIA AND GERMANY READY TO UPDATE MIG-29
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 13, 2001, p. 2
On January 12 in Moscow, Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Dmitriev and German Ambassador Ernst-Jorg von Studnitz signed a Russian-German inter-governmental agreement on joint upgrading and technical maintenance of MiG-29 fighters. According to Dmitriev, this is the first document signed by Russia and Germany on bringing MiG-29s into compliance with NATO standards.
There are 120 of these fighters in Europe alone. Therefore, it is possible that Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and a number of other European countries will be eager to follow Germany’s example.
Von Studnitz said that Germany is prepared to sign other similar agreements with Russia. However, Germany does not intend to return to joint development of the An-70 military cargo plane, since Europe intends to develop its aviation industry on its own, according to the ambassador.