UNITY WANTS STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED IN PRIMORYE
Novye Izvestia, January 27, 2001, p. 2
Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu partly agrees with the intention of Unity’s political council to appeal to the president to declare a state of emergency in Primorye (Maritime territory, Russian Far East) because of the current energy crisis there.
At a press conference in Vladivostok, Shoigu said that a state of emergency may well be declared in several districts of the territory. The minister said that Primorye had not been properly prepared for the winter. Shoigu said that the main problem of the district is the Luchegorsk fuel and energy complex. In his opinion, it is necessary to conduct a major technical upgrade of the Luchegorsk open-pit coal mine.
Shoigu also noted that, Primorye has received over a billion rubles from Moscow since December, and the federal government has delivered $380 million worth of fuel. However, 70% of heating pipes in Primorye are not insulated; 65% of heating pipes are worn out; and 35% of boiler-house equipment requires replacement.
RUSSIA WITHDRAWING FROM ORBIT
Trud, January 27, 2001, p. 2
The United States intends to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and create its own national missile defense.
Meanwhile, Russia has decided to consider the prospects of its space program. The Security Council has discussed the fundamentals of the state’s policy in space to 2010.
It turns out that scientific exploration has practically halted; and the state of spacecraft and ground systems is deplorable.
Of course, this situation is mainly due to financial problems.
However, another cause of this poor conditon is organizational disorder in the military field. In this connection, the Security Council has decided to separate the Military Space Forces from the Strategic Missile Forces and make them a separate type of force. This will cost a great deal, and will make many skilled specialists leave this field. Security Council deputy secretary Alexei Moskovsky has refused to say who will be responsible for implementing this measure.
NEW PRO-KREMLIN PARTY SET UP
Moskovsky Komsomolets, January 27, 2001, p. 2
A new pro-Kremlin movement based on the People’s Deputy Duma faction has been set up. The constitutive conference of this new movement was conducted in a cosy domestic atmosphere. The only political star who attended it was Deputy Speaker Lubov Sliska.
People’s Deputy may become a political party in the near future. This party will not waste time on its own prospects, but will only strengthen the Kremlin’s influence in the Duma. Leader of the movement Gennady Raikov has said that People’s Deputy and Unity have the same aims, but their methods are different. He said, “It is impossible to travel on the same train and in the same compartment, but in different directions. Those who think otherwise had better consult a psychiatrist.” Thus, Raikov seems to believe that all Duma deputies who have opinions different from the president’s require psychotherapy..
WHAT LIES IN STORE FOR NTV
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, January 27, 2001, p. 1
On Friday, Gazprom-Media demanded changes in the NTV board of directors, nominating its own candidates.
Gazprom-Media chief executive Alfred Koch says Gazprom-Media now holds the controlling interest in NTV, so its opinion should be taken into account when major share ownership issues are decided.
Those nominated by Koch for the NTV board include: Rem Vyakhirev, chairman of the board at Gazprom; Vyacheslav Sheremet and Alexander Kazakov, also members of the Gazprom board; Koch himself; Koch’s deputy Alexander Reznikov; NTV managing director Yevgeny Kiselev; NTV deputy managing director Mikhail Shmushkovich; and Vladimir Kulistikov, chairman of the board at the Vesti news agency. This would mean a majority for Gazprom people on the NTV board.
CUSTOMS LAWS CHANGING
Vremya MN, January 27, 2001, p. 3
The final meeting of the State Customs Committee (SCC) and the Economy Ministry on changes to the Customs Code will be held on January 30. According to SCC deputy head Vladimir Meshcheryakov, the only remaining task is to edit the text of the code.
The SCC and the Economy Ministry have already reached agreement on all points of dispute.
After the meeting, the Customs Code will be submitted to the Cabinet, and subsequently to the Duma. However, the text may be slightly edited in the Duma as well. Economy Ministry officials say that not everything in the text of the code corresponds to the requirements of the World Trade Organization. However, there is nothing in the text that cannot be easily corrected.
DEBATES OVER ENERGY CHARTER
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 27, 2001, p. 2
The Duma is considering the issue of ratifying the Energy Charter signed by Russia in 1994. The Duma refused to ratify it in 1996. Now this charter has the support of the Foreign Ministry, the Economic Development Ministry, the Energy Ministry, and a number of scientific organizations.
However, Gazprom and the Nuclear Energy Ministry are against it. Yuri Komarov, a member of the Gazprom board, claims that ratifying this charter would destroy Russia’s fuel and energy exports – the direct damage alone would amount to $6-7 billion a year. Moreover, if the charter is ratified, Russia would not be able to control its own pipelines: they will be controlled by the European Union. As a result, international companies would invest in development of oil and gas deposits in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan; whereas Russian gas, which is much more valuable, will not be used. Thus, Russia’s pipeline network will only service European corporations free of charge.
GREF MEETS WITH REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 27, 2001, p. 2
On January 26, Minister for Economic Development and Trade Herman Gref met with deputy regional leaders responsible for economics and finance in their regions. They discussed the program for Russia’s socio-economic development to 2004, and the long-term development plan to 2010. This was Gref’s first meeting with these deputy regional leaders.
Gref said that economic growth will certainly continue in 2001, but at a slower rate.
STATE AUDITING COMMISSION IS DISPLEASED WITH GAZPROM
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 27, 2001, p. 1
The State Auditing Commission has summed up the results of its audit of Gazprom’s operation in 1999 and the first three quarters of 2000. The SAC says although gas extraction is falling (in 2000 it fell by 22 billion cubic meters), exploration of new deposits is too slow. The level of investment was only 67% of the target amount. Over 23 billion rubles was spent on matters unrelated to gas extraction. Over 7 billion rubles was spent on Gazprom’s banking business. Around 5.15 billion rubles was loaned to Media-Most.
The SAC notes that the government is also to blame for this situation, since the debt of state-sector enterprises to Gazprom is steadily growing – but the state’s representatives on the Gazprom board of directors are not paying attention to making Gazprom more efficient, or clearing off Gazprom’s debts to non-budget funds.
MOSCOW POLICE SHORT-STAFFED
Tverskaya 13, No. 4, January, 2001, p. 1
Over the past year the crime rate in Moscow has risen by 41%. In 2000, the police force was under-strength by 3,000 personnel; at present, the Moscow police service is 7,000 people short of its intended size.
WHY IS IT COLD IN PRIMORYE?
Argumenty i Fakty, No. 4, January, 2001, p. 7
The town of Dalnerechensk in Primorye (Maritime territory, Russian Far East) owes electrical utilities 22 million rubles. At the same time, the town is owed 36 million rubles.
At one time, Primorye had more coal than it needed. However, seven years ago the International Monetary Fund granted loans for restructuring the Russian coal industry. Small mines, which were to be closed because of their low profitability, could receive cash for shutting down. Since the miners preferred a bird in the hand to clever speeches about two in the bush, they didn’t listen when the regional government tried to talk them into using their common sense: open new mines instead of just closing old ones. The mines were completely filled in, which had never been done even during World War II in Ukraine. Then, the shafts were simply filled with water, so that later it could be pumped out and coal mining resumed.
But now it’s too late for regrets. The dollars have been spent, and mining towns have become towns of the unemployed. At Patizansk, in the heart of the region’s coal industry, none of the six mines are operating – although coal mined from them could have been used to heat half of Primorye. No coal, no jobs, no taxes for the federal budget…
It is very expensive to transport coal from Siberia to Primorye, as it is done now.
Over the past five years, the Russia Far East lost a million of its residents: people do not want to spend their lives just surviving in hard conditions. People are still leaving the region.