STATE OF EMERGENCY BILL PASSED IN THE SECOND READING
Izvestia, April 5, 2001, p. 1
Once a bill is passed in the second reading, lawmakers can no longer change it.
This bill starts off by saying a state of emergency can be declared in order to “eliminate the circumstances that necessitated introduction of the state of emergency, to secure the rights and liberties of citizens, and to protect the constitutional order”. A state of emergency is only declared “in circumstances posing a direct threat to the lives and security of citizens or the constitutional order, provided this danger cannot be handled without emergency measures.” The mechanism of introduction is simple. The president signs a decree declaring a state of emergency across the nation (for 30 days) or in specific regions (for 60 days); and the decree is then endorsed by the Federation Council. In principle, this particular clause made it into the bill from the acting Constitution. The bill only specifies the motives on the basis of which a state of emergency may be declared. They fall into two categories. “Political” reasons include attempts to topple the constitutional order by force, armed rebellions, mass uprisings, terrorist acts, ethnic or religious conflicts, and so on. The “technical or natural” reasona include epidemics, industrial accidents, natural disasters, etc.
The president will be given more than just the power to declare a state of emergency. For example, he will be able to suspend activities of the executive branch in a region, or local government bodies and activities of political parties, if they “prevent elimination of the circumstances that necessitated introduction of the state of emergency.”
Putin will also be able to decide to mobilize the resources of organizations regardless of their form of ownership. He will even be able to declare a general mobilization and commandeer vehicles for “rescue and other emergency work.”
Duma deputies did restrict Putin’s future powers somewhat. He will not be allowed to dismiss the heads of state organizations when a state of emergency is in effect for “failure to carry out their duties.” The president will not be able to issue decrees with the force of the law during a state of emergency. Besides, both houses of parliament will remain in session while a state of emergency is in force.
TAX COLLECTION RISING
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, April 5, 2001, p. 1
Federal tax collection for March 2001 was higher than the figure for February by 9 billion rubles, or 14.5%. It was over 60% higher than the figure for March 2000.
These figures were released by the Ministry of Taxes and Duties. In March, the federal budget received 71.2 billion rubles in taxes.
HOW DID PROSECUTOR GENERAL USTINOV SURVIVE THE PURGE?
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, April 5, 2001, p. 2
In fact, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov has never let the Kremlin down or become involved in politics during the period of endless scandals. Besides, the decision-makers at the top could not help noticing that Ustinov has considerable influence among prosecutors.
GAZPROM COMES UP WITH SOME EXPLANATIONS
Tribuna, April 5, 2001, p. 2
Gazprom, owner of shares in the NTV company through its subsidiaries, considers it important to clarify its position with regard to the election of the new board of directors of NTV.
The interests of Gazprom remain unchanged and clear: its goal is the financial recovery of a company brought to the brink of insolvency by its previous management. It also wants to recoup the money it invested in the NTV network.
Under the circumstances, it would be appropriate to recall Gazprom’s own difficult financial position, caused by unpaid gas bills, low tariffs, and high taxes. Gazprom’s own shareholders – the state and the minority shareholders as well – want a higher return on their own investment. The Auditing Commission also gives similar recommendations.
Any attempts to present all this as a battle for freedom of speech in Russia mislead the public. Gazprom views them as desperate attempts on the part of the previous management of NTV to retain its position in a business that is clearly beyond its abilities. NTV journalists are hostages here, provoked by their insolvent executives into irresponsible actions.
As for Gazprom’s policy, it does not intend to put pressure on reporters or shut down the TV channel. Any business owner would understand that bias would deprive the network of part of its audience, and affect profits. Until now, NTV’s policy has always depended on the interests of its previous owners. Under the new management elected by the majority of shareholders, freedom of speech will be guaranteed by the interests of this majority, which wants the company to recover financially.
ON JAVIER SOLANA’S VISIT TO MOSCOW
Izvestia, April 5, 2001, p. 7
Solana will meet with two Ivanovs in Moscow: Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. According to our source in the Foreign Ministry, they will discuss “models for Russia’s participation in operations of the European Union for resolution of crises, peacekeeping operations, and handling emergencies.”
Solana is the main advocate of boosting military-political cooperation between the European Union and Russia. In February he was quoted as saying: “Security in Europe is impossible without security in Russia. We agreed to promote dialogue and cooperation in security matters on the basis of our cooperation in Kosovo.”
These days, Europeans emphasize their own policies on many matters of regional and international politics; policies which differ from those of the United States.
The situation in the Russian political establishment also favors increased contacts with the European Union. Following a series of diplomatic scandals with the United States, the Kremlin is attaching more importance to its relations with Europe than it did only recently. President Vladimir Putin stressed in his annual address to the Federal Assembly that integration into Europe would now become a key direction of Russia’s foreign policy.
YAVLINSKY TAKES THE NTV CASE TO PARLIAMENT
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, April 5, 2001, p. 2
Yabloko leader Grigori Yavlinsky has appealed to the Duma to consider a resolution on the case of the NTV television network.
Grigori Yavlinsky: “This concerns all of us here. Otherwise we will soon lose the opportunity to express our opinions on political issues and the state of the nation. Moreover, Yabloko has grave doubts about the procedures used to elect the new chief executive of the NTV network. It also has doubts about the legitimacy of the shareholders’ meeting and the way it was organized.”
Yavlinsky said at the Duma session that some deputies were at the television network to “prevent a takeover by force”, and urged other lawmakers to join the deputies there. No one volunteered. Vladimir Medvedev of the Russian Regions group (a lobbyist for Gazprom’s interests) reminded the lower house that “$600 million in debt is serious money.”
Duma Speaker Gennadi Seleznev asked lawmakers to present their ideas on the issue. Most of those who spoke opposed involvement in what they called “disputes between property-owners”.