YABLOKO CALLS FOR ACTION ON PENSIONS LAW

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YABLOKO CALLS FOR ACTION ON PENSIONS LAW

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 26, 2001, p. 3

Members of Yabloko are calling on President Putin not to delay signing a law which will improve conditions for Russian pensioners. Yabloko addressed a request to the president on May 25 to sign the law as soon as possible, “so that it may come into effect from August 1”. On May 24 the Duma overrode the Federation Council’s veto on an amendment to Article 7 of the law on state pensions, according to which pensioners who are employed retain their pension benefits. If the president signs the law, pensioners will be able to get an additional 300-700 rubles a month. Yabloko’s request to Putin is signed by deputy faction leader Sergei Ivanenko, and emphasizes that Yabloko’s unanimous vote to override the veto “was based purely economic calculations, not populist motives”.

BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME

Parlamentskaia Gazeta, May 26, 2001, p. 1

A Duma delegation headed by Speaker Gennadii Seleznev is visiting Ireland. The visit coincides with Europe’s sole referendum on expanding the European Union.

Seamus Martin, international affairs editor with “The Irish Times”, spoke with us by phone from London.

Seamus Martin: There has been a lot of interest from our politicians and journalists in this visit by the Duma speaker. Believe me, I’m not just saying this because I used to be a correspondent in Moscow, or because I just got Seleznev’s consent to an exclusive interview. Much more important are two key items on the agenda for his visit: talks with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, and a speech at the European Studies Institute in Dublin.

Question: What do you see as significant about these meetings?

Martin: They directly address bilateral issues; besides, there is an opportunity for both sides to get an in-depth look at legislative and general democratic processes in our countries. Ireland is the only nation in Europe to approach the ratification of last year’s agreement in Nice from the standpoint that a referendum is essential.

Question: If I’m not mistaken, that agreement substantially changed the constitution of the European Union, setting it on track for expansion to the east.

Martin: Exactly. Our country, being part of the European Union, quite fairly decided that eastward expansion affects the interests of all Irish citizens. That’s why we are preparing a nationwide referendum on this issue – the only country in Europe to do so. And it’s very important that Seleznev and a number of heads of Duma committees are visiting us at this time.

Question: Why is this so important?

Martin: It’s important if only because when Estonia joins the European Union in the near future (possibly followed by Latvia), we will have our first significant number of Russian-speakers. This is a qualitatively new phenomenon in the history of the European common market. I don’t rule out that Seleznev might speak openly in Dublin about constructive expectations and maybe some concerns about the rights of ethnic minorities in the Baltic states.

THE KURSK SUBMARINE WILL BE TOWED INTO DOCK

Kommersant, May 26, 2001, p. 1

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov announced at a Moscow news conference on May 25 that the Kursk submarine will be raised on September 15. The operation is estimated to take around ten hours. The submarine will be towed into dock by September 20. The question of whether it’s worth raising the front section remains open; this section will be cut away from the rest of the submarine. Klebanov also said that as well as the Dutch companies Mammoet and Smit Tak, the American-Norwegian Halliburton company would also participate in the salvage effort, with its own diving team. Smit Tak and Halliburton were part of the international consortium which negotiated with the Rubin Design Bureau for six months, but was then rejected by Russia at the last moment. Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov says the cause of the accident was most likely the explosion of a training torpedo in the front compartment of the Kursk; a torpedo with no warhead, but with a potentially explosive propulsion system. According to Kuroedov, a new plan to create rescue services is now awaiting the Cabinet’s approval. He refused to discuss the plan in detail, but said there would be “a fundamentally new approach to setting up the Navy’s rescue services and equipment”.

FIRST COURT REFORM BILLS REACH THE DUMA

Kommersant, May 26, 2001, p. 1

On May 25, President Putin submitted to the Duma four of the eleven bills on court reforms. Before the Duma goes into its summer recess, it will consider amendments to the laws on the courts system and the Constitutional Courts, as well as bills on the status of judges in the Russian Federation and on the status of barristers. The bill on amendments to the Criminal Code should reach the lower house by the middle of next week. According to Dmitrii Kozak, head of the working group on court reforms, “the most revolutionary changes” will be to the Criminal Code. Once it is passed, up to 80% of cases involving minor crimes will be heard under a simplified procedure. The prosecutor’s office will basically be freed of the role of acting as prosecution counsel for the state in court, apart from civil law cases involving the protection of state interests. As a result of the reforms, citizens will be able to appeal to at least two bodies at any stage of the investigation and trial process if their rights are violated.

KRASHENINNIKOV: SPECIFIC DATES WILL BE NAMED LATER

Vremya MN, May 26, 2001, p. 3

Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman of the Duma Legislation Committee:

Different time-frames are currently being mentioned for when the new Criminal Code procedures will be introduced, under which only courts will issue arrest warrants. The new Criminal Code, like other major procedural laws, will require a law specifying when each specific law comes into effect. This will be based on considerations about how long it should take to implement these innovations. For example, it would be inappropriate to make the new arrest warrant procedures effective “from the date of publication”: we don’t have the personnel or the funding, the prosecutor’s office isn’t ready for it, the courts aren’t ready, other bodies aren’t ready. And in this case much depends on the state of the federal budget.

In short, some procedures in the new Criminal Code – in particular, jury trials and issuing arrest warrants – will apparently not go into effect from the date when the law is published. We shall be able to inform our Duma colleagues of specific dates once the calculations are done and work on the text of the Criminal Code is completed.

I think we have passed through quite a number of stages since 1990. It’s a very busy time right now, we’re looking at key laws: the Criminal Code, the Civil Code, and the Arbitration Code. These key laws are the core of the court reforms.

SELECTIVE FRIENDSHIP

Vremya MN, May 26, 2001, p. 3

Now that the upper house of parliament has new members who work there on a permanent basis, there are inevitably more contacts between Federation Council members and their counterparts abroad. Unlike regional leaders, for whom trips abroad were primarily a way of building up trade contacts with foreign partners, the new senators will focus on expanding inter-parliamentary contacts.

The visit of a Federation Council delegation to the United States, which ended a few days ago, deomonstrated the new senators’ determination to somehow alleviate the evident chill in relations between the heads of the two nuclear superpowers, and to set up at least working contacts, if not friendly relations, with their American counterparts. It must be admitted that they were more than successful: the visit was followed by not only official, but completely sincere avowals of intent to develop cooperation between the Federation Council and the US Senate.

The official visit to Austria of a Federation Council delegation headed by Speaker Yegor Stroev is also aimed at developing bilateral relations. However, some European countries have refrained from direct contacts with those members of Austria’s coalition government who are members of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party led by Jorge Haidar. Stroev does not intend to meet with those cabinet members whose political views draw a negative response in Western Europe; but he will visit federal chancellor Wolfgang Schlussel, who became head of the government as leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party.

YURI CHAIKA CHANGES COURSE

Novye Izvestia, May 26, 2001, p. 2

Justice Minister Yuri Chaika has had a great deal of contact over the past few days with Walter Schwimmer, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, discussing a broad range of issues. But when their discussion reached the topic of capital punishment, the Russian minister stunned Schwimmer, who is a committed opponent of the death penalty: Chaika let it be understood that “the terrorists on whose conscience lie the murders of innocent children and elderly people cannot be called human beings in the full sense of the term, and therefore deserve the harshest penalty possible”.

As Chaika admitted, at this stage his views are just an example of thinking aloud, not a position. Yes, he used to be a fervent supporter of abolishing the death penalty; but after the recent events in Chechnya, the latest major terrorist acts, he has been forced to reconsider his position on capital punishment. Now Chaika does not agree that “international terrorists who blow up residential buildings should be sentenced to life imprisonment, while relatives of their victims, being tax-payers, have to support them and share their bread with them.” The justice minister continued thinking aloud: “How humane is this, and to what extend does it fit into ethical standards?”

Now Chaika is inclined to believe that only execution of a criminal will bring comfort to the relatives of the victims, and compensate them to some extent for the loss of their loved ones.

WHAT DOES THE UNION OF RIGHT FORCES CONGRESS MEAN FOR YOU?

Komsomolskaya Pravda, May 26, 2001, p. 3

Irina Khakamada, deputy Duma speaker, co-chair of the Union of Right Forces movement: For me, this congress is the path to the future. Within eight to ten years we shall become a real ruling party. If the delegates to the congress realize this, they will make the right decisions. If they focus on their own rivalry, they will simply split the URF.

Boris Nemtsov, leader of the URF Duma faction: I expect the congress to create a powerful, effective right-wing party which unites all our supporters in its ranks – those who share our views, those who are ready, willing, and able to work for the good of democracy in Russia. I have faith that no one’s political ambitions will interfere with this.

Vladimir Koptev-Dvornikov, Duma deputy with the Freedom Generation movement: We joined the URF faction because we see the URF as the foundation on which a united right-wing liberal democratic coalition can be built. This congress is a chance for us all to take a look at each other, and get to know the people with whom we’ll be working in the near future.

Sergei Yushenkov, deputy chair of the Duma Security Committee, URF member: For me, the URF congress means that the first major conservative party will be formed in our country. I’d like to see common sense win out at the congress, I’d like to see the liberal amendments made to the charter and Yegor Gaidar elected to chair the political council.

Viktor Pokhmelkin, senior deputy leader of the URF faction: For met, the URF congress on May 26 is another stage in the battle for liberal, legal, and moral values – in Russia as a whole, and within the URF.

Vladmir Semyonov, Duma deputy, head of the council of the Freedom Generation movement: This congress should define the shape of Russia’s new liberalism for the next decade. This may be a rare opportunity to create a strong Western-type liberal party in Russia, a party which should articulate problems in a new way, and offer a fundamentally new style of politics. This is a unique chance to present an alternative to the bureaucratic monster which has occupied the entire center and is still expanding, pushing others out onto the margins.

WOMEN AND LABOR MARKET DISCRIMINATION

Nezavisimaya Gazeta – Krug Zhizni, No. 10, May 25, 2001, p. 14

Women’s wages averaged 70% of men’s in Soviet times. Things have changed in the new Russia: official statistics say women are now down to an average of only 56% of male earnings (independent studies put this at under 50%). This isn’t surprising, since women make up the majority in state-sector employment, which has the least lucrative jobs – there aren’t many women in the oil and gas sector, or in finance. Correspondingly, pension payments for the “second sex” vary between 60% and 90% of what male pensioners receive.

Economic decline has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of jobs, and rising unemployment. The proportion of Russian citizens aged 15 to 72 who are employed has fallen from 66.7% to 52.9%; for women, it has fallen from 60.4% to 47.6%.

At present, around 30% of Russian women are unemployed, impoverished, alone, and requiring some specific form of welfare support. Many have no income other than payments from the state, and live far below the poverty line.

PUTIN AND INDEPENDENT DECISIONS

Profil, No. 19, May, 2001, p. 2

The ROMIR agency has done a poll on how people perceive the extent of President Putin’s independence in political decision-making.

Only 14.3% of respondents believe Putin is entirely independent in political decision-making; 22.6% think he is more independent than dependent; 36.1% think he is more dependent than independent; 16.7% think he is not independent at all; and 10.3% were uncertain.

Although over half of respondents believe that Putin is less than completely independent in political decision-making, many of them (31.5%) did not specify who might be influencing his decisions. But 18.5% of respondents think his prececessor, Boris Yeltsin, exerts the most influence; 7.1% think Putin is influenced by his wife; and 3% think Anatoly Chubais is the greatest influence on Putin.

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