RUSSIA AND GEORGIA DISAGREE ABOUT THE SKIES
Kommersant, June 16, 2001, p. 2
On June 15, a dispute broke out between Russia and Georgia. This time the problem is aviation contacts between the two countries. The Georgian Civil Aviation Authority has reduced the number of flights by Russian airlines to Georgia. As a response, Russia closed its airspace to all Georgian planes. This disputes will cost Russian airlines $6 million a month.
According to the decision of the Georgian Civil Aviation Authority, only five flights a week will be allowed between Russia and Georgia. Georgia has also introduced a quota on the number of passengers Russian airlines can transport to Georgia each week: 560 people. The Aviaexpresskruiz airline will suffer worst of all: it provides flights to Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, and Senaki. Overall, it maintains 65% of passenger flights between Russia and Georgia. From now on, it will have to request permission for every flight. Aviaexpresskruiz chief Alexander Beznikin says Georgia is just trying to eliminate rivals of the Air Zena airline.
The Russian State Civil Aviation Service tried on June 15 to reach agreement with the Georgian Civil Aviation Authority on cancellation of this measure, but failed.
INTERVIEW WITH VALERY GOREGLYAD FROM THE FEDERATION COUNCIL
Izvestia, June 16, 2001, p. 4
Federation, a group of senators within the Federation Council, has elected its leader: Valery Goreglyad, a senator from Sakhalin.
Question: Is it easy to move over to public politics from an administrative job?
Valery Goreglyad: I’ve been in public politics since I was 20. After I graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute I was elected as Komsomol secretary of an industrial plant, against my will. Then I was moved to the Tushino District Committee of the Komsomol in Moscow. Later I became the senior secretary of that committee. We arranged construction of new apartment buildings and organized the first rock concerts in Moscow, for which I was penalized many times.
Question: Were you acquainted with such Komsomol activists as present Director of the Presidential Administration Alexander Voloshin and his deputy Alexander Abramov?
Goreglyad: Voloshin never held any senior Komsomol positions, and Abramov is a friend of mine. We used to work together in the Komsomol.
Question: Many of your former Komsomol colleagues started businesses when they left the Komsomol…
Goreglyad: Yes, almost all the tycoons – except for Berezovsky – have a Komsomol background.
Question: Why haven’t you started your own business?
Goreglyad: I did have a holding which included a bank and three tourist agencies: it was called the Association of Black Sea Cooperation. But then I realized that I would become a petty merchant within a year or two. At first it was interesting for me, but later it grew boring: I started to think only about some sort of commercial operations.
In 1993, I helped Nikolai Gonchar with his election campaign for the new Federation Council.
Question: Did you want to head Federation?
Goreglyad: I couldn’t even think of it. I thought the Budget Committee would be the peak of my career.
Question: Do you often visit the Kremlin?
Goreglyad: Yes, I do. When I started work in the upper house, the Kremlin was closed to me. We worked on bills, but the president vetoed them without explanation: he had the right to do so. But now the situation has changed, thanks to the current president and his team.
Question: Does the Kremlin want to make Federation its puppet?
Goreglyad: I cannot say for sure, but we would not like to become puppets. I think each force should gain its aims by means of persuasion. Pressure is an unreliable method.
DUMA SCANDAL MAY BE REPEATED
Novye Izvestia, June 16, 2001, p. 2
The recent scandal surrounding the Land Code may be repeated during debates on the draft Labor Code. The first reading of this document may be started bypassing requirements of the Constitution. According to deputy Oleg Shein, this bill has not been sent to the regions or associations of employers. Besides, a number of labor unions have already expressed disapproval of it.
Oleg Shein said: “The Cabinet is being held hostage. I haven’t revoked my draft code despite persuasion by Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, and I think it will be debated by the Duma.”
A number of labor unions are against the new draft of the Labor Code. They intend to organize demonstrations in Moscow. The government has made it clear to the organizers of such rallies that they will be held accountable for any illegal actions, and has not issued permits for any community group to rally against the draft Labor Code.
A SUMMIT OF GLOBAL IMPORTANCE
Moskovskaya Pravda, June 16, 2001, p. 7
We have interviewed several politicians and political analysts about probable outcomes of the Russian-American summit in Ljubljana.
Irina Khakamada, Deputy Speaker of the Duma: Relations between Bush and Putin will differ from those between Clinton and Yeltsin. They are unlikely to call each other friends. Both Putin and Bush are pragmatists, both leaders care about the immediate national interests of their countries. In general, Russian-American relations will chiefly depend on economic partnership between the countries.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Deputy Speaker of the Duma: First of all, the presidents should agree on missile defense. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 should not be altered. Bush and Putin should also touch on the issue of NATO. It is necessary to resolve this in a very simple way: the presidents should agree on Russia joining NATO.
Konstantin Kosachev, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee: On the one hand, the summit is of great importance for the whole world. The next four years of politics will depend on the results of this summit. On the other hand, no important decisions are likely to be made at this summit. However, the interlocutors are worthy of each other and can determine the program for their subsequent relationship.
ALEXANDER VESHNYAKOV ON THE ELECTION IN THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 16, 2001, p. 3
The situation in Primorye (Maritime territory, Russian Far East) has deteriorated: the results of the upcoming gubernatorial election in this territory may be declared invalid. We interviewed Chairman of the Central Election Committee Alexander Veshnyakov on this topic.
Question: The speaker of the Primorye Territorial Duma has announced that the Territorial Duma will appeal against the second round of the election in the court, regardless of its results.
Alexander Veshnyakov: I think this political announcement is unworthy of the speaker of the Primorye Territorial Duma.
Question: However, the situation may deteriorate even further, since many forces want to disrupt the election. For instance, Viktor Cherepkov also intends to appeal against his disqualification from the election.
Veshnyakov: If most Primorye residents vote against all candidates, this won’t be a disruption of the election. Primorye residents are entitled to vote for Darkin or Apanasenko or against both of them, taking into account the current situation in the territory. If most Primorye residents vote against both candidates, a new election will be scheduled for December. In my view, the same candidates will contest that election.
Question: This is Primorye’s 18th election within the past decade. Perhaps Zhirinovsky is right when he says it is necessary to introduce direct presidential rule there?
Veshnyakov: This is the first early gubernatorial election in Primorye. Gubernatorial elections have never been disrupted here. For some reason, parliamentary elections in the city of Vladivostok have been disrupted several times.
MOSCOW WAITING FOR FISCHER AND BELANGE
Vremya MN, June 16, 2001, p. 2
An IMF delegation has been studying the Russian federal budget since Wednesday. According to our source in the Cabinet, the delegates are now collecting information. On Monday, the heads of the delegation, Director of the Second European Department of the IMF Gerard Belange and IMF Senior Deputy Distributive Director Stanley Fischer will arrive in Moscow.
Stanley Fischer is expected to conduct a seminar at the Higher School of Economics on the current economic situation in Russia and prospects for its development.
RUSSIA DOES NOT OBJECT TO WRITING OFF DEBTS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 16, 2001, p. 1
Alexei Volin, deputy Cabinet chief-of-staff, has announced that the Russian government would not object to the West writing off part of Russia’s debts at the initiative of the United States. Volin was commenting on a statement by Richard Perle, an influential adviser to the current US administration, who recently said that “the US will aim for writing off the Soviet-era debt.”
However, US Ambassador to Russia James Collins has said that these reports are mere rumors, and no official announcements have been made on this point.
As for Russia servicing its foreign debts in 2003, Collins is sure that this problem will be solved “in a reasonable manner.” He said, “I’m sure that Russia will reach an understanding with its foreign creditors, since none of the developed nations want Russia to suffer from hyperinflation and an unstable economy.”
POLL RESULTS: THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WEST AND PUTIN SOUVENIRS
Profil, June 11, 2001, p. 2 EV
In the lead-up to the meeting between President Putin and President Bush, the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) has done a poll on attitudes to Russian-US relations. When asked whether the West’s opinion ought to be taken into account when making political decisions, only 21% of respondents said it should; the majority (70%) were sure that Russia is free to make decisions without taking the opinion of other countries into consideration, and 9% of respondents were uncertain.
When asked what they think of Russian-US relations in general, 38% of respondents say relations are normal; 13% think relations are currently tense; and 1% of respondents think relations are hostile.
When asked whether Russia has really become an equal member of the G-8 – or if not, why not – only a quarter of respondents said yes, it has. The remainder disagreed, and 22% consider that Russia cannot be called an equal member of the G-8 because it lags behind the world’s leading nations in economic development.
VTsIOM also asked how President Putin’s authority might be affected by the widespread use of his image on portraits, T-shirts, etc. Only 8% of respondents think such “popularization” will increase the president’s authority and popularity, while 42% think this will be treated as a joke, and does not reflect well on Putin. When asked whether they themselves had bought – or would wish to buy – any kind of Putin souvenir, only 1% of respondents said they already own a portrait, bust, T-shirt, button, or matryoshka doll in the form of Putin. A further 10% of respondents said they would like to own such an item.
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF?
Argumenty i Fakty, June 13, 2001, EV
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has repeatedly said that no major personnel changes are being planned among the top brass. However, rumors persist in the General Staff that the dismissal of Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin is inevitable.
“Our boss is already set to go,” was the off-the-record comment of a general who is among Kvashnin’s inner circle. “The decree on his dismissal has been drafted and awaits Putin’s signature.”
A battle is underway behind the scenes over this position, which is second in importance within the Armed Forces. People within the General Staff favor Colonel-General Yuri Baluevsky, now head of the Main Operative Directorate. However, the chances of Colonel-General Georgy Shpak, commander of the Paratroopers, have improved since his lengthy conversation with the defense minister. Since people from St. Petersburg are now in fashion, another potential candidate is Colonel-General Valentin Bobryshev, commander of the Leningrad military district. However, the most recent reports indicate that the favorite to replace Kvashnin is Lieutenant-General Vladimir Potapov, now deputy secretary of the Security Council; he was formerly Kvashnin’s senior deputy in the North Caucasus military district, then the right-hand man of Sergei Ivanov when the latter headed the Security Council.
NUCLEAR WASTE: A POLITICAL BALANCE
Finansovaya Rossia, June 14, 2001, p. 2
The mass attack of the nuclear power lobby has succeeded. The State Duma passed the package of bills which could permit spent nuclear fuel from abroad to be brought into Russia for storage. The fiery speeches of the right, environmentalists, and scientists did not help. The big money promised by representatives of the Energy Ministry and other proponents of the nuclear waste imports plan attracts weak-willed lawmakers very much. In fact, the matter concerns only $3 billion, not the miraculous figure of $20 billion, which Russia will get only many years later. This is the real potential of Russia in this field, according to Energy Minister Rumyantsev. In short, the requirements for disposal of nuclear fuel in Russia itself already exceed our capacity for reprocessing and storage.
Nevertheless, it is too early to speak of strings of vehicles with the sinister nuclear hazard symbol surging into Russia. Firstly, the Federation Council has not yet passed the bills. And the opinions of the regional leaders greatly differ from those of the Duma deputies. Even the cautious speaker of the Federation Council, Yegor Stroyev, let us know that these bills would not be passed in the first reading. Other governors were more resolute. Governor Mikhail Prussak of the Novgorod region declared that he would vote against these bills, because, according to him, “the overwhelming majority of the public opposes this idea”. Governor Aman Tuleev of the Kemerovo region called the Duma decision “criminal”. According to famous environmentalist Alexey Yablokov, the representatives of 22 regions have already opposed the nuclear waste imports plan. However, the upper house is under great pressure. To all appearances, the president is inclined to support these bills. In Prussak’s words, those opposed to the plan will have to rely on a referendum which Yabloko and Greenpeace are planning to organize. Perhaps they can also rely on a negative response from citizens in regions where nuclear waste dumps are planned. It is from there that action against the nuclear waste import plan is likely to begin.