PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADES ANNOY DUMA DEPUTIES

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PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADES ANNOY DUMA DEPUTIES

Izvestia, July 5, 2001, p. 2

Yesterday the Duma adopted a request to President Vladimir Putin regarding procedures for car travel by senior state officials. Deputies are annoyed by the zeal with which the traffic police stop all traffic for at least 15 minutes when the president or the prime minister are due to pass by.

Duma members are not questioning that senior officials have to be protected, but they are sure that “only in this country do measures for their protection take these exaggerated forms.” The authors of the appeal are sure that the president himself “is not aware of the scale on which all these protective measures are taken…”

THE LAW ON MONEY-LAUNDERING TO BE SHELVED AGAIN

Izvestia, July 5, 2001, p. 2

The latest batch of amendments is fairly substantial. The bill stipulated monitoring of transactions worth over 500,000 rubles (and over 2.5 million rubles for real estate deals). This time it is proposed to raise this cut-off mark to 600,000 rubles (there is even an amendment proposing to set the figure at 900,000 rubles).

Moreover, the latest amendments propose to narrow down the list of occasions when suspicious deals must be reported to supervisory agencies. They also call for restricting the number of organizations which must make this information available.

At the same time, the bill still has some significant flaws. It does not specify the exact functions of the monitoring agency.

Any delay with passing this law is bound to anger the Cabinet, since delays might mean problems for Russia at the G-8 summit in Genoa, where Russia hopes to be removed from the blacklist of nations which don’t do enough to fight money-laundering.

THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION IS OPEN TO NEW MEMBERS

Trud-7, July 5, 2001, p. 2

A law on procedures for joining the Russian Federation and formation of new Federation subjects was adopted in the third reading yesterday. The new legislation makes it possible to accept foreign states into the Russian Federation, provided all international treaties are signed. The law was passed with 375 votes in favor.

The treaty on joining the Russian Federation may be signed only after democratic procedures have been followed in the candidate state, referendums, the signature of the president, inspection by the Constitutional Court, and ratification by the Duma. Whenever a foreign state decides to join Russia, it will become an ethnic republic in the Russian Federation.

At the same time, the law creates certain political dangers. Some post-Soviet territories have another excuse for asking to be admitted into the Russian Federation, given the continuing war of laws within their own borders. The Kremlin could find itself in dire straits: facing the prospect of losing old friends and making new enemies.

On the other hand, this stimulus might force politicians in certain states to treat “foreigners” better.

THE LAW ON ELECTIONS WILL BE AMENDED

Moskovsky Komsomolets, July 5, 2001, p. 4

Firstly, campaign spending limits will be increased considerably. By doing so, the Central Election Commission hopes to “make the process of the use of this money more transparent”. Secondly, disqualified candidates should be permitted to appeal to the courts (they cannot do so under the present law). Thirdly, the Central Election Commission wants to introduce a clause under which candidates may be disqualified no later than three days before the voting day.

The Central Election Commission promises to prepare the bill this month. The Duma will probably debate it in the autumn.

Igor Bunin, head of the Political Techniques Center: If these amendments are adopted, things will be much easier. The prospect of disqualification will cease to be a constant threat to candidates. It would be great if the campaign spending limit is increased to at least 50 million rubles – that is more or less the minimal cost of a gubernatorial campaign. At the same time, certain limits should be imposed. Almost $15 million was spent on the election in Tyumen. I think that was wasteful.

THE WEST OPTS TO CONTINUE IRAQ’S OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, July 5, 2001, p. 3

The United States and Britain have voted at the UN Security Council to extend the oil-for-food program in Iraq. What does this mean for Russia?

According to what information is available at this point, Western storage facilities are full. This means that Western companies may “drop” oil prices at any time by selling at least 10% of the surplus. Russian and foreign specialists say that a price drop from $27 to $23 a barrel would cost Russia $600-700 million by the end of the year.

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