IVAN RYBKIN: FATHERLAND YIELDS THE CENTER LEFT TO US

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IVAN RYBKIN: FATHERLAND YIELDS THE CENTER LEFT TO US

Kommersant-daily, September 22, 2001, p. 2 EV

Yesterday, a number of center-left organizations which have not joined the organizational committee of the Unified Social-Democratic Party of Russia (USDPR), announced their intention to found the Socialist Uniform Party of Russia (SUPR). We asked Ivan Rybkin, one of the leaders of the party-to-be, what political niche the SUPR is going to fill and why the socialists have failed to come to terms with the social democrats.

Question: Why have you failed to agree with Mikhail Gorbachev and Konstantin Titov over joining of the organizational committee of their Unified Social-Democratic Party?

Ivan Rybkin: I think that Gorbachev and Titov were too hasty to announce their intention of merging their parties. As a result, those who might represent the left wing in a large merged party are now merging separately into the Socialist Uniform Party of Russia.

Question: What niche is the SUPR planning to fill in Russian politics? Isn’t this place already occupied by the Gorbachev-Titov party?

Rybkin: Currently, the Unity and Fatherland parties are positioned in the center of the political spectrum. Fatherland has yielded the center left to us. It is followed by the agrarians, the CPRF, and then by Anpilov, Tyulkin, and the rest. To the right of the center we find Gorbachev together with Titov who are followed by Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces. This is the current layout of forces. No matter what Titov keeps saying, he is a typical representative of liberal approaches in economy as to his beliefs. In fact, Titov and Gorbachev are building a social-liberal party. They might as well merge with Yabloko, because Yavlinsky exercises very much similar beliefs. As for Gorbachev, he is the extreme left-winger in their party. However, I have much in common with Gorbachev, for he is left among the right and I am right among the left-wing center.

Question: Don’t you fear that the Kremlin, which favors Gorbachev, might impede your party-building?

Rybkin: I think many have this apprehension. The powers-that-be have never offered much support to what I have been engaged in for already a decade now. Well, President Yeltsin said there will be a bloc of the left-wing and right-wing centers, but what did we end up with? All the presidential support was spent on Our Home is Russia. I told Chernomyrdin at that stage, “You will make it into the Duma but won’t have left-wing allies.” They attempted to make friends with the CPRF and succeeded. However, with time the Communists disposed of Chernomyrdin. I think the power party should have both left-wing and right-wing allies. As for presidential support, President Putin to a great degree practices in his words and deeds what we have set forth in our program.

Question: Why did you give up a strict party structure in favor of a multi-faction system?

Rybkin: Flexible systems have greater potential for survival. The more rigid the structure, the easier it is to break it. Therefore, I believe a party should be built on the principle of democratic unity, rather than that of democratic centralism. We support the freedom of factions within the party. In my opinion, we should not drive the minority underground. To the contrary, we should support it. We must value people capable of independent thinking and independent actions.

VIKTOR KAZANTSEV ASKS THE DUMA FOR MONEY

Kommersant-daily, September 22, 2001, p. 2 EV

General Viktor Kazantsev, presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, has met in the Duma with members of the Russia’s South interregional deputy group. The general told the audience about the interim results of the government program of social and economic development of Chechnya and stated his view of the problem of counteracting to international terrorism.

The closed meeting was attended by Kazantsev’s senior deputies, representatives of deputy associations (the Russia’s South group includes deputies of all Duma factions save for the LDPR), and members of the Federation Council. The general reported the progress with restoration of Chechnya and discussed with the deputies the prospects of extra budget allocations for the Russia’s South government program in 2002. The deputies promised to press the government for increasing the sum of allocations in the draft budget against the 2001 level.

According to Kazantsev, the main current problem remains restoration of housing in Chechnya. Now that hostilities have ended, the state should not only provide residents of Chechnya with housing, but also urge refugees to return to Chechnya. Kazantsev stressed that far from all Chechen settlements are ruined: in many villages there are whole unoccupied buildings. People fear returning to the republic because of possible resumption of hostilities, and many refugees simply have neither money nor the possibility of earning it.

After the meeting, Kazantsev answered journalists’ questions. When asked about the situation in the US, Kazantsev expressed his full support for President Putin’s position and stressed that terrorism can be only defeated by international efforts. He noted that “the world didn’t listen to Russia” in 1999, when Moscow tried to raise the issue of international terrorism after terrorist acts in this country. Now, however, Kazantsev believes the situation has changed.

CENTRISTS’ NUMBERS INCREASE

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 22, 2001, EV

Attempts at filling the vacant social-democratic niche in Russia do not cease for a single day. Yesterday, representatives of the organizational committee of the new Uniform Social Party of Russia (USPR) gathered a press conference to announce the beginning of a new action aimed at merging center-left movements. However, everything new is something long since forgotten. The organizational committee of the Uniform Social Party consists of real old-timers of the social-democratic movement in Russia: Ivan Rybkin’s Socialist Party, Alexei Podberyozkin’s Spiritual Heritage movement, the Union of Realists chaired by Nina Zhukova, and the Socialist Party of Workers with Alexander Maltsev at the helm. Four years ago, these same parties and organizations attempted to merge into the movement named For a New Socialism which split and ceased existing shortly afterwards.

Podberyozkin is convinced, however, that former mistakes will not be repeated. He believes now is the most favorable moment for socialists, since the social-democratic niche will remain vacant throughout this fall. After Yevgeny Primakov’s departure from Fatherland, the movement has been drifting rightways, and the CPRF is becoming more and more extremely leftist. “In other words, time is working for us,” Podberyozkin concluded.

According to the organizational committee members, the party-to-be already has in its ranks 150,000 people; regional party branches are being established. Little is left to be done: on September 29, all the parties and movements which have by now joined the organizational committee must disband, and the founding congress of the new party is already scheduled for September 20. The new party’s leaders are also planning to invite several dozen smaller political movements to join in, thus promoting the new social-democratic party to the fifth or sixth top position on the list of Russian political parties.

According to Zhukova, the members of the Socialist Party’s organizational committee did not wait for all the thirty or so small centrist parties and movements to make up their mind but instead swiftly founded their own organizational committee from the number of the old comrades in response to Gorbachev’s and Titov’s actions. So if we are to appraise the founders of the Uniform Party from the same viewpoint, then after the founding congress other center-left movements will hardly love the idea of joining the USPR in the capacity of those merely invited. The chances are, the merging process in the social-democratic playground is unlikely to stop at that, and we will soon witness the emergence of yet another coalition formed from “non-aligned” social democrats.

WAR TO THE VICTORIOUS END

Vremya MN, September 22, 2001, p. 3

Speaking at yesterday’s memorial banquet for the Russian generals killed in Chechnya last week, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was categorical: “We know who shot down their helicopter, and the villains will be destroyed.” Now that the whole world is trembling in fear of terrorists, such dramatic statements are well-timed. The Russian top brass have suddenly found their hands untied, and it appears that the Chechen guerrillas are in for hard times. “The civilization has come to realize what international terrorism is about; Russia is and will be fighting international terrorism to the victorious end,” Ivanov pressed out. General Viktor Kazantsev, presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, is likewise resolute: according to him, if a person claims he is a terrorist, then “he can be negotiated with in order to distract his attention, and then destroyed.” It looks like after the tragic events in the US supporters of tough measures in Chechnya have started feeling well at ease. Despite the government’s vow to withdraw part of troops from Chechnya within six months, it would be very naive to hope for a speedy peace settlement of the situation in the Caucasus. Rather, security ministries are likely to risk resolute actions very soon, after which the number of dead guerrillas will multiply. Neither Russian human rights activists nor PACE deputies, who are intent on revising the Chechen issue, are likely to stop the military. Federal troops have received carte blanche for any sort of operations and have been de-facto encouraged to disregard public opinion. Meanwhile, people continue fleeing Chechnya.

ENVOY’S WORD

Vremya MN, September 22, 2001, p. 2

Alexander Kotenkov, presidential representative in the Duma, spoke yesterday in favor of a significant reduction in the number of Duma committees.

Given that Kotenkov’s task is to express the president’s opinion, we may assume that his recent statement is a fairly serious indicator. Kotenkov made it clear that nearly half of the existing Duma committees have by now demonstrated their sheer inefficiency; furthermore, some committees – in the person of their chairs – are actually hampering the legislative process. Although Kotenkov did not specify exactly which committees might be disbanded, he noted he would still have to work on the list. Judging from what Kotenkov said, it is still too early to make any assumptions. We will remind our readers that there are currently 28 committees in the Duma, and the possibility of cutting at least half of them has been mooted by presidential representatives since last winter. Now it’s Kotenkov who has suddenly said that the excessive number of committees only impedes the Duma’s normal pace of work. He added, “If the Duma decides on reducing the number of its committees, will welcome such a move.” Now, if the president has such a desire, we may rest assured that the number of committees will be reduced as soon as possible. To crown it all, immediately after this statement Kotenkov “incidentally” moved on to his personal terms with Duma Speaker Seleznev, saying they are working together closely and have no disputes with each other that would prevent Kotenkov from working in the Duma as the president’s representative. In other words, the envoy is certain that in case of necessity the speaker will back the idea of reducing the number of committees.

Also yesterday, Kotenkov offered his opinion of the possibility of the Duma being disbanded early. According to him, such a scenario is politically unfounded and uncalled-for at this juncture because a pre-term dissolution, even within the Constitution, “would result in political destabilization”. At the same time, Kotenkov does admit that a situation may emerge in Russia when the head of state might want to resort to his constitutional powers and dissolve the Duma. Simultaneously, Kotenkov referred to deputies who would like the Duma dissolved ahead of schedule as “extremists”. And he is right to do so: what the gods may say should not be voiced by ordinary members of parliament.

WHAT MAY BECOME A TERRORIST TARGET?

Argumeny I Fakty, September 19, 2001, p. 5

Terrorists have more than enough targets to apply their “gifts” to in Russia. The Ural region is among the powder kegs.

The Mayak enterprise, producing nuclear materials for strategic weapons, is situated in the Ural region. Moreover, burials of nuclear waste, dismantled warheads and the nuclear repository with 30 tons of plutonium, designed for producing weapons, are also located there. The Bely Yar nuclear power plant is not far from Yekaterinburg.

However, any of overall nine nuclear power plants in Russia – at Balakovo, Bely Yar, Leningrad, Kalinin, Kursk, Smolensk, Novovoronezh, Kolsk, or Bilibinsk – may be chosen by terrorists for implementation of their ideas. However, Director of the Rosenergoatom Concern Andrei Polous assesses the security of Russia’s nuclear power plants as “quite reliable” and does not see any need to take additional security measures. Furthermore, construction features of Russia’s nuclear power plants allow them to withstand even a direct hit by a fighter aircraft.

The Federal Department of safe storage and destruction of chemical weapons, part of the Russian Ammunition Agency, seems to be optimistic. Thus, for instance, 1,141 tons of toxic agents of blistering action – yperite, lewisite and by-products of their destruction – are stored in the Gorny settlement in the Saratov region. As chief engineer of the Gorny settlement, Petr Vlasov says that after additional security measures are taken, no terrorists will be able to penetrate the facility.

WATER AS A TARGET

Argumeny I Fakty, September 19, 2001, p. 2

“Subversive attempts at central water supply facilities may be the terrorists’ next step,” says an FSB officer. Is it possible to make drinking water a lethal poison running through water pipes? Two detachments of policemen (1,200 agents in Moscow and 200 in the Moscow region) have been guarding approaches to waterworks day and night and patrolling along reservoirs in case any terrorist decides either to add poison into reservoirs or mine a pumping plant.

It is almost impossible to leave Muscovites without drinking water. Even if water supplies from reservoirs are stopped, waterworks will provide residents of the city with water for several days. Another 900 artesian wells have been drilled in case all surface water sources around Moscow are poisoned by chemical, bacteriological or radioactive weapons.

WILL THE BUTYRKA PRISON SHARE THE FATE OF THE BASTILLE?

Rossiiskie Vesti, September 20, 2001, p. 9

On September 15 activists of the Free Moscow movement started collecting signatures under an appeal for closing the Butyrka prison. Leaders of the movement – Duma deputy Vladimir Semenov, writer Alexander Shatalov, and Valery Belozer, chairman of the Prisoners’ Rights Protection foundation – told about this message, addressed at President Vladimir Putin.

Butyrka prison (investigation containment ward IZ-48/2), according to participants of the press conference, is a dark symbol of Soviet and Russian penitentiary system. As they said, in its significance liquidation of the prison may be equated with the ruination of the Bastille in 1789. As Vladimir Semenov stated, cells in the Butyrka prison are overcrowded (a hundred of prisoners are huddling in cells, designed for 20 people); moreover, the “sanitation is awful” there.

The deputy also said that the recent escape of several dangerous criminals, who dug a tunnel out of the Butyrka, shows that the prison “has basically rotted away from sweat and sewage.” However, although insantary conditions in Russian prisons are widespread, however deplorable this may seem, an escape by prisoners gives pause for thought. Problems with the penitentiary system exist apart from the Butyrka building. Even if it’s old and rotten, no one is likely to escape from confinement without aid. Most probably, anyone connected with the prison – be it a negligent security team, avaricious prison warden or anybody else – could have given a hand.

But shutting down the Butyrka prison, as participants in the conference said, is a phase of reforming the penitentiary system.

Relieving containment wards must become the pivot of it. As activists of Free Moscow assume, only those suspected of committing heinous crimes must be detained until the court trial.

The Free Moscow movement was established this month on the initiative of a group of young Duma deputies from the Union of Right Forces faction. Among members of the movement are writer Maria Arbatova, ecologist Alexei Yablokov, and politician Arkady Murashov. The campaign for shutting down the Butyrka prison is their first action.

NEW DIRECTOR OF THE MOSCOW CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DEPARTMENT APPOINTED

Argumeny I Fakty, September 19, 2001, p. 3

Victor Trutnev has been appointed new director of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department. Before the appointment, he headed the criminal police of the Southeastern district and recent Director of the Moscow Interior Forces Department Vladimir Pronin was his immediate supervisor.

Peculiarity of this appointment is that this is the first example in the Moscow police, when director of a district police station has been appointed to such a high position. As a rule, superior officials either of the criminal investigation department or the Interior Ministry were appointed directors of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department.

Victor Trutnev’s service record enumerates many cracked cases, including investigation of explosions in the Kashira highway. Agents of the section under supervision of Trutnev, who led the investigation jointly with the FSS, tracked organizers of explosions.

REGIONAL ELECTIONS AND PUBLIC OPINION

Profil, September 17, 2001, p. 2 EV

Gubernatorial elections in Nizhny Novgorod and Tula, where candidates for the CPRF have won, induced sociologists to inquire: how Russians can explain the victory of communists in the gubernatorial elections? Nostalgia (especially among the elderly) for the past is the reason for that, think 20% of respondents. As other 11% think, pensioners, who traditionally vote in favor of communists, obligatorily turn out to vote; unlike young people, who vote against communist candidates. As other 9% of respondents think, candidates for the CPRF have more voter confidence than representatives of other parties. The communists arranged their propaganda activities correctly, assert other 8%. Some 5% more think that low living standards can stipulate for the victory of the CPRF, whereas 4% of respondents think that in the elections the people were voting in favor of specific candidates, not of the party, and communist candidates were the most attractive. As other 2% of respondents supposed, the elections were unfair and the returns were garbled.

The Public Opinion Foundation inquired about the people’s attitudes toward the victory of communists: 42% of respondents said their attitude was favorable, while 16% responded negatively.

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