KLEBANOV’S SECRET VISIT TO ST. PETERSBURG

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KLEBANOV’S SECRET VISIT TO ST. PETERSBURG

Izvestia, February 1, 2002, p. 3

On January 31, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov visited St. Petersburg. His visit did not imply any contacts with the press. According to some media, Klebanov intended to meet with authorities of the Rubin design bureau and discuss some issues related to raising the first compartment of the Kursk submarine. However, employees of the design bureau have not confirmed these reports.

Representatives of Klebanov’s office have failed to explain why his trip was secret. It is not ruled out that this secrecy was caused by the fact that Klebanov planned to talk with the Navy top brass who had come for one-week exercises to St. Petersburg.

NOTHING PERSONAL

Izvestia, February 1, 2002, p. 4

On January 31, two more candidates joined in the election race in Ingushetia. One of them is Bagaudin Aushev, younger brother to the former president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev. Thus, the presidential campaign in Ingushetia is acquiring the traits of an absurd puzzle.

Indeed, Ruslan Aushev’s resignation intensified contradictions between several Ingushetian family clans that had not had a chance to oust the charismatic president. But Bagaudin Aushev’s decision to run in the election does not mean that he will inherit power in the republic, for his brother does not support him: he supports General Khamzat Gutseriev. The picture is surrealistic: Ingushes, who appreciate family relations more than anything else, refuse to support their own brothers in the presidential election.

However, the presidential election will take place on April 7, and many current players may leave the race.

The federal center also conducts its own game. On January 31, newly appointed Deputy Presidential Envoy for the Southern Federal District Murat Zyazikov announced his presidential ambitions. His relative Idris headed the Ingushetian Regional Committee of the Communist Party (KPSS) in the 1920’s, i.e. was head of Ingushetia. Now his descendant, a major general of the Federal Security Service (FSB) wants to head the republic too.

DUMA DEPUTIES VISITING QATAR AND LEBANON

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, February 1, 2002, p. 2

A delegation of the Duma led by Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev has visited Qatar and Lebanon. In the course of negotiations with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Khamad ben Khalifa Al Tani and high-ranking officials of the country, issues of pricing and prospects of oil and gas trading were discussed. According to Seleznev, Qatar and Russia are ready to cooperate in both the economic and political fields. Qatar proposed to Russia to set up “a sort of gas OPEC” to control prices of condensed gas.

In Beirut representatives of the Duma met with Lebanon’s President Emil Lakhud, Prime Minister Rafik Khariri, and Chairman of Lebanon’s Parliament Nabikh Berri, as well as representatives of local business circles. They discussed the situation in the Middle East and ways of regulating it. Lebanon’s authorities highlighted Russia’s role as a co-sponsor of regulation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and expressed their hope that Russia’s influence over the course of the conciliation process would increase. Seleznev announced in his conversation with Lakhud that Russia has always differentiated between “international terrorism” and “national liberation movement” and “has always appealed to Israel to leave the occupied territories and let Palestinian refugees return home.”

CAPITAL FLIGHT CONTINUES

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, February 1, 2002, p. 2

On February 1, the law on combating money laundering comes into effect – and the Financial Monitoring Committee starts operation.

International experts note that the Duma has managed to adopt a law meeting all requirements of the FATF and simultaneously prevented the government’s attempts to introduce methods of “total police control and search.”

At the same time, experts do not think that Russia will soon be taken off the FATF blacklist because it will take time to decide if the Financial Monitoring Committee fulfills its tasks satisfactorily.

According to the Central Bank of Russia, around $22 billion is taken out of Russia every year. Most of this money is taken out by means of fictitious contracts and so-called consulting services. However, neither the Central Bank nor the General Prosecutor’s Office can tell how much of this money is earned by illegal methods.

REPEAT OFFENDERS ASPIRING TO FREEDOM

Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 1, 2002, p. 2

The other day President Vladimir Putin met with Justice Minister Yury Chaika. They discussed the critical situation in the criminal-executive system. Prisons and labor camps are overcrowded; the government does not have enough money to feed and treat prisoners.

In this connection, the justice minister proposed to reduce the maximum prison term from 20 to 15 years, which will require corresponding amendments to the Criminal Code. In Chaika’s opinion, this measure will lead to reduction of the number of prisoners and at the same time will not influence effectiveness of the punishment.

The problem is extremely acute indeed. In 2001 alone, the number of prisoners in special regime camps increased by 36.6% to 42,000 people. Almost one-third of them were tried as repeat offenders for multiple thefts. According to forecasts, in 2002, this number will be 55,000, whereas there will be no more room in prisons. At the same time, it is a dubious affair to amend the Criminal Code for this reason.

However, the minister believes that in a number of articles of the Criminal Code “punishments are too harsh and do not correspond to the measure of the social danger of these crimes.”

Working on the new Criminal Code, lawmakers wanted to make a number of articles milder, but after numerous amendments, it turned out that “middle” articles became even harsher. Besides, the very concept of repeat offences is vague. Sometimes judges have to sentence vagrants who steal some food for the third time to no less than seven years in prison.

Meanwhile, Andrei Kozlenok, who was accused of embezzling millions of rubles, was sentenced to a minimum term in prison. And former justice minister Valentin Kovalev got a suspended sentence… So maybe the problem is not only in the Criminal Code?

According to the press service of the Justice Ministry, the president has found this initiative reasonable and told the Cabinet to make preparations for the necessary amendments.

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