CABINET THINKS OF THE CHILDREN
Izvestia, March 20, 2002, p. 2
On March 19, the Cabinet met to discuss results of Russia’s social development in 2001 and objectives for 2002. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov set some new priorities for the Cabinet in the social sphere. Previously, the basic task of the state was “to maintain an acceptable level of living standards.” From now on, the government’s prime task will be to develop “an integrated system of development of the individual.” Children will become the main focus of the government’s attention.
Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko admitted at the meeting, “Children are already a political issue.” The main problem is that there are not as many children as would be desirable. The Russian population continues to decline. Last year, the death rate exceeded the birth rate by 70% in Russia, and the country’s population was reduced by 865,000.
Meanwhile, the average monthly income in Russia is 3,200 rubles. Around 27% of Russians are still living below the poverty line. Kasianov admitted at the meeting that this figure is unacceptable, since the nation’s economic growth depends on the purchasing power of consumers.
LEFT-WING FACTIONS REFUSING TO VOTE FOR IGNATYEV
Izvestia, March 20, 2002, p. 3
On March 20, the Duma is to consider the nomination of Sergei Ignatyev for the position of president of the Central Bank (CB). To all appearances, the CB will get a new president without too many problems.
On March 19, Ignatyev spent the whole day at the Duma. He met with all factions and answered a lot of questions. Duma deputies started to consider his candidacy at the meeting of the Duma Council. Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Agrarian group leader Nikolai Kharitonov announced unexpectedly that Ignatyev should “repudiate Gaidar,” since Ignatyev used to be Yegor Gaidar’s adviser and now Gaidar is Ignatyev’s adviser. However, neither Zhirinovsky nor Kharitonov stated that they would vote against Ignatyev.
This topic was partly continued at Ignatyev’s meeting with deputies from the Communist faction. Although the Communists admitted after the meeting that the candidate had answered all their questions “sincerely,” they did not agree with his position on compensation for bank savings that were devaluated in 1991-92. As a result, the left decided not to participate in the vote. However, this does not mean that no one from the left will support Ignatyev; according to Communist deputy Ivan Melnikov, about 20-30 members of his faction are ready to support this candidate for the new head of the CB.
Ignatyev’s talks with other factions were more successful. For instance, Unity and Fatherland-All Russia decided to support Ignatyev. The candidate admitted that members of these factions did not ask him any “unpleasant” questions.
ETHNIC CLEANSING IN THE KRASNODAR TERRITORY?
Izvestia, March 20, 2002, p. 4
A meeting on migration problems has been held in the Krasnodar Territory.
Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachev announced at the meeting, “The Kuban area is the land of Cossacks, and everyone should remember that. We will raise fines for not having residency registration to 6,000 rubles. This will make illegal migrants leave the territory. We’ll be watching to see who makes friends with whom. We’ll also look at the endings of last names!”
According to the authorities of the Krasnodar Territory who participated in the meeting, it is necessary to set up “filtration points” under district departments for internal affairs, where illegal migrants will be picked up and sent out of the territory within three days. It is also allegedly necessary to arrange regular Krasnodar-Tashkent charter flights at the expense of the territorial budget, with a mandatory numerical target for every district for deportation of Meskhetian Turks. The third suggestion was to hold talks with Armenian President Robert Kocharyan on repatriation of Armenians.
At the end of the meeting Tkachev announced, “The president supports our intentions, and has told me to act rapidly without waiting for a federal law on this problem.”
RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT SENTENCED TO FOUR YEARS FOR DEATH OF CANADIAN WOMAN
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, March 20, 2002, p. 2
In late January 2001, former senior secretary of Russia’s embassy to Canada Andrei Knyazev lost control of his car and ran over two women on the sidewalk. One of them, lawyer Katy McLaine, died on the spot, and the other was taken to hospital in a serious condition.
At the request of the Canadian police the Russian Prosecutor’s General’s Office instituted proceedings against Knyazev. On March 19, the Tverskoi Court of Moscow admitted that the diplomat had been driving his car in a state of intoxication. Relatives of the dead woman were present at the court hearing, and a sergeant from the Canadian police gave evidence. The prosecutor insisted on five years of imprisonment for Knyazev, but the court sentenced him to four years.
It is not known so far if either of the sides will appeal against this sentence.
BEREZOVSKY ASKING FOR POLITICAL ASYLUM IN BRITAIN
Moskovskaya Pravda, March 20, 2002, p. 1
According to out-of-favor tycoon Boris Berezovsky (who does not always tell the truth), he has appealed to the British government to grant him residency. This means that Berezovsky has been in London on a tourist visa until now.
Berezovsky himself has not mentioned the term “political asylum,” but in all likelihood, this is his only chance of remaining in Britain. British law grants residency only if people have lived in the UK for at least three years. But if people request political asylum, the Parliament is entitled to grant it.
Even if this happens, Berezovsky will not feel free from attacks of the Russian special services. If the Federal Security Service (FSB) finds enough evidence of Berezovsky’s criminal activities, these materials will be immediately sent to Scotland Yard.