PARTIES AND BUSINESS DETERMINE RULES OF CONDUCT
Izvestia, December 18, 2002, p. 2 EV
A conference on “Elections in Russia: the state, parties, and business” took place in Moscow yesterday.
Representatives of all three groups complained about their internal problems and proposed their own options for countering “dirty” techniques.
Central Election Commission chairman Alexander Veshnyakov opened the conference by saying: “For the first time in recent Russian history, we have managed to gather representatives of all three forces in the same hall.”
But there was a clear imbalance in the presence of the “three forces”, with a heavy tilt in favor of the political parties. Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov represented “the state”, while “business” was represented by Igor Jurgens, vice-president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE).
According to Veshnyakov, the parties are becoming real participants in the election process. Over the past year, 70 parties have held inaugural congresses; 46 have received preliminary registration from the Justice Ministry and are now engaged in setting up their regional branch network; and 19 have received full registration and are now eligible to take part in elections.
December 14, 2003 – when the next parliamentary elections are scheduled – will be a significant date for the political parties. The winners will gain a platform in the Duma, and those who get over 3% of the vote may count on state funding (at the rate of one ruble per vote). In part, financial independence will enable the parties to be extracted from the influence (mostly behind-the-scenes) of big business, and will reduce intra-party corruption (when places on party lists are bought).
To all appearances, the business sector is not prepared to acknowledge all the complaints against it. Igor Jurgens said: “As normal operating conditions for business are created, it will abandon dirty techniques.”
DESTRUCTION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS BEGINS NEAR SARATOV
Izvestia, December 18, 2002, p. 2 EV
By the end of December, Russia will be able to start practical implementation of the resolutions in the Chemical Weapons Ban Convention.
Russia’s first chemical weapons destruction facility, near the town of Gorny in the Saratov region, is fully ready for operation. This is the conclusion of the 50 specialists who make up the state commission for inspecting the facility. Over 3% of Russia’s chemical weapons stockpiles (which total 40,000 tons) are now in Gorny. Specifically, these are mustard gas and lewisite, toxic substances which affect the skin.
Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov of the Saratov region: “The facility is scheduled to open on December 19-20. The resolution testifying that construction is complete has been signed. Actually, the facility has already been working with inert substances for a month (sending water or compressed air through the pipes, checking that all equipment is hermetically sealed). No flaws or problems have been observed. However, the mechanisms still need to be fine-tuned, and some extra training for personnel is required. At first, we planned to open the facility at the end of summer; but only the first set of equipment, for reprocessing mustard gas, was ready by then. We considered it best to wait until the second set of equipment, for destroying lewisite, was ready before opening the facility.”
Zinovii Pak, general director of the Russian Armaments Agency, emphasized at the time: “We cannot guarantee full safety during the destruction of chemical weapons if we open the plant now. We cannot permit the destruction of chemical weapons to begin while construction work is still continuing. There are entirely different levels of safety precautions involved, and we cannot place people’s lives at risk.”
Now the facility is completely ready. In its first eighteen months of operation it will process 400 tons of lewisite; by 2005, a further 1,142 tons of this toxic substance will be destroyed, thus cleansing the Saratov region of the legacy of the Cold War. As we have learned, the question of what should be done with the byproducts of reprocessing the toxic substances still remains undecided.
The current problem is not only about where these materials should go after leaving Gorny, nor what should be done with them. The sticking point is who will own these riches – and they are literally riches. The process of destroying lewisite yields high-purity arsenic. This substance is in great demand in the electronics industry. It is worth up to $2,000 per kilogram. Besides arsenic, gallium arsenide is also produced. This is widely used in microelectronics and optics, as well as in the production of powerful industrial lasers, and in time will become the foundation of new breakthrough industrial techniques, including within the energy sector.
Zinovii Pak has repeatedly stated that destruction of chemical weapons can be transformed into a profitable business venture, and that even now companies are queuing up at the Russian Armaments Agency, interested in gaining access to the byproducts of weapons disposal. The revenues from this activity are being clamed by the Russian Armaments Agency’s network of factories and certain companies from the Saratov region. However, the authorities of the Trans-Volga federal district consider that it would be more fair to share the revenues across the district rather than within one region. These disputes are the real reason behind the delay in implementing the project.
RADUYEV BURIED AT THE STATE’S EXPENSE
Izvestia, December 18, 2002, p. 3 EV
Salman Raduyev, the former “Terrorist Number Two”, was buried yesterday in the Perm region; he died on December 14 at the White Swan prison camp. His funeral was organized by the Penitentiary Directorate, since none of his relatives came forward to claim the body. The Penitentiary Directorate says that Raduyev was buried “in accordance with the law”.
The Penitentiary Directorate of the Perm region told us that Salman Raduyev’s funeral took place at a cemetery in the town of Solikamsk. This has an area set aside for the Penitentiary Directorate’s use, where prisoners are buried. Raduyev was buried early in the morning, with the only people present being staff from the White Swan prison camp, where he had been serving a life sentence.
The Penitentiary Directorate told us: “We sent off a notification to his relatives on December 15. According to the law, they had three days to claim the body. But none of them came to claim it, nor did any of them contact us. Thus, we had to arrange the funeral ourselves. Everything was done in accordance with the law: doctors made out a death certificate, which shows the cause of death; Raduyev’s grave bears a tablet indicating his name, date of birth, and date of death.”
Perhaps the relatives of Salman Raduyev simply didn’t have time to receive the official notification of where and how they could claim his body. In Chechnya, where Raduyev’s family lives, there is no telephone network, while letters and telegrams take an unpredictable length of time to reach their destinations. If the relatives had made a request for the body to be handed over to them, the Penitentiary Directorate may have been sympathetic to their request. At least, Turpal-Ali Atgeriyev, an associate of Raduyev who also died in prison, was buried in his native village. However, according to Akhmed Abastov, head of the administration of the Gudermes district of Chechnya, where Raduyev was born, none of Raduyev’s relatives approached the administration for assistance in getting his body back to Chechnya for burial. And it’s impossible to believe that they weren’t aware of his death – all of Chechnya is talking about it.
Deputy Justice Minister Yuri Kalinin said that Raduyev was buried at the state’s expense. The funeral did not include any Islamic rituals.
BITING HARES: THE SOURCES OF TERRORISM
Izvestia, December 18, 2002, p. 4 EV
A number of leading academics and activists gathered for a round-table conference yesterday on reasons behind extremism and methods of overcoming it. Their conclusion was as follows: “The errors of the state and the apathy of society are to blame for the growth of extremism. Terrorists are not the problem – it is clear what should be done with them; the problem is in the influence of their ideas, in the dissemination of fear.”
The specialists offered a detailed analysis of the problem. Emil Payin, head of the Xenophobia and Extremism Studies Center at the Sociology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was especially thorough in his approach. He emphasized the “entrepreneurs of extremism”: those who inspire its ideas, and government figures whose radical statements “are immediately picked up by all the media”.
Emil Payin: “In the Krasnodar territory, the idea that people from the Caucasus are categorically unacceptable for Russians has been the official doctrine of two governors: the incumbent and his predecessor.”
Academics themselves cannot fight extremism, says Payin, but they can determine its sources.
Ramazan Abdulatipov, council chairman of the Assembly of Peoples of Russia, considers that one of these sources is “rebellion with the aim of liberation from the well-fed”. Its overriding idea – in opposition to the rule of the United States, a superpower without alternatives – is “Islam according to Osama bin Laden and Movladi Udugov… Wahhabi fundamentalism, a pretendent to the place of Marxism-Leninism”.
The academics were divided on the question of which factor is more to blame for the development of extremism: the errors of the state or the apathy of society.
Emil Payin: “Only society itself can solve the problem of extremism. The state is the state, but if non-government organizations – the entrepreneurs of tolerance – don’t start fighting, we will have no solution to extremism.”
Svetlana Smirnova, deputy chairwoman of the Duma’s federation affairs and regional policy committee: “In my view, not everything depends on society. No one is held accountable for the fact that good laws are not observed. Worse still, we pass laws which exacerbate conflicts: for example, the law stating that everyone must use the Cyrillic alphabet – unprecedented, even in Tsarist times.”
Ramazan Abdulatipov: “Extremism cannot be justified, but you can’t go around pushing people into a state where they are prepared to take radical action. People don’t get their wages for six months at a time, and they’re told that they can take legal action, but then they have a frustrating experience with the courts.”
The academics concluded that ethnic, religious, and social conflicts must be prevented from arising. However, judging by the fact that there are more and more such conflicts around the world with every passing year, they do not have any prescription for healing the human race from this disease.
DUMA DEPUTIES WISH TO SUPPORT THE MEDIA
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 18, 2002, EV
The names of some well-known state officials will be mentioned in the Duma over the next few days, during debates over amendments to the Tax Code which propose to extend partial exemptions from value-added tax for the media until January 1, 2005.
From the start of this year, the media have been paying VAT at the rate of 10%, though previously they had paid none at all. This decision was a compromise between the Duma and the Cabinet, which demanded that the media should pay the same VAT rate as other companies – 20%. At a meeting of the Duma budget committee last Monday, the authors of the bill which would extend the concessional rate for another two years repeatedly cited the opinion of President Putin, who has supported their proposal; this was reported to the Duma by Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the presidential administration. However, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said that retaining the concessional VAT rate would cost the 2003 budget around 3 billion rubles in revenue. He also noted that the Cabinet is prepared to listen to the president and accept some reduction in revenue – but not such a great amount. In order to reduce costs, the Finance Ministry is proposing that the authors of the bill should re-submit it to the Duma with one change – the concessional VAT rate should not apply to advertising space and information announcements in print media. According to Shatalov, this would mean a saving of 600 million rubles. However, the Duma members who have proposed continuing state support for the media have not yet agreed to this proposal. Their calculations indicate that the concession the Cabinet wishes them to make would essentially negate all the positive effects of continuing the reduced VAT rate.
However, the Duma appears likely to lose this battle. All centrist faction members we interviewed yesterday supported the Cabinet’s option for retaining concessional VAT rates for the media. This means that by the date of the bill’s second reading, planned for one of the Duma’s last sessions for the year, the corresponding amendment will be made.