PAY NO TAXES? SLEEP THE SLEEP OF THE JUST!

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PAY NO TAXES? SLEEP THE SLEEP OF THE JUST!

Komsomolskaya Pravda, May 29, 2003, EV

The Constitutional Court has delighted taxpayers with its decision that tax evasion cannot be considered a reason for legal prosecution.

Inveterate tax evaders are usually sent to prison in Russia. Concealment of income and untruthful financial statements carry a penalty of up to four years in prison. However, law enforcement authorities frequently apply the penalty to quite innocent people; all it takes is a mistake made by an accountant, or failure to pay taxes due to ignorance. But now the Constitutional Court has clarified the rules: from now on, people can only be prosecuted if there is evidence that they deliberately broke the law. The burden of proof – that tax evasion had no malicious intent – still rests with the suspects.

BEREZOVSKY’S DOLLARS

Moskovsky Komsomolets, May 29, 2003, EV

The council of “splitters” from the Liberal Russia party met on May 28 in a Moscow hotel. They sang the praises of Boris Berezovsky and discussed a recent police raid on their office. The raid was the top item on their agenda. For example, some media had reported that around $300,000 was seized by the police from the office of Berezovsky’s supporters. But they denied these allegations, claiming they had never had more than $300 in the office safe. Nonetheless, reports of hundreds of thousands of dollars do not seem improbable, for it is well known that Berezovsky provides lavish funding for his vassals.

Berezovsky’s supporters preferred to speak about the results of the raid. According to them, police seized all the computers, the personal notebook of a staff member, diskettes, lists of regional branches and phone numbers of the staff members. They say the search warrant stated that the purpose of the raid was to determine the funding sources of the Liberal Russia party and the My Candidate campaign launched by the late Sergei Yushenkov.

“The search of our office was completed by about 10.30 a.m. and the search at the LogoVAZ reception house at about 7 p.m.,” said a party spokesman. They say it took Federal Security Service officers several hours to open the safe: the person who had the key had recently left the country.

STREET PROTESTS IN LATVIA OVER RUSSIAN LANGUAGE PROBLEM

Moskovsky Komsomolets, May 29, 2003, EV

The United Russia party decided yesterday to join the “battle for the Russian language”, in support of ethnic Russians in Latvia. The party organized a rally outside the Latvian embassy in Moscow, using the slogan: Hands off Russian-language schools!

Russian-language schools in Latvia will only exist in their present form until September. Under Latvia’s education laws, their senior classes will convert to using the Latvian language during the next school year. In Latvia itself, there have been demonstrations against this over the past week. The largest demonstration was timed to coincide with the Eurovision song contest. The Latvian authorities openly feared that “the Russian revolt” would overshadow Eurovision; most importantly, that this would shame Latvia before thousands of foreign journalists and Eurovision guests. The protest campaign spread across Latvia, drawing more people than Eurovision. Thousands of people took to the streets under banners reading “This is our last Stalingrad!” Such large demonstrations by ethnic Russians, right in the heart of the capital, near a statue of Latvian poet (and Russophile) Yan Rainis, hadn’t been seen in Latvia since the days of the battle for independence. Parents of ethnic Russian children are threatening to lead thousands of people out on the streets, drawing the attention of the European Union and NATO – which Latvia is preparing to join – to violations of the rights of ethnic minorities.

AKHMAD KADYROV REPORTS TO PRESIDENT PUTIN ON THE SITUATION IN CHECHNYA

Izvestia, May 29, 2003, p.3 EV

President Vladimir Putin met with the Chechen administration on Wednesday at his residence near Moscow. Participants in the meeting included head of the Chechen administration Akhmad Kadyrov, Chechen prime minister Anatoly Popov, and federal minister for Chechnya Stanislav Ilyasov. The president pointed out the need to provide housing for all those in Chechnya who have been made homeless because of the war, as soon as possible. He also spoke in favor of senior Chechen officials taking part in the discussion on the distribution of powers between the federal government and Chechnya’s authorities. The president stressed that there are many undecided issues concerning handing over more authority to Chechnya’s law enforcement agencies. Akhmad Kadyrov reported that the State Council of Chechnya will be ready to start work by June 10. This will be an interim body, existing until a parliament is elected. Provisions have already been made for setting up the Council, and its delegates are currently being selected.

FEDERATION COUNCIL RATIFIES STRATEGIC OFFENSIVE REDUCTIONS TREATY

Izvestia, May 29, 2003, p.3 EV

On May 28 Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced that the Russian and U.S. presidents could exchange instruments of ratification for the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty as early as their imminent meeting in St. Petersburg. This has become possible because the Russian Senate has ratified the treaty. In addition to this, the Federation Council confirmed the agreement on the state border with Lithuania.

BORDER GUARDS WILL BECOME PART OF THE F.S.B.

Izvestia, May 29, 2003, p.3 EV

Gen. Vladimir Pronichev, acting commander-in-chief of the Federal Border Guard Service, has announced that this agency is to become a structural division of the Federal Security Service (FSB). This is meant to improve the level of border security.

Speaking in Moscow on Border Guard Day, Pronichev said: “The reason for this amalgamation is obvious and justified, for it is necessary to improve the performance of agencies responsible for state security, eliminate duplication of functions, and save funds. The main objective of the border guards is to ensure security along the state border. A great number of tasks aimed at security provision must be handled by joint efforts of the special agencies.” In compliance with a presidential decree, the Federal Border Guard Service will become part of the FSB from July 1, 2003.

KREMLIN SHOCKED AT THE SCALE OF CORRUPTION IN RUSSIA

Argumenty i Fakty, May 28, 2003, EV

Georgy Satarov, director of INDEM Foundation, Russia:

The scale of corruption in Russia is really shocking. Our figures have been reported to the president. Vladimir Putin’s first response was: it cannot be true! Could there be a mistake? For he had somewhat different data, according to which the scale of corruption in the Russian Federation was as “low” as $16-$17 billion a year, compared to the $33 billion our results indicated. Bt we used reliable tools of sociological and mathematical analysis. There is no mistake. The fact that the presidential administration has engaged us to give recommendations on how to reduce corruption implies that they did finally believe our figures. We have developed some recommendations and presented them to Kremlin officials. There has been no response as yet, so we are waiting.

RUNAWAY FUNDS RETURN TO RUSSIA

Argumenty i Fakty, May 28, 2003, EV

Money lost through capital flight can be returned to Russia, says Auditing Commission chairman Sergei Stepashin. “At the moment legal provisions are being made to hand over to the federal budget several million dollars belonging to a prominent criminal figure. Secondly, we have been working together with Swiss investigative agencies to look into the possibility of returning to Russia several hundred million dollars illegally taken out of the country in the late 1980s and early 1990s by a Soviet Party executive official. I cannot reveal his name, or some others, for the sake of the investigation. We will give further consideration to this matter in late June. Work on this will be completed.”

THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH: FAR REMOVED FROM WORLDLY AFFAIRS

Argumenty i Fakty, May 28, 2003, EV

Due to the selfless efforts of Patriarch Alexii II, over the past 10-15 years some of the vast pre-1917 assets of the Russian Orthodox Church have been returned to it. The question of returning land to the Church is under discussion. The political role of the Church has also grown; in regional elections, the campaign team of an election favorite frequently includes a member of the clergy.

However, some analysts are concerned about the Church developing links with the patriotic part of the political spectrum, which includes around 30% of voters. If the Church and the patriots agree on some common goals, this could lead to the creation of a “third force in politics”, about which there has been so much speculation. But attempts to draw the Church into politics will probably prove futile. After all, the Church has enough problems of its own.

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