EDITORIAL: CHECHNYA IS OPPOSED

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EDITORIAL: CHECHNYA IS OPPOSED

Vedomosti, July 17, 2003, p. A4

It seems that the people of Chechnya don’t want to link their future with acting president Akhmad Kadyrov. And it remains clear whether the Kremlin will be satisfied with such a choice.

Information on public opinion in Chechnya is patchy. Even those Chechens who voted for the constitution doubt whether the results of the recent referendum are accurate. In a poll done by the Validata Agency, published on the Public Opinion Foundation website, three-quarters of respondents in Chechnya were in favor of unity with Russia. Nevertheless, they disapprove of the actions of the military and local administration. Over half don’t see any changes for better; their main concern is their personal safety, and the federal troops in Chechnya are seen as the main threat. About 65% of respondents believe that Chechnya’s presidential election will improve the situation.

According to the Validata poll, two-thirds of respondents will not vote for Kadyrov. But Kadyrov can console himself that even more respondents dislike his predecessor, Aslan Maskhadov. The favorites are Malik Saydullayev, a Moscow-based Chechen businessman; Ruslan Khasbulatov, former speaker of the Russian parliament; and Aslanbek Aslakhanov, the Duma member for Chechnya. However, none of these three have more than 20% support.

Needless to say, the federal authorities have some instruments to influence the results of elections in Chechnya. Remember that federal military personnel serving in Chechnya are also allowed to vote. Besides, the election results can be slightly corrected. However, the Kremlin will first have to decide what to do with Kadyrov and his armed supporters. They are a force that can’t simply leave the stage; moreover, federal authority largely depends on them in many of Chechnya’s towns and villages. However, it would not be right to support strengthening Kadyrov even further, especially given that many Chechens dislike him. The choice will be difficult for Kremlin peacemakers and residents of Chechnya; and “political settlement” could turn into its opposite.

CABINET MEETING

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, July 18, 2003, EV

The Cabinet considered some key economic questions yesterday. There was a heated debate over a draft concept paper on developing the fishing industry. According to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov, this sector has performed poorly in comparison to rapid development of the economy as a whole over the past four years. Catches have fallen to a third of their previous levels, and imports have risen, practically forcing domestic producers out of the market. Kasianov expressed the hope that “decisions that will improve the situation in the fishing industry and enable it to continue based on new principles” would be found by October. This is a matter of securing long-term access to marine resources for fishing enterprises.

Another key issue was the discussion of the privatization plan forecast for 2004 and the period to 2006. The government plans to sell off federal assets which are not essential to the functions of the state by 2008. Kasianov said that the state’s minor stakes in enterprises (under 25%) should be sold first, because they are insufficient to influence management of enterprises, and retaining them as state assets is inexpedient. Kasianov stated that over 2,000 assets would be privatized; many of these “are being managed inefficiently, creating excessive problems and being uncompetitive.”

Privatization is expected to bring in revenue of no less than 35 billion rubles a year. According to the prime minister, the government plans “clear Russia’s markets of the excessive number of enterprises in which the state owns a minor stake.”

ANOTHER EXPLOSION

Trud, July 18, 2003, EV

A VAZ-2109 car parked near the police station in Khasavyurt exploded at 10 a.m. yesterday. The Interior Ministry of Dagestan says the car presumably belonged to an official of the Khasavyurt inter-district department for countering economic crimes.

The explosion killed Police Major Daitbek Vazirkhanov, head of the security department at the Khasavyurt interior ministry division; a woman and a child were also killed. Ten people were injured, most of them police personnel.

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