THE PEOPLE’S PARTY GAINS WEIGHT

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THE PEOPLE’S PARTY GAINS WEIGHT

Argumenty i Fakty, July 23, 2003, p. 4

Although the Duma election campaign will not start officially until autumn, political parties have already started campaigning, and fairly aggressively at that. Early this summer, one of the newest parties – the People’s Party – launched a campaign rehearsal by organizing a petition on a range of vital issues. The People’s Party considers that the president “is being held hostage by certain state officials” who are deliberately slowing down reforms. So the party plans to collect over 5 million signatures by July 24 on a petition which will be sent to President Vladimir Putin.

The 53 People’s Party members of the Duma have decided to “consult citizens in all regions of Russia on each key issue”, also using the opportunity to check that the party’s regional branches are ready for the upcoming campaign. The party’s political demands include: bringing back capital punishment for murder and drug trafficking; restricting the rise of electricity tariffs and other fees for housing and utilities; reviving rural Russia; fighting corruption; restricting violence on television; bringing back free, high-quality education and health care; and developing local government. Apart from that, the People’s Party considers that redistributing revenues from the sale of oil, gas, and timber would make it possible to raise pensions above the poverty line; and introducing a mortgage system would make housing affordable for young families.

A "QUIET" SUMMER: A FIVE-POINT LOYALTY ULTIMATUM FOR TYCOONS

Argumenty i Fakty, July 23, 2003, p. 2

By mid-August, the Prosecutor General’s Office may instigate five or six criminal cases. Reportedly, the evidence has already been collected, and the individuals involved are meant to be Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Fridman, Oleg Deripaska, and Andrei Melnichenko. Roman Abramovich is not on the list; he will be dealt with separately, since he holds state office (governor of Chukotka). The cases will involve privatization of some public property, financial machinations, and money laundering. Some other crimes are very likely to come to light as well.

Law enforcement agencies don’t want to back down. At any rate, they have no intention of quietly closing the file on the YUKOS case. This became clear after a fairly high-level meeting of security and law enforcement officials.

The oligarchs are already discussing a five-point ultimatum said to have been received by the chief executive of Yukos. These are as follows:

1. Stay out of politics.

2. Stop funding all political parties (the United Russia party is not funded by YUKOS)

3. Make no attempts to place his own people on party electoral lists for the Duma elections.

4. Find a way of publicly repenting, as Mr. Potanin has done.

5. Refrain from leaving the country in the near future.

The security and law enforcement agencies tend to be more active when the president is away from Moscow. He will soon leave for a tour of the Russian Far East and Malaysia; then he may take a vacation in Sochi.

So what is the overriding objective of the authorities in this situation? First of all, to create conditions for a mobilization policy on economic growth (to double the GDP by 2010). Secondly, to ensure that the administration’s supporters win at least 300 Duma seats. Thirdly, to redesign Russia’s internal structure into 35 regions. All this will require a strict hierarchy of governance, with no billionaires getting in the way.

How will the oligarchs respond? For example, it is within their power to bring the entire Russian stock market crashing down within a day or two. In fact, the stock market has already been falling. Over the past two weeks, the value of Russian enterprises has dropped by $15 billion. Up to $3 billion has been transferred abroad. And this is only a beginning. Meanwhile, in the West YUKOS is recognized as one of the best international companies in terms of return on investment.

VALENTINA MATVIENKO BUYS A NEW MOBILE PHONE BEFORE HER VACATION

Izvestia (Moscow), July 24, 2003, p. 3 EV

Valentina Matvienko, presidential envoy for the North-West federal district, has been on a short vacation since Wednesday, taking this break before registering as a candidate for governor of St. Petersburg. Her deputy will take over for the period of the vacation, but in the event of an emergency Matvienko will be able to return to her office, according to the envoy’s press service. However, after she is registered as a candidate for governor, she will be relieved of her duties entirely, allowing her to concentrate on the election campaign.

RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS PULL OUT OF KOSOVO

Izvestia (Moscow), July 24, 2003, p. 3 EV

The final trainload of Russian peacekeepers left Kosovo on Wednesday. Its destination is the Nara station in the Moscow region. The train carries equipment and belongings of Russian military contingent which carried out peacekeeping duties in Kosovo within the framework of the Kosovo Force (KFOR), according to Sergei Serkov, the head of the Peacekeeping Operations Department of the Ground Forces General Headquarters.

AUDITING COMMISSION WILL NOT RECOMMEND DEPRIVATIZATION IN BASHKORTOSTAN

Izvestia (Moscow), July 24, 2003, p. 3 EV

The Auditing Commission is not going to raise the question of revising privatization of state property in Bashkortostan, according to Auditing Commission chairman Sergei Stepashin. On Tuesday the Auditing Commission collegium considered the results of an audit of the Bashkortostan administration’s state property management and payment of non-tax revenues to the federal budget. Some “well-founded” comments were made regarding this matter. However, “no questions were raised about the possibility of reversing privatization of establishments in Bashkortostan that were inspected by the auditors,” said Stepashin.

He also said that the audit results will be reported to authorities concerned, including the presidential envoy for the Volga federal district, so that they can offer a legal opinion on irregularities found during the audit.

Earlier, Vladislav Ignatov of the Auditing Commission, who was in charge of the scheduled inspection of state property management in Bashkortostan, told journalists that direct and documented damage caused to the federal budget as a result of violations of the law during privatization of state enterprises in Bashkortostan exceeded $113 million.

DEFENSE MINISTER TO VISIT NORTHERN FLEET

Izvestia (Moscow), July 24, 2003, p. 3 EV

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will make a five-day working visit (July 23-27) to divisions of the Leningrad Military District and the Northern Fleet. The minister plans to study the general situation in the district and the fleet, as well as organization of military training for summer. At the end of his visit Ivanov will participate in ceremonies to mark Navy Day and the 70th anniversary of the Northern Fleet, according to the press service of the Defense Ministry.

JUSTICE MINISTER SATISFIED WITH NEW CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE

Izvestia (Moscow), July 24, 2003, p. 3 EV

The new Criminal-Procedure Code has performed well during its first year in force, says Justice Minister Yury Chaika. “We have seen in the past twelve months that the new Criminal Procedure Code is working quite well. The tasks and objectives that were set are being fulfilled, for the most part,” the minister declared last Wednesday. “The new Code enables the ministry to minimize its use of such preventive measures as detention, thus following the policy aimed at humanising legislation and transformation of penal measures.”

Chaika considers the most important achievement since the adoption of the Criminal Procedure Code on July 1, 2002 to be “improvement of conditions for remand prisoners”.

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