EVERYONE WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT
Izvestia, January 26, 2000, p. 2
The Central Election Commission (CEC) is now registering initiative groups. Eighteen presidential candidates have already been registered; and there will be more. Alexander Veshnyakov, the Chairman of the CEC, estimates that there will be 26 candidates for president. However, he does not rule out that this figure will not be exceeded. In fact, famous politicians are being followed onto the list by entrepreneurs, who never object to some additional advertising, and then by employees of trade unions, regional authorities, and even social services.
Now the CEC needs to control the election campaign and try to make it at least a little “cleaner and more honest” than the previous one. Veshnyakov is ready to use both the carrot and the stick in order to make the media play by the rules. At a meeting with media representatives, Veshnyakov emphasized that they should be concerned not only about their image, but also about their broadcasting licenses.
GENERAL’S RANSOM IS $3 MILLION
Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 26, 2000, p. 3
General Gennady Shpigun of the Interior Ministry, who was captured by Chechen terrorists at the beginning of March 1999 when leaving the Grozny airport, is in Chechnya.
Basaev’s guerrillas, who are currently holding General Shpigun captive, have again started negotiating with the Russian secret services and the Interior Ministry, and have lowered their ransom demands from $10 million to $3 million. The Russian side has agreed to these terms. So there are only technical questions left: when and where Shpigun will be exchanged for the money.
NO BUDGET SEQUESTERATION
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, January 26, 2000, p. 1
On February 3, the government will hold a meeting on implementing the 2000 budget; the Cabinet will then prepare a resolution based on the results of this meeting. Yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told journalists that this document “stipulates no sequestration in the 2000 budget expenditure.” According to him, the government resolution will stipulate only “full implementation of all budget expenditures. The document will also contain the exact schedule of expenditure.”
BATH-HOUSE MINISTER WILL STAY IN DETENTION
Trud, January 26, 2000, p. 1
Yesterday a meeting was held at the General Prosecutor’s Office, where a decision was made to leave former Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev under arrest.
Kovalev, a former minister and the central figure in the “bath-house scandal”, is currently in detention. On February 3, he will have been in detention for one year. The investigation into his case has already been completed. Case materials run to 48 volumes, including nine instances of misappropriation of funds, three instances of bribe-taking, and illegal buying and storing of fire-arms. Now Kovalev will have to thoroughly acquaint himself with the details of the case before he faces trial.
PUTIN MEETS WITH CIS PRESIDENTS
ORT, Novosti, January 25, 2000, 15:00
On January 25, Acting President Vladimir Putin continued a series of meetings and consultations with leaders of CIS countries in the Kremlin. These meetings are the main event of the current summit of CIS presidents. At 10 a.m. Putin met with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. Putin assured Karimov that Russia regards Uzbekistan as one of its main partners in the region. After that, Putin held a meeting of the “Caucasus four”, which was of course devoted to the problems of the North Caucasus.
Before noon Putin managed to hold one more meeting: he met with President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, at which economic relations between the two countries, including deliveries of Turkmenian gas to Russia, were discussed.
Simultaneously, a meeting of CIS prime ministers was held in the Yekaterininsky Hall of the Kremlin. Russia was represented by Senior Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov. The main topic was elaboration of the agreement on a free trade zone within the CIS. After the meeting, Kasyanov noted that Russia supports this project. However, the corresponding agreement may directly influence the federal budget of Russia, since some items of the agreement deal with revenues of the federal budget from taxes. Therefore, Kasyanov believes that it is necessary to conduct more detailed negotiations on this topic.
At noon, leaders of CIS countries gathered together. They mainly discussed two issues: counteracting international terrorism, and the position of chairman of the CIS Presidential Council. Practically all CIS leaders agree that the chairman should be Vladimir Putin, as CIS Executive Secretary Yury Yarov has announced.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS
NTV, Segodnya, January 25, 2000, 12:00
On January 25, no significant changes in the Duma situation took place. None of the members of the right-centrist coalition attended the meeting of the Duma Council. The only change was the official decision of the Russian Regions group that Alexander Zhukov should be chairman of the Budget Committee and Artur Chilingarov should be a deputy speaker, as Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev has reported. On January 26, all possible personnel decisions will be adopted at the Duma plenary session. To all appearances, representatives of the minority will not attend this session. The Union of Right Forces has already made the corresponding decision.
Irina Khakamada, a member of the Union of Right Forces faction: “Our position is the strictest, even stricter than that of Fatherland. We are continuing our boycott, we did not attend the meeting of the Duma Council and we won’t attend the plenary session. We will never return to the Duma on the terms proposed to us.”
NEW INFORMATION CENTER FOR THE CHECHEN CAMPAIGN
NTV, Segodnya, January 25, 2000, 14:00
On January 25, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky reported that a new information center will be opened to provide coverage of the Chechen campaign. On January 24 Sergei Yastrzhembsky spent the whole day in Chechnya; he observed what is going on there, and assessed the work of structures that work with the media. On the morning of January 25, Yastrzhembsky met with directors of all press services and press centers of the Joint Grouping of the Federal Forces stationed in Mozdok. Military journalists also took part in this meeting. Yastrzhembsky asked journalists to tell him about problems they encounter while working with the federal forces. Journalists said that there are many difficulties connected with the complicated procedure of accreditation of journalists in the Joint Grouping; that press centers are poorly equipped; and that structures involved in media relations are unable to send journalists to the combat zone. Sergei Yastrzhembsky promised to do his best to get the situation changed.
At the same time, he asked journalists to pay more attention to the process of restoration of peaceful life in the Chechen Republic.
Sergei Yastrzhembsky: According to the order of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, a new information center is to be established within the Operative Headquarters for Administration of Counter-terrorist Operations in the North Caucasus. The information center will be headed by Colonel General Manilov. The work of the information center will be controlled by the acting president’s assistant.