Izvestia, March 22, 2000, p.3

Question: Mr. Veshnyakov, do you think that election fever will end on March 26?

Veshnyakov: Today I would say that a second round of voting is very likely to be held. I do not think that preparation for the second round will make our work much harder, but we will have to print new ballot papers, count them and send them to regions.

Q: Do you consider the current election campaign to be more decent than the Duma campaign?

Veshnyakov: Yes, I think so.

Q: How can you explain this?

Veshnyakov: There are several reasons. During the parliamentary election, various political forces spared no effort trying to prove that they are better and stronger than others. Everybody understood that the results of the Duma election would directly affect the distribution of forces at the presidential election. When votes were counted, many were disappointed, but others were encouraged. However, all of them became more cautious. Moreover, now one of the candidates (according to sociologists’ estimates, at least) is far ahead of others and is a clear favorite. Of course, the majority of these forecasts will scarcely come true, as far as concrete figures are concerned, but the public opinion strongly influences the behavior of candidates.

Q: Which forecasts exactly do you consider inadequate?

Veshnyakov: For instance, some forecasts give up to 70% to one of the candidates.

Q: Don’t you think that such obviously engaged forecasts violate the right of citizens to objective information? Some agencies are, in fact, involved in hidden campaigning.

Veshnyakov: It is a good question. The law has some instruments against such engagement. There is a certain article which orders pollsters to report the exact wording of the question, the data about the range of representation of the poll. All this information is transferred to the Central Election Commission in order for our specialists to decide who worked professionally and who didn’t. Voters can notice that those agencies which have been working for a long time, like the National Center for Study of Public Opinion, are trying to maintain their reputation. Those agencies which were created on purpose on the eve of the election campaign, especially by election staffs, must be treated with a great deal of doubt. They are almost sure to be engaged with hidden campaigning.

Q: But the CEC cannot apply any preventive measures in regards to pollsters.

Veshnyakov: Of course, not. The law does not grant us such a right. But we can warn voters against believing these provocations.

Q: How can you comment upon the statement of four candidates who accused Grigory Yavlinsky of spending more money on campaigning than is allowed by the law?

Veshnyakov: I warned those who had spontaneous accusations in regards to Yavlinsky that they must be more accurate when expressing their displeasure. All accusations must be checked first, before making the conclusion about $30 million allegedly spent by Yavlinsky. We will consider all reports submitted, but we realize that political fighting is underway.

Q: Is Yavlinsky the only one accused of an expenditure overrun?

Veshnyakov: We will check financial accounts of all candidates, but we cannot do it within a day or two.

Q: You informed the Vagrius publishing house which was going to publish a book about Putin that this can be considered campaign advertising. At the same time, shops are filled with books by other candidates.

Veshnyakov: After this incident other publishing companies appealed to us. Skuratov appealed to us even before the Vagrius company. They all received the same answer.

Q: So, you will insist that it is prohibited to publish books about candidates during the election campaign.

Veshnyakov: By all means.

Q: But a clever candidate can publish a book beforehand and then state that it is not his fault if it is still being sold. For example, Zhirinovsky’s books can be found in all shops and even in the Duma.

Veshnyakov: This is a tactical step. A candidate can also state that it is not he who defines when the book will be published. But if it is proved that the candidate has something to do with this, he will be punished.

Q: Putin granted gifts left and right as Commander-In-Chief. Maybe, the law should prohibit all candidates from playing another social role during the election campaign?

Veshnyakov: I agree with you. When the law was being prepared, I insisted on this, but the deputies who realized that they would participate in the election, adjusted the law for themselves. And today they are demanding what we simply cannot do.

Q: You mean that today you have no sufficient grounds for disqualifying anyone for gross infringements of the election campaign?

Veshnyakov: As we do not have sufficient evidence, I cannot disqualify anyone, for the moment.


Rossiiskaya Gazeta, March 22, 2000, pp. 1, 2

This year the State Employment Service will find jobs for 3.2 million unemployed citizens. In other words, employment centers intend to seriously reduce hidden unemployment. At present, there are only 1.26 million unemployed registered officially, which is almost three times less. Last year, for the first time in the past nine years, the number of the officially registered unemployed was considerably reduced – by 34.5%. Due to this fact the tension on the labor market was relieved a little. There are only 2.5 officially registered unemployed per job, instead of 6.6. At the same time, employment services have placed 1.8 million people in jobs, which is far more than was registered by employment centers.

Still, the situation in the sphere of employment is rather problematic. The total number of the unemployed is still high. There are many people who see no point in being registered – for instance, wives of well-to-do businessmen who do not work. There are also those who are not liable to registration, for example those who are on prolonged unpaid leave. According to the information of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, there are no fewer than 8.7 million such people. It is clear that not all of them are eager to work. Still, the ratio of unregistered unemployed people to officially registered ones is seven to one. Therefore, Minister Sergei Kalashnikov at a Nationwide meeting of heads of employment services strictly demanded from those present to adopt active policy instead of a passive one. Now the main thing is not to register unemployed persons and pay unemployment benefits to them, but learn to control the labor market and reduce hidden unemployment. The amount of employment has increased much due to the revival of production in the country’s industrial regions. In other regions (15, to be more exact) the situation remains critical, as in 1998. The unemployment level in these regions exceeds the average unemployment level in Russia by two or more times. The maximal unemployment level was registered in the Koryak, Nenets, Agin, Buryat autonomous districts, the republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan.

A substantial role in solving the employment problem can be played by a united federal vacancies database. All regions must contribute to its organization and its information must be available not to employment centers alone, but to every citizen. Currently, the information about jobs is reported to the database by only 40 regions of the country, and employment services of 70 regions can use this information. The minister sees another way of relieving the tension on the labor market, through voluntary unemployment insurance.

Social workers often have to face the problem of stress and psychological tension experienced by the unemployed. These stresses sometimes become the single reason preventing people from finding a job. That is why the ministry insists on organizing psychological rehabilitation services at employment centers.

However, it is impossible to plant confidence in the future in unemployed people if they are not paid unemployment benefits in due time. Last year, the total sum of benefits paid was 1.4162 billion rubles, which is only 22% of the necessary amount. The debt of 1996-98 was 84% paid off, and amounts to 1.17 billion rubles at present. The greater part of the debt was paid off at the expense of the federal employment fund. This is a vicious practice, as representatives of the federal center stated, and regions must use local resources more actively.


Izvestia, March 22, 2000, p. 3

In recent days heads of city and district administrations of the republic of Marii-El appealed to the federal center to dismiss their legally elected president and govern the region from Moscow. The letter with this appeal was written by four authoritative people of Marii-El: Veniamin Kozlov, mayor of Ioshkar-Ola, Nikolai Svistunov, mayor of Volzhsk, Sergei Panfilov and Mikhail Zherebtsov, heads of administration of the Volzhsk and Zvenigov districts. Over half of the population of the republic resides in the territory in their charge.

The living standard in the republic is among the lowest in Russia, the letter states. Half of industrial enterprises are unprofitable, agriculture is also in an appalling state – cattle numbers are falling, the production of grain is falling. Spheres of activity where capital turnover really exists, as the authors of the appeal state, are controlled by President Vyacheslav Kislitsin via his relatives and proxies. “The republic is, in fact, a kind of private company where Kislitsin is chair of the board,” conclude the authors of the letter. They put special emphasis on the style and methods of management characteristic of President Kislitsin – “constant public humiliation and insults regardless of rank or age.”

However, the issue is not what the republic’s president is famous for, or where he has led the republic. The letter of the four administration heads makes the theoretical question of the way heads of regions should be elected (much discussed by the political elite lately) a practical issue. Today the Kremlin does not have a mechanism of dismissing a president of a sovereign republic, even if all local top administrative officials demand this. But if the federal center does have plans for building a clear-cut command chain, there is a great temptation to make use of such an initiative from a region. How do the authors of the appeal to Putin picture the way their request could be satisfied? “Of course, it is a legal impasse,” said Mayor Svistunov of Volzhsk, “but if Kislitsin is not fired, the republic will disintegrate in a year or two.”

The emergence of the letter strangely coincided with the meeting of the Union of Russian Cities in Nizhny Novgorod today, where Putin is expected. Kozlov, the initiator of the letter, also departed for Nizhny Novgorod. The mayors of Marii-El seem to have decided to use the fact that the Kremlin is considering various methods of curbing the powers of overly-independent governors and presidents, and are offering Putin a chance to experiment with their republic.


NTV, Segodnya, March 21, 2000, 12:00

Having returned from a visit to the North Caucasus yesterday evening, Vladimir Putin has departed for Nizhny Novgorod today, and in the evening he will set out for Kazan. All official representatives of the Kremlin categorically refuse to link the acting president’s trips to regions to Sunday’s presidential election.

In Nizhny Novgorod the election favorite familiarizes himself with two huge industry branches – the defense sector and auto construction. He is to visit the Gorky Auto plant (GAZ) where over 100,000 people work. At present, such traditional car makes as Volga, Gazel, Sobol, Barguzin are constructed here, along with trucks and army cars. In the future the situation will change. The Gorky Auto plant in cooperation with FIAT (the new company is called Nizhegorodmotors) intends to organize construction of well-known Italian car makes, 75,000 cars a year. Component parts will be delivered from Poland and Italy. GAZ will be loaned several hundred million dollars for this project. Today Putin was to “bless” this cooperation which must give the plant workers new opportunities in terms of wages. Now the wages are modest – for women they average 800 rubles a month ($28), for men – 1200 rubles. Putin, as usual, planned to directly communicate with workers, but the time was short. The schedule of Putin’s visit is very busy. However problematic the situation at the GAZ should be, the state of the defense sector is much worse. Defense complex workers must hold a consultation with Putin today. They stake great hopes on the acting president. It is hard to say if Putin will have enough time to implement the program of his visit in full.


ORT, Novosti, March 21, 2000, 15:00

Today Vladimir Putin signed a decree on a raise in wages for employees of state-run enterprises. According to the decree, on April 1, 2000, the wages will increase by 1.2 times, that is 20%. Another document has been signed by the acting president today. According to it, in April citizens belonging to certain categories will be paid a hundred rubles each. This is linked to the Victory Day (May 9).


ORT, Novosti, March 21, 2000, 15:00

Today we learned that the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office together with the Prosecutor’s Office of the Moscow military district is conducting an investigation in connection with Grigory Yavlinsky’s visit to military unit 75084 on February 29. The presidential candidate and the leader of the Yabloko movement met with servicemen and civilian personnel of the unit. The officials of the prosecutor’s office pointed out that, according to the law on the presidential election, it is prohibited to campaign in military units. Such meetings must be held outside military units.