Izvestia, June 21, 2000, p. 2

The Volgograd court has completed the trial of the leader of a religious cult “Party of Communists – Unity Vsevolod”. The guru of the cult, Mikhail Botnar, killed a rebellious young woman, whom cult members forced to marry Botnar in accordance with some “commands from the Cosmos”. While the court was investigating the details of the death of Lena, who was a graduate of the Volgograd Languages School, and a teacher at one of the city schools, cult members regularly attended the hearings.

As they said to a reporter: “We don’t think we are a cult. Our organization is open to everyone.”

The leaders of the cult say their religious meetings and prayer sessions are regularly attended by about 6,000 Volgograd residents. The preachers use a “cocktail” of a dozen religions and movements: beginning with Communist dogmas and ending with the theory of the “third eye”. Vladimir Klein, head of the Volgograd regional department of justice, said that the cult leaders have twice tried to officially register their community, but their appeals were rejected.

The court sentenced cult leader Botnar to 15 years in prison.


Izvestia, June 21, 2000, p. 2

On June 21 an amended restructuring plan for Russian Joint Energy Systems (RJES) was presented for the government’s consideration. The future of the Russian economy depends on the decision of the government on this document.

A special working group will be established to consider the new plan. The members of the group are unknown as yet. So far the government has not determined the terms of the group’s work. Considering that President Putin has not publicly expressed his opinion of the situation in Russia’s energy sector, the work of the government group on the new program is likely to take a long time. It is no accident that RJES suggests that the reforms should be started only in spring 2001. RJES presented the new plan for consideration not only to the government, but also to private shareholders, some of whom do not have a high opinion of it.

The program was proposed by Anatoly Chubais; after it is considered and amended by the government, it will be presented to the company’s board of directors. Only after it is approved by the RJES board will the program be a real plan of action for the electricity sector, which determines all price ratios in the economy.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, June 21, 2000, p. 2

On Friday the State Duma will consider in the second reading a presidential draft bill on the new order of forming the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament. The Duma state-building committee has taken a long time to discuss the amendments, which were made to the bill by Duma deputies and senators. The result was unexpected: the committee, headed by Communist Anatoly Lukyanov, rejected all amendments made by members of the Federation Council.

Senators wanted the members of the Federation Council to be replaced gradually, as their terms of office in the regions expire. The Duma members set a deadline of February 2001. Senators wanted speakers of regional and republican parliaments to represent the regional legislatures in Moscow, but the Duma committee members decided that this was unnecessary. If the Duma approves these decisions, the Federation Council is sure to veto the bill. Moreover, during the last six months of their “Moscow life”, senators will have to approve tax bills and the budget, which will deprive the regions of a considerable part of their revenue.

On Tuesday Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev talked to President Putin and returned reassured: the president promised not to change the order of electing deputies to the Duma, the lower house of parliament. By the way, when head of the Federation Council Yegor Stroev talked to the president, the latter directly promised to consider the senators’ amendments to the bill on the reform of the Federation Council, if he thought them justified.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, June 21, 2000, p. 2

Yesterday the Tver Municipal Court in Moscow held a closed session, where the appeal of Vladimir Gusinsky’s lawyers about the “illegal arrest of the head of the Media-Most holding” was considered. The court’s decision was not in favor of the tycoon. Within a hour it was announced that the court had rejected the appeal, referring to the fact that Gusinsky has been released from detention and “has no right to appeal against the earlier preventive measure”. However, according to Gusinsky’s lawyer, this is a dubious decision. According to the Constitutional Court, it is possible to appeal on the legality and the basis of an arrest after the accused has been released.

Now Gusinsky’s lawyers are planning to send an appeal to the Moscow city court within the next week. According to the lawyer, if the Moscow city court considers the arrest illegal, it will be Kolmogorov and Nikolaev, deputy general prosecutor and major crimes investigator, who will take Gusinsky’s place in the dock.


Trud, June 21, 2000, p. 1

Yesterday Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev. After the meeting Vyakhirev told journalists that he and the president had discussed the results of the visit to Germany and preparations for next winter. According to the Gazprom boss, this year Gazprom has started its seasonal preparations earlier, which will make it possible to avoid “winter troubles which are caused not by nature, but by Ukraine”.

“If Ukraine did not siphon off our gas, we would be ready for the winter,” said Vyakhirev, hinting that next winter Ukraine would be stealing more gas.

Commenting on the results of his trip to Germany, Vyakhirev said that he had signed four documents, valued at between $1.5 and $3 billion. According to Vyakhrev, the German side agreed to finish building a gas-chemical complex in Urengoi; and to start developing a marine gas deposit.


Komsomolskaya Pravda, June 21, 2000, p. 2

Today a summit of leaders of the CIS countries will be held in Moscow. All republics want Russia to establish a free trade zone, but Putin is being cautious. If its neighbors flood Russia with their cheap products, this will cause many problems for Russian manufacturers. Thus, Putin will have to convince the others that a number of significant amendments to the document need to be made. In particular, Russia wants to keep the VAT and excises on oil, gas, and gas condensate. Countries not part of the Customs Union will have to pay customs duties.

At yesterday’s meeting the CIS prime ministers, foreign ministers and defense ministers agreed that Russian peacekeepers will stay in Abkhazia until January 1, 2001; but they will be recalled from Tajikistan. The CIS leaders agreed to establish a joint anti-terrorist center. There are about another ten urgent issues on the summit agenda.


Komsomolskaya Pravda, June 21, 2000, p. 2

Something is going wrong with the government’s economic program. Its presentation has been postponed several times; first it was promised for early May, then for June 23, and now the latest date set is June 28. The government is keeping silent. According to Minister of Economic Development Herman Gref, the program “actually exists”; it is 200-250 pages long. According to Gref, it was decided to add some urgent measures which are to be carried out by the end of 2001.

According to confidential sources, the government simply cannot reach final agreement on the program, since everybody wants to make their own amendments. IT is no secret that the prime minister himself does not fully agree with what has been worked out by the Strategic Developments Center. Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov is trying to push through his own liberal ideas. Each ministry also has its suggestions. The president has already discussed this with the prime minister; after all, in the end there could be nothing left of Gref’s program. We have managed to learn its present targets for development of the national economy to 2010: state expenditure should be 30% of the GDP; 70% increase in the GDP; raising Central Bank currency reserves by 250%; doubling capital investments.