A NEO-NAZI IN THE KURSK REGION
Segodnya, November 11, 2000, p. 1
On November 10, the Russian Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations (RCJRO) appealed to President Vladimir Putin for an official comment on the recent extremist statements by Alexander Mikhailov, governor-elect of the Kursk region. The RCJRO says Mikhailov’s reference to the RCJRO as “the filth that has gathered for the past ten years” and his overt anti-Semitic statements are aimed at inciting ethnic hatred. The statements of Communist Alexander Mikhailov are so shocking that even Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov has dissociated himself from Mikhailov, saying that the new governor of the Kursk region had better start fulfilling his election promises instead of commenting on other people’s ethnic background.
Now Putin will have to decide which “filth” he will do away with in Russia.
SHAIMIEV AND ISKHAKOV WANT AN ORTHODOX ICON
Segodnya, November 11, 2000, p. 1
The miracle-working icon of the Kazan Mother of God has become the focus of a political game. On November 10, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov announced he had come to Moscow to learn the plans of the Moscow Patriarchate for returning the icon from the Vatican to Russia. At the end of October Iskhakov met with the Pope. He gave him a message from President Mintimer Shaimiev of Tatarstan, requesting the return of the icon to Russia. According to Iskhakov, “The Pope is keeping the icon in his residence, and praying in front of it twice a day; but he is also thinking about returning it to Russia.” Pope John Paul II had intended to hand over this icon personally to Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and All Russia, but their meeting been put on hold because of serious differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.
But all of a sudden, the Tatarstan president has suggested that the Pope return the icon not to Moscow, but to Kazan. This rivalry has the authorities of the Russian Orthodox Church silently seething.
In spring 2001, presidential elections will be held in Tatarstan. It is not clear yet if Shaimiev will have the right to run for re-election, but this is not the main point in this affair. In any case, the federal government wants Shaimiev to be supported by the Orthodox citizens of Tatarstan, so the latest developments in the icon case may have been arranged for this purpose.
SIBERIAN REGIONAL LEADERS ON FUEL AND ENERGY REFORM
Segodnya, November 11, 2000, p. 5
Most regional leaders who took part in the meeting of the Siberian federal district in Omsk on November 10 criticized the restructuring plan for the Russian fuel and energy sector drawn up by Russian Joint Energy Systems (RJES). According to these regional leaders, the plan does not take the interests of every region into account. It was decided to convene a special commission for further consideration of the document, within the framework of the Siberian Agreement association.
Anatoly Chubais said that RJES will do its best to consider all recommendations from regional leaders. Chubais also noted that he does not rule out the possibility of giving part of the assets of regional energy companies to regional governments, to enable them to influence the reform process in their regions. Chubais said that the assets granted to regional governments will depend on the financial capacities of each region. According to him, this transfer could take place in regions where energy companies owe more to the regional government than the regional government owes to them.
TAX INTELLIGENCE AGENCY PLANNED
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 11, 2000, p. 2
On November 10, Vyacheslav Soltaganov, Director of the Federal Tax Police Service, gave some details about his plans to set up a Tax Intelligence Agency in Russia. He said that Russia needs an organization to monitor all financial flows and deal with any cases of money laundering. According to Soltaganov, the Tax Intelligence Agency should be a mostly analytical service, checking accounts and analyzing financial crimes. At present, there are a number of agencies with similar functions, but their interests and activities are not coordinated.
Such an agency could be created within the next three months. At the same time, the government is working on a number of bills that would make it possible for this agency to effectively counter financial crime.
TYCOONS RUNNING IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 11, 2000, p. 4
It’s true that opposites attract – especially in Russia. In Soviet days, enthusiasts from the cities went to remote regions to develop them; and now the tycoons have started to do the same. Roman Abramovich is running for governor of the Chukotka Autonomous District. Norilsk Nikel CEO Alexander Khloponin has decided to run for governor of the Taimyr Autonomous District. This autonomous district officially belongs to the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Therefore, this event is significant for the territory, since Norilsk Nikel controls 20% of world nickel production, and 60% of world palladium output.
On November 1, the very last possible day, Khloponin was registered as a candidate for governor of Taimyr. The next day Khloponin came to Krasnoyarsk, supposedly to participate in work on the territory’s budget, which is 70% dependent on Norilsk Nickel. However, he could not avoid questions about his intention to run in the regional election.
Question: How do you see your chances in the election?
Alexander Khloponin: I think I have a very good chance. I know this region extremely well, and have five years of experience here, since Norilsk Nickel enterprises are located in the Taimyr Autonomous District.
Question: Is it possible that relations between the Taimyr Autonomous District and the Krasnoyarsk Territory will improve if you are elected?
Khloponin: If necessary, I am ready to foster closer ties with the Krasnoyarsk Territory government, but only within the law. Of course, separating Norilsk Nickel from the Krasnoyarsk Territory is out of the question, and so is Taimyr’s independence from Krasnoyarsk.
MUSLIMS OF RUSSIA UNITE
Kommersant, November 11, 2000, p. 2
On November 10, the council of the Islamic movement Refakh resolved to start procedures for transforming the movement into a party. Refakh is negotiating with a number of other Islamic groups, aiming to create a unified Muslim party. According to Refakh, this party could get the support of up to 20% of Russian voters.
Refakh is also seeking new strategic allies, since its alliance with Unity seems to be ephemeral. In October, Sergei Shoigu, the leader of Unity, criticized Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov, the leader of Refakh, for having approved the actions of the Turkish radical opposition during his recent trip to Turkey.
Duma deputy Aslambek Aslakhanov has confirmed that negotiations between Islamic organizations are underway.
Thus, Putin’s party reform could lead Muslims to unite. According to their own calculations, the Russian Federation is about 18-20% Muslim. Refakh leaders are sure that such a party could be a serious rival to both Unity and the Communists in the next Duma elections.
ANATOLY BABKIN GIVES EVIDENCE IN POPE TRIAL
Kommersant, November 11, 2000, p. 3
On November 10, Professor Anatoly Babkin of the Moscow Bauman State Technical University, the main witness for the prosecution in the Edmond Pope spy case, gave evidence. Babkin retracted most of the statements he had given during the preliminary investigation. According to the Federal Security Service, Professor Babkin headed the Missile Engines Department at the Bauman University, and sold Edmond Pope secret materials related to components of fuel for the Shkval torpedo. He was arrested together with Pope, and charged with revealing state secrets. The criminal proceedings against Professor Babkin have been interrupted because of his poor health. However, the evidence he gave in July 2000 was the foundation for the charges against Edmond Pope.
According to Pope’s lawyer Pavel Astakhov, Professor Babkin retracted practically all his previous evidence against Pope, and declared it was given under pressure, at a time when his health was deteriorating sharply. Indeed, a few days after Babkin signed his sworn statements, he had a heart attack. During the hearings on November 10, Professor Babkin did not look well, and Judge Nina Barkova even allowed him to remain seated while testifying. According to Astakhov, the professor told the court that he had never given Pope any secret documents, that he did not have access to secret documents, and he had not participated in design work on the Shkval torpedo since 1969.
Although Babkin’s new evidence has changed the course of the trial for the better, Pope is unlikely to be cleared. The fact that the case has been frustrated in court could be more scandalous than the arrest of the US citizen.
Kommersant, November 11, 2000, p. 1
On November 10, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced that oil companies will have the opportunity to bid for access to export pipelines. Khristenko promised that such auctions will be held from January 1, 2001.
State regulations on these auctions will be detailed next week.
According to our source in the Cabinet, Khristenko plans to auction 25% of total export volume in the first quarter of 2001, 50% in the second quarter, and 50% in the third quarter. The company with the highest bid will win the auction and get the right to export oil. Khristenko proposes that the money gained in this way should be accumulated in a state reserve fund.
Novoe Vremya, No. 45, November, 2000, p. 21
According to a recent opinion poll conducted among Russian scientists, asking why the intellectual elite is leaving Russia, 70% of those polled named low salaries, 35% concern for their children’s future, 31% the impossibility of fulfilling their creative potential in Russia, and 19% legal and social exposure of the results of their work.
Russian specialists in aerospace, pure and applied physics, IT, biochemistry, microbiology, and genetics are most likely to find appropriate jobs abroad. The best employment situation for Russian scientists is in the US, Canada, Israel, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, and France.
Approximately 40% of Israel’s scientists are Russian expats.
One suddenly favorable consequence of the brain drain is that in 1999, for the first time in the past several years, a growth of competition for places at technical universities was registered in Russia. Observers believe this to be a consequence of the high demand for Russians with technical qualifications on the international job market. The outflow of Russian scientists to developed countries contributes to the prestige of Russian universities within Russia, and may eventually draw the state’s attention and new investment into this field.
BUSH FOR PRESIDENT
Novoe Vremya, No. 44, November, 2000, p. 15
The US presidential election did not go unnoticed by Russians. According to an opinion poll conducted by the Agency for Regional Political Research, one week before the election half of Muscovite respondents knew for sure which of the candidates for US president they would support: 26% preferred George W. Bush and 21% liked Al Gore. In general, the Russian public’s attitude toward the US is rather contradictory. Thus, when asked in which country they would like their children to live, 18% named the US, 12% chose Germany and 6% France. At the same time, after each international conflict the Russian people believe that Russia’s relations with the US are worsening: according to 53% of those polled, the greatest deterioration in these relations was after the 1999 Yugoslavian events. Two-thirds of the respondents believe that Moscow should take a tougher line at the talks with the US over anti-missile defense, and 27% still think that the US poses a threat to Russia’s security.