GENERAL PROSECUTOR TO BAN USING SPECIAL FORCES IN OFFICE SEARCHES
Izvestia, December 9, 2000, p. 2
General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov will soon issue a decree exactly defining cases in which the use of force is appropriate. According to the Novosti news agency, he made this announcement in commenting on the scandal surrounding the search of the ORT network’s offices by the Transport Prosecutor’s Office. Ustinov said, “We won’t let security agencies use military force in civilian organizations.” He also aimed this warning at investigators of the Interior Ministry and the Tax Police. The general prosecutor stressed that using special forces in the case of ORT was inappropriate. He said that armed personnel can be used “when searching the hideouts of criminal groups, when there is active resistance on their part.”
HE WHO KNOWS GERMANY
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 9, 2000, p. 2
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has given a lengthy interview to “Der Spiegel” magazine. When asked whether Russia would be left outside the field of European development if the European Union expands to the east, he said: “I think Russia is interested in the economic development of the Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic, and other countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Russia needs markets, even for the natural resources it intends to export.”
As for Germany’s relations with Russia, the chancellor intends to visit Moscow in January to attend Orthodox Christmas celebrations.
Schroeder considers that President Putin knows Germany very well, and speaks excellent German. He said in the interview, “It was easier to discuss various issues with him than if we had had to resort to an interpreter’s assistance.”
MORE BILLIONS IN THE TREASURY
Vremya Novostei, December 9, 2000, p. 2
On December 8, the Duma authorized the Cabinet to spend additional budget revenues in 2001 on whatever the executive branch wants. Deputies did not have any other option. If they had rejected the bill on additional revenues, the Cabinet would still spend these revenues by itself.
The Cabinet considers that additional revenues have been coming in as a result of the efforts of tax agencies. Tax inspectors have gathered an extra 274 billion rubles. The Cabinet is sure that the growth in taxation revenue has taken place due to the improvement of the macroeconomic situation (124.1 billion rubles) and high oil prices (80 billion rubles).
The additional revenues will be distributed as follows: 68.5 billion rubles for national defense; 31.7 billion rubles for law enforcement agencies; 28.1 billion rubles for regional and local budgets; around 18 billion rubles will be spent on industry, power supplies, and construction; 17 billion rubles will be transferred to the Road Fund; 5.5 billion rubles will be spent on education; and 4 billion rubles on agriculture and fishing.
RUSSIA’S BONDS RATING UPGRADED
Vremya Novostei, December 9, 2000, p. 2
The international rating agency Standard & Poors has upgraded Russia’s credit rating from SD to B-. The forecast for the rating has been changed to “stable”.
The agency has also revoked the D (default) rating from the third series of Finance Ministry bonds. The new bonds of the eighth installment, with a maturity date of November 14, 2000, into which the third series of Finance Ministry bonds have been rescheduled, have been given a CCC+ rating.
According to Interfax, the B- rating is 16th on Standard & Poors’ 23-point scale. Previously, Russia was in the 22nd category with an SD rating.
Upgraded ratings on a number of Russia’s bonds is good news, of course. Cynthia Stone, a representative of Standard & Poors in Moscow, told the Prime-TASS news agency that Russia’s sovereign rating may be upgraded in the wake of the Finance Ministry bonds change.
PRESIDENT MAY PARDON EDMOND POPE
Vremya Novostei, December 9, 2000, p. 1
The Pardons Commission has advised Vladimir Putin to pardon Edmond Pope, who was recently sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by the Moscow City Court. All 16 members of the Commission unanimously voted for a complete pardon for the American citizen. Commission Chairman Anatoly Pristabkin said: “We are not disputing or censuring the Moscow City Court’s decision, but we should not forget about humanism and mercy.”
The reasons for this pardon were Edmond Pope’s physical health, and his father’s illness. Pope has written to President Putin that he wants to return to Pennsylvania because he needs medical treatment. He also wrote that he wants to see his father for the last time, since his father is terminally ill.
PUTIN APPROVES TV BROADCASTING REFORM
Segodnya, December 9, 2000, p. 2
On December 8, President Vladimir Putin met with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman. During the meeting, the president approved the reforms to TV and radio broadcasting proposed by the media minister.
The essence of Lesin’s proposals is that the national state-owned TV networks will be handed over to a stock company that will soon be set up. Moreover, regional state-owned TV and radio companies will be expanded. There will be only 11 regional TV and radio companies instead of 89: one company per time zone, rather than one company per region.
The government needs these measures in order to strengthen the hierarchy of state power, and counter regional leaders and regional elites.
Among the Media Ministry’s future plans is introducting state contracts for state-owned television. According to the Ministry, state-owned television should get direct grants from the budget. Lesin considers that only two television companies should be subsidized by the state. One of them will be the All-Russian TV and Radio Company (VGTRK), and the other will be determined by tender. However, the Media Ministry does not conceal that the winner of this tender will be the ORT network, which has now stopped its political misbehavior.
RUSSIANS COMPLAIN ABOUT GOVERNMENT NEGLECT
Novye Izvestia, December 9, 2000, p. 1
According to the Public Opinion Foundation, about a third of Russians (29%) have appealed to local government bodies for assistance with their problems. Most of those who have done so are from the so-called “problem” strata, such as the disabled. Two-thirds of those who appealed for help were ignored. Most respondents (66%) say that at present, government bodies do not heed appeals from citizens. Only 17% of respondents hold the opposite point of view.
The poll has also shown that rural authorities are much more considerate. According to the poll, almost half of those who appealed for help to rural authorities were given the support they needed.
Vremya Novostei, December 9, 2000, p. 1
On December 8, two vehicles packed with explosives exploded near a city market in Pyatigorsk (Stavropol territory). According to preliminary data, four people are dead and about 50 injured as a result of this terrorist act.
The local authorities and Viktor Kazantsev, presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, have announced that this bombing may be the work of Chechens.
In the past six months alone, there have been four bombings in Pyatigorsk. As a result, eight people have died and about 100 have been injured.
Law enforcement agencies of the Stavropol territory have decided to reinforce security on the border with Chechnya in the wake of this explosion.
PUTIN’S FOREIGN VISITS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 9, 2000, p. 1
On December 17, President Vladimir Putin will visit Canada to meet with the Canadian government and business leaders.
On December 8, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko announced that Putin also plans to visit Greece.
The president’s PR Department reports that Putin has replied to Armenian President Robert Kocharyan’s letter, agreeing to visit Armenia in 2001.
TV TRUST THAT FAILED
Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 9, 2000, p. 2
Berezovsky’s business empire is rapidly dying. His Andava company, that used to sponge off Aeroflot, has kicked the bucket; and the tycoon has been ousted from the ORT network. Not long ago, Berezovsky set up the so-called Teletrust management company. He attracted many journalists and creative figures to manage his 49% of ORT stock, and they immediately started defending Berezovsky, who hastily converted himself into a dissident and a fighter for freedom of speech.
However, Berezovsky soon decided to become a political emigrant and sell his ORT shares. Thus, his respectable comrades-in-arms were let down again. Berezovsky has realized he doesn’t need them, and thrown them away like a used condom.
Due to a public holiday in Russia this week, there will be no WPS editions on Tuesday, 12 December. The next daytime edition of WPS will be on December 13. The next morning edition of WPS will be on December 14.