Moskovsky Komsomolets, January 5, 2001, p. 2

The governor of Primorye (Maritime territory, Russian Far East) has finally decided to prove that he cares for the fate of local towns currently freezing because of heating cuts. He has used his service vehicle (and those of other members of the territorial government) as security for a bank loan, to be spent on purchasing fuel for Primorye towns.

The situation in the territory deteriorated sharply before the New Year holidays. According to the Far East Regional Center of the Emergency Ministry, in late December 4,500 local residents were without heating, whereas now there are 14,000. Emergency brigades are currently doing everything possible to repair the obsolete heating networks and start supplying heating on January 6. However, it is not yet certain that the Primorye residents who went into the new year without electricity or heating will be luckier by Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7).


Tribuna, January 5, 2001, p. 1

According to Alena Zhukova, the press secretary of the Biysk mayor, on January 4 rescue teams found two bodies under the ruins of an apartment building which exploded owing to a gas leak shortly after New Year’s Eve. The rescuers believe they have found the bodies of a married couple who lived in the wrecked building. On Wednesday the body of Nina Zubareva, 41, was found and identified. The explosion injured seven other people.

Biysk Mayor Gennady Karpushkin called on all the town’s residents and local business leaders to assist the victims.

Although 13 out of the 36 apartments of the three-story block were totally wrecked, and 11 other apartments damaged, specialists believe the building can be repaired.

We learned at the local Emergency Ministry office that the explosion was caused by worn-out equipment and the poor condition of the town’s communal services in general.

Unfortunately, that was not the only tragedy. Eight people were injured as a result of a gas explosion in the town of Dobryanka, Perm Region. The explosion happened at a local spraypainting workshop, owing to a welder’s negligence. One person was hospitalized, and the others received necessary medical treatment.


Parlamentskaya Gazeta, January 5, 2001, p. 2

The majority of deputies of the St. Petersburg municipal legislature have made a difficult but fair decision. By 28 votes to 13, they have deprived Yury Shutov, a notorious figure in St. Petersburg politics, of parliamentary immunity. The ballot was secret.

Shutov, a former aide to the late Anatoly Sobchak, St. Petersburg mayor in the mid-1990s, was arrested in 1999 on major crime charges. The St. Petersburg City Prosecutor’s Office suspects him of being behind a criminal group responsible a dozen contract killings and one abduction. Nearly 20 people involved in the Shutov case are currently being held in the Kresty prison. Shutov himself is in the Tikhvinsky prison. During the investigation, Shutov has made two attempts at self-mutilation. In 2000 Shutov ran for the federal parliament twice, but failed to be elected.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta, January 5, 2001, p. 2

On New Year’s Eve residents of Volgograd were alarmed by an official report about the detention of a group of Chechen guerrillas, issued by the Volgograd Regional FSB department.

A group of 22 people had entered the Volgograd Region from Chechnya by order of field commander Arbi Baraev, for the purpose of carrying out a series of terrorist acts and abductions in the region. The group included Russians as well as Chechens. During preliminary questioning, the group members named their contacts – and FSB officers detained more potential terrorists. Four of the detainees have already been charged with terrorism.

The residents of Volgograd were glad to hear that the preventive measures taken by the regional FSB department had succeeded. Perhaps this was why the recent regional election and the New Year celebrations in the city and the region were not shadowed by any violent incidents. Furthermore, the leaders of the large Chechen diaspora in the region have reacted angrily to Baraev’s attempts to shift combat to the Volgograd Region, where until now members of all Russia’s ethnic groups have lived in peace and harmony.


Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 5, 2001, p. 3

As he did on New Year’s Eve, President Putin will celebrate the Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7) with his family – and also with the family of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who will arrive in Moscow tomorrow on a two-day unofficial visit.

Incidentally, according to our sources, Schroeder and his spouse will be the first guests of the Putins to be accommodated in the guest wing of the Russian president’s new residence in Novo-Ogaryovo. This former government residence was repaired and refurbished specially for Putin, since the former presidential residence in Gorky-9 was given to Boris Yeltsin; and the prime minister’s country home in Barvikha, where the Putins used to live, does not meet the standards appropriate for a head of state, nor have the necessary level of technical equipment.

Immediately after the Orthodox Christmas holidays Putin will go back to work; on January 9 he will start his first foreign visit for 2001. The president will go to Azerbaijan on a two-day official visit. Apart from meeting with President Geidar Aliev of Azerbaijan, Putin will speak with Sheik-Ul-Islam Allahshukr Pashadze, the head of the Caucasus Muslims, who places great hopes on the Russian president’s mediation in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.