THE FEDERATION COUNCIL IS BACK IN SESSION
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, January 31, 2001, p. 1
The upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, is currently working in renewal mode. The autumn-winter round of regional elections is over. Half of the regional leaders in regions where elections were held have been replaced. The Federation Council now includes some regional representatives who are there on a permanent basis. There are currently ten of them. And the upper house has already received the paperwork for a dozen more candidates, who are waiting for approval.
However, the Federation Council cannot focus on itself alone, on its own reform and regulation issues. Today’s Federation Council agenda includes the following bills passed by the Duma: “On delimitation of state land properties”, “On service in law enforcement departments and penal institutions of the Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation”, “On the budget of the social insurance fund for 2001”, and others. The bill “On guarantees for the President of the Russian Federation upon resignation, and for members of his family” is also waiting for its fate to be decided.
The upper house will also consider all amendments and additions the State Duma has already made to existing laws – on terms in office for judges of the Constitutional Court, on increasing tax rates for the gambling industry, and on third terms for regional leaders. According to many observers, the Federation Council will have no trouble passing the latter item.
DIPLOMATS AND CAR ACCIDENTS IN CANADA
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, January 31, 2001, pp. 1, 2
Two employees of the Russian Embassy in Canada, who were recently involved in two car accidents in Ottawa, have arrived in Moscow. This means that their diplomatic status will not be waived, and they will not stand trial according to Canadian law – as the Canadians, especially Foreign Minister John Manly, demanded.
Last Saturday, Russian diplomats were involved in two car accidents in Ottawa. Andrei Knyazev, first secretary of the Russian Embassy, was responsible for one of them: he lost control of the vehicle and drove onto the sidewalk, where he ran over two women who were walking their dog.
According to police, who immediately took the Russian diplomat to a police station, he was under the influence of alcohol and could barely stand. Having spent five hours at the police station, he was handed over to representatives of the Russian Embassy. As a result of the accident, well-known Ottawa lawyer Katherine Maclean, aged 50, died; and Katherine Doris, 56, was badly injured and taken to hospital.
Slightly later, Yevgeny Blokhin, another employee of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, was also involved in a car accident. Fortunately, this time there were no casualties. According to preliminary data, Blokhin was also intoxicated.
According to Canadian media, on the same day there was another car accident which also “involved the Russian Embassy”. However, there is no information about whether the third driver had diplomatic status. All three incidents occurred while Russian Embassy diplomats were returning from ice-fishing on the Ottawa River.
Vitaly Churkin, Russian Ambassador to Canada, has offered his condolences to the relatives of the deceased woman, and said that people should not judge the entire Russian nation by one drunken diplomat. He also explained that Russian Embassy staff would be punished to the full extent of Russian law, in Russia.
EXPLOSION IN TATARSTAN – NO ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
Tribuna, January 31, 2001, p. 1
There was a powerful explosion yesterday at the Tatazot chemical plant in Tatarstan, at a facility producing dilute nitric acid. Three workers who were carrying out post-repair tests of the gas-turbine unit were killed. Nine more workers, who were also present, were uninjured.
According to expert appraisals, the consequences of the accident could have been much worse if a fire had broken out. Fortunately, this did not happen. The nitrogen containers were also undamaged. The Emergency Ministry denied rumors about a leak of ten tons of ammonia: “Can you imagine what a stir there would be if ten tons of ammonia had leaked! It would be a real environmental disaster!”
USTINOV WINS DEFAMATION CASE
Izvestia, January 31, 2001, p. 2
On January 30, the Moscow City Court upheld the defamation suit of General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov against the NTV television network and its general manager Yevgeny Kiselev.
Kiselev attended the trial; Ustinov did not. The General Prosecutor’s Office was outraged over Kiselev’s statements during the Itogi current affairs program on July 9 and September 17, 2000. Kiselev said that Ustinov owed money to Pavel Borodin, and that Borodin, former Kremlin property manager, was Ustinov’s patron – since he had allegedly given Ustinov an apartment.
Kiselev’s assertion that the presidential property department, in the person of Pavel Borodin, had no right to give Ustinov an apartment, was found to be defamatory by the Moscow City Court. The court demanded that Kiselev issue a denial of these assertions within 10 days of its decision.
After the trial Kiselev said he may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. He also said, “As a law-abiding citizen, I will deny my own statements, but I will also think of some comments on this decision.”
It is worth noting that the day before the trial President Putin promised to clear up the issue of Ustinov’s apartment himself.
BARONESS LUDFORD HAS BEEN CORRECTED
Izvestia, January 31, 2001, p. 2
A scandal has broken out over a statement by Baroness Sarah Ludford, a British MP and delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). She accused the Novosibirsk regional branch of the Russian Labor Party (RLP) of being a neo-fascist organization, and sent supporting materials to the PACE Civil Rights and Liberties Committee. Viktor Leonov, chairman of the Novosibirsk Regional Council, wrote to the baroness on Monday, requesting her to present her evidence to the Novisibirsk parliament as well. The RLP is accused of a number of extremist actions. The Novosibirsk Department of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has released an announcement that the RLP has nothing to do with the special services. This announcement was made because some local media are saying that the leaders of the RLP are FSB agents.
Viktor Starkov, one of the leaders of the RLP, ran in the latest gubernatorial election in the Novosibirsk Region; and the other leader of the party, Anatoly Kubanov, is head of the Forecasting Center of the Novosibirsk regional government. Moreover, Novosibirsk media have reported that the RLP was established by the Novosibirsk Mayor’s Office and is a puppet of Alexei Bespalikov, former deputy mayor of Novosibirsk and current deputy governor.
Commenting on the situation in a TV interview, Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonsky said that government bodies should recruit skilled professionals, rather than basing recruitment on political principles.
YELTSIN IN HOSPITAL
Izvestia, January 31, 2001, p. 3
On January 30, former president Boris Yeltsin was admitted to the Central Clinical Hospital (CCH).
He was taken to hospital in the morning by a special ambulance, accompanied by his wife Naina Iosifovna. An hour later, his younger daughter Tatiana Dyachenko and Yeltsin’s nephews arrived. However, doctors do not think it necessary for his relatives to stay with him constantly.
According to Yeltsin’s spokesman Vladimir Shevchenko, Yeltsin does not have a permanent doctor at the CCH. At present, Yeltsin is being treated by a specialist in acute viral infections. According to unconfirmed rumors, the former president may have pneumonia. Over the next day or two, Yeltsin will be examined by doctors.
CCH doctors do not comment on the condition of their patients. However, one of the doctors, remaining anonymous, has said that the possibility of a fatal outcome cannot be ruled out in this case.