Izvestia, March 20, 2001, p. 4

At first, everybody from the president to the Central Election Commission to Duma deputies began enthusiastically drawing plans of party construction in the country. Vladimir Putin forwarded the draft law to the Duma in late February and the deputies adopted it in the first reading. The second reading was scheduled for March 7 but the Duma Council postponed it on the request of Committee Chairman Viktor Zorkaltsev (CPRF). Zorkaltsev said almost 1,000 amendments were forwarded to the Committee, almost 300 of them had been taken into account, but amendments continued pouring in.

A discussion was scheduled for March 22, but the Duma Council will not forward the draft law to the lower house of the parliament this week. According to Izvestia information, another postponement of the discussion (for mid-April now) will be proposed at the next Duma Council meeting. Experts doubt that the law will be adopted by late spring as well.

There is more to the pause than the multitude of amendments. In the first place, communists deputies are not exactly in a hurry to promote presidential draft laws in view of all the rumors on possible redistribution of portfolios in the lower house of parliament. Secondly, many deputies would like to hear the president’s annual address to the Federal Assembly first. There are rumors indicating that Putin will “forget” to mention the party reforms in his address. It will be taken as a signal that the president has changed his mind.


Vremya Novostei, March 19, 2001, p. 2

In the wake of the series of elections scheduled for 2003 and 2004, all laws pertaining to election will merge to form another code, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov says. He is of the opinion the code will be a serious improvement of the Russian electoral system.

For the time being, the existing system will be improved by way of amendments and defended by the establishment of a free election trust. In April and May the Central Electoral Commission will forward to the presidential administration a bunch of amendments to the laws on guaranteeing of electoral rights and on presidential and parliamentary elections. Veshnyakov assumes that they may be adopted by both houses of parliament in 2001.

The trust will probably be formed in 2001 too. Veshnyakov says it is needed to “to protect our electoral democracy from dirt and boost legal culture”.


Vremya Novostei, March 19, 2001, p. 2

Two draft laws on alternative service were discussed in the Duma last week. The law drafted by Eduard Vorobiov and Yuly Rybakov of the Union of Right Forces sets the duration of alternative service at 3 years and only eighteen months of service for conscripts with higher education. The project has a lot of enemies. Vasily Smirnov of the General Staff says the law will create “discrimination in military service and harm the state.”

Nobody knows what version of the law will be adopted. A compromise may be reached. Yet, even adopting the law in the first reading does not mean alternative service will be available soon. A draft law on alternative service was adopted in its first reading in 1994. The second discussion took place in 1998, and the Duma turned the draft law down.


Segodnia, March 19, 2001, p. 1

Participants of a meeting held at the Center of Strategic Studies discussed ways and means of handling the imminent shortage of manpower in the economy as a dramatic increase in the number of retirees and disabled people set in. Mikhail Dmitriyev, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, says redistribution of funds and social policy in themselves cannot raise birth rate, lower death rate, and attract competent immigrants.

Alexander Pochinok, Minister of Labor and Social Development, believes we should start battling the impending demographic crisis now and stop waiting for an economic boom.

Prevention of unnatural deaths is one such means, Pochinok says.

Pochinok: We have 80,000-90,000 of them a year. And some categories of death are typical of Russia alone: drowning under the influence of alcohol and getting poisoned by all sorts of liquors. It is possible to save all these lives.

It is possible to attract qualified immigrants into the country as well. Pochinok proposes simplifying the procedure for getting Russian citizenship for foreigners with diplomas. These days, it costs a bribe of $200-500…


Segodnya, March 19, 2001, p. 2

Question: What are the results drawn by the meeting?

Viktor Pokhmelkin: We adopted our Liberal Manifesto and the major provisions of the Charter. The latter specifies establishing single membership in the Union of Right Forces – all sub-organizations should self-disband by May 21. The party’s congress will be the supreme body. It will elect the Federal political Council of about 32 members. There will also be a Party Council comprising representatives of regional organizations. There will be one party chairman. Coordinators of major directions of party activities will become co-chairmen.

Question: There are rumors that battles for the post of chairman are underway. The Russia’s Democratic Choice is promoting your candidacy.

Pokhmelkin: Gaidar would have made the best chairman. But the Russia’s Democratic Choice will promote Gaidar and Pokhmelkin as coordinators. It will back up Nemtsov’s candidacy for chairman. Gaidar and Khakamada will probably become coordinators, they are prominent politicians with their own electorates. As for Sergei Kirienko’s New Force, it will probably join the Union of Right Forces. Kirienko’s own membership – provided he goes for it, that is – will improve our cooperation with the president.

Question: What does the Union of Right Forces think about its relations with the powers-that-be?

Pokhmelkin: The Union of Right Forces will inevitably end up becoming an opposition to the administration if and when the president abandon democratic institutions in favor of authoritarianism. Nemtsov suggested a code of behavior for Union of Right Forces leaders. If the Union becomes an opposition, all its members on state service or in companies controlled by the state should resign and quit the party. Many of the president’s actions contradict what he proclaims in his message. Deeds are what counts, and deeds are what we are going to take into account. This is a battle for the president. If we slam the door and become an opposition now, we will leave the president to our opponents.


Rossiya, March 19, 2001, p. 3

Gennadi Seleznev and Saddam Hussein made statements whose consequences cannot be gauged yet. Abolition of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council after the Iraqi-Kuwaiti war remains the major issue. Iraq suggests an interesting solution which will allow interested countries, Russia included, to formally lift the sanctions outside the UN’s decision.

According to Prime Minister of Iraq Tarik Aziz, the last ten years of anti-Iraqi sanctions preventing economic cooperation has cost Russia $30 billion.

That is why Russia, represented by Seleznev, was offered the role of “bulldozer to wreck the economic blockade”. Seleznev appears to have agreed. His status allows Seleznev to make bold statements like that. Essentially the fourth highest ranking state official in Russia, he is nevertheless not empowered to handle international matters.

Not so long ago Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met with Hussein and gave him a personal letter from Vladimir Putin. Ivanov did not make sharply-worded statements, even though his meeting with the Iraqi leader all but coincided with air-raids on Baghdad.