A MOMENT OF TRUTH IN BERLIN
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, March 28, 2001, p. 1
A delegation of Russian parliament members are facing hard work. From March 27 to 29 they are to hold meetings with practically all the prominent German political figures, including the president, the chancellor, the chairmen of the Bundestag and Bundesrat, and also the leaders of the parliamentary opposition and many other politicians.
Although the official program of the visit gives no hints as to the content of the upcoming talks, we may assume with certainty that, apart from bilateral relationships, the sides will discuss the entire range of contemporary international problems, first of all the NATO expansion, Washington’s intention to deploy a national missile defense, the situation in the Balkans, and the Chechnya crisis.
The impending talks acquire special significance in the light of the new US administration’s attempts to use Cold War-era pressure methods against Russia. Later this week Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will arrive in the US with an official visit where he will told talks with President Bush.
To all appearances, during a meeting between Schroeder and Gennady Seleznev, the head of the Russian delegation, the sides will determine their approaches to this tendency. Incidentally, Moscow may well profit from the German chancellor’s visit to Washington – that will be a sort of moment of truth: the Russian Presidential Administration will have a chance to see for itself how much justified its hope for “special relationships” between President Putin and Schroeder is.
MAD MEAT COMES TO RUSSIA
Tribuna, March 28, 2001, p. 1
Despite Russian officials’ assurances that safe veterinary control on the state borders would prevent mad cow disease (BSE) and foot-and-mouth disease from spreading to Russia, a batch of meat from France has recently been found and confiscated in the Bryansk Region. The dangerous cargo was delivered to the town of Pochep for processing at a local meat-packing facility. The local veterinary service is currently inquiring as to how the French meat could have passed the borders and sanitary cordons of many states without accompanying documents or import permits.
One version is that large transit bases have been set up in Ukraine and Belarus for initial naturalization of forbidden meat. After that, meat is shipped to border regions of Russia via illegal channels and gets to markets of Moscow and other cities in the guise of home product.
Bryansk sources report an unprecedented inflow of “shuttle traders” from Belarus who sell cheap meat and sausages on the black market. The possibility cannot be excluded that smuggled meat gets imported from EU member nations. Local TV companies recommend residents to abstain from purchasing non-certified products on sidewalk markets uncontrolled by veterinary services.
FLOATING EXCHANGE RATE
Izvestia, March 28, 2001, p. 6
When delivering a speech at the international scientific methodological conference called “Modern Educational Technologies of Preparing Economic Specialists at Russian Universities”, Chairman of the Central Bank Viktor Gerashchenko made a number of noteworthy statements. Firstly, he assured the audience of the stability of the Russian ruble exchange rate, which allegedly won’t exceed 30 rubles per US dollar; secondly, he censored the first attempts to liberalize currency regulations. On the other hand, nobody doubts that the Central Bank will stick to its current policy of “floating ruble exchange rate” to the bitter end. As for the floating, inconsistent approach of the Russian power to currency regulation, it is lamentable.
On the one hand, the government is constantly declaring adherence to the liberal course of reforms. On the other hand, however, Gerashchenko now speaks against hat liberal course – and where? At a conference devoted to training of economic personnel!
PRESIDENT AND DUMA DEPUTIES AGREED TO CONSIDER THE LAWS ON COURT REFORM
Izvestia, March 28, 2001, p. 4
Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of the Duma factions agreed at one of the recent meetings that in April the Duma will consider the whole package of bills on the court reform.
In the course of the meeting it was learned that the deputy corps has no serious disagreements about the court reform: even ideological opponents Gennady Zyuganov and Boris Nemtsov were unanimous on this point.
According to Yevgeny Primakov, leader of the Fatherland – All Russia faction, after an additional development of the project, the Duma leadership will have to hold one more meeting concerning the bill on the court reform with the president.
The deputies were especially impressed by the figures announced at that meeting. According to Zyuganov, “In order to realize the whole importance of the topic, it should be remembered that last year over three million crimes were registered in the country; over eight million people were brought to courts.”
Leader of the working group for the court reform, Dmitry Kozak, also added that the president plans to introduce to the Duma the documents necessary for carrying out the reform, in several packages. The Arbitrary Code, the Civil-Code, and the laws on arbitrary courts and the prosecutor’s offices are top be introduced with the first package.
The second package is to contain the multiple amendments to the Criminal Code. The presidential administration predicts that by December this year, the Criminal Code will pass all three readings in the Duma.
FIRST FIVE YEARS OF THE UNION OF RUSSIA AND BELARUS
Izvestia, March 28, 2001, p. 2
Yesterday, the cabinet of ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus held a meeting in Minsk. The meeting was on the verge of the five-year anniversary of the Union. Both Russian and Belorussian prime ministers said at once that they planned to sign no agreements, and would be discussing some current issues, such as: unification of the tax and customs legislation. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov convinced the participants of the meeting: “We have a concrete program for creation of the union state, and it is being carried out”.
In October last year, Moscow agreed to spend $100 million on stabilization of the Belorussian currency, which is being constantly devaluated because of the high inflation rate. So the first $30 million installment was to be transferred at the end of the last year; however, so far the money has not been allocated. The Russian government states that Belarus has not fulfilled a number of conditions for receiving the credit. However, probably there is another explanation to the expectation position of Moscow. In summer there will be presidential elections in Belarus; and, judging by everything, Russia has not determined yet who to support. Moreover, the chances of Alexander Lukashenko to be elected for a second term are rather vague.
By the way, having signed an agreement with Russia on introduction of a joint monetary unit and a joint emission center, official Minsk refuses to accept the Central Bank of Russia in this position. The Belorussian parliament continues to dispute whether this would violate the constitution of the country. Recently, Petr Prokopovich, head of the Belorussian National Bank announced that the position of the National Bank is still the same: the Central Bank of Russia cannot be the only emission center.