VOTING FOR A PIG IN A POKE
Novaya Gazeta, September 6, 2001, EV
Yevgeny Primakov’s official resignation as leader of the Fatherland – All Russia faction in the Duma didn’t create a sensation, even during the relative political lull of recent days. Three years ago, this politician was just about the only candidate to succeed Yeltsin as president; he was the only compromise candidate for prime minister after the crisis of August 1998, the only one capable of reconciling the left, the right, and the centrists; but now he has moved from a nominal leadership position to an ordinary Duma seat, attracting almost no attention.
The reason for such a quiet resignation seems obvious. This resignation, or rather dismissal, actually took place much earlier – in spring, when Fatherland – which had based its political fortunes on opposition to the Kremlin – was forced by changing political circumstances to submit to the Kremlin. And it didn’t even get around to informing the leader of its own Duma faction.
In itself, the merger of Fatherland and Unity could be grounds for legal action by some of the 14 million voters who voted for Primakov and against the Kremlin in December 1999 – only to discover, two years later, that their votes have brought yet another pro-Kremlin lobby group into the Kremlin, from which Primakov has preferred to distance himself, albeit in a politically correct manner.
Media commentary on Primakov’s resignation has focused on his political future, predicting various options – presidential envoy to the Middle East (logical, given the exacerbation of the situation there, and Primakov’s knowledge of the region) or ambassador to China (which sounds much less likely). But it seems that the resignation itself provides some food for thought. When we vote in favor of a certain option during elections, why is it possible for legal casuistry to use our votes to promote an entirely different option in the Duma? The law which guarantees voter rights, our rights, can’t be worth much if those who voted for Primakov will now have to watch Volodin guide his faction toward a merger with Unity.
BEHIND THE SCENES IN THE KREMLIN
Argumenty i Fakty, September 5, 2001, EV
Although Kremlin politics is no longer so noticeable from outside, it is still in full swing. The outwardly favorable position of Alexander Voloshin and Mikhail Kasianov continues to be seriously tested. At any rate, the pressure on President Putin from the security forces and ministries, and the so-called St. Petersburg team, isn’t letting up. The aims of this pressure remain the same: replacing these two central figures, Voloshin and Kasianov, who are both Yeltsin-era appointees. Rumor has it that even Governor Mikhail Prusak of the Novgorod region, of whom there has been much talk recently as a potential prime minister, is just a front for such figures as Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Auditing Commission chief Sergei Stepashin.
Boris Berezovsky is also attempting a return to power. In addition to his recent well-publicized actions, he is also making use of covert plans of action, just like in the old days. According to reports from military circles, Berezovsky may now be in Chechnya – meeting with Aslan Maskhadov and other Chechen separatist leaders. If this is true, he can only have one goal: preparing the ground for negotiations and returning to Russia as the person who has made peace in Chechnya possible.
BEREZOVSKY NEGOTIATING WITH THE KREMLIN?
Zavtra, September 6, 2001, p. 1
According to reports from Paris, Interpol has not received any materials accusing Boris Berezovsky or his companies of illegally taking money out of Russia – nothing that would make it possible to take legal action against them. Such documents have been expected to arrive at Interpol all summer, but they haven’t arrived. From this, our informants conclude that an intensive secret dialogue is underway between Berezovsky and the Kremlin; occasional quotes in the open media are just isolated fragments of that dialogue…
FEWER DISTRICTS – MORE FUNDING
Rossiiskie Vesti, September 5, 2001, p. 2
The Russian Armed Forces have suffered a serious loss: an entire military district has disappeared. The Urals and the Trans-Volga districts have merged.
Pessimists believe this is due to the increasing military threat from the direction of Central Asia, while cynics think it’s all because of the widely-promoted cuts to the defense bureaucracy. The truth lies somewhere in between. On the one hand, the Trans-Volga district is where the 201st motorized artillery division, deployed in Tajikistan, is trained and developed. On the other hand, the merger will result in over 1,500 officers being made redundant.
A BREAK WITH THE PAST, OR A BREAKTHROUGH INTO THE FUTURE?
Vek, September 7, 2001, EV
The destruction of the post-Yalta world order, which shaped events from 1945 to 1991, has become a reality.
In this context, it seems natural for the Foreign Ministry to declare that Moscow is now rejecting the Soviet Union’s views on the San Francisco agreement of September 8, 1951.
That agreement put an end to the state of war between Japan and most of the Allies. But Moscow – a full member of the coalition – refused to sign the agreement at the time. According to the Foreign Ministry’s statement, the USSR viewed this agreement as violating a number of its legal rights, as well as harming the interests of its allies. The focus was on the status of Taiwan, the Pescadores, the Parasels, and other islands.
Then-Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida stated that Tokyo was concerned about the territorial ownership of the Kuril Islands and South Sakhalin.
A curious situation is taking shape today. The problem of the Kuril Islands and South Sakhalin, until now a matter for dialogue between Russia and Japan, could take on a new context, being integrated with the problem of Taiwan. In proposing a revision of the San Francisco agreement, Russia could take the existing territorial disputes along its eastern borders onto a new level of discussion – involving the Allied powers who were the victors in World War II, as well as Japan and China. If a new agreement, resolving old problems, should replace the agreement of September 8, 1951, there will be hope for a real break with the difficult past. But this is likely take a number of years.
YELTSIN TO BE THE PATRON OF LIBERAL RUSSIA?
Demokratichesky Vybor, No. 35, September, 2001, p. 1
“Yushenkov didn’t make a slip of the tongue – we are seriously counting on Yeltsin’s return to politics,” confirms a source from the Liberal Russia party. On August 15, at a conference to mark the tenth anniversary of August 1991, Sergei Yushenkov declared that Boris Yeltsin should return to politics in order to correct his political mistakes. Representatives of Liberal Russia believe that only a politician who creates a “political foundation for his regime”, i.e. a party, can “go down in history”.
Without officially joining the party, Boris Yeltsin could become a political patron of Liberal Russia. This move would all the more reasonable since the state of the ex-president’s health does not permit him to be involved in party work on an ongoing basis.
According to the same circles, Yeltsin’s new choice could help to stir up those political figures of the “first wave of democracy” who personify the course of radical reforms. These include Yegor Gaidar, Gennadii Burbulis, S. Filatov, Yevgeny Yasin, and A. Nechaev.
ARIEL SHARON’S VISIT TO RUSSIA
Slovo, September 7, 2001, p. 2
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has visited Moscow.
Addressing Moscow’s Jewish community, the Israeli Prime Minister called on Russian Jews to move to Israel. He spoke of a million new immigrants. Many of those who move from Russia to Israel are settling on Palestinian and Syrian lands occupied by Israel, thus maintaining the occupation. This introduces an element of tension into Russia’s relations with other countries in the region. A side-effect of Sharon’s visit has been to postpone a visit by the Iranian defense minister.
There is much talk of the similarity in the positions of Russia and Israel on Islamic terrorism. But there is a certain difference: Russia is fighting Islamic terrorism on its own territory, in Chechnya; while Israel is not on its own territory, but on the occupied Arab lands.
Sharon’s visit to Moscow has definitely been of political benefit to Sharon. The question is whether there has been any benefit for Moscow. Maybe it would have been better to prolong the political pause in the current confusing situation, and distance Russia from events in the Middle East.
THE RADIOACTIVE CAPITAL CITY
Megapolis-Kontinent, September 7, 2001, p. 2
Over the last five years, around 80 sites of radioactive contamination (including food products) have been cleaned up each year in Moscow. Up to 90 tons of radioactive waste has been buried each year. In the near future these parameters will only increase, says Oleg Polsky, deputy general director for ecology and environmental protection at the Radon scientific-industrial enterprise.
This prediction is based plans to building a third ring road, as well as major housing complexes and administrative facilities. These will be on sites where moderately hazardous industrial and domestic waste is buried.
Polsky stressed that Moscow is the only city in the world with over a thousand industrial plants and organizations that use sources of ionizing radiation, radioactive materials and equipment. Until 1960 there was no system for controlling work with or disposal of radioactive materials, which led to considerable contamination of the city’s territory. Around 70% of “old” radioactive waste dumps are discovered as new buildings are constructed.
EPIDEMIC OF DEATH
Megapolis-Kontinent, September 7, 2001, p. 11
Drug addiction has become epidemic in Russia. Experts estimate that there are over two million regular drug users in this country. Statistics show that people start using drugs at an average age of 15 to 17.
More and more children take drugs for the first time at the age of 11 to 13; there are even some who discover drugs when they’re only four or six years old. These figures are based only on registered cases, and specialists say this is only the tip of the iceberg.
In his speech in the Duma, Deputy Public Health Minister Evgeny Detkov said that there are only 5,000 doctors in Russia who specialize in treating drug problems.
THE PRESIDENT TAKES THE WATERS
Kommersant, September 8, 2001, p. 2 EV
On September 7, President Putin met with regional leaders from the Southern federal district in Kislovodsk. President’s main promise was to attract investments to the North Caucasus in order the south of Russia should no longer be considered a zone of real risk.
The president arrived in Kislovodsk from Kabardino-Balkaria, which he left regretting that during his trip through the republic “he failed to visit all the towns an villages, or stop when passing handsome young men in felt cloaks and young women in ethnic dress”. A trip to calm Kabardino-Balkaria (the most recent unrest there happened in the mid-1990s) made a favorable impression on Putin. “A positive process is underway in some regions in the south of Russia,” commented Putin when opening the Kislovodsk meeting. According to Putin, other regions in the south of Russia could make as much progress if favorable conditions for investors are created. “This is a priority issue. Few have wanted to invest their money in this area so far, since the North Caucasus has been a high-risk zone. Now this is changed,” stated Putin. The president promised to make a personal effort with some potential investors; during his October meeting with representatives of the European Union in Brussels he intends to discuss the topic of developing infrastructure in the south of Russia, primarily in the transport industry.
Following the meeting at the Sosnovy Bor (Pine Forest) residence, the president talked with some regional leadrs from the Southern federal district. Putin said something pleasant to each regional leader who had a preliminary agreement for a meeting with the president. He promised Akhmad Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya, who has been asking the federal government to grant him at least some power, to place the law enforcement agencies under his command, though not immediately. Dagestani leader Magomedali Magomedov and President Alexander Dzasokhov of North Ossetia were given promises of support for sheep breeding and enterprises of the defense and electronic industries. Leader of Karachaevo-Cherkessia Vladimir Semenov and Krasnodar governor Alexander Tkachev were promised assistance in the development of tourism. Overall, the president promised to visit the south of Russia more often.