Kommersant, November 24, 2001, p. 3 EV

Parliamentary hearings devoted to the start of the constitutional process in Chechnya were held on November 23. They were organized by the Duma commission for Chechnya, which tried to gather representatives of the federal executive and legislative branches, as well as the numerous authors of the new Chechen constitution, to initiate a constructive political dialogue.

All interested parties were invited to the hearings, such as staff from the administration of the presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, members of the Chechen administration and the Federation Council, and numerous authors of drafts of the new Chechen constitution who took up this job at Vladimir Putin’s request or on their own initiatives. However, as members of the commission have admitted, the start of the dialogue was not too successful. The administration of the presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, most authors of the drafts, Federal Inspector for Chechnya Bislan Gantamirov, and former Supreme Soviet speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov ignored the invitations. As a result, the assembly hall was filled with representatives of the Moscow Chechen diaspora, who attend all public events devoted to the issue of Chechnya.

The first reporter was Chairman of the Duma Commission for Chechnya Valentin Nikitin. He suggested that participants of the meeting more actively participate in the constitutional process. To begin with, they were to complete the questionnaire, in which they were to enumerate measures able to improve the situation in Chechnya and their probable terms. Among such measures were restoration of Chechen regional departments of the Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, Emergencies Ministry, Justice Ministry, and the Chechen Prosecutor’s Office. Other measures suggested were “liquidation of the basic gangs, terrorist leaders and groups; relocation of detachments of the Russian Defense Ministry,” adoption of the Chechen constitution, and elections of the parliament and president of the republic.

There was a rustle of papers in the hall. For a long while nobody wanted to be the second to speak. Finally Duma deputy Aslambek Aslakhanov elected as the representative of Chechnya came to the rostrum. He announced that he was tired of saying “only something bad” about Chechnya and said, “The independent republic of Chechnya will never be set up.” He suggested that all issues related to Chechnya be resolved by means of a referendum.

Chief of the Chechen Administration Ahmad Kadyrov spoke too. He said, “I’m the only one among academicians and professors who is eager to do good for the Chechen people. I fear to get to a helicopter. I know the way out in this situation. Let’s say ‘salam aleikum’ to each other. This will be the beginning of the regulation.” There was silence in the hall. Then it turned out that the Chechen chief was annoyed not with the disintegrated Chechen diaspora but the questionnaire. Kadyrov saw that it proposed to set up an agency for elaboration of the Chechen constitution. He exclaimed, “The constitution should be handled by those who have been told to do it by the president. I was told to do it, and there is a special council in Chechnya working on the constitution. There mustn’t be ten drafts of the constitution! Chechnya should be a presidential republic. It needs a strict government headed by an honest person.”

Nobody dared argue with the Chechen leader. Only after the break Duma deputy Vladimir Lysenko announced that Ahmad Kadyrov must not be entrusted with elaboration of the Chechen constitution because his document would not allegedly be respected by Chechens. He suggested that Vladimir Putin issue a decree on a special commission that will include both those loyal to the federal government and those warring against it for elaboration of the Chechen constitution.


Rossiiskaya Gazeta, November 24, 2001, p. 6

After a meeting of the State Commission for Chemical Disarmament, Sergei Kirienko, presidential envoy for the Trans-Volga federal district, told journalists: “Russia has managed to fulfill one of its commitments related to chemical disarmament before the deadline, which is of fundamental importance.” Russia has completed destruction of its third-category chemical weapons.

Furthermore, Russia intends to carry out its commitment to destroy warheads with chemical substances. For this purpose, the draft 2002 budget will double funding for destruction of chemical weapons of the first and second categories. “This figure is 12 times as high as it was in 2000.”

Special attention will be paid to security for the chemical warheads that are still stockpiled, as well as the processes of destroying the weapons. Sergei Kirienko said, “This is a key issue, especially in the light of those events that took place on September 11 in the US.”

Another important issue is information support for the process of chemical disarmament. In June, Kirienko stated that objective information about the process of chemical disarmament was not reaching the public. Now the situation is changing. Spending on information support should be increased by 35 times in 2002, i.e. up to 40 million rubles.

Kirienko has also suggested that the Auditing Commission and the General Prosecutor’s Office should carry out a full inspection of all facilities and programs connected with destruction of chemical weapons. “We want to know what problems we have inherited, and what is the current state of things in this field. The staff of the presidential envoys will join these inspections too.”


Izvestia (Moscow), November 24, 2001, p. 4

The constitutive congress of the United Social-Democratic Party of Russia will take place on November 24. For the sake of this event leaders of many minor leftist movements have been working toward a common platform, seeking compromises, and convincing their regional branches to make some concessions. This work has been underway for over a year. However, when only a few days were left before the congress, Alexei Podberezkin, Ivan Rybkin, and some other socialists announced their withdrawal from the process.

The Social-Democrats have arranged a rather lavish congress: they have invited 1,000 delegates, including guests from friendly parties in other countries. Konstantin Titov, one of the leaders of the new party, has announced that after the formation of the new party it will enter the Union of European Socialist Parties.

However, this lavish event may be all in vain. Although the party was initiated as a wide coalition of the moderate left, socialist, and social-democratic organizations, it has narrowed its scope. Alexei Podberezkin, leader of Spiritual Heritage, Ivan Rybkin, head of the Socialist Party of Russia, and Nina Zhukova from the Union of Realists have left the party even before its formation. As Podberezkin told us, one of the reasons for his withdrawal from the party was the change in its platform documents: their main theses have taken on an obvious right-liberal tinge. Another reason was the aspiration of Gorbachev and Titov to take over all the levers of administration in the party.

The third reason involves personal offense: despite the split, the organizers of the congress keep inviting delegates to it on behalf of the entire organization committee, including Rybkin, Podberezkin, and Zhukova.

If the new party has actually changed its ideology for a right-liberal one, its chances of winning the support of a more or less noticeable part of the Russian electorate have become even more remote. Although the gap between the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the left-centrists is not large, it is still vacant. At the same time, the new party is unlikely to occupy a niche on the right flank, since the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko rule there, and Unity joined them recently.


Novye Izvestia, November 24, 2001, p. 1

According to our sources, President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree which almost doubles the salaries of some categories of officials in the executive branch.

The Duma and the Federation Council once passed a law making ministers’ salaries equal to those of senators and deputies. This was back in the Yeltsin era, and Yeltsin was reputed to respect his ministers more than deputies. That is why the parliament passed this law. The Kremlin tried to convince Duma deputies that there is not a fixed scale of remuneration for a federal minister, since some of them have military ranks and receive special bonuses. On receiving this letter deputies “consented” not only to the ministers’ salaries but also to all the bonuses to them.

In 2002, the salary of Duma deputies and members of the Federation Council will be 16,000 rubles a month, and the bonuses will add up to almost the same. Thus, they will earn the equivalent of about $1,000 a month. This issue is most likely to be approved by the Duma Budget Committee and “registered” as a decision on indexing the salaries of senior federal officials in general.


Izvestia, November 24, 2001, p. 2

Russian President Vladimir Putin has requested Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu to extend the humanitarian presence of Russian ministries in Afghanistan. Russia intends to become a serious player in the post-crisis regulation of the situation in that country. We interviewed Sergei Shoigu on this topic.

Question: What is the situation with Russia’s humanitarian operation now, and what is planned for the near future?

Sergei Shoigu: We’ll continue the humanitarian operations. What is currently being done is obviously not enough. Let’s take the spheres of education and media. Over the past few years of Taliban rule, practically everything was destroyed. People don’t have TV sets or even radios in their homes. There have been no concerts, and musical instruments were simply destroyed. People were not allowed to see movies, and stadiums were used not for sport competitions but for public executions. Now everything requires restoration there.

Question: American experts on humanitarian operations state that currently, 300 Russian trucks with humanitarian aid are moving from the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan. The operation is funded by British charities. What other steps will be taken in this direction?

Shoigu: Several convoys travel from Osh via Horog to Faizabad every day. They are to deliver 16,000 tons of flour to Afghanistan, which the World Food Program has bought from Russia. We are also planning to deliver food via Tashkent and Termez.

Besides, we’ll deploy a humanitarian base in Kabul at the president’s request. It will include an operative group of the Emergencies Ministry and a Disaster Relief hospital with 30 beds. In the first phase we intend to send about 90 staff from the Emergencies Ministry and the Healthcare Ministry to Kabul. They will help the local residents get through the winter, working together with other humanitarian organizations. Later this group will receive other humanitarian supplies, such as tents, stoves, bedding, food, medicine, and so on.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 24, 2001, p. 2

On November 23, Duma deputies and government officials discussed likely methods of protecting the 2002 budget from the predicted undesirable consequences of the world energy crisis. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin visited the Duma again. He conducted a short meeting with leaders of Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, People’s Deputy, and Russian Regions. However, he refused to comment on results of this meeting when journalists asked him to.

Chairman of the Fatherland-All Russia faction Vyacheslav Volodin did not utter a formula of saving the 2002 budget but said that no budget expenditures “connected with concrete people” will be reduced. In case of a bad situation on world oil markets only investments and some other items of the budget will suffer. According to him, it is silly only to speak about the upcoming crisis without doing anything, for it is necessary to get ready for it. And the Duma was getting ready for a probable crisis on Friday.

Many deputies who have been expressing their concern about the upcoming crisis are at a loss about the Finance Ministry’s current panic in private talks. Others hint that they are aware of the true causes of the probable crisis. In their opinion, this panic was caused by the government’s desire to save part of the extra incomes of the budget. For this purpose ministers have to convince deputies that some budget expenditures may be considered optional. However, the government has failed to convince Duma deputies in it so far. That is why the wise from the Finance Ministry made up this upcoming crisis from which the 2002 budget should necessarily be saved. For this purpose it is necessary to give the government a free hand, i.e. let it decide by itself what to fund first, second, and last.


Rossiyskiye Vesti, November 22-27, 2001, p. 3

Rumor has it that certain security structures of the country are to be reformed. In particular, this concerns the Federal tax Police Service. The staff of the tax police is to be decreased by a quarter; moreover, the department is to be joined to the Finance Ministry in the form of department for tax security, but it will be subjected directly to the president. According to the rumor, the tax police will have to not only catch tax-evaders, but to also secretly watch officials of the Finance Ministry, the Ministry for Economic Development, and the Tax and Duties Ministry. On the other hand, the tax police will lose their military status, with all the following consequences. The same rumor has that the employees of almost all security structures will lose their military status, including the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the Emergency Ministry, the Customs, and the Foreign Intelligence Service. This means that people working there will lose some part of their privileges and proceeds, though as a result, their salaries are to be increased. At the same time, it is well known that the inflation rate can swallow any wage increase very quickly.

It is an open secret that the security services are the most powerful group supporting the president. However, after such a reform Putin is likely to automatically lose a considerable and weighty part of his supporters.

According to expert appraisals, the authors of the project are not representatives of security or any other special services.


Profil, November 19, 2001, p. 2

The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) asked Russians, “Do you think at present Russia has any enemies who might launch a war against us?”

The majority of respondents, 61%, are convinced that there are such enemies; 27% of respondents do not see any external threats to Russia; and 12% were unsure.

Those who believe there are foreign enemies named them: the US (13% of respondents), China (2%), Chechnya (6%), Afghanistan (19%), Britain (1%), Islamic countries (8%), Georgia (3%), and Pakistan (2%). It is interesting that in comparison with an analogous poll of 1997, the number of those who consider the US an enemy decreased three times (13% against 32%), China – almost eight times (2% against 17%), while the number of Afghanistan “voters” grew from 6% in 1997 to 19% in 2001.

So who are the allies of Russia, according to Russians? The respondents were not offered any list of countries: the US – 14%, Belarus – 9%, Germany – 4%, Ukraine – 3%, France – 3%, India – 2%, Yugoslavia – 1%.

FOM also asked a separate question concerning the relations between Russia and the US, “Are we friends or enemies?” In early 2001 the majority of Russians considered the US an unfriendly towards Russia country. However, after September 11 events, more and more Russians have to change their standpoint on this: at present 43% of respondents consider the US to be a friendly power, and the same amount of Russians disagree with them; 14% of respondents are unsure about their opinion.


Patriot, November 20, 2001, p. 3

Apparently, under the influence of Tsaritsyno pogrom, the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) held a poll on the topic of “Russia for Russians”. The results of the poll are very revealing: 16% of respondents support this idea and believe it is high time to implement it. Another 42% of respondents suppose it would be good to realize the idea, but within reasonable limits. Overall, it is about 60%…. In August 1998 the numbers of Russians who shared this standpoint were 15% and 31% respectively. Simultaneously, the number of supports of the opposite position has decreased: 20% of respondents said they are “against – it is a real Fascism” (against 32% in 1998).


Zavtra, November 22, 2001, p. 1

According to confidential sources, significant changes are to take place in the Kremlin “top strata”: the Family and Chubais’s groupings are to make a peace deal. The first sign of the truce was the coordinated promotion of Alexander Mamut to the position of head of Rosbank. Former head of the bank Sergei Prokhorov is expected to be “transferred” to Norilsk Nickel in order to fully support A. Khloponin during the regional gubernatorial election with the prospect of further promotion of the latter during the 2004 presidential elections.