Izvestia, March 13, 2002, p. 3

The full version of the documentary “An Assault on Russia”, made by French journalists, was screened yesterday at the Sakharov Museum, Moscow. Last week, Boris Berezovsky – who bought the rights for the Russian version – showed clips from this documentary in London. In Moscow, Duma deputy Sergey Yushenkov positioned the film as an evidence of special agencies’ involvement in terrorist acts of 1999. As was expected, there was no direct evidence in the film.

The entire fifty-minute documentary is based on television footage from various dates. The evidence was based on articles in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, and the Nezavisimoye Rassledovaniye (“Independent Investigation”) TV program that researched the Ryazan incident of 1999. “Were FSB officers really going to blow up that apartment building?” That’s what the documentary asks, and by manipulating the words of the parties concerned it prepares viewers emotionally for the necessary answer. No specific person gives the direct answer.

Sergei Yushenkov admits, however, that there is still no knowing who committed those crimes. The documentary is not a court verdict, it only raises some questions.


Izvestia, March 13, 2002, p. 4

Central Election Commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov came to the Duma yesterday to discuss with centrist deputies their radical initiatives for reforming the electoral system. The discussion turned out to be a series of important statements.

Results of the meeting will sadden many regional leaders: the president may gain extra powers this year to appoint regional leaders.

The president would be able to appoint acting governors if elections in a region are declared invalid – if voter turnout is less than 50%.

Local legislatures will cover the president, though. He will have to consult local parliaments and even gain consent of these parliaments to nominate any specific candidate. Besides, it is thought advisable to appoint acting governors for no longer than two years.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 13, 2002, p. 2

Sergei Dorenko, television personality and motorcycle rider, will now have to pay compensation to Captain Nikitin for running him over. The Kuntsevo court ordered the journalist yesterday to pay 20,000 rubles compensation.

In fact, Nikitin had asked for 300,000 rubles. This sum would cover treatment costs, damaged clothes, and stress. However, the court generally agreed with the captain’s claims, but still ordered Dorenko to pay a much more moderate sum.

In the words of Sergei Dorenko’s lawyer, he had expected the court would uphold the lawsuit only in part, since such large sums in compensation have not yet become accepted practice in Russian courts. The lawyer also noted he would not appeal against this decision, since he was working to appeal against the basic verdict previously handed down by the same court – four years imprisonment, suspended.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 13, 2002, p. 3

A court case has begun against Colonel General Oleinik, a former commander of the Defense Ministry Main administration for military budget and finance. The general is accused of abuse of power.

The story of this financial fraud has recently been quite popular. In 1996, the Defense Ministry transferred $450 million from the budget to accounts of the UES of Ukraine corporation. The grounds was supposed to be supplying building materials. Russia never received Ukrainian building materials, as the Auditing Commission finally noticed, if only two years later.

Georgy Oleinik was charged with abuse of power. However, the prosecution understood he was not the main initiator of the fraud. The Ministry of Finance had apportioned the money and deputy minister Andrei Vavilov had signed the document. The Main Military Prosecutor’s Office indicted him on a charge in May last year. After this, the Prosecutor General’s Office singled out his case in an individual procedure and safely closed it for absence of evidence. Oleinik’s lawyers demanded yesterday Vavilov’s case from the Prosecutor General’s Office, but the court sustained the motion. After this, the lawyers demanded challenge of the chairperson, Justice Colonel Vasily Vinokurov. In their view, he committed major errors in the defendant’s right to defense.


Rossiiskaya Gazeta, March 13, 2002, p. 2

The exchange rate reached 31 rubles to the dollar yesterday. This event coincided with the fact that after a long break, the Central Bank’s gold and hard currency reserves started to increase. This means the bank has started to spend less on supporting the ruble, having decided a slight decline will not harm it.

This decision is no coincidence, of course. Recent events, primarily introduction of high tariffs on imports of steel to the US, required Russia to take compensatory measures for its exporters. A fall in the ruble is always to their advantage. Weakening the ruble will also help to restrain imports somewhat, to level the foreign trade balance, which has been worsening recently.

The CB is unlikely to permit a rapid decline of the ruble. It will at least try to keep the exchange rate at the level of 32.5 rubles to the dollar, as planned in this year’s budget. If the trend of rising oil prices persists, this task will be easier. How far this process might go is hard to predict at present, since this depends on the actions of too many players.