STEPASHIN VS CABINET
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 25, 2002, p. 3
“The executive power structure enjoy too much freedom in implementing the budget”, said Audit Bureau Chairman Sergei Stepashin during the Duma’s debate on the law “On implementation of the 2002 budget”. In extreme situations, the major financial document of the country “may be corrected and the actual implementation of the budget becomes legitimate only after that”, says Stepashin. This was Stepashin’s reaction to Premier Mikhail Kasianov’s attack last week during which the premier accused Stepashin of “attempts to dilute the government’s powers in the financial sphere” and strenuously objected to the idea of broadening the powers of the Audit Bureau.
Addressing lawmakers, Stepashin spoke of the necessity to toughen financial control over budget implementation and blamed the government of errors in the financial policy and failure to implement the presidential budget policy aired in his address.
Kasianov’s predecessor in the office of premier cited facts that were uncovered during the revision of the Cabinet’s implementation of the 2000 federal budget. The Audit Bureau unearthed cases of misuse of funds amounting to 1.1 billion rubles and cases of violation of 29 articles of the Budget Code.
Stepashin is confident that most violations are “of chronic nature”. As a result, macroeconomic parameters are forced down and this in turn results in artificial reduction of budget revenues and consequently expenditure. Stepashin is of the opinion that had the 2000 budget took into consideration the actual level of the GDP, budget tax revenues would have been higher by 215 billion.
AGRARIAN RUSSIA ORGANIZATION INAUGURATED
Gazeta, March 25, 2002, p. 2
The new organization is already known as a party of agrarian oligarchs (this is according to the hint that the organization was established as soon as large businesses began to develop interest in the sector). The yet unresolved matter of land is the only inhibiting factor. A draft law on the sale of land was forwarded to the Duma not so long ago, and battles over it promise to be fierce.
Some tension could be felt in the conference hall of the Hotel Balchug Kepinski as well. Entry was free, and rivals made use of it. Representatives of the Russian Agrarian Party deliberately slammed the doors during the session, for example, when one of the speakers said that peasants had been stealing and would go on stealing and that no private ownership was going to change that fact.
Essentially, Agrarian Russia is out to restrict the role of the Agricultural Ministry and its control over developments in the sector. It assumes that private ownership will regulate all matters.
The new organization will be headed by Alexander Fomin, Deputy Chairman of the Agrarian Committee of the Duma. The organization was mostly joined by representatives of private companies and joint-stock companies specializing in foodstuff manufacture.
Vremya Novostei, March 25, 2002, p. 1
Gennadi Seleznev does not intend to quit the Communist Party so as to retain his post of chairman of the lower house of parliament. “Membership in a political party should not be a pretext for resignation from the post of Duma chairman. It is ridiculous”, he said. Seleznev’s political enemies in the pro-presidential Alliance of the Four have however made advances that it is precisely his membership in the Communist Party that should serve as a reason for his resignation. Seleznev refuses to give up and threatens to “uncover those who ordered this campaign” for his resignation. “Somebody wants the Duma halted and transformed into a political body”, Seleznev said.
In fact, the matter will be decided in the Kremlin and not in the lower house of parliament. In the last two years the Kremlin did not have a single reason to be dissatisfied with the Duma chairman. On the contrary, Seleznev’s pointed loyalty to the Kremlin grated on the nerves of his radical party comrades. The Kremlin has not spoken in his defense yet but neither has it openly allied with the Alliance of the Four on the matter.
Sooner or later, the choice will have to be made. The choice will be difficult. By supporting Seleznev, the Kremlin will hurt its supporters. By backing the Alliance of the Four, it will jeopardise its relations with the left opposition. Along with everything else, a displacement of the chairman and an ensuing redistribution of positions of power in the lower house of parliament will inevitably paralyze the Duma, which is slated to adopt some vital laws in the very near future.
KRASNODAR IS READY TO CAST OUT IMMIGRANTS
Vremya Novostei, March 25, 2002, p. 3
This week, Krasnodar will adopt its own territorial law on immigration without waiting for the appearance of the federal one. The local law will make it possible to check the legitimacy of all immigrants and expel those that are not wanted. The conference chaired by Governor Alexander Tkachev last Wednesday approved of even more radical solutions. The governor himself promised to raise the fine for lack of registration to 6,000 rubles and his followers suggested the creation of filtration camps, where all immigrants would be sent prior to deportation. As far as official Krasnodar authorities are concerned, a filtration camp is just like a provisional center for immigrants as specified by the draft Federal Code on administrative violations, which is to come into effect on July 1.
Tkachev himself explains that a tough policy with regard to newcomers is needed to prevent a transformation of the Russian Kuban into another Kosovo. He is confident that the Kremlin understands it as well. “The president shares our views and has instructed me to act energetically”, he said. Presidential Press Secretary Aleksei Gromov was quoted as saying last Saturday that “Governor Tkachev regularly justifies his own decisions and initiatives by alleged instructions from Moscow”. “He did not receive any instruction of that sort”, Gromov emphasized. “Aware of the necessity to restore order in this area, the president intends to take into account the interests of the state and every Russian citizen and the need to observe their rights regardless of ethnic origin”, said Gromov.
ANOTHER SPY SCANDAL INVOLVING RUSSIA
Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 26, 2002, p. 2
According to The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Independent, a certain Jan Parr, 45, chief of a designer group with the BAE Systems, allegedly stole some classified documents on alleged orders from Russian secret services. The documents in question described the technology of board electronic equipment for aircraft of the latest generation.
Nothing is known about the grounds on which the British journalists saw “Moscow’s hand” in the matter. Investigation into the case is barely underway. The alleged spy faces the prospect of 14 years imprisonment for every one of the nine items on the bill of indictment.
ABKHAZIA BRACES ITSELF FOR A WAR
Izvestia, March 25, 2002, p. 2
The Kodor Gorge is viewed as one of the most probable routes of the hypothetical invasion of Georgian units and Chechen gunmen. Ruslan Gelayev’s gang used this route last October to penetrate Abkhazia. Tarba does not rule out the possibility that the Kodor Gorge may be chosen again.
“We expect active hostilities to begin in early April. Small units like assault battalions are used now”, Tarba said. “One of the options stipulates the use at first of units of the Georgian regular army currently trained by the Americans allegedly for operations in the Panki Gorge. Some reports indicate that Gelayev’s gang may join them. The major forces of the Georgian Defense Ministry, artillery and armored vehicles, will be the second echelon. Simultaneous strikes from the sea and via Zugdidi are not ruled out. In any case, the Kodor Gorge is the major location. I do not discount the possibility that these plans are currently drafted with the Americans’ help.”
The upper part of the Kodor Gorge is controlled by the Abkhazians and roamed by roving gangs of Georgian guerrillas.
The Gal district is another zone where tension never abates. It was in the Gal district that Georgian guerrillas initiated full-fledged hostilities in May 1998. Megrel Georgians used to live there before the war. In 1993, most of them fled to the Zugdidi district of Georgia.
Russia and Georgia, the states on which the future war and peace directly depend, were busy with politics alone all throughout last week. “Georgia is clearly out to prepare domestic and international public opinion for new attempts to solve the problem of Abkhazia by force”, the Russian Foreign Ministry has announced. Kakha Sikharulidze, official spokesman for the Georgian Foreign Ministry, maintains that Russian political circles have been deliberately aggravating tension over the developments in Abkhazia and Georgia. The scandal with abduction of four Russian peacekeepers released last week merely threw additional fat in the fire. According to official reports, 88 Russian peacekeepers have been killed in Abkhazia since 1994, and about 200 have sustained injuries of varying severity.