THE HIERARCHY OF POWER AND THE LETTER OF THE LAW
Trud-7, April 18, 2002, p. 2
The Constitutional Court recently confirmed that the president has the power to dismiss regional leaders, and the federal government has the power to disband regional legislatures. Besides, the court recognized the power of the head of state to suspend regional leaders if they are charged with a major crime.
This has settled the debate over whether a number of provisions in the federal law on regional executive and legislative branches of government are constitutional.
SHALL WE DO WITH 200 WORDS?
Trud-7, April 18, 2002, p. 3
Problems of the Russian language and language policy were discussed on Wednesday during a forum at the St. Petersburg State University. Apart from professional language specialists, the forum was attended by Education Minister Vladimir Fillipov and Ludmila Putina, the president’s wife, who has a degree in languages.
One of main topics discussed at the forum was language reforma. The Academy of Sciences has been working for years on new spelling rules, simpler than the present ones.
Some forum participants suggested following the example of the French and imposing fines for “corrupting the language”.
There was also another proposal from university chancellor Ludmila Verbitskaya, philologist: “We could introduce a sort of ‘basic language test’ for those who seek to become state officials or members of parliament. Those who pass would be permitted to work, those who fail would be sent away to study.”
Dr. Verbitskaya has been working on a special glossary for several years, in which she groups words and terms most frequently used by members of parliament and civil servants (800 terms in all), indicating the correct accents, and explaining how they should be pronounced. She recently submitted the glossary to a Moscow publishing house, and the first sample has already been issued. She presented it to the education minister on Wednesday. He accepted the gift and promised to “cut down” the glossary a little, saying: “There should be two hundred or so words, otherwise Duma deputies will not be able to memorize them all.” The minister also promised to personally deliver the glossary to his fellow ministers and Duma deputies.
Ludmila Putina supported the initiatives of Dr. Verbitskaya and expressed her point of view.
“Launching reforms now would amount to nothing but an intrigue, a very untimely idea,” she said. In her view, the language ought to be preserved, not reformed. This objective is more important now, she said.
GREF DEFENDS STEEL AND WINS
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, April 18, 2002, p. 3
Economic Development Minister Herman Gref’s talks on Russian steel exports ended in a good mood all round. The United States is prepared to recompense the losses Russian steel producers suffered from the prohibitive duties imposed on steel. The US is drastically increasing its quotas for those types of Russian steel products for which tariffs are minimal.
This primarily applies to blocks of unprocessed metal which are not produced in the US. The US produces steel plate, and imports of this are restricted. Russia gained 25% of the quotas intended for all countries and a special quota for 200,000 tons, as soon as this year. Gref called this decision “unprecedented”. It will save our steel companies from ruin and provide thousands of workers with jobs.
No doubt, the success in the talks with Americans is a step forward, although it apparently does not remove all obstacles. What’s alarming is that Russia has to supply the US with unprocessed metal. However, the first step is always the hardest.
RUSSIAN TRADE DELEGATION IN CHINA
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, April 18, 2002, p. 7
A trade delegation headed by leaders of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE) has started its visit to China this week.
Before the visit of the Russian business leaders, the Chinese ambassador to Russia stated that 2001 had set a new record in Russian-Chinese relations. Bilateral trade turnover reached $10.67 billion, up by a third on the previous year’s figures. Thus, relations have reached a qualitatively new level.
Results of the work of Russian-Chinese sub-committee on communications and IT also support this. The main result here was the unification of the efforts of Rostelecom and China Telecom in the battle for the international transit market. The operator companies signed an agreement on settlement rates for international telecommunication through common networks.
Aleksei Shubin, deputy head of the Duma information policy committee, thinks that Rostelecom’s breakthrough into the international transit market is a great geopolitical success for Russia. “This opens a window to South-East Asia, something we have long been striving for. This event is on a par with Gazprom’s Blue Flow project or setting up the North-South international transport corridor.”
DUMA DEPUTIES WANT TO BAN CATHOLIC DIOCESES
Izvestia, April 18, 2002, p. 2
It has been proposed that the Duma should request the Justice Ministry and its territorial branches to take legal cation ban the activity of the newly-created dioceses of the Catholic Church in Russia. In February, Pope John Paul II raised the status of administrative structures of the Catholic Church in Russia to the diocesan level. The dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican continues. At times, politicians take part in the argument. This time, some Duma members are accusing the Vatican of deliberately promoting Japan’s territorial claims against Russia: “Arbitrarily changing place names on maps of South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.” The matter involves the web site of the Catholic Church, where the Kuril Islands and the southern part of Sakhalin are marked as the “Karafuto prefecture”. On the website’s map of Russia, these territories are highlighted in a different color, as if they were not part of the Far East federal district of Russia. Duma deputies say this represents a threat to the integrity of the nation, and a reason to seek a ban – even though the dioceses do not yet legally exist.
“We have never registered Catholic dioceses, nor received requests for registration,” says Victor Korolev, a deputy department head at the Justice Ministry. “Two Catholic administrations are officially operating in Russia, based in Moscow and Novosibirsk.”