Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 27, 2002, EV

Yesterday’s Cabinet meeting did not get to hear from the Economic Development and Trade Ministry representatives who were to have presented a report on gas market deregulation. That issue was postponed indefinitely, because the departments concerned had not managed to coordinate the concept in time. Instead, some relatively harmless issues were considered: banking sector development, state regulation of foreign trade activities, and restoration of the infrastructure of the Southern federal district, destroyed by flooding earlier this year.

Everyone had been awaiting banking sector reforms this year, but the end of the year is nearly here and yet adjustments in that area have gone no further than talk. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov also complained that “unfortunately, the banking sector reforms have been somewhat delayed, as compared with economic reforms in general”; and “the banking sector still remains the bottleneck of the economy”. According to the prime minister, the government has been about two years late with the start of banking reforms, so the efforts made were not enough, although they have brought some positive results. On most indicators, the Russian banking sector has currently achieved a level only slightly surpassing the pre-crisis indicators of 1998. Meanwhile, Kasianov is convinced that the banking sector ought to become “a mechanism to ensure movement of capital, formation of investment flows, and crediting to the economy and private citizens”.

At its last meeting this year, the Cabinet did not miss an opportunity for self-promotion – promising to become more transparent to the public. The Cabinet approved a decree that obliges every executive government body in Russia to provide citizens with information about its activities in 65 categories. The prime minister said this would facilitate increased public confidence in the government and prevention of abuses on the part of individual officials.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 27, 2002, EV

The North Caucasus has seen the second replacement of a senior commander since the dismissal of General Troshev. Colonel-General Yevgeny Bolhovitin, chief of the North Caucasus Regional Administration (NCRA) of the Federal Border Service (FPS), has been relieved of his duties. He is being replaced by Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Valery Putov, 48.

We managed to find out that President Putin had signed the decree on relieving Bolkhovitin of his post as far back as on December 12, and there had been a subsequent internal order from the FPS Director. All that – without any official publicity. Announcing the staff shifts to the NCRA command was entrusted to Colonel-General Nikolai Reznichenko, Chief of the Main Staff. He did this in Stavropol, at a closed meeting of the NCRA command in mid-December. Making the information public was prohibited. Right after that, a commission from Moscow that had arrived with Reznichenko launched an inspection of the NCRA.

The FPS and NCRA press services claim that the dismissal of Bolhovitin was a routine event. He had served five years in this “hot” post, and his age (Bolkhovitin is 56) is another factor favoring a move to the capital.

Our sources do not rule out that the dismissal of Bolkhovitin is linked with the breakthrough attempt of Ruslan Gelaev’s band of Chechen gunmen from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge to Russia in summer this year. However, according to confidential information, the real reason is different – the unhealthy situation in the NCRA units. In August this year, two privates from the Nazarnovsky border guard detachment shot eight of their fellow border guards; and later, November 29, another eight servicemen died in an altercation at the temporary border guard post of Ptysh, run by the Cherkessky border guard detachment. The NCRA commander was dismissed on December 12.


Rossiiskaya Gazeta, December 27, 2002, EV

Yesterday Central Electoral Commission Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov summed up the results of elections across Russia in 2002. On the whole, his assessements were positive. In 2002, Russia saw elections of 14 regional leaders. Besides, there were elections for 17 regional legislatures.

Despite all the conflicts, all the regional elections were within the limits of law, and those who went beyond the limits were put in their proper place by the CEC, Alexander Veshnyakov said.

Veshnyakov denied the view that voter turnouts are falling. He quoted figures which showed that voter turnout for elections of regional leaders had been 40-86%: 40% in the Smolensk region and the highest result – 86% – for the elections of the president of Kabarda-Balkaria.

Veshnyakov said that the greatest conflicts had been registered at the elections in the Krasnoyarsk territory, Kalmykia, and St. Petersburg. However, it was possible to keep them within the limits of law, he said.

Veshnyakov reported that in 2003, apart from the Duma elections in December, there will be around 14-16 elections of regional leaders. Veshnyakov also spoke about the possibility of combining regional elections with the upcoming parliamentary election in 2003 and presidential election in March 2004. Perhaps there will be a presidential election in Chechnya in 2003, held simultaneously with the Duma elections; but this possibility is more likely to be theoretical, Veshnyakov said.

Veshnyakov emphasized that from January 1, 2003 all elections would be conducted in compliance with the new version of the law on the basic guarantees of citizens’ electoral rights.