INTERNATIONAL AMNESTY PLANS TO CLEAR UP RADUEV’S DEATH
Inostranets, December 24, 2002, p. 3
The International Amnesty human right defending organization called on the Russian authorities to immediately carry out an independent investigation of the circumstances of Salman Raduev’s death and to publish its results. As is known, on December 14, Raduev was found dead in his prison cell where he was serving his life sentence. The appeal of the International Amnesty says, “Taking into account often tortures and cruel treatment of prisoners in the Russian punitive system, it is necessary to carry out an independent investigation of the exact circumstances of Salman Raduev’s death.”
ATHEISTS REQUIRE EDUCATION MINISTER TO RESIGN
Inostranets, December 24, 2002, p. 3
Alexander Schev, a member of the executive committee of the Moscow Atheistic Society (ATOM), said in this speech at the press conference in Moscow that ATOM intend to demand that Education Minister Vladimir Filippov should resign. According to Schev, the reason for the demand has been the recent letter of the education minister, which presented the preliminary plan for optional studying of the basic orthodox culture in Russian schools. According to Moscow atheists, this measure violates the Constitution which guarantees a secular education in the Russian Federation. According to the PRIMA information agency, ATOM has already sent several letters to President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Human Rights Commissioner Mironov – however, there has been no reply. In particular, they pointed at the interference of the Russian Orthodox Church into politics, the Armed Forces, the punitive structure, and other state structures, which contradicts the legislation on “freedom of conscience.”
THE LIST OF ENTRANCE RESTRICTIONS FOR FOREIGNERS TO BE EXTENDED
Inostranets, December 24, 2002, p. 5
A group of Russian human right defending organizations sent a letter to Czech President Vaclav Gavel, where they entirely approved of his refusal to issue an entrance visa to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko for this policy which violates human rights. At the same time, Russian human rights defenders suggested that other political leaders of the “same type” should also be deprived of entrance visas to other countries. They recommend that the Honor Court of European Politicians should be established, which would determine how much public statements and actions of statesmen and politicians “violate the basic human rights, launch xenophobia and national discord.” After a special investigation, the Honor Court will be able to appeal to EU Foreign Ministries against issuing entrance visas to such a statesman for a certain period of time. Russian human right protectors say the first Russian politicians who should not be issued visas is Ulyanovsk Governor Vladimir Shamanov.
DEPUTIES PROTECT THE MEDIA
Konservator, December 27, 2002, p. 5
Last Wednesday, the Duma passed in the second and the third readings the law on prolonging the privileged VAT for printed media until January 1, 2005. Deputies were unwilling to ruin newspapers and magazine whose services they actively use not only during elections. Mikhail Lesin, the Minister for Media and Television and Radio Broadcasts said in his interview with Interfax, “a political independence of the media is impossible without their economic independence.”
A media business representative said that both the former and the latter are principally impossible anyway.
POVERTY IS WORSE THAN A WAR
Novoye Vremya, December 29, 2002, p. 17
Looking back at 2002, many people recollect it as the year of disasters: the avalanche in the Caucasus, floods, and hurricanes at the Black Sea, and the terrorist act in Moscow.
Hostage-taking, hostage liberation, and the death of many people have greatly influenced Russians: only 16% of respondents say the terrorist act did not affect their emotional state; 52% of respondents say they have become concerned, and 32% of respondents say they “feel anxiety and fear”. As for the president’s actions for liberation of hostages, 70% of the population estimate their positively, and 21% of respondents are negative about them. Chechnya has turned into a languid disease, the situation “neither the war nor the peace” seems to be bothering none but Soldiers’ Mothers committees. The responds of late prove that the population ranges the Chechen war as an “average issue” for Russia: only 12% of respondents say it is the most serious problem; 14% of people say criminality is the greatest problem; 10% of respondents are concerned about the “unemployment threat”, and 29% of the population consider as the most serious issues poverty and the growth of prices.
The popularity rating of President Putin has increased over the past year even more: at the beginning of the year, 70% of the population were ready to immediately vote for him at the presidential election; at the end of the year, “85% of respondents estimated his activities positively and only 10% were negative about him.”
All sorts of disasters, crises, the authority’s inability to resolve them, and the corruption of officials make 39% of respondents say, “at present, our society is in a moral crisis”; 31% of people say “it rather is”, and only 19% of respondents say, “the moral crisis is not more serious than usual”.
Overall, people are cautiously optimistic about the passing year: 37% of respondents think, “the general economic situation has improved this year against the last year”; 21% of respondents say the general economic situation has worsened this year, and the majority of respondents, 40%, think the economic situation in the country has not changed.
NO PRODUCT DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT WITHOUT PUTIN!
Finansovaya Rossia, December 26, 2002, p. 4
In early December, head of the Duma budget committee Alexander Zhukov received a letter from western oil and gas companies with the request to pass the long-promised amendments to the Tax Code concerning product distribution agreements (PDA). Some western companies have already started working at Sakhalin; however, so far their investments have not had a distinct legal status, which raises their concerns. Last week, the Duma committee considered new governmental amendments which toughen the bill on PDA. According to governmental experts, PDA should be used only for difficult of access and unrewarding deposits. In these terms, the government proposed to make the list of deposits, where PDA privileges can be used, more precise until 2005. Hence, it will take the government two years to discuss the list of several dozens of deposits. If the deputies approve of the amendments in the second reading, the further development of Russian oil and gas deposits will become rather questionable. In particular, Exxon Mobil has invested $1 billion in the development of Sakhalin oil deposits and it is definitely unwilling to go away empty-handed or to wait for some more years for the decision. Apparently, the president will again have to interfere personally to resolve the painful issue.
POOR AND RICH RUSSIANS ON THE THRESHOLD OF 2003
Novaya Gazeta, December 26, 2002, p. 3
According to the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM), both entirely destitute and relatively rich Russians agree that currently the difference between the incomes of poor and rich Russians is extremely great. Nonetheless, according to recent polls, at present approximately 11% of entirely destitute Russians have an opportunity to increase their income – against 72% of rich people. Obviously, in the near future, the difference in incomes of poor and rich Russians will grow rather than decrease. According to a February poll, the same 11% of entirely destitute Russians had an opportunity to change their financial position, while the number of wealthy Russians who had such an opportunity was higher, 84%. Hence, the opportunities of poor and wealthy Russians will become equal in about ten years.
About 68% of wealthy Russians and only 33% of poor Russians think that the prosperity of a person mostly depends on him/herself rather than on the society. In February 2002, 69% of wealthy people and only 21% of poor people thought so.
The difference between the incomes of the poor and the rich keep growing; however, the viewpoints of poor and wealthy Russians are growing closer.