Argumenty i Fakty, January 9, 2003, p. 2

The main objective of the Kremlin for the pre-election year is to weaken the Communist Party, which is likely to win up to 35% of Duma seats in the December elections. The authorities have two scenarios for this purpose. First, to convince voters that Boris Berezovsky’s money is being used to shape the Communist Party’s party lists. It is not very difficult, for Communist Party activists have suspiciously frequent contacts with tycoons and they seem to have barely any other financial sources. The second scenario is to involve the Agrarians and have them take away some Communist votes. Since Lapshin became the governor of the Altai region, the Agrarain Party has lacked a political leader who could organize their work against the Communists. Evidently, the choice has fallen on Agriculture Minister Gordeev.

Meanwhile, the Communists have seen some changes: at the latest plenum V. Kuptsov was dismissed from the real party leadership. He used to determine the ideology of the party, he was in charge of its coffers, and headed the organizational department. Now, Melnikov has all these positions. It is possible that Kuptsov is currently preparing some behind-the-scenes plots to challenge Gennady Zyuganov at the upcoming party congress in April: in particular, he may try to unseat Zyuganov and promote a new leader, such as Sergei Glazyev.


Argumenty i Fakty, January 9, 2003, p. 5

The number of compensation claims against the Moscow government by the victims of the theater hostage-taking is rising. According to the victims’ attorney Igor Tarunov, at present there are 38 claims for compensatory and material damages in the courts, to a total sum of $39,000,021. Nine more claims are being prepared to be submitted to the court. So far, the Moscow government has not reacted to the events. However, Tarunov believes that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s cabinet will lodge counter-claims against the organizers and financiers of the terrorist attack – though this would be possible only if the latter are found. According to many leading law experts, the compensation claims against the Moscow government have no chance of success. However, for many victims it is the only way of getting at least some money besides the 50,000 and 100,000 rubles the Moscow authorities have paid them. Privately-owned funds paid compensation to children only.


Argumenty i Fakty, January 9, 2003, p. 5

Duma centrists are planning to pass a law which will permit Cabinet members to combine their state office with membership of political parties.

According to Vyacheslv Volodin, leader of the Fatherland – All Russia Duma faction, the United Russia party hopes to have as its members such officials as Boris Gryzlov, Sergei Shoigu, Valentina Matvienko, Alexei Kudrin, and so on. As for Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, it would be strange if he remained “partyless” – as he heads the Supreme Council of United Russia. Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu is no stranger to that party either. As for other members of the Cabinet, United Russia seems to have not asked their opinion. At least, a spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minster Valentina Matvienko refused to comment on the prospect of her joining United Russia; so did a spokesperson for Alexei Kudrin.


Argumenty i Fakty, January 9, 2003, p. 5

Over 80 people died due to the terrorist attack on Government House in Grozny on December 27, 2002. Alla Vlazneva, former editor of the Argumenty i Fakty – North Caucasus newspaper and now a spokeswoman for Chechen Prime Minster Mikhail Babich, was wounded and is now in hospital. According to Defense Minster Sergei Ivanov, the names of those behind this terrorist attack are already known, but he has refused to reveal them. Sergei Babkin, head of the Chechen Federal Security Service, thinks suicide bombers from Ruslan Gelaev’s group were responsible. According to him, the bandits had prepared for the terrorist attack for several days. There are other theories as well: a blood feud, or an internal conflict within the Chechen government. According to Akhmad Kadyrov, one reason for the tragedy was insufficient security measures in the city. The Prosecutor General’s Office in the North Caucasus is investigating the case.