Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 6, 2003, EV

Yesterday, the Duma responded to our article titled “Zh… – a Symbol Of National Disgrace” (Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 4, 2003). The Yabloko faction made an attempt to dismiss Vladimir Zhirinovsky as deputy speaker of the Duma. Here are some extracts from the record of that Duma session:

Sergei Mitrokhin (Yabloko faction): In our opinion, Zhirinovsky has gone beyond being a symbol of Russia’s national disgrace. The whole world is laughing at Russia and its parliament. Because of such members, the Duma has come to resemble a den of criminals.

Vladimir Zhirinosvky: Mr. Mitrokhin, let’s leave the question of which of us is a foul-mouth to be decided in court and at demonstrations. We’ll go a long way, given that charlatans from certain agencies are illegally recording set-up situations on video. Mr. Mitrokhin, we could supply you with a lot of footage showing what you do in the restroom.

Gennady Seleznev (Duma speaker): I propose we do this by the book. I would make this request of the faction and those who are intending to draft a resolution: the Duma Council is meeting tomorrow. And we have nothing on paper, after all…

Sergei Ivanenko (Yabloko faction): The draft resolution is ready. It is with the Legal Department. It’s not necessary to deliberately drive this issue into a dead end.

Alexei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia): We are on the brink of a third world war! Why are we discussing the behavior of any individual members of parliament now?

The Duma has retained Zh… as a deputy speaker. Most members did not venture to offend Zh… – apparently out of concern that he might arrange for them to be videotaped in the toilet, as well as Mitrokhin. Our readers may draw their own conclusions from the vote on dismissing Zh…

Zh… received the unanimous support of the Fatherland – All Russia and Unity factions; this means the Kremlin does still have a “small need” for the “national disgrace”.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 6, 2003, EV

Alexander Veshnyakov, head of the Central Election Commission, has repeatedly pointed out that citizens break electoral laws because they know they are in no danger of going to jail as a result. But now the president has submitted to the Duma a bill adding some new, election-related articles to the Criminal and Administrative codes. The bill also establishes rules making it possible to shut down almost any media outlet while elections are underway.

It wouldn’t take much for this penalty to be imposed: two instances of violating campaign coverage regulations. The Central Election Commission or a regional election commission would have the right to demand that the public body which registered a print publication or licenses a broadcaster should take legal action against the media outlet in question, in order to suspend its operation. This means that the Media Ministry, for example – as the agency which registers newspapers – would simply be required to go to court. The court would then shut down the newspaper until elections are over. But what would become of the newspaper, with its valuable advertising contracts covering the pre-election weeks, days, or months?

It seems logical enough: law-breakers ought to be held accountable. Save for one aspect here: our electoral laws are very vague about what is defined as “campaign advertising” in the media. This could be interpreted as applying to coverage of a campaign rally, or a particular journalist’s personal preference for a certain politician…

Under the new laws, forging voter signatures will carry a penalty of up to six months imprisonment.


Izvestia, February 6, 2003, p. 1 EV

On February 5, President Vladimir Putin received General Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, in the Kremlin. Ever since the Soviet era, the Kremlin’s strategic partner has been India, the bitter enemy of Pakistan. But now Russia-Pakistan relations are seeing an obvious, if cautious, rapprochement: both countries are members of the international counter-terrorism coalition.

This is the first time in 30 years that the leaders of Russia and Pakistan have met in Moscow. Putin invited Musharraf to Moscow in June 2002, during a meeting in Almaty – a conference on cooperation and confidence-building measures in Asia. Putin tried to mediate between Pakistan and India, which were on the brink of war after Pakistani militants attacked the Indian Parliament.

The main items on the agenda for talks in the Kremlin were the Pakistan-India relationship, the situation around Iraq and Afghanistan, and countering drug trafficking. Putin and Musharraf also discussed issues related to countering international terrorism. In Putin’s view, relations between Moscow and Islamabad began to develop more actively after Pakistan joined the counter-terrorism coalition.

Putin said to Musharraf: “You are known not only as a successful military leader but also as a successful politician – one who is fairly tough, but who understands the processes taking place around the world and is capable of integrating his country into them. This is a good foundation for establishing economic as well as political relations between us.”

Musharraf described Putin as a “young and active” politician, stressing that the Russian leader enjoys “great popularity not only in his own country but around the world”. Then he added: “I have come not to turn over a new leaf in our relations, but to write a completely new book – one which could have two presidents as its co-authors.”

As a result of the talks, three agreements have been signed: a memorandum on cooperation between the diplomatic academies of the foreign ministries of Russia and Pakistan, an exchange program in the sphere of culture, science and technology for the governments in 2003-06, and a memorandum on cooperation between the ministries of internal affairs.