Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 14, 2003, EV

The Duma has decided to put off consideration of the “future fate” of speaker Gennady Seleznev and deputy speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

At first it was planned that the draft resolutions on relieving Seleznev and Zhirinovsky of their posts would be considered on February 19 (the first draft was proposed by independent deputy Fedulov, the second by the Yabloko faction). However, after yesterday’s meeting of the Duma Council it became clear that the debate has been postponed indefinitely. According to Seleznev, Fedulov’s initiative is “purely a publicity stunt”, as if Fedulov decided that after the fight in the Duma he “can clean out everyone”. As for the Zhirinovsky case, it will wait until the Duma ethics commission finally determines whether Zhirinovsky used bad language on a certain tape, or if it was only everyone’s imagination.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 14, 2003, EV

Russia’s regional leaders are not having the best time right now. Following the cuts in their powers – of which they had once grabbed as much as they could carry – the federal government has now decided to cut their revenues as well.

It became clear after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that being a city mayor is far more profitable than being responsible for a whole region.

The Cabinet has resolved to clearly set out for each level of government a list of tax revenues it should collect, and a single standard for how much has to be transferred to the federal budget. In other words, the budgets of regional and municipal governments will now follow federal budget principles: spending will be specifically linked to revenues. Thus, regional leaders will no longer be able to appeal to the emotions of voters by promising to raise state-sector wages – it always turns out that they can’t afford the wage rises, of course. The federal government has frequently come to the rescue in such cases, but now the Finance Ministry has said “Enough.” In 2003, the Finance Ministry intends to revoke such a regional rescue decision, to the value of over 800 billion rubles.


Izvestia, February 14, 2003, p. 3 EV

On Wednesday and Thursday Alvaro Gil-Robles, Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, visited the interim camp based in Grozny and a refugee camp located in Ingushetia, met with the Chechen and Ingushetian leaders, military officers, and human rights activists.

This was the last visit to Chechnya by such a senior international official before the referendum on the Constitution, scheduled for March 23.

During the meeting at the Chechen election commission, the commissioner asked many questions. Abdul-Kirim Arsakhanov, chairman of the Chechen election commission, agreed that the situation in Chechnya fails to comply with European standards – but reminded Gil-Robles that voting in the federal presidential election and the Duma elections had been held in Chechnya under more difficult circumstances. At present, the initiative group for holding the referendum is conducting promotional activities. The people of Chechnya have no shortage of information. Arsakhanov assured Gil-Robles that copies of the draft constitution were delivered to Chechen refugee camps in Ingushetia as well.

The Council of Europe commissioner was concerned about issues of security. He is getting alarming reports about arrests and disappearances of people continuing in Chechnya. Akhmad Kadyrov said: “Adoption of the Constitution is required to ensure security.” The Chechen administration head requested the commissioner and all of Europe to assist in conducting the referendum, rather than hampering it.

Gil-Robles was interested in whether the prosecutor’s office was resolute in its investigation of cases related to violation of human rights. Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, special presidential envoy, informed the commissioner that joint working groups were formed from representatives of civilian administrations, the military command and the prosecutor’s office. To date, 1,163 cases have been instigated against abductions of about 1,700 people, Chechen Prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko said. In his words, clean-up operations are monitored by the prosecutor’s office and village elders. In this sphere, the people of Chechnya have no complaints, and the special operations are productive.