Debate - Opinion in English, Russia and Baltic States
Debate - Opinion in English
Tillbaka till Tonis hemsida
21 JUNE 2000 RUSSIA FEDERAL PROSECUTOR SEEKS TO OVERTURN PRIVATIZATION DEAL... The Office of the Prosecutor-General on 21 June filed suit in a bid to invalidate the privatization of part of Norilsk Nickel, a giant metals producer. According to Interfax, prosecutors are claiming that the shares were sold illegally to Interros head Vladimir Potanin and that the purpose of the suit is to "return the stake in Norilsk Nickel unlawfully obtained from the government." Potanin's Oneksimbank paid $170 million for 38 percent of the company's shares in 1997 as part of the controversial "loans-for-shares" scheme. Deputy Minister for Property Relations Sergei Molozhavyi said that the deal has already been considered by various courts and federal agencies, all of which confirmed the legality of the transaction. Following news of the legal action, shares in the company sunk 8.6 percent, while shares of all companies fell 4 percent, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 21 June. JAC ...AS OBSERVERS SUGGEST PUTIN HAS LAUNCHED NEW ATTACK ON OLIGARCHS Potanin was one of the 17 "oligarchs" who signed the appeal last week protesting the detention of Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii, and some members of Russia's political elite are wondering if the prosecutor-general's action is part of a broader government campaign against oligarchs. During his election campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised "to strip oligarchs of their proximity to power" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 29 February 2000). Head of the Russian Regions faction Oleg Morozov asked whether "a war has broken out between the authorities and Russian oligarchs?" An unidentified source at Interros hinted to the 21 June "Segodnya," which is owned by Media-MOST, that Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais might be the next "victim," since his name came immediately after Potanin's on the letter defending Gusinskii. "Kommersant- Daily," which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, warned that if this suit is followed by others, the consequences "will be catastrophic for all Russian businesses." JAC BEREZOVSKII CONTINUES TO CRITICIZE PUTIN... Addressing a conference of investors in Moscow on 20 June, business magnate Berezovskii praised President Putin's economic policies but suggested that "in the political sphere [Russia] is moving toward a rigid authoritarian system." He continued that Putin is "destroying the model of government developed by first President Boris Yeltsin." Berezovskii concluded that "the political reforms the authorities are now proposing are wrong, while the economic reforms it proposes are absolutely correct." Earlier this month, Berezovskii harshly criticized President Putin's proposed administrative reform of the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May and 2 June 2000). JAC ...AS HE PLACES MORE PERSONNEL AT ORT... Analysts continue to debate whether Berezovskii's recent criticisms are sufficient evidence of the rift between the oligarch and Putin. Meanwhile, on 20 June at a general meeting of shareholders of Russian Public Television (ORT), it was announced that Berezovskii's daughter, Yekaterina Berezovskaya and his protege, anchorman Sergei Dorenko, are new members of ORT's board of directors. JAC ...AND SUBJECTED TO IMPROMPTU GRILLING "The Moscow Times" reported on 21 June that during the question-and-answer period following Berezovskii's remarks, foreign businessmen posed angry questions, accusing him of running his businesses into the ground. One member of the audience asked, "Could you explain how it is every time you've been involved with a company, its capitalization has run down to zero?" Another wanted to know why there is a lack transparency in the structures of the companies in which Berezovskii has been involved. JAC DUTIES RESHUFFLED IN PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION Presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin has signed an order redistributing the duties of his deputies, Interfax reported on 20 June. Deputy chief of staff Dmitrii Medvedev will be responsible for overseeing Putin's schedule, which was previously the duty of another deputy, Igor Sechin. Sechin will now head the presidential office and submit decrees, instructions, and documents for Putin's approval. Vladislav Surkov has been put in charge of the strategic domestic policy department and relations with the State Duma, Federation Council, Central Election Commission, and Supreme Court. Dmitrii Kozak, as head of the main legal department, will be responsible for overseeing the adjustment of local laws to comply with the federal constitution. The status of first deputy head Igor Shabdurasulov remains unresolved because Putin has still not accepted his resignation. "Segodnya," which is owned by Media-MOST, suggested that Voloshin has lost some of his powers to his deputies as a result of the outcry over the arrest of Gusinskii. JAC GUSINSKII PINS BLAME ON PUTIN, NOT VOLOSHIN In an interview with his own NTV on 20 June, Media-MOST head Gusinskii said that he is "sure" that President Putin knew about the 11 May raid on Media-MOST headquarters and that he "is convinced that it is the president who made the decision" about his arrest. Gusinskii added that he thinks presidential chief of staff Voloshin learned of his arrest "from television reports, though this by no means relieves him of the responsibility for what happened." Asked about a schism in Russia's Jewish community, Gusinskii said that there is no split but "the authorities would like to have a convenient and controlling position in the Jewish communities" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 19 June 2000). JAC YABLOKO, SPS SIGN ACCORD JOINING FORCES State Duma deputy speakers Vladimir Lukin and Irina Khakamada have signed a preliminary agreement merging their respective groups, Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), Interfax reported on 21 June. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000). According to the agreement, the two groups will present a single list of candidates for the next State Duma election as well as jointly endorse candidates in local elections after 1 September 2000. The organizational-legal form of the new coalition will be resolved no later than December 2000, according to the agreement. In an interview with "Izvestiya" that day, Khakamada said the agreement was signed by the deputy speakers since Yabloko has only one leader and SPS has four, which, she said, could have caused a number of disagreements. JAC STUDENTS SAY FSB TRIED TO RECRUIT THEM TO SPY ON YABLOKO Two students at the Baltic State University have sent a letter to Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii saying that the Federal Security Service (FSB) sought to recruit them to spy on the activities of the political movement, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 20 June. Dmitrii Barkovskii and Konstantin Suzdal said that FSB officials called them into an office at the university late last month and questioned them about matters related to the St. Petersburg branch of Yabloko, for which the two students have worked. According to Barkovskii and Suzdal, the FSB agents were interested in, among other things, the source of Yabloko's election campaign funds and why the movement has so many young members. Yavlinskii, meanwhile, has sent a letter to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov requesting an investigation into the legality of the FSB's actions. Both the students' and Yavlinskii's letters are posted on Yabloko's website at http://www.yabloko.ru. JC FOREIGN TRADE SURPLUS SOARS Russia's foreign-trade surplus during the first four months of 2000 totaled $18.4 billion compared with $9.1 billion during the same period the previous year, Interfax reported on 20 June, citing the State Statistics Committee. Foreign-trade turnover totaled $44.9 billion from January to April, a 28.2 percent increase over last year. Exports swelled by 43.1 percent to total $31.6 billion. "Kommersant-Daily" on 21 June attributed the rise in exports mainly to growth in the price of raw materials on world markets. It also said the increase could be attributed to a much smaller extent to the increase in the volume of exports. JAC RANKS OF OFFICIAL UNEMPLOYED DIMINISH SLIGHTLY The number of unemployed people as of 1 June totaled 8.49 million, a decline of 1 percent compared with 1 May, according to the State Statistics Committee on 20 June. That figure represents a decline of 6.8 percent, compared with 1 June 1999. JAC NEW PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LEADER INAUGURATED... Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov traveled to Gudermes on 20 June where Russian presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Viktor Kazantsev presented him to local administrators. Several of those officials announced their resignations on the spot, saying they could not work with Kadyrov. In Moscow, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii admitted in an interview with the independent NTV that opposition to Kadyrov's appointment has precipitated "a crisis. And we have to deal with it as quickly as possible," Reuters reported. Kadyrov, for his part, again appealed to all Chechens to cooperate in the task of stabilization and reconstruction. He rejected proposals to relocate the administrative capital of Chechnya from Grozny to Gudermes (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 15, 14 April 2000). LF ...AS RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE IMPLICATED IN UNSANCTIONED OIL SALES "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 June suggested that outgoing Russian government representative in Chechnya Nikolai Koshman may have been behind the refusal of some local officials to cooperate with Kadyrov. The newspaper noted that tensions between the two men have been apparent for months and that Koshman himself had hoped to be named either temporary Chechen leader or at least deputy to Kazantsev. Koshman was passed over for the former position, however, because he had alienated not only the Chechen population but also the Russian military leadership. His future career is now in jeopardy following allegations by Rosneft spokesman Aleksandr Stepanenko on 20 June that he illegally sold Chechen oil in Ingushetia for far less than market prices, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 June. LF RUSSIA CLAIMS PROGRESS IN MISSILE TALKS WITH U.S. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov told reporters in Oslo on 21 June that he and his U.S counterpart, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, have made progress during two days of talks aimed at resolving differences over missile defense. He gave no further details. A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in the Norwegian capital said that the talks could be described as "open and constructive." He added that no statement on the meeting was planned. JC MOSCOW URGES CLOSER MILITARY TIES WITH BEIJING Meeting with top Chinese defense officials in Moscow on 20 June, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev called for greater cooperation between Moscow and Beijing in the military sphere, saying such ties are important not only for bilateral relations but also for international security, Interfax reported. The two sides also discussed U.S. plans to deploy its own limited national missile defense system, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry's international military cooperation department, added. According to AP, the Chinese delegation was led by Colonel General Xu Caihou of China's Central Military Commission. JC RUSSIA-NATO PARLIAMENTARY RELATIONS TO RESUME BEFORE FALL? Dmitrii Rogozin, chairman of the State Duma Committee for International Affairs and a member of the People's Deputy faction, has said he believes parliamentary-level relations between Russia and NATO could be resumed before the start of the lower house's fall session, Interfax reported on 20 June. Rogozin noted that the Duma will begin debating the issue on 27 June. Contacts between Moscow and the alliance at the ambassadorial level were restored earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 2000). JC
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