Noisy protests have also been heard in Saratov Oblast, where go-getting Governor Dmitri Ayatskov is pushing ahead with plans to legalize prostitution in his region. Communists and nationalists have picketed the headquarters of the regional government to express their disgust at the move. Ayatskov is unrepentant. He says the move is necessary to give the regional authorities a means of controlling the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, that are afflicting the Urals region. The Monitor’s correspondent in Saratov reports, however, that though an alarming increase in the reported incidence of such diseases is indeed evident, the main cause seems to be an equally alarming increase in drug abuse and the use of shared needles. Our correspondent says local observers believe Ayatskov’s real aim is to earn money for regional coffers by finding a way of taxing the booming sex industry.
The Monitor’s correspondent also reports on another Ayatskov innovation: the standard of the Governor of Saratov. This is splendid white and red striped flag complete gold fringe and the regional crest along with the governor’s name. Ayatskov signed a decree on March 17 ordering the standard to fly over the governor’s residence and office and on his official motorcade. As far as can be ascertained, Ayatskov is the first Russian leader after President Yeltsin and the presidents of one or two of Russia’s ethnically based republics to dignify his post by the introduction of an official standard. He will probably not be the last.
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