Russia’s Constitutional Court will tomorrow consider the complaint filed by Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, who was disqualified from competing in the oblast’s October 22 gubernatorial election. Rutskoi is demanding that that the results of the voting be nullified on the grounds that the decision to disqualify him, taken by the Kursk Oblast court, came less than twenty-four hours before the polls opened and thus grossly violated the law. He said yesterday that he is certain the Constitutional Court will rule in his favor (Kommersant, Russia agencies, October 31). The Kursk court justified its decision to disqualify Rutskoi on the basis of charges that he both did not fully reveal his property holding when registering as a candidate and had used his official post for campaigning. But whatever verdict the Constitutional Court renders, it is unlikely to affect the outcome of the Kursk elections. Indeed, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, head of the Central Election Commission, said yesterday that the run-off election for the Kursk governorship, set for November 5, will take place as scheduled, and that there was practically no chance that the result of the Kursk contest would be overturned, regardless of the Constitutional Court’s decision. According to Veshnyakov, the Constitutional Court will only be deciding on whether Rutskoi’s disqualification was legal, not on whether the Kursk election results should be nullified (NTV, October 31). While Veshnyakov’s legal reasoning here might seem overly subtle, what is clear is the fact that the federal authorities seem bent on making sure that Rutskoi’s disqualification is final. Indeed, even if the Constitutional Court finds in his favor tomorrow, he will certainly not have enough time to file a separate complaint protesting the results of the Kursk election before the November 5 run-off.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry branch in Kursk has been opening criminal investigations against Rutskoi and his allies in the oblast. Just four days before the first round of voting for governor, the police began an investigation into allegations that Rutskoi had privatized a five-room apartment using money from the oblast budget. This charge served as one of the reasons for his disqualification as a candidate. Following Rutskoi’s disqualification, police launched criminal investigations against two close associates of the incumbent governor–Yevgeny Ivanenkov, who heads the administration of Kursk’s Timsk district, and Aleksandr Koshkin, chairman of the oblast’s committee on the oil refining industry–involving the alleged misuse of credits and other charges. Other Rutskoi associates in Kursk have been mentioned in the charges, and his inner circle is reportedly in a state of panic (Kommersant, November 1).
Interestingly, Rutskoi seems to have bought President Vladimir Putin’s claims of innocence concerning the court decision disqualifying Rutskoi from participating in the Kursk contest. “I am 100 percent sure that Vladimir Putin had nothing at all to do with my removal from the elections,” Rutskoi said yesterday (Russian agencies, October 31). A newspaper this week published what it said was a secret Kremlin document listing which incumbent governors were to be forced out of upcoming races and the “legal” grounds for those disqualifications. The list, which was contained in a memo from Aleksandr Abramov, a deputy Kremlin administration chief, to Aleksandr Voloshin, Kremlin chief of staff, included Rutskoi. At the end of the memo, Abramov wrote: “For possible report to the President of the Russian Federation” (Novaya gazeta, October 30).
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