Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 50

Alfred Kokh’s election to represent Leningrad Oblast in the Federation Council is to be challenged in the courts (Russian agencies, March 5). Kokh, chairman of the board of directors of the Montes Auri investment fund, is better known as the former head of Gazprom-Media, which the Kremlin used last May to wrest control of the independent NTV television channel. As the Monitor reported one week ago, he has been nominated by the Leningrad regional assembly (legislature) to represent the oblast in the upper house of the Russian parliament. Now, however, his appointment has come under legal challenge. The protest has been lodged by a member of the assembly, Oleg Petrov, and by the oblast prosecutor’s office (Lenta.ru, March 5). It cites “procedural violations during the course of voting.” Specifically, Kokh is said not to have presented his income declaration in the proper form–the document was written in longhand. According to the plaintiffs, the secrecy of the ballot box was also violated. A court hearing is set to begin on March 13 (Polit.ru, March 7).

Suggestions that Kokh’s appointment would be challenged appeared immediately after the nomination was made (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 27). Observers drew parallels with the attempt to make former Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov a Federation Council member (see the Monitor, December 4, 2001). Deputy Petrov said he opposed Kokh’s appointment “not for the sake of [my] political career, but merely in order to determine whether or not the law was violated” (Vremya Novostei, March 7). Kokh himself responded simply, “Let him try,” and implied that there was a political subtext to Petrov’s challenge: “It appears that I do not suit certain people as a member of the Federation Council” (Izvestia, March 7). The attitude of the Federation Council to Kokh’s nomination is unclear. The upper house is due to confirm or reject the appointment on March 13, the same day that the court hearing is set to begin (Kommersant, March 7).

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