Negotiations to create a new Russian Federation subject by merging Krasnoyarsk Krai with the Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenetsk) and Evenk Autonomous Districts brought initial results on April 5, when Taimyr Governor Aleksandr Khloponin and Krasnoyarsk Krai Aleksandr Lebed signed an agreement on the possibility of creating a “coalition government” for their two regions. It is possible, however, that this will be the first and last such agreement, given that there are few signs that the merger process will continue (Russian agencies, April 5-6).
The idea of merging the regions is ascribed to President Vladimir Putin, who visited Krasnoyarsk in the middle of March and reportedly indicated to Lebed that Krasnoyarsk should merge with the two autonomous districts located on its territory. It is well known that Putin believes that the current number of Russian regions–eighty-nine–is an obstacle to centralizing power in the country and thus would like to reduce it. Krasnoyarsk is a good region to start with for such efforts, given that because of the peculiarities of Russian law, Taimyr and Evenk are formally and legally separate regions even though they are located, geographically speaking, within Krasnoyarsk Krai. The krai’s administration, meanwhile is in a battle with Taimyr’s for control over Norilsk, the giant Arctic industrial center (see the Monitor, April 2). The initiatives to amalgamate the three regions received initial rhetorical support from their three leaders, but the first attempt to start negotiations showed that possibly insurmountable contradictions are lurking beneath the surface.
Particularly troublesome was the position of Khloponin, who insisted that Taimyr’s status could only be discussed after Norilsk is transferred to Taimyr’s control. Norilsk is located on Taimyr’s territory but pays most of its taxes to the Krasnoyarsk authorities. During last week’s negotiations, Khloponin added new demands. First, he demanded that Norilsk’s budget be no less than 6.5 billion rubles (around US$216 million). Second, he demanded that Krasnoyarsk Krai and Taimyr sign a budget agreement giving the latter more than half of the payments made by the Norilsk Nickel metal works into the ecological and road funds and more than half the revenues from the tax on mineral wealth. Third, Khloponin demanded that Norilsk should be transferred to the Taimyr administration’s operational administration (Vremya Novostei, April 5). Khloponin’s demands would rob the krai of all its current advantages. If the krai administration does not give in to them, however, Khloponin has said he will ask the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to rule on the constitutionality of Norilsk’s subordination to Krasnoyarsk (Kommersant, April 5). For his part, Lebed tried to insist that all the conditions put forward by Khloponin had nothing to do with the problem that was being discussed, saying these conditions would either become irrelevant upon the territories’ merger or fall under federal jurisdiction (SMI.ru, April 5).
The Taimyr administration, however, does not hide the fact that it is not really interested in territorial amalgamation, but rather in resolving its economic problems. As some observers have noted, Khloponin formerly headed Norilsk Nickel and thus would prefer his administration, and not that of the krai, to receive the enterprise’s tax payments. As far as the geographical issue is concerned, Taimyr would prefer to break away from Krasnoyarsk altogether (Vesti.ru, SMI.ru, April 5).
A similar view is held by the leader of the Evenk Autonomous District, Boris Zolotarev, who was formerly a top manager with the Yukos oil company, which has a large project in the district to drill and pump oil. Zolotarev did not even participate in last week’s negotiations with the Krasnoyarsk administration, saying that there was no basis for Evenk’s merger with anyone. Like Khloponin, he denied knowing anything about Putin’s alleged support for the idea of such a merger (Polit.ru, April 4). Evenk will not be part of the planned “coalition inter-regional government” between Krasnoyarsk Krai and Taimyr.
TURKMENBASHI’S PURGE WIDENS AND DEEPENS.