Yegor Stroev, speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, met yesterday with President Vladimir Putin. Following the meeting, Stroev quoted Putin as saying that neither he nor his administration had anything to due with the October 21 decision by the Kursk Oblast court to disqualify the oblast’s incumbent governor, Aleksandr Rutskoi, from participating in the October 22 gubernatorial election (Russian agencies, October 24). Rutskoi was thrown out of the race for allegedly failing to fully declare his property when he registered as a candidate and using his official position to campaign. The incumbent governor accused the Kremlin of being behind the decision to disqualify him and has protested the decision to the country’s Supreme Court. Rutskoi’s lawyer has also charged that the Kursk election itself was invalid because the final version of the law covering the election was different from a version of the law published in the local Kursk press (see the Monitor, October 23-24). According to some observers, there are legal grounds for overturning the Kursk election, particularly if residents of the oblast who voted early–that is, before the eleventh-hour court decision banning Rutskoi–mount a legal challenge, arguing that the court’s decision essentially overturned their vote for Rutskoi and thus violated their constitutional rights (Segodnya, October 25). Russian election law provides voters who are unable to go the polls on election day–including citizens abroad, disabled persons or those in remote areas–the means to vote earlier. Because none of the seven candidates who ran in the October 22 election in Kursk received more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election will be held. Aleksandr Mikhailov, the Communist candidate, won the most votes in the first round and is likely to win the run-off.
Putin’s denials notwithstanding, most Russian media believe the Kremlin did in fact intervene against Rutskoi, and there are also indications that it is now moving against another incumbent governor–or, more precisely, on behalf of one of his rivals. The Interfax news agency, quoting an unnamed source in the “law enforcement organs,” reported yesterday that Aleksandr Nazarov, governor of the Far North region of Chukotka, was summoned for questioned by the federal tax police “in connection with abusing [his] official position and taking actions connect with tax and financial law violations” (Russian agencies, October 24). According to a newspaper report, Nazarov is being investigated for illegally selling oil, selling a quota for the exploitation of “water bio-resources” (presumably meaning fishing, etcetera), tax evasion, the misuse of budget money and involvement in setting up a number of commercial enterprises in Moscow, including one which incurred costs of some US$1 million in building cottages for the governor and his entourage. Nazarov, a pro-Kremlin regional leader, is up for re-election on December 24 and, perhaps not coincidentally, an initiative group in Chukotka last week put forward the name of Roman Abramovich, the State Duma deputy representing that region who is better known as an influential Kremlin insider and oil magnate, as a candidate for the Chukotka governorship. A newspaper today suggested that the Kremlin initiated the investigation of Nazarov and speculated that the leaked details of his alleged misdeeds were part of a deliberate effort to undermine him (Segodnya, October 25).
The Chukotka regional government’s representative office in Moscow today confirmed that the tax police had summoned Nazarov, but only to answer questions concerning the activities of various businesses in Chukotka, not his own activities (Russian agencies, October 25).
MOSCOW LOOKS TO GET BACK IN THE GAME IN YUGOSLAVIA.