Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 108

Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov yesterday gave the chief prosecutors of Russia’s eighty-nine regions one month to bring the laws in their regions in line with federal law, and to take to court regional officials who refused to cooperate in doing so. Ustinov’s demarche came one day after the State Duma passed three bills introduced by President Vladimir Putin aimed at strengthening the federal government’s control over the region. One would allow the president to dismiss regional leaders and dissolve regional legislatures if a court finds that their actions violate federal law. The three bills were overwhelmingly approved in a first reading, but regional leaders are likely to try to amend them before they come up for a second reading in the Duma later this month. Federal prosecutors and judges in the regions, like officials with other federal agencies operating in the regions, have tended to fall under the sway of the regional governors: As a newspaper noted today, regional administrations tend to help out prosecutors “materially.” This is probably why Ustinov offered to send his deputies to the regions to “assist” the federal prosecutors in bringing regional law in line with federal law.

Ustinov’s task, however, will not be simple: For example, while federal prosecutors in the regions can be fired for not toeing the line, judges, who have a special status and immunity from criminal prosecution, cannot be removed. Thus the federal authorities will probably look to the Supreme Court to overrule judges in the regions, if need be. Ustinov also said yesterday that he would soon name prosecutors for the seven new federal districts recently established by presidential decree. These, of course, are likely to be far more obedient to the federal authorities (Russian agencies, June 1; Kommersant, Moscow Times, June 2).

Some observers say that the first targets of attack from the center are likely to be the national republics, including Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Bashkortostan, Komi, Kabardin-Balkaria, Tatarstan, Tuva and Yakutia, all of whose constitutions either claim sovereignty or supremacy over the Russian Federation constitution. Other republics on the black list include Kalmykia and Buratia, whose constitutions give their leaders the right to declare a state of emergency (Segodnya, June 2). There has been wide speculation that the Kremlin may soon move against Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev, whom Putin recently removed from the Russian armed forces (see the Monitor, June 1).