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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dmitry Medvedev's Quiet Influence

// His rise to power went almost unnoticed... Dec. 11, 2007 - Kommersant by Dmitry Butrin - Dmitry Medvedev participated in most of the big power struggles between 1999 and 2007 without becoming directly associated with them. He headed Gazprom after its management was wrested from Rem Vyakhirev and was involved in Gazprom's unsuccessful attempt to take over Rosneft. He settled television conflicts and defended former health minister Mikhail Zurabov from dismissal. His involvement in all those conflicts could practically be called nominal. In spite of the fact that he had a significant segment of the economy under his control by 2007, there were always doubts abut his influence. The speed with which Medvedev took the resources of state companies under control should have attracted attention in 2000. He worked less than a year in the governing agencies. as deputy head of the government office under Dmitry Kozak and then as deputy head of the presidential executive staff under Alexander Voloshin, when he was unexpectedly elected chairman of the board of Gazprom in June 2000. He had work experience on a board of directors already. In 1998, he was a member of the board of Ilim Pulp affiliates, but no one would have guessed that a specialist in civil law would replace Viktor Chernomyrdin as the chairman of the company he founded. In the next year, Medvedev calmly squeezed Vyakhirev our of the company's management board and he was replaced by Alexey Miller in May 2001. In February 2002, Medvedev gave the post of chairman of the board up to Vyakhirev, but he returned to his position in August of that year, making Vyakhirev his advisor. Medvedev was not a figurehead at Gazprom. It was in his office and under his management that negotiations were hole din the summer of 2001 with a consortium of investors, including George Soros and Ted Turner , that wanted to buy NTV from Vladimir Gusinsky who had already fled the country. The negotiations were unsuccessful. Force was used to solve the problem of NTV, which led to the television company's transition to the decisive control of Gazprom Media. In April 2001, Medvedev began working to liberalize the market for Gazprom stock. By the end of that year, the project was ready, although, in reality, liberalization, linking formerly divided markets for Gazprom stock in Russia and abroad, was approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 23, 2005. The delay was caused by the president's demand that the state share in Gazprom be increased to controlling. For that purpose, a 10.7-percent share in Gazprom was acquired by Rosneftegaz from the company's subsidiaries in June 2005. Medvedev, as an experienced corporate lawyer who had began building the corporate structure of Ilim Pulp in 1994, was involved in the nationalization of Gazprom and, apparently, the lobbying war over the privatization of Rosneft and in deciding the fate of YUKOS assets. The idea of merging Gazprom and Rosneft has not been attributed to Medvedev, he it was his professional duty, as head of the presidential executive staff beginning in September 2003, that is, when they began to dismantle YUKOS, to discuss the idea with Putin. The main opponent of Gazprom's take over of Rosneft was Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin, who was also Medvedev's deputy in the presidential executive staff. Medvedev's activities in the economy as chief of the presidential executive staff were non-public, and officially he began to manage state resources only after his appointment as first deputy prime minister in November 2005. In 2006, it became clear that the government would allot 110 billion rubles in 2006 and 260 billion rubles in 2007 to the four national projects that Medvedev would manage in his new status. As first deputy prime minister, Medvedev took formal control over other important sectors at the same time, from natural resources management and migration policy to relations between the government and the court system and the prosecutor and state policy in law enforcement. Medvedev almost never showed his influence in these areas. He suffered numerous defeats. In September, for instance, he was unable to prevent keep Zurabov as minister of health, although he publicly expressed doubt about replacing him. Medvedev won in the redistribution of power after the appointment of Viktor Zubkov as prime minister, receiving control over the Ministry of Regional Development, which is headed by Medvedev's first boss in the government Dmitry Kozak. But, as every other time, people doubted Medvedev's control over what was subordinate to him.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Observers Voted Against Russia

Dec. 04, 2007 - Kommersant - Russia’s parliamentary elections, where President Vladimir Putin’s party won a landslide victory, were unfair and failed to meet many standards and commitments of parliamentary elections, observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe said Monday when commenting on the State Duma elections. The evaluation was a political order, Russia’s Central Election Commission rebuffed. Led by Luc Van den Brande and Goran Lennmarker, the election observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and of the Parliamentary Assembly of OSCE and the Nordic Council’s parliamentarians met Monday morning to mull over the State Duma elections in Russia and elaborate a joint statement. The observers mentioned good organization of elections and technical improvement in their final evaluation. At the same time, they concluded that elections were not fair and undemocratic and “failed to meet many commitments and standards for democratic elections.” The observers were particularly agitated about the consolidation of government’s and political forces, i.e. by the office abuse. They were equally disappointed by a new election code that hindered political pluralism and by crackdown on the opposition coupled with the media coverage strongly in favor of United Russia. Leaders of the European Union have refrained from official comments so far. Russia’s election authority bluntly rejected the accusations. “Negative evaluation of the State Duma elections by Europe’s international observers is a political order,” said Igor Borisov from the Central Election Commission. “Political advisability dictated from over the ocean prevailed over the principles of objective and reasoned activities that should govern international observers.”

Russia Is Lavish in Bribes

Dec. 07, 2007 - Kommersant - Transparency International released yesterday its Global Corruption Barometer Survey based on the polls in 60 countries worldwide. Russia is in the middle of rating, somewhere close to Luxembourg, Malaysia, Turkey and Panama. Of interest is that, in addition to the police and courts, the Russians currently view educational and healthcare institutions as the most corrupt establishments in the country. “Unlike other countries, where bribing is the destiny of poor, the rich pay very much as well in Russia, giving bribes for more comfort life,” said Elena Panfilova, chief of Russia’s office of Transparency International. According to the survey, exactly the persons with high income prevailed amid the respondents saying they bribed officials of law enforcement bodies and educational institutions (40 percent and 19 percent respectively). “Moreover, this year, the educational and healthcare institutions have neared traditional leaders in corruption – the police and courts… Services to the population are still a grand problem. As a rule, the people pay not for the service itself but to get it, to execute the documents,” Panfilova pointed out. Another trend is the growing pessimism of the nation in respect of the battle against corruption. In 2007, 33 percent said the government was rather inefficient than efficient when opposing corruption vs. 22 percent in 2006. Some 40 percent were sure the corruption level would remain as high as today in the nearest three years. “Quite a few of respondents faced the bribes at least once and the feeling of resentment lasts all life,” commented Pavel Krasheninnikov, head of State Duma’s Committee for Legislation. “Roots of corruption are mostly in our heads. Going to doctors, teachers with a box of sweets is the custom of people rather than of bureaucrats.”

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