MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti)
Russian Technologies Refutes Serdyukov Appointment Rumor
The Russian media may have been hasty in reporting that former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has been offered a cozy post as adviser to the head of Russian Technologies. The state corporation has denied any knowledge of this.
“There are no documents or any other official papers regulating the status of Anatoly Serdyukov as adviser to the Director General or as an employee of the Russian Technologies State Corporation,” the statement reads. “Director General of Russian Technologies Sergei Chemezov has been on a business trip since November 13.”
“Therefore, information about the appointment of the former defense minister to Russian Technologies is not true,” Russian Technologies said.
Serdyukov’s previously reported appointment to Russian Technologies provoked many critical comments. In particular, Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Defense, said that the fate of the former minister should not be decided until after the investigation of the criminal case in connection with Oboronservice is over.
The ongoing scandals surrounding the Defense Ministry are related to military property. Searches have been held in the office of Yevgeniya Vasilyeva, former head of the Defense Ministry’s property department, who is suspected of selling ministry property at knock-down prices. Galina Syomina, head of the ministry’s housing department, is allegedly involved in fraud schemes aimed at cheating officers out of housing to which they are entitled.
Five criminal cases have been opened into the fraudulent sale of military property, land plots and stakes in the ministry-controlled Oboronservice. Damages are estimated at more than 3 billion rubles ($95 million).
Soon after the criminal cases were initiated, President Vladimir Putin dismissed Anatoly Serdyukov and appointed Moscow Region Governor Sergei Shoigu in his place.
Dagestan Suggests Renaming Republics
Kabardino-Balkaria may become the Elbrus Republic; Tatarstan may become the Kazan Republic.
Dagestan is planning an initiative to rename practically all republics within the Russian Federation, a source close to the regional government told Izvestia. Dagestani officials are against the republics being named after one of their ethnicities. The legislative council of the republic has the power to submit such a proposal to the State Duma.
“All the republics today are multiethnic, including the republics in the North Caucasus. It would be wrong to put one ethnic group and its name above the others. Other peoples might feel degraded. It also leads to ethnic inequality. For example, 53 percent of people are Kazan tatars in Tatarstan while the other 47 percent of the population feel like second-rate citizens who are only guests,” explained Abdul-Nasir Dibirov, Rector of the Dagestan Institute of Economics and Politics, and a supporter of the idea.
He says this initiative will not face any opposition.
“The problem of ethnic inequality is rather serious in some republics, for instance, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Circassia,” he notes.
Apparently, interethnic tensions could be done away with if the names were geography-related. Thus, Kabardino-Balkaria may be renamed the Elbrus Republic, Tatarstan the Kazan Republic and Bashkortostan the Ufa Republic.
“The ethnic names should be retained only if a republic plans to become a sovereign state. However, if a republic remains part of the Russian Federation, we should avoid the ethnic element,” Dibirov says.
Magomed Vakhayev, a representative of the Chechen Republic in the state Duma and member of United Russia, supports the renaming but says it would be wrong to return to Chechnya its old name, Ichkeria.
“There are many peoples in our republic aside from Chechens. We should allow every ethnicity to feel like rightful citizens without favoring only one,” Vakhayev says. “Ichkeria was coined when Dzhokhar Dudayev was president, but he had few supporters. Besides, it is not the best idea to name a republic after a gorge.”
Before 1914, the Russian Empire had no ethnic-related names on its map. There were the Yerevanskaya Province, Chernomorskaya Province, Sukhumsky District, Bakinsky Region, etc.
Karachayevo-Circassia is against the renaming though.
“Our country is big and it is quite normal for some areas to be named after ethnic groups,” parliament member Akhmat Erkenov says. “I think if each ethnicity is culturally autonomous, that should be enough for it to preserve its identity. In 2007, our president divided the republic into two regions to ease social tensions. I don’t think there is much point in renaming the republics. We should think about other ways to unite people.
Valery Tishkov, Director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, also thinks that renaming the republics is unnecessary.
“Firstly, we will have to change the Constitution, which should not be done unless absolutely necessary. Secondly, other countries also name autonomous regions after an ethnic group, such as in the Basque Country or Catalonia in Spain.
Ethnic Minorities in Russian North Standing in the Way of Mineral Extraction?
Russia’s Justice Ministry has suspended the work of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East (RAIPON) until April in order to remove the last obstacle to mineral resource extraction in the region.
Officially, the NGO’s charter is in conflict with federal laws. Environmental and human rights activists believe that the group representing 40 minorities has become a major thorn in the side of public-private partnerships seeking to control valuable local resources.
Although this organization pursues very moderate and reasonable policies compared with others it should probably have shown more loyalty to the Kremlin. The government’s concern is understandable: this NGO is a full member of the Arctic Council, the main body regulating cooperation between eight Arctic countries, including Russia, in the field of nature conservation and sustainable development, and a consultant to the UN Economic and Social Council.
RAIPON protects ethnic minorities’ rights by ensuring that the government fulfils its commitments, First Vice President Rodion Sulyandziga said. “We insist on the right to choose our own path of development in compliance with Russian and international laws. All basic rights of indigenous minorities have been removed from the federal legislation, such as priority access to bioresources or the indefinite use of land free of charge. The Regional Development Ministry is not doing its job accordingly,” he said.
He said that ethnic minorities are the last barrier standing in the way of the ongoing extensive industrialization of the region. The recent move was probably aimed at downplaying RAIPON’s status and triggered by RAIPON’s active involvement in a high-profile case – the hostile takeover of a jade mining operation in the Dylacha Evenk community in Buryatia by a Russian company headed by the chief of the local security service.
RAIPON representative Pavel Sulyandziga, a member of Russia’s Public Chamber and the UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, said that he made a statement at the Arctic NGO Forum in Sweden and delivered a letter to the senior officials of the Arctic Council. In his statement, he called the ministry’s decision a “repressive act” and “discriminative justice” and “gross interference” in RAIPON’s activities. The association condemned the decision and asked the Arctic Council to urge Russia to lift administrative and political pressure and stop abusing Northern, Siberian and Far Eastern ethnic minorities’ right to self-determination. These minorities’ leaders have prepared a joint statement to the Russian president.
Incidentally, the Federal Security Service chose this moment to institute an ethnic feud and high treason cases against Ivan Moiseyev, the leader of a movement to preserve the Pomor culture, whose activities “undermined Russia’s territorial integrity.”
The State Duma also rejected a bill requiring ethnological evaluation of new industrial projects. The construction of the Boguchany hydroelectric plant on the Angara River even skipped environmental appraisal. Corporations won’t waste money on exploring how their activities would impact the lives of local people.
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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.