Russia 090313 Basic Political Developments

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Russian Cops Quiz Anti-Putin Protesters

10:22pm UK, Thursday March 12, 2009

Protesters in Moscow who demanded Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's resignation have been detained for police questioning.

Several dozen protesters marched down the capital's Mira Avenue chanting "Russia without Putin", "We need another Russia" and "Revolution".

They also burned a picture of President Dmitry Medvedev.

The protesters were carrying flags of writer Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov's United Civil Front.

But neither of the opposition party leaders took part in the march.

The gathering in Moscow was the largest of a handful of demonstrations across Russia.

Along with calls for Mr Putin to quit, the groups were criticising the government's response to the financial crisis.

Russia's small and disorganised opposition group hope to capitalise on social discontent, as the economic downturn deepens.

Activist Alexander Averin said the demonstrations were planned in secret to avoid a police crackdown.

Law forces regularly squash non-authorised protests by government opponents.

St. Petersburg "dissenters" hand anti-crisis demands to authorities
ST. PETERSBURG. March 12 (Interfax) - St. Petersburg "dissenters"

handed their anti-crisis demands to the city authorities during a

planned action on Thursday, the United Civic Front (UCF) said in a


"Five people, including representatives of the UCF, Oborona and

National Bolsheviks, took part in the action," the statement says.

An OMON police bus and several patrol cars were awaiting the

dissenters near Smolny, the statement says.

"Before the action, a UCF activist, Alexei Yemelyanov, was detained

and taken to the 76th police station. He was holding an 'anti-crisis

package' for St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko including

bread, salt and other staples," the UCF press service reports.

Nevertheless, the opposition did manage to hand over its address to


"It contains the opposition's demands: to cancel the sequestering

of social spending in the city budget, to freeze housing and communal

tariffs, and to ensure the freedom of assembly," the statement says.

Three participants in the action were detained by police.

No local officials could be immediately reached for comment.

Russian Agency May Monitor Officials’ Finances, Kommersant Says

By Maria Ermakova

March 13 (Bloomberg) -- Russia’s Financial Monitoring Agency may require banks to monitor officials’ finances to help fight money laundering, Kommersant reported.

The agency may require banks to monitor all financial operations, except for communal services and mobile phone payments, made by government officials, lawmakers, senators and their closest relatives, the newspaper said, citing Galina Bobrysheva, head of the agency’s monitoring service.

The agency may submit monitoring proposals to the government by the end of the first half, according to Kommersant. The government would have to approve amendments to the Russian law on money laundering to enable such monitoring, the newspaper said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Ermakova in Moscow at

Last Updated: March 13, 2009 01:43 EDT

Surprise Pick for Agriculture Minister

13 March 2009

By Maria Antonova / The Moscow Times

President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Yelena Skrynnik, the little-known head of equipment leasing company Rosagroleasing, as agriculture minister Thursday in a surprise decision praised by industry insiders.

Skrynnik, 47, who holds degrees in business management and medicine, will replace Alexei Gordeyev, who was nominated as governor of Voronezh last month after being minister for almost a decade.

She will be the third woman in the Cabinet and the first woman ever to head the Agriculture Ministry.

"You have been dealing with issues of rural areas and organizing agricultural production. I think you are doing this successfully," Medvedev told Skrynnik during a meeting at his Gorki residence outside Moscow, according to a transcript on the Kremlin's web site.

Skrynnik promised that the ministry would work "openly, clearly and effectively" and said she would meet with farmers during spring sowing in the fields.

Medvedev said he had known Skrynnik since he began overseeing the four national projects -- which include agriculture -- as a first deputy prime minister in late 2005.

Skrynnik became CEO of state-owned Rosagroleasing, which leases cattle, equipment and machinery to farmers, in 2001. She previously headed Rosleasing, an association of Russian leasing companies, and was one of the people who helped set up the leasing sector in Russia, according to an official biography provided by Rosagroleasing.

Last fall, she joined the Supreme Council of the United Russia party, which apparently was also caught off guard by Medvedev's announcement Thursday.

United Russia deputies rejected a motion by Communist Deputy Alexander Shirshov in the State Duma on Wednesday that an official request be sent to the government to appoint Skrynnik to the post.

Shirshov, who is not on the Duma's agriculture committee but has a -background in the industry, told The Moscow Times on Thursday that he did not know that Skrynnik would be appointed but he was pleased with Medvedev's decision.

He said the sector needed an urgent rescue, and Skrynnik was well acquainted with the issues. "We need a breakthrough right now, so we need a person with energy rather than a bureaucrat," he said.

Skrynnik is personally responsible for several successful decisions in the sector, including easing the imports of agriculture equipment, he said. "She has intuition, maybe because she is a woman, and women tend to do things that only intuition can explain," he said.

Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who heads United Russia's faction in the Duma, and senior party official Vyacheslav Volodin both applauded Skrynnik's appointment on Thursday.

Skrynnik also won praise from the Russian Grain Union. "Under her guidance, Rosagroleasing was built from scratch," said union vice president Alexander Korbut.

Appointing a businesswoman as minister is both unusual and symbolic, said Yevgeny Minchenko, an analyst with the Institute of Political Expertise. "This is the start of a trend of attracting business managers to the government," he said.

Medvedev recently unveiled a "Golden 100" list of people who might be recruited for government positions, but while it included many businesspeople, Skrynnik was not on it.

Still, she is considered to be in "Medvedev's orbit" because of her work with him while he oversaw the national projects, Minchenko said.

"In this way, the number of Medvedev's appointees is increasing, while the group under Igor Sechin's influence is shrinking," he said, referring to the current deputy prime minister who is believed to have wielded enormous influence during Vladimir Putin's presidency. Gordeyev was seen as being close to Sechin's group.

Liberal-minded Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko, who like Skrynnik is from Chelyabinsk, probably played a role in her appointment, said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank. "This would not have been done without Khristenko," he said, adding that Khristenko and Skrynnik are often seen together at official and nonofficial events.

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