An anecdote from the Soviet period comes to mind. A student answers a question about the periods in the country’s history: he says he knows a period before Peters the Great, a period of Peter’s reign, and a Dnepropetrovsk-ruled period. It is rather funny. Indeed, a great part of the influential officials during the period of Leonid Brezhnev’s chairmanship in the Soviet Union originated from the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk. Chairman of the State Security Committee Chebrikov, Internal Minister Schelokov, Chairman of the USSR’s Supreme Council Tikhonov and other officials were countrymen of Leonid Brezhnev. The period of Brezhnev’s chairmanship terminated lamentably, as we know.
Now, the anecdote can be supplemented with a fourth period, which is also connected with the name of Peter the Great and with the city of St.Petersburg. Almost all influential officials from President Putin’s team moved from St.Petersburg to Moscow. And the president cannot be blamed for the wish to make up a team of the people whose business qualities are known for him. It would be an absurd if he did it the other way around.
I have never examined any special influence of the geographic factor on human mental abilities, but when I visited St.Petersburg (Leningrad), I discovered that the ratio of clever/foolish people there did not differ from that in Moscow or any other place in Russia.
There is no doubt that many of the governmental officials promoted by President Putin, for example Internal Minister Boris Gryzlov and Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, serve to the benefit of Russia. But there are exceptions as well: when some team mates of the president cannot adequately treat their role in the state machinery and rush ahead of the president in the problems in which the president is hardly going to meddle himself.
Recently appointed Chairman of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov a day after his appointment spoke about an extension of the term of president. Millions of Russians were scared by the statement, because they remembered perfectly well the independent way of the ex-president in the treatment of the Constitution and of Russian laws. The people thought that it was the president’s idea merely conveyed by his countryman Sergey Mironov. However, President Putin’s immediate reaction to the statement put an end to the apprehensions and the idle gossip; he said that the Constitution would remain unchanged, as the basic law is unshakable for everyone, the president first of all.
Mironov’s statement seems to have caused more harm than good. Ex-chairman of the Federation Council Yegor Stroyev is famous for his prudence and serenity, and such actions were not in his manner. And he was to have become a good example for Sergey Mironov, but the newly-appointed chairman was rather impatient. A week after the first statement, another, more scandalous statement followed: the criminal case of military journalist Grigory Pasko. The journalist was convicted of espionage. The Chairman of the Federation Council has no doubts that Grigory Pasko was convicted groundlessly. In his interview to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, Mironov explained his position: “I met with Pasko’s attorney, and we discussed a change of the preventive punishment. Certainly, it is the court that is to pass a final verdict, but I think the journalist can be released until the decision is passed. Now, my lawyers are studying whether it will be possible for me to act as a guarantor in the problem.”
The touching care of Sergey Mironov is very astonishing, especially considering the fact that it is the Russian court and the Public Office of the Public Prosecutor that are to establish the guilt of Grigory Pasko, not the chairman of the Federation Council. By his demands to pass a decision in Pasko’s favor, Sergey Mironov openly exerts pressure on the judicial authorities. It looks like a step back on the way to the legal state that we are all heading for now. Such actions are beyond the jurisdiction of Sergey Mironov. And it is not clear why it was Pasko who was chosen for such close attention by Sergey Mironov. There are lots of people accused of different crimes and detained in jails, although their guilt has not been completely proved. And what is important here is that none of them gained such strong support from the authorities, including Sergey Mironov himself. At the same time, the guilt of these people is called into question by a majority of Russians. Certainly, hardly any rules exist for such long-term illegal detentions.
The press service of the Pacific Fleet’s security service thinks that such strong protection of the journalist Pasko is aimed at turning the criminal case into a political one. Intelligence officers say that it is well-known that when politics interferes with court affairs, justice vanishes.
Perhaps, unwillingly, Sergey Mironov has caused a dangerous precedent in the relations between the court and the authorities. A situation has been initiated in which a crowd, led by well-paid lawyers, gives judgements. The lawyers determine and impose their own understanding of Russia’s national interests. But such actions are to be prevented. That is why we should hope that the Federation Council will bring the chairman to reason.
Andrey Cherkasov PRAVDA.Ru Volgograd
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/01/21/35765.html