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MAY 8 - 14, 2000

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Vicious circle of deputy prime ministers
Sources say that the complicated intrigues going on for government posts will lead to a change in the government's structure. The main idea is to reduce the number of intermediate links between the prime minister and ministers, resulting in fewer deputy prime ministers. Two scenarios could take shape — no first deputy prime ministers at all, or a couple of first deputies and no other deputies. But dropping the deputies might not happen, for purely practical reasons. The plethora of first and other deputies may look absurd as a system, but it arose for protocol reasons. The problem was that many foreign delegations, according to protocol, could not be met by any official ranking lower than the first deputy prime minister, and under no circumstances lower than a simple deputy prime minister. Hence, in order to avoid making the deputy prime ministers’ job one of simply meeting endless delegations, it was decided to increase their number. That way, foreign visitors didn’t feel offended, and heads of government had more time to devote to their main tasks.

Always the same old faces
The makeup of the new government is obviously being kept a secret until the last moment. Plenty of people are saying that even Mikhail Kasyanov’s appointment as prime minister isn’t a sure-fire bet. As for his deputies, that’s a real hotbed of rumor. One of the more curious is the prospect of Communist Yury Maslyukov becoming a first deputy prime minister. It is said that Maslyukov, an old friend of international financial organizations from the not-so-distant time of the Primakov government, has been recommended to Kasyanov. Kasyanov, for his part, is trying a few roundabout maneuvers in these times of standoff between oligarchs and democrats. Through his team, Kasyanov reached an agreement with Maslyukov and put his name forward to his bosses as a possible compromise figure, rumors say. The story goes that, according to Kasyanov, Maslyukov is a sober-thinking and experienced official, and its also good that he is a Communist because it shows both respect and a willingness to enter into constructive dialogue with the opposition. That logic is clear but deceptive. For a start, Maslyukov’s experience as a negotiator with the West showed just how unfit for the job he was. Second, the appointment of Maslyukov — a former head of the state-planning monster Gosplan — at a time when Russia is becoming a market economy was criticized even in Yevgeny Primakov's time, so why resurrect it? Finally, it is not at all clear why a Communist is needed in Putin’s government, particularly when the election results gave him such a clear mandate — one certainly not requiring him to play footsie with the opposition.

Kasyanov’s development pie
On the subject of struggles for positions of power and influence, not only jobs are being fought over behind the scenes, but future financial flows and assets as well. The tastiest slices of pie are, of course, the natural monopolies, but they are in the hands of seasoned campaigners, people who will not let neophytes within a mile of their prizes. Hence, those wanting a piece of the action are looking to other pickings. The rumor mill is saying that none other than First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has spotted a nice little pie in the form of the Development Bank. He is said to be busy lobbying to get his man — perhaps Konstantin Merzlikin, one of his assistants — in place there, while also trying to make the pie grow fatter. The Development Bank is indeed a tasty morsel. The budget has earmarked 10 billion rubles for it. The bank has no structure and no clear mission. But in the White House, attempts are already under way to feed other financial flows into this murky bank — things like agricultural loans and so on.

with the show scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. at 33 sites throughout the city. Fireworks have a long tradition in Russia, starting with Peter the Great in the late 17th century but halted by 1917’s Great October Revolution. Firework displays were temporarily relaunched in 1943 to mark the World War II liberation of the cities of Orel and Belgorod. However, it wasn’t until 1967 that a fireworks unit was formed for commemorating national holidays and greeting foreign delegations. Today, the Fireworks Battery shoots its colorful rockets from a truck by setting off various-caliber sets of mortar cannons. The patterns of the firework bursts have varied over the years, and each has a name: the jubilee, the wreath, lightning, stars, Aurora’s salvo and the lights of victory. There are usually 20-30 salvos for the two official celebrations, Victory Day and the Feb. 23 Red Army Day holiday. The number of salvos has been exceeded only on Victory Day’s 50th anniversary and on the 60th anniversary of the U.S.S.R. in 1982. This year, however, there will be the usual 30 salvos. Besides the Victory and Red Army Day fireworks displays, there were some 12-13 other official pyrotechnic shows in Moscow in the past, said Igor Solovyov, an officer from the Fireworks Battery. Those events celebrated Russia’s military but were stopped by a presidential decree for financial reasons in the early 1990s. Officials would not divulge the cost of the Victory Day fireworks display. But whatever the costs, there will be 33 Moscow launching sites this year. Each site has two machines, except Vorobyovy

World War II veterans arrive in Moscow for the Victory Day celebrations. Key events will take place May 9, beginning with a parade at Red Square.

MAY 8 10 a.m.: Laying of wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Aleksandrovsky Sad. Noon: WWII Memorial on Poklonnaya Gora — a concert dedicated to the 35th anniversary of Moscow being named a hero-city. MAY 9 10 a.m.: Parade at Red Square 2 p.m.-10 p.m.: Teatralnaya Ploshchad and Gorky Park — meetings of veterans and musical concerts. Noon-10 p.m.: World War II Memorial on Poklonnaya Gora — concert. 3 p.m.-10 p.m.: Tverskaya Ulitsa — concert. 4 p.m.-10 p.m.: Red Square — concert. 10 p.m.: Fireworks throughout city.

Gory, in southwest Moscow, which has six to eight. Red Square uses anti-tank cannons from World War II to fire blank shots during the Victory Day Parade. The Fireworks Battery maintains 90 machines throughout the year. But the conscripts involved do not get out of the more tra-

ditional soldier duties, such as marching and working details, according to officers. Solovyov said the soldiers go through the usual army routine from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. "I would not call it an elite army unit," he added. Nevertheless, for conscripts, many taken from the provinces, serving in the battery is a welcome chance to see Moscow and do something different. "When my friends found out that I was in the Fireworks Battery, they said they wanted to be there, too," said conscript Alexander Antonov from Arzamas. Describing his first experience with a fireworks machine, he said he was frightened he would miss the right time for the shot. "At such an important occasion, you can’t have it go wrong and then do it again." The Fireworks Battery likes to distance itself from the frivolity of some commercial fireworks displays. "What we do is not a show that commercial pyrotechnicians do," said Solovyov. "Ours is more a tribute to commemorate important dates in our history."

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Matviyenko wants to serve abroad
With all the intrigues over government jobs and financial flows, the latest rumor concerning First Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko is almost touching. Matviyenko, in charge of social affairs in the government and almost a candidate in the St. Petersburg governor elections, is said to want to make room for others. Instead of government work, Matviyenko would like to once again serve her country abroad. Before joining the Primakov government, Matviyenko was Russian ambassador to Greece. This time, she would like something a bit more responsible — say, ambassador to one of the G-7 countries. Ekaterina Larina is the assistant editor of The Russia Journal. (E-mail Katya at

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