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BBC Monitoring
Most Russian politicians positive about Putin's three years of presidency
Source: Gazeta.ru web site, Moscow, in Russian 7 May 03

A number of senior Russian politicians have been considering the impact of Vladimir Putin's first three years as president. Quoted on the Gazeta.ru web site, Union of Right Forces leader Boris Nemtsov said Putin had done a lot for Russia's statehood by introducing changes to the tax system and achieving progress in judicial reform. Liberal Russia leader Viktor Pokhmelkin praised Putin for his reluctance "to turn the country back" while Gennadiy Gudkov of the People's Deputy group said Putin had managed to preserve the integrity of the state. Only Yabloko leader Sergey Mitrokhin complained that the president remained a hostage to the oligarchic system and had failed to turn Russia into a modern and competitive state. The following is an excerpt from report by Russian Gazeta.ru web site on 7 May

Nobody would have remembered the third anniversary of Vladimir Putin's inauguration if Marching Together had not woven a rug depicting him... Everyone learned of the existence of Marching Together two years ago when a crowd of adolescents in Vladimir Putin T-shirts gathered on Vasilyevskiy Spusk [at the edge of Red Square]. Since that time they have marked inauguration day every year...

In St Petersburg Marching Together decided to present Putin with a rug they had woven themselves: They made it in the Oriental style, depicting the president and his actions for the country's good.

Russian politicians turned out not to be ready for any such exploits in the name of the president although almost all the deputies and experts whom we polled assess the three years satisfactorily.

"It is interesting," SPS [Union of Right Forces] leader Boris Nemtsov told Gazeta.ru. "Marching Together is funded entirely by the Kremlin and they give Putin gifts out of that money. There is no need to comment: Bootlickers and hypocrites have never been held in honour in our country. As for the third anniversary, early Putin, from 1999, did a lot for Russia's statehood: changes to the tax system, important progress in judicial reform. But today under Putin the reforms are being sabotaged. The sabotage of military reform was the height of idiocy.

"We do not support this stagnation and we believe that the president is now hostage to the secret service and the military bureaucracy.

"He has not yet succeeded in drawing on society's healthy forces. Maybe he lacks both the spirit and the will. But a high popularity rating does not do anything for the public, it is time to convert it into concrete action. Only the warm breath of opposition can make the authorities work."

Deputies who support the president are also against giving Putin rugs.

"Rugs take years to weave," Gennadiy Gudkov, member of the People's Deputy group, told Gazeta.ru. "If Marching Together are such experienced weavers, the rug should immediately be given to the Tretyakov Gallery, to the tapestry and carpet department.

"As for Putin's three years of rule, I consider them a success. First, the integrity of the state has been preserved. Second, a serious reform of legislation is in progress and there is evidence of growth on the domestic market and growth, admittedly slow growth, in the population's prosperity. On the minus side, there is the president's imbalanced team. Some of his entourage compromise him."

"Three years after his inauguration the president remains a hostage to the oligarchic system," Sergey Mitrokhin, one of the Yabloko leaders and seemingly the only person who is displeased with Putin, took up the theme. "He has done nothing for reform or the transition to a modern, competitive state in the world. But toadying to the president has increased markedly. I have observed this both in the president's apparatus and in society. I do not think three years of rule is a reason for gifts.

"The toadies will immediately start running off to weave rugs. If I was in Putin's position I would issue a statement refusing gifts. Incidentally, costly gifts like this are banned under the law on state service."

Putin's successes include preventing the disintegration and breakup of the state.

"I consider one of Putin's merits is the reluctance to turn the country back," Viktor Pokhmelkin, co-chairman of Liberal Russia, said, speaking in favour of the president. "Despite the temptations, he has rejected this idea. He does not go in for punitive action although a certain part of the democratic public expected this of him. His blunders include reproducing all the worst aspects of the rule of his predecessor Yeltsin and his regime. This includes the continuing power of the bureaucracy and the influence of large-scale raw-materials capital on the country's economy. Incidentally, our citizens' attitude to the president is similar to their attitude to God. Gifts, all kinds of rugs - this is not really right. The president should curtail these impulses."

"Unlike Marching Together, I would not give the president anything," Konstantin Kosachev, a member of the One Russia party, unexpectedly told Gazeta.ru. "I would give the three years of his presidency top marks. I would single out the reform of the party system as the president's strongest initiative. A multiparty system is taking shape, amendments to electoral legislation have been adopted and only political parties will take part in the elections, not one-day-wonder parties. This will encourage people to unite around initiatives rather than personalities."

Experts polled by Gazeta.ru responded very seriously to the question about Putin.

"Putin has managed to resolve the problem of consolidating the political elite both centrally and locally. True, we are currently observing significant disagreements and clashes of elite groups within the government but in principle what we are observing today is in no way comparable to President Yeltsin's era, when the oligarchs controlled significant blocs in the government and the regional elites were practically autonomous," Dmitriy Orlov, deputy director of the Centre for Political Technologies, said. "But, unfortunately, the elite is still the old elite and the bureaucracy has colossal traditions that go back many centuries."

"What we have now is significantly better than what could have been expected at the moment Putin came to power," was the view of Nikolay Petrov, head of the Centre for Political and Geographical Studies. "As regards today's favourable situation, that is not to the credit of either the government or Putin. It has taken shape as a result of the economic environment."

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