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#8 - JRL 7232
Rossiiskaya Gazeta
No. 120
June 21, 2003
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
Rossiiskaya Gazeta Comments:

"Putin's interview with reporters closely resembles answers in a complaints/suggestions book written in a live TV broadcast. Invitations of the president to come to visit certain regions are also heard at annual press conferences, but the leitmotif of such undertakings is still an attempt to ask, "What are you, Mr. Putin?" This question in different modifications was invariably asked at the press conference. Will changes be made in the Constitution? Will the term of presidency be extended? Will a new map of the country be drawn? Will another city become the country's capital? Putin has been giving negative answers to questions of this series for three consecutive years. Sometimes he would say almost jokingly: "There is no big difference between four and five years of presidency," and sometimes his answer sounds quite tough - "In Russia there is one president, one prime minister and one capital - Moscow."

The ever-present component in "revealing the president's image" is the relationships between the state and the oligarchs. But if three years ago, when the Gusinsky affair was at its height, big business was a most discussed issue, on June 20 they discussed merely an investigation done by a little-known foundation into a hypothetical possibility of oligarchs' collusion against the Kremlin. Perhaps for this reason Putin, saying that equidistance from the oligarchs has been achieved, used the adjective "notorious."

Chechnya also dropped out of top priority subjects. Judging by the press conference, it no longer interests foreign journalists. Nor was Putin asked about human rights observance, and peaceful settlement interested only the Chechen reporters.

On the other hand, a new question emerged. It had been invented by Putin himself and voiced way back in his Address to the Federal Assembly. His words about the need to form a government relying on a parliamentary majority was understood by the sensitive parliamentarians in their own way, with a hope for legislatively confirmed participation of the State Duma in forming the Cabinet. The president had to explain that he meant nothing like turning the presidential republic into a parliamentary one.

In general this time Putin was lavish in praises. Neither the oligarchs nor the government, nor even the Turkmenian leader, nor a number of new appointees in the power bodies (with a scandalous touch) evoked anything like the president's anger. On the contrary, he expressed special thanks to the Cabinet of ministers for the work done, to United Russia for being most active and to the Union of Right Forces for its care for the army.

A conclusion, judging by Putin's replies, should suggest itself - in Russia, even though it is far from an ideal, everything, by and large, is not so bad. At least the situation is stable here. The press conference on June 20 was not even a summing up of the results of the political season, as Putin's press conference is interpreted in private. There was an impression that the president just made a break in his work for a couple of hours to speak about his plans, big and small ones, and then went back to his activities.

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