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BBC Monitoring
Upper house speaker suggests ways of improving Russia's image
Source: Ren TV, Moscow, in Russian 1730 gmt 14 Jul 03

Economic crime suspects should not be kept in custody before trial, the speaker of the upper chamber of Russian parliament, Sergey Mironov, has said in a studio interview for the Ren TV channel. He also called for the introduction of a clear-cut tariff and stable tax policy and spoke in favour of setting up a public council to monitor the quality of media reporting. The following is the text of the interview broadcast by Russian Ren TV on 14 July:

[Presenter Olga Romanova] Our guest in the studio tonight is Federation Council speaker Sergey Mironov. Sergey Mikhaylovich, good evening.

[Sergey Mironov, captioned] Good evening.

[Presenter] Sergey Mikhaylovich, several days ago you said that a clear state information policy must be developed in Russia. What do you mean by a clear state information policy and what is wrong with the current information policy?

[Mironov] When the TV is flooded with poor quality commercials, with cruelty and violence; when there is biased reporting of various events - although one can argue here as to what objectivity is - I think that we need to think of setting up something like a national council, a public council, together with the media community, in order to have, in addition to the media ministry which we already have, a body that could adopt certain, shall we say, moral rules for broadcasting.

[Presenter] But the state already controls national TV channels and quite a few influential papers, doesn't it?

[Mironov] There have been a series of media comments that indicate that your humble servant has declared the need for setting up a new state body. Under a state body, I meant a sort of public council that would have some state functions to protect state interests. We already have a dedicated ministry and nobody is talking of introducing censorship. But I feel that there is no comprehensive information policy.

Presumption of innocence important in economic crime cases

[Presenter] Three very important statements have recently been made. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov commented on the situation concerning [oil major] Yukos and big business in general, saying that there is hardly a need to throw a person in prison for economic crimes. Gennadiy Seleznev, your counterpart in the lower chamber [of Russian parliament], did not agree with Kasyanov. As far as I understand, you tend to side with Kasyanov rather than with Seleznev on the issue?

[Mironov] Absolutely. If a person is guilty of some wrongdoing - in this case we are talking about possible economic crimes - there is a prosecutor's office to summon them for questioning, to get them to sign an undertaking not to leave town. There is no need to put people suspected of such crimes behind bars at the preliminary investigation phase, that is before trial, because it is not yet clear if they will be found guilty or innocent. If the prosecutor's office has questions for that person, let them clarify the questions. But there is no need to keep a person in prison during the preliminary investigation period. They are not murderers; they are not dangerous to society. And the prosecutor's office must investigate such cases to see if there are indeed grounds to pursue them. If there are violations, deal with them, punish the people involved, take the case to court, pass a verdict. That is the way it should be done.

I suppose you would agree that there is an element of pressure, of psychological pressure on the person. Just imagine, they have been arrested and are sitting in a cell. I don't think this is a case that merits such repressive methods. Let me reiterate: there must be an investigation but there is also the principle of the presumption of innocence. First, you hold an investigation to see what questions and complaints there are.

Yukos row damaging Russia's reputation abroad

[Presenter] I think this issue is closely linked to the previous one: Russia's image and information policy. I think that what is now happening in respect of Yukos is not doing Russia's image any good.

[Mironov] You are absolutely right. It will not help Russia's image. Moreover, some specific figures for losses resulting from this damage to Russia's image have already been mentioned: almost 2 bn dollars has left the market through a fall in share prices and so on. That is why people, including the law-enforcement agencies, should be careful when dealing with such cases to make sure that they are not damaging the image of Russia.

[Presenter] At your meeting with the president on Friday [11 July], you proposed introducing a single and transparent system of tariffs which would ensure that the interests of the state, natural monopolies and producers are well balanced. You also proposed introducing a common taxation principle. I am quoting from news agency reports. What did you mean by that?

[Mironov] By the common principle, I meant that the taxation system should not be changed frequently and that people should be left to work in peace. There should be predictability and everybody, including potential investors - both foreign and domestic - should know that for the next three or five years they will have a certain tax rate and a certain system of taxation instead of us changing the tax system every year before the budget is due to be passed, adding taxes, removing taxes, reallocating them between the federal centre and the regions. There must be a clear-cut, long-term and predictable policy here.

You mentioned clear and transparent tariffs. I am talking about recovering super-profits, and about meaningful state support for innovative industries. For how long do we propose selling off our children's and grandchildren's property? For how long will we continue squandering it all to feed ourselves? In the 21st century, it is not a country that has rich mineral resources that will be lead the world, but a country that trades in new ideas, and in high-tech and scientific breakthroughs. Russia has everything needed to achieve that. All that needs to be done is for the state to make sure that tariffs and taxes in these sectors of the economy are attractive for investors and for capital.

[Presenter] Thank you very much, Sergey Mikhaylovich.

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