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Medvedev presses the throttle on privatization in the face of resistance

Dmitri MedvedevDespite resistance to the government's privatization drive at the Federal level, President Dmitry Medvedev used his speech to both houses of Parliament on Tuesday to insist that the programme be expanded to the regions.

Medvedev stressed in his message that it was necessary to strip the bodies of power "of factories, newspapers, and ships." That said, few details are available yet, although state-owned media assets appear top of the list. Presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich told reporters after the speech: "No decisions on specific assets have been made yet."

Privatization at the regional level, including Moscow, will yield tens of billions of rubles next year, reported Itar-Tass. Although the list of facilities has not been compiled yet, it will certainly include media, industries, housing and communal services and transport, Dvorkovich admitted.

"Whereas at the federal level next year's budget incorporates 300 billion rubles of federal property privatization incomes, the regional privatization can yield tens of billions," Dvorkovich told reporters. He clarified that "first and foremost, we are talking about the privatization of property in major cities."

Dvorkovich said that the regional plan for privatization was expected within six months. "The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, has already drafted his proposals," he added. "One should bear in mind the idea of turning Moscow into an international financial center. In Moscow it is possible to increase the share of sales."

Regarding media assets, it's unclear whether Medvedev signaled the coming sale of federal state-owned news media, such as Rossia television, or whether he was referring exclusively regional news organizations, reports The Moscow Times.

"Some local authorities own several newspapers, it is a waste of money," remarked Dvorkovich, who stressed there's no deadline for the privatization of news outlets. "I am not saying that everything needs to be sold off in a month's time," he said. "It will be no good if they end up in the hands of unscrupulous investors."

Last week, prominent television journalist Leonid Parfyonov told a crowd of the country's top television executives, including his employers at state-run Channel One, that federal news outlets had become subservient to the state and were glossing over politically difficult stories.

The Economic development Minitry released an approved list of Federal assets in which stakes will be sold off over the next five years in mid-November. However, several objections have been registered by the heads of state-controlled companies, with some government ministers joining calls to delay certain privatizations, in what may be a resurrection of the long-winded fight between the siloviki and liberal factions in the Kremlin.

One can only assume that the level of resistance from local officials to selling the assets they control - including the massive and tricky task of cleaning up the assets for inspection by potential investors - will be fairly fierce. 

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