PRESIDENT PUTIN ON A VISIT TO THE VOLGA RIVER

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PRESIDENT PUTIN ON A VISIT TO THE VOLGA RIVER

Kommersant, July 8, 2002, p. 2

The local authorities were caught almost unprepared by the visit. Official information that the president might come was flashed to Ulyanovsk on Thursday evening. By Friday, the city of Ulyanovsk had been made presentable for Putin.

Putin began by insisting that he be taken to the dam dividing the area known as Verkhnaya Terassa from the Volga. Almost 50,000 people live in Verkhnaya Terassa three meters below the water level. Specialists told the president that long overdue capital reconstruction of the dam required 1.5 billion rubles. Apparently appalled by the recent flooding in southern Russia, the president must have decided to see this area of another potential natural disaster with his own eyes.

After the inspection, President Putin crossed the river to the central part of the city. His motorcade crossed the river on a bridge which specialists say should have fallen in 1998. Construction of the new bridge nearby has been underway for several years. Less than half of the bridge has been built, and the remainder requires $400 million. The whole regional budget amounts to only about $100 million, meaning that the money for the construction comes from the federal budget. Governor Shamanov saw the president’s visit as an opportunity to ask for additional subsidies for the bridge construction. Nothing is known about the answer he got.

Soon the presidential cortege stopped by the Ulyanovsk Pedagogical University. This is the area frequented by the local beer-drinking youth. Smiling, Putin set out along the embankment with a number of cafes.

Talking to local journalists afterwards, the president spoke about his trip to Central Asia. He said that regional leaders had exchange opinions on various matters. It was “a working visit” and no documents were prepared.

International matters taken care of, the president spoke of his impressions of Ulyanovsk. “This state of affairs in the Ulyanovsk region may be appraised as a shock therapy,” he said, blaming the previous leadership.

ON THE PRESIDENT’S VISIT TO SARANSK, THE CAPITAL OF MORDOVIA

Kommersant, July 8, 2002, p. 2

Preparations for Putin’s visit had taken almost a month. Roads were repaired and buildings painted anew.

Presidential TU-154 Flight Number 905 touched down at 20:40, and fifteen minutes later the president was already shaking hands with Nikolai Merkushin.

Unofficial sources say that the presidential cortege drove to the recently repaired Svetotehknika stadium. All traffic in town was halted, and a policeman could be seen behind literally every bush and tree trunk.

This was not Putin’s first visit to Saransk. He had already been there as the Russian premier. There is the widespread opinion in town that it was Putin who helped with the construction of Lyceum Number 12 and a new building of a hospital for war veterans.

This morning the president will visit the Dzerzhinets summer camp and lay a wreath to the Eternal Flame. Later, at the House of Republic he will meet with leaders of the regions comprising the Trans-Volga federal region.

RUSSIAN-FRENCH CONSULTATIONS BEGIN

Kommersant, July 8, 2002, p. 5

Foreign Minister of France Dominique de Villepin flew to Moscow last night on a short visit. He is accompanied by Minister of Education Luc Ferry and Claudie Haignere, Minister of Research and New Technologies and the first French woman in space.

The official part of the visit will begin with meetings with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Secretary of the Security Council Vladimir Rushailo. Sources in the Embassy of France say that it is going to be “an exchange of opinions on all subjects of diplomatic life”. Just from a tour of the Mideast, Villepin will give his impressions of the situation in the region and ways and means of Russian-French cooperation there. Ministers of education and sciences will meet with their Russian counterparts Vladimir Filippov and Ilya Klebanov discussing cooperation in the spheres of education and space exploration projects. As far as the latter is concerned, the ministers will discuss the use of Russian-made Soyuz boosters by France.

These evening, the ministers will be received by President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

OSCE ANNUAL MEETING IN BERLIN

Kommersant, July 8, 2002, p. 5

The 11th annual meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE is taking place in Berlin. Delegations from 55 countries are participating, with that of Russia headed by Duma Chairman Gennadi Seleznev.

Seleznev spent the day yesterday quarrelling with his European colleagues. The scandal began when the Parliamentary Assembly postponed for six months the question of Belarus’ full-fledged participation in the organization, an issue brought up by the Russian delegation. “The operational procedures of the Parliamentary Assembly do not envisage any mandate commission or anything that bans or permits a member country to send its delegation after parliamentary elections,” fumed Seleznev.

Seleznev: Moscow suggested a discussion of the problem of Kaliningrad. Using their international passport, citizens of Russia should be allowed to move freely through Shengen states, including the Kaliningrad region. This is the only solution as far as we are concerned.

Later that day, the Russian delegation objected to discussion of the current situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia by the Permanent Council. According to Seleznev, the Georgian delegation backed up by the Americans insisted on putting the item on the agenda.

Seleznev: Russia is accused of facilitating the procedure of obtaining Russian citizenship by residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Allegedly, Russia nurtures some imperial ambitions and is out to annex Georgian lands. This is an insult.

RUSSIANS DISTRUST BUSINESSMEN

Moskovsky Komsomolets, July 8, 2002, p. 2

Only 9% of respondents have faith in businesses or in the seriousness of their intention to return capitals from offshore zones. 24% are less optimistic and say that we will be lucky to have even 50% of the capitals stashed abroad back. 45% dismiss the idea as pointless.

82% of respondents are confident that special state measures are needed to ensure the return of withdrawn capital.

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