PARISIAN PIROUETTE

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PARISIAN PIROUETTE

Moskovsky Komsomolets, July 24, 2002, p. 2

The delight over France’s support for Russia in the matter of the Kaliningrad region appears to be premature. The French ambassador in Moscow has essentially refuted the earlier statement of his president.

At his recent meeting with Putin in Sochi, President Jacques Chirac “expressed his own point of view… That point of view will carry a certain amount of weight when the negotiations concerning the Kaliningrad problem continue,” said French Ambassador Claude Blanchemaison.

Translated from diplomatic language, this can only mean one thing: Chirac was expressing his personal opinion in Sochi, not the opinion of France. How should we interpret this diplomatic pirouette by Paris? Its exact motive is unknown. According to our sources in diplomatic circles, the decision to backtrack was probably made by the French president himself. It is said that after returning to Paris and consulting with other European leaders, Chirac decided that he had gone too far in his friendship with Russia. It is also possible that the two presidents did not understand each other well enough at their Sochi meeting.

GREF RESISTS THE WISHES OF THE TYCOONS

Izvestia, July 24, 2002, p. 2

The Cabinet’s Business Council met yesterday to take a close look, for the second time, at socio-economic development forecasts for 2003-05. In the latest draft of the document, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry was meant to take into account the earlier criticism expressed by the Business Council; this was the instruction of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov, who chairs the Council. The president had also reminded the Cabinet of the need to heed the opinions of the business community.

The Economic Development Ministry listened to the criticism and lowered its forecasts for the growth rates of investment and retail trade. However, most of the Business Council’s proposals were described as attempts to “lobby on behalf of specific sectors of industry”.

The Economic Development Ministry said that the wishes of the Business Council would certainly be taken into account, but they bear no relation to forecasts of national economic development.

FEDERATION COUNCIL WANTS TO RETURN LAND TO THE CHURCH

Izvestia, July 24, 2002, p. 2

Ivan Starikov, head of the Federation Council agriculture committee, requested a meeting yesterday with Patriarch Alexii II; he wishes to discuss returning the land formerly owned by the Russian Orthodox Church. Starikov intends to start work on a bill which would permit state-owned land to be transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church and other faiths – to Muslims, Buddhists, or Catholics. According to Starikov, such a law could be passed by the end of this year. If this actually happens, the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church will reach an entirely new level – apart from strengthening its influence in the state, the Church will become a significant player in the economy.

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