POLICE TO BE REFORMED "MILDLY"
Izvestia, February 7, 2003, p. 2 EV
In 2002, for the first time in the last five years, a decline was registered in the crime level. With these data Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov pleased yesterday’s expanded board of the ministry in which the president took part.
The tasks minister Gryzlov put to the board were comprehensive – giving an objective assessment of crime, evaluate the adequacy of measures taken, and reveal weak spots in the operation of the ministry. The president, taking the floor, began just with the strongest, to his mind, structure – with thanks to the interior troops and special units for the function they execute in Chechnya.
The rest is not that unambiguous, in Putin’s view: there indeed was a certain decline in the number of crimes, but people are not feeling more comfortable and secure because of that, which is shown in both citizens’ addresses (including to the president) and social polls. In fact, Putin also called into question the too comprehensive promises given at “routine” activities.
Gryzlov again called on his subordinates for going over stereotypes and not trying to “achieve favorable figures by all means”. However, the decline in the crime level is real, it is registered in those spheres in which it is difficult to “overlook” a crime – for instance the number of murders and murderous attempts went down by 3.9%. The number of juvenile crimes wend down by nearly one-quarter, there was a drop in blackmail and crimes related to illegal purchase and sale of arms. “As for the quantitative indicator, crime has taken a careen towards decline,” the minister claimed. And he added – the main cause of that is “political and economic stability”.
The president’s admonition for the year running: “I ask you to keep away from the involvement of interior officers in corporate wars and economic arguments”.
The ministry itself is currently the least concerned about the promised reform with the assumed division of its structure into federal and municipal police. Besides, they are not too pleased in the ministry, with the practice of the new Criminal Procedure Code, believing that the Code gave additional rights to every side of the process, except for detectives. The ministry promises soon to develop its own package of amendments. Putin promised that there would be no abrupt movements in the reform, every step would be adjusted many times: “Everything that will be done will be done with the participation of the ministry itself and in a very mild regime”.
THE SWORD AND PLOUGH UNION
Izvestia, February 7, 2003, p. 5 EV
At yesterday’s meeting the government discussed the tax reform concept. Developed by the Finance Ministry and adjusted on most issues with the Economic Development & Trade Ministry, the plan for decreasing the tax burden on the economy is practically not different from the one which Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov had sent for extra development two months ago. In fact, the matter is not about the reduction of taxes there. “The statement of the problem” of cutting the rates of the unified social tax and the value added tax the ministries are ready to put off until the appearance of the “required economic conditions”. The document does not say a word about canceling control of private individuals’ big expenses. On the contrary, it codifies in detail what taxes must be raised in 2004.
The tax reform became a stumbling block between the leading economic ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Economic Development & Trade Ministry. The Finance Ministry, being in charge of budget receipts, insisted on a minimum reduction of the tax burden. The Economic Development & Trade Ministry, responsible for the economic growth rates and investment climate in the country, came out for a noticeable, and which is main, the soonest possible decrease of taxes. After a series of heated discussions at the government meetings in October and November, Kasianov gave the debaters two months to adjust their positions. As a result, the conservatives won over the liberals, and, adhering to its special opinion on individual items, the Economic Development & Trade Ministry put a signature under the Finance Ministry’s suggestions.
The only essentially new thing that appeared in the February report of the Finance Ministry as compared with its December version is the notion of “investment premium”. It is to partially compensate canceling the investment privilege for the profit tax, and it suggests the right of companies for a faster amortization of 25% of the cost of basic production assets with a term of useful operation over five years. The Finance Ministry calculated though that the “investment premium” (it is assumed to be introduced in 2004) would cost the budget 0.35% of GDP, and that it offers compensation at the expense of “a certain increase of the fiscal load on the primary goods sector of the economy”.
FROM THE KREMLIN TO IZVESTIA
Izvestia, February 7, 2003, p. 1 EV
Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf attended Izvestia yesterday, arriving in the editorial office right from the Kremlin. Hr met the chiefs and reporters for the newspaper, and then held a briefing for Russian and foreign media in the Izvestia Media-center.
“The realities of the contemporary world changed very strongly. Our former views had been influenced by communism, the Cold War, and confronting each other military blocs. Then the Taliban movement appeared, and the war in Afghanistan began. I hope though, that the situation in this country is now changing for the best, and this dictates us the need to formulate relations between Pakistan and Russia over again. We have to get rid of the burden of the past, saving in the arsenals only positive experience. Let us strengthen interaction in international issues, in the political and commercial and economic areas. It is this I talked to President Putin about,” Pervez Musharraf said.
The Pakistani leader shared his view concerning the new charges which US State Secretary Colin Powell put forward against Iraq. “Islamabad has always come out for a peaceful settlement of the Iraq problem,” said Musharraf. “We come out to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. At the same time, we urge the Iraqi government to the complete observance of UN Security Council resolutions and ensuring of cooperation with the UN inspectors”.
Anti-military moods are very strong in Pakistan today, the president admitted. If war on Iraq really starts, then, in his view, “a sharp response is not ruled out in Pakistan” to these events, “War on Iraq will doubtless entail a leap of the oil prices, and this cannot but affect all of us,” the general believes.
Russians still perceive Pakistan in a “distorted” light, in the view of Pervez Musharraf. “I would like out visit to change the situation. The documents on cultural and scientific and technical cooperation signed in Moscow must contribute to that,” Pakistan’s president observed.
The Izvestia guest also said that the meeting in the Kremlin had discussed the issue of Russia’s possible concern in the building of the Trans-Afghan oil and gas pipeline.
“To the best of my knowledge,” said Pervez Musharraf, “already the Soviet Union sought to reach to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. We would like it to be now that the Central Asian countries would get access to the world market. And we also invite Russia to walk that path”.
EUROPE WILL NOT FORGET CHECHNYA
Trud, February 7, 2003, EV
The present chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Bruce George, recently made an absolutely clear statement that “Russia has the right to determine the methods to carry out peacemaking policies in Chechnya by itself”. At the latest meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PA), many European parliamentarians openly charged the main “Chechnya expert”, Lord Judd, with bias. Should this be evaluated as a turning point in the attitude of the world community towards settlement in Chechnya? Boris Makarenko, chief political expert of the Center for Political Technologies, comments on the situation: “I would not overestimate the significance of the OSCE head’s statement. That is quite a weak organization that is rapidly losing its influence. Russia is currently unilaterally cutting the activity of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, so the statement of the chairman of this organization is just the assertion of the existing situation.
Indeed, Russia as a sovereign country within the limits of the law is entitled to do everything it thinks necessary on its territory, part of which is Chechnya. However, in the last decade the conception of sovereignty in international law is subject to a serious revision. Many issues, for instance the legitimacy of election procedures or observance of human rights, are no longer viewed as the inward affair of a country. The West’s concern about Chechnya will therefore remain. It can lower in those periods when the West is especially interested in Russia. However, as soon as the international situation is stabile for a while, troubles with settlement in Chechnya for the European community will come to the foreground of relations with this country.
I think though that many in the West understand presently that Russia is walking the only path possible. The priority option for Russia currently is that of “chechenization” – a gradual transmission of an increasingly bigger amount of authority to the hands of a loyal Chechen administration. Landmarks on that way are the referendum on the Constitution of Chechnya, organization of elections, and legitimization of the power in the republic. Of course, this settlement plan is complicated, there are risks at every stage of it. However, the only alternative to the “chechenization” is a tough forcible scenario.
In actual fact, Russia is ready for serious criticism on the part of the European community. First, we have been used to it. Second, there is confidence that the mechanism “referendum-Constitution-elections” will work.
NEW CHANGES AWAIT NTV
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 7, 2003, EV
At the beginning of the week, Press Minister Mikhail Lesin met Gazprom Management Committee Chairman Aleksey Miller. The chief of the specialized ministry met the NTV shareholder to discuss the crisis that arose at the television channel after its director general, Boris Jordan, left it.
We remind that as far back as at the end of last week members of the board of the NTV television company sent an official address to Chairman of the Gazprom board of directors Dmitry Medvedev and Gazprom Management Committee Chairman Aleksey Miller, as well as the leadership of the Eurofinance bank. A copy was also sent to Mikhail Lesin, Russia’s Minister of Press, Television & Radio Broadcasting & Mass Communications.
In their address, the leading NTV workers expressed distrust in the new leadership of the TV channel. To resolve the situation the members of the board of the TV company addressed Gazprom head Aleksey Miller with a request of personal meeting. The situation grew still more acute after Nikolai Senkevich, who headed the TV channel in the last two weeks, appointed Aleksey Zemsky as his senior deputy, the latter known in TV industry first of all as a producer.
In response to the public address of the staff of the television company, the direct chief of the media holding, Alexander Dybal, made it clear that the shareholders would not make any concessions, saying that the statement of distrust in the new chiefs on the part of the NTV board was invalid. Although consultations between the sides went on permanently at the channel, according to our source, the talks led to no result.
In this situation, Press Minister Mikhail Lesin undertook the role of a sort of peacemaker. Already on Tuesday, Gazprom Management Committee Chairman Aleksey Miller met Tatiana Mitkova, editor-in-chief of the NTV channel information broadcasting direction, as well as Leonid Parfenov, host of Namedni program. The meeting took place in the central office of the gas corporation, and it discussed options to resolve the conflict. However, the sides do not make the details of the conversation public to date.
In the meanwhile, Mikhail Lesin in his statement said that Aleksey Miller had a “way out scenario” for the situation, and that he “adequately assesses the situation and is concerned in the soonest settlement of the crisis with the least losses for the television company”. The press minister also explained why in the appointment of the NTV chief the choice had fallen at Nikolai Senkevich who is not that much a TV professional as a good medical specialist, saying that “Miller looked for a person not linked to anyone or anything”.
How the management crisis at the television channel will be resolved, we will know as soon as in the next few days. However, even now there are lobby talks that, probably, Boris Jordan’s former deputy Rafael Akopov will come back to NTV, perhaps as the chief of the television channel. The surnames are voiced too, of Alexander Roznyansky who heads STS and Dmitry Biriukov, senior deputy director general of Gazprom-media. As for Nikolai Senkevich, an opportunity is not ruled out that he will stay at NTV, but in a somewhat different capacity.