RUMORS: PUTIN FORMING A SHADOW CABINET?

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RUMORS: PUTIN FORMING A SHADOW CABINET?

Versiya, June 24, 2003, p. 18

Rumor has it that the president is recruiting members for his shadow Cabinet from the Strategic Developments Center (SDC). According to the “Argumenty i Fakty” newspaper, in the lead-up to the presidential election the SDC will play the role of headquarters for planning socio-economic reforms, as it did during the presidential campaign in 2000. First Deputy Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina was transferred to the SDC last week. We can’t rule out the possibility that the president will select ministers for the next government from among SDC personnel.

RUMORS: DEFENSE MINISTER OUT OF FAVOR WITH THE KREMLIN?

Versiya, June 24, 2003, p. 19

Following the Auditing Commission’s report on financial irregularities disclosed during 2002 in the sphere of national defense, there have been rumors that the president is displeased with the situation in the Armed Forces and the defense sector – and therefore, that structural and personnel changes are on the way.

It is said that Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently had the intention of playing a very active role in distributing profits from exports of arms and military hardware. There have been expectations that the role of Rosoboroneksport (Russian Defense Exports) will soon be reviewed, and it will be subordinated to the military-technical cooperation committee.

According to the “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” newspaper, the Auditing Commission’s report is meant to ensure that decisions made earlier are revised, and the enthusiasm of reformers is cooled. According to the report, financial irregularities involved a total of 2.3829 billion rubles.

PUTIN GOES TO ENGLAND

Zavtra, June 26, 2003, p. 1

Our Kremlin sources report that preparations for Putin’s visit to London are fit for a tsar. The thesis that this is the most significant state visit in a century is a direct reference to a visit to Britain by Tsar Nicholas II in 1902. Thus, the president’s team is once again attempting to “delete” the Soviet period from the history of our nation. The visit’s real significance can be reduced to fully integrating Russia into the vanguard of the US-Britain connection, and allowing Putin to stay overnight at Buckingham Palace – thus making his membership in the “club of the elect” official. There will also be discussion of Russia’s participation in “restoring” the economy of Iraq; and discussion of another round of redistribution of property, in which all major Russian companies, especially natural resources companies, are meant to become affiliates of transnational corporations based in the United States and London. This complete “surrender of positions” is yet another demonstration of Putin’s wish to follow in the footsteps of Gorbachev. Another covert topic of discussion is likely to be the extradition of Boris Berezovsky; Putin and the British authorities could do a deal on this.

THE UNITED STATES AND IRAQ

Zavtra, June 26, 2003, p. 1

The helpless news conference of President George W. Bush, at which he tried to find some way of justifying the aggression in Iraq, continued Bush’s series of absurd remarks – such as “the threat that Iraq might supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorists” has been eliminated. In Paris, they’re joking about it now being time to eliminate such threats from every other nation in the world; meanwhile, as a “punishment” for France, Washington is considering returning the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift to the US from the French government. Bush’s theory that Iraq’s WMDs have been “looted” is equally ridiculous. Reports of the presence of “several tons of uranium” are not surprising, since Iraq was completing a nuclear power plant, and nuclear fuel may have been present there. The only problem is a lack of data on the origins of the fissionable materials; each container of them should bear a special mark – both a quality certificate and an indication of its origin. Meanwhile, our sources in Beiruit report that the increasingly frequent attacks on US military personnel in Iraq, and the intensifying confict with Shiite civilians, are evidence that the US does not have the situation under control; this reduces the chances of further use of military force in the region.

FEASTING IN A TIME OF PLAGUE

Zavtra, June 26, 2003, p. 1

Putin’s extended news conference, with “favorable” questions and answers prepared in advance, was an attempt to counteract the sharp fall in the popularity of United Russia and Putin himself after the scandalous St. Petersburg tercentenary celebrations – a vivid example of “feasting during a time of plague”. Our analysts note that at the news conference Putin cited figures on the economy which were provided by Economic Development Minister Herman Gref; and Gref’s mental health has long been causing concern in the government. Real GDP growth in the first five months of 2003 (adjusted for inflation) was not 7.1% at all, but only 2.9%. The objective deterioration of the social situation, against the backdrop of declarations about rapid economic growth or gold and currency reserves rising to $63 billion, will lead to a further loss of public confidence in the president and the government; especially since the parallel decision by the State Council about the possibility of privatizing museums and other historic sites, our nation’s heritage, has once again demonstrated the complete historical irresponsibility of the present ruling party, and its ambition to make money at all costs.

YAKOVLEV AS A CABINET MINISTER

Zavtra, June 26, 2003, p. 1

Sources in St. Petersburg say that the appointment of Vladimir Yakovlev as deputy prime minister responsible for housing and utilities, while Valentina Matvienko becomes acting governor of St. Petersburg, have only a tangential connection to the “misuse” of state funding provided for the city’s tercentenary. The political intrigue lies in the fact that if Yakovlev had remained in St. Petersburg, that would have made an election victory for a candidate from the Communist Party and the People’s Patriotic Union of Russia more likely in President Putin’s home town. Therefore, Matvienko has been assigned the task of reaching an “agreement on friendship and non-aggression at the regional level” with the Communists, at all costs; members of her team are already making such proposals in private talks.

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