MEDVEDEV’S DEFENSE

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President Medvedev plans to address citizens directly and regularly

President Medvedev has appeared on television in the first of what will be a regular series of interviews, aimed at explaining what the authorities are doing to counter the crisis. The broadcasts will be spread out among the state-controlled television networks, with one interview every three or four weeks.


On the evening of February 15, Rossiya Television (Channel Two) broadcast the first of what will become a regular series of interviews with President Dmitri Medvedev about the crisis. In his interview on the Vesti Nedeli (News of the Week) program, Medvedev warned citizens that they should brace themselves for “a fairly difficult development scenario” in the financial crisis. He noted that Russia has built up “substantial reserves” over the past five to seven years, in the event of problems arising: “And some people criticized the government for doing this, questioning why so much money should be pumped into the reserve fund.” Medvedev pointed out that the government’s fiscal policy has now been proven effective.

Medvedev explained that the ruble is weakening because Russia is receiving less revenue, while payments in foreign currency have increased; he promised that the Central Bank would keep an eye on exchange rate parameters, preventing any abrupt shifts. He also expressed support for the government’s decision to provide aid to certain large enterprises: they employ hundreds of thousands of people, but “this doesn’t mean that aid is being provided to the company owners.”

Natalia Timakova, the president’s press secretary, said that he will communicate with citizens in this manner every three or four weeks from now on. The aim is to address people directly in these troubled times, explaining what the authorities are doing.

A presidential administration official said that Medvedev’s next interview would probably be broadcast on Channel One (ORT) or the NTV network. He said that the television networks submit lists of questions for the president, and then the Kremlin press service decides which issues should be explored in detail or remain unmentioned.

Political analyst Alexei Makarkin notes that this method of providing citizens with regular explanations of the government’s anti-crisis measures was first used by Franklin D. Roosevelt; the method has come to be regarded as a classic technique and an essential part of anti-crisis efforts. According to Makarkin, Medvedev’s primary aim is to reassure citizens – and his secondary aim is to promote himself. Makarkin maintains that Medvedev has made a political decision by speaking out in support of the Finance Ministry, which has been criticized by the United Russia party.

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