Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 19, 2003, EV

President Putin addressed the Legislators’ Council yesterday. It was a gathering of former senators, the speakers of regional parliaments. They discussed local government reforms.

Putin let it be understood that it is foolish to hope that every single law passed in Russia will be observed. Therefore, it’s time to review the laws. Putin asked: “Do you know the cost of all the promises made at various levels, which we have to carry out? Around 6.5 trillion rubles. And the nation’s annual budget is only 3.5 trillion rubles!” It would appear that citizens are being tricked. Putin grew more indignant: “If we are incapable of implementing a law or a promise, we should say so. The people can forgive us anything but lies. Why lie to the people?”

The second part of the president’s speech was devoted to regional parliaments. He said they should follow Duma principles, with half the members being elected via party lists and the other half via single-mandate districts. Putin stressed urgency: “Let’s think together. But not in the usual way this is done in Russia – not by lying around on the couch for a hundred years like Oblomov, doing nothing. We have no time to waste.” Presumably, once regional parliaments have their members elected via these combined efforts, laws will be implemented much better.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 18, 2003, EV

The Russian contingent will stay in Abkhazia for another six months. The Russian peacemakers in Abkhazia have once again received the status of CIS “blue berets”, after two-and-a-half weeks of uncertainty. The Georgian Security Council has extended their mandate for the next six months.

President Eduard Shevardnadze needs to approve this resolution, but that is just a formality. He has repeatedly stressed that he is forced to be loyal to the presence of Russian troops in rebellious Abkhazia. At the same time, Shevardnadze has long dreamed of exchanging Russian troops for NATO forces; or at least troops from Ukraine or Azerbaijan. That’s why the extension of the Russian peacemakers’ mandate is considered as a enforced move by Georgia, rather than a voluntary gesture.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 19, 2003, EV

Georgian Foreign Minister Irakliy Menagarishvili came to Moscow yesterday on a two-day working visit. Today he will take part in negotiations concerning the presence of Russian military bases in Georgia. Industry Minister Ilya Klebanov will head Russian delegation at this meeting.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 19, 2003, EV

Dmitrii Rogozin, chairman of the Duma international affairs committee, has met with representatives of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry in Baku to discuss issues connected with the integration of Russia and Azerbaijan into European structures, the South Caucasus situation, and demarcation of the Caspian Sea. They also mentioned some problems which may arise in the immediate future due to Azerbaijan’s geographical and political links with the region of Iran, the Persian Gulf, and Iraq.