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By Oksana Yablokova Staff Writer

Political Elite Weighs the Speech's Merits

The Moscow Times, April 19, 2002

Novaya Gazeta appears to have reached a compromise with the Krasnodar judge who won an unprecedented $1 million libel suit that threatened to bankrupt the Immediately after hearing President Vladimir Putin's speech, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov wrote a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

The letter proposed that the two men work together to draft legislation on making information about the government public, Mironov said.

"The head of the state has paid attention to that, and I think that we should bring down the omnipotence of bureaucrats," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Mironov joined many of the political elite in praising Putin's address as a reasoned and balanced review of the past year with a clear set of policy priorities for the future. But some liberals asked whether the good intentions envisioned by the president would ever materialize into solutions for the nation's vital problems.

Deputy State Duma Speaker Irina Khakamada said the address was liberal, matching the program of her Union of Right Forces, or SPS, party. She praised Putin for stressing the necessity of government reform.

"This is a response to the main domestic challenge: how bureaucracy will fight itself," Khakamada said in an interview.

Mikhail Margelov, head of the Federation Council's committee on foreign policy, said the core of Putin's speech -- the need to make Russia competitive globally -- was a good sign that the country would find its place in the post-Cold War world.

"I especially liked the part about tough competition in the economic sphere," he said as he was leaving the Kremlin hall. "Its presence [in the speech] means that Russia indeed is strategically aiming to take a worthy place among economically developed countries and that the only possible form of competition it recognizes is competition in the economic sphere."

But other liberals criticized the speech as rich in intentions and declarations but short on concrete steps and deadlines.

SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said Putin did not come up with answers to burning issues such as the unpaid salaries of teachers and doctors and failed to analyze his own mistakes.

Nemtsov gave Putin some credit for mentioning the need to switch to a professional army but complained that no dates were given for the start of military reform. "We can assume that nothing concrete will be done," he told Interfax.

Nemtsov also criticized Putin for failing to start negotiations with the Chechen rebels, saying that without peace talks the "Chechen problem will remain unsolved for another 100 years."

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said the speech was aimed at pleasing the West rather than at proposing solutions to national problems.

"The address was aimed at the Americans and Europeans rather than the nation itself," he said, in remarks carried by local news agencies.

Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, was more concerned about how Putin's ideas would be implemented.

"This address leaves great worries over who will be implementing them and how," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

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The Moscow Times, April 19, 2002

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