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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1506
Subtle signs of inflation;
The rise of Russia's drug police
Edited by Ilan Berman
October 21, 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin has held his annual televised question-and-answer session with Russian citizens. According to a transcript posted on the Kremlin’s website, Putin promised that Russia’s missile technology will be developed, “including completely new strategic nuclear complexes,” and that attention will also paid to “high-precision weaponry,” “electronic warfare” and the navy, with plans afoot to begin building a new nuclear-powered strategic submarine in 2008. “So that our plans are not simply big – they are grandiose,” Putin said. “And they are absolutely realizable… Our armed forces will be compact but very effective and reliably protect the country for many years ahead.”
Putin’s comments came just hours after Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces reported that an RS-12 “Topol” intercontinental ballistic missile (known in the West by its NATO designation - SS-25 Sickle) was successfully test-fired from the Plesetsk space center in Arkhangelsk Oblast.
During a press conference following his question-and-answer session, Putin said it would be a mistake either to take prerogatives away from his Cabinet or to burden it with additional obligations, adding that a “diarchy” should not be created within the executive branch. He also said he was against “trimming” presidential powers. “We simply need to create more effective interaction between the executive power, the judicial power and the legislative [power],” he said. “That is the route we must take to develop our statehood. But inside the executive power, a redistribution of authority would - in my view, at least in the near-term historical outlook - be a mistake.”
[Editor’s Note: Putin’s rejection of redistributing powers within the executive branch appears aimed at squelching rumors that after his final constitutionally-mandated term ends next year, he will shift presidential powers to the post of prime minister after taking up the latter post. On October 1st, he announced he would run for parliament on the pro-Kremlin United Russia party’s ticket, adding that serving as prime minister was “entirely realistic” but that it was “still too early to think about it.”]
Lenta.ru reports that Russia has paid off a $343 million agricultural credit from the United States some 13 years early. The credit, extended to Russia by the U.S., was supposed to be paid off by 2020. By paying off the loan 13 years early, Russia saved $46.7 million in interest payments.
Some Russian regions have started to put price controls on staple goods in response to a sudden surge in food prices, the Associated Press reports. Prices for dairy products rose 9.4 percent in September and cooking oil shot up13 percent, while bread prices have jumped 50 percent or even doubled in recent months in some regions. Asked about rising food prices during his annual question-and-answer session, Putin blamed middlemen with a monopoly on supplies working together with corrupt officials. “In a large part this is happening - and it’s not pleasant for me to talk about this - because regional leaders cooperate with these monopolies and even consider them their own,” he said.
President Putin has signed a decree setting up a State Anti-Narcotics Committee with Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) chief Viktor Cherkesov as its head. According to GZT.ru, the move puts Cherkesov on a par with Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev, who also heads the National Anti-Terrorist Committee. Earlier this month, Cherkesov publicly attacked some within Russia’s special services after FSB agents arrested FSKN deputy head Lt.-Gen. Alexander Bulbov and other FSKN officers who had been investigating the “Tri Kita” furniture store case, involving alleged contraband smuggling by senior FSB officials. Putin subsequently upbraided Cherkesov for publicly claiming that a war is going on inside Russia’s special services.