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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1504
Putin boosts United Russia's popularity;
More tug-of-war over missile defense
Edited by Jonas Bernstein
October 13, 2007
A poll by the state-controlled VTsIOM polling agency has found that support among Russian voters for the United Russia party hit a record 54 percent after President Vladimir Putin announced he would run on the party’s ticket in this year’s parliamentary election, Reuters reports. In the previous poll, conducted at the end of September, 48 percent said they planned to vote for United Russia in the December 2nd parliamentary election.
[Editor’s Note: Given the effect of Russia’s increasingly authoritarian political climate on pollsters and respondents alike, the results of public opinion surveys in Russia should be viewed with some caution.]
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said following talks with Vladimir Putin in Moscow that they found common ground on the issues of Iran’s nuclear program and Kosovo’s future. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Sarkozy, on his first visit to Russia as president, “seemed eager to mend fences” after a comment he made in Bulgaria on October 4th that Russia is “a country which complicates the resolution of the world’s big problems.” Putin, meanwhile, said after meeting with Sarkozy that Russia does “not have information that Iran is trying to create a nuclear weapon,” AFX News Limited reports.
President Putin has ordered his cabinet to raise monthly pension payments by a minimum of 300 rubles (around $12) to offset rising food prices, NEWSru.com reports. The move follows word that prices rose 0.5 percent during the first week of October - a figure that Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatyev admitted is very high. During a cabinet meeting on October 8th, Putin stated concern over rising food prices and Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov promised to deal with the issue.
High-level U.S.-Russian talks have failed to bridge major differences over American plans for a missile defense system in Europe and other strategic arms issues. According to the Associated Press, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who are in Russia, “brought several new detailed proposals to the table meant to ease Russian concerns that the missile defense system would be aimed at Moscow,” but could not convince Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov or Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who told reporters: “The principal thing to which we did not agree today is the deployment of anti-missile elements which have an anti-Russian character and which are to be placed in Europe.”
Russian human rights activists have met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Moscow, NEWSru.com reports. Tatyana Lokshina, head of the Demos human rights center, told Interfax that she and the other participants in the meeting talked to Rice about “the situation with Russian civil society, the law on non-governmental organizations and Russian anti-extremist legislation, which can be used as a weapon against the political opposition.” Lokshina said they also discussed the situation in the North Caucasus – which, she said, remains “highly explosive,” particularly in Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a last-minute decision to offer new U.S. proposals on missile defense and arms control just before meeting their Russian counterparts and President Vladimir Putin, which made the tenor of private talks on October 12th more constructive than indicated by negative public comments from Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “They reacted as almost always happens,” Bloomberg News quotes Gates as telling reporters while flying back to Washington. “When they’re hit with new ideas, they basically go to a default position of a defensive crouch until they really have time to think about it and consider it.”