After Break, Deputies Speak Out About War

The State Duma opened its regular fall session Wednesday for a day of discussions that featured education much more prominently than the recent war with Georgia. But the strongest words were still reserved for the conflict.

Deputies summoned Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to address the Duma next Wednesday about the needs of the armed forces that had been highlighted by the war.

The Duma might invite Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov and Foreign Intelligence Service director Mikhail Fradkov to accompany Serdyukov, said Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov, who presided over Wednesday's session.

Comments on the Georgia conflict and its aftermath erupted several more times during the first half hour of the session, when deputies are given time to voice their opinions about the state of the nation.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, urged the government to be more assertive in defending its actions before the West. "Russia shouldn't bleat like a sheep, it should roar like a lion," he thundered.

Communist Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin criticized the closures of a naval base in Vietnam and an intelligence base in Cuba in recent years, saying the decisions had damaged Russia's national security in a hostile world.

Morozov urged the Duma's committees for international relations and CIS affairs to strive to make Russia's side in the Georgia conflict known to the world. In fact, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov relayed Russia's stance to the West earlier this week, when he met with his counterparts from the Group of Eight for a summit in Hiroshima, Japan, the Duma said on its web site.

Andrei Klimov, deputy head of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, said by telephone that the Duma would seek to talk to parliaments in the European Union but not to those in the Baltic states and Poland, which he described as countries that criticize Russia no matter what.

When the deputies had exhausted their half hour for comments, they moved on to pass in a first reading a United Russia-sponsored bill that would allow Russians to carry or display Russian flags at sports events and other gatherings. While people often wave the flag now, the law currently does not allow it.

Later in the day, Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko spoke and took questions for 2 1/2 hours about government efforts to improve education to create an innovations-based economy. He also fielded questions about a lack of toilets and fire alarms in schools.

The Duma is moving into its first full session under a new president, Dmitry Medvedev, who has promised to work in a tight tandem with his mentor, former President Vladimir Putin, now prime minister and chairman of United Russia.

Ilyukhin said he had yet to see any difference in the way the Kremlin was interacting with the Duma. "There have been no substantial changes," he said during a break in debates. "In fact, there have not been any unsubstantial changes either.

The Duma, he said, remains an "extension of the corridors of the executive branch."

On the economic side, deputies this fall will pass the federal budget for the next three years and consider bills to support small and medium-size businesses by removing excessive bureaucratic barriers, according to the Duma's agenda.

Other priority bills seeks to regulate the use of intellectual property, ease the terms for businesses that want to enter special economic zones, and introduce new production standards for a number of industries, said Yevgeny Fyodorov, chairman of the chamber's Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship Committee.