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Press Review

IZVESTIA (18, 19, 20/2/2005)

It was finally decided on Thursday that the State Duma probably in early March would consider an issue concerning the resignation of Health Minister Mikhail Zurabov, who is accused of drawbacks in implementing the scandalous law on the monetarization of social welfare benefits. In an interview Zurabov justifies the law, focusing on reasons behind numerous protests. (1, 3, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Feb. 18, p. 2, Gazeta, Feb. 18, pp. 1, 2, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 2, 21)

State Duma deputies' refusal to pay the rent for their 4- and 5-room apartments in the house on Ulitsa Ulofa Palme has sparked a scandal that has caused a court case to be considered on Feb. 24. The story reveals its essence. (1, 13)

The Industry and Energy Ministry has submitted to the gvt Gazprom' s investment program-2005. Minister Viktor Khristenko has failed to coordinate the program with his colleague German Gref, who is opposing Gazprom' s enlargement. All this now may intensify differences in the gvt, the Kremlin administration and the leadership of leading domestic companies around the scheme of the merger of the two giants. The story examines some of the existing differences. (1, 12)

Former prisoners of Finnish concentration camps that during the war were created in Karelia decided to apply to Finland' s courts with a demand to pay them compensations, the similar ones being paid to former prisoners of German concentration camps in Germany. Nazi' s allies, however, refuse to pay out material compensation to Russian prisoners of concentration camps. The story examines the issue. (2 )

Parents of children killed in Beslan have written a letter to President Putin with the only demand to sack North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov. The Mothers of Bislan Committee that was created in October 2004 stated that it views Dzasokhov' s further stay in power as an insult of the memory of the killed children. (2)

The Tyumen Legislative Assembly on Thursday approved the candidacy of Sergei Sobyanin that was nominated by the president. Thus, Sobyanin has become the second (after Primorye governor Sergei Darkin) appointed governor. The story comments on the appointment. (2, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Feb. 18, p. 3, Vremya Novostei, Feb. 18, p. 4, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 4)

Black Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Masorin on Thursday was appointed Chief of the Navy Headquarters. The story comments on the appointment, saying that Masorin has replaced Admiral Viktor Kravchenko. (2)

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday completed his visit to Georgia. His status was downgraded from the official to the working one due to the minister' s refusal to visit the memorial devoted to the Georgian servicemen, who were killed in the struggle for the country' s territorial integrity (see Kommersant of Feb. 18) . The story describes Lavrov' s negotiations, saying that he failed to reach agreement on several key issues. (3, Kommersant, 4, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Feb. 18, 1, 8, Noviye Izvestia, Feb. 18, p. 4, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 5)

The National Strategy Council on Thursday presented its report " The State and Business" that answers the question of how to resolve the problem of the state-business standoff. The story examines the report' s major provisions. (3)

State Duma Security Committee head Vladimir Vasilyev on Thursday called on deputies not to hurry with the drafting and passing of a property confiscation. He explained his viewpoint. Brief. (3)

State Duma United Russia faction deputies have proposed to institute 5 memorable dates that will be working days. The brief names them. (3)

Qatar' s state-run al- Jazeera television channel will be privatized This was stated by Qatar' s emir sheikh Hamad bin Halifa Al-Tani (Sp. ?) He instructed the parliament to work out a privatization plan before the end of this year. The story comments on the decision. (4)

The presidents of Russia and the USA are preparing for their summit scheduled for Feb. 24 in Bratislava. In an interview Leon Aro, an expert on Russian-American relations, reflects on what issues will be discussed at the summit and on what can be expected from it. (4, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 1, 3, Moskovskiye Novosti, No. 7, p. 8)

Ukraine' s Justice Minister Roman Zvarich has handed in his resignation. The brief reflects on a possible reason. (4)

The Moscow City Jury Court on Thursday acquitted six persons, who were accused of killing on July 24, 2001 Leonid Oblonsky, the First Deputy Prefect of Moscow' s Zelenogradsky District. The story details the case, focusing on the court' s verdict. (6)

The Dagestani Prosecutor' s Office has submitted to court a criminal case of Magomed Salikhov, who is accused of organizing a terrorist act in Buinaksk on Sept. 4, 1999, when 58 people were killed. The story details the case. (6)

Koryakia' s Vice -Governor Mikhail Sokolovsky will go on trial in Palana today. He is accused of leaving several settlements in the republic without heating. The story details his case. (6)

The feature story highlights St. Petersburg resident Yelena Orlova- Glonbskaya, who is suing Polish authorities, who do not want to give her a collection of 103 paintings that belonged to her relative. (7)

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov may replace Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as a main compiler of the budget. Thus, the gvt on Thursday refused to appoint Kudrin Chairman of the Commission on drafting the federal budget for 3 years ahead. The story reveals the essence of Fradkov' s decision. (12)

The story reports on the first results of the main session of the Houston Court that considered the case of Yukos bankruptcy on Thursday. The Russian company' s opponent-- Deutsche Bank -- managed to prove that Yukos deluded the court, having backdated a transfer of money to American bank accounts (1, 12)

A new auto plant became operational in St. Petersburg on Thursday. The YAROVIT Motors company will make heavy trucks specially for extreme road and climatic conditions. Having invested $40 million, YAROVIT hopes to make 1, 800 trucks by 2009. The story describes the plant. (13)

The story offers several facts from the history of Moscow' s Hotel Metropol, reflecting on its fate today. (17)

In an exclusive interview highly-regarded banker Viktor Gerashchenko, head of the Yukos Board of Directors, talks about his life today, saying why he dislikes the monetarization of social welfare benefits. (2, 29)

KOMMERSANT (19/2/2005)

The parliamentary elections in Moldova are scheduled for March 6, and the parliament, according to the Constitution, will elect the president. Moldovan authorities on Friday reported about the arrest and deportation of 16 Russians, who are accused of illegal interference in the election campaign. In response, the State Duma has called on the gvt to impose economic sanctions against Moldova and a visa regime. The story comments on the worsened Russian-Moldovan relations, focusing on the State Duma' s decisions. (1, 4)

The Cherkessk City Court on Friday delivered its ruling on the case of criminal investigator Kamal Veziyev, who was accused of falsifying materials on a high-profile case-- the killing of 7 businessmen by the body-guards of Ali-Kaitov, a former son-in-law of Karachayevo-Cherkessia' s president. The sentence given to Veziyev appeared to be tougher than asked by the public prosecutor. The story examines the case, focusing on the court' s ruling. (1, 3)

Another round of the negotiations on Russia' s accession to the World Trade Organization ended in Geneva late at night on Thursday. The story examines their results, making emphasis on the Russian delegation' s numerous bilateral talks that were held before the Friday' s negotiations. (1, 5)

The Russian Soccer Premier-League (or RFPL) on Friday by the proposal of its President Yury Zavarzin decided to appoint businessman Boris Kharlamov to the post of RFPL Acting Director-General. He himself proposed his candidacy to Zavarzin, saying that he decided to test his ability for the new post. He will act in this capacity for 3 months, during which he will have to prove his fitness. The story comments on his appointment. (1, 11)

Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin reported on Friday that the heads of gvt of Russia and Ukraine may meet soon within the framework of the session of the Russian-Ukrainian Cooperation Commission that is headed by Mikhail Fradkov and Julia Timoshenko. Brief. (1)

President Putin in the Kremlin on Friday assured Hasan Rouhani (Sp?) , Secretary of Iran' s National Security Supreme Council that Moscow is continuing to cooperate with Iran in all spheres, including the nuclear one. The story examines their negotiations. (2)

President Putin on Friday presided over a session of the Military-Technical Cooperation Commission. In his speech the president harshly criticized the actual monopoly of a state mediator in the face of the Rosoboronexport company in the delivery of military machines abroad. The story describes the session and its discussion, focusing on the president' s critical remarks. (2)

The State Duma on Friday passed (in the second reading) the draft bill concerning the Public Chamber. The story examines several new amendments introduced to the document after the first reading. (2, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 1, 2)

President Putin on Friday submitted to the Kursk Regional Duma his nominated candidacy of governor Alexander Mikhailov to be approved to the post of head of the region. This is the fourth regional head appointed according to the new system. The story comments on the nominated candidacy, saying that the Kremlin has supported the KPRF member. (3)

Alexei Barinov, who is the last person to be elected head of the Nenets Autonomous Area according to the old system, took up office on Friday. He said that the time of acute social upheavals in the republic has passed. The story features his inauguration ceremony on Friday and its participants. (3)

The Vladimir Regional Legislative Assembly at its extraordinary session on Friday approved the candidacy of present governor Nikolai Vinogradov to the post of regional head for a new term of office. He has become the third appointed governor. (3)

Chechen siloviki during a special operation in Grozny on Friday killed Yunadi Turchayev, a warlord of the Wahabbite underground of Grozny. The story describes the operation. (4)

Kyrgyzstan' s President Askar Akayev at a news conference in Bishkek on Friday said that there is danger of velvet revolution in the republic, and that work is under way to draft its scenario. Brief. (4)

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday made several personnel reshuffles in his administration. The brief details some of them. (4)

Kazakhstan' s President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Friday delivered the state of the nation address to the republic' s parliament. Nazarbayev proposed to his colleague in Central Asia to make an alliance like the European Union. Brief. (4)

The Academy of Sciences is in conflict with the Guild of Filmmakers over a plot of land in the center of Moscow that scientists are using as tennis courts. The Central House of Scientists has lost the suit in the Moscow Arbitration Court. The story describes the conflict, saying that the scientists are not going to part with their tennis courts. (5)

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko' s press service reported on Friday that Lukashenko had instructed the gvt and the Belaruskaly leadership to work out a scheme of exporting potassium fertilizers without mediators with the aim of increasing budget revenues by $100 million. The story reveals the essence of Lukashenko decision. (5)

Domestic sugar producers' attempts to persuade their Belarussian colleagues to suspend their sugar deliveries to Russia were unsuccessful. Both sides discussed this issue on Friday but failed to reach compromise. The story reveals its essence, saying that if Minsk does not cut its deliveries, Russia may impose quotas on Belarussian sugar import. (5)

Japanese banking groups Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group Inc. and UFJ Holding Inc. on Friday made public the financial conditions of their merger. The sum of the deal that will create one of the largest banks in the world, will amount to $38 billion. The story reveals the deal. (5)

VympelCom on Friday reported that it had received the final decision from the Federal Tax Service (FTS) that inspected its accounting tax report for 2002. According to FNS, the company violated several tax rules and should pay about $12. 4 million in additional taxes. Brief. (6)

The Avgur-Estate investment construction company has become an owner of 51 percent of voting shares of ZAO " Plemzavod ' Kommunarka' (Moscow region) . Brief. (6)

Group Rusagro, a leading domestic operator on the food market, has increased its share in the charter capital of the Zhirovoi Kombinat company in Yekaterinburg. The group previously owned 62. 03 percent of shares of the enterprise. Brief. (6)

LG Electronics Inc. , a leading South Korean producer of home appliances, on Friday officially confirmed its intention to build a plant in the Ruza district of the Moscow region, with orientation to the European market. Brief. (6)

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA (18/2-19/2/2005)

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev lately has been often commenting on the political situation in the country, which worries him a lot. In an interview he focuses on several such issues, saying why he views the present gvt as irresponsible and immoral. (1, 11)

In an interview Ella Pamfilova, Chairwoman of the Council on Boosting Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights under the president, talks about the recent incident in Blagoveshchensk (Bashkiria) , focusing on the president' s stand on it (1. 10)

Spin doctor Olga Kryshtanovskaya forecasts a further estrangement of the Russian political elite from resolving vital problems. In an interview she analyses political and social consequences of building the power vertical by federal authorities. (1, 10)

The State Duma on Friday was expected to consider and endorse amendments to the presidential draft bill concerning the Public Chamber. The story examines the main provisions of the draft, focusing on several latest amendments. (1, 2)

Two commissions were formed in the State Duma in the fall -- one to investigate the terrorist act in Beslan and the other to resolve problems in the North Caucasus. In an interview Vladimir Katrenko, deputy leader of the State Duma United Russia faction, talks about the second commission, focusing on issues it has to deal with. (2)

Economic Development Minister German Gref stated on Thursday that inflation in the first week of February amounted to 0. 04 percent, which shows that the annual inflation rate can considerably surpass the annual planned inflation rate of 8. 5 percent. The story looks at experts' viewpoint. (3)

Yukos is to undergo serious changes this spring, and this time they will take place inside the company. The structural units of the oil company Yukos-EP and Yukos-RM and the managing company Yukos-Moskva will stop functioning on May 3. The story examines several other upcoming changes. (3)

From all indications, oligarchs have become the first target of the new Ukrainian gvt that plans to de-privatize several big enterprises. Ukrainian authorities intend to show to Western investors their resolve in the anti-corruption struggle, and to the people -- their striving for justice. The story focuses on how de-privatization in Ukraine could affect Russia' s interests. (5)

ROSSIISKAYA GAZETA (19/2/2005)

President Putin has signed a decree concerning increases in the monthly salaries of several categories of servicemen. The story reveals the essence of the document. (1, 7)

In an interview Moscow region governor Boris Gromov answers the following questions --Who permits to build cottages in the water-conservancy zone? Will a transfer to 100 percent payments for housing and communal utilities cause new mass protests? Will Moscow city and region merge into a single region? (1, 2)

In an exclusive interview (on the threshold of his trip to Europe) American President George W. Bush optimistically talks about his 12th summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, focusing on issues he will discuss with him. (1, 3, MN, No. 7, p. 8)

About 4 million Russians are consuming drugs today, and about 50 percent of them cannot live a day without them. These figures were cited at a session of the Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics that discussed results in 2004. The story examines a report by Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov, who focused on Afghanistan as a major supplier of Russia with drugs. (2, Krasnaya Zvezda, 1)

The Finance Ministry' s press service reported on Friday that 270 billion rubles recovered from Yukos was transferred to the budgets of all levels over the past 2 months. The story looks at several sources for the budget revenues. (2 )

Television channel " Kultura" on March 1 will air a documentary titled " Russian History Through the Eyes of Children" . The story previews the film. (7)

TRUD (19/2/2005)

According to statistical reports from the Institute of Social and Economic Problems, there are 2. 8 million homeless children, which is more than the figure of such children left after World War II. Moscow police alone last year detained 20, 000 minors and almost 3, 000 teenagers involved in crimes. The story gives several more figures showing authorities' carelessness about children and their problems. (1, 3)

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA (19/2/2005)

The first directives signed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko have bewildered many ministers. The story looks at some of them. (2)

The story describes the continuing scandal in the Ryazan region around its governor Georgy Shpak, who has rejected all accusations. The focus is on the story' s conclusion about the new system of appointing the regional governors. (2)

The Federation Council has disagreed with a new holiday calendar and is drafting its amendments to the Labour Code. Thus, they suppose to return May 2 to the people as a holiday. The story comments on the Federation Council' s decision, saying that May 2 will become a day-off, but only starting 2006. A reminder that March 6, 7 and 8 are days-off. (3, MK, 3)

The State Duma has prepared a bill concerning reviving the institution of property confiscation. In its authors' opinion, if it is passed, it will be a revolutionary move in fighting terrorism, organizational crime and corruption. Vladimir Vasilyev, head of the State Duma Security Committee, comments on the document. (4)

The story describes how the Moscow Mosenergo company is selling electricity through the Internet. (6)

MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS (19/2/2005)

According to unofficial information, up to 200 cases of cannibalism are registered in Russia every year. The story offers concrete examples showing why people do it. (1, 4)

A collapsed wall in an apartment block under construction on Ulitsa Smolensky Bulvar on Friday made two Tajik workers dead and 2 others injured. The story gives details. (1)

Syringes with unknown liquid were delivered to the British Embassy in Moscow on Thursday evening. The incident caused alarm among embassy staff. The story describes what happened to those syringes. (1)

The production of vodka and champagne has considerably decreased in Russia. The production of beer, however, has increased by 4. 8 percent. A graph. (2)