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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputies Return to Renovated Duma

MTWorkers repairing the sidewalk near the entrance to the Duma. Over the summer, renovations were also made inside.
The State Duma reconvenes on Wednesday after a summer recess to discuss health care reform and draw up a debate schedule for the more than 500 bills that are planned for the fall season.

Deputies return to a spruced-up Duma, with new carpets and repainted walls, a salad bar in the cafeteria and facilities for the disabled.

During the first plenary session, Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov will tell the deputies about measures being drafted to improve health care, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said after a meeting of the Duma's council on Tuesday.

The deputies will then discuss the measures, which include an increase in health care spending to purchase medical equipment and better prevent illnesses, Gryzlov said.

The Duma wants to review the reform before the ministry submits it to the Cabinet for approval, Gryzlov said. He did not say when the Cabinet was expected to consider the plan.

Also Wednesday, the deputies will vote on a schedule to debate the 500-odd bills this fall, Gryzlov said.

The Duma's two buildings -- the imposing 10-story edifice on Ulitsa Okhotny Ryad and a newer 15-story building nearby -- underwent a 96 million ruble ($3.4 million) facelift while the deputies were away, Izvestia reported, citing the Duma's property department.

When deputies officially came back to work on Monday, they found new, shiny lettering reading "State Duma" over the main entrance on Ulitsa Okhotny Ryad. Rickety marble blocks leading up to the entrance were also replaced.

Inside, workers upgraded the electronic voting system and replaced Soviet-era red carpets with green ones. Walls were repainted, and new wallpaper and parquet were placed in some offices.

In an effort to make the building handicapped-accessible, the Duma now has larger toilet stalls and special equipment to transport disabled deputies and visitors up and down the stairs. The Duma's only disabled deputy is Oleg Smolin of the Communist Party, who is blind.

Earlier this year, a disabled member of a delegation of U.S. congressmen had trouble getting around the Duma during a visit, Izvestia and Rossia television reported.

The Duma's famously inexpensive cafeteria started offering a salad bar on Monday at a cost of 43 rubles ($1.70) per serving, said Vladimir Pozdnyakov, a senior staff member in the Communist Party faction.

Pozdnyakov likened the choice of salads to that of the Yolki-Palki restaurant chain, where similar fare goes for 210 rubles for an unlimited number of servings.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov had 20-year-old plastic wall panels replaced with cream-colored wallpaper in his and an aide's offices, Pozdnyakov said.

Zyuganov's lampshades and curtains are also new, and he is expecting the delivery of new shelves for books and souvenirs to complete the refurbishment next week, Pozdnyakov said.

Tivol-Stroi, the company carrying out the renovations, has a license to work in classified facilities, Izvestia reported.

Deputy Sergei Chaplinsky of the Rodina faction said he found new lacquered parquet in his office in place of the worn-out carpet when he returned Monday. "They hadn't changed the floor for a long time, and they did the right thing by doing so now," he said.

Pozdnyakov predicted that the modest renovation would improve deputies' motivation to work.

But Chaplinsky said it would not have any effect on his colleagues' work.

"It's not the floor but the deputies who need to be changed in order for something to change at work," he said.