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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Public Chamber Darling of Media If Not Kremlin

The Public Chamber may not influence government policy or help the public. But, having just wrapped up its first plenary session, this much is clear: The media love it.

The chamber's outlandish proposals -- for instance, barring officials from using the words "euro" and "dollar"; drafting a 49-point, anti-extremism charter; and imposing career caps on officials who did not serve in the army -- were among the issues covered most thoroughly by the media last week. Less reported was the fact that lawmakers quickly shot down that last idea.

"The chamber's unclear status allows the notable personalities who are in it to use a lot of creativity when carrying out the Kremlin's will," said Masha Lipman, a political analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

The chamber, whose members include pop diva Alla Pugachyova and nuclear physicist Yevgeny Velikhov, was conjured up by the Kremlin in the wake of the Beslan terrorist attack in September 2004.

At the time, President Vladimir Putin argued that the chamber would serve as a conduit between the people and the powers that be.

Army hazing and violent extremism directed against dark-skinned migrants has dominated the agenda of the chamber, which was created late last year.

Sergei Markov, a political analyst with Kremlin ties who sits on the chamber, said his comrades did not fully grasp how to handle intense media scrutiny.

Markov cited the recent flap that ensued when Velikhov, the chamber's secretary, publicly lamented that officials frequently use the terms "euro" and "dollar." His comments, Markov said, were portrayed by the media as representative of official chamber policy.

Igor Mintusov, head of the Nicolo-M political consulting firm, said the chamber's 126 members faced a hard choice.

"Either they will be an institution that seriously, and without much media pomp, grapples with social problems and tries to solve them in conjunction with the authorities -- something like a Russian ombudsman," he said. "Or, the chamber may degenerate into a debating society making populist, ineffectual noises about real issues that concern the nation."