WHAT THE RUSSIAN PAPERS SAY

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IZVESTIA

The law enforcement agencies should protect human rights and conduct a more active fight against corruption both outside and inside their ranks. These were the tasks Russian President Vladimir Putin set the country's Interior Ministry in Yessentuki, a resort in the North Caucasus. The ministry is in for serious changes as part of the ongoing administrative reform. Putin promises that these will occur with the minimum of outside pressure: the ministry may independently determine how it is to be reformed.

Putin repeated statements addressed to other law enforcement and security structures: the fight against corruption should be among their top priorities. The new wording was "protection of the economy from officials' abuse". The president did not say anything directly about combating corruption inside the ministry, but warned, "The police should not interfere with corporate conflicts and disputes between economic agents".

The ministry's structure is to be reformed: Putin confirmed that the administrative reform included this, Izvestia writes.

ARGUMENTY I FAKTY

Question to the weekly: "There are reports that the Moscow police service may change its name".

AiF responds: "We have learnt from the information and public relations division of the Moscow main interior department, the reform has been discussed in the police lobbies for a long time. The Russian word "militsia" often provokes negative emotions among citizens. Perhaps, changing the name for "politsia" will help to improve the image of the police. If the Interior Minister signs the corresponding decree, the police will be renamed throughout the country, not only in Moscow".

KOMMERSANT

Today, the Russian government will meet to endorse the scenario conditions for the country's economic development in 2004-2007. The mid-term scenario was expected on Wednesday, Kommersant writes. Unexpectedly, it turned out that it was "uncoordinated". The government staff objected to the document, the newspaper learnt from the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. These are not ordinary squabbles between officials: the document concerns the first federal budget of Vladimir Putin's second term in office and the prospects for doubling the country's GDP by 2010.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI

Russia will create a system of air and space defence, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is now inspecting the Moscow military district, said at the session with the Air Force and Air Defence Command. He believes that in order to do this Russia should use the air defence and battle air defence, which protect armed forces from the air, as well as the Space Forces. He did not elaborate on the system, the image of which has already been "determined". Russia has had an air and space defence system since Soviet times, the newspaper points out. At present, it is part of the Space Forces and consists of the missile attack warning system, space control system and the anti-missile defence of the Central, that is Moscow district.

This has led military analysts to the conclusion that the minister's statement signalled the possibility of new reforms in the Russian Armed Forces, Vremya Novostei writes.

GAZETA

Irina Khakamada is no longer a member of the Union of Right Forces (SPS). She has not gone into business, as Boris Nemtsov has done, but she still needs money to create her own party, Free Russia, the newspaper points out. So far she has enough to hold a session of the organising committee. Yet even if she manages to create a party, it will not get to the State Duma (the lower house of parliament) in 2007, political experts maintain: only a strong united right-wing bloc can do this, but there is no sign of one appearing in Russia so far.

Khakamada announced her intention to leave the SPS ahead of the party's congress on January 24, Gazeta recalls. Then she promised to leave the party if it did not support her as a presidential candidate. The party did not support her, but the former SPS co-chairman has only now decided to resign.

"I believe that chances of her party overcoming the 7% barrier at the next elections are small," political expert Dmitry Orlov told Gazeta. "She is an outstanding politician, but she is not capable of gathering a significant number of votes".

TRUD

At a session of the Federation Council's (the upper house of parliament) provisional tax policy committee this week, Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Motorin pointed out that due to the introduction of a simplified taxation system for small business, the number of entrepreneurs registered in Russia had increased by 3.5 times over a year and was continuing to grow, Trud reports. Moreover, analysts maintain that if all the planned reforms are fulfilled, the sector will be in for a real boom, it points out.

According to the deputy minister, 179,700 small enterprises were registered in Russia in 2002, while the figure for 2003 is already 640,000, and there are expected to be 884,000 in 2004. All these businesses make an appropriate contribution to the country's GDP. At present, it is not so significant as it is in the industrialised nations, but it is continuing to grow. Analysts from the Aton investment group have calculated that the share of small businesses in Russia's GDP grew from 9% to 13% in 2003. They are positive that due to the administrative reform this share may double within the next four or five years, Trud writes.

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