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Wrap: Putin warns against using language of blackmail with Russia

"I would not recommend that anyone use the language of provocation and blackmail against Russia," Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with senior members of the lower house of parliament, who considered a draft statement on Georgia Wednesday.
MOSCOW, October 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will not submit to blackmail from anyone, Russia's president said Wednesday in a clear reference to a diplomatic row with Georgia over spying allegations.

The president's statement comes in the wake of a scandal that began when Georgian police detained four Russian officers and charged them with espionage last week. Although the officers were handed over to the OSCE and then Russia Monday, diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi have persisted.

"I would not recommend that anyone use the language of provocation and blackmail against Russia," Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with senior members of the lower house of parliament, who considered a draft statement on Georgia Wednesday.

The president also thanked legislators for supporting the executive authorities during the diplomatic conflict with Georgia.

"I am grateful for the support of the officials who sought to defend the rights, dignity and lives of our citizens abroad," Putin said.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, is dominated by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, and this has led Western critics of Putin's policies to call it a "pocket parliament."

He said the current political consensus was definitely favored by a majority of Russians, and would help ensure their rights in the former Soviet Union and in other countries.

The president said a national consensus on key international issues was a serious basis for Russia's foreign policy.

The arrest of the Russian officers in Georgia and the rhetoric of Georgian authorities sparked off a crackdown in Russia on the approximately 300,000 Georgians living and working in the country.

Putin, in particular, highlighted the immigration problem and called for careful review of immigration laws.

"Our economy has been and will be absolutely open and transparent," he said. "It must encourage the inflow of capital and a qualified, much-needed workforce into our country."

However, the president said the authorities in Russia must be in charge of immigration flows in a way that will benefit Russian citizens and prevent them from feeling disadvantaged in certain sectors.

"It is important to look closely at the current laws that allow foreign citizens to work and do business in Russia," he said, adding that they should simultaneously meet international requirements and defend the rights of local populations.

After Russia suspended transport, postal and financial links with Georgia over the arrest of its servicemen, police in Russia were instructed to look into the legality of Georgian-owned businesses.

In the past two days, police closed down two major casinos in Moscow owned by the same Georgian businessman, saying he allegedly belonged to the Georgian mafia. According to police, the casinos - Golden Palace and Kristal - violated gambling laws, including health and tax codes.

At his meeting with legislators, President Putin handed over a bill on the gambling business in Russia.

"A series of gambling establishments came under the scrutiny of the Interior Ministry, and it is another reason to clarify the problem in general," he said.

The president's bill envisions restricting the gambling business in Russia to four territories, which indicates a dramatically new approach to the question.

Following the meeting with the president, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said that potential candidate territories could be two regions in European Russia, one in Siberia and one in the Far East, and added these areas would be uninhabited.

The president also highlighted social concerns, including demographic initiatives and national projects.

He expressed the hope the Duma will soon pass amendments designed to support demographic initiatives.

"I am thankful for your interested support for our demographic initiatives," he said, adding the newly raised monthly child allowances will prove effective.

Putin also asked the Duma to consolidate the financing of the country's four national projects that include demography, education, healthcare and housing. He added the 2007 budget envisaged a 54.3% increase in the funding of the projects.

The president praised the legislators' control over their implementation. "I expect that your constructive partnership with the executive authorities, namely the government, will continue," he said.

The parliamentarians' work during the spring session was also deemed praiseworthy by the president, including the law simplifying the procedure to officially register real estate property rights and the law regulating intellectual property rights.

"The law regulating intellectual property rights is of crucial importance to the development of innovations in Russia," he said.

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