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    WHAT THE RUSSIAN PAPERS SAY

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    February 11th

    IZVESTIA

    Presidential hopeful Ivan Rybkin has been found in Ukraine. "I have the right to two or three days of private life. I came to Kiev to see my friends, relaxed, switched off my phone and did not watch TV. In general, I had a nice time," he announced. His wife's reaction, Izvestia writes, was immediate, "Poor Russia, if such people are trying to govern it," she said, while the head of Rybkin's election headquarters, Ksenia Ponomareva, said she wanted to resign. However, Rybkin's supporters point to too many strange aspects about both his disappearance and sudden return.

    "If everything is like Ivan Petrovich says, it will mean the end of his political career," Rybkin's old friend and, according to many sources, major sponsor Boris Berezovsky told Izvestia.

    The presidential candidate disappeared on February 5. Last Sunday his wife reported him missing to the police. A search was launched by the Moscow police, the prosecutor's office and the Federal Security Service.

    VREMYA NOVOSTEI

    Russian-Belarussian talks are becoming ever more drawn out and less promising, the newspaper points out. Tuesday's council of the Union state's ministers and talks between the Russian and Belarussian prime ministers lasted a total of six hours. When summing up the results, Russian premier Mikhail Kasyanov said that the single ruble had been given "the very last chance". Financiers convinced the Russian premier that if by the end of March the Belarussian leader takes the political decision to introduce the Russian ruble as a means of payment in the republic (the Russian president took this decision long ago), there will be enough time to start using the single currency from January 1, 2005. However, not all members of the Russian delegation share Kasyanov's optimism, Vremya Novostei writes.

    TRUD

    In connection with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's visit to Moscow, Trud publishes a comment from chairman of the Russian Foreign and Defence Policy Council's Presidium Sergei Karaganov, which reads as follows:

    "We have to make clear Russia's interests in Georgia to ourselves and to our Georgian partners. I believe these interests are as follows. Firstly, to prevent political instability in Georgia, any further splits and the "Balkanisation" of the country, and the entire region. Secondly, to make Georgia a friendly state that will take into account Moscow's interests and will not develop its policy in opposition to Russia. Thirdly, to preserve Georgia in the scope of influence of the Russian language and Russian culture. Fourthly, to restore the country's economy as a basis for stability and mutually beneficial rapprochement".

    KOMMERSANT

    When commenting on the murder of a 9-year-old Tajik girl in St Petersburg, and severe injuries inflicted on her father and cousin, the newspaper points out that it is not the first such crime to have been committed in the city, but only now the authorities have paid serious attention to the increasing activity of skinheads.

    Although virtually all murders committed by them have been solved and each received detailed media coverage, until now the St Petersburg authorities did not seem to notice local neo-Nazis. According to experts, because of this, "skins have become utterly unruly". On Tuesday the authorities finally reacted to the events. Governor Valentina Matviyenko demanded that head of the main interior department should "go to the end of the Earth" to find the murderers of Khusheda Sultanova.

    According to Kommersant's sources in the police, they have already detained several teenagers suspected of being involved in the crime.

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