Until yesterday, Washington had not reacted to the nomination of Mikhail Fradkov to the post of prime minister of Russia, but EU representatives had expressed their opinion freely. The thing is that Fradkov had worked in Brussels for a year. European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi and Javier Solana, EU High Commissioner for Foreign and Defence Policy, phoned Fradkov to congratulate him on his nomination.
Mr Solana told this newspaper: I am glad Fradkov has been chosen for the post. This choice shows that Russia values its relations with the EU. This is a positive sign. Fradkov's knowledge of the EU and his Brussels experience will be important cards for the new Russian government. The commissioner said he knew the nominee to be a competent, frank and energetic interlocutor, with whom he had worked productively in Brussels.
"Rumours of an impending trade war with the EU are highly exaggerated," acting Economic Development Minister German Gref assured a national conference of parties to Russia's foreign economic operations. He does not share the widespread belief that Russia-EU relations are in a crisis provoked by the forthcoming admission of ten new members to the organisation. "This is not true," Gref said.
Indeed, he recently had "a highly positive conversation" with EU Trade Representative Pascal Lamy, which was attended by Mikhail Fradkov, who has now been nominated for the post of prime minister. The minister believes that "Russia has a good chance of completing the talks by May 1 [when new members will be admitted to the EU] and not to lose a single cent from the EU expansion."
The paper features a reaction from Mikhail Zadornov, deputy chairman of the Duma budgetary committee and an old friend and colleague of Mikhail Fradkov who said he would like to see Alexander Zhukov, first vice-speaker of the State Duma, as his first vice-premier:
"I welcome the offer. It is a challenge to United Russia [which has a constitutional majority in the Duma] because Zhukov is not a member. And so, we will not have a constitutional majority government, though the president had expressed a desire to have one. The appointment of Zhukov is the lightning conductor that will compensate for the president's failure to act on his statement. I think Zhukov will bring to the cabinet two or three people who are associated with United Russia, which will somehow link the change of government with the party. Zhukov will strengthen the economic block of the cabinet."
Acting Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev has created a sensation by admitting the existence of extreme right, neo-Nazi youth organisations in Russia, writes the newspaper. During a routine conference of the heads of the Federal Security Service (FSB, counter-intelligence) and the Interior Ministry, Nurgaliyev set the task of "neutralising" the extremist leaders. He thinks this will effectively split their groups.
Nurgaliyev did not explain what he meant by the word "neutralise" but police textbooks say in black and white that to split a criminal community, its leader must be isolated by arresting him for minor crimes, such as illegally possessing drugs or weapons and evading tax.
Nurgaliyev is the first official to openly admit the existence of a neo-Nazi youth movement in Russia and the advocates of "white rule" - skinheads - in Russia.