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    WHAT THE RUSSIAN PAPERS SAY

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    March 16

    VREMYA NOVOSTEI

    The first statements made by President Putin after the Sunday elections show that the domestic policy dimension may change. Putin has announced two key goals of his second term - the development of a genuine multiparty system and civil society institutes. One specific feature of Putin's second term is that he has assumed control of the economic reforms by restructuring the executive power and appointing Mikhail Fradkov to the post of premier. During his first term, the president preferred to keep away from the economic decisions of the cabinet. Now he has reduced the distance to zero.

    The president said he would announce the new structure of his administration in a few days. It will most probably only have the functions of a political staff and personal chancellery for the head of state.

    The tax reform is one of the key tasks on Putin's agenda. He promised to announce the authorities' further actions in this sphere soon.

    It would be fair to expect that Putin's economic reform in a digested form would become the core of his annual address to the Federal Assembly. According to this newspaper's information, the Kremlin speechwriters are working on the address, which the president may deliver before his inauguration.

    NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA

    Experts have been energetically discussing the specific features of Putin's political system of late, especially after the Duma elections and in view of changes in the government. Opinions differ. Some think the president has rationalised the Russian political system and abandoned the use of "political emergency measures" practiced by Boris Yeltsin. Others say the vertical power structure is complete and now Russia has a "monocentric model" of power.

    GAZETA

    Foreign observers at the presidential elections have offered their first assessments of the level of democracy at them. The joint international commission of the OSCE and PACE thinks the elections were organised well but there was a shortage of "competition" and "political plurality" necessary for genuine democracy. The Bush administration has also criticised the elections, but the Kremlin replied that it does not need "recommendations from anyone."

    About 800 foreign observers, mostly from the OSCE and the Council of Europe (340 from 39 countries), monitored the March 14 elections.

    KOMMERSANT

    The Tbilisi-Batumi confrontation has entered a new stage. The Georgian authorities have decided to take "a number of constitutional measures to blockade the separatist regime of Adzharia." This means the blockade of the uncontrollable autonomous republic.

    Firstly, the Georgian authorities will ask Turkey to close the Sarpi checkpoint on the Adzharian sector of the Georgian-Turkish border. According to this newspaper, Turkey has hinted that it would heed Tbilisi's request. Next the Georgian government will close down the port of Batumi "because weapons are brought to Adzharia through it." The Ministry of Transport of Georgia has notified international shipping companies of the port's closure. After that Georgia will "halt the movement of all large cargoes across the autonomous republic." And lastly, Georgia will close down Batumi airport "because proper security measures cannot be taken there."

    Taken together, these measures "to blockade the separatist regime of Adzharia" should encourage Aslan Abashidze to capitulate.

    IZVESTIA

    Despite a slide in the share of state financing and currency fluctuations, last year was good for the Russian pharmaceutical market. Its volume grew by an average of 15-20% to $5.5 bln. Experts believe that the market will keep growing at the same pace.

    Mikhail Nekrasov, director general of the Makiz-Pharma pharmaceutical association, says "the market is growing thanks to new products. Old medicines are being replaced with new and more expensive ones. The influence of this process on production will continue to grow, in particular because all branch enterprises should accept international standards by 2005."

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