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    WHAT THE RUSSIAN PAPERS SAY

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    March 19

    GAZETA

    Though the government has approved the Forest Code, its future was determined by President Vladimir Putin, who said that in addition to private ownership of forests, the state had a large number of other instruments to make the industry profitable. He called on the government not to make "sharp moves" before discussing the code with the general public.

    During a meeting with Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev, the president called for caution, "The future of forests affects everyone, and hence a decision on the Forest Code should be taken only after a broad discussion with scientists and broad sections of the public." Vladimir Putin also cautioned against placing too much stock on private ownership: "The system of ownership is not highly developed in this country yet. ...One can get hurt by traps set along the forests' perimeter." And Trutnev had nothing to say to that, writes the newspaper.

    VREMYA NOVOSTEI

    The structure of the new cabinet has been put to serious test. It has transpired that the architect of the reform of executive power, chief of the government staff Dmitry Kozak has presented to his colleagues a plan of restructuring the ministries, which provoked a scandal. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and Economic Development Minister German Gref refused to comply with it. But President Putin, to whom the two sides in the conflict have appealed, took Kozak's side.

    According to a source in one of the ministers' staff, Kozak suggested gearing the structure of the ministries to that of the new cabinet. This means that a federal minister should have two deputies, one of whom would head the ministerial staff.

    The two ministers' protest is understandable, writes the newspaper. Under the old structure, Gref had 15 deputies and Kudrin, 12. But their "revolt" has also psychological roots. The two ministers are not satisfied with the results of the cabinet reform, as each wanted to be the reform leader and the finance minister had harboured ambitions of becoming premier.

    IZVESTIA

    The blockade has been lifted from Adzharia and all the disputed issues have been settled, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in Batumi after his talks with Adzharian leader Aslan Abashidze. According to Saakashvili, "there is no and cannot be any conflict between Adzharia and Georgia." Georgian warships that were blockading Batumi raised anchor and headed for Poti.

    However, this rapid reconciliation of Abashidze and Saakashvili can hardly mean that the Adzharian problem has been settled for good. The republic has not yet surrendered to the control of the Tbilisi authorities and Saakashvili will hardly be pleased with the remaining uncertainty. In other words, it was most probably not the last crisis in Batumi-Tbilisi relations.

    NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA

    The newspaper carried an article titled, Ukraine Lets NATO Troops In, which says, in part:

    The memorandum of understanding between the government of Ukraine and the Staffs of the Supreme Commanders of the NATO Joint Armed Forces in the Atlantic and Europe, granting NATO troops the right of the so-called quick access to Ukraine, had been gathering dust in the Supreme Rada for about two years. Owing to a strange combination of circumstances, it was ratified on Wednesday, when President Kuchma left for a meeting with the Russian president in Moscow. This means that in the near future Ukraine may become a bridgehead for NATO's military operations, including in the CIS.

    The ratification of the memorandum actually violated the article of the Ukrainian Constitution on the non-bloc status of the state. Besides, Ukraine, which two years ago expressed a desire to join the alliance in the future, cannot do this de jure until 2017, as long as the Russian Black Sea Fleet is deployed in the Crimea. But de facto Kiev has flung its doors wide open to NATO troops.

    This decision of the Ukrainian parliament has given NATO troops access to the border with Russia, writes the newspaper.

    KOMMERSANT

    The main indicator of the Russian stock market, the RTS, has set a new record. On Thursday it reached a new peak, climbing higher than 700 points. Traders say a deep change is becoming increasingly more probable yet predict continued growth in the future.

    "We can see the market reach 730 points without change," says Alexei Logvin, an analyst with the Interfintrade investment company. "This is a perfect moment for reviewing political risks." Chief economist of Sovlink Eric Kraus notes, "Scary investors fixed profits before elections. Now that Putin, whom everyone knows, has been re-elected, the time has come to recall that Russia is not an expensive country compared to other emerging markets (e.g. Turkey and Venezuela) and has room for growth."

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