On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a regular meeting with the cabinet. The agenda included a broad range of issues, from the government's co-operation with the Central Bank and the administrative reform to military units. Importantly, the president reminded Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and his deputy Alexander Zhukov that they should not "neglect the issue of the fairer distribution of tax burden between extracting and processing sectors", Kommersant writes. In other words, Putin sanctioned increased tax pressure on oil producers.
He also made a noteworthy statement, the newspaper points out. Apparently, the prime minister and his deputy have become too engaged in the government reshuffle and innovations, forgetting "the important things". The administrative reform turns out to be unimportant, while the important thing, according to the president, is macroeconomic performance.
President Putin is also worried about Russia's forests. He asked Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev "to think thoroughly about all issues that we consider disputable". These include the clause in the new Forest Code, already endorsed by the government, that allows private ownership of forest tracts, Kommersant reports.
In an interview published in today's Izvestia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on Russia's position on the Middle East conflict.
Q.: What is your assessment of the present state of Palestinian-Israeli relations and the Arab-Israeli peace process in general?
A.: I do not want to repeat the obvious, but I have to state that the lingering Arab-Israeli conflict remains, along other regional crises, one of the most serious obstacles on the way to peace and stability in the Middle East.
The reasons of the prolonged crisis are clear to the whole international community. These are the occupation of Palestinian territories, which along with other reasons prevents Palestinian people from exercising their natural right for self-determination and creation of a sovereign state. If these basic problems are not addressed, the hotbed of tension in the Middle East will lead to a new escalation of the conflict. The Road Map worked out with Russia's active participation is an adequate response to the current situation.
Almost every day of trading on the Russian stock market brings new records, the newspaper writes. On Monday, the index of the Russian trading system, RTS, has passed 780 points and reached a new high, while leading Russian stocks showed an average increase of 0.5-2%. Some experts now worry that the virtually uninterrupted four-month growth will in the long run turn the Russian market into a bubble which will ultimately burst.
Yet the majority of analysts are optimistic. There is no over-heating on the Russian stock market, Alexei Bachurin, Metropol's stock exchange department head, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Since the beginning of the year, a great deal of money has been invested in the Russian market, but these were strategic investments. "Even if oil prices were to fall sharply, there would be no market collapse, it would decline slowly," Bachurin believes.
The Moscow authorities have decided to support young families with children. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has signed a decree on increasing the lump-sum benefit for a newborn child. Now parents aged under 30 will receive an additional payment equal to 5-10 minimal living wages in Moscow, that is, 16,000-32,000 roubles ($1 equals 28.5 roubles). At the same time, the previous payments (a federal one of 4,500 roubles and a Moscow one of 2,000 roubles) remain valid, Gazeta reports.