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    Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, September 11

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    President Putin Loses a Quarter of His Support/ Patriarch Kirill Questions New Civil Code


    President Putin Loses a Quarter of His Support

    The number of Russians who approve of Vladimir Putin has declined by 20 percentage points over the past decade, with fewer people seeing him as a hero, according to a recent VTsIOM survey.

    The national polling center’s report shows how public attitude toward Putin has changed over time, starting from 2002 when 79 percent of respondents thought the new president was making a “mostly favorable” impression on them. That number has dwindled to 59 percent as of 2012, while the number of those who disapprove of Putin rose from 8 percent to 22 percent.

    At the same time, popular support for his actions as president slid from 75 percent in 2002 to 59 percent in 2012, while those who do not support his policies increased from 9 percent to 23 percent.

    VTsIOM General Director Valery Fyodorov said it would be more relevant to compare Putin’s popularity ratings with the most recent election-related results rather than with figures from a decade ago: “That was a totally different time, and a great deal has changed since then. Putin has changed, and the country and the people too.” This latest survey, held on August 24-25, canvassed 1,600 people in 46 regions, with a margin of error below 3.4 percent.

    Putin’s mythical image as a hero capable of curing the country’s problems has faded at this point, said political analyst Dmitry Orlov, a member of the Russian Public Chamber. At the same time, the decline in his popularity is largely due to inertia: everyone is familiar with the president and knows what can be expected from him. “A 20 point decline in popularity would have been disastrous if it happened over a month instead of over a decade,” Orlov said. He is also confident that Putin’s popularity will no longer fluctuate as significantly as that. Now he will be seen as an “efficient and competent manager.”

    For many years Putin’s influence rested on the fact that he was seen as “the lesser evil” by various segments of the population, Leonty Byzov, senior researcher at the Rusian Academy of Sciences’ Sociology Institute, told Komemrsant. However, that balance has shifted recently as some of the liberals who used to be loyal to him have changed sides, motivating him to search for new support to compensate for the loss. He is trying to rally more support from the conservative majority, which is reflected in his recent harsh rhetoric and moves to tighten legislation.

    During the beginning of his first term he actually stood out as a welcome change from the “old” president, Boris Yeltsin. Now rekindling this old admiration for him as “the national leader” would be more of a challenge, the analyst said. Even a flight with Siberian cranes failed to get him anywhere. “He no longer appeals to his own voters as a person, at least not as much as before,” Byzov said. What he has to do is emphasize his “indispensability” as a politician, Byzov added.


    Patriarch Kirill Questions New Civil Code

    Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin asking him to guarantee the church’s right to acquire public land free of charge.

    The letter is a reaction to the pending second reading of numerous amendments to the civil code scheduled for this fall. Certain amendments, which the legislature approved in a first reading last spring, have met with the clergy’s disapproval.

    According to the letter, the draft “affects the legitimate interests of religious organizations,” including the right to own the land under churches, mosques and synagogues. In most cases, these lands are government- or city-owned, and as of 2010, can be transferred into the ownership or long-term lease of religious organizations free of charge.

    The drafted bill, says the letter, could deprive them of this opportunity. The owners of buildings on public or municipal property will only have the right to redeem the land, whereas free long-term use is being transformed into paid permanent land ownership. The Patriarch warns that this could result in the “redistribution” of property because the majority of religious organizations will give up their rights to the land due to the inability to pay for it.

    Other points in the draft legislation, like the possible extension of bankruptcy regulations to religious organizations, are also causing apprehension. The state “cannot interfere in the internal activity of a religious organization or impose upon it the general requirements applied to legal entities,” says the letter.

    Yet another problem may arise in connection with the establishment of new ecclesiastical academies and monasteries. The draft bill sets the minimum number of founders at ten. This would appear to be at odds with the law on freedom of conscience, under which religious institutions are to be created in keeping with their own hierarchical and institutional structures, the Patriarch says.

    Asked to comment, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, could not say whether the Church’s observations would be taken into account. However, Pavel Krasheninnikov from the State Duma legislative committee promised that the Patriarchy’s land redemption request would. In addition, a two- or three-year respite will be granted, he said. But there will be no custom-made redemption procedures and bankruptcy regulations would not be applied to religious institutions either, he added.

    RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

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