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    Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, December 24

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    Public Chamber Proposes New Military Enlistment Oath \ Vladimir Posner Comments on Dima Yakovlev Law \ Medvedev Loses Another Official

    MOSCOW, December 24 (RIA Novosti)


    Public Chamber Proposes New Military Enlistment Oath

    The Russian Public Chamber has proposed that the Defense Ministry, the State Duma and the Presidential Executive Office amend the oath of enlistment and replace the words “I swear” with “I promise.”

    The proposal takes into account the religious views and ethnic specifics of many recruits.

    Alexander Kanshin, Chairman of the Public Chamber’s National Security Commission, said military service should be a voluntary decision that does not conflict with a conscript’s convictions.

    Kanshin says there needs to be a compromise on the spiritual and moral side of the oath.

    The proposal was submitted by Anatoly Pchelintsev, a lawyer who argues that the Gospel forbids Christians to swear any oath. Indeed, in the tsarist era Orthodox Christians serving in the Russian Imperial Army were allowed to substitute “I promise” or “I pledge by God” for “I swear.”

    State Duma officials have so far reacted coolly to the proposal. Vladimir Komoyedov, an admiral in the naval reserve and chairman of the Defense Committee, said the issue called for serious discussion.

    Frants Klintsevich, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee and Head of Russia's Union of Afghan Veterans, said he would not allow the oath to be amended in any way.

    “I will do my best to prevent the word “I swear” from being removed from the oath. An oath represents a very strong moral obligation, which cannot be replaced by any promise. Although we respect all religious faiths, Russia is a secular state,” Klintsevich explained.
    The current oath of enlistment was approved in 1998.

    The oath of enlistment requires conscripts to swear twice: the first time to uphold the Constitution, comply with military regulations and carry out the lawful orders of their superior officers; and the second time to bravely defend Russia’s freedom, independence and constitutional system, its people and the Motherland.


    Vladimir Posner Comments on Dima Yakovlev Law

    Veteran journalist and TV host Vladimir Posner criticized a bill that won final approval in the Russian parliament’s lower house last week that bans adoption of Russian children by US citizens.

    Passage of the bill amounts to an own goal, he said.

    Posner discussed the law, which has already been dubbed “the anti-Magnitsky Act” or “the Dima Yakovlev Law,” in closing remarks on his regular Sunday night show on Channel One. He agreed that US passage of the Magnitsky Act was senseless and hypocritical and would do no good for either America or Russia.

    But compared with Russia’s anti-Magnitsky Act, he said, the US move was a model of wisdom and foresight.

    It is Russian children, especially those with special needs and health problems that will be hardest hit by the move, because American families are much more willing to adopt such children than Russian ones.

    “The State Duma’s thinking is just astounding. It is not right for people at the national level to make decisions that turn their country into a laughingstock,” Posner said, adding that he disagreed with President Vladimir Putin’s assessment that the law is a proportionate response.

    The move includes more than symmetrical sanctions against a number of US officials who have violated the rights of Russian citizens, denying them entry to Russia and ownership of Russian assets. It also includes other restrictions such as a temporary suspension for activity of non-commercial organizations in Russia that are engaged in political activity and receive subsidies from abroad, and a ban on adoption of Russian children by US citizens.

    The US-Russia controversy over the Magnitsky list has led to an unexpected development. A petition was posted on the US government website late last week calling for the State Duma deputies who supported the ban on adoption to be added to the Magnitsky List. The petition has been signed by 25,000 people which makes it mandatory for the White House to consider it. Russian deputies have warned that this move could provoke a scandal fraught with a cut-off of diplomatic relations. Analysts, on the other hand, are confident that Barack Obama’s administration would stop short of such harsh action.


    Medvedev Loses Another Official

    Vladimir Kogan, head of the Federal Agency for Construction, Housing and Utilities (Gosstroy), has submitted his resignation. Four of his deputies followed suit. Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunyayev accepted their resignations.

    Ministry representative Maria Safronova said the resignations were not a sign of any internal conflict at the ministry, but merely part of an ongoing reorganization process in accordance with new presidential initiatives.

    A federal official said that Kogan had accepted the post at the request of Vladimir Putin, who needed a reliable official to tackle the problem of substandard housing.

    However, appointing a man from Putin’s team as deputy minister with expanded powers unbalanced the structure. Kogan was frequently at odds with Minister Oleg Govorun, who resigned after the president said the draft of the 2013 budget did not correspond to his goals in construction, housing and utilities.

    A government source said that Medvedev had appointed Slyunyayev to ensure proper operation of the system, but Kogan ignored the new minister’s instructions. According to another source, Medvedev sharply criticized Kogan at a meeting in late October.

    An old Putin acquaintance, Kogan was president of a bank in which Putin was a client and a shareholder. He was deputy head of Rosstroy, an analogue of Gosstroy, from 2005 to 2008 and was later appointed head of the Regional Development Ministry’s construction department.
    Kogan’s main project was the St. Petersburg flood prevention dam; after the dam’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was held – in Putin’s presence – in August 2011, Kogan left government service.

    The Audit Chamber, which audited the project’s expenses in 2010, reported many financial and technical violations, which were subsequently rectified, an official said.

    The roadmap on construction is the most difficult of the three roadmaps designed to improve the investment climate in Russia, Economic Development Minister Andrei Belousov said last Thursday. He said the Regional Development Ministry and Gosstroy had only submitted documents for 11 of the 16 tasks by the deadline, and only two have actually been fulfilled.

    The resignation of senior officials is designed “to demonstrate the inexpert policy of the prime minister who has brought less-than-professional people onto his team,” a federal official said.

    The problem with Medvedev’s government is that it has been unable to resolve a number of thorny issues, political analyst Mikhail Vinogradov said.
    Kogan’s resignation shows that Russia has entered a new political stage, where the powers that be speak not in the form of orders issued by the leadership, but in the form of personnel reshuffles, political analyst Andrei Ashkerov said. It fits the theory that the current strategy is to deny any support to Medvedev’s government, in effect making it temporary, and hence controllable.

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