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    RUSSIANS IN FOR DRACONIAN TAXES? NO, SAYS FINANCE MINISTER

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    MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Cabinet will receive a legal package with finishing touches on a fiscal reform, now underway, within three or four weeks, says Alexei Kudrin, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

    "We are making calculations not for next year alone but with medium- and long-term prospects, up to 2010-2012," he said to the media in Moscow today.

    "We are specifying computations on all options, and that is a long job," he added.

    The Cabinet expects to receive at once all bills concerning the reform- in particular, initiatives on mining taxation, cutting unified social taxation rates, and streamlining VAT administration. The State Duma, the Russian parliament's lower house, will not merely forward the package to the Cabinet but approve it within the spring parliamentary session. As for the Cabinet, it has not yet appointed the date for a session that will debate the matter.

    Government proposals on taxing petroleum and gas superprofits depend on taxing particular oil- and gasfields. Taxation is to allow the industry to work on in comfortable conditions and retain capital investment opportunities. Fiscal rates will be finally determined only after figures become available for sparing taxation-not to crush the crucial industry.

    As for media allegations about public taxation to skyrocket, that's all wrong. "What I have been reading in the press is not what we are proposing- taxes will not grow that much," reassured Mr. Kudrin.

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