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    January 14


    Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Alyoshin has briefed President Putin on the preliminary results of the administrative reform. The search for future staff victims of the reform has been significantly accelerated, the newspaper writes. Over 1,500 state functions out of the present 5,000 have already been found excessive, duplicating or "requiring a reduced scale of their performing". By April 1, Alyoshin promised to complete the first stage of the reform determining all superfluous state functions. The Interior Ministry will be the unluckiest, Kommersant believes. It will be deprived of the most beneficial functions.

    The working pace of the government commission on the administrative reform during the New Year holidays cannot but surprise, the newspaper goes on. However, the most intriguing aspect is whether or not law-enforcement and other security bodies will really lose some of their rights. "By now, we have introduced an order when all non-procedural actions should be halted, and the Government is already preparing the corresponding legal and normative acts," Alyoshin told the President.

    As to the new government structure, it will become more or less clear after April 1, Kommersant writes. Only after the President has approved (or rejected) the government plan it will be known which ministries and departments will remain and which will be abolished. Yet judging by Putin's remark that "unregulated administrative sphere is one of the major reasons that create a basis for corruption", May will see significant reductions both in the number of departments themselves and their functions.


    Businessmen, artistic intelligentsia, local officials, doctors and pensioners will campaign for Vladimir Putin at the presidential elections. The list of his electioneering agents contains 252 names. Experts are positive that they will gain from the campaign more than Putin himself.

    Agents themselves promise to diligently tell people about the achievements of the incumbent president. "We will speak to the voters and simply share our opinion of the President," says director of the Saratov regional theatre Valery Mironenko. "I for one consider Putin the only real candidate, an extraordinary person who is capable of bringing order to the country".


    Seventy-six percent of Russians believe that some kind of censorship is necessary in the media, the paper informs its readers. This truly sensational revelation, it emphasises, is the result of the recent ROMIR Monitoring opinion poll. For some reason, the residents of the Ural and Siberian Federal Districts show the greatest need for censorship, while those of the South District, the lowest. Residents in big cities and more educated people are generally more tolerant. However, they do not change the picture much.

    Natalya Vishnyakova, who heads the Information and PR Centre of the Prosecutor General's Office, said in an interview with Izvestia: "I can understand people who are sick and tired of bad news. They are drowned in blood, which flows freely from their TV screens and newspaper pages. What they see and read is not news, but tales from the crypt... Just like as before people choked on continuous triumphant reports, today they gasp on hearing about something that has blown up or collapsed, or that someone has been crushed, shot, etc. Regrettably, it has become mauvais ton to write about good things."


    The official announcement that Mongolia's $10 billion debt to Russia is to be written off can be viewed as a financial sensation, albeit a small one, the newspaper reads. Russia has never written off such an amount before. Until now, Ethiopia was the record-breaker here, as Russia let it off its $4 billion debt. Russia has not obtained much in exchange for such generosity so far. True, Mongolia promised to confirm Russia's ownership of the shares in companies formerly owned by the USSR, and pay $300 million.

    At the same time, many experts believe that it is better to acquire entry to certain markets or obtain some political advantages than to try and squeeze bad debts from Russia's debtors, NG notes.

    Russia's biggest debts owed by Cuba, Syria, Angola, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea, are bad ones, too, the newspaper goes on to say. These countries account for the bulk of debt owed to Russia - around $70 billion, according to estimates.


    The Russian Air Force has received a Christmas present: at the Lipetsk Aviation Centre (central Russia) pilots will soon fly new SU-27SKM fighters. Five aircraft have already arrived, while there are plans to deliver 20 more in the next few months.

    The new SU models, Trud notes, are unusual machines in many respects. They are capable of easily destroying air and ground targets. They can fly in bad weather and in the dark. Their equipment can fully control bombing even with zero visibility. The pilots' task now is to test the new machines in various situations. Once they give the go-ahead, serial production of the SU-27SKM will start.

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