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    January 15


    It has been firmly established that Irina Khakamada, co-chair of the Union of Right Forces (SPS), is the most anti-Kremlin and anti-system member of the presidential race, writes the newspaper. Clearly discernible behind her is the shadow of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. It is also clear that the elections will not be slack, boring or held by the inertia scenario, no matter how much the Kremlin might want this. On the contrary, the presidential race will be much more harsh, scandalous and sensational than the recent elections to the State Duma (the lower chamber of parliament).

    It is sensational that Vladimir Putin will be faced with a very strong adversary from the left forces - Sergei Glazyev - and two irreconcilable critics on the right-wing flank - Ivan Rybkin and Irina Khakamada. The latter began her campaign very harshly, hinting that her criticism of Putin and his policy will be merciless. She decided to hit at all the Kremlin's sensitive spots, including the explosions in Moscow, Chechnya, the hostage standoff in the Dubrovka theatre, the "cleansing campaign" on television, and the revival of authoritarian rule and Soviet methods.

    An end has been put to the amorphous tactic of democrats during the Duma elections; in fact, the genuine battle between the liberals and the Kremlin is only beginning. If the Yabloko and SPS leaders are not aware of this and are not ready for such a battle, so much the worse for these democratic structures, whose disappearance from the political scene will be a matter of time.

    The situation is unique, writes the newspaper, because the Kremlin has almost no instruments to influence Khakamada. She can hardly be wooed or scared, as she has worked in the government, is well known in the West, and is well off materially, as Yukos co-owner Leonid Nevzlin is supporting her now.


    The Economic Development and Trade Ministry is optimistic about Russia's chances of joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Deputy ministers Alexei Kaulbars and Maxim Medvedkov said the WTO membership talks may be completed this year. They are not embarrassed by the fact that no compromise has been reached with the EU on the gas issue, writes the newspaper.

    "Our partners in the EU are in a constructive mood," Medvedkov told journalists. The recently appointed first deputy minister Alexei Kaulbars fully agrees with his colleague. According to Gref's deputies, the constructive mood of Brussels with respect to Russia joining the WTO is proved by the fact that the sides nearly came to an agreement in 2003 on the conditions for European producers' access to the Russian market of services. A year ago, the sides differed on 12 sectors of services, while now these differences have been reduced to three "delicate" sectors - telecommunications, other communications, finance and transport. Chief Russian negotiator at the WTO talks Medvedkov thinks these differences will be certainly settled.


    Yesterday, China introduced anti-dumping customs duties on the import of Russian cold-rolled steel. The Russian government was surprised and disappointed by the decision, writes Izvestia. In expert opinion, the annual losses of the MMK Magnitogorsk Steel Mill (Urals) and other providers of steel to China may reach $80 million.

    The producers explain Beijing's decision by political reasons. Diplomats explain it by the advance of additional demands at the talks on Russia's accession to the WTO and an attempt to put pressure on the Russian government concerning the construction of an oil pipeline from Angarsk (Siberia) to Daqing (China).

    "The introduction of duties will be a serious blow for us," said Vasily Varenov, head of the market protection department at MMK. "When we held a government-level meeting in September, Chinese officials assured us that no duties would be introduced. They repeated this on January 5. In fact, the anti-dumping duties are backdated and were introduced without consultations with us, in violation of all the signed protocols."


    Each Russian citizen may have a personal identification number, which would include all information about the said citizen that is now spread among various departmental databanks, writes the newspaper. This is stipulated in the personal registration plan, which the Economic Development Ministry will present to the government today.

    In the opinion of ministry officials, this will help the state to expose unscrupulous citizens and fulfil its social obligations to honest ones. However, the government fears that the introduction of the new system of control will be hindered by interdepartmental differences and pirated access to any databanks, information from which is sold on every corner in Moscow now.


    "The problem of suicide has grown to catastrophic proportions in Russia. Nearly 60,000 people, a population of a whole town, commit suicide every year," says Academician Tatyana Dmitriyeva, head of the Forensic Psychiatry Centre named after Serbsky. "The World Health Organisation has established a critical level of suicides. When the number of suicides exceeds it, it is a sign of grave threat to society. In Russia, the number of suicides is almost double the limit. Shockingly, the number of men who die by suicide is six times larger than the number of women. It is horrible, but we register even the suicide of children aged upwards of five years."

    Trud cites the information of the National Swedish Centre for Suicide Research, according to which Russia has the world's largest number of adolescent suicides: 2,500 every year. The second-largest number of adolescent suicides - 1,800 - is registered in the USA.

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