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    January 22


    "Russian Elite Not Interested in Davos," writes the newspaper about the World Economic Forum that opened in the Swiss resort. In the past decade, Russia has been one of the main characters here and the WEF organisers even introduced Russia Days. The Russian business, political and official elite flocked to Davos in the 1990s, most of them for the mercantile reason of getting money from Western creditors. As for foreigners, they loved to ponder ways of improving Russia.

    Everything has changed since then, writes NG. Now the Western demands to Russia are the same as to any other industrialised state, especially as regards the repayment of loans and the writing off of debts to such countries as Iraq. The main thing that worries foreigners now is not the continuation of reforms, but the case of Yukos and its shareholders. And the Russian delegation led by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin will most probably have to answer their embarrassing questions.

    However, this year's Russian delegation is very modest. Even Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref will not attend the Davos forum. In all, there will be few Russian guests, which testifies to a catastrophic loss of Russian interest in Davos.


    The replacement of the government is a settled matter, writes the weekly. The only question is when this will happen. It may happen after the inauguration of the president on May 7, when the President, acting in compliance with Article 21 of the Constitution, will submit to the State Duma (lower parliamentary house) the name of the new prime minister. Or Putin may replace the cabinet before presidential elections, "to add zest to the situation" and ensure a respectable voter turnout at the March 14 elections.

    The weekly thinks Putin would do this with the help of the Duma, by encouraging the parliamentary majority to pass a vote of no confidence in the cabinet of Mikhail Kasyanov in February or early March. In this way, the President will gracefully shift the responsibility for the decisions of the future cabinet on to United Russia, which has the majority of seats in the house. By 2007, he will feel free to fire the "unpopular government of the unpopular parliamentary majority," keeping his suit spotlessly clean for the new election cycle.


    Fewer and fewer Russians believe in "good Lenin" but they are not prepared to admit his mistakes yet, writes the newspaper in connection with the 80th anniversary of Lenin's death. The "leader of the world proletariat" is no longer "more alive than the living," say even the bitterest rivals from public opinion research centres. The results of their polls held every year show that the number of Russians ready to give a clear-cut assessment (positive or negative) of the historical role of Lenin has been dwindling since the late 1990s.

    "Lenin is gradually moving farther away in history and is viewed by common people above all in the historical background that has no significance for modern life. This is why assessments of his work and significance are glossed over," say scientists of the VTsIOM National Public Opinion Research Centre. "The legend about 'good Lenin' whose ideas were distorted by the 'bad Stalin,' which was widespread in the last decades of socialism and the early stages of perestroika, is no longer widely believed. Society is returning from the wonderland behind the looking glass," says psychologist Georgy Mores.


    A World Bank delegation led by President James Wolfensohn has ended its two-day visit to Moscow. Mr Wolfensohn, who met journalists before his departure, once again thanked Vladimir Putin for the Order of Friendship and praised the current economic situation in Russia.

    I feel great trust in the Russian government because it chose the right strategy of economic development, he said. Proof of this are the economic successes achieved last year, writes the newspaper. Even the notorious "oil drug" on which the Russian economy seems to survive does not appear shameful to Mr Wolfensohn. In his words, Russia has a soft spot: dependence on prices of natural resources, but it is not greater than in any other oil producing country.


    Last year was truly golden for the Russian collective investment market. Managing companies and funds scored impressive results and the number of their clients and the volume of funds in their trust increased manifold. But 2004 does not promise comparable profits.

    The Russian stock market remains too narrow and the share market is insufficiently diversified (securities of the oil and gas sector constitute the bulk). Moreover, recent legislative initiatives, tense relations with the authorities and the uncertain future of Gazprom's reforms make the outlook of this market questionable even despite the super-high prices of energy resources. The assessment of Russian companies is almost maximal. Rates on the debt market have dwindled to record low. Taken together, this is alarming, as there are other attractive markets for foreign investors - South America, South East Asia, China and Turkey, writes the newspaper.


    The Moscow City Duma has approved the law "On Voluntary Public Order Stations in Moscow". This innocent-looking title conceals the revival of a public informers' service, which will inform the police and state bodies' +officials - without any payment whatsoever but only answering to their heart's desire - about breaches of public order. The most zealous agents will receive bonuses from the city budget. Lawyers have noted that the law "fully fits into the framework of current legislation."

    Any healthy and morally stable Muscovite above 18 can become an informer, writes the newspaper. They will enjoy the right to monitor compliance with the rules governing the use of the housing stock and report to the authorities about violations of fire safety rules, unauthorised changes in the layout of flats, and late parties. They may also monitor yard cleanliness, traffic in residential areas, and compliance with the rules of keeping pets.

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