The Russian Communist Party is not going to pull out its presidential candidate Nikolai Kharitonov from the election, as Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said. But, Kommersant notes, to judge from some of his remarks, an early withdrawal of Comrade Kharitonov from the election race is in principle possible - for example, as a protest against "unfair" contest or non-participation of Vladimir Putin in election debates, although the real reason for such a step, the paper believes, will be Kharitonov's low rating. If, by some magic, he achieves at least 10 to 15 per cent, the Communist leaders may rethink and leave his name on the ballot papers. If, however, by early March (the poll is set for March 14) as now, Comrade Kharitonov's rating is not above 2 to 3 per cent, then the Communists are bound to find some pretext, however small, to have him removed from the race. Because a second fiasco, far more resounding than December's 13 per cent at the parliamentary elections, may have disastrous consequences for the KPRF and its leaders, Kommersant reckons.
Sources in NATO have reported that the US intends to cut its troops deployed in Europe by roughly one-third. America, however, is not planning either to requarter them to East European countries or to set up new bases there. This is a reassuring signal, says Izvestia, sent to Russia unhappy with the prospect of NATO bases springing up somewhere in the Baltics. The statement on Eastern Europe, the paper believes, was made by the Americans in the wake of recent January negotiations of US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Moscow. It is another matter what was promised to Powell in exchange.
No matter whether the decision "not to move over" to Eastern Europe was a concession to Moscow, or just reflects NATO's new course to increase mobility and operational response, Izvestia goes on to say, there is no doubt that the military bases are a factor that the Americans will play at talks with Moscow. First, to exert continued pressure on Russia to accept the new state of things and not to insist on a review of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Second, to persuade it to step up the withdrawal of Russian bases from, for example, Georgia.
Georgia's ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze is threatened with an arrest, believes NG. This was confirmed by Irakly Okruashvili, the republic's prosecutor-general, who said bluntly that he "does not rule out" such a possibility. This likelihood was mentioned by the head of the Georgian prosecutor-general's office after men of the Interior Ministry's Spetsnaz unit quietly and competently detained, in the building of Georgia's State Chancellery, former transport and communications minister Merab Adeishvili, one of Shevardnadze's favourites. The prosecutor, moreover, told journalists that "only the former president ranked above Merab Adeishvili". And added: "Any citizen will answer for his crimes under the law".
Some additional hint, NG says, was thrown in by Georgia's new president, Mikhail Saakashvili. Commenting on the arrest of the former minister Adeishvili, the head of state told a news briefing in Tbilisi: "Everyone fattening on the efforts of the people will be arrested, as I promised to the population of Georgia ... The operation we are conducting is unique in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and we are not going to desist."
Russian business, says Gazeta, is recommended to live according to the Lord's commandments. The World Russian Ecumenical Council, convened with the blessing of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II, adopted a code of moral principles and rules for the economy, resembling the ten divine commandments. Although the authors claim that the code is a joint product with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), Delovaya Rossiya and Russia's OPORA, the prospect of living and working as God ordained surprised the businessmen. It also surprised, Gazeta notes, government officials. An enthusiastic team from the Russian Orthodox Church promised them too a new code of rules, despite the fact that Russia is a secular state. "The Church itself needs reforming, it is so rigid that it produces wild ideas," Gazeta was told at RSPP.
The code gives its interpretation of such phenomena as poverty and wealth, nationalisation and tax evasion, advertising and profits. The principal aim of the code, as Gazeta was told on the fringes of the council, is "to make business as much a public issue as possible: no one is going to try businessmen by the laws of the state, but the businessman himself will judge his own conscience".
One of the commandments warns businessmen: "Riches are not an end in themselves. They should serve to create a worthy life for the human being and the people." The needy will learn from the code how they should accept their position: "A poor man, on the other hand, ought to conduct himself properly, seek efficiency in labour, and advance his professional standards in order to get out of his straitened circumstances".
The paper quotes the opinion of Ivan Gorlov, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, about the diet and eating habits of the average Russian. Some of the details he gave are as follows:
"A person, according to medical norms, needs 81 kilos of meat a year, while the Russian has only 44 kilos, with over half of it imported. Milk consumption should be 392 litres, while the actual figure is 230 litres. Hence the body has a protein deficit of 40 per cent and a vitamin shortage of up to 40 per cent. In Russia, healthy people make up not more than 20 per cent. No wonder that out of 10,000 newly born babies 20 to 22 die. This compares with just 3 to 4 in the industrialized countries.
"The average Russian of working age now consumes 2,500 calories daily, while in 1990 it was 3,500, i.e., over these years we have 'caught up' with the most backward nations. Yet nutrition relates directly to the life span. Unsurprisingly, Russian males are placed 135th in the world in respect of this index, and females, 100th."