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    WHAT THE RUSSIAN PAPERS SAY

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    February 18

    IZVESTIA

    At today's plenary session, the State Duma (the lower house of parliament) will consider a draft law on extending the presidential term to 7 years from 4 years. The Duma "is not aiming" to adopt it, said speaker Boris Gryzlov, Izvestia notes. Accordingly, an end is to be put today to the fuss raised around the bill submitted by the Ivanovo (Central Russia) legislature. For two weeks, there has been steady and great interest in the legislative initiative "from below," suggesting that the president's powers be extended to 7 years from 4 years. Everyone had the chance to comment: many eminent political scientists, governors, senators, the speaker, well-known deputies, and finally the president himself, who confirmed his belief that the Constitution should remain intact. He was also backed by Moscow politicians who have a flair for knowing what is in the air. The less agile regional leaders failed to take their bearings in time and most of them spoke about extending the presidential term. The responsible parties for the occasion - Ivanovo deputies - told Izvestia they "wanted to present a gift to Vladimir Vladimirovich".

    GAZETA

    In an effort to combat terrorism more successfully, State Duma deputies propose to amend the law on the media. An amendment that, "with the aim of opposing information terrorism", is set to ban television programmes showing the bodies of terrorist attack victims has already been considered by the Duma Council, Gazeta informs its readers. It will most likely be adopted.

    Russian television journalists do not believe that the amendment will have any effect. An expert on media legislation, lawyer Fyodor Kravchenko, could not recall a country where a ban on showing the victims of terrorism on the news had been sealed legislatively. "Such bans should by the logic of things be the concern of television broadcasters, i.e. journalist amalgamations or associations," the expert told Gazeta. "There is hardly a country where laws set a limit on the number of corpses that can be shown".

    NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA

    Irina Khakamada's dashing start to the presidential race has been followed by a dull period, NG notes. Her rare appearances in television debates during the day are targeted at housewives and pensioners rather than the usual liberal audience. What does this escape into the underground mean? Nezavisimaya Gazeta's question is answered by her campaign manager Marina Litvinovich:

    "The current election campaign is a very specific one. The decision to run was taken in a tight timeframe and inside a political vacuum. Initially, the co-chairmen of the Union of Right Forces chose a different candidate - 'Mr Boycott' - and Khakamada found herself without any party backing. Besides, all the capital's political beau monde felt sure that Irina had put herself forward on the Kremlin's suggestion. So from the beginning we set two major goals: to head off the boycott of the election and persuade people that we are opposed to the Kremlin. We also realised that the start had to be aggressive and noticeable. That start was to demonstrate our priorities, and the direction of our campaign - a stiff anti-Putin stance. We have achieved this. Of course, we are planning other newsbreaking events."

    VREMYA NOVOSTEI

    Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili will hold talks with George W. Bush in Washington on February 25. In a VN interview in Tbilisi, the Georgian leader said in particular: "We are not going, contrary to the expectations of some people, to allow American bases to be located in Georgia. This will not even be discussed in Washington ... Unlike Shevardnadze I do not have two versions of international relations. Georgia's former president criticised Washington in Moscow and Moscow in Washington. I hope to find a common language with Bush. Everything must be all right for us both on the American and the Russian sector. We do not intend to turn our country into a battlefield between the superpowers".

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