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    WHAT THE RUSSIAN PAPERS SAY

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    February 25

    IZVESTIA

    What can President Vladimir Putin's decision to dismiss the government and appoint Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko acting prime minister mean? asks Izvestia, pointing out that it was an unexpected move for many senior Kremlin officials. Mikhail Kasyanov's dismissal is no surprise in itself, the newspaper writes: it was expected after the parliamentary elections and after the New Year. There are at least three possible explanations for Putin's decision.

    Explanation one: Putin has decided to get down to serious reforms and immediately after March 14. Kasyanov's cabinet was not up the task, and everybody knew it. It was a stabilising government and, moreover, was considered to be too "immersed" in clan connections of the Yeltsin era.

    Explanation two: the prime minister will be Putin's successor whom he will recommend in 2008. So far it is the most typical way to the presidency in Russia. Putin himself came to power four years ago, and at his recent meeting with his authorised election representatives he spoke about a successor for the first time.

    Explanation three; Putin has decided (ventured) to give national policy on the whole a fresh impetus. At the same meeting with his representatives, he was unusually expressive about 2008, when a new person would come with "fresh ideas, fresh approaches". This might mean that even Putin has understood the Russia's state of "drowsiness", Izvestia writes.

    KOMMERSANT

    Having dismissed the government, Vladimir Putin did not name the next prime minister. The most likely candidate, according to Kommersant, is First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. Mikhail Kasyanov also held the latter position before becoming premier. Moreover, during the acute struggle with the oligarchs and the few officials that supported them, Mr Kudrin made a clear choice in favour of the law enforcement structures and consulted them on the macroeconomic consequences of Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky's arrest. Also he has repeatedly announced both in Russia and abroad that these bodies are acting correctly and will solve all the relevant issues.

    Thus, Kommersant believes that favourites in the race for the premiership are Alexei Kudrin and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov.

    VREMYA NOVOSTEI

    Under the headline "Opponents and Proponents of the Government's Dismissal" the newspaper publishes statements of some Russian politicians.

    Irina Khakamada, presidential candidate:

    "The government would anyway be discharged after the presidential elections, in compliance with the law. So yesterday's event is a kind of drama that is designed to show something bright and victorious in Putin's election programme. On the other hand, this move inflicts enormous damage because Putin destroys the stability he proclaims as soon as he needs to do something to attract voters. Though it is unclear why he needs to attract them further".

    Nikolai Kharitonov, presidential candidate:

    "I view the government's dismissal as a PR move before the presidential elections. This way President Putin wants to demonstrate that the tsar is good and the boyars are bad. And he dimisses them with a beautiful gesture".

    Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Communist Party faction in the State Duma:

    "If the government does not have an economic and industrial policy, if there are no debates during the election campaign, if the party of power has no real ideology and programme, only such moves can remain. There is nothing new in this, it is just that the government left a little earlier".

    Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia:

    "Discharge of the incumbent government is a holiday, continuation of February 23. The latter was the Day of Fatherland's Defender, the former is the day of Fatherland's defence. If the President forms a similar government, people will be indignant. Everything will depend on the new prime minister. It is clear that Khristenko is a temporary figure. I can tell you honestly, if the President appointed me as prime minister, on March 14 he would receive 90% percent of the votes, and voter turnout would be 80%".

    TRUD

    Leading political experts comment on the government's dismissal for Trud.

    Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika fund:

    "I believe that this is definitely a strong political move related to the President's desire to invigorate the political situation and draw attention to the ongoing political processes. Apart from this, it is to a certain degree his proposal to voters: to vote not only for him, but also for a whole team he can bring in and that will define a certain political course".

    Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Foreign and Defence Council's Presidium:

    "The government was expected to be dismissed in a few months, but it happened now. Apparently, Vladimir Putin decided to do something that nobody had expected. Everyone expected this move in the summer or in the autumn. He did it earlier. The President had to change the government anyway, because you cannot start the new term with the same cabinet that inherited problems of the past, even of the pre-Putin past. This is evident. With all due respect for the professionalism of the people that have been dismissed. It was just a matter of time".

    Mikhail Gorbachev, ex USSR president:

    "It is necessary to renew the government and I believe it is logical and right if the President, being a candidate for a new presidential term, says in advance who he is going to work with if he is re-elected".

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