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    ALEXANDER ZHUKOV: PROFILE OF A PERFECT STATESMAN

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    MOSCOW, MARCH 2, 2004 (RIA Novosti's corresopndents Viktoria Prikhodko, Olga Galkina) - There aren't many politicians in Russia that could be described as perfect. Alexander Zhukov, nominated as Vice Premier, seems to be one of the few exceptions.

    First Vice Speaker of the State Duma, Zhukov now administers the legislative activity of parliament's lower house. He is loved and respected by his colleagues, whatever their party affiliation.

    His academic background is quite impressive. He holds diplomas from Moscow University and from Harvard, has a proficient command of the English language, and is widely reputed as an expert in monetary, tax, and customs legislation.

    Zhukov, 48, is intelligent and outgoing. A Duma veteran, he was reelected to the house three times, and chaired the Duma Budgetary Committee for two terms in a row. In 1999, he was offered a position of Vice Premier in the Cabinet of Ministers, but refused the offer, choosing to join the Cabinet's Economic Council instead. His current job as Vice Speaker involves coordination of what is known as "zero readings"-that is, Cabinet-Duma consultations on controversial bills.

    Unlike many of his fellow lawmakers, Zhukov does not entertain the public with any eccentric escapades; those collecting politicians' ridiculous pronouncements stand no chance of enriching their collections at his expense. Colleagues call him a workaholic, as he often stays up late into the night, working on bills he deems important.

    Zhukov is passionate about chess and soccer. He can spend hours at the chessboard vis-a-vis fellow legislators who share his passion. Prominent on the Duma's soccer team, he even broke a leg last year as he played in a friendly match against British MPs.

    Zhukov has a really likeable personality. Colleagues say he is nice to deal with, that he has good manners and will never speak at the top of his voice, but that he is quite rigorous toward himself and others as far as work performance goes.

    The man's authority with the media is indisputable. He is always open to reporters, and is capable of providing them with competent and knowledgeable commentaries.

    Zhukov is not just a sportsman, but a smoker, too. Smoking may not be a particularly healthy habit, but it certainly adds charm to his richly-toned, raucous baritone. Even if he has a few shortcomings, these are heavily compensated for by something most Russian politicians lack-charisma.

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