Mikhail Fradkov has been confirmed as prime minister by the State Duma (the lower house of Russian parliament). On the Duma podium, Izvestia notes, Fradkov looked confident - as he did two months ago when he went through the procedure for the first time. Well-wishing words expressed by representatives of nearly all factions showed that the Duma is prepared to work with the premier it already knows. His candidacy was supported by 356 deputies of United Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party (4 votes more than on the first occasion), with 72 Communists and Rodina members voting against it.
The new old premier, Izvestia writes, said that he "views today's meeting as a continuation of the one in March (when deputies confirmed Fradkov for the first time)". And so he dwelt again on the basic aspects of cabinet efforts.
He named three of them. The first he designated as a "rapid upturn in economic growth and in the quality of life". The second was "to line up a raft of decisions to overcome poverty and improve the pensions scheme." The third area followed logically from the first two: "to form a realistic budget". The premier, Izvestia notes, explained his formula right away: from 2005 Russia must "move from managing budget resources to managing budget results".
Acting Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has reported the execution of the federal budget in 2003. He was speaking at the Federation Council (the upper house of Russian parliament). Senators, however, Kommersant writes, were interested in the present, rather than the future, which they are yet to sense. The results of 2003, long and successfully over, were reported by Mr Kudrin with gusto. According to his figures, gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 7.3%, and industrial production by 7%. In 2003, according to the acting minister, literally everything showed growth, except inflation.
Most interestingly, Kommersant says, none of the senators wondered how the budget would be put together in the immediate future. Yet this is what is now exercising the cabinet's minds. The first changes, dealing with budget classification, will, according to Kudrin, be adopted in the 2005 budget. The 2007 budget, however, will be drawn up according to entirely new rules, with lobbying from the regions, sectors of the economy, and parliament to be minimised. Their requests to finance road funds and housing and communal services will fall on deaf ears in the government in two years' time. But the senators failed to scent the coming change, while Mr Kudrin opted not to warn them, Kommersant remarks.
Ahead of parliamentary elections in South Ossetia, leaders of the unrecognised republic are increasingly talking about the dangers of the "rose revolution", so liked by the current leadership in Tbilisi, being exported, writes Vremya Novostei. The Georgian ruling elite is positively upbeat: every day one can hear proposals for applying to rebel Abkhazia and South Ossetia the experience gained last November when President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned, and in early May when the Adzharian leader, Aslan Abashidze, was toppled. And elections are the most convenient pretext.
But while Abkhazia is to go to the polls only in October, parliamentary elections in South Ossetia will be held as early as May 25.
"We closely followed the events surrounding Adzharia," Stanislav Kochiyev, speaker of South Ossetia's parliament, told a VN correspondent. "We realise that certain strong-arm moves may follow Tbilisi's declarations for the need to restore Georgia's territorial integrity. But a better option would be to work for progress in the settlement of Georgian-Ossetian conflict through negotiations supported by Russia and the OSCE. There will be no revolution here."
The dollar in Russia reached the 29.06 rouble mark on Wednesday. So far this is the highest result shown by the American currency this year, and the figure is a four-month high. The dollar's growth, says Gazeta, is directly linked with the fall on the Russian stock market, where shares slipped early this week by 7 to 10%. Current developments on the Russian money market generally fit in with the context of the world economy. The main irritants are the high rate of economic growth that the US is demonstrating in 2004, and an expected hike in interest rates in the near future. The financial markets are interconnected. Consequently, the somewhat accelerated rates of the rouble's depreciation are liable to bring the share and bond market to a new and lower level compared with the present prices, Gazeta explains.