Prior to the vote in the Duma concerning the speaker, Acting President Vladimir Putin addressed the legislators, stressing his commitment to democracy and declaring that those who were warning about a possible dictatorship in Russia “are themselves dreaming of it” and that this dream is “impossible in modern Russia.” He said also that his government’s policy was “moderately liberal,” aimed at creating “a good investment climate in the country, trying to strengthen the state institutions that support market mechanisms.” He rejected the proposal made by Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko that exporters must sell 100 percent of their hard currency earnings to the state in return for rubles. Earlier this month, Putin expressed support for the idea, but the International Monetary Fund subsequently expressed its disapproval of the measure (Reuters, Jan 18).
Putin’s comments to the Duma yesterday seemed an attempt to placate those both inside and outside Russia who might be alarmed at his apparent tacit approval of the deal struck between the Kremlin and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) to make the KPRF’s Gennady Seleznev once again the Duma’s speaker. Putin appeared to get a helping hand in his efforts from U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Albright, during a question-and-answer session Tuesday following a speech she gave at the Johns Hopkins School of International and Advanced Studies in Washington, described Putin as “one of the leading reformers, first out of St Petersburg and then within the Yeltsin administration” who “seems determined to move reform forward” (Reuters, January 18).
BALTICS CURB TAXES TO BOOST GROWTH IN 2000.