Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 138

In his first press conference since becoming Russia’s head of state a year and a half ago, President Vladimir Putin yesterday spent an hour and a half fielding questions from among the 500 domestic and foreign journalists in attendance. It was on the whole a successful public diplomacy exercise for the Kremlin in advance of the G-7 meeting in Genoa, Italy.

The Russian head of state praised the most recent session of the State Duma, which ended last week, pointing out that the parliament’s lower house had passed a total of more than 200 pieces of legislation. These as a whole, he said, marked a major step toward “the modernization of the state’s economy” and a “substantial contribution toward the improvement of the country’s political system.” Putin referred specifically to the passage of a new Criminal Procedural Code, a law governing sales of nonagricultural land, a reduction in the profits tax–he also noted that the 13-percent flat income tax effective at the start of this year gave Russia the lowest income tax rate in Europe–and measures to reduce “groundless interference by the state in the economy,” including a law reducing the number of activities requiring licenses from 500 to 102. In addition, Putin defended measures he pushed through last year to limit the power of Russia’s regions and a Kremlin-sponsored bill the Duma recently passed to limit the number of political parties in country.

At the same time, Putin said that his main achievement in office so far had been to maintain “stability and a certain consensus in society,” which he said were a prerequisite to carrying out the country’s economic and political “modernization.” Following this logic, he said that he opposed removing Lenin’s corpse from the mausoleum on Red Square because many Russians still “associate the name of Lenin with their own lives.” The reburial of the Soviet founder, he said, would tell such people that “they had worshiped false values” and would thus upset the current political and societal “balance” (Gazeta.ru, July 18; Moscow Times, July 19).