Putin will support democracy but will also beef up state's power

Jul 12, 2000 02:00 AM

Amid signs of increasingly strong-handed rule in Russia, President Vladimir Putin declared he will support democracy but indicated he will focus on beefing up the state's powers. "Democracy should not be confused with anarchy," Putin said. "We will not allow anyone to cultivate anarchy instead of the state." In one of his first major domestic policy moves earlier this year, Putin proposed a package of bills aimed at tightening the Kremlin's control over Russia's provinces and weakening the powers of their leaders.
The bills would remove regional governors from the upper house of parliament, replacing them with appointed legislators; strip regional bosses of their legislative immunity from prosecution; and allow Putin to dismiss governors who are determined by court to have violated the law.
A parliamentary conciliation commission was to meet to discuss possible amendments to the bills, which were approved by the lower house but rejected by the upper house - a chamber made up of regional governors. The commission's initial meetings have brought no apparent breakthroughs.

Putin said that "while strengthening state institutions, we will continue to provide the necessary assistance to the development of a civic society and its institutions, such as (political) parties, mass media and public associations." As he spoke, the same day prosecutors and security service agents were confiscating documents from a media holding company that has been critical of the Kremlin. The operation was widely seen as an attempt to intimidate the independent press.
It was the second search for documents at the Media-Most holding company in three months. Prosecutors also seized files from Media-Most's flagship television station, NTV, and its financial partner, natural gas giant Gazprom. Media-Most's owner, Vladimir Gusinsky, was arrested and held in a Moscow jail for four days last month.
While some analysts claim there are signs of growing authoritarian rule in Russia, many credit Putin with trying to liberalise the economy and carry out genuine free-market reforms.

Source: AP
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