Russian press review.

(Itar-Tass World Service)

8/7 Tass 74

Russia’s government adopts budget policy for 2012-2014, spending on defence and security grows unprecedentedly

Russia’s government adopted main directions of the budget, tax and customs policy for 2012-2014. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised the budget deficit will gradually decline to reach 2.7 percent of the GDP in 2012. The spending on defence and security will undergo an unprecedented surge.

Putin described this policy as the first, really post-crisis budget, the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily wrote. “Additional opportunities for resolving long-term, strategic tasks emerge,” he said. “In this regard the current policy is the budget of development aimed to stimulate qualitative growth and economic modernization.” Nevertheless, the budget deficit will remain within the upcoming years, although the government will do its utmost to gradually reduce it. The prime minister noted that in 2012 the budget revenues will comprise 10.6 trillion roubles, while the expenditures – 12.2 trillion roubles. Thus, the budget deficit is expected to reach 2.7 percent of the GDP in 2012.

The surge in spending on defence and security in 2012-2014 is so unprecedented that even the main target of the 2010 budget message – to liquidate the budget deficit within the upcoming three years – should be set aside, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily wrote. The money that teachers, doctors and innovators should get will go to policemen and servicemen. The growth of spending on national security and law enforcement activities should reach 37.2 percent in 2012 and that on defence – 20.5 percent. In 2014 the spending on defence will increase by 17.9 percent as against 2013 and that on law enforcement – by 4.8 percent. This move has a simple explanation – in 2012-2013 the government plans to complete the police reform, which requires around 300 billion roubles. In general, until 2020 the national defence and security will remain in the top of the budget policy priorities – 19 trillion roubles will be injected into the state defence order alone.

The spending on human capital that is so vital for a modernization breakthrough is heavily tumbling, the daily wrote. The only item that still registers ascending trends is pensions and student scholarships. In 2012 pensions will be indexed by 11 percent and scholarships will grow by 9.5 percent and 6 percent in 2011 and in 2012 respectively.

Ban on Boris Nemtsov leaving Russia lifted

It took just one day for court bailiffs to ban opposition leader Boris Nemtsov from leaving Russia for six months and than suddenly to lift this ban. Mass media links such a prompt decision with the European Parliament’s adoption of a resolution on democracy in Russia.

This travel ban for Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, co-chairs of the Party of People’s Freedom (PARNAS), was imposed by the Moscow service of court bailiffs. Last year businessman Gennady Timchenko found the report published by the PARNAS leaders “Putin. Results. 10 years” insulting. The authors highlighted that Timchenko’s welfare increased thanks to his friendship with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The court satisfied the businessman’s claim on the protection of honour and dignity and the Kommersant business daily that was granted the right to publish a rebuttal made this on March 26.

However, the businessman found the court’s obligations unfulfilled and filed a claim to the federal service of court bailiffs (FSSP) complaining that the rebuttal’s title was changed and cannot be considered proper, and the court’ s ruling was not pronounced in time. Timchenko recommended bailiffs to impose a temporary ban (on debtor Nemtsov) leaving the country. The court bailiffs imposed a six-month ban, a similar sanction was taken against Milov.

A source in the federal service of court bailiffs said on Thursday morning it had issued no ban on Nemtsov’s travel, while in the evening the FSSP press service confirmed that the relevant notification had already been sent to border services saying that Nemtsov’s materials “denigrate honour and dignity of Mr. T”. Timchenko’s spokesman Anton Kuravin told Vedomosti that the measure is adequate, “there are no political motives”: lawyers repeatedly asked Nemtsov and Milov to change the rebuttal’s title, but they refused. However, Nemtsov said lawyers demanded a font change as its size seemed too small to them.

On Thursday, Nemtsov spent the whole day in Strasbourg at the session of the European parliament that denounced the Justice Ministry’s refusal to register PARNAS as a new party as well as the incident with the opposition leader.

In the evening the Moscow service of court bailiffs lifted the ban motivating it as a prematurely taken decision. This story has no analogues, as bailiffs had been changing their statements three times during one day, Nemtsov noted. The opposition leader believes that Europe’s fast reaction played its role in this case. An official in the Kremlin, quoted by the daily, expressed confidence that the country’s first persons exerted no influence on the FSSP’s decision as “people who had taken this decision simply realized that it was absurd.”

“All this is silly harassment of political undesirables,” the Kommersant business daily quoted political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin as saying. “The decision banning Nemtsov to leave the country was taken, when he was abroad. There was the simple logic – if he does not return, this would mean he feels frightened, but if he returns – we will make trouble to him. These are the Soviet technologies of making pressure on people, but in this case everything turned silly and ridiculous. Why then, one may ask, did they start that?”

Mideast Quartet ministerial meeting unlikely to bring significant changes

On Monday, Washington will host a ministerial meeting of the Quartet of Middle East mediators (Russia, the United States, the EU and UN). The main hopes on the resumption of the Palestine-Israel talks that reached a deadlock last September are pinned on the Quartet meeting. The talks on Russia’s support for the Palestinians raised concerns that such a course of Moscow may exert a negative influence on its relations with Israel. Experts believe that this is unlikely to happen.

Moscow hopes that decisions to be adopted at the meeting of the Middle East Quartet in Washington will allow to create conditions for a new stage of talks between Israel and Palestine, Komsomolskaya Pravda citied Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying at the meeting with representatives of the delegation of Palestine’s Fatah movement. “We very much hope that decisions of the Quartet meeting in Washington will allow to create conditions for the resumption of the talks, which remain targeted at creating an independent, integral, sovereign and democratic Palestinian state living in peace and security with Israel,” the minister said.

Earlier, Fatah high-ranking official Nabil Shaat announced during his visit to Moscow that the Palestinian National Authority hopes for Russia’s support at the Quartet meeting on July 11, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reminded. “We hope that we can secure the support of Russia that using its influence will contribute to the adoption of right resolutions and decisions of the Quartet that will help to translate our hopes into reality,” he said.

The director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vitaly Naumkin, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Russia will unlikely provide for Palestine such a support that may spoil its relations with Israel. “If in September Palestine’s admission to the United Nations appears on the agenda, Russia will vote ‘for’, but once again this will be the position coordinated with the world community, in particular, with European states and China,” he added.

The expert noted that he expects no breakthroughs from the Quartet meeting. “The resumption of the negotiations is what we can talk about, but the two sides cannot abandon preconditions that they had put forward. For instance, the Netanyahu government insists on Palestine’s recognition of the Jewish state of Israel. Even if the sides resume the dialogue, the factors hampering its progress, the construction of settlements, etc. will remain,” Naumkin said.

Professor from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Zaki Shalom, adheres to a similar point of view believing that the upcoming Quartet meeting will bring no considerable changes. The researcher believes that the deadlock, where the peace process had been plunged of late, will remain as much depends on the United States’ position, while President Obama is unlikely to exert a serious pressure on the Netanyahu government in the light of the upcoming elections. “Real breakthroughs can be expected only after the U.S. presidential election,” Shalom said.

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