The annual report of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the State Duma on April 11 was not ordinary. A keen interest to this, already traditional event was fuelled by the fact, that for the first time in the practice of the country the prime minister did not only sum up the results about the work of the government for the last four years, but also outlined the strategy of the authorities for next six years, when Putin will work as president. Putin’s mood was not even spoiled by the demarche of the A Just Russia faction, which were indignant with his response over the events in Astrakhan.
Putin’s report, in which he dwelt on economic achievements and the prospects of his third presidential term, , the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The prime minister formulated the key economic problems of the country in the same words as four years ago. The fragments of Putin’s report, in which he sets the task to remove the barriers for the launch to investment projects or pledges to provide free construction sites with the infrastructure, are telling. But the authorities set the same tasks in 2008-2009, and no special progress was made. In this respect, the question arises over the prospects of the real fulfilment of the road maps of the pre-election initiatives, which Putin pledged to announce in his first presidential decree.
The experts polled by the newspaper had a sooner sceptical position over immediate and medium-term economic prospects outlined in Putin’s report. Head of the analytical department of the FBK company Igor Nikolayev has a quite contradictory impression from the report, because it does not “say all the truth.” “They say that the population began growing in Russia, but nothing is said about the continued population decline. As the growth of the population is made thanks to the migrants!” he exclaimed. “From 2001 to 2010 Russia gained a gigantic sum of 1.6 trillion dollars from the exports of oil and gas. These funds can be enough to overcome any crisis. But now the situation can change. Today the oil price exceeds 120 dollars per barrel, the budget deficit makes about 120 billion roubles. What will be tomorrow, if the oil price drops sharply?” the analyst contemplated. “The probability that President Putin will begin to carry out reforms is very low. He will sooner have to find the funds to fulfil his populist commitments,” Nikolayev affirmed.
The continued current policy with minor changes will be most probable, chief scientific fellow of the Higher School of Economics Yevgeny Yasin said. Yasin estimates the probability of this scenario at 60%. “A more reasonable, but less permissible scenario is to extend the expenditures planned in the defence industry for a longer term. It would be possible in this case to transfer the saved funds to solve the problems in the social sector,” he noted.
The prime minister delivered a report on the rostrum for 90 minutes, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily recalls. Then he went to the State Duma presidium and the factions began to ask questions to him. Almost at the beginning of the question-and-answer session the deputies from the A Just Russia Party asked Putin about Astrakhan and a A Just Russia deputy and a former mayoral candidate Oleg Shein, who is already on a hunger strike for 26 days in protest against the falsified results of the local elections, according to him. Yelena Drapeko wanted Putin “to give the personal assessment of the Astrakhan arbitrariness.” Putin gave an answer, “The prime minister and the president are not empowered to cancel the elections results, I cannot influence this process.” He explained that all people discontent with the election violations and those who believe that their votes are stolen realized it clearly that they should go to the court. “As far as I am concerned, your colleague Shein went on a hunger strike and did not address in the court yet. Frankly speaking, it is strange somehow. Why to go on a hunger strike, if... Probably, the court will settle the problem,” Putin said. But Putin’s next words did not leave any hope for this. He said that he saw on some news channel as the Astrakhan prosecutor said that the violations were committed at the mayoral elections, but they were “minor”. At this moment of the A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov stood up, the whole faction followed his example and went out from the parliamentary session hall.
Putin’s report to the State Duma was about to turn in an ordinary event, but for a hunger striker Oleg Shein and the Soviet moods of the Communists, the RBC daily writes. The report about the achievements of the authorities was accompanied with the demarche of the deputies and Putin’s emotional speech. A Just Russia deputy Gennady Gudkov acknowledged to the newspaper that the faction expected another answer from Putin, “The main elections passed without him, he could show some generosity, so Astrakhan is a trifle... He could say that he would instruct to deal with the problem, and the legal authorities would settle the problem.”
Astrakhan became the apple of discord between the society and the authorities, and “this will not end so easily.” The authorities will announce rerun elections or the hunger strikers will die and their death will become the banner for the opposition, including the radical opposition. The margin in the votes at the polling stations, where the automatic and manual vote count was made, was 73 votes, Gudkov cited the argument in favour of Shein.