MOSCOW, September 14 (RIA Novosti)
Russians fail to name Medvedev’s achievements
The don’t know and no achievements boxes were most often checked by the respondents asked to name President Medvedev’s achievements in a September survey by the VTsIOM national pollster.
It seems that the majority of Russians fail to see any major breakthroughs in President Dmitry Medvedev’s work – or any major failures, for that matter. Only 3% mentioned fighting corruption and reforming the police, and 2% named innovation. Opposition leaders suggest that is because his efforts are mainly “good intentions,” while United Russia sources dismiss the poll results as obvious “in a normal democratic society,” where few people are interested enough in politics to notice problems, “just like a healthy person doesn’t give much thought to his health,” said Andrei Isayev, a senior official in the pro-Kremlin party.
The two most popular boxes ticked by respondents were don’t know (47%) and no achievements (23%). The number of Russians who believe the president has nothing to show for his term in office fell 7% in three years; however, the number of those who were either confident Medvedev has had no failures or couldn’t name any decreased to 73% from 90% over that period. Social programs were mentioned as his success by 7%, and 1% credited him for fighting crime and terrorism and firing Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.
Most Russians supported his actions during the Georgian-Ossetian conflict in 2008, like they did in the 2009 survey. However, according to respondents, his leadership is flawed by poor control of implementing his decisions (5%), inflation (4%) and problems in the police, military and security services (3%).
Eleven percent believe Medvedev focuses on raising living standards and 10%, that he is busy restoring Russia’s international influence. Only 2% remembered his efforts to promote innovation, and 1% patriotism, justice and democratic values. While 29% said he “ensured stability,” only 8% actually see him as “a true leader capable of rallying others.” His intelligence was noted by 56% and professionalism by 36%, while 6% said he is “weak and indecisive.”
Most Russians “are too engrossed in their own problems to follow politics,” explained VTsIOM head Valery Fyodorov.
The president’s achievements are “comparable with potential statistical error,” said Sergei Obukhov from the Communist Party. “The only move he should be credited for is recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s independence, while everything else is good intentions.”
When answering that question, people “were thinking whether they were happy with their lives and the government, rather than focusing on the president,” Igor Lebedev, head of the LDPR parliamentary group, pointed out. Nothing seems to have changed there.
Medvedev has failed to achieve much because he is dependent on Vladimir Putin, who has a different approach to running the country, said Gennady Gudkov from A Just Russia. “Putin has built a power vertical – essentially a bureaucracy vertical. But bureaucracy cannot reform itself,” he said. Medvedev could overhaul that system if he were reelected, but during this term, “his time is up,” Gudkov added.
Russian Railways to pay 10 billion rubles in penalties
The national railway reform in Russia has led to a severe shortage of railcars. As a result, transport monopoly Russian Railways (RZD) has sharply curtailed traffic volumes while its subsidiaries, the First and the Second Freight Companies, now charge more for their services.
The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) has opened a case against the three companies which may have to pay over 10 billion rubles ($333.3 million) in fines.
On Tuesday, Interfax quoted FAS Deputy Chief Anatoly Golomolzin as saying that the service had received five complaints and had started investigating the three companies. A FAS official said the complaints had been filed by freight carriers. RZD lacks rolling stock and is unable to supply them with cars.
The First and the Second Freight Companies were established in 1997 and 2010, respectively, under the railway reform, and acquired the majority of rolling stock. FAS ordered the three companies to develop a system whereby they allot cars to all freight carriers without exception under specific regulations. After receiving a freight delivery request, RZD should ask all operators to allot cars. If both freight companies refuse to provide them, RZD can force them to allot rolling stock at state regulated prices. However, under current regulations they can turn down applications from freight carriers.
In March 2011, the Dukon timber procurement company in Kirov complained that RZD had accepted delivery requests but did not allot rolling stock, and that freight carriers had to deal with the First Freight Company or private operators, whose rates far exceed state prices. In some cases, they refuse to deliver freight.
In August, Russian Municipal Utilities Systems said RZD subsidiaries had stopped accepting requests for the delivery of coal, chlorine and other products.
Rolling stock shortages became obvious this spring. Although RZD must deliver any consignment, the technically private First and Second Freight Companies control all the cars.
An RZD official said his company often acted as an agent of private companies because of the shortage of railcars.
A federal official called this a serious problem. He said Elvira Nabiullina, minister of Economic Development, had asked RZD President Vladimir Yakunin in July to assess the situation. In her letter, Nabiullina said RZD now fulfilled only 60% of major carriers’ requests and 30% of small and medium businesses’ requests. At the same time, railcar use rates have soared by 30%.
FAS may charge RZD and its subsidiaries with violations of anti-monopoly legislation and impose a penalty on all of the violators’ freight delivery proceeds. Under the law, penalties may total 1%-15% of a company’s turnover. In this case, they may reach 10.5 billion rubles ($350 million).
RZD has not yet been notified by FAS about the pending investigation and knows nothing about the claims, the company’s spokesperson said. The First Freight Company declined to comment on the issue, and the Second Freight Company could not be reached for comment.
Right Cause conference may bring a surprise
A conference of the Right Cause party, scheduled for September 14-15, may have an unexpected finale: the delegates may vote for stripping tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov of his mandate as party leader, sources told Gazeta.ru. The sources say Prokhorov’s team has antagonized the Kremlin and some of the party’s regional branches.
A source close to the party leadership told the paper that on Tuesday night a group of those seeking to oust Prokhorov met to discuss a plan of action. A representative of the Kremlin executive office was also present. “The chances that Prokhorov will survive are minimal,” the source said.
It was announced earlier that the conference will last two days. On September 14, it is expected to debate a party program and on September 15, to approve lists of candidates for the parliamentary elections.
According to the sources, the billionaire’s habit of going his own way, without consulting his bosses, antagonized the Kremlin.
The party expected a conflict between Prokhorov and the Kremlin but did not think it would happen so soon, just before the election conference, said another source.
“The Kremlin resents Prokhorov changing his tune: Instead of filling the right-wing liberal niche, his party began encroaching on United Russia turf,” claims another source.
The presidential executive office voiced its discontent several days ago, but Prokhorov refused to listen to hints and threats.
Sources claim no decision on replacement has been made yet. Among the likely successors to the billionaire in the post of chairman of the main democratic party are Kirov Region Governor Nikita Belykh, journalist Alexander Lyubimov, former leader of the Democratic Party of Russia Andrei Bogdanov, Right Cause former co-chairman Boris Titov and Moscow Region branch head Boris Nadezhdin.
Belykh told Gazeta.ru that he “greatly doubted” that he would be able to replace Prokhorov.
Titov was unavailable for comment. Nadezhdin said he had received no such proposals and Bogdanov said everything would be decided at the conference.
Prokhorov has practically no chances of keeping his position: the businessman controls no more than one-third of all regional party branches. Most of the delegates come from the Union of Right Forces, Democratic Party of Russia and Civic Force, which merged in 2008 to form Right Cause. Their combined ballot will be enough to unseat the tycoon.
A source among Prokhorov’s loyalists says the Kremlin has turned on the heat recently on the party’s regional branches. “It looks as if the Kremlin has really made up its mind to change the party leader,” the source said.
A change of leader at a pre-election conference may cost the party its campaign for the State Duma, believes Vadim Solovyov, head of the KPRF legal service.
Prokhorov’s spin doctors have one night left to prove their skills, which the businessman values so high.
Prokhorov’s opponents and supporters are now putting their heads together. Developments at the conference will show if they manage to agree and keep Prokhorov in his post of party leader.
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