MOSCOW, February 28 (RIA Novosti)
One-Third of Russians Don’t Believe that Putin Will Keep His Promises
A Levada Center opinion poll shows 47 percent of Russians believe Vladimir Putin will keep his campaign promises made prior to the March 2012 presidential election, while 34 percent of respondents do not believe it.
The poll was conducted on February 15-18, 2013, and involved 1,600 respondents in 45 Russian regions.
In all, 36 percent of respondents credit Putin with reinstating Russia as a great power.
A total of 28 percent of respondents consider Putin’s efforts to raise wages, pensions, stipends and benefits to have been successful (in August 2010 the figure was 43 percent).Third on the list of achievements, 24 percent of people credit Putin with overcoming separatism and preventing the disintegration of Russia.
In addition, 22 percent of people polled said Putin’s efforts to continue nationwide reforms is a major achievement, while the figure for overcoming the consequences of the 2008 crisis was 19 percent.
Respondents also mentioned a number of major setbacks, including failure to ensure an equitable distribution of incomes in the interests of ordinary people, to compensate people for financial losses incurred during reforms and to strengthen law and order. It appears that the number of respondents noting Putin’s setbacks continues to increase. At the same time, the percentage of those noting his successes has remained roughly the same since 2010.
The Levada Center poll shows that Putin’s electoral rating has dropped to 32 percent, an 8 percent fall from August 2012, although the president is still well ahead of other potential candidates.
Putin formulated his campaign promises in several articles published by the media every week in the months leading up to the presidential election. Presidential instructions regarding all these promises were formulated after the inauguration ceremony. Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov, Minister of Regional Development Oleg Govorun and Minister of Labor and Social Security Maxim Topilin were reprimanded in September 2012 for failing to fulfil these instructions. Govorun later resigned. In November 2012, Putin called the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East ineffective.
In late December 2012, sources in the Kremlin, federal departments and the government executive office said the president was not satisfied with the work of the government, which was not following through on election promises. They said the provision of affordable housing and the development of the housing and municipal utilities sector were the most serious problems. The government has also failed to support families with many children, to implement housing rental schemes, to significantly improve the quality of utility services and to attract private investment into the housing and municipal utilities sector.
Magnitsky Act Sponsor Barred from Russia
A prominent US Congressman was denied the Russian visa, he told ForeignPolicy.com on Wednesday citing the controversial Magnitsky Act as the possible reason.
Chris Smith, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on human rights, 59, said he has travelled to Russia and the Soviet Union before. But this month, the Russian government denied him a visa for the first time.
"The Magnitsky bill is the reason I didn't get the visa. This is the first time," Smith said. "I was shocked. During the worst days of the Soviet Union I went there repeatedly."
Republican Smith was one of the sponsors of the Magnitsky Act adopted by US Congress in December, which allows the United States to deny entry to Russian officials deemed by Washington to be complicit in the death of whistleblowing lawyer Magnitsky.
As head of the human rights subcommittee, Smith has often criticized the Russian government’s policies. He has also called for prosecuting Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in the international court for crimes against humanity.
The purpose of his visit to Russia was to discuss the so-called Dima Yakovlev law banning American adoptions of Russian orphans, adopted last December in response to the Magnitsky Act. Smith said he shared Russia’s concerns about the adoptees and therefore had initiated a resolution in Congress demanding a thorough investigation of the 19 deaths of Russian children in the US.
"I even have a resolution that highlights the fact that those 19 kids died. If somebody is responsible for this, they ought to pay a price," he said. "I was going over to talk about adoption and human trafficking. They have legitimate concerns that we have to meet."
Smith said the Russian authorities gave him no explanation why he was denied entry. According to ForeignPolicy.com, the Congressman met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, who told him the decision was made in Moscow, not Washington. US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tried to intervene on his behalf but was unsuccessful.
Smith said he has been rejected in China, Cuba, and Belarus, but he hopes that the Russian authorities will revise their decision.
“I'm pro-engagement, as long as you're honest and aggressive," he said. "I'm disappointed but I am determined to reapply.”
Arbramovich to Convert a London Mansion
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has been given the go-ahead by the Kensington and Chelsea authorities in London to rebuild a 17th century mansion, reports the Daily Mail. The project is estimated at 10 million pounds. Mr. Abramovich had to make a number of concessions to the borough, the nature of which is not specified.
Previously owned by, among others, the painter James Whistler, the house will be integrated with two neighboring buildings, and a two-level basement will be added. The plans are to complete the work within three years.
One thing that is known is that Mr. Abramovich intends to convert some of the space into an art gallery for paintings collected by himself and his girlfriend Darya Zhukova. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones will be one of his new neighbors.
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News that Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin would resign in order to run for the mayoral election in September came as quite a shock. Sobyanin’s political potential is fairly dubious, not to mention his approval ratings. He has not finished many of the projects he initiated and the electoral effect from these projects is expected to come a bit later than September 2013. Sobyanin’s opponents were not entirely unprepared for this blitzkrieg.