September 28, 2005
Questions the President Wasn't Asked
President Vladimir Putin spent most of his televised call-in show Tuesday touting his administration's efforts to tackle social problems.
Putin's focus came as no surprise. The Kremlin is keen to put a positive spin on the situation, in part because it wants to court voters ahead of the parliamentary elections in 2007 and the presidential vote the following year. In addition, Tuesday's questions from ordinary people were carefully selected by Kremlin staff, ostensibly to reflect the most commonly asked questions that were sent in.
As ordinary people, here are some questions that we in The Moscow Times' newsroom wish Putin had addressed:
When will something be done about the propiska system? Registration is as much a headache for Russians as it is for foreigners and is a sticking point in WTO negotiations, as it restricts the free movement of labor. It has been abolished at the federal level, but regional leaders, including Mayor Yury Luzhkov, still impose it as they see fit.
What will you do to make the application of Russian law universal? If the Yukos case is too controversial, what about the drive to tear down "illegally built" dachas in the Moscow region?
Why are you allowing a new class of oligarchs to rise after you sidelined many of the old ones?
As a human being and as a citizen, what do you think about how Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina has been detained since December, even though no court has found her guilty of any crime? She is the mother of two small children.
The Kremlin says it would like to remove skinheads and other extremists from the political scene as it tries to sell the idea of building Nashi as a force that would battle "fascists," including nonviolent organizations such as the National Bolshevik Party. But what about taking some actual steps to prevent violent xenophobia and racial intolerance in the streets rather than just in politics?
Do you think the prosecution of 39 young National Bolshevik activists for briefly seizing the reception area in a presidential administration building in a December protest is a little severe?
Why do you say that the breakup of the Soviet Union 14 years ago is the major reason for the problems that are plaguing the country? Are you trying to avoid responsibility?
Why do you suggest that mass media is free when the television channels and some of the press aren't?
In all honesty, would you vote for yourself as president or for United Russia? It would be nice to hear the reasons behind your "yes" or "no."
During a crisis, such as the Beslan attack or the sinking of a submarine, why don't you immediately go on television and make a statement?
Why has the Kremlin failed to initiate a wider public debate about what should be done with windfall oil revenues?
By what year do you think gross domestic product is going to double, truthfully?