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Putin Address Focuses On Russian Economy, Democracy

26 May 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian public today, laying out his plans for his second term as president and concentrating primarily on the Russian economy in a nationally televised speech.

Putin also defended his administration against charges that it is undemocratic, saying that Western governments unfairly classify his government as an authoritarian regime.

In his annual address before both houses of parliament, Putin repeated his goal of doubling the size of the economy in the next 10 years. He said his first priority is to reduce poverty and increase the people's prosperity, followed closely by rebuilding of the Russian military.

"It depends only on us if the state, if we, can become society of really free people, free economically and politically. The success of top-priority tasks depends alone on us -- tasks that are well known. These are doubling of gross domestic product within a decade, reducing poverty, growth of people's prosperity, and modernization of the army," Putin said.

Putin said the goal of doubling the economy will be realized if gross national product continues its present rate of growth.

He called for a national tax system that would be "more friendly to investors" than those of competing countries.

Putin also countered critics by saying that he is defending Russian democracy and helping the country to struggle out of its post-Soviet economic collapse. He said there will be no review of the fundamental principles of Russian policy.

"Not everyone in the world wants to deal with an independent, strong, and confident Russia. Right now, in the global competitive struggle, various means of political, economic, and informational pressure are actively being used," Putin said. "The strengthening of our state, sometimes deliberately, is interpreted as a conscious authoritarianism. In this connection, I would like to say: There will be no review of the fundamental principles of our policy."