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Putin Defends Political Reform Plans

20 October 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today defended his plans to strengthen the Kremlin's central authority -- plans that have been questioned by the West.

Putin made his remarks at a meeting with Italian Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini outside Moscow.

"As regards our political transformations and reforms in the economy and in the organization of the state and society, we are absolutely open and transparent here. We do not plan to do anything that is unknown to our colleagues in European countries or anything that has not been applied in European countries or in the European Union as a whole," Putin said.

Putin recently proposed making elections of all deputies to Russia's lower house of parliament, or State Duma, based on a proportional system, eliminating direct elections from districts.

Putin said his proposals are in line with European norms, and that Russia will remain within the framework of the current constitution and democratic norms.

Putin's remarks come after the United States and the European Union recently questioned the proposals, saying they don't seem to be democratic.