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Phone-In Reactions, Grey Wages, Courts Criticism

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with the press after his annual televised phone-in show
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with the press after his annual televised phone-in show

Russian React To Putin's Phone-In

On Thursday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held his eighth annual "Direct Line" with the Russian public live on the public broadcast television channel "Rossiya." Sociologist Vladimir Rimsky tells RFE/RL that, unlike President Dmitri Medvedev, Putin is a master at communicating with large audiences: "The president doesn't connect with the consciousness of the people to solve problems. As a rule, he usually turns to Putin for solutions. Why? That's a question for the [respective] teams and the president and prime minister themselves to answer: Why is it that in the national consciousness they are positioned so?"

Nikolai Petrov, a member of the council of the Carnegie Moscow Center, agrees that Putin is more successful than Medvedev at communicating with the public through mass media: "The prime minister comes across successfully during these kinds of direct conversations with citizens. As for Medvedev, new formats of some sort are being sought. It's obvious that he's unable to compete directly with Putin in this kind of format."

[read in Russian]

Grey Wages In A Grey Economy

According to research by Vladimir Gimpelson, director of the Center of Labor Studies at the High School of Economics, more than 20 million of Russia's 67 million workers are not employed in legal entities and work in the "informal" sector. In an interview with RFE/RL, Gimpelson talks about the Taxation Service's plans to clamp down on these so-called "grey wages," the common practice of paying employees' salaries in cash. Gimpelson says that despite a two-fold rise in Russian GDP between 2000 and 2008 and government campaigns to reduce the grey economy, the opposite has happened: At the turn of the millennium, around 52 million people worked for legal entities, including small businesses, whereas on the eve of the economic crisis, the figure stood at 49 million. "First and foremost, the state must decide for itself what it wants from the labor market," he says. "A totally different to approach to regulation is required, not only for the labor market, but for the economy as a whole."

[read in Russian]

Resignation Of Judges Calls Courts Into Question

At a press conference on Wednesday, Chairman of the Constitutional Court of Russia Valery Zorkin confirmed that two resigning judges who had criticized the judicial system were stepping down of their own accord. Judge Anatoly Kononov has sharply critiqued the court's rulings on public life issues. In a recent magazine article titled "No Independent Judges in Russia," he denounced legislation advanced by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that called for new judges to be appointed rather than elected by the collegiate of judges. In an interview with the Spanish daily El Pais, Judge Vladimir Yaroslavtsev echoed Kononov's sentiment: "Under Putin and Medvedev, the courts have become an instrument of the executive of state power." Zorkin said the Council of Judges had discussed Kononov's and Yaroslavtsev's public criticisms and concluded that the two had violated ethics, causing damage to the reputations of other judges as a result. In an interview with RFE/RL, former Presidential Plenipotentiary to the Federal Assembly Aleksandr Yakovlev says, "I think the issue we're discussing today is one of the central issues concerning the development of Russia, for the simple reason that without rights, there's not democracy. And without independent courts there are no rights."

[read in Russian]