Russia's lawmakers demonstrate loyalty to Putin

Administrator's plans remain under wraps


MOSCOW -- President-elect Vladimir V. Putin pushed the long overdue ratification of a major arms control treaty through a compliant lower house of parliament last week.

He scored a victory yesterday with Russia's regional bosses in the parliament's upper chamber, easily winning a vote to get rid of a prosecutor who was the scourge of former President Boris N. Yeltsin.

For good measure, the upper house also approved the START II nuclear arms pact, which passed the lower house Friday.

The most vivid display of loyalty from the governors and local leaders in the Federation Council, as the upper house is called, was their 133-10 vote to dismiss Yuri Skuratov, the general prosecutor whom Yeltsin tried twice to fire last year after he began to investigate corruption in the Kremlin.

"Russia has a real, solid president, and it needs a full-blooded working prosecutor," said Anatoly Lisitsyn, governor of the Yaroslavl region northeast of Moscow.

In its earlier votes on Skuratov, the upper house voted against the Kremlin, displaying a rare rebellious streak that reflected Yeltsin's growing political weakness.

Three weeks after his election March 26, Putin has the parliamentary victories to prove that he has the political strength to command a majority in both houses.

But it is not clear what Putin plans to do with his mandate. The ratification of START II and the dismissal of Skuratov are leftovers from the Yeltsin agenda.

Putin has done little to reveal his plans for Russia, including how he wants to carry out what he called in his campaign "a dictatorship of the law."

In the three weeks since his election, he has continued to project the image of the resolute, energetic leader, which was enhanced this week with a three-day foreign tour that took him from Belarus to Britain and then to Ukraine.

His first major policy statement is expected soon after his inauguration May 7, when he will address both houses of parliament with a state of the nation speech. A more detailed program, being prepared by a privately funded think tank, is expected to be issued later next month.

In the meantime, Putin seems to prefer to keep people guessing about his plans and policies.

Putin has repeatedly stressed his commitment to the principles of a market economy. His naming last week of Andrei Illarianov, a liberal economist, as his chief economic adviser was seen as support for continued economic reform in Russia.

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