Putin’s moves worry Washington
* EU urges Putin not to ignore democracy
WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday expressed concern about moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin to strengthen his powers.
“These steps certainly raise concerns,” said US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
Putin has called for a new system of selecting regional leaders that would give the Kremlin a strong role in the process. He has also toughened security in the North Caucasus and appointed a new government chief of staff after the Beslan school hostage tragedy.
Boucher said the United States would want to discuss the measures with the Russian government.
The spokesman emphasised that “we stand in solidarity with Russia in the fight against terrorism. Nothing justifies the sort of horrible terrorist actions that occurred last week in Russia.”
But he added that it was important “to strike the right balance between fighting terrorism but also moving forward on democratic reforms and the democratic process.
“That is a fundamental issue that has to be faced, and one that we’ll be discussing with the Russians,” he said.
The United States has joined the European Union in raising concern about the new political measures announced by Putin on Monday.
European Union: The European Commission urged Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to respect democracy and human rights as he bolsters control over regions and boosts security after a spate of terrorist attacks.
“Obviously this is an internal affair for Russia,” said a spokeswoman when asked about Putin’s call for a new system of selecting regional leaders that would give the Kremlin a powerful say in the matter. “But all I would say is that all of us who are faced with the challenge of tackling the modern evil of terrorism have to at the same time pay due respect to democracy and human rights.
Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said that the threat of terrorism has climbed to new heights in Russia and funding efforts to fight it will be a top budgetary priority for the state next year. Kudrin, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency, said both motives and technological means behind terrorism had “risen to a new level” and therefore needed to be met with new and expanded means to counter them.
“We will allocate the necessary means to strengthen the fight against terrorism,” Kudrin said. According to the draft 2005 Russian budget, financing allocated for national security, specifically for the armed forces, the police and the intelligence services, will grow by 27 percent in comparison with this year. afp