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Kommersant, 04.12.07
Russia Comes Down to Earth // MPs' euphoria brought to an end
By Andrey Kolesnikov
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Lavochkin Research and Production Association, where they design space technology, to announce the results of the State Duma elections yesterday. Then he returned to the Kremlin and decided to make the Duma members come in to work early. Kommersant special correspondent Andrey Kolesnikov thinks he did it so they wouldn't have the chance to fail their commander-in-chief.
“What do you think?” Alexander Ostrovsky, curator of the Lavochkin museum, asked me. “Could the president say anything lunar today?”
It sounded so romantic. But it depended on just what you thought “anything” would be. If you thought that it would be some unearthly romance such as, for example, nominating United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov for president, the answer was probably no. More realistic was a flight to the moon and the claiming of its strategic heights (there are four of them, say specialists, who would prefer to remain anonymous for the moment, and the Americans, who need the moon for the same reason they need Poland and the Czech Republic, that is, for missile defense, are well aware of it as well).
But obviously that was a lot to hope for as well. The president wanted to announce the results of the State Duma elections, and he couldn't find anywhere better to do it than a research and production association where they make space technology. All the details, including the complicated space equipment, were meant to emphasize that Russia was heading onto the future with its head held high. And the election results, specifically United Russia's showing, were to be associated with cosmic heights.
The speed with which the president commented on those results caused some wonder. The count was not even completed. But the president was in a hurry to record the event.
And the Lavochkin Association was still hoping for something lunar. n the museum, 86-year-old Oleg Ivanovsky, who, as he told me in great detail, shut the hatch behind Yury Gagarin when he took off in the Vostok spacecraft (“The lid weighed 100 kg. and had 30 locks on it and after it was closed, Sergey Korolev said that one of the lights on the control panel wasn't burning and we had to open it up again. So when I opened it, I found Gagarin singing, The homeland hears, the homeland knows…'”), talked about the great and tragic lunar past of the Soviet Union and the great lunar future of Russia, which he had no doubts that he would live to see. I had no doubts left either. He was tough enough to live as long as it takes.
Lavochkin director Georgy Polishchuk, who has clearly also given his life to that idea, showed the president new booster systems and standardized mounts, also seemed to be counting on some show of gratitude from the president, since he had chosen Lavochkin to start the presidential election campaign at (as was seen later).
“That's a telescope,” Polishchuk said as they looked at one of the association's creations, “analogous to the American Hubble. No worse, in any case, than our friends from NASA, as they say, have.”
A sarcastic smirk flashed across the president's face. He clearly did not like it that they tried to do things “no worse” than at NASA. He was probably expecting, several kilometers out of Moscow, to find a place where they do things better than in America.
“Russia has returned to interplanetary research!” Polishchuk exclaimed. Putin liked that better. “The lunar flight has been scheduled for 2012, but we moved it up to 2009 to get there before India and China!”
Putin was also interested in the association's proposals for Arctic exploration as well, especially an Arctic airship.
“There's a battle on for it!” Polishchuk exclaimed with the naivetй of a true scholar. “It obvious why: oil, gas, the continental shelf – our future is there!”
Thus he showed himself to be profoundly earthbound.
The president stopped for a few minutes at an exhibit devoted to the new Russian space center. Even though he had come to announce the results of yesterday's elections, the problems of tomorrow were still gradually taking over. Putin is obviously taken with the stars.
The space center is to be completed by 2015.
“It took a long time to choose allocation,” the president commented.
“Half a year, as you ordered,” Anatoly Perminov, head of Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency barked.
“And do we have GLONASS working?” the president asked, glancing at Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov nearby. He had promised the supreme commander about a year ago that the first the first navigation devices to run on the Russian GLONASS system would go on sale by the beginning of 2008.
Perminov also remembered.
“They will start working!” he said cheerfully. “I didn't mention it on purpose. Only Sergey Borisovich knew. Here it is: GLONASS.”
He pointed to a device with a rather wide screen, apparently meant for automobile navigation.
“It costs $500,” Ivanov put it.
“We plan to have a thousand of them in stores for New Year,” Perminov sounded a little embarrassed by this fact, as though he didn't like putting a price on his high space technology, even if the price was high too.
While the president talked to Lavochkin designers at stands displaying things outsiders were not allowed to see, the journalists got ready to talk to the president about the business at hand.
The president went over to a group of association employees who had gathered around some intricate contraption (a moon rover, I think) to take pictures and finally talked about the election results.
He was happy with the turnout.
“It's the highest turnout in the last eight years. Higher than in 1999 and 2003. The choice has been made! I hope United Russia won't let us down.”
He was talking abut his tireless stomping for them for the past several weeks.
“But not only United Russia strengthened its position. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation did as well. The number of its representatives went up. The LDPR strengthened its position. It is an unconditional success for Just Russia, which was taking part in the elections for the first time and made it into the State Duma.”
The president did not work for or against the LDPR. The presidential administration worked hard against Just Russia and only in the last two weeks, when its lowered its head and stopped criticizing United Russia, was it given a real chance.
Putin thinks the legitimacy of the Duma has increased.
In the last Duma, the members were elected by 70 percent of the voters. This Duma was elected by 90 percent, since only 10percent of voters voted for parties that did not make it into the parliament,” he explained.
In his opinion, that is a high number even for Europe. That is, Putin smirked when a scientist said that Russian telescopes are no worse than American, but he wants to emphasize that Russian elections are no worse than Western ones.
“I took the first place on that party's list and that was a sign of trust, of course,” Putin said. “It is perfectly obvious to me now that Russians will never let their country develop on a destructive path, as several other post-Soviet countries have.”
After that, the president returned to the Kremlin and met there with met with members of the government. The ministers waited a long time. They had a good time together, laughing at Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's jokes for a while, but then they got tired of it. Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin's mood may have influenced them. He looked miserable. He was not allowed to meet with his deputy minister Sergey Storchak, who has had a second case initiated against him. (According to information obtained by Kommersant, the first case is unraveling fast.)
“I think it would be correct not to wait 30 days before for the first session of the new Duma,” Putin told his ministers. “The laws gives the president the right to assemble the Duma earlier. I ask the administration and the government to prepare an order. I know that the government has already drafted a plan for legislative work, and we need to start implementing it now.”
So there is something for the parliamentarians to do. It looks like a conspiracy. The president will most likely announce the name of his successor before the end of the year. And the State Duma might come in handy for that sometime. It should at least be ready for the chance.
Maybe that was why he was in such a hurry to announce the election results. Only then could he start the new Duma working.
Or maybe he wants to load the Duma with work so that the new members don't think they're rolling in hay. Kommersant has learned that, on December 2, the day of the elections, alone, Putin signed about 30 laws and decrees that had been long awaiting his signature.
On parting, as if apologizing for the fact that the country will be witness to his global political intriguing for the selection and election of his successor, Putin said that parliamentary and presidential elections may be separated in the future “to not burden the country with endless elections.”
But only then, if there were elections every two years, would one campaign endlessly follow another.

Then it would be simpler to join them into something united, like what all of Russia has been since yesterday.