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Medvedev Reminds Kudrin to Be Polite

Medvedev and his first deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov attending a State Council meeting on Wednesday. Maxim Shipenkov

President Dmitry Medvedev had to remind Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to mind his manners Wednesday after a testy debate about a national payments system with Vneshekonombank chief Vladimir Dmitriyev.

Dmitriyev said a law was needed to create a national payment system that would be operated by a noncommercial entity and could include some 80 percent of Russian banks. Currently, several regional systems are operated by commercial banks, primarily state retail giant Sberbank, and these are not enough, he said.

“The idea is that [banks] could work through the operator with the public and cooperate with state bodies,” Dmitriyev told a meeting of the State Council, Interfax reported.

He said the system could be created within a year after the law was passed.

VEB is “ready to become the platform,” he said. Otherwise, a planned postal bank based on bailed-out Svyaz Bank and Russian Post could serve as the operator.

Kudrin, who also holds the rank of deputy prime minister, lashed out at Dmitriyev’s “inaccurate” comments.

“Dmitriyev, in his speech, gave a contentious, I’d even say conceptually inaccurate, approach to a national payments system,” Kudrin said, Interfax reported. “He’s confusing a powerful domestic system for handling accounts … with a national payment system.”

Kudrin said a bill to create a national payment system was being prepared by a working group, including representatives from the Finance and Economic Development ministries, the Central Bank and the banking industry.

But “the government hasn’t discussed this proposal by VEB, and these proposals came as something of a surprise for me today,” Kudrin said.

Medvedev said there would be time to discuss the payment system, which he proposed would complement his plan to make more government services available electronically.

“And there’s a second thing,” Medvedev said. “It’s small, but important. In our country, it’s historically accepted that when speaking about people who are present, we address them by name and patronymic, not in the third person.”

Turning to Kudrin, he added: “Alexei Leonidovich, I’d ask you not to forget that.”

Kudrin apologized to Medvedev, who responded that he was not the one who should be asked for forgiveness.

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