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Medvedev Warns Ministers to Obey Orders

President Medvedev speaking at a video conference of ministers and regional bosses Tuesday in the Kremlin. Dmitry Astakhov

President Dmitry Medvedev warned federal and regional officials on Tuesday that they could find themselves out on the street for not fulfilling his orders in a timely manner, including a sweeping reorganization of the state corporations created under his predecessor.

The remarks — made at a Kremlin meeting that included a number of ministers and regional bosses who listened in by video link — were Medvedev's latest initiative to raise his profile as the country's top politician.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose Cabinet receives the majority of presidential orders, was not in attendance, although three of his deputies were: Sergei Sobyanin, Alexander Khloponin and Alexander Zhukov.

"Orders from the head of state … just have to be fulfilled. Whoever doesn't fulfill them can take a hike," Medvedev said.

The number of official directives from Medvedev rose to 1,753 in 2009, a 30 percent increase compared with the previous year, but many of them remain unfulfilled, Konstantin Chuichenko, head of the Kremlin's control department, told the meeting.

"The theme for the orders hasn't changed. Like before, the focus is on the social and economic situation. The number of completed … orders was 1,084 in 2009. That's an increase in completion of about 15 percent from 2008," Chuichenko said, Interfax reported.

"Despite some positive results, the quality of how orders are fulfilled remains at an unsatisfactory level," he said.

The biggest offenders in completing presidential orders were the Energy, Defense and Regional Development ministries, Chuichenko said.

Medvedev's most efficient subordinates were from the Prosecutor General's Office as well as the Justice, Transportation and Foreign ministries.

"Despite the fact that I fairly often hear reports from the government, from the regions, from other organizations, these reports don't always look substantive," Medvedev said, according to comments posted on the Kremlin web site. "They're often just runarounds trying to push back this or that deadline. Our respected colleagues report that they've done this and that, but in reality, when you start to look into it, basically nothing has happened."

Medvedev said some long-term projects, such as Olympics preparations and other big construction projects, require distant deadlines. "But when [officials] write letters suggesting a half-year extension, then that can only mean one thing: not fulfilling the president's orders," Medvedev said.

He ordered Chuichenko to suggest appropriate consequences, "regardless of rank or position," for officials requesting delays, Interfax reported.

In the second part of the meeting, Medvedev listened to reports on how his previous orders were being carried out, as well as issuing a series of new directives. Most notable was the broadside against state corporations, which have been a regular target for Medvedev.

In August 2009, he ordered Chuichenko and Prosecutor General Yury Chaika — also present at Tuesday's meeting — to investigate them, setting Nov. 10 as a deadline to determine whether the state corporation model should "continue to be used as a legal and management structure." In his state-of-the-nation in November, Medvedev said three of the corporations — Russian Technologies, Rusnano and Vneshekonombank — would likely lose the status in 2010.

Several of the state corporations, such as Olimpstroi, were established with fixed end dates. But the heads of others have been quietly lobbying to push back the reforms, which would strip them of some privileges.

"The combination of commercial and regulatory functions is the best path to corruption. Therefore, the sooner this situation is overcome, the better — for these state corporations, for their directors and for the budget," Medvedev said.

Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina told the president that two bills providing greater oversight of the corporations were being discussed in the government and would be submitted to lawmakers by April 1. The bills would place more independent directors on the corporations' supervisory boards and monitor how they purchase goods and services.

Medvedev scolded her, however, saying he had ordered the bills to be submitted by March 1. "If that hasn't been done, then the order hasn't been fulfilled," he said.

He also reprimanded her for proposing that state corporations not be forced to operate under federal law No. 94, which requires that state orders of goods and services be conducted through transparent tenders.

"If you have other thoughts on the matter, then it's essential to justify that position," Medvedev said.

Nabiullina told the president that Rusnano, created to spark investment in high-tech projects using nanotechnology, was now the most ready to be reformed as a joint-stock company this year. She proposed a transition period for three others, Russian Technologies, VEB and Rosatom, to split off and sell their commercial operations.

Rusnano chief Anatoly Chubais said the 2010 reorganization deadline was "tough, but in theory realistic." Becoming a regular state-owned company would help Rusnano raise a planned 180 billion rubles ($6.1 billion) from the market by making it more understandable to investors, he said.

Nanotechnology — involving innovations on a molecular scale — has been a key element of Medvedev's plan to diversify the economy, but Rusnano has been criticized for not operating quickly enough.

Following their investigation last year, Chaika and Chuichenko found that the corporation had only spent 10 billion rubles ($340 million) of the 130 billion rubles the state gave it to invest. Half of the 10 billion rubles went toward the corporation's operational expenses.

Khloponin, who simultaneously became a deputy prime minister and Medvedev's envoy to the newly created North Caucasus Administrative District in January, told the meeting Tuesday that regions under his oversight had proposed 139 investment projects to the government in hopes of getting federal funding.

In 16 projects, private investors have already confirmed their participation.

Sobyanin, a deputy prime minister and head of the Cabinet administration, told Medvedev that the government was preparing an order that would decrease the number of strategic enterprises by a third, a measure also pushed by Medvedev.

The original list of 295 companies was created in late 2008 by Putin as a way to signal which firms would receive priority assistance from the state to overcome the financial crisis.

Medvedev also rattled off several new orders and deadlines, including one to provide housing for orphans. "I'm signing that order right now, so you go ahead and start working," he told Zhukov, who oversees social policy in the Cabinet.

Curiously, Medvedev criticized a distracted Irkutsk Governor Dmitry Mezentsev during the meeting for reading and noting documents that were brought to him from off camera.

Voters in the city of Irkutsk elected a Communist-backed mayor on Sunday, one of the biggest upsets for the ruling United Russia party.

While Tuesday's meeting was the first in months dedicated to presidential orders, Medvedev hasn't been shy about demanding respect in recent weeks.

On Feb. 26, the president threatened to kick everyone out of a government meeting with business leaders after Chuichenko and another senior Kremlin aide, Larisa Brychyova, began whispering to each other.

"You're chatting again? I took notice of you a long time ago, you're chatting at every meeting. You'd be better off getting to work," Medvedev warned his advisers.

It also wasn't the first time that he has taken Putin's close allies to task for not listening to him. In December, Medvedev bristled when Russian Technologies chief Sergei Chemezov challenged something he said. "Everything I say is cast in granite," Medvedev said.

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