Only creation of a coalition government in Afghanistan can guarantee that there will be no civil war in the country, Russia's Audit Chamber chairman Sergei Stepashin said on Tuesday, according to this correspondent. In 1996 he was a special envoy of the Russian prime minister for talks with the leadership of the Northern Alliance. As he admits, five years ago he paid several "clandestine" visits to Afghanistan to meet General Dostum, Masood and the incumbent president of the country, Rabbani. Replying to a RIA Novosti question, Stepashin expressed his opinion that Rabbani "is perfectly aware that there is no other way to save Afghanistan except by creating such a government now, when Kabul has been captured," Stepashin believes. In his view, with time Russia must take a "more active stance" on establishing a peaceful life in Afghanistan. "We are neighbours with that country, after all," he recalled. Stepashin expressed confidence that the US would not oppose such a strengthening of Russia's position in Afghanistan. He quoted US President George W. Bush as saying today that Russia "has opened his eyes to a lot of things in that region". Stepashin underscored that one should not forget that Afghanistan is in a state of "grave humanitarian disaster". Without massive humanitarian support through the UN and major states we will solve nothing in that country," he is convinced.
Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who was accredited for the press conference by Vladimir Putin from Dozhd (Rain) television channel, asked Putin about competition at the coming election