More "restraint and soberness" should be displayed in assessing the rate of economic growth in Russia, opines presidential aide Andrei Illarionov. He took the floor at a sitting of the club Civil Debate in Moscow on Tuesday. Reporting that Russia's economic growth will be about 5.5 percent in 2001, as experts predict, Illarionov declared that "this figure fades out if you look around" -- in Kazakhstan it will be 14 percent and in Ukraine 10 percent. The presidential aide cannot agree with the opinion of some debaters that Russia is "leaping Westwards". To Illarionov, "the mechanisms of our interaction with the West have not changed and interstate relations have not become qualitatively different". The broadening of contacts with the West, above all the United States, "will only bring into harmony the share and influence of the West in our international contacts", Illarionov believes. Debaters have come to a conclusion that the conduct of reforms in the civil service, armed forces, law-enforcement bodies and the judiciary, as well as "the creation of a broad public coalition backing modernisation of the country" will come to the fore in the next two years.
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