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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
US 'concern' over Putin measures
Vladimir Putin
Putin announced sweeping political changes
The US State Department has expressed concern about political changes proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin following the Beslan tragedy.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Mr Putin was in effect pulling back from democratic reforms and said he wanted to discuss the measures with Moscow.

On Monday Mr Putin called for stronger central control of the regions and an overhaul of security services.

Russia has also pledged an extra $5bn to its security services.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who announced the move on Tuesday, said the fight against terror would be a top budget priority in 2005.

Two-thirds of the money will go to the Ministry of Defence.

'Move to the rear'

Mr Powell told Reuters news agency that Moscow should balance the need to go after terrorists with a commitment to the democratic process.

In effect this is pulling back on some of the democratic reforms - we have concerns about it and we want to discuss them with the Russians
Colin Powell

"It would be not the best course of action to move in a direction which [would] be seen by the international community as moving toward the rear with respect to democratic reforms," he said.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also urged Russia to "strike the right balance", while expressing Washington's solidarity with Moscow in the fight against terrorism.

Mr Putin's announcement on Monday of a series of radical and far-reaching reforms included plans to change the way Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, is elected and nominate rather than elect regional governors.

Mr Putin also repeated that Russia had a right to take pre-emptive action to "destroy criminals in their hideouts and, if necessary, abroad".

The BBC's Peter Biles, in Moscow, says new measures will almost certainly strengthen Mr Putin's own position, and further limit the power of an already weakened opposition.

'Long-term perspective'

The cash investment in the security services announced on Tuesday followed almost $70m pledged by Mr Kudrin for an anti-terrorism programme in next year's budget.


The latest funding increase will boost the Defence Ministry by a further $3.7bn while the Federal Security Service, Interior Ministry and Foreign Intelligence Service will get more than $1.7bn between them.

The money will be spent on technical support, training of specialists and recruitment of professional servicemen.

"The fight against terrorism requires a long-range perspective," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Mr Kudrin as saying.

Some extra funds will also go towards security on underground train systems.

Our correspondent says some Russian newspapers have warned that the funding - which represents a 27% increase on previous amounts - could lead to more bureaucracy rather than greater security.

The BBC's Ade Akintonwa
"President Putin announced an extra $5bn for the armed forces"

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