After the election I’ll go and wash my face – Putin
The statement was made at a regional conference for the majority party, United Russia, which took place in Ekaterinburg – the administrative center of the Ural Federal District. One of the forum’s delegates asked Putin about his post-presidential election day plans, which is to be held on March 11 2012.“I’ll go to wash my face, both in the hygienic and the political sense of the word. We will seriously have to undertake hygienic procedures after all the election campaigns we will have to go through,” the premier said. “Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. It is an inevitable process. As Churchill used to say, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,” Putin added. The forum that kicked off on Wednesday is the seventh such party gathering of its kind. This time around, the delegates got together to discuss the projected social-economic development of the Ural region by the year 2020. About half of the 1,000 conference participants are members of a newly created movement – The All-Russian Popular Front.Putin, who chairs United Russia, proposed to establish the movement during a party conference in Volgograd this past May. At that time, the prime minister said that the front should include not only the United Russia party, but also differing organizations, such as other political parties, trade unions, women’s organizations, youth organizations, veterans’ groups and all people who are "united by the ideas of strengthening our country and searching for the most optimal means of solving existentproblems” . In addition, Putin suggested that his party would give seats in the State Duma to members of the front with active political positions, even if they are not members of United Russia. The premier's idea was very much welcomed and has already drawn a large number of supporters, including various movements and organizations.Speaking at the Ekaterinburg conference, Putin was also quick to stress that the Popular Front did not want people to join it “under orders” just to artificially increase its size. “It would only serve to discredit the very idea of the Popular Front,” he noted.The Premier reiterated that the movement's tasks are not limited to participation in the parliamentary elections in December of this year, even though they are indeed “very important”. “The [Popular] Front is, first and foremost, a political position, a broad civil movement, a consolidation of public forces and citizens uniting to solve the strategic problems that Russia as a whole and its regions in particular are facing,” he said.Political issues aside, the main point of the forum was to outline the main course of development for the Ural region. In his opening speech, Putin also stated that Russia is going to increase its presence in the Arctic, and while open to dialogue with partners, will defend its geopolitical interests in the region.“Russia will certainly increase its presence in the Arctic. We are open to dialogue with our foreign partners, with all of our neighbors in the Arctic region, but, of course, we will firmly and consistently defend our geopolitical interests,” he said.Russia is going to develop a “modern frontier infrastructure, including meteorological stations” and a system for monitoring the environment in the Arctic. Among other plans, there are hopes to initiate a “thorough cleanup” of Russia's part of the region as well as utilize waste, including hundreds of rusting fuel barrels which were inherited from the Soviet era. Putin underlined that the Arctic ecosystem is very vulnerable and if measures are not taken now, the consequences of such negligence might be irreversible.“Not a single industrial project in the Russian part of the Arctic will be fulfilled without taking into consideration the strictest environmental standards,” the Prime Minister stressed.There are also intentions to build a new Arctic port on the Yamal Peninsula, which can be viewed as part and parcel of the plan to revive the Northern Sea Route, Putin said.“Russia is a great Arctic power. We cannot live without a strong fleet of icebreakers,” the PM observed, adding that at least three modern atomic icebreakers will be built in the period between 2012 and 2020.