Critics say the proposals are a blow to Russian democracy
MOSCOW - Responding to a spate of deadly terror attacks, President Vladimir Putin announced a series of anti-terror initiatives Monday that would strengthen the Kremlin's grip on every layer of Russian political life.
Putin told Cabinet members and security officials convened in special session that the future of Russia was at stake, and called for creation of a powerful anti-terror agency.
''The organizers and perpetrators of the terror attack are aiming at the disintegration of the state, the breakup of Russia,'' he said. ''We need a single organization capable of not only dealing with terror attacks but also working to avert them, destroy criminals in their hideouts and, if necessary, abroad.''
Despite the plans for the new anti-terrorism agency, the proposals were short on security measures, focusing instead on electoral changes, including the elimination of popularly elected governors and an overhaul of the way Russians elect their parliament - a measure likely to increase the control of the dominant, pro-Kremlin faction.
Critics called the measures a blow to democracy and warned that Putin's reliance on top-down control ultimately could weaken the nation by driving those in power further from the citizens they rule.
Some critics also suggested that Putin's decision to focus on electoral changes was a sign he lacks practical ideas about protecting Russia after a series of stunning terror attacks blamed on Chechen rebels, climaxing in the school siege that killed more than 330 people.
Putin said he would propose legislation abolishing the election of local governors by popular vote. Instead they would be nominated by the president and confirmed by local legislatures - removing the last vestiges of local autonomy.
Putin explained his actions as necessary to streamline and strengthen the executive branch to make it more capable of combating terror.
But his critics immediately assailed the proposal as a self-destructive effort that could fuel dissent in the provinces.