MOSCOW – Today the ethnic Russian new prime-minister of Ukraine, Yuri Ekhanurov, visited Russia. His visit has brought new warmth into the Russian-Ukrainian relationship.
Visiting Russia after being appointed for a high-ranking government position has been always a Ukrainian tradition. The only person who didn’t get a chance to visit was former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. Russia’s General Prosecutor still has a few criminal cases open against Mrs. Timoshenko. They are very questionable, because Timoshenko was supposedly bribing Russian officials in order to conduct her business. Those Russian officials have never been prosecuted for their part in alleged corruption.
Yuri Ekhanurov is a Russian national, and is more of a technocrat than an independent personality. However, these work to his benefit, because Yuschenko doesn’t need someone politically powerful next to him, and there are many problems in the Ukrainian administration that require the attention of a good bureaucrat. The Russian Prime Minister Fradkov is the same kind of non-personable bureaucrat, who looks good next to the more charismatic Putin.
The new PM spent two hours in a private meeting with Mikhail Fradkov. He used this time to reassure the Kremlin that Russian investments in Ukraine are safe. You would wonder why he was communicating with Russia's Prime Minister on the topics of the business sector. Well, because Russia's biggest businesses, which are oil and gas, are owned and controlled by the Kremlin’s Gazprom and Rosneft.
The meeting with the Russian Prime Minister was supposed to be the end of the program, but at the last moment Putin decided to meet the new Ukrainian PM at his country-side residence. When Ekhanurov got there, Putin just talked to Eckhanurov's boss Yuschenko on the phone. The conversation between the Russian president and Ukrainian PM was warm and cheerful. Again Ukrainians proved their excellent political saavy and desire for better relations with Russia. The reported Ukrainian political crisis appears to be over. Instead of scaring the neighbors, Ukraine has managed to stay friends with the West and re-married Russia.
NALCHIK, Russia -- Allegations by witnesses of the Beslan hostage crisis, including claims the militants hid weapons in the school beforehand and that the principle helped them, have been disproved by a new investigation, a top prosecutor has said.
Many citizens believe the militants could have bribed their way through checkpoints into southern Russia. They also believe they were misled by the government, which initially reported fewer people in the school. Critics also complain that the military's response was bungled, resulting in needless deaths.
More here at CNN.com
YUKOS stock jumped 40% today, based on rumors that the company will be acquired by Rosneft. There has been general uptick for stocks in the Russian market in the past few days. However, this isn't the reason for YUKOS big "success".
Speculators believe that the stock will be purchased by the state-owned Rosneft, that acquired Yuganskneftegas earlier this year. The corporate meeting between Yuganskneftegas and YUKOS is scheduled for April 18, 2006, and many Russian analysts say that it's too early and too risky to speculate on some future deal that might not happen at all. However, this kind of acquisition makes perfect sense.
Continue reading "YUKOS Stock Up 40%" »
Someone from Russia told me yesterday an interesting fact, which describes one of the ways Russian elderly people save money to survive. As Russia Blog has noted before, Russian retirees, who worked all their lives in the Soviet Union, can't live on their government pensions. That is why older people are trying to save on anything they can.
Forgive me for the details, but Russian pensioners save money by simply not buying toilet paper, and using a little rag instead. Later in the evening, they hand-wash the rag and put it out to dry for another day of a proud life.
Hardly any retirees can afford a washer and a drier, so all the laundry has to be done manually by people in their late 70s and 80s. Imagine the financial despair, if they choose to save money even on a toilet paper!
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan Sep 27, 2005 — A senior State Department official said Tuesday the president of Uzbekistan made it clear that American forces must leave their air base in the Central Asian country, and the U.S. intends to do so "without further discussion."
The demand came as relations soured following U.S. criticism of Uzbekistan's crackdown on anti-government protesters in May.
"The Uzbek government made it clear that we need to leave the base, and we intend to leave it without further discussion," Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told reporters after meeting with President Islam Karimov.
In July, the Uzbek government invoked a provision of the basing agreement with the United States that requires all American forces to leave within six months.
Read More on ABC News
The Weekly Standard and RIA Novosti offer contrasting views of Russia's opposition parties this week. In "Democracy in Russia" Leon Aron profiles the Republican Party of Russia and its charismatic spokesman Vladimir Ryzhkov. Ryzhkov, unlike the core group of bureaucrats and politicians that run the country, hails from Siberia. Aron believes that Russian classical liberal reformers may be on the verge of an electoral breakthrough, if they can only overcome the system-rigging of Putin's United Russia:
At Putin's "suggestion" the Duma a month ago passed legislation eliminating the single-member districts from which half of the Duma deputies have been elected up until now. Instead, in 2007, all candidates must run on party lists...In addition, the heretofore common practice of two or more parties' joining to form an electoral bloc has been prohibited, while the minimum share of the national vote a party must win in order to secure seats in the Duma has been raised from 5 to 7 percent. Russian observers and media are now barred from observing the count on election day, and representatives of international monitoring organizations will be admitted only by personal invitation.
Continue reading "State of the Opposition" »
Russian politicians and media are preoccupied with the same problem as their counterparts in the U.S. - "skyrocketing gasoline prices". As in the U.S., the problem is not simply of demand temporarily outstripping supply, but one of politics and geography.
Thanks to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, most news watchers now know that the bulk of U.S. oil and gas production occurs in the Gulf of Mexico, as does a dispraportionate share of American refining (since refineries are easier to expand in the business friendly southern Gulf states than on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts). Less reported has been the problem of fields in Oklahoma and the Gulf that once were prolific now yielding less gas, driving exploration into deeper waters and geologic formations. And that's before we discuss the environmental rules that keep many rich fields on the Atlantic coast, the Rocky Mountains and Alaska offline.
Russia's geographic/political problem in contrast, is not complacency and the NIMBY syndrome but a corrupt culture that was not transparent enough to use the massive foreign investment necessary to get oil and gas from Siberia, the Caspian and Arctic seas to markets.
On the positive side, Russia's difficulties are actually a sign of real economic gains at home and greater connectivity with the world. High domestic demand for gasoline and electricity is solid proof that Russia's rising GDP is real, and cannot simply be chalked up to greater energy exports. Money that in the Nineties would come in for raw materials and go abroad for imported luxury goods may actually be coming back to Russia.
Conoco Phillips' full page ad in the Wall Street Journal today boasted about its push to open up gas fields in Russia. In case anyone needed further proof that the Cold War is dead, liquified natural gas (LNG) tankers will soon be plying their trade along sealanes once reserved for the Red Banner Northern Fleet of Tom Clancy fame. American oil men are already working with their Russian counterparts in a region that the U.S. Navy once only beheld through periscopes and satellite photographs. How fitting that both Murmansk and Vladivostok might become bustling ports again thanks to global capitalism.
But as noted previously here, Russia's track record of giving foreign investors real returns on their investment and attracting more capital in the 1990s was poor, worse even than the politically unstable kleptocracies of West Africa.
...but only for two days.
Because of the hurricane Rita all employees of Houston based Lyndon Johnson Space Center were ordered to evacuate. For the meantime full control of the International Space Station is given to the Russian Space Center in Korolev.
INGUSHETIA – Tuesday night police vehicles were shot at by Chechen terrorists. As the result, three police officers are dead, one injured; and as always you can find this news only on a few Russian news websites, tucked away between the articles about New Orleans and The New York Times laying off their employees. Somehow Russians are always very global thinkers, paying attention to events abroad, but they don't notice the pain occurring at home. This shooting is just another attack among many other daily terrorist activities. Imagine if Iraq's terrorist insurgency were operating not on the Syrian but the Mexican border, aiming to conquer Arizona for Allah, and you have some idea of the challenge faced by Russia.
RIA Novosti reports some good news for the long suffering Russian film industry - total revenues from 2004 increased to $350 million, and market research suggests that audiences are getting older and more discriminating in their tastes, "older people who miss patriotic plots and home-made heroes have rejoined the audience". Implicit in the decline of the 13 to 25 year old male audience demographic will be a reduced emphasis on low brow sexuality and explosions in favor of quality drama.
Russian films have now claimed 15% of their domestic market, whetting director's appetites for foreign distribution possibilities. As previously noted here, the spooky Russian hit of 2004, Night Watch, is poised for release in the U.S. Night Watch proved so successful that it will be the first installment in a three part action/horror series (imagine the Matrix films with werewolves and vampires).
A prime candidate for a major distribution deal in the U.S. next year is the upcoming war drama The Ninth Platoon, about a group of Red Army soldiers fighting in Afghanistan in 1988-89.
"This movie will have a record start - 410 copies, and we have high hopes for it," said Vadim Ivanov. "But its marketing is quite difficult because it is a war drama. We don't know whether it makes sense to release such an expensive movie about a war which is still fresh in people's memories. This war affected many Russians who are now over the age of 35. But we hope for a broad audience, because young people can also identify with the main characters." Fyodor Bondarchyuk himself is a star of an entertainment channel that is popular with the younger generation, and other actors in the movie are also idols of the young.
KHABAROVSK: A senior police lieutenant, a member of the Department of Anti-Economic Crimes, received $10,000 for returning a stolen vehicle to its owner. The stolen car had been found, and when the owner showed up at the police department to get his own Mercedes, it was suggested that he pay a $10,000 cash bribe. He did, and right after that he filed a complaint in the same police department.
It is hard to say if justice will prevail, but it's easy to notice that the worst corruption is conducted by the people who are supposed to be fighting it. Russia has always been ironic and illogical for foreigners.
Here is a deep and insighrful article from the Christian Science Monitor.
Russia Struggles to Keep Grip in Caucasus
Conflict are growing in the troubled region, where emotions still run high over the Beslan school massacre.
By FRED WEIR - Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
NAZRAN, RUSSIA - Murat Zyazikov, the pro-Kremlin president of the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia, is a hunted man.
Since taking office in 2003, he has narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of a suicide car-bomber and a sniper, allegedly sent by local Islamic militants. In the past month alone, insurgents have bombed the motorcade of his deputy premier and opened fire on his security chief. A year ago, fighters loyal to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev briefly seized the Ingush capital of Nazran, killing almost 100 police officers and government officials.
Mr. Zyazikov, a former general of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), shrugs all that off. "Things here are calm and peaceful," he told journalists at a meeting in his plush, golden-domed presidential palace. "These attacks against me and my officials are the work of desperate men who want to destabilize the situation in southern Russia. They hate the fact that we are building a worthy life for our people."
As the war in neighboring Chechnya grinds into its seventh year with no resolution in sight, conflicts are metastasizing around the troubled north Caucasus, which has been a zone of tension since it was conquered by Russia in the 19th century. The region is a patchwork quilt of warring ethnic groups and rival religions that makes Europe's other tangled knot, the Balkans, look tame by comparison.
Many experts say the Kremlin's grip, iron-hard in Soviet times, has slipped disastrously in recent years. "The Chechen conflict is spilling into neighboring republics, escalating the process of destabilization," says Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow.
Zhairakhsky, a sparsely populated district amid the high, snow-capped mountains of southern Ingushetia, has remained relatively untouched by conflict. But, says local administrator Yakhya Mamilov, "if you stand on a mountaintop here and look around, you'll see wars flaring or brewing in every direction. It's impossible to build for the future with any confidence while these conditions last."
Rebel fighters from Chechnya, a few kilometers to the east, often take refuge among their Ingush ethnic kin in Zhairakhsky, locals say.
Further east is the Caspian Sea republic of Dagestan, with 32 constituent ethnic groups, where Islamist rebels stage almost daily bombings and ambushes against Russian security forces.
To the south and west two breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, are locked in long-simmering wars of independence against the post-Soviet state of Georgia. Just next door on another side is traditionally Christian North Ossetia, hereditary enemy of the mainly Muslim Ingush, with whom they fought a savage border war in 1992.
Moscow has tried to maintain its authority by phasing out "unreliable" local leaders, and replacing them with loyalists like Zyazikov. "This tactic is not working," says Alexander Iskanderyan, head of the Center for Caucasian Studies. "Moscow imagines that exchanging 'bad' officials with 'good' ones will change things, but the main trend we see is a steady loss of control."
Passions in Ingushetia and N. Ossetia are still seething over the Beslan school massacre a year ago. On Sept. 1, 2004, a squad of 32 terrorists, most of them ethnic Ingush, drove from Ingushetia and seized 1,200 hostages in Beslan's School No. 1, just across the border in N. Ossetia. Three days later Russian security forces launched a massive assault on the building, leaving 331 people dead, half of them children.
Zyazikov, and other pro-Kremlin officials, blame the outrage on "international terrorism." North Ossetia's acting president, Taimuraz Mamsurov, says the Beslan school siege was a deliberate attempt by "certain forces" to stir up ethnic war between Ingush and Ossetians. "Tensions have increased (since Beslan), that's natural," he says. "But I think we've succeeded in restraining our people from fulfilling that scenario."
Others doubt the danger has passed. "Everyone here is always talking about getting ready for war with the Ingush, to get even with them," says Madina Pedatova, a teacher at Beslan's spanking new School No. 8. "I'm terrified of it, but I'm sure it's coming."
Just across the heavily fortified Ingush-N. Ossetian border thousands of Ingush refugees forced from their homes in N. Ossetia in 1992 live in a sprawling, squalid refugee camp. Here the hatred is palpable. "The Ossetians are like Nazis. They drove us from our homes (in 1992) like cattle, showing no humanity," says Umar Khadziyev, unemployed, who lives in a small hut with his wife and three children.
Mr. Khadziyev says he condemns the Beslan attack, with its terrible death toll of children. But then he adds: "Do you know why the fighters drove past two Ossetian schools before taking School No. 1 in Beslan? It's because the Ossetians used that very school as a prison for our people in 1992. Yes, our women and children were held there, in that same gym, beaten up and denied food and water. Nobody talks about that, do they?"
For Moscow, the spreading unrest, fuelled by Islamic extremists in some republics and ancient ethnic antagonisms in others, poses an almost nightmarish challenge. After Beslan, President Vladimir Putin warned that the cost of failure could be "the destruction of Russia." Says Khadziyev, the Ingush refugee: "Our grandfathers told us the USSR would collapse one day. I'm sure that Russia is going to fall apart too."
The Summer 2005 issue of The National Interest, my favorite foreign policy journal, featured three articles on Russian affairs.
While readers will be happy to know that California's farm raised caviar may bring some relief to the overfished sturgeon populations of the Caspian Sea, the most important contribution came from J. Robinson West's analysis "The Future of Russian Energy". West, a top executive for PFC Energy, first delivers the good news: Russian crude oil production has hit a post-Soviet high of 9 million barrels a day, 50% more than just six years ago. Russian oil production now ranks second only to Saudi Arabia's, at 11% of the world market. Then West presents the bad news - Russian oil production has only grown by 3% this year, and Russia may be hitting the upper limit of what its aging derricks and Soviet-era pipelines can handle.
Massive direct foreign investment is the only solution, and would enable Russia to obtain new equipment and explore untapped remote Arctic and Siberian regions. But Putin's destruction of Yukos, in an effort to stifle political opposition and create "national champions" in the energy sector, has scared off many foreign investors. And Russia did not have a good record of attracting investment before the Yukos power grab.
Want to know how bad Russia's efforts at attracting foreign investment in the energy sector have been since the collapse of the USSR? Since 1992, Russia's energy industries have received 15 billion dollars in foreign direct investment (FDI) - while Western Africa has received 113 billion. Russia is losing energy investment dollars to Nigeria, which ranks nearly dead last every year in independent rankings of the world's most corrupt and least transparent economies.
In fairness to the Kremlin, oil in the Gulf of Guinea has lower transportation costs, since it is more convenient for shipping to markets in Western Europe and the American East Coast. West's analysis also doesn't mention many of the recent initiatives Putin has launched to lure foreign investors back. But there is no ignoring the article's indictment of Gazprom as a massive Soviet style bureaucracy, and description of Russia's pipeline operator Rosneft as similarly hamstrung by poor management and deteriorating infrastructure.
Gazprom is hoping for a new pipeline under the Baltic Sea to pump Russian gas to Western European markets, bypassing political obstacles in Ukraine. However, expanding Gazprom's exports of Russian gas to a slow-growing Europe is relatively easy, compared to the challenge of getting oil and gas from Siberia to energy hungry markets in Asia and the entire Pacific Rim, the growth market of the future. Meeting Asian demand will require not just new pipelines across Siberia and China, but massive liquified natural gas (LNG) and tanker terminals at the Pacific ports of Nakhodka and Vladivostok.
Saturday September 10, the First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Moscow and his wife were attacked and injured. This information leaked to the Russian media on Monday.
The Japanese diplomat says that he and his wife were waiting for a trolley-bus near one of the stadiums, when three "normal looking" young men approached them and started an "uneasy conversation". Eventually, the young people decided that they just didn’t like the looks of these Japanese people, so they punched the diplomat three times in the face and hit his wife in the head. Just as the Japanese couple came under attack, the trolley stopped and the foreigners were able to escape the young thugs.
The diplomat consulted with his Embassy, and afterwards the Japanese Embassy sent a note to the Russian Ministry of International Affairs, requesting a thorough investigation, in light of the other attacks on Japanese citizens that took place in the past few years. In 2002, after the Russian national soccer team lost to the Japanese team, Russian soccer hooligans rioted in Moscow and severely injured five Japanese musicians, who had come to Russia for the Tchaikovsky Festival. On September 9, 2005 another Japanese citizen, the director of the Japanese Center, was attacked in Novgorod by several young men between 16 and 18 years of age.
Moscow is a megapolis of over ten million people with very diverse ethnicities, nationalities and interests. However, younger uneducated Russians, and people in the suburbs in general, still have a lot of racist attitudes towards people who aren’t "like them". In the Russian country-side, many gay people are getting attacked; and in the past few years there have been multiple attacks on people of many different races and nationalities, especially people who look like Caucasians, which doesn't mean "white-colored skin" in Russia, but describes someone from Chechnya, Azerbaijan or Georgia.
The attack on the Japanese diplomat followed attacks on Polish diplomats, and several assaults on black students studying at Russian universities.
According to the Canadian think tank, the Fraser Institute, Russia ranks in 115th place in the world in terms of economic freedom. Ukraine is ranked 103rd.
The index, titled "Economic Freedom of the World" measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic liberty. The cornerstones of a liberal economy are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom of competition, and security for private property. Thirty-eight components and sub-components are used to construct a summary index and to measure the degree of economic freedom in five areas: (1) size of government; (2) legal structure and protection of property rights; (3) access to sound money; (4) international exchange; and (5) regulation.
The most economically "free" country in the world is the former British colony of Hong-Kong, Singapore ranks second, and New Zealand comes in third. These countries are followed respectively by Switzerland, USA, Great Britain and Canada.
Today the President of Ukraine Viktor Yuschenko fired his entire government.
This political crisis started developing few days ago, when Secretary of State Zinchenko accused Yuschenko’s new government of returning to the old system of corruption and favoritism. The first reactions from the Ukrainian pro-Kremlin opposition were happiness and reinforcement of their ideology. The opposition doesn't think that Ukraine can independently function as a democracy.
However, this development should be seen as an opportunity rather than a setback for reform in Ukraine.
Zinchenko resigned, and the next day the Ukrainian Bureau of Security launched an investigation based on Zinchenko’s accusations. Prosecutors will investigate the head of the National Security Council of Ukraine, Poroshenko, First Assistant to the President, Tretyakov, and the Leader of the Parliament party "Our Ukraine", Martinenko. Another criminal investigation was launched against the head of the Customs Service of Ukraine, Nikolay Skomarovsky, and his three assistants. All of this means that the "corrupt" government took the words of accusation to heart and showed action right away. Zinchenko’s resignation was based upon his inability to prove the accusations, he was not fired for his insubordination.
CNN quotes Yushchenko has said that the new government lost its "team spirit" which was true. The passion of the Orange Revolution died out and the new government faced the challenges of reforms and corruption. Much of the opinions on the government's reforms were delivered by a pro-Russian opposition, which most Ukrainians don’t agree with. The pro-Russian opposition was involved in the scandal with the Russian government allegedly poisoning Yuschenko, attempting to steal the Ukrainian elections, and trying to put the Kremlin’s corrupt friend in power.
The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, is almost as popular as Yuschenko himself. Having her as a healthy opposition will help drown out the pro-Kremlin voices left in Ukrainian politics. Staying with his party and being part of his government would have led to corruption, leaving Ukraine without a truly loyal opposition party.
In 2006 the Ukrainian Constitution will be amended to make the Prime Minister more powerful than the President. The person who gets elected for this position will be well respected by the nation and by the Parliament. Now independent from Yuschenko, Tymoshenko can start her show, which will end on March 2006 and distribute power in the country.
Yuschenko has appointed Yuri Yakhanurov to form his new Cabinet. An interesting fact is that Yakhanurov is Russian - he was born in Siberia and raised in Russia. This just shows that Yuschenko’s government is not anti-Russian. If Yakhanurov proves to be more effective than Tymoshenko, and gains the nation’s respect, he could make himself into a real Russian political figure in Ukraine without all the unnecessary meddling from the Kremlin.
Ukrainians remain confused about the direction their country is taking. In public opinion polls, 43 percent do not approve of the country's direction, which is almost twice as much comparing to the 23 percent who were optimistic in April. However, the reforms are working, and big changes are starting.
One of the best moves of the new Ukrainian government was cancelling the old restrictive visa policy for EU and U.S. citizens. This move has created new business and tourism opportunities for this old and beautiful Eastern European country.
Ukraine is a hard working Christian nation, which historically has always been fought over between Russia and Poland. I believe that hard work, patience and the pride of having their own country will lead Ukrainians to true democratic values and a free market economy.
The Wall Street Journal has an article today that tells the story Russia's new oil pipelines in Siberia. Yesterday President Putin announced that Russia is going to build a new pipeline that will go to China, and only later will the pipeline reach Russia's Pacific Coast. “The Daqing pipeline will be built first, but we’ll also build to Nakhodka,” said Putin.
Chinese-Russian relations have incredibly improved in the past few years, and Russia's arms industry has been kept alive by Chinese orders. The WSJ also notices that Russian-Japanese relations seem to be gridlocked. Japan still wants to get the Kurile Islands back, and Russia constantly says “No”. Pursuing this unreal dream, Japan starts losing points in what could’ve been one its best economic opportunities in recent years. Though China is still nominally socialist and Russia is a very young democracy, business is business, and capitalism directs money to places where business is easy, profitable and safe. The Chinese have won this round big time.
The Kurile Islands belonged to the Russian Empire from the late 17th century until they were conquered by the Japanese in 1905. After the victory in World War II, Russians got the islands back, and everything seemed to be just right. However, 40 years of occupation planted a lot of nationalist dreams in Japan. Russia and Japan never signed the peace treaty, so technically speaking, Russia and Japan are still officially in a state of war. This is the last problem Japan needs when its only true friend in the world remains the U.S., while China exploits atrocities from sixty years ago to stoke anti-Japanese xenophobia in the present.
So who is right and who is wrong - and who really owns the islands? The first geographic note of the Kurile Islands appear in Russian accounts as early as 1646. Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Kuriles were explored and developed by Russian settlers. Today the Kurile Islands are home to 30,000 Russian people.
Japan is trying to play the socialism card of sharing and giving away - kind of a Robin Hood idea; if you have too much land, and somebody else doesn’t, though really wants it, you must share. I’m sure there will be some people who would say that Russia is already the biggest country in the world, while Japan is struggling without enough space. Give up the islands!
However, the Kurile Islands are much more than just a piece of land in the ocean. The strategic location of the islands makes Russia into a harbored navy power. Russian bases on the Kuriles provide early warning for Russia's East Coast from potential “invaders” and tsunamis. The islands also serve as a base for lucrative commercial fishing.
Almost weekly Japanese boats are caught illegally fishing in Russian waters. Many times they are pursued by military planes and the Russian navy. Sometimes they are getting shot at, and some people have been killed. However, all this doesn’t stop the Japanese from pretending that the islands are theirs. There is enormous Japanese propaganda invasion of the islands as well. The Japanese distribute CD’s and tapes, targeting school children, delivering the cry for “help”. “The Islands are ours” say tapes over and over again.
I believe that the islands are purely Russian, not just because I’m Russian myself, but because not a single country in the world since World War II has supported the Japanese claim, while history and geography proves the Russian ownership.
People who are not aware of the situation find it almost surreal, ones they learn it. Anyway, while Japanese government is chasing the dream, Japanese businesses lose access to cheaper oil and better cooperation from neighboring countries.
Here's a great article about Russian women, written by a Russian and published in the Wall Street Journal. Great and honest insights on the new generation of Russian women:
The Other Russian Revolution
All across the country, a plethora of beautiful girls has sprung up.
BY EDVARD RADZINSKY
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
MOSCOW--For the greater part of the 20th century, Russia's population suffered from the nightmare of wars, repression and perpetual hunger. There was the famine of the Civil War, the famine of the years of collectivization, and the famine of the Second World War. It almost seems as if the relative prosperity of recent years has engendered a peculiar reaction of the flesh, something almost akin to gratitude. All across the country, a plethora of beautiful girls has sprung up.
Continue reading "Russia's Treasure - Russian Women" »
Here’s an entertaining and slightly racist article from the British News Telegraph. Anyway, it delivers a different (not quite truthful) perspective:
After decades fighting the British for places on the sun lounger, the Germans have a new holiday enemy - armies of Russians competing for their favorite destinations.
Lured by all-inclusive deals offering flights and accommodation for as little as ï¿½140 a fortnight, millions are turning up at Turkish and Egyptian resorts once considered to be firmly in German hands.
In a number of unflattering articles in Germany, the average family from Moscow has been depicted as rough, nouveau riche peasants who steal the carpet from beneath their hotel beds, start camp fires beside hotel pools, and - worst of all - encourage their children to steal boiled eggs from the breakfast buffet.
"Their women look like tarts, the blokes are common as dirt - even worse than the English in Mallorca," one German tourist in Hurghada, on the Red Sea, told a German newspaper.
A doctor, Gregor Breivogel, staying at the same resort, said: "The Russians are the worst plague. They have no manners and they drink and bellow all day."
Equally galling was the admission by one German woman tourist holidaying in Kemer, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, that in the battle for the lounger, Russians seem to have beaten the Germans at their own game. "I have to get to the beach early before the Russians snatch all the sunbeds," she said.
Her infuriated husband said: "Even if you put a towel and all your stuff on the sunbed, the Russians just clear it off. They have no respect for anything."
One magazine gave a detailed description of the average Russian male tourist, whom it said was built like a Soviet T34 tank. "He has arms like a wrestler and legs like the chimney on a Taiga cabin stove. He drinks in the morning, smokes everywhere and never says sorry," it said. The magazine added: "His wife, Olga, looks like a Red Army soldier drawn from a film about the Cold War."
The influx of Russian spending power has led to local boutiques that used to sell beachwear also stocking expensive furs and winter coats aimed at the rouble.
Germans are also dismayed that although they still triumph in tourist beauty contests, Ivans and Sergeis increasingly walk off with the prizes in the jet ski, paragliding and crazy golf events.
With up to 1.5 million Russians visiting Turkey last year and 500,000 going to Egypt, Germans are already outnumbered in most resorts.
The prospect of a further decline in Russo-German beach relations prompted Neckermann, one of Germany's largest tour operators, to call for the nationalities to be kept apart. Gunther Trï¿½ger, a spokesman for Neckermann, said: "There would be Russian hotels and hotels for other nationalities, especially at the middle and lower ends of the market."
For many days in a row the major news around the world has been the devastation in New Orleans. And for the first time in modern history, America has agreed to accept humanitarian and logistics help from the Russian Federation. Four cargo planes loaded with professional rescue crews and doctors, water, medicines, tents, boats and a helicopter are leaving Russian airports bound for the U.S.
Russia is known for vast spaces and a severe climate. One of the most active agencies in the nation is the Russian Ministry of the Emergency Situations. They deal with snow, storms, yearly floods in Siberia, pollution, military ordnance explosions and so on. It’s almost the only agency in the world of its kind that is not police or firefighters. These responders are trained to deal with New Orleans style disasters and their consequences.
Russia has offered help to the U.S. before - during fires in the southern U.S. in 2000 and after the 9/11 attacks in New York. In both cases the help was denied, and the Americans said that they were capable of dealing with the situations without any external help.
This time is different. Two dozen countries have offered their help, and until Thursday America had been rejecting this help. Now President Bush, on behalf of the nation has said "Yes".
Americans rushed to help Russia not that long ago - when a mini submarine was strained under water off Kamchatka. For the first time since World War II, the Americans allowed to land their military equipment at highly secret Russian military airports. That would’ve been unthinkable in the Cold War days. And in the first phase of anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan, the Americans were welcomed to use ex-Soviet airports and Russian airspace for strikes against the Taliban.
Though the New Orleans catastrophe is disastrous and staggering, I view it as a new day of international cooperation, and another harbinger of an alliance between the U.S. and Russia which will be based not just on realpolitik, but on heartfelt friendship. U.S. charities extended aid directly from the American people to the victims of the Beslan terrorist atrocity a year ago, and Russia has not forgotten.
Today is one year anniversary of the Beslan Islamofascist atrocity. Mothers of the killed children will spend three days in the gym, just like their children did a year ago before they were murdered.
Tomorrow four women of a group called "Mothers of Beslan" will meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Many Russians believe that the tragedy happened due to the corruption among the border police and incompetent intelligence agencies. It is known that one of the Russian intelligence operatives who was supposed to participate in a few terrorist attacks (which he did to gain the trust of the terrorists), eventually became a double agent for money and made fools out of his superiors.
False leads confused border police about the terrorist activity around Beslan. And police officers in Russia are known for accepting cash bribes in American dollars. As the Chechen bin Laden Shamil Basayev bragged to the media, getting a few truckloads of gunmen and explosives through the checkpoints only cost the terrorists a few thousand dollars. All this has contributed to an enormous tragedy.
Parents of the victims have a very strong suspicion that the Russian government continues to cover up the corruption and complete incompetence surrounding the Beslan rescue operation, blaming the failure to save more kids on the only terrorist left alive and the parents themselves. According to one account of the final bloodbath at the school, the shooting that led the terrorists to set off their bombs and forced the final Spetsnaz assault came from enraged parents with Kalashnikovs, and not the Spetsnaz snipers.
Nonetheless, all this incompetence and corruption cannot obscure the fact that Russia remains at war with an adversary with a bottomless capacity for cruelty.
Parents of the massacred children want answers; hopefully Mr. Putin will have something to tell them about how future horrors like Beslan might be prevented.
As the male population in Russia is known for criminality and drinking problems, the only people left out there to fight a corrupt system are women. That is why you will never find organization called "Fathers of the Soldiers", or "Parents of the terrorist victims". It is always the women, always the mothers, who go out there and risk their lives trying to fight the corruption and find the truth. Committee of the Soldiers Mothers" is an organization of women, fighting the brutality and injustice of the Russian military draft system.