Here at Russia Blog, we have written frequently about the so-called dedovshina (literally "rule of the grandfathers") abuse in the Russian army as one of the most egregious ongoing human rights abuses in Russia. Now it appears the Russian government is very slowly starting to do something about it.
Not only have more torture and abuse cases been prosecuted in recent months (mostly due to public outrage after exposes in the Russian media), but the Defense Ministry is starting to address the root of the problem: namely, bored, impoverished young men who have no desire to be stuck on army bases in the middle of nowhere, trying to survive in brutal condiitions that amount to indentured servitude. Making the Russian army an all-volunteer force, with decent (at least by the standards of Russia's regions) salaries might go a long way in preventing torture and abuse in the ranks before it starts.
Click on the extended post to read the full news story from RIA Novosti and links to previous Russia Blog posts on this topic.
Something Bush and Putin both have in common - tax cuts
Jon Hellevig, a Finnish citizen currently practicing business law in Moscow, sends us this article about the tremendous success of the supply side tax reforms implemented in Russia since 2002. In addition to a better climate for investors and businesses, these changes have given millions of Russians the freedom to travel, to communicate instantly via email and cellphones, and greater access to Western media networks. The social and political consequences of all of this for Russia are now being vigorously debated, but no one can deny that Russia's economy has surged forward in the last six years.
Putin's efforts to pull Russia out of political and social anarchy and strengthen statehood are starting to pay off transforming Russia into one of the best investment climates in the world while rewarding the nation with unprecedented increases in living standards. At the same time there have been big advances in the judiciary and the legal culture at large; relaxation in the bureaucratic press and reduction in corruption. In all of this, tax reform has played a crucial role in bringing stability and predictability back to Russian society.
After the anarchy of 1990s, the Russian government set out in the year 2000 to implement transparent and predictable tax laws. Gradually over the years from 2001 to 2005 this goal has been achieved through enacting the new Russian Tax Code. And today Putin's tax reforms stand out as the prime example of success achieved during the years of his presidency.
Editor ofguardian.psj.ruand the now defunct (but much beloved)Intelligent.ru
President Putin checks his watch before his New Year's Eve address, Dec. 31, 2006
Whenever the people of Russia ask themselves, "What will Putin do after March (or rather May) 2008?" they actually mean "What will happen to Russia -- to us -- after March 2008?"
It is a fact that in the seven years of his rule Vladimir Putin has achieved the status of the nation's leader -- something quite different from being head of government or of party in power or legislature or top manager of Russia Corp. What there is of the country's "moral-political unity," as it was known in the Soviet times, is bound up with that magic name. The fates of Putin and of Russia are therefore inextricably linked at this moment and in the foreseeable future: a Russia without its national leader will not be the same as with such a figure. And so far there is no other likely candidate for the position -- no one to surpass Putin in terms of stature, popularity, and record of service to the country.
Such is the main point that we have to bear in mind when we are dealing with this all-important issue of what Putin will -- or better say, should -- do: Putin must remain a, or rather the, national leader, and he is most likely to do so. I for one just do not see Putin modestly retiring into private life.
This answer is, of course, much too general to be any good, for any practical purposes. The question is, in what capacity could Putin continue to perform his duty as the nation's leader?
Russian Government Proposes Regional Economic Hubs
Does Russia need its own version of China's Shenzhen boomtown?
Russia Blog contributor Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of equity finance at the Finam Investment Company in Moscow, sends us his comments on the news that the Russian government is proposing special economic zones for stimulating growth in the regions.
Today the Russian Ministry of Regional Development completed a draft program that envisions establishing eight so called "agglomerate centers" in the country. In essence these would be megalopolis-type clusters. This concept has been in development since 2005 and would strive to expand these cities to make them as attractive for new businesses and population growth as Moscow and St. Petersburg. One of the first priorities for such national projects is the development of transportation infrastructure.
April 18, 2007 Russia: Friend, Foe, or What? Moderated by Ambassador John Miller and featuring University of Washington Professor Herbert Ellison and Bill Robinson, JD
Discovery Institute is pleased to host distinguished Russian Studies scholar Herbert Ellison and international attorney Bill Robinson for an insightful and informative forum and discussion on the state of U.S.-Russia relations. The event will be moderated by Ambassador John Miller and will focus on recent events related to Russia as well as Western stereotypes about Russia and how these stereotypes negatively impact trade and diplomacy.
This will be an opportunity to hear the views of experts who are familiar not only with Moscow, but Russia's regions as well. Their insights into the business and investment climate through out the country will be helpful in discerning the truth behind many of the prevailing stereotypes.
The event is organized by the Discovery Institute's Real Russia Project and will be held in Washington, D.C. on April 18, 2007. The event is open to the public and will be held at 4:30 PM at the University Club located at 1135 16th Street, N.W.
You will not want to miss this important and timely forum. To register, please contact Logan Gage at (202) 558-7084. If you have questions about the event, please contact Yuri Mamchur at (206) 292-0401, ext.151.
See the extended post for the speakers' biographies.
Fire broke out in a Moscow striptease club [named "911"] early Sunday, killing 10 people, an Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman said.
The cause of the blaze had not been determined, but some witnesses said it broke out during a "fire show" that was part of the club's nightly entertainment, said Yevgeny Bobylev, a spokesman for the Moscow division of the Ministry.
The preliminary accounts indicated that a performer in the show inadvertently set his clothing on fire and that in turn ignited a nearby one-gallon container of flammable liquid, Bobylev said.
The club blaze draws new attention to Russia's severe problem with fire deaths. Some 17,000 people died in fires last year, according the Emergency Ministry -- a rate several times higher than seen in Western countries. Officials say poor enforcement of fire regulations, improper construction and lax attention all contribute to the high rate.
Fires caused by lax attention? According to media reports, it was suspected that this factory fire was caused by a drunk person. Preposterous.
In this post, Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of equity finance at the Finam Investment Company in Moscow, notes that foreign investors now have access to more information about investing in Russia's long-neglected regions thanks to a new investment guide issued by the Marchmont Capital Partners firm in Nizhny Novgorod. Mr. Kuznetsov also rounds up the news from this week in Russian financial markets.
About six month ago I met a rare paragon of entrepreneurship - an American businessman who does not live in Moscow, but in the detached city of Nizhny Novgorod. This week Kendrick White, managing principal of the Nizhny Novgorod-based firm Marchmont Capital Partners, announced the publication of the first Â¬volume of the Marchmont Investment Guide. This book is part of a very promising effort to open the "riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" of Russia's regions. "Many investors in Russia know only Moscow -- one of the most expensive cities in the world. But doing business in Moscow is not the same as doing business across all of Russia, as some regional administrations are far more progressive in attracting investors than others," says White.
Congratulations to Kendrick White and his team!
Click on the extended post to read more news from Russia's financial markets.
Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of equity finance for the Finam Investment Company in Moscow, has submitted more commentary on recent trends in Russia's stock market.
On one hand, Mr. Kuznetsov notices articles in the Russian business media advising investors to curb their enthusiasm about Russia's equity markets. On the other hand, Mr. Kuznetsov sees increasingly fierce competition between international stock trading exchanges to float Russian IPOs.
To make Mr. Kuznetsov's contributions and other posts with financial information about Russia more accessible to our readers, we have created the new Finance category of Russia Blog.
The recent painful correction of stock markets worldwide has triggered some criticism of Russia's IPOs in the Russian business media. On March 9, the Russian Agency of Political News published a lengthy piece of commentary arguing that a stock market in its classic definition does not exist in Russia. The author argues that basically there are no private, individual investors in Russia. In 2005-06 they counted for just 3% of the total stocks owned by Russian issuers. Thus there is no actual money from the Russian population in the stock market. Furthermore, the authors of the APN article cite the statistic that 95% of all market trading is conducted by the top ten leading companies.
These claims lead me to cite the 19th century American satirist Mark Twain, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics". The fact is we can interpret these numbers in many different ways, even while admitting that there is some truth in them. Nonetheless, in my opinion, APN's commentary is extremely sly in its description of Russian IPOs.
In this post, Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of equity finance at the Finam Investment Company in Moscow, explains why the Amsterdam-based Euronext exchange is becoming a popular venue for Russian companies listing IPOs. Mr. Kuznetsov also informs us about some controversies related to the recent Sberbank IPO and the stock market value of Russian food retailers.
Euronext is speeding up efforts to list more Russian companies on its exchange. This month we will see two appearances by Euronext executives at conferences in Moscow. I see the most attractive factors for Euronext IPOs as:
- No restriction on float value (like 20% in LSE)
- Companies listed on Euronext under global depository receipts (GDRs) and other depository receipt programs are included in this market index
- Alternext is a viable place for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
A victory for quiet diplomacy between the U.S. and Russia? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice receives a diplomatic kiss from
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (Photo by: MosNews)
Yesterday The New York Times reported that Russia is threatening to suspend all work on the Bushehr civilian reactor unless Iran stops enriching uranium. If this is true, then it marks a significant victory for quiet diplomacy between the U.S. and Russia. It may also be true, as the article points out, that Russia is simply tired of Iran failing to pay its bills on time for the Bushehr project.
Iranian atomic energy officials insist that all debts owed to Moscow are being paid on time, and that Russia is just using the alleged non-payment as a pretext to pressure Iran to abandon its domestic enrichment effort. At a press conference with American journalists held last fall at the Valdai Discussion Group outside of Moscow, President Putin declared that Iran "should abandon plans for nuclear enrichment on its soil".
It is true that Russia stands to profit from becoming the sole supplier of civilian-grade nuclear fuel to Iranian reactors. The Islamic Republic, however, has repeatedly rejected all offers from Moscow to manage a completely civilian nuclear fuel cycle on behalf of Iran, suggesting that the regime has other goals in mind besides peacefully generating electricity. Russia has also previously threatened to halt all work at Bushehr if Iran refused to cooperate with international inspectors from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This past weekend Iranian officials refused to admit IAEA visitors into a major part of the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has boasted that his country has installed over 2,000 centrifuges to produce highly enriched uranium at the Natanz site. Mr. Ahmadinejad has also repeated the late Ayatollah Khomeini's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map", triggering nervousness from Jerusalem to Riyadh about his apocalyptic statements and beliefs.
Click on the extended post to read the full NYT article.
Russian Grad Student Wins Libel Suit Against UK Sunday Times
The UK Sunday Times newspaper has retracted one of their reports about the Alexander Litvininenko case. In their retraction, the Sunday Times admits to repeating baseless allegations against Julia Svetlichnaja, a Russian graduate student who interviewed Alexander Litvinenko a few months before he died from polonium-210 poisoning.
Correction: Our report on the investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko ("Kremlin wants to quiz exiles", December 10, 2006) referred to reports that Julia Svetlichnaja, a researcher at the centre for the Study of Democracy at Westminster University, may have been part of a Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to discredit Mr Litvinenko and said it was believed that she had previously worked for a state-owned Russian company. We are happy to make it clear that Ms Svetlichnaja has never worked for a state-owned Russian company and we accept that she was not part of any Kremlin-inspired campaign to discredit Mr Litvinenko. We apologise for any distress our report caused her.
Click on the extended post to read the press release from Ms. Svetlichinaya's lawyers and more background on the libel suit. (Hat tip: the ZheZhe.us blog)
Like two lesbians banging themselves against a fence, liberal parties fail to get invited into the Russian home
Perhaps the liberal parties in Russia and their highly-paid Western advisors need someone to explain to them why babushkas are not easily rallied to their banner by underage lesbians cavorting across their television screens. Instead of listening to experts steeped in faddish and decadent Muscovite culture, maybe they should take into account the Russian heartland and adjust their techniques accordingly. As an interview with the leadership of the liberal Union of Right Forces (SPS) makes clear, it is as if Hollywood were suddenly running the Republican Party's election campaigns.
Setting aside that Vladimir Putin is the most liberal leader Russia has ever had and that his chief critics in Russia (the ones people listen to, not fringe journalists martyred by media pundits half a world away) often assert that he is too Western, we would like to offer SPS and the Russian Democratic Party (Yabloko) some free advice. Sure we aren't as well paid as their experts from the aid agencies, foundations, foreign do-gooder associations, and Eurasianist shops, but we think our mutual ideological friends need to hear the truth--it will not only set them free, but maybe get them elected too. (Then if they do well, maybe they can be as maligned as President Vlad.)
Enjoy these photos taken last month by Anton Verstakov on the Sparrow Hills near Moscow State University! The slopes are not nearly as nice as Lake Tahoe in California, Mount Baker in Washington or Vail in Colorado, but they are good enough for being near downtown Moscow, just a 15 minute drive from the Kremlin!
Editor ofguardian.psj.ruand the now defunct (but much beloved)Intelligent.ru
Left to right: Sergei Ivanov, Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin
The Putin regime will continue without Putin in his present slot, the transition will be accomplished smoothly, without upheavals, bloody strife, August 1998-like "defaults," "sovereignty parades," or the like.
It seems like decades since the famous "Who is Mr. Putin?" brick was dropped at Davos. Instead of the supercilious eyebrows raised at a political inconnu, we now have a continually swelling plethora of articles, collections of papers, monographs, hefty volumes, memoirs, TV debates, internet forums, etc. etc., all devoted to the man and his doings. There is in fact a whole word-processing industry entirely concerned, to paraphrase Jerome K. Jerome, with what Mr. Putin has done, does do, will do, won't do, can do, can't do, was doing, is doing, is going to do, shall do, shan't do, and is about to be going to have done.
Wreckage of a Tupolev airliner that crashed in Ukraine last year (Photo by: AFP)
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry is reporting that a passenger airliner crashed today while attempting to land at the Samara airport. At least seven people are dead and fifty one were injured in the crash. A spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry said that the pilots were trying to land in thick fog and a wing tip of the aircraft clipped the runway. Other officials have mentioned that the plane may have touched down 400 meters short of the runway. The flight was operated by the Russian airline UTAir.
Click on the extended post to read the full story from the CBS News website.
Cobblers by Day, Cabalists by Night Russia Blog Launches the Shoe Award
A recent experience Russia Blog had with a local media outlet over a movie screening we organized highlighted for us how Russia and coverage of Russian news is often overshadowed or outright hijacked by various public personalities and media for their own agenda.
It is for this reason that we have decided it is time to launch the Shoe Award to identify and decorate those who best exemplify either an irrational love of Mother Russia or a fanatical fear of the Bear or just an irrational fanaticism on a Russian scale.
The award is named in honor of the fifth premier of the Soviet Union and Time's 1957 Man of the Year, Nikita Khrushchev. A man who embodied the fickleness, the misplaced righteous indignation, the complete lack of knowledge about basic facts of Russia, and the unfounded, sanctimonious outbursts that have come to characterize media coverage of the Russian Federation. Khrushchev's tirade upon learning that his tour of Los Angeles had been cancelled best captures the tone of much of what passes for news about Russia today:
We have come to this town where lives the cream of American art. And just imagine, I, a Premier, a Soviet representative, when I came here to this city, I was given a plan, a program of what I was to be shown and whom I was to meet here.
But just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked: "Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there? I do not know."
And just listen, just listen to what I was told, to what reason I was told. We, which means the American authorities, cannot guarantee your security if you go there.
What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me? Then what must I do? Commit suicide? That is the situation I am in--your guest. For me the situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people!
We are looking for pieces from print and broadcast media that are either extremely pro-Russia or exceptionally anti-Russia or are great examples of Russia being used for a completely non-Russia related agenda. Please send submissions (including the article or video clip) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For our first Shoe Award recipient we are proud to recognize Annie Wagner of The Stranger, a Seattle-based weekly newspaper, for her amazing ability to write an entire review on one of the highest grossing blockbusters in contemporary Russian history without actually having seen the film. Her use of 9th Company as a platform to attack the Discovery Institute and bus transit is truly remarkable and only surpassed by the way in which she concocted her crazed ranting. And for that we are honoring her with not only the award, but a replica of Nikita's left shoe and a DVD of the film she described as an "apparently entertaining movie". We salute her egregious appropriation of Russia for her own personal agenda.
For the second recipient of the Shoe Award (after all, they come in pairs), we are awarding the right one to the Real Russia Project for the same self-serving reasons.
Click the extended post to see the award and the methodology
The Rooskie 53 of Forbes: Give or Take a Billion But Who Will Win the Swimsuit Competition?
Elena Baturina: Probably not the best looking oligarch in a bikini, but still one of the few women in the global billionaire's club--of course, it helps your bottom line when you're the wife of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, especially when your buildings collapse and you can avoid those pesky lawsuits.
In Europe, Russia's mostly young, self-made tycoons are catching up to Germany's often-aging heirs and heiresses. Russia now has 53 billionaires (2 shy of Germany's total), but they are worth $282 billion ($37 billion more than Germany's richest).
The Forbes billionaires list is out and not only is the Gulag Archipeligo ranked third in absolute number of billionaires worldwide, but 14% of the top hundred hold a Russian passport. Furthermore, of the 178 newcomers to the list this year, ten percent of them are Russian nationals. It is also interesting to note that the average age on the Forbes list is 62 while the average Russian billionaire is 46. This makes them the fifth youngest group of billionaires in the world--Lebanon (with four billionaires) has the youngest group, followed by Czechia (1), Kazakhstan (5), and Ukraine (7). (It is worth noting that had Ukraine's Orange Coalition kept their promise to arrest some their oligarchs, Russia would be in fourth place.)
The list is of course not exhaustive as other wealthy Russian billionaires like M. [censored] escaped the double-edged sword of being identified. Moreover, in the highly competitive race for richest Moskal, the Forbes ranking is already out of date. If we disregard the coming fallout from his recent divorce from wife Irina, Roman Abramovich (the richest man of Russia) was already second to Oleg Deripaska (the richest man in Russia), being just $200 million short--evidently $170 million eBay yachts and $150 million luxury hospitals just don't depreciate very well. The Guardian (UK) also pegs Deripaska's (US$21.2 billion) and Abramovich's (US$21 billion) net worth as slightly higher and their figures would make them 12th and 13th on the Forbes list (though last year Abramovich ranked 11th).
Russia Blog has received another contribution from our reader Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of equity financing at the Finam Investment Company in Moscow. In this blog post, Mr. Kuznetsov analyizes the latest numbers from Merrill Lynch and the Russian Central Bank concerning the state of Russia's banking sector. As in the other major emerging markets, Russian banks are growing at a phenominal pace, but the consumer credit system has yet to fully mature and there are some non-performing bad loans. Mr. Kuznetsov concludes his piece by noting that Russian stocks are beginning to bounce back from the worldwide correction two weeks ago.
The latest reports on the Russian banking sector reveal some major pros and cons. On the positive side is a recent Merrill Lynch report declaring Russia's banking sector to be the most attractive option for international investors among the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) developing countries. Russian banks look the most promising in the mid-term and are projected to have the highest acceleration of credit and other services. Kommersant quotes the Merrill Lynch report's findings that Russian banks have the lowest cost to revenues ratio (40%) in BRIC, while Brazil has 47% and India 49% .
The Merrill Lynch report also points to extremely high administrative barriers for entering the banking sector as a major obstacle to foreign banks opening branches in Russia. Currently, only 18% of Russian adults have bank accounts, compared to 28% in Brazil and 50% in Turkey.
BOR, Russia -- On Bor Glassworks' state-of-the-art production line here, workers in blue overalls churn out windshields for Russian-made Fords and Renaults -- and offer a glimpse of an investment boom transforming Russia's industrial landscape.
The glass company was once so poor it paid its workers with sewing machines and other tradable goods. Now, after an injection of $100 million from Belgian investors, it's a success story: Bor produces a growing share of windows for the Western cars assembled on Russian soil.
Putin in Europe: Meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, Manufacturing Russian Planes with Italy, Building New Pipeline
Yesterday (Monday, March 12, 2007), Vladimir Putin left Russia on his first trip to Europe since his critic-acclaimed speech in Munich. This time, the highlight of the trip will be Putin's meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, which will be conducted in German. Putin will share his conservative social and family values with the Pope. However, many experts believe that Putin will not extend the Pontiff an invitation to Russia. After practicing his fluent German, the Russian President will meet for the first time with the 81-year old Italian President Georgo Napolitano, and have dinner with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Then Vladimir Putin will pay a short visit to Greece.
Putin does not want to invite the Pope to Russia because according to the Russian President "it's the church's business," not his. It is the Russian Orthodox Church which should be extending an invitation to a spiritual, rather than a political, leader. Nonetheless, for Russian leaders meeting the Pope has become a fairly routine practice -- both Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev met with the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
According to Professor Boris Falikov at the Russian State University of Humanitarian Studies, a positive dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic churches is something we may witness very soon, as both confessions share common values and are concerned about growing secularism in the world.
Paragraph 78, released in Russia on February 22, 2007, is part of the new trend of Russian films getting bigger, bolder, and more internationalized in terms of production and crew. Like Fyodor Bondarchuk's Afghan war drama 9 Rota, director Mikhail Khlebdorov's Paragraph 78 is a joint British-Russian production. UK musicians Ian Brown (former front man for the Manchester rock band the Stone Roses) and the Sneaker Pimps (whose single "Six Underground" was featured in the soundtrack to The Saint) provide their music for the film. Russian directors and producers, many of them veterans of international productions who have cut their teeth making music videos for Russia's biggest pop stars, now have a lot more money to play with to put their visions on the big screen.
Unlike its Hollywood sci-fi action film counterparts, which are often based on popular video games or comic books, Paragraph 78 is based on a science fiction novel by Ivan Okhlobystin (the Night Watch fantasy/horror trilogy is also based on a series of novels).
According to the St. Petersburg Times, the combined box office haul for Volkodav, Zhara and other Russian theatrical releases in January 2007 was $35 million; not bad in a country where the average wage (although vastly improved over previous years) is still about $550 per month.
Click on the extended post to watch the making of Paragraph 78 film trailer in Russian.
(WARNING: Some filmed violence and bad Russian language)
Financial Times: "Wall Street Becomes Bullish on the Bear"
The UK Financial Times newspaper recently published an article about Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and other multinational investment banks determination to expand their presence in Russian equity markets.
Russia Blog has often noted the increasing contrast between the optimistic business and the dour editorial pages of many Western newspapers on the subject of Russia.
Click on the extended post to read the full FT article.
Kommersant's Business Guide has some new information about auditing in Russia
Russia Blog has received another contribution from our reader Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of equity financing at the Finam Investment Company in Moscow. In this piece, Mr. Kuznetsov analyizes why Russian companies increasingly choose local, internationally affiliated accounting firms to perform their audits over the so-called "Big Four" (KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, and Price Waterhouse Coopers).
During my last five years working with Russian companies, one of the most delicate issues was the necessity of presenting an audit statement according to international standards. This was the major obstacle in ANY transaction, besides the usual stuff (like consolidation, both legal and financial).
This week Kommersant's Business Guide features a "Financial Reporting" section with some nice numbers. I have written previously about EXPERT-RA ratings. Now Kommersant adds more details to the facts I reported earlier:
- Ernst & Young has 21% of the surveyed companies and is oriented towards the ones that are controlled by the government
President Bush has been way too soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to most of the The Atlantic Monthly's panel of Washington D.C. foreign policy experts
The April 2007 issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine features two questions presented to a panel of Washington wise men about "Putin's Reign". The first question on page 38 reads: "On balance, has Russia under Putin helped or hurt American economic and security interests?". Sixty nine percent of the panel of Beltway insiders declared that the Putin Administration has mostly damaged American interests. The second question reads: "Given Putin's record of governance, should Russia's membership in the Group of Eight be reconsidered?" Fifty nine percent said no, while only forty one percent said yes. Here are a sample of the comments from some of the most influential people currently shaping American foreign policy towards Russia:
"Putin has not cooperated in the war on terror but [instead has] used it as a justification for his excesses in Chechnya. On Iran, Putin has consistently sabotaged any chance to send a blunt and cohesive signal that nuclear proliferation has a cost."
"The G8 is a club of responsible global stakeholders, not a club of superpowers. Admission should be tied to responsible global behavior. Russia's energy extortion alone merits suspension from the G8."
"Kick them out [of the G8]. Take away the oil from Russia and all you have left is a crumbling, corrupt dictatorship with a mountain of nuclear weapons."
The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to endorse further enlargement of the NATO alliance which will allow admission of two former Soviet republics -- Ukraine and Georgia, the Reuters news agency reports. A brief debate took place before the voting, in which no one mentioned Moscow's nervousness about such an expansion.
March 8th in Russia is International Women's Day. Besides Russia and a few former Soviet republics, no one really celebrates it anywhere else in the world. In Russia, March 8th is a federal holiday and a reason for men to sometimes spend more money than they do on Christmas gifts. American Valentine's Day doesn't come anywhere close in spending on flowers, diamonds, cars, and other knick-knacks of endearment.
How did Russia end up celebrating the international day which is not celebrated anywhere else? It has its roots in Roman times. Roman matrons (married women who were born free) had their special day, when their husbands would surround them with extra love, care, and gifts. Even female slaves got the day off.
New photos by Anton Verstakov in our Panorama series
Sergiyev Posad (Russian: Ð¡ÐµÑ€Ð³Ð¸ÐµÐ² ÐŸÐ¾ÑÐ°Ð´) is a city and administrative center of Sergiyevo-Posadsky District, Moscow Oblast, Russia. The city grew up around the greatest of Russian monasteries, the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra or "Trinity". The town was incorporated in 1742. As its name had strong religious connotations, the Soviet authorities changed it to Zagorsk (in memory of the Russian revolutionary Zagorsky) in 1930. The original name, literally meaning "Settlement of Sergius" in honor of St. Sergius of Radonezh, came back into official use in 1991. According to the 2002 Census, the town had a population of 113,581 (down from 114,696 recorded in the 1989 Census).
Tourism associated with the Golden Ring plays an important role in the regional economy. The city is also known for its toy factory.
The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), the North African branch of Al-Qaeda, has claimed credit for a roadside bomb attack that killed a Russian engineer last Saturday.
"Mujahedeen (Islamic warriors) using a high intensity bomb targeted the convoy of Russian infidels working for the Russian company Stroytransgaz," according to the statement signed by the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Maghreb..."We dedicate this modest conquest to our Muslim brothers in Chechnya ... victims of the criminal (Russian President Vladimir) Putin."
Three Algerians who were in the same minibus with the foreigners also died in the bombing, and four Britons, a Canadian, and two Lebanese nationals were wounded. This is the first successful attack on foreign workers in Algeria since December.
While there has been a lot of talk lately about a new Cold War brewing between the U.S. and Russia, it is important to remember who is the real enemy of the civilized world - the international jihadist movement. In the last decade, Russian citizens have frequently been targeted by jihadists, but today Chechnya is more stable than it has been at any time since 1994. The successful counterinsurgency in Chechnya should give Americans hope that terrorists can be defeated, and that populations taken hostage by terrorism can eventually be turned against their captors.
With the Joyal and Safronov incidents in Washington and Moscow occurring so close together, it presents a chance to put in perspective an issue of concern to the average citizen of any country: How safe are you?
The comparison is apt as both cities consistently win their respective continent's Murder Capital titles. Using census data from 2005 and rates of homicide given by Russian and American government sources, Moscow's rate of homicide is 9.13 per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas Washington D.C.'s comes in at a whopping 35.42 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Knowing this, perhaps it is understandable why some aspects of emulating America can be troubling to foreigners who grow weary of the "rule of law"-mantra when these invectives are lobbed from a glass house.
Setting aside that the rate of political murders has decreased every year that Putin has been in power and ignoring the fact that these recent murders harm rather than advance Putin's agenda, let's pose a question for the unrepentant conspiracy fans out there: If Russia's president is responsible for every murder in his capital, does that mean America's leader is culpable for the same in his own backyard?
Kommersant Reporter Falls to his Death in Moscow; American Russia Consultant Shot in Washington D.C. Suburb
Ivan Safronov, age 51, wrote on military affairs for Kommersant Photo by: newsru.com, reposted by MosNews
A journalist for the respected Russian business newspaper Kommersant died in Moscow last Friday, after falling to his death from a window in his apartment building. Ivan Safronov, age 51, was the chief military affairs writer for Kommersant and had written exposes of abuses in the Russian Defense Ministry. Police have not ruled out suicide, but Safronov's neighbors and friends have said that they believe he was murdered. Kommersant is reporting that at the time of his death, Safronov was investigating kickbacks received by powerful people in Russia and in Belarus from major arms sales to Syria and Iran.
Last Thursday night around 7:30 p.m., Paul Joyal, a consultant employed by the Washington D.C.-based consulting firm National Strategies, was shot outside his home in suburban Prince George's County Maryland. The bullet reportedly hit Joyal in the groin and the 53 year-old man is still sedated at this time. Over the weekend, police sources told reporters that they suspected robbery as the motive, and there was some media speculation about the ethnicity of the suspects seen fleeing the scene. However, yesterday Joyal's wife told reporters that her husband's wallet and briefcase were left behind in his car.
Mr. Joyal recently appeared on the TV show Dateline NBC as an acquintenence of Alexander Litvinenko, claiming that the Litvinenko was poisoned by Russian security services. Joyal also reportedly worked as a registered lobbyist for the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 1998. Prior to working as a consultant and lobbyist, Joyal was director of security for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1980 to 1989.
Click on the extended post to read the articles by Kommersant and The Washington Post.
Tracking the Russian stock exchange (Photo by: Kommersant)
Here at the Real Russia Project, we want to highlight news from Russia's maturing financial markets. To that end, we have requested that Vladimir F. Kuznetsov, director of equity financing for the Finam Investment Company in Moscow, contribute his insights to Russia Blog. Mr. Kuznetsov has travelled to the U.S. to brief American investors, including a visit to Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Kuznetsov's blog, Equity Financing in Russia, began as a newsletter for investors and has now grown into a blog. We are pleased to repost his latest article here.
- The Editors
For the last several months we've seen a lot of discussion about the newly created alternative investment markets -- the RTS START and the MICEX IRK (that stands for Russian "Innovation and Rapidly Growing") listed companies. Many newsmen like to stress that this is the Russian AIM and try to make a lot of comparisons. However, I would agree with the notion that is spelled out at the Federal Financial Markets Service (FFMS) website : "it is not correct that Russia is establishing the market of AIM type... AIM is different, what we are doing is more close to the stock bonds...what we do is suggest to small young companies that have no history, but have consultants and the right business plan, is to borrow the money from the market in the form of an IPO".
Russia Hedge Funds Top List of Single Strategy Performers in 2006
Holiday season shoppers on Moscow's Tverskaya Street Photo by: Charles Ganske
This week world stock markets took a beating after China's Shanghai exchange lost 9% of its value in one day, and Russian stocks were no exception. Leading Russian companies like Rosneft are heavily invested in expanding their trade with China.
However, this temporary setback shouldn't discourage investors who take the long view of the Russian economy. As Vladimir Kuznetsov, director of financing for the FINAM Investment Firm in Moscow, pointed out before this week's global correction, Russia's stock market was up 92% this year. In comparison, the U.S. S&P 500 index grew by 13.6% in 2006.
Mr. Kuznetsov adds that major Western investment companies like Barclays Global Investors, State Street Global Advisors, Legal and General Investment Management are doubling the size of their stakes in Russia from 5% to 10% of their emerging market fund portfolios. Mr. Kuznetsov quotes J.P. Morgan analysts lauding the Russian government's plans to invest $185 billion in oil and gas revenues into new infrastructure, noting that, "Russia stands out among its peers in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets."
Russian Astronomer Cites Global Warming On Mars, Doubts Man-Made Climate Change on Earth
Mars is heating up at the same time as Earth
A Russian astronomer may have declared his own "inconvenient truth" for advocates of man-made climate change this week. According to Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St. Petersburg, polar ice caps on the planet Mars are melting, and the Red Planet is experiencing a warming trend at the same time as the Earth. Abdussamatov cites this is evidence that solar radiation is the main cause of global warming.
Scientists who support the view that human beings are responsible for global warming have dismissed Abdussamatov's claims. In their view, the Martian heat wave is caused by changes in the Red Planet's rotation on its axis rather than more solar radiation. "His [Abdussamatov's] views are completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion," said Colin Wilson, a planetary physicist at England's Oxford University.
Russia Blog presents up-to-date news, facts and commentary on the state of events in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The blog is managed by Yuri Mamchur, Director of Real Russia Project. The blog is edited by Charles Ganske.