EUROPEAN COURT ISSUES A RESOLUTION ON GEORGIA
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 28, 2002, EV
At its closed meeting on Wednesday, the European Court on Human Rights lifted its moratorium on the extradition of eight Chechen militants from Georgia to Russia. The Chechens were detained, carrying arms, on the Chechnya sector of the Russian-Georgian border in early August.
In fact, by this resolution Europe has given its approval to extradition of the gunmen – with a very important reservation, however: Russia must apply “standards of humane and lawful treatment” to these people and not use capital punishment.
Nonetheless, Georgia is not going to speed up extradition of the gunmen. Commenting on the resolution passed by the European Court in Strasbourg, deputy minister of justice of Georgia Georgy Tskrialashvili observed that the verdict has the following meaning: it is the Georgian government that will have the last word in this affair.
CHINA’S FOREIGN MINISTER: PROMOTING COOPERATION BETWEEN MOSCOW AND BEIJING
Izvestia, November 28, 2002, p.1 EV
President Vladimir Putin will visit the People’s Republic of China from December 1 to December. The visit will take place in the wake of the 16th congress of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China which saw a dramatic change in the country’s government. In an interview to an observer for Interfax-China Agency China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Tang Jiaxuan pointed out the significance of the forthcoming summit.
Question: In the political sphere relations between Russia and China have reached a peak – strategic partnership. But trade turnover between China and the United States exceeds that with Russia many times. Is China going to take any measures to alter this imbalance?
Answer: Trade turnover between Russia and China has more than doubled since 1992. Cooperation in such fields as electrical energy, nuclear energy and natural resources is being successfully developed. Enterprises and regions of Russia and China invigorate their cooperation. There is a certain gap between the Russian-Chinese and American-Chinese commodity turnovers, indeed but promotion of cooperation between Beijing and Moscow has its own advantages.
Economies of Russia and China complement each other to a high degree, they possess extremely rich natural resources, the economic cooperation having a great potential and a favorable outlook. Over the last few years the trade and economic cooperation between Russia and China has entered upon a phase of fast development.
The volume of mutual trade has been steadily growing for four years running. As a result, in 2001 it exceeded $10 billion, and further breakthroughs are expected this year as well. China is already sixth among Russia’s trade partners.
Question: How China treats the possibility of conducting counter-terror campaigns similar to that in Afghanistan, including a possible operation against Iraq?
Answer: The key point in the Iraqi problem is to efficiently enforce resolutions of the UN Security Council. The recently adopted resolution No. 1441 indicates the general demand that Iraq should comply with necessary decisions, open its arsenals for a comprehensive check and eliminate weapons of mass destruction. It is pointed out in the above-mentioned resolution that settlement of the Iraqi problem within the United Nations scope by political and diplomatic measures is a common wish of the world community.
Question: What do you think of Russia’s chances to increase its presence in the power production industry of China?
Answer: Over the last few days, Russia and China achieved considerable progress in energy cooperation. At present, Russia-based company Gazprom is taking part in an investment consortium established by Shell and holding talks with China-based PetroChina Company regarding a contract on construction and joint exploitation of the East-West gas pipeline. We welcome participation of the Russian company in this energy project. Currently, within the scope of a project of gas supply from Irkutsk which involves three parties – China, Russia and South Korea – necessary operations are being carried out in accordance with a general agreement on conduction of evaluation surveys. The operations are expected to be accomplished by June 2003. Preliminary evaluation surveys have been carried out for a project of gas supply from Sakhalin which would involve China and Russia. Besides, Russian and Chinese companies are studying the possibilities for supplying natural gas from Siberia and Sakhalin to China.
AMERICA OUTDOES RUSSIA ONCE AGAIN
Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 28, 2002, EV
The United States has outdone Russia once again: this time in its prison population numbers. In fact, Russia’s penitentiary system has become a “jail and medical care” service. At present, around 500,000 out of Russia’s 890,000 prisoners need medical treatment: including 230,000 offenders who are mentally ill, 100,000 who have tuberculosis, and 36,000 who are HIV-positive.
These figures were revealed by Deputy Justice Minister Yury Kalinin. The government spends huge sums of money on medical treatment for prisoners (around 700 million rubles has been allocated for TB prevention in prisons, which is twice as much as in the previous year). Food costs have also grown perceptibly. Not long ago, food cost 0.66 rubles per prisoner per day, whereas now this figure is 22 rubles per day. Next year it will rise to 25 rubles, which actually is not very much (60% of what a soldier’s daily ration costs). Conditions in Russian prisons are far from meeting European standards.
Owing to new laws and recent amnesties, the number of prisoners in Russia has finally fallen to 100,000 less than in the United States.
A BOMB FOR PUTIN?
Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 28, 2002, EV
A little-known news agency has alarmed Moscow by reporting that “the secret services have forestalled an attempt on the life of President Putin”. According to the agency, an explosive device was discovered on Rublyovskoye Shosse (Moscow), as a result of investigation work along the highway. The road was closed off on Tuesday at 8.45 p.m. for two hours. Some sources report that field engineers operated in the forest near Razdory Village. Other sources mention a railway crossing on the Usovo-Moscow-Belarusskaya line. According to unconfirmed reports, three iron boxes containing a total of 40 kilograms of explosives had been found near the crossing in a pipe under the road surface.
We went to the railway crossing, knocking on the door of the operator on duty. No answer. A black Volga car was parked nearby. Two sturdy men in business suits approach us and ask us to produce some ID. We showed our editorial office passes and inquired if a bomb was planted there. The men refuse to make any comments and said that no one is allowed to stop there at all. Road police officers on duty also refused to give any information.
We counted a dozen manifold pipes running under the highway along the road section from the crossing as far as the village of Razdory. We stopped near one of them. An empty pipe 40 centimeters in diameter. It runs one meter below the road surface. It goes without saying that the pipe is not guarded, though this could be an illusion. It is worth noting that not long before the mysterious event, some new advertising billboards had been erected at that place. A black Mercedes is alleged to have appeared at that. It remains strictly secret whether it has anything to do with the reported incident or whether the latter is a hoax. The spokesman for the Federal Guard Service, Sergei Devyatov, told us yesterday that the agency had indeed received information about explosives on Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse. Owing to this, traffic was blocked off in that direction late Tuesday evening. Measures were taken to verify the information. But no explosives were found. In the meantime, the spokesman refused to confirm or deny that the president was returning to his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo via Novorizhskoye Shosse. He said that the movements of officials guarded by the Federal Guard Service are not to be made public.
VNESHTORGBANK SETS FINANCIAL RECORD
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 28, 2002, EV
President of Vneshtorgbank Andrei Kostin will report a record loan for the Russian financial system at a meeting of the bank’s shareholders which is scheduled for Friday. Today, Vneshtorgbank will sign an agreement with its western partners on a syndicated loan of $240 million. Until now, Incombank has held the record for the largest loan ($125 million) taken out by a Russian bank before the August 1998 crisis. Now this record has been broken.
Given that Kostin’s idea for a merger of Vnesheconombank and Vneshtorgbank has been a success, one has to admit that Kostin has the qualifications and “political correctness” to claim some senior executive posts. The meeting of shareholders will be the first one Kostin will chair as Vneshtorgbank president and the first one after a substantial reorganization. The bank’s owner has changed. Previously, the Central Bank held a 99.9% stake in the bank, but now the government has become the bank’s principal shareholder.
It remains to be seen what Kostin will be able to achieve through his accomplishments and skills. It is worth noting that Mikhail Kasyanov has developed from a negotiator on debts to a prime minister. Thus, Kostin has a good example to follow (of course, this does not mean that he should replace Kasyanov, for it is too early to speak about that). For the time being, Kostin has to secure a loan and manage it properly. The head of Vneshtorgbank has great prospects before him. The funds the bank will raise are supposed to be spent on giving loans to production sphere operators. Vneshtorgbank has to come up with and even outpace its main rival – Sberbank – in providing loans for industry. Sberbank has a powerful source of funds – the private deposits of citizens. Vneshtorgbank has managed to raise loans abroad. It is universally admitted that the cheapest financial sources are private deposits of citizens and funds borrowed on the international market. Customarily, the people save money with Sberbank because there is no proper alternative to this bank so far. Until now, it has been very difficult even for a state-run bank to attract funds from western banks. The fact that Vneshtorgbank has signed the loan agreement is testimony to the revival of foreign investors’ confidence in the Russian banking system.