Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 17, 2001, EV

Alice Van Etten, the mother of John Edward Tobin, has arrived in Russia. Tobin, an American citizen, was arrested on January 24 at a Voronezh nightclub in possession of 4.5 grams of marijuana, tried, and sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment.

The court allowed Van Etten a 45-minute meeting with her son. According to the woman, her son has a chronic immune system complaint, and imprisonment may worsen his condition. Van Etten has written to President Vladimir Putin to emphasize that Tobin had come to Russia in order to study Russian, not to deal in drugs.

Tobin’s father told The Washington Post that Russian secret services had tried to recruit Tobin, a graduate of the US Army Intelligence Institute. The statement is based on a message Tobin allegedly conveyed from prison via Melissa Arkley, secretary of the consulate department of the US Embassy. “This is a dirty game. The FSB tried to recruit me, and set up the arrest when I refused…” Tobin wrote.

Tobin’s lawyer Mikhail Bayev has appealed to the Voronezh regional court to suspend the sentence.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 17, 2001, EV

Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov considers that “the question of transferring ownership of the Kuril Islands is being artificially exaggerated by someone outside Russia and Japan.” He believes someone is seeking to escalate tension between Moscow and Tokyo, because “the economic interests of some other countries would suffer if Japan and Russia drew closer.” Farkhutdinov called a press conference at RIA-Novosti news agency yesterday.

There are 56 islands in the Kuril chain, but Japan wants only four: Shikotan, Kunashir, Habomai, and Iturup. The first two are rich in natural resources, which Japan needs so badly. Farkhutdinov is sure that no transfer will happen in the near future, because “nothing was said on the matter” during President Putin’s April meeting with former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori.

Farkhutdinov: The economic situation of the Kuril Islands should be improved. When living conditions there becomes normal, it will never occur to anyone to talk about a transfer to Japan.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 17, 2001, EV

“I say good-bye, my brother.” This was how President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela says he parted with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Chavez, the conversation with Putin lasted several hours and ranged across a broad spectrum of topics, from the divine to the economic. Chavez says that “a new strategic alliance was made, an alliance which will have a geopolitical impact”. Chavez says this visit to Russia was the most productive of all his visits during two years in power.

Chavez is also president of OPEC. He advocates an oil price corridor between $22 and $28 a barrel. Two years ago, before his election as OPEC president, oil was at $8 a barrel.

Chavez does not consider the current price too high. He calls it “fair”. He says the countries that extract oil with such effort should not be giving it away to the developed nations.

As for Russian-Venezuelan relations, Chavez invited Russian companies to participate in energy projects in his country. President Putin has been invited to visit Venezuela.