|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Putin Visits the Netherlands
Russian President Vladimir Putin was the guest of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the Dutch government the week of Oct. 31. During the state visit, Putin and his hosts discussed chiefly the expansion of trade and economic relations, especially the possible participation of the Netherlands in building the Baltic Sea natural gas supply pipeline to Europe, already agreed upon between Russia and Germany, and its extension to Great Britain.
Lavrov Cites Possible 'Forgeries' in 'Oil-for-Food' Report
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was among those denouncing the methods and findings of the (Paul) Volcker Commission investigation into alleged fraud in the Iraq oil-for-food program. Some 20 Russian companies were named, partly on the basis of documents alleged to have been signed by former Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin, which Voloshin denies having signed. What Lavrov said, in remarks reported by Kommersant on Oct. 31, is that Moscow suspects that Volcker used "some quite dubious or explicitly forged documents." He emphasized, "Russia has repeatedly inquired about the sources of the documents but received no reply. If forgeries appear again, after we have studied the facts, we will demand that the commission explain how it obtained these so-called documents."
Russian UN Envoy Ridicules Bolton's 'Overkill' on Syria
On Nov. 2, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, one of Dick Cheney's neo-conservative warmongers, called for yet another UN resolution on Syria, saying that Syrian arms are still flowing to the Palestinian and other militias in Lebanon. It was less than 48 hours after the UN Security Council had passed Resolution 1636, which demanded Syria's full cooperation in the investigation of the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariribut which did not carry sanctions against Syria.
Syrian Ambassador to the UN Fayssal Mekdad denied the charge that his government was shipping weapons into Lebanon, saying, "Syria will not allow this.... This is not in the interest of Syria or Lebanon."
But it was the Russian envoy, rejecting the call for another resolution, who showed some insight into Bolton's "Beastman" state of mind. Russia's Ambassador to the UN, Andrei Denisov, said that another resolution would be "overkill," after the resolution that had just been adopted on Oct. 31. Denisov asked, "How many times can you kill one persontwo times, five times, or ten times, when one time is enough? That is the case here."
Former Russian PM Primakov in Rome
Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov, a senior intelligence specialist and ex-head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Agency, who now heads the Chamber of Industry and Trade, spoke Nov. 3 at the launch of an Italian edition of his book From the USSR to Russia. He has been in Rome since Nov. 1, having meetings with business and government circles. Primakov was closely involved in attempts to prevent the Iraq war and was the last foreign diplomat to meet Saddam Hussein before the U.S. invasion. Still active in Russia's Southwest Asia diplomacy, Primakov met Nov. 3 with Italian Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, who just returned from the region. The book presentation, at the Russian Embassy, was attended by leading Italian figures, including former Prime Ministers Giulio Andreotti and Lamberto Dini.
Russia and China To Increase Space Cooperation
Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) head Gen. Anatoli Perminov arrived in China Nov. 1 for two days of meetings with China's National Space Administration. Roskosmos deputy head Yuri Nosenko stated that the two countries would discuss Russia contributing to China's current unmanned lunar program, and China participating in a Russian lunar satellite program slated for 2010. Joint manned missions to the Moon could follow, he said.
In addition to the restarted Russia-China talks, Russia is negotiating with Europe on a joint manned spacecraft development program, and will start launching its rockets from the European spaceport in French Guyana within two years. China is pulling together the Asia-Pacific nations, including in Ibero-America, for joint space projects. Following the space meetings, Perminov will join the rest of the Russian delegation Nov. 3-5, for the 10th meeting of the heads of state of both governments. The agenda of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's talks in China featured cooperation in the oil and aircraft industries.