|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian Cold Shoulder Rattles London Financiers
April 24 (EIRNS)The Kremlin advised Russian officials and leading businessmen to skip the annual Russian Economic Forum in London, held April 22-23, the Russian business daily Vedomosti reported April 20. Word from President Putin's people was that this year the "decision-makers" will not be in London; rather, they will be at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in June, where 1,000 executives of Russia's largest companies, 50 heads of state, numerous governors, and representatives of all branches of government will gather. Vedomosti was quoting a source at one of the big Russian companies, whose managers had changed their minds about going to London, after Putin's suggestion. A government official confirmed the information.
A source close to the Presidential administration said that the Kremlin "has an understanding that in order to discuss Russian problems, it is not necessary to convene in London." Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref and Unified Energy Systems CEO Anatoli Chubais decided to refrain from visiting London, as did the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Alexander Shokhin.
The shrunken conference, when it went forward, heard warnings from Hans-Joerg Rudloff of Barclay's Capital, who said that Russia's financial boom, based largely on credit expansion, will "be penalized somewhat excessively in the near future," and come to a "painful" end. While correctly pointing to the enormous credit expansion over the past seven years, this statement and similar ones from other bankers reflect concern in London that the Anglo-Dutch oligarchy has little control over the direction of Russia's economic policy.
Russia, Japan Discuss Rail, Nuclear Power Cooperation
April 25 (EIRNS)Following the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to Japan at the end of February, direct discussions on energy and railroad development are being conducted from Moscow and Tokyo. The president of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin, met in Moscow with Kosaburo Morinaka, chairman of the board of directors of Sumitomo Corporation, Russia Newswire reported today. On the agenda were Russia's plans for developing a high-speed rail system in Russia, which Yakunin had announced in Rome on Feb. 9. He said that Russia will be sending experts to Japan; Russia wants to look at the most modern technology available, and is interested in Japanese experience. The first high-speed line in Russia will link Moscow and St. Petersburg; other links on the agenda are Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod, and Moscow-Sochi. Russia wants to bring in foreign partners to help build rail lines, including future projects in the Far East, in the North, and a possible tunnel link to Sakhalin Island. A high-speed link to Finland is also being discussed.
Russia and Japan were to hold their first round of talks on joint cooperation on nuclear power in Tokyo on April 26, RIA Novosti reported April 24. Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal Nuclear Power Agency (Rosatom), had led a delegation to Japan April 10-12, and the two sides agreed to start discussion of joint use of civilian nuclear power. Kiriyenko said that Japanese companies could be invited to help build a nuclear plant in Russia's Far East. Rosenergoatom, the state-run nuclear agency, announced in March that it is considering two new nuclear plants in that region. Electricity corporation RAO UES suggested the construction, Novosti wrote, because China has announced it would like to buy some 30 billion KWH of electricity from Russia a year.
Black Sea States Plan Ring Highway
April 24 (EIRNS)Leaders of 12 nations agreed on April 19 to build a highway around the Black Sea, according to local and international press reports compiled by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The April 19 meeting brought together six Black Sea littoral countriesBulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraineand six neighboring states, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Greece, Moldova, and Serbia.
In the declaration concluding their meeting in Belgrade, the leaders of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) group said that "road construction and renovation is vital to build ties among EU, Black Sea, and Asian countries." The 4,700-km road would be created by linking up existing roads. The Turkish news agency Anatolia reported on April 19 that the BSEC's incoming president, Turkey, plans to institute reforms to make the organization more effective and to boost cooperation with other organizations. Collectively, the members of BSEC, which was established in 1992, are the world's second-largest producers of oil and natural gas after the Persian Gulf.
Russia Responds to Estonia's Removal of Red Army Statue
April 27 (EIRNS)Russia should build its own modern Baltic Sea ports, as a response to the tense situation in relation to Estonia, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told the press April 26. According to Itar-Tass, Ivanov denounced as a sacrilege, the Estonian decision to dismantle a statue in the capital, Tallinn, commemorating the Red Army. The authorities will also move the graves of Soviet soldiers buried near the statue in 1947. The Red Army liberated Estonia from the Nazi occupation in Autumn 1944. "In particular," Ivanov said, "Russia must speed up the construction of modern ports on Russian territory on the Baltic Sea, in the towns of Ust-Luga, Primorsk, and Vysotsk. Thereby, we will handle our own cargo flow and not allow other countries, including Estonia, to benefit from its transit. I have already ordered and instructed the Minister of Transport accordingly."
The statue was dismantled during the night of April 26-27, although the government had said it would wait till after May 9, Victory in Europe Day. There is a long-standing dispute about the Soviet memorials, including between ethnic Russians who have lived in Estonia since the 1940s, and ethnic Estonians. Tensions erupted into protests against the destruction of the statue April 26, which developed into riots in which at least one person was killed, 57 injured, and 300 arrested.
At the NATO meeting in Oslo April 27, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow opposes "such desecration" and that he "cannot understand attempts to equate Communism with Nazism." Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of Parliament, called for breaking diplomatic relations with Estonia.