From Volume 36, Issue 46 of EIR Online, Published Nov. 27, 2009
Russia and the CIS News Digest

Yakunin Briefs U.S. Officials on Russia's High-Speed Rail

Nov. 20 (EIRNS)—Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin gave U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood a presentation on the Russian high-speed rail program yesterday in Moscow at the Center for Scientific and Technical Information at Riga station; LaHood was accompanied by John Beyrle, the United States Ambassador to Russia.

Yakunin showed the U.S. officials the Sapsan (Peregrine Falcon) high-speed train, and briefed them on the development program of high-speed rail transport in Russia, planned up to 2030.

According to a Russian Railways report, LaHood said that he was impressed by the first Russian high-speed train, built jointly by German and Russian engineers (it is a model of the Siemens Velaro train). LaHood pointed out that the railway systems of Russia and the United States have much in common, and he said that the Russian program to develop high-speed rail transport is of great interest to Washington, in light of what he called the U.S. Administration's plans to create a high-speed national rail network.

Russia Holds International Transport Conference

Nov. 22 (EIRNS)—The briefing on Russia's high-speed rail plans, given to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood last week, by Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Yakunin, came in the context of a three-day conference called "Russia's Transport: Establishment, Development, Prospects." This year the annual event was keyed to the 200th anniversary of the 1809 founding of Tsarist Russia's Sea and Land Transport Directorate and the Institute of the Corps of Transport Engineers. Held as an exhibition in the Manege Hall next to the Kremlin, the conference was attended by Minister of Transportation Igor Levitin, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Naryshkin. On Nov. 20, the visiting transportation ministers of 24 nations were received by President Dmitri Medvedev.

According to a report in Kommersant daily, Medvedev told the foreign guests that "development of a strategy for transport is largely the basis of our future cooperation," citing the potential for foreign investment in Russian road-building, as well as the exploitation of existing capabilities such as transpolar air routes from Asia to the Americas across Siberia. Kommersant commented that "both West and East are interested in creating transport corridors across Russia, equipped with the latest technology." Medvedev confirmed this, noting that "because of Russia's unique capabilities, we would like to expand work on the North-South and West-East transport corridors. This means creating modern, multimodal logistics centers and improving our technologies in use at border crossings."

Many Russian regional leaders attended the event, pushing for funding of projects in their areas. Media in Siberia and the Far East, in particular, played up the "Russia's Transport" conference. Interviewed by Vesti state television, deputy chairman Anatoli Ballo of the government-owned VEB Bank—the major conduit of state crisis-mitigation funds into the Russian economy—stressed that "in the recent period, we have been devoting more and more attention to the Far East." Citing the construction of a new terminal at Vladivostok on the Pacific (a project involved in the recent Russia-China economic cooperation package), Ballo said that Russia wants to attract more international freight shipments to its railways, which means there is a need for "transportation corridors, logistics centers, and the whole range of transport infrastructure."

Sergei Ivanov, in his address to the conference, highlighted the scheduled 2010 completion of the 2,000-km Chita-to-Khabarovsk highway, which will mean that "for the first time in the history of the Russian Empire, the U.S.S.R., and modern Russia, our country will have a highway connection all the way from the West to the East."

A report in Marchmont News, earlier this month, said that the Moscow conference would be an occasion for renewed discussion of the Sakhalin-to-Mainland Russia bridge or tunnel connection, with upgrading of the rail system on Sakhalin Island and a further connection to Hokkaido in Japan. Russian Railways head Yakunin announced, after a Nov. 10 meeting with Sakhalin Region Governor Alexander Khoroshavin, that his company will back the Sakhalin government's efforts to launch the project. Giving Japan a direct outlet to the Transiberian Railway will be a major enhancement of Eurasian Land-Bridge connections.

Sobyanin: Source of Terror Funding Is Drugs

Nov. 16 (EIRNS)—Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Sobyanin, during his talks with India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, said drug trafficking is a major source of funds for terrorists, and stressed the need for a crackdown on it. Sobyanin said his country, like India, faced a challenge from terrorism.

Sobyanin also noted that terrorists work in a coordinated manner, and that drug trafficking is a major source of their funding. The two leaders underlined the need for consolidated action by the international community against drug and terror in all its aspects, sources said.

On Oct. 27, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, at a joint press conference after the Ninth Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia, India, and China in Bangalore, India, had said that "among regional themes, we paid special attention to the situation in Afghanistan. We are not indifferent to what is happening in that friendly country near the borders of our two states. We are all interested in continuing to be actively and concretely involved in international efforts to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, to eliminate terrorist and narcotic threats and help the socioeconomic recovery of that country." He also pointed out that "our three countries concur on the need to intensify international efforts to combat terrorism and drug trafficking."

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