Weekly News #14
This week in Russia brought an assassination attempt, plus claims that Russia is on the brink of revolution. In the CIS, Putin met with Ukrainian President Yushchenko, while protests rocked Kyrgyzstan. Further afield, Putin announced plans to visit Israel, and Russia got into a spat with China over wargames that China wants to use to simulate an invasion of Taiwan. Oh yes, and a local council in Poland wound up Russia by naming a roundabout after formed Chechen President Dzokhar Dudayev.
- A British court has refused to extradite Natalya Chernysheva and Dmitry Maruyev, two Yukos executives wanted on charges of fraud. The court ruled that the charges were politically motivated and that they were therefore unlikely to receive a fair trial in Russia.
- President Putin is to visit Israel in April. The visit, which will be the first ever by a Russian head of state, comes amid mounting tensions over the sale of Russian anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.
- The Presidents of France, Germany, Spain and Russia met in Paris for a tete a tete. Iran and Syria were on the agenda. Russia’s sale of nuclear material to Iran doesn’t conflicting with the EU’s attempts to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear programme, according to Gerhard Schroeder.
- The EU has announced that it is committed to seeing Russia join the WTO by the end of 2005.
- Russia and China are trying to resolve a row over the location and purpose of their planned joint military exercise. China wants the exercise to resemble an invasion and military occupation of Taiwan. Russia doesn’t.
- Russia has voiced its support for Kofi Annan’s plans to reform the UN.
- Russia and China have joined forces, calling for talks to ban weapons from outer space.
- A Russian diplomat’s car was blown up in Stockholm – Russia thinks the bombing was linked to Chechen terrorists.
- Russia has been invited to attend the Arab summit in Algiers.
- Protests in Kyrgyzstan continued to escalate this week, mostly in the south of the country. The cities of Jalalabad and Osh seem to be under the control of the opposition and an attempt by the government to restore order in those cities resulted in the deaths of a number of police and protesters, and the defection (willingly or unwillingly, I’m not sure) of the local police to the opposition cause. Signs are that protests are beginning to spread to the capital Bishkek – a small (around 200 people) protest in the capital today was broken up violently by police. The same article goes on to note that a ‘hardliner’ has been appointed to head up Kyrgyzstan’s security forces. Registan.net, as usual, has all the breaking news.
- Estonia’s government was dissolved Monday after Prime Minister Juhan Parts resigned. This is a relatively normal occurrence in Estonia which, despite having 11 governments in the 15 years since independence, has managed to not only remain stable but promote rapid economic growth and join the EU.
- Vladimir Putin visited Kiev for the first time since the Orange Revolution for a cordial meeting with Viktor Yushchenko. Not much of substance came out of the meeting, but it’s a start and a good chance for two leaders who will have to work closely together to begin to build their relationship.
- Ukraine has confirmed that 18 cruise missiles were exported illegally in 2001. 12 went to China, 6 to Iran. The missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and their range of 1,864 miles would put Israel comfortably within striking distance of Iran.
- Azerbaijan has pardoned 53 political prisoners.
- Top political consultant Modest Kolerov has been appointed to head the presidential department for interregional and cultural ties with foreign countries. Basically, his job is to prevent further democratic revolutions throughout the CIS.
- Georgia has arrested four Russian peacekeepers who strayed out of Abkhazia. The soldiers claim they were searching for a lost horse.
- Anatoly Chubais, head of the state electricity monopoly Unified Energy System of Russia, survived an assassination attempt on Thursday. A landmine exploded as his car passed by. Chubais admits that he has many enemies, and plenty of rumours are flying around about who would want to kill him, including one of road rage, and another of a vengeful neighbour. Vladimir Kvachkov, an Afghan war hero and subject of a movie about his exploits, has been arrested in connection with the attack.
- Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov has told students in a speech that Russia is on the brink of a revolution. Luzhkov has claimed that he will not run for President in 2008, or for re-election as Mayor in 2007, but I’m not so sure.
- President Putin has signed a new law allowing for tighter airport security. New measures mean that police can now ‘accompany’ flights and that carriers must provide police with passenger ticket data.
- An Australian man was arrested after he tried to break into the cockpit of an Aeroflot Tokyo-Moscow flight. He also threatened to blow up the plane unless it was diverted to Chechnya.
- Poland has provoked Russian ‘indignation’ for naming a roundabout after Chechnya’s former President Dzhokhar Dudayev. Perhaps it was a comment on Russian policy towards the republic.