Weekly News #16
No revolutions this week, but plenty of news nonetheless. Russia may finally be ready to take AIDS seriously, Moldova has finally elected its President, while Kyrgyzstan’s President has finally resigned. An American congressman is in trouble over his 1996 trip to Moscow, and Russia and the EU are building closer relations. Plus, of course, much much more…
- HIV/AIDS is a threat to Russia’s national security, says Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov. An initiative has been announced to give Russians access to HIV medication for $3,000 per annum instead of the current $10,000. Russia currently has 300,000 officially registered HIV cases, although the United Nations estimates that around 860,000 Russians are actually infected.
- The World Bank has blamed the slowdown in Russian growth in 2005 on rapid increases in production costs and the uncertainty of the business climate. The Bank attributes the slowdown partly, but not entirely, to concerns about the Yukos affair.
- Capital flight from Russia in 2004 was $9.4 billion, four times the 2003 level of $1.9 billion.
- Oborona, the new anti-Putin youth party held its first demonstration in Moscow on Sunday. Ilya Yashin, the organiser of the march, was arrested by police who said they had only given permission for a peaceful rally, and not a political meeting. He is expected to be fined.
- Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin’s Chief of Staff, has called on political elites to rally around the government, lest Russia "disappear as one state".
- Irregularities in the election of the President of Russia’s football federation prompted UEFA to send their own election monitor. Vitaly Mutko, a St Petersburg politician described as a "close friend of Putin" won the top job.
- State-owned OAO Russian Railways plan to invest $1.1 bn on railways in Eastern Siberia, primarily to allow increased shipments of oil to Asia.
- Hackers are in the news for attacking British bookmakers, and for allegedly stealing the Russian Central Bank’s transaction database.
- 50,000 "well known public figures and church officials" have signed a petition requesting that all Jewish groups be banned because Judaism is "an extremist and racist ethnicity that hates non-Jews." The Foreign Ministry has condemned the petition.
- Vladimir Voronin has been re-elected as President of Moldova. The Moldovan Parliament voted for the pro-EU Communist party leader by a margin of 75 votes to 1. The 23 strong Our Moldova party refused to participate in the election.
- Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s President, is visiting the United States. He met with President Bush, who has offered his support for Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO.
- Askar Akayev has formally resigned as President of Kyrgyzstan and is said to be planning a return to academia. Meanwhile, Felix Kulov has announced that he will run for the presidency amid warnings of a counter-revolution.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Russia is open to ideas from the EU as to how to resolve long-running conflicts in Georgia and Moldova.
- Vladimir Putin met with Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko on Monday. Lukashenko played with Koni, Putin’s labrador, while Putin himself presumably tried to discuss matters of state.
- Sergei Ivanov has announced that Russia is to upgrade its military bases in Tajikistan.
- A Collective Security Treaty Organisation military exercise, code named Rubezh-2005 (Frontier 2005), is to begin in Tajikistan on Saturday. The exercise involving over 1,000 personnel from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will simulate an incursion into Tajikistan by armed militants.
- EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Southern Russia and they said very nice things about each other. Their meeting came ahead of the May EU-Russia summit, during which a co-operation agreement covering the areas of economy, security, justice and culture is expected to be struck.
- Russia has written off Ethiopia’s $1.1 billion debt. No news of an arms deal yet, but watch this space…
- Russian Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev is optimistic that the level of trade between Syria and Russia should increase from $218 million to $1 billion pa very rapidly. I wonder if the sale of an expensive missile system may have anything to do with his optimism?
- Russia has joined the Asian Co-operation Dialogue.
- US Congressman Tom Delay’s 1997 trip to Russia is under scrutiny. The trip was allegedly paid for by businessmen lobbying for the Russian government, although at the time Delay said the trip was funded by a Washington non-profit organisation.
- An envoy sent to Moscow by Pakistan’s President Musharraf was rebuffed in his attempt to persuade Russia not to support India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
- Singapore and Russia are on the verge of establishing military co-operation ties.
- Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov has suggested that if reforms were not called reforms, and were instead called "changes for the better," they might be more successful.