Weekly News #17
As another week draws to a close – on a Wednesday, of all days – it is time to investigate what’s been happening since the last week ended – also, co-incidentally, on a Wedesday.
- Mikhail Khodorkovsky made his closing statement in court on Monday. Khodorkovsky, who is charged with fraud and tax evasion, proclaimed his innocence, and claimed once again that the case against him was politically motivated. A judgment is expected on 27 April.
- President Putin has ruled out running for the Presidency in 2008. He went on to say that, although he could technically run again in 2012, he would probably not want to. This has led to a rash of speculation about how he might remain in power without remaining President. The current favourite among the pundits sees Russia becoming a parliamentary system, with Putin as its Prime Minister. My personal favourite, though, has to be Pavel Felgenhauer’s idea that Russia and Belarus would merge, with Putin as the Union’s new President and current Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko as his Vice President.
- Former FSB General Anatoly Trofimov was killed in Moscow on Sunday. No-one seems quite certain as to whether his assassination was motivated by a business conflict, or political reasons. One theory is that he lost a feud with Anatoly Chubais, who escaped an assassination attempt in March.
- 4,000 students took to the streets of Moscow yesterday, protesting that their $14 monthly stipend is too low.
- 300 Sunni Muslims fought each other in a Mosque in Durbent, Dagestan over the election of a new imam. 200 were arrested, and more than 20 injured.
- Cossack brigades are to return to the Russian army after an 80 year absence, if a new draft law submitted by President Putin is adopted.
- Top reporter Yelena Masluk has quit the Rossiya tv channel, after it refused to air her programmes.
- It has emerged that former Chess World Champion, and long-time opponent of Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky signed a recent letter calling for Jewish groups to be banned from Russia on the grounds that they were inhumane and committed ritual murders.
- Nuclear powered battle-cruiser The Admiral Nakhimov is undergoing a re-fit which should keep her in service for another 20 years. Only four of the Kirov class ships were built – they were designed to knock out US aircraft carriers.
- Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has decided not to visit Russia as scheduled, after Russia’s Prosecutor General confirmed that criminal charges are still in force.
- The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Georgia was wrong to extradite 13 Chechens to Russia without a giving them a fair chance to appeal.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has said that trying to persuade a CIS state not to join NATO would be ‘futile’, and that Russia should not try. However, he is confident that no CIS state will join NATO in the next 5-7 years.
- US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is to visit Kyrgyzstan later this week. He’s officially going to discuss defence co-operation, but getting an impression of the new Kyrgyz government is also sure to be high on Rumsfeld’s agenda.
- Kyrgyzstan’s new Presidential election, by the way, has been set for July 10th.
- Turkmenistan’s loony President seems to be getting election fever, too. The glorious Turkmenbashi has announced that there will be a Presidential election in 2009. As he has already proclaimed himself President for Life, does this mean he’s feeling poorly?
- The Uzbek government has closed Uzbekistan’s sole remaining Russian language tv station.
- Ukraine has confirmed it will withdraw its 1,650 troops from Iraq, although the date has not yet been decided.
- A source in the Russian nuclear authority has claimed that Russia will delay the first shipment of enriched uranium fuel to Iran.
- The European Union wants Russia to take part in a project to build an experimental thermonuclear reactor in Cadarache, Southern France.
- President Putin visited Gerhard Schroeder in Germany this week, where they opened the Hanover Trade Fair. Chechen
warlordDeputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov came along for the ride.
- Rio Tinto, the world’s second largest mining company, blamed a new draft Russian law for its unwillingness to invest in Russia. The Royal Dutch/Shell Group has also voiced concern that Russia will discriminate against foreign firms.
- Eritrean Foreign Minister Ali Said Abdella is to visit Moscow this week. His visit comes less than two weeks after Russia wrote off Ethiopia’s $1 billion debt.
- A European Union delegation is visiting Chechnya to assess the region’s reconstruction needs.
- German company Seimens has been blocked from acquiring a controlling in Russian firm Power Machines, because of opposition by the Russian military.
- Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has announced that Russia will work with NATO to develop a battlefield anti-missile system.
- Russia, Bulgaria and Greece have signed a $677 oil pipeline deal linking the Caspian and Aegean Seas, allowing Russia to bypass the Bosporus Strait.
- France is to assist Russia in building a new launchpad for Russian rockets in South America.
- A joint US-Russia missile defence exercise began yesterday.
- In a stunning victory for free speech was won this week when a Russian court ruled that US tv show The Simpsons should not be banned. A Moscow resident had sued the tv channel that aired the show, claiming that it caused his six year old son to "become interested in drugs and insult his mother".