Weekly News #19
In the last seven days: President Putin gave a rambling and largely pointless speech to the nation, ex-Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky was told he must wait until after George Bush has visited before his guilt is confirmed, Putin tried to make friends on his tour of the Middle East and a man stole a rubber doll from a sex shop. Just another normal week in Russia
- President Putin gave his annual State of the Nation address on Monday (transcript here). While he made headlines around the world for claiming that the end of the USSR was a "major geopolitical disaster of the century" the speech itself was generally inconsequential. Putin took the opportunity to reflect on the kind of society he wanted Russia to become – a democratic one of course – but decided not to offer anything in the way of concrete policy. He did, however, manage to apportion blame for the failures on his watch on pretty much everyone but himself.
- The verdict in Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s trial has been postponed until May 16th, a date which conveniently falls after US President George W Bush’s visit to Moscow.
- Aerospace giant Boeing has announced plans to invest up to $3 billion in the Russian aerospace industry by 2010.
- The navy will take possession of two re-fitted nuclear submarines in 2006. Both will be armed with Bulava-M Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.
- The Presidents of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova met in Moldova this weekend, to discuss separatism and regional cooperation. Uzbekistan, the fifth member of the GUUAM grouping did not attend, as the Uzbek government has indefinitely suspended its membership of the organisation.
- Russia and Georgia have "agreed in principle" that Russian troops will be withdrawn by 1st January 2008. Nothing has been signed yet, however, and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has hinted that he may refuse to attend the May 9th celebrations in Moscow unless an agreement is put down on paper.
- Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko visited Moscow to discuss, among other things, the potential Russia-Belarus union.
- Members of the Belarus opposition tried to hand in a petition to to President Lukashenko, demanding to know what he was doing to solve the problems of Chernobyl. They were arrested.
- Felix Kulov has officially announced that he will run in the upcoming Kyrgyz Presidential election amid speculation that he is negotiating a power-sharing deal with interim President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
- Iran and Tajikistan have signed a defence co-operation agreement.
- Armenia marked the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey on Sunday 24th April.
- On the first visit ever by a Russian leader to Israel, President Putin denied that Russian policy was destabilising to the Middle East and restated his claim that the delivery of Russian anti-aircraft missiles to Syria would not threaten Israel’s security. Except if they wanted to fly their jet-fighters over Syrian territory.
- President Putin also visited Egypt, where he and President Mubarak discussed the "road map" for peace between Israel and Palestine
- Two destroyers under construction in St Petersburg caught fire on Wednesday, and two men were killed. The ships are due to be delivered to the Chinese navy in 2006.
- The Indian navy, meanwhile, has taken receipt of a diesel powered sub, upgraded to carry cruise missiles.
- A Russian cosmonaut on the International Space Station wants to be given a daily ration of wine or brandy while circling the earth. He thinks it will help to relieve psychological stress.
- A frustrated middle aged man robbed a Moscow sex-shop. After threatening the shop assistant with a knife, he escaped with a rubber doll and enough underwear for his own private party.