Much of my focus has been on Ukraine recently, and coverage of Russia has suffered. To balance things out somewhat, here is a brief roundup of what has been going on there for the past week or so.
I’m thinking of starting a regular (say, weekly, or bi-monthly) roundup. Let me know what you think.
- Russia is meddling in another Presidential election – this time in Abkhazia. The rebel Georgian province has been told to re-run the election, or face an economic blockade. Without Russian economic assistance it is hard to see how Abkhazia can survive independent of Georgia.
- Russia’s new ambassador in Chisnau has warned that Moldova risks losing Russia’s ‘friendship’ if it chooses to pursue closer ties with the EU.
- The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) met in Yerevan on Tuesday, where discussions centered on Central Asian security. In a further strengthening of the CSTO, a joint military exercise has been scheduled for April 2005.
- Venezuela has reportedly agreed to buy Russian MiGs. The US is not impressed. "We shoot down MiGs" said one disgruntled, but anonymous Bush administration official.
- Putin and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also pleged to work together to stabilise the price of crude oil.
- Putin is in India at the moment, on a three day state visit. Signs of an increasingly close relationship include recent announcements that the two countries will co-operate on the GLONASS satellite global navigation program and joint paratroop exercises set for 2005.
- The 2004 EU-Russia summit finally took place this week. Discussions were generally cordial with the exception of those focussing on the crisis in Ukraine, where "views" were exchanged. RIA Novosti seems pretty happy with the summit though, claiming it shows that the "EU’s strategic partnership with Russia can withstand even the most serious tests."
- The Dalai Lama is in Kalmykia this week, visiting some of Russia’s 1 million Buddhists. China has pronounced Russia’s decision to give him a visa "incomprehensible".
- The November 7 public holiday celebrating the Russian Revolution of 1917 is to be scrapped. So is the more recent December 12 public holiday celebrating Russia’s 1993 constitution.
- The Duma has strengthened the ban on beer drinking in public places. The Brewer’s Union predicts a fall in beer sales as people revert to vodka.
- The entire Yukos management board, fearing imminent arrest, appears to have fled Russia, although the New York Times reports that some are preparing to return to Moscow. Yukos’ most recent management board meeting was held in London.
- The company’s main oil production unit, Yuganskneftegaz, has been put up for auction and Gazprom, the state controlled gas giant, has announced its intention to bid. The company won’t come cheap though – bidding starts at a cool $8.65 billion.
- Menatep, Yukos’ largest shareholder has warned that it will not let Yukos be sold up without a fight, warning Gazprom of legal and financial consequences.
- A gun amnesty program in Zmeinogorsk got more than it expected when a man walked in demanding the $17.25 reward for surrendering his stash of plutonim.