Today is a day of anniversaries. Firstly it’s Defender of the Fatherland Day, a public holiday more commonly known as Army Day or Men’s Day, when Russia traditionally celebrates the glory of its military, and Russian women are extra-kind to their men. It’s also the 61st anniversary of the deportation of the entire Chechen nation by Stalin in World War 2, an anniversary which most Russians, unsurprisingly, neglect to mark in any meaningful way. Finally, it’s the 30th anniversary of my birth, which means that this week’s news is slightly briefer than usual.
- US President George W Bush is in Europe this week, on a tour which will include a Bratislava summit with President Putin on Thursday. In the lead-up to the summit he gave a wide ranging speech calling for Europe and the US to work together to promote the spread of freedom, peace and democracy throughout the world. Russia came in for some particularly pointed criticism, although Bush also pledged to support Russia’s bid for WTO membership. The summit itself will likely set the tone for the next four years of US-Russia relations.
- President Putin demonstrates his good judgment by stating his belief that Iran has absolutely no intention of making nuclear weapons.
- Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is to make a rare foray out of port this summer on a ‘voyage around the oceans’ that will ‘demonstrate Russia’s naval flag to others’. Presumably, it’s been so long since a Russian ship has been seen on the open seas that the rest of the world has forgotten it still has a navy.
- Russia is to pay of £15 million of its debt to Macedonia by building a gas pipeline ring around Skopje.
- Georgia is currently negotiating the sale of it’s main gas pipeline to Russian giant Gazprom.
- 82 Russian citizens have been arrested in Moldova in recent days. 16 were charged with interfering in its elections scheduled for 6th March.
- South Ossetia has declared itself willing to host Russian military bases.
- Two Chechens have been extradited from Belarus to Russia on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov.
- The ceasefire in Chechnya, unilaterally declared by Aslan Maskhadov and not accepted by the Russian authorities, is set to expire at midnight tonight. Some Russian officials say that, despite a number of violations, the ceasefire has been generally observed by Chechen fighters, but there are worries that it was merely a ploy to give breathing space for a major operation in the coming days.
- The military has launched its own tv channel. Zvezda (Star) tv says its purpose is to develop a sense of national pride. 10% of its output will be military programming, the other 90% more general programming, including kids shows.
- President Putin has called for Russia to be tougher in fighting Islamic militants in the North Caucasus. His comments come after Russian forces stormed an apartment in Nalchik, killing three people. There is speculation as to whether the men were Muslims, or mercenaries.
- Nikolay Bezuglov was murdered in Samara. He was head of the National Forestry Agency.
- Russian company AtomStroyExport is competing with Areva (France) and Westinghouse (USA) for the right to build 4 nuclear power plants in China.
- Rosneft has offered Indian energy company ONGC Videsh Limited a "stake in 11 oil and gas projects in Russia including Yuganskneftegaz", claims an Indian Minister. No word on the value of any deal, however.
- Russia has requested a 10% discount from the Paris Club if it repays its debt early. The Paris Club, however, wants Russia to pay a penalty for the privilege.
- Swedish flat-pack furniture specialists are to expand their Russian operation by opening a $400 million Giga Mall.
- Russia is to charge mp3 download site allmp3.com with copyright violations.
- Six dozen cars have just begun a 6,500 mile race along the… variable quality… road from Murmansk to Vladivostok. The prize for the winner is a 10 kilo pot of gold.