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Obzor for April-May
10 May 2007
Obzor for April-May

News "Obzor" for April-May
By Eugene Ivanov, InnoCentive.com
and Josh Wilson, SRAS.org, ACG.ru, USRCCNE.org

The following "obzor" ("obzor" is "review" in Russian) has been compiled as a quick review of news for the past approximately one month on subjects of interest to USRCCNE members. We've tried to use newsources on free sites as much as possible.

Business News

Russia to Build a New Oil Pipeline in Southern Europe 
Russia has signed an agreement with Bulgaria and Greece to build a 175-mile Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline. By bypassing the crowded Bosporus in Turkey, the $1.3 billion project is expected to increase oil supplies to Europe.

Yukos Buy Makes Rosneft Largest Oil Producer in Russia   
State-owned Rosneft, the second largest Russia's oil company has secured $22 billion in financing from a consortium of Western banks to buy additional assets from Yukos.

Russia to Pressure Iran on Uranium Enrichment  
Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran's nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.   

Russia’s M&A Activity Surges   
In 2007, Russia's merger and acquisition activity soared 41 percent reaching $71billion. Metals and mining led the activity for the first time in value terms, overtaking oil and gas.   

Net Inflow of Capital is to Increase in Russia in 2007    
According to a Central Bank of Russia’s forecast, the net inflow of private capital in Russia will reach $35 billion in 2007.

Russia’s Economically Active Population Keeps Shrinking. Russia’s non-working population will exceed the number of working-age citizens by 15 million people in 10 years, according to demographic experts.   

Russian Budget Watch

The Cabinet Approves the First Three-Year Budget.   
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said, on March 22, that the government has approved a draft of the first three-year budget. 

Budget Revenues Will Fall in 2008 
According to Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, Russia’s budget revenues will fall in 2008 (to $256 billion from $267 billion in 2007), the first budget fall since President Putin took office in 2000.

Russia's Defense Spending to Go Up in 2008  Russia’s defense spending will reach $36.8 billion, a 16.3% increase over 2007, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told the Cabinet on March 22.

Science and Technology

Russia to Reform Higher Education
Russia to provide new western-style degrees and fund several intuitions at levels not seen Soviet times.

Russian Academy of Sciences Refuses to Cede Control
The Academy has spearheaded fundamental research for nearly three centuries and enjoyed a high degree of autonomy even in Soviet times, when it refused to expel dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov.

In Russia, a Model Program Reunites Research and Academe    
(see excerpt on page three of the pdf document)
On the seventh floor, students superheat water and white-birch bark to extract a substance that one day could be used to treat cancer...

Scientists on Hunger Strike
Two activist sciencitists are protesting low levels of state funding and low wages for scientists.

Silicon Siberia
A tech boom is giving life to a former Soviet center for science. IBM, Intel--and even Oprah--are paying attention.

Russia's May Become "Space Cabbie"
It looks like a bonanza for the Russian space industries -- the planned retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in about three years would make Russia the principal carrier of crews and cargo to the international space station, sharply raising its revenues.

500-Day Mock Mission to Mars      
Known as Mars500, the simulated space mission will take place in an isolation facility in Russia, allowing organizers to study the difficulties presented by such a lengthy spaceflight.

Industrializing the Moon
Now a Russian company claims it could develop a system to exploit the moon’s natural resources and potentially relocate harmful industries there.

Russian Space Agency Ready to Send Abramovich Around the Moon     
Russia's Space Agency is ready to send Russia's richest man, London-based Roman Abramovich, on a flight around the Moon for $300 million after 2010.

Russia Foreign Relations

Estonia-Russia Fued Goes to Pace     
"We will spare no effort to resist renewed attempts to revive the use of Nazi symbols and Nazi marches."

Russia May Expand Gas Cooperation with Turkmenistan   
Russia and Turkmenistan may expand cooperation in the gas sphere, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin said on April 23 during  his first meeting with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

Russia Ignores the Russian Economic Forum in London
At the last minute, top Russian government officials and several high-ranking businessmen cancelled their participation in the annual Russian Economic Forum in London amid speculation that the Kremlin had actively discouraged them from attending.

Russia Wants a "Strategic Partnership with EU" 
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the European Union, President Putin has said that Russia had no intention of joining the European Union but looked forward to establish a “strategic Partnership” with EU.

Chinese President in Moscow for Talks  
Chinese President Hu Jintao has been in Moscow for a three-day state visit, his third trip to Moscow since taking office in 2003. The main focus of his visit, during which Hu has met with President Putin, was energy.

Russia’s Top General Warns the U.S. on Iran 
General Yuri Baluyevsky, Chief of Russia’s General Staff, has warned that the United States can damage Iran, but cannot inflict a military defeat.  He added that any attack would be a political mistake.

Russia Criticizes the State Department’s report on Russia   
Prominent Russian political analyst, Vyacheslav Nikonov, has characterized the U.S. State Department's report "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy" as an attempt to paint forthcoming elections in Russia illegitimate.

U.S. Commerce Secretary is Upbeat about U.S.-Russia Relations   
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez painted a rosy picture of U.S.-Russian ties speaking in Moscow on April 1 and said that post-Soviet reforms had prepared Russia to join the World Trade Organization.

Russia Again Demands Bevezovsky’s Extradition from the UK 
Russia expects exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky to be extradited from Britain where he has refugee status after the billionaire told the Guardian that he was planning a revolution to topple President Vladimir Putin.

Foreign Adoptions Are Suspended in Russia      
Russian authorities have announced a suspension of the work of all foreign adoption agencies in the country for several months. Russia is the third most important source for U.S. adoptions, with about 7,000 U.S. families waiting to adopt Russian children.

Russian Politics

Russia's First President Boris Yeltsin Has Died   
Russia’s first elected president Boris Yeltsin died on April 23 of heart failure.

March 21 Was a National Day of Mourning 
March 21 was declared the national day of mourning for the victims of three deadly accidents: a mining explosion in the Ulyanovskaya mine in the Kemerovo region, a fire at a nursery home in Kamyshevatskaya village (the Krasnodar territory), and a plane crash in the Samara airport. Total almost 180 people have perished in all three accidents.    

United Russia May Nominate Its Own Presidential Candidate 
Chairman of the United Russia party, Boris Gryzlov, suggested that his party may nominate its own candidate for the 2008 presidential election.

Russians Are Not Interested in Politics 
54 percent of Russians say they have no interest in politics, according to the the VsIOM polling agency.

The Duma and Federation Council Are at Odds on the Victory Banner   
The State Duma wants to remove the hammer and sickle from the Victory Banner; the Federation Council objects. (Update: President Putin has come out against the removal - effectively killing the measure.)

NGO News

Russian Officials Believes that NGO Laws Are More Liberal in Russian than in Europe.    
"In certain cases, our law is much more liberal than in a number of European states," said Alexander Yakovenko, Russia's deputy foreign minister.

Russia: NGOs Uneasy As Deadline Passes     
Russian nongovernmental organizations say they are anxious about their future following an April 15 deadline to file documentation that gives details about foreign funding.

U.S. NGO Raided Over Undeclared Cash      Documents seized from the Moscow office of a U.S.-based non-governmental organization were confiscated in line with a probe opened in January against two Internews staff members, the transport police press service said Thursday.

NGOs Spend 7.3 Billion RUR on Additional Reporting, Religious Organizations Exempted
The new process is likely to cost the state a good deal of cash and man power as well. Russian economists have calculated that if officials manage to process each of the bulky reports in about 45 minutes,  it will still require 140 employees a full year to complete the process.

Domestic Issues

Two Media Watch Services Merged into One    
President Putin has signed a decree merging the Federal Service for Media Law Compliance and Cultural Heritage and the Federal Information Technologies Agency into one.

The Russians Celebrate Orthodox Easter.     
More than six million Russians have participated in Easter celebrations at 8,700 cathedrals, churches and monasteries over the country.

Global Warming is Blamed for Disease Outbreak     
More than 3,000 cases of infections caused by hantaviruses have been reported recently in Russia. The disease outbreak is being blamed on the unusually warm winter. 

Hundreds Demonstrated, Detained in Downtown Moscow     
Police have detained about 250 participants of the banned March of Dissent in downtown Moscow organized by the umbrella opposition group, Other Russia. Its leader, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was among detained by the police.   

The Interior Ministry Defends Riot Police Actions on April 14th and 15th   
The Interior Ministry spokesman has defended the actions of the riot police who broke up the Dissenters' Marches in Moscow and St. Petersburg on April 14 and 15.


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