Presidential Adviser Criticizes the Authorities' Policy
The presidential economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, has vehemently criticized Russia's course toward increasing state interference in the economy. In an interview with a leading US publication, the official stated that Russia's idea of property rights had changed: "In the past few years, a new belief emerged that mineral wealth should belong to the state." He said these changes were connected to the victory of the pro-Kremlin "anti-liberals" and efforts to deliberately frighten businessmen, beginning with Mikhail Khodorkovsky's arrest. According to Mr. Illarionov, because all this is "an escalation of mistakes," it does not bode well for the country as a whole.
No the state official, Kommersant reported, has dared criticize the current switch in Russia's economic and political line so bluntly yet. The question is: why has Illarionov not indicated his opposition to the current political course before? Perhaps, the presidential adviser decided to do so now because the changes in Russia are reaching a larger scale? In late September, the newspaper reported, he suddenly stood up against the replacement of gubernatorial elections with governor appointments. The economic adviser had never voiced his opinion on purely political issues, particularly his criticism, before.
Most likely, Andrei Illarionov made this decision after Vladimir Putin approved of Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol - something that the adviser vigorously opposed. This was Mr. Illarionov's failure, not so much as a politician but as an international lobbyist. Indeed, other influential people - the world's leading producers of hydrogen sulphide raw materials, which will drop in demand after the Kyoto Protocol comes into force - oppose restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.
Will Deputies Seek to Improve the Kyoto Protocol?
The government has submitted a package of documents on the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to the Duma (the lower house of parliament). According to some critics, the adoption of the documents may strip Russia of about $1 trillion. In view of this possibility, Russian executives expect lawmakers to find ways to minimize financial losses.
Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported that it was no secret that the Kyoto Protocol has become a token of a series of interstate economic and political issues that have nothing to do with environment. Certainly, these issues are not mentioned at the top level. Fairly serious demands must be standing behind the ratification. Many experts believe that one of the main trade-off questions is the price of energy on Russia's domestic market. In other words, Russia will ratify the protocol, but the EU, in turn, should not demand that it balance domestic and international prices. This is critical for maintaining Russian enterprises' competitiveness.
According to Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, "the discussion of the Kyoto Protocol has started, and perhaps, the debates in the State Duma will not be so smooth." Supposedly, the discussion will not only be about the simple aspects of the law, as the government expects this discussion to yield specific proposals. According to experts, there is still time to adjust the protocol to Russia's economic conditions. This will concern Russia's prices for gas emission quotas and the development of the legislative base to implement the Kyoto Protocol. It is also important to consider compensation for the damage that the world economy does to Russian forests. According to experts, the main thing is to secure all these amendments during the ratification process, as it will be far more difficult to do after all Russian agencies have approved the document.
Yukos Demands $3 Billion from Sibneft
The Yukos oil company sued Millhouse Capital structures, which represented Sibneft duringthe Yukos-Sibneft merger. According to Vedomosti's sources, Yukos wants Roman Abramovich's legal entities to repay $3 billion, the price of 20% of Sibneft stock.
Yukos filed the lawsuit in late September in the International Court of Arbitration in London because the buy back mechanism in the February agreement (as regards 20% of Sibneft, which Yukos owned after the merger) was never activated. Yukos demands that Sibneft pay $3 billion and an unspecified compensation for annulling the deal. The names of plaintiff companies were not disclosed either.
Alexander Shokhin, chair of Renaissance Capital's supervisory council, doubts whether former shareholders will agree to pay Yukos, so that Yukos can pay its tax bill. Sibneft is unlikely to repay $3 billion in exchange for shares and therefore Yukos will retain 20% of Sibneft, he said.
Nevertheless, Yukos should not expect the London court to promptly settle the case, which may go on for several years.
Group Menatep controls about 52% of Yukos. Yukos and Sibneft finalized their merger in the fall of 2003, with Yukos receiving 92% of Sibneft in return for Millhouse Capital, which represents the interests of Abramovich and his partners, as well as $3 billion and 26.01% of Yukos. Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in the fall of 2003, and Millhouse Capital subsequently demanded a divorce and prevented Yukos from managing Sibneft.
Many Countries Display Russian Weapons at Defendory International 2004
There was a scandal at the 13th Defendory International 2004 exhibition in Athens. Representatives of the Russian delegation recently discussed the modernization of the Osa-AKM short-range air defense system with foreign participants. The Polish delegation, which brought an identical weapons system to Athens, unveiled a similar proposal only 24 hours later. The Polish side made it clear that it did not want to assume any responsibility.
Experts showed a Vremya Novostei correspondent around the former socialist country's display. However, the Osa is not the only Soviet and Russian weapons system to be displayed by foreign delegations. The Polish display featured the S-74 Volkhov surface-to-air missile and the Kub surface-to-air missile for shielding army units. These systems were exact copies of the Russian weapons, experts said.
Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria offered "clones" of Russian arms with names printed in the Latin alphabet, which seemed to be just about the only difference.
Apart from former socialist countries, Russian concepts are now being copied by Iran and even Greece. Iran has modified the Russian BMP-2 mechanized infantry combat vehicle, fitting it with a combat module. Its Grad-1 and Grad-3 multiple launch rocket systems are exact copies of their Russian equivalents. The Greeks also upgraded our BMP-1 and renamed it the BVP-2.
Experts believe that Russian arms manufacturers must inform the world about copyright issues more often. All world famous brands are well advertised and the Russian side should act accordingly. Second, international law issues must finally be clarified.
Is Russia's Cable Television Going Back to the USSR?
The first ever conference on pay television took place in Russia and attracted enormous attention. This focus on the progress of and problems facing subscription TV in Russia was rather surprising, writes Noviye Izvestia.
Although cable networks are rapidly developing in Russia today, the country is lagging behind the West in everything related to this form television. Mikhail Silin, Komkor-TV General Director, said, "you can count [toll TV] operators on the fingers of one hand" in Russia. Mr Silin said the three leading operators had only 500,000 subscribers, while their annual turnover was $50 million. This is a small figure compared to the pay TV market in the West.
Many issues ranging from technological to legislative ones are hampering the process. However, "TV operators' migration" to the digital format, as Mr Silin put it, is absolutely necessary for Russian operators, as well as subscribers who will thereby get access to a variety of information services, the Internet and e-mail, as well as TV banks and TV shops.
However, "the leading operators have built their networks and investments have been largely made in the sphere, said Ayuna Badmayeva, Marketing Director at Kosmos-TV. Improving living standards offer optimistic prospects for the development of subscription television in the country.
"Television cannot develop further at the state budget's expense," said Svyatoslav Bunyayev, a spokesman for Rossiiskiye Teleradioseti (Russian Television and Radio Networks). "Everybody has to pay, although reasonably and voluntarily, for quality television. It should be recalled that people once paid monthly fees for television services in the Soviet Union."