What the Russian papers say


MOSCOW, March 28 (RIA Novosti) Schroeder offer energy lobbying/ The myth of U.S. nuclear superiority/ Russian accused of smuggling to Iran/ Russian and Arctic shelf drilling/ A street terror manual in St. Petersburg

(RIA Novosti does not accept responsibility for the articles in the press)


Former chancellor of Germany offers energy lobbying to Putin

Former Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schroeder, the chairman of the supervisory board of the North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP), has made a proposal the Russian authorities to create an agency for lobbying Russia's interests in the West.
German experts are worried that it will be financed by Russian corporations, whereas the Kremlin fears that this could have a negative effect on its relations with the current German leader, Angela Merkel.
Analysts told the paper that the idea of advancing Russian interests through German lobbyists was logical. The gas conflict with Ukraine at the start of the year seriously undermined the image of Russia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Eight industrialized nations this year. "Europe saw the gas offensive as another Chernobyl," said Alexander Rahr, an expert with the German Foreign Policy Council. It also made the European public view the multi-billion dollar NEGP, which will take Russian natural gas across the Baltic Sea floor to Germany, as a political project.
The European public has taken a negative view on energy giant Gazprom's attempts to secure a foothold on the European retail markets. "The sides' PR campaign for the NEGP project was conducted very badly," said Vladimir Belov of Russia's Institute of German Studies, a think tank.
Schroeder's reputation suffered when he agreed to head the NEGP supervisory board soon after stepping down as chancellor. "Schroeder's lobbying power has diminished," said Arkady Moshes from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. "He will be regarded differently now in Brussels."
The Kremlin questions the expediency of the Schroeder plan. Russian officials fear that open support for the former chancellor's idea will be bad for relations with the current German authorities given that Merkel is scheduled to visit Russia in late April.


Myth of U.S. nuclear superiority shattered

National leaders and top defense ministry officials are worried about nuclear arsenals, whose allegedly poor state has now become a popular "horror story," experts told the paper.
U.S. President George Bush withdrew from the 1972 Soviet-U.S. ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty soon after assuming office, and announced that his country reserved the right to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against its enemies. Russia took note and tested a hypersonic ballistic missile warhead during a 2004 strategic command post exercise that was supervised by President Vladimir Putin, who proudly announced the creation of a new weapon capable of breaching any ABM defenses. Moscow also found 30 new first stages for its obsolete RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and extended their service life by 30 years.
Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Force, said: "The president is absolutely right not to conceal achievements that our country can be proud of. We have always managed to find resources for preserving and renewing our strategic nuclear potential. Current technologies make it possible to develop new missiles and other weapons for outsmarting even the most effective ABM systems."
Russia, which reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in the event of an all-out aggression, could launch its 542 ICBMs at any time. This would happen even if a U.S. pre-emptive disarming strike were to wipe out all command and control centers of Russia's strategic nuclear forces. Other special missiles would then crisscross the skies wreaking havoc and destruction, if communications with the main command center were lost. It would then make no material difference that the U.S. can destroy Russia ten times over, while Russia can destroy the U.S. only twice.


Russia suspected of illicit equipment supplies to Iran

A scandal has broken out in Germany around unlawful Russian supplies to Iran. Seven people have been arrested, including Russians, on suspicion of smuggling equipment that the German authorities fear could be used for the Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
The German government is intending to ask Russia for an explanation, which analysts see as a move to pressure Russia, as the West expects it to be more pliable on possible UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
According to media reports, recent raids in Germany uncovered electronics, transformers, and special cables and pumps worth two to three million euros. German investigators have apparently taken the view that these are dual-purpose goods, which were to be later sent to Iran and even used for its nuclear program. Although the German authorities have made the detention of "Russian vendors" look as a purely internal matter, the real context is broader: possible illegal Russian deliveries to Iran add to Western suspicions that Tehran is attempting to develop its own nuclear weapons.
The operation to detain the "Russian traders" was possibly coordinated with the United States, which has led the charge for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran.
In the middle of September 2003, the U.S. Department of State accused Russia's Tula Instrument-Making Design Bureau of selling weaponry to Iran. The Department was even ready to freeze its financial aid programs for Russia. Russia's Service for Military and Technical Cooperation described the accusations as "strange" and said "Russia has no military technical cooperation contracts with Iran."
So far only U.S. sanctions against Iran are in force. A UN embargo is being debated at the global body's New York headquarters. Russia and China plan to veto the resolution on international sanctions.


Russia unable to conduct exploration drilling on Arctic shelf

Last week, Russia leased its last Arctic offshore drilling platform to Norway's Beta Drilling AS. Energy companies are alarmed, as they will be unable to conduct exploration drilling there. The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources insists that the government should reinstate control over the platforms. But their owner, state owned offshore exploration company Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka (AMNGR), claims they have been lying idle in Russia.
Oleg Mnatsakanyan, the company's director general, said drilling in the Barents Sea could only be conducted five months a year. And "we did not work to full capacity even in that period," he said.
This year, shelf oil and gas company Arktikshelfneftegaz (ASNG), which has the development licenses for the Medynsko-Varandeysk and Kolokolmorsk offshore deposits until 2025, contracted AMNGR to drill 2,000 meters of exploration wells, which is enough only for two months of work, said Mnatsakanyan.
His company is losing about $12,000 a day, whereas the leased platform will work around the year bringing AMNGR $30,950 in net profit. Mnatsakanyan said the platform had been leased for three years and by that time new mineral users would prepare their fields for drilling. He expects his company to have enough drilling contracts then.
"Now we will have to lease drilling platforms from foreign companies at $100,000-$200,000 a day," said Boris Kutychkin, the director general of ASNG. His company has invested $50 million into exploration.
Minister of Natural Resources Yury Trutnev has called on Anatoly Ledovskikh, the head of the Federal Agency for Mineral Resources, "to take emergency measures to stop the lease of the Murmansk drilling platform and to formulate practical proposals for returning the drilling platforms [to Russia] for use on the Russian shelf." The head of AMNGR said Russia would have to pay about $45 million in tax duties and VAT to return the platform.

Novye Izvestia

Manual on street terror posted on St. Petersburg Web sites

An obvious explanation has been found to increasingly frequent neo-Nazi attacks in St. Petersburg. A manual on street terror has been available free on the Web sites of such St. Petersburg-based organizations for a few months. The manual gives a detailed description of how to attack non-Russians. The city's law enforcers said another attack was carried out by St. Petersburg racists on a nine-year-old girl exactly in line with the manual.
Whole sections in the fascist manual are dedicated to tracking a victim and carrying out an attack. The basics of disguise are also given. The authors of the Internet instruction manual call potential victims "animals," "monkeys" and "monsters."
"A manual on street terror? Ah, we've heard of that," an unnamed law enforcement officer told a Novye Izvestia correspondent in St. Petersburg. "The neo-Nazis seem to have read it already. Anyway, their behavior has changed of late. They are becoming more professional and are trying to follow the instructions."
According to a source, the developments in the city "resemble a guerilla war, not just raids of certain hooligans as they are being portrayed."
The city authorities, though, appear to have no idea about the manual. "What manual?" asked Natalia Kutabayeva, a spokeswoman for St. Petersburg's governor. She said: "I am not ready to comment on the issue, I have never heard about it. I'm sorry the subject is on the Internet. I, for one, do not visit fascist Web sites. Law enforcers, not the authorities, should hunt for the authors of these instructions. Certain measures are being taken, but I don't know anything about the matter."

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