What the Russian papers say

© Alex StefflerWhat the Russian papers say
What the Russian papers say - Sputnik International
NATO-Russia dialogue resumed/ Arrests fall/ Russia and the United States sign adoption agreement/ Financial literacy in Russia / The future of Russia's automotive industry


NATO-Russia dialogue resumed

Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, made his first official visit to Russia late last week. The admiral met with his Russian colleagues to encourage them to adjust their tactics of fighting Somali pirates and to discuss technical details of the possible delivery of 27 Mi-17 Hip multipurpose helicopters to Afghanistan. He also proposed "sinking" a Russian submarine to "save" it during a joint search and rescue exercise.

The sides said the admiral's visit means that NATO-Russian relations have been reset in both the political and military spheres.

Analysts said di Paola's visit was evidence of the final normalization of relations between Russia and NATO, disrupted by the August 2008 war in South Ossetia. Immediately after the end of the hostilities, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the NATO-Russia Council's operations would be suspended until Russia pulls its troops back to their initial deployment sites. In response, Moscow decided to sever military cooperation with the bloc.

The first sign of the coming thaw was the informal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council held in Corfu, Greece, in June 2009. It was attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In December 2009, Moscow and Brussels agreed to resume military cooperation.

Di Paola has come to Moscow to try to convince Russia that NATO views it as an ally rather than an enemy. The Russians have also indicated that serious differences with NATO were over.

One of the key issues discussed was the planned delivery of 27 Mi-17 Hip multipurpose helicopters to Afghanistan. Di Paola thinks these helicopters are best suited for operation in the country. In addition, most local pilots have licenses to fly such helicopters, and retraining them to fly other models would be expensive.

NATO officials have also called on Russia to strengthen maritime cooperation, in particular in the fight against Somali pirates. Analysts say that NATO has been trying to convince Russia not only to escort vessels through the Gulf of Aden, but also to join the patrolling of sea corridors.

Brussels has also invited Moscow to take part in a NATO-led submarine escape-and-rescue exercise, the Bold Monarch 2011, to be held in Spain. It is designed to provide a global rapid-response capacity for rescuing the crew of a disabled, pressurized submarine trapped on the ocean floor. Russia first took part in the exercise in 2008.


Arrests fall

In the first six months of 2010, arrests in Russia fell by one-quarter. Investigators are now demanding fewer warrants for custody due to an easing of the legislation.

The Supreme Court's judicial department has issued statistics on the judiciary's work in the first six months of 2010. According to these figures, arrests fell by one-quarter: with courts granting only 75,934 warrants, or 22.7% less than in the same period of last year.

The courts still arrest as often as they did before: as in the previous year they meet nine out of 10 requests for pickup orders, and 98% of the time they extend the detention terms. But investigators now ask for fewer warrants (84,075 instances in the six months of the year against 108,988 in the same period of last year). This cannot be put down to a general decline in the crime rate, according to the Interior Ministry: in the first six months of 2010 it recorded a drop in registered crimes of only 12%.

Andrei Nazarov, deputy chairman of the parliament's legislative committee, says this is due to the easing of criminal legislation and the adoption of a presidential decree, which gave an important signal. Last year, the lower house of parliament introduced a ban on arresting businessmen.

These restrictions on arrests may not have affected the statistics: according to the Supreme Court, only a few dozen requests for businessmen to be arrested were considered by the courts in the period April-May. But the rewording of Article 174 of the Criminal Code (legalization of monetary funds or money laundering) was a serious step, Nazarov said. Those accused of grave and particularly grave crimes can now be put behind bars for 10 years or more, he says. Previously, money laundering was typically added to the basic charge, increasing the gravity of the charge. It accompanied practically 80% of business crimes, the deputy said. Now, according to the Interior Ministry, laundering cases fell by 69.6% in the first six months of 2010.

Investigators are taking a more responsible attitude to deciding on an arrest - because of deaths of defendants in detention cells and the harsh response by the top leadership to such incidents, says a member of the law enforcement agencies.

Novaya Gazeta

Russia and the United States sign adoption agreement

Russia insists that it must be able to monitor the life of children adopted by foreigners, but the life of children adopted by Russians is a protected secret.

Russia and the United States have signed an official agreement after one more round of talks on adoption.

The head of the Russian delegation, Alina Levitskaya, the director of the Department for Education, Additional Education and Social Protection of Children at the Ministry of Education and Science, said: "Russia's key position is that there must be a detailed system of monitoring children adopted by foreign parents."

If a U.S. adoption agency finds a new family for a Russian child instead of the one that initially adopted it, Russian authorities can lose sight of the child. Therefore, the government insists that the agreement oblige the U.S. side to notify it of such developments so that Russian authorities would know that proper living standards and other conditions are provided to adopted Russian children.

There are over 40 organizations in Russia helping foreigners adopt Russian children. After signing an agreement, only companies accredited in accordance with The Hague Adoption Convention will be able to continue operation. Individual international adoption through lawyers will be prohibited.

Levitskaya said about 9,500 Russian children are adopted by foreigners every year. Most of them go to the United States, and there are very few cases when adopted children are returned to Russia.

Aside from Artyom Savelyev (an 8-year-old boy who does not speak Russian arrived in Russia from the United States in April 2010 with a note saying that his adoptive mother had disowned him), there was only one other such case, in the late 1990.

At the same time, Russians return several thousand adopted children to orphanages every year.

"We have proposed amending the law to stipulate an obligatory psychological assessment and socio-psychological training for would-be adoptive parents," Levitskaya said. "About one-third of those who currently agree to voluntarily undergo the procedure abandon the idea of adoption because they see they will be unable to deal with its problems. Paradoxically, this is good, because the fewer such adoptions, the fewer children will be later returned to orphanages."

There is no secrecy in adoption in the United States, and all adoptive families are monitored by special agencies, which also provide them with psychological and parenting support.

In Russia, families prefer to keep adoption secret and nobody can check what is going on in the family after adoption. Likewise, adoptive parents have nowhere to turn to for help if they need it. Special custody and guardianship agencies monitor the life of children placed in custody, but professional assistance is available to adoptive families only in rare cases and not in all regions of Russia.

The Ministry of Education and Science hopes to finish the final editing of the agreement within three weeks and to forward it to the executive authorities in Russia and the United States. The agreement will come into force in December 2010 at the earliest.

After that, Russia will sign such agreements also with France, Spain, Israel and other countries whose citizens adopt Russian children.


Financial literacy in Russia

Financial literacy is becoming as important in Russia today as ordinary literacy was in the early years of Soviet Russia.

Back in 2007, the Finance Ministry recommended developing a special program to address financial illiteracy. But so far all it has come to is financial organizations informing people about the services they provide and their benefits. Instead of financial knowhow they offer self-promotion.

Financial literacy is not limited to the mastery of information on a given product. It means something completely different. Its objective is to make people understand and use the opportunities provided by financial companies and banks.

For the time being, we have the following situation: people tempted by easy money get into debt, without giving thought to how they are going to repay it. Or they invest money without understanding how mutual funds operate and where banks get the money to pay the overly high interest on deposits. So, when problems arise, clients blame the financiers, the trust in financial institutions declines, personal debts grow, and the younger generation is left with a negative experience. As a result, many Russians prefer to use financial services as little as possible and adopt primitive strategies: at the first hint of economic trouble they cash in their deposits, convert them to foreign currency and wait it out.

On a bigger scale, low economic literacy is an obstacle to the development of the finance industry. It restricts the efficiency of consumer rights protection and prevents the use of private pension schemes. Finally, many people, either for lack of knowledge or let down by dishonest financial organizations, resort to underground business services. Instead of taking out bank loans for development, they pawn their cars and apartments to usurers.

During the recent crisis, the government acted wisely: it made it clear at once just how it was going to protect people's money. The effect was immediate. At least there was no panic run, which could have ruined even solid banks. But these measures cannot be considered a step towards financial literacy. Rather, they were dictated by the population's illiteracy.

There can only be one conclusion: the government needs a consolidated approach to improving financial literacy, which must begin at school as a basic skill.

Rossiiskaya Gazeta

The future of Russia's automotive industry

Two years from now, Russian-made cars will account for 80% of vehicles being sold here.

During the first half of 2010, the Russian auto market grew 3% over the same period last year. Monthly trends show 45-46% increases. "One is pleased to mention these impressive statistics," Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the auto industry and farm equipment department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, told a news conference on the current and future state of the national auto industry.

Rakhmanov said current market growth was primarily motivated by two federal programs, one to subsidize loan interest rates and one to scrap old vehicles. "The market will reach pre-crisis levels by 2012," he suggested.

In September 2010, the Ministry of Industry and Trade will approve a plan of advanced R&D projects for the Russian auto industry, and the most promising projects will be co-financed from the federal budget, Rakhmanov told the paper.

Initiatives stipulating production of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), as well as various prototypes using renewable energy sources, are included in the R&D plan. One such project known as Olimpiada (Olympic Games) calls for the commercial production of large buses, nine to 11 meters long and mid-size trucks with smaller 2.5-liter engines to replace the now common four-liter engines. The program will begin soon.

Journalists inquired as to whether the state should eventually stop financing the auto industry and allow foreign assembly here and said the share of cars, manufactured under industrial-assembly contracts, had increased from 39% to 62% in the past 12 months.

Rakhmanov replied that this would not happen, and that the industry's tax contributions exceeded federal investment by 50-100%.

He said AvtoVAZ, Russia's largest automaker, would unveil five to seven modern car models under its partnership with the French-Japanese automotive giant Renault-Nissan.

The national auto industry will focus on local consumers waiting for top-quality Russian-made vehicles, Rakhmanov said. He added that 15 foreign companies had entered the Russian auto market, that they were working actively to make local vehicles more competitive, and that Russian-made cars would account for 80% of nationwide sales within two years.

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

MOSCOW, July 26 (RIA Novosti)

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