Georgia's best investigators are working on the case of the attempted murder of Major General Alexander Studenikin, Commander of the Russian forces in the Transcaucasus. The attack took place on Tuesday night. Investigators have not, thus far, identified any suspects. However, Tbilisi and Moscow agree that the terrorist attack, which left the general slightly wounded, was designed to undermine Russian-Georgian relations.
Kommersant has learnt from reliable sources that Georgian law enforcers are pursuing several lines of inquiry, although they are focusing on only one, hinting that Adzharian radicals carried out the attack. "We have predicted that the forces seeking instability in Georgia will mount such provocative acts, which may also be linked to the situation in Adzharia," said Georgian Interior Minister Georgy Baramidze. "However, we did not foresee that the blow would be targeted not at the Georgian authorities, but at Georgia's relations with Russia".
Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell has become the first senior British official to visit Russia (on April 4-7) since Vladimir Putin's re-election. Mr Rammell gave an interview to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta paper. When asked whether Tony Blair was going to visit Moscow, Mr Rammell said he could not comment on the premier's visits, but knew that the British leader would meet President Putin at upcoming international forums and would also visit Moscow in the future.
An NG correspondent posed the following question: "It was Mr Blair who undertook to promote the improvement of relations between Russia and Europe a couple of years ago. Since Mr Putin was re-elected president, Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac have already paid visits to Russia, while the British premier has avoided visiting the country. What has caused the cooling in bilateral relations, the Iraq problem, the Chechnya issue or the Kremlin's domestic policy?" Mr Rammell said, in his opinion, bilateral relations continued to be strong, which was also true of relations between the two countries' leaders. However, even friendly nations should freely speak about problems that worry them. This, however, does not mean that their relations will deteriorate. Indeed, Mr Rammel stressed that London viewed Russia as an important strategic partner and an ally.
The World Bank has officially published a new report on the Russian economy. According to the Bank, Vremya Novostei writes, 23 major private owners in the country own one-third of the Russian economy while 23 business groups control about 30% of sales volumes in Russia and account for about the same share of employment in the Russian economy. Major business groups are concentrated in the raw materials sector, the aluminium and coal industries.
The second largest share in the Russian economy after large private business belongs to the state. State firms operating at the federal or regional level account for 25% of sales volumes in Russia. In some regions, in Tatarstan, for example, the regional government is even the largest owner. The World Bank's experts say private companies are in principle more efficient than state-controlled ones, while Western companies operate better than Russian entities. The World Bank admits that Russian private companies have to operate in very complex conditions. Regional authorities always grant the most favoured treatment regime to state and foreign companies, the World Bank report says.
With every passing year, an increasingly larger number of babies are born in Moscow. Gazeta cites the figures of the Moscow Health Department, according to which 87,592 babies were born in Moscow last year, or 8% more than in 2002. However, the infant mortality rate has not changed: nine out of every thousand babies die. The average birth-giving age in Moscow has increased lately: over 45% of women give birth after 30 and some even at the age of 47 and 50. Experts believe that this fact is evidence of Muscovites' increased prosperity.