MOSCOW, June 1 (RIA Novosti)
Record haul of pirated disks destroyed
The largest haul of pirated CDs and DVDs to be destroyed in Russia yesterday disappeared under a dump truck at the Solaryevo testing ground in the Moscow region, Gazeta, a popular daily, reported today.
Four fully loaded dump trucks emptied about 100 metric tons of optical media that had been confiscated during a special operation, Counterfeit, which was recently conducted in the capital.
The resultant heap was several meters high. The bright covers of the latest videos, pop albums and computer games, did not fit in with the gloomy landscape of the suburban junkyard, but looked more like the mess at Gorbushka, a popular Moscow market selling audio and video equipment, disks and tapes.
Alexander Vorobyev, a spokesman for Russian Interior Ministry's economic security department, said that this was the biggest haul of pirated discs. Then the bulldozer got down to work, methodically crushing hundreds of boxes into the ground, leaving them no chance of returning to the counter.
When asked why the plastic products were not recycled, the ministry spokesman said it was easier and cheaper to destroy the goods. "Moreover, practice shows destroying pirated goods has reduced their number by 20% this year alone," he added.
According to the ministry, in 2005 it has launched 837 criminal cases related to copyright violations. This year the damage inflicted by these offenses has exceeded 200 million rubles (over $7 mln). The overall figure for last year was over 2 billion rubles ($70.9 mln).
Sentence turns Khodorkovsky into politician - Russian expert
Now that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos, has been sentenced to nine years behind bars he has become a real political figure, said Stanislav Belkovsky, director of the Institute for National Strategy.
In today's Vedomosti, a leading business daily, the analyst wrote that the oil ex-tycoon had become the first major politician outside Russia's present power establishment. Belkovsky said the former chief executive did not believe in deals with the Kremlin, which left him as the only political figure truly independent of it.
The expert said Khodorkovsky was on his own, as he did not belong to the system that President Vladimir Putin understood and could control. The article continued now that Khodorkovsky had lost everything, apart from his life and dignity, he could make decisions without fear that the presidential administration would deprive him of something else.
Accordingly, Belkovsky said Khodorkovsky had every chance of becoming a center of genuine (outside the establishment) opposition in Russia. Moreover, the crux of charges against him suggested that he could move to the political left, which is where the new Russian authorities will emerge.
The expert wrote that Vladimir Putin, his deputy chief of staff Igor Sechin, and others had proven yet again that they could not think politically. For them, politics seems to be a hard way of earning money. Indeed, with such aces up his sleeve as overwhelming public support and absolute control over mass communication, Putin hardly needed the oligarch in prison to ruin him politically. Imprisonment was needed to take away his oil assets and distribute them between the right people. Putin was aware that, while winning the property, he was losing the political battle. Politically, the Kremlin made the problem much worse.
Belkovsky said it would probably have been best for Khodorkovsky's family if he had pleaded for mercy and possibly been released from prison, but the opposition would win more if he stayed where he is. The expert said the ex-Yukos head would certainly not serve all the nine years, but would probably face three more years at most, which would be half the sentence with parole, or a change of power - whichever came first.
U.S., Russian, Chinese interests may clash in Kyrgyzstan
China's Huaxia Shibao newspaper published a sensational report yesterday, saying China intended to send troops to Kyrgyzstan, prompting experts to say U.S., Russian, and Chinese interests may clash in the Central Asian region, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a daily, reported.
Chinese authorities are looking into the possibility of meeting the request from Kyrgyzstan's acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to send Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, and Armenia) troops to be led by Russia and contingents of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, to the republic,
the Chinese newspaper quoted Liu Jiancha, an official foreign ministry spokesman, as saying. Jiancha said China had no experience in deploying military bases abroad and therefore had to look into the request.
Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry refuted reports that China was considering sending troops to the Central Asian republic. However, experts said the reports had not accidentally appeared. They predict the Central Asian states within the CIS that group former Soviet republics could become a conflict zone between the super powers given Russia and the United States each already have a base in Kyrgyzstan, while the Chinese army is located close to the republic's borders and could be quickly redeployed there.
Andrew Kuchins, the Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Kyrgyzstan is unlikely to ask China for troops. The Kyrgyz authorities will most likely ask Russia to boost its military presence in the republic to be able to counter a possible security threat. Russia has developed much closer relations with Kyrgyzstan than China or the United States have.
Kuchins said China might start to compete with the U.S. and Russia for influence in central Asia. The three countries, however, share concerns about possible instability in central Asia and radical Islamic groups merging with terrorists, something that is likely to persist in the future. This will ease, although not end, their rivalry in the region.
Russia and Japan deadlock on Kuriles, businessmen say the two need each other
Tuesday's grim reports about the outcomes of the latest South Kurile Islands negotiations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart Nobutaka Machimura came as no surprise after the ministers finally voiced what their senior aides said on the sidelines many times always asking not to be quoted - that Tokyo and Moscow no longer hope to come to a compromise over their territorial dispute, according to an article published in Wednesday's Kommersant, a daily.
Tokyo, apparently driven by fears that the Japanese public would no longer tolerate what it perceives as cheating on progress in the territorial talks with Russia, has sparked a similar Russian reaction to what Moscow sees as a hard-line stance in Japan's international policies.
Counter to Japan's claims, Russia has repeatedly said that the Kuriles, unlike the Tarabarov and Bolshoi Ussuriisky islands on the Amur river recently transferred to China, cannot be called disputed territories at all, because there can be no dispute about territories gained militarily in times of war.
Both ministers said that dialog would continue and Russian President Vladimir Putin is still planning a visit to Japan this year to sign a package of agreements with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Although the talks could get bogged down in controversy again if Japan expresses hope for "significant progress" on the peace treaty, there is still some kind of possibility in reaching an agreement. Now that Lavrov and Machimura have openly acknowledged that no political solution is apparently possible, businessmen are stepping up to say this is no time for frigidity.
Japanese and Russian entrepreneurs have said the two countries need each other economically, but it is up to the politicians to ensure positive relations.
Russia becomes IMF creditor
The $204 million that Russia saved by repaying its debts to the International Monetary Fund early will have to be spent on its new IMF commitments, Gazeta, a popular daily, reported today.
Russia is now a creditor rather than a major borrower: yesterday Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed a resolution, in compliance with which the country will pay 49 million SDRs (special drawing rights used by the IMF as the units of account) to the Fund. This sum is equivalent to about $73 million. In the past, Russia did not have to make such payments because it was a debtor.
The Finance Ministry explained that Russia was making this payment for the first time. Under the IMF rules, member states make quarterly contributions, which are used as loans provided by the IMF. On January 31, Russia returned its remaining debt of $3.3 billion to the Fund ahead of schedule. Under the original timetable, Russia was supposed to make payments until 2008. Therefore, the country saved money on interest payments. These funds were intended for domestic spending, but these hopes have not come materialized.
The $73 million that Russia will pay to credit IMF clients equals the amount saved on interest payments for this year, which means the country will have to use other sources to make next contributions. However, there is no other way: the size of contributions is defined by the quota of the member state. The USA has the largest quota (17.16%), whereas Russia is only the 10th place with 2.8%. Nevertheless, the position of Russia in the Fund outstrips its real weight in the world economy: in terms of GDP, Russia is only 16th. This is understandable: in 1992 Russia was admitted to the IMF on honorary terms as the successor to the USSR. At that time, Russia needed loans and, therefore, the larger the quota, the more financial aid it could get.
The newspaper writes Moscow will now have to pay for a new creditor status. It is impossible to say yet how Russia's contribution will be used. The IMF will make the final decision and Russia does not have the deciding vote. However, countries that get loans from the Fund include Russia's neighbors, for example, Georgia.