MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti)
Russian general promises to use missiles against terrorists
General of the Army Vladimir Mikhailov, the commander of Russia's Air Force, has said Russian strategic bombers will deliver pinpoint strikes at terrorist bases overseas, a daily newspaper, Gazeta, reported today.
"Why not smash a terrorist base - even outside Russia - if we know where the terrorists are?" he told the staff of a Russian airbase in the town of Engels (the Volga Federal District) on Saturday. He was inspecting a regiment of Tu-160 planes (NATO classification: Blackjack), which are Russia's most advanced strategic missile bombers.
"We have finished the Cold War, but it appears that the Americans, considering what they produce and include in their inventory, have not," the paper quoted Mikhailov as saying.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov warned in September 2001 that Russian planes and special forces might crack down on Chechen insurgents hiding in neighboring Georgia. In the wake of the Beslan tragedy in September 2004, Chief of Staff of the General Staff General Yury Baluyevsky also spoke about the possible pinpoint projection of force.
Experts, however, doubt whether Mikhailov's grim warnings will ever become a reality.
"Any strike on the territory of a foreign state, be it a pinpoint strike or carpet bombing, is a serious violation of international law," said Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense and security committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. "We will not repeat what the Americans did in Iraq and Serbia."
Alexei Malashenko, an expert with the Moscow Carnegie Center and a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, said: "The military officers neither understand nor accept new political realities and are trying to return to the confrontation they used to be comfortable with. And they are also trying to play up their role."
Foreign direct investment in Russia due to consumers - OECD
Russia's huge capacity for foreign direct investment (FDI) is mainly thanks to consumer spending, rather than friendly government policies, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in a report, Trends and Recent Developments in Foreign Direct Investment.
Today's issue of Kommersant, a business daily, cited the report as saying FDI in Russia rose to $11.7 billion last year, overtaking India ($5.3 billion) but still hopelessly trailing China ($54.9 billion).
The OECD linked the investment boom to a similar boom in retail, which has been fueled by growing incomes and a surge in consumer loans. According to the organization, foreign producers who once preferred to work in Russia through their representatives are now moving their production assets closer to the sales market.
The report highlights the automotive industry as a target for massive investment in the last few years.
On the whole, the OECD report produces the impression that foreign direct investment in Russia only goes to those retail sectors where rapid growth is so high that red tape is not a major problem.
However, the OECD experts were concerned about the broader investment picture. Russian businessmen invested up to $9.6 billion outside the country in 2004, which the organization said was most likely due to state interference and problems with the practices of the taxation services.
OECD economist William Thomson said the outside world had heard little good news from the Russian economy in the last 18 months. But he added that the world had seen what had happened to Yukos, and this had seriously undermined the investment climate.
Russia launches new communications satellite
A new-generation telecommunications satellite was launched in the night of June 24-25 from the Baikonur Space Center (Kazakhstan), a leading business daily, Vedomosti, reported today.
With the launch of the Express-AM3, Kosmicheskaya Svyaz (Space Communication), Russia's national satellite operator, completed a program to renew the country's satellite system.
The guaranteed service life of the Express-AM in orbit is 12 years. The coverage zone of satellites from this family extends over Siberia and the Far East, as well as countries in Asia and the Asia-Pacific Rim (Mongolia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia).
The total capacity of the Kosmicheskaya Svyaz satellite group is now 352 conventional transponders (antennas), 36 MHz each, some of which have been bought by foreign companies. European operator Eutelsat has leased 20 transponders and Intersputnik, an open intergovernmental organization with 25 member states, has leased another 12. The paper cites experts as saying that the satellite is a clear example of how Russia can export high technologies as well as orbiting services.
The program to renew the Russian satellite group was launched in 2001 and the first of the five satellites was orbited in December 2003. The program's total budget came to $770 million.
Kosmicheskaya Svyaz said that the new satellite had moved the company up from tenth to eighth in the rating list of the world's biggest satellite operators.
The company has Russia's largest group of satellites, 16, covering Russia, the CIS, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Asia-Pacific Rim, the Americas and Australia.
Every fifth Russian knows a drug user
Almost 20% of Russians have admitted that members of their families or friends have taken drugs for non-medical purposes.
Today's Izvestia, a popular daily, published this shocking figure after it was released by the Levada Center in the run-up to the International Day against Drug Abuse, which was marked on Sunday.
According to another polling organization, the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), Russians are four times as concerned about the increase in the number of drug addicts as they are about the situation in Chechnya.
Only three problems are considered more acute than drug abuse: poverty, which worries 48% of the country's population, officials' arbitrariness and corruption (38%), and unemployment (35%). The drug threat (named by 21% of respondents in a nationwide VTsIOM survey) worries people more than the health care crisis (20%), organized crime (10%) and the continued tensions in Chechnya and around it (5%).
Valery Fedorov, VTsIOM general director, said: "Russians only perceive the problem of Chechnya as their own when something happens outside the republic's borders, but drug abuse is a social evil that everyone understands."
He said the problem was that the current slow efforts to combat trafficking were not effective and so did not solve the main problem, which is that the number of users is increasing.
According to the Public Opinion fund, another research body, three fourths of the population said that there were increasing numbers of users in the country. More than half of the respondents (56%) in a survey said this problem was more acute in Russia than in other countries.
Today, according to VTsIOM, 5% of the population said taking drugs was acceptable, and 2% were indulgent towards such practices, but the overwhelming majority (92%) said that one should not take them voluntarily under any circumstances.
Businessman buys Stalin's country residence
Oleg Deripaska, the owner of Russia's largest management company for private investment funds, Basic Element, has bought the favorite dacha, or country residence, of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, a widely read daily, reported today that the businessman had paid $10 million for the property on the Kholodnaya river in Abkhazia, a self-proclaimed republic in Georgia.
The republic's parliament debated the dacha's fate for a year before finally deciding to accept Deripaska's bid. It is not known if the businessman has transferred the funds, as his company declined to comment on the deal. But it did not deny that had taken place.
The dacha was built in the 1930s on Stalin's personal order. Surrounded by pines, it could not be seen from the sea, as the Soviet leader was extremely worried about his security. In fact, he did not even swim in the sea but had salt water supplied to his bathroom through a special pipe. Two other pipes delivered fresh cold and hot water.
Stalin's bed was made specifically for his height, 173 centimeters (just under five feet seven inches). Dacha staff had to deal with some tough requirements: everyone, including the guards, had to keep out of the leader's way. Guards hid from Stalin among the pines. When local boys once unwittingly wandered onto Stalin's beach, their parents were sentenced to 10 years in labor camps.
The paper wrote that Stalin's dacha had always been one of the most popular excursion routes in Abkhazia and sensation seekers could even spend a night in Stalin's bed for $50, which is a huge sum in the republic. The leader's room has been kept as it was during his life.
In recent years, the dacha was used for receptions arranged by the then president, Vladislav Ardzinba. But at one banquet a carelessly discarded cigarette caused a fire that destroyed part of the house and the pines.