Royal remains return to Moscow
The remains of Grand Duchess Maria and Tsarevich Alexis, the children of Russia’s last tsar executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, arrived in Moscow this morning. For the last three years they have been stored in a forensic center in Yekaterinburg. It is still unclear where their final resting place will be.
The President of the Romanov Family Association, Prince Nicholas Romanov, who lives in Switzerland, has asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to establish a government commission to oversee the burial of the royal remains.
In 1998, the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, their three daughters Tatiana, Olga and Anastasia, and their servants, all executed by the Bolsheviks in the early hours of July 17, 1918, were laid to rest at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Boris Yeltsin as then-president took part in the ceremony.
The remains of Grand Duchess Maria and Tsarevich Alexis were unearthed in August 2007. The Bolsheviks had tried to incinerate their bodies, but failed to eradicate all traces. In May 2008, Russia’s Investigation Committee wrote to President Medvedev about genetic research that had been carried out at various foreign laboratories with the participation of Russian scientists.
Although this research confirmed that the remains belonged to Grand Duchess Maria and the Tsarevich, it was three years before the Russian president and the government moved to bury the remains of the children, who were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.
If Prince Romanov’s letter goes unanswered, then the Investigation Committee will have no choice but to bury the remains in a common grave in a Moscow cemetery.
Jeans become a luxury as raw cotton prices surge
Fine cotton underwear prices will rise 50% by the end of this year while jeans are set to become an unaffordable luxury after raw cotton prices hit an all-time high on Friday, producers warned.
Cotton prices jumped 10% in three days and 44% since the beginning of the year on the ICE Futures exchange in New York after the U.S. Department of Agriculture said sales of the commodity had risen 63% in one week. Futures contracts with delivery in May were traded at $2.04 per pound on Friday.
The global cotton price indicator, Cotlook A Index, has risen 160% since the trading season began in August 2010, said Vladimir Sidorkin, head of a market research agency.
This rapid growth is due to shrinking cotton stockpiles: they have plummeted 84% since last summer due to severe flooding in Australia, the world’s fourth largest cotton exporter, and in Pakistan – another key production area, Bloomberg reported.
Growing demand for natural textiles is also pushing prices up. Most clothing and underwear producers have operations in China, which is now the world’s largest consumer of raw cotton. Last year, China increased its output of cotton products by 14%.
Cotton textiles such as jeans, underwear and bed linen may gain 25%-30% in May, Sidorkin says.
Textiles producers and retailers believe prices are set to surge even higher. Russian-made fabrics are only used for workwear, while fine clothes are made of imported material, from China or the United Arab Emirates. “Last July, I brought denim samples from China. In December, the producer confirmed the price which turned out 50% higher than in summer,” said Viktor Morozov, director of the Morozoni jeans plant.
These skyrocketing costs mean that the price of a pair of jeans will surge 70% in just one year. “The prices will grow 20% in summer and another 50% in fall,” Morozov said.
Producers do not respond immediately to changes in raw material prices. Fashion collections are made six months before the season. They are also wary of raising prices while the sales are on because they risk losing customers if other producers fail to follow suit.
Alexander Fyodorov, co-owner of the Wild Orchid underwear chain, believes their prices will have increased 50% by the end of the year. “This rise will chiefly affect men’s underwear because they require more cotton than women’s underwear,” he said.
Russian opposition promises Egypt-style spring revolution
A rally demanding Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s resignation was held on Saturday in Moscow by the Five Demands Committee, a group uniting a dozen unofficial opposition groups. Everyone at the rally believed that this spring Russia would see the same kind of anti-government protests as Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab and North African countries.
The rally met on Pushkin Square amid freezing temperatures of minus 18 degrees Celsius. It was thinly attended (about 200 people) but lively and enthusiastic: chants of “Russia without Putin” could be heard well before it got underway. Russia’s prime minister was the protestors’ main target. Solidarity activist Mikhail Kriger said that he was looking forward to the day “when Vladimir Putin is put behind bars.” One participant held up a placard reading “Putin is a lucky devil. For now …” One opposition activist paced up and down the stage reciting a sort of poem: “Putin stalks the land, bending any business to his will, spitting on the law.”
The Five Demands Committee was established last year and includes the United Civil Front, the Left Front, Solidarity and other groups. Their five demands boil down to overthrowing the government, disbanding both houses of parliament, calling an early election, implementing police reforms and a transparent budget. Opposition activists have a mixed view of the committee. Some Solidarity activists get involved, while others damn the rallies mere “tomfoolery.”
One youth in a sleeveless jacket and a top hat clearly borrowed from a theatrical props closet stood out. Asked by a Kommersant reporter, “Who are you then?” the youth replied he was Emperor Alexander II and that Saturday was a special occasion for him because on that day in 1861 he abolished serfdom. “Although he was killed on March 1,” a man in a regular winter jacket said, “we are celebrating abolition today, at this public gathering.”
United Civil Front leader Garri Kasparov praised those present for braving the cold and slammed the police for focusing on fighting the opposition, not the terrorists. Bizarrely he likened President Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, who went skiing on Saturday, to fashion designer duo Dolce and Gabbana. “Russia is just like Egypt, Tunisia or Bahrain, where people take to the streets for freedom,” Kasparov said. “A spring of freedom awaits us, too.”
People collecting money weaved their way through the crowd, asking for donations towards “booklets for Khodorkovsky.” Each speech was more radical than the last. “This government should be sent you know where,” Left Front activist Anatoly Barinov insisted. One member of the minority group Republican Alternative even declared that the opposition should demand Russia’s disintegration. But this clearly proved too much for the assembled public, who booed. “Disintegration should be a slogan against United Russia,” the controversial activist continued, trying to explain, to scant applause.
“We will meet again in May. We will be many, enough to frighten the government,” Kasparov promised. An enthused throng chanted in response: “Putin, step down voluntarily.”
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