On Tuesday morning, a suicide bomber attempted to assassinate the president of Ingushetia (a republic in the North Caucasus). He rammed the president's motorcade with a car laden with the equivalent of almost 100 kg of TNT. President Murat Zyazikov only escaped death thanks to his armoured Mercedes. Four of his guards and two passers-by were injured. At present, the investigation has two versions of the incident, Gazeta writes. One is that the assassin was a local extremist, the other he was acting on the orders of Chechen field commanders.
The Ingush leader commented on the attack in the following way:
"The terrorist attack was meant to explode the situation in Ingushetia and in the North Caucasus as a whole. Both inside and outside Ingushetia there are forces that are not happy with the fact that in the past ten years Ingushetia has been in the constitutional field of the Russian Federation... There are forces that cannot accept this".
According to the second version, the attempt on the president was carried out by Chechen terrorists. "They do not like the tough stand and uncompromising fight law enforcement bodies and President Zyazikov personally are conducting in Ingushetia," said member of Russia's Federation Council (the upper house of parliament) Issa Kostoyev. He did not rule out that some militants could be hiding, as peaceful citizens, amongst the Chechen refugees in Ingushetia, Gazeta reports.
On Wednesday, NATO's new Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer arrives in Moscow on his first visit. Earlier this year, he succeeded Lord George Robertson to this post. Under Robertson, Izvestia points out, relations between Russia and NATO became efficient, the "20" format appeared, and co-operation in some specific areas was launched. Robertson's successor has just started establishing contacts with Russian leaders. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Izvestia about his approach to developing relations with Russia.
Q.: Last year Lord Robertson mentioned that Russia might join NATO "in the next few years". Do you agree with this assessment and if you do, do you think this can happen during your term of office?
A.: I have always been reluctant to predict the future. Just five years ago nobody could foresee changes in the international security system caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks or the great improvement in Russia-NATO relations.
In the last two years, Russia and NATO have maintained unique relations, with at first 20 and now 27 countries working as equal partners against common threats. NATO is not engaged in the active recruitment of new members, and Russia is not interested in joining the organisation. Certainly, I cannot rule out anything: both NATO and Russia are involved in the processes of fundamental transformation, and I would not venture to predict what kind of relations Russia-2015 would want with NATO-2015. For now we should concentrate on what is necessary, current affairs.
President Leonid Kuchma has signed the memorandum that the parliament approved in March and which gives NATO forces access to Ukrainian territory. The alliance will be able deploy forces across Ukraine and use the country for transiting troops whenever and no matter how much it needs, writes the paper.
The left-wing opposition forces lashed out at the move. "If this is a memorandum what is an act of unconditional surrender then?" Communist leader Pyotr Simonenko asked indignantly. Georgy Kryuchkov, Mr Simonenko's fellow party member who heads the parliamentary committee on national security and defence, said the president should not have signed the document. The personnel and weaponry NATO may deploy in Ukraine will be subordinate to the alliance, rather than Ukraine, said Mr Kryuchkov. "Ukraine is actually turning into a NATO-mandated territory," the deputy said.
The euro has not come up to the European Central Bank's expectations as it began plummeting, writes the newspaper. Yesterday's cost of one euro was $1.20, which is the lowest since December 2003. Experts believe the euro's decline is due to reports about economic improvements in the United States.
The set-up at Russia's currency exchange mirrors what is happening on Western currency markets. At yesterday's trading session, the euro fell to 34.29 rubles, its lowest rate in the past 5 months. Euro deposits are becoming increasingly unattractive. Statistics shows that Russians have already realised the trend, as they prefer depositing money in rouble accounts. "A super intensive inflow of rouble deposits prompted by a stronger rouble rate was the distinctive feature of 2003," said Andrei Kazmin, chairman of the Savings Bank (Sberbank) board.
April 7 is World Health Day. This year the holiday is devoted to traffic safety. Traffic accidents are a problem that worries all countries across the world, writes the Trud newspaper. Injuries from car crashes took the 9th position on the list of humanity's major ailments in 1990. Experts predict that this type of injuries will move up to third place on the list by 2020.
This problem is particularly acute in Russia. According to statistics, nearly 187,000 traffic accidents occurred on Russian roads last year. They injured 223,500 and killed more than 35,000 people.
Drunk driving is not the main reason behind such a heavy casualty rate, emphasises the paper. Only 10% of drivers involved in car crashes were intoxicated. A real "epidemics of deaths" is spreading on Russia's roads, according to Mikko Vienonen, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official. Car crashes in Russia take the lives of 25 persons per 100,000 of population every year, said the WHO official.