Bubonic plague detected in China, Journalists taken hostage by Ukrainian troops, Consumer lending in dire situation, Ukrainian parliament bans Communist party, Germans still puzzled by U.S. spying, North Korea unveils plans for underwater hotel. These issues in the Voice of Russia's daily Press Review.
Parts of a city in northwestern China in Gansu province was locked down on quarantine on Wednesday after one citizen died of bubonic plague; dozens of potentially infected residents were confined within the zone, Moskovskiy Komsomolets reports. The newspaper reminds that this disease is a rarity among humans these days. Most often it is the rodents which get infected, and flees act as carriers. It is possible that a human bitten by a carrier flea also becomes infected. While it can be cured at early stages with antibiotics once it transforms into respiratory form the disease often leads to eventual death. The newspaper notes that official statements and media reports from China do not shed much light on how big quarantine zones are and whether anyone, apart from the victim, was infected; so far no one seems to have the plague. Local authorities said that the quarantined will be released in ten days if they do not exhibit any signs of the disease. The newspaper reminds that bubonic plague epidemics in the past generally transmitted through fleas between humans and directly as an airborne agent.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports that according to a statement made by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, operator for Anna-News agency and correspondent for Russia Today Graham Phillips were taken hostage by Ukrainian troops. “On the night of July 23 four journalists…went missing in active combat zone in Ukraine’s south east. According to available information, they were taken captive by Ukrainian troops.” The Ministry called this ‘another direct provocation made by Ukrainian leadership against independent international journalists,’ which illustrated an ongoing ‘campaign against representatives of mass media who spoke the truth about events in south east Ukraine, including civilian casualties, while performing their professional duty’. The ministry has also demanded immediate release of the correspondents. The article notes that the agency noted that “nothing hurts like the truth” and this is what Kiev is most afraid of. The newspaper reminds that on Wednesday Igor Strelkov, the Defense Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, has issued a ban on journalists working in combat zones.
Consumer lending in the Russian banking sector is nearing crisis. The volume of loans taken out by debtors has exceeded the volume of bank deposits. Analysts also note that in the last few months the number of overdue loan repayments has rapidly increased. At the same time, citizens generally adopt a lax stance on paying on time and some systemically not pay their debts. RBC Daily quotes Dmitry Zakharov, general director of debt collection agency Russcolletor. He said that the reason for drop financial solvency of the population is increasing cost of services and goods, especially essential commodities. This is coupled with stagnating salary and lack economic development. The daily reminds that early July Andrey Klepach, Deputy Economic Minister, said that in 2014 the Russian economy will grow 5% to 1%. Meanwhile, some experts believe that anti-Russian sanctions may deteriorate the situation, leading to zero growth. Leading expert of Development Center Valeriy Mironov added: “Citizens cannot take out new loans to repay old ones. It all depends on the rate of economic growth and further sanctions; it's possible that citizen income won't decrease, but won't grow either.”
The Communist Party of Ukraine will cease to exist on Thursday, the speaker of Ukraine's parliament announced. “We only have to tolerate this party for another day,” Verkhovnaya Rada speaker Aleksandr Turchinov said on Wednesday in comments carried by a Ukrainian news portal, The Moscow Times writes. The newspaper reminds that a serious discussion of the Communist Party's dissolution began in May. At the time party leader Petr Simonenko said that if he were in charge of the country, he would immediately call back the troops from eastern Ukraine, referring to the military operations taking place there as acts of “war against the people,” the newspaper reminds, adding that Turchinov, who was serving at the time as acting president, then appealed to the Justice Ministry to request an investigation into the Communist Party's activities. Russia's State Duma denounced the move at the time, viewing it as an attempt by the new Kiev authorities to “force political and civil forces that do not agree with the path taken by the ultranationalist powers to shut up.”
The Washinton Post writes that according to many in the German government, and to investigators digging into years of espionage by the United States against one of its closest and most trusted allies, Washington doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of the current situation vis-a-vis the spying scandal. Patrick Sensburg, chairman of the German parliamentary committee investigating surveillance programs described in documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, said in an interview: “We have asked questions more than a year ago that have still not been answered. What is the aim of this spying? Why are you doing it? What is the reason?” Meanwhile, this week, after recent disclosures that the CIA had paid a German intelligence official for secret documents, Obama dispatched two of his most senior aides, White House Chief of Staff Denis R. McDonough and chief counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, to Berlin. “We haven’t seen any results yet, but it’s a start,” an unknown official said on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door session.
North Korean authorities have announced an ambitious development project for the east coast city of Wonsan that will include the construction of an underwater hotel, The Guardian writes. The newspaper refers to an announcement made through the state-owned media outlet The Pyongyang Times. According to the statement, the plan, which focuses on the construction of infrastructure and buildings primarily related to the leisure sector, will see Wonsan become a “tourist city”. “Underwater hotel, flower park, international meeting hall, exhibition and exposition hall, stadium and development areas will be built on the Kalma Peninsula,” the article said, adding that “towers and other modern-style buildings” would be constructed in “large numbers” in a downtown area. Andrea Lee of the New Jersey-based state-sanctioned North Korea tour company Uri Tours confirmed the existence of plans to NK News in an email last week, the British newspaper notes. These plans are already prompting criticism, however. For example, Joshua Stanton, author of the One Free Korea blog, said: “The last thing the hungry people of North Korea need is an underwater hotel that is, at best, years from seeing its first guest.”