Books on Russia
The defeat of the Russian Empire in World War I led to the seizure of power by the communists and the formation of the USSR. The brutal rule of Josef STALIN (1924-53) strengthened Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into 15 independent republics. Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic controls of the communist period.
Update No: 277 - (01/02/04)
The looming election
The result of the forthcoming presidential election on March 14th is being regarded as a foregone conclusion. So it almost certainly is.
But there is one contingency which is being unaccountably ignored. Putin, with his 80% approval ratings in the polls, looks unassailable. He would certainly be likely to win a landslide victory if all that mattered was to secure a majority of the votes cast. But there is one pertinent fact that is not being appreciated. That would not be enough to ensure his election. The turn-out of voters must exceed 50% of the total electorate, according to the constitution.
This is by no means a foregone conclusion. The victory of the pro-government parties in the Duma elections on December 7th was so overwhelming that it wiped out any real opposition, the communists being pulverised and two main liberal parties failing to reach the 5% threshold needed for representation on the party list, by which half of the deputies are elected. The Union of Right Forces is down from 51 seats in the last parliament, for example, to only two in the new Duma, both on the constituency list. The expectation is so general that Putin will be re-elected, and by a landslide, that the official opposition parties are not putting up their leaders as candidates, but caretaker figures who are uniformly lacklustre. Zhuganov, the communist leader, and Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), did not want to be sitting targets for Putin. The electoral campaign without the participation in particular of Zhirinovsky, a rabble-rousing speaker, threatens to be excruciatingly dull.
This opens up the possibility that the voter apathy will be so great that the rate of participation will not surpass the 50% threshold. Even the US presidential election of 2000 could only generate a 51% turnout. In that eventuality the existing candidates would not be allowed to stand in a second ballot, according to the constitution. Putin would be out!
The Kremlin to the rescue
The Kremlin has been desperately looking round for figures who could liven up the campaign by challenging Putin. It is putting forward its own men to run against the incumbent.
Yavlinsky, leader of Yabloko, the other liberal party, was called to the Kremlin, but refused to play. The Kremlin then cajoled a host of unknowns to announce their candidatures. Almost all registered on Kremlin instructions.
One candidate, Sergei Mironov, the Speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, inadvertently encapsulated the bizarre manipulation of the electoral process in Russia by admitting that he supported Putin. Justifying his decision to stand, he said: "When a leader who is trusted goes into battle, one must not leave him alone. One must stand beside."
Two others who do so are just as staunchly from the establishment. They have put themselves forward from the newcomer to the party list in December, Rodina, or Motherland;- Viktor Gerashchenko, the 'worst central banker in history,' as he was described in the years of hyperinflation he presided over in the early 1990s; and the head of the hastily assembled bloc, put together by Kremlin intrigue four months before the Duma elections, Sergei Graziev, who as an ex-KGB member and communist, has distinguished himself by clamouring for the restoration in front of the prison Lubjianka of the statue of Felix Djerzinsky, the founder of the KGB's forerunner, the Cheka, which was toppled in 1991. A nice pair of old Soviet warhorses, but unlikely to enthuse the electorate to vote.
Nor are a swathe of other curious candidates. Among them are a former boxer, a magnate apparently trying to escape persecution and an unknown said to be a stooge for exiled oligarch, Boris Berezovsky. The boxer is a stand-in for Zhirinovsky and his bodyguard. Quite what a farce the electoral campaign threatened to become was expressed in the mordant comment of Yavlinsky on the possibility of a live TV debate among the leading candidates: "I hardly imagine that Mr Putin is going to have a debate with Mr Zhirinovsky's bodyguard!"
Another longstanding player on the Russian political scene came to the rescue of the Kremlin as he has done before, Anatoly Chubais. The minister responsible for the infamous privatisation of the mid-1990s, but also of the re-election of Yeltsin in 1996, hit on a brilliant idea. Suddenly on December 9th, the last day for registration, Irina Khakamada, co-leader of the Union of Right Forces with Anatoly Chubais, the head of the energy giant, UES, and an eminence grise if ever there was one, announced her candidature. Chubais, who masterminded the re-election of Yeltsin in 1996, had done his stuff again. For Khakamada is the ideal foil for Putin. As a half Japanese woman with feminist views, she has no chance, but is certainly colourful and will enliven the election. Women voters in particular, who were unlikely to vote, will now be more likely to do so.
This last minute manipulation is characteristic of the electoral process in Russia and helps to explain the triumph of the pro-government forces in December, which threatened to backfire by being too successful! That Khakamada will do well is being guaranteed. She justified her last minute decision as due to "the spontaneous appeal of a group of partisans." But a good source of Le Monde, the reputable French newspaper, says: "A comfortable financing of her campaign has been promised. She has been bought."
The Kremlin's grip on the Duma
Graziev is a key character in the new Duma and so the new dispensation at the pinnacle of power. He has been elected speaker. United Russia now controls over 300 of the 450-seat assembly, which raises the intriguing possibility that Putin could allow it to amend the constitution to permit him a third presidential term. For a two-thirds majority is all that would be necessary. Naturally at the moment he denies it.
Graziev's KGB provenance is in little doubt. If one wants to predict the career of Graziev, one just has to look at Zhirinovsky's. At first he was truculence personified, defying the Kremlin at every turn. But by the late 1990s it had become obvious that he was going nowhere, certainly not to the presidency. So he made a tacit (or covert) accommodation to the Kremlin. Now he provides the tamest and most loyal opposition imaginable, always ordering his deputies to vote for the government at key moments. Graziev followed a swifter path to accommodation with the Kremlin. He was deliberately created by the insiders to siphon off votes from his old party, the communists.
As in the old days of the Duma in Tsarist times, the head of state is ascendant. Laws can be tabled and pushed through at his bidding in a matter of days. With the upper house full of the Kremlin's men, a rubberstamp parliament is in place.
The Yukos affair sets the stage for further 'purges'
Politics move so rapidly in Russia that a train of events that dominated the scene in October and November, the Yukos affair, is already no longer in the spotlight. But Putin is not going to let it be forgotten. He has his new 'existential enemy' in the wayward tycoon. He is not going to relinquish his prey lightly.
Khodorkovsky's pre-trial detention was extended at the end of the year until March 25th, eleven days after the presidential election. The timing could scarcely have made it more obvious that his initial arrest was political, something Putin ritually denies. But of course he wants the message to go out loud and clear to all the oligarchs and businessmen of Russia that 'politics is in command.'
This Leninist dictum has been adapted for a quite new purpose, not the Soviet dismantling of capitalism, but its post-Soviet restoration. It is not to be a simulacrum of laissez-faire Anglo-Saxon capitalism, as Khodorkovsky and other creatures of the Yeltsin years' sell-off supposed, but a state-dominated affair after all.
Events are showing that Khodorkovsky's arrest is to be a preliminary to just such a revisitation of the 1990s sales as had previously been excluded. Putin, himself the prime political creation of the Yeltsin-era oligarchy, is re-inventing himself to popular applause as the scourge of the oligarchs.
Putin has now declared that the sell-offs will be re-examined to see if any illegalities occurred. The immense popularity of the arrest of Khodorkovsky, leading to the easy electoral triumph of pro-government forces in the Duma elections in December, has convinced the Kremlin that oligarch-bashing is a sure vote winner. The ratings of the pro-government bloc, United Russia, in the polls leaped up to 34% in early December just at the right time. This was a marked change on May, when it only had 9% to the communists 22%.
The audit chamber has announced that it will review all privatisations of the last decade. The worst nightmare of the tycoons, big and small, is becoming a reality. A thorough enquiry into the shady state transactions of the 1990s is exactly what most businessmen want to avoid.
Putin said in a menacing speech in late December: "Those who were involved in deliberate fraud must not enjoy more favourable conditions than those who did the right thing and abided by the law. If five or seven or 10 people broke the law, that does not mean that everyone did the same."
The head of the Audit Chamber is none other than Sergei Stepashin, former prime minister and ex-head of the FSB, the successor to the KGB. As everyone knows, the former KGB are the prime movers of the new drive against the oligarchs. The chamber is not an executive body but reports to parliament. The new Duma members are likely to be especially zealous to establish their popularity by pursuing any recommendations the chamber makes.
But behind the chamber lies of course the chief of the former KGB clique, President Putin himself. Every oligarch is nervous. "Nobody knows who Putin has in mind," said Lilia Shevtsova, a senior analyst of the Carnegie Centre in Moscow. "Putin said that he is opening all the closets and it's up to him to decide what he finds in those closets. So everyone should be worried."
Sibneft, owned by Roman Abramovich, may be next on the list, even though he has done his utmost to keep in with the Kremlin by scuppering its merger with Yukos, obviously at Putin's prompting. That this may lose him $1bn does not seem to be preventing him from complying with Kremlin requirements. He at least understands how Russia is ruled, something that Khodorkovsky has learnt too late. The oil company could prove to be a test case. If it is targeted then nobody is safe, not even the readiest allies of the Kremlin.
None of this is likely to become clear until after the presidential election. As Khodorkovsky must be ruefully reflecting in his prison cell, Russians are living through interesting times.
Russian car plant works six days a week to meet deadline for Iraqi contract
The Gorkiy car plant has begun working six days a week in order to complete a contract for the delivery of cars to Iraq. Two hundred and thirty-five cars are currently coming off the assembly line every day, the head of the plant's press service, Sergey Lugovoy, announced on 12th January , ITAR-TASS News Agency has reported.
The "Iraqi" taxis are painted white and provided with air conditioners and an additional cooling system. Four hundred and seventy-six cars were assembled in December 2003 and 500 cars at the beginning of January. The dispatch of 3,000 cars to Iraq is scheduled for the end of January.
The plant and the Iraqi Trade Ministry signed a 44m Euro contract in 2001 to have 5,000 cars delivered to Iraq by the end of 2003. The contract was suspended in the spring of 2003 because of the war in the Gulf.
AVIATION & SPACE
Russia plans to have single national aircraft manufacturer
The Russian government plans to draft a concept for establishing a single national aircraft maker before the end of the month, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin told reporters on 12th January, Prime-TASS News Agency, has reported.
At this point a feasibility study for the corporation is being prepared, Aleshin said. The government is constantly discussing the plans with interested business enterprises, Aleshin said, naming the National Reserve Bank (NRB), aircraft builder Irkut, Kaskol Group and Yakovlev aircraft design bureau. Aleshin also said that Russia's major holding Alfa Group and some other unspecified companies are interested in taking part in the creation of the unified corporation.
Aleshin also said that a holding that will unify producers of aerospace equipment is expected to be set up this year. He did not provide any further details.
In December Aleshin described the creation of a single aircraft building corporation as one of the key tasks for Russia's aircraft building industry. He said that initially two separate corporations, one of which would include plane builders and the other helicopter builders, will be set up. After that, the two corporations will merge, Aleshin said, adding that Europe's aircraft building industry is developing along the same lines.
Russia will also establish an avionics manufacturing holding company in 2004, Aleshin told Interfax's Military News Agency in a separate report.
"The company's creation has been delayed. A series of reorganizations have taken place, and a new option for its establishment has recently been approved," the agency quoted Aleshin as saying. The avionics holding company will replace the Aerokosmicheskoye Oborudovaniye - Aerospace Equipment - corporation, the report added.
Russian aircraft company proceeds with warplane refit programme
Aircraft repair plant No 121, based in Kubinka outside Moscow, is completing ground tests of the third upgraded Su-25SM Frogfoot [ground-] attack aircraft prototype Interfax-AVN military news agency web site has reported.
A source in the Russian defence industry told the Agency that the research and development, funded by the Russian Defence Ministry, envisions upgrading three attack aircraft this year:
namely, two combat Su-25s and an Su-25UB combat training two-seater, which is to become an Su-25UBT.
The source noted that the upgraded aircraft featured totally new avionics and new weapon control systems, which allowed the Su-25's combat efficiency to be considerably increased. For instance, accuracy of fire has increased two- to three-fold, while accuracy of navigation has increased ten-fold due to employment of fast new-generation computers fitted on the Bars sight and navigation system.
The upgraded attack aircraft are equipped with the Pastel reconnaissance radar and the SUO-39 weapons control system, which enable the aircraft to employ new types of munitions, including laser- and TV-guided ones.
The source said that the Sukhoi Company had worked out a number of proposals on upgrading Su-25 attack aircraft in service with foreign air forces. At the present time a total of about 500 Su-25s are operated abroad.
Russian company to offer upgraded Sukhoi planes to foreign customers
Russia's Sukhoi offers to non-Russian consumers a series of upgrade packages for the Su-27SK Flanker version into the Su-27SKM, Interfax-AVN military news agency web site has reported.
"The Sukhoi aviation holding company has designed an upgrade version for the Su-27SK into the Su-27SKM multirole aircraft," the chief of Sukhoi's press service, Yuriy Chervyakov, told Interfax on 18th December. He said that the aircraft had been demonstrated at the Dubai-2003 international air show in the UAE.
According to a competent source in the Russian defence industry, Gen Cao Gangchuan, vice-chairman of the People's Republic of China central military commission, who is currently on an official visit to Russia, would have a look at the new aircraft. Chervyakov said that the upgrade would imply a longer service life, all-weather day/night capability and a wider range of weapons.
There are several option packages, he said. "One basic package option upgrades the fighting performance, while the other emphasizes multifunction capabilities," Chervyakov said. He said that it would be economically reasonable to apply these packages to different parts of an operational fleet to get a diversified force.
The Su-27's new weapons will be the air-to-surface Kh-31P Krypton, Kh-31A Krypton, Kh-29T(TE) Kedge missiles and the KAB-500KR, KAB-1500KR guided aerial bombs. Arrangements for non-Russian dumb munitions are also optional. The Su-27SKM will also have a satellite navigation system with new operational modes, more precise navigation and guidance. An air refuelling capability is also offered to extend the operational range.
Russian, US companies ready to launch spacecraft with tourists, newlyweds
A honeymoon at the International Space Station will cost newlyweds US$40m. The official representative of the Rosaviakosmos [Russian Aviation and Space Agency], Sergey Gorbunov, has told ITAR-TASS News Agency that "anyone who has paid US$20m, passed a special check-up and meets several other requirements can become a space tourist."
"According to the contract with the American Space Adventures company two tourists can set off at once on board the Soyuz spacecraft, thus theoretically young couples can also do this," he said.
Apart from having a fat wallet and perfect health the candidates "will have to prove that they do not have bad habits, have legally earned their money and are not part of any terrorist organization," Gorbunov stressed. He said that according to an agreement with Space Adventures four seats for space tourists have been booked on board Souyz spacecraft for the trips in next three years. American partners will have to give Rosaviakosmos the number of tourists and the dates for the trips.
Representatives of the centre for training cosmonauts have told ITAR-TASS that the tourists will have to be trained for at least 8-10 months. During that period they will study some theory, will be tested at a centrifuge and learn to survive in extreme conditions along with cosmonauts.
"Space Adventures told Rosaviakosmos last week that contracts with two candidates for trips in 2004 and 2005 are about to be signed. The names of the tourists will be made public in January ," Gorbunov added.
Russia planning six commercial space launches this year
Russia has six commercial launches of foreign spacecraft planned for 2004, the Aerospace Agency has told ITAR-TASS News Agency. Five will employ Proton heavy booster rockets, with the sixth using a Rokot light booster converted from a military missile. According to the source, who did not specify the number of spacecraft to be placed in orbit, "the Proton launches will be from Baykonur and the Rokot launch from Plesetsk."
International Launch Services [ILS], a Russian-US joint venture in which the Khrunichev company has a stake, now has over the half the world market for space services, the source pointed out. At the Khrunichev press office they said that ILS promotes the Proton worldwide and last year concluded seven contracts for 2004-06. That is more than the number of contracts won by all the other [such] companies worldwide put together.
One of the reasons for the success of Russia's space business is a launch price 25-30 per cent cheaper than that of US and French competitors. For example, the price to launch Israel's Amos-2 satellite in late December was US$40m, while the use of an American Atlas booster would have cost at least US$60m. Protons have carried out 31 successful space launches since 1996, the Aerospace Agency said. The first Proton lift-off of 2004 is scheduled for mid-March, when an American W3A telecoms satellite will be placed in orbit to serve Europe and Africa. This satellite has a projected service life in orbit of 12 years.
Oil transit via Russia up 5.5 per cent year on year in 2003
Oil transit via Russia in 2003 rose 5.5 per cent year on year to 19.757m tonnes, a source close to the Energy Ministry told Prime-TASS News Agency on 5th January.
Kazakoil transit via Russia totalled 16.372m tonnes, while Azeri oil transit amounted to 2.621m tonnes. Turkmen oil transit came to 63,800 tonnes while the transit of oil for Belarus totalled 700,000 tonnes.
In December oil transit via Russia rose 12,4 per cent to 1,740 million tonnes. This included 1.595m tonnes of Kazak oil and 144,800 tonnes of Azeri oil. Russia's Druzhba oil pipeline moved 432,800 tonnes of Kazak oil, while trans-shipment of Kazak oil via seaports totalled 1.162m tonnes.
Crude oil supplies to Russia's oil refineries, excluding that of Gazprom [gas monopoly], totalled 217.314m tonnes in 2003, up 10.3 per cent year on year.
In December, oil supplies to Russian refineries rose 5.2 per cent year on year to 18.6m tonnes. Crude oil supplies to gas giant Gazprom's only refinery fell 0.3 per cent on the year to 6.141m tonnes last year, including 504,900 tonnes in December, down 5.5 per cent.
Russia's 2003 gas output in up 3.5 per cent year on year
Russia's natural gas output rose 3.5 per cent year on year to 616.454bn cubic metres in 2003, a source at the Energy Ministry told Prime-TASS News Agency on 5th January.
In December, Russia's gas output fell 5.4 per cent year on year to 53.264bn cubic metres in December. Gas output by Russian oil companies rose 16.1 per cent year on year in 2003 to 40.435bn cubic metres, while in December their gas output totalled 3.780bn cubic metres, up 6.3 per cent year on year.
Russia's gas giant Gazprom produced 540.172bn cubic metres of gas in 2003, up from 523.793bn cubic metres, while in December, Gazprom produced 49.482bn cubic metres of gas, flat year on year.
New oil field found in Murmansk Region
An oil field has been discovered in the area of the Rybachiy Peninsula, Murmansk Region, close to the Russian-Norwegian border. The deposit is quite promising, ITAR-TASS News Agency has reported, quoting experts from the Murmanskneftegaz [oil and gas] company.
The development of the field will start next spring. Experts are discussing the oil transportation scheme with t he Murmansk Shipping Company now.
"At the first stage, our joint work is focused on developing the site's infrastructure. The oil will be treated on a special vessel to remove water, sand and gas, and then will be delivered to the Murmansk terminal," Aleksandr Medvedev, the head of the shipping company, told ITAR-TASS.
There also are oil deposits on the Barents Sea shelf off Murmansk. Under the strategic plan of economic development of Murmansk Region, their development will begin by 2015.
Iraqis to discuss oil contracts in Moscow says delegation member
Issues to do with Russian oil contracts in Iraq will be dealt with during talks between a delegation of the interim Iraqi Governing Council and the Russian leadership, according to delegation member and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Jalal Talabani, speaking to Interfax News Agency on 21st December.
The high-ranking Iraqi delegation, was headed by the chairman of the interim Iraqi Governing Council, Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim.
"Russia and Iraq have common interests, and in the course of our meetings with the Russian side we shall discuss absolutely everything," Talabani said.
Asked whether the subject of oil contracts will be discussed, he said: "Of course it will."
"I think that Russia also has something to say to us, and we are willing to listen," Talabani said.
Russia makes first debt repayment to IMF of 2004
The Russian Finance Ministry has paid the International Monetary Fund US$62.053m by way of repayment of its debt, the ministry has announced, ITAR-TASS News Agency has reported .
The payment was made in accordance with the relevant schedule. This is the ministry's first payment to the IMF this year. In 2004 Russia is expected to pay the IMF some US$1.7bn, whereas in 2003 the Finance Ministry paid the fund about US$2bn.
FOOD & DRINK
Russia to boost beer production in 2004
Russia is to increase beer production 4.00 per cent year-on-year to 7.6-7.65 billion litres in 2004, said Vyacheslav Mamontov from the Russian Brewers' Union in a recent statement. According to preliminary information, the country may produce 7.3bn litres of beer in 2003 compared with 7.02bn litres in 2002. "The real production figure for this year will be known in the first quarter of 2004," he said.
Mamontov noted that growth in production has slowed recently.
He said that this is largely due to the state's taxation policy, and particularly excise duty policy in recent years. Over the past few years the excise duty on beer has been indexed higher than the forecast level of inflation, Interfax News Agency reported him as saying.
"For example, in 2003 inflation was planned at 15 per cent, the excise rate on all goods was increased by 15 percent, but on beer - by 25 percent," Mamontov said.
Russia currently has about 300 breweries, of which 20 are large concerns and the rest - small and mid-sized breweries. The Union of Russian Brewers unites companies accounting for 85 per cent of the country's beer production.
Tchibo starts packaging instant coffee in Russia
One of the world's biggest coffee companies, Germany's Tchibo, has begun packaging instant coffee in Russia. The company's plant is sited in the Yegoryevsky part of the Moscow region and can package 5,000 tonnes of coffee a year, New Europe has reported.
The project price tag has not been disclosed. Tchibo's manager for developing new business avenues in the commonwealth of Independent States, Ivan Kotov, said the coffee packaged at this facility will be sold in Russia and other CIS countries, and will also be shipped to Western European countries further down the road.
"It is too early to talk about this, however, we need to get on our feet first," Kotov said.
There are several international companies already packaging instant coffee in Russia. Kraft Foods has a plant in the Leningrad region, Deutsche Extrakt Kaffee in the Moscow region. These projects cost their companies nearly US$10m apiece. Nestle also has a coffee-packaging plant in the Krasnodar territory, into which the company has invested more than US$5m.
Putin says Russia should help Kazakstan with oil transportation
Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks that Russia should offer the option of transporting Kazak oil. "Bearing in mind the strategic nature of relations, we should think about this and provide for the legitimate interests of transporting Kazak energy resources," the head of state told a conference with government members, ITAR-TASS News Agency has reported.
Putin told the cabinet of ministers about his visit to Kazakstan. He said that a treaty had been signed on cooperation "in space in the broad sense" and that relations between Russia and Kazakstan in the economic and social sphere, on border issues and in the war on crime had been discussed. "Power engineering cooperation is becoming closer," noted the head of state.
As he put it, Russia is "increasing extraction, as are our partners, and Kazakstan has major plans." "Bearing in mind the strategic nature of our relations we should think about this and provide for the legitimate interests of our partners in terms of the transportation of their energy resources," said Putin.
He also "thanked colleagues who had been involved" in developing cooperation with
MINERALS & METALS
Auction of minor Russian gold producer attracts no bids
The auction of a 20-per-cent stake in the Severo-Angarskiy GOK mining and processing plant was voided due to a lack of bids, an official with the regional department of Russia's State Property Ministry [Ministry of Property Relations] said on 12th January, Prime-TASS News Agency has reported.
Severo-Angarskiy GOK is a minor gold producer operating in Krasnoyarsk Territory. The company's charter capital stands at R102,368 and is divided into 72,682 ordinary shares and 29,686 privileged shares with a face value of one rouble.
The ministry put 20,473 ordinary shares up for auction with the starting price of 7,624,000 roubles.
Russia pledges to continue nuclear cooperation with Iran
The signing of the Additional Protocol to the agreement on guarantees to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] by Iran "will create a favourable international atmosphere for the implementation of cooperation projects between Moscow and Tehran," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Yuriy Fedotov, announced, ITAR-TASS News Agency has reported.
According to him, "the broadening of interaction between Iran and the IAEA is a positive step, which facilitates the normalization of the situation concerning Iranian nuclear programme. This opens opportunities for productive cooperation between Iran and the IAEA in tackling various issues," the diplomat said.
Fedotov noted the active cooperation between Russia and Iran in the nuclear sphere and confirmed "the intention of the Russian side to continue it."
Russia to pass nuclear technology to China for power station
Russia has agreed to pass nuclear technology to China for the future construction, with its help, of another four power sets at the Tianwan nuclear power station, ITAR-TASS News Agency was told by Deputy Atomic Energy Minister, Valeriy Govorukhin.
He said that on the site of this station in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, where two power sets are being built with the help of Russian specialists, "we have come right up to the period of 'hot' running-in for the first power set, having virtually completed its 'cold' running-in." In other words, "as had been planned, launching the first power set and
bringing it up to capacity should happen in 2004."
He recalled that the Atomic Energy Ministry has already announced that "Russian atomic enterprises will take part in the international tender announced by China for the construction of another four sets at the Tianwan station in 2004." "Confirming our intentions, we made a presentation of our possibilities in China, displaying the reactor units VVER-1000 and VVER-1500 for the tender," he said.
He said that during preliminary talks with Chinese colleagues, the Chinese side had put forward conditions "for the transfer of technology for the manufacture and assembly of reactor equipment. We understand these conditions and we agree with them," he added.
More than 100 ships registered abroad return under Russian flag
More than 100 Russian ships, which were registered in foreign countries in the 1990s, have returned under Russian jurisdiction. Olga Zhurman for Radio Russia reported that the registration of naval vessels in offshore zones in the past was explained by high taxes in Russia and, as a result, the impossibility of ships crews to have decent earnings. However, that practice had another side to it - often Russian crews would find themselves abandoned by their ships' owners in foreign ports without means of support.
In the view of the chairman of the Far Eastern regional organization of the Russian Trade Union of Sailors, Nikolay Sukhanov, the return in 2003 of 106 Russian ships under the Russian shipping register was the result of growing displeasure with working conditions under flags of convenience.
According to Nikolay Sukhanov, the scheduled meeting of the council of the Russian Trade Union of Sailors decided to promote the creation of a Russian international shipping register and to put forward their proposals regarding sailors' wages that should not be below those established by the International Labour Organization for ships sailing under national flags.
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