What the Russian papers say


MOSCOW, July 7 (RIA Novosti)

Noviye Izvestia

U.S. military presence in Central Asia defined by Russia-China cooperation - newspaper

The future of American military bases in Central Asia will depend on Russian-Chinese cooperation, a newspaper said on Thursday.

The Noviye Izvestia daily said if Russia and China's positions coincided, American forces could leave Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the near future.

The change of the geopolitical situation in Central Asia also depended on the transformation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization into an influential international organization capable of controlling the situation in the region (the organization consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan).

Russia, which is seeking to support neighbor countries against "velvet" revolutions, gains from the situation, which is why Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Tajikistan have gathered around Russia.

On the request of Uzbekistan, the timeframe for American bases in Central Asia was included in an SCO declaration adopted Tuesday. Given that the active phase of the operation in Afghanistan is over, the SCO leaders said that its participants should think about withdrawing their military contingents from neighboring countries, the newspaper wrote.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday that the American presence in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan was advantageous for both parties.

John Ordway, the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, told a Kazakh news conference that continuing instability in Afghanistan dictated the need to maintain military bases in Central Asia. He said U.S. bases were only there to support military operations.

Politichesky Klass

Russia fails to show world anything new - academic

Although Russia has always been noted for its spiritual potential, it has been unable to bring the world anything new in the last 15 years, a prominent academic said in an interview with a weekly publication, Politichesky Klass.

Abdusalam Guseinov, the deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Philosophy Institute, said all serious historical changes in Russia had always involved intellectual and spiritual breakthroughs. But now that fundamental changes have taken place in the country's life and its world standing there has been no response in the higher echelons of consciousness.

For three hundred years Russia has been trying to occupy a place in history appropriate to its size and ambitions. The most successful period came in the Soviet years, when the world's largest country had the world's third biggest population, and second largest economy, and came to lead global science. The West sought to cut back Russia's dimensions and ambitions. Its efforts culminated in the Cold War, in which Russia had the entire consolidated West ranged against it. This war needed a more systemic and calculated approach than Russia proved able to bring to it. And Russia lost this war. Everything that has happened in the country over the past 15 years is the formalization of this defeat. Hence an intellectual and spiritual sense of decline felt by a defeated army.

In the past 15 years, the dominating conviction has been that the economy is not only the basis of society, but also its aim and objective.

The raison d'etre of the state, science, literature, media, etc, is now seen only in promoting market activity. But society has many ingredients for which market mechanisms are a blight. Such are intellectual activity and person-to-person contacts.

While Soviet society could, with reservations, be considered totalitarian, since it sought to subordinate everything to the idea of communism, today's Russian society is unreservedly totalitarian, since only money is important, the academic said.


Rosneft claims stake in Sibneft

State-owned Rosneft may come into possession of some stock of one of the most attractive Russian oil companies, Sibneft, today's issue of the leading daily Izvestia wrote.

Yesterday, Rosneft President Sergei Bogdanchikov said his company wanted the 20% block of Sibneft stock owned by Yukos. He said these shares had been seized under a Rosneft suit against Yukos.

However, not only Bogdanchikov wants this 20% of the stock. The stake, as indeed all Yukos assets, was seized back in April 2004 - as collateral for Yukos multi-billion debts. The Prosecutor-General's Office later opened some more criminal cases, and assets of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's former company were seized over and over again.

The last time it happened was in April of this year, when Yuganskneftegaz (controlled by Rosneft) demanded that Yukos compensate it for about $11 billion in losses. At that time the Moscow Arbitration Court seized the stock of Yukos's production subsidiaries and several oil refineries with a total value of about $6.4 billion.

Bogdanchikov said that Rosneft, which is the country's second biggest producer after LUKoil, wanted to get back from Sibneft 20% of shares worth $3.5 billion "preferably in cash". The Rosneft press service preferred not to comment, the paper wrote.

Bodganchikov's intentions did not surprise experts. "The Rosneft head's comments fit in well with scenario that holds Roman Abramovich [Sibneft's owner] will sell up," said Filipp Panov, a Renaissance Capital analyst. "The potential buyer of this company must first regain the 20% of stock now seized."

Bogdanchikov, however, denies all this. "We had Yukos assets seized to prevent their sale," he explained. "Our interest in Sibneft is limited to this."

According to the oil company's president, Rosneft is now concerned with debt repayment. He said Rosneft had debts of around $12 billion (the total figure in $23 billion), whereas he wanted the figure to be $4-4.5 billion.

Bogdanchikov said he thought the company's loan portfolio could be in order by the end of 2006 or the beginning of 2007.

Rosneft intends to produce more than 78 million metric tons of oil in 2005. Sibneft produced 45 million metric tons of oil in 2004.


Russia sends another tourist into space

The Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) announced Wednesday that it would earn $20 million from space tourism this year.

A popular daily, Gazeta, reported Thursday that an American multi-millionaire Gregory Olsen, 59, had signed contract on flying to the International Space Station (ISS).

He will be the third space tourist after Dennis Tito (U.S.) and Mark Shuttleworth (South Africa), who flew to the ISS in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

"A contract between Roskosmos and Space Adventures, which sent Tito and Shuttleworth into space, was signed a few days ago," Roskosmos press secretary Vyacheslav Davidenko said. The flight is scheduled for October 2005.

Olsen, who is the president and chairman of Sensors Unlimited Inc., should have flown to the ISS last October. Although the contract had not been signed last year, Olsen began training in Russia's cosmonaut training center in Star City near Moscow.

However, the first training sessions in the centrifuge revealed that Olsen had health problems, and doctors said he should not fly.

Nevertheless, the American still wanted to see Earth from space and so followed a plan drawn up by the Russian doctors to get into shape. An international medical group declared him fit to fly May 30, the paper wrote.

However, Roskosmos still has to agree on Olsen's candidacy with its ISS partners. So far, the officially approved crew of Soyuz TMA-7 consists only of Valery Tokarev and William MacArthur. Olsen himself said he was optimistic and felt like a 30-year-old. He dismissed the idea that people of his age should think about retirement, and said instead they should start thinking about a new life.

If Olsen's health should fail, Sergei Kostenko, head of the Space Adventures office in Moscow, will replace him under the contract. He is currently also in training.

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