What the Russian papers say


MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) Russia's first president dies/ Moscow suspects Washington of unfair play/ Tajikistan, RusAL cancel Rogun hydropower plant construction contract/ Lithuania unable to access Russian oil/ President confirms jobs of top police officials who broke up March of Dissent

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Vedomosti

Russia's first president dies

Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first ever democratically elected leader (1991-1999), has died at the age of 76 of heart trouble.
As often happens to reformers, he was not recognized during his lifetime. The man, who gave Russians a new life and new possibilities for self-expression, also cleansed their hearts of fear. The people explained their own difficulties in adjusting to the new way of life through Yeltsin's drawbacks. Since there was no fear in their hearts, they boldly criticized their president.
Yeltsin led Russia during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and subsequent ideological and economic crisis. The destruction of the old economic model changed people's way of life, depriving many of incomes, leading to a redistribution of property and accelerating crime.
Yeltsin has been accused of provoking the country's collapse and dramatic fall in the country's living standards in the early 1990s, which eventually led to an increase in the death rate and demographic crisis. He has been blamed for the Chechen war, which claimed thousands of military and civilian lives and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Other blunders attributed to him were the 1998 financial crisis, the unimpeded growth of bureaucracy, and the spread of the oligarchy.
Russians, who were not prepared to work energetically without ideological incentives and expected the president to ensure the rapid transition to a bright capitalist future, decided that democracy meant growing crime, corruption, and ethnic conflicts.
Their feelings about Yeltsin's reforms are best expressed not only in their generally negative sentiments, but also in Russia's current policies, which the people enthusiastically approve of like that of Yeltsin's programs from the beginning of his political career.
The majority of Yeltsin's achievements, notably democratic elections, freedom of expression, decentralization of power, privatization and the withdrawal of the state from the economy, have been put in question now.
The people have decided that Boris Yeltsin did not pass the test and did not justify the hopes pinned on him. In fact, Russians are still using what Yeltsin gave them in the 1990s, although many still think they are struggling against the chaos and ruin of the perestroika era.
They will see the truth only when the current backtrack masked as stability becomes apparent. This is when they will see that the foundation created by Yeltsin cannot be overhauled, fortunately, because it is a value that does not succumb to time. We must simply wait to see this come about.

Vremya Novostei

Moscow suspects Washington of unfair play

Moscow and Washington have engaged in an exciting strategy game lately. The Americans pretend they are inviting Russia to participate in building their anti-missile shield in Europe. The Russians pretend to accept. Still both sides do it in such a way that nothing can come of it.
Russia is a severe critic of the U.S. missile defense system closing in on its borders, yet yesterday U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates officially proposed that Moscow participate in the project.
"The Americans understand only too well that they will not benefit from chasing Russia into a corner, so they are urgently looking for some cooperation option," commented Dr. Nikolai Zlobin, director of the Russia and Eurasia Project at the Washington-based World Security Institute.
The U.S. should certainly be credited for this strong image-making move which has shifted the emphasis and roles: Russia voiced concern about the U.S. missile shield in Europe; the U.S. responded by offering cooperation; but Russia rejected it and continued criticizing U.S. policies.
Only "very naive" people would be fooled by the "generous" U.S. proposals, the Russian negotiators said. "These systems are in any case targeted at Russia. To agree would mean to dig our own grave."
Washington insists that its missile shield is meant to protect Europe from "rogue states." But Iran has no intercontinental ballistic missiles to threaten Europe, let alone the United States. Russia has them.
Suppose we believe in the Iranian threat; it would still be more logical to deploy radars and interceptors in Turkey instead of Eastern Europe. In this case, Russia would agree to cooperate, if an AMD project was started from scratch on a parity basis.
Moscow thinks U.S. missile defense plans will shatter the strategic forces balance in Europe, and provoke a new arms race. "If we do not come to terms, Russia will have to build its own shield in response," said a well-informed Russian diplomat when asked about Russia's possible reactions. "Offensive weapons are far cheaper than defense."


Tajikistan, RusAL cancel Rogun hydropower plant construction contract

Authorities in Tajikistan, a republic in Central Asia, are refusing to allow the United Company RusAL, the world's largest aluminium and alumina producer, to build the $1.3 billion Rogun hydropower plant, said Andrei Rappoport, head of Russia's power transmitter Federal Grid Company and deputy CEO of utility giant Unified Energy Systems (UES) of Russia.
As Russia has no intention of dropping this politically important project, UES will probably take over the Rogun contract.
UES officials said this is possible, but involvement in the project will depend on the terms of an international tender, due to be announced by Tajikistan.
Dushanbe wanted to involve a private, rather than public, investor, in the project from the very outset. However, RusAL wanted to privatize an operational state-owned company and build one more plant in Tajikistan.
Republican authorities refused to allow RusAL to go ahead with its privatization plans; and no plant was built because both sides became bogged down in the hydroelectric plant's dam model and height, crucial factors in its capacity.
The 3,600 MWt Rogun hydroelectric plant is to generate 13 billion kWt/hr of electricity per year.
A source close to UES said the holding company will bid in the tender if the state approves.
Russia and Iran had vied for the right to complete the $534 million and 670 MWt Sangtuda hydroelectric plant in Tajikistan. UES was allowed to build this facility, which will annually generate 2.7 billion kWt/hr of electricity, while Tehran will only participate in the construction of its second stage.
Experts said federal investment could minimize chances for abortive Russian-Tajik talks.
However, Russia may face its traditional rivals, namely, Pakistan, India or Iran. Moreover, Tajik Finance Minister Safarali Nadzhmuddinov has said U.S. investors, including power company AES Corp., will probably join the project.


Lithuania unable to access Russian oil

The Federal Environmental, Engineering and Nuclear Supervision Agency (Rostekhnadzor) discovered that a section of the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline leading to Lithuania was completely worn out and unusable. Transneft, the state pipeline operator, promised to build a new pipeline, but experts consider it is not worth doing.
Last summer, a commission from Rosprirodnadzor, the Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources, ordered the pressure to be lowered five times in two branches of the Druzhba following an oil spill. The oil pumping capacity dropped by 12 million metric tons per year, which was the amount received by Lithuania. The remaining 19 million metric tons are sent to Belarus. Following the oil spill, oil was shipped to Lithuania by tankers.
Rostekhnadzor said yesterday that the pipeline had been examined by VNIIST, the national scientific research institute for construction and operation of fuel and power sector pipelines and facilities. The pipeline had 7,853 faults. The wall thickness, 96.6% at Unecha-Polotsk-1 and 94.8% at Unecha-Polotsk-2, did not meet construction requirements. The sections of this pipeline must be entirely replaced with new ones.
Sergei Grigoriev, vice president of Transneft, could not say when the faults would be repaired, but promised that the pipeline would be fixed.
Valery Nesterov of the Troika Dialog brokerage estimates the cost of repairs at $600 million. He doubts Transneft will do it. "Nowadays they advocate re-routing the Belarus pipeline to Primorsk. In this case, the government is unlikely to spend large funds on rebuilding the Druzhba," Nesterov said.
In his opinion, this would be a wise decision. Russia will not benefit from using only the Eastern European route; it should diversify its exports.


President confirms jobs of top police officials who broke up March of Dissent

In his Monday decree, President Putin confirmed the appointments of top Moscow police officials responsible for the dispersal of the March of Dissent in Moscow on April 14. The presidential administration and police headquarters said the appointments were in no way connected with police action during the march. But in the opinion of the march organizers, the appointments show that "attacks on and unprovoked beatings of dissenters will continue."
The Putin decree appeared a day after Ella Pamfilova, head of the presidential council for facilitating the development of civil society institutions and human rights, said that Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev should step down. "Not only did the authorities ride roughshod over [the opposition], they also let Russia's world prestige suffer."
Official spokesmen Monday warned against linking the appointment of the capital's top police officials to the successful breakup of the March of Dissent. "It's a foolish suggestion, to say the least," said Natalia Timakova, department head of the presidential press service. "There were no reshuffles in the police leadership. Merely the president's decree confirmed the positions of those who for a long time [from a few months to a year] held temporary posts," said Colonel Viktor Biryukov, head of information and public relations of the Moscow police.
March organizers and participants hold opposite views. "This is the reply to all those who have doubted police justice during the march and those demanding Mr. Nurgaliyev's dismissal," said United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov detained during the march. "Now we see that the brutal dispersal of the opposition was not accidental, but a well thought out act. Attacks on and unwarranted beatings of dissenters will continue," he said. State Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov said that if he were Putin, he would not rush the appointments. "I would wait for the investigation findings so as not to end up with a red face before the public as one who covers up lawlessness and crimes against Russians," Ryzhkov said.

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