MOSCOW, July 16 (RIA Novosti) Russian government unveils blacklist of extremist materials /Rusal's co-owner ready to give up his company/CFE Treaty now favors NATO's interests/Kosovo's independence: not good either way/Apple Inc. to open Moscow office
Russian government unveils blacklist of extremist materials
Authorities in Russia have, for the first time in the nation's history, made public their blacklist of materials judged by a court as extremist and conducive to interethnic strife.
The list, featuring 14 items in the print, audio and video format, has appeared in the Russian government's official newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
It includes the Kitab al-Tawhid (The Book of Monotheism) by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the radical Wahhabi brand of Islam, the Nazi propaganda film Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew), several booklets and newspaper features published by regional Russian nationalists and anti-Semites under titles such as "Judeo-Christian Plague," and the Siberian-based rock band Order's album "Music of the Whites."
The distribution of these and other blacklisted works is equated to the instigation of interethnic strife, a crime punishable under Russia's Penal Code by up to five years in prison.
The head of the Federal Registration Service, Sergei Vasilyev, said the government had decided to revise and republish the blacklist twice a year. He also said he was hopeful it would not have to be expanded.
Rights activists do not share Vasilyev's optimism, though.
"We have been insisting for quite a while now that the blacklisted works be banned," Lev Ponomarev, the leader of the For Human Rights group, told Kommersant in an interview.
"But the problem is that [Russia's] [anti-] extremism legislation is deliberately blurred, and that calls for social as well as ethnic strife could be qualified as extremism. Which is only a short distance away from politically motivated persecution."
"I personally object to the idea of compiling such a list," said Alexander Belov, the leader of the Movement against Illegal Immigration. "The more bans are out there, the greater the number of those seeking to violate them."
Russia's anti-extremism legislation outlaws works by Nazi ideologues, publications proclaiming the supremacy of a certain race or ethnicity over others, and apologias of crimes aimed at exterminating some ethnic, social, racial, national or religious group.
Rusal's co-owner ready to give up his company
Oleg Deripaska told The Financial Times he would be ready to transfer Rusal back to the state at any moment. "If the state says we need to give it up, we'll give it up," he says. "I don't separate myself from the state. I have no other interests."
Oleg Deripaska is the owner of UC Rusal, the world's biggest aluminum producer, although it will be overtaken by Rio Tinto and Alcan once the merger between the two rivals is concluded.
Some experts view the statement as a desire to prove his loyalty to the Kremlin, while others think it is a ruse to attract investors ahead of the IPO. According to the Kremlin, the state is not interested in taking over a stake in the aluminum giant.
Three sources in the Kremlin administration told the popular business daily Vedomosti that Deripaska had not been told to hand over a stake in his company to the state.
Georgy Oganov, a spokesman of Deripaska, said his boss was replying to a journalist's question when he spoke the way he did, and that it did not proceed from the context of the interview that he was ready to give up the company. He also said that no such offer had been made.
Vera Kurochkina, a spokesperson for Rusal, said the state had no complaints against the company.
Farkhad Akhmedov, a member of the upper house of Russia's parliament and a co-owner of the independent natural gas producer Northgas, said: "That [statement] was either an act of desperation, or a ruse ahead of the IPO designed to convince the future minority shareholders that they would not repeat the fate of Yukos's investors."
When asked if the London IPO for Rusal was a defensive move to head off any Kremlin takeover threat, Deripaska said he was not interested in the IPO, indicating that Rusal's other shareholders are the driving force behind it.
Viktor Vekselberg, a co-owner and board chairman of UC Rusal, said in May that the IPO could be held in November.
Alexei Makarkin, an expert from the Center for Political Technologies, said: "In a classic market economy, an owner's statement about his readiness to give up his company would scare off investors.
But in Russia, where the plight of Khodorkovsky is still fresh in people's minds, it can be perceived as a positive signal, meaning that the businessman, if he senses Yukos-style problems, would leave, whereas investors would stay."
Deripaska is behaving like a junior partner of the state, and this is a new form of public-private partnership, the expert said.
Steven Dashevsky, Aton's managing director and chief analyst, said Deripaska's statement would not affect investors' decision to buy Rusal shares. He said everyone knew that he was one of the people standing closest to the Kremlin, and that nobody planned to rob him of his company.
Dashevsky has evaluated UC Rusal at $25-$30 billion.
Forbes puts the personal wealth of Oleg Deripaska, Russia's second-richest man, at $16.8 billion.
CFE Treaty now favors NATO's interests
Arms and global defense differences between Russia and the West are becoming sharper and sharper. On Saturday, July 14, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) and related international agreements.
The situation created by Russia's move is commented on by experts.
Lieutenant-General (Ret) Gennady YEVSTAFYEV, the Foreign Intelligence Service, senior adviser at PIR-Center:
"The decree suspending Russia's CFE membership has given the West another chance to pause and consider its position on the treaty. If the West fails to respond, Russia will have to pull out of it. But at the same time, it will have to offer its own vision of how to safeguard security in Europe under the new circumstances.
"When the CFE Treaty was first proposed (in 1990), we and our Warsaw Pact partners had a large advantage over NATO - about two to one. Now that NATO has enlarged, from 19 to 26 members in the spring of 2004, it outnumbers us in conventional forces by three to one.
"Another problem is that Russian troops have been pushed back from the borders in the country's northwest and south. Before the Soviet Union's breakup, Soviet forces were stationed in the Baltic Military District and elsewhere. Following the country's collapse, they were withdrawn to Russia's hinterland, because the CFE Treaty dictated so-called flank restrictions."
Major-General Vladimir Belous, leading research assistant at the International Security Center of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences:
"The West has been given another chance to ratify the treaty and begin implementing it. At the special June meeting on the CFE Treaty in Vienna, Russia put a number of demands to its Western partners, but the West, rather than act, blew a lot of hot air.
"As a justification for not ratifying the treaty, the West said Russia was not fulfilling the 1999 Istanbul Agreements on troop withdrawals from Georgia and Moldova. But linking the situation in Georgia and Moldova to the CFE Treaty is neither here nor there.
"The treaty does not address that situation. And besides, all heavy equipment and troops have been pulled out of Moldova. The remaining small contingent is acting as a peacekeeper and guarding warehouses with ammunition at Kolbasnaya Station in Transdnestr. The bases in Georgia are also being withdrawn and will be completely withdrawn by the fall of 2008.
"Currently, the CFE Treaty favors NATO's interests more than Russia's. NATO has a serious edge in tanks, guns and armored carriers. The U.S. strike groupings being deployed in Romania and Bulgaria, and elements of a U.S. missile defense shield to be sited in Poland and the Czech Republic, are not positive factors for Russia. If the situation is not changed, the CFE Treaty will lose its value and function."
Kosovo's independence: not good either way
Europeans support the United States on the issue of Kosovo's independence because the expanding European Union does not need a civil war on the continent.
The EU feels defenseless against the impulsive residents of Kosovo, who are ready to fight any day. Therefore, it prefers to use the U.S. and NATO to influence the incendiary province.
Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, said: "Brussels plans to offer the Balkan countries a comprehensive program of regional development, which would tie them economically to the EU and improve their economies for subsequent accession to the Union."
To launch that program, the EU first needs Kosovo to become legally independent. Brussels hopes that the rapid economic development of Balkan countries would level off the negative consequences of the post-independence period in the region, and that their eventual accession to the EU would gradually neutralize ethnic hatred.
However, Kosovo's independence could also enhance Albanian demographic expansion into Europe and radicalize Serbia.
The Belgrade authorities include not only advocates of EU accession and European integration, who are rallied around President Boris Tadic and Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic, but also opponents of that policy, notably Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
Kosovo's secession from Serbia would greatly strengthen his position, as well as nationalist and anti-European sentiments in the country as a whole.
Besides, crime can grow dramatically in the Kosovo economy. Today, Kosovo Albanians blame the UN mission for the province's socio-economic plight, although in the last 10 years Kosovo lived almost entirely on international aid, money transfers from relatives working outside Kosovo, and smuggling.
According to experts, 90% of the heroin that reaches Europe does so via the Balkans, and Kosovo is a hub in that illegal traffic. After gaining independence, it would most likely become a regional crime center.
Apple Inc. to open Moscow office
Apple Inc., one of the world's largest producers of computers and electronic products, is opening a Moscow office. Vacancies for a PR manager and a major clients manager are posted at apple.com.
The company is a bit late because Intel opened its Moscow office in 1991, and was followed by Microsoft and Sun Microsystems in 1992 and 1993, respectively. However, Apple Inc. preferred to work without intermediaries in Russia.
Alan Healey, Apple Inc. corporate PR manager for the EMEA region, which includes all countries located in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the company would continue to cooperate with Russia's independent Apple IMC. However, computer market players said the company would open its office soon.
Apple IMC general director Yevgeny Butman declined to discuss the senior partner's plans. He said that there could be no reliable sources about the company's plans in Russia, and that the secretive U.S. multinational company did not comment on rumors.
Butman denied that Apple Inc. was not interested in Russia due to low Apple IMC sales, and said the company was posting additional sales.
He said it was wrong to believe that Apple Inc. was spending a lot on global advertising and marketing programs, and that Russia was the only exception. According to Butman, cash-conscious Apple Inc. prefers a flexible guerrilla marketing strategy.
For instance, the company stopped advertising computers, after it began to offer iPod MP 3 players on the market. Although iPods and the iTunes online store accounted for just 19% of the total corporate turnover, Apple Inc. used these profits to support its computer division.
Apple Inc. probably did not spend much on advertising its iPods, which were marketed through streamlined blog spams, i.e. promotional links to blogs or articles on a blog, for self-promotion purposes.
These blog spams were the most popular searches on major Web portals and proved more effective than any advertisement. Consequently, Russian advertisers should not expect any substantial commissions from Apple Inc.
RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.