WAN Journalists Converge on Moscow
The World Association of Newspapers controversially hosted its World Congress in Moscow this year. Many had feared that the move would justify the current status of the press in Russia. However, many now agree that the event helped to reignite debates inside Russia on press freedom. Read the contrasting opening remarks by the WAN president and V. Putin here
St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum brought together the members of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China – a block of countries with some of the world’s fastest growing economies) and other speakers from around the globe. The event largely focused on the Russia’s new Special Economic Zones, and issues still plaguing the Russian economy: inflation, shrinking competition, bureaucracy, and corruption. Read V. Putin's opening remarks here
Art Moscow was a city-wide event showcasing Moscow’s exploding markets for art. Most major galleries and artists in Russia participated in the event, which was given a full feature review in ArtNet Magazine.
Racism Reports on Russia
Racism is a widely known problem for Russia. International watchdogs say 18 people have been murdered in racially motivated attacks since the beginning of the year. Now, according to a new report from the Open Society Justice Initiative, the problem is not just one of random gangs of skinheads; it’s institutionalized. Ethic minorities are 22 times more likely to be stopped for random document checks (legal in Russia), and many times more likely be solicited for bribes. Download the report in pdf here
More Bright Forecasts for Russia's Economy
PBNCO, an international investment firm, has released its yearly report Russia: Investment Destination. The report shows that international firms are planning to invest still more in the country that received billions in investments last year. The report concludes that investors are attracted by "the Russian market, the country's sustained economic growth, the high quality and low costs of human resources, overall political stability, and macroeconomic stability as attractive features of the market. The main problems mentioned by investors are bureaucracy and red tape, corruption, inadequate legislation, and selective interpretation and application of laws." Download the report in Russian or in English.
1.8 Billion to Judicial Reform
As part of President Putin's new invigorated drive to fight corruption and revive the rule of law in Russia, 1.8 billion has been pledged to reform Russia’s haphazard legal system. The plan calls to raise public trust in the courts from 19% to 50% by 2011 and the share of enforced judicial acts from 52% to 82%. Much of money will go to improving and building court buildings. Beyond this capital investment, critics of the measure hold that little else is specifically planned for this massive expenditure.
Ukrainian Coalition - Finally
Official news sources in Russia were long reporting that the members of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, reelected to a majority in the Ukrainian Rada (parliament), would not be able to form a coalition government due to political infighting. Sources went on to predict a coalition between President Yukashenko’s party and the pro-Russia Party of Regions (which was ousted by the Orange Revolution). The coalition government, however, has been formed and has installed the fiery Yulia Timoshenko as Prime Minister. Timoshenko has vowed to get tough on Russia – including renegotiating the oil deal worked out earlier this year that ended the "gas war" between the two countries. Ukraine is now paying twice what it had been for natural gas from Russia. It should also be noted the coalition is not noted as a strong one by most observers. Read more here from BBC
Praise for Kazakhstan’s Democracy?
International observers were highly critical of US Vice President Dick Cheney's recent trip to Kazakhstan. Shortly after chastising Russia for "backsliding on democracy," Cheney praised Kazakhstan’s authoritarian leadership for its "great progress on democracy." Cheyney's meeting with the Kazakh president was supposed to be complimented with a meeting with leading Kazakh dissident Galymzhan Zhakiyanov. This meeting never happened as Zhakiynov was detained in Almaty and not allowed to travel to his meeting in Astana. Kazakh authorities gave no explanation as to why Zhakiyanov, a Kazakh citizen, was not allowed to travel within his own county.