Russia: Is Chechnya Getting Safer?


I was drinking my morning cup of delicious Russian coffee & thinking about Chechnya. I was thinking about doing an article on the troubled area. It has seemed to me that the conflict has mellowed out a lot down that way.

Just as I was getting ready to start the article I saw that Yuri Mamchur from “Russia Blog” decided to write the article first. So I am going to let you see his article and give him all the credit……

Is There Still Terrorism in Chechnya?
Yuri Mamchur

Many positive political and economic developments are taking place in Moscow. Russia Blog has noticed that many of them have been ignored since the elections of the new Russian president. The doom-and-gloom scenario predicted by the Washington think-tanks did not take place, and the scholars along with journalists ran out of negative steam relatively fast.

The reporting about the troubled Caucasian region has disappeared from the Western media coverage as well. Grozny and Chechnya are in much better shape today than they were three years ago, with nearly half a million refugees returned to their home and nearly 100,000 private businesses started. However, terrorism remains to be an issue, and random minor attacks take place on a weekly basis. For detailed reporting and analysis of the attacks happening in the region, please visit the website of the “Russia-Eurasia Daily Watch”.
Most of my Chechnya articles are in the “Windows To Russia: News!” blog.

Yuri is very correct about what he says in the article & I am glad he wrote it.

Thanks Yuri!

Kyle & Svet

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Russian News: March 25th, 2008!

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 17:46:23.Severstal reckons to achieve a synergetic effect worth $50m generated by the acquisition of Sparrows Point, the Russian steel maker said. The company’s management expects that the synergy between the companies will result from lower expenses and higher operating efficiency.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 17:21:03.LUKoil and Iraq have agreed to form a working group for the implementation of the Western Kurna-2 project, the Russian oil company’s press office reported today, referring to the talks held by its President Vagit Alekperov and Iraq’s authorities. Furthermore, LUKoil Overseas, the operator of the oil producer’s foreign projects, is to take part in tenders for new projects that will be announced by Iraq’s government following the introduction of a new oil law.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 16:50:59.The Federal Tax Service has transferred RUB 555.5bn (approx. USD 23.3bn) to Russia’s federal budget in January-February 2008, or 31.7 percent more than in the same period a year earlier, the tax authority said in a statement. The tax on the production of mineral resources and the value-added tax accounted for large portions (45 and 24 percent respectively) of the total revenue reported by the Federal Tax Service.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 16:33:37.Consultations between Russia and the US on Russia’s accession to the WTO will be held on March 26-27 in Washington D.C., the Russian Foreign Ministry reported to RBC today. The talks are a logical continuation of the recent negotiations held in the “two-plus-two” format in Moscow, the ministry reported. Russia will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 15:45:12.Russia’s revenue from oil and gas sales is expected to decline to 6 percent of GDP in 2011 if global oil prices stand at $75 per barrel, the country’s Deputy PM and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said during the Economy Ministry’s board meeting today. He noted, however, that the government did not intend to cut budget spending despite the anticipated slide in revenues. Kudrin reiterated that the transfer of oil and gas revenues to the federal budget was expected to decrease from 5.5 percent of GDP this year to 3.7 percent of GDP in 2011.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 15:38:25.A decision on the increase of gas production tax has been postponed until 2010, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told journalists today. He pointed out that the government had reviewed all presented materials on the matter and postponed the increase, due to Gazprom’s substantial investment program.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 14:56:27.During the placing of RBC Information Systems commercial papers, demand exceeded supply, resulting in oversubscription, Alexander Kuznetsov, Director for debt capital market operations at Alfa-Bank, has reported. Alfa-Bank is acting as the underwriter for the loan. The results of the placing will be announced this evening.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 14:13:07.Stabilization Fund resources placed by the Finance Ministry in foreign assets continue to bring profit, even amid the ongoing global crisis, Deputy PM and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said during an Economy Ministry board meeting today. He reiterated that the reserve funds had been placed conservatively, adding that he was pleased not to have charged to invest more boldly in corporate bonds, as these securities had now slumped 30 percent. According to Kudrin, although Russian money was placed in mortgage company securities that had been hit by the financial crisis, the market slump did not influence them, as these were bonds guaranteed by the US government, and the Russian Stabilization Fund increased in value as its earnings rose.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 12:59:55.The placement of commercial papers of RBC Information Systems has started on MICEX. This is the first issue of this type of securities on the Russian market. Alexander Kuznetsov, Director for debt capital market operations at Alfa-Bank, the underwriter of the issue, said that the bank expected the loan to yield 12 percent per annum. The first tranche which is to be placed today is worth RUB 1.5bn (approx. USD 62.92m) and has a maturity period of one year. The entire issue totaling RUB 12bn (approx. USD 503.36m) matures on the 364th day after the start of placement.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 11:55:34.Russia expects to sign a protocol in April on the completion of talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on its accession to the WTO, director of the Russian Economy Ministry’s trade negotiations department Maksim Medvedkov told journalists today. The talks with the UAE are nearing completion, and all the matters are expected to be settled this week, Medvedkov said.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 10:58:36.The Russian government is set to choose the founders of the St. Petersburg commodity exchange on Wednesday, Deputy Economy Minister Kirill Androsov told journalists today. The matter is to be discussed during a meeting held by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. The ministry has drafted a package of constitutuent documents, a business plan for the exchange, and ideas about potential founders, which include both state-owned and private companies, Androsov noted.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 10:06:57.Russia’s Economy Ministry has revised Urals oil price forecast upwards, from $74 per barrel to $86 per barrel in 2008, head of the ministry’s macroeconomic forecasting department Gennady Kuranov said. Oil price forecasts for 2008-2011 were hiked 10 percent on average, with the price expected to reach $75 per barrel in 2009 (up from $66), $72 in 2010 (up from $62), and $70 in 2011 (up from $60). However, the ministry is scrutinizing other possible scenarios as well. Some of them predict that the oil price range will be $96-100 per barrel in 2008-2011.

RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 09:45:54.Russia officially resumes air links with Georgia today. AirZena Georgian Airlines will make its first flight on Tuesday on the Moscow-Tbilisi route after a 1.5-year break. Aeroflot – Russian Airlines will begin direct service between Moscow and Tbilisi on March 27. Moscow severed air links with Georgia on October 3, 2006 arguing that Georgia owed some $3.6m for the operation of flights. However, simultaneously Russia banned all transport links, as well as postal service on account of detention of four Russian military officers in Georgia.

RBC, 24.03.2008, Moscow 18:58:52.According to preliminary data, sales of National Computer Corporation (NCC) grew 35 percent to nearly RUB 40.252bn (approx. USD 1.693bn) in 2007 compared to a year earlier, the company’s President Alexander Kalinin told a press conference today following the release of the financial performance of computer equipment producer Aquarius, an NCC subsidiary.

RBC, 24.03.2008, Moscow 17:47:04.Russia’s production of conventional weapons is expected to grow 30 percent by 2010 and by a factor of 2.2 by 2015, the Vesti TV channel cited First Deputy PM Sergei Ivanov as saying during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s traditional Monday meeting with the cabinet. Ivanov noted that the share of civil products manufactured at defense enterprises was expected to increase to 53 percent of their total production by 2010 and to 59 percent by 2015. He also said that a military-industrial commission meeting on the development strategy of companies producing conventional weapons would be held on March 26. In addition, the Federal Service for Defense Contracts’ first project for 2009 is to be discussed at the meeting, Ivanov said.

RBC, 24.03.2008, Moscow 17:18:59.According to the estimate of Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), real disposable cash incomes of Russians grew 11.2 percent in January-February 2008 compared to the same period a year earlier. Real cash incomes rose 10.6 percent in February 2008 against February 2007. Meanwhile, the average monthly accrued wages were estimated at RUB 15.214 (approx. USD 640), up 27.7 percent compared to a year earlier.

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Russia: Spring Is Trying To Start!


Moscow has been having some warm days, today has hit over 12.4 degrees C. That is about 54.2 degrees F. These are record temperatures for this time of the year. The previous record for March 25 was 12.2 degrees (53.9 F.) which was registered in 1973. The meteorological bureau said temperatures could climb even higher by the end of the day.

The trees are starting to bud out, and I expect to see flowers growing any time soon. Spring is here & I hope that Old Man Winter does not try to freeze the new growth.

I still think that he may be waiting around the corner……….

Kyle & Svet

comments always welcome.

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Still The Soul Of Russia: The Village!


The second cup of morning coffee brought forth this really good article on Mother Russia. (The Country!) It gives a positive perspective about Russia and the one area I disagree with is matter of personal outlook on the Russian people! (I give my difference at the end of the article.) I understand this attraction to Mother Russia. Being 1/2 German and 1/2 Britain my roots are deep in Europe…….
The Attraction of Mother Russia

By Olga Sharapova

Special to The St. Petersburg Times

Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

To the frequent surprise of Russians themselves, many westerners choose to live and work in Russia, some of them permanently. Some are inspired by Russian Orthodoxy, while others come in search of a beautiful Russian bride.

When Peter the Great started building St. Petersburg in 1703, his vision was of a new capital that would resemble a western city in both appearance and customs. With impressive energy and entrepreneurial skills, Peter I tried to bring the best European achievements to Russia, such as business knowledge, practicality, good organization and attention to education, arts and science.

But even today, few Russians identify their homeland as a completely European country. There are many historical, political and cultural reasons for this — not least that it needs more time to integrate the Russian economy into international business processes than the 16 years that have passed since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Step by step however, Russia is becoming an increasingly open country. Foreigners come to live in Russia for various reasons, such as to do business, study or working in the diplomatic service. Naturally, they bring with them their own cultures, experiences and habits. Moscow and St. Petersburg, where most expatriates in Russia are based, now offer considerable resources for foreign communities, from newspapers to schools, art festivals to ethnic restaurants and much more. Successful westerners may also unintentionally enhance the very popular idea among Russians that life in the West is completely different and far easier than in Russia.

According to the Russian mentality — or rather the Soviet way of thinking that is still alive in most adult Russians — wealthy foreign countries seem to many Russians to be the best places in the world. In the words of Arjen Roodvoets, a Dutch citizen who teaches his native language to Russians at both St. Petersburg State University and the Netherlands Institute, “Russians often think that life in the West is much better than here, but it is often not true. There is also an understated self-appreciation in Russia. In my opinion, Russia is a really special and original country. Russians should just be who they are, be natural and maintain their native values, such as a strong education system and culture.”

Roodvoets, who has lived and worked in Russia for nine years, has become deeply involved in Russian society and has adapted to Russian life. “I like many things in Russia, enjoy the Russian language and dealing with local people. One of the best things is my job here, because I like communicating with Russians.” Roodvoets, who speaks fluent Russian, was baptized in Russia and his favorite place in St. Petersburg is Valaamskoe Podvorie church on Staropetergovski prospekt.

“I think it is Orthodoxy that distinguishes Russia from other European countries and has formed the national mentality,” he says.

The cultural exchange between Russians and ex-pats is a two-way process. It is generally accepted that many aspects of Russian life have been westernized in a positive way (primarily business and management), and it is also true that there are a number of foreigners who enjoy exploring the differences between their own lifestyle and life in Russia.

Cobus van Rooijen, Group Sales and Distribution Director for Heineken Russia, says, “In my free time I usually explore cultural and natural attractions — recently, for example, I went hunting near Lake Baikal in temperatures of -35 degrees Celsius, and also attended a magnificent performance of “The Nutcracker” directed by Alexei Ratmansky at the Mariinsky theater.”

Yury Mikhailov, Managing Partner at Consort Consulting Group, has considerable experience of interacting with westerners and says he even knows some ex-pats who have become more Russian than Russians themselves by studying its history, literature, politics and character traits.

Generally, however, Mikhailov believes that “Most foreigners stay the same by going to their ex-pat bars, restaurants, clubs and consular events. This of course does not allow them to integrate and become familiar with local life.”

As to the differences between Russians and westerners, in Mikhailov’s opinion, “Foreigners often seek to achieve more recognition in professional circles as well as in their personal relationships.”

Walter Ragonese, who is from the U.S. and works in Russia as the Security and Business Continuity managing director of InterComp, concurs. “Most of the ex-pats I know have very fulfilling professional and social lives in Russia. Work is generally the focus of the professional/social life balance, but family and friendships are usually very significant factors in making the experience well rounded and personally satisfying.”

Ragonese’s colleague, Daniel J. Hill, who is general manager of InterComp Outsourcing in Russia, explains, “After 14 years in Russia, I am still here because I still find it an exciting, vibrant and dynamic place in which to work and live. I think many westerners (myself included) try to find a balance between maintaining ties with their home culture and friends, and embracing all of the new and interesting aspects of developing Russian friends and experiencing Russian culture.”

Asked what inspires foreigners to come here, Ragonese says, “Moscow and St. Petersburg in particular are very cosmopolitan and attractive locations that rank alongside other cities around the world for expatriates looking to develop their careers.

“Russia has always been open to the employment of westerners who have the necessary skills required by an organization,” he adds. “This hasn’t changed from 16 years ago when I first arrived in Russia. Obviously the required skills have become more specific with every year as the Russian market for management talent has become more developed.”

A good investment climate and very good corporate career opportunities are among the most positive factors about working in Russia, according to Cobus van Rooijen, top sales manager of Heineken Russia. But he cited the common problem often complained about by foreigners — elements of bureaucracy. His words were echoed by Consort Consulting Group’s Mikhailov: “Of course there is a certain amount of legal issues and bureaucracy, and dealing with red tape has never been easy, but it is a much more achievable goal than it used to be.” He adds, “If you just think for a minute, it’s not that easy to settle and work in other parts of the world unless you are an EU citizen wanting to work in other EU countries.”

From Mikhailov’s diverse professional experiences, he knows that many westerners who have entrepreneurial skills and an aptitude for business say that Russia became the land of opportunity several years ago. On the issue of why Russia has become a popular country in which to work, he says, “Profitability rates and sales turnover growth are much higher here than in the west, and this is what attracts businessmen seeking a faster return on their initial investments.”

Svetlana Sokhatskaya, branch manager of Kelly Services St. Petersburg, suggests that “Foreigners, in most cases, know how to count money and they realize that taxes in Russia are much lower. Many companies provide top managers from other countries with free apartments while they are working in Russia and it is, no doubt, a great advantage for westerners.”

Now there is a general tendency among local firms to invite foreign managers in to make the business more efficient. “It just means,” continues Sokhatskaya, “that in comparison with Russian specialists, westerners possess more international experience in business and management.”

The most popular and attractive segments of the local market for foreign investment are construction, real estate, the automotive industry, IT, the hospitality industry, publishing, food and the sale of different kinds of equipment. According to Mikhailov, “The number of companies is increasing every year. Since we work closely with Finnish companies, we know that there are more than 400 Finnish firms on the local market”.

InterComp’s Ragonese considers that “The most popular spheres of employment for ex-pats are auditing services, taxation consulting, and law firms. Real estate consultancy and management also employ a significant number of expatriates.”

One of the most dynamic industry segments is IT — virtually all the major brands are in St. Petersburg now, including Alcatel-Lucent, EMC, Motorola, Nokia, Microsoft, Google, Sun Microsystems and Intel.

The latest International Technical Exhibition at Lenexpo illustrated the level of interest in the Russian market — there were more than 100 companies from India alone at the fair, which focused on metallurgy and mechanical engineering, illustrating the line of business cooperation that Indian companies are planning to take in the near future.

The profitable hospitality industry, specifically the restaurant business and tourism, also tend to attract foreign managers. A myriad of different cuisines are on offer in the Northern capital — not just the usual Italian and French restaurants, but also Greek, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Korean, and many more. However, the active international presence on this business scene in turn spurs on Russians to increase their activity on the market and attract ex-pats and tourists to visit different Russian restaurants and clubs.

The private and daily lives of ex-pats in Russia may not differ greatly in some respects from the experiences of ex-pats in other foreign countries. But every country has its customs and idiosyncrasies. Van Rooijen of Heineken Russia thinks that foreigners here have several dreams — to learn the Russian language, to understand local customs and traditions, and to enjoy support in their business initiatives.

“What westerners lack in Russia,” says Mikhailov of Consort Consulting Group, “is the greater sense of security and stability that they have become so attached to back home — that’s why from time to time they tend to take off and head home for a couple of months to recharge their batteries, touch base with their friends and relatives, and share their Russian experiences.”

InterComp’s Ragonese has a keen interest in outdoor activities, and therefore lives outside the city and commutes to work every day. The most negative aspects of Russia, in his opinion, are corruption among local officials (especially the traffic police) and the aggressive behavior that Russians can display in public, even with total strangers.

But locals should not feel offended — it’s not so bad to know that westerners feel the same as Russians when the latter curse their country’s poor roads, corruption and impoliteness.
I have to say that it is very accurate in almost all aspects! I do have one strong disagreement:

“The most negative aspects of Russia, in his opinion, are corruption among local officials (especially the traffic police) and the aggressive behavior that Russians can display in public, even with total strangers.”

I agree with corrupt officials, but I have never had in two years living here, a single Russian act out of line or aggressive! (At least when I compare to my life in America.) The Russians are some of the most polite and quiet people that I have met & my wife and I travel all over the country and Moscow. (This is my perspective.)

Thanks to Olga Sharapova for a very good article that talks good about Russia……

Kyle & Svet

comments always welcome.

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Ukraine: Worlds Tallest Man!


How would you like to be this tall……
[24.03.2008 17:02]
Leonid Stadnik`s phenomenal height has forced him to quit a job he loved, to stoop as he moves around his house and to spend most of his time in his tiny home village because he cannot fit in a car or bus, according to AP.

But Stadnik, who according to the Guinness World Records is the world`s tallest human, says his condition has also taught him that the world is filled with kindhearted strangers.

Since his recognition by Ukrainian record keepers four years ago, and by Guinness last year, people from all over Ukraine and the world have shipped him outsized clothing, provided his home with running water and recently presented him with a giant bicycle.

“Thanks to good people I have shoes and clothes,” said the 37-year-old former veterinarian, who still lives with his 66-year-old mother.

In 2006, Stadnik was officially measured at 2.57 meters tall (8 feet 5 inches), surpassing a Chinese man to claim the title of the world`s tallest person.

His growth spurt began at age 14 after a brain operation that apparently stimulated the overproduction of growth hormone. Doctors say he has been growing ever since.

While he may appear intimidating due to his size, Stadnik charms visitors with a broad grin and childlike laugh. He seems at times like a lonely boy trapped in a giant`s body, even keeping stuffed toys on his pillow.

Stadnik`s stature has earned him worldwide attention, but it has mostly a burden to him. He has to battle to lead anything close to a normal life.

All the doorways in his one-story brick house are too short for him to pass through without stooping. His 200 kilograms (440 pounds) cause constant knee pain and often force him to move on crutches.

Stadnik loves animals, but he had to quit as a veterinarian at a cattle farm in a nearby village, after suffering frostbite when he walked work in his socks in winter. He could not afford specially made shoes for his 43-centimeter (17-inch) feet.

But his recent fame has brought him friends from all over the world and taught him not to despair.

A German man who said he was his distant relative invited Stadnik for a visit several years ago. On the trip, Stadnik got to sample frog legs in an elegant restaurant and saw a roller coaster in an amusement park — both for the first time.

Shortly after that, Stadnik came home one day and saw a brand-new computer connected to the Web sitting on his desk — a gift from a local Internet provider. Company workers “sneaked into the house like little spies” to install the equipment, Stadnik joked.

Since then he has made numerous online friends, including several in the United States, Australia and Russia. Stadnik hopes to learn English so he can communicate better with his Anglophone contacts; currently, he relies on computer translations, which he says are often inadequate.

Ukraine`s President Viktor Yushchenko`s personal tailor has made Stadnik two track suits and the president plans to present Stadnik with a giant car. Local authorities have also promised to supply gas to Stadnik`s village, 200 kilometers (125 miles) kilometers west of the capital, Kiev.

On Sunday, a local organization for the disabled gave Stadnik a giant bike so he can pedal to the grocery store, which is in a nearby village. The group also presented Stadnik with a fitness machine.

“I have always dreamt that my life and the life of my loved ones … would become more comfortable,” Stadnik said. “My dream is coming true.”

His neighbors joke that they may also benefit from Stadnik`s success. “Of course we are proud of him — we may have gas here soon thanks to him,” said Nila Kravchuk, 75.

Since he quit his job, Stadnik has concentrated on managing the family garden and taking care of his three cows, one horse and assorted pigs and chickens. He lives with his mother Halyna, 66, and his sister Larysa, 42.

Stadnik says his dream now is finding a soul mate, just like the former titleholder, China`s Bao Xishun, who was married last year.

“I think the future holds that for me,” he said.


ctnstant URL of article:

I am 6’3″(190+ cm), he is 2’2″(66+ cm) taller than me! (256 + cm tall)

His health is failing, read this article here… LINK!
A beautiful video about Leonid Stadnik: watch HERE!

Kyle & Svet

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