President Vladimir Putin will make a statement on the delivery of Russian-made fighters worth nearly 1 bln dollars in Kuala Lumpur today. To get the contract, Russia accepted palm oil as part of the payment and agreed to send a Malaysian astronaut into orbit. The Russian president went to Malaysia not so much as to sign the initialled contract as for political reasons. Russo-Malaysian trade is growing fast enough without the contract (by 40% since the beginning of the year). South East Asian countries see visits of the Russian head of state as a powerful boost to all kinds of contacts. Logically, Vladimir Putin will try to seal "eternal friendship" in Kuala Lumpur.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has approved the format of the government commission on the administrative reform. Kremlin, governmental and ministerial officials will hold 22 seats out of 31. Two governors will represent the interests of the regions, and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry will speak for Russian business. Commission head Vice-Premier Boris Alyoshin is to submit a plan in favour of slashing excessive state functions in the constituent members of the Federation by October. However, Kremlin circles say that his main task will be to draft proposals on the structure of the new cabinet by March 2004.
The Azerbaijani parliament has approved Ilham Aliyev, 41, son of President Geidar Aliyev, for the post of premier. The new premier has made two fundamental statements. Firstly, he pledged to continue government policy, which means that the republic's foreign policy partners and foreign investors, who have invested into the Azerbaijani economy an aggregate sum of USD 8 billion, have nothing to worry about. And secondly, he said he would not reshuffle the cabinet, which means that cabinet members have nothing to worry about either - for the time being.
Summer has overturned the pessimists' forecasts about a potential slump on the housing market in Russia. But cautious optimists who predicted a gentle rise of 1% a month were mortified, too. In the fist six months, the average cost of one metre of floor space has grown by 10-13%. Realtors say that the cost of secondary housing in Moscow has been growing since June 2000 and the trend will not be reversed this year. And a new surge in activity is possible soon.
The newspaper writes in the rumour column that the US second largest oil company, ChevronTexaco, is negotiating the purchase of a 25% block in Yukos. The deal will be sealed if the Yukos-Sibneft merger fails. Yukos and ChevronTexaco have not denied this information. Investment analysts say it is in the interests of Yukos to spread this rumour.
Following the summit in Riga on November 30, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg explained how the alliance could respond to Russia's 'new aggression against Ukraine.'