What the papers say - 13 August, 2003


Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Alyoshin has chaired the first session of the government commission on administrative reform in Russia. The commission's members set forth the aims of the authorities' reform and the distribution of powers among them. According to Alyoshin himself, the reform will eliminate superfluous functions in ministries and departments in Russian Federation constituent members. This work should be conducted constantly, which means that the timeframe for the reform has not been set, the paper notes.


Russia, Ukraine and Turkmenistan could start the latest gas war. The reason for their arguments lies in differences over the proposed construction project of a new pipeline to pump gas from Central Asia to Ukraine via Russian territory. Russia does not want to build this pipeline, but will most probably bow to pressure from Kiev and Ashkhabad. Generally speaking, these countries do not trust each other in the gas sphere. For five years, Ukraine has been practising the so-called "unsanctioned use of Russian gas." This has incurred the wrath of the Russian government and Gazprom, while Turkmenistan accuses Russia of profiting from its gas in Europe.


The dollar's 10% plunge against the euro in the first six months of this year has led to the appearance of many expert opinions. The issue of how the euro's significant growth has affected Russia's foreign debt has been discussed as part of the general debate. Many specialists believe that the euro's strengthening will lead to the level of Russia's foreign debt increasing, despite the fact the country is making its repayments on time and is not taking out any new loans. A few prominent Russian economists see the dollar's devaluation as being one of the biggest dangers for the country and they even believe that Russia's ability to effect its foreign debt repayments on time and in full is under threat.


The Embassy of the Central African Republic in Moscow has been paralysed for a second day. The 45 students from that country who seized the building are refusing to leave it until their demands are fulfilled, i.e. until the republic's government pays them their stipends for 30 months and provides them with money for tickets to their homeland. Many Africans who have already graduated from Russian universities cannot return home and have to stay in Russia on a semi-legal basis because they do not have the funds to purchase return tickets. The students wrote about this to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. So far, there has been no reaction to the events from either the Central African Republic's or the Russian authorities.


While digging on Cathedral Mountain in the Moscow region town of Serpukhov, archaeologists have discovered a ring that experts believe has been in the earth for 500 years or more. The bronze artifact is the group's first find and is distinctive for one particular feature: it can fit any finger. The inscription on the ring, which is in an Oriental language, is of particular interest to the academics and they are currently trying to decipher this "message."

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