President Vladimir Putin has greeted the Russian Antarctic research expedition on their reaching the South Pole. The international multipurpose expedition of 40, Antarctic Odyssey, started from Moscow in the end of December 2001. It is led by Artur Chilingarov, deputy of the State Duma and president of the Russian Polar Researchers' Association. The expedition, among other things, puts through its paces an updated version of the An-2 aeroplane. The An-3, created on its basis by the Polyot factory, based in Omsk, has flown the travelers from their Antarctic camp to the South Pole, having covered approximately 1,000 kilometers. Now Russia has five permanent stations in the Antarctic. "We want to prove that Russian aviation and Polar researchers can as before traverse hard routes", said Chilingarov. In January 2002 another Russian expedition will make to the South Pole. The goal is to build a chapel in the Antarctic in memory of their compatriots who died on the ice continent.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated