Russian press review, 01.04.07

The Russian press writes about a new law banning foreign vendors from Russian markets, that could leave many jobs without those willing to take them. It also covers the situation in coal mining industry and the coming April fools’ Day.

The weekly Novoye Vremya looks at a new law, which comes into effect on Sunday, banning all foreign workers from trading at Russian markets. Most of them come from former Soviet Republics, such as Turkmenistan and Armenia. The government says the law is aimed at foreign vendors and not businessmen, and that they want to free up jobs for Russian citizens. However, critics of the law point out that there are few Russian citizens willing to work in markets. The government has said that if the law is unsuccessful it will be repealed on the January 1, 2008, but a number of politicians have called for it to be revoked earlier. The article concludes that consumers will have less choice and that in some markets there will be no vendors at all. It also warns that the legislation will do little to improve the situation with ethnic intolerance in Russia.

The weekly Argumenty i Fakty is running an article examining what went wrong in the Novokuznetsk mine disaster in Siberia, which killed 107 miners, on March 19. Most mining disasters in Russia are because of old equipment and a disregard of safety regulations. The Ulyanovskaya mine had new equipment installed and the paper argues that Russian mines must improve their safety culture and mining techniques if major disasters are to be avoided. Russian mines, the weekly contends, must adopt practices used in Germany and the USA, where highly flammable methane gas, the cause of many explosions and fires, is pumped out of the coal seem before the coal is extracted.

Itogi has a feature on Russian-style April fool’s Day. Over the last few years up to 1,000 events agencies have sprung up in Moscow, which organize practical jokes on friends, family or colleagues for a price. The average budget is $US 5,000 per joke. They range from the macabre to the ridiculous. For instance, the wife of a famous politician, believing his life had become too boring, paid to have him arrested on his way home. As he was being led away in handcuffs, she and their children jumped out of a waiting police car.