Russian press review, 15.03.07

Russian press overviews the business and political agreements reached during the recent Russian president’s visit to Italy, reports on new arrests of opposition leaders in Belarus, publishes an interview with a Russian ambassador to Georgia.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily newspaper analyses big business deals surrounding the recent visit of the Russian president to Italy. Italian energy companies ENI and Enel are seeking to capitalise on growing ties between Italy and Russia. According to ENI’s president Poli, new political agreements between the two countries will pave the way for Gazprom to buy a stake in ENI, and for ENI to explore and extract gas in Russia. Further deals could see Yukos leftover Arktikgaz sold to Italy, if either ENI or Enel succeed in their bids to acquire the asset. But experts believe it is more likely that Gazprom itself will get Arktikgaz in the end, according to the paper. Enel’s Director General Conti said his company was planning to invest some 4 BLN Euros in Russian projects.

Novye Izvestia daily features an interview with the Russian Ambassador to Georgia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, who returned to Tbilisi to continue his work after a period of tension between the two countries. The ambassador says he will put his weight behind a plan to re-open the Russian school in Tbilisi and make it an example for other schools. He says he's concerned about fewer and fewer youths in Georgia being bilingual and many don’t understand Russian at all. Mr Kovalenko says he seeks to revitalise friendly relations. However, the paper asks whether the visa ban against Georgians does not get in the way of the two nations growing closer cultural ties. Asked whether he plans to learn Georgian, the polyglot politician said that he already spoke a couple of words and was willing to improve and devote his free time to the study of Georgian art.

Kommersant daily paper reports on the new wave of arrests of prominent opposition leaders in Belarus. The opposition link repressions with the upcoming Day of Will, celebrated on March 25. Last year thousands went onto streets on that day to protest against rigged presidential elections. The paper says that President Lukashenko has dropped his recent claims that Belarus turned towards the West, and now he has decided there are no reasons to flirt with Europe.

Trud daily looks at how people from Russia’s Far East are turning to China to escape rising housing prices at home. Russians are seriously setting out to buy flats in China and other South-East Asian countries, the article starts. And who would blame them? After all it’s warm all year round, food is cheap, and the cost of utilities there is simply a joke compared to Russia. From the Amur region alone more than a hundred families have acquired real estate across the border with China. Apparently, all it takes to is a bit of money and a passport. The paper presents the case of Tatiana, whose life changed with the decision to go East. Her son persuaded her to pack her bags and leave for Beijing. The two now share a flat of 120 square metres in a prestigious area for just $US 230 a month. Tatiana likes the place  and the prices so much so that she now wants to obtain a flat of her own in the Chinese province close to her homeland.