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26 Feb, 2008 17:19

RT presents: Russia's Choice, Feb 26

Russians from all walks of life have been giving RT their views on the country's future and the Presidential election this Sunday. Every hour until polling day, RT is broadcasting live interviews with Russia's most prominent politicians and opinion formers.

From every part of Russia and abroad, our correspondents are discovering the burning issues and what voters expect from their next leader. Join us for the marathon broadcast!

Feb 26, 2008

Konstantin Kazenin, Regnum News Agency Editor-in Chief, spoke to RT at 11 pm on the relations of Russia with its republics and the neighbouring countries.

Commenting on Russia’s recent tensions with Georgia, Kazenin said “Georgia and Russia are neighbours and lots of Georgian families have relatives in Russia and so forth, and it’s impossible to have no normal transportation between Tbilisi and Moscow.”
Atomstroyexport is a leading Russian company which builds atomic energy objects abroad and covers more than 20% of the  world market.

Timur Ivanov, Atomstroyexport Vice-President, joined to RT at10 pm to talk about the reasons for such a success.

“It’s not only company’s success, but the success of the whole industry in Russia. The first nucler plant was built in the country just 60- years ago. And since then a lot gas improved. And now we are constructing seven units around the globe including Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran,” Timur Ivanov said.

Is Russia different today from the country it was eight years ago? Christopher Boian from AFP News Agency shared with RT his view on the issue.

“If you compare Russia of 2000 with the one we have today – we are talking about two practically different countries. Russia in 2000 was the country that was reeling out of economic crisis and hardship, and was engaged in a military conflict. Look around today and you’ll see quite another country,” he said.

Russia-India co-operation and trade are developing and Vinay Shukla, Press Trust of India correspondent, said to RT he believes there will be no changes in this policy during the next presidency.

Rustam Amirkhanov, co-ordinator for humanitarian and educational programmes in Russia's Chechen Republic, commented to RT at 7 pm about education in Chechnya and recent progress.

Education opportunities in areas like programme management and strategic planning is developing, although he says more work can be done.

“Business is still developing really slowly. For ten years education was not progressing in the Chechen Republic, and to develop businesses we need good-educated staff. So we still feel there is a need for education, especially for the business education,” Amirkhanov said.

Neil McGowan, Russian Experience Managing Director, spoke to RT at 6 pm about his impressions from Russia and possible ways to boost for the local tourism industry.

“I think mostly people don't really know what's here, what they'll be coming for even if they did come. Some people come for the culture, other people come for the amazing landscapes, but the majority of people come to see if the amazing things they've heard about Russia actually exist,” Neil McGowan believes.

Huge economic growth in Russia is impossible without further support for technology, according to one of the leading figures of Saint-Petersburg's IT scene, Artyom Astafurov.

The Vice-President for Global Projects at DataArt Software Outsourcing spoke to RT about Russia's technological potential.

“Russia has a big future in the IT sector. In the last four or three years the country has indicated a sustained growth in it. And the breakthrough in this will continue if the government will support it after the election. It is already the second largest sector of the economy after natural resources,” Artyom Astafurov said.

Dmitry Mereshkin from St. Petersburg City Committee on Youth Policy and Co-operation with NGOs joined RT at 4 pm to talk about the support which the city government provides for NGOs and the tolerance programme.

“We have come to understand the growing problem of intolerance in our city. To solve this problem we have created a special tolerance programme. It provides more that 80 million roubles in government funding per year till 2010 to address these concerns,” Dmitry Mereshkin said.

Russian tsars left a great collection of art in St. Petersburg. What is the state of this artistic heritage now? John Varoli, journalist at Bloomberg News, shared his opinion with RT.

“The burden of having a good art collection is that you must maintain it. This is especially vital for the city's architecture. This means resources are needed in St. Petersburg,” said Varoli.

Salim Tharani, a Canadian who's lived in Moscow for more than ten years and has co-owned an advertising agency, spoke to RT at 2 pm.

“I've lived in Russia since 1994. During my first five years in this country it was a tremendous challenge to be here. But recently my business has grown and flourished,” he said.

Shavkat Kary-Niyazov, the president of Marine Facade Company, spoke to RT in St. Petersburg at 2 pm. Russia's northern capital has always had a reputation as the marine capital of the country, but the local situation hasn't been ideal in recent years. Shavkat Kary-Niyazov explained his company's big project which is supposed to improve St. Petersburg.

Natalya Katsap, the spokesperson for the Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS (TPAA) spoke to RT at 1pm.

“There are about 4,800 cases officially registered, while Russian and international experts say that about 1.2 million Russians have HIV today. We are looking at an epidemic that is continuously growing. Some say that it's one of the highest rates of HIV in the world at the moment,” she said.

At the moment, there is no comprehensive approach to HIV and AIDS at schools. Some positive changes have occurred in the last three years.

“What we want to see further, is the increased quality of this response as opposed to quantity in terms of dollars,” Katsap said.

Two guests joined RT at noon in Moscow and in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen republic.

Konstantin Sonin, from the New Economic School commented on how attractive the Russian market for foreign investment is and whether it's likely to change under a new president.

“Whoever is the Russian president, his next task is to restore or build from scratch new institutions which, for example protect property rights. There was a lot of emphasis on the executive power in Putin's years and if we want to have stable investments, we need to build an institution that will be independent from political pressure,” he said.

Ibragim Bisayev from the Chechen External Relations Department spoke about the specific priorities for the republic.

“First of all, as in any post-war region, it's education and healthcare,” he said.

Matthias Schepp, the Moscow head of German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, joined RT at 11 am. He commented on Russia's oil and gas disputes with Ukraine and Belarus over the past years and suggested how it could affect Moscow's image as an energy supplier to Europe.

“Think for a moment of Ukraine as of a young, beautiful blonde with long legs, wearing high heels and a mini-skirt. And she is your concubine for quite a while. You pay her a BMW, an apartment, jewelry. And all of a sudden she is with another man. So, what would most of the men do? Would they go on buying her jewelry? Of course, they would not. And that's exactly what happened in the conflict with Ukraine. Russia was subsidising the Ukrainian economy with around 5 billion each year and then Ukraine turned to the U.S. and EU,”  Schepp said.

Mikhail Stolyarov, a political analyst from the Russian Academy of Public Administration was RT’s guest at 10 am. He says the fact that Vladimir Putin is stepping down is  important, since it’s ‘very fair for Russia, very democratic, Putin follows the constitution and doesn’t change it’.

“I’m not sure that Prime Minister would be the best position for Putin. We’ve had a succession of prime ministers. And Putin, if he becomes  Prime Minister, he would be the tenth one, and he himself, would be Prime Minister for the second time. And all the Prime Ministers before him appeared to be people who lose – losers – in terms that in Russian tradition the prime minister is not an honourable post, it’s the post to do hard executive work.  If Putin wants to continue playing a big role in Russia, he needs some other post,” Stolyarov said.

Mikhail Shvydkoi, Director of the Federal Agency on Culture and Cinematography, joined RT at 9 am to give his thoughts on what to expect from post-election Russia.

“In Russia many people want to continue the stable life. This is very important for Russia because during the 90s we had a very contradictory time. I've never said that the 90s were bad, because that time gave people freedom, many new opportunities, The Iron Curtain ruined, etc. But now people want to change the standard of life, they want to incorporate into the European and world system of economy and social relations,” he said.

Lauri Veijalainen, chief financial officer of IKEA Russia was RT's guest at 8 am. He's been living in Russia since 1998 and witnessed how the country came back from economic collapse.

Veijalainen, a Finnish working for a Swedish company says how, from his point of view, things have changed in Russia over these ten years.

“One thing that I can definitely say is that the tempo of the business has increased significantly since 1998 when the economy collapsed. It has also been very interesting. There've been a lot of good changes and some sad bits, too. But on the whole, I look at this period as at a very positive one for myself personally, for the economy and the country,” Veijalainen said.

Denis Smirnov from the WWF Russia Amur Branch joined RT at 7 am to talk more about the problem of illegal logging in the Primorsky region.

Ilya Merenzon, the publisher of the Russia magazine and an expert in economics, joined RT at 5 am to give more comments on the Russian economy.

Mr Merenzon said that the Russian economy’s proven itself to be fairly resilient, but not for a long time. “Right now Russia becomes a part of a global economic landscape and it is likely to be affected by an economic crisis like any other big country,” he said.

Marina Pomelova, a TV journalist from the Primorsky region, joined RT at 5 am to speak about the APEC summit that Vladivostok is due to host in 2012 and about fighting corruption in the region.

“Most of the people living in Primorsky region are exited very much, because they hope the summit could bring them a better life and a better future,” she said.

John Pike, editor of the Global Security website, was RT’s guest at 4 am. He commented on the defence issues facing Russia.

“I think that regardless of the outcome of the Presidential election in the U.S., we are going to have a president who’s going to be pressing ahead with missile defense and we are going to come back to this business about the missile defense facilities in Central Europe that Russia is so unhappy with,” he said.

Natalya Prisekina, the head of Vladivostok International Business Association, and a long-standing resident of the region, joined RT at 3 am to talk about how has the region and overall standard of living changed over the last decade.

Yury Mamchur, the head of the Real Russia Project from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, joined RT at 0 am to talk more about Russian-American relations, as both countries approach their presidential elections.

Mr Mamchur said that Russia’s been very peaceful on its foreign policy “Since President Putin took the office we didn’t see any engagements in foreign land by the Russian troops, the war in Chechnya in finally over.”