China, Russia add to treaty
Russia and China on Tuesday added economic substance to their countries' burgeoning friendship, agreeing to formulate a plan for a long-discussed $1.7 billion pipeline to carry oil from Siberia to northeastern China.
The signing of the pipeline and oil-delivery accords came a day after visiting President Jiang Zemin and President Vladimir Putin signed a new 20-year friendship treaty formalizing the growing ties between the two nations following decades of Cold War-era rivalry.
The pipeline accord was signed by Russian and Chinese officials and executives from Russian oil producer YUKOS and pipeline monopoly Transneft and the China National Petroleum Corp. The 2,400 km pipeline could be completed as early as 2005 and ship 20 million metric tons (147 million barrels) a year to China.
"The goal of signing the treaty was to deepen mutual confidence," Jiang told a group of university students. "If we firmly and unfailingly implement this treaty, we will make Russian-Chinese relations an example of friendship."
Putin, also at the university, said: "This very important treaty... is aimed for the 21st century."
Putin masters PR
At his first full-scale news conference in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrated a mastery of public relations Wednesday, nimbly switching from foreign to domestic policy and back again and deflecting questions about himself.
"I don't want to characterize or pin a label on myself," he said. "In essence, I believe a person should be judged not by what he says but by what he does."
Putin was alternately humorous and stern, lightly cajoling a foreign correspondent for not following events closely enough and haughtily lecturing another about Russia's mission in Chechnya.
When asked what he thought of exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky's prediction that the president would not be in office for long, Putin asked dismissively, "Boris Berezovsky is who?"
Putin said that the news conference was organized in response to more than 1,000 requests for interviews this year, and he earnestly promised to do his best "to maximally satisfy your curiosity."
Zhirinovsky confirms roots
He is Russia's best-known ultranationalist, a flamboyant politician who praised Adolf Hitler and accused Jews of provoking the Holocaust all the while staunchly denying his own Jewish roots.
Now, Vladimir Zhirinovsky has confirmed that his father was Jewish, and says many of his relatives perished in the Holocaust.
"My father was a Jew, a Polish Jew," the 56-year-old Zhirinovsky wrote in his book published this week. "His name was Volf Isaakovich Eidelshtein."
Zhirinovsky's party won nearly a quarter of the national vote in a 1993 parliamentary election, prompting tens of thousands of Russian Jews to apply for foreign visas in case they would have to flee the country, Jewish activists have said.
Putin's federal plans stall
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that his mission to define the division of powers between the center and regional and local government had been stalled, and he called for speeding up the process to help remove obstacles to Russia's development.
"Clear division of the spheres of authority and powers among federal organs of power, regions and municipal organs is one of the conditions for successfully solving social and economic problems, maybe the main condition," Putin told the first meeting of a council formed to work out the different levels of power.
Shortly after he was elected president in March 2000, Putin said one of his main goals was to strengthen the federal center's control over all levels of government and trim the powers of regional leaders.
He grouped Russia's 89 regions into seven large super-regions, each overseen by a Kremlin appointee.
He also sought to eliminate contradictions between federal and regional laws, and took away regional governors' seats in the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament.
Spy suspect's custody extended
A Siberian physicist accused of committing espionage for China will be kept in custody at least until Aug. 14, a news report said Tuesday.
Valentin Danilov, 53, a researcher at Krasnoyarsk Technical University, was arrested on Feb. 16 and charged with selling secrets to a Chinese import-export company.
He has suffered heart trouble since the arrest and was hospitalized, but the court has rejected his lawyer's appeals to ease the conditions of his confinement.
After Aug. 14, Danilov can be held in pretrial detention only with the sanction of the Russian Prosecutor-General's office in Moscow, ITAR-TASS said.
Danilov contends he did not violate any laws because the information he provided was already in scientific journals. Seventeen members of the Russian Academy of Sciences have sent a letter to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, asking for an independent review of the accusations and an open trial. No reply from prosecutors has been reported.