Worldwide Media Relations

More News from Russia

(A little dated, but still interesting ...)

(Moscow) Russian television viewers should soon be watching their own "Miami Vice" program -- most likely without the fancy duds, pastels and palm trees. Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov ("Burnt by the Sun") and American producer Steven Lawrence will join forces to create a Moscow cop series called "In the Name of the Law," set to start production in the fall. The show will target a Russian market of some 150 million viewers who have shown a taste for the American cop genre, and will also be produced in an English version for international distribution. The plots will be strong on fiction, since "if you get too close to the truth, you can get killed," said Lawrence.

(Moscow) More than half of fires in Russia are caused by drunks, says a ministry report. The statistics show the number of fires attributed to fumbling drinkers has risen by more than 3.5 times over the last five years. The report also finds the majority of other accidents is due to uncontrolled behavior by drug-addicts.

(St. Petersburg) Curious about citizen preferences in St. Petersburg? Here's a sampling:

(USA) Beware bogus Bolshoi ballet dancers coming to your town. A 50-dancer troupe of Russians is touring America, drawing large crowds by promoting itself as part of the world-famous Bolshoi Theater, much to the ire of the management for the real thing. The Bolshoi's true manager in Moscow has warned American promoters that the fake performers are a "gross violation" that have nothing to do with his theater.

(Vogodonsk) Only one in 100 Russian school children think their homeland is the best country in the world, according to a group study of 12-year-olds. One-third of the children thought they were still a part of the Soviet Union or the CIS. Only half of the students could name the colors of the Russian national flag, and only half of those could name the stripes in the right order -- white, blue and red.

(Barnaul) Talk about your passionate love bites! A newlywed wife observing the Russian tradition of chomping into a loaf of bread bit down so hard she dislocated her jaw. The bread-biting custom is to ensure a happy married life. Her over-exuberant bite was perhaps "to show her superiority over the bridegroom," suggested a local newspaper.

(Baikonur Cosmodrome) Russia has launched its first commercial satellite as part of a Russian-American joint venture. The launch netted $60 million. It's good news for the strapped Russian space program, which will benefit by 20 such launches in the venture by the year 2000.

(Moscow) Fearful of rampant Russian crime? At least the tax collectors are. According to the Russian Federal Tax Police Service, tax evasion as become one of the country's most widespread economic crimes. Now comes the crackdown: a financial real estate defrauder was recently sentenced to near five years in prison, compared to a business owner who stabbed an employee with a knife, and was only sentenced to three-and-a-half years.

(Moscow) Russia's worse criminals are not faring so well in the face of jail overcrowding. "A bullet is cheaper than new prisons," says human rights activist Lev Razgon serving on a commission created by President Yeltsin. Razgon says Russian executions are on the rise because there is little room left in jails, and there are few rubles around to build new ones. Yeltsin earlier commuted most death sentences to life in prison, but over 13 months has denied more than 100 requests for clemency. "Some people believe mass executions will solve the problem," rues Razgon.

(Itar-Tass) Russia has already prospected natural resource reserves worth 28.5 trillion U.S. dollars, says the Chairman of the Russian Committee for Geology and Mining. "Thirteen percent of the world's petroleum reserves, 35 percent of its gas resources, 12 percent of its coal, a considerable part of the planet's gold, diamond, iron ore, ferrous and non-ferrous metal deposits are to be found on the territory of Russia," he says.

(Moscow) Psssst. Hey buddy, want to buy a Kalashnikov assault rifle? How about an attack helicopter, or anti-tank and aircraft weapons? Or perhaps some guided munitions? Russia has increased the number of private firms licensed to export such weapons to eight. Formerly only one arms producer enjoyed the privilege. The exports have become a cash cow -- arms sales have nearly doubled to some $3 billion last year. A Russian official says the controls over arm shipments are "pretty rigorous."

(Washington) Nuclear fuel from the former Soviet weapons arsenal is feeding a black market for terrorist groups and nations, warns U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. "This threat is no longer merely theoretical ... now we're dealing with fact," Nunn says. Analysts have testified to Senators about at least 11 "insider" assited thefts of weapons grade fuel from former Soviet nuclear sites.

(Washington) What does a communist revival mean for Russia's economic future? That depends upon whom you ask. Mark Mobius, manager of Templeton's Russia Fund, says a return of communist control might actually be a boost, with a strong centralized government helping to pull together Russia's many stock markets and improving stock registration. However, Harvard academic and Moscow advisor Jeffrey Sachs says a communist resurgence "would likely produce another downward spiral of the vicious circle" of failed reforms, giving way to a deepening despair and "foreign policy adventurism" in the near-abroad.

(Moscow) Looking for a late-night nosh in Moscow? Try a bite at the new Starlite Cafe, just a quick walk away from the Kremlin. The 24-hour soda-fountain motifed eatery features miniskirted & bobby-socked waitresses, bubblegum-pink fluorescent lights, and a juke-box loaded with hits from the 50s. The well-stocked and reasonably-priced menu offers American diner classics like gravy fries; pulled pork, peanut butter/marshmallow and tuna-melt sandwiches; root beer and cream soda; even a $200 bottle of Dom Perignon. The owners expect a 50/50 split between Russian and foreign eaters.

(Moscow) Russia has a new magazine featuring the publishing know-how of America's Newsweek and Russia's MOST group. The magazine is dubbed Itogi (translates to Summing Up), and will issue 50,000 copies its first month, climbing to 100,000 by year's end. Newsweek articles will fill some 15 percent of the mag's 80 pages, which will be aimed at a distinctly Russian audience with primarily political news.

(Moscow) The Russian parliament has passed a resolution condemning desecration of the red hammer-&-sickle Soviet flag, calling it a "historical symbol of our motherland." The resolution followed a television report catching a youth from the anti-fascist committee wiping his feet on the flag. Such displays are now subject to criminal prosecution as a "hooligan action."

(Washington) Russia and the United States are joining forces to beat out breast cancer, using spy technology to search out small lumps in American and Russian women's breasts. The breast cancer project unites expertise from US Health and Human Services and the Russian Health Ministry. The CIA is supplying technical support.

(Zelenograd) IBM is bailing its computer production plant out of Russia, after a two-year production venture in a city 30 miles from Moscow. IBM will continue to sell and service computers in Russia, but the assembly project was doomed by "onerous taxes," said a company manager. IBM invested $2-million in the project early in 1993.

(Moscow) Russian women are committing crimes at almost double the rate of just two years ago. Some 230,000 women committed crimes last year, compared to less than 142,000 in 1993. Russian women committed more than 5,600 premeditated murders in 1995. When male murderers are counted in, the total murder rate last year reaches 31,500. Russia registered 15,500 murders in 1990.

(Moscow) The popular American children's show "Sesame Street" is heading for Russian television, but a few changes occurred in the translation. Characters Bert and Ernie are now Vlas and Enik, who live on Ulitsa Sezam. Like in America, the Russian show aims to promote racial harmony and celebrate cultural diversity. Hardest job so far: teaching doleful Russian children to sing happy songs. Watch for air date next fall.

(Washington) Russia will not turn away from economic reforms, says American capitalism's ambassador to Moscow. Peter Charow, the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, says American business needs to screen out the day-to-day political noise, and concentrate on the progress made. "What's been accomplished is incredible," he says. His membership includes some 240 American companies investing more than $2-billion in Russia.

(Moscow) Like all artists, Russian actors may have to suffer for their craft, but at least they won't go hungry. Actors and crew at a local theater company recently received a portion of their pay in hot dogs, passed on by government officials who had collected a tax payment from a meat company of frankfurters rather than rubles. Cash-strapped businesses frequently barter products for taxes, such as tampons, toilets, bricks and other choice items. The actors were pleased with the tasty wieners, so they say.

(Moscow) Perhaps a good indicator of renewed hope in Russia: the birthrate in Moscow rose in 1995 for the first time in several years. Many Russian women have been avoiding babies, faced with dismal circumstances in the present and poor prospects ahead. But in a possible nascent reversal, there were 850 more births in the city in the first months of 1995 than over the same period of 1994.

(London) Economic analysts are predicting Russia will stick with economic reform, but investors may be in for an amusement park ride. "The government will stay the course though there will be some policy shifts ... for the moment the market is giving Russia the benefit of the doubt," says a strategist for Standard Bank.

(Moscow) About 25 percent of all Russians are earning more than a million rubles a month. Sounds like a lot? At current exchange rates that's about $200. That sum is quickly chewed up by the skyrocketing costs for goods, services and housing. Many Russians augment their incomes with second and third jobs, and economic hustling that may not be reflected in official figures. Russia's State Statistics Committee places a monthly subsistence wage at 327,000 rubles - about $75.

(Moscow) Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, dead and displayed since 1924, is finding new fervor on the campaign trail. Russian communist leader Gennady Zyuganov is turning to Lenin for a boost in his bid toward the June presidential election. "Lenin showed a fine example when he arrived in a devastated Russia. When he left this life, there was a unified state, a strong ruble and a completely clear economic policy," Zyuganov said during a visit to Lenin's mausoleum.

(Moscow) Wouldn't be caught dead in Russia? Then here's some good news: if you should die there Helsinki-based Auro-Flite will jet you out in a flash on a private plane. "No crowds, no fuss, no cramped freight holds," they promise. Time from death to departure can take less than 24 hours, but be prepared for a $14,000 charge on your credit card.

(Moscow) Boy, talk about deflated egos! Famed Russian television psychic and faith healer Anatoly Kashpirovsky has threatened to use his mind powers to invoke impotence for anyone who tries to evict him from his government perk apartment. He's due to receive the boot from the pad after losing his re-election bid to the Russian Duma in December.

(Moscow) The Russian navy is looking for a few good men, at least ones that aren't sick from starvation. Navy doctors have found that more than 10 percent of recruits reporting for duty are suffering from malnutrition requiring hospitalization before they can begin basic training. One Russian Pacific Fleet officer says the division is forced to accept unhealthy conscripts in order to meet the recruitment quota. Four navy ensigns died three years ago from malnutrition while serving on a base off Russia's eastern coast.

(Helsinki) The raucous and often obnoxious Russian ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovksy is actually a pussycat at home, so says anyway his loving wife, Galina. "He never makes any noise at home, he walks around in soft slippers," she said at an impromptu news conference in Finland. Vladimir "is very considerate to his family, he never forgets a birthday."

(Moscow) Moscow officials are planning to open a number of night shelters over the upcoming year to help remove some of the 300,000 vagrants and homeless people from the capital city's streets. Homeless unfortunates will be able to spend up to 30 days at a shelter. Dozens of street people die each winter in Moscow's deep freeze.

(New York) High-financier George Soros says he is "cautiously pessimistic" over his investments in Russia, as he begins to return to the risky market with some of his billions-of-dollars behind him. "I do it because the reward in certain situations is so great it is worth taking the risk," Soros said. He had earlier sold much of his Russian holdings over concern for the country's dominating "robber capitalism." Soros has spent more than $100-million supporting former Soviet scientists, libraries, education, journalists and various reforms.

(Moscow) A recent poll in Russia asked 1,179 people what they thought Russia needed more -- democracy or order. Three-fourths of the respondents chose order. Many Russians are blaming their new freedoms for a surge in crime and economic insecurity, as indicated in the poll by the Russian Center for Public Opinion and Market Research. People in the larger and richer population centers are happier with the reforms, while those living in the provinces -- where most Russians reside -- are much gloomier.

(Tula) A central Russian factory has crafted the world's largest samovar -- that ubiquitous dispenser of hot water and Russian hospitality. The freshly forged samovar stands 6-1/2 feet tall (2-meters), and holds 117-gallons (450-liters) of boiling water able to fill thousands of cups of assorted hot libations. The more standard samovar stands at a relatively modest 12-inches (30-cm) in height. The super-samovar made by the Shtamp plant marks the 250th anniversary of the Russian tea-making tradition.

(Moscow) Contract killers in Russia have a steep price-list for their services, says an investigative report by the Moscow News. It costs about $7,000 to hit an average citizen without a body guard, up to $12,000 for a contract on someone with a body guard. 

(Moscow) Russian mothers and fathers are fighting as hard as any parent might to keep their young sons from being drafted into the Russian army, terrified the boys will be victims of a traditionally brutal -- and sometimes fatal -- hazing by other soldiers. Many parents are asking for medical deferments to keep their sons from the draft and away from the possible abuse. "They're just interested in their boys," says a Russian general. "If you're strong enough to defend yourself, no one will bother you."

(Moscow) Russian scientists are calling on the government to stop Russian men from drinking themselves to death. The average Russian man drinks half a bottle of vodka -- about half a pint -- each and every day. The death toll due to excessive tippling is rising rapidly, especially among Russian men age between 30 and 50. Many drunks reeling on the streets freeze to death every winter. The last anti-alcohol campaign in the 1980s led to strong anti-Gorbachev sentiment among the boozers.

(Moscow) U.S. and Russian officials have signed an agreement to expand their joint crime-fighting efforts. Law enforcers from both countries say drug trafficking and organized crime are the worst threats in their respective lands. The CIA and the FBI have both assigned special forces to help fight crime across the former Soviet Union.

(Honolulu) Two Russian honeymooners got a taste of American hospitality after they discovered their $3,100 cash savings missing in transit. Flight attendants and passengers took up a collection, and the couple landed in Hawaii with $1,200. Other passengers provided hotel accommodations and tour packages. "We now realize how good Americans are," said the newlywed wife.

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