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18/4/2014 9:30
RIA Novosti

What the Russian papers say

Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, February 4

Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, February 4
16:19 04/02/2013
MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti)
Tags: USSR, Sochi Olympics, VEB, Dmitry Medvedev, Natalya Timakova, Dmitry Kozak, Stalingrad, Volgograd, Sochi

Kommersant

Shortage of Workers for Olympic Development Projects

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak will have to find more people to build sports facilities and hotels in Sochi if he is to solve the problem of having enough accommodation for visitors of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

A shortage of workers for Olympic construction projects seems to have replaced financing problems as the biggest risk facing the organizers. The issue was raised at the first meeting of the presidium of the Sochi 2014 state organizing commission chaired by Kozak.

He said the new commission had been established because there is less than a year to go until the Olympics and there is a growing need to minimize emergencies and risks and to ensure everything runs smoothly. However, the new commission seems to have inherited the old problems and again needs to get into tangled relations between the Olympstroy construction corporation, VEB bank, the organizing committee, local governments and private investors.

The state commission will include five headquarters, each responsible for one of the major issues, such as energy, transport and construction, and headed by a government official. The presidium will meet monthly, Kozak said.

According to the meeting minutes, there is a risk the construction schedule will slip due to a shortage of 22,600 of the estimated 94,500construction workers and 1,200 construction machinery units. The plan is to develop 378 federal and 46 regional projects, of which only 13 involve building sports facilities. The other projects deal with infrastructure or accommodation. Only six major projects have been completed so far. Federal agencies are doing better than private investors in terms of recruiting; however, private investors have no problems with equipment.

The minimum number of hotel rooms needed to accommodate the athletes and guests is 41,500, according to IOC requirements. The Olympic construction program includes 43 new hotels with 24,000 rooms. Six hotels have been excluded from the program “due to financing and construction deadlines not having been met.” According to the commission, 24 more hotel projects are “at risk of collapse” due to a shortage of 10,700 workers.

“The estimate of 94,500 people is the peak figure,” a source at the Regional Development Ministry explained. “It can be reached if the maximum number of people are employed at all sites simultaneously. In reality, there is a natural redistribution of workforce and equipment.” The ministry believes the fines developers face for failing to meet deadlines can “minimize the risks.” The current shortfall of hotel rooms is 2,400.

As of January 1, 74.5 percent of the estimated 1.5 trillion rubles ($50 billion) of Olympic financing has been spent. Private investors are to provide 1 trillion rubles.  Officially, the financing problem was resolved last year when the government arranged VEB loans to cover the cash deficit for Olympic projects. Although penalties have been introduced to avoid a situation in which VEB would co-finance more than 70 percent of the project, sources claim this ratio could be increased for Olympic projects that are falling behind.

Izvestia

Freedom of the Press is Better Than Non-Freedom of the Press

It seems the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Natalya Timakova, would beg to differ. Last week she announced that an immediate inquiry would be launched into how Izvestia correspondents got access to the business correspondence of government officials.

“Izvestia has been suspiciously well-informed about the content of business correspondence lately. It is outrageous that documents addressed to the president, the prime minister or his deputies are often published before they have been delivered to their recipients,” Timakova says.

Every self-respecting media outlet would take it as a compliment and one particularly flattering coming from one of their peers. Timakova’s concerns are also obvious. As Dmitry Medvedev once said, “freedom is better than non-freedom.” A data leak of this kind must be like a stab to the heart of the press service. The prime minister, however, would not argue with another saying, that the truth is better than a lie.

Izvestia is no tabloid newspaper and it never spreads private rumors about public officials – unless they concern corrupt deals.

The working routines of ministries and government agencies are not secret unless they concern state secrets or classified information, the publication of which could adversely affect the country’s economy.

The prime minister and his deputies do not have to like what Izvestia has to say but its materials are not planted articles or the kind of ingratiating flattery Dmitry Medvedev also says he hates.

A fair audit of any publication, domestic or foreign, has only one criterion: truth or falsehood. If a newspaper publishes true facts it is not that important how they were discovered. The truth does not have to be authorized. An authorized truth is a lie even if it comes from an “open government.”

Timakova plans to involve the security services in the investigation. A dramatic scene comes to mind of masked agents sweeping in to turn closets inside out, and the skeletons of numerous ministers fall out, clattering to the floor. But the point is the press secretary has turned against Izvestia, while virtually every political or business media outlet has a source in the cabinet. This looks more like a witch-hunt – or a conspiracy against the truth.

For many years, the major media have referred to their sources in the government. Until now, those “exclusive” insights have not disturbed Timakova. What lies behind this unexpected twist, concerns for the government or personal animosity? Could it be a favor for some of Izvestia’s competitors?

Izvestia was founded nearly 100 years ago. The fate of the newspaper is closely connected with the history of this country. It has seen a lot. It has seen wise editors and talented journalists. It has seen overzealous bureaucrats, too. Many are now gone and forgotten. But the newspaper is still here to make the news.

Vedomosti

Editor’s View: Stalin for Six Days

The symbolic renaming of Volgograd reflects the nostalgic feelings of some of the Russian elite for a "strong hand."

For six days of the year Volgograd is once again going to be Stalingrad. This was the decision taken by the City Duma “in response to numerous petitions by World War II veterans” ahead of the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in the Battle of Stalingrad.

How will the symbolic name be used? Will passengers be told that their airplane or train has arrived in Stalingrad? Will the appropriate notes be stamped in birth and death certificates or marriage certificates? Will signs be changed at the entrance to the city?

The law on place names requires that any renaming of a populated locality takes the opinion of local residents into account. There has been no referendum held on this issue (polls show most Russians and Volgograd residents are against the city regaining the name of Stalin). A recommendation by the regional legislature and a federal law are also needed. No temporary renaming is allowed by law.

We have here a kind of carnival-like prank, a play on names. It has already given rise to a host of jokes: naming Kaliningrad back to Konigsberg for six days, renaming St. Petersburg back to Leningrad when the winter is severe, giving up Vyborg to the Finns for a time, temporarily taking Alaska from the Americans, and so on. Twenty cities were renamed after well-known political leaders during the Soviet era.

Perhaps Volgograders could organize some kind of tourist business: role playing at Sergeant Pavlov or the surrender of Paulus; specific Stalingrad souvenirs or special cancellation stamps.

No name is given without a reason. The Battle of Stalingrad is still the Battle of Stalingrad, why rename the city? A six-day Stalingrad reflects the nostalgic feelings for a strong hand by some of the Russian elite who are seeking to rehabilitate Stalin, and give him back his official and government status. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is fond of imperial symbols, has taken this initiative further: he has proposed renaming the city for good. In his view, that would increase the city's investment attractiveness.

Following that logic, the name of Kaganovich could increase the investment appeal of the Moscow Metro, that of Beria of nuclear institutes and the acronym USSR that of Russia.

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

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16:19 04/02/2013 Shortage of Workers for Olympic Development Projects/ Freedom of the Press is Better Than Non-Freedom of the Press/ Editor’s View: Stalin for Six Days>>

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