From the heat of Malaysia, Vladimir Putin arrived yesterday in the no less hot Uzbekistan. Samarkand was chosen as the location for his meeting with President Islam Karimov. Following the two leaders' talks, Vladimir Putin said that they had been full of content, as well as long. Karimov, a traditional sceptic of post-Soviet integration processes, said that much had been wrongly overlooked in relations with neighbouring states "due to the euphoria of sovereignty." The focus of the talks was gas. In line with a concluded agreement, the volume of Uzbek gas deliveries should increase to 10 billion cubic metres by 2005. About 2 billion cubic metres per year are currently being pumped, but the transport network needs to be modernised if increases are to take place. "We are intending to act energetically to implement this agreement," Vladimir Putin stressed.
"UES of Russia Buys Georgian Power Industry from the Americans" is the headline of an article about the Russian concern's purchase of the Tbilisi energy supply network, Telasi. It had earlier belonged to the American company AES, which is now on the verge of going bankrupt. UES Russia not only bought Telasi from the Americans, but also two energy units at the Gardaban thermal power plant, not far from Tbilisi, and assumed control of two units of the Khramskaya hydroelectric power station. The Russians now have the opportunity to use directly the services of the AES filial company AES Transenergy that transmits energy to Turkey. The value of the deal with the Americans has not been disclosed, as it is one of the conditions of the given agreement.
Azerbaijan has been left not only without a president, but also a prime minister. Baku had been waiting for the announced return of 80-year-old President Heidar Aliyev from a Turkish military hospital in Ankara, but then news arrived: the president really had left the hospital. However, he had flown not to the Azerbaijani capital, but to a clinic in Cleveland to undergo further treatment. He underwent an operation on his heart there in 1999. The Turkish TV channel NTV reported that the president needed a heart and liver transplant. Meanwhile, Ilham Aliyev, Heidar's 41-year-old son, who has only just been confirmed as the republic's new premier, announced that he was going on holiday.
Russian oil exports for the first six months of 2003 reached 106.019 million tonnes. This is a 16% year-on-year increase. Proceeds for raw material exports for the first two quarters of the year rose by 4% to 17.7 billion dollars. More than 87.2 million tonnes of oil worth 15.4 billion dollars were sent to the Baltic states and other non-CIS countries. The recipients of the largest volumes of raw materials were Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland.
In a history-making event, a former major-general of the State Security Committee (KGB), holder of 22 awards and the title Honoured Chekist, has taken the American oath of allegiance. This happened in a Baltimore department of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service. The former officer in question is Oleg Kalugin, who last year was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Moscow court for state treason. Before he became a US citizen (Kalugin has already lived for a long time in the USA on a residency permit), he passed a test on US history and gave his fingerprints. In a Gazeta interview, Kalugin said that he was not going to renounce his Russian citizenship.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18