A series of traditional fairs of the Sputnik Flemish Society of Friendship with Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States opened in the Belgian city of Kortrijk (West Flanders) Friday night. This small organisation of enthusiasts sympathising with countries in the ex-U.S.S.R. conducts active cultural and educational work to disseminate information about Russia and its neighbours and contributes to tourist exchanges between Belgium and the CIS. Sputnik holds its Christmas fairs to acquaint Belgians with the culture and arts of CIS countries and raise funds for its activities. Visitors to the fairs can buy handicraft and works of art from CIS countries, postage stamps, souvenirs, books and recordings. Sputnik also mounts exhibitions of paintings and photos, and holds national cuisine festivals. Russia's RIA Novosti news agency is participating in this year's fairs for the second time. It shares a stand with Belgium's Russian Style association, where it offers literature and reference books about Russia and its weekly publications - Sputnik and Russian Mirror. Kortrijk culture councillor Stefaan Bral said, opening the fair, that a local branch of the former Belgium-U.S.S.R. Friendship Society was set up in Kortrijk shortly after the war, in 1945. He said that in conditions of globalisation it is such organisations, which continue promoting East-West cooperation by means of people's diplomacy despite numerous difficulties and obstacles, that keep up the hope that all people can lead a worthy life and live in a stable world.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea