Vladimir Putin's visit to Malaysia was not for nothing, writes the newspaper. Malaysia is a promising economic partner, as proved by the signing of a contract on the delivery of Russian fighter planes to the tune of 900 million dollars. There are more aircraft contracts, co-operation in space exploration and other projects on the agenda. However, Malaysia also has political reasons for strengthening relations with Russia. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad dislikes the USA and the West in general. He loves to talk about "Europeans" who want to colonise his country and trample the Third World underfoot. He sees Russia as a counterbalance to the West.
By the end of this year, the Gorky Automobile Works, GAZ, will have delivered 486 Volga-3110 cars to Iraq, to be used as taxis. The contract worth 44 million dollars was signed with the Iraqi trade ministry in September 2001 and stipulated the delivery of 5,000 Volga cars in batches of 200-250. Half of them were to be delivered by May this year, but the war interfered with these plans. The Russian Foreign Ministry has given assurances that the new Iraqi leadership sees the contract as profitable and pledged to comply with its obligations, which serves as guarantee of the contract's implementation. The Iraqi taxi pool needs modernisation and local drivers have used Volga cars since Soviet times.
The Smolensk Kristall factory, the largest diamond producer in Russia, has decided to shift part of production to China, where the cutters' labour is very cheap. The Russian company will own 51% of a joint venture set up with China's Brilliant Trading, which will cut at least 10 million dollars' worth of Russian diamonds a year from 2004. Kristall produces 30% of Russia's diamonds and is one of the three largest cutting companies in the world. Last year its sales reached 247 million dollars.
Russia and the USA have signed a supplement to the agreement on trade in some types of cast iron and rolled steel, which provides for larger quotas on deliveries to the USA. Under it, Washington will increase cast iron quotas from 609,000 tons to 2 million tons this year. The 2004 quota may be increased or reduced by 5% depending on the market situation.
Chechen premier Anatoly Popov has been appointed as acting head of the republic in place of Akhmad Kadyrov who went on leave for the duration of the presidential campaign. Kadyrov's decree to this effect says that Popov will hold the post for at least two months, until election day, on October 5.