Volgograd Forum, June 1, 2002


Strange things are happening on the Globe these days. Pat Buchanan, as it was shown on Russian TV recently, approved of the US-Russian treaty and added Russia was a more natural ally of the United States than, say, China. At the same time many of our Democratic "friends" did everything they could on the eve of your President's visit to Russia to prevent the US Congress from revocation of the obsolete Jackson-Venik law ridiculously linking it with chicken leg quarters exports. In their utmost striving to prick President Bush they did not care a damn about the prestige of their own country, but their own partisan interests. They did not care that people in other countries would think of the US as an unreliable partner because leaders of both parties of the US Congress assured President Putin during his visit to the USA last year that this notorious law would be revoked.

Nevertheless, I think that both Russia and the United States are moving in the right direction. Not without difficulties, though, but the direction is right. It is like market reforms in this country. Everyone, including myself, has been criticizing them pitilessly for the last decade. But ten years have passed and lo! Russia has a market economy. This fact has been recognized by the European Union last week and, as President Bush promised, the United States would pass a similar decision before June 14 (unless Democratic "friends" of Russia play the foul game again).

On May 16 we had a Forum meeting with Dr. Konstantin Gavrikov of the Volgograd Medical Academy as a speaker.

Dr. Gavrikov worked out a computerized program "Child's Medical History". Using this program any pediatrician can feed in and store data about child's development from the moment of its birth. Now it is done on paper and from the experience with my own kids I know that by the age of seven it is a thick volume which occupies a lot of space on hospital shelves.

The Volzhski Maternity Hospital, for example, accepts baby patients from all over the region and it is often a problem to get the child's medical history from a remote village clinic, while, if it were digitized, they would get it in a matter of seconds.

Dr. Kirichenko of the Maternity Hospital could not come for the event but there were some doctors from his clinic. Also present was the Chief Pediatrician of the Volgograd Oblast Dr. Marina Aksyonova who spoke too.

We held the event not at one of our usual meeting places but at the Medical Academy because the doctors needed their computers to demonstrate their program in action.

Dr. Gavrikov said he had addressed the Volgograd Regional Administration and the Oblast Duma asking them to help finance this project from the local budget but there had been no response so far. By addressing the FSF and the media the doctors hoped to attract public attention to this problem and spur the authorities on. I hope that we helped them a bit.

The other last month's Forum meeting took place May 31. The speaker was Deputy of the Russian State Duma Yevgeny Ishchenko. Mr. Ishchenko is known throughout the country as the scourge of the Russian oil companies. He thinks that thanks to a powerful lobby in the Russian Government and the State Duma the former enjoy unfairly low taxes and through different "gray" schemes avoid paying even these ones, thus getting huge profits. So the title of his address was "Taxation of Oil Companies".

Mr. Ishchenko spoke to an unusual FSF audience of lawyers, representatives of LUKOIL company which is working in this region, and of the local tax authority, and, of course, mass media people. There were also four (!) officials from the Volgograd Regional Administration. The latters' presence could be explained by the fact that, apart from the direct attack on oil companies, another implication of Deputy Ishchenko's address was that the local Administration was deeply involved with the LUKOIL company because it heavily contributed to the election fund of the present Governor.

I like events like that when a lonely speaker challenges a predominantly hostile audience and faces pointed questions. Though the session was extremely sharp and interesting I do not expect an extensive coverage in the media which is mostly controlled by the local government. But Mr. Ishchenko, formerly a wealthy banker and real estate developer, controls his own large-circulation newspaper "Day by Day", which will certainly report the event in detail.

Alexander Yevreinov
Director, Volgograd Free Speech Forum


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