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The challenges for Thai-Russian trade Issues and opportunities in trade between Russia and Thailand are explored in detail

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 31 - November 6, 2015

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Russian Universities reach for the stars SPECIAL REPORT ON GAINS IN HIGHER-EDUCATION RANKINGS

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

News

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FLIGHT MH17

Russia ready to cooperate with Malaysia cialists said the plane was hit by a Russian-made BUK 9M38M1 missile. Yerlomov said Moscow has appealed to the International Civil Aviation Organisation for a new probe into the shooting, as it believed the Dutch report to be biased. Yeromov added that Russia no longer owned such missiles and that the warhead was decommissioned in 2011. He said that the missile mentioned in the report by Dutch investigators was developed in 1986 and had a warranty period of 25 years.

Consumers cut spending it presented the results of a poll of 1,600 individuals, which was conducted in 130 localities across 46 regions this September. Another 20 per cent said they had been acting in that manner for the past six months, and 7 per cent began to spend less on food, goods or entertainment or stopped making some purchases in the past month (23 per cent in January). The percentage of respondents who set no limits to their consumption of goods and services has been

stable, 34 per cent both in January and in September. About 38 per cent of Russians have food reserves, and 36 per cent grow more vegetables and fruit in their vegetable gardens and make their own jams and preserves. About a third (31 per cent) are spending their savings on daily needs, 24 per cent borrow money from banks, 26 per cent borrow from their acquaintances and 23 per cent accept gratis aid from their families.

Bangkok to host a ThaiRussia forum

During the economic boom of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first two terms, which had long periods of double-digit growth, Russian visitors were a familiar sight in many parts of Europe. But some destinations were more popular than others. For the Russian elite, London and the Côte D’Azur reigned supreme. The middle class preferred more affordable resorts in Spain and Turkey. The Russian shops in Cannes are perhaps the best barometer of the resort’s popularity. A Russian store in the French Californie district is so authentic that it could be mistaken for one in Krasnodar. Owner Marcel admits business is down.

“Sochi. They are mostly in Sochi. After all, this is what Putin wants,”he says. It’s not just the prosperous south of France that’s suffering: Russian trips to Turkey are down from 2 million to 1.4 million; visits to Germany have fallen by 30 per cent; and G re e k h o l i d ay s h ave slumped by 54 per cent. Even cheap Bulgaria has seen numbers drop by 36 per cent. Further afield, in places such asVietnam and Azerbaijan, there are reports of masses of empty hotel rooms formerly occupied by Russians.Turkey’s figures are especially interesting. The 600,000 decline in Russian visitors has been partly offset by a 200,000 rise in Germans.

ARTYOM GEODAKYAN / TASS

A special forum titled ‘Thailand and Russia - Bilateral cooperation through the lens of Thai business” will be held in Bangkok on November 3, 2015. Russian Ambassador Kirill Barsky will open the forum with a speech on bilateral trade between the countries. Other speakers at the event include Nutthakrit Sivasri, chairman, CP Group of Companies, and Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The forum, which is being organised by the Thai-Russian Chamber of Commerce, will also have a session dedicated to media ties between the countries. Speakers at the media session include Pana Janviroj, Nation News Network and Eugene Abov, Russia Beyond the Headlines.

Money-scented perfume

RELIGION

Relics in Thailand The Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand has arranged a major event for local Christians. From October 21 to November 9, 2015, reliquaries with fragments of the relics of Saint Nicholas and Saint Pantaleon will be brought to Thailand. Believers will be able to see the relics in Russian Orthodox churches in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. For the numerous miracles he performed, Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. He is revered by Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans. Saint Pantaleon, a martyr and healer, too was known for his many miracles: people turn to him in grief and other serious worries, main-

NIKOLAY KOROLYOV

PRESS PHOTO

Russians have had to adjust their consumer behaviour to the ongoing economic crisis. Some 62 per cent of them have switched to buying cheaper food and goods (against 58 per cent in January), the Russian Public Opinion Study Center (VTsIOM) said. The number of people buying fewer goods and spending less on their entertainment has grown (from 21 per cent in January to 37 per cent in September),VTsIOM said, when

Russian-tourist numbers fall

Tourists at the Black Sea resort of Adler, in southern Russia.

EPA/VOSTOCK-PHOTO

ECONOMIC CRISIS

IN BRIEF

© MIKHAIL MOKREUSHIN / RIA NOVOSTI

Russia is committed to working with Malaysia to catch the culprits behind the July 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines MH17, Russian Ambassador to Malaysia Valery Yermolov said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on October 15. Flight MH17 was brought down on July 17, 2014 over eastern Ukraine while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 passengers and crew, most of whom were from the Netherlands, Malaysia and Australia. Dutch spe-

“In 2011, these missiles were decommissioned by the Russian army, but we know exactly that the Ukrainian army owns 520 missiles until now,”Yerlomov said. He said many former Soviet countries as well as some Nato members like Greece still had such missiles. The ambassador said the missiles owned by the Russian armed forces no longer contained the shrapnel in shape of butterflies that were found on the fuselage of MH17.Yermolov added that Russia was not granted access to all the investigation materials by the Dutch authorities.“It is our understanding that the report on the crash by the experts from Almaz-Antey, the main developer of BUK missile launchers, has also been ignored,”he added.Yermolov called on Malaysian leaders to stop pointing fingers at Russia.

TOURISM

ly to do with bodily and mental ailments and general lack of well-being in life. The relics will be on display at the St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Bangkok from October 21, at the All Saints Church in Pattaya on October 27, at the Holy Protection Church in Pattaya from October 28 and at Trinity Church in Phuket from November 2.

A money-scented fragrance is being launched in the ancient Russian town of Suzdal, a traditional tourist destination in the Vladimir Region. One person behind the idea, Mikhail Samoylov, told media that“the scent was meant to conjure up images understood by any– one who has ever been to Suzdal: mead, cucumbers, hay and the smell of money.” “Those who have been here know that taking a holiday does not come cheap,”said Samoylov. The scent of ancient Suzdal will be targeted at both men and women.


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Politics

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INTERVIEW DR ITTI DITBANJONG

Thailand seeking to increase trade with Russia ABOUT THE GROWING BUSINESS, EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL TIES BETWEEN THE COUNTRIES How would you describe the state of bilateral relations between Russia and Thailand at the moment? I think they are excellent. We have a 118-year long base for our relations. And recently, our two countries have come much closer because our policies have been coinciding. Russia is giving much more attention to the East and we are looking forward to having good relations with the West. The visit of Russian Prime Minister Medvedev [in April 2015] after the meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-oCha in Nay Pyi Taw last year really boosts our relations and the cooperation between the two countries. During that visit, I was in the entourage of the prime minister. I have the feeling that the prime ministers of our countries understand each other very well and they see eye to eye on how we could promote closer relations in all spheres, but particularly in economic terms. Recently Vietnam signed a free-trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union.

Would Thailand be interested in a similar arrangement? The offer was made to us during the visit of Prime Minister Medvedev, and after that when we attended the 6th joint commission that we had with Russia here in Moscow. We agreed to look very closely at this. We see its usefulness. But for us, we need to study further on the question. What are other ways to improve economic relations between Thailand and Russia? We have good tourist, cultural, political and economic relations, but we see room for improvement. During the visit of Prime Minister Medvedev, we agreed to double our trade volume. We signed 10 agreements − 5 inter-governmental agreements and 5 by the private sector. We can see that there is a boost in investment from Thailand to Russia with over $1 billion investment from Thailand. We’ve also invested in a sugar-refining plant in the Khabarovsk Territory. The agreement worth around $250 million was signed in Vladivostok recently. It is a joint venture between a pri-

vate Thai enterprise and the local government. It is a very important step and we can see more Thai investors going to the Russian Far East, because it is a very exciting area for cooperation. Do Thai businesses see Russia asasafeandlucrativedestination for investment? We have investments in a pork farm, in animal feeds and chicken farms. We believe that the potential of the Russian domestic market is feasible. I know that Thai enterprises are planning to invest more. Now, Russia is inviting us to invest more in the service sector, such as hotels. We have recently established the Thai Pattra Centre, which is totally Thai-owned and has a spa, restaurant and a shop that sells food, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Has there been a significant rise in food exports from Thailand to Russia, in the wake of Russian sanctions on western countries? The increase in Russian imports of Thai food products began earlier than that. It’s

PETER KOVALEV / TASS

THAILAND’S AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA SPOKE

BIO BOX ON DUTY: FEB 2012 - SEPT 2015

Dr Itti Ditbanjong’s stint as Thailand’s ambassador to Russia has seen bilateral trade and economic ties show a positive dynamic of growth. In 2013, according to UN data, Russia was Thailand’s 18th largest source of imports and its 30th largest destination for exports, with total trade at $4.7 billion. According to Thai trade statistics, the volume of bilateral trade with Russia in 2014 amounted to $4.913 billion. The goal is to double bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2016.

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not because of the sanctions. We intend to provide food security to Russia, and in return, Russia provides energy security for Thailand. This was stated during the meeting between our prime minister and Russian PresidentVladimir Putin during the 2012 APEC Summit in Vladivostok. Of course, the decision of the Russian government to diversify the sources of food imports has accelerated trade, particularly the exports of food from Thailand to Russia. But we still import a lot of energy from Russia and have a trade deficit. We’re hoping to reduce the deficit with more food exports. In what ways, can Russia and ASEANincreasecooperation? Within ASEAN, we will become a community this year. Many foreign investors see ASEAN as a huge market with 600 million people. Each country will have its plan of how to use the opportunity of the opening up of ASEAN. I am sure that Russia will find opportunities in ASEAN. Russia has invested a lot in Vietnam, which

is a part of ASEAN. They could expand their investments to Thailand. We are talking about trucks or other machines that could be produced in Thailand. My personal task is to promote Russian investment in Thailand. I am sure that tourists, some of whom are businesspeople are looking for opportunities. We have the feeling that Russia was more Euro-centric in the past but the trend is different now. Sometimes Russians don’t invest abroad since they don’t know the region, but now with tourism and more contact between our two countries, there are opportunities. Investment from Russia is now minimal but we are looking to have more investment from Russia. You are due to go back to Thailand soon. Did you enjoy your time in Russia? Yes, very much. I had a very happy three years and eight months in Russia. I will carry with me, not only fond memories of this big, great country, but post-retirement, I will continue to promote the between the two countries.

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

World

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Refugee crisis How Moscow is responding to the Syrian refugees who have travelled overland to Russia

War-weary Syrians seek refuge NUMBERS

12,000 According to Russia’s Federal Migration Service, 12,000 people have arrived in Russia from Syria since 2011.

2,000 Only 2000 of them have officially been granted temporary asylum – far fewer than in other European countries.

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Before the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Ahmad, a stout and robust-looking Syrian and Shi’ite Muslim, lived in a town called alMalihah, six kilometres from Damascus. Now Ahmad, 40, and his wife and two children live in a cosy apartment in southwest Moscow. When he saw bombs flying over his head and over the homes and schools of al-Malihah, and witnessed peaceful civilians being killed, he decided to leave Syria with his family. “I didn’t care about myself, but I did care about my family and wanted to find them a safe place,” he said in an interview.“So we came to Moscow and applied to the United Nations and they gave us letters of recommendation.” Before the civil war, Ahmad had been working

in different businesses and his wife was a teacher in Damascus. In the bombings and shootings which started in 2011 as the political situation became unstable, his poultry shop was destroyed and his property confiscated by radicals who viewed him as an infidel. The family moved to Damascus, but then Damascus started being bombed as well. In 2013, they fled to Russia on tourist visas and were granted temporary asylum, which allowed Ahmad to work. He was lucky enough to pick up a job in a Moscow restaurant. But last year, Russia’s Federal Migration Service refused to renew Ahmad’s temporary asylum status. This may have been influenced by Russia having to deal with a huge influx of refugees from eastern Ukraine at the time. Ahmad is still living legally in Russia and is awaiting a court decision about his refugee status. Adjusting to life in Moscow has been relatively smooth for Ahmad and his family. While he said that

he and his wife didn’t speak Russian well, in two years his children had become fluent and had made a lot of friends at school and in their neighbourhood. “I respect Russians very much,” Ahmad said. “They are nice and friendly people.” Ahmad’s main concern with life in Russia is not having his documents in order. Because his refugee status is in limbo, most of his official documents can’t be completed. This means that his movement is restricted and he can’t work. The Moscow office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned Ahmad against doing any business in Russia without proper documentation. It said the risk of being arrested would be high. “My documents are a problem for me,”he said.“I want to get all my papers in order to be independent and to be able to live here like a normal person. “I need stability. I want to do business here and provide safety and a decent future for my children. But without my documents being in order, there is no certainty at all. I can’t even access medical services if I have problems with my health.” Ahmad admits the lack of certainty around these issues has been a psychological strain. If he could get asylum in Europe, or elsewhere, he would happily leave Russia. At the same time, he worries about being deported from Russia and the effect

that would have on his children, who are well settled into their new environment. There are almost 4.1 million Syrian refugees around the world today, with about 430,000 applications for refugee status submitted in Europe between 2011 and 2015. According to the UNHCR forecasts, in the next two years the number of Syrian refugees in Europe will double to about 850,000. Most of them will settle in Germany. According to Russia’s Federal Migration Service, 12,000 people have arrived in Russia from Syria since 2011, but only 2,000 of them have been successful in gaining temporary asylum. This number is small compared to the number of Syrian refugees in other European countries. For example, the number of Syrians who applied for refugee status from April 2011 to August 2015 in the following countries were: G e r m a ny, m o re t h a n 100,000; Sweden, about 65,000; Hungary, about 54,000; Denmark, more than 12,000; UK, more than 7,000; France, about 7,000. In an interview with Russia Direct, Elena Burtina, deputy head of the Civil Assistance Committee on Refugees, said that current Russian legislation was favourable to refugees. It provides scope for them to apply for asylum for a wide range of reasons. These include domestic and international conflicts, famines, epidemics, human-made catastrophes or any threat to their health, she said. Despite this legislation, many refugees to Russia are not being granted temporary asylum or refugee status. Burtina said this perceived reluctance to take refugees was a result of how policies were being implemented and not about the law. However, a proposed new law on refugees which is in the early stages of development and discussion may seriously change things. Ahmad fled to Russia on a tourist visa and was granted temporary asylum, which let him work last year.


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Business

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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

05

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In an exclusive interview with RBTH, Ivan Polyakov, head of the Russia-Thai Business Council, talks about business opportunities and the major challenges to growth in bilateral trade. What are the main areas of Thai-Russian bilateral trade? Thailand is Russia’s major trading partner in Southeast Asia. According to Thai trade statistics, the volume of bilateral trade with Russia in 2014 amounted to $4.9 billion. Russian exports figures are estimated at $3.7 billion, whereas Russian imports are at $1.2 billion. When it comes to Russian exports to Thailand, crude oil and other raw energy resources account for a lion’s share of supplies besides metals and metal parts, fertilisers and jewellery. As for Russian imports, they are primary auto parts, precious stones, polymers, preserved fruit, rubber, machinery products and their components, electrical equipment and parts, canned fish and seafood. Since late last year, the imports of Thai rice and pork started to grow. Russia is interested in diversifying its exports with emphasis on high value products. In terms of imports, taking into consideration the sanctions intro-

duced against Russia we are interested in supplies of microelectronics and agricultural products such as pork, beef, fish and seafood, tropical fruit and rubber. What are the bigges challenges to increasing trade between the two countries? The first challenge is the lack of awareness among businessmen on both sides about the markets and opportunities for trade between our countries. But at the moment the situation is changing for the better. The new Board of the Russian-Thai Business Council (RTBC) was elected at the end of September 2015, and when its membership was also updated. The RTBC plans to organise a business mission to Thailand in November to strengthen contacts and exchange information between the business associations of Russia and Thailand. The second obstacle is the deficit of appropriate financial mechanisms that facilitate bilateral trade and investments. To bridge this gap at the 6th session of the Joint Russian-Thai commission on bilateral cooperation held in Moscow on July 15, 2015 the sides reached an agreement to set up a working group on banking and financial cooperation.

Russian state agencies and banking structures, including the Central Bank of Russia and a number of private banks, welcome the establishment of partner relationships between banking institutions in both countries, the opening of branches of Thai banks in Moscow and other Russian cities, and the transition to a new system of transactions in national currencies, swap arrangements etc. Another challenge we observe is the absence of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Russia and Thailand. I believe that such an agreement could play a constructive role in the further enhancement of bilateral trade and economic ties. At the meeting with his Thai counterpart General Prayut Chan-o-cha during the official visit to Thailand last April, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev underlined that if Thai authorities show an interest in concluding an FTA, Russia will be ready to initiate the negotiation process. As a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, Russiahas already successfully signed an FTA with Vietnam - that was in May 2015. Why can’t Russia do the same with Thailand? It we did, it would be a winwin outcome.

PRESS PHOTO

Bilateral FTA can play big role in boosting trade

Ivan Polyakov, right, is the head of the Russia-Thai Business Council.

How do you think Russian investment can be increased in Thailand in sectors other than real estate? Nowadays in the field of investment cooperation with “the Land of Smiles” Russia gives priority to infrastructure, energy generat i o n , t r a n s p o rt , h i g h technologies (IT, bio- and nanotechnologies), agriculture and real estate. As Thailand is planning to build new coal-fired power stations and is investing in the Sekong-5 hydropower plant in Laos, Russia is looking into the possibility of selling Russian-made energy and power-engineering equipment to Thailand. As far as transport infrastructure is concerned, Russia is interested in being participating as a co-investor or contractor in largescale infrastructure projects, which are being carried out in Thailand. Russian authorities give full

support to our giant machine-building company UralVagonZavod project, which could supply tracks, freight rolling stock and track-laying equipment to Thailand. I would also like to draw your attention to the bright prospects of mutually beneficial cooperation between Russian and Thai science parks and science cities in areas like alternative energy, space research and technology, nanotechnology, metrology, optics, electronics, biotechnology, biochemistry, medicine, infectious diseases control, and environmental protection. Recently the Russian Technopark - Skolkovo revealed interest in establishing cooperation with the Thailand Science Park. At present these technoparks are at the stage of initiating direct contacts and discussing areas of potential cooperation. The development of bi-

lateral cooperation in science and technology will be given a boost by Thailand’s Minister of Science and Technology Pichet Durongkaveroj visiting Moscow’s Forum and Technology Show - Open Innovations – 2015. The main item of his agenda is discussing the possibility of establishing joint ventures — specifically, joint scientific laboratories in Thai science parks and technological cities. And tourism should not be forgotten. With 1.6 million Russian tourists visiting Thailand annually, Russianbusinessmen have already invested big money in tourism infrastructure and services in Pattaya and Phuket. As well, our two governments are supportive of prioritising energy and tourism. These sectors will be discussed this November in Bangkok. Interview by Gleb Fedorov, Ajay Kamalakaran

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Business

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Tech What are Yotaphone’s chances?

Yotaphone, the Russian dual-screen smartphone, is adopting its pricing strategy for China and is relocating its production. KIRA EGOROVA RBTH

This September, Yota Devices announced that it would relocate its manufacturing operations from Singapore to China and team up with ZTE, the second-biggest manufacturer of telecom equipment and mobile phones in China. The company expects the relocation of production will allow it to cut the cost ofYotaphone by more than 30 per cent. “We have managed to come to an agreement with the new manufacturer about the level of production costs for the phones comparable with our competitors, which is a key factor in arriving at the ulti-

mate price for the consumer,” a Yota Devices spokesperson told RBTH. Prior to the change, the phone has been selling for $600. Cutting the price can be seen as part of the company’s long-term plans:Yota Devices had already said it was seeking to lower the price to below $450. However, the firm had been unable to reach the relevant agreement with the previous manufacturer, the Singaporean plant Hi-P, the company explained. Under the new deal, ZTE will assist with developing a prototype device, and then begin mass production and distribution. “After the phone was presented to China’s President Xi Jinping, Chinese distributors of portable electronic devices began to show a lively interest inYotaphone,” says Vitaly Polekhin, coowner and managing part-

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Yotaphone tries its chances in China market

Russian present Vladimir Putin gives Chinese president, Xi Jinping, a Yotaphone. Scan the code to read the full version of the article Or use this link asia.rbth.com/49643

ner of the Venture Angels investment fund, a member of the board of QUMO, a manufacturer of portable digital devices. The latest reports about the relocation of production and Yotaphone’s cooperation with ZTE indicate that the issue of cutting the cost

of production is a priority, he said. “Of course, ZTE is not Foxconn, where production volumes start at 1 million items, but still, it will be able to ensure the necessary production rate and low costs while retaining a decent quality, which, by all means, will boost sales both in Russia and China,”Polekhin said.

Promotion in China According to IDC figures, in 2014 the leaders in the Chinese market were Xiaomi (13.7 per cent), Apple (12.3 per cent), Huawei (11

per cent), Lenovo (9.5 per cent), and Samsung (7.9 per cent). Given how competitive this market is, Yotaphone can perhaps expect to gain only a small share of it. The kicker, though is that a small share Chinese mobile phone market accounts for 980 million mobile users with total annual value around 425 billion yuan ($66.7 billion). “To get a small piece of that huge pie would be a big achievement for the Russian company,”says Oleg Remyga, head of China Studies Lab in Moscow

School of Management Skolkovo. But Yota Devices will need to spend money to make money, experts warned. “To reach a serious level of sales, considerable investment is required,”points out Polekhin, noting that the leader in China’s smartphone market, Xiaomi, invests enormous sums in development to maintain its position. “For example, in December 2014, having evaluated itself at $45 billion, Xiaomi carried out an investment round, raising $1.1 billion and is now raising even more,” Polekhin said. Yet the task of promoting Yotaphone in China has already received a considerable boost from free political publicity, said Vladimir Korovkin, head of Innovations and Digital Research Lab in Moscow School of Management Skolkovo. “Chinese customers like to be part of some ‘big’ process. In that senseYotaphone started going to China with a very good PR move — when Russian President Vladimir Putin presented Yotaphone to President Xi Jinping during the Apec summit,” Korovkin said. Chinese customers admire both Putin and Xi that is why having a“presidential” mobile phone will surely stimulate sales, he said.

Smarphones Chinese brands get a larger share of Russian phone market

ENGAGING THE WEST

GLOBALLY SPEAKING

a s i a . r b t h . c o m /w o r l d / t r o i k a

GOING EASTWARD

Chinese brands gain popularity Chinese smartphones are making major inroads in the Russian market, because buyers of smartphones are choosing inexpensive models. KSENYA BOBKOVA RBC

According to Beeline mobile company, in August 2015, more than 30 per cent of its smartphone owners in Russia used Chinese models. In Moscow, iPhones were the most popular devices (23 per cent), but trends showed that the Chinese devices were catching up. Their share has reached 20 per cent. According to the IDC analytical company, in the first half of 2015, the most popular Chinese telephone brand on the Russian mar-

ket was Lenovo, which had a 7.7 per cent share. In second place was ZTE (3.1 per cent). Beeline’s major rivals, MTS and Megafon are also reporting similar data. An MTS spokesman says there is a decline in the popularity of brands such as SonyEricsson, Nokia and HTC, while Lenovo, Huawei and other Chinese brands are showing constant growth. MTS says that by the end of the third quarter in 2014, 24 per cent of its smartphone customers were using Chinese devices, compared to 14 per cent in 2013. Megafon’s representative also notes that smartphone producers, such as the Chinese ZTE and Lenovo, are becoming popular in Russia.

Market share of brands

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People are not ready to pay up to 20,000 rubles for their first smartphone, since ordinary phones only cost a few thousand rubles, says Maria Zaikina, spokeswoman for Svyaznoi, a handset retailer. This is leading to many customers opting for inexpensive smartphones, she adds. According to Svyaznoi, the share of budget phones sold in Russia in the first half of 2015 was over 50 per cent, up from 43 per cent in the same period a year ago. When choosing a budget smartphone model, many customers usually pick Chinese companies. People no longer see Chinese products as something that will break down in a couple of days, Beeline spokesperson told media.


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Society

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IN BRIEF

Festival The 17th Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music

Russian artists hold audiences spellbound

CULTURE THE 9TH KRASNOYARSK FAIR OF BOOK CULTURE tion into the proper country and at demonstrating the fact that the shaping of collective and individual identity comes through the interactive creation of the local cultural ethos that, as a whole, creates an image of the homeland. The mounts of publishing houses will traditionally be located in the International Business Center “Siberia” where over 20 round table and discussions will take place. The programme will be supported by the release of new books from authors and publishing houses.

The 9th Krasnoyarsk Fair of Book Culture is to be held in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk from October 28 to November 1. The Krasnoyarsk Fair is a full-scale international project of the Mikhail Prokhorov Fund, a charitable foundation for cultural initiatives, aimed at uniting writers, publishers, and the cultural community from central regions of Russia and cities of Far East, Siberia and Ural. The key topic of the Kasnoyarsk Fair 2015 is “Homeland’s map: the artistic development of space”. The Kasnoyarsk Fair is aimed at showing differenet ways of investiga-

Russian ballet, opera and classical music performances at the 17th Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music drew loud applause. IRINA VINOKUROVA RBTH

PRESS PHOTO

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NATURAL DISASTER BUILDING EARLY WARNING SYSTEM FOR MYANMAR

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn arrives for the festival perfomance.

community in Thailand. “Beautiful set design, beautiful lighting, beautiful music, stunning jumps, leaps and turns,”said Mom Luang Preeyapun Sridhavat, the owner, director and principal of the Chi-

Beautiful set design, beautiful lighting, beautiful music, stunning jumps, leaps and turns ang Mai Ballet Academy. “The ballet dancers are smart and quickl and wellcontrolled to accomplish their achievements,” she told RBTH during an interval at one of the performances. Thai opera lovers also enjoyed two spectacular productions of the Samara

Opera and Ballet Theatre: Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin and Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. Russian performers and theatre managers were grateful not only for the rave receptions they received from the audience but also for how well the festival was organised. “We are deeply impressed by the reception we were given in Bangkok, said Natalya Glukhova, head of the Samara theatre. “To begin with, all the technical and administrative staff members on the Thai side are top-class professionals. We brought two large productions with original sets and there was a lot of work to be done. Our technicians were instantly impressed by the attention and precision with which their Thai colleagues worked.” On October 6, the Rus-

sian section of the festival ended with a concert by the symphony orchestra of the Samara Opera and Ballet Theatre headed by conductor Alexander Anisimov. “Russian productions have been a major part of Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance & Music over the past 17 years,” JS Uberoi, chairman of the festival, said.“The total audience for the Russian performances this year was in excess of 9,500.” Uberoi added the audiences“were ecstatic at the quality of the performances, the grandiose sets and the sheer scale of the productions”. The organisers have not yet revealed which Russian performers will take part next year, but the audiences are already looking forward to a new ‘Russian season’ in Bangkok.

REUTERS

Russian programmes at the festival began with a performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake by the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre. The performance was attended by Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn and his wife. Tanasak said he hoped that Russian ballet troupes would now become frequent guests to Thailand. As deputy prime minister in charge of cultural ties with foreign countries, Tanasak expressed readiness to step up cultural cooperation between Russia and Thailand. Russia’s Ambassador to Thailand Kirill Barsky congratulated the artistic director of the Novosibirsk theatre, Igor Zelensky, and the dancers on a successful performance and presented flowers to the soloists and the conductor. On September 28, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn attended another performance of the Novosibirsk theatre, the classical ballet La Bayadere. After the show the princess briefly met the soloists and expressed her admiration for the dancers’ talent and skills. The Russian ballet programme at the festival also attracted the attention of the professional dancing

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The Russian Emergencies Ministry will help Myanmar build an early warning system for natural calamities and supply it with equipment needed for clean-up operations, Vasily Pospelov, Russia’s ambassador to Myanmar told Sputnik News. “Myanmar’s government is interested in building a nationwide emergency response system. We are discussing deliveries of equipment and communication systems,” Pospelov told the news agency. “There is potential for developing cooperation on early warning and response to natural disasters.”

Monsoon floods in the Southeast Asian nation this year have claimed more than 100 lives. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said more than 1 million people were “critically affected” by the flooding. On October 13, Russian Emergencies Ministry aircraft delivered 40 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including food, blankets, tents and inflatable boats, to the city of Mandalay. Russia is also providing Myanmar’s neighbour, India, technical help in setting up a central crisis management centre to effectively meet the challenges from natural and manmade disasters. Russia has a state-of-the-art National Crisis Management Centre. asia.rbth.com/50087


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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Special

A global media project, sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) asia.rbth.com

HIGHER EDUCATION TRENDS

MSU is the highest-ranked Russian university in all major international rankings.

EFFORTS BY RUSSIA’S LEADING UNIVERSITIES AND INSTITUTES OF HIGHER EDUCATION HAVE BEEN REWARDED WITH INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION

GLEB FEDOROV RBTH

Last year, MSU was ranked 196 out of 400 (the list was expanded to 800 universities this year). The only other Russian university that was in the list last year was the Novosibirsk State University, ranked in the range of 301-350. This year, it fell in the rankings to 401500. Novosibirsk State University (NSU) Rector Michael Fedoruk said his university has been rising in

the ranking by subject category because of the quality of fundamental research work it carried out. He attributed the fall in the general ranking of the university to a slight change in methodology. In the 201516 rankings, the Russian top 5 also included the Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University (201-250), the Tomsk Polytechnic University (251-300), the Kazan Federal University (301-350) and the National Research Nuclear University MePhi (301-350). “It’s great that Russia has 13 institutions in this list, with five of its universities sitting within the top 400,” says Phil Baty, Editor,Times

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Higher Education World University Rankings. “Russia has made huge efforts to improve its higher education system in recent years, including the launch of its Project 5-100 initiative,”Baty told RBTH. He added that Russia would have to continue to work hard to ensure it can compete with China and other global rivals. An obstacle that comes in the way of Russian specialised universities, like NSU and MIPT, climbing quicker in the general rankings is the limited number of humanitarian courses they offer. “We only have three specialisations in our institute: physics, mathematics and

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informatics,” Kudryavtsev told RBTH. “It’s very hard for us to deliver a better result in the general rankings.” He added that the institute’s ambition is to get to the top 25 of the physics ranking. Last year’s THE

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Physical Sciences Ranking included MSU (56), NSU (85) and National Research Nuclear University MePhi (95). A major factor that contributed to the success of Russian universities this

Schools Increasing demand stretches education resources

Moscow school mergers meet parent protests Reforms in school funding in Moscow, which aim to more evenly distribute resources to students, have been unpopular with parents. ALEXEI STROGANOV SPECIAL TO RBTH

When it was announced in 2012 that School 122 in central Moscow would be merged with another school, parents were up in arms. The school, which is the

home of the Moscow Boys Cappella and requires all students to take choir, is one of the few places outside of conservatories where students can do coursework for a special diploma in music. Parents were afraid that the merger would not only result in the loss of the special music curriculum, but that it would“destroy the school’s unique culture”, in the words of one parent, whose

EPA/VOSTOCK-PHOTO

The Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) was ranked 161 out of 800 in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16.

ANDREY LUKIN / TASS

RUSSIAN UNIS START TO MAKE GLOBAL MARK

daughter was then in the second grade. The school was slated for consolidation under a controversial reform that began in 2010 and involves merging small or underperforming schools with larger schools, primarily to more evenly distribute financial

and administrative resources. Under the reforms, funding for schools is being distributed on a per capita basis — a move officials said was necessary to accommodate an increase in demand. Read the full version asia.rbth.com/49279


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Special

A global media project, sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) asia.rbth.com

QS university rankings The QS World University Rankings 2015 contains 21 Russian and 8 Thai universities. The Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Saint-Petersburg State University are in 114th and 233rd places, while Chulalongkorn University and Mahidol University are ranked 253 and 295 respectively among more than 700 institutions. In the QS Asia 2015 Ranking, Thailand is represented by 11 educational institutes. The National University of Singapore took 1st place. Mahidol and Chulalongkorn universities were ranked 53rd and 44th in the QS Asia.

Academic cooperation About 15-20 scholarships are awarded each year to students from Thailand by the Russian government. About 10 Thai students under the the government’s campaign “Scholarship for Local Development” are studying in Russia.

year was their cooperation with both international and Russian companies like Boeing, Siemens and Uralwagonzavod. Victor Koksharov, Rector of the Ural Federal University says such cooperation plays a

companies like Porsche. “Our research in the field of innovation is used in shipbuilding, aircraft building, aviation and transport systems,” the university’s rector Andrei Rudskoy told RBTH.

major role in the development of the regional economy. Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University, which built the best university engineering centre in Russia, cooperates with

The economics of education

ALYONA REPKINA

Moscow Deputy Mayor Leonid Pechatnikov told Russian daily Kommersant that if the parents wanted to keep that level of staffing in schools, they would have to pay for additional salaries themselves. “We cannot afford to allocate 378,000 rubles ($5,640) per student. Two students for one teacher is, in fact, a system of tutoring. We have a law on universal education, but we do not have the law on universal tutoring,” Pechatnikov said. The average amount spent per student in Moscow schools today is 63,000 rubles ($940).

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Accessibility Doors open for students with disabilities

More inclusiveness helping those with special needs When I came to Russia 26 years ago in 1989, people with disabilities were totally invisible. It was as if there were no people with disabilities in Russia. DENISE ROZA SPECIAL TO RBTH

In 1989 the majority of children with disabilities were educated in segregated special schools, residential institutions or in homeschool programmes, often not leaving their homes for months due to accessibility challenges. Children with intellectual disabilities were still considered uneducable – a term that was shocking to me – and were receiving no education at all. Orphanages also did not provide any education for their residents with disabilities. Some of the people I met during my work with Perspektiva, a non-governmental organisation that promotes improved quality of life for people with disabilities, stand out as examples of the challenges children with disabilities face getting an education in Russia. Once, a young man named Alexander who had cerebral palsy and had grown up in an orphanage came to us for a job, but he was illiterate. So instead of finding him a job, we found him a Russian teacher. I remember Natasha, a young wheelchair user from the Komi Republic, who had studied in a homeschool programme. She never got her degree because she was unable to take some of her courses as there was no teacher available to visit her home. Then there was Kirill, also a wheelchair user, who studied at a mainstream school in the early grades. When he entered middle school, however, he was supposed to transfer to a homeschool programme since all the classes for the upper grades were on the third or fourth floor of the building, and the school had no elevator. Perspektiva was able to secure a chairlift for Kirill, so he could continue to attend the same school. We

were also able to help a parent of a child with Down Syndrome win a court case to allow her daughter to study at a local kindergarten. There have been many positive changes over the past 10 years to support inclusive education in Russian schools, in which children with disabilities study in ordinary schools.The big-

The majority of children with disabilities were educated in special schools Attitudes towards people with disabilities changes as they become more visible gest changes have taken place over the past three years. In May 2012, Russia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the situation for people with disabilities began to improve at a much quicker pace. Russian cities are slowly becoming more accessible thanks to federal

and local funding, and a new law on education that went into force on September 1, 2013, guarantees inclusive education for children with disabilities and special education needs. Attitudes towards people with disabilities are changing as they become more visible, and Perspektiva is playing a role in that. In 2003, Perspektiva began promoting inclusive education, developing and supporting pilot programmes and raising awareness about the benefits of such education in its campaign “Children should go to school together.”Perspektiva was the first disability NGO to do this, and this campaign was the first one to raise awareness about inclusive education and its benefits. Today, this campaign is widely recognised, and our disability awareness trainings and other inclusive programmes are in high demand not only from schools, but by the Ministry of Education. Ten years later, in 2013, Perspektiva launched a national competition for Russia’s“Best Inclusive School”. We received 100 applications that first year and more than 400 in 2015.

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Opinion

A global media project, sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) asia.rbth.com

IORSH

TRADE WITH CHINA FULL OF POTENTIAL Oleg Remyga ANALYST

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hinese official statistics reveal that its bilateral trade with Russia in 2014 was $95 billion, raising hopes that the countries could breach the $200 billion mark this year. However, due to the fall in energy prices and the 50-per-cent devaluation of the ruble in the first half of 2015, trade volumes decreased by 30 per cent. But calculation of bilateral trade figures in dollars presents a distorted picture. Since 2008, Russia and China have been working to establish payments in national currencies. Frontier trade in the Far East has almost completely changed to mutual payments in ruble-yuan

and oil and gas contracts between Gazprom, Rosneft and Sinopec are already stipulated in national currencies. The volume of VTB Bank’s yuan settlements in the Far East in the first half of 2015 reached 150.38 mil-

Not all sectors of Sino-Russian trade have been affected by slow economic growth lion yuan, which is almost twice as much as the indicators from the same period in 2014. Secondly, with a 34-percent overall reduction in Russia’s foreign trade, the 30-per-cent fall with its southern neighbour means that China’s relative share in Russia’s foreign trade in

the first half of 2015 basically grew. In comparison, Russia’s trade with the EU declined by 36 per cent. When it comes to SinoRussian trade, not all sectors have been affected by slow economic growth and turbulence in financial markets. On the contrary, many areas of cooperation received additional stimulus for development. Russia’s agricultural produce and bottled water, constitute a good source for growth and expansion of exports to China. The Narzan mineral water producer plans to export 100 million bottles to China annually. Miratorg [a Russian food company, which runs a chain of supermarkets - RBTH], intends to export pork to China this year with estimated volumes of 2,000 tonnes per month. These are just a handful of

RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES (RBTH) IS PUBLISHED BY RUSSIAN DAILY NEWSPAPER ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA. ITS PRODUCTION DOES NOT INVOLVE THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF NATION MULTIMEDIA GROUP. RBTH IS FUNDED THROUGH A COMBINATION OF ADVERTISING AND SPONSORSHIP REVENUES, TOGETHER WITH SUBSIDIES FROM RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. RBTH’S EDITORIAL VOICE IS INDEPENDENT. ITS OBJECTIVE IS TO PRESENT, THROUGH QUALITY CONTENT, A RANGE OF PERSPECTIVES ABOUT RUSSIA AND RUSSIA’S PLACE IN THE WORLD. PUBLISHED SINCE 2007, RBTH IS COMMITTED TO MAINTAINING THE HIGHEST EDITORIAL STANDARDS AND TO SHOWCASING THE BEST OF RUSSIAN JOURNALISM AND THE BEST WRITING ABOUT RUSSIA. IN DOING SO, WE BELIEVE THAT WE ARE FILLING AN IMPORTANT GAP IN INTERNATIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE. PLEASE EMAIL EDITORTH@RBTH.COM IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS ON OUR OWNERSHIP OR EDITORIAL STRUCTURE. RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES EVGENY ABOV PUBLISHER PAVEL GOLUB EDITOR-IN-CHIEF KONSTANTIN FETS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER GLEB FEDOROV EXECUTIVE EDITOR KUMAR KRISHNAN ASSOCIATE EDITOR (THE NATION) DARIA STRELAVINA ASSISTANT EDITOR

examples. There is also a lot of potential for the export of natural gas and other green energy resources to China, since the Chinese government is focused on cleaning the air in the country and reducing dependence on dirty energy sources such as coal. Although there has been a reduction in the overall trade volumes, the electronic commerce sector is growing. Yandex, Russia’s largest IT company opened an office in Shanghai and the Yandex.Kassa payment service’s Chinese turnover has increased seven fold in the last year. Moreover, in September the Chinese TradeEase online platform began operating in Russia, helping people buy Chinese goods online. There is also potential to increase trade turnover within the high-tech sectors of the economy. China is interested in Russian icebreaker technology, and Chinese investors are looking at Russian aircraft manufacturing. In the beginning of September, Jiangsu Baoli International Investment and Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation signed an agreement with the Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East to assemble MA600 turboprop aircraft in t h e Ko m s o m o l s k - n a Amure territory of accelerated development. Even if bilateral trade figures don’t touch $200 billion by 2020, a new, improved and diversified structure of economic interaction will most likely be in place by then. Oleg Remyga is director of the China Laboratory at the Skolkovo Business School. Read the full version asia.rbth.com/49893

ARE RUSSIA AND THE US ON THE BRINK OF A PROXY WAR IN SYRIA? Georgy Bovt ANALYST

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f anyone had any hopes that Russian-American relations would somehow improve after Russian PresidentVladimir Putin’s recent meeting with his US counterpart Barack Obama in New York, it is safe to say that now they can be forgotten. And even if Moscow’s military intervention in Syria did slight-

‘The Russians are bombing the wrong groups, they’re playing their own game’ ly change the agenda with Washington toward a decrease of toxicity concerning Ukraine, it still has not helped to build cooperation – even when it comes to the crucial issue of fighting terrorism represented by the Islamic State (ISIS) radical militant group. The disagreements between Russia and the US over Syria’s future have turned out to be too great. Washington has perceived Moscow’s actions in the fight against various terrorist and Islamist groups in Syria not only as excessive autonomy, but also as a challenge to US policy in the region. And all this despite the fact that not only has the broad international coalition’s months-

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long bombardment of ISIS forces not achieved any serious results, but on the contrary, the group has increased the territory under its control. Mass media have begun saying that Obama has handed the advantage to Putin, something that obviously has only worsened the emotional background for improving dialogue, especially since personal relations between the two presidents have never been marked by amicability. If in the first days of the Russian bombardments in Syria the US administration was still making statements that could have been interpreted as relatively positive, now it is only voicing criticism and condemnation: The Russians are bombing the wrong groups, they’re playing their own game in Syria and their main objective is not fighting ISIS but helping the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. There is no more discourse about how Assad could play a role in the transition of power. The US refuses to have any consultations with Russia. Georgy Bovt is a member of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, an independent Moscow-based think tank. Read the full version asia.rbth.com/50229

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Defence

A global media project, sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) asia.rbth.com

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Aviation The Syrian campaign has become a showcase for the new Russian-made fighter jet Su-34

A fighter-bomber’s baptism of fire Russian experts say the Sukhoi Su-34 fighter jet, which has been deployed for the first time in Syria, has some export potential.

A name that is now synonymous with fighter jets

DENIS KUNGUROV SPECIAL TO RBTH

The name Sukhoi summons the roar of some of the world’s most fearsome fighting planes, both past and present. PRESS PHOTO (4)

The Su-34 fighter-bomber, a substantial modernisation of the Su-27, is a generation 4+ aircraft, and is designed to destroy ground and naval forces as well as air defence systems. It can perform these tasks in all weather conditions, at any time of day or night. Some of the advantages of the Su-34 are the considerable amount of fuel it can carry, its ability to refuel in the air, and its highly efficient engines. Currently, the Su-34 is used solely by the Ministry of Defence of Russia, which plans to receive 124 units of the Su-34 by 2020. However, with its deployment in the Syrian conflict, thus demonstrating its performance under combat conditions, it is very likely that international buyers will now show interest in this aircraft. “Among the Middle Eastern countries, likely customers are Iran and Algeria. Iran is also interested in obtaining a contract to manufacture these aircraft locally. However, creating a technological production chain would take quite a long time. Algeria and Latin American countries may be more likely to purchase small batches of these air-

Each aircraft costs $30 to $50 million.

craft – up to 10 combat jets. For countries witha small air force, a better fit are the more versatile Su-30 jets. The Su-34 is primarily required by large air forces,” independent aviation analystVladimir Karnozov told RBTH. The Su-34’s on-board radar-based security systems also allow them to conduct bombing operations in Syria, without any threat of being shot down by ground-based air defence weapons. “The Syrian campaign

provides a testing ground for the new Su-34, operated by the Russian Air Force. It is being tested in real combat conditions, and is not just a demonstration of the aircraft to seek possible buyers,” RBTH was told by independent military expert Oleg Zheltonozhko. “The export of these jets is unlikely these days, given that the market for such specialised aircraft of this class is much smaller, for example, than for universal fighter jets, while the

Russian Air Force has a great need for these Su-34’s, given the size of our country and the growing obsolescence of the Su-24’s,”believes the expert.

ALEXANDER VERSHININ SPECIAL TO RBTH

Pavel Sukhoi, the man who founded the company that became one of the world’s best-known manufacturers of fighter jets, took his first steps in aircraft building in the 1930s in a country still ravaged by civil

The first Sukhoi aircraft was built in 1933. Pavel Sukhoi (right) led the company till his death in 1975.

war. His first planes originated in a simple two-storey building where the designers worked upstairs and the workshops were laid out below. In the late 1930s, still under Sukhoi’s leadership, the “I” series fighter planes took flight, as well as the DB longrange bomber and the RD long-distance aircraft in which the Soviet pilots performed a record-breaking flight of 10,000km (6,200 miles) in 62 hours without landing. In 1940, the Su-2 light bomber went into mass production, a seemingly unexceptional short-range aircraft but with some crucial advantages over rival models: The cockpit’s design offered a wider field of vision to the pilot, while the location of the bomb load helped to increase speed. More than 900 units were built, which led to the workshop receiving the status of an individual production unit. The armoured Su-6 and Su-8 were built on the basis of the Su-2, as well as the Su-1 high-altitude fighter. Read the full version asia.rbth.com/49623

M A K E I T PA R T O F Y O U R S T R AT E G Y in the Armed by Russia Special Section rbth.com/armed_by_russia

Russia’s air defence systems: Keeping aerial foes in check since 1955

From fighter bombers to artificial hearts: The achievements of Sukhoi

Out of invaders’ reach: Uralvagonzavod, heart of Russia’s tank industry


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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Science&Tech

A global media project, sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) asia.rbth.com

Research New viruses are in some ways like ‘slow-motion time-bombs’

Frozen for 30,000 years and now alive Bacteria may increase lifespan

Mollivirus has more genes, than the Influenza A, but less than the Pandora virus.

In recent years, dozens of new dangerous viruses have been discovered in Russia’s North and Siberia. One of them was frozen for 30,000 years. VICTORIA ZAVYALOVA, SPECIAL TO RBTH

Mollivirus sibericum is enormous by the standards of the virus world. At 0.6 microns in length, it can be observed under a normal optical microscope, which is quite unusual for viruses. Scientists from Russia’s Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science discovered Mollivirus sibericum,

and they are trying to revive the virus in collaboration with France’s National Centre for Scientific Research. Since DNA samples of Mollivirus sibericum have been preserved, it has been able to infect several amoebas. In 2013, the same Russian-French team discovered another giant virus, Pithovirus sibericum. “The study of these new viruses will enable scientists to take control of the situation,” said the leading Russian virologist, Mikhail Schelkanov. “The irreversible warming in the Arctic will sooner or later lead to

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trillion bacterial cells are in each human body. They outnumber human cells 10:1 and account for 99.9% of the genes.

undesired consequences and it’s better to understand them beforehand.” In the last several years about two dozen new viruses have been discovered in Russia’s Far North and Siberia. Almost half are located in high latitudes - on

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A recently-discovered species of the bacteria Bacillus F (Frost) could extend the average human life span to 140 years, and enhance immunity and fertility. This bacterial fountain of youth was discovered by Russian scientist Anatoly Brushkov, who voluntarily became a guinea pig in the project.

Arctic islands and coasts, in the Barents Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Schelkanov said they are in some ways like slow-motion timebombs. “Today, infectious agents that were isolated in Soviet times are being studied actively,” Schelkanov explained.“At that time, there was no effective method for studying them and so they were simply preserved at low temperatures in the state’s virus collection.” For now it is not clear how dangerous the newlydiscovered viruses are for humans. Mollivirus sibericum has more than 500 genes, which is far more than the Influenza A virus’s 11, but much less than the Pandoravirus that has 2,500. Experts say that the number of genes, however, is not an indicator of potency. “Viruses are intra-cellular parasites and they are more effective when they have a small number of working genes,”said Schelkanov. Elizaveta Rivkina, head of the lab that discovered Mollivirus, noted that the majority of viruses found in the permafrost are not dangerous to humans. She pointed out that, every year tonnes of frozen rocks fall into Siberian rivers, such as Kolyma, but a Hollywood-style “virus Apocalypse”is nowhere near.“All mammoths found in the permafrost must pass virus control before scientists can start working with them. Until now, no viruses dangerous to humans have been discovered. I do not think this would lead to a spread of lethal diseases,” Rivkina said.

Tech Kuznech banks on technology

Visual search firm sets its sights on global markets Founded in 2012, the Russian-American start-up company, Kuznech, has won 10 international IT awards. In 2014, its revenues reached $700,000. DINARA MAMEDOVA SPECIAL TO RBTH

The name, Kuznech’s, derives from the Russian word for grasshopper and the technology Kuznech uses truly has much in common with the green insect. Grasshoppers have multiple eyes and they see the world as a picture consisting of numerous dots. “Our technology is powered by neural networks that represent simplified models of the nervous system of living organisms,” said company co-founder, Michael Pogrebnyak. “In other words, the principles that our technology is based on are very similar to the processes that take place during visual recognition in the human brain: learning, generalisation, abstraction.” The idea behind the technology belongs to one of the company’s co-founders, Alexander Valencia Campo. He was developing computer games and constantly came up against the problem of searching for similar images of illustrations. Initial investment in the project was $500,000, with a further $750,000 invested in

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2011-12 by the Skolkovo Foundation. Kuznech currently offers eight products, and with the most popular being visual search and recognition for images and videos, and mobile recognition. The company holds four patents; one in Russia and three in the US. Kuznech’s main clients are news agencies, online stores, and social networks. The company’s development centre is based in St Petersburg, and the big names on Kuznech’s client list include Mail.ru Group (Russia), and PartsTown (USA). There are different ways the technology for various products can be acquired. Purchase of annual non-exclusive licences is the most common. On the world market, especially in North America, many competitors offer similar technology. According to Pogrebnyak, the advantage of Kuznech’s technology is that it’s universal. Pogrebnyak is convinced that this technology has huge potential in analysing medical images.“We are trying to detect melanomas and other skin growths, and we plan to set up a melanoma cell detector for doctors,” added Pogrebnyak. “However, things have been rather slow as investors like the idea but are in no hurry to put money into it.”

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BIOLOGY SCIENTISTS DISCOVER BIOLOGICAL MARKERS FOR BIPOLAR DISORDER

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Fashion

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Beauty Who are the best of the best in the Russian modelling business?

Russia’s leading lights of the catwalk: (1) Natalia Vodianova, (2) Anne Vyalitsyna, (3) Sasha Pivovarova, (4) Irina Kulikova, (5) Natasha Poly, (6) Alexandra “Sasha“ Luss, (7) Ekaterina “Kate“ Grigorieva.

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1. Natalia Vodianova A mother of four, Natalia Vodianova is not just the most famous Russian model, but also a prominent philanthropist, advocating for the rights of children with special needs. She is married to Antoine Arnault, son of fashion label LMVH founder Bernard Arnault. Neither her status as a mother, nor her charity work, interfere with the model’s successful career: she became the face of Cal-

2. Anne Vyalitsyna Born in 1986 in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, AnneVyalitsyna began her career at the age of 15, signing a contract with IMG Models and moving to New York. She has appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle and Glamour, and has worked for numerous fashion houses, including Shiatzy Chen, Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dolce&Gabbana.

3. Sasha Pivovarova A history student at the Russian State University for Humanities, Sasha became a model by chance after her friend and future

husband Igor Vishnyakov sent some photos of her to IMG Models in 2005. After her debut runway show, which was for Prada, Sasha signed a three-year contract with the fashion house. She is also participating in various advertising campaigns from Giorgio Armani to Chanel.

4. Irina Kulikova A favourite of designers Marc Jacobs and John Galliano, Irina Kulikova was born in 1991 in the town of Slobodskoy, Kirov region. She became a professional model in 2007. After signing with IMG Models, she moved to New York. Her first shows were for Prada and Calvin Klein. She has collaborated with some of the most famous

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American designers and became the face of Marc Jacobs’ fragrance Daisy.

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ANNA LOZINSKAYA

vin Klein’s Euphoria in 2015 – 10 years after signing her first contract with the brand.

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5. Natasha Poly Born Natalya Polevshchikova in Perm in 1985, she made her debut in 2004 walking for Emanuel Ungaro. Natasha is one of the most famous models in the world, and her Instagram has over 400,000 followers. Throughout the years, she has worked as the face of many brands, including Lanvin, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, H&M and others.

6. Sasha Luss Alexandra “Sasha” Luss made her debut in 2008, walking for Alena Akhmadulina during Moscow Fashion Week. Signing

7. Kate Grigorieva GETTY IMAGES

Russia’s models have taken the fashion business by storm over the last decade, signing contracts with some of the biggest names in the industry.

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The magnificent seven

a contract with DNA, she moved to NewYork, but before long, she came back to Russia. Luss took part in 58 runway shows in the autumn/winter 2013 season, signed advertising contracts with Carolina Herrera, Max Mara, Valentino and Tommy Hilfiger.

Ekaterina “Kate” Grigorieva was born in 1989. She graduated from the Murmansk State Technical university, majoring in marketing. She has competed for the title of Miss Russia twice, but did not do particularly well. However, she later managed to become the runner-up at the Russia’s Next Top Model TV show. Soon after, she signed a contract with a major agency, moving to New York.

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

History

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Ballet The history of Katya and the Prince of Siam performance

FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES

The Russian girl Katya Desnitskaya and Prince Chakrabon.

Over the last 17 years, Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music has featured performances from famous Russian cultural institutions. ALEXANDER KORABLINOV RBTH

However the festival’s organisers say one performance stands out among the lot – the 2003 staging of the ballet Katya and the Prince of Siam based on the book by the same name, written by Eileen Hunter with MR Narissa Chakrabongse. Russian composer Pavel Ovsyannikov was commissioned to write the music for the ballet. Ovsyannikov was at that time the artistic director and chief conductor of the President’s Orchestra of the Russian Federation. Andrey Petrov, artistic director of the Kremlin Ballet was asked

FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES

How this story of love came to life as a brilliant ballet

to produce and choreograph the ballet, while Olga Polyanskaya designed the costumes andVladimir Arefiev, chief designer of the Stanislavsky Theatre, created the sets and decorations. The team visited Bangkok several times absorbing Thai culture, visiting temples, museums and attending Thai classical music concerts to understand the mood to be conveyed. The ballet by the Kremlin Ballet Theatre with the Presidential Orchestra of Russia saw its world premiere in Bangkok to critical acclaim under the baton of conductor Robert Luther. The premiere was attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Galyani Vadhana. Petrov said he found the experience“very creatively absorbing”. He had first encountered Thai culture when the Kremlin Ballet Theatre was invited to take part in Bangkok’s 4th International Festival of Dance and Music. It was at that time that JS Uberoi, chairman of the festival committee, mentioned the tale of Katya and the Prince of Siam to Petrov . The artistic director of the Kremlin Ballet then believed that there was a story waiting to be told. The colours, culture and history of Thailand had left a lasting impression on him and all of that was distilled into Petrov’s vision of the love story, which is not a historical or biographical account. “As the story of the ballet moves in the second part to Siam, Pavel had to study Thai music and adapt it to a classical symphony orchestra,”says Uberoi, who is also the chairman of the Media Transasia Group. “Even the costumes go from European in the first act to ‘Thai- inspired’ in the second. Not easy to do but Olga Polyanskaya, the ballet’s costume designer did a brilliant job.”He adds that some elements of Thai dance were also incorporated into the second act. The ballet now has a new interpretation that was produced and staged by The Yekaterinburg Ballet Theatre. It has been staged over 15 times in the past two years, and may be a part of the celebration of 120 years of Russian-Thai diplomatic relations in 2017 in Bangkok.

Life Russian community in Shanghai

The Chinese metropolis had a thriving Russian community in the 1920s and 30s.

Russian émigrés in Shanghai — life in the 1930s Hidden among a multitude of colonial treasures on Shanghai’s Bund is a four-floor mansion that has housed the Russian consulate since 1896. AJAY KAMALAKARAN RBTH

If the walls inside the heritage structure could talk, there would be many an interesting story. The building is a reminder of a time when Shanghai was a free port that was dominated by foreigners and had a Russian community that numbered 25,000 at its peak. The first Russians to move to Shanghai were the wealth-seeking tea merchants who boarded the ferries fromVladivostok to the Chinese metropolis, which had a large international settlement, set up after the Qing Dynasty lost the First Opium War to the British Empire. The Russian community in Shanghai began to grow from 300 in 1906 to more than 10,000 within a decade, as revolutionary winds swept across Russia. In her book, “Shanghai. The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City”, Stella Dong describes the metropolis at that time as the most“pleasure-mad, rapacious, corrupt, strife-ridden, licentious, squalid and decadent city in the world.”Here the Russian diaspora belonged to all rungs of society. Before the Bolshevik Revolution, Russians had extra-territorial protection, but the turn of events back home proved detrimental

Bridge between two countries In 2015, there is a new and growing Russian community in Shanghai, which is now one of the powerhouses of the global economy. This community comprises mainly of businessmen, professionals and students.

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to the diaspora. It’s also after the revolution that many Russians, both exiled White Russians and economic migrants, came in droves to the city. The wealthier Russians opened restaurants, started businesses and became musicians. Margot Fonteyn, the famous English ballerina of the Royal Ballet studied dance under various Russian masters in Shanghai, including Georgy Goncharov, a White Russian who danced at the Bolshoi before the revolution. It was more difficult for those without specific skills. Many soldiers would join a White Russian battalion, while others joined the police.


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Travel

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Ecotourism Get off the beaten track and explore some of Russia’s unique natural treasures

Unwinding in the Russian Far East AJAY KAMALAKARAN RBTH

Moneron Island (Sakhalin Region)

Get close to nature on the Shantar Archipelago in Khabarovsk Territory.

VADIM GIPPENREITER

which wildlife experts often attribute to reckless behaviour on the part of tourists from the city around these creatures. The islands are accessible by helicopter from Khabarovsk, as well as via fishing trawlers that make the most of the four months a year they have for fishing before the ice flows merge the archipelago with the mainland. VADIM GIPPENREITER

YURY SMITYUK

YURY SMITYUK

View the rock wonders that are the Lena Pillars in Yakutia, in wild northeastern Siberia. See the aftermath of Plosky Tolbachik volcano in the Kamchatka Region.

Shantar Archipelago (Khabarovsk Territory) The isolated Shantar Archipelago is a group of 15 islands in the Sea of Okhotsk, which are only accessible in the non-winter months. The islands are famous for their rocky cliffs and spruce forests. You can spot bearded seals, bowhead whales and the endangere western grey whales. Bears are also plentiful in the islands. Every summer there are reports of camper fatalities,

© ALEXANDR LYSKIN / RIA NOVOSTI

This 30-square kilometre island is Russia’s first marine national park and boasts pristine and unspoiled nature. French explorer La Perouse named the island after Paul Merault Moneron, the chief engineer of his expedition to the Russian Far East. Located off Sakhalin, Moneron is blessed with the warm Tsusima Stream and is an ideal spot for snorkeling and scuba diving in autumn. The island also has an abundance of flora and fauna, including seals, sea lions and colonies of migratory sea birds.

Scuba and snorkel at Moneron Island in Sakhalin Region.

© SERGEY KRASNOUKHOV / RIA NOVOSTI

The Russian Far East is a vast land stretching from eastern Siberia to the Pacific Ocean. RBTH has selected five of the most unique natural attractions.

Hike Mount Heksir in the Khabarovsk Territory and the natural border between Russia and China.

Lena Pillars (Yakutia) The spectacular Lena Pillars are a natural rock formation along the banks of the Lena River in the Sakha Republic (also known asYakutia). The rock pillars, which reach a height of around 100 metres, were added to the Unesco World Heritage List in 2012. The pillars contain alternating layers of limestone, dolomite, marlstones and slate and

are the result of the extreme weather in Yakutia, where temperatures vary from minus 60 degrees Celsius in the winter to 40 degrees above zero in the summer.

Plosky Tolbachik Volcano (Kamchatka Region) Tolbachik, a volcano formed by two overlapping cones, is one of the most isolated and hauntingly beautiful places on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The cone of the “Plosky” Tolbachik Volcano features a three-kilometre crater and is surrounded by dead forests that were killed by a series of eruptions. The surroundings of the still-active volcano offer a good idea of what the landscape of the moon might look like. The USSR tested its moonwalker vehicle in

the area before sending it into outer space.

Mount Heksir (Khabarovsk Territory) Although hiking to the top of this mountain at just 970 metres above sea level may not seem like a daunting task, Heksir offers its fair share of challenges. The forests surrounding the mountain are home to the world’s largest cat, the Amur tiger, two species of bears and the endangered Amur leopards. If you manage to dodge these wild beasts on the way to the top, you can get a glimpse of the RussiaChina natural border. The last stretch of Russian territory is at the intersection of the Amur and the Ussuri rivers. All you can see of China is forests, as the nearest human settlements are located many miles from the border.

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Gems: • Kostroma: the home of Russia’s Snegurochka, the snow maiden • Yakutia’s frozen heart: mammoths, chilled vodka and the lord of cold: Paris, Berlin, Leipzig and other • Russian villages


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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Travel

A global media project, sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) asia.rbth.com

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Moscow Taste medovukha and take autumn selfies

NIKOLAY KOROLEV

held in Kolomenskoye Park in autumn. Medovukha is an old Russian light alcohol drink prepared from honey. People love it for its sweetness and light flavour and it is often spiced with juniper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and chili pepper. The alcohol content of medovukha varies from 5 to 16 per cent.

to celebrate the change of seasons with an outdoor barbecue or a simple picnic in the park. Take bread, cheese and a blanket, pick a spot in one of Moscow’s parks and enjoy the soft autumn sunshine.

RBTH

1. Enjoy autumn colours Moscow’s parks and estates are ideal places for those looking for inspiration, wanting to see nature undergo its seasonal transformation and catch summer’s last smile. Hurry to Gorky Park for the best selfie, go to the red and white Tsaritsyno Museum and Park for a photo session and if you feel like some thoughtful contemplation – head to the Japanese Garden.

3. Dance on the embankment Every evening people from all over Moscow gather on the embankment in Gorky Park to dance waltz, tango, the hustle and other moves. Anyone can join in the fun and even take a free dancing class. But don’t hesitate – with the first frosts these gatherings end and you will have to wait until next spring.

5. Take a riverboat The rivers are open for boats in Moscow until the end of October. Get on a riverboat and set off on a voyage along the Moscow River. The boarding area is at the pier near Novspassky Bridge and the boat sets out in the direction of Kievsky railway station. On the way you will see such iconic Moscow sights as the Kremlin, the Cathedral of Christ the

4. Drink medovukha 2. Have a picnic Another outdoor option is

Taste seasonal farmers’ products at the honey fair

Мoscow on two wheels

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bike paths The longest one is 16 km and runs from Muzeon to Victory Park

Museon

The city’s bike rental system has 300 stations and 2,700 bicycles

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Krymsky Embankment

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Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons in Moscow, and RBTH offers up ideas for things to do in Russia’s capital at this time of year.

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Five things to do in Moscow in autumn

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Saint Basil’s Cathedral (1); picnicking in a city park (2); the embankment at Gorky Park (3) selfies with autumn-leaf crowns (4).

Savior, Krasny Oktyabr (a former chocolate factory that has been refashioned as an art and design space) and more.

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T R AV E L 2 M O S C O W. C O M

cycling routes The most scenic route is through the city centre along the river (5 km)

For every taste

Victory Park

For nature lovers, there are bike paths in 50 city parks.

How to rent a bike Register by - Logging on to www.velobike.ru - Use the mobile app - Sign up at the bike rental terminal station

Gorky Park Pushkinskaya Embankment

Luzhniki Bridge

Neskuchny Garden Pushkinskaya Embankment

For those who love speed, there is a cycling track in Krylatskoye Hills.

Sparrow Hills Andreevskaya Embankment

For a romantic getaway, ride around the territory of Moscow State University and get a view of the city from the observation deck.

The city’s biggest cycling event is the Moscow Veloparade. More than 20,000 people participated in this year’s event, held in August.

Russian Universities reach for the stars  

This issue was distributed with the Nation newspaper in Thailand on October 29, 2015

Russian Universities reach for the stars  

This issue was distributed with the Nation newspaper in Thailand on October 29, 2015

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