News from Russia and the former Soviet Republics

In the news…

Monday will begin what is known as мясопустная неделя, translated as “meat-empty week” leading up to the Orthodox Pashka (Easter) fast. The week of eating blini (thin pancakes) harkens back to the ancient Ма́сленица (Maslenitsa) festival.

Maslenitsa, Boris Kustodiev, 1919 (Isaak Brodsky Museum, St. Petersburg; Public Domain)

Russia Today TV: ­Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko says the sale of Beltransgaz, the national gas transit company, to Gazprom “was absolutely the right action.” He noted that had the deal not occurred, the price of gas for Belarus would have exceeded 300 dollars per cubic meter, precipitating a major collapse of the national economy. He said the sale was beneficial to both Belarus and Russia. The deal was part of a package of intergovernmental agreements between the two countries that also set the 2012 price of gas for Belarus at 165.5 dollars per cubic meter.

Russia Today TV: Latvia says “Nyet” to Russian as an official second state language.  The Central Electoral Commission reports a voter turnout of 1.086 million and provisional results show that about 76 per cent voted against making Russian a second official language, while almost 25 per cent voted in favor. Final numbers will be out soon.

Some 183,000 Latvians petitioned for the vote requiring a constitutional change. Approximately 33% of Latvian citizens are of Russian descent.

Latvia is plagued by stateless persons, holders of “alien passports” many of the ethnic Russians and Ukrainians who were sent to live in then Soviet republic after 1945 by the Soviet government occupied the country and forced it into becoming a part of the Soviet Union.

Eurovision News: The final of Eirodziesma 2012, the Latvian national final has just ended. After a ten song final, followed by a three song super final, it was Anmary who emerged victorious with Beautiful Song.

Unian Ukrainian News: The recent cold snap has claimed over 135 lives so far and Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloga says that the government estimates that nine out of ten deaths may have been alcohol related. The majority of the deaths so far have been homeless people living on the streets.