MOSCOW, March 11 (RIA Novosti)
Duma Anti-Corruption Chief Lives in a $2.9 Million Undeclared Apartment, Media
Irina Yarovaya from the United Russia party, chair of the State Duma Security and Anti-Corruption Committee and an active supporter of the recent law on controlling civil servants’ expenditures, lives in an undeclared apartment in the center of Moscow worth an estimated $2,898,000, The New Times magazine reports.
This follows an unsigned letter that the editors received in late February. The anonymous writer, who introduced himself as an admirer of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Dr. Z (blogger Andrei Zayakin, who discovered that former Duma deputy Vladimir Pekhtin owned property in Miami), claimed that Ms. Yarovaya lives with her husband Viktor Alekseyenko and children in a four-room apartment occupying a floor area of 127.6 square meters in an elite housing estate, Tverskaya Plaza, in downtown Moscow.
According to the magazine’s own inquiry, the family bought the apartment in 2006. The official owner is registered as Ms. Yarovaya’s daughter Yekaterina, who was only 17 years old at the time of purchase. This property is not mentioned in the income declarations of either spouse.
Ms. Yarovaya’s press secretary was not available for comment.
Russia to Rewrite History Schoolbooks
As if the Unified State Examination was not enough for Russian schools, they will soon be required to use a uniform history textbook, following President Vladimir Putin’s order to rid history of ambiguities.
Debates over certain events of the past could last forever. A group of historians has proposed leaving discussion of them until high school, while presenting only concise, reliable and neutral facts to younger students.
“We need to distinguish between history as a research area and history as a school subject,” said Yury Petrov, Director of the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “In research, opposing viewpoints are acceptable. In school, students must study key facts. In middle school, history is taught as a concise subject. A more detailed course is taught in high school. That’s where disputed issues may be tackled.”
History is always written by the victorious party. Russian schoolbooks say Mikhail Kutuzov won the Battle of Borodino, while French ones say it was Napoleon.
“Kutuzov might have lost the battle technically,” said Alexander Degtyaryov, head of the State Duma education committee, attempting to find a compromise. “But it was a major political victory nonetheless.”
Most modern history books differ on three periods: the development of statehood, World War II and the most recent two decades, the latter proving the most difficult.
“We will try to avoid political influence,” said Alexander Chubaryan, Director of the World History Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
But keeping an unbiased approach is tricky, especially while describing the less flattering facts from Russia’s past, such as the Katyn massacre or the Civil War. Wouldn’t the resulting text sound like a glossy story with a Hollywood style happy ending?
“Russia’s history includes tragic events. But these facts should be included sparingly so that history does not sound like a chain of defeats. Equally we should avoid the Soviet bias of portraying all tsars as enemies and all proletarians as heroes,” Chubaryan said.
In addition to Russian history, schools are required to teach local history. The two courses often differ dramatically. In Tatarstan, history books say Kazan was “taken after fierce fighting.” Russian books talk about “accession.” In Arkhangelsk, children learn about the “dying Pomor culture,” while federal textbooks refer to the process as “assimilation.”
“Writers of local history books need to avoid doing what former Soviet republics did to their history books,” Degtyaryov said. “Belarus and Armenia are the only countries that remained objective about the Soviet period. Others only mention Russia in chapters about the Soviet invasion and the Holodomor.
Historians also believe they need to emphasize Russia’s role on the international stage. “We’ll need to think hard how we should describe Ukraine’s accession or the history of the Caucasus,” Chubaryan said.
They are going to take their time to release a quality product. The new textbook will definitely be put up for public consultation before being recommended for use in schools, Degtyaryov added.
Medvedev Starts Using Italian Helicopter
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has become the first Russian leader to start using the Italian-designed Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter. Last week, Medvedev flew over from Vnukovo airport to his residence aboard the new helicopter. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin still uses a Russian-made Mil Mi-8 Hip helicopter.
“The president prefers to use Russian-made technology, because the presidential helicopter is equipped with the required communications systems,” said presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
The Government’s Special Air Detachment has received two Italian helicopters. The basic version of the helicopter can cost anywhere between $6 and $9 million.
“The Federal Bodyguards Service decides which helicopters and airplanes the prime minister will use,” said Natalia Timakova, Medvedev’s spokesperson.
Sources at the Presidential Administrative Directorate said the Italian helicopters would not replace the Russian-made Mi-8MTV helicopters used by the president and the prime minister, but that they would supplement them.
“We primarily buy Russian technology, and we purchased the Agusta helicopter because Russia still does not make helicopters of this class. That’s why we buy them only as a supplement,” said Viktor Khrekov, spokesman for the Presidential Administrative Directorate.
Merited Test Pilot of Russia Vadim Bazykin said the short-range Agusta helicopter resembled an airborne Mercedes-Benz limousine, but that its passengers would grow tired after a two-hour flight, while the Mi-8 was larger and even had a toilet. Unlike the Italian helicopter, which is designed to land on asphalt, the Mi-8 can land on rocks and on the ground, Bazykin added.
Two French-made Dassault Falcon 7X business jets were purchased during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, who continues to use them today. In the fall of 2012, the Rossia Special Air Detachment received an Airbus Corporate Jet ACJ319, which has already taken Medvedev on two business trips.
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