Novye Izvestia has troubling news from the Russian skies. According to aviation officials and representatives of major airlines, the country is facing a severe lack of qualified commercial pilots. Flight academies cannot accommodate ever-increasing popularity of air travel, which leads to understaffing and overworking for current pilots. The latter includes cuts to pilot down time, which, in turn, may eventually lead to tragic human errors caused by extreme stress. The situation is so drastic that the Ministry of Transport expects 200 foreign pilots to be hired by Russian airlines as early as this summer. Thus the agency is ready to introduce amendments to the legislation, allowing airlines to hire non-Russian pilots – currently the law prohibits such practice. Experts partially agree that on one hand involving migrant workers is the only option left. Some suggest that it may not be the best idea, though – pilots not speaking Russian will have a hard time safely operating airplanes – after all, sometimes crew has to make decisions and follow instructions immediately; and it’s unlikely countries of CIS states have enough qualified pilots to solve Russia’s problems. Labor unions oppose this initiative and don’t want highly-paid jobs going to foreigners. An alternative would be simply training current co-pilots, of which there are plenty, to become fully-fledged first pilots.
On Tuesday President Vladimir Putin submitted a bill to the State Duma that seeks to ban government officials from holding overseas bank accounts or owning foreign-issued bonds and shares. The Moscow Times writes that the legislation appeared to be a softened version of a bill passed in a first reading by the Duma last year stipulating fines or jail time for officials who do not give up certain foreign assets. Putin’s bill would apply to federal and regional officials, senior prosecutors, board members at the Central Bank and employees at state corporations, according to a copy of the legislation published on the Duma’s official website. Irina Yarovaya, head of the State Duma’s Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, said the bill defended Russia’s national interests and represented “a real mechanism for cleansing the ranks of officialdom.” Not everyone agrees. For example, Olga Mefodyeva, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies, described the bill as a populist measure intended to appease Russian voters. Quote “Putin wants to show society that he is trying to discipline Russian officials, who are known to hold their money abroad and buy foreign property,” unquote
Russia is preparing to accommodate compatriots, returning to the country from abroad. Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes that Moscow and St. Petersburg will not participate in the governmental relocation program, however. These cities apparently don’t need new blood – high birthrates and migration keep the population growing. This and other changes of the program, which should have run out last year, but was prolonged indefinitely, were outlined by the Minister of Regional Development Igor Slyunaev. Russians living abroad – residents of member countries of the former Soviet Union – will now be able to return home without fulfilling prerequisites for a particular job. Moreover, the list of family members one can take with has been expanded to include extended family, not just spouses and children. Apart from St. Petersburg and Moscow, all other regions participate in the program. While there are no professional requirements for eligibility, those that possess professions in high demand will be given governmental accommodations; and those who choose to resettle in ‘priority regions’ will be given a monetary bonus of 240 thousand rubles – around 8 thousand dollar; each family member will be given 120 thousand rubles. The daily reminds that the ‘bonus program’ has added ‘filters’ – regions can still set professional prerequisites in order to make sure newcomers are able to efficiently contribute to the development of that region. It is expected that 40 regional programs will be launched as early as first quarter of 2013.
Izvestia takes a look at the political turmoil in Georgia. Apparently Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is prepared to partially give up his authority in exchange for a promise that the country will vow to severely limit its association with Russia. According to the speaker of the Georgian parliament David Usupashvili, the president is ready to, among other things, give up the right to dismiss the parliament and the Cabinet. In exchange, the national leader demands that the Constitution is amended to include an article on the unconditional European and Atlantic direction of the country’s foreign policy and incapability of entering international organizations with Russia in a dominant position. According to Usupashvili, the parliament is considering this tradeoff, and will make a decision after consulting with domestic and international experts. According to Saakashvili and the ‘United National Movement’ which he leads, after the recent changes to the Georgian government the country is ‘drifting towards its northern neighbor’, a course which is deemed to be unacceptable. The article concludes that currently there is no agreement among Georgian officials on the future of its relations with the Russian Federation.