Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Февраль 1998 г.

1998 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)


        Houston Chronicle.com's World forum / 13.02.1998
        Russians produce new anthrax
      • By WILLIAM J. BROAD, New York Times

    В декабрьском номере журнала "Vaccine" была опубликована статья российских ученых о том, что в Оболенском научном центре прикладной микробиологии создан новый микроб сибирской язвы. В Пентагоне отказываются комментировать новое биологическое оружие, однако не исключено, что начнется тщательное изучение микроба, чтобы выяснить возможности вакцины, применяемой в американской армии, для борьбы с ним.

In an apparent first, Russian scientists have genetically engineered a new form of anthrax that may be able to defeat the vaccine that American troops will soon get to protect them against such biological agents, American scientists said Friday in interviews.
Since the advent of genetic engineering in the late 1970s and early 1980s, biological warfare experts have worried about the technique's possible use in making deadlier germs that could turn warfare into a more pernicious art.
But until now, no one has admitted taking the step of engineering a new pathogen that could be a potential military weapon.
Col. Gerald Parker, commander of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md., said in an interview that experts "need to evaluate it" to learn whether the advance is theoretical or practical, and whether it could sidestep the American anthrax vaccine.
"It's one thing to do this in the lab," he said. "But it's a whole different thing to produce it in large quantities to be used as a weapon. That would be very difficult."
Officials at the institute said the Defense Department was working through diplomatic and other channels to get the Russians to share the new organism with American experts.
"This is the first indication we're aware of in which genes are being put into a fully virulent strain," said Col. Arthur Friedlander, chief of the bacteriology division at the institute.
The Russian scientists, based in Obolensk, near Moscow, work at the State Research Center for Applied Microbiology. They published their research on the anthrax organism in the December issue of Vaccine, a British scientific journal.
The new germ reportedly contains two non-anthrax genes that may alter the way in which it causes disease. Anthrax normally afflicts animals like cattle and sheep, but it can cause severe illness and death in humans who inhale large doses, making the anthrax bacillus a weapon of potentially horrifying dimensions. But it is very hard technically to develop biological arms that kill on a large scale, and do so without also hurting the aggressor.
American experts say a benign explanation for the research is that the Russians are trying to improve their own anthrax vaccine, which uses live germs. But they add that the strides can aid offense as well as defense, as is the case with most advances in the science of germ protection.
"They genetically engineered a strain that's resistant to their own vaccine, and one has to question why that was done," said Colonel Friedlander. "That's the disturbing feature here."
Russia is a signatory to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, banning the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons. But in 1992, President Boris Yeltsin admitted that a deadly accident at Sverdlovsk in 1979, in which anthrax spores were released into the air, had been caused by "our military developments."
For years, scientists have debated how significant the opening of the gene-warfare door would be, with some saying it foreshadows a new age of terror and others playing it down. The skeptics say raw nature has already produced so many germs that haunt humans in horrifying ways that warriors have no reason to create new ones.
Gene Wars (by Charles Piller and Dr. Keith Yamamoto, a molecular biologist), argued the opposite, saying the field threatened to usher in a new kind of martial insanity.
Friday, a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the Russian story, but it seems likely that, if possible, the new organism will be studied intensely to see if it can defeat the American vaccine.
That vaccine was given to about 150,000 troops during the Persian Gulf war in 1991. This summer, the Defense Department plans to begin a campaign of administering it that eventually is to reach all 2.4 million American military personnel.

* * *
      CLONING / Thursday, 12.02.1998
      Russian offers his perspective on cloning
    • By Alexander Panin of The News@Sentinel

    Российский журналист А.Панин, работающий в настоящее время в отделе новостей The News-Sentinel, рассказывает как рассматривается клонирование в США и России. Существует три аспекта этой проблемы: научный, политический и этический. В России проблема обсуждается в основном на этическом и научном уровне. Согласно социологическому опросу организации "Общественное мнение" клонирование ставят на 8-е место по важности этой проблемы. С точки зрения науки, с помощью клонирования можно спасти тысячи жизней. И хотя в настоящее время клонированием нельзя создать человека, в будущем это будет возможно. Ученые США и России выступают за запрещение клонирования человека.

Cloning - fantasy becomes reality. It's an interesting, dangerous and unknown area. I'll try to explain my sense of this problem from another side of the ocean, how I understand the American view of this problem and try to show the situation in Russia.
From my point of view, American society has three main approaches to the cloning problem: Scientific, ethical and fantastic.
From the scientific point of view, cloning is the next great invention of the human society. It gives new possibilities in the very different fields of science and life. It is new technology in medicine, which will save thousands of lives. It is a new way in agriculture, which will give better quality and cheaper food. The list of advantages can be very long. However, cloning is very a expensive toy. Nobody knows whether the milk from the super-cow can cover its costs. In other words, cloning now is more a scientific issue than a practical one.
In the root of the ethical approach lies only one idea - the possibility of cloning humans. From my point of view, only this possibility calls out this shock in society and extra interest in cloning. Now scientists can't clone humans, but there is no doubt that after some years they will be able to.
So - do humans have the right to clone other humans? The answer of the United States is "No."
President Clinton sent the Cloning Prohibition Act to Congress on June 9, 1997. Sometimes I think "Thank God, now it's possible" to prohibit cloning.
Problems of national security can be understood from this point of view. I can imagine that if cloning was invented 20 years ago, we would have had huge problems with people who were cloned in the interest of "national security" - from both sides of the ocean. I believe we have become more intelligent, more peaceful, than that.
The fictional view of this problem is very popular with ordinary people. For them, cloning is something that comes from science-fiction movies. It's very unusual, bad, not understandable and feared. When Mr. Armstrong made the first step on the moon, the whole world looked after him. After the third landing on the moon, it became ordinary. Only the dramatic flight of Apollo 13 could attract people back to the moon program. I think it will be the same with cloning, when people begin to eat meat from cloned pigs and the transplantation of cloned bone marrow becomes ordinary.
Now about Russia. The first information about cloning appeared in the Russian media in the beginning of 1997. First, it didn't create a big reaction in comparison with the United States. I think only half of Russians know now what cloning means.
People began to talk about cloning after some television shows. Of course, the first theme was ethical: Can people clone people? The answer - "No." In Russian society we have a negative opinion about cloning because of deep family traditions and religion.
The Russian Orthodox Church said humans can't clone humans because each human being is God's creation. We can't joke with God.
Some Russian scientists from the Academy of Science asked the Russian State Parliament (Duma) to create a human-cloning prohibition bill. It still is in the works, so there isn't any cloning law now.
From the other side, in 1923 Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov wrote a science-fiction story, "Dog's Heart," about a doctor who transplanted part of a human brain and heart into a dog. After some days, the dog becomes human. The main idea of this story is in the doctor's words: "I spend all my life to create this, while ordinary women can do it in nine months."
In his words hides another question: Are we interested in cloned people? Gene similarity will not guarantee a genius clone. Genius is created by family, environment, education. It appears naturally. If somebody decides to create a genius, no one knows whether potential genius will become genius. In the question of the scientific use of cloning, there is no doubt that it will solve many current problems, which raises more ethical questions about braking the invention process in this field. Because of this new technology, thousands of lives can be saved. This is being discussed in Russia.
But all these problems are being discussed mainly on the scientific and political level. An example can confirm it: Princess Diana's death and Mother Theresa's death were the most important events in 1997, according to the biggest Russian sociology organization, "Society's Opinion." Cloning was only in eighth place. In the other words, Russian society is not in a panic about it.

* * *
      OakRidger.com / Monday, February 23, 1998
      Russian physicist to speak at lab

    Oak Ridger сообщает, что знаменитый российский ученый Евгений Велихов, бывший член Верховного Совета и президент Московского института им. Курчатова, выступит 27 февраля с лекцией в национальной лаборатории Oak Ridge. Тема выступления - "XXI век и энергетические технологии".

Yevgeni Velikhov, a renowned Russian physicist, former member of the Supreme Soviet (legislature) and president of Moscow's Kurchatov Institute, will present a lecture at 11 a.m. Friday in Wigner Auditorium at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Velikhov will speak on the topic "Challenge of 21st Century and Energy Technology."
He has written a number of publications related to science and the problems of prevention of nuclear war. He is a professor and former lab director of the Institute of Atomic Energy in Moscow, professor of physics at the University of Moscow and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Members of the public interested in attending the lecture are asked to make arrangements by calling ORNL's public affairs office at 574-4165.

© Copyright 1998 The Oak Ridger.
* * *
      Washington Post Foreign Service / Thursday, February 26, 1998
      Russia Challenged To Disclose Status of Biological Weapons
      • By David Hoffman

MOSCOW, Feb.25 - Russia is being challenged anew to disclose whether it is continuing a secret military research program on offensive biological weapons despite its earlier denials and an international treaty forbidding such work.
A defector to the United States who held high rank inside the Soviet-era biological warfare program, as well as activists here, have called in recent days for Russia to reveal whether it still maintains an illicit germ warfare complex.
Although President Boris Yeltsin renounced the biological weapons program in 1992 and Moscow had ratified an international treaty barring the development, production and storage of biological weapons, some Western intelligence experts have been concerned in recent years that Russian military and security agencies have nonetheless retained a research network that could be used to develop such weapons.
Their concerns have been reinforced by Russia's refusal to permit international inspections of some closed military facilities, including one in Yekaterinburg, in the Ural Mountains east of Moscow, that was at the center of the world's most serious known outbreak of human inhalation anthrax in 1979. The cause is believed to have been a biological weapons accident.
The latest call for disclosure came from Kanatjan Alibekov, who was second-in-command of a branch of the Soviet program from 1975 to 1991 and who defected in 1992 and wrote a history of the Soviet biological weapons program for the CIA.
He was the second leading Soviet participant in the program to defect to the West. In 1989, Vladimir Pasechnik, who was director of a key institute in what is now St. Petersburg, defected to Britain and revealed the existence of the Soviet Union's vast "Biopreparat" complex for biological weapons development. During the 1980s, it employed more than 25,000 people and included 18 research institutes, six mothballed production facilities and a large storage plant in Siberia.
In an interview published today by the New York Times, and in an interview to be aired tonight on the ABC News program "Prime Time Live," Alibekov, who now goes by the name Ken Alibek, spoke out for the first time publicly, although his role in confirming aspects of the Russian program had been previously reported. He said Russia continues to study offensive biological weapons agents under the guise of defensive research.
"They continue to do research to develop new biological agents," he was quoted as saying, "They conduct research and explain it as being for defensive purposes."
"We can say Russia continues research in this area to maintain its military biological potential," he said. "They keep safe their personnel, their scientific knowledge. And they still have a production capability."
He said Moscow's Cold War plans included preparing "hundreds of tons" of anthrax bacteria and tons of smallpox and plague viruses.
"I think his claims that Moscow had plans for producing large quantities of anthrax is credible," said Jonathan B. Tucker, director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project at the Center For Non-Proliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif.
Tucker has written, for example, that the Progress Plant in Stepnogorsk, in what is now Kazakhstan, was built in the early 1980s for dual use, with the requirement that biological weapons production could be brought on line with six-months notice. Buildings there were designed to produce, process, handle and store biological agents as well as turn them into weapons. By 1987, according to Tucker, the Soviet Biopreparat complex could produce a little more than 96 pounds of freeze-dried plague bacteria per week, if ordered to do so.
"Stepnogorsk had enormous production capacity," Tucker said in an interview today. "It was not engaged in large-scale production. It was a mothballed facility that would be up and running in wartime in six months. The part I think is most credible is they did have substantial production capacity. It is unclear if they had large stockpiles."
Tucker said the difficulty in establishing the truth about Russia's current program is the ambiguity between research on defensive means, such as a vaccine, and on offensive weapons, which often involve identical equipment.
"Defense is very difficult to distinguish from offensive," he said. "If you are developing a defensive vaccine, you have to test it against a virulent agent." Even small quantities of these organisms could be grown to military significant quantities "in a few weeks," he said.
In September 1992, after Alibek defected and took his information to the CIA, the United States, Britain and Russia signed an agreement specifying a program to build confidence that Russia was in fact dismantling its biological weapons program.
At the time, Russia acknowledged that the program had been a closely guarded Soviet secret but denied that biological weapons were being stockpiled.
According to Tucker, Russia agreed to terminate all offensive biological weapons research, dismantle pilot production lines, close testing facilities, cut personnel involved in military biological programs by 50 percent and reduce funding by 30 percent. The agreement also called for short-notice inspection of "any non military biological site" suspected of being involved in the biological weapons program.
But over the last few years, Western officials have repeatedly complained about foot-dragging by Russian officials, and the trilateral process has stalled as Russia has refused requests for inspection of any military facilities.
One aspect of the debate centers on a top-secret installation in Yekaterinburg, which was named Sverdlovsk in Soviet times. In April 1979, the military microbiology laboratory there known as Compound 19 emitted a cloud of anthrax spores that spread downwind into another closed area known as Compound 32.
Officially, 68 people died after inhaling the anthrax, which was blamed on an outbreak among livestock and the spread of contaminated food.
Yeltsin, who had been Communist Party boss of Sverdlovsk, later acknowledged that the military had been responsible for the leak.
But the KBG conducted a furious campaign to cover up the cause and eradicate the evidence, and since then a debate has been underway about the affair as well as the current research at the heavily guarded facility.
In 1994, a Western research group that included Professor Matthew Meselson of Harvard University published a study, based on research at the scene, that confirmed that the anthrax came from the secret military installation. But their research left some questions unanswered, including the absence of any victims under the age of 24.
At a news conference in Moscow last week, and in a series of newspaper articles, Union for Chemical Study president Lev Fedorov, who had long been concerned about chemical weapons, charged that the 1979 leak did not release anthrax but some kind of "new biological weapon" that was designed to target middle-aged men. He did not provide fresh evidence for his claims about the new weapon but demanded that the Russian government disclose the full nature of activity there.
Fedorov was accompanied by Sergei Volkov, a former Yekaterinburg city official who grew up inside Compound 32 and whose father was a top security official there. Volkov, a self-styled environmental "dissident," has spent years privately collecting data about the 1979 accident. In an interview, Volkov described the secret facility as a "super-modern" underground laboratory "where biological weapons were developed." He maintains that the 1979 death toll was much higher than acknowledged.
Recently, scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico who analyzed tissues preserved from accident victims announced they had found at least four strains of anthrax, leading to speculation that the germs were somehow enhanced to make vaccines less effective.
Time magazine this month published an interview with the former director of personnel at Compound 19, who said the center has been discreetly rebuilding with the aim of resuming the production of offensive biological weapons.
Meselson, the professor, said he believes Russia should be more open. "We need to have some frank talk," he said. "What did they do there, and what are they doing now?"

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company.
* * *

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. scientists want a sample of a new form of anthrax developed in Russia that may be able to elude the vaccine shots American troops soon will get.
The organism - the first known genetically engineered potential biological warfare threat - is an altered form of anthrax, a disease that normally afflicts animals such as cattle and sheep, but can cause severe illness and death in humans who inhale large doses.
"This is a Trojan horse," said Col. Arthur Friedlander, chief of the Bacteriology Division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md. "This is coming in as anthrax, but it's got other bullets in it - different bullets."
He said the Defense Department is working through diplomatic and other channels to get the Russians to share this new organism and other naturally occurring strains of anthrax with U.S. experts in the field.
Friedlander and other biological warfare experts are confident that the American vaccine, based on a protein called protective antigen, can protect troops against any anthrax strain that relies on this protein to facilitate damage to white blood cells.
They are more uneasy about the Russian organism, which contains two non-anthrax genes that change the organism and may alter the way it causes disease. If this is the case, it is conceivable that the current American vaccine might not be effective, Friedlander said.
"We need to get hold of this strain to test it against our vaccine," Friedlander said. "We need to understand how this new organism causes disease and we need to test it in animals other than hamsters that the Russians used."
The American vaccine, widely used by textile mill and livestock workers and veterinarians since the Food and Drug Administration licensed it in 1970, was given to about 150,000 troops during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. No inoculation program was initiated for troops currently deployed in the Gulf in the latest dispute with Iraq, said Rick Sonntag, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Medical Command at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
This summer, however, the Defense Department plans to begin administering the U.S. anthrax vaccine to about 100,000 troops deployed to high-risk areas of southwest and northeast Asia. Eventually, all 2.4 million U.S. military personnel are to be inoculated.
The new anthrax organism was developed at the State Research Center for Applied Microbiology in Obolensk, Russia.
The research was formally published in December 1997 in the British scientific journal Vaccine.
Development of a new strain through genetic engineering is something that biological warfare experts around the world have feared since the advent of such technology in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"Ever since the dawn of the age of genetic engineering, there's always been a speculation that somebody could always make designer bugs," said Col. Gerald Parker, commander of the institute at Fort Detrick.
But he cautioned: "It's one thing to do this in the lab, but it's a whole different thing to produce it in large quantities to be used as a weapon. That would be very difficult."
At least 10 countries, including Iraq, are believed to have the capacity to load weapons with dry, powdered anthrax. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's decision to block access to U.N. weapons inspectors looking for evidence of biological and chemical weapons has led to America's latest showdown with Iraq.
Parker said Army scientists had no knowledge that Iraq also had developed this new organism.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Russia may have sold a fermentation tank to Iraq that could be used for either brewing animal feed or lethal germs for use in war. But Russia's Interfax news agency said the Russian Foreign Ministry denied that Russia concluded any agreements with Iraq or delivered any equipment.
Paul Jackson, a molecular biologist who has done research on the genetics of anthrax at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, says the Russian research paper gives details for making the new organism using standard methods of molecular biology.
"The Russians have demonstrated that they can do it," Jackson says. "Clearly, any competent laboratory in the world could do this, too."
It is unclear, however, whether the Russian researchers developed the new organism for offensive or defensive purposes. The Russian Federation is a signatory to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, banning the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons.
The treaty has no provisions for enforcement, but the U.N. secretary-general has the authority to investigate complaints of violations. The last time the secretary-general investigated an alleged infraction was in the late 1980s when Iran complained that Iraq was using chemical weapons, according to the U.N. Department for Disarmament Affairs in New York.
Matthew Meselson, a professor in Harvard University's Molecular and Cellular Biology Department, is hopeful that the Russian researchers will share the new organism with U.S. scientists.
"If you wanted to keep it secret, you certainly would not have published it," said Meselson, a member of a National Academy of Sciences committee working to foster cooperation between American and Russian scientists who work on infectious diseases, including ones that could be used in biological weapons. "When scientists work together, they share things. It depends, of course, on us being equally forthcoming."

* * *

    США и Россия должны поддерживать совместные исследовательские программы университетов и вместе бороться против распространения ядерного оружия. Оба государства успешно сотрудничают на университетском уровне.

The United States and Russia should bolster joint university research programs and continue cooperative efforts to stem the spread of nuclear weapons, top University of Texas officials said Tuesday.
Edwin Dorn, dean of UT's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and Marye Anne Fox, UT's vice president for research, visited Amarillo to tour Pantex and the Amarillo National Resource Center for Plutonium.
Dorn, a former top Defense Department official in the Clinton administration, said the United States and Russia have made great strides in recent years.
"This is one of the big changes over the past 10 years, not just the breaking down of barriers and the end of the Cold War, but real cooperation in the Gulf War several years ago and real cooperation in getting rid of these weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Dorn noted that weapons dismantlement requires vast resources and that Russia likely will need continued U.S. funding to scrap its surplus atomic bombs.
He cited the Pantex Plant as an example of the difference in resources available to the United States and Russia.
"If the Russians had an operation that sophisticated, they would be much farther along," in dismantlement, he said.
"I think the people of Amarillo ought to be very pleased with that facility."
Fox, who oversees UT's various research programs, noted that Russia and the United States are working collaboratively at the university level.
"We're talking with the Russians about a joint master's degree program in commercialization of science and technology. It is with the economic institute in Moscow," she said.
The fledgling effort, Fox said, could pave the way for transferring technology between the nations in other, more sophisticated ways. Faculty members from UT also have contacts with Russian scientists, a situation that can help spur research efforts, she said.
Cooperative work at the university level, Dorn said, can help produce the movers and shakers of tomorrow.
"The LBJ school is in the business of producing leaders, people who can make government work a little bit better, but also help the private sector work better," he said.

* * *

IRKUTSK, Russia (AP) - The winter dawn comes swiftly in Siberia. By the time a vague yellow glow appears behind the clouds, Leonid Ivanov is already knee-deep in the river.
He stands near shore in a black sheepskin coat and green waders, casting slowly for arctic trout. He is the only point of color against the vast whiteness of the shore, the sky and the steam that rises in sheets from the swift-running water. Gently, he dips his 30-foot fishing rod toward where the current runs faster, his lure seeking the prey that provides his margin of survival.
"I come here every day," he says. "There's no work, so I come here."
His day passes quietly at the bend in the Angara River, just north of the center of Irkutsk, one of Siberia's largest cities.
The fishing spot bears little resemblance to the electrical equipment factory where Ivanov worked for more than 20 years. It closed, as did nearly every one of the defense plants that once were Irkutsk's main source of pride as well as income.
Irkutsk's defense workers were once privileged, earning hefty bonuses and hardship pay for living and working in Siberia's harsh climate. Now they must make their own way in Russia's harsh new economy.
On a good day, Ivanov, 56, will catch six or seven fish, about four pounds. He and his family will eat them for supper, unless he sells a few to get money for cigarettes.
Although the temperature is 13 below zero on this morning, Ivanov says matter-of-factly that it's warm. At the water's edge, he keeps a small fire burning to heat his hands, and a small bottle of vodka to warm the rest of him.
Ivanov says he'd rather get a real job, but no one will hire a worker over 50.
"We have to take care of ourselves now," he says. "I understand that."
Despite having more than 600,000 residents, Irkutsk has little of the bustle of a big city, and has not caught the feverish capitalism that has swept Moscow and a few other large Russian cities.
Here, people walk deliberately, with few billboards or flashy ads to draw their attention from the icy sidewalks. They are 2,500 miles from Moscow and its upscale supermarkets, nightclubs and banks.
In Soviet times, Irkutsk was a major link in Russia's military-industrial complex. Surrounded by deep forests and vast resources, it was a safe place to build tanks, fighters and other war equipment.
Most of the factories are now idle. And some, to the dismay of many of their former workers, have been turned into gaudy flea markets for everything from fruit to fur coats.
Alexander Oskin operates two of them. A lanky 28-year-old with a penchant for computer games, he sits in his untidy office in a former machine-tool factory just off the city's main square. A poster of a lipstick-red Ferrari hangs above his desk.
As Oskin describes it, the new markets are a marriage of convenience: The factories that weren't already bankrupt had lost so many government orders that they couldn't pay their workers. And at least for now, small-scale trading is about the only growth area in the city's economy.
He acknowledges that much of the trade is in cheap consumer goods, many imported from nearby China. Little new industry has grown up in Irkutsk to replace the jobs that were lost.
Still, Oskin has little sympathy for those still out of work. He watches an old woman pass his doorway, bent double as she sweeps the floor of the former factory.
"I'm absolutely convinced that those without work are those who don't want to work," he says.
In Irkutsk's main unemployment office, a single radiator spits dirty steam futilely up a blue stairway. The halls are packed with men and women who don't remove their coats and stare warily at each newcomer.
A small group clusters on a stair landing, reading small slips of paper with the week's job offerings. A retail collective looking for a driver offers the best salary: 2,500 rubles a month, about $400. The lowest-paid offer is from a military trading company: 360 rubles ($60) a month for a salesperson.
Most read for a few minutes, then turn away silently.
Officially, only 1.1 percent of Irkutsk's working-age population is out of a job, says the unemployment office's director, Vera Tatarnikova. She concedes that statistic is contradicted by the mood of despair in her corridors and out on the streets.
"People aren't used to these difficulties of life, and so it seems to them that the world is coming to an end," she says. Fear of crime and distrust of the government in Moscow compound the sense of helplessness, she says.
Tatarnikova has 3,650 people on her rolls this month. They can collect the equivalent of $70 a month in government support for a year as long as they demonstrate they are actively looking for a job.
Yes, she admits, those who have stopped looking don't come to her office and don't get counted as unemployed. Neither do those still nominally employed by their factories, but idled because of low orders.
But things were worse a year ago, she says, when she had 30 percent more people on her books. New jobs are appearing, although still mostly in trade, not manufacturing. A few of the unemployed are taking advantage of government subsidies and starting small businesses.
She divides the people who come to her office into two groups: those who can work in the new system, and those who can't. She says the division is about 50-50.
"When we started all this six years ago, people didn't believe it," she says. "Now, more and more understand that they can't wait around for the government to find them a job."
Are things getting better?
Tatarnikova sighs. "We've survived the crash," she says.
Irkutsk retires early in the winter, retreating indoors soon after the sun sets and the temperature begins to slide toward 20 below. Only a handful of people are out - a few dog walkers, the occasional police patrol. Street cars rattle by, brightly lit but empty.
Boris Sminilsov paces in front of a nearly empty restaurant. His main job is as an immigration officer at the airport, but he moonlights here as a security guard.
Inside, a couple slow dances to a raspy cassette player, wearing their fur hats against the chill that seeps through the windows.
"I think we've hit bottom," Sminilsov says, and smiles. "It's not going to get any worse."
In Siberia, in winter, that passes for optimism.
Down along the riverbank, the Angara laps quietly against its stone embankment. Three teens frolic at the water's edge, tossing chunks of ice out toward where the dark current flows faster.
An eerie blue light appears upstream in the darkness, drifting slowly down the center of the river. When it passes into a beam of lamplight, a figure is silhouetted in a boat, bending toward the river's dark surface.
It's nearly midnight. Out on the rushing water, someone is fishing.

* * *
    Washington Post / Sunday, February 8, 1998
    U.S., Ukraine at Odds Over Nuclear Technology Transfer
    Kiev Caught Between Washington and Moscow in Dispute Concerning Turbines for Iranian Reactor
    • By David B. Ottaway and Dan Morgan

The Clinton administration, acting to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, has blocked the provision of American nuclear technology and fuel to Ukraine until it cancels plans to sell special turbines needed to complete the first such Iranian power plant, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.
The nearly year-long diplomatic dispute has become a serious irritant in the otherwise close relationship developing between Washington and the second-most-populous former Soviet republic. It also is creating problems for American companies and complicating U.S. efforts to break Russia's long-standing control over Ukraine's nuclear power sector.
Westinghouse Electric Corp. wants to bid on a $1.2 billion project to complete two Russian-designed nuclear plants in Ukraine. But the impasse over the turbine sale has stalled U.S. approval of a nuclear cooperation agreement with Ukraine that would permit Westinghouse to sell technology, equipment and fuel to Kiev.
The dispute highlights the extent to which U.S. efforts to isolate Iran have come to define American policy toward an expanding number of important European countries. Russian and French companies already are under threat of congressionally mandated sanctions for helping Iran develop its energy sector.
In the case of Ukraine, U.S. diplomatic efforts are focused on preventing completion of a 1,000-megawatt atomic plant in Bushehr, Iran, now being constructed by Russian companies under an $850 million contract. Russia planned to acquire the turbines for the plant from Turboatom, a major company in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Iran has promised to accept international safeguards against nuclear proliferation at the facility, but the Clinton administration contends that the plant is related to a secret Iranian plan to develop nuclear weapons.
In a bid to derail Turboatom's potentially lucrative turbine deal with Russia, the Clinton administration in December offered the Ukrainian government a package of small business loans, Export-Import Bank credits and joint ventures, along with military and space cooperation and the prospect of future access to U.S. nuclear fuel, according to government sources.
The aid package is intended to compensate the former Soviet republic of 52 million people for hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business if it forgoes the turbine sales, and to set the stage for intensified economic cooperation with the United States.
In return, however, Ukraine would have to cancel plans to supply the turbines to Russia.
The dispute is testing U.S. relations with the government in Kiev, which, struggling to consolidate its six-year-old independence, now finds itself caught between Moscow and Washington.
Along with carrots, the Clinton administration also is brandishing a stick.
Vice President Gore, who is in charge of policy toward Ukraine, has told President Leonid Kuchma that if the turbine deal goes forward, the U.S. government will not sign an accord on peaceful nuclear cooperation - a congressionally mandated condition for Ukraine to acquire much-needed U.S. technology and fuel for the two unfinished nuclear reactors, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.
But Russian officials are trying to persuade Ukraine to go ahead with the turbine sale. They have warned Turboatom that it could forfeit future deals to supply components for other Russian reactors if it backs out of the deal, according to Yuri Shcherbak, Ukraine's ambassador in Washington.
At the same time, he said, Russia has offered its own credits and technology to complete two unfinished Ukrainian reactors at Rivne and Khmelnitsky, and later to supply the fuel to operate them. This would cement Ukraine's total reliance on Russia in the nuclear field.
Ukraine is vulnerable because nearly half its electricity is generated by nuclear power. Moreover, Kuchma faces a serious challenge in March parliamentary elections from communist and left-wing parties critical of his cooperation with Washington.
Also at risk is a budding Ukrainian relationship with Israel, which adamantly opposes the turbine sale because of the threat that Iranian nuclear arms could pose to Israeli security. Last April, Kuchma told visiting Israeli Trade Minister Natan Sharansky that Ukraine would not supply the turbines.
In August, however, a top Ukrainian official indicated the turbine sale was still under consideration even though it would "complicate relations with our partners."
In an interview last month, Shcherbak suggested that his country is caught in the middle of a U.S.-Russian tug of war. "The best way is to have the United States and Russia directly solve this problem," he said.
Ukraine's pending turbine sale to Russia is not covered by any current U.S. sanctions laws, a senior State Department official acknowledged. Those sanctions apply to foreign companies investing in Iran's energy sector.
Last fall, however, Congress voted to hold up half of U.S. aid to Russia until President Clinton certifies that the Russian government has stopped nuclear cooperation with Iran. So far, the Russians have shown no willingness to comply, U.S. officials say.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a strong Ukraine advocate who chairs the Senate subcommittee that drafts the annual foreign aid spending bill, warned in a recent interview that an unduly rigid administration approach toward Ukraine could drive the country back into Russia's arms.
"The belligerent approach doesn't make sense in this situation," McConnell said. "All you have to do is look at a map to figure out how important the Ukraine is to stopping a resurgent Russia. It's big and geo-strategically significant."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company.
* * *

Mark Warner, who has made a fortune investing in U.S. telecommunications companies, is turning his attention to Russia.
Columbia Capital Corp., Warner's Alexandria investment group, is close to finalizing an $80 million to $100 million fund that would finance start-up telecom and information technology companies in Russia and former Soviet Union countries.
The venture capital fund is expected to begin operations in Moscow by late spring.
"You can almost feel the energy in the air in Moscow," Warner said.
Warner has amassed a fortune estimated at well over $100 million by selling wireless licenses issued by the federal government and launching such companies as Nextel Communications Inc. in McLean.
The fund represents a first for Columbia Capital, which previously backed ventures with its own money. Warner also confirmed plans for a $150 million fund that would invest in U.S. telecom companies, but he declined to provide more details. International Finance Corp., the venture capital arm of the World Bank, and Russian investment bank United Financial Group have signed on as partners in the new fund. Warner said he's also talking with other venture capital groups that have invested in Russia, although he declined to be more specific.
Will West, a principal with Atlantic-ACM, an international telecom consulting firm in Boston, said the prospects for the Russian fund appear bright.
"This is an excellent time for Columbia to be pursuing the Russian market," West said, adding that Russia is well-positioned to serve as a hub for telecom business in the former Soviet Union countries.
West also cited the opportunity to capture market share and shape the regulatory environment.
The success of McLean-based Global TeleSystems Group Inc., a wireless and land-line company that's in the middle of a public stock offering, seems to support such optimism.
Spokesman Bob Cappozio said Global's combined revenue increased 153 percent between 1995 and 1996, largely the result of its business in Russia.
Not everyone is so bullish on the market, however. John Palicka, director of research for Eastbrokers International in Rockville, an investment firm with a brokerage in Ukraine, said Warner's fund must place its bets cautiously.
"It can make money, but they should be very careful with which projects they get involved in," Palicka said.
Warner acknowledged the risks of investing in an unstable, unproven market, but he said they're comparable to those he took in this country in the early 1980s.
"Taking risks has been part of our business strategy," he said. "That's why we've achieved an internal rate of return on our investments of over 160 percent per year since 1990."
He also cited a desire to raise Columbia Capital's profile in Russia.
"When people talk about telecom and information technology, there is no established name in the former Soviet Union," Warner said. "We want to be that name."
Warner added that the fund would rely on UFG's expertise to steer clear of organized crime and hard-line communists.
"Often times the Mafia just doesn't understand computer, software and telecommunications, and these younger start-up companies haven't been corrupted by the system," he said. "But it will be an ongoing risk."
Jack Reagan, a wireless industry analyst with Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. in Baltimore, said Russia's educated populace and unsophisticated telecom and information technology markets make it attractive. But he also noted the fluctuations of its currency and the unlikelihood of a quick payoff.
"The issue is whether there is enough business at the high end of the market to finance a network," Reagan said.
Warner said the fund would adopt a long-term perspective, and he said the ruble is stabilizing.
"I only felt confident about doing this in the past year," he said.

© 1998, Washington Business Journal.
* * *

GENEVA - The vast Siberian republic of Yakutia is setting aside 270,000 square miles - twice the size of Japan - for nature reserves in hopes of saving the Siberian crane and other endangered species.
Polar bears, walruses and reindeer will be among the wildlife protected in a system of national parks and other reserves stretching into the arctic.
"Yakutia is a unique place, with a vulnerable Arctic ecosystem," Mikhail Nikolayev, president of the republic that makes up one-fifth of Russia, said at a news conference Tuesday.
The campaign aims to correct "mistakes made in previous years (that) have left us with a heritage of severe environmental degradation," he said.
Claude Martin, director-general of the World Wildlife Fund, said the area to be set aside makes up one-quarter of Yakutia, which is also known as the Sakha Republic. His group, based just outside Geneva in Gland, has donated $360,000 to help start the project.
Vasily Alexeyev, the republic's environment minister, said the scattered reserves would allow residents to practice traditional hunting and fishing methods but ban industry and mining.
By 2000, the republic intends to increase its national parks from three to 10, and add 50 resource reserves, 30 protected areas and 134 world heritage sites, Alexeyev said.
The Sakha people regard the Siberian crane as sacred and hope that they will be able to preserve the species by protecting the summer breeding areas of some 700 birds, he said.
However, the birds winter in China, and their nesting areas will be inundated by the the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, the world's largest hydroelectric project.
Alexeyev said his republic has asked international environmental groups for help in encouraging Chinese officials to find a way to "preserve this unique bird."
The Siberian crane is one of the largest birds in the northern hemisphere. A spectacular white bird with long red legs and a red beak, its annual arrivals in Siberia and China are cultural events.
The crane has two populations, one based in Yakutia and the other in western Russia.

The News-Journal Web Edition.
* * *

The Mir space station might have its flaws, but the past few months have proven it is basically sound and still belongs in orbit, two freshly returned cosmonauts said Saturday.
At a news conference at Star City, the cosmonaut training camp, Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov conceded that Mir was hobbling when they arrived for a six-month mission in August.
The two have been widely credited with bringing Mir back to good health after a string of glitches and near-catastrophes, including an on-board fire and a collision with a cargo ship.
"Naturally, I, as a Russian, believe in our hardware and praise it, but all the American astronauts who came to Mir were also astounded by the excellent condition of the station," Solovyov said.

© 1998 Contra Costa Newspapers Inc.
* * *

For six years, thieves have been looting the Russian Paleontological Institute, with stolen fossils turning up for sale in Germany, Japan and the United States.
The thefts, at first, were small. The bones of a few amphibians that existed 240 million years ago disappeared.
Then the thieves began stealing dinosaur skulls. The jawbone of a tarbosaurus is gone without a trace.
"This is really a tragedy because this is a specimen on which a new species is based," said Maria Hekker, a scientist. Some of the stolen bones have been sold for half a million dollars.
Have employees or scientists been involved in the thefts?
Igor Novikov, the institute's deputy director, denies the existence of a "bone mafia" inside the institute.
"It is nonsense to say that our scientists are stealing. Despite the low pay, our workers are enthusiastic," Novikov said.
Employees say that when they tried to blow the whistle on the problem, the director fired them.
"He spoke many times openly in the institute that such persons must be kicked out... because they bring to daylight some things that shouldn't be discussed," Hekker said.
Some dealers with stolen fossils claim they bought them from institute officials, who also provided documents needed for export.
Despite the disappearance of five skulls last year, institute officials failed to call the police. Now some senior Russian scientists are speaking out.
"This has never happened here before. Scientists stealing from their own institute. The academy wants to avoid talking about it, hoping it will just die quietly," said Vladimir Strakhov, a scientist.

© 1998 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
* * *

The NATO Science Programme will in the coming years provide assistance primarily for scientific collaboration between NATO-country scientists and scientists in NATO's Partner countries. That part of the Programme previously devoted to supporting collaboration between scientists in NATO countries will be progressively transformed to support collaboration between scientists in Partner and NATO countries. The activities affected include Intra-Alliance Advanced Study Institutes, Collaborative Research Grants and Fellowships.
This process of transformation of the Programme is undergoing continuing discussions in the NATO Science Committee, and supplementary information will be provided as changes in the Programme are made. An additional announcement will be made in the Spring.
The Programme continues currently to offer possibilities of support for Collaborative Research Grants, Linkage Grants, Expert Visits, Fellowships, Advanced Research Workshops and Advanced Study Institutes involving linkages between NATO and Partner countries. Further information and/or application forms for all these activities are available at the NATO Science web site, or from the Scientific Affairs Division
A list of the Advanced Study Institutes (ASIs) and Advanced Research Workshops (ARWs) to be held in 1998 is given in the following pages. Each ASI and ARW is held under the responsibility of its director(s): all requests for information, attendance or support should be addressed to the contact person listed. Locations and Dates may change. Participation or tuition fees are not required from participants; some participants from NATO countries or Partner countries may obtain grants from the meeting director(s) to assist with travel and living expenses.
This Calendar of Meetings is also posted at the web site, and will be continuously updated as further meetings are selected for support. Web address: http://www.nato.int/science
Scientific Affairs Division NATO Bd. Leopold III 1110 Brussels, Belgium

Advanced Research Workshops (ARWs) are working meetings of about four days' duration, where scientists and engineers researching at the frontiers of a subject are able to engage in an intense but informal exchange of views, aiming at a critical assessment of existing knowledge and identification of directions for future action. Attendance at ARWs is mainly by invitation, but a few places are available for particularly well-qualified scientists of all nationalities upon application to the contact person listed below.
Permafrost Response on Economic Development, Environmental Security and Natural Resource Potential 21 Apr 98 - 25 Apr 98: Novosibirsk, Russia Contact: Prof. R.H. Paepe, Belgian Geological Survey, Jennerstraat 13, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium (Fax: 32-2-647-73-59 E-mail: roland.paepe@pophost.eunet.be) Co-Director: Prof. V. Melnikov, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Tyumen Russia 971752

Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1998.
* * *


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