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Oil Deal Signed, Russia-U.S. Cooperation, Chekhov's Birthday

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin (L) and Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko at a signing ceremony following Russia-Belarus oil delivery talks in Moscow

Minsk And Moscow Sign Energy Deal

On January 28, Moscow and Minsk signed a deal on the delivery and transit of Russian oil to and via Belarus. Observers say the deal is advantageous for Moscow, but because it is only valid until the summer, the dispute is likely to resume in several months time.

Remarking on the deal’s elaborate scheme of tariffs and fees, Vladimir Milov, director of the Institute for Energy Policy, tells RFE/RL that a permanent framework for trade and export duties should become clearer in upcoming talks on the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

“My personal opinion is that it [the Customs Union] is another geopolitical project of Moscow... In reality, in Moscow they don’t really want to see a fully fledged customs union and a total abolition of the customs border between Russia and Belarus,” Milov says.

[read in Russian]

Russia And U.S. Face Up To Differences

In Washington, the Russian-American bilateral group on civil society has held its first session. In an interview with RFE/RL, Michael McFaul, U.S. co-chairman of the working group and senior adviser to the president, talks about the outcome and cooperation with his Russian partner, Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the Presidential Administration.

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Chekhov As Essential As Ever

January 29 is the 150th anniversary of Anton Chekhov’s birth. To mark the occasion, RFE/RL’s Natalia Goltsina interviews Donald Rayfield, a professor at Queen Mary College, London University who has written several works on Chekhov.

“In my opinion, he is still a contemporary man in that he doesn’t impose anything upon us and likes to be ambiguous and elusive," Rayfield says. "...Like ordinary people, his philosophy changes according to his mood. In this respect it is easy for people today to understand him.”

[read in Russian / read in English]