Russia: Making Space Tourism Pay


April 9, 2007: Russia has made space tourism pay, by charging over $110 million to carry five billionaires to the International Space Station. The fifth such tourist was launched two days ago. Russia agreed to the program in the late 1990s, as its space program was falling apart from lack of cash. The money situation has improved, thanks mainly to a booming economy. But the additional revenue from the tourists has made a difference as well, providing a few percent more money to the space operations budget, as well as lots of favorable publicity. It's also the first profitable commercial venture in space. The company that actually makes the deals with the prospective tourists, Space Adventures, is based in the United States. NASA was unwilling to provide transportation into space, but the Russians were.

April 5, 2007: The newly elected leader of Chechnya was installed in office. Ramzan Kadyrov is criticized as a pro-Russian warlord, but that's what he is, and that's what the Russians want.

April 4, 2007: After two weeks of preparations, Chechen police cornered and killed Suleiman Elmurzaye, the leader of rebel groups in the southeast part of the province. Ten of Elmurzayes followers were killed or captured in the action.

April 1, 2007: Pro and anti-Russian Ukrainians held large demonstrations in the capital. Over three centuries of Russian occupation brought many Russian settlers into Ukraine, and their descendents want a pro-Russian government. The anti-Russian groups fear that Russia will take over again. Russia supports the pro-Russia Ukrainians politically and financially, and wants a Ukraine that is less a part of Europe, and more a compliant ally of Russia. March 31, 2007: Russia is making the most of its canceling $4.7 billion of debts Algeria owed it, mainly for Cold War era arms purchases. Last year, Algeria ordered eight billion dollars of Russian weapons, and is now negotiating another seven billion dollars worth. Algeria is also ordering billions of dollars in Russian commercial products.


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