Moscow Restaurant “Mamma Zoya” destroyed by fire

It seems Moscow has just lost one of its tourist ‘attractions’. The Mama Zoya was known for its Georgian cuisine at affordable prices, easily accessible in the center of Moscow.

From RIA Novosti:

MOSCOW, July 8 – RIA Novosti. There are no injured in a fire in the floating restaurant “Mamma Zoya” in the center of Moscow,  the spokesman of MOE of the capital told RIA Novosti.

The fire on the floating embarkement at the center of Moscow began on the night from Wednesday to Thursday. The fire was categorised as the second category on the five-point scale of complexity. At the scene of a fire were involved more than 10 firefighters.

“There were no victims during the firefighting there,” – the spokesman said, adding that the cause of the fire was being determined.

He said that an are of 200 square meters was affected by the fire.

The restaurant is mentioned in many online travel guides. For example Frommer’s:

Cuisine Georgian
Hours Daily noon-11pm
Location Arbat
Transportation Metro: Frunzenskaya
Phone 499/242-8550
Prices Main courses $10-$30 (£5-£15)
Credit Cards Not accepted
Other Another restaurant at 29/1 tel. 495/729-4181. Mon-Sat 11am-midnight. Metro: Taganskaya

The family of Mama Zoya started with a rudimentary cafe, then expanded to an out-of-the-way cellar restaurant, and now boasts a multistory boat-restaurant moored along the Moscow River across from Gorky Park. The latest location is less intimate but more accessible and successful. The food is just as homey even if the service is not quite so familial. This is an atmospheric and decently priced way to sample the rich and underappreciated pleasures of Georgian cuisine. The grilled lamb — cubed and skewered, ground and skewered, or grilled by the leg — is a specialty, and it’s divine. Also try adzhapsandal, an eggplant-and-tomato based ragout; or pkhali, spinach, garlic, and walnuts ground to a rich paste. Ignore the weird decor of gnomes, palms, and mannequins, and look out at the river instead.

Or Passport Magazine:

Mama Zoya interior

Mama Zoya interior

Delicious and inexpensive Georgian cuisine. Noon-midnight.
The fact that they still haven’t thought of designing their interior doesn’t seem to have affected the popularity of this boat restaurant on the Moscow River. What matters is the authentic and inexpensive menu, and the carnival atmosphere (a Georgian orchestra is playing every evening). We can’t say that it’s romantic if it’s just the two of you, but it’s fun in a group.

The last remarks appear a bit odd in light of recent events! At least critics of the interior can now hope for a redesign of the interior – if the restaurant is rebuilt at all. The sad note is that another restaurant with affordable but delicious meals is now gone and it is not clear what will follow in its place. Given the coveted locations, there should be no lack of interested parties with the necessary cash available.


Customs Union between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia in Force

On July 1, 2010, the customs Union between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia entered into legal force. However some things need to be sorted out still. RIA Novosti:

MOSCOW, July 1 – RIA Novosti. The Customs Code of the Customs Union comes into force on 1 July, but still it is not clear whether this unionis  three-or two-sided. Russia and Kazakhstan have ratified the Code. With a third-party, Belarus, it is not so clear: on Wednesday evening sources in the Parliament of Belarus informed that the document has been ratified, but the official confirmation has not yet followed.

Two or three?

Formally, the customs union of the three countries began on January 1 this year, but de facto, to talk about full-fledged union and a single customs territory of the three countries is possible only after the entry into force of the General Customs Code. Russia and Kazakhstan signed the document on May 28 already, while Belarus did not even send their representatives to the procedure. Russia and Belarus have not yet been able to resolve differences over duties on petroleum products and rates on imported cars by natural persons.

On Wednesday, the eve of commencement of the Customs Code of the Deputy Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Minister Andrei Slepnev reported that the if the Belarusian parliament does ratify the document by Wednesday – in this case, the customs union will be three-sided from July 1 on.

The first Vice-Premier of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said hours after Slepnev’s statement that his country will decide on participation in the Customs Union on July 5, when the leaders from all three countries will gather in Astana . According to the Belarusian side, the solution will depend on the position of Russia on duties on petroleum products.

Intrigues added two sources in the Belarusian parliament, which late Wednesday told RIA Novosti that Belarus has ratified all the same code .  According to sources, the ratification was held in closed session of parliament. Officially,  both houses of the Belarusian parliament  did not confirm nor deny this information on Wednesday night.

Borders shut

Earlier it was planned that the border between Russia and Belarus will be abolished from 1 July, and from Kazakhstan – a year later, from 1 July 2011. However, delays in ratification of the Code and the remaining exemptions from free trade (cars for natural persons) have led to the fact that the customs posts on the Russian-Belarusian border, will remain there indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the head of Russian Federal Customs Service Andrei Belyaninov said Wednesday that Russian customs authorities are prepared to begin work on the Customs Code of the application of new rules from July 1.

Moreover, the Russian Customs promised on Thursday to open a “hotline” by which all disputes will be resolved and conflict issues that arise at the borders.

You can bring more, but not vodka

The Customs Code will change the rules for importing goods from outside the Customs Union countries. Since July 1, natural persons can import duty free from abroad, 50 kg of goods valued at not more than 1,5 thousand euros (approx. 58,531). Previously, the maximum allowed to import 35 kg of goods worth no more than 65 thousand rubles.

When importing goods weighing over 50 kilograms citizens will have to pay tax of 30% but not less than 4 euros per kilo.

The amount of alcohol permitted to be imported, will be reduced by half – to 5 liters from the previous 10 litres. With this there will be no fee to bring 3 liters of alcohol instead of 2.

That’s good news. But how does it look like a few days later? So far there seems to be no significant problems, and the cooperation among border and customs agents seems to work ok. However, two days into the union, there is not much experience to be gained and time will tell how everything really works out between the three.

Referendum in Kyrgyzstan Held Without Serious Problems

Some good news from Kyrgyzstan. The referendum on the new constitution has passed without serious issues. From Ria Novosti:

Bishkek, June 28 – RIA News. No serious violations during the referendum on a new constitution in Kyrgyzstan were found,  the CEC head Vladimir Churov said to journalists on Monday.

“All the international observer mission of serious violations during the elections did not notice” – said Churov.

He noted that the level of organisation of the referendum in Kyrgyzstan on the new constitution was higher than anticipated, especially in the light of developments in the country the past two months.

“The organization of the referendum has risen to the occasion”, said Churov.

However, according to him, the young members of electoral committees may have allowed some inaccuracies and errors.

In his opinion this can not significantly affect the results of the vote since the observers had voter turnout in areas different from the official numbers by only a few pecent.

“In my opinion, the majority of citizens voted in Kyrgyzstan rather intuitively, rather than trying to read the law the new constitution, as they expect it to stabilise the country”, said the head of CEC.

In his view, the issue of forming a government after the referendum is still on the surface.

“In the meeting today with (President of the Transitional Period) Rosa Otunbayeva, we talked about this subject. It is planned that in the fall or when they decide,  parliamentary elections will be held, and we agreed that the CEC will provide methodological support, including on security arrangements for elections”, he said.

In turn, a member of the Central Election Commission of Russia, Vasily Volkov, part of the mission of international observers reported that they had visited the 62 election district in most areas of Kyrgyzstan.

“In our mission we had 36 people, of which 23 were from public organizations, and we seen that even a small number would suffice, but they must be professionals who can quickly and accurately observe the elections”, Volkov said.

Good news indeed! It was the first referendum in Kyrgyzstan’s history and it was held peacefully and orderly despite efforts of some people to disrupt it. More than 90% of citizens voted for the new constitution, which establishes a parliamentary democracy and does away with many powers the president held. The voter turnout was high at 65%.

Obama invites Medvedev to his favorite fast-food restaurant

Burger time for Medvedev:

What I found intriguing is the blatant product placement:

Medvedev Obama Burger

Medvedev and Obama have Burger

Normally, I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to that if it weren’t for the post I wrote just before seeing this. Read it here.  Excerpt from the post:

The famous producer of soft drinks Coca-Cola will sell  kvass under the trademark “Krushka & Bochka” (Mug & Barrel) , which is produced in Russian factories, in the  U.S. , according

The start of sales of the famous Russian drink is timed to the visit of Dmitry Medvedev to the country . Kvass will be sold in plastic bottles  of 0,5 liters. The new product can be purchased later this month in stores Whole Foods Market in New York. A bottle of the drink will cost about 2.5 dollars. Coca-Cola began production of kvass in Russia in 2008.

Today, Coca-Cola produces 500 brands of carbonated and still beverages, including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, Vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid and Georgia Coffee.

Or from the Coca-Cola company themselves, it sounds like this:

NEW YORK, June 24, 2010 –  Kvass has been a Russian staple of refreshment for centuries, enjoyed by generations of Russians across the country. Russian poet and novelist Alexander Pushkin describes how Russians believed they needed Kvass like the air for living. This unique taste lands on the shores of America this month when Coca-Cola North America launches Krushka & Bochka Kvass in the New York City area.

Opening a bottle of Kvass releases a fragrant bouquet reminiscent of freshly baked bread cooling on a windowsill. Malty with a sweet finish and light sparkle, Kvass is truly a thirst quencher like no other. Based on a traditional Russian recipe, Coca-Cola created and launched Krushka & Bochka Kvass in Russia in 2008. Since that time, Krushka & Bochka Kvass has become one of Russia’s best-selling brands in the fast-moving non-alcoholic fermented beverage category.

Amazing coincidence, isn’t it?

But wait, how did Nestea, the iced tea beverage from Nestlé, get there? Somebody in marketing didn’t pay attention, ey? Unlikely, the answer is: Beverage Partners Worldwide (BPW) which Wikipedia describes:

Beverage Partners Worldwide (BPW) is the name of the joint venture partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and Nestlé, created in 2001 as the successor to Coca-Cola and Nestle Refreshments (CCNR) founded in 1991. Coca-Cola and Nestlé hold equal parts in the joint venture.[1]

In late 2006, the two companies announced that their joint venture is focussed on producing and selling drinks based on black tea and green tea like Nestea and Enviga.[1]

The iced tea brand, Nestea, while owned by Nestle, is controlled in most global markets by BPW. BPW operates in more than 40 countries, marketing Nestea as well as other ready-to-drink chilled teas. Nestea currently trails well behind competitors, notably Lipton and Snapple, in most developed markets. In 2007 BPW lost the right to managed RTD flavoured milks and chilled coffees, including several Nescafe spin-offs. Coca-Cola subsequently agreed a separate joint venture with Illy Coffee to market RTD coffees

Is it safe? Sure, it’s safe!

Pravda: Americans to Become Used to Drinking Russian Kvass

Bottled Kvas in Russia

Bottled Kvas in Russia


The famous producer of soft drinks Coca-Cola will sell  kvass under the trademark “Krushka & Bochka” (Mug & Barrel) , which is produced in Russian factories, in the  U.S. , according

The start of sales of the famous Russian drink is timed to the visit of Dmitry Medvedev to the country . Kvass will be sold in plastic bottles  of 0,5 liters. The new product can be purchased later this month in stores Whole Foods Market in New York. A bottle of the drink will cost about 2.5 dollars. Coca-Cola began production of kvass in Russia in 2008.

Today, Coca-Cola produces 500 brands of carbonated and still beverages, including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, Vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid and Georgia Coffee.

That’s nice to know, but what is kvass anyway? From Wikipedia:

Kvass or kvas (borrowed from Russian квас (kvas) or from Polish kwas (meaning acid) in the 16th century), sometimes called in English a bread drink, is a fermented beverage made from black rye or rye bread  (which contributes to its light or dark colour). By the content of alcohol resulted from fermentation, it is classified as non-alcoholic: up to 1.2% of alcohol, according to the standard of Russia.

It’s still – or again – very popular in Russia, again from Wikipedia:

Although western soft drinks such as Coca-Cola  and Pepsi  previously smothered the commercial sale of kvass in Russia, currently kvass is being marketed as a patriotic alternative to cola, sparking a recent “kvass revival.” For example, the Russian company Nikola (whose name sounds like “not cola” in Russian) has promoted its brand of kvass with an advertising campaign emphasizing “anti cola-nisation.” Moscow-based Business Analytica reported in 2008 that bottled kvass sales had tripled since 2005 and estimated that per-capita  consumption of kvass in Russia would reach three liters in 2008.

The news release from Coca Cola can be found here.

Kyrgyzstan Provisional Government Expects Further Provocations

Kyrgyzstan Refugees
Image Source: RIA Novosti

While the situation in Kyrgyzstan’s southern provinces Osh and Jalal-Abad remained mostly calm, the Kyrgyzstan Provisional Government prepares itself for further provocations in the north. Writes RIA Novosti:

BISHKEK, June 15 – RIA Novosti. The Provisional Government of Kyrgyzstan is awaiting provocations in the north of the republic and in Bishkek, said the first deputy chairman of the interim government, Almazbek Atambayev.

Ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks began in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan last week  . Rioters were burning cars, destroying shops, bazaars, as well as residential homes, there was rampant looting in the streets. On Sunday, the unrest spread to neighboring Jalal-Abad region of the republic. According to recent data, from the beginning of unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan killed more than 170 people, injured more than 1,7 thousand.
“That tragedy, which happened in the south, was a well-planned and paid for action. We must wait for any provocations in the Chuy region (north of the country) and in Bishkek. But we are well prepared for them”, – Atambaev said at a news conference in Bishkek.

He asked citizens “to be sympathetic to those security measures, which intend to take measures to prevent a recurrence of such events in the capital. Atambayev said that now in all settlements north of the republic, in particular, are units of the vigilantes. Atambayev said that the interim government was not ready for the provocations that led to the destabilization in the Osh and Jalal-Abad region.

“The fact is that the security forces of Kyrgyzstan have been filled with unqualified staff, and even with representatives of criminal structures under the previous government. We have yet to find the traitors, who showed his face just now. We were not ready (to events in the south), it is a big lesson for us, “- said Atambayev.

I am not sure if this is connected to the allegations that the Bakiyev clan was behind the riots or if it is in connection with other crimes allegedly committed by M, but it was announced today, that Maxim Bakiyev, currently in custody in the United Kingdom will possibly face extradition to Kyrgyzstan. AKIPress writes:

Bishkek (AKI) – In connection with the detention of Maxim Bakiyev in the UK, the Attorney General’s Office today, June 15, prepared materials to extradite him to Kyrgyzstan, the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office told AKI today,  June 15.

Through the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry an official request was sent to the competent authorities for the extradition to the Kyrgyz Republic of a M. Bakiyev for the crimes he committed.

The prosecutor will inform later about the results.

Meanwhile, the Russian government is planning to send on Wednesday three IL-76 transport planes with humanitarian aid to the victims of the ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan, writes RIA Novosti.

Ethnical Unrest in the South of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan unrest

Image Source: RIA Novosti

There are renewed riots in Kyrgyzstan, however this time the reason is not political but ethnical. The latest news speaks of  118 death and over 1,600 injured. From RIA Novosti:

BISHKEK, June 14 – RIA Novosti, Yulia Orlova. More than 1,6 thousand people have been injured since the beginning of unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan, over 118 killed, said the head of the press center of the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan Elena Bayalinova to RIA Novosti on Monday.

In Osh, the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan,  three days of continuing ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, accompanied by pogroms and the burning houses. Both sides were armed with firearms. Yesterday, the unrest spread to the neighboring Jalal-Abad region of the republic. In these regions of the country a state of emergency was declared.

Many Uzbeks have fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan. Again, RIA Novosti:

MOSCOW, June 14 – RIA Novosti. More than 60 thousand refugees from riots in Kyrgyzstan are currently in the Uzbek city of Andijan, said AFP on Monday, referring to the statement of representatives of the Uzbek Ministry of Emergency Situations.

“According to our preliminary data, in all there are 60,000 refugees in the area of the region of Andijan” – the representative of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Uzbekistan Andijan Izzat Ibragimov was quoted as saying.

According to him, the number of refugees is determined by the number of adult men and women, the children are not counted.

According to AKIPress, the night from Sunday to Monday was quiet in Osh:

The last night was calm in the city of Osh. As the correspondent of AKI reported, about 50 veterans of intelligence service arrived from Bishkek in the city. Also, about 100 veterans were sent to the city of Jalal-Abad.

The shooting in the city of Osh has stopped.

Ethnical unrest is nothing new in this region. There have been tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks before, however, the latest spat seems to have its roots in the recent deposal of the former President Kurmanbek Bakiev. The south of Kyrgyzstan is a stronghold of the Bakiyev clan and he still has strong support there, while the Uzbhek where and are supporting the provisional government of Rosa Otunbaeva. There is now some suspicion that Bakiyev was behind those clashes. From Kabar:

Kabar, 12 by June 2010.  The Deputy Chairman of the Provisional Government, Beknazarov, does not exclude the participation of the Bakiyev family in the organisation of unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan, the deputy chairman of the PG told state television and radio (NTRC) today.
According to A. Beknazarov, by organising mass unrest and ethnic strive, “the Bakiyev family is trying to destabilize the situation in the country. According to some sources, a number of organisers of the conflict is now still in Osh. Work is underway to identify and apprehend them.