Main news of March 17


* U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will make his final trip to Russia next week before retiring later in the year, White House spokesman Jeff Morrell told RIA Novosti

* The water level in a spent nuclear fuel pond at Japan’s blasts-ridden Fukushima No. 1 plant has dropped, overheating the container of the No. 3 reactor, The Mainichi Daily said

* Russian rescuers intend to search a 100 square kilometer area surrounding the disaster-struck Japanese city of Sendai, the head of the search team said

* On-site inspections of Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will begin in April, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said

* Defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states signed a cooperation plan for the period 2012-2013, Kazakh Defense Minister Adilbek Dzhaksybekov said


* Accidents at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant that followed the powerful March 11 earthquake are not dangerous for Russia even if things turn ugly, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said

* The Russian government should avoid spending all surplus oil revenues to curb inflation, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said

* The construction of the third Graney class nuclear-powered attack submarine will begin in 2011, a spokesman for the Russian Navy said

* Moscow is currently persuading the United States to sign an agreement to scrap visas for visits lasting under 90 days, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said


* Russia risks losing over $6 billion on arms contracts with Algeria and Syria if the situation in these countries destabilizes, a Russian expert on arms industry said

* Russia’s National Banking Council will discuss the privatization of a 7.6% stake in Russia’s top lender, Sberbank, from the central bank’s 57.6% share next week, a council source told RIA Novosti

* The Russian car market will grow by about a quarter in 2011 supported by government funds and economic recovery, analysts say


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