Globalize Your Thinking


Russia’s New Weapons: Passports And Pipelines


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Putin’s Patriotism is Phony, His Desperation is Real

Russia’s president is gambling the future of his country to consolidate his grip on power. But his economy is in peril and the people who support him today may well revile him tomorrow.















Cold War paradigm well suited to Crimea

Full ArticleAsia Times 

02 Apr 2014


By Urvashi Aneja Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. if you are interested in contributing. Recent events inUkraine have set off a slew of commentary about the start of a new cold war. Politicians and the media have highlighted the illegitimacy of the Crimeanreferendum and Russia‘s… 
Russian solders prepare to move a Russian tank T-72B at the Ostryakovo railway station not far from Simferopol, Crimea, Monday, March 31, 2014.







Russian forces seize two Ukrainian bases in Crimea


SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine/MOSCOW Wed Mar 19, 2014




Navy HQ stormed

Russian troops storm Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Sevastopol.  Slideshow 

(Reuters) – The United States warned Moscow it was on a “dark path” to isolation on Wednesday as Russian troops seized two Ukrainian naval bases, including a headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol where they raised their flag.

The dramatic seizure came as Russia and the West dug in for a long confrontation over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, with the United States and Europe groping for ways to increase pressure on a defiant Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“As long as Russia continues on this dark path, they will face increasing political and economic isolation,” said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, referring to reports of armed attacks against Ukrainian military personnel in Crimea.

Biden was in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, part of a quick trip to reassure Baltic allies worried about what an emboldened Russia might mean for their nations. Lithuania, along with Estonia and Latvia, are NATO members.

“There is an attempt, using brutal force, to redraw borders of the European states and to destroy the post-war architecture of Europe,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon meets Putin in Moscow on Thursday and travels to Kiev on Friday. He will urge a peaceful end to a crisis that began when Ukraine’s president abandoned a trade pact with the European Union and turned instead to Moscow, prompting violent street protests that led to his overthrow.

Russian lawmakers raced to ratify a treaty making Crimea part of Russia by the end of the week, despite threats of further sanctions from Washington and Brussels.

The Russian military moved swiftly to neutralize any threat of armed resistance in Crimea.

“This morning they stormed the compound. They cut the gates open, but I heard no shooting,” said Oleksander Balanyuk, a captain in the navy, walking out of the compound in his uniform and carrying his belongings.

“This thing should have been solved politically. Now all I can do is stand here at the gate. There is nothing else I can do,” he told Reuters, appearing ashamed and downcast.

Ukrainian military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said the commander of the Ukrainian navy, Admiral Serhiy Haiduk, was driven away by what appeared to be Russian special forces.

Russian troops seized another Ukrainian naval facility in Crimea late on Wednesday.

“Russian troops came and asked us to leave the base, which we did,” Ukrainian navy major Eduard Kusnarenko told Reuters outside the base in Bakhchisaray, about 30 km (20 miles) southwest of the regional capital Simferopol.

In Washington, the White House condemned Russian moves to seize Ukrainian military installations, saying they are creating a dangerous situation. NATO accused Russia of trying to “redraw the map of Europe”.


Russia sent thousands of soldiers to Crimea in the buildup to a weekend referendum in which the Russian-majority region voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and join Moscow, reflecting national loyalties and hopes of higher wages.

But there is unease among pro-Ukrainian Crimeans who have complained about the heavy armed presence across the region.

“I was born here, my family is here, I have a job here and I am not going anywhere unless there is an all-out military conflict,” said Viktor, a 23-year-old salesman. “It is my home but things will not be the same anymore.”

A few hundred meters away, the local authorities attached new, Russian letters spelling “State Council of the Crimean Republic” on the building of the local assembly.

Ukrainian security chief Andriy Parubiy said the Kiev government would urge the United Nations to declare Crimea a demilitarized zone.

“The Ukrainian government will immediately appeal to the United Nations to recognize Crimea as a demilitarized zone and take necessary measures for Russian forces to leave Crimea and prepare conditions for re-deployment of Ukrainian forces,” Parubiy said.

Ukraine announced plans to introduce visas for Russians, and Russia said it might respond in kind.

Putin said his move to annex Crimea was justified by “fascists” in Kiev who overthrew pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich last month.

Ukraine and Western governments have dismissed the referendum as a sham, and say there is no justification for Putin’s actions.


Germany’s cabinet approved EU plans for closer political cooperation with Ukraine, a government source said, clearing the way for Chancellor Angela Merkel to sign part of a so-called association agreement at an EU summit later this week.

The 28-member bloc is expected to sign a more far-reaching trade accord with Ukraine later.

But maintaining aggressive rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War, Russia accused Western states of violating a pledge to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and political independence under a 1994 security assurance agreement, saying they had “indulged a coup d’etat” that ousted Yanukovich.

Moscow, which has said it will retaliate for so far largely symbolic Western sanctions targeting Russian officials, announced on Wednesday it was closing its military facilities to a European security watchdog for the rest of the year.

The Russian Defence Ministry was quoted as saying the signatories of a 2011 Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe agreement had exhausted their quotas to inspect Russian military facilities and a planned inspection in the coming days would be the last.


Biden said in Warsaw on Tuesday the United States may run more ground and naval military exercises to help Baltic states near Russia beef up their capacity after what he called Putin’s “land grab” in Ukraine.

The Truxtun, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, started a one-day military exercise with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies in the Black Sea on Wednesday, a U.S. Naval Forces official said.

Washington and Brussels said further sanctions would follow the visa bans and asset freezes imposed so far on a handful of Russian and Crimean officials, drawing derision from Moscow.

On a visit to Japan, which has joined the Western chorus of condemnation of Moscow’s action, close Putin ally Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil major Rosneft, said expanding sanctions would only aggravate the crisis.

European Union leaders will consider widening the number of people targeted by personal sanctions when they meet on Thursday and Friday, diplomats said, as well as signing the political part of an association agreement with Ukraine’s interim government.

EU officials say they have identified more than 100 potential targets. Some media reports say Sechin and the head of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom are on the wider list.

(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White and Gabriela Baczynska in Simferopol andElizabeth Piper and Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Writing by Mike Collett-White; editing by Anna Willard and Giles Elgood)










Putin Declares Crimea Part Of Russia

Putin Signs Treaty, Annexes Crimea.. Says No Plan To Seize Other Regions..France: Russia Suspended From G8.. Biden Lashes Out: ‘A Land Grab’.. Threatens More Sanctions..




Obama Announces Sanctions Against Top Russian Officials… EU Slaps Travel Bans On 21 People… EARLIER: 97% Vote To Join Russia… Annexation Could Happen Within Days… Moves To Adopt Ruble… Crimea PM Mocks Obama With Photoshopped Photo… Obama: International Community Will ‘Never’ Recognize Vote… U.S. Official: Mass Evidence Of Voting Anomalies…







JOHN MCCAIN: Russia Is A ‘Gas Station Masquerading As A Country’

  MAR. 16, 2014

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain urged a “fundamental reassessment” of the U.S.’s relationship with Russia and President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, the day the region of Crimea is holding a referendum to determine whether it will secede from Ukraine and possibly join Russia.

Fresh off a trip to Ukraine as part of a congressional delegation, McCain argued on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that the U.S. should implement quick sanctions targeting Russia’s role as a gas provider in Europe.

“Look, Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,” McCain said. “It’s kleptocracy. It’s corruption. It’s a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy, and so economic sanctions are important.”

McCain also urged broader action. He emphasized American military action was out of the question, and said the re-ignition of a Cold War was also not necessary. But he said there was a lot the U.S. could do to isolate Putin and Russia if they continue down the current path on Ukraine. 

“The United States of America, first of all, has to have a fundamental reassessment of our relationship with Vladimir Putin,” McCain said on CNN.

“No more ‘reset buttons.’ No more, ‘Tell Vladimir I’ll be more flexible.’ Treat him for what he is. That does not mean re-ignition of the Cold War. But it does mean treating him in the way that we understand an individual who believes in restoring the old Russian empire.”

Here’s the clip: 






Ukraine crisis is not a game
March , 2014

Ukraine crisis is not a game

By Ilya Lozovsky, Special to CNN

During a complex, fast-moving crisis such as the one now unfolding in Ukraine, it is tempting for some commentators to advocate taking the “long view.” This school of thought, which carries more than a whiff of Cold War nostalgia, reduces the struggle for Ukraine to a geopolitical game in which the various competing actors – the United States, the European Union and Russia – become featureless billiard balls ricocheting off each other. Ukraine becomes Russia’s “historical backyard,” or even worse, a subordinate part of its “legitimate sphere of influence” which we are urged to respect. Approaching the unfolding Ukrainian crisis in this way has the advantage of appearing sober, practical, and dispassionate. It is also dead wrong.

It is wrong because it treats Putin’s Russia, the European Union, and the United States as equivalent actors on the world stage – opposites, but equally legitimate – when in actual fact, these countries’ systems of government are profoundly different.  Russia is undemocratic, authoritarian, and endemically corrupt, its natural resources and immense human capital plundered by Putin and his regime.

The European Union, for all its considerable flaws, is a collection of open, liberal, democratic states, respectful of human rights and beholden to the rule of law. A worldview that equates these actors and condemns Ukraine as fated to be split between them in a kind of Solomonic compromise is deeply cynical. Moreover, it is precisely the worldview of Vladimir Putin. And that is not a worldview that we can afford to adopt.






U.S., Russia Meet In London For Last-Minute Ukraine Talks.. West Readies Sanctions For Russia.. Crimea Vote Set For Sunday.. UK PM: ‘We Want To See Ukrainians And The Russians Talking’.. Russia: We Reserve Right To Protect Compatriots In Ukraine.



Change course in Crimea or face costs, West warns Russia

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
March 13, 2014
Cossacks stand guard at Crimea's regional parliament building in Simferopol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 12. Pro-Russian forces have taken control of Ukraine's autonomous Crimean region, prompting criticism from the West and Ukrainian interim government. Security measures are tightening around Crimea's capital as the pro-Russian regional government prepares to hold a referendum to break away from Ukraine. The standoff has revived concerns of a return to Cold War relations.
Cossacks stand guard at Crimea’s regional parliament building in Simferopol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 12. Pro-Russian forces have taken control of Ukraine’s autonomous Crimean region, prompting criticism from the West and Ukrainian interim government. Security measures are tightening around Crimea’s capital as the pro-Russian regional government prepares to hold a referendum to break away from Ukraine. The standoff has revived concerns of a return to Cold War relations.











Russians are leaving the country in droves

Some chafe at life under Vladimir Putin’s rule, but for many others, economic limitations are the prime motivator. Experts say the numbers have reached demographically dangerous levels.

Russian emigration

Russians line up for visas outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.




Stunning New Poll In Russia: Support Plunges For Putin And His Party

The latest survey found support fading for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev after they announced plans to “swap” top positions in upcoming elections. Though the poll is not expected to unseat their United Russia party, one analyst called it a “tectonic” shift

Russia's dynamic duo: Dmitry Medvedev (left) and Vladimir Putin

Russia’s dynamic duo: Dmitry Medvedev (left) and Vladimir Putin



Russia says :

Israeli threat of strikes on Iran ‘a mistake’

Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant (file image from August 2010)

Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely to generate power for civilian use

Military action against Iran would be a “very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences”, Russia’s foreign minister has warned.

Sergei Lavrov said diplomacy, not missile strikes, was the only way to solve the Iranian nuclear problem.

His comments come after Israeli President Shimon Peres said an attack on Iran was becoming more likely.

The UN’s atomic watchdog is expected to say this week that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear arms capability.

Diplomats say the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, due for release on Tuesday or Wednesday, will produce compelling evidence that Iran will find hard to dispute.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear programme is exclusively to generate power for civilian purposes.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said the alleged evidence is a fabrication and part of a multi-pronged US smear campaign against his country.

Time ‘running out’

Mr Lavrov said it was “far from the first time” Israel had threatened strikes against Iran, when asked for his view on Mr Peres’ recent comments.

“Our position on this issue is well-known: this would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences,” he told reporters.

“Start Quote

I estimate that intelligence services of all these countries are looking at the ticking clock, warning leaders that there was not much time left”

Shimon Peres Israeli President

Mr Lavrov said “the only path for removing concerns is to create every possible condition” to resume the talks between Iran and six world powers – including Russia – which broke down in December last year.






Russian soldiers in historical uniforms march during a military parade rehearsal in Moscow’s Red Square;







Sep 21, 2011 00:07 Moscow Time

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Both Russian Prime Minister and leader of the United Russia party Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev will address a United Russia convention due in Moscow at the end of this week, chief of the party’s Central Executive Committee Andrei Vorobyov announced Tuesday. He said that Dmitry Medvedev’s candidacy could be added to the list of United Russia candidates for the State Duma, should he so wish.



Drunk Navigator Caused Russian Crash

A rescue worker walks amid the debris of the Russian jet that went down on June 20 in Petrozavodsk, killing 47 people.

A rescue worker walks amid the debris of the Russian jet that went down on June 20 in Petrozavodsk, killing 47 people.

  • A Russian plane should have circled for another landing attempt, a report says
  • The crew didn’t interact properly, according to Russian investigators
  • 47 people died in the crash in June
  • The report comes nearly two weeks after another plane crash that killed hockey players

Moscow (CNN)Pilot error, slight intoxication of the navigator, and a failure of the crew to interact properly caused a plane crash that killed 47 people in June of this year, Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) said Monday.

The crew should have circled to make a fresh attempt at landing in poor weather conditions, the IAC probe found.

It “was the failure of the crew to decide on a go-around and descend below the minimal established safety altitude in the absence of visual contact with approach lights and landmarks which resulted in the collision of the aircraft with trees and ground,” the IAC said.







What’s behind Russian tycoon Prokhorov’s abrupt political exit?

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov blames the Kremlin for orchestrating a mutiny within his Right Cause political party, which could have taken some support from Putin’s United Russia party.

 September 15, 2011

Billionaire businessman Mikhail Prokhorov speaks at a news conference during the Right Cause party conference in Moscow Sept. 15. Prokhorov resigned on Thursday from the party he was recently elected to lead, accusing Kremlin factions of dirty political tricks that split his power base, and vowed to boycott a December parliamentary election.

The unexpected exit of a rising political star appears to be the result of a bitter split within Mr. Prokhorov’s party that the billionaire oligarch blames on Kremlin meddling.

Until recently Mr. Prokhorov, who is worth $18 billion according to Forbes Magazine, had been best known in the US as owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. In Russia, he’s been constantly in the headlines as the country’s most eligible bachelor, an amateur athlete who posts videos on YouTube of his jet-ski stunts, and the somewhat quixotic promoter of electric cars.

In June, Prokhorov took over a moribund pro-business party, Right Cause, and announced his intention to turn it into a viable political vehicle that could hurdle the 7 percent vote barrier to gain admission to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, in elections slated for Dec. 4. He was awarded lavish coverage on state-run TV, and billboards sprouted everywhere with his face and chosen slogan: “Strength lies in power. The one who is right is stronger.”





Retired officer arrested in Politkovskaya killing

 A mourner places a candle at a photo of slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, during an event to mark the ninth day after her killing, in downtown St. Petersburg, Russia, late Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006. According to Russian funeral rituals the soul is
photo: AP /Dmitry Lovetsky
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian investigators on Tuesday arrested a retired police officer on suspicion of organizing the 2006 killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. But this arrest, like the arrest of the suspected triggerman in May, still does not address the issue .

Russian investigators on Tuesday arrested a retired police officer on suspicion of organizing the 2006 killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building.

But this arrest, like the arrest of the suspected triggerman in May, still does not address the issue of who might have ordered the killing of Politkovskaya, a sharp critic of the Kremlin and its chosen strongman in Chechnya.

Tuesday’s arrest of retired Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was first reported by editors at Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, and later confirmed by investigators.

Pavlyuchenkov was paid “by a person whose identity is still unknown” to organize the killing, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in remarks carried by all three Russian news agencies.

The retired officer formed a group to carry out the crime and provided the murder weapon, Markin said.

The brutal attack drew worldwide attention to violence against journalists in Russia, rated one of the most dangerous countries in the world for reporters. Suspicions of government involvement in the killing have been widespread.

The suspected gunman, Rustam Makhmudov, was arrested in his native Chechnya in May. His two brothers were accused of playing minor roles in the killing, as lookout and getaway driver.

Another retired Moscow police officer, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, was initially accused of supplying the murder weapon, but a court acquitted him and the two Makhmudov brothers in 2009. The Supreme Court overruled the acquittal and sent the case back to prosecutors.

Politkovskaya, who was 48 when she died, won international acclaim for her reports on violence, police oppression and corruption in Chechnya and other parts of the Russian Caucasus gripped by an Islamic insurgency.

Vladimir Putin, who was Russia’s president at the time, remained silent for three days after Politkovskaya’s killing and then said that her influence on Russian political life was “extremely insignificant.”

The inconclusive investigation and the botched trial added to suspicions of government involvement in the killing.





North Korea’s Kim arrives in Russia for talks

File - In this undated photo released by Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service in Tokyo, Thursday, April 7, 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, left, along with his son Kim Jong Un, right, visit Amnokgang tire factory in Jagang Province, North Korea.
photo: AP / Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service
North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il on Saturday arrived in his armoured train in Russia and plans to meet President Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin said. During the visit, his first since 2002, Kim is expected to meet with the Kremlin chief for talks in Siberia to discuss North Korea’s nuclear programme, bilateral economic projects and a…



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 A literary festival in St-Malo, France, Russian writer Zahar Prilepin and I spoke on a panel about Russia’s war in Chechnya. The audience was fired up with anti-Russian sentiment, having just seen a documentary on the devastation of Grozny by Russian forces in 2000. Prilepin—muscular, silent—sank sullenly in his chair as the experts waffled on about Russia’s unhealed psychological wounds. Finally, I suggested we give Prilepin the microphone, since he was the only one in the room who’d fought in Chechnya, as an officer in Russia’s paramilitary police. He weighed his words. “All I can say is that the Russian soldier has a natural talent for fighting,” he declared. “And he’s ready to demonstrate that skill in any European country you like.” Cue howls of Gallic indignation.







Putin says US is ‘parasite’ on global economy

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Monday of living beyond its means ‘like a parasite’ on the global economy and said dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets. — PHOTO: REUTERS


LAKE SELIGER (Russia) – RUSSIAN Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Monday of living beyond its means ‘like a parasite’ on the global economy and said dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets.

‘They are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy,’ Mr Putin told the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi while touring its lakeside summer camp some five hours drive north of Moscow.

‘They are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar,’ Mr Putin said at the open-air meeting with admiring young Russians in what looked like early campaigning before parliamentary and presidential polls.

US President Barack Obama earlier announced a last-ditch deal to cut about $2.4 trillion (S$2.9 trillion) from the US deficit over a decade, avoid a crushing debt default and stave off the risk that the nation’s AAA credit rating would be downgraded. The deal initially soothed anxieties and led Russian stocks to jump to three-month highs, but jitters remained over the possibility of a credit downgrade.

‘Thank god,’ Mr Putin said, ‘that they had enough common sense and responsibility to make a balanced decision.’ But Mr Putin, who has often criticised the United States’ foreign exchange policy, noted that Russia holds a large amount of US bonds and treasuries. ‘If over there (in America) there is a systemic malfunction, this will affect everyone,’ Mr Putin told the young Russians.

‘Countries like Russia and China hold a significant part of their reserves in American securities … There should be other reserve currencies.’ US-Russian ties soured during Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency but have warmed significantly since his protege and successor President Dmitry Medvedev responded to President Obama’s stated desire for a ‘reset’ in bilateral relations. — REUTERS

Russia Looks To Edge Ahead In Global Space Race

The end of the U.S. space shuttle program could be just what the doctor ordered for NASA’s old rival, the Russian Federal Space Agency, whose Soyuz rockets are now the only show in town when it comes to sending humans into the great beyond.

Near Russia's Baikonur cosmodromel, children examine an image of space pioneer Yuri Gargarin



Putin Could Become Russia’s Mugabe Unless He Reforms: Former Spy

Vladimir Putin



Vladimir Putin could follow the path of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev or Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe unless he can open up Russia’s political system and fight rampant corruption, according to tycoon Alexander Lebedev.

Warning of economic catastrophe and even the prospect of Arab Spring-style unrest in the world’s biggest energy producer, Lebedev painted a grim picture of Russia’s future as the Kremlin prepares for the 2012 presidential election.

Prime Minister Putin, Russia’s most popular politician, and his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, have refused to say which of them will run in the election, though many diplomats believe Putin will return to the Kremlin.

Lebedev, a 51-year-old former Russian spy who made billions trading stocks and bonds after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, said Putin had still not made a final decision on whether to return or to allow Medvedev another presidential term.

But Lebedev warned that popular discontent at vast corruption and the tightly controlled political system that Putin crafted during his 2000-2008 presidency was rising.





Russian Neo-Nazis Jailed For Killing Spree

July 12, 2011

Members of one of Russia’s most vicious neo-Nazi gang have been jailed for committing 27 hate killings.

Members of Russia's most vicious neo-Nazi gang stands in a Moscow court

Members of Russia’s most vicious neo-Nazi gang in court in Moscow


Five members of the Nationalist Socialist Society North were handed life sentences at Moscow City Court.

Seven others were imprisoned for between 10 and 24 years and one was given an eight-year suspended sentence.

The string of killings included the videotaped decapitation of one of their own gang members.

Irrespective of whether they were fooled or mentally lost, they are evil killers who will never get back to a normal life. They should be isolated.

Victim’s father

The defendants were mostly men in their 20s and one woman, Vasilisa Kovolyova, who was jailed for 19 years.

Most had pleaded partial guilt but requested leniency after their lawyers said they were coerced into committing the crimes.

Maria Malakhovskaya, lawyer for Konstantin Nikiforenko, blamed the websites of neo-Nazis and Russian supremacists for brainwashing the defendants with far-right ideology.

And Kovolyova’s lawyer Sergei Stashevsky claimed his client’s confession was “beaten out” of her “through torture”. “The trial is definitely political,” he said.

Lev Molotkov, a member of the country's most vicious neo-Nazi gangGang leader Lev Molotkov, who apparently co-ordinated the attacks

But Alexander Kolodkin, an ethnic Russian whose son was stabbed to death in 2008, said: “Irrespective of whether they were fooled or mentally lost, they are evil killers who will never get back to a normal life. They should be isolated.”

During the trial, the court heard how the gang hunted mostly darker-skinned labour migrants in a chilling series of rampages that climaxed in February and March of 2008.

They ganged up on apparent foreigners and stabbed them with knives, metal rods and sharpened screwdrivers in brutal attacks co-ordinated by the gang’s leader, Lev Molotkov.

They were also convicted of strangling and decapitating one of their comrades whom they suspected of being a police informant and stealing $112,000 from the gang’s funds.

Members of Russia's most vicious neo-Nazi gang stands in a Moscow courtThe gang members were sentenced for 27 hate killings

The decapitation, during which they donned clown masks and sang a patriotic song, was videotaped and posted online.

During the trial, the defendants mocked the judge, cracking jokes, shouting swear words and performing Nazi salutes. Some also wore white masks.

After the sentences were handed down, one could be heard to yell “our conscience is higher than your laws”.

The case concluded as a loose group of nationalists announced a coalition with the country’s third-largest political party, potentially giving a growing nationalist movement a louder voice in the country’s parliament.

The Liberal Democrat Party and a group of nationalist politicians and activists said their union would “protect the Russian people and (Russia’s) interests”.




More Russian women marry foreigners


According to statistics, every seventh Moscow girl marries a foreigner. Moscow women prefer to make families with the citizens of Turkey, Germany, Israel, the US, Great Britain and Afghanistan.

According to the head of the Moscow Civil Registry office Irina Muravyeva, in January-June about 4,500 marriages with foreigners were registered in Moscow.  At the same time the number of marriages with the citizens of the former Soviet republics is decreasing. By the way it was the Soviet Union which introduced the fashion on international marriages. The Soviet authorities supported such marriages because internationalism was a part of the communist ideology.  Anyway those were marriages between the citizens of the same country.

According to the psychologist and writer Sergey Klyuchnikov, marrying a foreigner is often seen as a chance to make your life better:

“If a young person is mobile and wants to see the world she or he leaves the country, gets married there but after several years of living abroad he comes back with a broadened outlook.”

In some Russian regions for example in St. Petersburg the authorities are now even trying to simplify the registration of marriages between Russians and foreigners. Love knows no borders and it makes no sense to place them, the initiators of simpler registration say.

But statistics also states that international marriages break up more often than the marriages between the citizens of the same country. It happens mainly not because of the difference in tempers but because of difference in mentalities. Each nation has its own system of values. In every country people learn in their early years their national view on what is “good” or “bad”, Klyuchnikov says:

“People often marry without understanding that the marriage is not about a holiday romance but living together. Very often there is a great difference between the first impression and what the person is in everyday life. This may become a big problem. Difference in mentalities is another key problem. Everyone grew up in a certain system of values and should be flexible to the foreign values.  Of course if feelings are strong the two will overcome everything and without feeling one can marry someone who lives in a neighboring street and they will break up six months later.”

Most of the international marriages break up quite quickly. In some countries juridically divorce is a very complicated procedure and some companies managed to turn it into a profitable business. For example, in the Netherlands the Heartbreak Hotel agency offers the disappointed couples a service called “divorce in a weekend”. They accommodate spouses in separate rooms of a luxurious hotel and while they are having rest there their lawyers prepare all necessary documents. To avoid paper work costs only € 2,500.

However quiet break ups are rather exception from the rule. Two thirds of all divorces end in court because former husbands and wives argue about custody of their children. Very often these family arguments grow into international scandals, make headlines and require settlement on the political level.




Many missing as Russian boat Bulgaria sinks on Volga

More than 180 passengers and crew were believed to be on the Bulgaria

More than 100 people are missing and feared dead after a tourist boat sank on the Volga River in Russia.

Dozens of people were rescued after the boat sank in the Tatarstan region, about 750km (450 miles) east of Moscow. At least two deaths are confirmed.

More than 180 passengers and crew were believed to be on the Bulgaria, which was sailing from the town of Bulgar to the regional capital, Kazan.

Hopes of finding survivors faded as a rescue operation continued after dark.

Bad weather, mechanical failure on the aged craft and overcrowding have all been cited as possible reasons why the boat sank, says the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg in Moscow.



Khodorkovsky supporters detained at Moscow rally


Russian police officers detain a supporter of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky during a rally marking Khodorkovsky’s birthday in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 26, 2011. Moscow police have detained about 10 activists who took part in a demonstration in support of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on his 48th birthday. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)






MOSCOW—Russia denied registration of a key opposition political party Wednesday, effectively barring it from upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections that the Kremlin had hinted might be open to some competition.

The refusal signals the government plans to tightly manage the elections, critics said, despite avowals from President Dmitry Medvedev that he would like to see some opening up of Russia’s political life.

“This is an announcement that there will be no elections, because there will be no opposition parties,” said Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the People’s Freedom Party, which was cobbled together by four prominent Kremlin critics in December. “The decision comes from the very top.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. was “disappointed” by the news, and troubled as well by reports that Russian supporters of the party had been pressured to resign from their jobs or disavow their signatures supporting its registration.

The Council of Europe called the Russian government move a “worrying signal, all the more when it intervenes on the eve of the parliamentary and presidential elections.”

The Kremlin has shunted aside serious opposition parties over the years by saddling them with administrative hurdles and ignoring them in the state-controlled media. Though a presidential poll will be held next year, the main question is whether Mr. Medvedev or his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, will run.

The Justice Ministry said it denied registration because it found violations in the 45,000 signatures that the party had submitted with its application. Some signatories were dead, some underage, and still others were not residents of Russia, said a one-page decision published on the Ministry’s website.

Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister who helped found the party, called the allegations absurd, but that party leaders saw little point in attempting to register again.

Eight other opposition parties have tried to register in the past four years, he said, and all of them have been rejected for technical reasons. “In Russia, you need to get permission to practice politics,” he said. “We tried and we failed.”

Mr. Medvedev has often paid lip service to opening up Russia’s political system, and in an interview published this week in the Financial Times that he “would like to see the entire political spectrum to be represented in our parliament.” Without political competition, he said, “the fundamentals of a market economy start to fall apart.”

But Mr. Medvedev has said he won’t compete with Mr. Putin when it comes to presidential elections, and has ruled out running against him.

Both men they will decide between them who will run sometime soon. Neither is expected to face any serious challenge.


Miss Moscow’ contender focuses on Putin post

By Shaun Walker in Moscow

Friday, 17 June 2011

Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Yani Lapikova's past as a model 'doesn't interest us - it's not a crime'REX FEATURES

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said Yani Lapikova’s past as a model ‘doesn’t interest us – it’s not a crime’

Russians are used to seeing photographs of their Prime Minister’s daredevil exploits in the news – but now it is the person holding the camera that is raising eyebrows, as it has been revealed that Vladimir Putin has hired a former model as his personal photographer.

Yana Lapikova – who has already started work following Mr Putin on his busy schedule of meetings, events and travel around Russia’s regions – is a former Miss Moscow contestant.

Ms Lapikova, 25, who has posed in her underwear for fashion magazines, may be able to give Mr Putin advice on how best to undress for the camera. He has posed topless for the cameras when riding horses and swimming in Siberia.

Sultry black-and-white shots posted online feature Mr Putin’s new photographer puffing seductively on a cigarette, while a full-colour photograph shows Ms Lapikova blindfolded and holding a candle aloft.

“We don’t choose our photographers according to their gender,” Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said. “She’s really a good photographer and her past as a model doesn’t interest us at all – it’s not a crime.”





Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila Putina pray during an Orthodox Easter service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral on April 24, 2011 in Moscow, Russia.

Sasha Mordovets / Getty Images

For almost all major politicians, life is never private. Silvio Berlusconi is a fine example. Even if one wanted to, it would be hard not to know the latest about his family life, indeed his various dalliances. Politicians across the western world usually just have to deal with life in a fishbowl. Except for one: Berlusconi’s old friend and vacation mate, Vladimir Putin, who has managed to impose an information blockade around his private life that most statesmen can only dream about.

Although Putin has ruled Russia for more than a decade, the Russian public does not even know what his adult daughters look like. There are many conflicting reports as to whether they are married and in what country they reside, and an Internet search of their names — Maria Putina, born 1985, and Yekaterina Putina, born 1986 — yields no confirmed photographs of them in adulthood, let alone interviews. What it does yield is a bewildering assortment of theories and gossip about Putin’s family life, but nothing journalistically solid. Russia’s mass media have been taught that such matters are out of bounds.



Hope for Khodorkovsky, and for Russia?

Alexey Sazonov/AFP/Getty Images

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev standing behind a glass wall in a Moscow courtroom, May 17, 2011

by Amy Knight



Vladimir Putin’s new agency will complement Dmitry Medvedev’s Skolkovo plans

This online supplement is produced and published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia), which takes sole responsibility for the content.

Table talk: Vladimir Putin's agency will promote business networks across the country
Table talk: Vladimir Putin’s agency will promote business networks across the country Photo: Ria Novosti

Igor Naumov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta

5:35PM BST 03 Jun 2011

While Russia‘s President Dmitry Medvedev promotes his ?hi-tech innovation centre at Skolkovo, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has launched an agency which he says will complement its work

In a move guaranteed to set tongues wagging about courting the voters and a supposed rivalry with the Russian president, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has unveiled his own business initiative.

The Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) was set up as a communications channel with medium-sized businesses and is expected to start work this summer.

But while he and President Dmitry Medvedev remain ?silent about their intentions for the 2012 presidential race, Mr Putin warned against attempts to look for political implications in the creation of ASI as a counterbalance to the Skolkovo hi-tech hub ?outside Moscow.

“There is no need to look for political motives. No one is going to step on anyone’s body parts,” he said in comments reported by the Itar-Tass agency. Amid plenty of buzz generated by the Skolkovo centre, the prime minister was also quick to dismiss comparisons or overlaps with the president’s pet project, saying that they would complement each other.

“This is something different. This means network activities across Russia,” he said when he presented the new agency at Government House on May 25.

But both entities will groom the work of innovation departments, facilitate the promotion of projects, and co-?ordinate work through individual research and targeted programmes. So it is unclear how the agency can fail to partly duplicate the work carried out by Skolkovo.

The idea of ASI ostensibly arose after Mr Putin’s various trips around Russia, during which he talked to many entrepreneurs. Their stories merged into one continuous litany of grievances about the difficulties faced by Russian businesses struggling under the yoke of bureaucracy.

According to its architects, ASI will not seek to consolidate government programmes but will select the most promising projects in certain sectors. Citing the example of a federal programme for the development of the medical industry, Mr Putin said that was a typical situation where ASI could play a role in determining which projects needed support.

“Our market is dominated by foreign pharmaceutical companies” that earn billions of dollars in Russia, “while domestic products are scarce and can be found only in the low-priced segment, and there are only a few hi-tech products,” he said.

The agency will not be staffed by government personnel. The economic development minister Elvira Nabiullina, who will be on the supervisory board, will be the only exception, because her ministerial duties are seen as coinciding with many of the issues that the ASI will address. The director of the agency has yet to be appointed.

Moscow court upholds Khodorkovsky conviction

Updated 07:50 a.m., Tuesday, May 24, 2011
  • Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 24, 2011.  A Moscow appeals court has upheld the second conviction of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but it also reduced his prison sentence by one year. Tuesday's decision means that Khodorkovsky will remain in prison until 2016, a total of 13 years. Photo: Misha Japaridze / AP
    Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. A Moscow appeals court has upheld the second conviction of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but it also reduced his prison sentence by one year. Tuesday’s decision means that Khodorkovsky will remain in prison until 2016, a total of 13 years. Photo: Misha Japaridze / AP



The jailed billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky launches a new bid for freedom


Men walk near the headquarters of Yandex in Moscow, in advance of the company’s planned Nasdaq IPO debut. The sign reads “Yandex”.

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Russian search engine Yandex is expected to make its U.S. stock debut Tuesday, the latest in a spate of U.S. initial public offerings from emerging-markets Internet companies, and on track to be largest Web IPO since Google Inc.

Yandex, the most popular search engine in Russia, raised its guidance price to between $24 and $25 a share on Monday, from earlier guidance of $20 to $22, according to Reuters, which cited a source close to the issue. At the high end of the original price guidance, the company would raise as much as $1.15 billion. Dutch company Yandex NV owns 100% of Russia’s Yandex.








Medvedev tries to damp down speculation of rift with Putin


A CAGEY Dmitry Medvedev has refused to reveal whether he will run for another term as Russia’s president and sought to calm talk of a rift with the prime minister, Vladimir Putin.

But he did admit during a major televised news conference that he wants to modernise Russia more rapidly than Mr Putin, and would see no danger in the release from jail of oligarch and government critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Mr Putin has compared to gangster Al Capone.

Mr Medvedev also urged the United States not to ignore Russia’s concerns over a planned missile defence shield in central Europe, warned that Moscow would not support any outside interference in Syria, and criticised Mr Putin’s government over the failure of a major oil deal involving BP.

“A press conference is not the right format in which to announce such a decision,” Mr Medvedev said when asked if he would run in next March’s presidential election.

“This kind of decision has to be made when all the conditions are right. This should all be done in a reasonable manner – but that doesn’t mean that it can go on indefinitely. There isn’t much time left to wait. This announcement will be made soon.”

Calling Mr Putin his “political partner”, Mr Medvedev said that their “approaches to key issues of national development are very close”. “That doesn’t mean that we agree on everything, that would be very dull and simply wrong. But strategically we are very close, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to work together,” he added.

“Regarding modernisation, my position differs from that of the prime minister. He believes modernisation is a calm and gradual process, while I believe we have the opportunity and the means to carry it out faster without risking what we’ve already achieved, and to take a real step forward.”

Mr Medvedev, who uses Twitter and Facebook and carries an iPad into meetings, gathered hundreds of journalists at Skolkovo, a management school and technology park near Moscow that have become symbolic of his push to modernise Russia.

Recent indirect criticism of Mr Putin from the previously meek Medvedev fuelled talk of a rift between them and their supporters ahead of December’s parliamentary elections and the subsequent presidential vote, when many Russians expect Mr Putin to try to return to the Kremlin.

Russia’s second-richest tycoon, Mikhail Prokhorov, said this week he wanted to lead the pro-business Right Cause party which has urged Mr Medvedev to stay in power.

Mr Medvedev criticised Mr Putin’s cabinet for failing to carry out sufficient due diligence on a major deal between BP and Russian state-owned oil firm Rosneft which collapsed on Monday.

But his shortest and most striking answer came when asked if Mr Khodorkovsky – who was jailed for financial crimes and is appealing against an extended sentence that Mr Putin has said is justified – would be a danger to society if released.




Russian billionaire Lebedev to back Putin group

Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev at a media gathering in Washington, 16 May Last year, Forbes valued Mr Lebedev’s net worth at $2bn

Alexander Lebedev, the Russian banking tycoon with UK media interests, has rallied to a coalition launched by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

He said the anti-corruption campaign body he led would ask to join the All-Russia People’s Front, which includes the ruling party, United Russia.

Mr Lebedev, an ex-KGB man like Mr Putin, has been seen as a liberal, unafraid to criticise the Kremlin.

In the UK, he owns both the Independent and the London Evening Standard.

Some analysts have seen the creation of the coalition as a bid to rekindle interest in United Russia ahead of the parliamentary election at the end of this year and next year’s presidential ballot.

Speculation is high that Mr Putin will seek a third term as president, succeeding Dmitry Medvedev.

‘For Russia’s benefit’

Our Capital City, the anti-corruption group which Mr Lebedev leads, announced it would apply to join the new coalition.

“We are ready… to support the People’s Front created on Vladimir Putin’s initiative,” Mr Lebedev was quoted as saying in a statement on his blog.



Russia charges US spy ring ‘traitor’ Poteyev

Russian spy suspects in a Manhattan courtroom sketch, 8 July 2010. Back row, from L to R: Mikhail Semenko, Anna Chapman, Vicky Pelaez, Juan Lazaro and Patricia Mills. Front row, from L to R: Michael Zottoliare, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, Donald Howard Heathfield, Cynthia Murphy and Richard Murphy. The 10 Russian agents appeared in a US court before their expulsion

A former top Russian spy has been charged in Moscow over the exposure of 10 sleeper agents in the United States.

The man, identified as Alexander Poteyev, will be tried in his absence with high treason and desertion, Russia’s secret service, the FSB, said.

Russian media say he fled to the US days before last year’s scandal broke.

The 10 sleeper agents were expelled by the US and exchanged for four Russians who allegedly spied for the West, in the biggest swap since the Cold War.

Russian intelligence sources have been quoted as saying the affair was a major embarrassment for the Federal Security Service (FSB).

But, on their return, the Russian sleepers were met by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and bestowed with Russia’s top honours by President Dmitry Medvedev.

They included Anna Chapman, who has since become a media sensation in Russia.

Directorate C

“The FSB investigative department has concluded its investigation into Russian citizen AN Poteyev,” Russian news agencies quoted an FSB statement as saying.

“The indictment was submitted to the Moscow district military tribunal for a hearing on April 21.”

High treason carries a maximum of 20 years’ prison.

Mr Poteyev was apparently exposed in the Russian newspaper Kommersant last November – though it used the name of a Colonel Shcherbakov.

Russian media say Mr Poteyev was indeed a colonel at Directorate C, a spy agency that placed long-term agents in foreign countries.

“He fled Russia a few days before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s June trip to Washington and is currently in the United States,” an unnamed security official was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Interfax.

In its report in November, Kommersant quoted an unidentified Kremlin official as suggesting that a Russian hit squad was planning to kill the colonel.




Could Putin and Medvedev face off in an open Russian election?

As the political differences between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev widen into a visible public rift, and each continues to insist on the wish to run for president in polls next year, some Russians are mulling a prospect that sounded like a fantasy just a few weeks ago: What if they faced off against each other in an open and fair election?
It was Mr. Putin himself who kicked off the speculation that’s now surging like electricity through Russia’s blogosphere. “Neither me nor Dmitry have ruled out that each of us could be a candidate in the race,” he said last week in an effort to tamp down discussion about the looming Kremlin choice. “We will proceed from the real situation closer to the elections.”



Medvedev angers Russians with “American Boy” dance

Kremlin leader Dmitry Medvedev (45) with awkward dance moves, Which can be seen in itself in Internet video, receives spiteful comments on Blogger. In the brief clip, the President moved to the popular in the 1990s disco hit “American Boy” by the Russian group Kombinazija.

Some Internet users insulted Medvedev on Wednesday even as a traitor. The lyrics is a reference that would be pro-American known Kremlin chief to emigrate to the United States. Medvedev fans disagreed however, and the President should relax times “like normal people.”

When and where the clip was recorded, which initially unclear. Medvedev is seen mostly from behind, as he – apparently at a party – rhythmic Occurs in jeans and a buttoned suit jacket from one foot to the other and it swings with the poor.

In contrast to other dancers, the President just watches very concentrated. A user had uploaded the clip on Youtube Tuesday at the online portal – in the middle of a nationwide discussion on Whether Medvedev wants to run again in the choice 2012th

Artist jailed for frying eggs on Kiev eternal flame


National pride can be a prickly subject for most artists – those who tackle it sometimes pay a high price. In Ukraine, a young artist was jailed for a performance that involved frying eggs over an eternal flame honouring fallen soldiers and commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
A video of the event shows Sin’kova apparently explaining her performance to nearby police officers, who do nothing to stop her.
Nevertheless, more than three months after the performance, Anna Sin’kova was arrested and charged with “desecrating a grave”. She faces up to five years in prison. On April 11, the Kiev court of appeals refused to release her on bail.



HONG KONG (AFP) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Hong Kong Saturday on the first visit by a Kremlin chief to the ex-British colony, seeking to harness its financial expertise in modernising Russia.


Medvedev seeks Hong Kong expertise on landmark ...



Medvedev, who is seeking to diversify his country’s economy beyond oil and gas, will on Sunday meet with Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang and visit the stock exchange in the southern Chinese territory.

“Finances are no doubt a priority sphere of cooperation with Hong Kong,” Medvedev’s foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko said ahead of the visit.

A former British colony which was returned to China in 1997, Hong Kong has for years been ranked the world’s freest place to do business.

Last year United Company RUSAL, the world’s top aluminium producer, became the first Russian company to list in Hong Kong, and several others are seeking to follow suit.

“The deepening of financial cooperation is also useful for Russia with an eye to plans to make Moscow an international financial centre,” the Kremlin said, adding that it also wanted to boost trade and investment ties.

Medvedev will seek to persuade Hong Kong-based investors to take part in the development of a high-tech hub outside Moscow which the Kremlin chief sees as Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley, it said.

Medvedev arrived from the southern Chinese island province of Hainan, where he met with leaders of top emerging economies China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Russia has in recent years sought to align itself more closely with China as it seeks to unlock new energy markets in Asia. This is Medvedev’s third visit to the country since he became president in 2008.






Gagarin’s Legacy

Russia Seeks to Restore Space Glory


Fifty years ago, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel to space. His historic trip gave the Soviet Union the lead in manned space missions. By investing billions, Moscow wants to defend its position as a world leader in space travel. Can the Russians overcome a spate of technical glitches and modernize their space program? By Benjamin Bidder and Christoph Seidler more…Forum ]



Featured Stories




A massive Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying three crew member to the International Space Station (ISS). They will join three others already in orbit. The full six-member crew makes up Expedition 27, the 27th long-duration ISS mission, which will last six months.  As we approach the 50th anniversary of the historic flight of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin — the first-ever human in spaceflight — on April 12, and as we near the end of the U.S. Space Shuttle program, here is a look at the most recent ISS expedition, Expedition 26, along with the Earth-based support efforts from both the U.S. and Russia. During this expedition, the crew performed dozens of experiments, a new module was attached, and the Space Shuttle Discovery made its final visit. Expedition 26 began last November; it was led by Commander Scott Kelly, brother-in-law of Gabrielle Giffords, the U.S. Congresswoman who was gravely injured in a January assassination attempt.

April 2011 17

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-21 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off from the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Ron Garan , Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokytyaev and Andrei Borisenko. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)





On The Verge Of Economic Disaster, Minsk Turns To Moscow


People line up to buy foreign currency outside a bank's exchange office in Minsk on April 6.

People line up to buy foreign currency outside a bank’s exchange office in Minsk.


April 06, 2011

With an economy teetering on the brink of collapse and a nervous population standing in hours-long lines to buy foreign currency or gold, Minsk is going hat in hand to Moscow seeking relief.

The open question is: What price will Russia demand for bailing out Belarus and its authoritarian leader, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka?




The Russian Prime Minister has made global headlines again this week (not by frolicking with a snow leopard, though he did that too) with some highly-charged comments about the international intervention in Libya:

“The resolution is defective and flawed,” said Russia’s Putin, whose country did not use its power to veto the resolution at the United Nations. “It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades,” Putin added.

President Bush was blasted for using the word ‘crusade’ in reference to the war on terrorism, so the remark seems like a pretty pointed shot at the Obama administration on the eve of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit to Moscow. President Dmitry Medvedev has distanced himself from Putin with a rare rebuke, calling the comments “unacceptable.”

But remarks like these are something of a specialty for Putin, who seems to relish the opportunity to pour cold water on the ambitious initiatives of other world powers, particularly when their senior officials are within earshot.

For instance, in a 2003 joint press conference with Tony Blair shortly after the invasion of Iraq, Putin mocked the U.S.-British coalition’s failure to find WMDs:

“Two weeks later they still have not been found,” he told a press conference. “The question is, where is Saddam Hussein? Where are those weapons of mass destruction, if they were ever in existence? Is Saddam Hussein in a bunker sitting on cases containing weapons of mass destruction, preparing to blow the whole place up?”

In 2007, as more U.S. troops “surged” into Iraq, Putin attacked U.S. foreign policy at a Munich Security Conference audience with both Gates and John McCain in attendance:

In a presumed reference mainly to the war in Iraq, Mr Putin said, “unilateral illegal actions have not resolved any single problem,” emphasising the many more people who had been killed as a result of US military action.He added: “We don’t have enough force to resolve anything comprehensively.” He said that only the United Nations – not Nato or the European Union – could authorise the use of military force around the world, and even then it should be as a last resort.

At the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, he compared western financial rescue packages to Soviet economic planning:

“Interference of the State, the belief in the omnipotence of the State: that is a reaction to market failures,” Mr Putin said in his keynote address at the opening of the four-day meeting. “There is a temptation to expand direct interference of state in economy. In the Soviet Union that became an absolute. We paid a very dear price for that.”

He also singled out the U.S. for economic arrogance:

“I just want to remind you that, just a year ago, American delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasised the US economy’s fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects,” he said in his speech.

“Today, investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist. In just twelve months, they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the last 25 years. This example alone reflects the real situation better than any criticism,” Putin scoffed.

In Oct. 2009, Putin took a parting shot at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, following her Moscow trip, describing efforts to tighten sanctions on Iran as “counterproductive”:


“If we speak about some kind of sanctions now, before we take concrete steps, we will fail to create favorable conditions for negotiations,” Putin said. “That is why we consider such talk premature.”



If the Libyan engagement does extend into a quagmire, as many fear, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Obama can expect some hearty I-told-you-sos from the Russian prime minister’s office.

By Joshua Keating

Moscow’s coffers fill as Arab unrest sends oil price soaring

Sydney Morning Herald
MOSCOW: Whatever the eventual outcome of the Arab world’s social upheaval, there is a clear economic winner so far: Vladimir Putin.

Russia, which pumps more oil than Saudi Arabia, is reaping a windfall from the steep rise in global energy prices resulting from instability in oil regions of the Middle East and North Africa.

Riding the high oil prices, the ruble has risen faster against the US dollar this year than any other currency. Russian stocks are also buoyant.

But Russia, which is unlikely to support a UN resolution for a no-fly zone over Libya, could not step in to offset any potential fall in global production, because Russia does not have any oil wells standing idle that would allow it to increase production.

At last week’s closing of $114, the price of each of those barrels of Ural crude, the country’s main export blend, has risen 24 per cent since the beginning of the year.

Last week, the Prime Minister, Mr Putin, held a televised meeting with the Finance Minister, Aleksei Kudrin. The pair discussed, just short of gloating, the benefits of a global oil panic.

“Mr Kudrin, budget revenues have become considerable,” Mr Putin said matter-of-factly.

Mr Kudrin agreed, noting that if prices held Russia would be able to resume contributions to its sovereign wealth funds for the first time since 2008, when the global recession began.

One of those sovereign investment vehicles, the Reserve Fund, could reach $50 billion by the end of the year, Mr Kudrin said. Just a few months ago Russian officials planning the 2011 budget had anticipated the fund would be depleted.

The Mistral French amphibious assault ship/helicopter carrier/hospital ship docks on the Neva River in downtown St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, Nov. 23, 2009, with one of the city landmarks, St. Isaac's Cathedral, in the background
photo: AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
Russian defence industry fights for clients Russian missile test launch fails Eight nuclear helicopters feature in plans to renew Russia’s military by 2020, priced at 19tn roubles (£400bn; $650bn). One hundred warships are also due to be bought in, including two… submarines, 600 jets and 1,000 helicopters ,Including two helicopter carriers, in addition to two already being purchased from France. The submarines will carry the Bulava missile, despite recent test failures.

Analysts say the ambitious programme only makes sense if the military upgrades its training and recruitment.

A painful drive to streamline the armed forces is already under way, with up to 200,000 officers losing their jobs and nine out of every 10 army units disbanded, the Associated Press news agency notes.

If the renewal is a success, it will leave Russia less reliant on the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the USSR.

“Russia needs a professional non-commissioned officer corps to train specialists who can really put these arms to effective use,” Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst, told AP.

“This spending necessitates a whole new kind of military.”

Gunmen target Russian ski resorts
Russia has imposed new counter-terrorism emergency laws in its volatile North Caucasus region after attacks over the weekend targeted ski resorts, with reports gunmen shot dead three visitors in Karabino-Balkaria.

Russian Rights Group To Assist Whistleblower In Khodorkovsky Case

RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty –

MOSCOW — Russia’s Association of Human Rights Organizations (AGORA) says it will assist a court employee who claims a judge was pressured into convicting former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on additional fraud charges, RFE/RL’s Russian Service …

Was Khodorkovsky verdict ordered? The Moscow News

Russia’s Association of Human Rights Organizations (AGORA) says it will assist a court employee who claims a judge was pressured into convicting former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on additional fraud charges, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.

AGORA head Pavel Chikov told journalists in Moscow on February 16 the association’s lawyers will focus on “minimizing possible negative consequences in connection with Natalya Vasilyeva’s statement,” which was made public earlier this week.

In December, judge Viktor Danilkin found Khodorkovsky guilty of stealing billions of dollars of oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds. The judge extended Khodorkovsky’s prison term, which was due to end this year, through 2017.

Vasilyeva, an assistant to Danilkin, said in an interview published on February 14 that senior officials had pressured Danilkin into delivering the verdict. Danilkin denies the charge.

On February 15, Russia’s leading human rights activists sent a petition to Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika asking him to open an investigation into Vasilyeva’s claims.

AGORA is an association of human rights organizations and lawyers dealing with human rights issues throughout Russia. It has been operating since 2005 and has partnership relations with similar organizations in six Russian regions.

Vladimir Putin has had a lavish £600 million Italianate palace built for himself near a Black Sea resort with the proceeds of “corruption, bribery and theft”, a Russian businessman has alleged.

Vladimir Putin 'has £600 million Italianate palace'

Set in 74 hectares of prime land near the Black Sea coast, the palace is reported to be almost eight million square feet  Photo: AFP/GETTY

The claim, made in a letter to Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, was boosted on Monday after the Novaya Gazeta newspaper obtained what it said was an authenticated copy of the original contract for the palace signed in 2005 by Vladimir Kozhin, the Russian presidential property manager. Mr Putin, now prime minister, was president at the time.

Set in 74 hectares of prime land near the Black Sea coast with its own vineyard, the palace is reported to be almost eight million square feet and has its own helipad. Other features include an indoor cinema, a summer amphitheatre, a casino, swimming pools, a gym and a clock tower. Sergei Kolesnikov, the businessman who claims the palace is Mr Putin’s, has likened the structure to a palace built for Russia’s Tsars outside St Petersburg. He said that the Russian prime minister had personally approved the design and materials.

Mr Kolesnikov has called on President Medvedev to investigate his controversial claim. “A palace is being built on the Black Sea coast for the personal use of the Russian prime minister,” Mr Kolesnikov wrote in his original letter. “As things stand, the cost of the palace is $1 billion. The funds were mostly raised through a combination of corruption, bribery and theft,” he said. It was in President Medvedev’s powers, he added, to show ordinary Russians that everyone was equal before the law including Mr Putin. Mr Putin’s spokesman has dismissed the allegation out of hand however, as has Mr Kozhin, the Kremlin official whose signature allegedly appeared on the original contract. President Medvedev has not responded to the allegations either, at least not publicly.

But Mr Kolesnikov, who said he was involved in the project himself until 2009 when he was removed for raising concerns about corruption, is sticking to his story and pictures of the lavish residence have appeared on a Russian whistle-blowing web site. Mr Kolesnikov said that a state construction company was being used to build the palace and that state funds had been illegally diverted to the project.



Sports Illustrated 2011 Swimsuit Cover girl Irina Shayk

Posted Feb 15, 2011

  • Share This GalleryThe Russian-born, 25-year-old Irina Shayk learned Monday at a taping of David Letterman’s show that she won the coveted Sports Illustrated 2011 cover from a photo shoot months ago in Hawaii.

This image provided by Sports Illustrated/Bjorn Iooss shows the cover of the magazine’s 2011 Swimsuit Edition featuring Irina Shayk. The Russian-born, 25-year-old learned Monday at a taping of David Letterman’s show that she won the coveted spot from a photo shoot months ago in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Bjorn Iooss,

FILE - This undated frame grab image taken from files made available by IntelCenter and taken from a video posted on a pro-rebel Web site Wednesday March 31, 2010, purports to show Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov.

photo: AP / IntelCenter, File

Website: Chechen rebel leader claims responsibility for Moscow airport bomb

read more Star Tribune


MOSCOW – A website affiliated with Chechen rebels says insurgent leader Doku Umarov has claimed responsibility for last month’s deadly suicide bombing at Russia’s largest airport. The Kavkaz Center website says it received a video late Monday in which Umarov says he ordered the Jan. 24 attack at Domodedovo Airport that killed 36 people.

MOSCOW – A website affiliated with Chechen rebels has released a video in which insurgent leader Doku Umarov claims responsibility for last month’s deadly suicide bombing at Russia’s largest airport.

The Kavkaz Center website says it received the video late Monday. It was not clear when or where the video was recorded.

The Jan. 24 attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport killed 36 people. Russian investigators say the bomber was a 20-year-old man from the Caucasus region that includes Chechnya, but have not released his name or other details.

“You see this special operation carried out by my order … more special operations will be carried out in the future,” Umarov says in the video, wearing a camouflage uniform and a skullcap.

According to the website, Umarov said “Muslims of the Caucasus were at war with the Russian occupation army in the name of Allah to defend Islam and the people’s right to dignity, to liberate the land of Caucasus Muslims, and to establish law and justice.”

Over the weekend, the website released another video in which Umarov threatened more attacks if Russia does not give up the Caucasus region.

Chechen rebels have fought two full-scale wars against Russian forces since 1994. Major offensives in the second war died down about a decade ago, but the insurgency has continued with small clashes in Chechnya and in neighboring Caucasus republics.

The rebels have claimed responsibility for an array of terrorist attacks, including last year’s double suicide bombing of the Moscow subway system that killed 40 people.

Umarov, who seeks to create a Caucasus emirate independent from Russia and governed by Sharia law, said in the earlier video that he could call on 50 to 60 suicide bombers if necessary.

  • NEW: Police say the bombing at a Moscow airport deliberately targeted foreigners
  • The bomb blew up in a crowded area of the international arrivals section, killing 35 people and wounding scores more.
  • Russia has confirmed the man who blew up a bomb at Moscow’s busiest airport is from the North Caucasus

Explosion Kills at Least 35, Injures 130 at Moscow’s Busiest Airport

An explosion ripped through the international arrivals hall at Moscow’s busiest airport on Monday, killing at least 35 people and wounding about 130, an airport spokesman said.

Russian news agencies reported the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber and that the device was packed with shrapnel.

“From the preliminary information we have it was a terror attack,” President Dmitry Medvedev told officials.

Medvedev said the explosion demonstrated that security regulations had been breached and ordered Moscow police to beef up security at Moscow’s two other commercial airports and other key transport facilities, including the subway system, the target of past terror attacks.

Researchers have identified three giant objects, probably outer spaceships, approaching Earth, Russian daily Pravda reported Wednesday.

The largest object is 240 kilometers in diameter, the daily quoted researchers of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) headquartered in California.

Two others are smaller. At present, the objects are beyond the orbit of Pluto. Visible light detecting telescopes will be able to view the spaceships as soon as they reach Mars’s orbit. SETI researchers expect the spaceships to pass by Earth in mid-December 2012.

The researchers detected the spaceships by technology originally designed for researching the northern lights in Alaska.

The U.S. government has been informed about the event, the paper said.

There are frequent reports about extraterrestrial activity in Russia.

This report was issued to China News



Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, left, and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev, right, stand behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow,

News reports say a court ruled Monday that Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner are guilty of embezzling property.

The verdict means the two have been found guilty of stealing oil from Khodorkovsky’s now-defunct company Yukos.

The judge has yet to announce a sentence.

Former chief executive of Yukos, Khodorkovsky – once Russia’s richest man – and his partner, Platon Lebedev, are accused of embezzling 350 million tons of oil and laundering about $25 billion in proceeds.

Both defendants deny the charges, saying they were framed for opposing Kremlin policies.

Khodorkovsky is currently nearing the end of an 8-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion.

Igor Tabakov / MT

Court Delays Khodorkovsky Verdict

A Moscow court abruptly postponed the verdict in the trial of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Wednesday, pushing the verdict reading to Dec. 27. The announcement surprised both his lawyers and family.

Vogue cover : Alina Kabaeva, alleged mistress of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, graces the cover of Vogue Russia’s January 2011 issue. Scandal!

Kabaeva is a 27-year-old retired rhythmic gymnast, having won two Olympic medals (as well as 18 world championship medals and 25 European championship medals). But most people in Russia know her as the girl who diddled Vlad. Explains Fashionista:

Two years ago, when Putin was still President and still married to wife Ludmilla (as he still is today), stories circulated in the press that Putin was to marry Kabaeva. To stoke the fire a bit, the headline between Kabaeva’s legs translates to “Her Main Victory,”


The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia

The Russian government has pledged billions of dollars to build new stadiums and infrastructure. A tournament in Russia would also open a huge, relatively untapped market for FIFA, which has awarded World Cups to South Africa in 2010 and Japan and South Korea in 2002 for similar reasons.

Russia beat out England and joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands to host what will be the largest sporting event in the

world in 2018. It will be the first time the contest has been held in eastern Europe.

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin decided against attending the ceremony in Zurich, but his deputy Igor Shuvalov was present to accept the

first successful bid from Eastern Europe.

“You have entrusted us with the FIFA World Cup for 2018 and I can promise that you will never regret it. Let us make history together,” he told the delegation

Russian intelligence agencies have suggested, none too subtly, that WikiLeaks could be destroyed through cyberwarfare methods if the whistleblowing site did begin to create trouble in Moscow.

Last month, the Russian news agency Life News quoted an official from the FSB’s Center for Information Security as saying that the government would be capable of organizing “the right team” to target WikiLeaks and “shut it down forever.”

As U.S. officials struggle to control damage from the secret cables, Russia is planning to block a similar dump about the Kremlin. And they will be ruthless, Philip Shenon reports.

American intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, outraged by their inability to stop WikiLeaks and its release this week of hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables, are convinced that the whistle-blowing website is about to come up against an adversary that will stop at nothing to shut it down: The Russian government.

U.S. officials struggle to control damage from the secret cables exposed by Wikileaks, Russia is planning to block a similar dump about the Kremlin.


National security officials say that the National Security Agency, the U.S. government’s eavesdropping agency, has already picked up tell-tale electronic evidence that WikiLeaks is under close surveillance by the Russian FSB, that country’s domestic spy network, out of fear in Moscow that WikiLeaks is prepared to release damaging personal information about Kremlin leaders.

“We may not have been able to stop WikiLeaks so far, and it’s been frustrating,” a U.S. law-enforcement official tells says “The Russians play by different rules.” He said that if WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, follow through on threats to post highly embarrassing information about the Russian government and what is assumed to be massive corruption among its leaders, “the Russians will be ruthless in stopping WikiLeaks.”

A U.S. military official said the U.S. assumed that WikiLeaks had access to sources who could supply the site with detailed, damaging information about Russian leaders; those sources would likely include wealthy Russian expatriates who have had the resources over the years to conduct far-ranging private investigations of graft among Kremlin leaders, including their movement of assets outside Russia.

“We may not have been able to stop WikiLeaks so far, and it’s been frustrating,” says a U.S. law-enforcement official. “The Russians play by different rules.”

Full Story


The Rise and Fall of the Lord of War

In a long-anticipated move, Thailand extradited suspected Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout to the United States. The move outraged government officials in Moscow, and officials in the Foreign Ministry issued a press release stating: “It is deeply regrettable that the Thai authorities have yielded to political pressure from outside and and carried out this illegal extradition of VA Bout.” The Russian consul in Bangkok, Andrei Dvornikov, criticized the extradition as having happened suddenly and secretly. “We were not officially informed by local authorities,” he said, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. The US believes Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, illegally sold weapons to war zones including Afghanistan and Rwanda. The so-called “merchant of death” is wanted on multiple charges relating to weapons trading in the US and could face a life sentence in prison if convicted. Officials in Moscow, however, are maintaining Bout’s innocence, and the issue has created major diplomatic tension between Washington and Russia.

Link Full Story

Former KGB agent turned UK newspaper boss has vowed to help journalists expose corruption in Russia and around the world

Alexander Lebedev said anger over his stance on liberal values was behind a recent raid on his investment bank in Moscow.

The billionaire owner of The Independent and London’s Evening Standard was inside the headquarters of his National Reserve Bank when armed police burst in and officers searched through documents.

Mr Lebedev spoke at the annual conference of the Society of Editors just days after Russian journalist Oleg Kashin was beaten almost to death near his Moscow home.

Campaigners say there have been 19 unsolved killings of reporters in the country since 2000.

Investigative journalism is something I want to invest in more.

Alexander Lebedev

Mr Lebedev also owns Novaya Gazeta, a Russian paper which has criticised the Kremlin and which is co-owned by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Several of its journalists have been killed after exposing wrongdoing at the highest levels of Russian society, most famously the renowned reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot outside her Moscow flat in Ocotber 2006.

Mr Lebedev pledged that the title would continue to expose corruption.

Speaking at the conference on Sunday, he said: “I want to invest further in ways to stop corruption on a global scale.

“The millions of bank accounts held by shady people in sunny places are not the right way for our countries to run their economies.

“We need transparency and for the international community of journalists to be able to work together to report on the billions of dollars that are hidden and often stolen.”

He added: “Investigative journalism is something I want to invest in more.”

Mr Lebedev praised the exposure of the British MPs’ expenses scandal and said he wanted to see similar transparency in Russia.


A journalist is beaten nearly to death in Moscow. Is this a deliberate crackdown, or something more subtle — and more sinister

The paramedics reached 30-year-old journalist Oleg Kashin Saturday morning at 12:40 a.m. He was lying outside the door to his apartment building in central Moscow, his face bloodied, his legs mangled, the ground covered in blood. “He showed his hand to the doctor so he could see it was all broken,” a neighbor told TV reporters. The toll, tallied by various news sources, was chilling: two broken jaws, one broken leg, a fractured skull at the temple and a heavy concussion, blood in the lungs, fingers partially torn off at the joints, one of them later amputated. By the time Moscow woke up to the news on Saturday, Kashin was already in an artificially induced coma.

Kommersant, the newspaper where Kashin works, no one doubted that the attack was related to his journalism. “The thing that bothers me is that at the moment of the beating, they broke his fingers,” the editor in chief said in a radio interview. “It is completely obvious that the people who did this did not like what he was saying and what he was writing.” Kashin’s iPhone, wallet, and other personal belongings remained on his person, untouched.

There was no shortage of theories about why Kashin was targeted. Many pointed instantly at United Russia’s youth wing, Molodaya Gvardia, which openly threatened Kashin in an August article on its website. It was titled, in the hyperbolic, hyphenated language of early Soviet propaganda, “Journalist-traitors need to be punished!” “They have betrayed their homeland, they have spit on their civic duty!” it blared, adding Kashin to a list of others needing to be punished. Kashin’s sin was daring to interview one of the radical anti-fascist protestors who attacked a local government building while protesting the cutting down of the Khimki forest this summer. That interview was not particularly inflammatory — in fact, Kashin took a stern line with the young hoodlum — but it brought the police to Kommersant‘s offices, asking the paper to turn over Kashin’s email.

Russian journalists are usually killed or attacked because they threaten powerful financial or economic interests. The chopping down of the Khimki forest to make room for a highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg has exactly those interests behind it: It was being financed by Arkady Rotenberg, Vladimir Putin’s judo buddy, and Putin proclaimed this summer, amid growing protests, that “all decisions have been made.” That is, the road would be built as planned. (This remains the silent consensus in Moscow, despite Medvedev’s August moratorium.)

Moreover the attack on Kashin seems to fit a disturbing pattern. Only a few days ago, Khimki activist Konstantin Fetisov was attacked with a baseball bat when he got out of his car in front of his Moscow home. The left side of his head was bashed in. His wife later found a fragment of the bat that had splintered off from the force of the blow. Like Kashin, Fetisov remains in an artificially induced coma and in serious condition.




The dire outlook from Gorbachev over Afghanistan

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who withdrew his own forces from Afghanistan after a stalemate 10-year war against the U.S. funded Taliban, says President Obama must also give up the fight against the country’s Muslim hardliners.

Victory is impossible in Afghanistan.

Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be,” Gorbachev told the BBC’s Moscow correspondent.

“What’s the alternative — another Vietnam? Sending in half-a-million troops? That wouldn’t work,” the ex-Soviet leader told the BBC, even as Russia’s current leaders signaled they may start helping the U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan.

NATO officials have said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will attend a summit next month to discuss the terms of an agreement which could see Russian forces enter Afghanistan for the first time since Gorbachev pulled them out in 1989.

Russia is expected to sell helicopters and offer troops to train Afghan forces in what would represent a highly symbolic thawing in Russia-NATO relations, reports The Telegraph. Russia also was considering opening it’s border to NATO supply convoys headed in and out of Afghanistan.

The dire outlook from Gorbachev would seem to bolster the private statements of senior U.S. intelligence officials, who tell the Washington Post the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan seems to have had very little success in quashing the country’s insurgents.

The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience,” a senior Defense Department official told the newspaper.

Russia`s Medvedev wants European Security Agreement

Russia will continue to push for a pan-European security treaty, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday after talks with his German counterpart Christian Wulff.

The initiative has been “not recalled, not shelved,” Medvedev said.

“We will continue to push for it and we believe it will be discussed in the future,” Medvedev said, adding that Russia plans to develop all forms of cooperation with the EU and NATO.

The Russian president emphasized that a dialog on establishing a united European security should continue as there is no common platform in Europe where this problem may be discussed.

“Europe security should be united; it should not be divided into parts and fragments,” he said.

NATO should take into account Russian proposals on providing global security, Wulff said.

“Issues of missile defense and defense architecture are being discussed very emotionally…these issues may be solved if the interests of the opposite party are really taken seriously,” Wulff said.

“There is a specific Russian position which we must take into account,” he added.

Medvedev first proposed drawing up a new pan-European security pact in June 2008.

Russia pushed ahead with a draft of the treaty on November 29, 2009, sending copies to heads of state and international organizations, including NATO.

Western nations have been extremely reluctant to support Russia’s initiative, with NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen saying there is no need for it.

Russia is not interested in bolstering a particular type of regime within its ‘sphere of privileged interests

Russia has been labelled as an ‘autocracy promoter’ in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region. Colliding with EU and US democracy promotion efforts, Russia has supported antidemocratic regimes among the CIS countries. Yet it is also showing another, curious face as an avid democracy promoter.

Russia has contributed to the subversion of pro-Western regimes in Georgia and Ukraine and supported authoritarian Belarus for years. However, Russia does not only show its discontent with democratic leaders. Undemocratic ones do not gain its approval either, if their policies are not in line with Russian interests and demands.

Russia is not interested in bolstering a particular type of regime within its ‘sphere of privileged interests’ as an end in itself. Russian policies in the neighbourhood adopt democracy promotion rhetoric when it is deemed effective for geopolitical reasons. Therefore, Moscow’s varying support for autocracy or democracy in a neighbouring country should be seen as a means of maintaining its influence over a weaker neighbour. Ironically, Russiamay have recourse to democratisation as a tactic.This does notmean that Russia is heading towards democratisation; rather, it points to its ability to employ different tactics, from promoting autocracy to supporting democracy, depending on what best suits its interest. The democratisation agenda can become a pernicious weapon in the hands of an autocracy.

Russian tactics eerily resemble those of theWest during the colour revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, when the West openly supported opposition and strongly encouraged free media. Democratic procedures can come in handy if they are likely to change unfriendly governments into friendly and accommodating ones.

This happened in Ukraine in 2006 and 2010, when a Russia-friendly political party came to power in the course of democratic elections; and it may happen in Moldova in 2010, where Russia will try to use democratic procedures to get a pro- Russian government back into power. Russia’s democracy promotion toolbox varies, just as Western aid to democracy does. Russia alternately withdraws financial aid; imposes trade sanctions; supports opposition or pro-democracy NGOs; launches a media campaign against authoritarian rulers; and calls for democratic elections.

It would be naïve to believe that Russia pursues democratisation in the region as an end in itself. The pattern of Russia’s strategy towards its neighbourhood is clear: the West’s democratisation discourse and agenda are deployed in order to change leaders that are strong but disloyal to Russia, and thereby keep Russia’s neighbours weak. The means Russia uses to change ruling elites or their behaviour are not aimed at democratising their respective countries, but rather at establishing a Russia-dependent government. The Kremlin tries to make sure that competition among domestic leaders is as fierce as possible, thus disuniting the elites and securing an easy grip on power and assets for itself. In addition, Russia is cast in a favourable light by being seen to cooperate with the West, in line with the US reset and modernisation agenda with the EU. Acknowledgement of this provides several lessons to vulnerable Russian targets as well as Western democracy promoters.

First and foremost, Ukraine and Georgia are the ultimate battlefields. If they take Russia’s bait and give up democratic standards, not only will they alienate themselves from the West, but they will also hand to Russia the title of the most influential player in the region. This is where Western democracy promoters should work harder than ever, preventing the countries from an undemocratic slide.

Inconsistency in Western democracy promotion policies opens up an opportunity for Russia to use democracy discourse for strategic purposes. While the means may be the same, the end results often differ: Russia will forgive the undemocratic tendencies of a new leader loyal to Russia, as long as the benefits outweigh the costs. Such democracy promotion by Russia can also be viewed as part of Russia’s strategy of redefining the notion of democracy. Both at home and abroad, Russia does not deny the imperative of democracy as such. Rather, it insists on its own interpretation of democracy and selectively criticises the democratic credentials of others, mainly in order to divert external criticism away from itself or to put pressure on unfriendly political regimes.

At the very least, the West should not abandon the Eastern European region. The self-indulgent policies of elites do not reflect the will of the people. Given the authoritarian trend in the EU neighbourhood, the EU should assert its presence and support for democracy more than ever. However, rather than picking individual leaders, the West should promote democratic institutions including elections, the rule of law and civil education, and denounce a lack of democratic standards. If anything, a Western retreat would mean that all the resources and efforts spent on democratising the region to date have been in vain.

Russia does have a stance on democracy promotion, which should by no means be discounted by democracy promotion actors. Lack of assertiveness by the West clears the ground for Russia to turn democratisation into a tool to extend its influence in the region. In such a scenario, the legitimacy of Russia’s influence would be hard to contest.

Russian president signs decree dismissing veteran politician, amid talk of a power struggle in the Kremlin.


* NEW: Yuri Luzhkov says his removal was politically motivated

* He has been the subject of an unprecedented media attack

* He has been criticized for a host of Moscow’s problems

President Dmitry Medvedev has fired the long-standing mayor of Moscow, saying he has lost confidence in the latter’s ability to run the city, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Yuri Luzhkov has run the sprawling metropolis for almost two decades. His removal was effective immediately, the Kremlin said, and his first deputy, Vladimir Resin, was appointed acting mayor.

In recent weeks, Luzhkov has been the subject of an unprecedented attack in Russia’s state media.

The most serious accusation is of corruption: One news report detailed ways in which Luzhkov allegedly channeled funds and lucrative deals to his property-developer wife, now Russia’s richest woman.

He was also criticized for failing to curb Moscow’s notoriously bad traffic jams, and for going on a vacation during the forest fires and choking smog that plagued residents over the summer.

In a letter written to an executive of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party — which Luzhkov helped create — the mayor said his removal was politically motivated.

“I have been subjected to violent attacks from the state-owned media recently as a member of the bureau of the party’s Supreme Council,” said the letter, addressed to Andrei Vorobyov and distributed by the mayor’s office to Russian news agencies.

“The attacks stemmed from the aim of removing the Moscow mayor from the political arena and stripping him of his powers ahead of time,” Luzhkov said. “For over a month, I was subject to wild harassment that went beyond the limits of decency and common sense.”

Luzhkov also denounced the United Russia party for not offering any support to him and for failing to “demonstrate any willingness to look into things and stop the flow of lies and slander.”

“I ask not to be considered a member of United Russia any longer,” said the former mayor.

Luzhkov had been at odds with Medvedev, most recently over the Kremlin’s decision to suspend work on a controversial highway project through a Moscow forest.

At a political event earlier this month, CNN asked Luzhkov about the latest allegations and whether the Kremlin was trying to push him out.

“Would you mind if I do not answer that question?” he responded.

With Luzhkov’s ouster, Medvedev has completed his task of removing, one by one, an entire generation of strongly-entrenched, Yelstin-era regional leaders who had been clinging to power for many years and sometimes decades.

A maritime delimitation agreement reached by Russia and Norway on September 15th has already been referred to as a historical breakthrough in relations between the two countries. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg signed a treaty on sea borders and cooperation in the Barents Sea.

Issues concerning the demarcation of the Barents Sea continental shelf were solved in the course of President Medvedev’s visit to Norway in April this year. The border dispute involved a maritime area of 175,000 square kilometers – some 12 percent of the Barents Sea. It was eventually divided in half between Russia and Norway.

The agreement, reached after 40 years of talks, will allow lifting the moratorium on the development of oil and gas fields of the Arctic shelf. Besides, the disputable territories will become part of the international legal space, political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

We have fairly good chances to maintain the Northern Sea Route which is twice as short as the one from Europe to Asia via the Suez Canal or around Africa. We are also entitled to explore oil within the 200-mile zone in the Arctic Ocean bordering with most of the Arctic shelf, with its potential hydrocarbon reserves.

An increasing number of countries started displaying a keen interest in developing the zone. Global climate changes resulted in several new opportunities of regular maritime traffic in the region, as well as access to its natural resources.

Any disputes should be resolved by the Arctic Council, comprised of eight countries, which are unfortunately not consolidated as yet. For instance, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Ottawa is claiming additional rights for the Arctic shelf. By no means all those interested in dividing the shelf renounced playing power games, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Leonid Ivashov said.

Russia needs to more attentively follow the strategic situation and put forward proposals on regulating the activity of naval forces in the region. The process of the Arctic peaceful exploration has been launched and we will now see whether the sides come to terms or continue using military pressure.

Anyway, countries of the Arctic Region are currently making their first steps towards each other after long-term fruitless debates. Moscow and Oslo demonstrated that all disputes should be resolved through negotiations on the basis of international law. Any incident amid a situation like this may result in a global conflict, and Russia’s Western partners seem to understand this perfectly well. The Canadian Premier, who announced his country’s new claims for the Arctic shelf, said Ottawa will be pleased to submit its application to the UN jointly with Moscow

An ongoing TV and online campaign against Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, is currently one of the most discussed topics both in the mainstream and citizen media.

Most bloggers appear to support the attack on the politician. At the same time, independent observers have noticed a significant number of blog posts that were posted on a paid basis. The fact that bloggers were being used in a political campaign by the mayor’s opponents changed the tone of the discussion, while making it clear that both paid and unpaid bloggers were unhappy with the city authorities.

Yuri Luzhkov, 73, has been Moscow’s mayor since 1993. He is also one of the co-founders of the ruling United Russia party and a co-chair of the party’s highest council. His wife, Yelena Baturina, is Russia’s richest woman and the 279th richest person in the world. Very popular among the so-called “TV-watchers,” Luzhkov is nevertheless criticized for many things. The most important issues are transport collapse and the interest-seeking development policy, as well as… corruption at an epic scale.

On Sept. 10, 2010, NTV, a TV channel owned by Gazprom, aired a documentary (part 1part 2 [RUS]) about Luzhkov, accusing him of corruption, lack of efficiency and a failure to help the Muscovites during the wildfires. The film was done in a popular genre of a propaganda attack. Recently, a similar documentary about the Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has been broadcast by the same channel.

Russian police raid opposition magazine

02 Sep 2010
Source: Reuters

MOSCOW, Sept 2 (Reuters) – Russian police, some armed and masked, raided a prominent opposition magazine on Thursday as part of an unspecified investigation, the deputy editor of the magazine told Reuters. “About five, some in masks and some armed, came to the office to carry out what they called ‘investigative actions'”, said Ilya Barabanov, deputy editor of the New Times, a weekly magazine. “We agreed with them to wait for the editor in chief, general director and the lawyers. They are still here,” he said. The New Times is one of Moscow’s few prominent opposition media outlets and has published exposes of high-level corruption. The weekly attracted international attention in April after a libel action was brought against it following publication of an investigative article about the much-feared riot police, called OMON. Police searched the magazine’s premises then, an action condemned by the media rights group Reporters Without Borders, which said it was illegal to conduct a search while an appeal by the New Times was waiting for a hearing. (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, additional reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Tim Pearce)

Riot police detain participants of an unauthorized rally in Moscow in support of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution.

MOSCOW — Protesters rallied in several Russian cities and abroad to demonstrate for the right to gather freely in the streets and to demand the Russian government grant its citizens their constitutional rights, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.

Opposition and rights activists in Russia try to hold protests in each month that includes 31 days to call attention to Article 31 of Russia’s Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly.

Some 400 opposition supporters gathered at an unsanctioned rally in Moscow on August 31. Police arrested 70 people, including opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin, Eduard Limonov, and Sergei Udaltsov.

Around 200 police from Russia’s special forces, in full riot gear, lined Moscow’s Triumph Square, where the protest was scheduled to take place.

WATCH: Hundreds of police officers surround protesters of all ages and disperse the unsanctioned rally:

Protesters held giant cardboard “31” signs and screamed slogans like, “Russia Without Putin!” “This Is Our City!” and “Down With The KGB.”

Though many protesters were arrested, observers say Russian police behaved relatively calmly.

Four EU lawmakers visiting Russia earlier attended an opposition rally in central Moscow and criticized police for arresting its organizers.

Heidi Hautala, who heads the EU parliament’s subcommittee on human rights, called the arrest of Nemtsov, a former Russian prime minister, “a violation.”

In St. Petersburg, around 800 people gathered in the center of the city, more than had gathered during the July protest at which some protesters were severely beaten by police.

In the small city of Barnaul in western Siberia, protesters shouted the slogan “I Choose Freedom!” and demanded the government better regulate companies providing housing and community services.

Authorities routinely deny permission for the demonstrations — permission the activists say they do not need — and police break up the protests before they can begin, often by dragging protesters away.

Protesters — mainly Russian expatriates — also gathered in New York, London, and Washington, D.C., in solidarity.

with agency reports


An opposition supporter shows a badge, displaying the number 31, through the bars of a police bus after being detained during a protest rally in Moscow.


Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was among those detained in Moscow.


A protester resists arrest at the Moscow rally.



Police detain a protester in Moscow.


Police forcibly lead one protester away from the rally site in Moscow.



The protesters gather on the last day of months with 31 days to make their point about Russia’s constitutional freedom of assembly.



Some 60 people were detained in Moscow alone.



Detained opposition supporters continue their protest on a police bus near the rally site in Moscow.

Medvedev and Bono Meet in Sochi


U2 is visiting Russia as part of its 360 World Tour. Bono, using the opportunity, got to visit with Dmitry Medvedev in the president’s private residence in Sochi, where Winter Olympic Games 2014 will take place. As the result of the high-profile meetings, aside from an agreement to fight AIDS, Russian President Medvedev and Irish Singer Bono concluded that they both love Led Zeppelin.


Photos of Bono’s visit at Medvedev’s dacha in Sochi in the extended post.









Fires bring Rage and Disbelief

Villagers who lost loved ones and homes turn on the government.

“In all my life, I’ve never seen such a hell,” Ivleva, 71, said on Wednesday, one week after Mokhovoye, a village of 360 people, burned to the ground. “There was wind, fire, people running everywhere. We could see nothing.”

Nearly one month into a record-breaking heat wave, western Russia is burning. The official death toll from the flames — both forest fires and steaming peat bogs that lie underground — stands at 50. Thousands have been left homeless. The toll is probably much higher, but officials have not released statistics on the number who have suffered health damage from the debilitating smog that now covers Moscow and its environs.

Russian officials said today that 300 to 400 new wildfires were appearing every 24 hours across the country, stretching the ability of thousands of mobilized forces to deal with the disaster.

The blazes also are likely contributing to rising wheat prices, analysts say.

A state of emergency is still in force in seven regions of Russia, where 425,762 acres have been affected, wiping out scores of villages and leaving hundreds homeless.

Although the official word is that the blazes are being contained, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by Russian media as saying some of the fires are out of control.


Hundreds of fires burned across western Russia on August 2, 2010  as seen from NASA's Terra satellite.

A satellite image shows smoke rising from wildfires in Russia on Tuesday.

His disclosure to President Dmitry Medvedev today contradicted reports by officials in the last few days that the blazes were being contained, The Associated Press said.

It also followed what the news agency called a tacit acknowledgment that not enough firefighters were available, following remarks by the head of the ministry’s crisis center, Vladimir Stepanov, that Russia “must mobilize all their forces, not just sit there and wait for fire brigades to arrive.”

A total of 592 fires were reported still blazing today, according to several media reports, and about 180,000 forces — including firefighters, soldiers and interior ministry personnel — had been deployed. Water-spraying helicopters and other military aircraft have also been put to use.

A satellite photograph of the affected areas on Monday that was released by NASA today

The continuing blazes were set off by fierce winds and a record heat wave, with no let-up expected this week, the BBC reported. Moscow, more used to icy winds and piles of snow, was trying to deal with temperatures that have hit 100 degrees.

The heat and subsequent blazes, which have left at least 40 people dead, have also devastated about a fifth of Russia’s wheat crop, a key source of export income. Prices reached a 22-month high at the Chicago Board of Trade today, and have risen 50 percent since June, the BBC’s business news section reported. Analysts are concerned about the effects this could have on food prices and food company profits.

But the concern in Russia is to get the fires under control.

“The very hot weather is continuing and this creates very unfavorable conditions,” Stepanov told reporters today, according to Agence France-Presse. “This is the main thing hindering us at the moment. Work is going on day and night. It is a real battle.”

Unusual public criticism of how the blazes have been handled has prompted officials to take a more high-profile stand. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin saying last week that local officials who didn’t respond quickly enough could be fired.

“There were too many fires and not enough firefighters,” a resident of a village 90 miles southeast of Moscow told The AP. “We stayed in our house until the last possible minute, but the fire came and covered the whole village like a hat.”

One area of concern is the nuclear research center at Sarov, in the Nizhny Novgorod area, a top-secret facility in the days of the Cold War. Extra firefighters have been sent out to make sure it remains safe from the flames. shows what it calls “the magnitude of the disaster.”

Russia today and USSR yesterday

Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Mikhail Kornienko

Tuesday’s space walk by two Russian cosmonauts was interrupted with a game of  name that object.

Two pieces of debris was seen floating by NASA cameras outside the orbiting outpost overnight.

The pieces may have been a small washer and a clamp used to attach cables.

The cosmonauts were in the middle of a six hour spacewalk to replace video cameras and update video connections, when station cameras caught a glimpse of one of the objects floating away.

NASA says none of the objects pose a threat to the cosmonauts or the space station itself.

The next Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station takes place in November.

Rassvet doubles as a science room and a docking compartment for Russian Soyuz crew capsules and Progress resupply ships. The module protrudes downward from the Earth-facing side of Zarya to afford approaching vehicles good clearance from other structures as the station expands.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation facilities outside Moscow in Korolyov. Putin said Russia would earmark 800 million dollars to kick off construction of its new cosmodrome in the east to ease its dependence on the Soviet-era spaceport in neighboring Kazakhstan.