Home Tags Posts tagged with "Russia"

Russia

Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov has been recalled over what it described as the deteriorating situation in the country.

Moscow has condemned the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych, who was dismissed by parliament on Saturday.

Ukraine’s newly appointed interim president, Olexander Turchynov, says the country will now focus on closer integration with the EU.

Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of an EU trade deal in favor of closer ties with Russia had triggered the unrest.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due to arrive in Kiev on Monday to discuss EU support “for a lasting solution to the political crisis and measures to stabilize the economic situation”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the US strongly supports the Ukrainian parliament’s vote to impeach Viktor Yanukovych and call elections, the central demand of months of protests.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukraine’s opposition “had in effect seized power in Kiev, refused to disarm and continued to place its bets on violence”.

Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov has been recalled over what it described as the deteriorating situation in the country

Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov has been recalled over what it described as the deteriorating situation in the country

He accused them of deviating from a political deal they signed with Viktor Yanukovych on Friday, which aimed to end the protests after a week in which dozens of people were killed.

Moscow recently agreed to provide $15 billion (11 billion euros) to support Ukraine’s struggling economy, a move seen as a reward for Viktor Yanukovych’s controversial decision last year not to sign a long-planned trade deal with the EU.

But there are now fears Moscow could withdraw that offer.

A US official said US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had discussed Ukraine with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Sydney on Sunday.

Anton Siluanov reportedly left open the question of whether Russia would pay the next installment of financial help for Ukraine, worth $2 billion.

British Chancellor George Osborne said early on Monday that the UK was ready to provide financial support to Ukraine through international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Lawmakers from Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions now appear to be disowning him, having issued a statement criticizing him to Interfax-Ukraine.

In other decisions on Sunday:

  • Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk were dismissed
  • Arrest warrants were issued for former Incomes Minister Oleksandr Klimenko and former Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka
  • Parliament lowered the official status of the Russian language by cancelling a law brought in by Viktor Yanukovych
  • Parliament also voted to seize Viktor Yanukovych’s luxury estate near Kiev, which protesters entered on Saturday [youtube inQUUTiSnLU 650]

0

Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Kozak has dismissed the Sochi attack on protest group Pussy Riot.

Five members of punk group Pussy Riot and a cameraman were attacked by Cossack security patrols as they performed under a sign advertising the Winter Olympics on Wednesday.

Footage showed the Cossacks whipping band members, pulling off their ski masks, and throwing them to the ground.

“The girls came here specifically to provoke this conflict,” Dmitry Kozak said.

“They had been searching for it for some time and finally they had this conflict with local inhabitants.”

Security in Sochi was a major concern before the Olympic Games following two suicide bomb attacks in Volgograd, in which 34 people died.

But Dmitry Kozak said he had always had confidence in security staff ensuring the Games remained safe.

Five members of punk group Pussy Riot and a cameraman were attacked by Cossack security patrols in Sochi

Five members of punk group Pussy Riot and a cameraman were attacked by Cossack security patrols in Sochi

The security procedures included hiring Cossack patrols to help police during the Olympics.

“We were certain that our security forces would be able to complete the tasks given to them,” he said.

“Security threats today are of a global nature, with terrorist organizations, so of course we were concerned about that.

“The Olympic Games became a target for the terrorists, but our law enforcement agencies and our special forces, in co-operation with all the countries of the world, all the special services in the world, including Great Britain, joined in the effort to prevent terrorism. All of us have fulfilled this task brilliantly.”

Dmitry Kozak also dismissed allegations of corruption and embezzlement in relation to money spent on the Games, which are estimated to have cost $50 billion.

“We had tough control over the budget money,” he said.

“According to the results of the investigation we did not find any major incidents of corruption.

“We ask anyone who says that there is to provide specific fact of the corruption. If they do we will carry out investigations and, if proved, the culprits will be punished. But so far we do not have this information, so it is just speculation.”

[youtube ivT-I-yxtdY 650]

In an apparent clampdown on the use of Bitcoin in Russia, the Russian prosecutor general’s office said it was tightening up regulations surrounding the use of virtual currencies as they could be used for money laundering or financing terrorism.

The Russian prosecutor general’s office said that the rouble was the only official currency in Russia and introducing others was illegal.

“Systems for anonymous payments and cyber-currencies that have gained considerable circulation – including the most well-known, Bitcoin – are money substitutes and cannot be used by individuals or legal entities,” it said in a statement to Reuters.

The use of Bitcoin for alleged money laundering led to the arrests of two men in the US last week.

The Russian prosecutor general's office said that the rouble was the only official currency in Russia and introducing others was illegal

The Russian prosecutor general’s office said that the rouble was the only official currency in Russia and introducing others was illegal

The Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told Bloomberg in a statement that the “arrests may be the first state prosecutions involving the use of Bitcoins in money laundering operations”.

“Bitcoins are neither good nor bad. Buying bitcoins allows money to be anonymously moved around the world with a click of a computer mouse. Improperly used, Bitcoins are often seen as a perfect means of laundering dirty money or for buying and selling illegal goods, such as drugs or stolen credit card information,” she added.

Federal charges have already been brought against the operators of two exchanges for money laundering in the US.

A nun and a churchgoer have been killed by a gunman who opened fire inside a cathedral on the eastern Russian island of Sakhalin.

Six other people were wounded in the incident – most were said to have been shot in the legs and were not critically hurt.

An employee at a private security firm was detained at the scene in the main city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

A nun and a churchgoer have been killed by a gunman who opened fire inside a cathedral on the eastern Russian island of Sakhalin

A nun and a churchgoer have been killed by a gunman who opened fire inside a cathedral on the eastern Russian island of Sakhalin

The motive of the gunman, who is said to be about 25 years old, was not clear.

There was no apparent link to the Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi about 4,700 miles to the west.

The Investigative Committee – Russia’s main federal investigating authority – said psychiatrists would try to determine the suspect’s mental condition, reported Reuters news agency.

Reuters quoted the regional leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Tikhon, as saying a prayer service would be held at the cathedral later on Sunday.

Russia has urged Ukraine’s opposition leaders to end their campaign of “ultimatums and threats” and to step up negotiations with the government.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow was concerned by activists’ attempts to “inflame” the situation.

Protesters in Kiev have repeated their calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych, who is now back at work after four days of illness.

The EU and the US are considering a big loan to help debt-laden Ukraine.

Russia has urged Ukraine’s opposition leaders to end their campaign of "ultimatums and threats" and to step up negotiations with the government

Russia has urged Ukraine’s opposition leaders to end their campaign of “ultimatums and threats” and to step up negotiations with the government

“We are looking at how we could support the Ukraine in the times of the crisis when it comes to the economic and political situation,” a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday.

No further details of the plan have been revealed, but both EU and US officials said it would be conditional on Kiev embracing “real reform”.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso insisted that the EU was not going to enter into a “bidding competition” with Russia to win Ukraine’s loyalty.

Russia promised a $15 billion aid package to Ukraine last year, but has indicated the next tranche will not be given until a new government is formed, following the resignation of the prime minister and cabinet last week.

[youtube HYJKZ_sfa1Q 650]

0

According to a new research, the high number of early deaths in Russia is mainly due to people drinking too much alcohol, particularly vodka.

The study findings, published in The Lancet, show that 25% of Russian men die before they are 55, and most of the deaths are down to alcohol.

Causes of death include liver disease and alcohol poisoning. Many also die in accidents or after getting into fights.

The study is thought to be the largest of its kind in the country.

Researchers from the Russian Cancer Centre in Moscow, Oxford University in the UK and the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer, in France, tracked the drinking patterns of 151,000 adults in three Russian cities over up to 10 years.

During that time, 8,000 of them died. The researchers also drew on previous studies in which families of 49,000 people who had died were asked about their loved ones’ drinking habits.

Study co-author Prof. Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford, said: “Russian death rates have fluctuated wildly over the last 30 years as alcohol restrictions and social stability varied under Presidents Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin, and the main thing driving these wild fluctuations in death was vodka.”

In 1985, the then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev drastically cut vodka production and did not allow it to be sold before lunch-time.

The high number of early deaths in Russia is mainly due to people drinking too much alcohol, particularly vodka

The high number of early deaths in Russia is mainly due to people drinking too much alcohol, particularly vodka

Researchers say alcohol consumption fell by around a quarter when the restrictions came in, and so did overall death rates. Then, when communism collapsed, people started drinking more again and the death rates also rose.

Richard Peto said: “When President Yeltsin took over from President Gorbachev, the overall death rates in young men more than doubled. This was as society collapsed and vodka became much more freely available.

“There was a huge increase in drinking and they were drinking in a destructive way. They were getting drunk on spirits and then buying and drinking more, producing a big risk of death.”

The consumption rates for women also fluctuated according to political events, but they drank less so mortality rates were also lower.

Most drinkers were smokers as well which researchers say “aggravated” the death rates.

Russia brought in stricter alcohol control measures in 2006, including raising taxes and restricting sales.

Researchers say alcohol consumption has fallen by a third since then and the proportion of men dying before they reach 55 years old has fallen from 37% to 25%.

Half a litre of vodka costs around $5.00 (150 roubles). Heavy drinkers in this study were getting through at least a litre and a half of vodka a week.

In 2011, each Russian adult drank on average 13 litres of pure alcohol every year, of which eight litres was in spirits, mainly vodka.

Researchers say the key problem driving the high death rate is the way Russians drink alcohol.

Researcher Prof. David Zaridze, from the Russian Cancer Research Centre, said: “They binge drink. That’s the main problem. It’s the pattern of drinking not the per-capita amount they are drinking.”

“Russians have always drunk a lot. They sometimes say it’s because of the cold weather but this is just an excuse. This is the nation’s lifestyle that needs to change.

“Since the average life expectancy from birth for men in Russia is still only 64 years, ranking among the lowest 50 countries in the world, more effective alcohol and tobacco policy measures are urgently needed.”

[youtube bzAEVwsaIuE 650]

Platon Lebedev, the former business partner of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, with whom he was jailed in 2005, will be released, Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered.

Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky were convicted of tax evasion and theft after funding opposition parties and falling out with President Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky last month, but Platon Lebedev, who was due for release in May, did not seek a pardon and stayed in jail.

The Russian Supreme Court ruled that his sentence should be reduced and that he would be able to walk free on Friday.

“Release Lebedev,” Supreme Court Judge Pyotr Serkov declared in the ruling, after reducing his sentence so that it amounted to time served.

Platon Lebedev and his former business partner Mikhail Khodorkovsky were jailed in 2005

Platon Lebedev and his former business partner Mikhail Khodorkovsky were jailed in 2005

Both men’s convictions remain in place, despite repeated appeals.

It did not change a court order under which Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky must pay 17 billion roubles ($500 million) in tax arrears.

That debt is an obstacle to Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s return to Russia after leaving for Germany in December.

The releases are believed by many to be part of a drive to improve Russia’s international image ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics next month.

Other prominent inmates freed in the past few weeks included two women from the Pussy Riot protest group, jailed over the performance of a “punk prayer” critical of Vladimir Putin in a Russian Orthodox church.

Platon Lebedev used to head NFO Menatep, while Mikhail Khodorkovsky ran oil giant Yukos and was once Russia’s richest man.

[youtube nS2rlbAC3qQ 650]

Russian authorities have decided to drop piracy charges against the first of 30 people accused of taking part in a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic.

The man has been identified as Anthony Perrett from Newport in Wales, who is now preparing to leave Russia.

He was in the group of 28 activists and two freelance journalists arrested in September as they staged a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig.

They were all charged with hooliganism – but have all been freed on bail.

They are being granted amnesty under a new Russian law which has seen several high-profile releases in recent days.

Greenpeace said on Tuesday that one man from the “Arctic 30” group had been told his case was now closed, and that others were expected to receive notice soon.

The statement did not name the man.

An earlier report saying that three people had been notified for release was later corrected.

Anthony Perrett was in the group of 28 Greenpeace activists arrested after they staged a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig

Anthony Perrett was in the group of 28 Greenpeace activists arrested after they staged a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig

Twenty-six of the group are foreigners – six of them Britons – and Greenpeace said they would be free to leave Russia once they had the right stamps in their passports.

“We know that getting those stamps would be the best Christmas present for the Arctic 30 and we hope it can happen quickly, but until such time as they do, we still cannot say when they will leave,” it said in a statement.

The detainees, from 16 different countries, had sailed to an oil rig operated by Russia’s state-run energy company Gazprom in September.

They were intercepted by Russian coastguards, who fired warning shots as some activists tried to climb on board the rig.

Their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was seized.

The group was initially charged with piracy but the charges were later reduced to hooliganism.

They denied the charges, saying their protest had been peaceful and legal.

The Russian amnesty law was passed last week by the State Duma and could see the release of some 20,000 people.

[youtube gweJACEGyHc 650]

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been released from jail following a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin, his lawyers say.

Vladimir Putin signed a decree earlier pardoning former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on the basis of “the principles of humanity”.

He said on Thursday that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, 50, had asked him for clemency because his mother was ill.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky – in custody for a decade – was jailed for tax evasion and theft after funding opposition parties.

The pardon comes after Russian MPs backed a wide-ranging amnesty for at least 20,000 prisoners.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been released from jail following a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been released from jail following a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin

Analysts say Vladimir Putin may be trying to ease international criticism of Russia’s human rights record ahead of February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.

A document published by the Kremlin on Friday said the decree would come into force from the day of its signing.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said prison officials had confirmed that had left the he penal colony where he was being held in the Karelia region of north-western Russia.

The former tycoon had eaten lunch at the prison in Segezha as normal on Friday while his release papers were being drawn up, Russian news website Lenta.ru reports quoted an official as saying.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was jailed after being convicted of stealing oil and laundering money in 2010. He had been in prison since 2003 when he was arrested and later convicted on charges of tax evasion. He was due to be released in August 2014.

[youtube M9WrSJ8BMm4 650]

Lithuania and Poland, the EU countries bordering Russia’s territory of Kaliningrad, say they are worried at reports that Moscow has deployed nuclear-capable missiles there.

Both countries issued statements of concern.

Russia has not confirmed the report but insists it has every right to station missiles in its western-most region.

Moscow has long threatened to move Iskander short-range missile systems to Kaliningrad in response to the United States’ own European missile shield.

Russia sees the missile shield as a threat to its nuclear deterrent.

It was one of the biggest sources of confrontation between Moscow and Washington during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.

President Barack Obama tried to “reset” relations with Russia, and the shield system was revised – but it survived in a different form and continued to antagonize Russia.

Lithuania and Poland are worried at reports that Moscow has deployed nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad

Lithuania and Poland are worried at reports that Moscow has deployed nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad

The US insists that the missile shield is not aimed at Russia but designed to defend Europe from attack from “rogue states” – assumed to include Iran.

A Russian defense ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, did not confirm the report – in the German newspaper Bild – that the Iskander system had been deployed to Kaliningrad.

But he did say: “Iskander operational-tactical missile systems have indeed been commissioned by the Western Military District’s missile and artillery forces,” adding that Russia’s deployment “does not violate any international treaties or agreements”.

The Western Military District includes parts of western and north-western Russia, including the Kaliningrad exclave, which is separated from Russia proper and wedged between Poland, Lithuania, and the Baltic Sea.

The Russian newspaper Izvestia reported on Monday that the missiles had already been stationed in the area for more than a year.

Lithuania’s Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said: “I am worried about signals that Russia is about to modernise missile systems it has deployed in Kaliningrad.

“Further militarization of this region, bordering the Baltic states and NATO, creates further anxiety, and we will be watching the situation there closely.”

The Polish foreign ministry said: “Plans to deploy new Iskander-M rockets in [Kaliningrad] are worrying.”

It added that such a deployment “would contradict effective Polish-Russian co-operation, in particular with respect to this region, and undermine constructive dialogue between NATO and Russia. We will raise this topic in our bilateral contacts with the Russian side.”

[youtube fnTk5wRFoK8 650]

0

Elton John’s concerts in Russia “will go ahead as planned” despite concerns over the country’s crackdown on gay rights, the Russian promoters announced.

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a national law banning the “propaganda of homos**uality” to minors.

Elton John vowed last month to raise the issue on stage when he plays tonight’s sold out date in Moscow and a show in the Volga city of Kazan on Saturday.

Elton John's concerts in Russia will go ahead as planned

Elton John’s concerts in Russia will go ahead as planned

The singer said he also planned to “meet with the LGBT community” there.

Russian promoters, SAV Entertainment, issued a statement reassuring fans that the two shows would be going ahead.

“Despite the groundless rumors spread by the internet and media that Elton John’s concerts in Russia could be cancelled, the organizer assures you that Elton John’s shows in Moscow and Kazan will go ahead as planned,” it said.

Elton John will be the first major Western star known for his support of gay rights to play in Russia since the new law, which critics fear could be used to ban any gay rights event.

Speaking at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said the EU will not accept a “veto” by Russia on the bloc’s ties with former Soviet republics.

Jose Manuel Barroso said the era of “limited sovereignty was over in Europe”.

The summit failed to revive an association agreement with Ukraine that was due to be its centrepiece.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych said he could not afford to sacrifice trade with Russia – which opposes the deal – for EU ties.

Viktor Yanukovych froze plans to sign Ukraine’s trade deal last week. In Vilnius, he defended his refusal to sign, saying the EU was not offering adequate financial aid.

After the two-day summit, Jose Manuel Barroso said: “We will not give in to external pressure, not the least from Russia.

“What we cannot accept is a condition on a bilateral agreement to have a kind of a possible veto of a third country. This is contrary to all principles of international law.”

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the parties had been “really close” to signing the association agreement, but added that “we need to overcome pressure from abroad”.

“We are embarked on a long journey, helping Ukraine to become, as others, what we call now, <<new member states>>. But we have to set aside short-term political calculations.”

However, progress was made with two other ex-Soviet states, Georgia and Moldova.

Viktor Yanukovych froze plans to sign Ukraine's trade deal, saying the EU was not offering adequate financial aid

Viktor Yanukovych froze plans to sign Ukraine’s trade deal, saying the EU was not offering adequate financial aid

Association agreements with both were initialed – a stage prior to signing – on Friday. Diplomats have expressed hope those deals can be signed next year.

EU leaders said in a statement earlier that they “strongly” disapproved of Moscow’s pressure on Ukraine not to sign – while Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU of “blackmail”.

Analysts say Russia worked hard to undermine the EU agreement with Ukraine, which it sees as a strategically vital partner.

On the one hand, it offered Kiev loans and price discounts. On the other, it threatened painful trade sanctions and higher gas bills.

On Thursday, Viktor Yanukovych told Ukrainian TV that an EU offer to lend Kiev 610 million euros ($828 million) was inadequate.

He said Ukraine would need at least 20 billion euros a year to cover the costs of upgrading its economy to “European standards”.

“For three years in succession they [EU leaders] have shown this candy in pretty wrapping to us,” Viktor Yanukovych added.

“We don’t have to be humiliated like this. We are a serious country, a European one.”

Meanwhile pro-EU protests are continuing in Ukrainian cities against the government’s decision to back out of the agreement.

Prominent Ukrainian opposition politician Vitali Klitschko, who is also in Vilnius, said he hoped the agreement would be signed after all.

“We Ukrainians want the changes,” the world boxing champion added.

“We want to live with the European family, with European rules, with Europeans’ life standards.”

[youtube LbJUCUfzo7o 650]

Russia had urged Ukraine to delay signing a trade deal with the EU, Ukrainian PM Mykola Azarov has admitted, as mass protest rallies continue across the country.

Mykola Azarov said Moscow had offered to hold trilateral talks on the issue, without giving “any ultimatums”.

Kiev last week put on hold the association and free trade deal with the EU, prompting Brussels to accuse Moscow of exerting pressure on Ukraine.

The move triggered huge pro-EU protests in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied putting any pressure on Kiev, accusing instead the EU of “blackmailing” Ukraine into signing the agreement.

Speaking to reporters in Kiev on Tuesday, Mykola Azarov acknowledged that Russia had suggested “to delay signing the treaty and to conduct negotiations” between Kiev, Moscow and the EU.

He said Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych would still attend this week’s EU summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, to discuss the possible consultations with Brussels and Moscow.

Russia had urged Ukraine to delay signing a trade deal with the EU

Russia had urged Ukraine to delay signing a trade deal with the EU

It had been originally planned that Ukraine would sign the treaty with the EU at the 28-29 November summit.

Mykola Azarov said such three-way talks would be in the best interests of Ukraine: “We absolutely do not want to be a battlefield between the EU and Russia. We want to have good relations with both the EU and Russia.”

He also added that separate “road-map” talks with Russia aimed at reviving economic ties would start next month and no agreement had been finalized on possible new financial support from the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, President Putin said it was solely up to Ukraine whether to sign or not the agreement with the EU.

During a visit to Italy, Vladimir Putin also urged EU leaders to refrain from “sharp words” on the issue.

Ukraine’s government said last Thursday it was halting preparations for signing the deal with the EU, amid concerns this would have a negative impact on Kiev’s trade relations with Russia and cause mass job losses as a result.

Moscow had earlier warned it would be forced to defend its market by raising custom duties on Ukrainian goods.

In a statement on Monday, Viktor Yanukovych said he had been forced to halt treaty preparations by economic necessity and the desire to protect those “most vulnerable”.

Tens of thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets of Ukraine’s major cities since last week.

[youtube e0N7FILsNm4 650]

The detained captain of Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and other two British activists have been granted bail by a court in northern Russia.

Peter Willcox previously captained Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship when it was blown up by French agents in harbor in New Zealand in 1985.

Britons Alex Harris and Kieron Bryan were also bailed along with Dutch national Faiza Oulahsen.

Nine other foreign detainees and three Russians were granted bail earlier.

A third Briton, Anthony Perrett, is also hoping for a decision on Wednesday while three other British activists will have their bail hearings later this week.

Of the 13 detainees who appeared in court earlier this week all but one were given bail.

Peter Willcox, the captain the seized Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, has been granted bail by a court in northern Russia

Peter Willcox, the captain the seized Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, has been granted bail by a court in northern Russia

Australian activist Colin Russell, 59, who acted as the ship’s radio operator, was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until February 24.

Greenpeace said it was “baffled” why he had been kept in custody for another three months while a spokesperson for Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she was concerned about his case and monitoring it closely, the Canberra Times reports.

The detainees have been held on charges of hooliganism after taking part in a protest at an Arctic offshore oil rig operated by the Russian company Gazprom.

If found guilty they face up to seven years in prison.

Kieron Bryan was on the ship as a freelance journalist and videographer.

Alex Harris, 27, acted as communications officer on the ship.

In a letter from prison to a fellow Greenpeace activist in October, quoted by the Torquay Herald Express, the activist wrote: “I dream of the outside world a lot. When I wake I’m sleeping with steel bars digging into my back, facing the same four green walls I’ve faced for 25 days. That’s the hardest time of the day.

“Despite everything that has happened I don’t hate Russia, I just want to go home.”

The Dutch foreign ministry says the bail ruling for Faiza Oulahsen was a positive development.

Nine people bailed on Tuesday were named as: Miguel Orsi (Argentina), Camila Speziale (Argentina), Ana Paula Maciel (Brazil), Paul Ruzycki (Canada), Sini Saarela (Finland), Francesco Pisanu (France), Cristian D’Alessandro (Italy), David Haussman (New Zealand) and Tomasz Dziemianczuk (Poland).

On Monday, Russian national Yekaterina Zaspa, who served as medical crew on the ship, was bailed along with photographer Denis Sinyakov and activist Andrey Allakhverdov.

Bail of 2 million roubles ($61,000) was stipulated for each detainee.

[youtube kjLehfVjxVc 650]

Alexei Navalny’s jail sentence for embezzlement has been suspended by a Russian court, allowing him to go free.

However, Alexei Navalny’s conviction is likely to prevent him running in the next presidential election.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to five years in July but released pending the appeal.

He has always denied the charges, which relate to his time as an adviser to the governor of the Kirov region.

His conviction bars him from running for elected office. Navalny has said in the past he would like to stand for president.

But it appears Alexei Navalny’s five-year sentence would rule him out of running for the next presidential election, due to take place in spring 2018.

Alexei Navalny's jail sentence for embezzlement has been suspended by a Russian court

Alexei Navalny’s jail sentence for embezzlement has been suspended by a Russian court

Alexei Navalny vowed to continue in politics, accusing the authorities of prosecuting him for political reasons, and said he would appeal against the sentence.

While on bail, he stood for mayor of Moscow, coming second and nearly managing to force the Kremlin’s candidate into a run-off.

In July, Alexei Navalny was found guilty of heading a group that embezzled timber worth 16 million roubles ($500,000) from the Kirovles state timber company while working as an adviser to Kirov’s governor, Nikita Belykh.

Speaking after the appeal verdict, he said: “It’s clear for me that the authorities are trying by all means to hound me out of politics, coming up with some restrictions and fabricated cases.

“One thing is for sure, they will not succeed in pushing me and my allies out of political life.”

Alexei Navalny could be seen using a mobile phone bearing a sticker which mocked Russia’s current President, Vladimir Putin, as a thief.

The veteran anti-corruption campaigner hugged his wife, Yulia, who has travelled from Moscow to Kirov with him for his court appearances.

Co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov, who was jailed for four years, also had his sentence suspended on Wednesday.

Alexei Navalny took 27% of the mayoral vote in Moscow against the Kremlin-backed incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin, who officially scraped through on the first round with 51% – a result the opposition leader disputes.

[youtube 9iwNZP8vElg 650]

Fourteen Greenpeace activists have been charged with piracy by the Russian authorities.

They were among a 30-strong crew on a Greenpeace ship that was protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic.

The group was arrested last month after two of the protesters tried to board an oil platform owned by the Russian state-controlled firm Gazprom.

Greenpeace has called the charges “irrational, absurd and an outrage”.

The 14 activists were taken from jail to the Murmansk office of the Investigative Committee, the Russian equivalent of the FBI.

There they were formally charged with “piracy of an organized group”, an offence that carries a 15-year prison sentence.

Those charged include Kieron Bryan, a freelance video producer from London; Anthony Perrett from Newport in Wales; Alexandra Harris, originally from Devon, and Philip Ball from Chipping Norton.

Fourteen Greenpeace activists have been charged with piracy by the Russian authorities

Fourteen Greenpeace activists have been charged with piracy by the Russian authorities

Greenpeace said more activists are expected to be formally charged on Thursday.

The group’s international executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said the charges were “extreme and disproportionate”.

“A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest,” Reuters news agency quoted Kumi Naidoo as saying.

Kumi Naidoo said the way Russian officials had treated the protesters represented “the most serious threat to Greenpeace’s peaceful environmental activism” since the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand in 1985, when the group was campaigning against French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously said the activists were “not pirates”, but may have broken international law.

The Investigative Committee said earlier this week that peaceful aims would not justify what it has described as an “attack” that posed a threat to the rig and its personnel.

Last month the Greenpeace ship approached the Prirazlomnaya platform, Russia’s first offshore oil rig which is scheduled to start operating by the end of the year.

Two activists tried to climb up onto the platform and tie themselves onto it, in an attempt to draw attention to the issue of the expansion of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Ocean.

They were detained after a short skirmish in inflatable dinghies in which armed Russian FSB officers in balaclavas fired warning shots into the water.

Greenpeace has released cameraphone images it says show the moment Russian security forces boarded the Arctic Sunrise ship.

The Arctic Sunrise ship, with its crew comprising 18 nationalities, was then towed to Murmansk.

[youtube ZVHkItTrPXM]

0

At least 37 people have died in a fire that engulfed a psychiatric hospital in north-western Russia, officials say.

The blaze occurred in the village of Luka, in Novgorod region. The timber-built hospital housed some 60 people.

A nurse who tried to guide patients to safety was among the dead, Russian media report. So far 22 bodies have been recovered at the scene.

The fire broke out just before 03:00 local time. A patient smoking may have started it.

Officials had previously ordered the building to be closed because of safety concerns.

The fire started in the male ward and spread quickly through the single-storey Oksochi hospital, emergency ministry officials say. TV pictures later showed the gutted building.

At least 37 people have died in a fire that engulfed a psychiatric hospital in north-western Russia

At least 37 people have died in a fire that engulfed a psychiatric hospital in north-western Russia

“Medical personnel saw a patient who was shrouded in flames. It’s possible that he was smoking in bed and the mattress caught fire,” regional governor Sergei Mitin told Russia’s Interfax news agency.

He added that the ward housed severely ill patients.

The patients and staff had been ordered to move to a new building by August 2014 because the timber hospital was unsafe.

Twenty-three people managed to flee the blaze. A senior investigator from the ministry for emergencies, Yuri Deshevykh, said the fire alarm had worked, triggering an evacuation.

The fire was extinguished overnight, and hundreds of rescuers are searching the nearby forest, hoping to find any survivors who may have taken refuge there.

A criminal investigation is now under way for “causing death by negligence”.

Several fires at state institutions across Russia in recent years resulted in heavy loss of life.

In April, a blaze at another psychiatric hospital near Moscow killed 38 people.

In 2009, 23 people died at an old people’s home in the north-west Komi region, while in 2007, 63 were killed at a home in Krasnodar, southern Russia.

In 2006, a fire at a Moscow drug rehabilitation clinic killed 45 women.

[youtube UAlXmJiyZ74]

0

Lady Gaga and Madonna could potentially be facing prosecution after Russian officials issued a statement saying the singers did not obtain appropriate visas to enter and perform in the country.

According to The Guardian, Madonna, who played there in August 2012, and Lady Gaga, who performed last December, arrived using cultural-exchange visas, which “do not grant their bearers the right to engage in any commercial activity”.

Lady Gaga and Madonna face prosecution after Russian as they did not obtain appropriate visas to enter and perform in the country

Lady Gaga and Madonna face prosecution after Russian as they did not obtain appropriate visas to enter and perform in the country

As a result, prosecutors are looking into possibly asking Russia’s foreign ministry or federal migration service to press charges.

The investigation has come about after Vitaly Milonov, the Russian politician who authored St. Petersburg’s law banning gay “propaganda,” brought the visa issue to the attention of authorities.

Following their 2012 shows, Vitaly Milonov tried – unsuccessfully – to take legal action against Madonna and Lady Gaga for speaking out in support of LGBT issues during their concerts.

[youtube jys-qjOAxLo]

0

Former Olympic champion and politician Alina Kabaeva is set to become the future First Lady of Russia, according to recent reports.

Until now, Alina Kabaeva was Russia’s first sweetheart, because from 2008 reportedly she is in a relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Now President Vladimir Putin is officially divorced from his wife Lyudmila Putina and he can live his love with his beautiful lover alina Kabaeva.

So, who is Alina Kabaeva, who drove crazy one of the most powerful man in Europe?

Alina Kabaeva is set to become the future First Lady of Russia

Alina Kabaeva is set to become the future First Lady of Russia

Alina Kabaeva was born in 12 May 1983 in Tashkent, in former Soviet Union’s republic of Uzbekistan and from the beginning showed her love for sports. At the age of 3 she started to play rhythmic gymnastics and soon after showed her talent in it. At 15 she became European champion, as in her career she won 2 Olympic medals, 14 world and 25 European titles.

The daughter of former football star Marat Kabayev, Alina Maratovna Kabaeva retired from the sport in 2007, but showed the world that she won’t stay far from the spotlight. She played in movies, video clips and from the 2007 she is a member of Vladimir Putin’s party – United Russia – managing to enter the Parliament.

In the same year she met Vladimir Putin and they came close. So close that the European press has written quite a few articles about their romance. But this didn’t concern the Russian media, because it is forbidden to all the Russian journalists to refer to their relationship. However, rumours say Vladimir Putin has two children from Alina Kabaeva.

Except for the rhythmic gymnastics, Alina Kabaeva shows great talent in modelling. This has been proven by her photo shoots both in Vogue and Maxim magazines.

[youtube LQUpDguLGTQ]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called Azerbaijan’s failure to award any points to Russia’s entry in this year’s Eurovision song contest as “outrageous”.

Sergei Lavrov said the points had been “stolen” from Russia’s Dina Garipova and “this outrageous action will not remain without a response”.

Azerbaijan says it cannot explain how it awarded no points to Russia, when Dina Garipova came second in its phone poll.

Russian voters awarded the maximum 12 points to Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has ordered an inquiry into how its votes for Russia apparently went missing.

And the country’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, sitting next to Sergei Lavrov at a press conference in Moscow, called it a “detective story”.

Elmar Mammadyarov said records from all three of Azerbaijan’s mobile phone operators show that Azeris awarded Ukraine’s entry the most votes, followed by Russia’s.

Azerbaijan says it cannot explain how it awarded no points to Russia, when Dina Garipova came second in its phone poll

Azerbaijan says it cannot explain how it awarded no points to Russia, when Dina Garipova came second in its phone poll

“Where did the votes go? How did they disappear? This, of course, is a question for our public television,” he said.

Sergei Lavrov said he and his counterpart had agreed they should take a “unified course of action” once the reasons for the discrepancy became clear.

A spokesman for the European Broadcasting Union, which runs the Eurovision Song Contest, said the phone vote was not definitive. A national jury in each country also contributes 50% of the final decision, the Associated Press reports.

Despite the high-level political interest, 10 points for second place from Azerbaijan would not have made any difference to Dina Garipova’s fifth place, since she finished 17 points behind Norway.

Azerbaijan, which hosted last year’s contest, has traditionally tried to maintain good relations with Moscow though there have been tensions over energy in the past.

Meanwhile, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has weighed in with his own accusations. Suspicious that the Belarusian singer did not receive a single point from Russia, he has claimed that the final was falsified.

[youtube wHNwk3Oez8U]

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has ordered an inquiry into why his country gave Russia “nul points” at Eurovision Song Contest 2013.

Voters and the official Azerbaijan jury in fact gave strong backing to the Russian entry, according to officials.

Azerbaijan’s state broadcaster suggested there may have been voting violations.

Russia gave the maximum 12 points to Azerbaijan’s entry – a ballad by Farid Mammadov.

Farid Mammadov came second behind winner Emmelie de Forest from Denmark.

Russia's Dina Garipova came fifth at the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in the Swedish city of Malmo

Russia’s Dina Garipova came fifth at the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in the Swedish city of Malmo

Russia’s Dina Garipova came fifth at the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in the Swedish city of Malmo.

Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Russia, Polad Bulbuloglu, disclosed that President Ilham Aliyev had ordered an investigation and votes were being recounted.

He said that a large number of voters in Azerbaijan, submitting votes by text message, had supported the Russian Federation.

“According to this data, Russia should have received 10 points from Azerbaijan. An announcement will be made about this tonight on Azeri Public Television.”

Camil Guliyev, head of the country’s state broadcaster, said the failure to give Russia any points was of serious concern.

“We sincerely hope that this incident, possibly initiated by certain interest groups, will not cast a shadow over the brotherly relations of the Russian and Azerbaijani peoples,” he said, without elaborating.

Azerbaijan, which hosted last year’s contest, has traditionally tried to maintain good relations with Moscow though there have been tensions over energy in the past.

[youtube xQjuAFyo4Bw]

The US has criticized Russia for what it calls an “unfortunate decision” to deliver missiles to the Syrian government.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said the shipment “will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering” that has killed 80,000.

The sophisticated anti-ship missiles could be used to counter any future foreign military intervention, US officials told The New York Times.

Some 1.5 million people have fled the conflict, says the UN refugee agency.

Most have fled to Jordan and Lebanon, but not all have been registered yet, meaning the true total is likely to be far higher, according to the UNHCR.

Meanwhile, Syria’s national production has dropped by 40% and the number of people living below the poverty line has risen from two million to five million in just two years, according to the man in charge of the UN’s plans for reconstructing Syria after the conflict.

Abdullah al-Dardari, a former deputy prime minister in President Bashar al-Assad’s administration, said the rebuilding what has been destroyed would cost up to $80 billion.

The US has criticized Russia for what it calls an "unfortunate decision" to deliver missiles to the Syrian government

The US has criticized Russia for what it calls an “unfortunate decision” to deliver missiles to the Syrian government

Gen. Martin Dempsey’s description of Moscow’s decision to send missiles to Syria as “ill-timed and very unfortunate” comes amid growing alarm that chemical weapons may have been used in the country, something President Barack Obama has said would be “a red line”.

Russia is one of Syria’s few remaining allies and a long-term arms supplier to the Assad regime. Over the years, in contracts worth billions of dollars, it has sold thousands of tanks, artillery units, aircraft, helicopters and defense systems to Damascus.

In 2007, the two countries signed a deal on the supply of Yakhont missiles which, with a range of 300 km (200 miles), could prove a threat to warships in the Mediterranean.

Although there have been growing calls for arms to be channeled to the rebel fighters in Syria, there has so far been very limited enthusiasm in the West for outright military intervention.

But there is concern that the presence of sophisticated Russian-supplied weaponry will make it much harder to agree and carry out such intervention, implement a blockade or conduct targeted airstrikes in the future.

Without confirming reports of the missile shipment, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the supply of missiles did not break any international rules.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met Sergei Lavrov in Sochi on Friday to discuss plans for an international conference to try to find a way of ending the Syrian conflict, which would aim to bring together the Syrian opposition and members of Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The UN estimates that 80,000 people have died in the uprising, and that some 4.25 million people have been displaced within the country.

The simmering conflict has raised tensions on Syria’s borders: On Friday, Turkish state media reported at least 10 people were killed when a fuel tank exploded in the southern town of Altinozu in Hatay province, where car bombs killed 50 people last week.

The fuel tank was set alight by smugglers during a raid by police, officials said.

Frustrated by the lack of international consensus on Syria, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had talks this week with President Barack Obama in Washington where he was expected to call for a more assertive stance.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday the UN should discuss imposing a no-fly zone inside Syria at the international conference being mooted.

“With respect to a no-fly zone… it is not a decision that could be taken between the United States and Turkey. It is something that would have to come through the UN Security Council,” he said.

Syria’s Russian-made military:

  • Nearly 5,000 tanks; 2,500 infantry fighting vehicles; 2,500 self-propelled or towed artillery units
  • 325 Tactical aircraft; 143 helicopters
  • Nearly 2,000 air defense pieces
  • 295,000 active personnel; 314,000 reserve personnel

Statistics: IISS

[youtube 6WCDv9e-CT8]

0

Madonna might not be allowed to visit Russia again anytime soon after officials ruled the singer violated the terms of her visa during last trip to Moscow and St Petersburg.

According to Russian daily Izvestia, the nation’s foreign ministry has ruled Madonna failed to get a work permit that would have allowed her for-profit shows in Moscow and St. Petersburg last summer.

That, in turn, might make it harder for her to get back into the country later.

Madonna’s visa reportedly limited her trip to “cultural ties,” as quoted by The Moscow News.

Madonna might not be allowed to visit Russia again anytime soon after officials ruled the singer violated the terms of her visa

Madonna might not be allowed to visit Russia again anytime soon after officials ruled the singer violated the terms of her visa

The Russian Foreign Ministry is quoted as saying in a statement: “If a foreign national’s activity in Russia is aimed at making a profit, including through commercial performances, the said national must receive a work permit from the Federal Migration Service, and therefore must be issued a normal work visa, with the purpose of the visit stated as work for hire.”

Foreign Ministry officials were asked to look into Madonna’s visa situation by St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, who tells Russian newspaper Izvestia: “Those who applied for a visa for Louise Ciccone [Madonna] face a fine of 500,000 rubles [$15,885.00]. It has to be determined whether [Madonna] filed the documents herself.”

“The question of the legality of Madonna’s visit to our country will also come up, and next time it will be a lot more difficult to get a visa.”

Vitaly Milonov had challenged whether Madonna’s visit was legal after she advocated gay rights and defended jailed feminist punk group Pussy Riot.

A lawsuit by anti-gay groups claiming Madonna broke Vitaly Milonov’s law was dismissed by a Russian judge last November.

Now, Vitaly Milonov reportedly wants to see Madonna fined $16.7 million. Last December he also accused Lady Gaga of breaking the law at her St. Petersburg concert.

[youtube lpNZN5rWIF0]

Russia has warned of tensions in North Korea slipping out of control, after Pyongyang announced it was placing its rockets on stand-by.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the situation could slip “toward the spiral of a vicious circle”.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made the missile order after talks responding to US stealth bomber flights over the Korean peninsula, state news agency KCNA said.

The time had come to “settle accounts” with the US, KCNA quoted him as saying.

Annual military drills and fresh UN sanctions have angered North Korea.

Russia has warned of tensions in North Korea slipping out of control, after Pyongyang announced it was placing its rockets on stand-by

Russia has warned of tensions in North Korea slipping out of control, after Pyongyang announced it was placing its rockets on stand-by

After a late-night meeting with the army’s strategic rocket force, Kim Jong-un “judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists”, KCNA reported.

Kim Jong-un was said to have condemned US B-2 bomber sorties over South Korea as a “reckless phase” that represented an “ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean Peninsula”.

US mainland and bases in Hawaii, Guam and South Korea were all named as potential targets.

The US – which flew two stealth bombers over the peninsula on Thursday as part of the ongoing annual US-South Korea military drills – has said it is ready for “any eventuality” on the peninsula.

Thousands of North Korean soldiers and students later took part in a mass rally in the centre of Pyongyang in support of Kim Jong-un’s announcement, beneath large portraits of his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung.

A South Korean defence ministry spokesman described the North Korean decision as a “continuing measure”, after its announcement to adopt “combat posture”.

China, North Korea’s biggest trading partner, immediately reiterated its call for all sides to ease tensions.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov went further, voicing concern that “we may simply let the situation slip out of our control and it will slide into a spiral of a vicious circle”.

While condemning Pyongyang’s actions as “unacceptable”, Sergei Lavrov gave a more general warning that “unilateral steps being taken around North Korea that manifest themselves in a build-up of military activity”.

Sergei Lavrov added what was needed was not a build-up of military muscle and a pretext for using military means to achieve “geopolitical objectives”, in remarks seen as an implicit criticism of US bomber flights.

[youtube BAQK8ZhamhM]

Russian officials say horsemeat has been detected in sausages advertised as pork and imported from Austria.

The Russian agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said the sausages contained both horse and poultry DNA.

A spokesman said the company that supplied the meat had been struck off a list of approved suppliers.

Horsemeat was first found in meals and burgers in the UK and Ireland last month, and traces have since been found in meat products across Europe.

“Tests on a shipment of Frankfurter sausages found the DNA of horses, chicken, cattle and soya,” Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement.

Earlier, Rosselkhoznadzor spokesman Alexei Alexeyenko told AFP news agency that the shipment of more than 20 tonnes of sausages had been imported from the Austrian city of Linz. He did not name the supplier.

Russian officials say horsemeat has been detected in sausages advertised as pork and imported from Austria

Russian officials say horsemeat has been detected in sausages advertised as pork and imported from Austria

Horsemeat is considered a traditional delicacy in Russia and is available in many restaurants and stores.

Alexei Alexeyenko said the problem with the contaminated meat was that it was not clear what it was made of and that old or ill animals could have been used.

The meat will either be destroyed or returned to the supplier, he added.

Russian media originally reported the sausages being documented as 100% beef, but later reports said they were labelled as having 80% pork as well as other non-meat ingredients.

At least a dozen countries are involved in the horsemeat affair, which implicates some of the biggest meat processors and food producers.

On Monday, Swedish company Ikea withdrew meatballs from sale in 14 European countries after tests in the Czech Republic found traces of horsemeat in a batch made in Sweden.

EU agricultural officials are looking at ways of tightening up procedures and ensuring greater traceability in the wake of the scandal.