This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT)

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This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on the latest developments surrounding the July 17 Boeing 777 catastrophe in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, in which Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was apparently shot down near the town of Shakhtarsk in an area controlled by pro-autonomy militias.


The Kommersant daily points out that the Malaysia Airlines disaster has not stopped the fighting between government troops and pro-autonomy militias in the east of Ukraine: A ceasefire is in place only in a small area at and in the vicinity of the crash site. A complete ceasefire covering the whole of the east of the country could not be agreed, the paper writes. Experts polled by Kommersant say that the military operation by Ukrainian troops is “not proceeding as successfully as commanders’ reports would indicate.” The main difficulties, according to the paper, have arisen along the southern section of the front, “where Kiev hopes to achieve the final victory.”


As a result of actions by the pro-autonomy militias, the Ukrainian force that tried to cut the self-proclaimed republics off from the border with Russia has itself been surrounded, Kommersant continues. The surrounded troops could be saved by a ceasefire along all sections of the front, which the militia commanders also realize. “That is probably why they have so far rejected all appeals for a lasting and comprehensive ceasefire voiced by the Ukrainian side and international mediators,” the paper concludes. Nezavisimaya Gazeta “The world is on the brink of the largest political crisis of recent decades,” reads an editorial in the centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. The paper describes the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet as “a prelude to the start of a new cold war.”


The paper points out that the facts available so far indicate that there are Buk surface-to-air missile systems in the conflict zone on both sides of the Ukrainian-Russian border. However, these systems are capable of hitting air targets only within a range of 50 km. “Since the downed Boeing fell on Ukrainian territory 50 km from the Ukrainian-Russian border, one can rule out that it was hit from Russian territory,” the paper says. It goes on to add that Kiev does not deny that Ukrainian Buk systems have been deployed on the Ukrainian-Russian border: The Ukrainian air defense systems were probably intended to counter possible aerial reconnaissance from the Russian side. Therefore the Malaysian Boeing may have been mistaken for a Russian Air Force aircraft, writes Nezavisimaya Gazeta. In addition, the paper continues, it is unlikely that pro-autonomy militants could have operated a Buk system as it requires specialist training and experience.


Most of the experts polled by NG conclude that the airliner was downed by mistake. “It is likely that this attack was not agreed with the senior leadership, who are now being caused immense stress by the possibility that the truth may be established. Support for those who murder civilians leaves no political chances for a reputation on an international scale,” the paper concludes. Expert  The Expert magazine gives a detailed account of the search operation at the crash site. It also points out that the UN Security Council is expected to vote in the near future on a draft resolution condemning the destruction of the Boeing 777.


The draft resolution, Expert continues, does not only call for “a comprehensive, thorough and independent international investigation in compliance with civil aviation standards” but also lists requirements for the pro-autonomy militias, urging them “to refrain from any actions that could jeopardize the crash site”. For their part, the magazine adds, the militiamen of the Donetsk People’s Republic have for three days now been guarding the crash scene and ensuring the safety of the OSCE observers working at the site. Vzglyad Experts polled by the Vzglyad newspaper claim that “senior figures in Ukraine and the West are using pseudo-facts surrounding the Malaysian Boeing crash.” The investigation into the downing of the Malaysian airliner is not yet over, the paper continues, but the alleged intercepted phone calls between pro-autonomy militiamen that have been posted on the internet have given the leadership of Ukraine and other countries cause to blame what happened on the militias and Russia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that “the White House, demanding an inquiry into the tragedy, is criticizing Moscow, which, in its view, has continuously aggravated the conflict in southeast Ukraine, supported the separatists, training and arming them.” According to the newspaper, the general opinion in the U.S. is that the missile was fired either by the militias or by Russian soldiers. The newspaper notes that America is not blaming Kiev, and that Ukraine has announced that in the entire conflict it has not fired any missiles capable of hitting a plane at a 33,000-foot altitude. says that the most likely explanation for the airplane crash in eastern Ukraine was the BUK anti-aircraft missile, which is the most powerful means of anti-aircraft defense, one that Ukraine inherited from the USSR and that has recently come into the militia’s possession. The newspaper analyzes the weapon’s technical characteristics in depth: The BUK anti-aircraft missile is one of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport’s most popular products. says that the missiles are sold in all CIS countries that used them in Soviet times.



Today the missiles are also used in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. According to the publication, the missile system’s technical specifics allow it to hit a target at an altitude of up to 82,000 feet. Moreover, the system is mobile: It can be packed up in five minutes. “Qualified specialists are required to take aim with this system. In their hands the BUK can hit a target even at a distance of 40 kilometers [130,000 feet],” says While the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk has been saying that it lacks the weapons needed to shoot down a plane at such a high altitude, officials from the neighboring “People’s Republic” of Lugansk proposed another theory: the Malaysian Boeing 777 was shot down by the Ukrainian SU-25 jet, which was later shot down by the militias. However, the maximum altitude of the SU-25 is 16,500 feet, which makes this an unlikely version of events, says Vzglyad Vzglyad newspaper emphasizes that the “airplane fell precisely in the area of the most intense fighting between the Donetsk militias and the Ukrainian Army.

The Ukrainian government blames the militias for the anti-aircraft tragedy. However, arguments blaming the Ukrainian soldiers are more convincing, says the publication. Vzglyad notes that the Ukrainian press has already blamed the Donbass militias for the crash, saying that recently they have shot down two Ukrainian Air Force transportation planes. Moreover, the newspaper says that the BUK is a semiautomatic system, and human participation is minimal. “Therefore the militias could have easily mastered the technology, since they have people who worked with this system while serving in the Soviet and then the Ukrainian army,” Vzglyad suggests.




Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in Donetsk Region If it is so, then it is no longer the militias fighting the Ukrainian Air Force with anti-aircraft missiles that are the cause of the event, but rather “the western governments, who are encouraging Kiev to ‘establish order’ in eastern Ukraine, the newspaper believes. Military expert and editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine Igor Korotchenko suggests that “due to the personnel’s low qualification and miscalculations, the operator either accidentally or unintentionally launched the missile that shot down the Boeing.” Furthermore, Vzglyad’s expert says that earlier there was information of the militias having captured several BUK anti-aircraft missile launchers, yet officially the Ukrainian government announced that they were faulty and therefore had been intentionally removed from combat by the Ukrainian soldiers.

Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines –


This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.

Farewell!. (CTsT)

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This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world.

1 2 3 4 5

There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them.

6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.





This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world.

1 2 3 4.1 4 5 6.1

There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them.

6 7 8 9 10 11

Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.




 Iran struck a historic deal Sunday with the United States and five other world powers, agreeing to a temporary freeze of its nuclear program in the most significant agreement between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani endorsed the agreement, which commits Iran to curb its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief, including access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. The six-month period will give diplomats time to negotiate a more sweeping agreement.

It builds on the momentum of the public dialogue opened during September’s annual U.N. gathering, which included a 15-minute phone conversation between President Barack Obama and moderate-leaning Rouhani, who was elected in June.

The package includes freezing Iran’s ability to enrich uranium at a maximum 5 percent level, which is well below the threshold for weapons-grade material and is aimed at easing Western concerns that Tehran could one day seek nuclear arms.

Obama hailed the pact’s provisions, which include curbs on Iran’s enrichment and other projects that could be used to make nuclear arms, as key to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threat.


“Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb,” he told reporters in Washington.

For Iran, keeping the enrichment program active was a critical goal. Iran’s leaders view the country’s ability to make nuclear fuel as a source of national pride and an essential part of its insistence at nuclear self-sufficiency.

Giving up too much on the enrichment program would have likely brought a storm of protest by Iranian hard-liners, who were already uneasy over the marathon nuclear talks and Rouhani’s outreach to Washington.

In a nationally broadcast speech, Rouhani said the accord recognizes Iran’s “nuclear rights” even if that precise language was kept from the final document because of Western resistance.


“No matter what interpretations are given, Iran’s right to enrichment has been recognized,” said Rouhani, who later posed with family members of nuclear scientists killed in slayings in recent years that Iran has blamed on Israel and allies.

Saying “trust is a two-way street,” Rouhani insisted that talks on a comprehensive agreement should start immediately.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his country’s delegation, called on both sides to see the agreement as an “opportunity to end an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons.”

But initial reaction in Israel was strongly negative. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the deal, a “historic mistake.”

Speaking to his Cabinet, Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel is not bound by the deal and reserves the right to defend itself. That is a reference to possible military action against Iran.

Netanyahu has said the international community is giving up too much to Iran, which it believes will retain the ability to produce a nuclear weapon and threaten Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the final negotiations along with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, said the pact will make U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, safer reducing the threat of war.

“Agreement in Geneva,” he tweeted. “First step makes world safer. More work now.”

The deal marks a milestone between the two countries, which broke diplomatic ties 34 years ago when Iran’s Islamic revolution climaxed in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Since then, relations between the two countries had been frigid to hostile.

Although the deal lowered tensions between the two countries, friction points remain — notably Iran’s support of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The United States also has said Iran supports terrorism throughout the region and commits widespread human rights violations.

The Geneva negotiations followed secret face-to-face talks between the U.S. and Iran over the past year, The Associated Press has learned. The discussions, held in the Persian Gulf nation of Oman and elsewhere, were kept hidden even from America’s closest allies, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago.

A White House statement said the deal limits Iran’s existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, which can be turned into the fissile core of nuclear arms.

The statement also said the accord curbs the number and capabilities of the centrifuges used to enrich and limits Iran ability to “produce weapons-grade plutonium” from a reactor in the advanced stages of construction.

The statement also said Iran’s nuclear program will be subject to “increased transparency and intrusive monitoring.”

“Taken together, these first step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program as we seek to negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community’s concerns,” said the statement.

Since it was revealed in 2003, Iran’s enrichment program has grown from a few dozen enriching centrifuges to more than 18,000 installed and more than 10,000 operating. The machines have produced tons of low-enriched uranium, which can be turned into weapons grade material.

Iran also has stockpiled almost 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be converted more quickly to fissile warhead material than the low-enriched uranium. Its supply is nearly enough for one bomb.

In return for Iran’s nuclear curbs, the White House statement promised “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible (sanctions) relief” to Iran, noting that “the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place.” And it said any limited sanctions relief will be revoked and new penalties enacted if Iran fails to meet its commitments.

Kerry said the relief offered would give Iran access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. Approximately $1.5 billion more would come from imports of gold and other precious metals, petrochemical exports and Iran’s auto sector, as well as easier access to “humanitarian transactions.”

“The core sanctions architecture … remains firmly in place through these six months, including with respect to oil and financial services,” Kerry said. He said those sanctions will result in more than $25 billion in lost oil revenues over six months.

Those conditions are being highlighted by the U.S. administration in its efforts to demonstrate that Iran is still in pain. The administration has urged Congress to hold off on any new sanctions and give the accord a chance to prove its worth.

But one influential member of Congress was quick to criticize the deal.

Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed “serious concerns,” saying the United States was “relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” while allowing Tehran to “keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capacity.”


Obama hailed the deal as putting “substantial limitations” on a nuclear program that the United States and its allies fear could be turned to nuclear weapons use.

“While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,” Obama said. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.”

Iran’s currency, the rial, got a small boost after news of the deal, strengthening to about 29,000 rials against the U.S. dollar, compared with about 29,950 in recent days.


By  John Heilprin and Jamey Keaten. Geneva/ AP, Nov.24, 2013

Associated Press writers George Jahn and Deb Riechmann in Geneva, Julie Pace in Washington, Robert H. Reid in Berlin and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report. 

Coming out of the USSR could be a disorienting experience, as then- Graduate Student Extreme found out in 1979 after seven months here as a guide-interpreter on a cultural exhibit: in my first encounter with an automatic bank teller back in the States, the newfangled “ATM” took my card, scanned it and then asked if I wanted to continue our transaction (a) in English or (b) en español. What? In Spanish?!?


Who would choose a Spanish option in suburban Washington, DC? Had Zorro taken over the neighborhood? After the prolonged suspended animation of Soviet life, it was hard to resist an Extreme impulse to to look defiantly into the camera of this big-brotherish machine and ask, “Are you KIDDING, amigo?”

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Flash forward a decade to 1989, when Instructor Extreme is showing the first group of Soviet high-school exchange students a popular U.S. film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986), as part of their orientation: the hero drives an expensive sports car into a Chicago parking garage, where he asks the smiling but non-responsive attendant, “Do you speak English?” – only to receive the taken-aback reply “What country do you think this is?”

This gets a big laugh from the young Russians, just as it had in theaters around the States. It’s America, so people speak English, of course – always have, always will.


Wrong and wrong, it so happens. If in 1979 and 1989 there was still little doubt about Anglo-hegemony, by 1999 the party was over for a homogeneous English-only national culture – and the new millennium has seen this transformation quicken its pace.


Spanish was spoken in the Americas long before English: the Columbus trip was a Spanish project, and was followed by many more Hispanic forays north and south in the New World. While the young United States emerged as an Anglophonemajority state, it did so without adopting an official language – and does not have one today.

5.1 5

It does have a new fastestgrowing segment of the population, however: today every sixth U.S. citizen is Hispanic, the census bureau tells us, and three decades from now non-Hispanic whites will be a minority – a situation utterly unthreatening to such utterly American icons as Bart Simpson, whose trademark exclamation is ¡Ay, caramba! (Oh gosh!/Wow!/etc.) and Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose Terminator famously wished usHasta la vista, baby! (See you later!), coining one of the most famous lines in Hollywood history.


In short, Spanish is the second most used language in the United States, spoken by some 45 million Hispanophones and six million language students, comprising the largest national Spanish-speaking community anywhere outside of Mexico. Little wonder that the 2000 U.S. presidential election saw both major candidates – the resolutely white bread/mayonnaise/Anglophone- gringos George W. Bush and Albert Gore – deliver campaign speeches in Spanish. Votes are where you find ‘em, señor.


So you are very likely to encounter Spanish and Spanish-speakers in American films, literature and on your trip to the United States – but your English textbooks haven’t factored this in yet, have they? “No problemo!” (which is actually popular pseudo-Spanish for no hay problema). Here’s Prof. Extremo’s Hispanic Starter Kit: The Top 10 Spanish Words/Phrases/Usages you’ll see/hear throughout the US – often occurring in otherwise exclusively English contexts:


1. adios [ah-dee-OHS] – goodbye

2. amigo [uh-MEE-goh], amiga [uh- MEE-guh] – friend (masc., fem.)

3. barrio [BAHR-ee-oh] – neighborhood, usually a heavily Hispanic area

4. bueno [BWE-naw] – good, all right, OK; buenos días – good morning/day

5. Comprende? [kuhm-PREN-dey] – Understand? Got it?

6. gracias [GRAH-see-uhs] – thank you

7. hombre [OM-brey] – man, guy

8. nada [NAH-duh] – nothing, zilch; de nada – you’re welcome

9. por favor [PAWR fah-VAWR] – please

10. señor [seyn-YAWR], señora [seyn- YAWR-uh], señorita [seyn-yuh- REE-tuh] – Mr., Mrs., Miss/Ms.

Hundreds of Spanish words and phrases have become dual-language terms – which is why all of the above now turn up in English dictionaries – and both the total number and their “lexical share” of the general American dialogue are growing as you’d expect: at a pace that parallels that of the Hispanic population.

So get ready to rumba, hombre. Bart Simpson’s still ahead of you! 

Text by Mark H. Teeter at 11/03/2013


(Mark H. Teeter is an English teacher and translator based in Moscow)

Check this Link:

Russians now face fines for smoking in public places, including near metro stations and airports, under new amendments to a broad anti-tobacco law that came into force Friday.


Smoking within 15 meters (50 feet) of entrances to the metro, train stations and airports, as well as near hospitals, schools and playgrounds, is now punishable by fines of 500 to 3,000 rubles ($15-$90) in Russia, where nearly half the adult population smokes.


(No Smoking =Не курить)

Though the ban on smoking in public places came into force on June 1, the offense was not fineable until November 15.

Fines on tobacco advertising and enticing minors to smoke also came into force Friday.


Encouraging under-18s to smoke will incur fines of 1,000-2,000 rubles ($30-$60), or up to 3,000 rubles ($90) if the smoking advocate is the minor’s parent or acquaintance.

Smoking propaganda – including advertising special deals like two packs of cigarettes for the price of one or distributing cigarettes for free – is punishable by fines of 2,000-4,000 rubles ($60-$120) for individuals, 5,000-25,000 rubles ($150-$765) for officials, and 80,000-600,000 rubles ($2,450-$18,360) for legal entities.

The final part of the anti-smoking law, which President Vladimir Putin signed in February, will take effect next year. Starting June 1, 2014, smoking in a number of other public places, including cafes and restaurants, will also be forbidden.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev targeted tobacco as a pet project last year, an initiative greeted positively, for the most part, in Russian society.


A 2013 survey by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center found that more than 75 percent of Russians support a ban on smoking in public.

Some 60 percent of men and nearly 22 percent of women in Russia are smokers, according to a 2010 study by the World Health Organization. Russian officials have estimated that the new anti-tobacco legislation will save 200,000 lives a year.


* Text by RIA Novosti at 15/11/2013

 European Union embassies in the North Korea will remain open for business, despite a proposal from Pyongyang for them to evacuate staff over mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the UK’s Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Diplomats Staying Put, EU Tells North Korea

“The EU does not share the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) views on the current situation and does not recognize the nature of threat as described,” the EU statement read.

North Korea proposed on Tuesday that foreign embassies evacuate, saying it could not guarantee their safety after April 10.

There have been no evacuations, however.

The North Korean proposal came shortly after the isolated north-east Asian country threatened to launch nuclear attacks on both the US mainland and American military bases in the region.

South Korea’s foreign minister said on Wednesday Pyongyang could carry out a test firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile at any time.



The North Korean threats came as US and South Korean forces carried out annual joint military exercises, some of them near the maritime border between the two Koreas. The United States responded by deploying F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and B-2 and B-52 bombers to the region.

Analysts say North Korea is unlikely to launch a full-scale attack on either US forces or South Korea, but concerns persist that rising tensions could spark hostilities.

 © RIA Novosti ,Moscow, April 10, 2013)

Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History has obtained 234 pieces of the meteorite that slammed into Russia’s Urals region in February from a donation by meteorite collector Terry Boudreaux, the museum has said on its website.


More than a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of space stones are on public display at the Field Museum starting from Wednesday afternoon. The fragments will join the museum’s collection of more than 6,500 pieces of meteorites.

Boudreaux, one of the world’s greatest meteorite collectors, sent a team to Russia the day after the huge meteorite hit the Urals city of Chelyabinsk on February 15, in order to buy parts of it.

The meteorite entered the atmosphere undetected by existing space-monitoring systems and fragmented into many hundred pieces which were recovered quickly from deep snow.

“The local villagers actually went out in three feet of snow on their snow skis and looked for holes in the snow. They would dig down with plastic shovels and find these little pieces and throw them in their pockets,” quoted Boudreaux as saying.

Field Museum scientist and assistant curator of meteorite studies Philipp Heck said: “I expected we would get a piece like this. But we got more than a kilogram of pieces there laid out on the table there.”

The Chelyabinsk meteorite caused a massive sonic boom that blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the city, injuring 1,500 people in the area.

NASA estimates the meteorite was roughly 15 meters (50 feet) in diameter when it struck Earth’s atmosphere, travelling faster than the speed of sound, and exploded in a fireball brighter than the morning sun.


MOSCOW, RIA Novosti, April 10

Russian officials, who have strenuously resisted U.S.-led efforts to push Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, are beginning to question whether the beleaguered leader can hang on, but say they have little influence over him as rebels take the fight to his country’s biggest cities.

Even though Russia has been a close Syrian ally for decades, officials and analysts acknowledge that they have limited insight to Assad’s true situation and mind-set. Although some fear that Russia missed a chance to help find a solution to the conflict, now in its 17th month, others say that it never had that kind of clout.

Still, Moscow appears to have at least one more card to play: an offer of asylum if Assad chooses to ask for it.

The Kremlin quickly denied such a suggestion recently by its ambassador to France. But the comment was widely regarded as a trial balloon, and a Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity indicated that Russia could offer asylum if Assad requested it.

“In daily consultations, Assad keeps telling us he is still very much in control,” the official said. “We are trying to ascertain for ourselves whether the point of no return has been reached, and frankly we are not so sure either way anymore.”

The first sign that Russia is abandoning Assad would be a decision to evacuate its citizens, the official said, and that could soon be followed by the Syrian leader’s departure.

On Saturday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that any asylum plans were being made, telling journalists, “We are not even thinking about it.”

Russia’s objections to the campaign to oust Assad have had little to do with loyalty to a longtime ally or unease over a loss of influence in the Middle East, analysts and officials said. Instead, the Kremlin fears what it sees as a broader pattern of the West using its political and military power to squeeze out leaders friendly to Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin regards his country’s decision last year not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Libya’sMoammar Kadafi as a serious mistake, analysts say. An air campaign led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was crucial for the rebels who captured and executed the longtime Libyan leader, and analysts say Russia got nothing for its cooperation.

“What Russia is really firmly against is the Libyan precedent becoming a norm, when everyone votes for some sanctions and then the most powerful military alliance steps into in a local conflict supporting one side in it and helping it win,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs.

“The rebels should have been grateful to Russia, but the first thing they said after their victory and Kadafi’s murder was that Russian and Chinese companies are no longer welcome in Libya,” he said.

Lilia Shevtsova, a senior researcher with Moscow Carnegie Center, said Russia’s preoccupation with geopolitical concerns carried over to the Syrian conflict.

“Putin is very much inclined to see status quo preserved by any means in Russia and in any regime which he considers friendly,” she said.

She said that she doubts the Kremlin has any real influence left over the situation in Syria, and that by continuing to publicly back Assad, Russia has helped the U.S. and its allies obscure the fact that they have no workable plan for Syria. In contrast to Libya, U.S. and other Western officials have consistently ruled out military intervention.

Russia maintains a naval base in Syria, one of its few military bases aboard, and several thousand Russian diplomats and technical specialists working with Syrian companies are based there, said Gennady Gudkov, deputy head of the security committee of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament.

“I am afraid we must have missed our chance to talk Assad into some constitutional reform, even including him ceding power,” Gudkov said. “The Kremlin’s persistence in defending his regime now comes from the fact that there is no good way out of the situation and no good decision anymore.”

Leonid Kalashnikov, deputy head of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, said that, aside from some weapons sales, Russia has not had close political or economic ties to Syria for years, a reflection of Moscow’s diminished role in the region.

“That is why it would be wrong to consider Syria the last Russian stronghold in the Middle East; in fact, we no longer have any,” he said.

“Russia just wants to make it a hard and fast rule that all such conflict issues should be resolved only through efforts of the existing international institutions,” he said.


By Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2012




Not only Russia wants to prevent history from repeating itself in Syria, the Kremlin is not in for change as well. Yes, China and Russia did abstain from voting in favour of the UN Resolution 1973 in March 2011, which allowed an Western intervention in Libya, leading ultimately to the demise of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Putin’s relationship with Assad couldn’t have been chummy. Assad went to visit Moscow in 2005, fiver years after he became president. So it’s quite unlikey that he wants to go Russia in exile. 

In a New York Times article about the Russian community in Syria, an outsider has a good insight into the lives of many, many Russian women, married to some senior Syrian officials, who went to the former Soviet Union decades ago to get an education. These men seem to be great Russophiles and that has impressed Russia. So apart from the base in the port of Tartus on the Syrian coast, the diaspora and the arms deals, it’s emotion that compels the Kremlin to  stands by Assad. Besides, Moscow fears chaos and the emergence of Islamists in the new  Syria, which would spread to its Southern border in North Caucasus.


Russia is a hole. No one wants to live. If the amount of Russian order mail brides are anything to go by, not even Russians want to live there. People in these countries are not stupid. They see Russia and China voting against the will of the people to prop dictators up. They wont forget. If I was Syrian or Libiyan I would be very very anti-Russian and China. 

The only reason Russia & China block these votes is because they have tcorrupt governments. Those corrupt governments use failed states like Syria as a buffer zone. People of Syria. The rest of the world stands in solidarity with you. We wish we could do more to help you but the cancerous Russia and China alliance is stopping us. They might be able to stop a couple of us, but they cant stop us all.

Power to the people. End corrupt governments now!


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Washington plays a role in the turmoil in Syria by supporting the armed gangs (terrorists) to destabilize the country.

Assad told the German ARD television channel on Sunday that the United States is “part of the conflict,” and that “they offer the umbrella and political support to those terrorists to… destabilize Syria.”

The latest remarks by the Syrian president come at a time when the anti-Syria Western regimes have been calling for Assad to step down.

Russia and China remain opposed to the Western drive to oust the Syrian president.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on June 30 that Assad “will still have to go.”


The New York Times published a report on June 21, quoting some US and Arab intelligence officials as saying that a group of “CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey” and that the agents are helping the anti-Syria governments decide which terrorists inside the Arab country will “receive arms to fight the Syrian government.”

President Assad said on June 3 that Syria is “facing a war from abroad,” and that attempts are being made to “weaken Syria, [and] breach its sovereignty.”


Former Lebanese President Amine Pierre Gemayel says instability in Syria serves the interests of Israel, Press TVreports.

In an exclusive interview with Press TV on Thursday, Gemayel said that some Arab states in the Persian Gulf are supporting armed gangs(TERRORISTS) in Syria to undermine the Syrian-Iranian alliance and serve Israel’s interests.

“We all know about the Syrian-Iranian alliance and we all know that there are some Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, which are at odds with Iran and maybe these factors encourage these Arab countries” to support the anti-government armed gangs in Syria, he noted.

“Israel has an interest in the deteriorating situation in Syria and in exhausting Syria. The more exhaustion in Syria, the more it serves Israel’s interests. The more destruction in Syria, the more Syria’s capabilities in confronting Israel are exhausted. This is…a victory for Israel…without suffering any losses,” the former president added.


Russia has said it is not propping up Assad and would accept his exit from power in a political transition decided by the Syrian people, but that his exit must be a precondition and he must not be pushed out by external forces.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army launched a threatened counter-offensive against rebel fighters in Aleppo on Saturday, pouring troops into the southwest of the commercial hub, a human rights group said.

The reinforcements, which have been massing over the past two days, “have moved on the Salaheddin district, where the largest number of rebel fighters are based,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

When the great orchestras of Europe glide through the United States on tour, they stay at elegant hotels like Le Parker Meridien near Carnegie Hall, play in grand spaces like Symphony Hall in Boston and can receive more than $100 a day in meal money.

Then there is the Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra.

On their nine-week tour, these Muscovites are slogging to Ashland, Ky.; Quincy, Ill.; and Zanesville, Ohio, often riding buses for up to seven hours, moving from highway to budget hotel to concert hall, and then all over again the next morning. They have a day off every two weeks, on average.
The pay? About $40 a concert in most cases, the musicians said. Per diems? Zero, making “breakfast included” the sweetest of words. The bus drivers often stop at malls to let them shop for food at a Wal-Mart. Many of them double up in hotel rooms.
“Musicians are human beings too, and they should be treated like humans,” one disgusted musician wrote in an e-mail message. Like most of the orchestra members who were contacted, this one spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing being blacklisted from future jobs.
The conditions are tough — akin to the grinding travel of low-level minor league baseball teams or striving rock bands or the barnstorming jazz orchestras of yore — and a little unexpected for a group of highly trained classical musicians. Yet they are not uncommon.
Performing arts centers and concert halls in smaller cities and towns around the country are hungry for classical music programming. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra or Berlin Symphony is well beyond their means. So lesser known, and lower priced, foreign orchestras provide a solution.
Presenters on the Moscow orchestra’s tour said it cost from $50,000 to $75,000 to engage it, compared to $100,000 and up for a well known orchestra, or twice that for one of the elite, like the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonic.
Foreign orchestras, no matter the level, provide a lure of the exotic.

“There’s a cachet there,” said Wesley O. Brustad, the president and chief executive of the State Theater in New Brunswick, N.J. “American orchestras are tough to sell,” he said. They are also more expensive because of union rules. As a bonus, presenters of foreign groups benefit from a built-in audience: ethnic groups that live in the area. Russians are especially enthusiastic concertgoers.
The State Theater played host to the Muscovites on Feb. 14, a day after they performed at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where the musicians plowed through a preconcert buffet.

“It’s not the best orchestra in the world,” Mr. Brustad said. “The winds were a little weak.” But the musicians played with emotion, he said. (When told the Moscow players generally made $40 for the concert, Mr. Brustad said: “Oh, my goodness. No kidding. Wow. I had no idea.”)
The Moscow State Radio Symphony’s biography says it was founded in 1978 to give broadcast performances. It toured the United States once before, in 2004, and has made recent trips to China and Italy. It has made several dozen recordings, including a number for the Naxos label.
Anatoli Nemudrov, the orchestra’s artistic director, declined to discuss financial arrangements, saying they were confidential. But, he noted, touring “is hard work for all musicians, Russians and Americans.” He said the tour had been going well, adding, “We have good concerts.”
The producer of the tour, Andrew S. Grossman of Columbia Artists Management, did not respond to phone messages left at his office, on his cellphone and with his assistant, and did not respond to an e-mail query.

The Columbia Artists chairman, Ronald A. Wilford, said he was not familiar with the details of the contract. But he said that typically Columbia Artists, as a producer, receives fees from the presenters, who keep the box office receipts. Columbia Artists arranges travel inside the country and lodging, and guarantees the orchestra a set fee. “We have no idea what they’re paying their orchestra,” Mr. Wilford said of Moscow State Radio Symphony’s management.
The orchestra began its latest American tour on Jan. 13, when it arrived in Atlanta, and is due in St. Louis on Wednesday. After an original itinerary of 53 concerts in 67 days, it leaves from Los Angeles on March 22. The trip began in the deep South, worked its way north, swung through southern New England, is now in the Midwest and heads out to Arizona, Nevada and California.
On Feb. 17 the tour brought the group to Worcester, Mass. This season’s schedule of the presenter there, Music Worcester, also includes the Odessa Philharmonic, the Orquestra de São Paulo, the Shanghai Symphony and I Musici de Montréal.

“It was an all-Tchaikovsky program, which is a win-win to begin with,” Stasia Hovenesian, the executive director of Worcester Music, said of the Moscow group’s appearance. “No one but no one plays Tchaikovsky as well as the Russians do.”
And Russians they are, including conductor and soloists (except for several last-minute American substitutes). Whether they were actually members of the Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra is another question. A half-dozen players interviewed said they were students or freelancers hired for the tour. One musician who did allow his name to be used, Vladimir Prikhodko, a double bassist, estimated that only about 20 to 30 players in the 90-piece group were full-time members.
Mr. Nemudrov, the artistic director, said that only about a half-dozen were not regulars.
On Feb. 21 the orchestra played a concert at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx. Eva Bornstein, the center’s executive director, introduced it as “one of the finest orchestras of Europe.”

A few days before the Lehman concert a Russian mechanical engineer living in Manhattan, Sergei Levitan, contacted The New York Times to denounce what he said was mistreatment of the players. He said he knew several through mutual friends. “It’s demeaning,” he said of the conditions. “I got upset.”
After the Lehman concert a player said he grew dizzy and tumbled over a railing into a stairwell, cracking his skull. The player was interviewed by telephone at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where he was admitted with a head injury.
The conditions are “very bad,” said another member. “I wouldn’t do this trip again. They should pay us at least twice as much,” the player said. Others lamented that they had come to see the United States but had little opportunity. Several said that a kindly bus driver had taken them into New York on a day off while they were staying in New Jersey.

Rehearsals are relentless even though they are not paid for, some musicians said, but pride in their craft pushed them to attend anyway.
Others welcomed the chance to gain concert experience, and said that the money was not bad by Russian standards. Mr. Prikhodko, 31, the double bass player, called the tour a “difficult experience, but a very useful one.” Besides, he added, “I like traveling.”
The e-mailing orchestra member, in a separate interview at Lehman, acknowledged that the performance level was not the highest. “There’s a direct relationship between how we play and how much we get paid,” he said. As for the rigors of the tour, he shrugged them off.
“I am strong man, and I am Russian,” he said. “So I can do this.”

By DANIEL J. WAKIN -NYT (March 4, 2010)

NOT long ago, Yelena S. Chizhova was engaged in what has become a standard winter pastime for Russia’s middle class: taking the sun at a giant resort hotel in Egypt. She and a girlfriend, who also grew up in St. Petersburg, joined the river of people flowing into the warehouse-size dining hall, its tables heaped with steaming meat and pastries.

And then something passed over them like a shadow. The women felt so uneasy that they had to step away for a moment, and Ms. Chizhova asked her friend what she was thinking about. But she did not need to ask. What the two women had in common was relatives who starved in the 872-day siege of Leningrad, as St. Petersburg was then known, when army engineers set off explosives in the fields and shoveled corpses into the craters.
For a moment, Ms. Chizhova had the strange feeling that she was seeing the piles of food through the eyes of her dying relatives. Born in 1958, she learned the official version of the siege from Soviet textbooks, which cast it as a patriotic triumph. The truly terrible facts sifted down to her when she eavesdropped on her mother and great-grandmother, who lost most of their family in the siege, as they talked quietly over cups of tea.
These snatches of conversation are at the core of her novel, “Time of Women,” which won last year’s Russian Booker Prize, the country’s most prestigious literary award. Ms. Chizhova tells the story of three elderly women raising a small girl in a communal apartment in the early 1960s, where the ordinary business of dishes and laundry is interrupted by memories of purges and famine.

It is an earthbound and frankly emotional novel, especially in a literary scene long dominated by the cerebral trickery of postmodernism. Ms. Chizhova is hoping that Russian artists are ready — finally — to address the good and evil of the Soviet past. Under Brezhnev, people averted their eyes from that past out of fear; under Vladimir V. Putin, she said, it was replaced by apathy. “For the vast majority of people, it simply is not interesting,” said Ms. Chizhova, 52, who smokes and talks with the energy of a coiled spring. “They do not have the feeling that history continues. It seems to them that in the 1990s, we just started over. As if we were all born then.”

But St. Petersburg is a city where blotting out history is difficult. Ms. Chizhova’s mother watched two brothers die of hunger while profiteers were taking fistfuls of gold jewelry in exchange for bread. Her father was forced into a detachment of irregular fighters who were sent against German tanks in groups of five, provided with only one rifle. Neither would have dreamed of explaining this to their daughter. But Ms. Chizhova’s great-grandmother was different; she turned over the memories absently, almost as if she was talking to herself. When Ms. Chizhova, then 5, recited a poem about cannibals in Africa, her great-grandmother explained matter-of-factly how the starving residents of Leningrad resorted to eating bodies.
“I would ask, ‘Where did they get it?’ ” Ms. Chizhova said. “For me it was like a fairy tale. She said some of them bought it in the market, thinking it was just meat. And then she would explain that when she worked in the hospital, they would store the bodies near the hospital gates, and by the time they went home in the evening, some of the soft parts were cut off.
“She would talk about that calmly,” she said. “And I heard it calmly.”

THOUGH the conversations stopped abruptly when Ms. Chizhova turned 6, they had already engraved something on her. When her teachers told her, “All Leningrad, like one person, stood in defense of the city,” her private thought was: It was a crime not to evacuate the children. And 40 years later, the insistent voices of old women began to declaim in Ms. Chizhova’s head, and she sat down to write a novel.
A slender 95 pages, told in a sometimes cryptic stream of conversation, “Time of Women” was not favored to win the Booker Prize, and some critics dripped contempt. Summing up the books of the year for the magazine Literaturnaya Rossiya, Kirill Ankudinov sneered at “literature sitting on grandmother’s trunk and becoming drunk on memories of how well people behaved under Brezhnev,” and Yevgeny Yermolin bemoaned the popularity of “cemetery erotica.”
There is no question that the past is exerting a pull on Russian art. All the novels short-listed for the prize vibrated with the feel of the 20th century, noted Elena Dyakova, a critic at the newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

“AFTER the period of post-modernism, people are searching for some moral bearings, and it’s easiest to find that in the lives of your own grandmothers,” she said. “Theoretically, we consider that there are no decent people in Russia, but empirically, we can show that they used to exist, in any case.”
So it is with Ms. Chizhova’s fictional grandmothers, hardly dissident types, who find themselves at war with the Soviet system as they struggle to keep the girl, Sonia, who is mute, out of a state home for the handicapped. At a moment of despair, knowing too well the bleak life that awaits Sonia in state custody, one of them tries to prepare her.
“You may be locked up and we may not be allowed to see you,” the grandmother whispers fiercely to the girl. “You will have to manage alone. But you should know — wherever you are locked up — I am with you. Any day I am outside the fence. I will keep walking as long as God gives me life. You may not see me, but you should remember — my granny is there.”

Last month, Ms. Chizhova was still adjusting to her victory, raising her eyebrows when a stranger called to invite her to join his literary circle. (“Now that I have won a prize,” she remarked dryly, “it seems I have changed a great deal.”) As the Soviet Union began to fall, she bounced from an economics department — her thesis was on regulated costs in machine-tool building enterprises — to English instruction to the wobbly business world of the 1990s. The last bounce took place on a burning cruise ship off the coast of Turkey, when she spent six hours shut in her cabin, waiting to see if help would come.
“I sat by myself and tried to answer the question of what would be better — to explode or to throw myself into the sea,” said Ms. Chizhova, who is married and has two grown daughters. “I understood that I had done a lot in my life, but none of it was right. And when we were saved, I decided to throw it all away and sit and write.”

That was 1996. Since then she has written for six hours a day without weekends or vacations, producing five novels, three of them finalists for the Booker Prize. It is not surprising, given this, that she speaks about her work with moral urgency. History repeats itself in Russia, she said, the same evils appear in new guises, and failing to study it means repeating terrible mistakes. But her tone softens and blurs when she is asked whether her novel is political.
“If I am honest, I wrote it for those who died,” she said. “I wrote it for them. I was speaking with them. I always had the feeling that they were listening to me.”

By ELLEN BARRY-NYT (ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, March 5, 2010)

BEREZNIKI, Russia — In late October, one of Vladimir V. Putin’s top lieutenants abruptly summoned a billionaire mining oligarch to a private meeting. The official, Igor I. Sechin, had taken a sudden interest in a two-year-old accident at the oligarch’s highly lucrative mining operations here in Russia’s industrial heartland.

Mr. Sechin, who is a leader of a shadowy Kremlin faction tied to the state security services, said he was ordering a new inquiry into the mishap, according to minutes of the meeting. With a deputy interior minister who investigates financial crime at his side, Mr. Sechin threatened crippling fines against the company, Uralkali.
Startled, the oligarch, Dmitri E. Rybolovlev, pointed out that the government had already examined the incident thoroughly and had cleared the company of responsibility.
He further sought to fend off the inquiry by saying he would pay for some of the damage to infrastructure from the accident, a mine collapse that injured no one but left a gaping sinkhole.
His offer was rebuffed, and it seemed clear why: the Kremlin was maneuvering to seize Uralkali outright.
Mr. Putin, the former president and current prime minister, has long maintained that Russia made a colossal error in the 1990s by allowing its enormous reserves of oil, gas and other natural resources to fall into private hands.
He has acted uncompromisingly — most notably in the case of the Yukos Oil Company in 2003 — to get them back.
Now, the Kremlin seems to be capitalizing on the economic crisis, exploiting the opportunity to establish more control over financially weakened industries that it has long coveted, particularly those in natural resources.
Last month, for example, the government assumed greater influence over Norilsk Nickel, the world’s biggest nickel producer, whose large shareholders, two billionaire oligarchs, have ailing finances. And Mr. Putin said Thursday that he was considering other such interventions.
Yet the Uralkali affair stands out for illustrating with rare clarity the willingness of the authorities to use whatever means necessary to obtain these assets, including subjecting companies to questionable investigations that they have little chance of resisting, financial analysts here say.
At the forefront of these efforts is Mr. Sechin, 48, a deputy prime minister who has been a Putin confidant since the two served in the St. Petersburg city government in the early 1990s. Mr. Sechin almost never gives interviews or speaks publicly, but he is believed to spearhead the use of the secret services and other government arms to capture companies.
“He is the state’s main raider,” said Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a prominent Kremlin expert at the Center for the Study of Elites in Moscow. “He organizes these raider seizures, sometimes to the benefit of the state, or sometimes to the benefit of companies that are friendly to him.”
Mr. Sechin’s role in the Uralkali inquiry immediately caused analysts and investors to presume that the company was in peril. Uralkali’s stock, once highly prized by fund managers, has plunged more than 60 percent since the inquiry began, far more than the broader Russian stock market.
That has caused steep losses for Mr. Rybolovlev, 42, a former medical student who is known as Russia’s fertilizer king because of his dominance of the business of mining potash, a principal fertilizer component. Last June, when Uralkali was soaring, the otherwise low-key Mr. Rybolovlev attracted attention by buying Donald J. Trump’s mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., for $95 million.
The Kremlin has not said when there will be a decision on Uralkali, and the company is hoping to negotiate a settlement that would include a fine of a few hundred million dollars. Analysts emphasized that there was still a chance that Mr. Sechin might pull back after seeing the stock market react so hostilely to the inquiry.

Developments in the overall economy might also give the Kremlin pause. A growing recognition of its outsize influence over business appears to have helped sour the investment climate here, and suggests in part why the Russian stock market has been among the worst performers in the world this year.
Widespread corruption has deepened this mistrust. So it is perhaps not surprising that the Uralkali affair has been marked by what appears to be insider trading.
Around the time of the meeting called by Mr. Sechin on Oct. 29 in Moscow, there was a sharp spike in short selling in Uralkali’s stock on the London Stock Exchange — that is, bets that the stock would fall, according to Data Explorers, an analytical firm that studied the securities data at the request of The New York Times. The meeting itself was not made public until Nov. 7, at which point the stock plummeted.
Mr. Sechin would not comment on the investigation, but a spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Mr. Sechin’s reputation was not warranted. “The press sometimes has a tendency to demonize people,” Mr. Peskov said.
Last month, a first deputy prime minister, Igor I. Shuvalov, dismissed concerns about the government’s intent.
“No one is going to destroy the company — we need strong business units,” Mr. Shuvalov said. “If after payments the company goes bankrupt, that won’t stop the government. A new owner will be found for Uralkali.”
With the financial crisis jolting economies around the world, Russia is hardly alone in taking ownership stakes in corporations these days. But many governments seem to view this as an uncomfortable role that has been thrust upon them. Russia’s rulers, however, appear to perceive the crisis as a chance to further expand their control over the economy, concentrating ever more power and wealth in the Kremlin.
“We will put capital directly into major companies, in cases when it would be beneficial to the state and eventually to the taxpayer, and in those enterprises that are the basis of the economy of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Putin said in a television appearance on Thursday. “We do not exclude that these tools may be used in a large-scale way.”
What seems to have drawn the Russian leadership’s attention to Uralkali was its impressive balance sheet, which expanded robustly over the last year as the prices of food and commodities shot up. Its revenues swelled to $1.1 billion in the first half of 2008, double the level in the same period the year before. Its profits more than tripled to $550 million.
With that kind of cash flow, the company was better able to ward off any fines and penalties the Kremlin could reasonably levy. But as its revenues have dropped because of the downturn, Uralkali has become more vulnerable.
Russians undoubtedly have ambivalent feelings about oligarchs like Mr. Rybolovlev. They tend to resent the oligarchs’ wealth, believing that it was accumulated through underhanded means in the 1990s. (Mr. Rybolovlev himself was accused of orchestrating the killing of a rival back then, though he was cleared of the charges.)
But they also worry that government officials want to seize these assets for their own venal purposes, and that they will end up mismanaging them, just as in Soviet times.
Here in Berezniki, 750 miles northeast of Moscow in the Ural Mountains, the new investigation has stirred anxiety among some miners, who said in interviews that they would fear lower salaries if the government took the company.
Federal officials have already aroused resentment here among residents who had to move after the 2006 mine accident into new, government-built homes that they said were shoddy.
Vladimir Smirnoff, 48, who drives a transporter in the mine, said workers did not understand the need for the inquiry, given that the earlier one had absolved the company.
The first government inquiry concluded that the mine collapse, which happened with enough warning that all the miners escaped, was caused by “a previously unknown geological anomaly.”
“It seems to us that the authorities simply want to take the company away from Rybolovlev,” Mr. Smirnoff said. “The authorities just can’t watch all that money pass them by.”
Mr. Rybolovlev and other Uralkali executives declined to be interviewed for this article.
The company said last month that “there are no legal or moral grounds” for blaming it for the accident. It said that if the new inquiry found Uralkali responsible, “it will suffer an enormous financial burden. The company’s future and plans would be in doubt.”
Uralkali fears that officials will seek compensation equal to future taxes and fees that the company would have paid to the government if the section of the mine that collapsed had continued operating, a penalty that could amount to well over $1 billion.
The new investigation carries echoes of the case that has come to define Mr. Putin’s tenure — the government’s forcible takeover of Yukos, once the country’s biggest oil company. Mr. Sechin is said to have led that case, and now also serves as chairman of Rosneft, the government-controlled oil company that swallowed up many of Yukos’s assets.
“The Uralkali case says that the government feels it has the power to interfere in any way in these industries,” said Marina Alexeenkova, a vice president at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank in Moscow. “It looks really aggressive and really risky. In general, this has been considered the most serious attack on a company since Yukos.”
The government imprisoned Yukos’s owner — the billionaire oligarch Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, who had angered Mr. Putin by engaging in politics — on tax charges. It does not appear that Mr. Rybolovlev will suffer a similar punishment.
Like many oligarchs who have heeded Mr. Khodorkovsky’s example, Mr. Rybolovlev has backed the Kremlin, and has spurned pleas for financial support from opposition politicians here in the Perm region.
As the inquiry continued last week, the government sent conflicting signals about its course. It said Wednesday that investigators would need at least two more weeks before forwarding their report to Mr. Sechin, dimming Uralkali’s quest for a settlement. The next day, the natural resources minister, Yuri P. Trutnev, a close friend of Mr. Rybolovlev’s, publicly supported the company. He is not directly involved in the new inquiry, though, and analysts discounted the importance of his statement.
Investigators are now said to be examining whether Uralkali should pay for rerouting 30 miles of railroad track around the sinkhole, as well as for reimbursing the government for resettling people and other costs. But their primary objective is to scrutinize the accident itself and decide whether the company was at fault, which could expose it to heavy penalties.
Here in Berezniki, though, people seem confused about how the investigators are going to do that. It turns out that the part of the mine that collapsed is now completely filled with water, preventing anyone from getting anywhere close to it.

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY, December 8, 2008

MOSCOW — Russia continued its international muscle-flexing on Friday, strengthening its ties to Venezuela through a $1 billion military loan and a new oil consortium as it announced an upgrade of its own military focusing on nuclear deterrence and permanent combat readiness.

After a military exercise on Friday in the southern city of Orenburg, near the border with Kazakhstan, the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, declared that by 2020 Russia would construct new types of warships, including nuclear submarines carrying cruise missiles and an unspecified air and space defense system.

The moves point to continuing tension between Russia and the West after the five-day war in Georgia. Response in Washington was muted, as officials weighed whether the moves were merely a restatement of existing initiatives or should be interpreted as one early sign of a new, if slow-motion, arms race. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with Reuters: “The balance of power in terms of nuclear deterrence is not going to be affected by those measures.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference that his Russian counterparts had in the past made it “very clear to me that their intention was to modernize their strategic forces.” The current plans, he said, are consistent with Russian policy going “as far back as a couple of years.”

But the war in Georgia has clearly reordered priorities. With Europe and the United States united in condemnation of Russia’s military actions, Russian leaders began reaching out to countries like Venezuela, which are eager to provide a counterweight to United States power. On Thursday, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, arrived on his second visit here.

On Friday, Mr. Medvedev said the conflict also proved “the acuteness” of Russia’s need to modernize its military. Defense spending will increase by 26 percent next year, bringing it to 1.3 trillion rubles ($50 billion), its highest level since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Just recently we have had to rebuff an aggression by the Georgian regime and, as we found, a war can flare up suddenly and can be absolutely real,” he said. “Local, smoldering conflicts, which are sometimes even called ‘frozen conflicts,’ will turn into a real military conflagration.”

The conflict in Georgia flared on the night of Aug. 7, when Georgia ordered an attack against Russian-backed separatists in South Ossetia. In response, Russia sent troops flooding over its border and deep into Georgia. Russia has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a second separatist enclave, as sovereign states and plans to defend their borders.

The conflict revealed serious weaknesses in Russian military readiness. Georgian air defenses shot down at least six Russian jets, pointing to poor maintenance and inadequate training. Russians took losses because they lacked air cover as they entered South Ossetia, and a Russian general, apparently operating without sufficient intelligence, was wounded when he led a column into Georgian ambush.

By 2020, Mr. Medvedev said, Russia will shore up nuclear deterrents like nuclear submarines armed with cruise missiles and a combined air-space defense system.

In the same period, he said, the Russian armed forces will be upgraded to a state of “permanent combat readiness.” He said Russia would also improve military training and research.

“We should seek superiority in the air, in carrying out precision strikes against ground and sea targets, and in the prompt redeployment of forces,” he said, according to a statement on the Kremlin’s Web site.

Aleksandr Golts, an independent Russian military analyst, said the announcement conveyed a clear message, both to Russians and foreigners: that Russia “has risen from its knees.”

“Russia wants to behave as a great power,” he said.

“I have to agree with Mr. Gates, your defense secretary, who said that the existing Russian armed forces are only a shadow of the Soviet ones,” he said.

At a meeting with Mr. Chávez, Mr. Medvedev agreed to a form a Russian-Venezuelan energy consortium that would share resources to produce and sell oil and gas. Russian companies are already at work exploring oil fields in Venezuela, but the agreement will allow them to expand their reach into more areas, including fields in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Mr. Chávez described the agreement as “a colossus being born.”

(President Hugo Chávez, holding a replica Russian Tu-160 long-range bomber, and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin in Orenburg, Russia)

More cooperative efforts are in the works: On Thursday, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin said Russia would consider working with Venezuela to build nuclear power facilities. Mr. Chávez said he would like to see the two countries join forces to create a Russian-Venezuelan bank, and the two countries are planning joint large-scale naval exercises in late November.

Mr. Chávez reaffirmed his support for Russia’s military campaign in South Ossetia, saying Venezuelans were “well aware of the reasons behind the conflict — who attacked the people of South Ossetia and how.” He also passed on greetings from President Raúl Castro of Cuba, whom he recently met in Havana, and from the Chinese president, Hu Jintao.

Admiral Mullen, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, played down the joint efforts. Russia and Venezuela, he said, have the right to work together “if they see fit.”

Some White House officials have privately urged a more punitive response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia, but Ms. Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have urged a calm and deliberate response as being less likely to escalate tensions. That strategy has been adopted by the Bush administration.

In another assertion of its international role, Russia sent a warship, the Neustrashimy, from a port on the Baltic Sea to the coast of Somalia, in response to the capture by pirates of a Ukrainian vessel bound for Kenya on Thursday.

On board the vessel were 33 T-72 tanks, grenade launchers and ammunition, the Ukrainian defense minister, Yuriy Yekhanurov, said at a news briefing, according to Interfax. Mr. Yekhanurov said the arms were sold legally, and were headed for the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

Most likely the ship will not arrive in time to participate in any operation to retake the hijacked Ukrainian vessel. But a Russian Navy spokesman, Igor Dygalo, said Russia will occasionally patrol waters where piracy is a danger.

Iran Resolution Is Shaped

UNITED NATIONS — The foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus that of Germany, agreed Friday on a draft resolution on Iran’s nuclear program.

The new resolution came after Russia earlier in the week rejected the need for a group meeting over Tehran’s program.

The sparse, two paragraph text called on Iran to comply with previous resolutions instructing it to suspend uranium enrichment, but it included no new sanctions.

The ministers said the measure signaled that they were united in pressing Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The foreign ministers did not meet officially, but a consensus emerged during sideline discussions that Iran should not be left with the impression that squabbling over Georgia meant the six were divided on the nuclear issue.

Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said he agreed to the new resolution because it reinforced the idea that despite their differences on the method to reach an agreement with Iran, “Nobody will have any doubt that the six are united in their goal.” Russia still opposed new sanctions, he said.

The five permanent members of the Council are the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that she still hoped that some officials in the Iranian government would prefer a negotiated settlement to further isolation for Iran.

Diplomats said the resolution could come to a vote in the Security Council as early as Saturday.

By ELLEN BARRY (NYT; September 27, 2008)

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