Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Ingushetia abuses 'may spark war' (BBC)

Russia's southern republic of Ingushetia is verging on civil war, a human rights group says, accusing officials of state-sponsored terror.

The Moscow Helsinki Group says the federal authorities in the Caucasus republic are engaged in kidnappings, torture and extra-judicial killings.

The authorities say they are fighting a war against terrorism.

Attacks against security forces - often carried out by Islamist militants - have intensified in Ingushetia.

Violence in the predominantly Muslim republic started during the war in neighbouring Chechnya in the late 1990s, when armed separatists began attacking government targets.

Full story by BBC - Ingushetia abuses 'may spark war' - 23 September 2008

Russia, Georgia and the EU (Lord Soley)

Copy of blog post from LORD OF THE BLOG by Lord Soley of Hammersmith:
Monday, September 01, 2008
Russia, Georgia and the EU

The EU summit on Russia and Georgia will be a very important one. I'm sure Russia feels resentment about the way the EU and NATO are encroaching on what they see as their sphere of influence. It is also possible to understand Russian resentment about their loss of power and influence since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It also seems likely that Georgia made a critical error in resorting to force against the Russian minority even if they had been provoked by Russian encouragement of the minority. None of this should detract from the criticism of Russia. Its response was designed as a warning to the EU and NATO. The implications however go well beyond that. If countries like the Ukraine and Georgia are not going to be allowed by Russia to elect to join NATO and the EU then they become buffer states between the EU and Russia. Hardly desirable by them and not good for future relations between Russia and Europe.

Russian nationalism has always been strong. Based on the anger about past failures it is particularly strong now. With the use of Polonium 210 to poison Litvinenko, the treatment of the British Council and BP and the attacks on journalism not to mention the dependence of Europe on Russian energy you have to be worried!

The EU is an emerging super power. Russia is a collapsed super power trying to restore its position in the world. This is a recipe for confrontation that we need to resolve sooner rather than later.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Financial crisis in Russia raises stakes for Putin - Fiscal test is nation's gravest since '98

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's success, driven by soaring oil prices and consolidation over government and media, has been diminished in the wake of a market failure that has plummeted further and faster than any other troubled market in the world. Putin, Russia's former president who is given credit for delivering the nation from economic standstill in 1998, faces the present financial crisis with no debt, a massive surplus, and vast holdings in foreign currencies.

Full report by Philip P. Pan, Washington Post Foreign Service, Sunday, September 21, 2008 (hat tip UN Wire - Russian financial crisis tests Putin's rule)

Pakistani militant group, Fidayeen-e-Islam, says it carried out attack on Islamabad Marriott - Possibly an assassination attempt - (Update 1)

A little known Pakistani militant group, Fidayeen-e-Islam, says it carried out Saturday's attack on the Islamabad Marriott.

Source: BBC report September 22, 2008 Militants claim Marriott attack
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From Channel 4 Snowmai 22 September 2008 - report by Alex T:

Pakistan continues to dominate the agenda with an official from the country’s interior ministry now saying that the prime minister, president and many of the country’s leaders were due at the Marriott hotel around the time that it was bombed yesterday. They made a late switch to another venue, he says.

So it rather begins to look as if the bomb were some kind of assassination attempt and if so, that the news of that meeting leaked out. In the end the plans changed at the last moment, either by coincidence or as a security ploy.

And the violence, of course, has not stopped at the door of the Marriott. It was never going to. An Afghan diplomat is reported as kidnapped this morning in Peshawar, not so far from Islamabad itself.

There are reports of gun battles there. British Airways continues to suspend flights to Islamabad. Equally the Pakistani army has fired on US helicopters attempting to enter Pakistan in hot pursuit of Washington’s “war on terror”.

Islamabad as ever is caught on the horns of the familiar dilemma: the need to stand up to Uncle Sam wanting to attack Pakistan as he sees fit and the imperative to try to do something about the Pakistani Taliban. Thus far Pakistan is failing to resolve this war, as surely as the USA is struggling to make headway in Afghanistan.

Once more Pakistan itself gives the impression of somehow teetering on the edge. But however much she teeters in these crises, she does not fall. And I doubt she will this time either.

At the time of sending the FTSE-100 index was: 5281.47
The US Dollar to Sterling was: 1.84615
The Euro to Sterling was: 1.25955

Online: Watch Channel 4 News video reports - subscribe to RSS feeds, podcasts and mobile phone bulletins
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From The Scotsman
Pakistan's leaders 'had been due to dine in bomb hotel'
Published Date: 23 September 2008
Report by Nahal Toosi in Islamabad
PAKISTAN'S leaders had been due to dine at the luxury hotel devastated by a truck bomb but changed the venue at the last minute, a government official said yesterday.
Asif Ali Zardari, the president, and Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, were among those who switched their Saturday night meal from the Marriott Hotel to the premier's residence, according to Rehman Malik, of the interior ministry.

He said the reason for their decision was kept secret.

"Perhaps, the terrorists knew that the Marriott was the venue of the dinner for all the leadership where the president, prime minister, speaker and all entire leadership would be present," Mr Malik said.

"At the 11th hour, the president and prime minister decided that the venue would be the prime minister's house. It saved the entire leadership."

However, a spokesman for the hotel owner said it had had no plans to host a dinner for government leaders. "We didn't have any reservation for such a dinner that the government official is talking about," Jamil Khawar said.

Saturday's blast at the Marriott in Islamabad killed at least 53 people and underscored the extremist challenge facing Pakistan, where Taleban and al-Qaeda militants are operating out of tribal regions close to Afghanistan.

The attack prompted foreign diplomatic missions and aid groups to review their security status, and British Airways said yesterday it was temporarily suspending its six flights a week to the country as a precautionary measure – it stressed it had faced no direct security threat.

After the blast, suspicion fell on al-Qaeda or the Pakistani Taleban. But Amir Mohammad, an aide to Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taleban leader, said he had not been involved and shared the nation's grief.

And last night, Arabiya television reported that a little-known Islamist group had claimed responsibility.

The group, which called itself Fedayeen Islam (Partisans of Islam), contacted Arabiya's correspondent in Islamabad and issued several demands, including for Pakistan to stop its co-operation with the United States, the TV station said.

Some 270 people were injured in the hotel attack, while the dead included the Czech ambassador to Pakistan and two employees of the US department of defence.

Most of the victims were Pakistanis, a fact that is likely to increase the pressure on the government to stem the rising violence in the Muslim nation that many blame on the country's partnership with the US in the "war on terror".

In a further sign of the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan, gunmen kidnapped Afghanistan's ambassador-designate and killed his driver in the main north-western city of Peshawar yesterday.

A spokesman for the Afghan mission in the city said Abdul Khaliq Farahi had been abducted as he travelled towards his home in the city. He gave no more details, but the kidnapping and killing were confirmed by the Afghan charge d'affaires in Islamabad, Majnoon Gulab.
Pakistan's leaders 'had been due to dine in bomb hotel'

Photo: This aerial photograph shows the extent of the devastation caused by the suicide truck bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad (The Scotsman)

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Dozens killed in suicide bombing of Islamabad hotel

Excerpt from Snowmail's Tomomail service courtesy of UK Channel 4 News, Saturday 20 September 2008 18:00 GMT:
A large bomb - looks like a suicide job but it’s not clear just now – has detonated outside the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

Looks like the hotel's going up in flames as I write. Already around 20 people confirmed killed but there will, I fear, be more by the time we are on air.

All this so soon after the new leader of the country pledges to crack down on Islamic militants (as all such leaders do) and crack down equally on America's new policy of bringing its war in Afghanistan into Pakistani sovereign territory in pursuit of its "war on terror".

What a position to be in. This hotel very much a prestige target in the country's seat of government. I've stayed there many times and I can tell from the area of blast damage that this was a very big blast indeed.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Four missiles fired by suspected US drones in Pakistan village

On Thursday, September 18, 2008, Aljazeera.net reported that suspected US drones have fired missiles at a village in Pakistan's South Waziristan province near the Afghan border, killing five people, officials said. Excerpt:
"Four missiles were fired by suspected US drones in Baghar Cheena area in the restive South Waziristan on Wednesday [September 17, 2008] evening," a senior security official said.

AFP news agency quoted an unidentified security official as saying that five people including foreigners were killed when the missiles hit a compound.

Baghar, a village in the mountains 55km west of Wana, the main town in the region, is close to Angor Adda, the border village that was raided by US commandos on September 3 [2008].

Another Pakistani official told Reuters that the strikes were the result of intelligence sharing between Pakistan and the US.

"It shows improving intelligence co-ordination on the ground," the official said.

US-Pakistan talks

The attacks came as Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, met General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s most senior army officer, and Yousuf Raza Gilani, the country's prime minister, in Islamabad on Wednesday [September 17, 2008] to pledge his "commitment to respect Pakistan's sovereignty".

A US embassy statement also said Mullen wants to "develop further US-Pakistani co-operation and co-ordination on these critical issues that challenge the security and well-being of the people of both countries".

Four missiles were fired by suspected US drones in Baghar Cheena, Pakistan

Photo: US Admiral Michael Mullen held talks with Pakistani PM and the army chief (EPA/Al Jazeera)

"The conversations were extremely frank, positive, and constructive," the US embassy said.

Mullen "appreciated the positive role that Pakistan is playing in the war on terror and pledged continued US support to Pakistan," the embassy statement said.

Sources say Pakistani officials told Mullen that unilateral cross-border raids by US ground forces based in Afghanistan would not deal a blow to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

"Such raids will be a setback to our efforts against the militants' network," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP news agency.

Border protection

Kayani had previously said that Pakistani armed forces would protect the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity "at all cost".

Major General Athar Abbas, a Pakistani military spokesman, said that Pakistan would seek to guard its borders.

"We have repeatedly said we will defend our territory and we reserve the right to retaliate in case of any aggression," Abbas said on Wednesday.

Robert Gates, the US defence minister, said in the Afghan capital Kabul that the US will co-operate with Pakistan in an attempt to crack down on Taliban and al-Qaeda bases in the border areas.

He said that recent Pakistani military operations against fighters in the tribal areas were encouraging.
Source: Aljazeera Thursday, September 18, 2008 - 'US missiles' hit Pakistan village

Sunday, 14 September 2008

US launches overt attacks on Pakistani territory

US President George W Bush gave secret order approving Pakistan ground raids. US forces told to conduct clandestine ground assaults in Pakistan.

Source: The Daily Telegraph September 12, 2008 08:47 afghanistan
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Pakistani fury as suspected US drone attack kills 12

Pakistan threatens to withdraw from Bush's 'war on terror' as a missile from a suspected US drone kills 12.

Source: The Daily Telegraph September 12, 2008 22:50 Mirans
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US takes big gamble in launching attacks on Pakistani territory

Copy of report from The Sunday Times September 14, 2008:
Playing with firepower
By Christina Lamb

The Americans picked an inauspicious day to open a new front in the war on terror. It was 4am on the third day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the villagers of Angoor Adda, a small Pakistani mountain town near the Afghan border, were lighting their stoves for breakfast before a long day of fasting.

Two US helicopters supported by a AC130 Spectre gunship landed close to the shrine of a local saint. Out jumped about three dozen heavily armed marines and Navy Seals from a crack unit called Detachment One. As they emerged from the churning dust onto the rock-strewn hills, they made for a terrifying sight in their night-vision goggles.

Within minutes the commandos had surrounded the mudwalled compound of Payo Jan Wazir, a 50-year-old woodcutter and cattle-herd. They believed an Al-Qaeda leader was hiding inside.

According to villagers, the troops burst in, guns blazing, killing Payo Jan, six children, two women and a male relation. Among the dead were a three-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, they said.

The gunfire brought neighbours running out of their homes. As people headed towards Payo Jan’s house to see what had caused the commotion, the commandos opened fire, killing 10 more villagers.

The Americans fanned out, conducting house-to-house searches, before jumping back into the gunships and off into the sky. Stunned villagers were left to carry away the bodies left in the street.

The first known American ground assault inside Pakistan had left 20 people dead. US officials claimed they were suspected Al-Qaeda fighters; the Pakistan government said they were innocent civilians.

What is not in doubt is that the attack provoked outrage in a country supposed to be America’s ally, which eight days ago completed its transition to democracy with the election as president of Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto.

After the long and deadly distraction of Iraq, the Pentagon has advanced into a new battlefield against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Beset by militant groups and possessed of the Islamic world’s only nuclear bomb, Pakistan is believed by many to be potentially even more dangerous. Others fear that putting soldiers’ boots on the ground in such a devastating fashion could only add to the problem.

THOSE involved in the war in Afghanistan have long been familiar with the name of Angoor Adda. The small town is in South Waziristan, one of seven federally administered tribal areas (known as Fata) that run in a strip along Pakistan’s 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan.

Originally created by the British to serve as a buffer between India and Afghanistan and stop the Russians reaching the warm water ports of the south, they are all inhabited by Pashtun tribes, the same ethnicity as the Taliban.

Because the British-drawn Durand line split tribes either side of the border, they have always been able to cross back and forth at will. Angoor Adda is one of the crossing points.

Militants have used this freedom of movement as a springboard for attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan and have found the tribal areas provide a safe haven. Under the Pashtun code of honour, hospitality must be given to those who seek it and it has long been believed this is where Osama Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, have found refuge.

Fata is now almost entirely controlled by the Pakistani Taliban militias who in turn provide protection to the Afghan Taliban and to Al-Qaeda. The area is fast becoming the principal global launching pad for terrorists.

“It’s like a terrorism super-market,” said one British military officer stationed in Pakistan. “It’s where you go to learn to make an IED [improvised explosive device] or be a suicide bomber.”

Under pressure from Washington to deal with these areas, in 2004 Pakistan sent in its own troops. Far from subjugating the tribes, the military lost more than 700 of its own men.

“We’re a conventional army set up and trained to fight one enemy – India,” said a retired general. “We are neither equipped nor skilled to fight an insurgency.”

Coalition soldiers across the border are also being killed in greater numbers. The US has lost 113 men in Afghanistan this year, the highest number since the invasion began in 2001 and already more than it lost last year.

“It’s becoming an increasing problem,” said Kurt Volker, the US ambassador to Nato. “The Taliban just go back to train, reboot and then they come back in across the border.”

The growing frustration among US commanders in Afghanistan coincided with what appears to be a new determination by George W Bush to find Bin Laden before his presidency ends in January.

“I know the hunt is on. They are pulling out all the stops,” said a US defence official. “They want to find Bin Laden before the president leaves office and ensure that Al-Qaeda will not attack the US during the upcoming elections.”

Both US and British special forces have been carrying out missions inside Pakistan since March this year following an agreement in January between Bush and Pervez Musharraf, then president of Pakistan.

In return, Pakistan’s military received £227m to upgrade its F-16 fighters. The deal explains why the Bush administration – and Whitehall – were so keen to keep Musharraf in office after elections in February in which the party he backed was defeated.

British troops from the Special Boat Service and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment have been working alongside the US Delta Force and the intelligence-gathering security coordination detachment.

Their missions have concentrated on surreptitious “special reconnaissance” operations designed to go undetected, a British source said. The only firepower has come from unmanned Predator spy planes.

“They are tracking the Taliban who are doing deals to get cash and weapons, looking where the opium is being traded and tracking the Taliban back looking for the leadership,” one British source said.

They have then guided the Predator to the targets so they can be tracked and attacked with Hellfire missiles.

The covert nature of the missions, with the troops staying clear of situations where they might get drawn into fire-fights, ensured they attracted little attention other than tribal villagers complaining about drones overhead.

In July all that changed. Pakistan’s new democratically elected government made its first visit to Washington. Instead of the congratulations and aid packages they expected, ministers received what they described as a “grilling” and left reeling at “the trust deficit” between Pakistan and its most significant financial backer.

Bush confronted Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, with evidence of involvement by its military intelligence (ISI) in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

“They were very hot on the ISI,” said Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister. “Very hot. When we asked them for more information, Bush laughed and said, ‘When we share information with your guys, the bad guys always run away.’ ”

While the talks were underway in Washington, Lieutenant-General Martin Dempsey, acting commander of US forces in southwest Asia, made an unannounced visit to Miranshah in North Waziristan and concluded the Pakistani effort was going nowhere.

Whether it was because of the worsening security situation, or in the hope of springing “an October surprise” in the form of Bin Laden’s head to boost the election chances of the Republican John McCain, Bush decided it was time to go beyond reconnaissance and tracking. In late July he issued a secret national security presidential directive authorising special forces to carry out ground operations inside Pakistan without its permission. Britain was not consulted about the directive.

“It’s a very close-hold programme with few cleared for access to the details,” said one US source. “The onus of the new presidential directive allows for ‘kinetic’ operations against targets on the HVT [high-value target] list.”

What it meant in practice was American boots on the ground. The question is whether they will bring gains or merely inflame the region.

CRITICS say “direct action” missions inside Pakistan such as that at Angoor Adda are bound to cause more damage than good.

“What have they gained out of this except animosity?” asked Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s high commissioner to London and one of Zardari’s closest advisers. “They have not killed or captured any prominent Al-Qaeda leader, but the collateral damage is responsible for hundreds of deaths and the reaction is being felt everywhere in the country.

“They’re playing into the hands of the people we’re supposed to be fighting.”

He insisted that Pakistan had responded to US demands for more aggressive action in the tribal areas and accused the US of jeopardising Pakistan’s hard-won new democracy.

“It seems no coincidence they do all this just as Zardari takes over. The Americans talk of wanting democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan yet here they have always supported military dictatorships. They must give us space.”

For once Pakistan’s military and civilians seem in agreement. General Ashfaq Kiyani, Pakistan’s army chief, warned that the armed forces would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs”.

The British voiced concerns that “killing groups of civilians and not killing high-level targets can only make the situation worse”, according to an official.

The US defended the raids. “We can hunt down and kill extremists as they cross over the border from Pakistan,” Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told a congressional committee last week. “But until we eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming.”

Another US attack took place on Friday, this time a missile directed against a former school in Miranshah being used as a base for a militant organisation. The front page of Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper yesterday accused the US of “mocking talk of sovereignty”.

Pakistan has again threatened to block off supply routes to Nato troops in Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is landlocked, about 85% of Nato supplies come in through the port of Karachi.

However, Washington appears to be gambling that Pakistan needs the US at least as much as the US needs Pakistan. Spiralling food and fuel prices have left Pakistan in its worst economic crisis in a decade and it is expected to have to resort to the International Monetary Fund. America has provided $12 billion in handouts to Islamabad over the past six years.

Sensing division between Whitehall and Washington over the new policy, Pakistan’s government has decided it will appeal to Britain.

Zardari flies to London today. It was supposed to be a private visit to take his daughter Bakhtawar to begin her degree at Edinburgh University. But because of the situation, he will hold meetings with Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the foreign secretary.

He told The Sunday Times last month that he felt Pakistan was being blamed for Nato’s failure in Afghanistan. “Okay, we’re really bad and done everything wrong this side of the border, but has Nato been able to control the situation with all its soldiers or come up with a proper Afghan army as yet?” he asked. “I’m not pointing fingers, just saying we’ve all come short of expectations.”

At the UN general assembly later this month he will call for an international conference on the issue. “Whatever medicine we’ve been using it hasn’t ended the poison, it’s made it worse,” he said.

“If the problem was two on a scale of one to 10, now it’s nine. I’m proposing to the world that we players should all get together and start a new dialogue. There needs to be trust.”

Additional reporting: Michael Smith; Sarah Baxter; Dean Nelson Editorial
Source: Timesonline.co.uk

Russia says Georgia would have been attacked even if it was in Nato

Russian president says 8/8, the day Russia invaded Georgia, had changed his country as much as 9/11 affected America.

Source: Telegraph September 12, 2008

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Russian ships in Syrian port soon

Russian Ships in Syrian Port Soon

September 13, 2008 //RPS Staff // - Three weeks after Assad visited Moscow in an attempt to bolster a new Cold war era, Itar-Tass, the Russian news agency announced yesterday that  it will station part of its Black Sea fleet in Tartous, in the Syrian coast of the Mediterranean.

Preparations at the port to welcome the ships have already started according to Itar-Tass. No mention of what types of ships will dock in Tartous or their load.

A warm water port has been a target of Russia going back to the Soviet Union. Unlike his father, who toyed with the idea as a playing card, Assad son, as he has shown he is capable with rash and impulsive decisions, has taken the plunge thus risking Syria’s future by framing its geography between two giants at odds in their foreign policy.

In an interview given to the Kommersant Russian newspaper prior to his meetings with Medevdev, Assad invited Russia to station its arsenal in Syria as a counter measure to the defense shield recently agreed upon between the United States and Poland. The US State Department was not happy by Assad’s interview and responded harshly to his lack of judgment.

Source: RPS Staff @ September 13, 2008

Friday, 12 September 2008

David Miliband subjected to 'F-word' tirade from Russian foreign minister

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, was subjected to a tirade of four-letter abuse when he spoke to his Russian counterpart over the country's invasion of Georgia.
From The Daily Telegraph
Friday 12 September 2008
By Andrew Porter, Political Editor

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, reacted with fury when Mr Miliband and he spoke on the telephone. Mr Lavrov objected to being lectured by the British.

Such was the repeated use of the "F-word" according to one insider who has seen the transcript, it was difficult to draft a readable note of the conversation.

One unconfirmed report suggested that Mr Lavrov said: "Who are you to f------ lecture me?"

He also asked Mr Miliband in equally blunt terms whether he knew anything of Russia's history.

One Whitehall insider said: "It was effing this and effing that. It was not what you would call diplomatic language. It was rather shocking."

The Foreign Secretary had been putting forward Britain and Europe's objections to the actions of Russia, which began when their tanks rolled into the breakaway region of South Ossetia last month. Mr Miliband has said that Europe should reassess its ties with Russia after its "aggressive" behaviour.

It is also understood that Mr Miliband was asked about Britain and America's invasion of Iraq, when Russian actions in Georgia were questioned, during the tense conversation that took place recently.

Sources at the Foreign Office confirmed there was swearing "but only from one side".

A spokesman for the Foreign Secretary said: "We do not discuss diplomatic conversations between foreign ministers."

Mr Lavrov, who was promoted under Vladimir Putin, has developed a reputation as the fearsome face of Russia's new aggressive foreign policy. When he held the position as Russia's man at the United Nations in New York he developed a reputation as fierce critic of other nations.

But Mr Miliband is unlikely to have experienced anything quite so bruising in his year as Foreign Secretary than being told some home truths by a grizzled veteran of the international scene. Even the slap down from MPs supporting Mr Brown after the Foreign Secretary's "leadership bid" article in July when he was accused of treachery, was not as bad.

Mr Lavrov has been highly critical of the way that the Russian move into Georgia has been portrayed by the West. He has criticised what he described as a "truly David and Goliath interpretation" of the conflict in which "the plucky republic of Georgia, with just a few million citizens, was attacked by its giant eastern neighbour".

It is not the first time Mr Miliband and his Russian counterpart have clashed. Last year, Mr Lavrov retaliated to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from London by closing British Council offices in Russia.

The Russians were ordered out of the country in the wake of the Russia's refusal to co-operate in the investigation into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in a London hotel in 2006.

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Thursday, 11 September 2008

Russian bombers land in Venezuela - Russian navy to visit Venezuela

Russian Tu-160 bombers land in Venezuela

Photo: The Tu-160s will stay for several days (BBC)

BBC report September 11, 2008 BBC:
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez says two Russian bombers have arrived in the country to carry out training flights.

The Russian Air Force said the bombers would be based in Venezuela for several days and fly over neutral waters.

Earlier this week Russia confirmed that it would send a Navy squadron and long- range patrol planes for joint exercises with Venezuela in November.

Mr Chavez has developed close relations with Moscow, including the purchase of Russian arms and co-operation on oil.

Hugo Chavez announced that two Tu-160 bombers would carry out manoeuvres, saying that it was part of a move towards a "multi-polar world".

"I'm going to fly one of those beasts," he joked.

"The Yankee hegemony is finished," he added.

A Russian defence ministry spokesman confirmed that the planes had flown to Venezuela, adding that they were escorted by Nato fighters as they flew across the Atlantic.

The planes are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, but the spokesman did not give any information about whether they were carrying arms during this mission.

President Chavez has backed Russia's military operations in Georgia, and said that he is interested in buying Russian submarines.
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Russian navy to visit Venezuela

Russian navy to visit Venezuela

Photo: Peter the Great is one of Russia's most prestigious warships (AP/BBC)

BBC report Monday, 8 September 2008:
The Russian navy has announced that some of its ships will visit Venezuela in November and may hold joint exercises in its territorial waters.

A senior Venezuelan naval official said earlier there were plans to hold exercises involving four Russian warships and 1,000 Russian troops.

Confirming a visit would be made, Russia said its ships would include the heavy cruiser Peter the Great.

Anti-submarine planes would also be sent to Venezuela temporarily, it said.

Correspondents say the move is likely to raise concern in the US, whose relations with Russia have been soured by Moscow's recent conflict in Georgia.

Washington already has rocky relations with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

Mr Chavez welcomed news of the Russian naval visit in his weekly broadcast. Referring to possible US concerns, he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: "Go ahead and squeal, Yankees."

In July, he called for a strategic alliance with Russia to protect Venezuela from the US.

Caracas and Moscow agreed to extend bilateral co-operation on energy, with three Russian energy companies to be allowed to operate in Venezuela.

'Great importance'

Confirming plans for the visit in November, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said it was not aimed against any third country.

Nor, he added, had it any connection to events in Georgia.

As well as the nuclear-powered Peter the Great, the Russian ships will include the anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko.

On Saturday, Venezuelan Rear Admiral Salbatore Cammarata Bastidas said Venezuelan aircraft and submarines would be involved in exercises with the Russians.

"This is of great importance because it is the first time it is being done [in the Americas]," he said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency and local media.

President Chavez supported Russia's intervention in Georgia last month and has accused Washington of being scared of Moscow's "new world potential".

In his weekly broadcast, Mr Chavez said: "Russia's naval fleet is welcome here. If it's possible, we'll stage an exercise in our Caribbean waters."
Source: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7602530.stm
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Russians to bring war games to Caribbean

Monday September 08, 2008
Los Angeles Times Service
BOGOTA -- The Venezuelan government confirmed Sunday that four Russian naval vessels will participate in joint exercises in the Caribbean this year, a move that could heighten already strained relations between Russia and the United States.

Venezuela's naval intelligence chief, Adm. Salbatore Cammarata Bastidas, said in a statement that a task force including four Russian naval vessels and 1,000 Russian military personnel would take part in mid-November exercises with Venezuelan frigates, patrol boats, submarines and aircraft.

The announcement came shortly after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned that NATO's deployment of several warships to the Black Sea in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Georgia last month would not go unanswered.

It was not immediately clear whether there was a connection between the two events.

The Russian agreement to send ships also could be seen as part of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's campaign to build up his military, an effort that includes arms deals, a proposed hemispheric South American Defense Council and a recent decree that gives his armed forces a greater role in carrying out his social agenda.

Chávez, a strident critic of the United States, has said the actions are to ward off what he has described as U.S. imperialist designs on Venezuela and other Latin American countries. He has long suspected that the United States supported a failed 2002 coup against him.

Chávez particularly is unhappy with the re-formation of the U.S. Fourth Fleet, based in Mayport, Fla., which has just begun patrolling the Caribbean after having been disbanded in 1953.
Source: www.miamiherald.com/news/5min/story/676508.html
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Vladimir Putin warns UK US over relations

Russia's relations with Britain will remain in deep freeze for as long as UK harbours regime opponents Vladimir Putin said.

Source: Telegraph September 11, 2008 17:58 diplomatic
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Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warns Poland over US antimissile shield

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has told his Polish counterpart that Moscow regards a US antimissile shield which Poland has agreed to host as a direct threat to Russian forces.

Source: Telegraph September 11, 2008 17:37 antimissle shield
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Russia will target American missile defense sites in Europe

From Alert 5 Military Aviation News, Wednesday, 10 September 2008:
A senior Russian general said Wednesday that Moscow could target the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic with ballistic missiles.

"I cannot exclude that if such decisions are taken by our top military-political leadership, the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and other such objects could be chosen as designated targets for some of our inter-continental ballistic missiles" Gen Nikolai Solovtsov said.
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Russia warning over missile sites

Russia sees the US missile defence in central Europe as a threat - September 10, 2008 BBC report:
A senior Russian general has warned that Moscow could target Poland if it goes ahead with plans to host parts of a US missile defence shield.

The commander of strategic missile forces, Gen Nikolai Solovtsov, said Russia could direct nuclear missiles against strategic targets in Poland.

Poland has signed a deal with the US to build and host 10 missile interceptors.

Russian officials have repeatedly voiced anger at the move, which they see as an effort to surround Russia.

"I cannot exclude that if such decisions are taken by our top military-political leadership, the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and other such objects could be chosen as designated targets for some of our inter-continental ballistic missiles,"; Gen Solovtsov said.

'Dangerous game'

He said that the country was obliged to do all it could do to "prevent, under any circumstances, the devaluing of Russia's nuclear deterrent".

The US says plans to locate the interceptor missiles in a former military base near Poland's Baltic Sea coast will protect both it and much of Europe against long-range missile attacks from what it calls "rogue elements" such as Iran.

But Russia sees the Polish missile defence sites as a direct threat, and part of an effort to encircle the country.

The general's warning comes ahead of a planned visit to Poland by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In comments published on Wednesday in the Polska newspaper, Mr Lavrov said in deciding to host the US missile defence system, Poland had become "an element of a very dangerous game" destabilising the military balance between Russia and the US.

Analysts said the deal was finally agreed after months of protracted negotiations following Russia's military intervention in neighbouring Georgia, which alarmed many former Soviet bloc countries.

As part of the deal, the US agreed to station a battery of Patriot missiles and US servicemen on Polish soil to bolster the country's short and medium-range air defences.
Source: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7608106.stm
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