Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Russian envoy held secret talks with South Sudan officials in Israel: report

Russian envoy held secret talks with South Sudan officials in Israel: report
Source: Sudan Tribune -
Date: Wednesday, 22 December 2010
December 21, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – A secret meeting was held last week in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv between the Russian envoy to Sudan, Mikhail Margelov, and officials from South Sudan, according to an Israeli media source.

Photo: Russia’s special envoy to Sudan, Mikhail Margelov, at the International ’Global Zero’ Summit Against Nuclear Weapons at Hotel Intercontinental on February 2, 2010 in Paris, France (Getty Images)

The IzRus website, a key Russian-language online outlet based in Israel, reported on 16 December that Margelov had absconded briefly in Tel Aviv, where he was on a six-day official visit, in order to meet representatives of South Sudanese government who were in Israel at the time.

According to the website, which is cited as one of Israel’s five leading Russian-language websites, Margelov skipped an appointment with Israeli foreign ministry officials in the morning of 16 December and went to meet south Sudanese officials.

The website, which is edited by Michael Falkov who previously served between 2003 and 2004 as a media advisor for Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, claimed that the covert meeting was related to the referendum vote on South Sudan independence.

The semi-autonomous region of South Sudan, where the majority of the population follows Christianity and traditional beliefs, is preparing to gain full independence from the largely Muslim-Arab north in a referendum vote set to take place in January, 9 2011.

The plebiscite is the centerpiece of the 2005’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended nearly half a century of intermittent civil war between north and south Sudan.

Margelov, who also heads the Russian Federation Council’s Committee for International Affairs, was named as his country’s special envoy to Sudan in December 2008, and has ever since visited the country on several occasions.

Earlier this year, Margelov draw the ire of southern Sudanese when he warned of the failure of a new state in south Sudan and expressed fears of a new Somalia emerging in the region.

"We as an international community and countries that are permanent Security Council members do not want a new Somalia in South Sudan," he said.

The Russian envoy also supported the re-election of President Al-Bashir in April disputed elections, and opposed legal actions taken by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Al-Bashir.


Thursday, 9 December 2010

Russia willing to assist Sudan in obtaining debt relief: envoy

Russia willing to assist Sudan in obtaining debt relief: envoy
Report/title source: Sudan Tribune -
Date: Thursday, 09 December 2010. Copy in full:
December 8, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – The Russian government informed Sudan that it is prepared to help it obtain debt relief from external creditors, its special said today.

Photo: FILE - Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov (AFP)

"Sudan is a friendly country, and Russia is ready to consider positively the problem of Sudan’s debt, and also to raise the question of cancelling Sudan’s debt to the international community," Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov told Russian news agency (RIA Novosti).

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) puts Sudan’s external debts at about $35.7 billion, of which less than half is the original amount borrowed and the rest is divided between interest and late payment penalties. According to IMF, the figure is projected to reach $37.8 billion in 2010.

Sudan has long complained that political discord with the West has prevented it from joining the debt relief program known as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).

The news agency said that Sudan’s debt to Russia is between 5 and 10m dollars. The bulk of it, according to the envoy, is "irrevocable".

The Russian envoy said that his country is interested in pursuing development opportunities in North and South after the latter has its self-determination referendum next month.

"After the referendum in South Sudan in January 2011, Russia is interested in seeing possibilities for economic development emerging both in the south and north of Sudan, and so we will have to discuss the question of lifting the embargo imposed on the country and restrictions on economic projects in Sudan," Margelov said.

He said Russia would support any decision taken by the people of South Sudan in the referendum.

"Russia supports the referendum in South Sudan, in full compliance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement through democratic procedures, confirmed by international observers," he added.

He noted that Russia’s position on this issue is shared by all member states of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

On Wednesday, Margelov met with Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir who expressed gratitude to Russia’s stances towards his country. The Sudanese leader briefed the Russian envoy on preparations for the referendum.

Margelov conveyed a letter from Russian president Dmitry Medvedev setting out Russia’s assessment on the preparations underway for the 2011 referendum.

"The guiding line in our policy on Sudan and the region in general is that of respect for Sudan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the same time, we think it a matter of principle importance that the parties within Sudan itself, seeking to end the long-running armed conflict, stated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on January 9, 2005, that Southern Sudan will have the right to hold a referendum on self-determination," the letter read according to RIA Novosti.

"I am deeply convinced that, whatever the result of the plebiscite, it will not only determine the fate and status of South Sudan and its population, but will have a significant impact on the general political situation in the region. I hope that the outcome of the referendum will provide necessary conditions for the continuation of the post-conflict settlement and further sustainable development of Sudan," Medvedev said.

"Russia will continue to provide support for your country. We intend to continue to take steps in bilateral and multilateral formats, in order to develop relations of equal and mutually beneficial cooperation with friendly Sudan. I am convinced that Russian-Sudanese cooperation in international affairs will continue to serve as a factor in strengthening peace, security and stability, especially in this vast region of Northeast Africa," Medvedev stressed.

Medvedev further informed Bashir that he will send helicopters for the United Nations mission in South Sudan.

"In response to a request by the UN secretary-general, I have decided to relocate a Russian aviation group, which previously operated as part of the UN Mission in Chad and Central African Republic, to the UNMIS, to replace a similar Indian contingent. I hope that our helicopter units will be efficient in the preparation and holding of the referendum".


Message of President of Russia to President of Sudan Omar Bashir

Message of President of Russia to President of Sudan Omar Bashir
Source: President of Russia
Date: Thursday, 09 December 2010 (MOSCOW, Russia) /Press Release electronically distributed by African Press Organization (APO) Thursday, 09 December 2010. Copy in full:
Message of President of Russia to President of Sudan Omar Bashir

Dmitry Medvedev sent a message to President of the Republic of Sudan Omar Bashir setting out Russia’s assessment of the processes taking place in Sudan in the run-up to the January referendum on the status of the country’s southern regions.

The message said, in particular:

“The guiding line in our policy on Sudan and the region in general is that of respect for Sudan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the same time, we think it a matter of principle importance that the parties within Sudan itself, seeking to end the long-running armed conflict, stated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on January 9, 2005, that Southern Sudan will have the right to hold a referendum on self-determination.

It is my firm conviction that no matter what this referendum’s result, it will not only determine the future of Southern Sudan and its people, but will have a substantial influence on the general political situation in the region. I hope that the referendum will produce a result making it possible to establish the conditions necessary for continuing the post-conflict settlement process and ensuring Sudan’s sustainable development.

In this respect I think it especially important that both parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement make maximum efforts to rapidly draft and implement the needed agreements and practical measures for holding a properly organised and timely referendum.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan has a big supporting role to play in this process. In order to provide the necessary assistance, I have decided, in response to a request from the UN Secretary-General, that a Russian aviation contingent previously operating as part of the UN mission in Chad and the Central African Republic will be redeployed to the UN mission in Sudan to replace an equivalent Indian contingent. I hope that our helicopter units will make an effective contribution to the referendum’s preparation and organisation.

Furthermore, in response to Sudanese wishes, Russian observers will take part in the referendum’s international monitoring.

As I said during our recent conversation, Russia will continue to support your country. We will continue to work in multilateral and bilateral format to develop relations based on equal and mutually advantageous cooperation with friendly Sudan.

I am sure that Russian-Sudanese cooperation in international affairs will continue to help strengthen peace, stability and security, above all across the Northeast African region”.

Mr Medvedev’s message was delivered to the Sudanese President by Mikhail Margelov, special Russian Federation presidential envoy for Sudan and chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for International Affairs, who is currently in Sudan on a working visit.

President of Russia
[End of copy]
- - -

Further Reading

Wikileaks: US anger over Kenya-Southern Sudan arms deal

BBC News - ‎31 minutes ago‎
The US government has been aware of Kenyan arms shipments to Southern Sudan for years, the latest diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal. ...

Pirates' Catch Exposed Route of Arms in a Tense Sudan

New York Times - Jeffrey Gettleman, Michael R. Gordon - ‎6 hours ago‎
The Faina was escorted into the port of Mombasa, Kenya, in February 2009 after Somali pirates were paid $3.2 million. Its cargo included 32 Soviet-era tanks ...

How US raised storm over Sudan tankers

Capital FM - Michael Mumo, Judie Kaberia - ‎Dec 8, 2010‎
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 8 - The purchase of military equipment from Ukraine caused a storm from the American government, ...

Wikileaks: US incensed by Ukraine's arms exports

RIA Novosti - Gary Hershorn - ‎18 hours ago‎
The United States is fighting a constant battle to stop the flow of arms from Ukraine and other East European countries to terrorist in the Middle East,...

WikiLeaks: US official accuses Ukraine of lying about arms sales to Sudan

Kyiv Post - ‎20 hours ago‎
The US had satellite imagery that proved Ukraine lied about shipping arms to South Sudan. AP The US had satellite imagery that proved Ukraine lied about ...

Sudan: Leaked Cables Claim Nation Sent Tanks to South Sudan - Kevin Kelly, Patrick Mayoyo - ‎Dec 7, 2010‎
Nairobi — The mystery surrounding Russian-made tanks that the government denied were destined for South Sudan last year has been unravelled by a secret ...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Darfur Sudan: Russian delegation briefed on Referendum, Darfur peace, bilateral relations

Darfur: Russian Delegation Briefed on Referendum, Darfur Peace, Bilateral Relations
Source: SUNA -
Date: Monday, 06 December 2010
(Khartoum, Sudan) - Head of the National Assembly External Relations Committee, Mahdi Ibrahim, Sunday discussed with the Russian delegation, led by the special envoy of the Russian President, progress of south Sudan referendum, Darfur peace strategy and the Sudanese - Russian ties.

Ibrahim has appreciated firmness of the bilateral relations between Sudan and Russia, and the role of Russia in the world peace and its stand alongside Sudan at the international arenas.

He expressed wishes for further progress of cooperation between Sudan and Russia so that Sudan becomes real partner to Russia in all fields.

The Head of the Russian delegation said that his country is deeply concerned with Sudan's stability and welfare.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Russia supports Omar Al-Bashir's repeated statements about holding Sudan's referendum as scheduled

Russia / Telephone conversation with President of Sudan Omar Bashir
Source: President of Russia
Date: Monday, 01 November 2010 - published at APO
MOSCOW, Russia, November 1, 2010/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Dmitry Medvedev and Omar Bashir discussed reconciliation in Sudan on the eve of a historically important stage in the nation’s development – Southern Sudan’s referendum on independence, scheduled for early January 2011.

The President of Sudan gave a positive assessment of Russia’s efforts to promote finding a resolution to existing problems.

In turn, Dmitry Medvedev emphasised Russia’s readiness to continue working actively with Sudan within the framework of the international community’s efforts, which must be impartial, well-balanced, and based on constructive cooperation with Khartoum. At the same time, Mr Medvedev noted that timely elections serve the long-term interests of Sudan and the entire region, and in this regard, supported Omar Bashir’s repeated statements about holding the referendum as scheduled.

During the conversation, the presidents expressed their support for strengthening trade and economic ties between their nations and discussed specific areas for this kind of cooperation.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Russia confirms its participation at International Donors Conference for Development in East Sudan

Russia Confirms its Participation at Donors Conference for Development in East Sudan
Source: SUNA
Date: Thursday, 28 October 2010

(Khartoum) - Russia has confirmed its participation in the International Donors Conference for Development in East Sudan, scheduled for early next December in Kuwait.

The confirmation of Russia in the conference was expressed by the Ambassador of Russia to Sudan when he was received Thursday by the Presidential Advisor, Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail [pictured above].

Meanwhile, Dr. Ismail has appreciated the stances of Russia in supporting Sudan at all fields.

The Russian Ambassador conveyed to Dr. Ismail a message from the Russian Foreign Minister affirming his country's participation at East Sudan Development Conference in Kuwait.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

South Sudan buys Russian helicopters

South Sudan Buys Russian Helicopters Ahead of a Planned Vote on Secession
Source: Bloomberg by Alan Boswell
September 03, 2010 10:51 AM GMT:
Southern Sudan, which is scheduled to hold a referendum in January on whether to secede from Sudan, is acquiring 10 Russian helicopters that give the semi- autonomous region its first aerial capability.

The Sudanese government has been informed about the purchases and told that the aircraft are for civilian purposes, said al-Sawarmi Khaled, spokesman for Sudan’s army.

The region’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement “has confirmed that they’re for transport use,” Khaled said by phone from Khartoum on Aug. 30.

Rebels in Southern Sudan and the Sudanese government signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, in 2005 that ended a conflict in which 2 million people died. The political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, known as the SPLA, gained semi-autonomous control over Southern Sudan, which was promised a plebiscite on whether to form an independent nation.

SPLA spokesman Lieutenant-General Kuol Deim Kuol said in June that Southern Sudan planned to have an air force before the referendum. He denied these plans would violate the cease-fire agreement, pointing to capacity-building and technical training services the U.S. and U.K. governments are providing the SPLA.

“We are not prohibited,” said Kuol. “The international community is supposed to help us in modernizing the SPLA.”

Under the accord, both sides were required to stop the “replenishment of ammunition, weapons and other lethal or military equipment.” The cease-fire zone specified in the deal covers all of Southern Sudan and some of the north. The accord allows for the “re-supply” of “lethal items” if approved by a Joint Defense Board, or JDB, in coordination with the United Nations Mission in Sudan.


“Research conducted by the Small Arms Survey has shown that in practice the JDB does not appear to play any role in scrutinizing their acquisitions,” said Claire McEvoy, project manager on Sudan at the Geneva-based research group. Both sides have actively re-armed, in contravention of their cease-fire commitments, according to a 2009 report by the survey.

The helicopters ordered by the government of Southern Sudan are MI-17s manufactured by Kazan Helicopters of Russia, a copy of the agreement between Kazan and the government of Southern Sudan obtained by Bloomberg shows.

The aircraft are an upgraded version of a model first used in Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

“An MI-17 is a military transport helicopter, so it could be used for civilian purposes,” E.J. Hogendoorn, Horn of Africa project director at International Crisis Group, said in an interview on Sept. 2. “You could mount guns on it, and then it becomes an offensive platform.”

‘Technical Violation’

The import of the aircraft may represent a “technical violation” of the CPA and comes after the government in Khartoum imported MI-24 attack helicopters in recent years, Hogendoorn said. “Both sides have been importing lots and lots of weapons.”

The purchase of the helicopters comes after IHS Jane’s, the Englewood, Colorado-based research group, last year reported Southern Sudan acquired 100 Russian-built T-72 tanks and other artillery.

“Taken together with the purchase of those tanks, the acquisition of these helicopters looks to me like Southern Sudan is putting together a big enough force to discourage Khartoum from trying to preempt or nullify the referendum,” said Helmoed Romer-Heitman, a Cape Town-based defense analyst. “Southern Sudan expects the January vote to go for secession and for Khartoum not to take it lying down.”

Oil Exports

Sudan is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest producer of oil and most of its daily production of 490,000 barrels is pumped in Southern Sudan. The crude is exported through a pipeline that runs north through Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. No agreement has been reached between the two sides on a revenue- sharing arrangement or pipeline-usage fees following the referendum. Most of Sudan’s oil is shipped to China.

When contacted on Aug. 29, Kuol wouldn’t comment on the MI- 17 purchases and hung up. He didn’t answer several subsequent calls to his mobile phone. Calls to Kazan’s head office didn’t connect when Bloomberg called and the company didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

“There is nothing to prove that the aircraft are for military purposes,” Khaled of the Sudanese army said. “The south’s government has announced that it has no intention of acquiring military aircraft.”


The first batch of the helicopters was scheduled to arrive in Uganda, which neighbors Southern Sudan, in May 2010, according to a March 2009 supplement to a contract dated May 2007. A copy of the agreement between Kazan and the government of Southern Sudan, represented by SPLA Chief of Staff James Hoth Mai, was obtained by Bloomberg.

The first four helicopters were later scheduled to be flown from Kazan airport to Entebbe in Uganda on Aug. 12 aboard an Antonov AN-124 aircraft, according to correspondence between the parties.

Southern Sudan government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said no helicopters had been delivered to the region.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Boswell in Juba via Johannesburg at

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Russia warns of new Somalia in South Sudan

Russia warns from new Somalia in South Sudan
Report from Muqdishon News - 27 August 2010:

Russian special envoy for Sudan, Mikhail Margelov, warned from the failure of a new state in southern Sudan and expressed fears that a new Somalia may emerge in the semi-autonomous region.

Margelov made his remarks to the press after a meeting in Cairo with the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. The two parties discussed latest developments in Sudan particularly the upcoming referendum on self-determination to be held in January 2011.

The most important thing we are looking for is the process of building bridges and understanding among the political circles in the northern and southern Sudan, he said in statements reported by the official MENA.

“We as an international community and countries that are permanent Security Council members do not want a new Somalia in South Sudan,” he stressed.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov voiced in October 2009 the support of his government to the integrity of largest African country during an international workshop organized in Moscow to discuss Sudan’s problems.

Margelov who heads the Federation Council’s Committee for International Affairs visited Sudan several times since his appointment in December 2008 and supported reelection of Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir during April elections.

Regarding Bashir’s indictment on Darfur atrocities he said “There is an emerging feeling that the ICC decision on arresting the current Sudanese president was rushed and politicized”.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Suspected Russian arms dealer Bout allegedly brokered weapons deals in Afghanistan, Angola, DR Congo, Liberia, Libya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan

Thailand court rules that Viktor Bout, dubbed the 'merchant of death', should face trial in America. See video in report below: Viktor Bout to be extradited after Thai appeals court ruling.

Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to be extradited to US
Report from
By Ben Doherty in Bangkok
Friday 20 August 2010 11.21 BST
The man known as the "merchant of death", the alleged black-market arms dealer Viktor Bout, could be on American soil to face terrorism charges within weeks after a Thai appeals court ruled he must face charges of conspiring to supply Colombian rebels with weapons.

The 43-year-old Russian, who has maintained his innocence throughout two years in a maximum security prison in Thailand, will continue to fight the US's extradition request. His lawyer said he would lodge a petition with the Thai government asking it to block the extradition.

"The defence believes Bout will not be safe in the US and he will not receive a fair trial," Lak Nittiwattanawichan said outside court.

The Thai government is not compelled to extradite Bout, but is almost certain to, given the high profile of the defendant, and strong American pressure. If he is not extradited within three months, he must be released.

Bout has been in jail since March 2008, when he was arrested in a five-star Bangkok hotel in a joint US-Thai sting operation.

Government agents posed as arms buyers for the Colombian rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

According to the US grand jury indictment, Bout told the agents he could supply them with 700-800 surface-to-air missiles, more than 5,000 AK-47s and millions of rounds of ammunition, as well as C4 explosive, landmines and unmanned aerial drones.

Bout was indicted on four charges, including conspiracy to kill US nationals and conspiracy to provide material support to a proscribed terrorist group.

The US and UN have claimed Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, has been a weapons trafficker since the 1990s, using a fleet of cargo plans to move arms to Africa, Central America and the Middle East.

He is alleged to have brokered weapons deals in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan, and to have armed the forces of the Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

The 2005 movie Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage, is loosely based on the Russian's life.

Bout, who maintains he has never traded in weapons, told his trial he ran a legitimate air cargo business and was in Thailand to discuss selling aircraft to Thais.

Last August, a Thai court ruled Bout should not be extradited because Farc was not a terrorist group but a political one.

The appeals court today overturned that decision, saying Farc was a proscribed terrorist organisation and that Thailand was obliged to extradite Bout in accordance with treaties with the US.

Prosecutors brought six new charges against Bout yesterday, including money laundering and electronic fraud. Those charges will be heard in a US court.

Thailand has been under intense pressure from both US and Russia over Bout's case.

The US state department summoned the Thai ambassador this week "to emphasise how important this judgment is", a department spokesman, Philip Crowley, said.
The Obama administration has previously cited Bout's arrest as an example of co-operation and trust between the two countries.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, discussed Bout's case with his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, during a meeting in Hanoi last month, saying the drawn-out appeal process was "beginning to raise questions" and expressing, pointedly, "the hope that Thai justice will not be subject to any pressure".

"We regret this … unlawful, political decision," Lavrov said today during a visit to Armenia, adding that Moscow believed the ruling was made "under very strong external pressure" and would continue to seek Bout's return to Russia.

Bout, dressed in prison-issue shorts and shirt, and manacled in leg irons, hung his head and cried as the verdict was read out. He hugged his wife and daughter before being whisked away by guards.

He did not speak, but his wife, Alla, said the Thai justice system had bowed to US lobbying.

"This is the result of constant pressure from the US government," she said in the courtroom, before breaking down in tears. "This is an unfair decision because the initial court already said it's a political case."

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Price of bread could hit record after Russian wheat export ban

The heatwave and drought enveloping Russia has contributed to the soaring price of wheat...

Report from The Daily Telegraph
By Harry Wallop and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Published: 7:05PM BST Thursday, 05 August 2010
Price of bread could hit record after Russian wheat export ban
The price of a loaf of bread in Britain could hit a record after Russia imposed a ban on all exports of wheat and other grains.

The unprecedented move, instigated by Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, will see a quarter of the total world's wheat exports withdrawn from the market. It comes as Russia suffers from its worst drought in over a century, which has seen much of its harvest wiped out by wildfires.

Though Britain buys little wheat directly from Russia, most loaves on supermarket shelves contain a large proportion of imported flour. Russia's move sent up prices on the wholesale market to a 30-month high in Paris, where European wheat is traded.

Yesterday, Premier Foods, one of Britain's biggest food companies and the owner of Hovis, said the price of a loaf of bread will have to rise, by possibly as much as 10p.

Robert Schofield, chief executive, said: "The size of rise will force us to put a price increase through in the coming months. The retailers have the final decision on how much of that will be passed on to the public."

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average price of a loaf of sliced bread in Britain is £1.19. It was a mere 65p five years ago but shot up during the crisis in food prices during 2007 to 2008, when a similar set of poor harvests, this time in Australia, caused the global price to rise. This in turn set off a series of inflationary spikes in commodities.

A loaf hit a record of £1.27 in the summer of 2008.

If Premier's warning that 10p will be added on, the price of a loaf, one of the very few staples that families buy every day of the week, would hit a record of £1.29.

Martin Deboo, a food analyst from Investec, said: "Experience of 2008's round of inflation would suggest cost side increases from wheat do get passed on to the consumer eventually."

Mintec, a company that specialises in tracking the price of food, estimates that the cost of wheat makes up about 57 per cent of a loaf of bread, with the baking, packaging and distribution of it accounting for the rest.

Nick Peksa, at Mintec, said: "Ironically the harvests in Britain and Canada have been good this summer, but I fear a lot of these price rises have been fuelled by speculators on the back of the Russian problems.

"The chances are the price of bread will go up."

Mr Putin appears to have acted after meteorological experts issued further drought warnings, raising fears that the ground would still be too hard next month to seed the winter crop.

The loss of two crops would force Russia to withdraw from the global export market altogether for up to two years.

Russian sources said Mr Putin had requested Kazhakstan and Belarus, two other major wheat producers, also banned exports.
Abdolreza Abbassanian, chief grain economist at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, said: "This is maximum: it’s a desperate situation because it has caught everybody off guard."

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Former intelligence chief Stella Rimington warns of threat to Britain from Russian spies

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, believes Russia still possesses 'a very large and well-resourced intelligence community'

Former intelligence chief Stella Rimington warns of threat to Britain from Russian spies
Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has accused Russia's security services of being as active in Britain today as they were during the Cold War.

From by Robert Mendick
Published: 9:00PM BST 03 Jul 2010:
Dame Stella said she believed Russia still possesses "a very large and well-resourced intelligence community" which remains a threat to British economic and security interests.

"The successor organisations to the KGB are every bit as active as their predecessor," she said, "Are the Russians up to the same sort of thing in Britain? You bet they are, if they think they can get away with it."

She said the threat posed by Russia risked putting a "considerable strain" on Britain's security services which also have to simultaneously deal with the danger of terror attacks by Islamic extremists.

Her comments follow a series of arrests last week in the US which led to the smashing of an alleged Russian spy ring which had been operating undercover for at least a decade.

Those now in jail awaiting trial on a charge of unlawfully working as an agent of the Russian government include Anna Chapman, the daughter of a former KGB officer, who was married to an Englishman and lived in London for about five years.

Yesterday Mrs Chapman's former boyfriend, with whom she lived for a year after her marriage broke down, spoke out for the first time in her defence.

Laurent Tailleur, 31, told The Sunday Telegraph he was certain she was not operating as a spy in the UK during their time together – and was convinced she was not involved in espionage in the US either.

Mr Tailleur, a French playboy, dismissed claims that Mrs Chapman, 28, was meeting other Russian agents while in London or that her expensive lifestyle, which involved nights out at top clubs and restaurants, was being funded by the Russian government. To the contrary, said Mr Tailleur, he was paying for everything.

Speaking from Dubai, he said: "I was very, very shocked to see this in the news... It never came across my mind she was a spy. She was a very kind girl and there was never anything suspicious. It is incredible.

"I paid for everything. When you only have a job as a PA it is normal that I was taking care of all the costs. All these places we went to were quite expensive and she couldn't have paid for it."

The couple lived in London together for a year in 2007 in Mr Tailleur's home off the King's Road in Chelsea but their relationship soured when Mrs Chapman declared one day she needed 'more space'.

A few weeks later, Mrs Chapman returned to Moscow with the germ of a business idea, planted by Mr Tailleur, to start up an internet property finding business.

Even after they parted the pair remained in touch and only recently, Mrs Chapman called her former lover to suggest a reunion in New York.

"The last time I spoke to her she told me the US was really great and she couldn't believe how much fun it was and I should come and visit. She said very positive things about the US. This is a really strange contradiction with what is written [about her being a spy]."

He said he feared for her safety in a US jail where she is currently languishing in isolation, allowed one-hour's exercise a day.
"She will not cope," he said, "She is a really non-aggressive girl. I really hope they [prison authorities] do their best to keep her out of harm. Despite all you can read that she is a super-trained spy, she was just a really nice, quiet girl."

Ms Chapman's lawyer Robert Baum contacted The Sunday Telegraph to protest his client's innocence. He said: "I believe that the evidence against Mrs Chapman is very thin."

He said that while some of those arrested had lived in the US for many years under assumed identities, Mrs Chapman had lived in the open.

He added: " Her circumstances are very different from the others arrested."

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Thursday, 13 May 2010

2 poliomyelitis cases registered in Russia

2 poliomyelitis cases registered in Russia
From Itar-Tass News Agency - Thursday, 13 May 2010, 17.54
MOSCOW, May 13 (Itar-Tass) - The two Tajik poliomyelitis-infected baby girls, who have been hospitalized in Russia, are in a satisfactory condition, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Consumers Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) Gennady Onishchenko told a news conference on Thursday.

According to Onishchenko, one of the girls, a nine-month baby, is undergoing treatment at an Irkutsk-based hospital. Another polio case was diagnosed in an infant girl in Moscow.

The baby in Irkutsk “has normal temperature, her condition is considered as stable, but she still has a facial nerve paralysis,” Onishchenko said, adding that the girl in Moscow is also in a satisfactory condition.

The babies had been brought to Russia before the latter banned any children under the age of six from entering Russia from Tajikistan over a polio outbreak in the republic, the chief sanitary officer said and promised that the two sick babies will receive all necessary treatment and “medics will do their best to prevent their disability.”

The poliomyelitis situation in Russia is under control, with the bulk of population being vaccinated against the disease, Onishchenko said and added that the poliomyelitis virus might be carried by adults from Tajikistan. According to Onishchenko, this is a “so-called wild virus of the Indian origin.”

Currently, about 1,000 children of Russian servicemen are staying on the territory of Tajikistan, Onishchenko said and vowed all of them would be vaccinated. Those of them who are not vaccinated before leaving Tajikistan, will receive a vaccine in Russia. Moreover, about 1,000 Russian regular soldiers serving in Tajikistan will also be vaccinated against poliomyelitis, as will be those servicemen who will arrive to replace them, Onishchenko said.

As of now, 298 poliomyelitis cases have been registered in Tajikistan, of which 15 were lethal. The Russian chief sanitary officer described efforts taken by Tajik medics as “inefficient.”

Poliomyelitis, often referred to as polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route. Although around 90% of polio infections cause no symptoms at all, affected individuals can exhibit a range of symptoms if the virus enters the blood stream. In about 1% of cases the virus enters the central nervous system, preferentially infecting and destroying motor neurons, leading to muscle weakness and acute flaccid paralysis. Different types of paralysis may occur, depending on the nerves involved. The disease mainly affects children of up to three to five years of age and can be prevented by immunization. Babies under one year of age are most sensitive to polio.

The world’s first living polio vaccine technology was elaborated in 1959 in the Soviet Union, and ever since the Poliomyelitis Institute of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences has been producing the vaccine to meet the Russian and foreign demand.

A year before the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1990, the United Nations set a daring task to eradicate the disease by 2000, but failed. Nonetheless, the World Health Organization (WHO) has succeeded to do away with poliomyelitis in North America in 1994, and in Europe in 2002. Large-scale immunization campaigns of children under five years of age have brought polio occurrence from 350,000 cases in 1988 down to 1,163 cases in 2005. However, polio cases have again been registered in ten countries, where the disease was reported to be eradicated. These countries include Somalia, Indonesia, Yemen, Angola, Ethiopia, Chad, Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Cameroon. Poliomyelitis outbreaks have also been registered in India, Nigeria, Niger, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

As one of the ten most dangerous infections, poliomyelitis has been on Russia’s national preventive immunization calendar since 2001. Under this calendar, children are first vaccinated against poliomyelitis at the age of three months, and then vaccination is repeated four times. Epidemiologists say that a freshly inoculated vaccine is enough to protect children from enteric virus-71 causing aseptic meningitis, but in cases of outbreaks its is strongly recommended to have one more immunization.

According to epidemiologists, from 10 to 15 polio cases are registered in Russia annually, but in such cases the disease is diagnosed after a classical inoculation with a living vaccine. “Such cases are very rare, since they are registered in children with primary immunodeficiency,” a source in the Research Institute of Epidemiology told Itar-Tass. To prevent such cases, since 2008 children have been inoculated with inactive vaccines incapable of causing the disease.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Russian helicopter unit in Sudan receives UN awards

Russian helicopter unit in Sudan receives UN awards
From RIA Novosti (Khartoum) - Tuesday, 12 May 2010:
Russian helicopter unit in Sudan receives UN awards
© RIA Novos

Personnel of the Russian aviation group operating in Sudan as part of an international peacekeeping operation in the region have been awarded with UN medals, a group official said on Wednesday.

A parade was held with Russian peacekeepers in Sudan to mark the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII. The parade was attended by Lt. Gen. Paban Jung Thapa, the commander of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).

After the parade, Thapa awarded Russian peacekeepers with medals which the United Nations assigns to peacekeepers of the Sudanese mission.

He also praised the Russian peacekeepers for their contribution in establishing peace and security in Sudan.

The Russian peacekeeping contingent in Sudan comprises 123 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters equipped according to UN and international standards.

Russian peacekeepers provide transport services for UN military observers in Sudan, including accompanying freight, as well as carry out rescue operations.

In March and April, the Russian helicopter unit transported almost 1,800 passengers and over 86 metric tons of cargo as part of preparations for the country's general elections. The Russian peacekeepers also delivered ballots to polling stations in southern Sudan.

The first unit of Russian peacekeepers arrived in Sudan in April 2006. They are expected to stay - with regular rotations - for five or six years. Rotations are held twice a year, with the next rotation scheduled for June.

The UN Mission in Sudan was established in 2005 to monitor the peace agreement between the government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in southern Sudan, which ended the longest-running civil war in Africa.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

'The Big Three' in Moscow: Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin

'The Big Three'

A sand sculpture of 'The Big Three' at the Yalta Conference - Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin - is seen in Moscow.

Source: The Daily Telegraph, Week in pictures: 7 May 2010

Sunday, 9 May 2010

British troops march in red square parade

British troops march in red square parade
From The Independent on Sunday
Sunday, 09 May 2010
By Mark Bulstrode, PA
British soldiers marched on Red Square in Moscow for the first time today to mark the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Seventy-six soldiers from 2 Company 1st Battalion Welsh Guards were representing the UK at the invitation of the Russian Government.

They marched alongside more than 10,500 Russian troops and others from the US and France.

The event - thought to be costing £26 million - also featured a 1,000-strong military band, 161 tanks and missiles and 127 aircraft.

The hour-long parade saw six types of defence equipment on show in a display of military prowess set to dominate the city's sky and roads.

Guardsman Ian Mundy said: "There is a sense of pride to be in this massive parade on Red Square.

"It seems that everyone is interested in us as well and I'm proud to be a part of that."

Lance Corporal John Sanigar added: "It's a brilliant place to be at the moment for the Army and the Welsh Guards."

The Welsh Guards are staying at the Moscow Military Academy as guests of the Russian Army.

They were given a guided tour of the Kremlin, invited to concerts and took part in a cultural tour of the city via a boat trip up the Moscow River.

The Welsh Guards served in Afghanistan six months ago and lost its commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, during the tour.

Lt Col Thorneloe - the most senior British army officer to die in action since the Falklands conflict - was killed alongside Trooper Joshua Hammond by a roadside improvised explosive device.

"It was an emotional tour," said Guardsman Thomas James, whose grandfathers both served in the Second World War.

"This is the first time I've been on official parade in my tunic since we've been back. It's an honour to be here."

Commanding Officer of the Welsh Guards, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Antelme, said the parade was a "surreal" experience.

"(It is) a historic moment for the Welsh Guards and the British Army, and, of course, for the Russian people," he added.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Russian bombers 'intercepted in British airspace' 10 March 2010 (CNN)

"This is not an unusual incident, and many people may be surprised to know that our crews have successfully scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft on more than 20 occasions since the start of 2009," Wing Cdr. Mark Gorringe, of the RAF's 111 Squadron, said in a statement. (Source: CNN - see below)

Russian bombers 'intercepted in British airspace' 10 March 2010 (CNN)

From by Curzon, 26 March 2010:
Britain’s Ministry of Defence has released images taken earlier this month of Russian Tu-160 bombers—known as Blackjacks by NATO —as they entered UK airspace near the Outer Hebrides islands off Scotland’s northwest coast. It was just one of many intercepts carried out by the RAF in the last year or so. Russia denied any territorial violations.

The CNN article on the story notes that Russia, as an energy exporter, now has more money to spend on its military and to export its power. But that conflicts with the image that many economists are saying in the aftermath of the financial crisis—that Russia’s undiversified economy is too energy-dependent and failing quickly.
Read comments at Curzon's article.
- - -

Russian bombers 'intercepted in British airspace'
By Barry Neild, CNN, 25 March 2010 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT):
London, England (CNN) -- Rare photos of Russian strategic bomber jets purportedly intercepted in British airspace show Moscow's war machine is becoming increasingly bold, analysts said Thursday as Russia denied any territorial violations.

Britain's Ministry of Defence released images it said were taken earlier this month of two Russian Tu-160 bombers -- known as Blackjacks by NATO forces -- as they entered UK airspace near the Outer Hebrides islands off Scotland's northwest coast.

It said the March 10 incident, which resulted in crystal clear images of the planes against clear blue skies and a dramatic sunset, was one of many intercepts carried out by British Royal Air Force crews in just over 12 months.

"This is not an unusual incident, and many people may be surprised to know that our crews have successfully scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft on more than 20 occasions since the start of 2009," Wing Cdr. Mark Gorringe, of the RAF's 111 Squadron, said in a statement.

The RAF said two of its Tornado fighter jets from its base at Leuchars, on Scotland's east coast, were dispatched to tail the Russian Blackjacks as they approached the western Isle of Lewis.

"The Tornados shadowed the Russians as they flew south, then the Blackjacks turned north, just short of the Northern Ireland coast, and eventually left UK airspace," the statement said.

"After four hours, the Tornado crews stood down and returned to Leuchars."

Several of the images show the name Vasily Reshetnikov in Russian lettering near the cockpit of one plane. Reshetnikov was a celebrated Soviet pilot who fought on the Eastern Front in World War II.

Russian military authorities on Thursday confirmed their aircraft had been in the area, but denied any violation of British airspace.

"Our planes fly in strict accordance with the international rules government the use of airspace over neutral waters without violating the borders of foreign countries," Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Drik told CNN.

"The routine flights by the Tu-160 missile carriers took place in accordance with those conditions on March 10. They did not violate British airspace, and objective control materials confirm that."

Experts say regardless of the exact flight paths, the increased sorties by Russian aircrafts in international airspace show Moscow is flexing its muscles as it re-emerges as a global military player.

"Russia is now an oil exporting state so they've got more money to spend on their armed forces after the 1990s when they were bankrupt," defense analyst Tim Ripley told CNN.

Ripley said the increase in air activity began shortly before Russia's brief 2008 territorial skirmish with Georgia, but while it was a clear show of strength, it did not represent sinister intent.

While ties between Russia and the UK have been strained in recent years, Ripley said talks with Washington that look set to result in a new arms control deal were a clearer indication of Moscow's global military outlook.

CNN's Maxim Tkachenko in Moscow, Russia, contributed to this report
Click into CNN's report to read comments and view photos, including the one above.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Clinton to travel to Moscow for Quartet talks

Clinton to travel to Moscow for Quartet talks
From Ma'an News Agency, 16 March 2010 11:39:
(Bethlehem - Ma'an) - On 18-19 March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accompanied by US envoy George Mitchell, will participate in a meeting of the Quartet, the State Department announced Monday.

She will meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, as well as Quartet Representative Tony Blair, to discuss Mideast peace efforts, Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley said.

In a statement, Crowley said the secretary would also meet with senior Russian officials to discuss progress on a successor agreement to START, cooperation on nonproliferation, counterterrorism, regional security issues, and the work of the Bilateral Presidential Commission.

The US State Department is waiting for a formal Israeli response to its concerns, declining comment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks in support of settlements, Agence France-Presse reported Monday.

Netanyahu earlier in the day indicated that construction of Israeli settlements would continue in East Jerusalem, despite an angry phone call last week from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging him to stop, AFP said.

"When she outlined what she thought appropriate actions would be to the prime minister, she asked for a response by the Israeli government. We wait for the response," State Department spokesman reportedly Philip Crowley told reporters.

Crowley added: "We asked for a formal response from the Israeli government and when we get that response we'll react to it."

He also said US envoy George Mitchell may reschedule travel plans to the region, where he was expected to arrive this week.

"This is a fluid situation. As of this moment he's still in the United States," Crowley said, according to AFP.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Russian envoy to visit Sudan with businessmen, MPs

Russian envoy to visit Sudan with businessmen, MPs
From Sudan Tribune, Monday 8 March 2010:
March 7, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — Russia’s Special Envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov will begin a four-day visit to Sudan on Tuesday, March 9. He will be heading a delegation that includes businessmen and parliamentarians.

Moscow last year signalled its desire to boost private sector relations between the two countries. A delegation that included Russian business and media representatives visited last December with Margelov during a six-day trip. The envoy on that visit met with President Omer Al-Bashir in Khartoum and First Vice-President Salva Kiir Mayardit in Juba. Margelov is scheduled to visit Juba again on this trip.

During the upcoming visit, the Russian envoy will be holding talks with state officials on bilateral relations between the two countries as well as the latest developments in Sudan, according to the state Sudan News Agency.

He will also be holding talks with the head of the National Elections Commission, political leaders and leaders of civil society organizations.

The Russian envoy last December drew some fire for comments seemingly in support of President Al-Bashir’s election bid in the forthcoming April polling. He was quoted by the Russian Ria Novosti news agency’s Arabic service as saying "I have not yet seen this alternative [to Bashir]…". He added he had tried to convince Western nations in January 2009 that the arrest warrant against Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) – which was issued thereafter in March — "is not viable and unrealistic".

Margelov suggested further that he was sceptical that there were any other viable candidates for the nation’s presidency. He said too, "There is an emerging feeling that the ICC decision on arresting the current Sudanese president was rushed and politicized".

The Russian official was also involved in efforts to pressure rebel groups into talks with the Government of Sudan. On October 21, 2009, he met for the first time the leadership of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement during a visit to the Chadian capital Ndjamena. (ST)

Dmitry Medvedev's Russia still feels the cold hand of Vladimir Putin

Dmitry Medvedev came to power amidst high hopes that Russia would liberalise, but the authoritarianism brought in by Vladimir Putin remains.

Dmitry Medvedev's Russia still feels the cold hand of Vladimir Putin
From by Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Published: 6:00AM GMT Sunday 07 Mar 2010
Emboldened by what he thought was the new spirit of openness sweeping Russia, Major Alexei Dymovsky decided to blow the whistle on police corruption in his run-down fiefdom on the Black Sea coast.

The dispirited detective, from the crumbling port of Novorossiysk, broke his silence in a You Tube broadcast that became an internet sensation, garnering well over a million hits.

Four months later, he may be wishing he had kept quiet. He is now languishing in jail after being sacked and accused of fraud, while a human rights activist who took up his cause, Vadim Karastelyov, can barely stand after two men stabbed him with sharpened wooden stakes outside his flat last Saturday.

Concerns about the way Mr Dymovksy was silenced, though, go well beyond the simple matter of whether police in Novorossiysk can continue to take bribes and frame the innocent with impunity, as he had claimed. It has also raised disturbing questions about the promises of Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, to end the creeping authoritarianism brought in by his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, and usher in a renewed era of freedom.

"What is happening now is illusory," said Mr Karastelyov, speaking to the Sunday Telegraph after his discharge from hospital last week. "Medvedev does not have the political weight to make the necessary changes. There is a huge gulf between what he is saying and reality. We have hopes but no illusions."

Even though he was handpicked for the job by Mr Putin, a man accused of strangling the chaotic but vibrant democracy that Russia briefly enjoyed in the 1990s, Mr Medvedev was quick to cast himself as a liberal reformer when he came to power in 2008. His promises to fight corruption and restore the rule of law were hailed as a welcome change from the Putin era - not least in Britain, where the Litvinenko poisoning case showed a Russia lurching back to Soviet habits. Hopes that the new man would be liberal and pro-Western were raised further by the fact he was a lawyer by training, not a spy, and his matey disclosure that he was a fan of British heavy metal band Deep Purple.

Yet now, half-way into his four year term, the liberal newspapers, human rights groups and NGOs that suffered increasing harrasssment during Mr Putin's reign say little has changed. Mr Medvedev may well have denounced Josef Stalin and spoken of the need for political competition and modernisation. But the problem, say those who earnestly want to believe him, is that he is all talk and little action.

"We have not given up on him yet, and we should give him the benefit of the doubt," says Tanya Lokshina, of the Moscow branch of Human Rights Watch. "But quite a bit of time has passed and so far there has been little but rhetoric and more rhetoric."

Mr Medvedev does boast some reforms to his credit. He has replaced a clutch of regional governors, and fired a slew of top police and military officers. However, he also appears to have gone out of his way to mimic the walk, talk and even dress sense of his mentor, Mr Putin, prompting some critics to call him "Putin's younger brother". Kremlin-watchers also note that while Mr Putin addresses Mr Medvedev using the casual form of you in Russian or "ty," Mr Medvedev employs the more deferential and formal 'vy' when talking to Mr Putin, underlining his junior role in the partnership. Kremlin image makers seems to avoid putting Mr Medvedev up for the kind of macho photo opportunities deemed suitable for Mr Putin, who was this week pictured on horseback in snow-bound Siberia.

"Medvedev is warmer and sunnier," said one former senior US intelligence official. "But he does not want to change things that much. He believes in what might be called 'venture liberalism' - trying out various things, but not really getting serious."
Nina Khrushcheva, granddaughter of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, describes Mr Medvedev's job in the Kremlin in rather less flattering terms. His role, as she sees it, is not so much as president but as first lady.

"The cheerful facade is composed of Russia's miniature president, Dmitry Medvedev, whose job, like that of America's first lady, is to keep up appearances," she said. "And the appearance that needs the most maintenance is that of a modern and civilised Russia."

Among those who are disappointed, but not surprised, by the Medvedev track record is Yevgeny Ikhlov, an expert at the 'For Human Rights' pressure group, which is involved in the case of Major Dymovsky, the police whistleblower. He claims there was a secret agreement, sealed during Vladimir Putin's 2000-2008 presidency, that allowed the police and the FSB security service to do as they please in return for their unswerving loyalty to the regime.

"The system senses weakness in Medvedev and crushes anyone who dares to pop their head above the parapet," said Mr Ikhlov. "Medvedev gave people hope and created a different atmosphere in society but he is not strong enough to break the unwritten agreement with the law enforcement agencies."

Mr Medvedev's aides, who are aware of the perestroika expectations that their boss initially generated, urge patience. "Such changes do not happen quickly," says one adviser close to the Kremlin. "You cannot change the situation just like that." Russia, it is argued, is the largest country in the world, and moves like a super tanker.

Yet with whistleblowers like Major Dymovsky still viewed primarily as troublemakers, analysts who thought the main question would be purely the speed of Medvedev's reforms are now pondering other questions instead. Is he his own man or just Mr Putin's creature? And does he really believe in reform, as the impassioned style of many of his speeches might suggest, or is he just a fall guy whose job is to defuse growing social tension at a time of financial stress? With a presidential election in 2012 approaching, many sceptics believe that Mr Medvedev is merely a temporary fixture and that Mr Putin, who is now prime minister, is preparing to take his old job back at the very top of Russian politics.

"Medvedev is keeping the seat warm," says one seasoned Russia watcher who regularly interacts with the Kremlin. "You need to be more than a nice person to run a place like Russia."

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Russian forces kill al-Qaeda's leader in North Caucasus

Russian Troops Kill Influential al-Qaeda Terrorist
03 February 2010
Source: Pravda.Ru
The founder of al-Qaeda’s division in the Northern Caucasus, Mohmad Shabaan, an Egyptian known as Seif Islam, was killed in Dagestan as a result of the operation conducted by the troops of the Federal Security Service.

Shabaan’s assistant, Ibrahim Magomedov, was killed in the operation too. An employee of Dagestan’s law-enforcement agency was injured in the operation and subsequently died.

Seif Islam appeared in Russia in 1992. He underwent combat training in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Georgia. In Chechnya, Shabaan took part in military actions against federal troops. Afterwards, he joined forces with warlord Khattab to organize al-Qaeda’s division in the Caucasus, Pravda.Ru reports.

Afterwards, Seif Islam opened a terrorist training center in Chechnya, where he was training terrorists to organize bomb attacks.

During the second Chechen war, the terrorist served as an advisor for religion to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. He was also in contact with another well-known terrorist, Shamil Basayev.

Recently, Shabaan has been a close associate of terrorist Doku Umarov. He organized bloodiest terrorist acts in the region. Shabaan went to Dagestan after federal troops killed Doctor Mohammad – the Algerian terrorist responsible for al-Qaeda’s activities in the republic.

Mohmad Shabaan was in charge of organizing terrorist activities and recreating a channel to smuggle arms and explosives to Dagestan from Georgian special services.

He conducted his most recent terrorist act on January 6 of this year when a suicide bomber drove his vehicle on the territory of a road patrol station in Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala. Six police officers were killed, 20 others, including civilians, were wounded.
Russian forces kill al-Qaeda's leader in North Caucasus
Source: (UNI) New Kerala Moscow Russia | 13 days ago
Egyptian national Mohamad Shaaban, 49, was killed during a shootout with security forces in the tiny republic's mountainous Botlikhsky District yesterday.

A Dagestani militant and a police officer also died in the incident.

FSB spokesman said Shaaban, who went by the name of Seif Islam (the sword of Islam), had seen action in Afghanistan in the 1990s, and "was also in Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Georgia." "In 1992, he arrived in Chechnya to take part in operations against federal forces," he said, adding Shaaban had organised the North Caucasus branch of al-Qaeda with Saudi-born Islamic radical Ibn Al-Khattab, who was eliminated by security forces recently.

The mainly Muslim regions in Russia's North Caucasus have been plagued by militant violence, with almost daily attacks on security forces and officials.

Russian Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev said on January 16 that 235 police officers and interior troops died in the region in 2009, with 686 injured as recorded terrorist acts, including suicide bombings, rose sharply.

Following a January 6 suicide bomb attack on a police compound in Dagestan that killed five and wounded up to 19 people, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Federal Security Service to tighten security across the North Caucasus.

Mr Medvedev also established the North Caucasus Federal District and appointed Krasnoyarsk governor and former business executive Alexander Khloponin as Deputy Prime Minister and presidential envoy to the region.
Update Wed 17 Feb 2010:

This morning (Wed, 17 Feb 2010 at 00:36 GMT UK) I received an emailed Google Web Alert that pointed to an interesting AFP news report dated February 3rd - and reprinted at INSI, where I found it. Here below is a copy of the Google Web Alert and AFP's report, in full.

=== Google Web Alert for: qaeda sudan ===

Al qaeda in iraq operations history
Brief History of al Qaeda to Sudan, and with him went the base of
operations for al Qaeda AL QAEDA AND IRAQ Who exactly is the enemy in Iraq
and how ...

Al-Qaeda militant killed in Russian Caucasus: official
In the early 90s, Seif Islam fought in Afghanistan and was also in Sudan,
... Russian authorities have expressed concern about Al-Qaeda infiltrating
the ...>

This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dagestan - Security
Al-Qaeda militant killed in Russian Caucasus: official
Source : AFP 03.02.2010
MOSCOW, Feb 3, 2010 (AFP) - Russian security forces have killed a militant described as a leading Al-Qaeda operative in a clash in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Dagestan, the security service said on Wednesday.

Mohmad Mohammed Shabaan, an Egyptian national also known as Seif Islam, and his Dagestani accomplice, Ibragim Magomedov, were killed during a special operation Tuesday evening, the FSB security service said.

It described the foreign operative as one of the founders of the Al-Qaeda terror network in Russia's predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region.

"Seif Islam had been on international wanted list for terrorist activity at the request of the Egyptian authorities," the Dagestan branch of the Russian security service said in a statement sent to AFP.

One policeman was killed in the clash, it added.

In the early 90s, Seif Islam fought in Afghanistan and was also in Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Georgia.

Russian authorities have expressed concern about Al-Qaeda infiltrating the North Caucasus where local militants have for the last years been waging an insurgency against the pro-Kremlin local authorities.

Tensions have been particularly acute in recent months in Dagestan, a region on the Caspian Sea with a patchwork of different ethnicities.

In 1992, Seif Islam arrived in Chechnya, the site of two bloody wars with separatists where, as an ally of late Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, he helped fight Russian troops, the FSB said.

A close ally of top North Caucasus separatists, including Shamil Basayev and most recently Dokku Umarov, he was also head of the Chechen branch of the Benevolence International Foundation, a charity thought to be a front for militants, between 1996 and 1998, according to the statement.

On Umarov's orders, Seif Islam had been in charge of organizing militant actions in Dagestan and resuming supplies of arms and explosives from Georgia, the FSB said.

"On the orders of Georgia's special services, he organized acts of sabotage to blow up railroads, power lines, gas and oil pipelines," it said.

©2010 AFP All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2010 International News Safety Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Russian official holds bilateral talks with out-going Sudanese ambassador

Russian official holds bilateral talks with out-going Sudanese ambassador
From African Press Agency (APA) Friday, 12 February 2010:
APA-Moscow (Russia) - Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Saltanov, on Thursday received the Sudanese ambassador to Russia, Sirajuddin Hamid Yousuf, on the occasion of the completion of his diplomatic assignment in Russia, APA learns from diplomatic sources in Moscow.

During the conversation, the two examined the state and prospects for closer relations between Russia and Sudan, and they also discussed pressing international and regional problems as well as matters connected with efforts to normalize further the situation in Sudan, including the upcoming elections in the country and a settlement to the conflict in Darfur. KKK/daj/APA 2010-02-12

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Pass this on: Missing Persons Registry - Haitian Earthquake January 2010

Copy of message today on Twitter from Ushahidi's Erik Hersman:
Pass this on. Missing persons registry for #haiti is
about 4 hours ago from twhirl
Further reading

Patrick Meier's report at Ushahidi's blog, 13 January 2010: Our Efforts in Response to Haiti’s Earthquake - We’ve launched

Ethan Zuckerman's blog post at My Heart's in Accra, 13 January 2010: Following the Haitian earthquake online