Archive for the ‘Kremlin’ Category

Free Media? Russia Investigates Financial Crisis Reporting

November 19, 2008

Prosecutors are launching inquiries across Russia against media reporting on the financial crisis in a bid to stem growing concern about its impact, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“It’s not censorship. We’re just checking how reliable the information is,” a press official from the prosecutor general’s office was quoted as saying.

The official gave the example of unreliable reports about a bankruptcy causing a run on deposits from a bank in the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok.


File picture shows a vendor arranging newspapers at her stand ... 
File picture shows a vendor arranging newspapers at her stand in Moscow. Prosecutors are launching inquiries across Russia against media reporting on the financial crisis in a bid to stem growing concern about its impact, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.(AFP/File)

Regional prosecutors have been ordered to check local media “in connection with measures taken by the Russian government to improve the situation in the financial sector and other sectors of the economy,” Kommersant said.

Investigators in Sverdlovsk, a key industrial region in the Ural mountains, are checking local media for attempts “to destabilise the situation in the region,” a spokeswoman for the local prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying.

“If we establish that the law has been violated, there could be disciplinary measures against the guilty, including criminal punishment,” she said.

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Moscow Rejects Second Proposal Set On Missile Defense From U.S.

November 12, 2008

The Kremlin has rejected a second set of U.S. proposals offered to assuage increasingly strident Russian criticism of plans for an American missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, news agencies reported Wednesday.

The Bush administration says the system would protect Europe from attacks by Iranian long-range missiles. Moscow has angrily dismissed those assertions, saying the system could eliminate Russia‘s nuclear deterrent or spy on its military installations.

Iranian Shahab-2 (L) and Shahab-3 missiles stand on display ... 
Iranian Shahab-2 (L) and Shahab-3 missiles stand on display in front of a large portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a square in south Tehran in September 2008. The United States denounced Iran’s claimed test of a new medium-range missile on Wednesday and warned Tehran to halt its ballistic missile program “immediately” amid a nuclear dispute with the West.(AFP/File/Atta Kenare)

In a major speech just hours after Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential vote, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to base short-range Iskander missiles in the Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad on the border with Poland if the U.S. goes forward with its plans.

By MIKE ECKEL, Associated Press Writer Mike Eckel, Associated Press Writer

The Bush administration later sent Moscow a new set of proposals. Previous U.S. proposals involved, among other things, offers to allow Russia to send observers to monitor the missile defense sites. Russian and U.S. officials have not publicly disclosed the contents of the latest proposals.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this weekend after meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the latest proposals were insufficient. On Wednesday, an unnamed Kremlin official told Russian news agencies that Moscow was prepared to work with Washington on questions of European security. But the official accused the Bush administration of trying to limit the incoming Obama administration’s choices on the issue.

The Americans have presented us with several proposals. These proposals are inadequate, they have nothing new in them,” the official said.

The Kremlin did not comment on the report.

In Brussels, the Russian ambassador to the European Union said Medvedev’s speech had been intended as a signal to the Obama administration

“Russia has been warning the international community for many months that we would have to react,” Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told reporters ahead of an EU-Russia summit Friday in Nice, France. “I don’t want to prejudge any decision that President-elect Obama will be taking, but I believe it’s best for him to know what to expect from Russia in case this decision is taken.”

An American official said separately that the U.S. and Russia will begin talks Thursday on finding a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires at the end of next year.

The official said the talks will take place in the U.S. and Russian diplomatic missions in Geneva and last until Nov. 21.

The 1991 START treaty significantly cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

The official spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to be quoted by name.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said the U.S. State Department’s third-ranked official, William Burns, met with Lavrov and Kremlin foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko Wednesday for discussions on various subjects, including talks on missile defense that would take place next month. No further details were released.


Associated Press Writers Slobodan Lekic in Brussels and Bradley S. Klapper in Geneva contributed to this report.

Kremlin Says ‘Early’ Meeting Needed Between Medvedev, Obama

November 8, 2008

A Bush administration plan for setting up a missile shield close to Russia’s borders has been a sore point with the Kremlin and has served as another dent in its battered relationship with the U.S.  Now Russia’s Medvedev wants to set up an early meeting with Barack Obama….

From the Associated Press

-elect Obama spoke to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday as the future American leader had another round of phone calls with counterparts in other nations.

A Kremlin statement said Obama and Medvedev “expressed the determination to create constructive and positive interaction for the good of global stability and development” and agreed that their countries had a common responsibility to address “serious problems of a global nature.”

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev greets the audience as ...
Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev greets the audience as he arrives for his annual state of the nation address in the Kremlin in Moscow, November 5, 2008.REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin

To that end, according to the Kremlin statement, Medvedev and Obama believe an “early bilateral meeting” should be arranged.

Obama’s office did not issue a statement describing the call.

A Bush administration plan for setting up a missile shield close to Russia’s borders has been a sore point with the Kremlin and has served as another dent in its battered relationship with the U.S.

On Wednesday, the day after Obama’s election, Medvedev threatened to move short-range missiles to Russia’s borders with NATO allies even as the U.S. offered new proposals on nuclear arms reductions as well as missile defense. Allowing Russian observers at planned missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic were among them, U.S. officials said.

During the presidential campaign, Obama expressed skepticism about the system, saying that it would require much more vigorous testing to ensure it would work and justify the billions of dollars it would cost.

Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said Saturday that Obama had “a good conversation” with Polish President Lech Kaczynski about the American-Polish alliance but that Obama had made no commitment on the missile shield plan.

“His position is as it was throughout the campaign, that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable,” McDonough said.

That was in contrast to a statement issued by the Polish president. Kaczynski said Obama “emphasized the importance of the strategic partnership of Poland and the United States and expressed hope in the continuation of political and military cooperation between our countries. He also said that the missile defense project would continue.”

President Bush wanted construction of a European missile shield — installations would be in Poland and the Czech Republic — to begin before he left office in January with a completion date of 2012. Experts in the Defense Department believe more interceptor testing is required, according to reports over the summer. Additional tests could delay the program for years.

Obama’s office had no comment on a statement from Khaled Mashaal, leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, that he is ready to talk to Obama “with an open mind.” The exiled militant leader told Sky News from Damascus, Syria, that the election of an American president with African roots is “a big change.”

The Bush administration has boycotted Hamas, as has most of the international community, because Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel.

Russia: Bailout could turn tables on oligarchs

November 2, 2008

By Nataliya Vasilyeva 
The Associated Press

MOSCOW — They amassed some of the world’s biggest fortunes in the wild privatizations of Russia’s post-Soviet chaos and the oil boom that followed. Now some of Russia’s richest men are facing the choice of losing some of their empires or pleading at the Kremlin’s doors for a bailout.

Mikhail Fridman, one of the original oligarchs of the 1990s, was the first to come forward. His Alfa Bank said Friday it was seeking $400 million in government loans to stave off foreign creditors.

The cash would allow the bank to avoid handing over its 44 percent stake in the major Russian mobile phone company VimpelCom, which it pledged to a group of foreign banks led by Deutsche Bank as collateral for a $2 billion loan.

Wide view of the Kremlin..jpg

But to get the money, Fridman and the other oligarchs lining up for government loans are expected to have to hand over to the state as collateral the stakes in their companies that they used to secure the foreign loans.

And they may find the Kremlin attaching other strings as well.

Such moves could clear the way for the Kremlin to reclaim some of the prize assets it lost in the 1990s and further tighten its hold on Russia’s economy –  or simply tighten its embrace of the business moguls.

It would be a reverse of the controversial privatization deals that gave the oligarchs their start. In the deals, known as “loans for shares,” the oligarchs took major stakes in state-owned oil and metals companies as collateral for loans to the government. The loans were never paid back.

In recent years, many of the wealthy businessmen borrowed heavily abroad, often using their firms’ stock as collateral. When Russian stocks plunged over the past few weeks, their creditors began demanding that they put up more collateral or risk losing their shares.

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Ukraine turns down Russia fleet base offer

October 23, 2008

KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine has turned down a Russian proposal to extend the lease for the naval base used by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Russia wants the fleet to remain in the Crimean port of Sevastopol beyond 2017. The Kremlin is eager to maintain its strategic foothold on the Crimean Peninsula, which was ceded to Ukraine in 1954 when both Russia and Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union.

Ships from Black Sea Fleet
The Black Sea Fleet has been in Sevastopol for over 200 years

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that the issue “cannot be a subject of discussion.” It said that Russian ships will have to leave Ukrainian waters in 2017.

Russia has said it wants to negotiate new terms when 2017 draws closer. Moscow hopes pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko will be out of power by then.


India’s Media reports on Russian Startegic Missiles; U.S. Missile Defense

October 13, 2008

New Kerala

Moscow, Oct 13: In an unprecedented show of force, Russia launched three Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), after claiming a distance record for a missile fired from a submarine.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who yesterday watched two of the launches, said they proved Russia’s missile defences were strong, adding two new systems were being developed.

Two of the latest launches took place at either end of the country, one from the Barents Sea, east of Norway, and the other from north of Japan.

Mr Medvedev watched the third one on land at the Plisetsk space centre, in north-west Russia.

The Topol missile was launched by Russia’s Strategic Missile Force. The president announced that the missile had successfully hit the target at the Kura test range in the Russian Far East.

Topol (SS-25 Sickle) is a single-warhead ICBM, approximately the same size and shape as the US Minuteman ICBM. The first Topol missiles became operational in 1985.

Furious at the US missile defence plans in Europe and moves to expand the US-led NATO alliance towards Russian borders, the Kremlin has been flexing its military muscle, unseen even during the Cold War-era.
Key facts on the Bulava ballistic missile, which Russia test-fired ...
Above: Borei Class submarine

Departing Putin Seeks to Stop NATO Gains , Missile Defense

March 31, 2008
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer 

MOSCOW – This week’s NATO summit in Romania will be Vladimir Putin‘s last appearance at a top-level international forum before he steps down as Russian president, still pushing to halt NATO‘s expansion into the stomping grounds of the former Soviet Union.
Natalya Vitrenko, who heads an anti-American party, left, burns ... 
Natalya Vitrenko, who heads an anti-American party, left, burns a NATO flag while rallying in front of U.S. Embassy to protest U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit and Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO, in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, March 31, 2008.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Kremlin realizes it doesn’t have the power to force the West to reverse its recognition of Kosovo’s independence or persuade Washington to drop its plan to deploy missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic.

But Putin has had notable success in blocking NATO membership for its former Soviet neighbors — Ukraine and Georgia.

“Georgia’s accession into NATO will be seen here as an attempt to trigger a war in the Caucasus, and NATO membership for Ukraine will be interpreted as an effort to foment a conflict with Russia,” said Sergei Markov, a Russian parliament member with close links to the Kremlin.

Amid a litany of such threats from Moscow, some NATO members are reluctant to inflame tensions at the three-day summit that begins Wednesday in Bucharest.

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Russia says NATO “playing with fire” on expansion

March 29, 2008
By Conor Sweeney and Oleg Shchedrov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia warned NATO on Friday against expansion into ex-Soviet neighbors Georgia and Ukraine ahead of a NATO summit next week that will discuss what Moscow sees as deep encroachment into its backyard.

File photo shows NATO members' national flags at the organisation's ...
File photo shows NATO members’ national flags at the organisation’s headquarters in Brussels. Russia’s envoy to NATO denied Friday that Moscow’s offer to help international forces in Afghanistan would depend on the alliance rejecting the membership plans of Georgia and Ukraine.(AFP/File/Olivier Morin)

In separate comments, Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov and a Kremlin spokesman said possible NATO membership for the two countries would have repercussions for any plans to improve Moscow’s ties with the Western military alliance.

Lavrov warned Georgia against using NATO membership as a tool to regain control over its rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke away in the 1990s and enjoy Russian support.

“Concerning South Ossetia and Abkhazia, if Georgia intends to gain NATO support in order to solve these two conflicts by means of force, it’s a dangerous game,” Lavrov told journalists.

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Russia Denies Afghan Deal Tied to NATO Expansion

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Russia‘s envoy to NATO denied Friday that Moscow‘s offer to help international forces in Afghanistan would depend on the alliance rejecting the membership plans of Georgia and Ukraine.

Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin rejected reports that any deal could be done to allow equipment and troops from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to move across Russian territory.
Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, seen here in January ... 
Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, seen here in January 2008, denied Friday that Moscow’s offer to help international forces in Afghanistan would depend on the alliance rejecting the membership plans of Georgia and Ukraine.(AFP/File/Alexander Nemenov)

Indeed he suggested that a transit arrangement was virtually finalised, and might be concluded in time for next week’s summit in Bucharest between Russian President Vladimir Putin and NATO leaders.

“There is no connection, no relation at all between the NATO decision on Ukraine or Georgia and the completion of the transit agreement, or of any arrangement to support ISAF in….

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Bush Cautiously Optimistic On Missile Defense-Radio Interview

March 20, 2008

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- U.S. President George W. Bush is “cautiously optimistic,” but unsure if the U.S. and Russia can overcome differences over a planned missile-defense system in Eastern Europe.

President Bush waves onstage at the Pentagon, March 19, 2008. ...
President Bush waves onstage at the Pentagon, March 19, 2008.(Jason Reed/Reuters)

Designed to offset the potential threat of attack by Iran or another rogue nation, the proposed ballistic missile defense system includes the installation of 10 interceptors in silos in Poland and early warning radar in the Czech Republic. But the plan has drawn stiff opposition from the Kremlin, which worries the system could be a threat to Russia’s national security.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were in Moscow this week, but their meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ended without a resolution on missile defense.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Bush said in an interview Wednesday with Radio Farda, a U.S.-funded Farsi-language broadcaster. “I don’t know whether we can find common ground. But we are trying to find common ground, and that’s what’s – that’s the first step, is to make the attempt.”

Bush said it would “make life easier” if the U.S. and Russia could iron our their differences. He repeated that the system, which still needs to be approved by Poland and the Czech Republic, would not be aimed at Russia.

U.S. rights campaigner denied entry into Russia

February 20, 2008
By Conor Sweeney

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The head of a New York-based human rights group accused Russia on Wednesday of “bureaucratic harassment” of civil groups critical of the Kremlin after he was denied a visa to travel to Moscow.

The comments by Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth came two weeks before a presidential election opposition groups say furnishes Vladimir Putin‘s chosen successor with blanket media coverage. Europe‘s human rights watchdog, the OSCE, has opted not to field observers, citing lack of official cooperation.

Roth had been due to present a report in Moscow that said new laws on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were being used to crack down on groups the Kremlin does not like.

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