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Russia presses Iran ahead of nuclear talks

News4u - News Desk :  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov flew into Iran on Wednesday for a brief visit expected to exert international pressure on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme, and to discuss the conflict in Syria.

The trip comes ahead of a new round of negotiations between Iran and the major powers that is to be held in Moscow next Monday and Tuesday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on the eve of Lavrov’s visit that the Iranians “are under tremendous pressure from the Russians and the Chinese to come to Moscow prepared to respond” to proposals by the powers to alleviate the showdown over Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The Russian foreign ministry said Lavrov would devote “particular attention to preparations” for the Moscow meeting on the nuclear talks but gave no other details.

Lavrov was to meet his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, and Iran’s lead negotiator in the talks, Saeed Jalili, according to officials.

Clinton, speaking to a US think-tank in Washington late yesterday, said, “The Russians have made it very clear that they expect the Iranians to advance the discussion in Moscow. Not just to come, listen and leave. We will know once it happens.”

“The continuing effort by the Iranians to extend their influence and to use terror as a tool to do so extends to our hemisphere and all the way to East Asia. So the threat is real,” she added.

Moscow is the most sympathetic to Tehran among the six powers negotiating with it in the talks, although it has sided with the West in expressing fears that Iran could be pursuing the development of a nuclear weapons capability, which has raised the spectre of military strikes by the United States or Israel.

The so-called P5+1 group of nations -comprising UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany offered a package of proposals to Iran in the last round, in Baghdad in May.

They called for Iran to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, ship out its stockpile of 20-percent uranium, and halt enrichment at its fortified Fordo facility.

In return they offered nuclear cooperation, spare parts for Iran’s dilapidated passenger aircraft fleet, and an easing of a EU ban on tanker insurance that hinders oil sales to Asia.

Iran’s negotiators rejected the package as grossly insufficient.

They countered with a list of their own issues that included many non-nuclear topics such as regional security, and the demand that the P5+1 override several UN Security Council resolutions by agreeing that Iran has a “right” to uranium enrichment.


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Putin names tank factory worker to top post

News4u-News Desk-Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday named a tank factory worker who once vowed on national television to protect him from Moscow protesters as one his personal regional representatives.

Uralvagonzavod military factory foreman Igor Kholmanskikh shot to fame across Russia in December when Putin was holding a marathon televised phone-in just days after the first mass protest of his 12-year rule shook Moscow.

Putin mocked the protesters and rejected claims of vote rigging in parliamentary elections.

The tightly choreographed show then switched to a question from Kholmanskikh in the industrial city of Nizhny Tagil in the Ural mountains.

“I would like to say about these meetings,” Kholmanskikh said while standing in front of a carefully assembled line of tough-looking Uralvagonzavod factory workers.

“If the police… cannot handle them, then the boys and I are ready to come over and stand up for our stability — but of course within the frameworks of the law,” he said to warm applause from the Moscow studio audience.

“Come on over,” Putin replied.

“But not now -and I hope not for this reason.”

Putin was winding down his four-year stint as premier at the time and about to launch a campaign for a third presidential term that was crowned with a crushing March election victory that took much steam out of the protest movement.

The former KGB spy relied heavily on the support of blue-collar workers in his presidential run and seemed to be only underscoring those roots by inviting the foreman to his suburban Moscow residence.

He then offered him the title of Urals Federal District envoy while state television cameras rolled.

“I think this will be right for you -a person who spent his entire life working in a factory and knows how ordinary people live and that you will be able to defend people’s interests,” Putin told a visibly blushing Kholmanskikh.

“I hope that I do not let anyone down,” the factory worker replied after looking shyly up from Putin’s work table and swallowing hard.

Putin created the regional envoy posts during his 2000-2008 presidency as part of his early efforts to centralise command of Russia after a tumultuous era of the 1990s in which the regions enjoyed broad control.

The seven Kremlin representatives have no formal powers but report directly to Putin and as such can exercise commanding powers in regional affairs.


 

Russias powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Russia's powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

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Twin blasts kill 15 in Russia’s Caucasus region

News4u-News Desk- Two blasts near a police post killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 20 in Dagestan, part of Russia’s restive Caucasus region, the interior ministry has said.

“At least 15 people have been killed, including 12 police officers and three rescue workers from Russia’s emergency services ministry,” a spokeswoman told a news agency, adding that the dead in Thursday blasts included civilians. And while early reports had said more than 20 people had been wounded that figure could rise, she added.

The first blast went off at 10:30 pm (00:00 IST) near a traffic police post in Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala: a car exploded as police tried to stop it for an identity check, said the spokeswoman.

One police source told the RIA-Novosti agency that the car’s driver had triggered the device.

The blast sparked a huge fire and the second explosion took place after the emergency services had arrived at the scene, said the spokeswoman. The blast damaged about 20 cars, Russian news agencies reported. Russia is fighting an Islamist insurgency in the Caucasus, mostly in Dagestan and Ingushetia.

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Russia signs $35 mn missile deal with Malaysia

News4u-News Desk-KUALA LUMPUR: Russia and Malaysia have signed a $35 million contract on the delivery of RVV-AE air-to-air missiles for the Malaysian air force.

Russia’s state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport said the deal was inked at the Defense Services Asia-2012 arms show currently under way in Malaysia.

“Russia will deliver the first batch of missiles by the end of 2012,” Rosoboron export deputy general director Nikolai Dimidyuk said.

Malaysia has 16 MiG-29N Fulcrum and 18 Su-30MKM Flanker fighters in its combat aircraft fleet.

RVV-AE (AA-12 Adder) is a medium-range active radar-guided missile similar to the American AIM-120 AMRAAM. It has been in service since 1994.IANS

Russia again hit by terror strike: two policemen killed, three wounded

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Russia says it may support UN motion on Syria

News4u  -News Desk-  -BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN: Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow could support a United Nations Security Council motion on Syria if it doesn’t contain ultimatums to Bashar Assad’s government.

Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday in Kyrgyzstan that Russia may vote in favor of a Security Council document backing UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

Lavrov didn’t specify whether he was referring to a Council resolution or a statement, but warned that the document shouldn’t contain any ultimatums or threats.

Russia and China have twice used their veto power at the Council to block UN resolutions containing sanctions against Assad’s government over its crackdown on an uprising that killed more than 9,000 people.

But Moscow has strongly supported Annan’s plan and urged Assad to take the first step to end bloodshed.AP

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Russia, China veto UN resolution on Syria killings

News4u-News Desk- Russia and China vetoed on Saturday an Arab and Western-backed resolution at the UN Security Council calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down over his bloody crackdown on a popular uprising.

The setback in diplomatic efforts to defuse the revolt peacefully came after world leaders and Syrian opposition activists accused Assad’s forces of killing hundreds of people in a bombardment of the city of Homs, the bloodiest night in 11 months of upheaval in the pivotal Arab country.

 

Shortly before the Security Council voted, US President Barack Obama denounced the “unspeakable assault” on Homs, demanded that Assad leave power immediately and called for UN action against Assad’s “relentless brutality”.

 

“Yesterday the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help,” Obama said in a statement.

 

“Any government that brutalises and massacres its people does not deserve to govern.”

 

He and other Western and Arab leaders put unprecedented pressure on Assad’s veto-wielding ally Russia to allow the Security Council to pass a resolution backing an Arab League call for Assad to transfer powers to a deputy.

 

But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday it had not been possible to work constructively with Russia ahead of the vote, even though military intervention in Syria fiercely opposed by Moscow had been absolutely ruled out.

 

“I thought that there might be some ways to bridge, even at this last moment, a few of the concerns that the Russians had. I offered to work in a constructive manner to do so. That has not been possible,” she told reporters at the Munich Security Conference.

 

Moscow said before the vote that the resolution was not “hopeless”, but its wording needed to be altered to avoid “taking sides in a civil war”. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was still possible to reach consensus.

 

But US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said amendments that Russia had proposed were “unacceptable”.

 

After what US officials called “vigorous” talks between Clinton and Lavrov, Moscow announced that its foreign minister would fly to Syria in three days to meet Assad.

 

France called the Homs assault a “massacre” and a “crime against humanity”. Turkey said hundreds had been killed and the United Nations must act. Tunisia expelled the Syrian ambassador, and the flag above its embassy was brought down.

 

Death tolls cited by activists and opposition groups ranged from 237 to 260, making the Homs attack the deadliest so far in Assad’s crackdown on protests and one of the bloodiest episodes in the “Arab Spring” of revolts that have swept the region.

 

Residents said Syrian forces began shelling the Khalidiya neighbourhood at around 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Friday using artillery and mortars. They said at least 36 houses were completely destroyed with families inside.

 

“We were sitting inside our house when we started hearing the shelling. We felt shells were falling on our heads,” said Waleed, a resident of Khalidiya.

 

“The morning has come and we have discovered more bodies, bodies are on the streets,” he said.

 

An activist in the neighbourhood contacted by a news agency said residents were using primitive tools to rescue people. They feared many were buried under rubble.

“We are not getting any help, there are no ambulances or anything. We are removing the people with our own hands,” he said, adding there were only two field hospitals treating the wounded.Each one had a capacity to deal with 30 people, but he estimated the total number of wounded at 500.

“We have dug out at least 100 bodies so far, they are placed in the two mosques.”

 


Russia, China veto UN resolution on Syria killings

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Russia, US in fresh ‘cold war’

News4u-News Desk-MOSCOW: The new US ambassador to Moscowcame under an extraordinary attack on Tuesday from Russia’s parliament for meeting the leaders of protests against strongman Vladimir Putin on his arrival last week. The fury surrounding president Barack Obama’s former top Russiaadviser Michael McFaul marks an inauspicious beginning for a man who helped “reset” Russia-US relations following Putin’s 2008 departure from the Kremlin.

Obama’s strategy then focused on promoting the more liberal leanings of president Dmitry Medvedev - a policy set for a rewrite with ex-KGB man Putin’s expected return for a third term in March 4 polls. The 48-year-old career academic met with anti-Putin protest leaders a day after attending a protocol session at the Russian foreign ministry on January 16.

McFaul - seemingly unaware of the controversy this was about to generate - wrote on his blog at the time that this was part of Washington’s “dual track engagement” with Moscow. “Just as president Obama did when he visited Moscow in July 2009, all senior US officials visiting Russia make a point of meeting with both government officials and civil society leaders,” McFaul said.

But a commentator on Russia’s main Channel One television immediately suggested that McFaul - who once penned a book called “Russia’s Unfinished Revolution” - was now on a mission to “finish the revolution”. Similar comments aired over the weekend on a second channel as the furore showed no signs of going away. A leading member of Putin’s United Russia party on Tuesday relaunched the attacks on both McFaul and the Russians whom he invited to his Spaso House residence on January 17.

“US representatives are acting in an incredibly cynical manner,” Andrei Isayev told a rowdy session of parliament. “This concerns both the embassy meeting, and the very fact that McFaul, who specializes in ‘orange revolutions’ , has been appointed US ambassador to Russia,” he said. AFP

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Nine injured as huge fire engulfs Russian nuclear submarine

News4u-News Desk- Nine people have been injured when a huge fire engulfed a Russian nuclear submarine as it was being repaired in its northernMurmansk region dock, but officials said all weapons had been removed and there was no radiation risk. 

Firefighters launched a massive operation to douse the flames after the blaze broke out on Thursday on the 11,740-tonne Yekaterinburg while it was docked in the northern Murmanskregion near Russia’s border with Norway, sending flames and smoke billowing into the sky.

 

The fire was contained at 1:40 am today (local time) nine hours after it started and was expected to be eventually put out “in the coming hours,” Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu said as quoted by Interfax news agency.

 

Nine firemen were suffering from smoke inhalation, an emergency situations ministry source was quoted as saying.

 

The defence ministry had said earlier that the blaze in the Roslyakovo dockyard near one of Russia’s main naval bases had been extinguished.

 

“In order to prevent a new fire breaking out, the submarine will be lowered into the water before returning to its original position,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov added.

 

The vessel had all its nuclear missiles and conventional rockets removed before entering the dock, Konashenkov had told state television earlier, adding that its two reactors had been switched off well in advance and there was “no threat of a nuclear radiation leak”.

 

“The power unit was switched off and is now safe,” he told state television.

 

It is not yet known how the fire started, but a spokesman for the Russian military prosecutor, quoted by Ria Novosti, said a criminal probe had been launched into the “reckless destruction or damage of military assets”.

 

The fire broke out on wooden scaffolding surrounding the submarine and spread to its outer hull, Northern Fleet navy spokesman Vadim Serga told the Interfax news agency.

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Russian court rejects petition for banning Gita

News4u-News Desk- 

A Russian court on Wednesday rejected a petition, described by India as “patently absurd”, which had sought a ban on a translated version of Bhagvad Gita, bringing cheers to followers here as well as those across the world.

 

“We have won the case. The judge has rejected the petition,” Sadhu Priya Das of ISKCON, Moscow, who is also Chairman of newly formed Hindu Council of Russia, told the news agency.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna welcomed the judgement and thanked the Russian government for its support.

Prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk had argued that the Russian translation of “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” promotes “social discord” and hatred towards non-believers.

The text is a combination of the Bhagvad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest scriptures, and commentary by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna.

Consciousness, that is commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON.

The prosecutors had asked the court to include the book on the Russian Federal List of Extremist Materials, which bans more than 1,000 texts including Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and books distributed by the Jehovah’s Witness and Scientology movements.

Reacting to the judgement that came at about 4:30 pm IST, ISKCON spokesman Brajendra Nandan Das told the news agency in New Delhi that, “We are very happy”.

ISKCON members have alleged that the Russian Orthodox Church was behind the court case as it wanted to limit their activities.

The case had created a storm back in India and even the Parliamentary proceedings had been affected by it.

Speaking in Parliament, Krishna had said the lawsuit was the work of “ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals.” He also called the complaint “patently absurd”.

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India asks Russia to resolve Bhagavad Gita issue

News4u-News Desk-India has approached top Russian authorities to appropriately resolve the move to ban Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, saying it is not merely a religious text, but one of the defining treatises of Indian thought.

 

“The Russian authorities have been approached at high levels to appropriately resolve this matter,” Indian Ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra said in the wake of a demand to ban Bhagavad Gita, which a group linked to the Christian Orthodox Church has described as ‘extremist’.

 

The final hearing on the issue is scheduled for 28th December in Siberia’s Tomsk District Court, as it agreed to seek the opinion of the Russian Ombudsman on Human Rights in Tomsk Region and of Indologists from Moscow and St Petersburg, all of whom favour dismissal of the case.

 

“The Bhagavad Gita is perhaps the most important and respected scripture in the world. First translated into Russian in 1788, it is not merely a religious text, but one of the defining treatises of Indian thought,” Malhotra said in a statement in Moscow.

 

He said the Bhagavad Gita has circulated freely across the world for centuries and there is not a single instance of it having encouraged extremism.

 

“So, the case before the Honourable Court in Tomsk is indeed absurd, bordering on the bizarre,” the ambassador said.

 

Malhotra said that knowledgeable Russian and other experts have provided supportive statements about the book and hoped that the court would appreciated it.

 

“It is hoped that all this would be fully appreciated by the Honourable Court in Tomsk,” he added.

 

India has termed the complaint against Bhagavad Gita in the Russian court as “patently absurd” and said it seemed to be the handiwork of “some ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals”.



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