Archive for the ‘Moscow’ Category

Russia: Medvedev Pushing Putin Out?

March 5, 2009

President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia’s government needs new people in top positions, a signal that he wants more clout in leadership circles dominated by allies of his predecessor Vladimir Putin.


Russia‘s worst economic crisis in a decade has produced signs of strain in Medvedev’s tandem rule with Putin, now prime minister. Medvedev has repeatedly questioned the government’s response to the crisis in remarks seen as veiled criticism of Putin, who is responsible for the economy.

Meeting with potential candidates for senior government jobs, Medvedev said the failure to regularly rotate top officials has eroded the government’s efficiency.

“We can’t move forward because the personnel reshuffle, the emergence of new people, has been very slow,” Medvedev said. “We keep shuffling the same deck of cards.”

Medvedev met with several dozen officials, academics and public activists who recently had been pinpointed by the Kremlin as potential candidates for senior government jobs. He said his administration has singled out 1,000 potential candidates for government jobs and will continue reviewing the list regularly.

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Russia Verifies “American, Western Weakness”

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”


By DAN PERRY, Associated Press Writer

 In some of his strongest criticism of his successors, Mikhail Gorbachev on Thursday likened Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party to the worst of the communists he once led and helped bring down, and said Russia is today a country where the parliament and the judiciary are not fully free.

In an interview with The Associated Press some 20 years after the Soviet empire started its rapid collapse on his tumultuous watch, Gorbachev also said the global economic crisis showed capitalism should be tempered with elements of the socialist system he played such a critical role in sweeping away.

The last Soviet leader was interviewed in the offices of his Gorbachev Foundation, a think tank founded in 1992 to promote “democratic values and moral, humanistic principles” — as well as, some say, Gorbachev himself. A little aged and more heavyset perhaps, Gorbachev, 78, seemed feisty, friendly and often reminiscent of the man who once ruled one of two superpowers on Earth.

Gorbachev is a paradoxical figure even after all these years — widely credited around the world with a historic convulsion he admits he did not intend. He sought to fix communism, not destroy it, and in the interview said that while he was willing to let Eastern Europe go its own way he very much hoped the republics that formed the Soviet Union would stay united.

“I was a resolute opponent of the breakup of the union,” said Gorbachev, who was forced to step down on Dec. 25, 1991, as the country he led ceased to exist.

He still holds out hope that one day Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus will join with Russia in forming a new union.

He seemed to view the global meltdown as partly the result of years of Western hubris and excess.

“The American media trumpeted … about the victory in the Cold War, that socialism is down. This disease of extreme self-confidence led to it — the (belief) that things would always go on this way. And it did last long … I think that now everyone is learning a hard lesson.”

“It is necessary to overcome these mistakes of super-consumerism, of super-profits.” he said. “We have to think about finding — through the G20 or other institutions — new models of development (and) cooperation.”

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Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev speaks during an interview ... 
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 5, 2009. In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Gorbachev likened Vladamir Putin’s United Russia Party to the communists he once led and helped bring down, and said Russia is today a country where the parliament and the judiciary are not fully free.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Obama Being Tested; As Biden Predicted… Is He Like Lincoln?

February 12, 2009

“Mark my words,” Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden warned last October. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking.”

“Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

But last Monday in his press conference, President Obama seemed to discount Joe Biden’s many verbal gaffes.

“You know, I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to, not surprisingly,” the President said.

Obama Confirms: Nobody Listens To Joe Biden

But Biden was correct about Obama being tested, and not just by the goofy minority in the House and Senate.

Russian leaders Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have been testing Obama since the election, in a series of pompous pronouncements and retractions about Georgia, missile defense, nuclear weapons, Iran and more.

Now Russia has worked an around about way to get on the president’s radar — to really get his attention.  They have paid Kyrgyzstan to close the airbase at Manas that the U.S. is using to supply troops in Afghanistan.

Now diplomats are hustling to Moscow to answer the Russian move….

We’ll know soon enough if Obama is anything at all like Lincoln….but the last few weeks don’t bode well…

 For Obama, Media Can’t Wait, Can’t Criticize


By Nicholas Kralev
The Washington Times

The Obama administration sent two top officials to Moscow on Wednesday in a determined effort to retain access to a key military base in Central Asia and the first major test of the new administration’s relations with Russia.

William J. Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs and former ambassador to Moscow, planned to hold talks with senior Russian officials to better understand the link that Washington says exists between the Kyrgyz government’s decision to end the U.S. lease of the Manas air base and a Russian offer of $2 billion in aid for Kyrgyzstan, U.S. officials said.

“Burns will be discussing the Manas base issue,” one senior administration official said.

Another official said the administration wants to hear “what it is Kyrgyzstan wants” and whether the Russians want anything in exchange for continued U.S. use of the base, which Washington deems vital to U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan – especially at a time when the U.S. is preparing to surge 30,000 more troops into the country

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Ukraine-Russia Gas Talks End With No Result; Europe Shivers

January 8, 2009

Gas talks overnight between Ukraine‘s state energy firm Naftogaz and Russia’s gas export monopoly, Gazprom, ended with no concrete results, the head of Naftogaz was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Interfax-Ukraine quoted Naftogaz chief Oleh Dubyna as saying the talks in Moscow with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller ended without result but that they would be continued.

Austria's OMV gas refinery -- one of Europe's largest -- has seen its deliveries from Russia cut.

Above: Austria’s OMV gas refinery — one of Europe’s largest — has seen its deliveries from Russia cut.

The news agency also quoted Dubyna as saying that three-way talks in Brussels, involving the European Union, had been canceled at the behest of the Russian side.

(Reporting from Reuters by Yuri Kulikov, writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Sabina Zawadzki; Editing by Christian Lowe)


From the BBC
Some EU states are getting no gas at all or have seen supplies sharply cut.

Ukraine denies Russian accusations that it is stealing gas passing through export pipelines on its territory.

Russia cut gas to Ukraine itself a week ago as a row over allegedly unpaid bills escalated.

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From CNN
Oleh Dubyna, the chief executive of Ukraine’s Naftogaz, told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the Thursday meeting in Brussels between himself, the European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and Gazprom boss Alexey Miller had been cancelled by the Russians.

Dubyna said talks would, however, continue in Moscow.

“What matters most now is to restart gas shipments to Ukraine,” he said.

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General view of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom's headquarters ... 
General view of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom’s headquarters in Moscow, January 6, 2009. Gazprom said on Tuesday it had supplied around 65 million cubic metres of gas to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday, compared with around 300 mcm in previous days.REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin (RUSSIA)

Russia Braced for Unrest Following Devaluations

December 28, 2008

Russia is bracing for further unrest as the rouble on Friday slid to a new low against the euro after a succession of moves to devalue its currency.

A cut on Friday extended six weeks of devaluations by Russia’s central bank designed to offset the impact of the global economic crisis and falling oil prices as the country’s main export commodity approached its lowest level since 2004.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, warned Russia faced “unprecedentedly difficult and dangerous circumstances” and could be “heading into a black hole”. “It is not clear what the fate of our rouble will be or if society has sufficient financial and moral resources,” he said.

After the depreciation, which was the eighth so far this month, the rouble declined as much as 1.2 per cent to Rbs29.06 versus the dollar on Friday, a four year low. The rouble has now lost nearly 20 per cent of its value against the US currency since August.

By Isabel Gorst in Moscow and Anuj Gangahar in New York
Financial Times

Analysts at Barclays Capital said the best case scenario would see Russian policymakers, facing the mounting evidence of a recession, allowing a one-off depreciation of 10 per cent or more.

The rouble’s slide comes as the government faces scrutiny over its policies. A demonstration earlier this month in the far eastern city of Vladivostok marked the first major challenge to the Kremlin since the onset of the global financial crisis.

Mikhail Sukhodolsky, a deputy interior minister, warned on Christmas Eve that there could be further protests. “The situation may be exacerbated by a growth in frustration of workers over the non-payment of wages or those threatened with dismissal,” he said.

His remarks coincided with criticism of the Kremlin’s rough handling of the protests in Vladivostok. Moscow-based Omon riot police detained about 61 people in the protests against car import duties designed to prop up domestic car producers, but making foreign vehicles prohibitively expensive for ordinary Russians.

Mikhail Kasyanov, the former prime minister who now leads the liberal People’s Democratic Union opposition movement, said that an unspoken social contract between the government and the people, swapping political freedoms for prosperity and consumer goods, had broken down.

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Will There Be Riots in Russia?

Russia Angry, Critical of U.S. On Arms Control

December 20, 2008

A senior Russian diplomat harshly criticised the US stance in arms control talks yesterday, saying it could further erode mutual trust and undermine global stability.

The US and Russia have begun talks on a successor deal to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which expires in December 2009, but a cold spell in Russia-US relations has stymied talks.

By David Nowak
Associated Press

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russian and US negotiators have failed to agree on which weapons should be counted under the new deal.

Russia wants to count missiles, bombers and submarines along with nuclear warheads fitted to them, as was done in the START I treaty, while the United States agrees only to count nuclear warheads, Ryabkov said.

“The implementation of the approach proposed by the American side can strip our bilateral relations of a key element – predictability in arms control – and badly destabilise the strategic situation,” Ryabkov said in a statement.

US officials argued that missiles, bombers and submarines mustn’t be subject to a nuclear arms control deal because they can also carry conventional weapons.

Russia Testing Obama: Says No To U.S.
Missile Defense & Offers To Stop “Some” Rus

Russia, Obama and the Strategic Chess Tournament
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OPEC Could Make Biggest Production Cut Ever This Week To Raise Prices

December 15, 2008

OPEC ministers could make their deepest oil supply cut ever when they meet on Wednesday to combat shrinking demand, bulging stocks and a $100 collapse in prices.

By Barbara Lewis and William Maclean

File photo shows the OPEC logo in Vienna, Austria. OPEC Secretary ...

For many in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, up to 2 million barrels per day (bpd) must be removed to keep up with a slump in consumption that has knocked two-thirds off prices since July.

“We have to act — we see a very sizeable reduction,” OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri told reporters on his arrival on Monday in this western Algerian city.

OPEC President Chakib Khelil agreed.

“Everybody is supporting a cut — I don’t have any doubt about it.”

Oil rigs extract petroleum in the Los Angeles area community ... 
Oil rigs extract petroleum in the Los Angeles area community of Culver City, California. World oil prices have rebounded on expectations that crude exporters’ cartel OPEC will cut production at a key meeting in Algeria this week, dealers said.(AFP/Getty Images/File/David McNew)

Benchmark U.S. crude rose more than $2 a barrel toward $49 in early trade — still far from the “fair” price of $75 a barrel identified by Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, at the end of November.

After slashing a combined two million barrels daily, 7.3 percent of its output at two previous meetings, OPEC was on course to chop at least another five percent off a world market that burns 86 million barrels of oil each day.

Saudi Arabia, had yet to make public comment on its position, but OPEC chief Khelil said Riyadh had already cut back in anticipation of further supply curbs.

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Kasparov starts new Russian anti-Kremlin movement

December 13, 2008

Former chess champion Garry Kasparov and other prominent liberals launched a new anti-Kremlin movement in Russia on Saturday.

The organization, called Solidarity after the victorious Polish anti-communist movement, aims to unite the country’s dysfunctional liberal forces and encourage a popular revolution similar to that seen in other ex-Soviet countries.

By PAUL SONNE, Associated Press Writer

“We are fighting for victory because we have something to say to our people and something to offer them,” Kasparov said at the founding congress Saturday in a Moscow-region hotel. “On this very day, we are in a position to take stock of past mistakes and act differently,” he said.

Opposition leaders Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion, ... 
Opposition leaders Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion, left, and Boris Nemtsov, right, attending the founding congress of a new opposition movement called ‘Solidarity’ in Khimki, outside Moscow, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008.(AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

With a parliament now dominated by Kremlin-friendly parties, Russia’s liberals have found themselves marginalized. Yabloko and SPS, the two main democratic parties to emerge after the collapse of the Soviet Union, lost their State Duma representation in 2007 after failing to garner at least 7 percent of the vote.

Much of the Russian public has lost faith in liberal democracy, which remains associated with the chaos, poverty and corruption that emerged in Russia under President Boris Yeltsin.

“One of the tasks of the Solidarity movement is to rehabilitate those basic principles that, unfortunately, for a significant or even overwhelming portion of our fellow citizens, have become associated with failure, misery or reduction of freedom,” Kasparov said.

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US, Russia to discuss missile shield in Moscow next week

December 11, 2008

The United States and Russia will hold next talks in Moscow next week on a planned US missile defence shield in Eastern Europe, Itar-Tass agency reported Thursday quoting a junior Russian foreign minister.

“It is too early to forecast the results of this meeting… Everything depends on the new US administration’s assessment of the subject,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

A Russian foreign ministry source told Interfax news agency the talks will be held on December 15.

“A new round of talks on political and military questions including the misile defence shield and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will take place on December 15 behind closed doors,” said the source.


John Rood, US under secretary of state for arms control and international security, will meet Ryabkov in the Moscow talks.

US Under Secretary of State John Rood answers a journalist's ... 
US Under Secretary of State John Rood answers a journalist’s question in Budapest in February 2008 during his press conference after talks on missile defence with his Russian counterparts. The United States and Russia will hold next talks in Moscow next week on a planned US missile defence shield in Eastern Europe, Itar-Tass agency reported Thursday quoting a junior Russian foreign minister.(AFP/File/Attila Kisbenedek)

Moscow has sharply criticised the US plans to put an anti-missile radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland, despite US assurances that the system is not directed against Russia.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin urged US president-elect Barack Obama last month to drop the planned missile shield.

Obama, who takes office on January 20, has yet to say whether he intends to continue the plan created by the outgoing administration of Republican president George W. Bush.

Russia Warns U.S., West: Stay Out of Former Soviet Union

December 10, 2008

Russia’s foreign minister warned the West on Wednesday against meddling in its backyard, saying the U.S. and European countries must not advance their interests in the former Soviet Union at Russia’s expense.

Sergey Lavrov told a group of foreign business leaders that Russia has no monopoly on relations with neighboring former Soviet republics, and said Moscow understands that the United States and European Union have legitimate interests in the region.

By STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press Writer

But, he said, the U.S. and EU must forge relations with former Soviet republics “through legal, understandable and transparent methods,” Lavrov said. “Behind-the-scenes meddling only creates a crisis situation. One must respect the people of these nations and give them the right to choose their own fate.”

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a ...

Already long-deteriorating ties between Moscow and the West were badly damaged by Russia’s August war with Georgia, a small ex-Soviet republic that has enjoyed strong U.S. backing and is seeking NATO membership.

Lavrov gave no examples of alleged meddling. But the U.S. and Europe have been courting ex-Soviet republics as they vie with Russia for access to Central Asian and Caspian Sea energy resources and seek ties with nations close to sources of concern such as Iran and Afghanistan.

Also, Russian leaders have suggested the U.S. encouraged Georgia to launch an offensive that sparked the five-day war, and say Washington has pressed to bring Ukraine closer to NATO despite significant opposition among its people.

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