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Posts tagged ‘Moscow’

Russian Forces Push Beyond Crimea Before Referendum.


Ukraine said Russian forces tried to push deeper into its territory and the Kremlin strengthened its rhetoric, threatening to escalate the worst diplomatic standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

By Saturday afternoon, The New York Times reports, Russian troops moved beyond the Crimean border and overtook a gas plant just beyond the regional border of Crimea.

Meanwhile, Russian troops entered the Kherson region on the Azov Sea from the Crimea peninsula they already occupy, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, told reporters Saturday at the United Nations in New York. The Foreign Ministry in Kiev issued a statement protesting the seizure by Russian soldiers of the village of Strilkove.

The incursion raises tensions before the Black Sea Crimean region holds a referendum Sunday on joining Russia. While the European Union and the U.S. are threatening to tighten sanctions against Russia if it doesn’t pull back, President Vladimir Putin has said ethnic Russians in the region need protection from “extremists.”

“Russia now takes it as a fact that they’ve picked off Crimea and is sending more soldiers and provocateurs into Ukraine to test the waters and see how much further they can go,” Joerg Forbrig, a senior program officer at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a phone interview.

As many as 130 Russian soldiers are in Strilkove, digging trenches and doing “other engineering work,” said Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for Border Guard Service. They have three armored personnel carriers and are in control of a Ukrainian natural gas pumping station, he said. There have been no military confrontations between Ukraine and Russia so far, he said.

The UN Security Council met Saturday in New York where Russia vetoed a resolution proposed by the U.S. that stressed the need for political dialogue. Thirteen members of the Security Council backed the resolution and China abstained.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the vote shows Russia is “isolated, alone, wrong.” Chinese Ambassador to UN Liu Jieyi said the resolution would have resulted “in confrontation and further complicate the situation.” He said respecting “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states” is a “fundamental” in China’s foreign policy.

U.S. officials who monitor social media say the number of posts on Twitter, Facebook and other public Internet sites about possible Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine and a growing number of unidentified men who appear to be Russians with military or police training is rising sharply Saturday.

The officials were quick to add that the trend doesn’t mean any Russian action is imminent and that the accuracy and origin of such posts are difficult to verify quickly. Nevertheless, one of the officials called the trend worrisome.

Clashes erupted Friday in Ukraine’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, near Russia’s border, where a shootout left two dead and a policeman injured. Russian troops massed just inside Russia’s border nearby for exercises, stirring concerns of a Kremlin move to annex eastern Ukraine. Russia said it’s examining numerous requests for protection received from people living in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov without a breakthrough, warned Russia would face consequences if it failed to change course.

Russia moved more forces into Crimea, bringing the total to about 22,000 soldiers as of Friday evening, Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said in a website statement. The troops “may be used for an offensive,” he said.

Lavrov expressed outrage over March 13 clashes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which one person was killed and 17 injured, according to the regional government.

“Militants came to Donetsk from other regions and started fighting with demonstrators,” Lavrov said.

Putin is driven by deep geopolitical goals and isn’t likely to fear the consequences of sanctions by Western nations, Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy group, said in a telephone interview.

After watching the North Atlantic Treaty Organization expand and the U.S. build ties with former Soviet Union countries, Russians feel they “have every reason to push back and expand their ‘sphere of privileged interests,’” Rumer said.

“The confrontation has reached a new level,” acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a website statement late Friday. “Either the new young democracy wins, or a totalitarian curtain falls on Ukraine.”

Putin’s government contends ethnic Russians in Crimea are at risk after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, an assertion that Ukraine’s new leaders deny. The Kremlin supports Crimea’s recently appointed administration, which organized Sunday’s referendum.

Crimean Premier Sergei Aksenov told reporters in the region’s capital, Simferopol, that the peninsula may become part of Russia next week, though full integration may take a year. Turnout is expected to be more than 80 percent, he said.

“Preparations are already under way to incorporate Crimea into Russia,” Sergei Markov, a Kremlin adviser and vice rector of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow, said in a telephone interview from Sevastopol on Saturday.

Russian lawmakers are scheduled to consider legislation March 21 that would allow Russia to incorporate parts of countries where the central authority isn’t functioning and local residents want to secede, he said.

The bill isn’t needed to make Crimea part of Russia because the region already declared independence from Kiev, according to Markov. It would allow for the annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine, though Russia would only want to do that if it’s sure “we are welcomed with flowers,” he said.

Russian stocks posted the biggest weekly drop since May 2012, with the Micex Index sliding 7.6 percent to 1,237.43 Friday, the lowest level since May 2012. Russia’s 10-year bond fell for a sixth day, driving up the yield by 38 basis points to 9.79 percent, the highest level since 2009. The ruble weakened 0.2 percent to 43.0570 against Bank Rossii’s target basket of dollars and euros Friday in Moscow. Gold climbed to the highest in sixth months.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks fell 2 percent this week to 1,841.13, erasing its gains for the year. The UX index of Ukrainian stocks was down 7.1 percent for the week. Even so, Ukrainian Eurobonds and the hryvnia rebounded after Lavrov said Russia had no invasion plans.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to NATO members Poland and Lithuania on March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, for talks on Ukraine, according to a White House statement. The Pentagon said this week that it would send 12 F-16 aircraft to Poland as a sign of U.S. commitment to defend allies in the region, and the U.S. sent six fighter jets to Lithuania last week.

EU foreign ministers, who meet March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, are poised to impose asset freezes and visa bans on people and “entities” involved in Russia’s seizure of the peninsula, an EU official said. The next stage of sanctions would be weighed at a summit at the end of next week.

Forbrig said that visa bans and other political moves aimed at Russia won’t deter Putin.

“If Putin sees the EU sanctions as not strong enough, he may view them as a green light to go further,” Forbrig said.

“We have to get to the material base of Putin’s regime through economic and trade measures that both target his revenue directly and have a snowball effect of scaring off investors and fueling capital flight out of Russia,” he said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report. 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

Kissinger Offers Blueprint for Defusing Crisis in Ukraine.


Image: Kissinger Offers Blueprint for Defusing Crisis in Ukraine

By Elliot Jager

Resolving the Ukrainian crisis requires Moscow to accept that Ukraine will not again become its satellite, and for the West to accept that Ukraine is too integral to Russian civilization to be treated as just another independent country, Henry Kissinger wrote in a commentary published in The Washington Post.

Kissinger, 90, was U.S. secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He is associated with the realpolitik school of political science, which prefers finding solutions based on diplomacy and power not ideology.

He warned against demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Doing so is no basis for policy but is “an alibi for the absence of one,” he wrote.

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On Ukraine, Kissinger cautioned against confrontation between Russia and the West.

“In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally.”

Do not force an “either-or” choice on the parties, Kissinger argued. “If Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.”

“Ukraine can never be just a foreign country” to Russia, the former secretary of state wrote. It is where “Russian history began.” It’s “polyglot composition” means that “any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other” would result in “civil war or breakup.”

Ukraine has known only 23 years of independence and hundreds of years of foreign rule, he wrote. One part of the country is Russian-speaking and Orthodox Christian; the other is Catholic and Ukrainian-speaking.

The former diplomat offered four principles for diplomats wanting to defuse the crisis:

  • Let Ukraine choose its economic and political associations.
  • Don’t bring the country into NATO.
  • Encourage Ukrainian leaders to create a system of government that reconciles its two parts.
  • Crimea mustn’t be annexed to Russia; it needs autonomy within Ukraine.

Kissinger does not expect either side would find these principles to its absolute satisfaction.

“The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction,” he wrote.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obama Silent As Ukraine Prepares For War.


SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Ukraine put its military on high alert Sunday in response to Russia’s move to seize control of the Crimean Peninsula, and it threatened war against Moscow if the Kremlin made further incursions into Ukrainian territory as Western powers scrambled to find a response to the crisis.

20140302-145317.jpg

“This is the red alert, this is not a threat, this is actually a declaration of war to my country,” Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, told reporters in English, a day after Russia’s parliament approved the deployment of troops to any part of Ukraine where Moscow deems Russians are in danger. He warned that Ukraine was on the “brink of disaster” and appealed to the international community to stand by Kiev. source – NY Times

by NTEB News Desk

Ukraine’s Yanukovich Says Still President.


Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich said on Thursday he was still the legitimate president of his country and that people in its southeastern and southern regions would never accept the “lawlessness” brought by leaders chosen by a mob.

Russian news agencies quoted a statement by Yanukovich as saying he had asked Moscow to guarantee his personal safety.

The statement could not be independently verified and it was not clear where Yanukovich was, although some media groups have suggested he is in Moscow after fleeing Ukraine, where he was toppled by opposition forces at the weekend.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said he had no information and could not comment on the statement.

“I, Viktor Fedorovich Yanukovich appeal to the people of Ukraine. As before I still consider myself to be the lawful head of the Ukrainian state, chosen freely by the will of the Ukrainian people,” he was quoted as saying.

“Now it is becoming clear that the people in southeastern Ukraine and in Crimea do not accept the power vacuum and complete lawlessness in the country, when the heads of ministries are appointed by the mob.”

“On the streets of many cities of our country there is an orgy of extremism,” he said, adding that he and his closest aides had been threatened physically.

“I have to ask the Russian authorities to provide me with personal safety from the actions of extremists.”

Russian television showed what it said was a copy of the statement.

Interfax news agency quoted a source in the authorities as saying Moscow would ensure Yanukovich’s safety on the Russian territory.

“In connection with the appeal by president Yanukovich for his personal security to be guaranteed, I report that the request has been granted on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the source was quoted as saying.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Russian Flag Raised By Armed Troops Over Ukraine’s Crimea Parliment.


SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) – Armed men seized the regional government headquarters and parliament in Ukraine’s Crimea on Thursday and raised the Russian flag, alarming Kiev’s new rulers, who urged Moscow not to abuse its navy base rights on the peninsula by moving troops around.

Russian Flag Raised In Crimea

Russian flying over Parliment building in SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine

“I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet,” said Olexander Turchinov, acting president since the removal of Viktor Yanukovich last week. “Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry also summoned Russia’s acting envoy in Kiev for immediate consultations.

There were mixed signals from Moscow, which put fighter jets along its western borders on combat alert, but earlier said it would take part in discussions on an International Monetary Fund (IMF) financial package for Ukraine. Ukraine has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years to stave off bankruptcy.

The fear of military escalation prompted expressions of concern from the West, with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urging Russia not to do anything that would “escalate tension or create misunderstanding”.

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski called the seizure of government buildings in the Crimea a “very dangerous game”.

“This is a drastic step, and I’m warning those who did this and those who allowed them to do this, because this is how regional conflicts begin,” he told a news conference. source – Reuters.

by NTEB News Desk

Truce Collapses in Ukraine, Violence Intensifies.


Image: Truce Collapses in Ukraine, Violence IntensifiesAnti-government protesters man a barricade on the outskirts of Independence Square in Kiev on Feb. 20.

Fearing that a call for a truce was a ruse, protesters tossed firebombs and advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine’s embattled capital. Government snipers shot back and the almost-medieval melee that ensued left at least 70 people dead and hundreds injured.

Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid. Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or on planks of wood.

Protesters were also seen leading policemen with their hands held high around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev. Ukraine’s Interior ministry says 67 police were captured in all. It was not clear how they were taken. An opposition lawmaker said they were being held in Kiev’s occupied city hall.

President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition protesters who demand his resignation are locked in an epic battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country — mostly in its western cities — are in open revolt against Yanukovych’s central government, while many in eastern Ukraine favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.

At least 99 people have died this week in the clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in three months of mostly peaceful protests. Now neither side appears willing to compromise, with the opposition insisting on Yanukovych’s resignation and an early election and the president apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Thursday was the deadliest day yet. An AP cameraman saw snipers shooting at protesters in Kiev and video footage showed at least one sniper wearing a Ukraine riot police uniform.

The carnage appears to show that neither Yanukovych nor the opposition leaders appear to be in control of the chaos engulfing Ukraine.

Dr. Oleh Musiy, the top medical coordinator for the protesters told the AP that at least 70 protesters were killed Thursday and over 500 injured, and the death toll could well rise further.

There was no way to immediately verify his statement. Earlier in the day, an Associated Press reporter saw 21 bodies of protesters laid out Thursday on the edge of the capital’s sprawling protest camp.

In addition, one policeman was killed and 28 suffered gunshot wounds Thursday, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov told the AP.

A truce announced late Wednesday appeared to have little credibility among hardcore protesters at Kiev’s Independence Square campsite. One camp commander, Oleh Mykhnyuk, told the AP even after the truce, protesters still threw firebombs at riot police on the square. As the sun rose, police pulled back, the protesters followed them and police then began shooting at them, he said.

The Interior Ministry warned Kiev residents to stay indoors Thursday because of the “armed and aggressive mood of the people.”

Yanukovych claimed Thursday that police were not armed and “all measures to stop bloodshed and confrontation are being taken.” But the Interior Ministry later contradicted that, saying law enforcers would get weapons as part of an “anti-terrorist” operation.

Some signs emerged that Yanukovych is losing loyalists. The chief of Kiev’s city administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced Thursday he was leaving Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

“We must be guided only by the interests of the people, this is our only chance to save people’s lives,” he said, adding he would continue to fulfill his duties as long as he had the people’s trust.

Another influential member of the ruling party, Serhiy Tyhipko, said both Yanukovych and opposition leaders had “completely lost control of the situation.”

“Their inaction is leading to the strengthening of opposition and human victims,” the Interfax news agency reported.

The parliament building was evacuated Thursday because of fears that protesters would storm it, and the government office and the Foreign Ministry buildings in Kiev were also evacuated. But a parliament session convened in the afternoon, with some pro-government lawmakers heeding the opposition’s call to work out a solution to the crisis.

As the violence exploded and heavy smoke from burning barricades at the encampment belched into the sky, the foreign ministers of three European countries — France, Germany and Poland — met with Yanukovych for five hours after speaking with the opposition leaders. The EU ministers then returned to speak again with opposition leaders.

The 28-nation European Union began an emergency meeting on Ukraine in Brussels to consider sanctions against those behind the violence.

The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament, accusing Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would once again limit the president’s power.

Prior to the deaths Thursday, the Ukrainian Health Ministry said 28 people have died and 287 have been hospitalized this week. Protesters who have set up a medical facility in a downtown cathedral so that wounded colleagues would not be snatched away by police say the number of injured are significantly higher — possibly double or triple that.

The Caritas Ukraine aid group praised the protest medics but said many of the wounded will need long-term care, including prosthetics.

The clashes this week have been the most deadly since protests kicked off in November after Yanukovych shelved an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Russia then announced a $15 billion bailout for Ukraine, whose economy is in tatters.

The political jockeying for influence in Ukraine has continued. In Moscow, the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin was sending former ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to Ukraine as a mediator.

President Barack Obama stepped in to condemn the violence, warning Wednesday “there will be consequences” for Ukraine if it keeps up. The U.S. has raised the prospect of joining with the EU to impose sanctions against Ukraine.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will “try to do our best” to fulfill its financial obligations to Ukraine, but indicated Moscow would hold back on further installments of its bailout money until the crisis is resolved.

“We need partners that are in good shape and a Ukrainian government that is legitimate and effective,” he said.

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Ukrainian alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska, 24, said she will not take part in Friday’s women’s slalom due to the developments in Kiev.

“As a protest against lawless actions made toward protesters, the lack of responsibility from the side of the president and his lackey government, we refuse further performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games,” her father and coach, Oleg Matsotskyy, wrote in a Facebook post.

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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

Olympics City Mayor: We Have No Gay People Here.


Image: Olympics City Mayor: We Have No Gay People Here

 

By Cathy Burke

The mayor of Sochi, Russia, says there’s no gay people in the Winter Olympics’ host city.

Anatoly Pakhomov told BBC Panorama that homosexuality is “not accepted here in the Caucasus . . .  We do not have them in our city.”

The mayor later conceded to Panorama that he wasn’t certain there were no gay people living in Sochi, but added, “I don’t bloody know them.”

The mayor said homosexuals were welcome at the Olympic Games — so long as they “respect Russian law” and “don’t impose their habits on others.”

One resident disputed the mayor’s demographical assessment.

“There are very many clubs for gay people in Moscow. In Sochi, we have two gay clubs as well,” the resident, identified as drag queen Madame Zhu-Zha, told Panorama. “In some places, there’s serious prejudice against gay people. In other places, it’s not as bad.”

Last June, Russia passed a law banning the promotion of “non-traditional” sexuality to minors, legislation that was viewed as an attack on gay rights.

But two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the law is meant to protect children, ABC News reported. He insisted that “individuals of non-traditional orientation cannot feel like second-rate humans in this country because they are not discriminated against in any way.”

“I couldn’t care less about their sexual orientation,” Putin added. “We will welcome all athletes and all visitors to the Olympics. None of our guests will have any problems.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Snowden Requesting Russian Protection After Threats.


Image: Snowden Requesting Russian Protection After ThreatsEdward Snowden’s refugee documents granted by Russia.

By Newsmax Wires

Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. contractor residing in Russia under temporary asylum, is appealing to the local government for protection after receiving threats against his life, his lawyer in Moscow said.

“He has no other option but to seek protection and ask for the situation to be cleared up,” Anatoly Kucherena said by phone today. “There are worries and alarm about statements and actions on the part of some officials.”

Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor – Vote in Urgent PollKucherena, who has represented Snowden’s interests in Russia since he sought refuge last July after leaking classified National Security Agency documents, pointed to reports on Buzzfeed this month that contained threats made by unidentified U.S. officials. Two days ago, Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, described the 30-year-old American as “a thief” who had possible Russian assistance and has “incredibly harmed” the U.S. military.

Snowden received a year’s sanctuary in Russia in August after a month-long confinement in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. After months of debate instigated by Snowden’s leaks, President Barack Obama responded Jan. 17 by endorsing action to ensure American citizens and allies that their privacy is protected while committing to few specifics.

Obama canceled a September meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum.

Life, Safety

“Edward really believes his life and safety are at risk,” Kucherena said, adding that his client currently has private protection. “Since he’s a temporary refugee, he has the same rights and responsibilities as any Russian citizen.”

Snowden hasn’t received notice from the U.S. that he’s being held accountable for any crime, according to Kucherena.

Rogers, the U.S. lawmaker, has offered the only public characterization of a classified Defense Department report on Snowden, saying it concluded that he downloaded about 1.7 million intelligence files while working for the McLean, Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp.

Dianne Feinstein, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a joint appearance with Rogers that Snowden “may well have” had assistance. Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who’s chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the same day on ABC’s “This Week” that he thought Snowden had help.

No Asset

Russia isn’t controlling Snowden as an intelligence asset or offering him aid beyond a safe haven, Putin said Dec. 19. Snowden hasn’t been questioned about U.S. intelligence activities regarding Russia, according to Putin.

“I’ll tell you in semiprofessional language: we aren’t working with him and haven’t worked with him in investigative terms,” he said.

The U.S. has accused Snowden of theft and espionage for leaking documents to the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post last year that unveiled the breadth of the NSA’s collection of Internet and telephone records.

Snowden, who first went to Hong Kong after leaking the documents, has said his goal was to call the public’s attention to programs he believed had expanded with little meaningful oversight.

“There’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow,” Rogers said, referring to Russia’s security agency. “There’s questions to be answered there. I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Terror Stalks Olympics Following Double Russian Bombing.


Image: Terror Stalks Olympics Following Double Russian BombingA police officer with a sniffer dog and security guards check a bus entering the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia.

By Lisa Barron

The Winter Olympics, set to open in Russia in less than six weeks, have been thrown into chaos after two terrorist bombs killed 31 people in a city that thousands of spectators will travel through on their way to the games in Sochi.

Already the Australian team is considering pulling out of the games following the explosions in Volgograd, the regional transportation hub.

And U.S. authorities are cooperating with Russian authorities as a crackdown on Islamic separatists from the troubled North Caucasus region is seen as inevitable.

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The bombings have been linked to separatists from the Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan — the area that spawned Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, said Monday that no extra security measures would be adopted despite the attacks, the first time a top-ranking Russian official has spoken out about concerns that the games could be targeted, reports the state-owned RAI Novosti.

“Concerning the Olympic Games in Sochi, all necessary security measures are provided for, and extra security measures in light of the act of terrorism in Volgograd will not be taken, because everything needed is done,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin for his part has ordered tighter security nationwide but has not addressed the attacks publicly.

The second attack in Volgograd — formerly known as Stalingrad — killed at least 14 and injured 28, when an explosion ripped apart a trolley bus, one day after an explosion killed at least 17 people in the city’s main rail station.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, said the bomb used was packed with shrapnel that was “identical” to that in the rail station bombing and was set off by a suicide bomber, reports Russia Today.

Sergey Avdienko, a retired police colonel and former Interpol officer, told the network  that the attacks were carried out by Islamic militants from the volatile North Caucasus.

“It’s quite clear who is behind these attacks — it’s people from a place fairly close to Volgograd; I’m speaking about the Caucasus, where radical Islamic groups thrive. The entire point of doing this, especially on the cusp of the New Year, is to intimidate the population and to destabilize the situation in the country as well, particularly in view of the coming Olympic Games,” he said.

Volgograd, about 400 miles northeast of Sochi, is a key transport hub for the region.
In July, Doku Umarov, head of the Caucasus Emirate, considered to be a terrorist organization by the State Department, vowed to target Sochi explicitly, calling the games ”satanic,” reports CNN.

”They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims, buried on the territory of our land on the Black Sea, and we Mujahedeen are obliged not to permit that — using any methods allowed us by the almighty Allah,” he said in a video statement.

Umarov was a rebel leader in Chechnya’s separatist fight in the early 1990s, which evolved into an Islamic insurgency that has spread through neighboring Muslim republics, including Dagestan.

The Russia Foreign Ministry on Monday likened the Volgograd bombings to “terrorist attacks” in the US, Syria or elsewhere, organized by groups with the “same motivator,” and expressed “deep appreciation” to all world leaders who condemned the attacks, according to RT.

The State Department issued a statement on Sunday  saying, “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s terrorist attack in Volgograd. We send our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and stand in solidarity with the Russian people against terrorism of any kind.”

The White House also issued a statement saying President Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation and that the U.S. and Russia were cooperating on anti-terrorism leading up to the Olympics.

Putin’s silence as his pet Olympics project appeared in danger of being thrown into chaos was seen as surprising. “Putin may be hesitating to speak out because any alarmist statements from him might indeed cast doubt on the security of the Olympics at Sochi, which is much closer than Volgograd to the terrorist hotbeds of the North Caucasus,” Leonid Bershidsky, an editor and novelist, wrote in Bloomberg View.

“Security is already extra tight at the Olympic venue, and law enforcement chiefs know Putin won’t forgive them for allowing anyone to mess with an Olympic showcase that has cost $48 billion to stage,” he added.

But the bombings are having international repercussions. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the country could pull out of the games.

“We don’t want to lightly prevent our athletes participating in any event for which they have trained for years, but their safety and the safety of their families and other spectators is of the utmost concern,” Bishop told The Australian newspaper.

The 22nd Winter Olympics are due to begin in Sochi on Feb. 6 and run for 17 days. The city was chosen as host in 2007, despite fears of violence from groups linked with the independence moves in the nearby republics.

In 2010 Time Magazine raised fears that Sochi, a resort town on the Black Sea near the Russian border with Georgia would be safe, citing at least four groups that could set of a bomb in a crowded square in broad daylight.

“We are preparing to hold the Games in what is virtually the front line in our war on terrorism,” said former KGB Col. Oleg Nechiporenko, chief analyst for Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist and Anti-Criminal Fund.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

At Least 14 Killed in Russia Bus Explosion; 2nd Attack in Two Days.


MOSCOW — A bomb ripped apart a bus in Volgograd on Monday, killing 14 people in the second deadly attack blamed on suicide bombers in the southern Russian city in 24 hours and raising fears of Islamist attacks on the Winter Olympics.

President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his prestige on February’s Sochi Games and dismissed threats from Chechen and other Islamist militants in the nearby North Caucasus, ordered tighter security nationwide after the morning rush-hour blast.

Investigators said they believed a male suicide bomber set off the blast, a day after a similar attack killed at least 17 in the main rail station of a city that serves as a gateway to the southern wedge of Russian territory bounded by the Black and Caspian Seas and the Caucasus mountains.

A Reuters journalist saw the blue and white trolleybus — a bus powered by overhead electric cables — reduced to a twisted, gutted carcass, its roof blown off and bodies and debris strewn across the street. Windows in nearby apartments were blown out by the explosion, which investigators called a “terrorist act.”

“For the second day, we are dying. It’s a nightmare,” a woman near the scene said, her voice trembling as she choked back tears. “What are we supposed to do, just walk now?”

The bomb used was packed with “identical” shrapnel to that in the rail station, indicating they may have been made in the same place and supporting suspicions the bombings were linked, said Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the investigators.

Health Ministry spokesman Oleg Salagai said 14 people were killed and 28 wounded in the bombing on Monday.

“There was smoke and people were lying in the street,” said Olga, who works nearby. “The driver was thrown a long way. She was alive and moaning. . . . Her hands and clothes were bloody,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

On Sunday, investigators initially described the station bomber as a woman from Dagestan, a hub of Islamist militancy on the Caspian, but they later said the attacker may have been a man. In October, a woman from the North Caucasus blew up and killed seven people on a bus in Volgograd.

The city has held a place in Russians’ sense of national identity since, when known as Stalingrad, its Soviet defenders held off German invaders to turn the course of World War Two.

Chechens and other North Caucasus militants have also staged attacks in Moscow and other cities in the past.

SECURITY

Putin, who has not spoken publicly since the attacks, ordered a federal committee that coordinates counterterrorism efforts to step up security nationwide including in Volgograd, and to report to him daily, the Kremlin said.

The violence raises fears of a concerted campaign before the Olympics, which start on Feb. 7 around Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea, 700 kilometers (450 miles) southwest of Volgograd.

In an online video posted in July, the Chechen leader of insurgents who want to carve an Islamic state out of the swathe of mainly Muslim provinces south of Volgograd, urged militants to use “maximum force” to prevent the Games from going ahead.

“Terrorists in Volgograd aim to terrorize others around the world, making them stay away from the Sochi Olympics,” said Dmitry Trenin, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center.

The International Olympic Committee expressed condolences to those affected by the attacks and said “we have no doubt that the Russian authorities will be up to the task” of providing security at the Games.

“Unfortunately, terrorism is a global phenomenon and no region is exempt, which is why security at the Games is a top priority for the IOC,” a spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In power since 2000, Putin secured the Games for Russia and has staked his reputation on a safe and successful Olympics, even freeing jailed opponents including oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Pussy Riot punk band to remove a cause for international criticism at the event.

Putin was first elected after winning popularity for a war against Chechen rebels, but attacks by Islamist militants whose insurgency is rooted in that war have clouded his 14 years in power and now confront him with his biggest security challenge.

Police said additional officers were being deployed to railway stations and airports nationwide after the bombing at the Volgograd rail station on Sunday, but the attacks raised questions about the effectiveness of security measures.

The police force in Volgograd, a city of a million people on the west bank of the river Volga, has been depleted as some 600 officers were redeployed to Sochi to tighten security around Olympic sites, a police officer told Reuters.

More attacks can be expected before the Olympics and cities in southern Russia where the Games are not being held are easier targets than Sochi, said Alexei Filatov, a prominent former member of Russia’s elite anti-terrorism force, Alfa.

“The threat is greatest now because it is when terrorists can make the biggest impression,” he said. “The security measures were beefed up long ago around Sochi, so terrorists will strike instead in these nearby cities like Volgograd.”

TENSIONS

The attacks also threatened to fuel ethnic tension, which has increased with an influx of migrant laborers from the impoverished Caucasus and Muslim Central Asian nations to cities around Russia, including Volgograd, in recent years.

“They need to be chased out of here. It has become a transit junction — there are all these non-Russians, both good and bad,” said Olga, a saleswoman at a store near the mangled bus. “We’ve plenty bandits of our own. Why do we need others?”

Police were checking documents of people in Volgograd, with a focus on migrants, said Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

Volgograd will be one of the venues for the 2018 soccer World Cup, another high-profile sports event Putin has helped Russia win the right to stage, and which will bring thousands of foreign fans to cities around Russia.

The first Olympics in Russia since the 1980 summer Games in Moscow, Sochi is a chance for Putin to show how the country has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He has faced criticism in the West and from Russian activists who say he has smothered dissent and encouraged discrimination against homosexuals since starting a third term as president in 2012.

Sunday’s attack was the deadliest to strike the ethnic Russian heartlands since January 2011, when a male suicide bomber from the North Caucasus killed 37 people in the arrivals hall of a busy Moscow airport.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

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