Putin’s Opponent Navalny Freed After 30 Days In Jail

 

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was released on Friday after serving 30 days in jail for urging protests against the exclusion of opposition candidates from upcoming elections in Moscow, his spokeswoman said.

Navalny emerged from prison smiling, according to photographs released on Twitter by the spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh.

Syria Crisis: Russia, Iran To Hold Summit In Turkey

File photo

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host his Russian and Iranian counterparts for a summit on Syria in Ankara on September 16, the presidential spokesman said.

Despite being on opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, Syria regime backers Iran and Russia have worked closely with rebel supporter Turkey to find a political solution.

“The president will host a three-way summit with the participation of Russia and Iran in Ankara,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said late Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Iran Showcases Long-Range Missile System

The announcement of the meeting between President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Erdogan comes at a time when Syrian forces have made advances into the last rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria’s northwest.

Kalin said there was “no question” of moving one of its 12 observation posts in Idlib, despite it being cut off from the rest of the province by the advance of Syrian forces this week.

“The ninth observation post remains in its place. All the other observation posts foreseen or put in place under the Idlib agreement will continue to operate where they are,” Kalin said.

He was referring to a buffer zone agreement signed between Russia and Turkey last year that was supposed to protect Idlib from a government offensive.

That deal has come under increasing strain since the Syrian government began heavy bombardment of Idlib in April, raising fears in Turkey of a mass refugee exodus from the region of three million people.

The three presidents will discuss Idlib at next month’s meeting, as well as the establishment of a constitution commission and how the political process should continue, Kalin said.

Their last meeting was in February and the September event will be the fifth summit between Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan since November 2017.

Kalin said Erdogan would speak on the phone with Putin in the coming days, adding that preparations were being made for another call with US President Donald Trump.

AFP

Trump Blames Obama For Russia’s Exit From G8

 

US President Donald Trump expressed support Tuesday for Russia’s return to the G8, saying it would be “much more appropriate” for Moscow to be in the club of world powers.

“I could certainly” support that, he told reporters at the White House, just days before a G7 summit — minus Russia — in Biarritz, France.

“It’s much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8, because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin’s Russia was expelled from the old G8 format after Moscow seized Crimea from neighbouring Ukraine.

But Trump said the reason Russia was kicked out was that his predecessor Barack Obama was “outsmarted” by Putin.

“I guess President Obama because Putin outsmarted him, President Obama thought it wasn’t a good thing to have Russia in. So he wanted Russia out,” Trump said.

“So I could certainly see it being the G8 again and if someone would make that motion, I would be disposed to think about it very favourably,” he said.

Trump is due to host the next G7 meeting in the United States next year.

AFP

Russia Probes ‘Foreign Meddling’ After Protests

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Russia’s parliament on Monday agreed to probe “foreign meddling” in the country’s affairs, following a wave of protests that Moscow has accused Western governments and media of backing. 

A committee will investigate reports by foreign media as well as “embassies which distributed information” about the demonstrations, lower house speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Moscow in recent weeks to protest the authorities’ decision to block prominent opposition figures from standing in local elections.

Moscow has summoned a representative of the US embassy saying a “demonstration alert” it sent with details of the protest amounted to “an attempt to intervene” in Russian affairs.

The post called for US citizens to stay away from the protests.

The government’s internet watchdog has accused Google of “advertising unsanctioned mass actions” on YouTube. The foreign ministry criticised German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle for what it said were calls to take part in the rally.

The rallies, which come amid declining living standards and a stagnating economy, are Russia’s largest since mass protests broke out when President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin after a term as prime minister in 2012.

Police made over 3,000 arrests over the past month and Western countries have criticised what they described as the “excessive use of force” on peaceful crowds, after officers used batons on demonstrators and bystanders.

Unexploded World War II Bomb Discovered In Russia

FILES) This file photo taken on July 09, 2018 shows the Kremlin in Moscow. An unexploded World War II aviation bomb was found on the territory of the Kremlin in Moscow during construction works on August 15, 2019, Russian news agencies reported. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

 

An unexploded World War II bomb was found in the grounds of the Kremlin in Moscow during construction works on Thursday, Russian news agencies reported. 

“As you know, between 1941 and 1942 the Kremlin was bombed,” Sergei Khlebnikov, the commandant of the Kremlin, told the Ria Novosti agency.

“During construction work, an aviation bomb was found,” he said.

The bomb was taken out of the Kremlin complex and will be liquidated, he said.

“All measures ensuring the Kremlin’s security have been completed,” he added.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman also assured the media that the bomb didn’t disrupt the Russian leader’s schedule.

The Kremlin is one of the oldest medieval fortresses in Europe, having served as the seat of tsars, Soviet leaders and now Russian presidents, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Nazi Germany’s 1941 invasion of the then Soviet Union led to brutal fighting and sieges of Russian cities.

The Kremlin was a primary target for Nazi bombers during the Battle for Moscow when Hitler launched air raids on the city.

The roof of one of its palaces was badly damaged during the raids.

AFP

Kremlin Says Spies Watching Russian Scientists ’24/7′

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Foreign spies keen to get their hands on Russian research are monitoring Russian scientists around the clock, the Kremlin said Wednesday, after experts denounced a new security decree as a Soviet throwback.

The Kremlin’s comments came after scientists criticised a ministry directive calling on researchers not to meet foreign colleagues one-on-one and requesting filed reports after every encounter — even a cup of coffee.

“Of course we must be somewhat vigilant, because foreign special services are on alert,” said President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov when questioned on the decree from the science and education ministry.

“There is such a thing as scientific and industrial espionage,” Peskov said. “It exists 24/7 and is targeting our scientists, especially young scientists.”

He noted however that some of the decree’s provisions “sound excessive” adding that Russia “should not be bound by some rules that won’t lead to anything good.”

The decree recommending new rules on contacting foreign scientists — or Russian scientists working for foreign institutions — was made public by Alexander Fradkov from a mechanical engineering institute.

He called the rules “absurd” and urged authorities to retract them.

Another scientist working in a physics institute confirmed to AFP that the decree — which is marked for internal use — is real.

The document imposes significant red tape on any visits by foreigners into Russian institutes, asking that they are always accompanied by a designated employee.

It requests special restrictions on their use of computers, phones and other devices, including watches and binoculars.

Fradkov told AFP that the decree reminds him of Soviet-era rules which asked that researchers always met with foreigners along with a colleague, so that one scientist could report on the other if necessary.

“All science is built on communication and exchange of information,” he told AFP. “If you go by the decree, then even having a cup of coffee with a foreign colleague requires a report afterwards.”

On Wednesday, the deputy chief of Russia’s Academy of Sciences Alexei Khokhlov joined the criticism of the decree, writing on Facebook that it goes against the government’s goals to increase the number of foreign students and ease their subsequent employment in Russia.

The science and education ministry on Wednesday argued that the decree “reflected global practice” on international scientific conduct, according to a statement quoted by TASS agency.

Russia Arrests Nearly 50,000 Opposition Supporters

Russian police officers detain a protester during an unauthorized anti-Putin rally called by opposition leader Alexei Navalny on May 5, 2018 in Moscow, two days ahead of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a fourth Kremlin term. Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP

 

Nearly 50,000 opposition supporters rallied and dozens were arrested in Moscow on Saturday at one of the largest authorised protests since President Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012.

Demonstrators crowded the central Prospekt Andreya Sakharova street, where city authorities deployed a massive police presence, including officers in riot gear, after giving permission for the rally to go ahead.

The White Counter, an NGO that tracks participants in rallies, counted 49,900 people, while Moscow police gave a much lower attendance figure of 20,000.

Police in Moscow said they detained more than 130 people. A further 80 were arrested in Russia’s second-largest city of Saint Petersburg, according to OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors detentions at protests.

READ ALSO: Five Killed As Russia Tests Missile

In recent weeks, thousands have attended street protests calling for free and fair elections after the exclusion of several opposition figures, including allies of top Putin critic Alexei Navalny, from local Moscow polls next month.

While the rally was authorised, Navalny — who is currently in jail — had urged supporters to walk peacefully through the city afterwards.

Navalny’s associate, Boris Zolotarevsky, told protesters to proceed to Putin’s administration offices. He was detained by police shortly afterwards.

 ‘Citizens are hostages’ 

At the rally, some protesters carried placards with slogans such as “Give us the right to vote!” and “You’ve lied to us enough”, while others held up pictures of activists arrested at earlier demonstrations.

“I’m outraged by this injustice at every level. They’re not letting candidates stand who have collected all the necessary signatures. They are arresting people who are protesting peacefully,” said one protester, Irina Dargolts, a 60-year-old engineer.

“It feels like the country is a prisoner and its citizens are hostages… No one represents the people,” said Dmitry Khobbotovsky, an activist for the Open Russia movement funded by Kremlin foe and former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Showing the movement’s appeal to young Russians, one of the country’s most famous rappers, Oxxxymiron, attended the rally and another popular rapper Face performed on stage.

“I’m performing here today so that my people have freedom and the right to choose,” said Face, 22, known for his facial tattoos.

 Police crackdown 

Riot police and the national guard had detained over 2,000 people at the previous two rallies, which were not authorised by city officials, and a dozen protesters face criminal charges and risk jail terms for “mass disorder”.

Most opposition candidates banned from participating in the Moscow election have now been jailed for violating protest laws.

One of the rally speakers was the wife of opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov, who is serving a 30-day sentence.

“Each of us has the right to run for office and they are very afraid of that,” said Valeriya Gudkova.

“We have real support from the public and they just have criminals in their electoral commissions.”

 ‘Attempt to gag us’ 

As he enters his third decade in power, Putin’s approval ratings have dropped significantly and critics say the authorities fear any outlet calling for wider political change.

The latest demonstration came this week as authorities mounted their harshest attack yet on Navalny’s team, focusing on his anti-corruption foundation which publishes investigations of officials close to Putin.

One of the foundation’s lawyers, Lyubov Sobol, was detained Saturday at her campaign office by police in riot gear, she wrote on social media.

Riot police also raided the studio where Navalny’s supporters were set to run a live broadcast of the protest, activists said.

On Thursday, investigators raided the foundation’s office as part of a probe into alleged acceptance of donations of laundered money and a court froze the foundation’s accounts.

“This is the most aggressive attempt yet to gag us,” Navalny wrote in a blog entry he issued through lawyers while serving a 30-day sentence.

AFP

Five Killed As Russia Tests Missile

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Russia’s nuclear agency said Saturday an explosion during missile testing in the Arctic left five of its staff dead and involved radioactive isotopes after a nearby city reported a spike in radiation levels.

Rosatom said the force of explosion on Thursday threw several of its staff from a testing platform into the sea.

The military had not initially said that the accident involved nuclear equipment, but said that radiation levels were normal afterwards.

Nevertheless, officials in the nearby city of Severodvinsk reported that radiation levels briefly increased after the accident.

READ ALSO: FBI Investigating US Financier Epstein’s Death

The incident occurred in the far northern Arkhangelsk region during testing of a liquid propellant jet engine when an explosion sparked a fire, killing two, the defence ministry said in a brief statement.

It was not immediately clear whether those two deaths were included in the five that Rosatom had reported.

Russian state news agencies quoted a defence ministry source as saying both defence ministry and Rosatom employees were killed.

Rosatom said its staff were providing engineering and technical support for the “isotope power source” of a missile being tested.

The missile was being tested on a platform at sea when its fuel caught fire and triggered an explosion, Rosatom said in a statement quoted on Russian television.

Several staff were thrown into the sea by the force of the blast, the nuclear agency said, adding that it only announced the deaths when there was no longer any hope that the employees had survived.

The accident left three more of its staff with burns and other injuries, Rosatom said.

It said staff knew of the “potential risk” of the test.

The authorities initially released few details of the accident at the Nyonoksa test site on the White Sea, used for testing missiles deployed in nuclear submarines and ships since the Soviet era.

The defence ministry said six defence ministry employees and a developer were injured, while two “specialists” died of their wounds.

Radiation spike 

The authorities in Severodvinsk, 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the test site, said on their website on Thursday that automatic radiation detection sensors in the city “recorded a brief rise in radiation levels” around noon that day.

The post was later taken down and the defence ministry said that radiation levels were normal after the accident.

A Severodvinsk official responsible for civil defence, Valentin Magomedov, told TASS state news agency that radiation levels rose to 2.0 microsieverts per hour for half an hour from 11:50 am (0850 GMT), before falling sharply.

He said this exceeded the permitted limit of 0.6 microsieverts, TASS reported.

Greenpeace Russia published a letter from officials at a Moscow nuclear research centre giving the same figure, but saying higher radiation levels lasted for an hour. The officials said this did not present any significant risk to public health.

Russian online media published an unattributed video which journalists said showed a line of ambulances speeding through Moscow to take the injured to a centre that specialises in the treatment of radiation victims.

Rosatom said that the injured were being treated at a “specialised medical centre”.

 Iodine panic 

An expert from Moscow’s Institute for Nuclear Research, Boris Zhuikov, told RBK independent news site that isotope power sources are not usually dangerous for people working with them.

“If they are damaged, people who are nearby could be hurt. Isotope sources use various types of fuel: plutonium, promethium or cerium,” Zhuikov said.

The radioactivity levels involved are “absolutely not comparable with those during serious accidents at reactors,” he added.

News of the accident prompted residents of Severodvinsk to rush to pharmacies to stock up on iodine, which can be taken to prevent the thyroid gland absorbing radiation.

“People started to panic. Within a matter of an hour all the iodine and iodine-containing drugs were sold out,” pharmacist Yelena Varinskaya told AFP.

The Soviet Union saw the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, when the authorities sought to cover up the seriousness of the disaster.

AFP

Five Killed In Missile Test Explosion, Says Russia Nuclear Agency

Russia Flag

 

Russia’s nuclear agency on Saturday said an explosion at an Arctic missile testing site had killed five of its staff after the military had put the toll at two.

Earlier, the authorities in a nearby city said the accident had caused a spike in radiation levels but the military denied this.

The accident on Thursday happened during testing of a liquid propellant rocket engine at a missile test site in the far northern Arkhangelsk region.

In a statement, Rosatom said the accident killed five of its staff and injured three, who suffered burns and other injuries.

READ ALSO: French Tourists Held In Greece After Deadly Boat Accident

Rosatom said its staff were providing engineering and technical support for the “isotope power source” of the missile engine.

The military had not described the accident as involving nuclear fuel.

The authorities have released few details of the accident at the Nyonoksa test site on the White Sea, used for testing missiles used in nuclear submarines and ships since the Soviet era.

The defence ministry initially said that six defence ministry employees and a developer were injured while two specialists died of their wounds.

The authorities in Severodvinsk, a city around 30 kilometres (19 miles) away from the test site, said on their website that automatic radiation detection sensors in the city “recorded a brief rise in radiation levels” on Thursday morning.

The post was later taken down.

An official responsible for civil defence, Valentin Magomedov, told TASS state news agency on Thursday that radiation levels rose to 2.0 microsieverts per hour for half an hour from 11:50 am (0850 GMT), before falling sharply.

He said this exceeded the permitted limit of 0.6 microsieverts, TASS reported.

Russian online media published unattributed video that journalists said showed a line of ambulances speeding through Moscow to take the injured to a centre that specialises in the treatment of radiation victims.

Rosatom said that the injured were being treated at a “specialised medical centre.”

– Iodine panic –
An expert from Moscow’s Institute for Nuclear Research, Boris Zhuikov, told RBK independent news site that isotope power sources are mainly used in spacecraft and are not usually dangerous for people working with them.

“If they are damaged, people who are nearby could be hurt. Isotope sources use various types of fuel: plutonium, promethium or cerium,” Zhuikov said.

The radioactivity levels involved are “absolutely not comparable with those during serious accidents at reactors,” he added.

The news of the accident prompted residents of Severodvinsk to rush to pharmacies on Thursday to stock up on iodine, which can be taken to stop the thyroid gland absorbing radiation.

“People started to panic. Within a matter of an hour all the iodine and iodine-containing drugs were sold out,” pharmacist Yelena Varinskaya told AFP.

The Soviet Union saw the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, when the authorities sought to cover up the seriousness of the disaster.

 

Russia Freezes Assets Of Opposition Anti-Corruption Group

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses demonstrators during a rally in Moscow. Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP

 

Russia on Thursday froze the assets of an anti-corruption group that top opposition figure Alexei Navalny set up to expose the questionable wealth of top government officials, his spokeswoman said.

The ruling comes amid a crackdown on the opposition that has seen Navalny jailed and thousands of people detained at a series of rallies in Moscow calling for free and fair elections.

The Foundation for Fighting Corruption (FBK) has published reports detailing the lavish lifestyles of figures close to Russian President Vladimir Putin including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

READ ALSO: Gambia Removes Yahya Jammeh’s Image From Bank Notes

A Moscow district court froze 75 million rubles ($1.1 million) held in accounts of the FBK and those of several staff members, Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on Twitter.

“This is the amount that they considered to be ‘laundered’,” she wrote on Facebook.

Investigators said that the FBK knowingly used a large amount of money that was gained by third parties through crime. A spokeswoman said it was around one billion rubles ($15.3 million).

The foundation solicits donations on its website.

The recent opposition protests have been among the largest since Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012.

Demonstrators are protesting Moscow’s refusal to allow prominent opposition candidates who support Navalny to stand in the Russian capital’s September local elections.

Investigators on Thursday also raided the FBK’s offices and the homes of lawyers who work for it.

“Right now there are raids and detentions taking place over the ‘money-laundering case’,” Navalny’s aide Leonid Volkov wrote on the foundation’s website.

The site posted security camera footage of investigators at the FBK offices accompanied by masked guards on Thursday morning.

Navalny himself is currently serving a 30-day sentence in Moscow for calling for a mass protest. He was taken to hospital from prison with symptoms that officials attributed to an allergic reaction but that his doctor said could be caused by a “toxic agent”.

The opposition is planning a large protest in Moscow on Saturday.

AFP

Two Dead In Explosion At Russian Military Base

A picture taken on November 9, 2011 shows buildings at a military base in the small town of Nyonoska in Arkhangelsk region. Photo: AFP

 

Two people were killed Thursday in an explosion at a military base used for missile tests in the far north of Russia, the defence ministry said in a statement to news agencies.

Authorities in the nearby city of Severodvinsk said radiation levels briefly rose after the blast, but the defence ministry said levels were “normal”.

“During the test of a liquid propellant jet engine, an explosion occurred and the equipment caught fire,” the ministry said of the incident in the small town of Nyonoska.

“As a result of the accident, six defence ministry employees and a developer were injured. Two specialists died of their wounds,” it said.

READ ALSO: Venezuela Crisis: China Warns US Against Bullying

“There’s no radioactive contamination,” a spokeswoman for the Arkhangelsk region where the base is located told AFP.

Severodvinsk authorities said on their website that automatic radiation detection sensors in the city “recorded a brief rise in radiation levels. Currently the levels have normalised” at 11:50 am (0850 GMT) .

The accident is the second to hit the Russian military in less than a week, after a fire broke out in an ammunition depot in Siberia on Monday, causing huge explosions.

At least one person was killed and eight injured while thousands were evacuated from their homes following the blaze at the depot in the Krasnoyarsk region.

US To Accelerate Missile Program After INF Treaty Exit

 

The United States is to accelerate its development of new cruise and ballistic missile systems following its withdrawal from a nuclear treaty with Russia, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Accusing Russia of “sustained and repeated violations” of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US had already begun work to develop “mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems.”

As the United States had “scrupulously complied” with its obligations to the 1987 treaty until its formal withdrawal, “these programs are in the early stages,” Esper said in a statement.

“Now that we have withdrawn, the Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles as a prudent response to Russia’s actions.

“The Department of Defense will work closely with our allies as we move forward in implementing the National Defense Strategy, protecting our national defense and building partner capacity,” he added.

Moscow has said that Washington is making a “serious mistake” pulling out of the treaty, insisting that the US had abandoned the agreement for its own gain rather than because of alleged Russian violations.

AFP