Zenit launches £25 Million bid for United’s Nani

Russian Club Zenit St Petersburg has decided to bid for Manchester United winger Nani with a bid of £25 million.

With the Russian transfer window closing Thursday, the Russian club is desperate to have the winger in their kitty this season to be amongst the few big names that have been signed on to the club.

Zenit are also in hot pursuit of to their Joao Moutinho making him the second top target the club is after.

Zenit is filled with so much winning power ahead of the new season as it went on spending spree with the signing of Hulk and Axel Witsel for a combined €80 million, and the club has made known its desire to continue the spending if that will be the solution to get Nani out of Old Trafford and join the club.

The Portugal international has not been having the best of time at Old Trafford talking of playing time due to his poor display against Everton during an EPL game this season as he was later subbed in the game and was not billed to play the next game of Manchester United.

In a quick move, Manchester United acquired Shinji Kagawa who plays the midfield means automatic placement is not sure for Nani and to say the new signing has settled in quickly at the club, this recent move to Russia might be an option that will quite hard for Nani to reject Russia and joining country man Moutinho will also be a thing of joy for the player.

Female suicide bomber kills six in Russia

A female suicide bomber killed an Islamic spiritual leader and at least five other people on Tuesday in the Dagestan region in Russia’s North Caucasus, a police source said.

Said Atsayev, a leading Sufi Muslim cleric in the mostly Muslim region, was killed along with five followers and the bomber at his home in the village of Chirkey, the source said.

The attack came as President Vladimir Putin visited Tatarstan, a mostly Muslim region far to the north, and called for religious tolerance following attacks on mainstream Muslim leaders there last month

“Religious tolerance has been one of the foundations of Russian statehood for centuries,” Putin said before granting a state award to Tatarstan’s chief mufti, who survived a car bombing in July on the same day as one of his deputies was shot dead.

“Those who want to destroy this statehood are taking aim at this (tolerance),” Putin said. “But the criminals will never achieve their dirty goals. They have no future. They will not succeed – not here in Tatarstan and the Volga region, not in the North Caucasus, not in any region of our big country.”

It was not clear whether Putin knew of the latest attack in Dagestan before he made his comments.

More than a decade after federal forces toppled a separatist government in a war in Chechnya, Russia is struggling to contain an Islamic insurgency that has spread to neighbouring Dagestan and other mostly Muslim provinces of the North Caucasus.

Capello close to sealing Russia coaching job

Inching closer to becoming the new head coach of the Russian national team, Fabio Capello and the RFU crossed another hurdle after agreeing to the terms of personal contract.

Capello is currently jobless, after leaving the English national team because of the country’s Football Association action against John Terry who was stripped of the captain’s arm band against his wishes.

The Russian Football Union’s acting president, Nikita Simonyan confirmed the progress saying ‘The personal contract has been agreed and what is remaining for the contract to be sealed finally is the signature of the parties’.

Russia chose Capello from the list of 13 local and foreign coaches, which was revealed earlier this month and included the likes of Pep Guardiola, Harry Redknapp and Rafael Benitez.

As hopes are high on the contract, the media in the country are so optimistic that the deal will be totally sealed and announced officially to the footballing world by Friday, a deal that will keep Fabio Capello in Russia for the next two years as agreed, making the Italian the highest paid coach in the world, with an annual salary of $12 million.

While in some quarters, the information making the round is that the 66-year-old Italian will only get $6 million annually which is less than what Dick Advocaat, his predecessor.

Capello has won five Serie A titles with AC Milan and Roma as well as two Spanish crowns and the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid.

Supreme Court ruling threatens bilateral ties between Nigeria and Russia

A potential diplomatic row is looming between Nigeria and Russia following last week’s order by the Supreme Court that Russian company, Rusal, which owns 85 percent of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom state, should cede its ownership to BFI Group, headed by American-Nigerian, Reuben Jaja.

The apex court said the assets should have gone to the U.S. based BFI Group, when ALSCON was privatised five years ago.

Rusal said the ruling was against the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), which handled the privatisation and gave Rusal the green light to acquire the stake for $205 million in 2007. The decision would thus not affect its ownership of ALSCON, the company said.

“The ruling could … to a significant extent undermine Russian-Nigerian investment and economic cooperation and incur negative consequences for the whole scope of bilateral ties,” the ministry said in a statement on its website www.mid.ru.

“We urge the Nigerian government to take the necessary actions in order to prevent potential damage to the existing fruitful and mutually beneficial relations,” the statement said.

BFI Group, headed by American-Nigerian Reuben Jaja, took BPE to court, saying the agency breached its contract. The Supreme Court ruling last week ordered that BPE revert to the original preferred bidder and BFI Group pay the agreed price of $410 million for ALSCON.

Russian plane crash kills 31

A Russian passenger plane, UTair airlines ATR 72, crashed and burst into flames after takeoff in Siberia on Monday, killing  31 of the 43 people on board.

The  12 survivors were pulled from the wreckage and rushed to hospital by helicopter but one later died, emergency officials said.

The head of the regional branch of the Emergencies Ministry, Yuri Alekhin, said “There are no explanations yet,” adding that  “Contact was lost with the plane just over three minutes after take-off.”

So far, the crash has been recorded as the deadliest air disaster in Russia since a Yak-42 plane slammed into a riverbank near the city of Yaroslavl after takeoff on September 7, 2011, killing 44 people and wiping out the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team.


Kremlin woos Russian opposition after Putin win

The Kremlin held out an olive branch to Russia’s opposition Monday before protesters take to the streets to challenge Vladimir Putin’s victory in a presidential election they said was a “declaration of war.”

Putin celebrated his victory Sunday by telling tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters near the Kremlin that his triumph had saved Russia from enemies trying to usurp power.

The prime minister, who is returning to the post he held for eight years until ushering Dmitry Medvedev into the presidency in 2008, had tears in his eyes as he took aim in his speech at protesters opposing his 12-year-domination of Russia.

His opponents complained of widespread fraud in the ballot, in which the former KGB spy won more than 63 percent of the vote, and said they would show their disgust by demonstrating in central Moscow Monday evening.

“He is forcing things to breaking point. He is declaring war on us,” said journalist Sergei Parkhomenko, one of the protest organizers.

With Putin and the opposition on collision course, the Kremlin issued a statement that could be intended to take the sting out of the protests which began over alleged fraud in a parliamentary poll on December 4 and increasingly target Putin.

Medvedev, who will stay in office until early May and is expected to swap jobs with Putin, told the prosecutor general to study the legality of 32 criminal cases including the jailing of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Khodorkovsky, who headed what was Russia’s biggest oil company, Yukos, and was once the country’s richest man, was arrested in 2003 and jailed on tax evasion and fraud charges after showing political ambitions and falling out with Putin.

The Kremlin said Medvedev had also told the justice minister to explain why Russia had refused to register a liberal opposition group, PARNAS, which has been barred from elections.

The order followed a meeting last month at which opposition leaders handed Medvedev a list of people they regard as political prisoners and called for political reforms.

Medvedev’s initiatives “have only one goal: To at least somehow lower the scale of dismay and protest that continues to surge in society,” Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

The move could be a stalling tactic intended to appease the organizers of the biggest protests of Putin’s rule, or it could be a parting gesture by a man intent of making his mark as the more liberal of the ruling “tandem” with Putin.

Almost complete election results Monday showed Putin, 59, had won 63.68 percent of votes.

Zyuganov was second on just over 17 percent and liberal billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov had almost 8 percent. Nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky secured just over 6 percent and former parliamentary speaker Sergei Mironov had less than 4 percent.

“There were practically no serious violations,” Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov told reporters, dismissing the allegations of irregularities across Russia by the opposition and volunteer vote monitors.

Golos, an independent monitoring group, said it had registered at least 3,100 reports of violations nationwide. An international observer mission was due to announce its findings later Monday.

Although the urban protest movement portrays Putin as an autocratic leader who will stymie political and economic change in Russia, he rallied core supporters in an election campaign that took him to many of the country’s far-flung regions.

Many voters see him as a safe pair of hands and credit him with restoring order after the chaotic 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin and overseeing an economic boom.

“I want stability. I don’t want any kind of change,” Maria Budaeva, a 38-year old university teacher, who backed Putin.

Raisa Sidorik, a 64-year old housewife, said: “He knows the economy, he knows the political system. It seems to me he’s the best candidate.”

Putin is sure to portray his emphatic election victory as a strong sign of public support against the protesters, whom he has portrayed as a destabilizing minority and pawns of foreign governments.

He is all but certain to revive his tough rhetoric against the West as he tackles foreign policy problems including a risk of isolation over the bloodshed in Syria.

He is also under pressure from foreign investors to cut Russia’s dependence on energy exports.

But many in big cities, especially Moscow and St Petersburg, say he is an obstacle to change and the guardian of a corrupt political system which benefits his friends and allies.

“Nothing has changed,” said protest leader Alexei Navalny. “You cannot call what just happened elections.”


NATO Allies Reassure Russia Over Missile Defence Shield

Photo by Center for Defence Studies

NATO Foreign Ministers hoped to convince Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of agreeing on a deal on NATO’s missile defence shield during their meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

Progress on the issue has been much slower than expected with a rise in anti-NATO rhetoric from Moscow in recent months.

Recently, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned the alliance Russia would take counter-measures if Washington was to continue with the plan. Despite the threat, NATO members were hopeful they will be able to bridge their differences and have Russia co-operating in the plan.

“Well of course we all saw President Medvedev’s speech on the 23rd of November on the subject. That was disappointing for NATO. But as I said the offer remains on the table. We will be able to discuss these issues today and we will continue discussing them in a patient and calm way,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague as he arrived for the meeting.

NATO wants to set up an anti-ballistic missile shield to defend Europe against potential threats from rogue states such as Iran, but Moscow says the shield directed at Russia. Last month Medvedev said he would arm Russia with missiles capable of countering the shield and set up an early-warning radar system in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad bordering NATO territory in a bid to press the United States to back down in the dispute.

“It shows that the all debate about the missile defence deal suffered from a birth defect. Russia was too little involved at the beginning. This birth defect has now been corrected, thanks God… has been corrected, thanks God. And now that it is clear that Russia is being invited to take part in the system, the system is not being built against Russia, we need to do more and more to convince our Russian partners about that,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on arrival.

Since NATO approved the U.S.-designed system at last year’s summit, Poland, Spain, Turkey and Romania have agreed to deploy some of its components.

Negotiations stalled after NATO refused to give Russia binding guarantees that the system would never be used to undermine or counter its defences.

NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen has rebuffed Russia’s threat of taking counter measures, saying they are from a by-gone area and show a fundamental misunderstanding. He hopes to convince Russia to co-operate on the matter.

“Today over 30 states have or are developing missile technology. Some of these missiles can already reach part of alliance’s territory. That is why NATO has taken a decision to build its own system. This system does not threaten Russia nor does it alter the strategic balance. Russian territory is also at risk and as we face the same threat it makes sense to cooperate in defending against it. We will continue our dialogue on this issue this morning and in the coming months. Ladies and gentlemen, a NATO-Russia strategic partnership is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have for NATO and Russia,” Rasmussen said.