Okagbare Wins Second Medal In 200m Final

Blessing Okagbare once again took Nigeria to the podium at the on-going IAAF World Athletics Championship in Moscow.

The African record holder put up a strong fight to win the bronze medal in the women’s 200m event.

Okagbare clocked 22.32 seconds to finish behind 100m champion shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica who picked the gold medal with a time of 22.17 seconds.

Murielle Ahoure of Cote d’Ivoire posted a time of 22.32 seconds to clinch silver medal even though she and Okagbare crossed the finish line the same time.

Meanwhile Nigeria is in for another medal haul as its 4×400 women’s relay team qualified for the final of the event.

The quartet of Reginal George, Omolara Omotoso, Patience Okon and Josephine Ehihie clocked a season’s best time of 3 minutes 27.39 seconds to finish second behind Great Britain.

The performance of the women quartet has raised expectations that Nigeria might pick a medal when the final takes place on Saturday.

Okagbare Wins Nigeria’s First Medal In Moscow

Blessing Okagbare has won Nigeria’s first medal in Moscow as she leaped 6.99 metres to clinch the silver medal in the long jump event final.

The Sapele-born athlete qualified for the final of the Women’s long jump event at the on-going IAAF World Championship in Moscow with a jump of 6.83m, placing second in the qualification behind Great Britain’s Shara Proctor who jumped a distance of 6.85m in her first attempt to automatically qualify for the final.

The minimum qualification requirement was 6.75m or at least the 12 best performances.

Blessing Okagbare, who is the country’s hope to win its first gold medal at the World Athletic in Moscow, became the first Nigerian and African woman to duck under 10.80 seconds in the women’s 100m dash when she smashed the African women’s 100m record twice on her way to victory at the London Anniversary Games two weeks ago.

Her performance on the track this season has given Nigerians hope of medals in the world championship.

Based on her achievements lately, Team Nigeria registered Okagbare for four events, including the Long jump, 4x100m relay, 200m and 100m.

Okagbare had on June 30, won the 200m in the Birmingham Diamond League in 22.55 seconds. She also won the long jump event at IAAF Diamond League on July 5 in Lausanne, with 6.98 metres before crossing to Monaco IAAF Diamond League, where she recorded a personal best of 7.04m also in the long jump.

Nigeria last won a medal at the Athletic World Championship in 1999, a drought Blessing Okagbare has ended with her victory.

Russian Opposition Leader Freed On Bail After Protests

Russia unexpectedly freed opposition leader Alexei Navalny on bail on Friday, bending to the will of thousands of protesters who denounced his five-year jail sentence as a crude attempt by President Vladimir Putin to silence him.

In a ruling that points to Kremlin uncertainty over how to handle Navalny’s case and revived protests, a judge approved an unusual prosecution request to release him while he awaits the outcome of an appeal.

The anti-corruption campaigner’s movements will be restricted to Moscow but he proclaimed the ruling, one day after he was convicted of theft, as a victory for people power.

“I am very grateful to all the people who supported us, all the people who went to (protest in Moscow’s) Manezh Square and other squares,” the 37-year-old said, rushing across the court to hug his wife after he was released from a glass courtroom cage.

“We understand perfectly well what has happened now. It’s an absolutely unique phenomenon in Russian justice,” he said in the court in Kirov, an industrial city 900 km (550 miles) northeast of Moscow.

People poured onto the streets of big Russian cities to protest on Thursday evening after Navalny was convicted of stealing at least 16 million roubles ($494,000) from a timber firm when he was advising the Kirov regional governor in 2009.

Police said more than 200 people were detained in St Petersburg and Moscow although there were no big clashes.

Navalny says the case was politically motivated and intended to sideline him as a political threat to Putin, even though his support is limited outside the big cities and opinion polls show the president is still Russia’s most popular politician.

Navalny led anti-Putin protests which attracted tens of thousands last year before they started to fade when the former KGB spy was elected to a six-year third term as president.

The decision to release him could be a political manoeuvre to head off social unrest. Some political analysts said the Kremlin, and the business and security community around it, looked divided over Navalny.

“There really is a split in the elite,” one analyst, Ella Paneyakh, said in an online comment. “And it seems there will be no peaceful outcome.”

The Kremlin has not responded to calls for comment on the verdict and said nothing about Friday’s ruling.

The United States and European Union voiced concern over Navalny’s conviction, saying it raised questions about the rule of law and Russia’s treatment of Putin’s opponents.

The White House called it part of a “disturbing trend aimed at suppressing dissent”.

Russian shares fell on Thursday on concerns the conviction may provoke unrest, after a case that led to comparisons with the political “show trials” under Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

At least 3,000 people protested near the Kremlin in Moscow on Thursday under a heavy police presence, blocking main streets and shouting “Freedom” and “Putin is a thief”.

Police plunged into the crowd to pluck out people holding Navalny portraits. A police official said about 50 were detained, but activists said the number had reached 169 as smaller groups continued to protest past midnight.

At least 1,000 people protested in St Petersburg, where police said about 40 were detained, and smaller rallies were held in other cities.

Russia Defiant As U.S. Raises Pressure Over Snowden

Russia defied White House pressure on Monday to expel former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden to the United States before he flees Moscow on the next stop of his globe-crossing escape from U.S. prosecution.

Snowden, whose exposure of secret U.S. government surveillance raised questions about intrusion into private lives, was allowed to leave Hong Kong on Sunday after Washington asked the Chinese territory to arrest him on espionage charges.

Snowden, 29, has kept out of sight in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport as Ecuador says it considers his request for asylum.

His decision to fly to Russia, which like China challenges U.S. dominance of global diplomacy, is another embarrassment to President Barack Obama who has tried to “reset” ties with Moscow and build a partnership with Beijing.

The White House said it expected the Russian government to send Snowden back to the United States and lodged “strong objections” to Hong Kong and China for letting him go.

“We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

The Russian government ignored the appeal and President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary denied any knowledge of Snowden’s movements.

Asked if Snowden had spoken to the Russian authorities, Peskov said: “Overall, we have no information about him.”

He declined comment on the expulsion request but other Russian officials said Moscow had no obligation to cooperate with Washington after it passed legislation to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russians accused of violating human rights.

“Why should the United States expect restraint and understanding from Russia?” said Alexei Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament.

Putin has missed few chances to champion public figures who challenge Western governments and to portray Washington as an overzealous global policeman. But Russian leaders have not paraded Snowden before the cameras or trumpeted his arrival.

ECUADOR’S ROLE

Since leaving Hong Kong, where he feared arrest and extradition, Snowden has been searching for a country which can guarantee his security.

Ecuador said it had received an asylum request and Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, on a trip to Vietnam, said it would be analyzed with a “lot of responsibility”. He was expected to hold a news conference around 7.00 p.m. (8 a.m. EDT) in Hanoi.

A source at Russian airline Aeroflot said Snowden was booked on a flight due to depart for Havana on Monday at 2:05 p.m. (6.05 a.m. EDT). The gate for the Cuba flight was blocked and security was tightened.

A State Department official said Washington had told countries in the Western Hemisphere that Snowden “should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States”.

Despite the Kremlin denials, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said Putin had probably known about and approved Snowden’s flight to Russia.

“Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States,” Schumer, a senior Senate Democrat, told CNN’s “State of the Union”. He also saw “the hand of Beijing” in Hong Kong’s decision to let Snowden leave.

But taking the higher ground after being accused of hacking computers abroad, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “grave concern” over Snowden’s allegations that the United States had hacked computers in China.

It said it had taken up the issue with Washington.

CHILL

Some Russians have praised Snowden’s revelations. Others fear a new chill in relations with the United States.

“We are a pretty stubborn country and so is the United States. Both are mighty countries, so I would say this has a good potential to turn into a big fuss in bilateral relations,” said Ina Sosna, manager of a Moscow cleaning company.

“I guess it would be best if they just let him move on from Russia to avoid any more controversy over him being here.”

Snowden was aided in his escape by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization whose founder Julian Assange said he had helped to arrange documents from Ecuador.

Ecuador, like Cuba and Venezuela, is a member of the ALBA bloc, an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America that pride themselves on their “anti-imperialist” credentials. The Quito government has been sheltering Assange at its London embassy for the past year.

The New York Times quoted Assange as saying in an interview that his group had arranged for Snowden to travel on a “special refugee document” issued by Ecuador last Monday.

U.S. sources said Washington had revoked Snowden’s passport. WikiLeaks said diplomats and Sarah Harrison, a British legal researcher working for the anti-secrecy group, accompanied him.

Snowden, who had worked at a U.S. National Security Agency facility in Hawaii, had been hiding in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to China in 1997, since leaking details about secret U.S. surveillance programs to news media.

Snowden has been charged with theft of federal government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person, with the latter two charges falling under the U.S. Espionage Act.

Moscow Metro Suffers Second Fire Outbreak

Moscow Metro has suffered another fire outbreak, with 11 people rushed to the hospital during the Russian capital morning hour rush.

The outbreak started underground in the city centre, filling tunnels with smoke, and halting metro transportation on Moscow’s red line, an incident which had occurred in the same region a few hours earlier causing a mass evacuation from the underground and sending seven people to the hospital.

After the fire outbreak, people with blackened faces exiting the metro and fire-fighters leading people out of exits.

According to the one of the firefighters, the fire which was the second was a small one and it is being actively extinguished now.

Wednesday’s morning fire caused a transport collapse in the Russian capital as it broke out during the morning rush hour. The metro is practically the only public transport handy for getting around in the traffic-clogged central Moscow.

U.S., Russia Push For Rapid Talks To End Syria Carnage

Russia and the United States agreed to bury their differences over Syria and to try to convene international talks with both sides in the civil war to end the carnage that is inflaming the Middle East.

Visiting Moscow after Israel bombed targets near Damascus and as President Barack Obama faces new calls to arm the rebels, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia had agreed to try to arrange a conference as early as this month involving both President Bashar al-Assad’s government and his opponents.

An East-West disagreement that has seen some of the frostiest exchanges between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War has deadlocked U.N. efforts to settle the Syrian conflict for two years, so any rapprochement could bring an international common front closer than it has been for many months.

But with Syria’s factional and sectarian hatreds more entrenched than ever after 70,000 deaths, it is far from clear the warring parties are ready to negotiate. There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government, which has offered reforms but dismisses those fighting it as “terrorists”.

The late hour of the announcement in Moscow – Kerry was kept waiting for three hours by President Vladimir Putin – also meant leaders of the Western-backed opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Coalition were not available for comment. Many on the body have insisted Assad’s exit is a condition for talks.

Inside the country, where rebel groups are numerous and have disparate views, a military commander in the north, Abdeljabbar al-Oqaidi, told Reuters he would want to know details of the U.S.-Russian plan before taking a view. “But,” he added, “if the regime were present, I do not believe we would want to attend.”

Alarmed at the prospect of the conflict spilling across an already volatile and economically important region, however, the major powers have, as Kerry told Putin on Tuesday, “very significant common interests” in pushing for a settlement.

“The alternative,” Kerry later told a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “is that Syria heads closer to an abyss, if not over the abyss and into chaos.

“The alternative is that the humanitarian crisis will grow. The alternative is that there may be even a break-up of Syria.”

GENEVA AGREEMENT

Last year at a conference in Geneva in June, Washington and Moscow agreed on the need for a transitional government in Syria but left open the question of what would happen to Assad, whose departure Obama has called for but which Russia, accusing the West of meddling, says should be a matter for Syrians only.

Rejecting a characterization of Moscow as the protector of Assad, to whose army it has been a major arms suppliers since the days of his father’s rule, Lavrov said Russia was not concerned by the fate of “certain” individuals.

“The task now is to convince the government and all the opposition groups … to sit at the negotiating table,” he said.

Kerry said the conference should be held “as soon as is practical – possibly and hopefully by the end of the month”. Neither he nor Lavrov said where it might take place.

Kerry said there would be “a growing crescendo of nations who will want to push for a peaceful resolution, rather than the chaos that comes with the break-up of a country”.

Kerry said the decision on who takes part in any transitional government should be left to the Syrians.

Lavrov said the aim would be “to persuade the government and the opposition together … to fully implement the Geneva communique” on creating a transitional government.

Russia, backed by China which shares its mistrust of Western enthusiasm for toppling some autocrats, has refused appeals to consider sanctions on Assad, vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning his crackdown on opposition groups.

ASSAD DEFIANT

Recent developments have helped focus minds on the risks of wider war in the Middle East: intelligence reports that Assad’s troops may have used chemical weapons had renewed calls for Obama to arm the rebels or even offer U.S. forces; Islamist fighters pledging allegiance to al Qaeda has highlighted how some of the rebels are also hostile to the West; and Israeli air strikes said to target Iranian arms headed for Lebanon’s Hezbollah have underlined the risk of escalation.

In what appeared to be another sign of the country’s travails, Internet connections between Syria and the outside world were cut off on Tuesday, according to data from Google Inc and other global Internet companies.

Google’s Transparency Report pages showed traffic to Google services pages from Syria suddenly stopping shortly before 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT). Most websites within Syria were rendered unreachable as well, other experts said, as the county appeared to shut itself off.

REBELS TAKE U.N. PEACEKEEPERS HOSTAGE

Speaking before the announcement in Moscow, Assad was quoted by a sympathetic Lebanese television channel as saying he would defy Israel, the United States and Arab powers who oppose him.

“The recent Israeli aggressions expose the extent of the complicity between the Israeli occupier, regional countries and the West in promoting the current events in Syria,” he said.

“The Syrian people and their heroic army … are capable of confronting this Israeli adventure, which represents one of the faces of terrorism that is targeting Syria every day.”

While showing little desire to embroil U.S. forces in Syria after winding down engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has rejected criticism that he might back out of a commitment to act if Assad crossed a “red line” of using chemical weapons.

On Tuesday, he pointed to the killing of Osama bin Laden and the toppling of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, brought down by a U.S.-backed rebellion, as evidence that “we typically follow through on our commitments”. It is still unclear if chemical weapons were used.

The chaos in Syria, where a fifth of the 25 million population has been driven from their homes, was underlined by the latest incident of rebels taking U.N. peacekeepers hostage on the ceasefire line with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the incident and called for the four Filipinos’ immediate release. They were detained as they patrolled close to an area where 21 Filipino observers were held for three days in March.

The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade said the peacekeepers were seized for their own safety during clashes in the area.

More widely, the violence in a religiously and ethnically diverse country at the heart of the Arab and Muslim world has inflamed a confrontation between Iran and its fellow Shi’ite allies like Hezbollah on the one hand and the Sunni Arab powers, including U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, who back the Sunni rebels against Assad’s Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

Iran, at daggers drawn with Israel and the West over its nuclear program, warned of unforeseeable consequences if Assad were toppled and said only a political settlement to Syria’s civil war would avoid a regional conflagration.

“God forbid, if there is any vacuum in Syria, these negative consequences will affect all countries,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in Jordan. “No one knows what will happen.”

Hillary Clinton Calls On Syria, Russia To Reconsider Support

Out-going US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton has called on Iran and Russia to reconsider their support for Syria, in her final press interview.

The departing us secretary of state has warned that Iran has stepped up its military and financial aid to the Syrian government.

Mrs. Clinton, who steps down on Friday, said there were also signs that Russia continues to supply Syria with money and “equipment”.

Her comments came amid contradictory claims of an Israeli strike in Syria.

The Syrian army said Israeli war planes had bombed a military research Centre north-west of Damascus, but the US and others said lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon were hit.

Israel has maintained silence about the incident, but Syria has made a formal complaint to UN, saying it reserves the right to defend itself. Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have strongly denounced the attack.

Mrs. Clinton said one of Iran’s “highest priorities” was keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power.

“We believe they have acted on that by sending in more personnel, not only to help Assad, but to support and advise military security forces,” she told reporters.

Mrs. Clinton added that Iran had increased the quality of its arms sent to Syria because “Assad is using up his weaponry.”

BBC

Afcon 2013: Keshi Didn’t Disappoint Me — Nsofor

Lokomotiv Moscow player and Nigerian International Obinna Nsofor has admitted that his lack of adequate playing time for national colours is what hindered his chance to get an invitation for the Afcon 2013 as he said he was not disappointed at all after the  provisional list for the squad was released by Coach Stephen keshi.

Nsofor said he has not laced his boots for Nigeria in the last one year while other players who made the list were doing that so it will surprising to him to have been handed an invitation because some other players were up for the qualifiers to the Afcon 2013 tournament holding in South Africa from January 19.

“I have not played for over a year for the Super Eagles, and I was not expected to be invited because some players played the qualifiers and the coach will have confidence in them,” says Nsofor.

“Presently, I am doing well for my club, I play regularly and I hope that coach Keshi will give me a trial soon.”

The Nigerian International however wished the Super Eagles the best ahead of the tournament.

“I am a Nigerian and I will always wish the team all the best. I want Nigeria to win, and I wish all the players the best of luck,” Nsofor states.

The Super Eagles are expected to jet out to Faro, Portugal, tomorrow, where they will camp for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Navy arrests 15 Russian sailors over arms smuggling

The Nigerian Navy on Tuesday said it has seized a ship and arrested its 15 Russian crew members on suspicion of arms smuggling, after they found several guns and about 8,500 rounds of ammunition on the boat.

The vessel was intercepted over the weekend in Lagos, Navy spokesman Commodore Aliyu Kabiru said by telephone.

According to him, the vessel belongs to the Moran Security Group, based in Moscow, and was flying a Dutch flag. There was no immediate comment from Moran.

“The vessel was carrying 8,598 ammunitions and different rifles. Investigations are still ongoing,” he said.

He gave no further details. However, Navy source, who could not be named, said 22 Benelli MR1 rifles and several other automatic weapons were found.

Arms smuggling is a flourishing enterprise in Nigeria, which is battling an Islamist insurgency in the north, organized armed robbery and kidnapping gangs in the south and oil thieves and pirates in the southeast. The country is also sometimes used as a conduit for shipping arms into other parts of West Africa or the world.

In 2010, a consignment of rocket launchers, grenades and other explosive from Iran was seized at Lagos, causing a diplomatic incident between the two countries, and later between Iran and Senegal, which accused Iranian security forces of using the route to supply weapons to its Casamance rebels.

 

Obagoal scores winning goal for Levante on debut

Obafemi ‘Obagoal’ Martins came into his new Spanish side Levante in style as he showed why he is worth being bought as the out of favour Nigerian striker scored the winning goal on his debut for the La Liga club against another Spanish side Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Before he finally recorded a goal, the former Rubin Kazan hit-man’s effort was disallowed in the 64th minute as it was faulted as an offside.

Martins who came in as a substitute in the 46th minute and was on with much aggression  standing a threat to defenders till the 87th minute when he finally sealed the victory for Levante  after he received a brilliant pass from Ballesteros.

After the game Obagoal as he is fondly called back home said he couldn’t ask for a better debut than what happened in the game today.

Obafemi Martins joins Levante from Rubin Kazan

Former Super Eagles striker; Obafemi Martins has moved to Spanish club Levante dumping his Russian club Rubin Kazan as he agreed to terminate his contract with the Russian club.

Martins who left inter Milan to Wolfsburg before he moved to Rubin Kazan is expected to earn an annual wage of around €600,000 every season.

Obafemi Martins was entitled to a wage of €2.2 million at Rubin Kazan after signing a deal worth €9 million from German Bundesliga side, Wolfsburg.

Martins signed a two-year deal with Levante on Tuesday and will be unveiled today.

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.