Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BP Cuts Estimate of Russian Reserves

» BP Cuts Estimate of Russian Reserves
13/06/13 20:56 from EU-RussiaCentre
BP has steeply cut its estimates of global gas reserves, revising Russian reserves down sharply and putting Iran at the top of the world league table. Russia was responsible for the bulk of the reduction, with its reserves estimate downgra..

Good Governance for Russia: UN Plans After 2015

» Good Governance for Russia: UN Plans After 2015
18/06/13 02:05 from Home
In May, the UN High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda presented a report entitled “ A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development .” IMR Advisor Boris B..

» Vladimir Putin's awkward message in English
13/06/13 14:30 from Russian news, all the latest and breaking Russia news
It is not the first time he has ventured into the English language but Vladimir Putin's latest linguistic jaunt is perhaps the most entertaining.         

» Russia introduces jail terms for 'religious offenders'
12/06/13 04:58 from Russian news, all the latest and breaking Russia news
A controversial law introducing jail sentences for the crime of offending religious believers was approved by Russia's lower house of parliament on Tuesday.       

G20 summit: NSA targeted Russian president Medvedev in London | World news - G

G20 summit: NSA targeted Russian president Medvedev in London | World news

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Barack Obama, Dmitry Medvedev
US spies intercepted communications of the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, during a G20 summit in London. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
American spies based in the UK intercepted the top-secret communications of the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, during his visit to Britain for the G20 summit in London, leaked documents reveal.
The details of the intercept were set out in a briefing prepared by the National Security Agency (NSA), America's biggest surveillance and eavesdropping organisation, and shared with high-ranking officials from Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The document, leaked by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian, shows the agency believed it might have discovered "a change in the way Russian leadership signals have been normally transmitted".
The disclosure underlines the importance of the US spy hub at RAF Menwith Hill in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, where hundreds of NSA analysts are based, working alongside liaison officers from GCHQ.
The document was drafted in August 2009, four months after the visit by Medvedev, who joined other world leaders in London, including the US president, Barack Obama, for the event hosted by the British prime minister, Gordon Brown.
Medvedev arrived in London on Wednesday 1 April and the NSA intercepted communications from his delegation the same day, according to the NSA paper, entitled: "Russian Leadership Communications in support of President Dmitry Medvedev at the G20 summit in London – Intercept at Menwith Hill station."
The document starts with two pictures of Medvedev smiling for the world's media alongside Brown and Obama in bilateral discussions before the main summit.
RAF Menwith Hill RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/Reuters
The report says: "This is an analysis of signal activity in support of President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to London. The report details a change in the way Russian leadership signals have been normally transmitted. The signal activity was found to be emanating from the Russian embassy in London and the communications are believed to be in support of the Russian president."
The NSA interception of the Russian leadership at G20 came hours after Obama and Medvedev had met for the first time. Relations between the two leaders had been smoothed in the runup to the summit with a series of phone calls and letters, with both men wanting to establish a trusting relationship to discuss the ongoing banking crisis and nuclear disarmament.
In the aftermath of their discussions on 1 April, the two men issued a joint communique saying they intended to "move further along the path of reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms in accordance with the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons".
A White House official who briefed journalists described the meeting as "a very successful first meeting focused on real issues". The official said it had been important for the men to be open about the issues on which they agreed and disagreed. Obama had stressed the need to be candid, the official noted.
While it has been widely known the two countries spy on each other, it is rare for either to be caught in the act; the latest disclosures will also be deeply embarrassing for the White House as Obama prepares to meet Vladimir Putin, who succeeded Medvedev as president, in the margins of the G8 summit this week.
The two countries have long complained about the extent of each other's espionage activities, and tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats are common. A year after Obama met Medvedev, the US claimed it had broken a highly sophisticated spy ring that carried out "deep cover" assignments in the US.
Ten alleged Russian spies living in America were arrested.
Putin was withering of the FBI-led operation: "I see that your police have let themselves go and put some people in jail, but I guess that is their job. I hope the positive trend that we have seen develop in our bilateral relations recently will not be harmed by these events." Last month, the Russians arrested an American in Moscow who they alleged was a CIA agent.
The new revelations underline the significance of RAF Menwith Hill and raise questions about its relationship to the British intelligence agencies, and who is responsible for overseeing it. The 560-acre site was leased to the Americans in 1954 and the NSA has had a large presence there since 1966.
It has often been described as the biggest surveillance and interception facility in the world, and has 33 distinct white "radomes" that house satellite dishes. A US base in all but name, it has British intelligence analysts seconded to work alongside NSA colleagues, though it is unclear how the two agencies obtain and share intelligence – and under whose legal authority they are working under.

Russia's president fidgeted, looked awkward and moved his neck oddly, his body language screaming that he would be rather be anywhere else than at this summit - BBC | The Ring and the Rings: Vladimir Putin's Mafia Olympics | Sport - Guardian.Co.Uk

Finding common ground with Russia

President Obama grinned broadly and nodded encouragingly towards President Putin.

Russia's president fidgeted, looked awkward and moved his neck oddly, his body language screaming that he would be rather be anywhere else than at this summit.President Obama grinned broadly and nodded encouragingly towards President Putin.
That's not surprising. He is the odd man out in this curious club. The G8 is really the biggest of what used to be called the Western powers, plus Russia.

The old enemy was allowed club membership in 1997, in a burst of post-Cold War magnanimity. Now it's all a bit of a nonsense.
Without China, or India and Brazil for that matter, this is not a group of the most powerful economies in the world. Nor, because of Mr Putin's presence, is it a gathering of like-minded allies.
But his resolution over Syria only highlights the lack of a plan from the US and its friends.
The Russian president has made it clear that as far as he is concerned his country is behaving perfectly normally, within the ordinary rules of international behaviour, backing, and arming what he sees as the legitimate government of Syria.
He is willing to sell them the most up-to-date and hi-tech kit. On the other hand America, the UK and France want a particular subset of rebels to win, and believes morally it should be allowed to arm them. But, for fear of the rebels they don't like, they are queasy about providing anything too advanced.
It is likely that rather than be isolated, President Putin will sign up to some sort of plan.
From what I have heard of the five point agreement that's on the table, it is so bland that it risks being dismissed as worthless.
But perhaps it is not quite without merit. Any international agreement that makes a Syrian peace conference more likely has some value.
But the big sticking point remains - is this peace conference post-Assad, as the rebels and the US demand, or is Assad part of the solution as Russia and the Syrian government insist?
President Obama, in a late night interview, has broken his five-day silence on his shift towards giving military help to the rebels.
He said that the US had a legitimate interest and could not allow chaos in Syria, but it was "very easy to slip-slide your way into deeper and deeper commitments", adding: "If it's not working immediately, then what ends up happening is six months from now people say, 'Well, you gave the heavy artillery; now what we really need is X, and now what we really need is Y.' Because until Assad is defeated, in this view, it's never going to be enough, right?"
Right. That is the dilemma of those in the West who want President Assad to go. They have to decide which is worse - living with chaos and potentially the outcome they don't want, or greater entanglement in a region which teaches that such interventions have unexpected and unwelcome consequences.
Mark Mardell, North America editorArticle written by Mark MardellMark MardellNorth America editor

Meeting the enemy

Is President Obama's move to open talks with the Taliban a step forward or a betrayal?

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» Vladimir Putin denies stealing Super Bowl ring
17/06/13 14:45 from Russian news, all the latest and breaking Russia news
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» Putin offers to replace Patriots owner Robert Kraft's 'stolen' Super Bowl ring
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» Russian President Vladimir Putin denies stealing £16,000 diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring
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The Ring and the Rings: Vladimir Putin's Mafia Olympics | Sport

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Putin Super Bowl ring
In this 2005 photograph, Russian president Vladimir Putin holds a diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring belonging to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
Josef Stalin famously uttered the demonically cynical maxim that "the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic". In other words, he believed that when faced with the choice of focusing on horrors small and tangible or vast and incomprehensible, humanity goes small. It is the political spawn of Stalin's feared security apparatus, Vladimir Putin, who is proving that this applies to scandals in the world of sport. One small theft is the sports story of the moment in the United States, while a heist of epic proportions, is emitting nary a peep.
The sports press is agog with the revelation by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft that in 2005, Putin stole his Super Bowl ring. At the time, Putin's sticky fingers were caught on camera and the scene generated some laughs. There was the leader of Russia trying it on at a press event and then walking out of the room, as a bovine, slack-jawed Kraft looked on. The Patriots organization played it off as an intentional gift. But Kraft revealed this week that it was more of a mugging with the parodically alpha-male Putin icily looking at Kraft and saying, "I can kill someone with this ring," then in Kraft's words, "I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out."
It's a pulpy, punchy story and it's understandable why sports reporters are flocking to it like a seagull to carrion. It also fits a narrative that has served Vladimir Putin well. He's the Tony Soprano of world leaders: the man who gets what he wants and wants what he gets.
But Putin – not unlike the decaying Mafia itself – isn't nearly as ruthlessly efficient as his legend suggests. For evidence of this, we don't even have to leave the world of sports. I'm referring to the billions in disappeared "spending" for the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be held – for reasons that boggle the mind – in the humid, subtropical Russian resort city of Sochi.
Putin has staked his reputation on the smooth hosting of the winter games. Based on the planning, it either speaks to how little he values his reputation, or more likely, that beneath the steely glare and martial arts muscles, he's being exposed as little more than a thuggish front man for a kleptocracy.
According to a detailed report issued by Russian opposition leaders in May, businessmen and various consiglieres of Putin have stolen up to $30bn from funds intended for Olympic preparations. This has pushed the cost of the winter games, historically far less expensive than their summer counterpart to over $50bn, more than four times the original estimate. That $50bn price tag would make them the most expensive games in history, more costly than the previous twenty-one winter games combined. It's a price tag higher than even than the 2008 pre-global recession summer spectacle in Beijing.
As Andrew Jennings, author of Lords of the Rings and the most important Olympic investigative reporter we have, said to me, "The games have always been a money-spinner for the cheerleaders in the shadows. Beijing remains impenetrable but is likely to have been little less corrupt than Putin's mafia state."
"Mafia state" may sound extreme, but these winter games will go down in history as perhaps the most audacious act of embezzlement in human history. As Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk wrote, "Only oligarchs and companies close to Putin got rich. The absence of fair competition, cronyism … have led to a sharp increase in the costs and to the poor quality of the work to prepare for the Games … The fact is that almost everything that is related to the cost problems and abuses in preparation for the Olympic Games was carefully concealed and continues to be covered up by the authorities."
One of those officials was Akhmed Bilalov, who was forced to flee Russia, fearing for his life, after Putin blamed him for the ballooning costs. Now Bilalov has gone public with news that he is undergoing medical treatment for being poisoned, allegedly by agents of the Russian state.
Even more nauseating, if not surprising, than the alleged theft/attempted murder is the shrug of the shoulders from the International Olympic Committee. Jean-Claude Killy, the French skiing superstar from the 1970s, is now in charge of the International Olympic Committee's coordination commission for the Sochi games.
"I don't recall an Olympics without corruption," Killy said. "It's not an excuse, obviously, and I'm very sorry about it, but there might be corruption in this country, there was corruption before. I hope we find ways around that."
If $30bn is too much of an incomprehensible "statistic" to get our heads around, even in a country with poverty and hunger rates that spiked...

G8 summit - day two: Politics live blog - The Guardian - 18/06/13 04:51

US President Barack Obama holding a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit at the Lough Erne resort last night.
US President Barack Obama holding a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit at the Lough Erne resort last night. Photograph: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
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» Group of 8 Leaders Press Russia on Syria
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