Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

DEBKAfile Special Report August 14, 2010, 11:40 PM (GMT+02:00)
Photo caption: Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr

The sudden announcement in Moscow and Tehran on Aug. 11 that Russia is set to activate Iran’s first nuclear power reactor by loading the fuel on Aug. 21 has caused a major flap in Israel in view of the military aspects of the plant.

Debkafile’s military sources report that only last week, high Israeli officials asked Washington for clarifications on the latest intelligence information that Moscow had decided to finally activate the Bushehr reactor after innumerable delays.

The White House called the Kremlin and was assured that President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minster Vladimir Putin stood by their pledge to President Barack Obama that the Russian-built nuclear plant would not go on line this year. This pledge now proves worthless. Indeed, Rostratom director Sergei Kiryenko will attend the Bushehr launching ceremony.

Jerusalem is also worried by the news that Russia has stationed S-300 anti-missile batteries in Abkhazia on the Black Sea because it ties in with the imminent activation of the Bushehr reactor. It is taken as a signal that Israel’s air route to Iran is hereby closed and Moscow will do its utmost to thwart an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations and adviser to the Bush administration, defined Moscow’s date for loading nuclear fuel rods into the Iranian reactor as touching off a point of no return. Talking to Fox News Friday, Aug. 11, he said Aug. 21 is a deadline “by which Israel would have to launch an attack on Iran’s Bushehr reactor before it becomes effectively ‘immune’ to assault.”

Once they are loaded, he warned, “an attack risks spreading radiation in the air and perhaps in the water of the Persian Gulf.”

Bolton gave Israel no more than a week to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. “If they’re going to do it, that’s all the window they have,” he said, noting that Israel attacked the Iraqi Osirak reactor in 1981 and the nuclear plant Syria was building in 2007, before the fuel rods were in place.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi said Friday, Aug. 13, “The process of loading fresh fuel into the reactor building would begin on Aug. 21. Then the reactor will be officially classified as a nuclear energy installation. The testing phase will be complete and the physical launch begin.”

According to debkafile’s military sources, the Bushehr reactor billed as a peaceful project is in fact integral to Iran’s military program because the fuel rods powering it can also produce weapons-grade plutonium. Attached to the main plant too are a number of smaller facilities connected to the weapons program.

An earlier report in the Atlantic magazine estimated that the chances of a military strike against Iran in the next 12 months are “better than 50%.” It is the result of extensive research for the magazine by Middle East expert Jeffrey Goldberg. After interviewing some 40 current and past Israeli decision makers and as many American and Arab officials, Goldberg expects Israel to launch an attack with the next few months, possibly supported by the US and UK.

But that was before the rescheduled Bushehr launching. Bolton has since made a point of narrowing the window of months to days.

http://www.debka.com/article/8970/

Flames travel along the floor of the forest near the town of Voronezh: AP/Mikhail Metzel

Reuters Africa online, 1 August 2010:

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill asked Russians to pray for rain on Sunday as wildfires raged across the European parts of the vast country, sweltering since June in an unprecedented heatwave.

The hottest weather since records began 130 years ago has withered crops and pushed thousands of farmers to the verge of bankruptcy.

“Grief has come to our nation, human lives have been lost, hundreds have lost shelter and thousands have been left without sustenance, including many children,” national media quoted Patriarch Kirill as saying in a prayer during a visit to the Nizhny Novgorod region, one of the worst hit by fires.

“I call upon everyone to unite in a prayer for rain to descend on our earth.”

At least 28 people have died in wildfires in European Russia in the last few days, the Emergencies Ministry said, adding that by Sunday morning a total of 774 fires had been registered, including 369 ones that occurred since Saturday.

More than 5,200 people have been evacuated from disaster-stricken regions, it said.

“The threat of new fires has increased sharply due to unfavourable weather in a number of regions in the Central and Volga federal districts, with temperatures soaring to up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and winds of up to 20 metres per second,” the Emergencies Ministry said.

The drought in Russia, one of the world’s biggest wheat exporters, has sent global prices soaring to year highs. U.S. wheat futures rose more than 5 percent on Friday and posted the biggest monthly percentage gain since at least 1959.(emphasis added)

Around 240,000 people were battling the flames, the Emergencies Ministry said. Army units, including elite paratroops, were taking part in the fight. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to allocate 5 billion roubles (105.2 million pounds) to help fire victims.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE66T0SW20100801?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

Reuters 29 July 2010

Photo: People walk along Red Square, with St. Basil’s Cathedral seen through heavy smog caused by peat fires in out-of-city forests, in Moscow, July 26, 2010.

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) – A leading politician said hundreds of people could die as smog from peat fires blanketed a sweltering Moscow for a second day on Tuesday.

Moscow region chief Boris Gromov asked Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to allocate 25 billion rubles ($827 million) to fight the fires smoldering in the forests around Moscow.

Alexei Yablokov, a leading biologist who heads Russia’s Green Party, said air pollution caused by the smog’s high amount of carbon dioxide could kill hundreds more people than usual in the Moscow region.

“There will be at least 100 additional deaths per day this time round,” Yablokov told Reuters, referring to the last such smog cloud in 2002 in which he calculated 600 people had died each week.

The Moscow government agency overseeing air pollution, Mosekonomonitoring, said the levels of carbon monoxide in the air on Tuesday shot up by 20-30 percent more than normal levels.

Russia’s senior public health official suggested on Tuesday employers free their staff while the thick smog and record-breaking heat in the Russian capital surged.

“Employers, if there is a possibility, could allow people to not come to work,” Gennady Onishchenko, head of Russia’s health protection agency, told Interfax news agency.

Peat, used in the past to produce heat and electricity, smoulders deep underground in winters and summers. Gromov said the only solution to the fires was to pour water over deposits.

“According to preliminary estimates, only in one district where fires are now most severe, over 4.5 billion roubles is needed. We have five such districts,” Gromov told Putin during an emergency video conference.

Putin said he would ask the emergency and economy ministries to examine the request. The emergencies ministry said that in the last 24 hours there had appeared 58 new fires in the Moscow region, 30 of them at peat deposits.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=moscow-smog-deaths

Image acquired June 26, 2010 – July 11, 2010. “The drought affects more than Russian farmers. Russia is the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter. If Russia isn’t able to supply as much wheat, the world’s overall wheat supply will drop. With less wheat on the market, wheat prices will go up. As of July 23, wheat futures (the current price for wheat that will be harvested and delivered in September) had risen for four consecutive weeks because of the expected drop in supply of Russian wheat, reported Bloomberg.”

Severe and persistent drought held southern Russia in its grip in June and July 2010. Low rainfall and hot temperatures damaged 32 percent of the country’s grain crops, said Russian Agriculture Minister, Yelena Skrynnik on July 23.

This satellite vegetation index image, made from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows the damage done to plants throughout southern Russia.

Largely as a result of the drought, the USDA expected Russia’s overall wheat crop to be 14 percent smaller than in 2009.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=44743&src=eorss-nh

Shades of Gog and Magog…

AP Photo: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, meets with Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, at the presidential palace, in Damascus, Syria, on Tuesday May 11, 2010.

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 11, 2010, 9:29 PM (GMT+02:00):

The US and Israel were unpleasantly taken aback to find Russian president Dmitry Medvedev receiving a pack of Hamas leaders, including political secretary Khaled Meshaal, Monday May 11, on the second day of his Damascus visit. Syrian president Bashar Assad was also present. Apparently unaware of this turn of events, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Medvedev’s offer of a role in Middle East peacemaking.

Before Israel’s president Shimon Peres had time to unpack his bags from his Moscow visit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was closeted with the Palestinian terrorist leader, Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal in Damascus, Tuesday, May 11. Present too were Syrian president Bashar Assad and leaders of the extremist Palestinian organization in Syria and Lebanon.

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, apparently unaware of the Russian president’s plan to meet the heads of Israel’s arch-foe Hamas, referred earlier to Medvedev’s comment that Moscow seeks a role in Middle East peacemaking by welcoming any constructive contribution to the effort. He also accused Tehran of warmongering between Syria and Israel.

Monday, the day the Russian leader arrived in Damascus, debkafile’s sources predicted his visit would be the occasion for a weapons deal which might even be a secret back door for Iran to acquire the sophisticated weapons Moscow has denied to date.

http://www.debka.com/#8777

Why would Russia care about itty-bitty Israel, I’ve sometimes wondered, thinking in practical, political terms about end-times theology, Gog and Magog, all that. What would be the set up for such a move? A paragraph in an Investors.com article offers one clue, to me at least.

The Biggest Abdication By The West Since The 1930s
By MARK STEYN
Investors.com online 02/19/2010

… In Eastern Europe, a nuclear Iran will vastly advance Russia’s plans for a de facto reconstitution of its old empire: In an unstable world, Putin will offer himself as the protection racket you can rely on. And you’d be surprised how far west “Eastern” Europe extends:

Moscow’s strategic view is of a continent not only energy-dependent on Russia but also security-dependent. And, when every European city is within range of Teheran and other psycho states, there’ll be plenty of takers for that when the alternative is an effete and feckless Washington.

To read the entire article: http://bit.ly/bbgHp7

Here are a few current and very recent articles from Fars News that I think are interesting. These and similar articles over the last month or so indicate how seriously Iran is working to surround itself with allies, militarily and economically. Worried about anyone flying over neighboring territories?

Tehran, Islamabad (Pakistan) Finalize Gas Pipeline Deal

Iran and Pakistan finalized an agreement to build a gas pipeline which is due to take Iran’s rich gas reserves to his energy hungry nation, a Pakistani official announced.

US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke had earlier urged Islamabad to avoid the deal with Iran. Holbrooke said the US would help Pakistan secure liquefied natural gas supplies, should it abandon the planned gas deal with Iran. (Pakistan declined)

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8811010626

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Iran to Increase Gas Imports from Azerbaijan

Iran is forced to import gas for its northern territories because the country’s terrain obstructs supply routes from the energy-rich south.Azerbaijan and Iran are linked currently via the 1474.5 kilometer Kazi-Magomed-Astara gas pipeline.

In December, 2009 the Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Mohammad Baqer Bahrami, said that a new pipeline is needed to supply Iran with the 5 billion cubic meters of gas that it would like to import from Azerbaijan every year.

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8811010677

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Qatar Stresses Reinvigoration of Ties with Iran

TEHRAN (FNA)- Qatari Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani underlined his country’s resolve to strengthen relations with Iran. Also in a meeting with Qatari Chief of Staff of Armed Forces Major General Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah, the two sides discussed ways for fostering bilateral cooperation.

“Iran’s policy seeks help to peace and security in the world and strategic Persian Gulf region,” Sohrabi said. Qatar’s Chief of Staff of Armed Forces on his part expressed the hope that bilateral relations could be expanded further.

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8811010548

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Iranian FM Underlines Security in Caucuses

“Security and stability in the Caucuses region should be strengthened through a regional approach,” Mottaki said in a meeting with Armenia’s ex-president Robert Kocharian here in Tehran today.

Kocharian, for his part, pointed to the age-old ties between the two neighboring states, and said, “I will spare no effort to expand (Armenia’s) ties with Iran.”

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8810301588

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Iran’s Speaker to Visit Kuwait, Kenya, Uganda

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani is scheduled to pay visits to Kuwait, Kenya and Uganda next week, an advisor to Larijani announced on Wednesday.

Official Stresses Iran, Turkey’s Vital Role in Region

TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei on Tuesday said that Iran and Turkey play significant roles in regional developments.

Tajik FM Highlights Positive Results of Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Dushanbe

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister Hamrohkhon Zarifi said that the visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Central Asian state in early January helped the two countries to identify fresh grounds for mutual cooperation.

MEANWHILE……

Iran Mulling Measures to Downgrade Ties with Britain

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said on Tuesday that Tehran is studying downgrading of its relations with Britain and will take action if it finds it necessary.

Soviet Star Wars

Posted: December 10, 2009 in nuclear weapons, Russia
Tags: ,

The launch that saved the world from orbiting laser battle stations
Air & Space Magazine

(This is a lengthy article but the most interesting to me is this last section…)
The rocket was rolled out to the launch pad and hoisted to the vertical launch position. Then, on the night of May 15, 1987, Energia’s engines lit and the giant rocket climbed into the sky. Whereas most launches from Baikonur head for an orbit inclined 52 degrees to the equator, Polyus-Skif traveled farther north, on a 65-degree inclination. If the worst happened, this heading would keep rocket stages and debris—or the entire Skif-DM—from falling on foreign territory.

The Energia rocket performed flawlessly, gaining speed as it rose and arced out toward the northern Pacific. But the kludged nature of the Skif–DM test spacecraft, along with all the compromises and shortcuts, spelled its doom. The satellite’s functional block had originally been designed for the Proton launcher, and couldn’t withstand the vibration of the Energia’s more powerful engines. The solution had been to mount the spacecraft with the control block at the top instead of down near the engines. Essentially, it flew into space upside down. Once the spacecraft separated from its booster, it was supposed to flip around to point away from Earth, with the control block’s engines facing down toward Earth, ready to fire and push the craft into orbit.

Skif-DM separated on cue, the spent Energia fell away, and the protective shroud over the front of the spacecraft separated. Then the entire spacecraft, as tall as a 12-story building, began its gentle pitch maneuver. Its tail end, actually the front of the spacecraft, swung up through 90 degrees, through 180 degrees…then kept going. The massive spacecraft tumbled end over end for two full revolutions, then stopped with its nose pointing down toward Earth. In the rush to launch such a complicated spacecraft, the designers had missed a tiny software error. The engines fired, and Skif-DM headed back into the atmosphere it had just escaped, quickly overheating and breaking into burning pieces over the Pacific Ocean.

http://bit.ly/812dtq

(This is interesting to me today because of the following, also about a failed Russian launch.)


Anyone for some Arctic roll? Mystery as spiral blue light display hovers above Norway
Daily Mail Online 10 Dec 2009

The Bulava missile was test-fired from the Dmitry Donskoi submarine in the White Sea early on Wednesday but failed at the third stage, say newspapers in Moscow today.

A Russian military source said today that ‘the third stage of the rocket did not work’. The Russian Defence Ministry, with characteristic secrecy, has so far been unavailable for comment.

The Bulava, despite being crucial to Russia’s plans to revamp its weaponry, is becoming an embarrassment after nine failed launches in 13 tests, prompting calls for it to be scrapped. In theory, it has a range of 5,000 miles and could carry up to ten nuclear weapons bound for separate targets.

A previous failure in July forced the resignation of Yury Solomonov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology which is responsible for developing the missile. However, he is now working as chief designer on the jinxed project.

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute was flooded with telephone calls after the light storm yesterday morning. Totto Eriksen, from Tromsø, told VG Nett: ‘It spun and exploded in the sky.’ He spotted the lights as he walked his daughter Amalie to school.

He said: ‘We saw it from the Inner Harbor in Tromsø. It was absolutely fantastic. ‘It almost looked like a rocket that spun around and around and then went diagonally down the heavens.’

Read more: http://bit.ly/8vztPm

1987, 2009… looks like they haven’t quite perfected things…

JPOST.COM 21 Sept. 2009

Russian plans to deploy missiles in an enclave next to Poland (Kaliningrad) have not been shelved, the country’s top general said Monday, contradicting a comment made by a government official last week after the US announced it was dropping a plan to place land-based missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.

http://bit.ly/P2C7R

Aljazeera: Nato makes missile offer to Russia

Putin02Putin said the move to abandon the “defence shield” in Europe was a “correct and brave” decision [AFP]

The head of Nato has called for Russia, the United States and the military alliance to link their missile systems against potential new nuclear threats.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s secretary general, said on Friday the old foes must forget their lingering Cold War animosity and engage new threats from Asia and the Middle East.

Click here to read entire article: http://bit.ly/mCYn7