Group of Russian Northern Fleet Warships With Aircraft Carrier Leave For The Atlantic
A group of Russian Northern Fleet ships headed by the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov left their base to carry out tasks in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Russian Navy commander’s aide Igor Dygalo told Itar-Tass. The group of Northern Fleet warships the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser "Soviet Union Fleet Admiral Kuznetsov", the big antisubmarine ship Admiral Levchenko and two support vessels left the main Northern Fleet base of Severomorsk and headed for the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, he said. The trip of the warships will last several months. In accordance with the training plan, the ships will carry out set tasks and visit several ports of European and Mediterranean states, the navy commander’s aide added.
Russia sees no need to set up permanent military bases in Venezuela or Cuba, but could use their military infrastructure, the prime minister said on Thursday. "There is no need to build permanent bases, although we have such agreements with the Venezuelan leadership. I do not think the Cuban leadership would object either. If necessary, we will be able to use these countries' ports to refuel and replenish supplies for our warships," Vladimir Putin said during a televised question-and-answer session. He said Russia also has several such agreements with other countries. "I'm going to reveal a big military secret to you. When we announced that our warships were headed for Venezuela to participate in a joint exercise, we received many questions - honestly speaking, I had not expected this - requests from many countries for our warships to call at their ports," he said. He called the recent Russian-Venezuelan naval exercises "a success." Russian and Venezuelan warships concluded on Tuesday the active phase of VenRus-2008, during which they practiced deployment, coordinated tactical maneuvering, air defense, search, pursuit and the detention of a ship suspected of illegal activities. The Russian task force arrived in Venezuela at the end of November, following a two-month tour of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, which saw Russian ships visiting Libya, Turkey and France.
Russia to Deploy Alpine Units at its Military Bases Abroad
Russia's Defense Ministry plans to deploy special mountain units at military bases in S. Ossetia, Abkhazia, Armenia and Tajikistan, as well as in the Urals and Far East, a ministry official said on Thursday. "All military contingents deployed in mountainous regions will have battalion-level units specially trained for mountain warfare," said Col. Vladimir Chabanov, deputy head of the Ground Forces combat training department at the Russian Defense Ministry. Russia has already deployed two mountain brigades in the North Caucasus republics of Daghestan and Karachayevo-Circassia. They are manned by contract soldiers and total about 4,500 personnel. Chabanov said the newly formed units would be equipped with special weaponry and equipment developed for combat at high altitudes in mountainous areas, including professional mountain-climbing equipment. Russia currently deploys a military base in Gyumri, Armenia and a military base near the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, which hosts the 5,000-strong 201st Motorized Rifle Division. Moscow is also planning to open one base in Gudauta, in the west of Abkhazia, and another in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, following a five-day war with Georgia over South Ossetia in August.
Armenia officially completed on Monday the construction of a natural gas pipeline from neighboring Iran which could reduce its heavy dependence on Russian energy resources and significantly boost its electricity exports. It remained unclear, however, when Iranian gas could start flowing into the country. The pipeline’s second and final Armenian section was inaugurated in the presence of President Serzh Sarkisian and Alexei Miller, chairman of Russia’s Gazprom giant. The two men, joined by other Armenian, Russian and Iranian officials, watched as workers welded together its last pipes. Miller’s presence at the high-profile ceremony underscored the fact that the pipeline will be controlled by the ArmRosGazprom (ARG) national gas distribution company in which Gazprom holds a controlling stake. ARG has financed and carried out work on the 197-kilometer stretch running through the country’s mountainous Syunik region. In a speech during the ceremony, Miller welcomed the completion of the “very important project.” He said its implementation testifies to a “high level of political cooperation between Russia and Armenia.” Former President Robert Kocharian was also in attendance. Kocharian had inaugurated the pipeline’s first, 41-kilometer section together with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in March 2007. Speaking to the journalists, Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said the pipeline will undergo technical testing and be ready to pump Iranian gas within weeks. But he again avoided setting any dates for the start of Iranian gas supplies. The new pipeline’s operational capacity of approximately 2.3 billion cubic meters of gas per annum essentially matches the annual volume of Armenian gas imports from Russia that are carried out via Georgia. With Russian supplies meeting Armenia’s needs, the bulk of Iranian gas is expected to be converted into electricity that will then be exported to the Islamic Republic. As Movsisian pointed out, the pipeline would be vital for Armenia’s energy security in case of “force majeure situations.” The minister clearly referred to a possible disruption or termination of Russian gas deliveries to Georgia that would almost certainly affect Armenia as well. The prospect of a cut-off in Russian supplies has become even more real since the August war between Georgia and Russia. A senior Georgian official predicted last month that the Russians will at least cut back on those supplies this winter.
Russia's Putin Had Painful Plans For Georgian Leader
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared wryly to confirm on Thursday French media reports that he had said Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserved to be hung by his testicles for his role in the August war with Russia. French media had quoted Putin as saying in a heated conversation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Moscow on Aug. 12 that Saakashvili should be "hung by his balls" for starting the war which was roundly condemned by the West. In a distraction from queries about the economic crisis during a lengthy televised question and answer session with the Russian public, Putin was asked: "Is this true you promised to hang Saakashvili by one part?" Smiling thinly at the question, posed over a crackling phone line by a man in the Russian city of Penza, Putin, who has in the past used coarse language to hammer home a point, waited for the laughter of his studio audience to subside before replying: "But why only by one part?" Up until now, Russian officials had described the talks with the French president as a "tough dialogue" but did not deny that Putin had made such a comment. Putin then frowned and blamed Saakashvili for triggering the brief war and compared his attack on the breakaway region of South Ossetia with the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. "Seriously speaking, both me and you know about tragic events in another region of the world, in Iraq, invaded by American troops due to a concocted pretext of searching for weapons of mass destruction," said Putin. "They found no weapons, but hanged the head of state, albeit on other charges ... " said Putin, referring to the 2006 execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "I believe it is up to Georgia's people to decide what kind of responsibility must be borne by those politicians who led to these harshest and tragic consequences," he said. Months of skirmishes between separatists and Georgian troops erupted into war in August when Georgia sent troops and tanks to retake the pro-Russian rebel region of South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi's rule in 1991-92. Russia responded with a counter-strike that drove the Georgian army out of South Ossetia. Moscow's troops then pushed further into Georgia, saying they needed to prevent further Georgian attacks. The West condemned Russia for a "disproportionate response" to Georgia's actions. Russia said Georgia's attack on civilians and Russian peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia left it with no other option. Georgia accused Moscow of launching a premeditated and unprovoked invasion of its territory.
Russian Ship Enters Panama Canal
Russian warship enters Panama Canal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUEqkWVCJSI
A Russian warship has entered the Panama Canal for the first time since World War II. The Admiral Chabanenko had earlier completed manoeuvres with Venezuela's navy, coinciding with a Latin American tour by the Russian president. The 50-mile (80km) canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was shut to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Correspondents say the Russian ship will send a symbolic message in what the US sees as its sphere of influence. Ties between the two superpowers have become strained because of Washington's plan for a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic - something Moscow is firmly opposed to. Panama said the passage of the ship had no political significance, as the canal is "open to all the world's ships".
First since 1944
The warship entered the canal on Friday night and was expected to take eight hours to reach the Pacific. It will dock at Rodman, once the base for all US naval activities in South America. The canal journey, the naval exercises and President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to the region have been seen as aimed at strengthening Russia's influence in the region. In the naval exercises, about 1,600 Russian and 700 Venezuelan sailors on four Russian ships and 12 Venezuelan vessels took part in the VenRus 2008 joint exercise. They had originally been scheduled to last three days, but both Venezuelan and Russian officials said the manoeuvres had been successfully completed in one day. The first and only time Soviet warships used the Panama Canal was in 1944, when the USSR and US were fighting as allies against Hitler, the Russian embassy in Panama told AFP news agency. Four Soviet submarines crossed the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific after undergoing repairs, it said.