Once in a while, when political and/or economic factors reveal themselves in a certain way, as we saw with the OSCE report regarding last August's war between Russia and Georgia, we get to see sober/accurate analysis by western sources about various topics of concern; in this case, Russia. I highly recommend this new BBC video report on Russia. Good job, BBC... for a change.

Arevordi


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Should we be Scared of Russia?

PANORAMA: Should we be Scared of Russia (part 1): http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=BvnutD4WIYA
PANORAMA: Should we be Scared of Russia (part 2): http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z_xCO...eature=related
PANORAMA: Should we be Scared of Russia (part 3): http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=toi6fa...eature=related

November, 2008

Panorama reporter Mark Franchetti investigates the growing gulf between Russa and the West The sight in August of old people and children cramming onto tractors and into carts to flee from Russian tanks has rekindled notions of Russia as aggressor and oppressor. The short war between Russia and Georgia began when Georgia invaded its Moscow-backed breakaway republic of South Ossetia last summer. Russian troops stationed there were killed and Russia retaliated by invading Georgia. Hundreds of deaths and widespread destruction followed and relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated to levels not seen since the Cold War. From the West's point of view, this looked like Russia flexing its muscles in Georgia, that the Kremlin is slipping back into its old expansionist ways, and is on the march again. Georgia was just the beginning, according to some in the West. Indeed, Britain's Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has warned of the threat of a new Cold War. But Russia views everything entirely differently. Russia's new President, Dmitry Medvedev, says he does not want a new Cold War, but is not afraid of one either.

Russian psyche

So how concerned should we be? Could the current tensions really degenerate into a new Cold War or even violent confrontation? In Panorama: Should we be scared of Russia? Sunday Times Moscow correspondent Mark Franchetti tries to answer those questions. The key to understanding whether the former superpower really is a threat is understanding how its inhabitants see themselves now, years on from the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Should we be Scared of Russia? Franchetti seeks to uncover the current Russian mood -speaking to people living in the country's vibrant capital of Moscow, to its rural poor, and to ethnic Russians who, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, find themselves living outside of the motherland. And in doing finds that far from seeing themselves as aggressors, the majority of Russians say that in fact it is Russia which is under attack.

Nato flashpoint

Fuelling the idea of a Russia under siege is the belief that the West is trying to encircle the country, particularly through US plans for a European-based missile defence shield and the eastward expansion of Nato, which has seen both Georgia and Ukraine promised membership. Panorama travels to a flashpoint of Russian concern over Nato's eastward shift, the Crimean port city of Sevastopol - a little piece of Russia, sitting on the Ukrainian coast. Despite being in Ukraine, Sevastopol is still home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet and has been so for more than 200 years. But there is a problem - Russia only leases its base from the Ukrainian government and the lease runs out in 2017. Our reporter sees first-hand the tensions in the city, where the majority of the population view themselves as Russia - even if they lack Russian citizenship - and talks to Russian nationalists who say they will fight to keep the fleet in Crimea and Ukraine out of Nato. In Russia itself, Franchetti examines the changing face of Moscow, which has been transformed from a city of Soviet austerity to a place something more akin to Dallas - where Moscow's beautiful people go to see and be seen at glamorous parties, such as the one to celebrate the first Russian edition of the society magazine Tatler, to which Panorama was invited. But even there, where the guests are educated, sophisticated and travel abroad, people complain that the West doesn't understand Russia, a feeling which our reporter discovers goes all the way up to the highest echelons of power.

'Dignity returned'

Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov - a close associate of the man who is still the most powerful in Russia, Vladimir Putin - tells the programme that the West does not believe that Russia is a European country, sharing European moral, historic, religious values, sharing market economy principles: "If we disagree on this or that point, they say: 'Oh, Russia is a special country, it is still not European, it is an Asian country, we should not trust Russia'," Mr Ivanov says. And, as our reporter finds, nowhere is the gap of misunderstanding between Russia and the West more apparent than in their opposing views of president-turned-prime-minister Mr Putin. In the West, Mr Putin is vilified as a thuggish bully, surrounded by a cadre of fellow ex-KGB agents who, like him, have little concern for human rights. But, as Panorama finds, despite crushing opposition voices, cancelling regional elections and clamping down on the media, a staggering 90% of Russians approve of his leadership according to recent polls. In fact, most Russians wanted Mr Putin to change the constitution to stay on for a third term as president. According to Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov, a close friend of Mr Putin, the strongman's appeal lies in the fact that he has "given Russia her dignity back".

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programme...ma/7648564.stm
I would normally not give exposure to this kind of news but there are a few points I want to make. Foremost, I am quite amused at how fast and how extensive bad news from Russia is covered in the US while politically pertinent developments or news that casts Russia in a good light is virtually banned from mainstream media coverage, with rare exceptions. The recent tragic accident that took the lives of twenty Russian sailors and shipbuilders is being presented in the US as a sign that Russia's military is hopelessly outdated. From my perspective, however, the recent deadly accidents within the Russian military, while normal by international standards, are clear signs that the Russian military is emerging from its decade long deprivation and degradation. The slumbering Russian military is awakening and becoming highly active again. Unfortunately, on its course towards recuperation and modernization there will more such incidents. Furthermore, Moscow's reaction to the unfortunate incident was a pleasant surprise. The news of the accident was broadcasted soon after it had occurred and constant media coverage is continuing. In a news article today the New York Times suggested that Putin, unlike Medvedev with the current event, was grossly negligent during the Kursk incident in 2000. Well, was Putin negligent or was he forced into inaction due to serious geopolitical considerations? Please watch the following video presentation -

The Kursk tragedy - a submarin in troubled waters: http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...18731467852276

Arevordi

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Russian Sub Returns to Base After Accident That Killed 20



November, 2008

A brand-new Russian nuclear submarine returned to base on Sunday after an accident with its fire-extinguishing system flooded two compartments with Freon gas, killing 20 people and injuring 21, Russian officials said. Naval officials would not identify the submarine, but a state-owned news agency said it was the Nerpa, an Akula-class attack submarine. It was undergoing tests in the Sea of Japan at the time of the accident. A Russian Navy spokesman, Igor Dygalo, reported that its reactor had not been damaged and that radiation levels were normal. The vessel was scheduled to be commissioned in the navy later this year, and most of the dead were shipbuilding workers on board to carry out tests. An additional 167 people on board were not injured, Mr. Dygalo said. The specific naval base to which the sub returned was not disclosed, though the accident occurred near Vladivostok, the main base in Russia’s far east. It was the most deadly accident on a Russian submarine since 2000, when an explosion aboard the nuclear submarine Kursk caused it to sink in the Barents Sea. Many of the 118 men aboard survived the sinking, but they were all dead by the time the vessel was brought to the surface, prompting criticism that Vladimir V. Putin, who was then the president, had reacted slowly to the crisis. The government’s response to this accident has been notably different. Within hours of the malfunction, President Dmitri A. Medvedev asked his defense minister for continual briefings on the situation and pledged support to victims’ families. News coverage has been intense, with telephone hot line numbers for victims’ families displayed on newscasts. Russian submarines have had other accidents since the sinking of the Kursk. In 2003, a decommissioned nuclear submarine sank while it was being towed to a scrap yard, killing nine crew members. In 2004, one person was killed when a holding tank on a submarine exploded during repair work. In 2005, a hurried international rescue effort brought seven Russian sailors to the surface with only three to six hours’ worth of air left. And in 2006, two soldiers suffocated when a fire broke out on a nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/10/wo...russia.html?hp
Russia's Putin May Return as President in 2009


November, 2008

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev could resign next year paving the way for his predecessor and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a Russian paper said on Thursday citing an unidentified Kremlin official. In his state of the nation address on Wednesday, Medvedev proposed extending the presidential term from four to six years, which Vedomosti said was part of an arrangement devised by first deputy head of the Kremlin staff Vladislav Surkov. The paper said, citing the Kremlin source that under the arrangement Putin's successor needed to amend the Constitution to secure a longer term in office for Putin and to carry out unpopular social reforms. The source told the paper that Medvedev may resign citing changes to the Constitution, leading to presidential elections being held next year. Vedomosti said Putin could then rule for two six-year terms, from 2009 to 2021. "There are no reasons why Putin should not return as president next year as the current president's term is not set to expire in 2009," the premier's press secretary Dmitry Peskov told the paper. Another source close to the Kremlin quoted by the paper said Putin had already started his election campaign. The premier has launched a personal website and is expected to lay out his manifesto as leader of the ruling United Russia party at a congress in November, following which he will broadcast a video link with the nation, the practice he resorted to as president. Political analysts and business have been playing a guessing game since Medvedev's election win in May trying to work out who is really in charge in Russia, the president or premier. A senior United Russia member quoted by the daily said the proposal to extend the presidential term, coupled with the increase in the parliamentary term to five years, was the beginning of constitutional reforms designed to turn Russia into a parliamentary republic. A source in the presidential administration said the amendments could be approved next year, the paper reported.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081106/118157645.html

Putin Seeks to Further Build Ties With Iran


Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia and Iran must continue to develop bilateral and multilateral projects, and welcomed Iran's contribution to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Putin met with Iranian First Vice President Parviz Davoodi on the sidelines of a meeting in Kazakhstan between the heads of government of SCO member states, comprising Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries. "Our relations are developing in a diversified manner in many directions," Putin said. He noted the countries' strong political ties, growing trade, which has reached $3.5 billion, and the large number of "perspective projects in bilateral as well as multilateral formats". On Iran's observer role in the SCO, Putin said: "we have welcomed Iran's participation in this international organization from the outset." The SCO, widely seen as a counterweight to NATO's influence in Eurasia, comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The group primarily addresses security issues, but has recently moved to embrace economic and energy projects. Iran and Pakistan, who have held observer status in the SCO since 2005, previously announced their desire to become permanent members of the organization, but their request was not considered at a SCO foreign ministers meeting in Tajikistan on July 25. Russia and China have been cautious over admitting Iran, embroiled in a long-running dispute with the West and Israel over its nuclear program and alleged support for radical groups in Lebanon and other countries. Both China and Russia have major commercial interests in Iran. China wants Iranian oil and gas, and to sell weapons and other goods to the country, while Moscow hopes to sell more weapons and nuclear energy technology to Tehran. The Kremlin also needs Iran's endorsement for a multinational arrangement to exploit the Caspian Sea's energy resources. The other observers in the group are India and Mongolia.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20081030/118046285.html

Russia Must Develop Ways to Influence World Oil Prices - Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the country must develop a set of measures to influence world oil prices. World oil prices have fallen more than 50% from a record high of $147 per barrel in July, as the global credit crunch has brought fuel demand down in most oil-consuming economies. "As a major exporter and producer of crude and oil products, Russia cannot remain on the sidelines with regard to the formulation of world pricing for crude, and we must develop an entire range of measures that would allow us to actively influence the market situation," Putin said. On Monday, Putin met with the heads of Russia's top oil companies to discuss crude export duty cuts amid the ongoing global financial crisis. Putin met executives from state-run Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, the country's largest independent crude producer LUKoil, the Russian-British joint venture TNK-BP, and Surgutneftegaz, as well as the national pipeline monopoly Transneft.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081110/118230972.html

In other news:

Russia Backing Iran-Armenia Rail Link


Russia could participate in the construction of a major railroad linking Iran and Armenia, according to the president of Russia Railroads. President of Russia Railroads Vladimir Yakunin, said the company is ready to participate in the construction of the rail line should Iran, Armenia and Russia agree on the project's finance, Fars News Agency reported. Armenia's Transport and Communications Minister Gurgen Sargsyan has said that the rail link would cost approximately $2 billion, announcing that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have both shown interest in the project. Armenia currently has only one working international rail link that runs via Georgia, as rail tracks linking Turkey and Azerbaijan are inactive.

Under Review

The proposed link would require around 80 kilometers of new railroad construction in northwestern Iran, from the Armenian border on the Aras River to the Iranian city of Marand where the track would be connected to the Tabriz-Jolfa line. The railroad, which has been discussed since initial proposals were submitted in 2006, would be a major boost to the development of trade between the two countries. Armenia would also benefit from being able to use Iran as a transit route for transport links with the rest of the world. Sargsyan said the railroad's construction can take up to five years. Presently, three projects are under review. The first originates from Yeraskh, the second from Vardenis and the third from Gagarin, extending for 443, 449 and 397 km respectively. Armenia favors the project that starts from Gagarin and then through Gavar, Martuni and Jermuk.

Advantageous

At a meeting in Sochi in September, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed the project with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian as part of a cooperation agreement between the two countries. Russia Railroads' subsidiary South Caucasus Railroad took over the operation of the Armenian rail network on June 1 under a 25-year concession. Iran and Armenia have agreed to set up a working group, in which the Russians may be invited to participate. ADB has allocated about $1.5 million to finance feasibility studies on Armenia's ambitious plans to build a railroad linking neighboring Iran, Yerevan's Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said. "By the middle of next year, we will be able to approve business approaches, calculations of cost-effectiveness and to present documents prepared by the Asian Development Bank to the private sector, which could also participate in the project," Sarkisian added. In an apparent reference to Russia, Sarkisian said Armenia's "strategic partners" can also finance the railroad's construction. "I hope that we will be able to report next year serious progress in this sphere," he said. The project has for years been discussed by the Armenian and Iranian governments. The Armenian authorities have recently signaled their desire to finally get it off the drawing board, with Sarkisian declaring its implementation as one of his administration's top economic priorities. Armenia considers Russia as well as international lending institutions like the World Bank as potential sources of funding for the project. The lack of a rail link between Armenia and Iran is a major obstacle to the expansion of bilateral trade. Officials of the three countries should realize the advantages of the proposed railroad for themselves as well as the region, and make concerted efforts for implementing the project as soon as possible.

Source: http://www.zawya.com/Story.cfm/sidZA...%20Rail%20Link

Russian Warships to Visit Venezuela on November 24-30

A task force from Russia's Northern Fleet led by the Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser will visit Venezuela on November 24-30, a spokesman for the Venezuelan Defense Ministry announced Friday. "A group of Russian warships will visit Caracas on November 24-30, when the first joint naval exercises are due to take place," the spokesman said. The Northern Fleet task force also includes the large anti-submarine warfare ship Admiral Chabanenko. The Russian ships are currently in the Mediterranean. Another Northern Fleet task force, led by the missile cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, will conduct joint exercises with Black Sea Fleet warships in the Mediterranean in December. Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo, an aide to the Russian Navy commander, said earlier that the Pyotr Veliky had called at a French naval base for the first time on Wednesday. He said the ship dropped anchor off Toulon on Wednesday morning, and would remain until Saturday.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20081107/118193630.html
Medvedev: Russia to Deploy Missiles Near Poland


November, 2008

Russia will deploy missiles near NATO member Poland in response to U.S. missile defense plans, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday in his first state of the nation speech. Medvedev also singled out the United States for criticism, casting Russia's war with Georgia in August and the global financial turmoil as consequences of aggressive, selfish U.S. policies. He said he hoped the next U.S. administration would act to improve relations. In a separate telegram, he congratulated Barack Obama on his election victory and said he was hoping for "constructive dialogue" with the incoming U.S. president. Medvedev also proposed increasing the Russian presidential term to six years from the current four, a major constitutional change that would further increase the power of the head of state and could deepen Western concern over democracy in Russia.

The president said the Iskander missiles will be deployed to Russia's Kaliningrad region, which lies between Poland and the ex-Soviet republic of Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, but did not say how many would be used. Equipment to electronically hamper the operation of prospective U.S. missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic will be deployed, he said. He did not say whether the short-range Iskander missiles would be fitted with nuclear warheads and it was not clear exactly when the missiles would be deployed. "Mechanisms must be created to block mistaken, egoistical and sometimes simply dangerous decisions of certain members of the international community," he said shortly after starting the 85-minute speech, making it clear he was referring to the United States. The president said Georgia sparked the August war on its territory with what he called "barbaric aggression" against Russian-backed South Ossetia. The conflict "was, among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the American administration, which did not tolerate criticism and preferred unilateral decisions."

Medvedev also painted Russia as a country threatened by growing Western military might. "From what we have seen in recent years, the creation of a missile defense system, the encirclement of Russia with military bases, the relentless expansion of NATO, we have gotten the clear impression that they are testing our strength," Medvedev said. He announced deployment of the short-range missiles as a military response to U.S. plans to deploy missile-defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic — former Soviet satellites that are now NATO members. Speaking just hours after Obama was declared the victor in the U.S. presidential election, Medvedev said he hoped the incoming administration will take steps to improve badly damaged U.S. ties with Russia. He suggested it is up to the U.S. — not the Kremlin — to seek to improve relations. "I stress that we have no problem with the American people, no inborn anti-Americanism. And we hope that our partners, the U.S. administration, will make a choice in favor of full-fledged relations with Russia," Medvedev said.

Tension in Russian-American relations has been driven to a post-Cold War high by Moscow's war with U.S. ally Georgia. On the financial crisis, Medvedev said overconfidence in American dominance after the collapse of the Soviet Union "led the U.S. authorities to major mistakes in the economic sphere." The administration ignored warnings and harmed itself and others by "blowing up a money bubble to stimulate its own growth," he said. Medvedev said the president's tenure should be lengthened to six years to enable the government to more effectively implement reforms. He said the term of the parliament also should be extended by a year to five years, and that parliament's power must be increased by requiring the Cabinet to report to lawmakers regularly. The proposals were Medvedev's first major initiative to amend the constitution since he was elected in March to succeed his longtime mentor Vladimir Putin. Putin, who is now prime minister and has not ruled out a return to the Kremlin in the future, has favored increasing the presidential term.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081105/...ussia_medvedev

Russia's Iskander Best Answer to U.S. Missiles in Europe - Analyst


The placement of short-range tactical missiles near Poland would be the best response to U.S. missile plans for Europe, a Russian military analyst said on Wednesday. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday in his first state of the nation address to parliament that Russia would deploy short-range Iskander missile systems in its exclave of Kaliningrad "to neutralize if necessary the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe." "The deployment of Iskander missile systems with a range of 500 km (310 miles) [in the Kaliningrad region] would allow Russia to target the entire territory of Poland and also parts of Germany and the Czech Republic," said Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Moscow-based Military Forecast Center. The Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) tactical system is equipped with high-precision cruise missiles reportedly capable of carrying multiple conventional and nuclear warheads. "We could have deployed either strategic bombers or silo-based ballistic missiles in response to the U.S. missile shield in Europe. However, Iskander is the best solution both from an economic and a military standpoint," Tsyganyuk said. Moscow has repeatedly expressed its opposition to Washington's plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic, saying they threaten Russia's national security. The United States claims the new bases are needed to counter missile attacks by "rogue states" such as Iran. The U.S. signed deals on the missile shield with Warsaw and Prague during the summer. Polish and Czech lawmakers have yet to ratify the agreements. Russian officials earlier said Moscow could deploy its Iskander tactical missiles and strategic bombers in Belarus, and warned that Russia could target its missiles at Poland.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081105/118140039.html

Russia to Equip 5 Brigades With Iskander Missile Systems by 2015

At least five missile brigades deployed on Russia's western border will be equipped with new Iskander-M short-range missile systems by 2015, a Defense Ministry source said on Friday. "By 2015, the Iskander system will be put in service with five missile brigades, primarily near Russia's western border and in the Kaliningrad Region," the source said. Russia believes that the placement of high-precision tactical missiles near borders with NATO countries would be the best response to U.S. missile defense plans for Europe. Moscow has repeatedly expressed its opposition to Washington's plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic, saying they threaten Russia's national security. The deployment of mobile Iskander-M missile systems with a range of 500 km (310 miles) in the Kaliningrad region would allow Russia to target almost anywhere in Poland and also parts of Germany and the Czech Republic.

The Iskander-M system is equipped with a solid-propellant single-stage guided missile 9M723K1 (SS-26 Stone) controlled throughout the entire flight path and fitted with a non-separable warhead. The missile follows a non-ballistic "fuzzy" path, which includes such features as violent maneuvers in the terminal phase of flight and the release of decoys. It is built with elements of "stealth" technology and has a reduced reflective surface. The altitude of its flight trajectory never exceeds 50 kilometers (30 miles), which makes it even harder to detect and intercept. The source also said Russia will supply Iskander missile systems to Belarus as part of an "asymmetric" response to the U.S. European missile shield. "Belarus is our ally and we ... will deliver these systems to that country on a priority and most favorable basis," the official said. Russia and Belarus, which have maintained close political and economic ties since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, have been in talks for several years on the delivery of Iskander-E systems to equip at least one Belarus missile brigade by 2015. With its maximum range of 280 km (about 180 miles), Iskander-E is likely to target U.S. missile defense facilities in Poland, which shares a border with Belarus.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081107/118191000.html

Russia to Deploy Military Bases in Tskhinvali, Gudauta


Russia’s Defense Ministry has chosen the sites for future bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They will be deployed in Tskhinvali and Gudauta respectively, RIA Novosti reported Friday with reference to a source with Defense Ministry. “Russia’s military bases will be established during 2009 in Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) and Gudauta (Abkhazia),” the source said. Chief of the RF Armed Forces General Staff Army General Nikolay Makarov told reporters in Moscow in October that the strength of each base would be 3,700 servicemen. According to Makarov, the bases will be deployed to defend interests of Russia and of both republics. Russia will set up bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia under the Friendship and Cooperation Treaties concluded with those republics.

Source: http://www.kommersant.com/p-13537/ba...South_Ossetia/

In other news:

Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question


Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression. Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm. The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West. But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion. President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia has characterized the attack as a precise and defensive act. But according to observations of the monitors, documented Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, Georgian artillery rounds and rockets were falling throughout the city at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between explosions, and within the first hour of the bombardment at least 48 rounds landed in a civilian area. The monitors have also said they were unable to verify that ethnic Georgian villages were under heavy bombardment that evening, calling to question one of Mr. Saakashvili’s main justifications for the attack.

Senior Georgian officials contest these accounts, and have urged Western governments to discount them. “That information, I don’t know what it is and how it is confirmed,” said Giga Bokeria, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister. “There is such an amount of evidence of continuous attacks on Georgian-controlled villages and so much evidence of Russian military buildup, it doesn’t change in any case the general picture of events.” He added: “Who was counting those explosions? It sounds a bit peculiar.” The Kremlin has embraced the monitors’ observations, which, according to a written statement from Grigory Karasin, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, reflect “the actual course of events prior to Georgia’s aggression.” He added that the accounts “refute” allegations by Tbilisi of bombardments that he called mythical. The monitors were members of an international team working under the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O.S.C.E. A multilateral organization with 56 member states, the group has monitored the conflict since a previous cease-fire agreement in the 1990s.

The observations by the monitors, including a Finnish major, a Belarussian airborne captain and a Polish civilian, have been the subject of two confidential briefings to diplomats in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, one in August and the other in October. Summaries were shared with The New York Times by people in attendance at both. Details were then confirmed by three Western diplomats and a Russian, and were not disputed by the O.S.C.E.’s mission in Tbilisi, which was provided with a written summary of the observations. Mr. Saakashvili, who has compared Russia’s incursion into Georgia to the Nazi annexations in Europe in 1938 and the Soviet suppression of Prague in 1968, faces domestic unease with his leadership and skepticism about his judgment from Western governments. The brief war was a disaster for Georgia. The attack backfired. Georgia’s army was humiliated as Russian forces overwhelmed its brigades, seized and looted their bases, captured their equipment and roamed the country’s roads at will. Villages that Georgia vowed to save were ransacked and cleared of their populations by irregular Ossetian, Chechen and Cossack forces, and several were burned to the ground.

Massing of Weapons

According to the monitors, an O.S.C.E. patrol at 3 p.m. on Aug. 7 saw large numbers of Georgian artillery and grad rocket launchers massing on roads north of Gori, just south of the enclave. At 6:10 p.m., the monitors were told by Russian peacekeepers of suspected Georgian artillery fire on Khetagurovo, an Ossetian village; this report was not independently confirmed, and Georgia declared a unilateral cease-fire shortly thereafter, about 7 p.m. During a news broadcast that began at 11 p.m., Georgia announced that Georgian villages were being shelled, and declared an operation “to restore constitutional order” in South Ossetia. The bombardment of Tskhinvali started soon after the broadcast. According to the monitors, however, no shelling of Georgian villages could be heard in the hours before the Georgian bombardment. At least two of the four villages that Georgia has since said were under fire were near the observers’ office in Tskhinvali, and the monitors there likely would have heard artillery fire nearby.


Moreover, the observers made a record of the rounds exploding after Georgia’s bombardment began at 11:35 p.m. At 11:45 p.m., rounds were exploding at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between impacts, they noted. At 12:15 a.m. on Aug. 8, Gen. Maj. Marat M. Kulakhmetov, commander of Russian peacekeepers in the enclave, reported to the monitors that his unit had casualties, indicating that Russian soldiers had come under fire. By 12:35 a.m. the observers had recorded at least 100 heavy rounds exploding across Tskhinvali, including 48 close to the observers’ office, which is in a civilian area and was damaged. Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that by morning on Aug. 8 two Russian soldiers had been killed and five wounded. Two senior Western military officers stationed in Georgia, speaking on condition of anonymity because they work with Georgia’s military, said that whatever Russia’s behavior in or intentions for the enclave, once Georgia’s artillery or rockets struck Russian positions, conflict with Russia was all but inevitable. This clear risk, they said, made Georgia’s attack dangerous and unwise.


Senior Georgia officials, a group with scant military experience and personal loyalties to Mr. Saakashvili, have said that much of the damage to Tskhinvali was caused in combat between its soldiers and separatists, or by Russian airstrikes and bombardments in its counterattack the next day. As for its broader shelling of the city, Georgia has told Western diplomats that Ossetians hid weapons in civilian buildings, making them legitimate targets. “The Georgians have been quite clear that they were shelling targets — the mayor’s office, police headquarters — that had been used for military purposes,” said Matthew J. Bryza, a deputy assistant secretary of state and one of Mr. Saakashvili’s vocal supporters in Washington. Those claims have not been independently verified, and Georgia’s account was disputed by Ryan Grist, a former British Army captain who was the senior O.S.C.E. representative in Georgia when the war broke out. Mr. Grist said that he was in constant contact that night with all sides, with the office in Tskhinvali and with Wing Commander Stephen Young, the retired British military officer who leads the monitoring team.


“It was clear to me that the attack was completely indiscriminate and disproportionate to any, if indeed there had been any, provocation,” Mr. Grist said. “The attack was clearly, in my mind, an indiscriminate attack on the town, as a town.” Mr. Grist has served as a military officer or diplomat in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. In August, after the Georgian foreign minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, who has no military experience, assured diplomats in Tbilisi that the attack was measured and discriminate, Mr. Grist gave a briefing to diplomats from the European Union that drew from the monitors’ observations and included his assessments. He then soon resigned under unclear circumstances.


A second briefing was led by Commander Young in October for military attach├ęs visiting Georgia. At the meeting, according to a person in attendance, Commander Young stood by the monitors’ assessment that Georgian villages had not been extensively shelled on the evening or night of Aug. 7. “If there had been heavy shelling in areas that Georgia claimed were shelled, then our people would have heard it, and they didn’t,” Commander Young said, according to the person who attended. “They heard only occasional small-arms fire.” The O.S.C.E turned down a request by The Times to interview Commander Young and the monitors, saying they worked in sensitive jobs and would not be publicly engaged in this disagreement.


Grievances and Exaggeration


Disentangling the Russian and Georgian accounts has been complicated. The violence along the enclave’s boundaries that had occurred in recent summers was more widespread this year, and in the days before Aug. 7 there had been shelling of Georgian villages. Tensions had been soaring. Each side has fresh lists of grievances about the other, which they insist are decisive. But both sides also have a record of misstatement and exaggeration, which includes circulating casualty estimates that have not withstood independent examination. With the international standing of both Russia and Georgia damaged, the public relations battle has been intensive. Russian military units have been implicated in destruction of civilian property and accused by Georgia of participating with Ossetian militias in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Russia and South Ossetia have accused Georgia of attacking Ossetian civilians.


But a critical and as yet unanswered question has been what changed for Georgia between 7 p.m. on Aug 7, when Mr. Saakashvili declared a cease-fire, and 11:30 p.m., when he says he ordered the attack. The Russian and Ossetian governments have said the cease-fire was a ruse used to position rockets and artillery for the assault. That view is widely held by Ossetians. Civilians repeatedly reported resting at home after the cease-fire broadcast by Mr. Saakashvili. Emeliya B. Dzhoyeva, 68, was home with her husband, Felix, 70, when the bombardment began. He lost his left arm below the elbow and suffered burns to his right arm and torso. “Saakashvili told us that nothing would happen,” she said. “So we all just went to bed.”


Neither Georgia nor its Western allies have as yet provided conclusive evidence that Russia was invading the country or that the situation for Georgians in the Ossetian zone was so dire that a large-scale military attack was necessary, as Mr. Saakashvili insists. Georgia has released telephone intercepts indicating that a Russian armored column apparently entered the enclave from Russia early on the Aug. 7, which would be a violation of the peacekeeping rules. Georgia said the column marked the beginning of an invasion. But the intercepts did not show the column’s size, composition or mission, and there has not been evidence that it was engaged with Georgian forces until many hours after the Georgian bombardment; Russia insists it was simply a routine logistics train or troop rotation.


Unclear Accounts of Shelling


Interviews by The Times have found a mixed picture on the question of whether Georgian villages were shelled after Mr. Saakashvili declared the cease-fire. Residents of the village of Zemo Nigozi, one of the villages that Georgia has said was under heavy fire, said they were shelled from 6 p.m. on, supporting Georgian statements. In two other villages, interviews did not support Georgian claims. In Avnevi, several residents said the shelling stopped before the cease-fire and did not resume until roughly the same time as the Georgian bombardment. In Tamarasheni, some residents said they were lightly shelled on the evening of Aug. 7, but felt safe enough not to retreat to their basements. Others said they were not shelled until Aug 9.


With a paucity of reliable and unbiased information available, the O.S.C.E. observations put the United States in a potentially difficult position. The United States, Mr. Saakashvili’s principal source of international support, has for years accepted the organization’s conclusions and praised its professionalism. Mr. Bryza refrained from passing judgment on the conflicting accounts. “I wasn’t there,” he said, referring to the battle. “We didn’t have people there. But the O.S.C.E. really has been our benchmark on many things over the years.” he O.S.C.E. itself, while refusing to discuss its internal findings, stood by the accuracy of its work but urged caution in interpreting it too broadly. “We are confident that all O.S.C.E. observations are expert, accurate and unbiased,” Martha Freeman, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message. “However, monitoring activities in certain areas at certain times cannot be taken in isolation to provide a comprehensive account.”


Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/wo...60871f&ei=5087

Conductor Defends Russia, to Strains of Prokofiev


Back in August, the conductor Valery Gergiev took the stage in Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, and denounced its “monstrous bombardment” by Georgia. Speaking both in Russian and, pointedly for the outside world, in English, he said Georgia had carried out a “huge act of aggression” and praised Russia as a savior. Then Mr. Gergiev — perhaps the world’s most famous Ossetian — led the Kirov Orchestra of St. Petersburg in what was billed as a memorial concert for the dead in the five-day battle between the two countries. The event gave off a strong whiff of Kremlin propaganda and prompted a flurry of denunciations of Mr. Gergiev for supporting what many in the West saw as the bad actor in the war, Russia, which had intervened with overwhelming force after Georgia’s attack. But three months later Mr. Gergiev remains unrepentant, even proud, of his role. In fact, he says he is vindicated by accounts by independent monitors in an article in The New York Times on Friday, suggesting that Georgia was not acting defensively and had launched an indiscriminate attack, although disputes over who was to blame remain. “That’s what I’m saying for three months,” Mr. Gergiev said on Friday, in a follow-up conversation to a wide-ranging four-hour interview here on Thursday before a concert on the Kirov Orchestra’s American tour, which moves on to Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday and Monday. “I’m not celebrating this. Sooner or later the truth comes out.”

Mr. Gergiev harshly criticized Georgia and its president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He likened its attack to Pearl Harbor, in the sense that many knew it was coming but were shocked when it did, and dismissed his critics as armchair commentators. “The one thing clear was that the regular army, Georgian, bombed the sleeping city,” Mr. Gergiev said. “Everybody recognizes it now. The Georgian president decided obviously to take them by force. If he decided to kill as many civilians as possible, it didn’t matter to him.” Mr. Gergiev brushed aside reports of violence against Georgian villages by Ossetian militias and Russian soldiers. That violence, he said, was to be expected. “It’s the beginning which was so important,” he said of the Georgian attack. “If you decide to open Pandora’s box, then don’t scream there are snakes there.” Georgian officials continue to claim that they acted defensively, citing what they call evidence that Russians were poised to invade and were attacking Georgian villages. Mr. Gergiev, as a famous, world-class conductor, has become one of Russia’s most potent cultural symbols. Like few other musicians, he wields extraordinary power in his country as head of Russia’s musical crown xxxel, the Maryinsky Theater and its ballet, opera and symphony orchestra in St. Petersburg, which tour under the name Kirov.

His words and actions over South Ossetia show the extent to which he is willing to embroil himself in politics, even a murky dispute in which both sides, Russia and Georgia, are fighting a pitched public relations battle over who has the moral high ground. Few other conductors, Daniel Barenboim notably among them, have become so involved in the public realm. Mr. Gergiev’s influence stems from the quality of his music-making but also from the loyalty he attracts from wealthy patrons who avidly follow his concerts, make contributions to his musical causes and put him up in their luxurious homes, like the estate he was staying in here. Mr. Gergiev is also the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and widely in demand as a guest conductor. For the interview on Thursday, which included an early preconcert dinner of giant stone crab legs, Mr. Gergiev had his trademark facial grizzle and the international artist’s uniform of all black: black jeans and black polo shirt. Famous for his frenetic travel schedule and frequent lateness, Mr. Gergiev was relaxed and expansive, never quite answering questions directly but veering into arabesques of discourse before being brought back to the point.

In New York he is presenting a Prokofiev survey in the Great Performers series at Lincoln Center. This Sunday’s program is ballet music, some of it lesser-known, followed by “Romeo and Juliet” on Monday. On Nov. 16, he and the Kirov will present a concert version of the opera “The Love for Three Oranges”; on Nov. 17, film music. Mr. Gergiev returns in March with the London Symphony Orchestra for programs of Prokofiev symphonies and concertos. The idea behind the programming, he said, “is basically to complete the story which is half written.” The first half consisted of six Prokofiev operas Mr. Gergiev conducted in recent years at the Metropolitan Opera and with the Kirov Opera. Now it is time for New Yorkers to hear the lesser-known theater works and movie scores, he said. He will be back next season to lead a three-week Stravinsky festival with the New York Philharmonic. (This is possible only now that he is no longer officially principal guest conductor at the Met, which has a noncompete practice with the Philharmonic.) “I, in a way, am destined to serve this tradition, because that was my tradition,” he said. As part of his frenzied music-making, Mr. Gergiev has given concerts connected to the world’s events: raising funds for the victims of the Beslan tragedy in North Ossetia and of a Japanese earthquake and playing for peace in the Middle East. But his performance in Tskhinvali on Aug. 21 left a sour taste in the mouths of some commentators.

The scene at the concert, witnesses said, was surreal. The area was awash in light amid the blacked-out city. Foreign reporters were hustled in for a quick glimpse. The smoke from burning Georgian villages, set upon by militiamen or possibly Russian troops, rose nearby. The concert was broadcast across Russia, and it evoked the suffering of Russians in World War II through a performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, completed during the epic German siege of Leningrad and steeped in nationalist sentiment. “The message is clear,” the commentators Jens F. Laurson and George A. Pieler wrote on Forbes.com. “South Ossetians are innocent victims; the Russian army, their knight in shining armor; and Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili has a metaphorical toothbrush mustache not unlike Adolf Hitler’s.” In response to similar indictments, the London Symphony issued a statement reaffirming its support of Mr. Gergiev. “Morally, I am 100 percent sure I did the right thing,” he said. As for criticism from Westerners? “So what?” he added. “I’m Ossetian.”

[...]

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/08/ar...08gerg.html?hp

Russia Will be a Global Financial Centre - November, 2008


Russia Will be a Global Financial Centre – Medvedev


Russian President`s key address:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-G18uL0Rh8

November, 2008

President Medvedev says new policies intended to make Russia a global financial centre will be adopted by the end of the year. The announcement came during his first State of the Nation Address. The wide-ranging speech covered everything from the global financial crisis and conflict in South Ossetia to changes in the country's economy and political life. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev started his first State of the Nation Address with an assessment of the current year’s events. He said that in 2008 Russia underwent not only the renovation of the key power institutes after the presidential election, but also a very serious challenge.

South Ossetia & the global crisis

“A barbaric aggression against South Ossetia and the global financial crisis – two very different problems which nevertheless have common traits and a common origin, if it could be said so,” he said. “A local reckless enterprise provoked a rise of tensions far behind the region’s borders, in the whole of Europe, in the whole world. It called into question the efficiency of international security institutions and practically destabilised the basics of the world order.” President Medvedev added that the global financial crisis also started as a local emergency situation in the U.S., but being closely linked with all developed countries, “the U.S. economy has pulled down other world markets. And this crisis has also become a global one.” "The lessons of mistakes and crises of 2008 proved to all the responsible nations that it is the time to act, and it is necessary to radically reform the political and economic system," said Medvedev. He believes Russia is ready to collaborate with the US, EU and BRIC countries to make this happen, and also to make the world a fairer and safer place. "Our nation is rich, spiritually and morally. We have things to be proud of, we have things to love, to stand up for, to defend, to reach. That's why we will not retreat from the Caucasus," he said. Russia’s actions during the August war in South Ossetia were not directed against Georgia or its citizens, but at saving the people of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers. “It was also aimed at providing the lasting security of the South Ossetian and Abkhazian people, first of all from the recurrences of felonious adventurism and the current Georgian regime,” Medvedev said.

Russia-U.S. relations

Dmitry Medvedev believes that when Barack Obama becomes U.S. President, the relations between the two countries will get a ‘second wind’. “I underline it: we do not have a problem with the American people, we do not have an in-born anti-Americanism and we hope that our partners, the new U.S. administration, will choose fully-fledged relations with Russia,” he said. He hopes progress in Russia-U.S. relations would be key to solving many international problems. But President Medvedev also said that Russia will not allow the domination of a single country in any sphere. “Together with all countries interested we will be creating a really democratic model of relations. The world cannot be ruled from one capital. Those who do not want to understand that will be only creating problems for themselves and for others,” Medvedev said.

Military proposals

President Medvedev promised to take concrete measures in response to U.S. missile shield plans in Europe. The Russian president said that Russia will not go ahead with plans to take three regiments in the Kotelsk missile division off combat duty. He added that Russia could deploy Iskander missiles in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad if the need arose.

Russia’s economy

The Russian President announced that he expects new policies intended to make Russia a global financial centre to be adopted by the end of 2008. "A package of bills forming the basis for the creation of one of the world's leading financial centres in Russia needs to be passed before the end of this year. This centre should serve as the nucleus for an independent and competitive Russian financial system," he said. The package is also expected to strengthen the rouble and make it one of the regional reserve currencies. "Practical steps are needed to strengthen the rouble's role as an international settlement currency and to finally achieve the transition to settlements in roubles for gas and oil, over which we have, regrettably, taken a long time," he said. Medvedev said there would be limited state intervention in industry and the financial sector, no matter how hard the crisis may strike the economy. "I want everyone to know: our goals are unchanged. Sharp fluctuations in the political and economic situation, turbulence of the world economy and even forced military and political tensions will not become the ground to dismount democratic institutions, nationalising industries and the financial system. Political freedom of citizens and their private property are untouchable". President Medvedev declared that it would be wrong to use the current economic situation to settle old scores or create an environment of unfair competition.

Political changes

Medvedev has also announced a number of incentives which are aimed at strengthening the role of the legislative power as a balance of the executive one – to change the principle of forming the Federation Council and broaden its authority, and oblige the government to give reports to legislators. The President said the need for change is due to the importance of the presidency institute in Russia – it is “key for the country’s development and the course of reforms.” Nevertheless Medvedev stressed that the proposed changes are a correction of the Constitution but not a full-fledged constitutional reform. The President stressed the need to widen participation in politics and give small parties the opportunity to be represented in parliament. "My first proposal is to grant representation guarantees to voters that support so-called small parties," he said. "I believe parties that win between 5% and 7% of votes may be able to count on one or two seats."

He also proposed to increase the presidential term in Russia to six years and the State Duma to five years. Medvedev said that any infringement of civil rights and freedoms, or any action that worsens the material position of citizens, is immoral and illegal. The president sharply criticised Russia’s bureaucratic apparatus: "The state machine here is the biggest employer, the most active publisher, the best producer, the court in its own right, the party of its own accord and, eventually, is the people of its own accord. This system is absolutely ineffective and produces only one product - corruption. That in turn gives way to mass legal nihilism." In his opinion, such a system contradicts the Constitution and slows down the development of an innovative economy and democracy. "A strong state and almighty bureaucracy are not the same thing,” he said. “The first is needed by civic society as a tool for development and to maintain order, for protecting and strengthening democratic institutions. The latter is deadly dangerous for society. That's why our society must calmly, insistently and without delay develop democratic institutions".

Society

The Russian president also called for a “large scale and systematic talent search in Russia and abroad. We need to start a ‘head hunt’ and welcome young, talented people to fundamental and applied science." According to Medvedev, no matter how good the laws and strategies of the state are, their implementation is totally dependent on the people involved. "Their intellectual energy, their creative force is the main treasure of the nation and the main source of progressive development,” he said. State of Nation Address: What's it all about? The Annual State of the Nation Address is a constitutional duty of the Head of Russia. The President reports on the current situation in the country, announces his stance on the main domestic and foreign policy plans for the current year, and outlines the important decisions made in accordance with the constitutional authority. The Address is the country’s main policy document and is intended to give society a guiding line on priority problems and solutions. The President personally works on the text of the Address and its content is never disclosed before hand.

The Address is delivered to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation - the joint session of the two chambers of the Russian Parliament. This is the only time when the two come together. Members of the Cabinet, the chairmen of the Constitutional, the Supreme and the High Arbitration Courts, the Prosecutor General, the chairman of Russia’s Central Election Commission, the chairman of the Accounts Chamber, members of the State Council and the main religious leaders also attend the ceremony. The Annual State of the Nation Address was first delivered in 1994 by Russia’s first President Boris Yeltsin. The tradition was then fixed in the Russian Constitution. Dmitry Medvedev has delivered his first Address not in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s Marble Hall, as his predecessor Vladimir Putin did, but in St. George’s Hall. The President’s Address is usually broadcast live by the country’s federal TV channels and attended by numerous Russian and foreign journalists. This year about 300 journalists were expected to attend. “This is the 15th address, but the first for this president. We will see his personality through his speech and the topics he chooses. That’s when we will really get to know and see the new Russian president,” said Ludmila Pikhoya, former speechwriter for Boris Yeltsin.

The new president chose a new place and a new time for the address, but will it be a fresh start? “I’ve witnessed all the addresses. They get tougher every time in terms of the content as well as the demands. I’m sure this president will stick to the tradition,” Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Liberal Democrat Party leader, said. Many agree this time that the speech will have to look at priorities beyond Russia's borders. First and foremost is the crisis in South Ossetia “Definitely the problems of international security will be in focus. The events in the Caucasus were an indicator of the general state of relations in the world,” Sergey Vikto, Moscow State University of International Relations, said. Experts agree that world foreign policy shifted the day Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia. “We will not allow the deaths of our citizens to go unforgiven. Those who are to blame for the killings will be punished,” Dmitry Medvedev said. Russia’s response was widely criticized by the West, but that didn’t stop Moscow from recognizing the independence of the two break-away regions. “Events in the Caucasus dispelled whatever illusions people had remaining from the post soviet period. Those illusions were about the world being just and about the current security system being optimal,” the Russian President said.

The address will define the new lay of the land for Russia’s foreign policy but many expect Medvedev to go further in the realignment of global defences. “Medvedev proposed a new configuration of European security and found understanding within the EU. Now he has to give an actual recipe,” said Director of the Center of Political Information Aleksey Mukhin. Moscow’s recent dialogue with the EU has not been an easy one, and relations with Washington are at its worst since the Cold War. “It was a general illusion to believe that one country, even the mightiest country, could take up the role of global government,” Medvedev said. On November 5, Medvedev will have one more mission, which is “to form a new position with the new leadership of the US” according to Aleksey Mukhin. “The Kremlin understands that relations with Washington have to improve,” he added. The address has already been postponed twice, but in his video blog, the president made it obvious that he and his team are on top of things. The speech comes at a difficult time with the financial meltdown battering economies around the globe. “A crisis that started in one of the world's biggest countries, the United States of America, unfortunately spread across the planet, forcing almost every country to search for answers,” Dmitry Medvedev said.

Medvedev is definitely the one to give that answer for Russia. “The mechanism to counter the crisis is now clear, so he now knows what to report to the people, what to demand from parliament, so I hope we will hear how he will fight the crisis,” said Aleksey Mukhin, Director of the Center of Poltical Information. Medvedev is the first Russian leader with a background in private business, and he has been showcased as a man who's well aware of what an industry needs. One of the priorities he set as the president is to fight corruption. “We need our law-enforcement agencies and our authorities to stop terrorizing business,” the Russian president said. But so far his words and his bailout plans are yet to improve the markets’ charts which still appear to look like a roller-coaster ride. Medvedev has a unique chance: to not only take part in rebuilding the financial markets and international security framework, but also to initiate these changes. His first address to the Federal Assembly will show whether or not he takes this opportunity.

Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/32840


Main Points of Medvedev's State of The Nation Address


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev delivered his first state of the nation address to both houses of parliament on Wednesday. His speech to the Russian parliament was broadcast on state television and became the longest-ever presidential address, lasting 1 hour and 25 minutes. In line with the Russian Constitution, the president annually addresses the Federal Assembly, comprising the Federation Council and State Duma, talking about the domestic situation and the key areas of Russia's foreign policy. The Russian president said in his address:

- Georgia's military offensive on South Ossetia was a consequence of policies unilaterally followed by the U.S. administration

- Russia will push for reforms to global political and economic systems

- Russia will not give up its role in the Caucasus

- Political and economic changes in Russia will not violate political freedoms and private property

- Russia will fulfill its obligations to protect individuals' savings, pensions and social security

- Russia will establish a self-sufficient financial system in the near future

- pledged that the implementation of the country's strategic programs will continue on schedule

- the global credit crisis is far from over, and the government and business must consider this factor in their planning

- warned against attempts to ignite social and national strife amid the financial crisis

- proposed guaranteeing parliamentary seats for parties that win between 5% and 7% of the vote

- warned against delays in implementing the government's bailout measures

- proposed to abolish election deposits in Russia

- proposed drawing up amendments to ensure a rotation of party leaders

- said the Internet and digital TV guarantee freedom of speech

- proposed extending the presidential and parliamentary terms of office from the current four years to six and five years respectively

- proposed a gradual reduction in the number of voter signatures required for parliamentary polls

- said he would present a draft law reducing the time civil cases are considered by courts

- said the Constitution plays an important role in establishing Russia's democracy and is a guarantee of the country's resurgence

- urged a reduction in federal executive bodies in the regions

- suggested granting more power to parliament, placing the activities of the government under the supervision of the State Duma

- announced that 2010 will be the Year of the Teacher

- Russia will deploy short-range Iskander missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad next to Poland in response to U.S. missile plans for Europe

- Russia has cancelled plans to take three missile regiments out of service in the central part of the country, in response to the U.S. missile shield plans for Europe

- Russia will not be drawn into an arms race, but will continue to ensure the security of its citizens

- hoped the new U.S. administration will seek better relations with Russia

- the ongoing global economic crisis is no reason to nationalize domestic industries and banks

- Russia has sent its proposals on reforming the global economic system to the G20 nations

- Russia should adopt legislation on establishing the country as a global financial center by the end of the year

- Russia will continue its efforts to settle the post-Soviet conflicts over Nagorny Karabakh and Transdnestr

- Russia will use electronic warfare to counteract the U.S. missile shield

- urged a switch to the ruble in payments for gas and oil supplies


Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081105/118142379.html
Russia just celebrated a recently adopted holiday called - Day of Unity. Before Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union and before Napoleon's invasion of the Russian Empire, unknown to many non-Russians there was the Vatican led Polish/Lithuanian invasion of Russia during the early 1600s. This invasion of Russia by the then "West" eventually led to series of epic battles that eventually expelled the invaders from Russian territory between 1612 and 1618. With the western forces soundly defeated, Russia finally managed to unite as a nation, eventually forming one of the greatest empires in world history. The clear political message of this newly adopted national holiday, its strong play on Russian nationalism and its subtle promotion of distrust towards the West is unmistakable. A high budget action film about this historic event called 1612 was released just last year to resounding international acclaim (see film trailer below).

Arevordi

*************

Russia's President Honors Liberators on Unity Day


President Dmitry Medvedev attended celebrations of Russia's Unity Day in the Kremlin on Tuesday, and gave a speech hailing the 1612 liberation of Moscow as a key event in the nation's development. Russia has marked Unity Day each November 4 since 2005, following a 2004 law signed by then-president Vladimir Putin. The holiday commemorates the expulsion of Polish-Lithuanian occupiers from Moscow. "The volunteer corps was led by Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin - these were true patriots, and their manliness, ability to rally the people, and loyalty to the fatherland defined the destiny of our country as an independent, self-reliant, and strong state," Medvedev told guests at the Kremlin, including leaders of non-governmental and cultural organizations, scientists, and prominent Russians living abroad. The president said Unity Day has added significance amid difficult times for the country. "This year was not an easy one for Russia. In a time of trials - military, political, and economic - we felt your support, your true love for Russia, for the people who live and work here." The ruling United Russia Party has organized various public celebrations to be held throughout the country, marking Unity Day. Unity Day effectively replaces celebrations of the Bolshevik Revolution, which had been held on November 7. Celebrations were moved forward by three days to avoid associations with the revolution.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081104/118120918.html

Action Movie An Allegory For Putin's Russia

In a film that hit cinema screens this week, patriotic Russians despairing at the lack of a strong leader rise up, throw out their Western overlords and make Russia a proud country once again. It could be a documentary about how President Vladimir Putin put an end to the turmoil that followed the Soviet Union's collapse. In fact, it is based on a period in the 17th century known as the "Time of Troubles". But the parallels may be more than a coincidence: the film was commissioned by the Kremlin to mark National Unity Day on Sunday, and the director makes little secret that it is an allegory for modern Russia. The film is being released a month before Russia votes in a parliamentary election that many observers say is a referendum on Putin's rule, during which he has accumulated huge power and hit back at what he calls Western encroachment. "I ... consider the 17th century an extremely important period in our history, without which you simply cannot understand Russia," director Vladimir Khotinenko said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper. "And now those times are really relevant," he said. "I am talking about the period after Perestroika. We lived in a Time of Troubles. Its duration even coincided with the one in the 17th century." He added: "I'm convinced -- and I have nothing against democracy -- that Russians have a strong desire for a Tsar."

FIGHT SCENES

The film, called "1612", centres around a ragtag group of Russian peasants who assemble what cannons they can and employ the services of wayward knight to dispatch their Polish occupiers. It is an action movie, featuring huge battle scenes, sword-fighting in period costume, stunt horse-riding and a siege at a castle. It also has mythical elements: talking fish and a unicorn feature in the story. At a lavish premiere in Moscow this week, limousines disgorged VIP guests onto a red carpet and two models in white leather outfits handed out glasses of birch-flavoured vodka. The Time of Troubles is the term used in Russia to describe the period starting in 1598, when a ruling family dynasty in what was then known as Muscovy died out. In the absence of a true royal descendant, Russian peasants fell under the rule of foreign powers, including Swedish, Lithuanian, German and Polish occupiers. That period ended when the Romanov dynasty took over the throne in 1613. Many Russians see Putin as a leader who brought stability and prosperity to the country after a new Time of Trouble -- the post-Soviet 1990s marked with economic chaos, political turmoil and Western blocs moving closer to Russia's borders. Critics though say he has sacrificed democracy to achieve stability and has taken on the role of a new Tsar. The film has an impeccable pro-Kremlin pedigree. It was produced by Nikita Mikhalkov, a director who won the 1994 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his "Burnt by the Sun". Last month he put his name to an open letter asking Putin -- required by the constitution to step down when his second term ends next year -- to stay in office. The Gazeta.ru Internet news site reported that oil tycoon Viktor Vekselberg pitched in $4 million of his fortune to help finance the film. He has made a name for himself by using his wealth to buy back Russian cultural treasures -- including a collection of Faberge eggs -- that had been sold abroad.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaE...30309520071103

IS GUUAM DEAD? November, 2008

IS GUUAM DEAD?

http://socgeo.ruhosting.nl/html/files/conflicting/guuam.jpg

November, 2008

By AriRusila on Monday, November 3 2008, 09:34 - Caucasus - Permalink After "Cold War" US has all the while expanded its influence post-Soviet territory with aim to guide those region's natural resources under US companies. As stakes have been control over the oil and gas of the Caspian Sea/Black Sea/Caucasus basin, and the control of multiple key energy pipelines criss-crossing the region. Economical interests have been linked to political game e.g. Nato enlargement. While EU has been more bystander Russia has during last couple of years weight down the scale in favour of its own interests by series of successful operations

GUUAM and SRS


GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favourable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor. GUUAM was dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically. From its part GUUAM was designed to support sc. Silk Road Strategy Act - adopted by US Cogress March 1999 - which defined America's broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. The Silk Road Strategy (SRS) outlines a framework for the development of America's business empire through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor. (More about this in my previous article "War on Pipes" Sep. 2008, in my
Archive:Blog )

Cracks

Now GUUAM is coming to end of its short road. Already earlier Uzbekistan withdraw from it leaving behind a stump GUAM. Then Georgia started its aggressions with false idea of western support leading today's situation and possibility to escalate to "small intensity war" between present Georgian leadership and separatist regions Abkhazia and South-Ossetia. Moldova was aiming towards Nato and EU but after conflict in Georgia it started to look other alternatives. Russia has offered its help to solve Moldova's long term problem with Transdnistria and if a federation model will be accepted by local stakeholders it probably neutralizes Moldova's position between US/EU and Russia. Last weekend was also highlight of tendency where political attitudes of Azerbaijan and Russia have approached each other. Russia again took the initiative acting as a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan to solve long term conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh and a common memorandum signed 2nd November 2008 is first step of solution. The last piece of GUUAM is Ukraine, which is deeply divided pro-Russian East and pro-Nato/EU West. When political struggle now has made cracks also inside western orientated part also this last fortress has degenerated to stagnation.

KO

Parallel with Russia's able foreign policy the US actions have been short-sighted, weak and fruitless. Waiting for elections and financial turmoil have took their part but in energy sector also some states in South-America have now more independent and selfish position than before. Same time Iraq occupation is coming to end when also Alaska can keep its energy reserves when new US President takes his office the perspectives of US energy giants are more foggy than for a long time. If one would like to see a bright side with this depression - or even knock out - of US foreign/energy policy it could be the need to reduce pollutions and to support alternative energy solutions which at global scale could help to deal with clima change.

Source: http://groong.usc.edu/news/msg249113.html


In other developments:



Russia Warns of Missile Deployment



President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia greeted his future American counterpart, Senator Barack Obama, with bristling language on Wednesday, promising to place short-range missiles on Russia’s western border if Washington proceeded with its planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe. In a speech to the Federal Assembly, Mr. Medvedev said Russia had “no inherent conflict with America” and invited the new administration to start afresh with Moscow. However, he did not congratulate Mr. Obama on the election he had won only hours before, or even mention him by name. Later in the day, the Kremlin announced that Mr. Medvedev had sent Mr. Obama a congratulatory telegram. The speech — which was rescheduled twice in recent weeks for revisions as the financial crisis worsened — showed Mr. Medvedev asserting himself with concrete plans, including a proposal to lengthen the presidential term to six years from four. He harshly condemned state interference in civil society, calling for reforms that seemed to have been deferred by a string of crises this fall.

“The state bureaucracy, as 20 years ago, is being guided by the same old mistrust in the free individual and in free enterprise,” he said, in a state of the nation address that has been a tradition since 1994. “A strong state and an all-powerful bureaucracy is not the same thing. The former is an instrument which society needs to develop, to maintain order and strengthens democratic institutions. The latter is extremely dangerous.”

Mr. Medvedev also proposed new rules that would allow opposition parties marginally more representation in Parliament, challenging the consolidation of power that was the trademark of his predecessor, Vladimir V. Putin, who is now the prime minister. He also proposed granting slightly more self-determination in local administrations. “He showed that he wants to be a real president,” said Konstantin V. Remchukov, editor in chief of the Independent Newspaper, a respected Moscow daily. Sergei A. Karaganov, a prominent Russian political scientist, said he was “amazed” to hear Mr. Medvedev committing to liberalization at a time of crisis. “It went against the wind,” Mr. Karaganov said. “At this juncture, we just need to see whether he follows up on it.” As the speech approached, Mr. Medvedev faced intense pressure to calm nerves in Russia, crippled this fall by capital flight, a plunge in the stock market and a precipitous drop in oil prices. Mr. Putin typically gave the speech in the spring, using it to announce crowd-pleasing investments in infrastructure projects and social welfare programs.

Mr. Medvedev, by contrast, had to address the two shocks that had befallen Russia since he became president, the financial crisis and the war in Georgia, while combating the impression that Mr. Putin retained control over major decisions. The speech he gave Wednesday, originally planned for Oct. 23, gave scant information about the government’s economic strategy going forward. It did, however, squarely lay blame for Russia’s troubles on the United States. Mr. Medvedev said that American regulators had inflated a financial bubble and that the ensuing collapse “carried in its downfall to the trajectory of recession all financial markets of the planet.” He also said Washington had started the war in Georgia, saying, “Tskhinvali’s tragedy is, among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the U.S. administration, which hates criticism and prefers unilateral decisions.” But it was the planned missile deployment, a possible early foreign policy test for Mr. Obama, that captured attention in the West on Wednesday.

Mr. Medvedev described specific measures Moscow would take if Washington went ahead with a plan to station a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. He said Russia would post mobile Iskander missiles — tactical weapons designed for use against targets like long-range artillery and airfields, in addition to missile defense systems — around Kaliningrad, an enclave at Russia’s western border. He also said Russia would use radio equipment to jam the Western missile defense system. “These are forced measures,” he said. “We have told our partners more than once that we want positive cooperation, we want to act together to combat common threats. But they, unfortunately, don’t want to listen to us.” Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, responded sharply in a telephone interview to Mr. Medvedev’s pledge on missiles, calling it “literally and figuratively misguided.” “The Russians know full well that our European missile defense system is not capable of defeating their enormous ballistic missile arsenal,” Mr. Morrell said with evident frustration. “Rather, it is meant to counter Iran’s growing missile threat. And we have bent over backwards to invite the Russians to partner with us to defeat this common threat.” Speaking more broadly, another senior Bush administration official said the tone of the address “follows a line of attributing blame for things to outsiders, to the U.S.”

The second official, who would speak only on condition of anonymity because of the need to maintain relations with Moscow, said it was no accident that the speech was scheduled for the day after the presidential election. “The day the U.S. gets a new president, it’s more important for them to make sure Russians hear what the Russian president says in his State of the Federation speech,” this senior official said. “It’s because it’s all about them. They have to find an outside villain to offset the criticism they are starting to hear about their handling of the economy.” Other analysts agreed that the timing of the confrontational speech was not coincidental. Russian elites have staked their hopes on a victory by Mr. Obama, viewing him as a far friendlier negotiating partner than his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain. “This is a warning, this is a clear warning,” said Alexander Rahr, director of the Russian/Eurasian program at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “I think they want to show that Russia is important and we want a multipolar world.” Clifford Kupchan, a Russia expert at the Eurasia Group, a consultancy in Washington, said the chilly rhetoric was to be expected “in the context of a really bad relationship.” “When a relationship is this troubled, you wait for concrete steps from the new guy,” Mr. Kupchan said. “You wait to see if his policy will be any better than the old one.”

In one of his biggest applause lines, Mr. Medvedev said Russia’s policy in Georgia expressed treasured values. “There are things which cannot be traded off, there are things for which it’s necessary to fight and triumph,” he said. “This is what is dear to you, which is dear to me, to all of us. Something we cannot imagine our country without. This is why we shall not retreat in the Caucasus.” For domestic audiences, among the biggest news was the proposed extension of the president’s term by two years. After Mr. Medvedev made his speech, Kremlin spokesmen told the Interfax news agency that the change to Russia’s Constitution would not require a vote, and that it would not apply to incumbent politicians. Political observers were left to puzzle it out: Why would Mr. Medvedev push for a reform that would have no relevance for another eight years? The obvious answer, Mr. Rahr said, is that Mr. Putin is planning a quick return to his old job. “Otherwise, it makes no sense,” he said. “A president in power for four months? This is not only foolish, this is completely impossible.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/wo...328&ei=5087%0A

Medvedev Has Karabakh Resolution Scheme - November, 2008

Some interesting comments from Alexander Dugin. And, of all people, look at the second article to see who's talking about Russia not wanting to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh dispute. Yes, the infamous Paul Goble. Are American policymakers this out of touch with reality or are they simply this screwed up?

Arevordi


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Medvedev Has Karabakh Resolution Scheme




November, 2008

Russia has a plan for resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict which envisages deployment of Russian peacekeepers and return of civilians who suffered from the ethnic cleansing, a Russian expert said. “It’s important to understand that borders we are speaking about are mere conventions which were hastily recognized as dogmas of the international law, without any historical reason and ethnic factors. All this caused a number of problems, including that of Nagorno Karabakh,” said Alexander Dugin, head of the center of geopolitical expertise, leader of the international Eurasian movement. Re-annexation of Karabakh to Azerbaijan is unreal, according to him. “True, this territory was under Azerbaijan’s control but it was inhabited by Armenians from time immemorial. Presently, Armenians have a certain stand on determination of the land’s status. But the most important goal should be to remove the U.S. from the process, as completely destructive, mentally retarded and immoral force which not only aggravates any situation but also incites new conflicts,” Dugin said. “We can’t divide the world into “good and bad guys”, like Americans do. Removal of the U.S. will considerably improve the situation,” he said. “The European Union is responsible and it can be allowed into the process. So, the main task is to save the region from the U.S. ascendancy,” Dugin concluded, Nakanune.ru reports.

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=27527


Russia doesn’t want an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan - Paul Goble


The Russian government doesn’t want an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, says Paul A. Goble, Director of Research and Publications at Azerbaijani Diplomatic Academy. He suggests that President Dmitri Medvedev may have invited the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to come to Moscow on Sunday for negotiations on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict partly as a way of demonstrating Russia’s preeminent position vis-a-vis the other Minsk Group countries. Goble says that, if Moscow decides it is in its greater interest to back Azerbaijan, there will be in his words a “possibility of movement.” But, he adds, Russia’s geopolitical calculations in the southern Caucasus have clearly changed, The Voice of America reports.

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=27532

In related news news:


Caucasian Knot May be Untied in Moscow




Caucasian knot may be untied in Moscow (video):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiPrS26dzL0

The presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia are meeting in Moscow to discuss ways of resolving the ongoing dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. Also known as the Artsakh Republic, the region, which is inhabited mainly by Armenians unilaterally declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991. An armed conflict broke out, which ended with an unofficial ceasefire three years later, but the region is still in limbo. Seven hundred couples getting married at the same time - that's what you can truly call a mass celebration. Such a large-scale wedding is an unusual event for any place, but especially for Nagorno-Karabakh, a land with a grim past and uncertain future. As the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia meet in Moscow to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, the main question is how effective will the talks be. Aleksandr Karavayev from the Centre for CIS Studies at Moscow State University doesn't expect much from these talks. He does admit, however, that they could serve as a conduit to further meetings. “We shouldn't expect any breakthroughs, but perhaps this new format of talks could help Armenia and Azerbaijan create a new base for further negotiations,” Karavayev says. So far, attempts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute have been mediated by the twelve-member Minsk Group of the OSCE, co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France. The idea of a separate, three-way meeting between the two sides and Russia was proposed by President Dmitry Medvedev during his recent visit to Armenia. “France and the U.S. are not regional players in this dispute and can only monitor from outside, but Russia is. The new format doesn't replace the Minsk Group and Washington has already said it's not against this idea,” says Karavayev. Nagorno-Karabakh is mostly populated by Armenians and used to be part of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan in the USSR. In 1991 the region unilaterally declared independence, which resulted in several years of violence and tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the area. Since the ceasefire in 1994, most of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as a number of regions of Azerbaijan in close proximity, remain under joint Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh military control. Armenia remains committed to the region’s independence, while Azerbaijan says its territorial integrity must be respected.

Source: http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/32772


Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan Agree to Work For Caucasus Stability



The leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on Sunday to work together for improving the situation in the Caucasus and instructed their foreign ministers to intensify efforts to settle the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan met in the presence of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to discuss a settlement to the conflict. Following the meeting, the three presidents signed a declaration on the Nagorny Karabakh dispute. The declaration calls for a peaceful settlement of the conflict on the basis of international law and decisions and documents adopted within this framework to create favorable conditions for economic development and comprehensive cooperation in the region. Nagorny Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan with a largely Armenian population, declared its independence from Azerbaijan to join Armenia in 1988 and has been a source of conflict ever since.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081102/118101761.html


Nagorno-Karabakh Agreement Signed



Armenia and Azerbaijan have signed a joint agreement aimed at resolving their dispute over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh at talks near Moscow. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, agreed to intensify their efforts to find a political settlement. It is the first time in nearly 15 years that such a deal has been reached. Sporadic clashes have continued over Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement in 1994. It is internationally recognised as being part of Azerbaijan, but controlled by ethnic Armenians. Correspondents say Russia's brief war with Georgia in August has given impetus to international efforts to resolve disputes in the Caucasus, a region where Moscow is seeking greater influence.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7705067.stm


Moscow Declaration to Remain on Paper Without Karabakh Participation


A 5-item declaration was signed by the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on November 2. “It’s not accidental that the declaration was sealed on the threshold of presidential election in the U.S., whose interest to the Caucasus has waned recently,” Andrey Areshev, head of Moscow-based Strategic Culture Fund, commented to a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter. The declaration is rather vague, what is quite natural in case of complicated conflicts, according to him “The norms of the international law will be interpreted by the sides in compliance with their diametrically opposite approaches to the problem, as it was before. But actually, the agreement to continue peaceful talks is worthy of praise,” Areshev said. “Mention of the OSCE Minsk Group role in the process is, to all appearance, a sedative measure for the U.S. and EU, which always suspect Russia of “imperial ambitions” and whose activity in the Caucasus is conditioned by the wish to secure their economic and strategic interests in the region,” he added. At that, the expert made special mention of item 3 of the declaration, which says that “the sides (including Russia) agree that peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict should be achieved through international guarantees.” “Neither the degree of these guarantees nor their parameters have been outlined yet. With the status of Karabakh undetermined, deployment of peacekeeping force in the security zone might ‘unfreeze’ the conflict. Resolution is impossible without engaging Stepanakert as a full-fledged party in talks, in compliance with the 1994 Budapest summit agreement and other fundamental documents. The Declaration will remain on paper without NKR’s participation in the process,” he said. “Declaration is an interim step meant to assert Russia’s positions in resolution of Caucasus conflicts. However, attempts to neglect the future status of Karabakh and guarantees of its security are doomed to failure,” Andrey Areshev concluded.

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=27549


Mammadyarov: observing international law norms, Baku recognizes right to self-determination


On October 31, Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia met in Moscow to discuss the Karabakh process. “We base on the OSCE record saying that Azerbaijan and Armenia are parties to Karabakh conflict. As to the Azeri and Armenian communities of Nagorno Karabakh, they participated in talks until then-President Robert Kocharian declared that Armenia will continue negotiations on behalf of the Armenian community,” Azerbaijani acting Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said when commenting on Karabakh leadership’s statement that NKR’s non-participation in talks will slow down the settlement process. “There is no need to change the format because we negotiate with Armenia,” he said, 1news.az reports. Touching on RA President Serzh Sarsgyan’s statement that the problem can’t be resolved unless Azerbaijan recognizes the right of Karabakh people to self-determination, Mammadryarov said, “A signatory of the Helsinki Final Act and observer of the international law norms, Azerbaijan recognizes the right of nations to self-determination. However, it doesn’t mean that territorial integrity can be violated by armed intrusion. Moreover, the principle of territorial integrity prevails over that of self-determination in international legal documents.”

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=27542