Russia to purchase new French helo carrier?

MOSCOW – Senior Kremlin officials say no deal has been struck, yet. But all eyes are on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s trip to France today for three-state visit at the Elysee Palace.

Perhaps the biggest item on the agenda, and it is indeed a very big item-all 21,000 tons–a state of the art French-made helicopter carrier that the French would like Moscow to purchase. Russia could spend around 400 million euros on the purchase.

Sources say that Russian leaders feel the Navy needs such a warship for combat effectiveness.

Also on the agenda will be energy plans for uninterrupted delivery of Russian gas to Europe next winter, and concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme.

Hosting the visit will be French President Nikolas Sarkozy, one of the most vocal Western advocates of tough sanctions against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Moscow has so far been less enthusiastic.

It was President Sarkozy who brokered the ceasefire deal to end Georgia’s five-day war with Russia in August 2008.

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Closer ties between Russia and Lebanon

During talks the parties expressed a common position on the need to continue negotiations between Israel, the Palestinians, and other participants in the Middle East peace process.
(Kremlin, Moscow)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrapped up a series of discussion with a Lebanese delegation in the Kremlin today and the two parties issued a Joint Declaration on further developing friendly relations and cooperation between Russia and Lebanon was adopted. Russian President Medvedev emphasized the document reflects the countries’ support for a multipolar world order, willingness to comply with generally accepted principles and norms of international law, and expresses their firm resolve to strengthen political dialogue as well as foster multifaceted trade, economic and cultural ties.

In his press statement following the talks President Medvedev remarked on the good potential for the development of bilateral relations in many spheres, including energy, investment, maritime industry, tourism and military technical cooperation.

Medvedev stressed that Russia has always supported and will continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon, as well as the principle of non-interference in its internal affairs.

Yushchenko out, Yanukovych in

Leaving office: in 2005 Viktor Yushchenko was a hero as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians chanted his name on Kyiv’s Independence Square. It was the “Orange Revolution” with mass protests prompted by widespread anger over his defeat in a rigged presidential election. Braving snow and temperatures well below freezing, the demonstrators set up tents, sang, and waved the orange campaign flags that gave their movement its name.

Entering office: this time it was Viktor Yanukovych’s turn to stand in the spotlight, being sworn in at Parliment as modern Ukraine’s fourth President. The former communist official — who served two jail terms for assault and robbery — said he would establish rules separating business from politics and continue the country’s integration into Europe.

“Ukraine will embark on a foreign policy,” Yanukovych said, “that will allow our country to fully benefit from equal and mutually beneficial relations with Russia, the European Union and the United States.”

President Medvedev’s popularity growing

Data from the Russian polling firm, the Levada Centre, shows that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is growing in popularity at a consistent pace. A Levada centre poll show the President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with just percentage points apart.

Some observers believe that this gives the President an opportunity to expand his power base and position himself in running for another term in the next elections.

The Moscow Times had previously reported that both President Medvedev’s and Prime Minister Putin’s approval ratings had climbed in a poll conducted in December.

The Levada Centre is one of the most respected polling firms in Russia. http://www.levada.ru/

It’s okay to kill pedestrians in Russia

Yelena Pyatakova, 34, and her 27-year-old sister, Yulia were out for an evening walk from the market. Their crime it seems was for walking on the sidewalk. Now, Yelena is dead and her sister Yulia hospitalized with very serious injuries.

Welcome to Russia, where the reality is that drivers have the right-of-way and there is no penalty for killing a pedestrian, well if you’re well-connected, that is. The driver in the car you’re about to see has the right connections. Anna Shavenkova, 28, is the daughter of the Irkutsk region’s election committee chairwoman and apparently it is no big deal that she drove onto a sidewalk in the city of Irkutsk hitting two female pedestrians, one of whom later died in the hospital.

Driver Anna Shavenkova plowed into the two pedestrians and then examined her car for damage while ignoring the badly injured victims, but she faces no criminal charges and in fact police investigators who do not suspect Shavenkova of wrongdoing in the incident, are treating her as a witness, the regional portal internet blog Babr.ru reported Sunday.

Sadly, a security camera on a nearby building taped Shavenkova getting out of her car to look for possible damage to the hood, paying no attention to the pedestrians lying on the sidewalk near the car.

Even worse, other witnesses seem unconcerned about the two girls too. An obvious question would be as to whether Shavenkova was tested for alcohol however as she is supposedly only a witness, the investigators failed to test Shavenkova for alcohol after the incident.

The incident happened in December but local authorities had swept it under the rug. At least that’s what they thought however it turns out there was a webcam running and the video has created quite a stir after being posted on YouTube.

Phone calls to Irkutsk prosecutors and city police went unanswered Tuesday, a public holiday to celebrate Men’s Day, commonly known as “Defender’s of the Fatherland Day.”

Too bad nobody seems interesting in defending the two girls who happened to be on the sidewalk. Where, oh where, are the defender’s of the Fatherland on this one?

Men’s Day — Defenders of the Fatherland

Defender of the Fatherland Day is a holiday observed in Russia and many former Soviet republics on 23 February.

The holiday marks the date in 1918 during the Russian Civil War when the first mass draft into the Red Army occurred in Petrograd (St Petersburg) and Moscow. At first the day was known as Red Army Day an after the 1940’s was renamed as Soviet Army and Navy Day.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 the holiday was changed to “Defenders of the Fatherland Day.” The holiday celebrates the soldiers of the Russian military, but it has also more recently come to include the celebration of men as a whole, and to act as a counterpart of International Women’s Day on March 8.

The holiday is celebrated with parades and processions in honor of veterans, and women also give small gifts to the Russian men in their lives, especially a boyfriend or husband. In local terms the day is often referred to as Men’s Day.

Snow continues to fall in Moscow

As the snow continues to fall, more than 20,000 units of public utility vehicles and around 5,500 utility workers have been working to clear Moscow streets and roads. One just one day, Saturaday, over 392,000 cubic meters of snow was hauled to melting stations.

Heavy snowfall has caused enormous traffic jams on the roads of Moscow on Friday ahead of the four-day state holiday to commemorate Fatherland Defender’s Day on February 23.

Public transport stops, entrances to social organizations, hospital entries and paths out of apartment blocks’ have been the top priorities.