Medvedev fires Luzhkov!

Both were out of town. Mayor Luzhkov was enroute home from a trip to Austria and President Medvedev in Shanghai for the opening of the Russia Day exhibit at the 2010 World Expo. Although speculated upon for months, the timing of the firing caught the city administration flatfooted.

By Executive Order President Medvedev dismissed Yuri Luzhkov from his position as Moscow mayor, citing a “loss of confidence” in the mayor. The Executive Order becomes law immediately upon signing.

The removal of Luzhkov might be seen by some as retaliation for the recent rash of statements by the outspoken mayor who has questioned Medvedev’s decision to halt the construction of a new highway through the Khimki Forest and for labeling the President as “weak” in public appearances. In reality however the firing is not simply a response to recent frustrations, rather the end result of a campaign to cause the mayor’s high poll numbers to drop in the face of an orchestrated anti-Luzhkov media campaign directed from the Kremlin.

Although a Vice-Chairman until yesterday, Luzhkov has declared that he has left the United Russia party which may indicate his intention to challenge the Putin power base in 2012. Moscow represents to Russians more than the typical capital city and under Luzhkov’s leadership was modernized considerably. According to a September 2010 poll by All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM),  65% of Muscovites credit Luzhkov for the high quality of life in Moscow.

Vladimir Resin has been appointed Acting Mayor until the person vested with powers of Moscow Mayor takes office.

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A Chinese welcome for Russia’s Medvedev

It was a beautiful day in Beijing Sunday for the arrival of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on a state visit to the People’s Republic of China hosted by Chinese President Hu Jintao. The two leaders met for discussions and the signing of a number of cooperation agreements.

Russian President Medvedev is welcomed in Beijing.

The two leaders discussed trade and economic cooperation opportunities, in particular interaction in the energy sector. Russia and China signed agreements expanding cooperation on areas from energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, to developing electricity grid networks. Russia will build several nuclear power stations in China with the construction slated to begin in August 2011.

Cooperation between Russian and Chinese regions was also one of the top items on the agenda, with plans to carry out 205 different projects as part of the cooperation programmes between Russia’s Far East and Eastern Siberian regions and China’s Northeast region through to 2018.

Several large gas, transportaton and electric production deals were on the agenda for the Russia and China delegations.

Presidents Medvedev and Hu Jintao also announced a gas supply deal between Russia’s Gazprom gas monopoly and China’s CNPC to begin by 2015.

Ukrainian President Yanukovich in New York

Answering journalists’ questions about his impression of today’s session of the UN General Assembly, President Viktor Yanukovich said, “First of all, we must join the Millennium Declaration. This is our duty. The criteria, which we are to achieve by participating in this program, must be accepted by the authorities and society”.

The President also stressed that “we should not be fighting each other”. “We have more important things to fight for– for a better life, for human rights, for environmental safety, against poverty and so on.”

When asked about the attitude of the international community towards Ukrainian reforms in the context of the Millennium Declaration, President Yanukovich said: “We felt that the attitude towards Ukraine in the world has changed significantly. It becomes clearer, more concrete”.  He stressed that Ukraine’s partners welcome the stability which makes it possible to achieve things that have been planned.

The President also noted that he takes part in the UN General Assembly session for the second time and his today’s experience differs from that of September 2002, when he was the Prime Minister of Ukraine and took part in the UN General Assembly session. Ukraine is perceived as a serious player around the world.

“I felt proud of our land,” said Mr. Yanukovich.

Russia implements UN Resolution regarding Iran

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the Executive Order on Measures to Implement UN Security Council Resolution 1929 on Iran, adopted on June 9, 2010.

The executive order prohibits, in particular, transit via Russian territory (including air transport), export from Russian territory to Iran, and also transfer to Iran beyond Russian territory using ships and aircraft under the Russian state flag of any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems, as defined for the purposes of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, S-300 air defence systems, or any related equipment to the above-named items, including spare parts.

Yaroslavl – 1,000 year birthday of a Russian city

1,000 years old. That is a long time!

This weekend marked the milestone of 1,000 years and officials estimate that close to 1.5 million tourists by the end of 2010. The city has received about 2 billion Euros for development of transport and social infrastructure, construction of dwelling houses, trade centers and hotels, an exhibition hall and improvements for transportation.

Russian President Medvedev speaks at the 1,000 birthday bash for the city of Yaroslavl.

President Medvedev took a walk around the city and attended the concert Ancient City Looking into the Future, dedicated to 1,000 years of Yaroslavl. In his speech before the concert, Mr. Medvedev congratulated the city’s residents on the occasion, noting that Yaroslavl has traditionally occupied an important place in Russian history.

The President stressed that the ultimate aim of the celebrations was not the anniversary as such, but creating decent living standards for the inhabitants of Yaroslavl. In this connection, Dmitry Medvedev expressed his wish to see the efforts launched in preparation to the celebration continue.

To honour Yaroslavl area veterans of the Great Patriotic War (WWII) President Medvedev laid a wreath at the Eternal Flame.

In the evening, the President took a walk around the city, saw the monument to military and labour achievements of Yaroslavl residents during the Great Patriotic War and laid a wreath at the Eternal Flame.

President Medvedev then visited the main shrine of the city, the Assumption Cathedral. Archbishop Kirill of Rostov and Yaroslavl invited President Medvedev into the cathedral and showed him the interior and the iconostasis.

The President and Yaroslavl Archbishop inside Yaroslavl's Assumption Cathedral.

The President also walked around the city waterfront and talked with residents of Yaroslavl congratulating them on the aniversary. Improvements include two water parks, a zoo, a race track, several new museums and the city’s historical center was modernized.

Is Russia a democratic country?

There is a lot to admire about Dmitry Medvedev, third President of the Russian Federation. But to many the question lingers whether he is the good guy of a “good cop/bad cop” relationship, a puppet for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, or a genuine world leader with his own ideas.

Speaking at the World political forum being held in Yaroslavl, Russia, Mr. Medvedev set out five universal standards which he believes embody the ideals of true democracy:

1- The rule of law. As a former law professor, the President stated that the legal basis for a society with implementation of humanistic values and ideals was vital to a democracy. The President stressed the necessity of reinforcing these values with the practical force of the law.

2- The second standard is the ability of a government to provide and maintain a high level of technological development which, in turn, guarantees to citizens a high standard of well-being.

3- Thirdly, Mr. Dmitry Medvedev stated that the ability of the state to protect citizens from crime, terrorism and corruption was a cornerstone of successful democracy. The President emphasised that the eradication of criminal elements is the direct responsibility of a democratic society and noted that a democracy must use a variety of functions fully and effectively, including police functions.

4-  The fourth distinctive feature in the President’s opinion is a very high level of culture, education, and appropiate institutions enabled to provide citizens with the abilty to exchange ideas and information in accordance to universal standards held by other democratic countries.

5- Lastly, the President emphasized that an integral part of the democratic state was for citizens to enjoy freedom of speech, assemblies and meetings.

Noting that it takes a citizens’ personal conviction that they are living in a democratic society. The President also underlined that poverty is one of the main threats to democracy, pointing out that an impoverished individual cannot be free.

Mr. Medvedev himself then asked the question of whether Russia Conforms to those high standards? “Only to a certain extent” was how he answered his own question. He then stressed that democracy is still a work in progress for Russia and pledged to continue working to that end.

Terror bombing in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia

(Southern Russia) Just south of Beslan is the city of Vladikavkaz where yesterday a terrorist bombing shattered the market square activities on a typical autumn morning.

Vladikavkaz (Владикавказ) is the capital city of the Republic of North Ossetia – Alania, Russia.The city is located in northern Caucasus, on the banks of the Terek river. The Vladikavkaz airport is on the outskirts of Beslan.

Vladikavkaz is north-northwest of the Georgian border at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. The city was built in 1784.

Prior to 11am, yesterday was a day like most other days. The central market area was bustling with shoppers. The suicide bomb attack came in the central market as Muslims were preparing to observe Eid al-Fitr, the holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

At least 18 people were killed a suicide car bombing and at last report the republic’s health ministry listed 138 people injured.

Vladikavkaz supermarket and children's store.

Russian President Medvedev said today’s bombing was the work of criminals with whom there can be no truce or compromise. “We will do everything to ensure that the perpetrators are tracked down and punished in accordance with the law of our country, and if they put up resistance they will be destroyed,” the President stated.

The market has a history of violent death. 55 people were killed in the same market in a 1999 bombing. Six people were killed at the same spot in 2001 and in 2004, 11 people died when a public transit minibus approaching the market exploded.

One body remains hanging over the door of a car as rescuers first look for survivors.

The government’s Emergency Situations Ministry said that a single suicide bomber detonated the car’s explosives while driving slowly past the main entrance to the Vladikavkaz market.

Police have detained three men suspected of involvement in the attack including the owner of the Volga car used in the attack. Investigators are also following up on additional leads.

Tele-conferencing equipment is being installed at the main hospital in Vladikavkaz for local doctors to consult neurosurgery and traumatology specialists in Moscow. So far over 80 victims has been evacuated via two Russian Il-76 planes to Moscow trauma hospitals.

The population of Vladikavkaz is 312,000 and consists of Osetins – 59,51%, Russians – 27,59%, Armenians – 3,89%, Georgians – 2,32%. North Ossetia is predominantly Orthodox Christian, unlike most other neighboring regions, and has been destabilized by long-simmering tensions between the ethnic Ossetians and Ingush populations.

President Medvedev moved into the Kremlin's Emergency Situations Room from his normal workday office at the presidential residence in Gorki, Moscow district.

The President spoke via Tele-conference with Alexander Khloponin, Presidential Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District and ordered him to immediately fly to North Ossetia. Also briefing the president during the day was Federal Security Service (FSB) director Alexander Bortnikov who will lead the state’s investigation of the crime.

Taimuraz Mamsurov, President of the republic of North Ossetia-Alania, informed Mr Medvedev about the measures to provide assistance to the victims and rescue relief efforts. Relatives of victims killed in the incident will receive 1 million rubles ($33,000) in compensation, while those injured will receive between 200,000 rubles ($6,500) and 400,000 rubles ($13,000).

Moscow officials have been plagued by radical Islamists have worked to destabilize Ingushetia and spread instability into the neighboring regions. The Beslan school hostage tragedy was just to the north of Vladikavkav. A railway connects Vladikavkaz with the town of Beslan which is a large railway juncture on the Rostov-on-Don Baku line.

Radicals are intent on rekindling the centuries old Osetian-Ingushi tensions.