Basic Political Developments

Shell games, G8 talks and Duma doodling

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Shell games, G8 talks and Duma doodling
by Andy Potts at 26/05/2011 22:16

After the collapse of Rosneft’s planned Arctic adventures with BP, Shell could be in pole position to start drilling in the frozen north.

A meeting on Wednesday between Shell CEO Peter Voser and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin has fuelled speculation that an alternative deal may be on the cards.

While Sechin, the former Rosneft chairman and the broker of the BP dea – has listed an impressive set of potential partners, sources told Vedomosti that only Shell had been invited for further talks.

And the likes of Chevron, Petrobras or Exxon, although reportedly keen to get involved, are not scheduled to come to Moscow any time soon, the paper added.

The Rosneft-BP deal was wrecked by a legal claim from AAR shareholders in the TNK-BP joint project which has worked in Russia for several years. A court ruling in Stockholm backed AAR’s claim that any BP projects in the country had to go through TNK-BP first.

Missile defence at G8

Dmitry Medvedev began talks with Barack Obama on Thursday ahead of the G8 summit in Deauville, France.

The presidents are expected to discuss missile defence and Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) issues as well as the settlement of regional conflicts.

Russia will also offer new ideas on how to fight cybercrime, Kremlin aide Arkady Dvorkovich said on Tuesday.

Dvorkovich also said that Medvedev and Obama would discuss US plans to deploy a missile shield over Europe, which has aroused concern in Moscow, and Russia's long-time bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

Tripoli safer than Moscow?

Russia is more dangerous than Libya, according to the Global Peace Index.

The international study ranked the country 147th out of 154 in terms of its peacefulness and stability, with the strife-torn Arab state at 143 as NATO’s bombers roar overhead.

Only Congo, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and Somalia are less attractive than Russia, according to the latest study, which calculates levels of violence and terrorism, the extent of organised crime, corruption and commitment to democratic principles among other variables.

Not surprisingly, Russian officials are unimpressed. “I find it both amusing and bizarre to see Russia rated alongside the Congo,” Federation Council International Affairs chairman Mikhail Margelov told Kommersant.

“The standard of living in Moscow, Pskov or Krasnodar cannot be compared with wild African places like Juba, El Fasher or Abuja,” he said.

Duma time-wasting

The Duma intern who lifted the lid on dodgy expenses and timewasting in Russia’s parliament has been fired.

Yevgeny Starshov posted complaints about feckless and fraudulent delegates on his LiveJournal blog last week, although his comments were later removed after they were reprinted in some Russian newspapers.

He picked out ex-gymnast Svetlana Khorkina and crooner Josif Kobzon as expenses fiddlers, and complained about time-wasting deputies playing cards during sessions.

On Wednesday he tweeted that his time in the corridors of power was over, however, saying he had been dismissed from his internship.

Good week for …

A second bite

Gadget fans eager to get their hands on the new iPad-2 have a shorter wait than expected.

The tablet’s Russian launch was brought forward to May 27 (a month after the Europe launch) after Svyaznoi started selling imported models on May 12.

Bad week for …

Flying away

International travellers were holding their breath this week as another Icelandic volcano, Grimsvotn, threatened to ground fl ights, but Aerofl ot quickly resumed fl ights this week after suspending some European routes.

Five Umarovs for one bin Laden
Published: 27 May, 2011, 04:15
Edited: 27 May, 2011, 04:15
The US will pay for information leading to Russia’s “top terrorist” By Svetlana Bocharova

The US has announced a reward of $5 million in exchange for information on the whereabouts of the leader of the forbidden Caucasus Emirate, Doku Umarov. This happened after the talks between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. The anti-terrorist present to the Kremlin has put Russian intelligence services into an awkward position, say experts. 

The US included the entire composition of the Caucasus Emirate on the list of terrorist organizations, and Washington announced a $5 million reward for information on Umarov. The developments were announced in a joint Russian-US statement on the fight against terrorism, signed by Medvedev and Obama during the G8 summit in Deauville, France.   

“The United States is also announcing today that it has included Doku Umarov in its ‘Rewards for Justice’ program, offering a reward of up to $5 million for information that leads to the location of this key terrorist leader, who has claimed responsibility, among other things, for organizing the Moscow subway bombing and the attack on rail traffic between St. Petersburg and Moscow in 2010, and the Domodedovo airport bombing this year,” the statement reads, as quoted by the Ria Novosti news agency.

Immediately afterward, the Caucasus Emirate itself was included in the list of “US Most Wanted Terrorist Organizations,” the US Department of State announced on Thursday. The Emirate is accused of attacking a train in November 2009 and the Chechen Interior Ministry in May 2009, the US State Department stated.  

In the US, Umarov has been recognized as being Russia’s “top terrorist,” and in June 2010, the US included him in a list of international terrorists. In March, Umarov was included in the special consolidated list of the UN Security Council Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee, which also deals with associated persons and organizations. For Umarov, this meant a freezing of his accounts and a ban on travel to and assistance from any UN member state.  

The reward for information leading to Umarov is five times lower than the reward that had been promised for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US special forces on May 2.

The reward listed for bin Laden was $25 million. However, US officials refused to pay it, announcing that “the top terrorist” was discovered by electronic intelligence. 

Russian authorities have not listed an official reward for Umarov. In 2008, the German press reported about the readiness of the FSB to pay $1 million for help in capturing him; however, this information was not confirmed by official representatives of the Russian special forces. 

The FSB previously announced generous rewards for information about the former leaders of the Caucasian criminal underground. In 2004, a reward was set for Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov in the amount of 300 million rubles ($10 million). In 2005, after the elimination of Basayev, the special services announced the issuance of payment to an informant, whose name was not made public. Whether or not rewards were paid after the killing of Maskhadov is unknown.

So far, the only person who has openly admitted to knowing the current location of Umarov is the head of the Russian FSB, Aleksandr Bortnikov. 

At a Tuesday press conference in Dnepropetrovsk, he told reporters that the Russian special forces know of Umarov’s whereabouts.

“Localization of activity of the most notorious leaders of the Caucasian criminal underground is in the constant field of view of the FSB. We know the whereabouts of Umarov and are making necessary arrangement for his detention or other measures,” Bortnikov said ambiguously. 

Representatives of the Caucasus Emirate, whose activity was banned last year at the request of the General Prosecutor’s Office by the Supreme Court of Russia, have yet to comment on the announcement of a reward for their leader and the inclusion of their organization in the US list of terrorist organizations. However, the militants’ news website, Kavkaz Center, declared the US reward for Umarov as payment for Russia’s agreement to make concessions on the deployment of the US anti-ballistic missile system. 

Aleksey Malashenko, a member of the Scientific Council of the Carnegie Center in Moscow, disagreed with the assertion, arguing that Russia is not required to do anything in return for America’s actions in regard to Umarov. But the very announcement of a reward for the Russian terrorist made “a dual impression” on the expert.

“On the one hand, it is the provision of assistance to Russia – which is good,” he said. “On the other, [the Americans] killed bin Laden and did many other things, but what are our special services doing? In this ‘pat on the back’ there is an element of humiliation of our special forces – most likely an unconscious one.”

According to Malashenko, an interesting situation could arise “if some Russian mayor – Pronin, for example – turns to Obama” for the reward for catching Umarov.

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