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Posts Tagged ‘Moscow’

Japan’s envoy to Moscow returns home over island row

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 at 5:13 am

US aircraft carrying Russia fire aid land in Moscow

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 11:20 am

MOSCOW, Aug 14, 2010 (AFP) – Three US aircraft carrying aid including water tanks and fire-protective clothing arrived in Moscow on Saturday to help Russia battle its worst ever wildfires.

Two US Air Force C-130 planes touched down at Vnukovo airport in the early hours of the morning, followed by a charter flight from California ordered by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, state television and the foreign ministry said.

“We will always remember this gesture, this arm that was extended towards to us at a very difficult time,” the deputy head of the international department of the Russian emergencies ministry, Valery Shuikov, said at the airport.

Two additional C-130 flights were expected in the “next days”, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. Another charter is also expected in the coming week.

Russian firefighters spray water on a blaze some 155 km south of Moscow in Shatura on August 13, 2010. AFP

“We acknowledge and assess positively the approach of the American side,” the ministry said. “Such steps fully correspond to the spirit of partner-like constructive relations between our countries,” it added.

According to the US State Department, the total value of the support from Russia’s former Cold War era foe is around 4.5 million dollars.

The delivery follows a promise by US President Barack Obama to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in a telephone call that Washington was sending firefighting equipment to help Russia.

The deliveries include water tanks, pumps, hand tools, fire-protective clothing, and medical kits. US personnel are not part of the aid.

The White House said in a statement that the United States was “responding to Russia’s request for technical assistance in combating the fires.

“The American people stand with the people of Russia in this difficult time.”

The State Department said: “We are taking action to support the heroic efforts of Russian firefighters and emergency responders as they seek to bring these fires under control.”

Source: SGGP

Moscow daily death rate doubles amid heatwave: official

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2010 at 11:20 am

MOSCOW, Aug 9, 2010 (AFP) – The daily mortality rate in Moscow has nearly doubled amid a record heatwave, with hundreds of extra deaths each day compared to a normal period, the city’s top health official said Monday.

Ambulance staff wear masks to protect themself from forest fire smog in Moscow on August 8, 2010. AFP

“In usual times 360-380 people are dying each day. Now it is around 700,” the head of the city’s health department, Andrei Seltsovsky, said, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

“Our mortality rate has doubled,” he added, saying that 1,300 places were currently occupied out of 1,500 spaces in city morgues.

His comments broke days of official silence over the effects of the unprecedented heatwave and smog from wildfires on mortality rates, amid growing evidence in the press of a sharp rise in deaths.

Source: SGGP

Moscow chokes under smog as travellers trapped

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2010 at 7:25 am

MOSCOW, Aug 8, 2010 (AFP) – Thousands of air travellers were stranded Sunday as Moscow choked in the worst smog in living memory from spreading wildfires that threatened a second Russian nuclear facility.

Iconic buildings like the Kremlin towers and the city’s wedding-cake Stalin-era skyscrapers were obscured by the acrid smoke, while Saint Petersburg and neighbouring Finland were also starting to feel the effects.

Moscovites wear gas masks to protect themself from the forest fire smog in Moscow on August 8, 2010. AFP

The wildfires have sparked a major crisis in western Russia, killing 52 people and sending authorities scrambling to protect strategic sites, including the country’s main nuclear research facilities.

Emergency response minister Sergei Shoigu ordered firefighters to redouble their efforts to put out a wildfire near the Snezhinsk nuclear research facility in the Urals, some 1,500 kilometres (925 miles) east of Moscow.

“As for Snezhinsk, I recommend you work through the night,” he said during a meeting with officials from regions hit by the blazes.

He said all of the fires around the city of Sarov in the Nizhny Novgorod region, site of another major nuclear centre, had been extinguished. Authorities had removed radioactive and explosive materials from the facility.

About 2,000 people were stranded at Moscow’s Domodedovo international airport when major delays hit their flights after they had crossed passport control to the departures area with food running short, state television said.

Domodedovo, in the south of Moscow, was the airport worst hit with dozens of flights delayed Sunday. “Passengers need to be warned that delays are unavoidable,” said Sergei Izvolsky of aviation committee Rosaviatsia.

The airport sent out requests to aviation companies to staff flight crews with pilots capable of flying in zero visibility conditions.

“We are located at the very epicentre of wildfires,” Domodedovo spokeswoman Elena Galanova told AFP. “We’re asking them to take complicated meteorological conditions into account.”

Moscow residents rushed to escape the smog-bound capital, with travel agents reporting package tours to destinations popular with Russians like Egypt, Montenegro and Turkey completely sold out.

“In the last week the demand for tickets from Moscow sold online has gone up by 20 percent,” Irina Tyurina, spokeswoman of the Russian Union of Tour Operators, told the Echo of Moscow radio.

“For this weekend there are no places on aircraft to resort destinations and next weekend very few. The smoke has prompted this desire of Muscovites to leave the city,” she said.

The Canadian embassy started evacuating some of its staff and their families from the capital, the foreign ministry in Ottawa said.

Moscow’s high-profile mayor Yuri Luzhkov, however, decided to return to the city after being ridiculed in the press for staying away during the crisis. His aides said he was interrupting treatment for a “sports injury”.

State air pollution monitoring service Mosekomonitoring said carbon monoxide levels in the Moscow air were 3.1 times higher than acceptable levels on Sunday afternoon. The previous day they had been 6.6 times worse.

Moscow residents and tourists tried to protect themselves by donning medical masks or even just clutching wet rags to their faces.

About 554 fires were still blazing, covering 190,400 hectares (470,500 acres), down just 3,000 hectares from the figure the previous day, the emergency ministries said.

Weather forecasters said Russia’s worst heatwave in decades would continue with temperatures of 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), although there would be a dip by Wednesday.

“The situation with the wildfires in Russia remains difficult but a trend of improvement is being recorded,” the emergencies ministry said on its website.

Source: SGGP

Health alarm as acrid smog blankets Moscow

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

MOSCOW, Aug 7, 2010 (AFP) – Wearing sanitary masks or clutching wet rags to their faces, Moscow residents struggled Saturday against the worst smog in living memory which has enveloped the Russian capital from spreading wildfires.

The concentration of toxic particles was up to five times higher than safe levels, experts warned, as the city’s iconic landmarks like the Kremlin and golden church cupolas disappeared behind a layer of smoke.

The emergencies ministry warned that the wildfires which have sparked the smog were still spreading in central Russia as weather forecasters said Russia’s worst heatwave in decades would continue for the next days.

The fires have raised concerns about the security of Russia’s main nuclear research centre in the still closed city of Sarov, one of the areas worst hit by the blazes and where the emergencies ministry has sent thousands of workers.

A Russian man walks by his burned out house in the village of Verchnaya Vereya, some 350 kilometres from Moscow, on August 6, 2010. AFP

The authorities were also closely watching the situation around the region of Bryansk in western Russia where the soils are still contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Moscow drivers put on their headlights in broad daylight to see through the acrid smog that had descended on the capital while the sun shone as a hazy disc easily viewed by the naked eye with little discomfort.

The smoke — easily visible from space in NASA images — penetrated into homes and offices and was even visible inside the Moscow metro, one of the deepest underground systems in the world.

“The situation is truly extreme. People are in circumstances under which they should not have to live,” leading Russian doctor Ivan Yurlov of the League for the Nation’s Health group told the Kommersant daily.

Flights from Domodedovo, one of Moscow’s main international airports, were disrupted by the smog with several flights diverted to other airports and around 40 flights cancelled, state aviation committee Rosavitsia said.

“Visibility around Domodedovo is 325 metres (1,050 feet): it is up to the captain of the aircraft to make a decision about landing,” Rosaviatsia official Sergei Izvolsky told Interfax.

The other main international hub, Sheremetyevo in the north of Moscow, was working normally.

Germany closed its embassy until further notice and advised citizens against “non-essential” travel to the affected regions while the US State Department asked nationals to seriously review travel plans.

Russia’s football federation meanwhile moved a friendly match with Bulgaria from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, fearing for the health of the players.

With health experts warning that the best solution was to leave the city for the weekend, package tours abroad were completely sold out and there was a rush for seats on trains and planes out of the capital, news agencies said.

The levels of carbon monoxide in the air were five times higher than the maximum level acceptable for public health, state pollution watchdog Moseokmonitoring was quoted as saying in the Kommersant daily.

The situation with the wildfires that have sparked the smog showed no sign of abating, with blazes with an area of 193,500 hectares (478,000 acres) recorded across the country.

In the last 24 hours, 290 new fires were recorded, more than the 244 that were extinguished in the same timespan, the emergencies ministry said.

River cruises in Moscow, a popular summer pastime, were cancelled as the smog made navigation impossible while some museums were also shut down as the smog penetrated their ventilation systems.

Source: SGGP

China’s Hu, Russia to discuss Iran in Moscow

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2010 at 8:35 am

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R) meets with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signs his guest book during the 2010 High-level Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons May 3, 2010 at the United Nations In New York. AFP PHOTO

BEIJING, May 5, 2010 (AFP) – Chinese President Hu Jintao will discuss the Iranian nuclear standoff with Russian leaders during a weekend visit to Moscow, a Chinese official said Wednesday, noting the two sides had “similar views”.

Hu will meet President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during the May 8-9 visit, during which he will attend ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II, the official said.

“The leaders of the two countries will exchange views on international and regional issues of shared interest, which of course includes the Iranian nuclear issue,” Assistant Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told journalists.

“China and Russia have similar views on this issue.”

The United States, Europe and others fear Iran is using its civilian nuclear energy programme as a cover for a weapons drive — a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied — and are seeking tough new UN sanctions.

But Beijing — one of the five permanent veto-wielding members of the 15-member Security Council — has been reluctant to embrace more sanctions on Iran, which is a major energy provider to China.

Medvedev has repeatedly said Russia, also a veto-wielding council member, does not rule out further sanctions against the Islamic republic but that they should not hurt the wider population.

Source: SGGP

Teenage ‘Black Widow’ behind Moscow bombing: report

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian investigators have identified one of the female suicide bombers who carried out the Moscow metro bombings as the 17-year-old widow of a Caucasus militant, the Kommersant daily reported Friday.

The bomber was named as Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, the 17-year-old widow of a Dagestani Islamist rebel killed in 2009, Umalat Magomedov, Kommersant reported, citing investigators in Dagestan.

Relatives cry for a victim of the twin suicide bombings in the metro during a funeral ceremony in Moscow. AFP photo

The newspaper published a photograph of the baby-faced Abdurakhmanova in an Islamic headscarf with Magomedov. Both are posing casually with pistols.

It was unclear whether the couple were formally married. Magomedov does not wear a ring in the photograph. Kommersant writes that Abdurakhmanova may have another surname, Abdulayev.

Abdurakhmanova comes from the Khasavyurtovsky district of Dagestan and met Magomedov at the age of 16 after she contacted rebels on the Internet, Kommersant reported.

Magomedov was killed in a special operation on December 31, 2009, it said.

Abudurakhmanova has been preliminarily identified from photographs, the newspaper wrote.

Russian investigators believe that Abdurakhmanova was responsible for the first of the double suicide blasts on Monday which together killed 39 people

The bombings sent a chill across Russia, recalling the string of suicide attacks carried out earlier in the decade by the so-called “Black Widows”, women were found to have been relatives of men killed by Russian forces.Related article:War-scarred youth primed to rebel in Russian Caucasus

Investigators have not identified the second bomber, but one version is that she was a Chechen woman called Markha Ustarkhanova who was also married to a Caucasus militant, Kommersant reported.

The Russian authorities have released grisly photographs showing the severed heads of the two women’s corpses, which are the prime evidence in the police investigation.

Also Friday Russian news agencies, citing security forces, said police defused a large bomb in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan on the same day that suicide bombers killed 12 people in the region.

Police found the “powerful bomb” on Wednesday evening in a cemetery in the Kizlyar district of Dagestan, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, adding that the bomb hidden inside a metal bucket was packed with metal nuts and bolts.

In a deadly blast earlier Wednesday in Kizlyar, a car driven by a suicide bomber blew up when police tried to stop it for a regular check.

Minutes later, a suicide bomber in police uniform approached police working at the scene and triggered a second explosion.

The two blasts killed 12 people including nine police, one of whom was a local police chief.

The Dagestan blasts came two days after Monday’s double suicide bombings in the Moscow metro killed 39 people.

Underlining the instability, two people were killed in the Khasavurtsky district of Dagestan overnight Wednesday to Thursday when their car packed with explosives blew up.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev flew to Dagestan Thursday for a surprise visit in which he met regional officials and police and urged tough anti-terror measures.

Russia has for years battled Islamist insurgents in the North Caucasus Muslim regions of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia but Monday’s attacks were the first time in six years that such violence has spread to the capital.

Source: SGGP

12 killed in south Russia bombing 2 days after Moscow attacks

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 at 10:55 am

Twin blasts rocked Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan just two days after 39 people were killed in two subway explosions in Moscow, RIA-Novosti reported on Wednesday.

A scene of the suicide bombing in Kizlyar on March 31, 2010. (RIA- Novosti photo)

The death toll from the explosions in the town of Kizlyar near Chechnya on Wednesday morning currently stands at 12, 23 people have been hospitalized.

The first blast occurred at 08:45 Moscow time (04:45 GMT), and the other came 20 minutes later. The explosions occurred some 300 meters from the buildings of the Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service and a school.

“An explosive device was detonated when a car was leaving the city Interior Ministry department. According to preliminary information, two Interior Ministry employees were in the car,” investigators said in a statement.

The two police officers were killed by the explosion, which injured several bystanders.

“Around 20 minutes later a suicide bomber, dressed in a police officer’s uniform, arrived at the scene where an investigation group was working, and activated an explosive device he had on his body,” the statement added.

A total of nine policemen were killed in the blasts, including the city’s police chief. A criminal case has been opened into the incidents.

Tatyana Batsina, who works around 800 meters from the scene of the attacks, told RIA Novosti that she heard a loud bang and saw a cloud of smoke rise from behind a nearby school.

“It looked like in a nuclear explosion,” she said. Around half an hour later she said she heard another blast, this time more muted.

“Two cars driving past were also harmed in the explosion. A crowd gathered around the first explosion. Everyone wanted to see what had happened. Several ambulances arrived, then another blast rang out.”

Batsina said a colleague who saw the explosion told her what had happened.

“Bodies that were caught in the epicenter of the explosion were strewn over the street. The blast tore off the roof of the school and broke the windows. The walls of the building shook,” Batsina said.

The president of Dagestan, Magomedsalam Magomedov, left the capital, Makhachkala, to visit the scene of the attack with some other officials, the region’s administrative body told RIA Novosti.

Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev gave orders at a meeting of the Interior Ministry to strengthen security in areas of strategic importance and crowded public places in Dagestan.

“Today’s terrorists will use any target. I ask you to pay attention and be on the alert to all objects of vital importance,” he said

“We must increase vigilance in areas surrounding the interior ministry buildings, executive institutions and legislative authorities,” he added.

The blasts occurred just two days after two deadly suicide bombings hit the Moscow metro on Monday, killing at least 39 people and injuring dozens more. The attackers struck the Lubyanka and Park Kultury stations about 40 minutes apart during the morning rush hour.

The Moscow attacks are believed to have been committed by terrorists from Russia’s North Caucasus region.

Russia has been fighting militants in the North Caucasus for almost two decades, including two brutal wars against separatists in Chechnya. Analysts suggested that Monday’s attacks were revenge for a recent police operation that saw the deaths of over 20 radical Islamic fighters.

No connection has been made yet between the incidents in Moscow and Dagestan.

Source: SGGP

Moscow in mourning, vows to avenge metro bombings

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2010 at 3:57 am

MOSCOW, March 30, 2010 (AFP) – Moscow held a day of mourning Tuesday for the 38 victims of twin rush-hour suicide bombings on packed metro trains, as Russian leaders pledged to hunt down and wipe out those behind the attacks.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed those responsible for Monday’s bombings would be “destroyed” as authorities pointed the finger at militants from the Northern Caucasus for the deadliest attack in the Russian capital for half a decade.

Russian Rossiya-24 television TV grab shows Moscow policemen near the Lubyanka metro station in Moscow on March 29, 2010 after two explosions during the early morning rush hour in metro stations. AFP photo

President Dmitry Medvedev, while visiting the site of one of the bombings to lay a wreath of red roses, pledged “we will find and wipe out” those behind the blasts, calling them “wild beasts”.

The first explosion shortly before 8:00 am (0400 GMT) ripped through a train that had stopped in the Lubyanka station just below the headquarters of Russia’s FSB security service, the successor to the Soviet KGB.

About 40 minutes later, a second explosion went off in a carriage of a train on the platform at the Park Kultury metro station, named after Moscow’s iconic Gorky Park.

Officials said the attacks were carried out by women wearing belts packed with explosives, marking a return of the so-called “Black Widows” who terrorized Moscow a decade ago with a string of attacks.

“Body parts of two terrorists — female suicide bombers — were found at the scenes of the blasts,” FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said in a televised meeting at the Kremlin.

“According to preliminary information, these people had links to places of residence in the Northern Caucasus,” he added.

Bortnikov said the bombers’ belts were packed with the explosive hexogen and metal shrapnel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that foreign involvement in the attacks had not been ruled out.

“We all know very well that clandestine terrorists are very active on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying in Canada at a Group of Eight ministers’ meeting.

“We know that several attacks have been prepared there, to be carried out not only in Afghanistan, but also in other countries. Sometimes, these journeys go as far as the (Russian) Caucasus.”

Russian police are searching for two women who accompanied the suicide bombers, plus a man who may also have been an accomplice, after identifying them and the bombers through surveillance footage, Interfax reported citing a security source.

Emergency officials said the death toll had reached 38, not including the bombers. Another 64 people were wounded, including a woman from the Philippines and two women from Malaysia who were released from hospital after treatment.

Putin — who cut short a visit to Siberia to return to Moscow — visited some of those injured in a central Moscow hospital on Monday evening.

He earlier warned that “law enforcement agencies will do everything to find and punish the criminals… The terrorists will be destroyed.”

Western leaders offered their condolences to Russia, and US President Barack Obama pledged Washington would “help bring to justice those who undertook this attack” while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called trrrorism a “common enemy”.

“Whether you are in a Moscow subway or a London subway or a train in Madrid or an office building in New York, we face the same enemy,” Clinton said in an interview with the Canadian network CTV.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the so-called “Caucasus Emirate” group led by Chechen militant Doku Umarov has repeatedly warned in recent months it was planning to strike the capital.

Umarov’s group claimed responsibility for last November’s bombing of a passenger train that killed 28 people.

Lubyanka Square is home to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB secret police, and still housed in the notorious building where dissidents were interrogated and shot in Joseph Stalin’s purges.

The Moscow metro continued working despite the disaster, with only one line temporarily shut down, and by the end of the day Lubyanka station had reopened to passengers with only minimal damage to its marble walls.

The Moscow city government declared Tuesday would be a day of mourning.

Monday’s explosions were the deadliest suicide attacks in Moscow since 2004 when the bombing of a metro train killed 41, part of a string of attacks carried out by Chechen militants.

Chechnya has seen rising violence in recent months as pro-Kremlin regional authorities seek to clamp down on an Islamist insurgency that has also spread to the neighbouring majority-Muslim regions of Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Source: SGGP

Moscow metro suicide attacks kill more than 30

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 at 9:55 am

Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on packed metro trains in central Moscow’s morning rush hour Monday, killing at least 34 people in the deadlist attacks in the Russian capital for over a decade, authorities said.

The first explosion struck at 7:52 am (0352 GMT) on a train that had stopped in the Lubyanka station close to the headquarters of the FSB security service, an emergency ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

About half an hour later, a second explosion went off in a carriage of a train on the platform at the Park Kulturi metro station, also in central Moscow.

A helicopter lands near Lubyanka metro station near the Federal Securtiy Services (FSB) building in Moscow on March 29, 2010

Moscow authorities said the attacks were caused by female suicide bombers wearing belts packed with explosives.

“We can assume that belts with explosive devices were attached to their bodies,” Moscow’s chief prosecutor Yuri Syomin told reporters on Lubyanka Square, next to the metro station of the same name.

The emergency situations ministry said the blast at the Lubyanka station killed 22 people and wounded 12. The second at Park Kulturi station left 12 dead and seven wounded.

Syomin said at least 19 people were killed in the first explosion and 14 in the second. “These are not the definitive tolls yet, but at the moment it is time to concentrate on saving lives,” he said.

An FSB spokesman said the attackers appeared to have been women.

“According to preliminary information, both blasts have been executed by female suicide bombers,” he told AFP.

Rescue workers rushed to the scene but the ITAR-TASS news agency said they were held up by morning rush hour traffic.

Dozens of orange and red trucks from the emergency services and fire department collected at Lubyanka Square, an AFP correspondent reported.

An emergency services helicopter also flew into the Square, home to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the notorious Soviet KGB secret police.

While the affected stations and lines were shut, some metro lines were still open and police were checking people’s suitcases and large bags.

Around the Lubyanka metro station, crowds of people called loved ones but phone lines were busy as the network became overloaded, an AFP correspondent said.

The Russian capital has been hit over the last decade by a string of deadly explosions claimed by militants from its turbulent southern region of Chechnya but such events had become less frequent in the last years.

The authorities were quick to blame the blasts on militants.

“An inquiry has been opened according to article 205 of the Russian criminal code — terrorism,” Russian news agencies quoted the spokesman of the investigative committee of prosecutors, Vladimir Markin, as saying.

FSB director Alexander Bortnikov had informed President Dmitry Medvedev on “measures that are being taken to help the victims and to establish the causes of the explosions,” the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was being informed of developments in Siberia, where he was on a visit, a spokesman said.

Chechnya itself has seen a worrying rise in violence over the last months as the pro-Kremlin local authorities seek to clamp down on an Islamist uprising.

Citing better security, Russia last year abolished an “anti-terror” operation in Chechnya that has been in place for the last decade but its confidence has been belied by the spike in violence.

Increased violence in the nearby majority-Muslim regions of Ingushetia and Dagestan had also raised fears on the part of the authorities that the unrest could spread to Moscow.

Source: SGGP