Russian North sees sharp decline in population. Only military towns grow

Russian North sees sharp decline in population. Only military towns grow

The forces that protect the Kola Peninsula and the wide-stretched Russian Arctic coast have over the past decade become a top priority of country’s armed forces, and big investments are being made in regional towns, bases and military infrastructure.

That is reflected in the demographic situation in the Kola Peninsula. New data from the Russian statistics service Rosstat show that the military towns are the clear population winners in the region.

While the total population of the Murmansk region in the course of 2020 dropped by more than 1,1 percent from 741,511 on 1st of January 2020 to 732,864 a year later, the military towns experienced solid growth.

The demographic increase was biggest in Severomorsk, the headquarters city of the Northern Fleet. In the course of the year, the local population increased by more than 1,250 people.

A total of 65,080 people now live in the closed military municipality of Severomorsk, the data from Rosstat show.

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Zakharova erupts in fury over Norway’s military deal with the United States

Zakharova erupts in fury over Norway’s military deal with the United States

Maria Zakharova is known for her undiplomatic comments and few raise eyebrows as she lashes out against neighboring countries. The spokeswomen’s wordings at this week’s briefing, however, were especially strong.

Zakharova said Oslo’s enthusiasm over US steps to strengthen its military presence in Norway is provocative.

Pointing to the recently signed agreement which opens for the United States to use four dedicated locations in Norway for joint military purposes, Zakharova said “this is yet another proof that Oslo is gradually abandoning the policy of self-imposed restraints.”

She continued: “This is fully in line with the policy of military build-up and active involvement of NATO in the Arctic.”

Two of the locations where the United States could build infrastructure are Evenes airport and the nearby Ramsund naval station.

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It's an order from Moscow: the new Murmansk railway line must be completed

It's an order from Moscow: the new Murmansk railway line must be completed

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov on the 29th of April summoned several top government officials, state company representatives and regional leaders to a meeting on infrastructure development in Murmansk.

The Murmansk Transport Hub is included as priority in the recently adopted Russian Arctic Strategy, and federal officials are under pressure to meet objectives.

The project includes the building of 46 km of railway along the western shore of the Kola Bay. The new line is to be connected with a new seaport and terminal in Lavna.

However, construction works were halted in early fall 2020 after a contract between company Stroygazconsulting and the Ministry of Transport was terminated.

The Lavna terminal was planned to facilitate exports of as much as 18 million tons of coal per year. But major coal shippers ultimately did not sign anticipated agreements with the new terminal. The launch of the coal port, originally scheduled at the end of 2020, may now be postponed indefinitely, newspaper Kommersant reported with reference to inside sources in the coal businesses.

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Andrei Borovikov gets 2,5 years in jail for sharing music video by Rammstein

Andrei Borovikov gets 2,5 years in jail for sharing music video by Rammstein

In 2014, Borovikov shared a music video of the song “Pussy” by Rammstein on his VK page. On Thursday this week, he was sentenced to 2,5 years in jail for “distribution of pornography”.

The former regional coordinator of Aleksei Navalny’s office in Arkhangelsk on January 22 stood trial in the Lomonosovsky District Court. On April 29th, he was taken away by police and will not be seen in public until late 2023.

 

Police on 29th of April took Andrei Borovikov away to the prison where he will spend 2,5 years for sharing a music video. Video shared on Borovikov’s social media

 

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Glacier mass decreasing across Arctic but at different rates, says study

Glacier mass decreasing across Arctic but at different rates, says study

By Eilís Quinn

The period looked at was between 2000 and 2019. The loss of glacier mass during this period also accounted for 21 per cent of the observed sea-level rise, the authors said.

The study, “Accelerated global glacier mass loss in the early twenty-first century” was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Glacier mass loss has been accelerating by about 50 billion tonnes annually each decade since 2000, the study found. 

Differentiation across Arctic 

When it came to the circumpolar North in the period studied, it was one of the areas where regional variability was picked up.

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Ships loaded with wind turbines are on their way to Murmansk

Ships loaded with wind turbines are on their way to Murmansk

The first ship arrived this week and will soon be followed by three more, the Murmansk Trade Port informs.

On board the first ship was a total of 2,800 tons of cargo, most of it 72 ton heavy components. The shipment was sent from St.Petersburg and is now brought by trucks to the construction site located about 80 km northeast of Murmansk city.

Three more ships are on their way with more components, and the first is due to make port call in Murmansk in the nearest future. The ships are sailing from Taganrog, the port in the Above Sea, the Murmansk Port informs.

In total, 17 shipments of construction components will be sent to the region. They will carry all parts needed for the erection of 57 turbines.

 

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Miloš Zeman: Russian conglomerates to ensure Kremlin’s geopolitical endeavor

President Miloš Zeman of the Czech Republic is in the pockets of Russian intelligence that exploits bribery and communicates through Russian business companies.

Since at least 2005, Russia has exploited government monopolies to corrupt foreign politicians, and to sponsor missions of influence abroad. They are in contacts with intelligence targets through the agents acquired by Russian intelligence in Soviet times or in the 1990s.

Colonel Zdeněk Zbytek, Czechoslovakia army officer, recruited by Soviet military intelligence, is a key player for the Miloš Zeman case. He is the Soviet General Staff Academy graduate, and currently heads Russia Club of the Russian Embassy. He’s got business interests in Russia, sells alcohol that he buys in Moldova. He established the business under Russian-minded President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova.

 Zdeněk Zbytek.

Zeman got corrupted by the Russians after Vladimir Yakunin, Russian Railways head then, closed in on Zeman via Zdeněk Zbytek.

Vladimir Yakunin was the Russian Railways board chairman from 2005 to 2015. He graduated from the Soviet KGB Institute, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Academy now, he is affiliated with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence. Yakunin was a technical intelligence officer for the Russian mission to the UN in New York for five years.

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Nuclear power plant construction in north Finland faces delay, increased costs and geopolitical uncertainties

Nuclear power plant construction in north Finland faces delay, increased costs and geopolitical  uncertainties

“Further deterioration of political and commercial relations between the EU, the USA and Russia could lead to more sanctions between the parties. Such deteriorated international affairs and sanctions could influence the project’s schedule and financing, in particular,” Fennovoima writes in its updated construction license application to Finnish authorities on Wednesday. 

Work on the site in Pyhäjoki south of Oulu is in full swing despite final permission for the reactor itself at Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant is not yet granted.

The original application was delivered in 2015, but as Fennovoima sees “changes in boundary conditions,” an updated application was made. Among other things, the application includes an additional survey on the power plant’s impact on the marine environment and fishery during operation.

Other changes are related to security and preparedness arrangements and design solutions, although, no changes to the key principles of the power plant, Fennovoima underlines.

“The rationale for the project is unchanged, and the scope of it will not be affected by the update. The power plant project will be implemented on the Hanhikivi peninsula in Pyhäjoki, as described in the original application,” Joachim Specht, CEO of Fennovoima, said in a statement

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Murmansk: gunshots against window of opposition leader

Murmansk: gunshots against window of opposition leader

It is not a lawless cowboy town, nor gangster city, but the north Russian region of Murmansk.

Violetta Grudina has become accustomed to rough police crackdown, and the young opposition politician has experienced numerous cases of harassment and detention.

The cases have become more frequent after Grudina announced her candidacy in the upcoming city council election, and following the Russian General Prosecutor’s announcement that Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund and regional offices will be declared extremist organizations.

Grudina was instrumental in the opening of the regional Navalny office in Murmansk in 2017.

 

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Total buys stake in Murmansk LNG terminal

Total buys stake in Murmansk LNG terminal

Novatek now confirms that Total is buying 10 percent of the company that will operate the terminal in the Murmansk region. Arkticheskaya Perevalka will also operate a similar facility in Kamchatka on Russia’s Pacific coast.

The LNG terminal will be located in the Ura Guba, a militarized fjord on the Barents Sea coast. Map by Barents Observer

The terminals will be floating facilities that can hold up to 360,000 tons of LNG each and simultaneously serve two LNG tankers. When ready, ice-class carriers will shuttle between the terminals and LNG plants in the Yamal and Gydan Peninsulas.

The new logistical scheme will cut costs and provide efficient transportation of liquified natural gas from the Arctic LNG 2, as well as other projects in the Arctic, Novatek informs.

The terminals will have a capacity to handle about 20 million tons per year and are due to be ready for operations in 2023.

Total has long been in talks with Novatek about a stake in the reloading terminals. Novatek leader Leonid Mikhelson in early 2019 made clear that the Frenchmen were “interested in the operatorship of the terminal.”

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Amid pandemic, Murmansk gets new flights throughout Russia

Amid pandemic, Murmansk gets new flights throughout Russia

Domestic travel by the Aeroflot Group was up 19,4% year on year in March, a number rather unique for the global aviation industry taking into consideration that March 2020 was before the big red alarm bell was triggered for COVID-19 in Russia. Additional to the national flag carrier, the Aeroflot Group includes the airlines Rossiya, Aurora and Pobeda.

Growth in passengers comes as domestic tourism got a boost after borders were closed. Murmansk is one of the regions that see growth in number of Russian tourists.

Unlike previous years, passengers now have a wide selection of direct domestic routes, avoiding connecting flights via the hubs in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Nordwind Airlines this week started to fly directly to Kazan, the regional capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. The route is operated twice a week with an Embraer E-Jet 190.

Another route launched this Wednesday by the same airline is Murmansk-Nizhny Novgorod, also that twice a week.

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Regular criticisms of Russian weapon systems quality shows how much its military conventional potential is exaggerated

The low quality of Russian weapons systems turned to be a systemic problem of the Russian defense complex. In particular, it became more than evident in the light of the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The conflict demonstrated the complete ineffectiveness of Russia’s air defense systems. Moreover, the Armenian armed forces representatives have repeatedly criticized the effectiveness of Russian weapons. In February 2021, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke of the poor quality of the Russian Iskander tactical missile complex.

The facts prove that in defense sphere nuclear weapons is an exclusive weapon Russia can use effectively. Technological backwardness, dependence on foreign technologies and spare parts, as well as corruption in the defense industry and trade agreements make Russia extremely vulnerable – most of the military projects announced by the federal government are far from reality. For example, the promising T-14 Armata tank will be way above Russia’s state budget. Russian hypersonic weapons are also questioned. 

Therefore, Russian conventional potential-relate risks are significantly exaggerated, and purchases of Russian weapons look like dubious deals.

The Indian military leadership has once again criticized the quality of Russian weapons.

The military command of India stated that the Russian T-90 tanks are useless. India, one of the largest foreign importers of Russian T-90 tanks, suddenly criticized these battle tanks. The military command criticized both the Russian T-90, and the T-72 tanks. The circumstances show that in a while Russia may lose major contracts for these tanks supply.

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Russia uses the Czech Republic to conduct destabilizing activities against the EU and NATO

The officers of the Russian military intelligence GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) perpetrated a 2014 blast of 60 tons of explosives at a military warehouses in Vrbetice (Czech Republic) that left two Czech citizens dead. Thus, according to Article 5 of the Washington Agreement this case is deemed to include an armed attack. Russia must receive the status of a country supporting and sponsoring terrorism.

The attack targeted the weapon that Bulgarian businessman named Emelyan Gebrev planned to buy. Later on he was assassinated, presumably, with the use of Novichok nerve agent. The terrorist attack was prepared and conduct under the personal control of the commander of military unit 29155, General Andrei Averyanov.

The GRU officers Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, suspects in poisoning former head of the GRU personnel department Sergei Skripal in London, were wanted on suspicion of the blast involvement. They arrived in the Czech Republic with passports of Moldovan and Tajik citizens under false names. Thus, Russian intelligence issues plausible passports of these countries to conduct intelligence operations.

Sergei Fedotov (aka Denis Sergeev), previously identified as the third person linked to the chemical poisoning of Skripal, is also among suspects.

• The Czech Republic reacted by expelling 18 Russian diplomats. In its turn, Russia expelled 20 Czechs thereby starting another ‘diplomatic war’ between the EU and Russia. As of now, there is a very high probability that the Czech Republic will expel about 60 more Russians. The concentration of a significant ‘diplomatic contingent’ in the Czech Republic shows the Kremlin’s desire to carry out its destabilizing activities in this country and use it for achieving other goals. It is proved by sizeable diplomatic mission in the Czech Republic in comparison with the UN (according to the website of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN Moscow has 13 diplomats).

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Chad to face turmoil after Déby’s death

The developments in Chad Republic have signs of a military coup after the newly re-elected President Idriss Déby has died of wounds he received while commanding his army in battles against rebels in the western Kanem Province.

Despite the legal way of power transition, the constitution has been suspended. The government and parliament have been dissolved.

A military council will take over in the interim, under the leadership of General Mahamat Kaka, otherwise known as Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, the son of Idriss. This temporary government should remain in place for 18 months.

 Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno (as his father from Zaghawa tribe)  has been a general in the Chadian army and for many years headed the Direction Générale des Services de Sécurité des Institutions de l’État (DGSSIE) [General Directorate of Security Services for State Institutions], which includes the presidential guard. The four-star general was not on any list of heirs to the throne.

 General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, son of late Chadian President Idris Deby Itno on state television in N’Djamena, Chad on April 20, 2021. 

Over recent months the unity of the Zaghawas has fractured and the president has removed several suspect officers. 

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Russian mercenaries have a hand in war crimes in CAR

Russians mercenaries are involved in gross human rights violations. UN experts reported on “serious human rights violations” committed by Russian security companies, including mass shootings, mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, forced disappearances, forced displacement of civilians, indiscriminate targeting of civilian facilities, and attacks on humanitarian workers.

Experts spoke of concerns over the mercenaries’ connection to a series of violent attacks that have occurred since the presidential elections on December 27.

Moscow officially gives the number of Russian military experts in CAR at 535. But according to press reports, the actual number is much higher. The experts said they were “deeply disturbed by the interconnected roles of Russian private contractors.

Russian instructor in CAR.

There are two Russian PMCs in CAR: Wagner, a private security company, provides more than a thousand instructors to the Central African Republic, ensures the security of various institutions, and plays a leading role in the training of the Presidential Guard and the army. Sewa Security Services is another Russian company operating in the Central African Republic. According to their business cards, some of its employees are “Presidential Advisers”. Sewa Security Services is Russian-owned Lobaye Invest SARLU.

Russian instructorin camps near Bangui.

Sewa Security guards airports, ministries and are part of President Touadera’s security detail.

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Border change in Balkans: new politics with old means?

A document recently published in the Slovenian media, which highlights the idea of changing the borders in the Balkans, has sparked much debate in Bosnia and Hercegovina and Kosovo but also the region. The document introduces a change of borders, with special emphasis on the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Serbia and Kosovo and Albania. The leaked document that is called in Slovenian a “non-paper” document, was published by the research medium from Slovenia, “Necenzurirano”, and is written in English. It contains some points that reflect on the future of the Balkans geopolitics on the borders through ethnic lines. 

This document, which is allegedly sent by the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša to Brussels, presents the idea of the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the annexation of Republika Srpska to Serbia and the unification of Kosovo with Albania. The document starts with the introduction giving an undocumented statistic that in Kosovo about 95% of the inhabitants are in favour of joining with Albania and about the same in Albania to join with Kosovo. The document also suggests that the border between Kosovo and Albania is “inexistent” despite the situation on the ground being fundamentally different.  Among other things, it is said that the Serb part of Kosovo will gain a special status, following the example of South Tyrol, an autonomous province in northern Italy, where the majority of the population speaks German language.

The document also estimates that after the break-up of Yugoslavia, the national issues of Serbs, Albanians and Croats remained unresolved, and that it is currently difficult to imagine the European perspective for Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. With this document, the Slovenian government intends to fix the irregularities of the past. 

Further the document shows how the partition of BH was proposed by uniting the Croatian cantons of Bosnia to Croatia, again taking the example of South Tyrol in Italy. While B&H’s EU membership can be completely ruled out, the document says, it also does not leaves aside the extent of Turkey’s influence in B&H and in Northern Macedonia.

The unknown author(s) of the document state that “The Serbian national question can be resolved mainly by annexing a part of Republika Srpska to Serbia. “In this way, Serbia would be ready to agree to the unification of Kosovo with Albania.” The document further states that Serbia, Croatia and Albania currently have stable governments and their elected politicians are capable of making strategic decisions. According to the document, these “solutions” would speed up the negotiations for the membership of the Western Balkan countries in the EU and NATO. The whole process of changing the Balkans borders, in this document is foreseen to be done in a silent procedure by the decision makers or political leaders of the countries involved. The author(s) also “forget” to mention that Kosovo scores best in the region in terms of freedom of expression and had democratically elected leadership for the last 20 years and these results were always certified by OSCE and the EU. 

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President Farmajo’s assertiveness brought about political crisis in Somalia

The federal government of Somalia could face sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to non-productive efforts to undermine peace and stability.

President Farmajo’s efforts to strengthen the presidency have left him isolated from member states whose collaboration is required if a federal system of governance is to survive. His heralded presidency may conclude as a haunting reminder that federalism and strong-arm governance are unlikely partners in Somalia’s tortured path to recovery.

It’s threatening the regional security as Somalia relies heavily on outside help to feed its people, many of whom are internally displaced. 

The two houses of parliament clashed on the status of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose term in office technically expired on February 8.

 The lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly to extend the term of the president and his government by two years  in an attempt to end a political crisis after national elections were delayed in early February. 

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Kosovo does not accept vaccines from China and Russia

The change of three last governments since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, has left Kosovo behind in pandemic management. The total lockdown in March last year caused great damage in the economic field, due to the lockdown many small businesses went bankrupt and Kosovo’s budget was not consolidated to help them overcome the crisis caused.

Compared to the countries of the region, Kosovo, in addition to failing in economic recovery, is worse off with vaccination process too. The previous government, although declaring an agreement with Pfizer & BioTech in January this year, did not achieved it, moreover, the company Pfizer & BioTech had denied the news that the agreement between Kosovo government and Pfizer & BioTech for the supply of its vaccines in Kosovo was signed.

Such a gap of the Kosovo Government has been well exploited by Serbia, by giving the priority to Serbian citizens who live in Kosovo to be vaccinated with the Pfizer&Biotech vaccine in the very first doses to arrive in Serbia. Vaccination of Kosovo citizens by Serbia was followed immediately after the Government of Kosovo had received a donation of 1000 tests from Serbia last year, applying the carrot and stick approach, Serbia has made the introduction of vaccines in northern Kosovo completely illegal.

By vaccinating the citizens of Kosovo without any warning and agreement with the Government of Kosovo, Serbia has violated the sovereignty of the latter also in the geopolitical aspect. Similar actions that violate the sovereignty of Kosovo Serbia has done so in the past, engaging the Serbian gendarmerie to patrol within Kosovo’s borders.

Regarding vaccination, although there were high hopes that with the consolidation of the Kurti government, Kosovo will start negotiations with a company to buy the vaccine against COVID19. Statistically not only it is the last country in the region, but Kosovo has remained among the last countries in the world to have the least citizens vaccinated. Albania helped in this field by vaccinating 500 health workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine, while Kosovo has received a donation of 24,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX program and is vaccinating older citizens over 85 years old. Kosovo does not have vaccines because of political constellations and ability to act with international companies. Similar difficulties of third world countries.

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Russia about to launch offensive in Southern Ukraine and stage false flag attacks

Russia is about to launch an offensive in Southern Ukraine. The strike is quite possible to be delivered from the annexed Crimea’s side and the breakaway territories of Donbas, in an effort to join them with Crimea, to get access to fresh water to meet the peninsula’s needs, and to have an overland link from Russia to Crimea along the northern coast of the Black Sea.

We believe the offensive is likely to be launched during the Easter celebrations by the Orthodox Church.

The Kremlin is now about to shape a pretext for an invasion.  Russia is likely to use the scenario tried out in Georgia in 2008: a false flag attack that would offer a prelude for a total Russian invasion for a limited time, with aircraft and precision-guided weapon. There are several scenarios likely to trigger stepping-up and head-on military clash (the most probable to start with):

1. Religious strives stirred up by Russia’s SOF sabotage groups (to murder a representative of the Russian church in Ukraine, to commit terrorist attack at a religious facility).

2. Violence against a representative of the Russian-associated community or organization in Southern Ukraine.

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Russia to drag China into circulating conspiracy theories on coronavirus to exacerbate Beijing’s confrontation with Washington

Russia and China have stepped up a war of words and disinformation campaign against the United States, accusing them of developing biological weapon and coronavirus.

Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev went on record as saying that Russia, allegedly, has grounds to believe that biological weapon is being developed by U.S.-run biological laboratories and, according to him, thoselaboratories are located close to the borders of Russia and China.

On April 8, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson  Zhao Lijian went on record saying that the U. S. government should provide the international community with information on the experiments the American military biological laboratories run in Ukraine and in Fort Detrick.  The statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was initially published by the Global Times, or Huánqiú Shíbào  (环球 时时), the Chinese Communist Party propaganda tool.  Its English version is not a translation from Chinese, but is an independent product with a separate team of news writers and editors.  Its declared objectives are «to show China to the world, as the Chinese see it, to share the attitude of the Chinese people to the key global issues».  So, the Global Times is a propaganda media of the PRC, similar to the Russian Russia Today.

The Global Times header, supporting Russian psyOp.The Global Times header supporting Russian psyOp.

The Global Times was the key one to  spread false information that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is ineffective against COVID-19, and the coronavirus itself was brought in from another country and was man-made, and did not appear in Wuhan, China.

The Global Times has distorted the statements by the officials on multiple occasions, and it also gives misinformation  on  the situation with Uighurs in China, and the internment camps in Xinjiang.

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