Russia Must Develop an Alternative to Islamism in the Caucasus

Russia Must Develop an Alternative to Islamism in the Caucasus

A commentary by Matthias Schepp in Moscow

Flowers are seen on the floor of Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on Tuesday morning.

REUTERS

Flowers are seen on the floor of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Tuesday morning.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wants to weaken Islamist militants in the Caucasus by building infrastructure projects worth billions. But Monday’s terror attack in Moscow shows once again how hard it will be to win the hearts and minds of the population.

Speaking on television shortly after Monday’s deadly attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seemed shaken, almost helpless. “This is a terrorist act,” Medvedev said, putting into words what was already obvious to observers.

The attack, which according to current figures killed 35 people and injured well over 100, puts the Russian leader under considerable political pressure. His vision of economic development for restive provinces in the Caucasus, such as Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, as a means of combating militant Islam, seems increasingly naive. His dream of promoting tourism in the troubled region appears more unrealistic than ever.

On Wednesday, Medvedev had planned to appear before political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos to present his vision for bringing peace to the Caucasus. His plan foresees building five major ski resorts in the region, one of which will be on the highest mountain in Russia, Mount Elbrus. Another is to be in Dagestan, where people die on an almost daily basis in skirmishes between militants and security forces. The plan, which will cost €12 billion ($16 billion), is based on an initiative by Alexander Khloponin, a former top executive and regional governor. In January 2010, Medvedev appointed Khloponin as his envoy to the North Caucasus, giving him the rank of deputy prime minister.

Although there is not yet a proven link between the Domodedovo bombers and Caucasus-based militants, media reports on Tuesday make it seem increasingly likely. Moscow-based newspapers reported that an eyewitness at the airport saw a women of Muslim appearance, dressed in a black robe, accompanied by a man. That would fit into the pattern of previous terrorist attacks in Moscow which have been committed by so-called “black widows,” as female suicide bombers from the Caucasus have been dubbed.

The Domodedovo massacre has, intentionally or not, torpedoed Medvedev’s planned initiative at Davos. On Monday, reacting to the attack, the Kremlin boss canceled his opening speech at the World Economic Forum. Now it will be even more difficult to make the plan, or even parts of it, a reality.

Medvedev’s idea to use the Davos summit to personally secure foreign partners for the development of the Caucasus had always seemed an ambitious. The plan to increase the number of ski tourists from the current level of a few thousand to hundreds of thousands looked like an unrealistic daydream.

Demands for Tougher Stance

Hardliners in Moscow will now demand a tougher stance against terror and will call for even more power and personnel for Russia’s already bloated intelligence agencies and corrupt police. It is a reflex that is by no means limited to Russia, a country where the desire for a strong man is especially pronounced after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the social insecurity of the 1990s.

In Russia, the supporters of a hard line on terror point to the success of a series of anti-terrorist operations in the North Caucasus last year, the “liquidation” of the guerrilla fighters’ chief ideologue, Said Buryatsky, and the capture of the underground leader Akhmed Yevloyev, also known as Magas.

The Russian security forces often operate outside the law in the Caucasus. Many police officers and intelligence agents follow an approach that Vladimir Putin formulated in 1999 after a wave of terrorist attacks. “If they’re in the airport, we’ll kill them there,” he said. “If we find them in a toilet, we’ll kill them in the outhouse.”

But militant Islam in the Caucasus resembles the mythical hydra, which grows back two heads for each one that is severed. Every time a fighter is killed, another one joins the armed underground. Hence Russia needs to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the people in the Caucasus.

Losing Faith in the State

The appeal of the secular state is dwindling in the region, which has a mostly Muslim population of 7 million. State services are deteriorating and the government is increasingly unable to provide prosperity and security for its citizens. Corruption has undermined the reputation and authority of government institutions. Police officers stationed on the main road across the North Caucasus regularly demand expensive bribes. And the pyramid of sleaze even goes as high as officials in Moscow ministries.

The Islamists’ promise of deliverance from all the evils of everyday life, not only in the afterlife but here on Earth, is not unlike the Communist rhetoric of the past. If the Russian authorities want to undermine them, they will have to come up with an attractive alternative. And that will take more than a few ski resorts.

Putin vows revenge for suicide bombing

Putin vows revenge for suicide bombing

By Thomas Grove and Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW | Tue Jan 25, 2011 9:46am EST

(Reuters) – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed revenge on Tuesday for a suicide bombing that killed at least 35 people at Russia‘s busiest airport and underscored the Kremlin’s failure to stem a rising tide of attacks.

Talking tough a day after the bombing, Russia’s leaders ordered security services to root out the culprits behind the attack, which bore hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state along Russia’s southern flank.

“This was an abominable crime in both its senselessness and its cruelty,” Putin told a meeting of ministers in Moscow.

“I do not doubt that this crime will be solved and that retribution is inevitable.”

President Dmitry Medvedev criticized law enforcement agencies and airport managers over the attack at Domodedovo, a major international gateway to Russia. At least eight foreigners were killed in the attack.

“Everything must be done to find, expose and bring the bandits who committed this crime to court — and the nests of these bandits, however deep they have dug in, must be liquidated,” he said.

“We must not stand on ceremony with those who resist … they must be destroyed on the spot,” Medvedev told leaders of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is tasked with coordinating Russia’s fight against terrorism.

The bombing, which ripped through the area where international travelers emerge after collecting their bags, came just days before Medvedev is due to pitch Russia to investors and corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Medvedev has delayed his departure for Davos, where he is due to deliver the keynote speech opening the forum. Russia’s Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said 49 people remain in a serious or very serious condition in hospital.

KREMLIN’S SILENT WAR

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Russia has been grappling with a growing Islamist insurgency in the mainly-Muslim republics which make up its southern flank in the North Caucasus.

Rebels from the region have threatened attacks against cities and economic targets in the run-up to a parliamentary election this December and a 2012 presidential poll in which Putin is expected to return to the Kremlin or back his protege Medvedev for a second term.

Russian financial markets, accustomed to periodic bombings and hostage dramas over the past 12 years, showed little reaction. The benchmark rouble-denominated MICEX share index was trading up 0.22 percent at 1441 GMT. The rouble closed virtually unchanged from Monday.

“Terrorism remains the main threat to the security of our state, the main threat to Russia, to all our citizens,” Medvedev said. He said terrorist attacks increased last year, calling it “the most serious signal” for law enforcement.

“It is clear that there is a systemic failure to provide security for people” at Domodedovo, said Medvedev.

Cairo protest: Police use tear gas on ‘day of revolt’

Cairo protest: Police use tear gas on ‘day of revolt’

The BBC’s Jon Leyne describes ‘remarkable scenes’ in the Egyptian capital

Police in Cairo are using tear gas and water cannon to try to quell rare anti-government protests.


Thousands are reported to have joined the protests after an internet campaign inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.

They are marching through Cairo and other areas chanting anti-government slogans, after activists called for a “day of revolt” in a web message.

Weeks of unrest in Tunisia eventually toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month.

Such protests are uncommon in Egypt, which President Hosni Mubarak has ruled since 1981, tolerating little dissent.

The events in Cairo were co-ordinated on a Facebook page – tens of thousands of supporters clicked on the page to say they would take part.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo says rallies are being held in several parts of the capital, and the turnout so far is more than the organisers could have hoped.

He says there has been a series of violent confrontations, including in front of the parliament building, where police with riot shields, tear gas and water cannon clashed with protesters throwing rocks.

There are also reports of protests in Alexandria and Ismailiya, among others.

‘Nothing to fear’

The Associated Press (AP) news agency reports that in Tahrir Square, demonstrators attacked a police water cannon vehicle, opening the driver’s door and ordering the man out of the vehicle.

Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to break the police cordons to join the main demonstration, it added.

One protester, 43-year-old lawyer Tareq el-Shabasi, told AP: “I came here today willing to die, I have nothing to fear.”

The AFP news agency reported that protesters had gathered outside the Supreme Court holding large signs that read: “Tunisia is the solution.”

They then broke through lines of police and began to march through the streets, chanting: “Down with Mubarak.”

Reuters news agency reported that some chants referred to Mr Mubarak’s son Gamal, who some analysts believe is being groomed as his father’s successor. “Gamal, tell your father Egyptians hate you,” they shouted.

Protester holds sign saying "Mubarak, out" in French during a protest in central Cairo on Tuesday 25 January 2011Protesters alluded to the Tunisian uprising – this one using the French word “degage”, meaning “out”

The organisers rallied support saying the protest would focus on torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment, calling it “the beginning of the end”.

“It is the end of silence, acquiescence and submission to what is happening in our country,” they said in comments carried by Reuters news agency.

“It will be the start of a new page in Egypt’s history – one of activism and demanding our rights.”

George Ishaq, an Egyptian opposition leader, said security forces had been “confounded”.

“In the end, we will get our rights because this is just the beginning,” he said.

“This will not end. Our anger will continue over the coming days. We will put forth our conditions and requests until the system responds and leaves.”

Disillusioned

Egypt has many of the same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia – rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption.

However, the population of Egypt has a much lower level of education than Tunisia. Illiteracy is high and internet penetration is low.

There are deep frustrations in Egyptian society, our Cairo correspondent says, yet Egyptians are almost as disillusioned with the opposition as they are with the government; even the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Islamist movement, seems rudderless.

While one opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, called on Egyptians to take part in these protests, the Muslim Brotherhood has been more ambivalent.

Our correspondent adds that Egypt is widely seen to have lost power, status and prestige in the three decades of President Mubarak’s rule.

Corpse of Col. Imam Is Found In Dandi Darpakhel Area

[The fact that the unknown group of kidnappers offered to exchange the Col. for Mansoor Dadullah confirms that they are connected with British intelligence (SEE: Dissecting the Anti-Pakistan Psyop).  Mansoor was a chosen tool in another complex British/American plot that gave birth to the TTP in Pakistan; it too, was based on a kidnap plot, one involving Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo.  Another similarity between the two climactic events was the "martyring" of legendary Taliban/mujahedeen heroes in the process (Mansoor's brother Mullah Dadullah was killed by drones in the previous event).  That is the way with intelligence agency gambits--They usually recreate previous gambits, or mirror-image reverse images of them.

If watching military spy operations unfold gives you a feeling of "deja vu," that you are watching some sort of sick psyop rerun, then you probably are.  How anyone could still believe the obvious bullshit throw our way, after watching a river of it flow by us on a daily basis for nine years, is beyond my capacity for understanding.]

Col Imam executed?

Published: January 24, 2011

Officials refuse to confirm or deny the slaying of former ISI official.

ISLAMABAD: A former officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Sultan Amir Tarar, better known as Colonel Imam, has reportedly been killed by the Taliban on Sunday.

Though there is no official confirmation of his death, sources close to his family say they were informed about Col Imam’s killing by intelligence sources.

Col Imam, along with another former ISI official Squadron Leader (retd) Khawaja Khalid and British journalist Asad Qureshi, was seized by a lesser known Taliban group, Asian Tigers, while travelling to the North Waziristan tribal region on March 26, 2010.

Qureshi was released in September after paying a ransom of Rs20 million, while Khawaja was executed by his captors.

Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, a former ISI chief and a colleague of Col Imam, told the media that the kidnappers wanted to swap the two former spies with the terrorists who were arrested in connection with two high-profile terrorist hits in Rawalpindi.

Gul said the US and its private security firm Blackwater Xe could be involved in Col Imam’s abduction. However, he voiced doubt over the news of his killing. “I think it is a drama. The situation will become clear in the next couple of days,” he added.

Col Imam was reportedly killed by his captors and the body was dumped in the Dandi Darpakhel area, close to Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency.

Nonetheless, local residents said they have not seen the body.

A senior security official in Peshawar also refused to confirm the slaying. “We also have reports of his death, but we cannot confirm it,” the official told The Express Tribune.

Another Peshawar-based intelligence official also refused to confirm the report.  “The Dandi Darpakhel area is adjacent to government quarters in the region dotted with security checkpoints. If there was any such thing, it would have been in our knowledge,” he added.

However, a relative of Col Imam told the media that intelligence sources had informed them about the incident.

Col Imam and Khawaja said in a video message released by the Taliban a month after their abduction that they were sent to Afghanistan by former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI chief Gen (retd) Hameed Gul.

The abductors had initially demanded the release of two arrested Taliban leaders – Mullah Kabir and Mullah Mansoor Dadullah – in exchange for the freedom of the two former ISI officials. The demand was made in an email sent to several Pakistani media outlets.

But later they added more demands and called for the release of those terrorists who were in custody of Pakistan’s security agencies in connection with attacks on the GHQ and Parade Line Mosque of Rawalpindi.

According to reports, Mullah Omar, the reclusive Taliban mentor, himself had campaigned for the release of Col Imam. It was due to Mullah Omar’s intervention that the Taliban did not kill Col Imam for several months, a source close to the Taliban told The Express Tribune.

The source also claimed that Col Imam had brokered a peace deal between the military and the Haqqani network chief Jalaluddin Haqqani, much before his arrest.

Col Imam had played a key role in training the Afghan Mujahideen during the Afghan jihad. He was in charge of the Mujahideen activities in different parts of Afghanistan. He maintained close ties with Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Waziristan.

“Mullah Omar and the Taliban are highly respected Muslim leaders,” Imam had said in an interview to a television channel, last year.

During his captivity, Col Imam had written several letters to Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and Lt-Gen Hameed Gul and some politicians to plead for his release.

Col Imam was a bitter critic of the United States which, he said, had left the Afghan mujahideen in the lurch after the defeat of the Soviet forces in the late 1980s.

A special warfare operation specialist, Col Imam had also once served as Pakistan’s consul general at Herat, in Afghanistan.

With additional reporting by Manzoor Ali in Peshawar

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th,  2011.

Condoleeza Wanted to Move Palestinian Refugees To South America

[Condi must have been channeling Roosevelt, or his opposite, a sort of anti-Roosevelt, as she did her best to confirm the Bush thesis that the Palestinians were the modern-day equivalent of pre-war German Jews.]

“Roosevelt hatched a scheme in 1938 to rally the world’s democracies and relocate millions of European Jews to undeveloped areas in Latin America and Africa.”

Palestinians condemn US plan to settle refugees in South America

Suggestion revealed in Palestine papers clashes with refugees’ fundamental right to go home, say Palestinian groups

  • Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
  • guardian.co.uk
  • Refugee camp in Gaza Children at a Gaza refugee camp: Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state under George Bush, suggested in 2008 that Palestinian refugees could be resettled in Chile and Argentina. Photograph: Ali Ali/EPAPalestinians have expressed shock and dismay at the US suggestion to settle Palestinian refugees in Argentina and Chile rather than let them return to ancestral land in Israel.

    Representatives of the Palestinian diaspora said the plan to ship displaced Palestinians from the Middle East to a new homeland across the Atlantic clashed with their fundamental right to go home.

    “It’s completely unacceptable. It contradicts our inalienable right to return to our own homeland,” said Daniel Jadue, vice-president of Chile’s Palestine Federation. “That right cannot be renounced. To make this suggestion shows the mediation was not honest. It was clearly tilted in favour of Israel. This is extremely grave.”

    Condoleezza Rice, who was secretary of state in the Bush administration, floated the idea at a meeting on 28 June 2008 with US, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Berlin, according to minutes of the encounter obtained by al-Jazeera and shared with the Guardian.

    The suggestion dumbfounded South America’s Palestinians – a largely Christian community which emigrated in waves over the past century and settled across the region, especially in Chile which is said to be home to more than 200,000.

    Chile’s Palestinians would welcome compatriots who chose to settle in the Andes, said Jadue. “If a Palestinian accepted to come here that would be their right and we would show solidarity.” But that did not justify a US proposal to funnel refugees from the Middle East to reduce pressure on Israel to give up land, he said. “That’s wrong.”

    Tilda Rabi, president of the Federation of Palestinian Organisations in Argentina, said the proposal violated the UN’s affirmation of refugees’ right to return home. “This is an extension of a long campaign of ethnic cleansing, of clearing people from their own homelands.” She doubted many refugees would have accepted such an offer. “In the camps people still have keys to the homes they left behind.”

    It is unclear whether the Bush administration lobbied Argentina and Chile to take Palestinians. The foreign ministries in Buenos Aires and Santiago did not respond to email and phone queries.

    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said it received no such request. “UNRWA has never been approached by any government to assist with the movement of refugees to South America,” said a spokesman, Chris Gunness. “If such an offer was made refugees could accept or reject it,” he said. “It would be their choice.”

    Hillary Clinton, Rice’s successor as secretary of state, played down the importance of the documents in her first comments on the leak last night.

    “I don’t think it comes as any surprise what the issues are between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” she told reporters in Mexico. “They have been well known for 20 years or more. They are difficult issues. They do not lend themselves easily to compromise.”

    However, the state department spokesman Philip Crowley earlier acknowledged that the disclosure would have an impact on efforts to get peace talks restarted.

    “We don’t deny that this release will, at least for a time, make the situation more difficult than it already was,” he said. “None of this changes our understanding of what is at stake, or what needs to be done. We continue to believe a framework agreement is both possible and necessary. We continue to work with and engage the parties.”

    The United Nations special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, said some of the interpretation of the documents conveyed an “inaccurate impression”. The Palestinian negotiators were committed to reaching a deal in the interests of the Palestinian people, he said.

    “At this crucial time, I would urge both parties to show their readiness for a negotiated peace based on a two-state solution, and to deliver on the ground. It is to the genuine credit of the Palestinian leadership that they are doing so.”

    Israel radio reported that Nabil Shaath, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said the documents released by al-Jazeera were authentic, unofficial and did not obligate the Palestinian side.

The Mysterious Oligarch In Charge of Domodedovo Airport

Valery Kogan was entirely unknown in Israel up until a month ago, when he drove the local business and real-estate world crazy by purchasing five lots in Caesarea, a total of 11.5 dunams, for $17 million, on which to build an estate. Amid the media circus, it was reported that the Jewish businessman is connected to the secret services in Russia, and that he is close to former president Vladimir Putin. Some imagined Putin coming to visit his close friend and the two of them walking along the beach in Caesarea.

The aura of mystery increased when news came of the impressive rise in Kogan’s wealth, at least according to the Russian magazine Finans. In 2007 it showed him in 499th place on the list of the richest people in Russia, worth $90 million. A year later he skipped up to 157th place with $600 million.

The only thing that is known for certain is that Kogan is connected to East Line, which operates Domodedovo International Airport, the largest airport in Russia, with 13-14 million people passing through each year. According to the company’s Web site, Kogan is chairman of the board.

When it comes to other information about Kogan, there are serious questions. A source very familiar with the Russian government claimed last week that Kogan’s wealth is estimated at only $100 million, and that he is not friendly with Putin. The source added that Kogan has only a few shares in East Line, and that the real owners prefer to have him serve as the frontman.

Officially, the owner of East Line is a holding company called FML Ltd., registered on the Isle of Man, which is located in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland and serves as a tax shelter. The owners of the company are two citizens of the island, Sean Keinars and Jane Penders, but the Russian source said that they apparently serve only as “straw men.” A survey published last November by the international credit-rating company Standard & Poor’s implies that the management of FML may warrant the attention of the Israel Money Laundering Prohibition Authority (IMPA).

Several Russian newspapers have written recently that Kogan’s arrival in Israel may be related to attempts by the elements behind him to transfer sums of money of unknown origin from Russia to Israel, via companies that operate in tax shelters the world over. In addition, the journalists surmise that Kogan, even if he is not close to Putin, is quite close to government circles in Russia. A name that comes up in this connection is Boris Gromov, the governor of the Moscow region, who supports the Russian soccer team Saturn Ramenskoye. The fact that Arcadi Gaydamak also invests in the team raises questions about possible connections – at least some form of acquaintance – between him and Kogan.

Although Valery Kogan was unknown in Israel until recently, even in Russia people started taking a serious interest in him only after the news of the real estate deal, which made waves there as well.

“Since the deal went through, the Russian press has been all worked up, trying to find more information about him,” said Alexander Kogan [no relation to Valery Kogan - S.S.], who works in the Russian-language press in Israel, last week. “Nobody knows how he really made all his money. Up until three years ago he was in the shadows. There are many mystery men in Russia who simply refuse to step into the spotlight.”

Scandals in Russia

Valery Kogan, 57, married, a father of two and grandfather of two, lives in Moscow. He was born in Ukraine, apparently in a town called Mariupol (that was named Zhdanov during the Soviet era), on the banks of the Sea of Azov. According to the East Line Web site, Kogan served in the Soviet navy and worked in the diplomatic service. The site also mentions that he studied economics.

Finans, which has covered his business dealings in recent years, has written that Kogan, like many of the other oligarchs, made his money with the help of connections to the Russian administration during the period when the Soviet Union was divested of its assets. The magazine mentioned that his wealth increased greatly because of his flourishing airline business. East Line is also familiar in Russia thanks to Kogan’s partner, oligarch Dmitry Kamenshchik – a rising star in the country’s business firmament.

According to Russian press clippings, the company started out by opening a business for transporting merchandise between Russia and China. Kogan and Kamenshchik were involved over the years in several scandals, most of them actually associated with Kamenshchik. This may be because among the general public Kogan’s name as the owner of East Line was revealed only three years ago, when the government tried to nationalize the Domodedovo airport.

One of the scandals that was reported is related to the company’s real-estate transactions in the 1990s. One project in question involved the construction of single-family homes near Moscow on 60 acres of land that had housed a huge poultry farm. The owners of the farm sold the land to East Line, in exchange for having Kogan and Kamenshchik cover 50 percent of its debts, a sum of about $1.5 million. But Kogan and Kamenshchik managed to change the designation of the land from chicken runs to private residences and earned millions.

The Russian authorities claimed in 2000 that the two had carried out an underhanded deal, taking the land through deceitful methods, and changing its designation from agriculture to real estate with the help of government connections. In 2007 a lawsuit against the company was brought before the courts, and the matter is still under discussion in the judicial instances in Russia.

The first time the Russian public was exposed to Kogan and his East Line connections was in 2005. At the time a bitter conflict erupted between the authorities and the company regarding the leasing of the Domodedovo airport. The state threatened to nationalize the facility, although a 1997 agreement between the parties stated that the contract is valid for 75 years. In the end, the sides compromised on an annual payment of $1.2 million. However, the legal conflict regarding the question of ownership of the airport has yet to be resolved.

In the wake of the affair, Kogan also received support from a serious media figure: popular television personality Vladimir Solovyev, who has an investigative program and has in recent years been conducting a genuine crusade on behalf of Kogan and Kamenshchik. Solovyev claims that the Russian administration is persecuting East Line.

Since East Line received the airport, it has invested half a million dollars in it. According to Bank VTB, which is controlled by the Russian government, late in 2004 the company earned $450 million, with a net profit of $58 million. Early in 2005 the company issued bonds in order to build a new terminal at the facility.

In February 2004 the FML Ltd. holding company, which is behind East Line, received an international credit rating of B-. In a survey of FML carried out by Standard & Poor’s in 2004, analyst Tatiana Kordyukova explained that the company’s ranking was relatively limited – one reason being the functioning of its chairman. Said Kordyukova: “The ratings on East Line are constrained by the group’s complex and nontransparent structure, the critical role the chairperson plays in most important matters concerning the company, a high reliance on its leasehold and operation of the Domodedovo airport complex, and limited access to capital markets.” Four years later, the company’s ranking remains B-.

Meanwhile in Caesarea, far from the eyes of the analysts, the planning committee of the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council approved the idea of combining all the lots purchased by Kogan. The demolition of the houses located on the land in question will soon get under way. Now Kogan has to submit the plans for the estate itself, which is being designed by Russian architects.

The new house, incidentally, will be registered in the name of Kogan’s wife, Olga. The Web sites in Russia continue to report about the oligarch’s huge future residence, emphasizing the fact that the entire project will cost about $50 million. Certain sites report that designers from Italy will be coming to Caesarea, and that the estate will include two houses, one of them three stories. The second, two-story building will have a spa. The estate will include tennis courts, and we can assume that the place will be well protected by means of guards and modern technology.

Alongside these descriptions, several Web sites expressed criticism of the construction carnival. One of them wrote, with no small degree of irony, that the time will come when Valery Kogan will build the first airport in Caesarea.

In the past two years, 15 Russian oligarchs have bought assets in Caesarea. Even before Valery Kogan’s purchase, residents described the tempting offers they received for their homes; now they tell tall tales about how such offers increased after the deal was struck.

“There are many people showing an interest,” said one resident last week. Another resident added: “Many representatives of oligarchs are walking around the neighborhood trying to find out who is selling, particularly on streets overlooking the sea. They come in luxury cars, impeccably dressed. In general, we’re satisfied, because the value of the real estate is increasing. Anyone who doesn’t want to continue living here can make a nice exit.”

Some of the residents are actually not pleased with the new situation. Some are trying to keep Caesarea from turning into some alienated island, in total contrast to the vision of the founders, who in the 1960s hoped that there would be a flourishing communal life in the seaside town.

Those who are benefiting now, in any case, are the intermediaries. “Kogan bought at a price of $1.55 million per dunam (quarter acre), but now there’s already an offer for $2.3 million,” explains one, Avi Ben Yoav. “When they want to, these people work very fast. In one of the deals, the client arrived in the morning accompanied by his attorney, and at 4 P.M. a memorandum of agreement was signed between the buyer and the seller. That was a $2-million deal.”

Valery Kogan, the Israeli In Charge of Domodedovo Airport

Valery Kogan


Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Moscow Domodedovo Airport

Kogan Valery Mikhailovich, Chairman of the Supervisory Board
Date of birth

1951

Education

Higher, degree in economics

Background

Extensive management and public relations experience

2004-present – Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Moscow Domodedovo Airport

Marital status

Married, two children and two grandchildren

Know Your New York-Lovin’ Russian Oligarchs

Know Your New York-Lovin’ Russian Oligarchs

126187This isn’t shaping up to be an especially good year for New York’s ultra-rich. According to Forbes, Moscow recently overtook NYC as the city with the most billionaires per square mile: Moscow had 74 people worth ten figures compared to New York, which had just 71. But those smarmy bazillionaires aren’t staying put in Moscow or even in the de-facto Russian mogul ghetto of London. Many of them are spending time right here in New York: Real estate, oil, and metals scions from Russia and other former Soviet republics have been busy snatching up some of the most expensive apartments the city has to offer. Last month, a 42-year-old fertilizer kingpin named Dmitry Rybolovlevagreed to pay $100 million for Donald Trump‘s Palm Beach mansion, Maison de l’Amitié. The 59th richest man in the world, worth some $12.8 billion, his purchase includes a 33,000-square-foot home and 6.5 acres of land. But he isn’t the only one. After the jump, a list of the novi Russki who spend time in New York—just who these Soviet oligarchs are, how they made their money, and what exactly they’re up to in town.

126175Leonard Blavatnik
A Russian Jew, Blavatnik moved to the U.S. in 1978 when he was 21. He’s now worth a reported $7.2 billion thanks to investments in coal, real estate, aluminum, petrochemicals, and plastics. His primary holding company is called Access Industries; he’s also a partner in the Renova Group with Viktor Vekselberg (see below). Blavatnik is a part-time resident of the city—he also spends a good deal of time in London—but he’s been on a real estate buying spree in New York City over the past year. He owns a East 64th Street townhouse that he purchased from Edgar Bronfman Jr. for $51 million, and is rumored to be behind the 2008 purchase of the townhouse once occupied by Jocelyne Wildenstein. In London, he lives in a home in Kensington Park Gardens that he purchased for $73 million in 2006.

 

126182Lev Leviev
A native of Uzbekistan, Leviev moved to Israel and now divides his time between the religious enclave of B’nai Brak and a home in London. Worth an estimated $8 billion, Leviev made a fortune from real estate and oil, but he’s best known for his investments in the diamond trade. (He’s partly responsible for breaking up the De Beers diamond cartel.) A close pal of Vladimir Putin, Leviev is a devotee of the Brooklyn-based ultra-Orthodox Chabad movement (a former business partner is fellow Chabadnik Shaya Boymelgreen). He’s also a major patron of Jewish causes in the former Soviet Union.

Leviev’s holding company, Africa Israel Investments, is one of New York City’s biggest landlords. The company owns such properties as 23 Wall Street, 88 Leonard, and Downtown by Philippe Starck; it also holds stakes in the Apthorp on the Upper West Side, the Met Life Clock Tower at 1 Madison, the old New York Times building, and an eponymous diamond boutique on Madison Avenue. His diamond company, LLD USA, is headquartered on 47th and 5th. Although he comes to town frequently, his primary residence is in London, where he lives in a $70 million home with a $100,000 bulletproof front door.

 

126172Roman Abramovich
41-year-old Abramovich is Russia’s second-richest man, with a fortune estimated at $23.5 billion in 2008. Through his fund, Millhouse Capital, Abramovich has significant investments in aircraft and aluminum industries; he’s also the owner of the popular British soccer team Chelsea Football Club. He may be most famous, though, for his penchant for spending money. Abramovich is believed to own five jumbo ships (the largest of which is the 377-foot Pelorus) and it was Abramovich who paid $2 million to have Amy Winehouse perform at the opening of his new art gallery in Moscow in 2008.

Abramovich spends most of his time in Moscow and London with his twenty-something girlfriend; with his ex-wife, Irina, a former Aeroflot stewardess, he has five children. His London home in Belgravia is worth an estimated $60 million. (He also has an estate in West Sussex worth $40 million.) But he’s now in the process of building the most expensive home in Britain, a manse that will end up costing him $150 million when all is said and done. But Abramovich spends a considerable amount of time in New York, too. He’s a regular at contemporary art auctions and in May 2008, he spent $33.6 million on Lucien Freud’sSupervisor Sleeping at Christie’s—the most ever paid for a painting by a living artist—and then $86.3 million on a Francis Bacon triptych at Sotheby’s a day later. He commutes to NYC aboard a Boeing 767 and reportedly stays in the Ty Warner suite at the Four Seasons on 57th Street. The 4,300-square-foot suite includes four terraces and private gym and costs $30,000 a night.

 

126171Vassily Anisimov
Worth more than $2 billion accordng to Forbes, Anisimov (or Anisimova) made his fortune in the metal industry, particularly in the aluminum mining business. (One of his business partners was Marc Rich, the ex-husband ofDenise Rich; another former business partner is Leonard Blavatnik.) He’s also a major real estate investor in New York: His Coral Realty owns a number of properties in the area around NYU and developed the Sugar Warehouse and the Electra, a luxury rental on First Avenue.  He also owns a residential complex in Jersey City.

He’s best known, though, as the father of socialite Anna Anisimova, and he occasionally stays with his daughter at the $15 million condo he purchased for her in the Time Warner Center. It’s a smaller family these days: In 2000 Anisimova’s daughter from his first marriage and his son-in-law were assassinated in Russia.

 

126183Tamir Sapir
A native of the republic of Georgia, Sapir moved to the U.S. in the 1970s and drove a cab for a spell when he first arrived. He later made his fortune in the electronics trade and chemicals industry before turning to real estate. His first big project, 2 Broadway, resulted in a flurry of lawsuits and accusations of ties to the Mob; more recently, he co-developed the William Beaver House with Andre Balazs and partnered with Donald Trump on the Trump Soho.

Sapir spends most of his time in NYC. He bought the Duke-Semans mansion on Fifth Avenue for $40 million in 2006, but he doesn’t live there. (He uses the space to house his massive ivory collection.) He primarily lives in a spread at the Trump Tower, and also owns massive estates on Long Island and in Acapulco.

 

126180Viktor Vekselberg
Worth $11.2 billion according to Forbes, Vekselberg presides over the Renova Group with business partner Leonard Blavatnik. The company makes its money in the oil and aluminum industries. Vekselberg was in the news in 2004 after he purchased the famed Faberge egg collection of publishing magnate Malcom Forbes (put up for auction by Steve Forbes) at Sotheby’s for a figure believed to be near $100 million. The bearded billionaire owns a lavish spread in Weston, Connecticut and a pied-à-terre in the Park Millennium in Midtown. His daughter attended Yale business school.

 

126178Andrei Melnichenko
Just 36, Melnichenko is worth $6.2 billion per Forbes. After making an initial fortune in currency trading, he created an industrial empire with fellow billionaire Sergei Popov. He landed in the newspapers in New York when his MDM-Bank was involved in the scandal in which Russian organized crime rings were accused of laundering $7 billion through the Bank of New York. He’s also known for his lavish spending. His 2005 wedding to a Serbian model near Cannes cost him $40 million, including a $3.6 million for a performance by Christina Aguilera. He paid Jennifer Lopez $2 million to perform at his wife’s 30th birthday party in 2007.

 

126179Roustam Tariko
Worth $3.5 billion, Tariko is best known for creating the high-end brand of Russian vodka, Russian Standard, but he also owns banking and insurance businesses under the Russian Standard name. In New York, he’s best known for spending $3 million in 2005 on a party on Liberty Island to introduce his vodka to New Yorkers. Tariko commutes to New York aboard his Boeing Business Jet and says he likes to run in Central Park when he’s here. He also enjoys inviting notable New Yorkers to visit him in Russia. He gave Martha Stewart a grand tour in 2007, zipping the domestic diva around the Russian capital in his black Bugatti Veyron, the only one in Russia.

 

126176Sergey Gordeev
Just 35, Gordeev made his billion-plus fortune in real estate. He’s also involved in politics—he holds a seat in the Russian senate. An avid architecture enthusiast, Gordeev earned a rep as the savior of ugly Soviet-style buildings. Here in New York, he’s donated heavily to the Guggenheim. It was Gordeev who bankrolled the exhibition “Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32″ at the MoMA in 2007.

 

126177Valery Kogan
The chairman of East Line Group, which controls Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, Kogan has a net worth estimated at $600 million. He was relatively unknown in these parts until he proposed to knock down his 20,000-square-foot home in Greenwich (which he bought for $18 million in 2005) and then build the biggest house the city has ever seen: a 54,000-square-foot mega-mansion complete with 26 bathrooms as well as a dog grooming room and Russian and Finnish baths. Greenwich’s zoning commission officially rejected Kogan’s plans in May 2008.

 

126173Boris Belotserkovsky
A gambling magnate, Belotserkovsky is the co-owner of Ritzio Entertainment Group, Russia’s biggest casino company. He’s publicly condemned Putin for placing restrictions on gambling in Russia and attempting to relegate casinos in the provinces. That might explain why he spend a good deal of time in New York these days. When he’s in town, he’s stays at a $5 million condo in the Plaza.

 

126175Vladimir Stolyarenko
The CEO of the major Russian bank Evrofinance, the shadowy Stolyarenko bunks down in a $10.1 million condo at the Plaza when he’s in Manhattan. He’s known for having especially close ties the Kremlin, unlike his Plaza neighbor Belotserkovsky (see above), which must make for awkward elevator conversation.

 

126174Boris Berezovsky
Trained as a mathematician, Berezovsky took over a crumbling Russian automaker in the immediate aftermath of the USSR’s collapse and parlayed it into bigger things: He’s now worth $1.3 billion, according to Forbes, and has since diversified into oil and other industries. Russian prosecutors tried and failed to extradite London-living Berezovsky for crimes he committed during the “wild capitalism” era of the 90s. He later sued Forbes after its Moscow bureau chief, Paul Klebnikov, tied him to to the assassination of prominent television journalist Vladislav Listyev. The case was settled, although Paul Klebnikov was also later assassinated. In recent years, Berezovsky has earned the enmity of the Putin regime by openly questioning the government’s involvement in the poisoning death of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvineko. (Putin et al pointed the finger at him in turn.) Although based in London, he spends a good deal of time in New York, where his Foundation for Civil Liberties is based. He has a pied-a-terre in the Trump International building.

Contact information for this author is not available.

Hariri Supporters’ “Day of Rage” Turns Violent

Hariri Supporters’ “Day of Rage” Turns Violent

25/01/2011 Violent riots erupt across Lebanon on Tuesday as caretaker Prime Minsiter Saad Hariri’s supporters take to street to protest Hariri’s failure to secure a parliamentary majority in the binding consultations to nominate a new PM.

Former PM Najib Mikati clinched wining majority in the second day of consultations which took place in Baabda presidential Palace.

Lebanese army forces hardly save the lives of media crews who were surrounded by Hariri’s supporters in a building in Tripoli. The forces evacuated the building amid gun shots.
Hariri’s supporters in the north’s capital surrounded media crews who were taking shelter in a building there. They also set ablaze the entrance of the building and attack the Lebanese army forces who were trying to save the crews’ lives.

Also in Tripoli, Hariri’s supporters set upon Al-Jazeera channel’s SNG vehicle earlier, smashing the windshield and tearing down the satellite dish before setting it on fire.

In Beirut, Hariri’s supporters attacked media crews of OTV and NBN channels. They also toss a hand grenade at the Lebanese army.

Gun shots were also heard reportedly in some areas of Cola-Cornish al-Mazraa and Dohat al-Hoss in Khalde.
The supporters also blocked roads with burning tires across Lebanon.

On Monday, Hariri’s Mustaqbal Movement MPs Mohammed Kabbara and Mustapha Allouch urged during a press conference protesters to take to streets on Tuesday, calling that day as the “day of rage”.
“We call on the Lebanese to express their anger and their refusal to fall under Iranian control through peaceful protests,” Alloush said.
They also used sectarian terms which incite people, with Kabbara was quoted as saying: “This aggression against the Sunni confession and the nation is unacceptable.”

Local TV NBN reported later on that Future Movement MP Khaled Daher was heading a rally of armed people in Akkar, urging people to take to the streets.

Also on Monday, the Army Command warned in a statement against messing with security and violating the rules of peaceful protest.

Earlier, Hariri stressed that his party wouldn’t resort to street action.
“We won’t resort to street action and this game has nothing to do with our patriotic ethics,” the head of the caretaker government Saad Hariri said a few days ago. He stressed that he only follows constitutional means. “We accept any outcome of the constitutional process regardless of street action,” Hariri addressed people in January 20.

That speech came at a time the head of the caretaker government was still convinced that his chances for returning to the Grand Serail were high.
However, when the opposition appeared victorious during the binding consultations with President Michel Sleiman, all the “principles” changed and the “street game” quickly became the game of Hariri’s Future movement.

Arabs keep out! Israel lays claim to all the resources

[SEE:  Israel Tapping Palestinian Gas Deposits? ]

Arabs keep out! Israel lays claim to all the resources

by Manlio Dinucci*

For years, various companies have been exploring the hydrocarbon deposits in the Levantine Basin, but only a handful of political and economic leaders were privy to the size of the prize. On 29 December 2010, the Israeli authorities gave Noble Energy Inc. the green light to release the news. The communication, announcing that exploitation was taking off after a political freeze, has been coupled with a diplomatic campaign to allow Tel Aviv to siphon off all the reserves to the detriment of the other coastline states.

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Geographical map of the natural gas and oil reserves location, drawn up by the U.S. Geological Survey. Around 60% of the deposits lie in the waters and territory belonging to Gaza.

U.S.-based Noble Energy Inc. recently announced a massive natural gas field discovery, located 130 kilometers offshore of Haifa [1] and consisting of an estimated 450 billion cubic meters. Resources in the surrounding area should total some 700 billion cubic meters. Exploration and exploitation are overseen by an international consortium composed by the U.S. company Noble Energy Inc., currently the largest shareholder with a 40% stake, plus Israeli enterprises Delek, Avner and Ratio Oil Exploration [2]

This accounts for only a small part of the energy reserves abounding in the Levantine basin, which comprises Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and their territorial waters. According to U.S. Geological Survey, a U.S. Government agency which has been prospecting in the region for several years, the natural gas deposits in the basin amount to approximately 3 500 billion cubic meters, while the oil reserves have been assessed at 1,7 billion barrels.

The Israeli government, with Washington’s backing, considers it is entitled to all the energy reserves. Israeli national infrastructure minister Uzi Landau declared that the large natural gas fields would not only bring economic benefits to Israeli citizens but could also transform Israel into a gas supplier in the Mediterranean region. However, objected Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri, Israel is disregarding the fact that, according to the maps, the fields stretch into Lebanese territorial waters. The United Nations Convention stipulates that a coastal state may exploit offshore gas and oil reserves within a zone extending 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the shore.

According to the same principle, the reserves belong in great measure also to the Palestinian Authority. From the map drawn up by the U.S. Geological Survey itself, it emerges that the major portion of the gas deposits (around 60%) lie in the waters and territory belonging to Gaza. Exploitation rights were granted by the Palestinian Authority to a consortium formed by British Gas and its partner Consolidated Contractors (based in Athens and owned by two Lebanese families), of which 10% is held by the Palestinian Authority.

Two wells, Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2 are ready but not operational. In fact, Tel Aviv has systematically rebuffed all the proposals from the Palestinian Authority and the consortium to export gas to Israel and Egypt. Therefore, the Palestinians possess vast riches which they are unable to exploit.

To seize the totality of the energy reserves – both Palestinian and Lebanese – bathing in the Levantine Basin, Israel has chosen the military option. The Lebanese Foreign Affairs Minister Ali al-Shami recently urged the UN Secretary General to prevent Israel from exploiting the offshore energy reserves located in Lebanese territorial waters. Minister Uzi Landau claimed instead that the reserves are in Israeli waters and warned that his country will not think twice about employing force to protect them. Israel has therefore threatened to attack Lebanon again, like it did in 2006, with the intention this time of impeding it from exploiting its offshore deposits [3].

It is for the same reason that Israel does not accept a Palestinian state. To do so would imply the recognition of Palestinian sovereignty over a large portion of the energy reserves, which Israel wants to grab. It was to this end that the 2008-2009 “Cast Lead Operation” was launched and Gaza has been caught in the clutches of the blockade. Meanwhile, Israeli war ships control the whole of the Levantine Basin – and hence the offshore oil and gas reserves – within the framework of the NATO-sponsored “Mediterranean Dialogue” to “contribute to the security and stability of the region”.

 Manlio Dinucci
Geographer and geopolitical scientist. His latest books are Geograficamente. Per la Scuola media (3 vol.), Zanichelli (2008) ; Escalation. Anatomia della guerra infinita, DeriveApprodi (2005).
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[1] Company’s press release: “Noble Energy Announces Significant Discovery at Leviathan Offshore Israel”, Houston, December 29, 2010.

[2Editor’s note: Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration own 22,67%, 22,67% and 15% of the shares respectively. Since, however, Delek and Avner belong to the same owner, they control 45,34% of the consortium, while Ratio Oil corresponds to private investments through the Bank of Israel.

[3] “Will Israel attack Lebanon to steal its gas?“, by Alfredo Jalife-Rahme, Voltaire Network, 22 August 2010.

Moscow Suicide-Bomber, “I Will Kill You all!”

Moscow airport blast kills 35 

Source: AdelaideNow 

A SUICIDE bomber shouted “I will kill you all” before triggering a blast that killed at least 35 people at a Moscow airport.

The bomber carried a suitcase packed with exposlives walked into Moscow’s busiest airport to set off a huge explosion today in the packed arrivals hall, in an attack slammed by the Kremlin and the world as an act of terror.

The Emergencies Ministry said 35 people were killed, 86 were taken to hospital with injuries and 94 were given medical treatment. Other reports said at least 130 people were injured.

Witnesses said the bomber shouted: “I will kill you all”, before triggering the blast that sent ball bearings and shrapnel across the airport, The Independent reported on its website today.

America’s CBS News said a man in blood-soaked clothes said he was just a few metres away from the explosion and saw a man who may have been the suicide bomber.

The attack at Domodedovo international airport illustrated how difficult it is to safeguard public areas at terminals, even as the United States and other governments engaged in a cat-and-mouse battle with would-be bombers have tightened screenings of passengers and their luggage.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, which also wounded about 130 people.

However, Russia has suffered repeated attacks by Islamic militants based in the Caucasus region.

Russia has fought two wars against separatists in Chechnya, and though the military campaign has largely ended, sporadic violence continues there and in neighboring regions.

Russian officials said they were searching for three Chechen men in connection with the bombing, and added that the attack might be linked to the explosion of a homemade bomb in a Moscow apartment on December 31.

A woman officials believe was being prepared to carry out a suicide attack was killed in that blast.

Domodedovo, which underwent a massive renovation and expansion in the last decade, is about 25 miles southeast of central Moscow and is the largest of three airports that serve the capital.

In 2004 a pair of suicide bombers were able to buy tickets illegally from airport personnel at Domodedova and went on to detonate explosives in midair on separate flights, killing 90 people.

Flights from Germany and Britain were among those arriving about the time of the explosion late Monday afternoon, and Russian officials said two British citizens were among the dead.

One witness said he believed he saw the bomber from the back, a man who was in the middle of about 150 people crowded into the cavernous arrival hall awaiting passengers.

He said the man was dressed in a black coat and hat, and had a suitcase at his feet.

“At that very moment when I was looking at him, he disappeared in an explosion,” said the witness, 30-year-old Artyom Zhilenkov.

“I think it came from the suitcase. I was standing between two columns propping up the ceiling, and that is what I think saved my life, cushioning the shock wave.

“People all around me were lying on the ground. A choking smoke was quickly filling up the place.”

Zhilenkov, a former military officer who was meeting a friend arriving from Dusseldorf, Germany, said in a telephone interview that he ran for the exit fearing a second explosion, but then turned back to help the injured.

“The place was full of dead people, torn-off limbs, arms and legs and people who were still alive – writhing on the floor helplessly and in great pain,” he said.

Zhilenkov said he and another uninjured man put a woman whose leg was nearly severed on a luggage cart.

“She was screaming in agony all the time we were rolling the cart to the exit.

“We left her outside where she could at least get some fresh air and ran back,” he said, adding that he then helped another man whose leg had been severed.

The bomb was packed “full of metal pieces” and had the force of between 15 and 22 pounds of TNT, a source in the Russian Investigation Committee told the state RIA Novosti news agency.

Grainy cell phone pictures showed bodies piled up in the smoky hall.

Another witness described hearing what seemed like fireworks followed by chaos.

“I was sitting near a cafe reading a newspaper when I heard a sound of an explosion as if a fireworks was going off, which seemed very strange to me given that it is an airport,” Sergei Glukhov said in a telephone interview.

“Then people began screaming and running and I saw a man who was wiping blood pouring from his head over his eyes with one hand and trying to make a telephone call with the other,” said Glukhov, who was waiting for his brother to arrive from Munich.

The arrivals hall was equipped with a metal detector to screen visitors coming to meet passengers, Zhilenkov said, but no one seemed to be using it.

“Neither did I, and nobody said a word to me,” he said.

U.S. officials said they had not increased security at domestic airports, which have been on alert since an attempt to blow up two U.S.-bound cargo planes in October.

An offshoot of al-Qaida operating on the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for that plot.

Heightened security procedures in place since then include “unpredictable security measures” such as checking bags at random for traces of explosives and using bomb-sniffing dogs, “including before the checkpoint,” said Kristin Lee, a spokeswoman with the Transportation Security Administration.

Access to ticketing and baggage claim areas typically doesn’t require passing through a checkpoint or showing identification.

The Moscow bombing “shows how vulnerable these targets are,” said Rick Nelson, director of the homeland security and counterterrorism program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

It would be safest to search everyone who enters a public area, said Nelson, but that’s not realistic. “More can always be done, but you have to weigh the cost in terms of dollars and civil liberties.”

Moscow Airport Bomb Just Missed Anti-Nationalist Ukrainian “Rodina” Party Leader

“‘Rodina2‘ party. Let us remind you that the latter is headed by Igor Markov, perhaps the most fierce opponent of the forceful Ukrainization among the Ukrainian politicians.”

Leader of Ukraine’s Rodina Party witnessed explosion at Domodedovo airport

Leader of Ukraine's Rodina Party witnessed explosion at Domodedovo airportA man wounded in a blast is seen at Domodedovo airport in Moscow, Monday, Jan. 24, 2011. An explosion ripped through the international arrivals hall at Moscow’s busiest airport on Monday, killing dozens of people and wounding scores, officials said. The Russian president called it a terror attack.AP

Interfax-Ukraine

Rodina Party leader Igor Markov has said by phone from Moscow that he was on the verge of becoming a victim of an explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.

“Another three or four minutes, and I could have been at the epicenter of the explosion. What I saw was a cloud of smoke. We all moved back. The driver who met us got a mild concussion,” he said live on Odesa-based ATV Channel by phone from Moscow.

The politician failed to answer whether any of the passengers from a Transaero Airlines plane, which departed from the Odesa International Airport and landed at the Domodedovo airport at 16.07 local time were injured or killed in the explosion.

“I don’t know whether some of our fellow countrymen were injured or killed,” Markov said.

As reported, 30 Ukrainian passengers arrived at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport from Odesa just before the explosion hit the airport.


Agriculture Ministers Call for G-20 Action to End Food Price Manipulation

Agriculture Ministers Call for G-20 Action to End Food Price Manipulation

By Rudy Ruitenberg
Agriculture ministers gathered in Berlin said they were “concerned that excessive price volatility and speculation” in international markets for agricultural commodities may threaten the security of the world’s food supply.

The ministers from 48 countries called on the G-20 nations to “fight the abuse and manipulation of prices” in agricultural markets, according to a joint statement handed out at a press conference in the German capital today.

France presides over the Group of 20 this year, and the country’s agriculture minister, Bruno Le Maire, has said world agricultural markets require more regulation. German farm minister Ilse Aigner, who hosted the meeting, said today that price and position limits should be among measures considered.

“All the member countries in the G-20 have to oppose this price volatility,” Le Maire said in a press conference. “With this text we already have a good starting point.”

World food prices rose to a record in December on higher costs for sugar, grain and oilseeds, the United Nations reported Jan. 4. An index of 55 food commodities tracked by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization gained for a sixth month to 214.7 points, above the previous high of 213.5 in June 2008.

The rising cost of food helped provoke deadly riots this year in Algeria and Tunisia, and at least 13 people died in Mozambique last year in protests against plans to increase bread prices. Surging food prices in 2008 sparked protests and riots in more than 30 countries, including Egypt, Haiti and Cameroon.

Expanding Population

Global food production will have to rise 70 percent by 2050 as the world population expands to 9.1 billion from about 6.8 billion in 2010, according to the FAO.

Investment in agriculture needs to be increased, the ministers said in today’s statement. With resources scarce and risk related to climate change on the rise, global food security requires “an integrated and sustainable approach” to develop agriculture and rural areas, they said.

The agriculture ministers who gathered in Berlin, including officials from BrazilCanada andRussia, said they’re considering “reinforcing the importance of risk-protection measures,” according to the statement.

Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk, who attended today’s meeting, said theWorld Bank and other global institutions should create a global grain reserve to smooth out price swings, adding his country would be willing to “actively participate.”

Export Limits

Ukraine imposed grain-export limits in October to keep domestic food and animal-feed prices in check after drought damaged its crop and Russia’s.

France plans to host the G-20 agriculture ministers in Paris in May or June, and Le Maire said he’ll work with countries including the U.S., China, Brazil and Canada to have “concrete solutions” by the end of the year. The French minister has said the world “urgently” needs tools to tackle speculation in agricultural goods.

Prices of major food commodities other than cocoa have advanced in the past 12 months. Paris milling wheat jumped 85 percent, while Chicago-traded wheat climbed 65 percent and corn rose 77 percent. Raw sugar prices have gained 10 percent in New York.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Berlin at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter atccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.