Russia, China back “convincing response” to N.Korea

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia and China want a “convincing response” to North Korea’s nuclear test from the United Nations Security Council, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

“Sergei Lavrov and Yang Jiechi expressed their common opinion on the necessity of a convincing response from the Security Council on the inadmissibility of ignoring the U.N. Security Council’s resolution and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” the ministry said in a statement.

A phone conversation took place between the two ministers on Monday at the request of the Chinese foreign minister, it said.

“At the same time, it was stressed that the solution of the problem is possible only via political and diplomatic means, including by resuming six-party talks as the most important tool to solve the Korean peninsula’s nuclear problem and assuage North Korea’s justified security concerns,” the ministry said.


Russia plans to counter U.S. antimissile system in eastern Europe

Russia plans to counter U.S. antimissile system in eastern Europe

Medvedev, Russia, missiles

Guneev Sergey / Bloomberg News
Dmitri Medvedev, Russia’s president, arrives to deliver his annual address to Parliament from the Kremlin’s St.George Hall, in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008.
Medvedev says Moscow will put missiles near the border with Poland, where the U.S. will base interceptor missiles, and use radio jamming against the antimissile system.
By Sergei L. Loiko
November 6, 2008

Reporting from Moscow — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Moscow would place short-range missiles near the Polish border “to neutralize, if necessary” a planned U.S. antimissile system.

In his first state of the nation speech, Medvedev also said plans to take three nuclear missile regiments off combat duty in Kozelsk would be suspended and that Moscow would attempt to use radio jamming against the U.S. system

In August, Poland signed a deal that would base 10 U.S. interceptor missiles on its territory. The accompanying radar system would be placed in the adjacent Czech Republic. Both former Soviet satellites are now part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Washington has always maintained that the system is insurance against a possible missile launch by countries such as Iran, but Moscow believes it could be used to weaken Russia.

“Given what we have had to face in recent years — the construction of the global ABM [antiballistic missile] system, the encirclement of Russia with military bases, the unbridled expansion of NATO and other gifts to Russia — a solid impression is forming, that they are simply testing our patience,” Medvedev said.

In a phone interview, Alexander Konovalov, president of the Institute for Strategic Assessment think tank, played down Medvedev’s comments. He said that the nuclear missiles in Kozelsk were old and were being kept in place only because a new type of missile to replace them was not being manufactured quickly enough. He also thought radio jamming of the antimissile system was not very feasible.

He also took issue with the threat to place missiles near Poland.

“The deployment of an Iskander missile complex in the Kaliningrad region also sounds pretty pointless,” he said, “because first of all these are tactical missiles and they have not been produced in sufficient numbers yet. Secondly, their working radius is 280 km [174 miles], which is very small. And thirdly, they can carry only 500 kilos [1,102 pounds] of ordinary explosives, which most likely will not be enough to destroy an interceptor missile shaft.”

Stanislav Belkovsky, president of the National Strategy Institute think tank, said he did not believe that the Russian president was seeking to increase tensions with the U.S. “The speech was clearly prepared for domestic consumption,” he said.

Medvedev made similar comments in his address: “Let me stress that we don’t have problems with the American people. We don’t have an inborn anti-Americanism. And we hope that our partners, the new U.S. administration, will make a choice in favor of full-fledged relations with Russia.”

Loiko is a Times staff writer.


Russia to contribute $17 mln to Chernobyl cleanup

Russia to contribute $17 mln to Chernobyl cleanup

18:41 | 29/ 09/ 2008

VIENNA, September 29 (RIA Novosti) – Russia will provide $17 million to help improve safety at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster, and fully decommission it, a top Russian nuclear official said on Monday.

Three reactors of the Chernobyl plant continued to operate for several years after reactor number four exploded in 1986, the last reactor shutting down in 2000. The reactors still contain nuclear fuel rods, and require constant monitoring. The fourth reactor is housed in a Soviet-era sarcophagus set to be replaced by a $1.4 bln metal structure.

Speaking at an IAEA conference, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the state-run corporation Rosatom, said: “The Russian Federation intends to help Ukraine improve security at the site of the Chernobyl power plant, and speed up the start of work to decommission it. For these purposes we will contribute $17 million to the Nuclear Safety Account and the Chernobyl Shelter Fund.”

The Nuclear Safety Account was set up in 1993 to finance nuclear safety projects in central and eastern Europe. It is run by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as is the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, a project aimed at building the new sarcophagus over reactor number four.

The protective shell currently in place was built shortly after the disaster, and continues to leak radiation. The hurriedly built structure has been repaired on numerous occasions.

A nuclear waste storage facility is also to be built at the site, as well as a processing plant to manage nuclear fuel assemblies.

The Chernobyl Shelter Fund, which involves 28 countries, is aimed at protecting the personnel, population and environment from radioactive threat and preparing a stable and environmentally safe system to last 100 years.

The Chernobyl disaster of April 26, 1986 was caused by overheating following a disastrous experiment involving fuel rods, which was ironically aimed at improving safety.

While the initial Soviet cover-up was condemned by the West, it is almost certain that the authoritarian regime in place at the time, which sent hundreds of workers to their certain death in the operation to seal the damaged reactor, averted much greater loss of life using means that would have been inaccessible to an open, democratic society.

Estimates by international bodies as to the number of deaths caused by the Chernobyl accident vary dramatically. Fifty-six people were reported to have been killed in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and another 4,000 died of thyroid cancer shortly afterwards.

The disaster is thought to have released at least 100 times more radiation than the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in WWII.

Vast areas, mainly in the three then-Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, were contaminated by the fallout of the Chernobyl explosion. More than 300,000 people were relocated. Around five million people still live in areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine classified as “contaminated” by radioactive elements.

Findings issued in 2005 by the UN Chernobyl Forum – a consortium of UN agencies led by the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and UNDP – and subsequent studies confirmed that the majority of people in the affected regions have little to fear from radiation, but need better social and economic opportunities.

Russia to upgrade nuclear systems

Russia to upgrade nuclear systems

A picture taken on May 9, 2008 shows a Russian Topol-M ICBM on Red Square during a Victory Day Parade in Moscow

Russia sees the US missile defence in central Europe as a threat

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced plans to build a “guaranteed nuclear deterrent system”, to be in place by 2020.

He said he wanted military chiefs to submit plans by December.

He called for a programme to build new nuclear submarines as well as “a system of aerospace defence”.

The announcement comes just weeks after Russia accused America of starting a new arms race by siting part of its missile defence shield in Poland.

“We must guarantee nuclear deterrence under various political and military conditions by 2020,” Mr Medvedev told military commanders.

He said it was necessary to build “new types of armaments”, and to “achieve dominance in airspace”, according to quotes carried by the Itar-Tass news agency.

Two modified Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block IV interceptors are launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (5 June 2008)

“We plan to start serial production of warships, primarily nuclear-powered submarines carrying cruise missiles and multifunctional submarines,” Mr Medvedev said.

“We will develop an aerospace defence system, as well,” he added.

Moscow has repeatedly criticised the US for going ahead with plans for a missile defence shield, using rockets based in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic, saying it destabilises the strategic balance and builds “a ring of steel” around Russia.

Russia warned it would be “forced to react”.

This, it seems, is Russia is showing its own determination to bolster its nuclear deterrent, says the BBC’s defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt.

Russia and Belarus will have nuclear power plants close to Lithuania

Russia and Belarus will have nuclear power plants close to Lithuania

Petras Vaida, BC, Vilnius, 26.09.2008.Print version
Russia and Belarus will both have nuclear power plants close to Lithuania by the time Ignalina nuclear power plant has a replacement, The Baltic Times quotes the president of the Lithuanian Industrialists’ Confederation and the majority owner of Achema Group, Bronislavas Lubys.

Lubys said that he is certain that before Lithuania builds its planned new nuclear power plant, Russia and Belarus will construct two new atomic power stations in the region.

“I am absolutely sure about this,” Lubys said in a recent interview for the magazine Veidas.

Rymantas Juozaitis, CEO of Lithuania’s national electricity company LEO LT, said that he does not see negative impact of the emergence of two new plants close to the Lithuanian border on Lithuania’s energy industry.

“Nuclear power stations currently account for almost 40% of the EU’s electrical energy generation. If we have three nuclear power plants in the region, power electricity generation by atomic power plants in the region will account only for 30%. We have to replace old, non-efficient power plants. We do not see any problems here,” Juozaitis said.

Whether or not Lithuania will have a new nuclear power facility will depend on whether the country’s politicians have the will to build it, Lubys said.

“This political will [depends] on the next Seimas and the next government, or even on their successors. The current government has stated its position: it is in favor of a new nuclear power plant,” he said.

Bloomberg reported that Lithuania is in talks with four nuclear-reactor producers for the construction of a new atomic plant to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina plant.

Saulius Specius, a board member at LEO LT, which plans to build the atomic plant, said Lithuania would choose a reactor made by Westinghouse, Areva SA, General Electric or Atomic Energy of Canada Limited for its new Visaginas nuclear power plant.

The nuclear power plant in eastern Lithuania will have a maximum capacity of 3,400 megawatts and is scheduled to start operations between 2016 and 2018. Lithuania, which is building the plant along with neighbors Latvia, Estonia and Poland, is seeking output of 1,300 megawatts from the plant.

The capacity of the plant may be downgraded by its completion date due to uncertainty about power needs at that time.

Lithuania is currently in talks with Sweden and Poland to create a Baltic energy network. Neither link would be ready before 2012. Lithuania will close its Soviet-era reactor at the end of 2009. The new plant will help diversify the region’s energy sources and reduce dependence on Russia.

Russia warns Australia against scrapping uranium deal: report

Russia warns Australia against scrapping uranium deal: report

SYDNEY (AFP) — Any decision by Australia to scrap a deal to sell uranium to Russia to protest its action in Georgia would be “politically biased” and economically harmful, Moscow’s envoy to Canberra has reportedly warned.

Fairfax newspapers on Tuesday quoted Ambassador Alexander Blokhin, as issuing the caution a day after Australia’s foreign minister said Canberra was reconsidering whether to ratify a 2007 pact to sell yellowcake to Moscow following its military foray into Georgia.

“We do not see any connection between the events in the Caucasus region and the uranium deal,” Blokhin told Fairfax through an interpreter.

“These are completely separate things. The agreement on uranium is actually an agreement about the use of atomic energy only for peaceful civilian aims.

“If this agreement is not ratified, in that case we could regard that as an obversely political biased decision, which could harm the economic interests of Australia as well,” the ambassador was quoted as saying.

Blokhin could not immediately be reached for comment by AFP on Tuesday.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was then president, and former Australian prime minister John Howard signed the deal a year ago allowing sales of uranium to Moscow for civilian nuclear power use.

The pact, which broadens the scope of uranium sales from a 1990 agreement that remains in force, stipulates that the material not be used to make nuclear weapons or be sold to any other country.

But Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Monday that Australia would take into account Russia’s push into Georgian territory last month as well as Canberra’s ties with Moscow when deciding whether or not to ratify the deal.

“When considering ratification, the government will take into account not just the merits of the agreement but recent and ongoing events in Georgia and the state of Australia’s bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation,” Smith said.

Smith also ordered his ministry to convey the news to Blokhin, whom Smith had summoned last week to urge Moscow to pull its troops in Georgia back to the positions they held before the conflict began on August 8.

He also criticised Russia’s decision to recognise the independence of the Georgian rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as unhelpful.

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Western nations warn Russia to `change course’

Photo 1 of 3
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Dallas at Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008. The U.S. military ship on Wednesday docked at the Georgian port carrying humanitarian aid. The Dallas, had originally been slated to dock at the Black Sea port of Poti, which is still controlled by Russian forces. But instead it arrived in Batumi, a port well south of the zone of fighting in this month’s war between Russia and Georgia. ( AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
©2008 Google – Map data ©2008 Basarsoft, AND, Geocentre Consulting – Terms of Use

Western nations warn Russia to `change course’

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Western leaders warned Russia on Wednesday to “change course,” hoping to keep a conflict that already threatens a key nuclear pact and could even raise U.S. chicken prices from blossoming into a new Cold War.

Moscow said it was NATO expansion and Western support for Georgia that was causing the new East-West divisions, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lashed out at the United States for using military ships to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia.

Meanwhile, Georgia slashed its embassy staff in Moscow to protest Russia’s recognition of the two separatist enclaves that were the flashpoint for the five-day war between the two nations earlier this month.

The tensions have spread to the Black Sea, which Russia shares unhappily with three nations that belong to NATO and two others that desperately want to, Ukraine and Georgia. Some Ukrainians fear Moscow might set its sights on their nation next.

In moves evocative of Cold War cat-and-mouse games, a U.S. military ship carrying humanitarian aid docked at a southern Georgian port, and Russia sent a missile cruiser and two other ships to a port farther north in a show of force.

The maneuvering came a day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had said his nation was “not afraid of anything, including the prospect of a Cold War.” For the two superpowers of the first Cold War, the United States and Russia, repercussions from this new conflict could be widespread.

Russia’s agriculture minister said Moscow could cut poultry and pork import quotas by hundreds of thousands of tons, hitting American producers hard and thereby raising prices for American shoppers.

Russians sometimes refer to American poultry imports as “Bush’s legs,” a reference to the frozen chicken shipped to Russia amid economic troubles following the 1991 Soviet collapse, during George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

And a key civil nuclear agreement between Moscow and Washington appears likely to be shelved until next year at the earliest.

On the diplomatic front, the West’s denunciations of Russia grew louder.

Britain’s top diplomat equated Moscow’s offensive in Georgia with the Soviet tanks that invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring democratic reforms in 1968, and demanded Russia “change course.”

“The sight of Russian tanks in a neighboring country on the 40th anniversary of the crushing of the Prague Spring has shown that the temptations of power politics remain,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

Western leaders have accused Russia of using inappropriate force when it sent tanks and troops into Georgia earlier this month. The Russian move followed a Georgian crackdown on the pro-Russian South Ossetia.

Many of the Russian forces that drove deep into Georgia after fighting broke out Aug. 7 have pulled back, but hundreds are estimated to still be manning checkpoints that Russia calls “security zones” inside Georgia proper.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in a phone call to immediately fulfill the EU-brokered cease-fire by pulling all troops out of Georgia.

The Kremlin rejected Western criticism, and Tuesday even suggested the conflict could spread. It starkly warned another former Soviet republic, tiny Moldova, that aggression against a breakaway region there could provoke a military response.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Russia of trying to redraw the borders of Georgia. His foreign minister went further, suggesting Russia had engaged in “ethnic cleansing” in South Ossetia, one of the two Georgian rebel territories.

And the seven nations that along with Russia make up the G-8 issued a statement that underlined Russia’s growing estrangement from the West.

The seven — United States, Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Japan and Italy — said Russia’s decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent countries violated the Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Two weeks ago, officials had told The Associated Press that the G-7 were weighing whether to effectively disband what is known as the G-8 by throwing Moscow out.

Georgia’s prime minister put damage from the Russian war at about $1 billion but said it did not fundamentally undermine the Georgian economy. Georgia, which has a national budget of about $3 billion, hopes for substantial Western aid to recover.

The United Nations has estimated nearly 160,000 people had to flee their homes, but hundreds have returned to Georgian cities like Gori in the past week.

In the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, boxes of aid were sorted, stacked and loaded onto trucks Wednesday for some of the tens of thousands of people still displaced by the fighting. Some boxes were stamped “USAID — from the American People.”

In the Black Sea, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas, carrying 34 tons of humanitarian aid, docked in Batumi. The missile destroyer USS McFaul was there earlier this week delivering aid, and the U.S. planned to leave it in the Black Sea for now.

A spokesman for Putin, quoted by Interfax news agency, observed: “Military ships are hardly a common way to deliver such aid.”

The U.S. has used military ships to deliver humanitarian aid before, including in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami.

The U.S. Embassy in Georgia had earlier said the Dallas was headed to the port city of Poti but then retracted the statement. A Georgian official said the port in Poti could have been mined by Russian forces.

Poti’s port reportedly suffered heavy damage from the Russian military. In addition, Russian troops have established checkpoints on the northern approach to the city, and a U.S. ship docking there could have been seen as a direct challenge.

Meanwhile, the Russian missile cruiser Moskva and two smaller missile boats anchored at the port in Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia, some 180 miles north of Batumi. The Russian Navy says the ships will be involved in peacekeeping operations.

Russian Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn warned that NATO has already exhausted the number of forces it can have in the Black Sea, according to international agreements, and warned Western nations against sending more ships.

“Can NATO — which is not a state located in the Black Sea — continuously increase its group of forces and systems there? It turns out that it cannot,” Nogovitsyn was quoted as saying Wednesday by Interfax.