Russian News Online

Russian News Online

Long time readers (I’ve been away a while – are there any left?) might remember that I have a great interest in Russia. So, to help me keep up with everything that’s happening in Moscow and its surrounds, I’ve built a new Russian News website.

Russian News Online is a simple site that aggregates Russian News headlines from major English language news sources like RIA Novosti, the Moscow Times, Interfax, etc. At the moment, it aggregates the content of over 30 news outlets, and plan to add more in the near future.

It also has a page dedicated to Russian Blogs. Currently there are over 75 Russia Blogs listed, and I’m adding more all the time, as I come across them.

The site is very straightforward to use – it provides the reader with a list of headlines, all of which link to the exact story over at the news site. It’s still in development, so please do head over, check it out, and let me know what you think.

Canada catches Russian spy, then does something really stupid

The Canadians have caught a Russian spy.

Canadian intelligence services say a man arrested trying to leave the country last week is a Russian spy with forged identity papers. 

The man, who used the false name Paul William Hampel, will appear in court in Montreal on Wednesday with authorities calling for his deportation.

So, let me get this straight.  They’ve caught a spy trying to leave the country, arrested him, put him on trial, and are calling for the court to… throw him out of the country.

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Russia to enter GPS market?

Glonass satelliteRIA Novosti reports that Russia plans to lift restrictions on the use of GLONASS, its Global Positioning System satellites in 2007

Sergei Ivanov said: “By January 1, 2007, the General Staff will lift all restrictions on the precision of coordinates, so that the system can be used to develop the economy and transportation system.”

Current restrictions limit the accuracy for civilian users of Glonass to 30 meters.

A new entrant into the GPS market, competing with the US and EU systems can only be good for the consumer.  It looks like the unrestricted version will only be able to Russians initially – coverage of Russia is 100%, whereas coverage in the rest of Europe and the US isn’t quite at the level required for commercial use. 

This is partly because the full complement of satellites hasn’t yet been launched, and partly because the satellites that are already up there have been focussed on Chechnya to aid operations there.  The Russian military has plans to fill in the gaps in their network as soon as possible, though, with three new satellites planned for December. 

Russia ratchets up the tension in Georgia

Despite Georgia’s decision to hand over four Russian’s suspected of espionage, Russia isn’t in any mood to let up the pressure on its southern neighbour

Russia’s migration service said on Thursday that the suspension of visas to Georgians would be extended, and that 180-day visas held by Georgians already in Russia would be cut to 90 days.

Russian parliamentarians are also expected to examine a bill this week that would prevent Georgians living in Russia from making bank transfers to relatives back home.

Estimates vary but it is believed that at least one million Georgians currently live in Russia. Many Georgian families depend on the remittances they send home.

I’m sure enterprising ‘businessmen’ will adapt very quickly to these new money transfer rules, by simply sending the money via a third country, but nonetheless, this represents a significant escalation of tensions. 

Georgia, in my opinion, handled the whole spying affair badly, but it’s time for Russia to take a step back, and consider the long term impact of its actions as well.  The Russian government must learn to be as gracious in victory as it is ungracious in defeat. 

Earlier this week, Georgia looked rather foolish, having done little more than embarras itself.  Today, it looks like a victim of Russian bullying again.     

Georgia – Russia tensions escalate

Georgia has arrested four Russian officers, accusing them of spying and planning a “major provocation”.

Mr Merabishvili [Georgia’s Interior Minister] said the detained Russians and Georgian citizens had been collecting information on Tbilisi’s relations with Nato, as well on its sea port and railway infrastructure, opposition parties and army.

“Today we neutralised a very serious and dangerous group,” he said.

Russia’s chief of army staff Yuri Baluyevsky, quoted by Russian news agencies, said the move was “sheer lawlessness”.

I must confess, the situation in Georgia is beginning to worry me.  Both sides seem to be ratcheting up the tension, with no real thought of the long term consequences. 

I think events to date have been little more than posturing – and I certainly can’t believe that either side wants to push the other too far.  But, all the same, I’m beginning to get the feeling that, sooner or later, someone’s going to miscalculate, and spark of a conflict that neither side really wants. 

Update 28/9: Georgia have upped the stakes by surrounding the Russian Army HQ in Tbilisi, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the building.  They’re demanding the surrender of a Russian intelligence officer – Lieutenant Colonel Konstantin Pugachin.

Putin not amused at being called “Russia’s phallic symbol”

Yet another Russian journalist has been put on trial.  This time, for satirising the President’s policy to raise the Russian birth-rate:

Vladimir Rakhmankov, the editor of the online publication “Kursiv,” went on trial on September 21 for running an article with the headline “Putin as Russia’s phallic symbol.”

Rakhmankov faces up to a year of jail time (also known as ‘corrective labour’) or a fine.

(Hat tip: La Russophobe).

Tunneling to freedom and back

Clearly their budget was too tight for them to afford both a map and a shoehorn:

Two Egyptian citizens have managed to violate the Russian state border by digging a tunnel under the barbed wire fence with a simple shoehorn. After getting lost on the territory of Poland the Egyptians performed the trick for the second time and got back to Russia to face arrest.

The Interfax news agency quoted the Russian Prosecutor General’s report as saying that the two men were aiming to get to Western Europe via Russia. They obtained a tourist visa and flew to Moscow from where they hitchhiked to the Polish border.

This post brought to you by the Mosnews Appreciation Society.

Liberal Democrats in Russia and England

Grigory Yavlinsky, the head of the Russian Democratic Party (also known as Yabloko), addressed the Lib Dems conference today.

The Guardian Newsblog used the speech as an opportunitiy to have a dig at the Lib Dems, and their electability:

Simon Hughes, the Lib Dems’ president, prefaced Mr Yavlinsky’s speech by claiming that the undemocratic political system in Russia was not “enlightened enough” to embrace liberalism.

But a point of principle was in tow, namely the role of parties destined to stay in opposition rather than having much chance of forming a government.

The Russian liberals stand even less chance of that than their UK counterparts in the near future.

But at least the Lib Dems are taking the time to reach out to other similar parties across the globe, in both democratic and non-democratic countries.  They have an active and committed International Department (Full disclosure – I was once interview for and subsequently not offered a job there.  Swines.), which works to promote both liberalism and democracy across the globe.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair goes around expressing his disapproval of Vladimir Putin by giving him bear-hugs.

The local news from faraway

If Ian Dale were to compile a list of the best British ex-pat blogs, Tim Newman would surely be sitting comfortably at the top of the pile.

Today, Tim brings us a roundup of the local news from the Russian Far East:

If I once thought the regional news on S4C or BBC Wales was parochial, I now stand corrected as to what that word actually means.

[…] we had the story of a small lorry which got stuck when crossing a makeshift bridge over a ditch, the ditch in question being about a metre wide and six inches deep.  An interview with the driver was of particular benefit to the viewers.

Post-Soviet telly at its finest. 

Russian efficiency

Young Timothy, and his new bride have been travelling across Russia, en-route to their new home in the snowy wastes of Siberia. 

He was particularly impressed with the efficiency of Russian air travellers:

The aircraft itself was a Boeing, and filled up with people faster than I can recall any flight doing so before.  Russians seem to have the unique ability to get on a plane, stick their stuff in the overhead locker, and sit down in their seat without fannying around for ten minutes in the aisle like they do in the Middle East and Europe.

Less so with their fashion sense.