Russian military stops issuing soldiers with cigarettes, offers candy instead
Real changes in culture? Or more cosmetic façades?
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Dmitry Bulgakov has announced that the Defense Ministry will no longer purchase cigarettes for soldiers, Russian website Gazeta.ru reports.
“There are no cigarettes in our new military allowance. We have replaced cigarettes for the army with caramel candies and sugar. However, we can’t prohibit smoking completely. If a soldier wants to smoke, he will have to buy cigarettes with his own money at a store during his period of leave,” Bulgakov said.
Bulgakov also announced that all Russian officers will change their footwear by 2013.
“We have developed special office shoes for officers. They are lightweight shoes made of high-quality leather, which let soldier’s feet breathe. Women’s boots will be substituted too. Now we will distribute refined shoes for our beautiful military women. And, of course, the unpleasant naval jacket with a high collar will be replaced by a convenient sweater.” Bulgakov said.
Russia employs Arctic brigade to defend oil and gas reserves
The move follows a muscular series of comments from the deputy head of Russia’s Border Service Colonel-General Vycheslav Dorokhin who said the Kremlin planned to build up its forces in the region to better patrol its Arctic territorial waters.
The troops will be based in the far northern town of Pechenga on Russia’s Kola Peninsula close to the Norwegian and Finnish borders and will be combat-ready later this year.
Russian military planners said they had studied the way Arctic troops in Norway and Finland operated and had ordered in the necessary winterised clothing and arms for the new brigade which could number up to 8,000 troops.
In particular, he said Russia wanted to step up patrols of the strategically important North East shipping passage.
“Our potential there will be built up. We won’t let anyone feel themselves free (to move about as they please) in the Arctic.”
Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway are all locked in a race to grab a slice of the northern wilderness after US researchers predicted that global warming might leave the area ice-free, and therefore more easily navigable and explored, as early as 2030.
Experts say the region potentially contains one fifth of the world’s oil and gas reserves and that the swath of Arctic territory claimed specifically by Russia could be home to oil supplies double the size of Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves.
(Via The Telegraph; by the interesting journalist Andrew Osborn)
Sacked ambassador stokes Russian tension over Libya
Russia’s former ambassador to Libya has stoked new tension between President Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, after calling the Kremlin’s acquiescence to air strikes targeting Libya a “betrayal of Russia’s interests”.
Chamov, who was sacked as ambassador to Tripoli by Medvedev earlier this month, told reporters that Moscow’s failure to oppose the bombing raids would lose Russian companies huge sums of money in arms and other contracts.
Russia abstained last week during the UN security council vote which approved military intervention in Libya.
Chamov, who was reportedly greeted at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport by Russian nationalists bearing bunches of flowers, declined to comment on Medvedev personally.
Analysts said Putin’s comments reflected his desire to please patriotic voters, while Medvedev had acted shrewdly to preserve respect in the west while bolstering Russian interests.
Medvedev and Putin have both said they will agree together who contests the Russian presidency next March. Some observers think any disagreements between the two are cosmetic.
(Via The Guardian)
Lavrov Opposes Arming Libyan Rebels
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West on Wednesday against arming rebels battling Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and said Libyans must forge their political future without any outside interference.
With Western leaders saying they were not ruling out arming the rebels, Lavrov emphasized Russia’s opposition.
Russia, a veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council member, backed sanctions against Gadhafi’s government and abstained in the vote on the resolution authorizing military action to enforce no-fly zones, allowing it to pass.
Turning to the future, Lavrov said “the Libyan sides must agree on what the Libyan state should be.”
(Via The Moscow Times)
Russian bombers ‘intercepted in British airspace’
March 25, 2010 (last year)
Rare photos of Russian strategic bomber jets purportedly intercepted in British airspace show Moscow’s war machine is becoming increasingly bold, analysts said Thursday as Russia denied any territorial violations.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence released images it said were taken earlier this month of two Russian Tu-160 bombers — known as Blackjacks by NATO forces — as they entered UK airspace near the Outer Hebrides islands off Scotland’s northwest coast.
It said the March 10 incident, which resulted in crystal clear images of the planes against clear blue skies and a dramatic sunset, was one of many intercepts carried out by British Royal Air Force crews in just over 12 months.
“This is not an unusual incident, and many people may be surprised to know that our crews have successfully scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft on more than 20 occasions since the start of 2009,” Wing Cdr. Mark Gorringe, of the RAF’s 111 Squadron, said in a statement.