Showing posts with label Crisis Russia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crisis Russia. Show all posts

December 21, 2016

Russians Dying from Drinking a Bath Lotion with High Alcohol Content

 A bottle of hawthorn bath essence, confiscated during an operation checking all private stores selling alcohol in Irkutsk, Russia (19 December 2016)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered stricter governmental measures to crack down on sales of surrogate alcohol, after dozens died from drinking a bath lotion.

This is a population in crisis. The alcohol consumption is gone back to the days of the USSR in which people were drinking anti freeze and going into Kidney shock.
They voted a President who became an Emperor and they have no power in politics to change anything, to get a job or a good apartment, never mind a house. Even a US defector by the name of Snowden is not happy there and hopping for a pardon which is not coming under Obama and doubtful to come under Trump.
The death toll in the Siberian city of Irkutsk has risen to 62, with more than 30 people seriously ill.
Mr Putin also wants new rules for compulsory labelling, plus tougher penalties for bootleggers. 
The deadly bath lotion contained methanol, which is highly poisonous.

Excise tax increase

Analysts say up to 12 million Russians drink cheap alternatives to regular, drinkable alcohol.
These are often labelled as cosmetics or medicines, and are regularly sold via vending machines. 
The presidential orders, published on the Kremlin website, call for tougher rules on all products containing more than 25% alcohol, and on the retailing of medicinal and veterinary products containing alcohol. 

A policeman in Irkutsk checking a private store is not selling alcohol hawthorn bath essenceImage copyrightEPA
Image captionPolice in Irkutsk check private stores to ensure they are not selling poisonous lotions

Mr Putin also approved increasing excise taxes on surrogate alcohols, which would make them less profitable.
The government has until July to create and submit the new legislation. 
The Siberian Times said the mass poisoning in Irkutsk was "now the worst such case in modern Russian history".
Twelve people have been arrested in an investigation that has seen 1,500 premises searched and thousands of bottles of spirits confiscated.
Investigators say the hawthorn-scented liquid carried warnings that it was not for drinking, but the label also said the product contained ethanol, rather than deadly methanol, which can also cause blindness.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered his cabinet to "sort out" the problem of selling such alcoholic products not intended for drinking.
Mr Medvedev called their widespread sale through vending machines "an absolute disgrace". 

A boxed package of hawthorn bath essence confiscated during an operation checking all private stores selling alcohol in Irkutsk (19 December 2016)Image copyrightEPA
Image captionThis boxed package of hawthorn bath essence was confiscated during an operation checking all private stores selling alcohol in Irkutsk

Health Minister Oleg Yaroshenko said that almost half of those still being treated are not expected to live and were in a very serious condition.
"They came to [the] doctors too late.... Only a miracle can save them," he was quoted by the Siberian Times as saying.
The paper said that a doctor and a kindergarten teacher were among the victims and that many of those who died were discovered in their homes because they did not have sufficient time to call an ambulance. 
Most of the victims are reported to be aged between 35 and 50.
One 33-year-old survivor said that he only drank a small amount of the lotion but still woke up blind the following morning.


April 25, 2016

Russia’s Insecurities Have Chilled US Relations and Opened the Door for Worse


On Monday in the heart of Moscow, for a fleeting instant, the bleak stand-off between the US and Russia will be put aside. That day is the 71st anniversary of the meeting on the Elbe River, and to mark the occasion a sculpture will be unveiled in the Old Arbat district, barely a kilometre from the Kremlin, depicting the historic link-up between Soviet and American troops on the bombed out bridge at Torgau on April 25 1945.

At that point, Nazi Germany was cut in two. Inside a week Hitler was dead and a few days later World War II in Europe officially ended. More to the point, the Elbe signified a rare moment when the two countries were allies, united in a common cause. But for all the symbolic importance that attends Monday’s event, and whatever dignitaries are present, it will be low key – and small wonder. No ceremony can banish reality.

We may not be exactly reliving the Cold War. Unlike the immediate post-war decades, no ideological conflict exists to underpin it. Communism has virtually vanished from the face of the earth, and Russia practices its own bastardised version of capitalism. But today’s climate of tension, mutual suspicion and mutual incomprehension feels scarcely less chilly.

America doesn’t get why the Russians believe that Ukraine is part of, and must remain within, their sphere of influence, why they felt justified in seizing Crimea, and provoking a low-grade conflict in largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine that holds the entire country in suspended animation. Ditto its behaviour a few years ago in Georgia, another former Soviet republic that sought to realign itself with the West.

Russia for its part remains perennially insecure, perennially unable to understand that what it sees as an entirely reasonable desire to protect its western borders is perceived by the West – and particularly by the countries, that share that border – as unprovoked and unnecessary aggression. It cannot quite grasp that the 28-nation Nato alliance of 2016 is not a re-incarnation of the Third Reich, secretly planning to use its forward positions in the old Soviet domains of eastern Europe as a springboard for overunning the motherland.

Other elements of the original Cold War are also resurfacing. Unwilling to take each other on directly, they do battle in proxy wars, most obviously in Syria. Russia is beefing up its armed forces, especially its attack submarines, where the US and Nato have long held an advantage. Ancient Cold War concerns are suddenly alive again, such as control of the maritime channels between Greenland, Iceland and Britain (GUIK in Nato terminology) through which Soviet submarines must pass to reach the open North Atlantic.

All the while, the “provocations” continue. For Russia, the very presence of Nato so close to its borders is a provocation, and not without reason. After all, during the Cold War proper the alliance was hundreds of miles away, with East Germany, Poland as well as the satellite Soviet Republics of Belarus and the Baltics states standing in-between. Today Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania belong to the alliance. Nato is on the very doorstep of Russia proper.

So Russia stages provocations of its own – most blatantly on April 13 when the US destroyer Donald Cook, while on a routine patrol in international waters in the Baltic, was buzzed by a Russian jet that flew within 30 feet of it. Washington’s response was to tut-tut about “gross unprofessionalism” on the part of the Russians, and how Moscow was “pushing the envelope.” But more concrete counter steps are on the way.

In testimony to the Senate last week, Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, the incoming Supreme Commander of Nato and of US forces in Europe, declared that President Putin was seeking not just to push Nato back, but to destroy it. Currently, the US rotates a couple of combat brigades in and out of Eastern Europe. Washington has already boosted its European military budget by $4bn. Now Scaparrotti wants a brigade, equivalent to 5,000 men, permanently stationed there, a tripwire to re-assure nervous allies and guarantee a US response to any direct Russian aggression.

As for incidents like the Donald Cook, Scaparrotti advocated giving the Russians a taste of their own medicine. In the meantime, Nato will show it means business when it holds military exercises in Poland this summer, involving 25,000 men, which will of course only fuel Russian paranoia. Anyone remember Nato’s Able Archer exercise of November 1983, a particularly fraught moment in the Cold War, when the Kremlin put its forces on maximum alert, fearing the exercise was camouflage for a full-scale attack on the Soviet Union, nuclear weapons and all?

Nuclear weapons of course remain the bottom line in any confrontation between Russia and the US, and the greatest reason to hope this Cold War 2.0 will not turn hot. More likely, say the wargamers, Moscow will continue the strategy it honed in Ukraine, needling and seeking to destabilise weak neighbours like the Baltics with “asymmetric warfare,” but stopping short of frontal attack. One mistake however – a provocation, a retaliation, a sailor killed or an aircraft shot down – and the brinkmanship could have incalculable consequences.

All of which is a very long way from the Elbe. That moment on April 25 1945 in reality is far less golden than it seemed then. Europe was about to be split into two ideological, economic and military blocs, and Washington and Moscow already realised that each would be the other’s main post-war enemy. The Soviet spies in the West were long since at work.

But somehow the candle of collaboration past still flickers. Every so often a so-called  ‘Elbe Group,’ made up of retired senior US and Russian generals, convenes in a third country to discuss problems in the relationship. The group has no official standing, but is a precious backchannel that allows participants to understand each other’s point of view.

It’s not a perfect arrangement, and probably won’t change the world any more than the unveiling of a commemorative sculpture in central Moscow. But right now, it’s the best we can hope for.

July 14, 2015

Economic Crisis in Russia: Putin slashes Police Force by 110,000 Officers


Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Monday downsized the nation’s police force by 10 per cent, or 110,000 officers, as the country struggles with an economic recession.
The decree on the retrenchment said the exercise would only affect officers in management positions `on the regional level and up, and not those working directly with civilians, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Though it did not specify a reason for the downsizing Russia’s economy is expected to contract by about 3 per cent this and the government has been having a hard time balancing the budget.
Mark Galeotti, a Russian security expert at New York University, said: “I very much think this is because of the economic situation.
“All the ‘power ministries’ are having to absorb cuts, even the FSB – which in the past was protected from any downsizing.
“So this represents just one more victim of the oil price slump,” Galeotti said.
The FSB is the Russian Federation’s principal security agency.
Galeotti also said reducing the police force’s management staff, not the officers on the streets, could improve efficiency in the ministry.
“While the Russian police at the ‘front line’ are actually quite thinly spread (by my calculations, the Russians have the same officer-to-population ratio as the Netherlands), the administration is pretty extensive, in classic Russian style.
“If handled properly, these cuts need not have any real impact on the law and order situation on the streets and could represent a useful step towards greater efficiency,” Galeotti said.
According to the decree, posted on the government’s legal information website, the Interior Ministry’s staff must be reduced to 1,003,172 people from last year’s 1,113,172.
The last major downsizing in the national force occurred from 2011 to 2012 when the number of officers was cut by about 15 per cent from 1.28 million, under the then president Dmitry Medvedev.
The force’s name at the time was rebranded from the Soviet-era “militia” to the more internationally recognizable “police,” including on all uniforms, vehicles and official documents. (dpa/NAN)

April 18, 2015

Putin (with a straight face) Tells Russians the Worse is Over


PutinPutin takes questions on Ukraine, Iran(1:30)
In an annual question-and-answer session, Russian President Vladi­mir Putin claimed there are no Russian troops in Ukraine and defended the renewal of a contract to deliver an S-300 missile defense system to Iran. (Reuters) 
The opening in the front teeth is taken by many shamans and  some superstitious people as someone whose truth escapes through the aperture, therefore the lies is the only thing left to say..

In a measure of Russia’s grinding economic difficulties, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday devoted the bulk of an annual call-in program to assuring his nation that life would soon improve after a year of confrontation with the West.
The highly choreographed show is a barometer of the message the Kremlin wants to deliver to the nation.

Last year’s edition had a triumphant tone as Putin exulted in the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. But the president this time took a far more conciliatory approach over nearly four hours on the air as he answered questions about rising prices, the falling ruble and Russia’s economic prospects.
Putin also defended Russia’s decision to greenlight plans to send an advanced air defense missile system to Iran, saying it does not contradict international sanctions against Tehran and poses no threat to Israel.
For Ukraine, he said he wanted to work with Ukrainian authorities to resolve the burning conflict and held back from calling for the independence of a region held by pro-Moscow separatists.
Overall, the image that Russians received from the marathon performance was of a leader confident in his control and promising better times as Russia works to boost its independence from global markets.
More than 3 million Russians were said to have sent inquiries to the call-in show, which was heavily promoted on Russia’s state-run television networks.
Putin told viewers that he expected sanctions against Russia to last for years. But the challenges will ultimately strengthen the country, he said.
“It’s highly unlikely that sanctions will be lifted anytime soon, because it’s a politicized issue,” Putin said. “They want to restrain our growth.”
But he said he was more optimistic about Russia’s financial future than he was in December, saying he expected the economy to return to growth within two years. The ruble has strengthened considerably in recent weeks. On Thursday, it was hovering close to 49 to the U.S. dollar, after briefly falling to 80 in December. 
Inflation also significantly slowed in March, Putin said, although it remains at an annualized rate of 11 percent.
Putin often uses the annual call-in forums to boost his image as a leader intimately involved in the lives of his citizens, bypassing layers of officials for those lucky enough to have their questions selected. On Thursday, he commented on wide range of subjects including the purchase of exercise machines in provincial health centers and a marital dispute about getting a new dog. (He told the man to get his wife the dog.)
Putin devoted the first hour of the call-in show almost exclusively to the economy, returning frequently to the topic during the course of the program — which totaled 3 hours 57 minutes without interruption.
In foreign affairs, he insisted the Kremlin’s clearance of the S-300 missile system shipment to Iran did not violate international sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.
Russia is among the world powers seeking a deal with Iran that would ease sanctions in exchange for a rollback of Tehran’s nuclear work and an expansion of international monitoring inside Iran.
It was not clear when the S-300 missiles would be shipped, but the decision this week brought swift criticism from Washington.
The S-300 agreement was reached in 2007, but Russia held back because of Western pressure. The surface-to-air missiles — similar to the U.S. Patriot system — are designed to destroy incoming aerial targets.
Putin said he wanted to reward Iran’s willingness to make a nuclear deal — and he also suggested that Russia needed the nearly $1 billion in revenue that will come from sending over the missile system to Iran.
Russia’s tensions with the West have been sharply escalated by the conflict in Ukraine between pro-Moscow separatists in the country’s east and the Western-backed government in Kiev. More than 6,000 people have died during a year of fighting, according to the United Nations.
Putin said that Russia did not seek to be any nation’s enemy, but he held out little hope of improved relations with the United States. “The United States doesn’t need allies; it needs vassals,” Putin said. “Russia cannot exist in this system of relationships.”
But Putin held back from stoking the hopes of rebels that they might receive open Russian support for independence, saying that he did not expect a war on Russia’s borders. He said that the ultimate outcome of the conflict would depend on the flexibility of Ukraine’s leaders, criticizing them for imposing an economic blockade on the rebellious regions of the country’s east.
He urged them to implement portions of a February cease-fire agreement in which they promised to restore pension payments and the free movement of goods to the east.
Back on domestic issues, Putin described the killing in February of top Kremlin critic Boris Nem­tsov as “tragic and shameful,” but he suggested that authorities still had not identified a mastermind.
Russian authorities have charged five suspects from semiautonomous Chechnya. All have denied involvement in Nemtsov’s death, and Putin’s opponents have claimed that the investigation has avoided touching the possible organizers of the killing. Nemtsov was gunned down on a bridge within sight of the Kremlin.
Despite Putin’s largely conciliatory tone, Russian authorities showed little sign of backing down from their hard line against the opposition, searching the Moscow offices of an organization backed by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky while Putin was speaking. The officers seized computers and materials from the offices of Open Russia, saying they were investigating “extremist activity,” employees said on Twitter.
Karoun Demirjian contributed 

October 25, 2014

Putin Botched U.S. Relations and thus Caused Global Chaos in Markets, Russia’s economy


MOSCOW -- The United States is destabilizing the global order by trying to impose its will on other nations, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Friday, warning that the world will face new wars if Washington fails to respect the interests of other countries.
In a speech to political experts in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin pointed to wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria as examples of botched U.S. policies that have led to chaos.
With visible emotion, he said Washington and its allies have been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in those countries.
"They are throwing their might to remove the risks they have created themselves, and they are paying an increasing price," Putin said.
Turning to Ukraine, Putin accused the West of ignoring Russia's legitimate interests in its neighbor and supporting the ouster of Ukraine's former Russian-leaning president. He accused the West of breaking its promises, citing a February phone conversation with President Barack Obama just hours before protesters in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, drove President Viktor Yanukovych out of office.
The crisis in Ukraine has brought relations between Russia and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War. The U.S. and the 28-nation European Union have imposed several rounds of crippling sanctions against Moscow over its annexation of Crimea in March and its support for pro-Russian insurgents fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine.
Putin denied allegations that Russia wants to split Ukraine. He spoke in support of a cease-fire for eastern Ukraine that was signed last month and warned the Ukrainian government against trying to crush the pro-Russian rebellion by force.
"If, God forbid, anyone falls into the temptation to use force to settle the problem in the southeast, it will drive the situation into complete deadlock," Putin said, adding that the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces should create conditions for rebuilding ties between the central authorities and the rebel regions.
Putin has accused the U.S. of trying to cast Russia as a danger to the rest of the world and forcing its allies to impose sanctions against Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis. Saying the sanctions aimed to push Russia into isolation, he insisted they will not succeed.
"Such a country as Russia will certainly not bend under pressure," he said.
The sanctions have cut the access of Russian banks and several leading state companies to foreign capital markets, encouraging investors to flee the Russian market and contributing to a sharp plunge in the national currency, the ruble.
The Russian leader warned that the U.S. approach to global affairs has made the world a more dangerous place.
"The probability of a series of acute conflicts with indirect and even direct involvement of major powers has sharply increased," he said. "Ukraine is an example of such conflicts that influence a global balance of forces, and, I think, not the last one."
Putin also insisted the interests of Russia and other nations need to be taken into account to stabilize the global situation.
"Russia is not demanding some special, exclusive place in the world," he said. "While respecting interests of others, we simply want our interests to be taken into account too, and our position to be respected."
Evoking the archetypal image of Russian bear, Putin rejected allegations that Russia wants to rebuild the Soviet empire, but warned his nation would firmly stand its ground to defend its vital interests.
"The bear is the master of the taiga, it's not going to move to other climate zones," he said. "But it's not going to give up its taiga to anyone."
Eight-three percent of Russians approve Putin's job performance, according to apoll released in July by Gallup.

July 26, 2014

West Ready to Isolate Russia but France Signs Appeasement Agreement

Having for months dismissed Western sanctions on Russia as toothless, business leaders here are now afraid that the downing of the Malaysian jetliner will bring about an international isolation that will cause serious and lasting economic damage.
Throughout the Ukrainian crisis, U.S. and European sanctions had mainly targeted a handful of individuals, sparing economic ties. Then last week the U.S. imposed penalties on some of Russia's largest corporations. And when the airliner was shot down just a day later in Ukraine, allegedly by separatists with Moscow's support, concern grew in Russia that the sanctions would only get worse as President Vladimir Putin shows little sign of cooperation.
Reinforcing those concerns, the European Union said Friday it is planning newer, tougher penalties on businesses.
"Over the past few months, there was a sense that Mr. Putin acted decisively, forcefully, and correctly, and that everybody else in the world would accommodate themselves to that reality and we'd get back to something like business as usual," said Bernard Sucher, a Moscow-based entrepreneur and board member of Aton, an independent investment bank. "Now we're talking about real fear."

- The European Union threatened Russia on Tuesday with harsher sanctions over Ukraine that could inflict wider damage on its economy following the downing of a Malaysian airliner, but it delayed action for a few days.

Efforts to forge a united front were hampered by a French announcement that the planned delivery of a warship to Moscow would go ahead despite U.S. and British pleas to halt it.
At a meeting in Brussels, EU foreign ministers for the first time raised the possibility of restricting Russian access to European capital markets, defence and energy technology, asking the executive European Commission to draft proposals this week.
Such sanctions would require the approval of all EU governments and would apply only if Moscow does not cooperate with an international investigation into the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists, and if it fails to stop weapons flowing into the country.
"I am happy that we have taken a decision which is I think quite forceful and that we have reached this decision unanimously," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told reporters after the meeting.
Timmermans opened the meeting after a minute's silence was held in memory of the 298 people - 193 of them Dutch - who died when flight MH17 crashed last Thursday en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
The ministers agreed to widen the list of individuals and entities targeted by asset freezes and visa bans, and opened up the possibility of imposing sanctions on people who give financial support to Russian decision-makers.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said London wanted the measures to target friends and allies of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin to pressure Russia to stop meddling in Ukraine.
"The word is 'cronies': the cronies of Mr Putin and his clique in the Kremlin are the people who have to bear the pressure," he said. "If the financial interests of the group around the leadership are affected, the leadership will know about it."
Tuesday's meeting took place as the United States piled pressure on Europe, which is wary of antagonising a vital energy supplier, to move fast against Russia.
The president of the former Soviet republic of Lithuania, now an EU member, accused France of pursuing a policy akin to the 1930s appeasement of Nazi Germany over its decision to go ahead with the delivery of a helicopter carrier to Moscow.
EU envoys will discuss the wider target list for existing sanctions on Thursday.
Some diplomats said EU leaders may hold a special summit to take a final decision on wider economic measures. One said a meeting was "highly likely" next week.
The next scheduled summit is due on Aug. 30 but Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said the decision could also be taken by ministers or by an exchange of letters.
Several ministers called for an arms embargo on Russia to try to stem a flow of weapons that is fuelling the conflict, including surface-to-air missiles suspected of bringing down the airliner. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said any such ban would only apply to future contracts.
Washington says the plane was brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired from territory in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists. Moscow denies involvement but EU ministers said they would consider branding the rebel groups as "terrorist organisations", subjecting them to sanctions.
Differences between Paris and London burst into the open on Monday when President Francois Hollande said delivery of a first French helicopter carrier built for Russia would go ahead, hours after Prime Minister David Cameron had said such a delivery would be "unthinkable" in Britain.
Hollande said the handover of a second Mistral-class warship under a 1.2 billion euro ($1.6 billion) contract signed in 2011 by his predecessor would depend on Russia's attitude.
Hollande won support among both his own Socialists and the conservative opposition UMP for standing up to outside pressure. Socialist Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said Cameron should "start by cleaning up his own backyard", referring to the presence of Russian oligarchs close to Putin in London.
Cameron's spokesman said Britain was ready to consider sanctions that would affect its own interests, notably in financial services. When asked about the comment that it was time to target "cronies and oligarchs" around Putin, the spokesman said he had seen little evidence that London-based Russian tycoons were involved in supporting the Ukraine rebels.
Sikorski said the possible financial sanctions against Russia could include barring Moscow's access to debt refinancing in the European public and private sectors. "Theoretically (this) can be decided already on Thursday," he told reporters.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, an outspoken critic of Putin, compared the French attitude with the appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
"If European states keep on acting so indecisively, this is a direct invitation for the aggressor to be more aggressive and go further," she told LRT public radio. "In 1930s Nazism wasn’t stopped, and now aggressive Russian chauvinism isn’t stopped and that resulted in the attack against a civilian plane."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin urged Europe to move faster. "We need not just tough talking, but we also need bold action by the European Union," he told reporters in Brussels. "I believe that in these circumstance arms and weapon supplies to Russia is also against the EU code of conduct."
In a step apparently designed to embarrass Russia, Britain's interior ministry announced a decision to hold a public inquiry into the death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died of radioactive polonium poisoning in London in 2006.
Litvinenko blamed Putin on his deathbed for ordering his killing. Moscow denied any involvement. Britain had rejected a request for an inquest last year when relations with Russia were warmer.($1 = 0.7417 Euros)
By Justyna Pawlak and Adrian Croft 

In  BRUSSELS: Reuters also AP 

(Additional reporting by Martin Santa, Tom Koerkenmeier, Jan Strupczewski and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels, Andrius Syrtas in Vilnius and Andrew Osborn in London; editing by Paul Taylor, Janet McBride and David Stamp)

June 24, 2014

Russia on Edge of Recession with New Thread from the West on Sanctions of Technology


 Russia’s economy runs on oil and gas, but with Russia’s economy on the edge of recession, a new threat has emerged: possible sanctions against energy technology sales from the West.  
The World Petroleum Congress was supposed to bring together Russia, the world’s largest energy producer, and the United States, the world’s largest producer of cutting-edge energy technology.
But oil expert Pat Szymczak says the United States was practically a no-show.
 “There are very few American companies here," Szymczak said. "Of the 3,000 delegates, I noticed only 250 that really appeared to be coming from the United States.”
Clouding the party were sanctions against Russia for its role in fueling the separatist war in southeastern Ukraine.
After targeting powerful Russians with sanctions, European Union leaders are to meet Thursday in Brussels to discuss escalating sanctions to companies or to sectors such as energy technology.  It is unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin’s qualified support for Ukraine’s new cease-fire will blunt the momentum for sanctions.
Last week, with Russian troops massing again at Ukraine’s border, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned in Berlin that Russia has what he called "a fundamental choice to make.”
"If Russia is unwilling to reverse the course, the United States and the international community are prepared to impose additional cost," Lew said.
In Moscow, Western energy executives with big Russia investments tried to project a business as usual image.  Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, and Bob Dudley, CEO of BP spoke on panels at the meeting.
But in the halls, there was unease.

“I heard a lot of questions about sanctions from our customers," said Vitaly Cho, who works in Russia for Baker Hughes, the Houston-based international oilfield service company. "They are worried. Baker Hughes is a technology provider. We have high-tech, and our customers need these technologies to develop their fields.”

Russia needs American and European drilling and platform technology to unlock, what Bloomberg reports, is an estimated $8 trillion worth of oil.

Wilhelm Sicking, a German marketer for PennWell, the Oklahoma group of energy publications, believes business will come back.
 “The Western companies need to sell their technology to the Russians, and the Russians need the technology," Sicking said. "This will not last long.”

Szymczak says uncertainty over sanctions is causing many American companies to cut investments in Russia.
 “It is shooting ourselves in the foot ... because, if we do not sell to the Russians, somebody else will sell to the Russians,” he said.
Coming days will tell if Russia’s support for the cease-fire is enough for Western powers to put sanctions on the shelf.

James Brooke

April 15, 2014

Russia’s Anti-Gay Law: One Result *Fueling an AIDS Crisis*


By Hayato Watanabe

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia ignited a conflict-ridden and violent discussion about the status of LGBT rights in the country. News of hate crimes and protest crackdowns sparked a firestorm of outrage amonginternational and local gay rights activists, who are calling for greater scrutiny of the Putin administration. But the consequences of the LGBT struggle in Russia extend even beyond the violence seen on TV.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia is spiraling out of control, and LGBT communities are some of the most seriously affected. From 2002 to 2012, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Russia has increased an astounding 41%, with the numbers of those infected towering over 1.3 million. The Putin administration is ignoring the needs of this community, and is worsening the epidemic by promoting laws that stigmatize homosexuality. Greater international  attention must be brought to the relationship between Russia’s homophobic politics and public health. The Russian government must be pushed towards more equitable policies on both LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues.

Recently, global infection statistics have declined in historically hard-hit areas such as India and South Africa. Sadly, this trend has not made it to Russia – the infection rate there has increased 7% just this year.  These new HIV cases are a direct result of Russia’s policies. They refuse adequate HIV/AIDS services, stop information about safe sex, and shun the LGBT community into fearing violence, or even death.

Russia has passed legislation that bans the “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relations to minors. In reality, any sign of sexual nonconformity, at any age to any audience, is met with brutal repression. Gay rights activists have widely condemned the law since its passage in June 2013, but Russian officials have shown no intention of backing down from their hardline stance on gay rights.

If Russian lawmakers cannot look to their own consciences on the issue of LGBT discrimination, maybe they will listen to statistics, or to the cries of the international when the devastating consequences of this law are fully realized.
Health activists are concerned that ratcheting up anti-LGBT rhetoric, in addition to fanning the flames of anti-LGBT hysteria, will impede the dissemination of accurate AIDS awareness information. This will affect the ability of health professionals to reach individuals who have been affected by HIV/AIDS or who might be at risk.

Russia’s law reinforces the narrative that LGBT people are not deserving of respect and equality. By further engendering a culture of shame, the law may cause individuals seeking testing and treatment to conceal their homosexuality, or to falsely attribute their status to other methods of transmission (such as injection drug use), in order to avoid the stigma of being gay.
Misreporting or underreporting created by an environment of fear and shame constrains the ability of health professionals to properly study and address the HIV/AIDS crisis. Additionally, the conflation of HIV stigma and gay stigma may even stop heterosexual people from seeking testing. These policies obscure how many diverse communities grapple with this epidemic, and will have disastrous consequences down the line. Along with country's failure to address drug addiction that also spreads HIV/AIDS, Russia's stance on the LGBT community is repressive and backward.

Unfortunately, the outlook appears bleak. The ongoing conflict in Crimea has destabalized relations between Russia and the international community, diminishing hope that Russian lawmakers can be lobbied to repeal the anti-gay propaganda law or allocate more funds to battle the HIV/AIDS crisis.

While the world is obsessed with debating whether Russia’s takeover of Crimea constitutes an act of war, Russia is waging another war – one against its own LGBT people. The Russian government is advancing a health agenda that neglects the needs of one of its most vulnerable communities and treats them like second-class citizens.
Russia needs to repair its approach to public health and its fractured relationship with its LGBT citizens. The country could start by repealing the anti-gay propaganda law. Ending stigma and inspiring openness will not only increase testing, it will also encourage greater awareness of HIV/AIDS related issues.

The Russian government must also ensure there are ample resources available to educate the public and help those grappling with HIV/AIDS. For example, the government could sponsor initiatives that provide access to accurate sex education. Accurate knowledge is the first critical step towards ending this global epidemic. The government should also subsidize medications such aspost-exposure prophylaxis, which can actually prevent transmission in high-risk situations. Finally, ensuring that HIV positive people have access to medication is critical, because maintain low viral loads can affect how easily the virus is spread.

Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda law is shameful – and it’s also an example of shockingly bad policy. The government’s intransigence on the issue of LGBT rights challenges the “it gets better” idealism trumpeted by the larger international gay rights movement. Rather, things seem to be moving backwards in Russia, impeding the country’s ability to stop an epidemic. As some LGBT Russians might say, “it gets better everywhere but here.”
Hayato Watanabe is a graduate student at the NYU Department of Politics. He specializes in human rights and critical race theory.
[Photos courtesy of Welt.deBloomberg Marketspadresteve andNomadNewYork]

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