Russia demanded Wednesday that NATO apologize for civilian casualties during the uprising in Libya last year and accused the Libyan government of supporting a training center for Syrian rebels, provoking a sharp response from the U.S. and Libya’s prime minister.
The sparring was another indication of how deeply divided the international community remains over the turmoil in the Middle East, particularly the bloody uprising in Syria.
Russia and China have accused NATO of overstepping its Security Council mandate to protect civilians in Libya during the uprising last year, and have strongly opposed any similar action in Syria.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his country has received information that “a special training center for Syrian revolutionaries” has been established in Libya with support from government authorities.
He did not elaborate but expressed concern about “the uncontrolled proliferation of Libyan arms in the region” and said training fighters to attack Syria’s government was undermining stability in the Middle East.
Churkin said he wanted to the raise the issues in the presence of Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib, who moments earlier had addressed the U.N. Security Council on the challenges Libya is facing after ending Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year dictatorship.
Responding to Churkin’s accusations, el-Keib said that a matter “which concerns the blood of Libyans should not be a matter of political propaganda by any country against other countries.”
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Russia has modernized two radars in Syria and Lebanon that could threaten U.S. or Israel’s ability to launch a surprise attack against Syria and Iran, Israeli DEBKAfile portal said on Monday.
The range of the Jabal Al Harrah electronic and surveillance station south of Damascus has been increased to cover all parts of Israel and Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba and northern Saudi Arabia.
The range of a Russian-equipped Syrian radar stationed on Lebanon’s Mount Sannine has also been extended, and the data-sharing capability of both radars has been improved.
As a result, the radars are now capable of tracking “U.S. and Israeli naval and aerial movements in the Eastern Mediterranean up to and including Cyprus and Greece.”
“Moscow decided to boost its radar tracking and surveillance reach for Iran’s benefit in response to a complaint from Tehran that it could not longer count on Russia for a real-time alert on an incoming U.S. or Israeli military strike, because those resources were stretched to the limit in support of the Assad regime,” DEBKAfile said citing its sources in the U.S. military.
The 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Tyva republic in Russia’s East Siberia on Sunday will trigger a new series of earthquakes in the region, a Russian scientist said.
“Judging from the data received from our stations, this is not the continuation of the Tyva earthquake that occurred in late 2011 with its epicenter at the Academician Obruchev Ridge but signals a new series of earthquakes,” said Viktor Seleznyov, director of the Geophysical Institute at the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The earthquake, the second powerful tremor in East Siberia in the past two months, had its epicenter located 107 km (66 miles) east of the city of Kyzyl near the border with Mongolia, at a depth of 15 km. The earthquake struck at 10:20 a.m. Moscow time (06:20 GMT) with a magnitude of 6 to 7 points in the epicenter.
The next earthquake was expected to strike closer to Lake Baikal. Normally, a fault that becomes active in one area causes a series of decreasing tremors by their magnitude, he said.
“In this case, it is most likely that some neighboring fault became active near the previous one. This means that Tyva will now be rattled by two series of earthquakes simultaneously,”
Private companies in Russia and Iran are discussing grain shipments to the Middle East country, said Alexander Korbut, vice president of Russia’s Grain Union.
“It is hard to predict the end of these talks,” Korbut said Monday. Iran can pay in rubles to bypass European Union and U.S. currency restrictions and may send exotic fruits to Russia as partial payment, he said.
“I don’t have doubts that Iran can find rubles, once it wants to do that,” Korbut said.
Delivering grain to Iran may take two to three months after the talks end, according to Korbut. The Caspian Sea, the easiest route for the shipments, will be free of ice by then, he said.
Arkady Zlochevsky, the union’s president, said Feb. 22 that Russia might deliver 1 million metric tons of grains to Iran, consisting mostly of wheat. Actual shipments may depend on the size of Iranian cereal stockpiles, Korbut said Monday.
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MOSCOW (AP) — An explosion apparently caused by natural gas has heavily damaged a nine-story apartment building in southern Russia, leaving two people dead and 12 injured.
Rescue workers were searching through the rubble, and officials said at least 11 residents of the building are unaccounted for.
The explosion occurred Monday in Astrakhan, a city 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) southeast of Moscow.
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
MOSCOW — Unidentified assassins tried on Wednesday to kill the president of Abkhazia, a Russian-backed rebel enclave of Georgia. The assailants used automatic rifles, grenade launchers and a powerful roadside bomb in an attack that raised fresh questions about Moscow’s ability to preserve order there.The president,
survived the attack without injury, but at least one bodyguard died and two more were seriously wounded. It was the sixth attempt on Mr. Ankvab’s life in less than a decade, a testament to the volatility of Abkhazia.
The attack was likely to provoke new anxiety in Moscow, which has been struggling to put a damper on recent political tremors in Abkhazia and another breakaway Georgian enclave, South Ossetia. After its war with Georgia in 2008, Russia defied international condemnation and recognized both regions as independent states.
Along with tactical dividends, the two regions have also brought Moscow some headaches.
Russian businesses that have tried to make inroads into Abkhazia’s potentially lucrative tourist economy have been stonewalled. And in recent presidential elections, voters in both enclaves have rejected the candidates that the Kremlin clearly favored.
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Russia has lost $4 billion due to the loss of arms contracts with Libya as a result of the UN’s arms shipments embargo. Anatoly Isaikin, the General Director of Russia’s defense export giant Rosoboronexport, said that Russia had concluded arms contracts worth $2 billion with the previous administration of Libya. “We could conclude more contracts for the same amount,” the official told Interfax.
According to Isaikin, Russia stopped executing all defense contracts with Libya following the UN embargo. Moscow plans to conduct negotiations on the subject with the new Libyan administration as soon as the embargo is lifted. The negotiations will solve the fate of the previously concluded contracts, as well as other contracts, that were prepared for signing. “We do not build illusions about it,” the official said.
In the meantime, foreign media say that Russia’s similar arms contracts with Syria may end up the same. This is exactly the reason why Moscow is unwilling to approve the resolution of the Arab League in New York, Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote.
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