Archive for March, 2008
Seems that here in the last few weeks there are spy’s everywhere. Now Belarus has uncovered another spy ring. They must not be very good spy’s because they keep getting caught.
Reminds me of: Spy Vs Spy……
Belarus says uncovers U.S. spy network
Tue Mar 25, 2008 2:17pm EDT
MINSK (Reuters) – Belarus said on Tuesday it had uncovered a spy ring working for Washington, deepening a diplomatic and human rights row between the countries.
Hundreds of demonstrators from the ex-Soviet state’s liberal and nationalist opposition, meanwhile, staged an unauthorized rally in the centre of Minsk and clashed with police. Eyewitnesses said dozens were detained.
The U.S. ambassador this month left Belarus, whose president, Alexander Lukashenko, is accused by the West of violating basic rights. Authorities objecting to what they saw as new sanctions against Belarus had urged her to go.
The U.S. embassy has since stopped issuing visas and complied with a request to cut diplomatic staff in Minsk.
On Tuesday, Belarus’s intelligence service, still known by its Soviet-era initials KGB, said a spy ring of Belarussian citizens had been uncovered in the country of 10 million.
“The information about this group being exposed is completely true,” a KGB official said. “A group conducting espionage for the United States has been uncovered.”
KGB chairman Yuri Zhadobin later told Belarussian media that no arrests had been made in what he said was a “preventive” operation. New checks would determine if laws had been broken.
Tightly controlled state television reported at the weekend that a spying network of 10 Belarussian nationals had been exposed, but gave no details of concrete charges against them.
“We have no spies working on the territory of Belarus. These are people working for the diplomatic security service,” U.S. charge d’affaires Jonathan Moore told local media.
The report showed people described as embassy employees working as informers for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Some told an interviewer they were gathering information to prevent terrorism.
In the evening, several hundred opposition activists gathered in a Minsk square to mark the 90th anniversary of the creation of the Belarussian People’s Republic, crushed within months by Bolshevik forces.
No authorization had been granted for a city-center rally.
Riot police surrounded the anti-Lukashenko protesters and broke them up into smaller groups. Clashes broke out and dozens were seen being led away to a police bus.
The opposition, often hit by internal divisions, has rarely attracted large crowds during protests in recent months.
Both the United States and European Union have long accused Belarus of crushing freedom of press and assembly.
Both bar entry to Lukashenko on grounds he rigged his 2006 re-election. U.S. officials, more critical, have denounced Belarus as “the last dictatorship in Europe”.
Lukashenko, at odds with traditional ally Russia over energy prices, seeks better ties with the West, particularly the EU. Several detainees deemed political prisoners have been freed.
Washington last year prohibited dealings with national oil products firm Belneftekhim, but denies Belarussian allegations that it has since imposed new punitive measures.
The Foreign Ministry called for sanctions to be lifted.
“If the U.S. side truly regrets what has happened and truly wants new and different relations with our country, it must rescind sanctions against Belarus,” a ministry statement said.
U.S. ambassador Karen Stewart last week said Belarus could end the logjam by freeing Alexander Kozulin, who ran against Lukashenko in 2006 and was sentenced to 5-1/2 years for staging protests after his landslide re-election.
Lukashenko remains broadly popular and says social benefits have spared Belarussians the turmoil of other ex-Soviet states.
By Andrei Makhovsky
British Council rejects Russian spying allegation
25/03/2008 21:58 LONDON, March 25 (RIA Novosti) – The British Council rejected on Tuesday comments made by Russian president-elect Dmitry Medvedev suggesting that the organization is linked to British intelligence-gathering activities.
When asked by the Financial Times last Friday whether he believed the British Embassy’s cultural arm was involved in spying in Russia, Medvedev said: “The information that from time to time appears in the press and the reports that I get as one of the leaders of the country show that there is a problem with this.”
“This is not very surprising because these types of organizations are traditionally used for the collection of information,” said Medvedev, who will become Russia’s president on May 7.
A spokesman for the council told RIA Novosti: “The British Council does not cooperate with intelligence services of the U.K.”
Russia ordered the closure of the British Council’s offices in Russian regions in January following accusations of legal status irregularities and tax arrears, and amid growing tensions between Russia and the U.K.
Media attention was again focused on the organization last week, when reports emerged that two brothers with Russian-U.S. citizenship, one of whom has links with the British Council, had been arrested for industrial espionage.
The Federal Security Service arrested TNK-BP’s Ilya Zaslavsky along with his brother Alexander on March 12 for “illegally gathering secret commercial information for the benefit of several foreign oil and gas companies, in order to give them advantages over Russian competitors.”
Oil major BP recalls 148 employees from Russia
25/03/2008 20:30 MOSCOW, March 25 (RIA Novosti) – A total of 148 employees of Britain’s BP working in Russia for TNK-BP have been recalled from the country due to problems with registration, the Russian-British venture said on Tuesday.
“We confirm that 148 employees of BP have been recalled from TNK-BP. The reason for their recall is that the status of their stay in Russia has not been fully regulated in line with Russian migration laws,” a TNK-BP spokesperson said.
The statement follows reports by some Russian and foreign media on Tuesday that about 150 TNK-BP employees were facing problems in extending their work visas. The Federal Migration Service has not commented on the reports.
Sources close to the situation earlier said that some of the company’s staff had travelled to Russia on business visas, while they should have obtained work visas.
Police seized documents last week from the central office of TNK-BP, one of the largest crude producers in Russia. The Moscow office of British oil major BP was also raided by police.
Security officials said copies of official documents, papers on oil and gas production believed to contain commercial secrets, as well as ID cards belonging to foreign military organizations and to the CIA were found during the searches.
The Federal Security Service said that on March 12 officers had detained TNK-BP’s Ilya Zaslavsky, along with his brother Alexander, who has links with the British Council, for “illegally gathering secret commercial information for the benefit of several foreign oil and gas companies, in order to give them advantages over Russian competitors.”
The British Council, the U.K. Embassy’s cultural arm, said Ilya Zaslavsky was not on its staff but was a member of the embassy’s alumni club for foreign graduates of British universities. The British Council, whose regional offices in Russia were closed down earlier this year over alleged tax violations, subsequently voiced its concern over the arrests.
However, the Foreign Ministry denied there was a connection between the two matters. “There is no sense in looking for a connection between these two completely separate cases,” Andrei Krivtsov, a deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s information and press department, said on Friday.
Despite Russia’s denial that the two cases are unrelated, the arrests have the potential to further worsen Russian-British relations, already strained following the murder of Russian security service defector Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006 in London, and more recently by the closure of British Council offices.
Last But Not Least:
March 21, 2008, 12:19
American brothers accused of spying in Moscow
The Russian Security Service has charged two brothers, who are joint Russia-U.S. citizens, with commercial espionage. One of the Zaslavsky brothers works for TNK-BP, while the other is a member of a British Council’s alumni club. They have allegedly acquired classified information on Russian oil and gas companies for foreign firms.
The Federal Security Service of Russia, the FSB, detained the two men on March 12 and charged them on March 18.
The arrested men are brothers with the surname Zaslavsky. One of them heads a British Council’s Graduate’s Club project and his brother is the head of TNK BP Management’s English Department.
According to FSB spokesman Sergey Ignachenko, the Zaslavsky were “apprehended during an attempt to obtain commercial classified information from a citizen of Russia, an employee of one of the ‘closed’ Russian oil and gas companies”.
They are suspected of gathering classified information for foreign oil and gas companies.
“The persons have been collecting commercial classified information for a number of foreign oil and gas companies, in order for them to obtain advantages over their Russian competitors, for instance, on the CIS market,” Ignachenko said.
On March 19, the Russian security service conducted a search in TNK-BP’s offices, during which they have found material evidence confirming the industrial espionage.
Among the documents seized during the search, the FSB spokesman says, were “copies of Russian government documents, analytical reports relating to subsurface resources management, preliminarily rated as commercial classified information, as well as visit cards of representatives of foreign military agencies and the CIA”.
The Zaslavsky brothers have been released, but are not allowed to leave the country.
An investigation is underway.
Meanwhile, the British Embassy in Moscow says it is watching the situation closely, but refrained from commenting on the news.
The British Council is also monitoring the situation. They have pointed out that one of the Zaslavsky brothers is not an employee of the organisation, but a head of a project within it, the Alumni Association.
Aleksandr Shadrin, the spokesperson of the joint Russian-British oil company, TNK-BP, says the company is working closely with law enforcement agencies and the latest events have not interfered with its business.
“TNK-BP operates strictly in accordance with Russian law and we will not tolerate any action which could damage either the reputation of the Russian Federation or any of our business partners. We are opposed to unethical business relations or unlawful methods of competition. In this particular case we’ve co-operated fully with law-enforcement agencies,” he said.
He added that the company continues to operate in its normal manner and recent events haven’t affected its activities in any way.
Now, how many spy’s are not caught, that is the question????
Kyle & Svet
comments always welcome.
I was drinking my morning cup of delicious Russian coffee & thinking about Chechnya. I was thinking about doing an article on the troubled area. It has seemed to me that the conflict has mellowed out a lot down that way.
Just as I was getting ready to start the article I saw that Yuri Mamchur from “Russia Blog” decided to write the article first. So I am going to let you see his article and give him all the credit……
Is There Still Terrorism in Chechnya?
Many positive political and economic developments are taking place in Moscow. Russia Blog has noticed that many of them have been ignored since the elections of the new Russian president. The doom-and-gloom scenario predicted by the Washington think-tanks did not take place, and the scholars along with journalists ran out of negative steam relatively fast.
The reporting about the troubled Caucasian region has disappeared from the Western media coverage as well. Grozny and Chechnya are in much better shape today than they were three years ago, with nearly half a million refugees returned to their home and nearly 100,000 private businesses started. However, terrorism remains to be an issue, and random minor attacks take place on a weekly basis. For detailed reporting and analysis of the attacks happening in the region, please visit the website of the “Russia-Eurasia Daily Watch”.
Most of my Chechnya articles are in the “Windows To Russia: News!” blog.
Yuri is very correct about what he says in the article & I am glad he wrote it.
Kyle & Svet
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 17:46:23.Severstal reckons to achieve a synergetic effect worth $50m generated by the acquisition of Sparrows Point, the Russian steel maker said. The company’s management expects that the synergy between the companies will result from lower expenses and higher operating efficiency.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 17:21:03.LUKoil and Iraq have agreed to form a working group for the implementation of the Western Kurna-2 project, the Russian oil company’s press office reported today, referring to the talks held by its President Vagit Alekperov and Iraq’s authorities. Furthermore, LUKoil Overseas, the operator of the oil producer’s foreign projects, is to take part in tenders for new projects that will be announced by Iraq’s government following the introduction of a new oil law.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 16:50:59.The Federal Tax Service has transferred RUB 555.5bn (approx. USD 23.3bn) to Russia’s federal budget in January-February 2008, or 31.7 percent more than in the same period a year earlier, the tax authority said in a statement. The tax on the production of mineral resources and the value-added tax accounted for large portions (45 and 24 percent respectively) of the total revenue reported by the Federal Tax Service.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 16:33:37.Consultations between Russia and the US on Russia’s accession to the WTO will be held on March 26-27 in Washington D.C., the Russian Foreign Ministry reported to RBC today. The talks are a logical continuation of the recent negotiations held in the “two-plus-two” format in Moscow, the ministry reported. Russia will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 15:45:12.Russia’s revenue from oil and gas sales is expected to decline to 6 percent of GDP in 2011 if global oil prices stand at $75 per barrel, the country’s Deputy PM and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said during the Economy Ministry’s board meeting today. He noted, however, that the government did not intend to cut budget spending despite the anticipated slide in revenues. Kudrin reiterated that the transfer of oil and gas revenues to the federal budget was expected to decrease from 5.5 percent of GDP this year to 3.7 percent of GDP in 2011.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 15:38:25.A decision on the increase of gas production tax has been postponed until 2010, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told journalists today. He pointed out that the government had reviewed all presented materials on the matter and postponed the increase, due to Gazprom’s substantial investment program.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 14:56:27.During the placing of RBC Information Systems commercial papers, demand exceeded supply, resulting in oversubscription, Alexander Kuznetsov, Director for debt capital market operations at Alfa-Bank, has reported. Alfa-Bank is acting as the underwriter for the loan. The results of the placing will be announced this evening.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 14:13:07.Stabilization Fund resources placed by the Finance Ministry in foreign assets continue to bring profit, even amid the ongoing global crisis, Deputy PM and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said during an Economy Ministry board meeting today. He reiterated that the reserve funds had been placed conservatively, adding that he was pleased not to have charged to invest more boldly in corporate bonds, as these securities had now slumped 30 percent. According to Kudrin, although Russian money was placed in mortgage company securities that had been hit by the financial crisis, the market slump did not influence them, as these were bonds guaranteed by the US government, and the Russian Stabilization Fund increased in value as its earnings rose.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 12:59:55.The placement of commercial papers of RBC Information Systems has started on MICEX. This is the first issue of this type of securities on the Russian market. Alexander Kuznetsov, Director for debt capital market operations at Alfa-Bank, the underwriter of the issue, said that the bank expected the loan to yield 12 percent per annum. The first tranche which is to be placed today is worth RUB 1.5bn (approx. USD 62.92m) and has a maturity period of one year. The entire issue totaling RUB 12bn (approx. USD 503.36m) matures on the 364th day after the start of placement.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 11:55:34.Russia expects to sign a protocol in April on the completion of talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on its accession to the WTO, director of the Russian Economy Ministry’s trade negotiations department Maksim Medvedkov told journalists today. The talks with the UAE are nearing completion, and all the matters are expected to be settled this week, Medvedkov said.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 10:58:36.The Russian government is set to choose the founders of the St. Petersburg commodity exchange on Wednesday, Deputy Economy Minister Kirill Androsov told journalists today. The matter is to be discussed during a meeting held by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. The ministry has drafted a package of constitutuent documents, a business plan for the exchange, and ideas about potential founders, which include both state-owned and private companies, Androsov noted.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 10:06:57.Russia’s Economy Ministry has revised Urals oil price forecast upwards, from $74 per barrel to $86 per barrel in 2008, head of the ministry’s macroeconomic forecasting department Gennady Kuranov said. Oil price forecasts for 2008-2011 were hiked 10 percent on average, with the price expected to reach $75 per barrel in 2009 (up from $66), $72 in 2010 (up from $62), and $70 in 2011 (up from $60). However, the ministry is scrutinizing other possible scenarios as well. Some of them predict that the oil price range will be $96-100 per barrel in 2008-2011.
RBC, 25.03.2008, Moscow 09:45:54.Russia officially resumes air links with Georgia today. AirZena Georgian Airlines will make its first flight on Tuesday on the Moscow-Tbilisi route after a 1.5-year break. Aeroflot – Russian Airlines will begin direct service between Moscow and Tbilisi on March 27. Moscow severed air links with Georgia on October 3, 2006 arguing that Georgia owed some $3.6m for the operation of flights. However, simultaneously Russia banned all transport links, as well as postal service on account of detention of four Russian military officers in Georgia.
RBC, 24.03.2008, Moscow 18:58:52.According to preliminary data, sales of National Computer Corporation (NCC) grew 35 percent to nearly RUB 40.252bn (approx. USD 1.693bn) in 2007 compared to a year earlier, the company’s President Alexander Kalinin told a press conference today following the release of the financial performance of computer equipment producer Aquarius, an NCC subsidiary.
RBC, 24.03.2008, Moscow 17:47:04.Russia’s production of conventional weapons is expected to grow 30 percent by 2010 and by a factor of 2.2 by 2015, the Vesti TV channel cited First Deputy PM Sergei Ivanov as saying during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s traditional Monday meeting with the cabinet. Ivanov noted that the share of civil products manufactured at defense enterprises was expected to increase to 53 percent of their total production by 2010 and to 59 percent by 2015. He also said that a military-industrial commission meeting on the development strategy of companies producing conventional weapons would be held on March 26. In addition, the Federal Service for Defense Contracts’ first project for 2009 is to be discussed at the meeting, Ivanov said.
RBC, 24.03.2008, Moscow 17:18:59.According to the estimate of Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), real disposable cash incomes of Russians grew 11.2 percent in January-February 2008 compared to the same period a year earlier. Real cash incomes rose 10.6 percent in February 2008 against February 2007. Meanwhile, the average monthly accrued wages were estimated at RUB 15.214 (approx. USD 640), up 27.7 percent compared to a year earlier.
Moscow has been having some warm days, today has hit over 12.4 degrees C. That is about 54.2 degrees F. These are record temperatures for this time of the year. The previous record for March 25 was 12.2 degrees (53.9 F.) which was registered in 1973. The meteorological bureau said temperatures could climb even higher by the end of the day.
The trees are starting to bud out, and I expect to see flowers growing any time soon. Spring is here & I hope that Old Man Winter does not try to freeze the new growth.
I still think that he may be waiting around the corner……….
Kyle & Svet
comments always welcome.