Russia: Conspiracy Nation

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April 30, 2012: Over the last few months Russia has continued to supply military equipment and fuel to Syria. Russia did not agree to the sanctions against Syria, so these shipments are legal. Still, the shipments were done quietly and often covertly. Iran has also been providing similar support, as well as security advisors, cash, and even more weapons.  The Russian take on Syria is that the government is being undermined by Islamic terrorists and Western intelligence agencies. Actually, most Russians believe this. Paranoia is still a popular indoor activity in Russia. Politicians play on this, coming up with acceptable excuses for Russian problems by blaming it on foreign conspiracies.

British police and intelligence officials continue to compile proof that senior officials of the Russian government are responsible for death squads operating in the West, in order to kill defecting Russian officials and businessmen with intimate knowledge of corruption in Russia. Several victims who survived these assassination attempts in Britain (a favorite refuge for exiles) have provided British police with details of how government tolerated (or sponsored) corruption works in Russia.

For the last decade the government has, officially, been trying to eliminate corruption but has only managed to force the practitioners to become less violent and more discreet. The corruption is crippling the economy and limiting economic growth and foreign investment. Opinion polls show corruption as the biggest problem for most Russians, followed by ineffective government. Popular protests against corruption, especially within the government, is dismissed by government officials as the product of angry people who don't know what they want. But the protestors do know what they want; they want the current bunch of politicians, elected via rigged elections, out of office.

Cyber crime in Russia is increasing as several major criminal gangs have organized the previously independent operators. Income from Internet based crime has at least doubled in the past year, to over $2 billion.

Last year Russia became the number three purchaser of military equipment, behind the United States and China. In doing that Russia moved ahead of Britain and France.

April 29, 2012: Fifteen years after Russia signed an agreement to destroy its chemical weapons, it has safely eliminated 62 percent of its 40,000 tons of these weapons and believes that the job will be complete in three years. The most difficult chore was building the facilities to safely destroy the weapons.

April 28, 2012: In Ingushetia a roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded another.

Chinese officials came to Russia to discuss how the two nations would deal with Syria and North Korea. Both nations agreed they would continue to support the Assad dictatorship in Syria and try to persuade the Kim dictatorship of North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program.

April 27, 2012:  At the Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad the Indian Navy took possession of another Talwar class frigate. Last year the Russian shipyard revealed that it would be late delivering three Talwar class frigates (ordered six years ago, for $1.6 billion) and wanted another $100 million (from the government, which handles arms exports) to complete construction. The first Talwars were ordered in 1997, and were upgrades of the Soviet era Krivak III frigates. The first of these arrived in India a decade ago and the Indians were pleased with their performance. The new batch was to be stealthier and have a lot of new features. But there have been a lot of problems.

Western media described Colonel General Alexander Zelin as being fired from his post as commander of the Russian Air Force. But Zelin was 59 and the mandatory retirement age is 60. Zelin already had a new job waiting for him, as an advisor to the Ministry of Defense.

April 25, 2012: The government announced that, despite continuing problems with the first one, six more of the new Graney (Yasen) class SSGN (nuclear powered cruise missile sub) will be built over the next nine years. Such pronouncements are not always accurate, especially when it comes to something as expensive and long-term as ship building. Meanwhile, the first Graney has been delayed yet again. Undisclosed problems have postponed it from entering service for at least a year. That will mean, if the latest delay is the last one, the first Graney will enter service twenty years after construction began. These problems are not restricted to the Graney, as other new sub designs are also encountering numerous construction and design problems.

April 23, 2012: Incidents in Chechnya and Dagestan left two policemen and five Islamic terrorists dead.

April 22, 2012: China and Russia began their first joint military exercises, off the Chinese coast. The six days of drills and practice involves dozens of warships and aircraft.

April 19, 2012: In Dagestan three men, later identified as Islamic terrorists, were killed after they opened fire at police at a checkpoint. Ammunition and other weapons were found in their car.

April 16, 2012: In Dagestan a suicide bomber killed himself but only wounded his target, an FSB commander (whose wife was also wounded).

 

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