In the Caucasus there has been growing hostility between Sunni and Shia Moslems. Last month two men attacked a Shia mosque in Dagestan with bombs and gunfire, wounding eight worshipers. The Moslems attackers were local Sunni Islamic terrorists, who consider Shia heretics (a death penalty crime according to Sunni Islamic radicals). Al Qaeda and similar groups go out of their way to attack Shia, who are hated more than non-Moslems. When Islamic terrorist groups first established themselves in the Caucasus two decades ago, attacks on local Shia were avoided. There were calls for unity among the many Islamic sects in the Caucasus (including Sufis, who are also being attacked now). About ten percent of Russians are Moslems but many do not actively practice the religion. About five percent of Russian Moslems are Shia, whole nearly 90 percent are various types of Sunni. But now the Islamic terrorist leadership appears to have lost control of more fanatic factions and there is a civil war within the Moslem community. This is a common occurrence with Islamic terror movements and is one of many reasons that Islamic terrorism rarely succeeds in taking control of countries.
The government went out of its way to stress that there was nothing wrong with the Russian Space Program, despite a growing list of failures. Russia has been having more difficulties with its space program because of losing many skilled people from research and manufacturing organizations in the 1990s. The government does not want to dwell on this angle, which has led to a growing number of problems with defense industries and the reliability and performance of new weapons.
September 19, 2012: The government has ordered the United States to withdraw USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) programs from Russia. Many USAID programs (which have been in Russia for two decades) deal with making local government and democracy work. The current Russian government sees this sort of thing as subversive. Earlier this year new laws were enacted that declared foreigners working for NGOs (Non-Government Organizations, like the Red Cross and pro-democracy groups) as "foreign agents" who must register with the government and be subject to constant supervision. The FSB (the Russian FBI/CIA) has long accused Western nations of working with pro-democracy Russian NGOs to spy on Russia. Western states deny it. The government has been campaigning against NGOs and foreign influences in general over the last six years. Now many NGOs are not being allowed to register and are being ordered out.
September 18, 2012: The delivery (to India) of the refurbished Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov has been delayed six months or more. This means India won't get the carrier for about a year. The problem with the engines was discovered during the last few months of sea trials off the north coast (Barents Sea) of Russia. This is a major disappointment for India. Two months ago the carrier (renamed the INS Vikramaditya) experienced its first landing, by a MiG-29. The sea trials had already been delayed over a month by bad weather. India paid over $2 billion to refurbish the former Russian Gorshkov. Some of the Indian crew has been working with the Vikramaditya for over a year, learning about all the ship's systems, and now most of the other 1,250 members of the crew are present. India was supposed to take possession of the INS Vikramaditya by late 2012, but that was delayed until early 2013, and is now delayed until late 2013. This project is now five years behind schedule and $1.5 billion over the original budget. It is a major cause of ill-will between Russia and India.
September 16, 2012: A large (over 20,000 people) anti-government demonstration was held in Moscow. The protest was mainly against Vladimir Putin and his successful efforts to turn Russia back into a police state. The government pointed out that the number of protesters was less than a similar rally last year. Nationwide opinion polls show most Russians backing Putin. But in major cities and among the better educated, Putin has a lot more opponents.
September 15, 2012: In the Caucasus (Dagestan) police and Islamic terrorists clashed, leaving one policeman and five terrorists dead.
September 14, 2012: An army unit on a counter-terror mission in Dagestan mistakenly fired several mortar shells at a boarding school. It was early in the morning and everyone at the school was asleep and no one was hurt. There was some damage to school buildings. An investigation is under way but it appears that the crew of one 120mm mortar was simply aimed in the wrong direction.
September 13, 2012: The Russian Navy announced a plan to replace its aging Cold War era support ships. By the end of the decade the fleet is to receive 96 new supply, maintenance, and repair ships. Such ships are necessary for the Russian navy to operate beyond its coastal waters. Without such ships it is difficult to move ships between the four fleets (in the Arctic waters near Archangel, in the Baltic, the Black Sea, and on the Pacific Coast).
September 7, 2012: Another MiG-29 crashed (by flying into a mountain) during a test flight. The pilot, who was killed, had survived an earlier failure and crash of a MiG-29. The air force grounded all 254 of their MiG-29s until they could find out what caused the most recent crash. These groundings have occurred at least once a year for the last few years. The company that produces the MiG family of aircraft has lost much business to the firm that produces the Su-27/30 aircraft (Sukhoi). The MiG-29 groundings have been caused by onboard failures, equipment failures, and, in one spectacular case, the tail falling off.
September 5, 2012: In the Caucasus (Ingushetia) Islamic terrorists ambushed Interior Ministry troops and killed four of them.