(Will Rose / Associated Press / August 24, 2013) Also By Sergei L. Loiko September 20, 2013, 9:48 a.m. MOSCOW Russian commandos armed with assault rifles and handguns seized a Greenpeace ship and detained 30 activists who were protesting oil drilling in the Arctic, Greenpeace and Russian officials said Friday. Activists aboard the the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker ship told Greenpeace officials that about 15 troops rappelled down ropes from a combat helicopter in a surprise raid Thursday night in international waters, said Maria Favorskaya, a spokeswoman for the environmental group. At gunpoint, they rounded up all the people on board and also broke the door of the radio room, where some activists tried to barricade themselves in, Favorskaya said. A statement published on the Russian Federal Security Service website said the Greenpeace ship was maneuvering around the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, in the Russian economic zone in the Barents Sea, and ignored signals and warning fire from a coast guard ship. The troops that boarded the ship shortly before 6.30 p.m. Thursday did not fire weapons and no one was injured during the operation, the statement said. After the captain refused to sign the inventory [of equipment on the ship] prepared by border inspectors, a decision was taken to tow the boat to the Russian port of Murmansk for further action, the statement said. Favorskaya said the activists planned to hang a banner on the platform belonging to Gazprom Neft Shelf, a subsidiary of the Russian state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom. But she said Russian coast guard detained two activists Wednesday as they tried to climb up the side of the platform and seized the ship the following evening. Although the episode happened in the exclusive economic zone of Russia, these are not Russian waters, and Russian border troops had no right to get on board a foreign ship, let alone threaten the crew with arms and arrest them, Favorskaya said. Our activists were peacefully protesting against drilling for oil in the Arctic and thus endangering and polluting the region, and the armed attack against them and the illegal arrest of the boat and the crew is a totally outrageous thing. Those taken into custody are from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand the Ukraine and United States, the group said. Greenpeace issued a statement Friday morning saying it had been over 12 hours since the organization had had any contact with the ship, which appeared to be heading west towards Russian territorial waters. Greenpeace International has not received any formal confirmation of possible charges, and the activists have been denied access to legal or consular assistance, the statement said.
The top executives of both countries state train operators inaugurated a route today that links the North Korean port city of Rajin with the Russian border town of Khasan. Initially, the 54-kilometer (33-mile) line will transport Russian coal to markets in the Asia-Pacific region, OAO Russian Railways Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Yakunin said at the ceremony in Rajin. The second phase of the project will involve the construction of a container-handling facility and potentially an oil terminal at the North Korean site, he said. Our common objective is for this link and port to be a pilot scheme for the restoration of a single transport system in North and South Korea that would link the peninsula to countries that gravitate to this region, to Europe via Russia, Yakunin said. The CEO said he hopes the plan will help promote peace between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war following the conflict 1950-53 that divided the countries. The route is part of a larger project, dubbed the Iron Silk Road, that would connect Russia s Trans-Siberian Railway to South Korea via the North for an overland route cutting transportation costs to Europe. Success depends on improved ties between South Korea and its isolated Communist neighbor. Reunions Scrapped North Korea canceled plans today for reunions this week of families separated by the division of the peninsula, and accused South Korean leaders of throwing obstacles in the way of reconciliation. The North also put off talks on resuming tours by South Koreans to its Mount Geumgang resort after recent weeks of improved relations between the two sides. Kim Jong Uns regime accused the South of seeking confrontation, and threatened strong and decisive retaliation against any military provocation. The Khasan-Rajin rail link will carry 100,000 freight containers a year, the Norths official Korean Central News Agency reported in April 2012. The freight terminal at Rajin will be able to handle 4 million tons a year of coal, Yakunin said today, including shipments for OAO Mechel , Russias biggest supplier of the material for steelmakers. The new rail connection will promote the joint economic and transport development of the two countries and welfare of their peoples, North Korean Railways Minister Chon Kil-su said.
Russia Says U.S. Using Syria Chemical Weapons Deal To Seek U.N. Resolution Threatening Force Against Assad Government
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, shake hands after making statements following meetings regarding Syria, at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday Sept. 14, 2013. (AP Photo / Larry Downing) | AP Get World Newsletters: Bashar Assad , Russia , Syria , Bashar Al-Assad , Sergei Lavrov , Chemical Weapons , Reuters , Syria Chemical Weapons , World News MOSCOW, Sept 22 (Reuters) – Russia on Sunday criticised what it said were Western attempts to use a Syrian chemical arms disarmament deal to seek a U.N. resolution threatening force against President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Syria has handed over information about its chemical arsenal to a U.N.-backed weapons watchdog, meeting the first deadline of the ambitious U.S.-Russia deal that averted the threat of Western air strikes. The U.N. Security Council is due to give its endorsement of the deal, but Moscow and Washington are divided over how to ensure compliance with the accord. U.S. President Barack Obama has warned that he is still prepared to attack Syria, even without a U.N. mandate, if Assad reneges on the deal. “They see in the U.S.-Russian deal not a chance to save the planet from significant quantities of chemical weapons in Syria, but as a chance to do what Russia and China will not allow, namely to push through a resolution involving (the threat of) force against the regime and shielding the opposition,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state television posted on his ministry’s website. Lavrov also said Russia, which has used its veto to block Western efforts to use the U.N. Security Council’s clout to pressure Assad’s government, was ready to send troops to Syria to ensure the safety of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors. “An international presence is needed on the perimeters of the areas where the experts will work,” he said.