#Sochi : “Putin Meets Yanukovich on sidelines of the `Olympic Games’ contents of talk were not revealed”

#AceWorldNews says the presidents of Russia and Ukraine had a private meeting in Sochi on the sidelines of the Olympic Games, a spokesman for Putin said.

The contents of the talk were not revealed, but if the two leaders chose to discuss politics rather than sports, the political turmoil in Ukraine, and Russian aid to its western neighbour, are likely to be on the table.

#olympic-games, #putin, #russias, #russian, #sochi, #ukraines, #yanukovich

#Sochi : “Every Picture Tells a Story and these Belie the Real Truth Behind the Games”

#AceNewsServices says `2014 Sochi Winter Olympics opening: Spectacular. Breathtaking (PHOTOS)’

Published time: February 07, 2014 18:27
Edited time: February 07, 2014 20:19
RIA Novosti / Vitaly BelousovRIA Novosti / Vitaly Belousov
The XXII Winter Olympic Games are on after opening officially in a sparkling, star-studded show in Sochi. For the next 16 days the world’s top athletes will be going for it, competing hard with every sinew and fiber.

This is the first time Russia has hosted the Winter Olympics and the breathtaking opening ceremony did full justice to the importance of the event.

The show opened with a video, introducing foreign guests to the Russian alphabet and scenes of culture and history matched with letters, one of each stood for a particular person, notion or invention, portraying famous moments throughout the country’s history.

Over 40,000 spectators from all over the world watched the opening extravaganza, and the introduction of the athletes in the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, signaling the start of the full sporting program of the Winter Olympics.

The parade of nations, featuring more than 3,000 athletes from a record number of 88 countries, delighted the crowd, and this time it was more dynamic than ever.

The highlight of the parade was a special floor where an image of the earth was magically projected. The stunt included a really smooth touch: An image of the globe from outer space rotated every time a new country was announced, pinpointing the location of that country.

To give over 40,000 spectators a better view of their country’s greeting, the athletes appeared from the heart of their sovereign territory and then walked into the stadium, just like the ancient heroes of Greece.

All countries were introduced in alphabetical order according to their Russian spelling. Traditionally, Greece – the birthplace of Olympic competition – was the first to enter the stadium.

As host country, Russia took the stage last, marching to the upbeat dance song “Not going to get us” by Russian pop band t.A.T.u, a girl band that was extremely popular in the mid-2000s and the country’s most successful pop export to the West.

TEAM RUSSIA!#Sochi2014#OpeningCenterpic.twitter.com/0O4sop7w3l

— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 7, 2014

The two-and-a-half hour show took us on a riveting 18-part rollercoaster ride through Russian history, from the times of Peter the Great to the modern era, focusing on major cultural events. It portrayed the path Russia took to become the country it is now.

The actors on stage reenacted episodes from Russia’s most beloved folk tales as the colorful dream of little girl named Lyuba continues.

Ever heard about “khorovod”? It’s a traditional Russian round dance#OpeningCeremony#Sochi2014pic.twitter.com/OZlBM0pLTv

— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 7, 2014

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach took the stage to call on the athletes to compete in a spirit of fair rivalry. He then handed the microphone to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who declared the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games open.

Piano virtuoso, Denis Matsuev, and opera soprano, Anna Netrebko, gave a rousing performance of the Olympic anthem.

Of course, lighting the Olympic cauldron for the Games is one of the most crucial moments of the ceremony.

Ice skating legend, Irina Rodnina and Soviet legend Vladislav Tretiak, now Russian Hockey Federation president, have carried the Olympic torch to light the cauldron, after the flame’s unprecedented journey all across Russia and beyond, to the North Pole, the cosmos, and Europe’s highest mountain peak.

STUNNING: Olympic champions Irina Rodnina & Vladislav Tretiak light the Olympic Flame http://t.co/C24gKVowiP#Sochipic.twitter.com/qct4gkh0sk

— RT (@RT_com) February 7, 2014

The cauldron and festivities will continue throughout the Games and the Olympic flag will remain raised at the top of the hill.

The ceremony’s fiery finish featured over 3,500 fireworks. Surely an Olympian feat in itself! The average weight of the firecrackers was around 22.5 tons, while the heaviest weighed in at 4.8 tons!

Athletes will compete in over 15 disciplines in seven sports. 12 new events have been shoe-horned into the crowded Olympic schedule, including the figure skating team event, slope-style and half-pipe skiing (both men’s and women’s).

Over the next 16 days a record number of Olympic medals will be presented – a total of 98 sets, that is 12 more than in Vancouver 2010. Each gold medal weights 531g, while silvers are 525g and the bronzes are 460g.

Ten Sochi Olympics winners will get an out-of-this-world touch when they receive their gold medals on February 15. Each medal will be embedded with tiny fragments of last year’s Chelyabinsk meteorite.

A picture taken on February 7, 2014 shows horse shaped light displays during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli )A picture taken on February 7, 2014 shows horse shaped light displays during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli )
Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)
Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)
Performers take part during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014.(Reuters / Issei Kato)Performers take part during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014.(Reuters / Issei Kato)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) stands to declare the 2014 Winter Olympics open during the opening ceremony on February 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.(AFP Photo / David Goldman)Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) stands to declare the 2014 Winter Olympics open during the opening ceremony on February 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.(AFP Photo / David Goldman)
The Olympic flag is brought on stage during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)The Olympic flag is brought on stage during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)
Russian gymnast and Olympian medalist Alina Kabaeva hold up the Olympic torch during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)Russian gymnast and Olympian medalist Alina Kabaeva hold up the Olympic torch during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)
Lit figures are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. (Reuters / Jim Young)Lit figures are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. (Reuters / Jim Young)
Fireworks explode behind the Olympic flame cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Odd Andersen) Fireworks explode behind the Olympic flame cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)
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#acenewsservices, #fisht-olympic-stadium, #irina-rodnina, #olympic, #olympic-flame, #sochi, #vladimir-putin, #vladislav-tretiak

“Viktor Yanukovych Arrives in Sochi and Waits to Meet Vladimir Putin”

#AceWorldNews says Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych arrived Thursday in Sochi Has it learned from well-informed in the Russian resort where open Friday Winter Olympics source. The source declined to say when Yanukovych could meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Such talks “can now hold at any moment,” Does it added. The meeting of two men occurs in the context of the long crisis in Ukraine for more than two months after the turnaround of Kiev who gave up a rapprochement with the European Union to turn to Russia.

#2014-winter-olympics, #european-union, #kiev, #sochi, #ukraine, #ukrainian-president-viktor-yanukovich, #vladimir-putin

#Sochi : “Georgia will not meet Putin during Sochi Olympics”

#AceWorldNews says Georgia’s president, Georgy Margvelashvili, will not be travelling to the Sochi Olympic Games according to a statement released on Thursday. “The Georgian official delegation will not attend the Olympic Games in Sochi,” Vano Machavariani, Margvelashvili’s foreign policy adviser, told Reuters. “Georgia will be represented in Sochi by our sportsmen and representatives of the Georgian Olympic Committee,” he said.

The Kremlin previously said that Margvelashvili could meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin there in what would have been their first meeting since the five-day war in 2008, when Mikhail Saakashvili was president. Margvelashvili was elected late last year.

#georgia, #olympic-games, #president, #putin, #russian, #russian-president-vladimir-putin, #sochi

#Sochi : ” UN Condemns Attacks on LGBT Community ahead of Olympics”

#AceWorldNews says UN chief condemns attacks on the LGBT community ahead of Olympics
The UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, has used a speech ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi to condemn attacks on the LGBT community, the Guardian reported.

Addressing the IOC, the UN secretary-general highlighted the fact that the theme of the UN’s human rights day last December was “sport comes out against homophobia.” Speaking to reporters after his address, Ban said he appreciated the assurances of President Vladimir Putin that “there will be no discrimination and that people with different sexual orientation are welcome to compete and enjoy this Olympic Games.”

#humanrights, #ban-ki-moon, #guardian, #ioc, #lgbt, #olympics, #president-vladimir-putin, #sochi, #un, #winter-olympic-games

#Sochi : “Russia admits it cannot `Guarantee the Safety of People’ at the Games”

#AceWorldNews says Russia can guarantee Sochi Olympics safety – deputy PM
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said Thursday that the Russian government can guarantee safety at the Winter Olympics.

He stressed that the level of danger in Sochi is no greater than in many other cities and is “like in Boston, in London,” RIA Novosti reported.

The Russian security services are working with colleagues from Europe and North America, Kozak told reporters in Sochi on the eve of the Games’ start. Russia can guarantee the safety of people during any mass event “as well as any other government,” he said.

#boston, #europe, #north-america, #ria-novosti, #russian-government, #security, #sochi, #winter-olympic-games

#Sochi : ” Russia Calls on `Participants of Armed Conflicts’ to Declare `Olympic Truce ‘ for Games”

#AceWorldNews says Russia calls on participants in all armed conflicts to declare ‘Olympic truce’
Russia, as organizer and host of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, has called on participants in all in armed conflicts “to proclaim an Olympic truce” for this period, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, as cited by Interfax. “

Our message is primarily addressed to the sides in Syria’s bloody conflict, which is exerting a serious destabilizing impact both on the situation in that country and the region as a whole,” the ministry said.

#interfax, #russian-foreign-ministry, #sochi, #syrias, #winter-olympic-games

#Sochi : Warnings have been Issued about `How Toothpaste Tubes ‘ could be used to hide Explosives”

#AceWorldNews says Days ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the US Department of Homeland Security has warned airlines with direct flights to Russia that explosives hidden in toothpaste tubes could be smuggled on board.

An anonymous law enforcement official told AP the explosives could be assembled in flight or upon arrival in Russia.

The department said in a statement that it “is not aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time,” and that the department “regularly shares information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics.”
Delta Airlines is the only US carrier with direct flights to Moscow from the US; Russian airlines Aeroflot and Transaero also have non-stop flights from the US.

#aeroflot, #ap, #explosives, #russian, #sochi, #transaero, #us-department-of-homeland-security, #winter-olympic-games

#Sochi : ` Multi-Faith Prayers Centres Have Opened in Three Olympic Villages ‘

#AceNewsServices says MOSCOW, February 06, /ITAR-TASS/. Multi-faith prayer centers have opened in three Olympic villages in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi that will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on February 7-23, clerics who inspected them told Itar-Tass Wednesday.

Sochi-2014-Olympic-games-wallpaperVolunteers and clergy from Russia’s traditional faiths – Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism – Orthodox Christian priests, Catholic and Protestant clergy, imams, rabbis and lamas – will be on duty round the clock at the centres in the Coastal, Mountain and Endurance Olympic villages.

“The prayer centres contain separate rooms for Orthodox Christians, Western Rite Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. This is the Sochi Olympics’ advantage over many others, which had only one prayer room for all religions and denominations,” a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church told Itar-Tass.

The Moscow Patriarchate also said Orthodox priests had already consecrated their prayer rooms and then visited the headquarters of the Russian Olympic national team, where they worshipped an icon of St. George the Victory-Bearer that has accompanied Russian Olympic teams since 2004.

Roman Catholic Church clerics told Itar-Tass how their prayer rooms would be organized. Priests furnished the rooms themselves, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow said.

“There are altars in two of them, crosses, icons of Our Lady of Czestochowa and portraits of Pope Francis hang on walls. The third room in the Mountain Village that will be used jointly with Orthodox Christians also has icons and all necessary items to celebrate Mass, even folding chairs unusual for Orthodox liturgical rooms,” the archdiocese said.

Catholic clerics will arrive from different countries, including together with delegations of foreign athletes.

One of the key concerns for Russia’s Federation of Jewish Communities was to organize kosher nutrition for the upcoming Olympics. “It was hard to provide it, as Sochi had no kosher restaurants until now,” Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said. Now it is possible to order the food in canteens in the Olympic village, and there is special cuisine and a kosher food store in Sochi.

The Council of Muftis told Itar-Tass that their prayer rooms “contain, like it is said in the instructions, separate rooms for prayers by men and women.” Imams working in multi-faith centres will represent the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Adygea and the Krasnodar Territory in south Russia. An international halal certification center has checked special food.

The Olympic Committee’s demand is that each faith’s prayer room should have at least two clerics. Volunteers – cultural and religion studies students – will answer questions from visitors, distribute brochures on the history of various religions and show films.

Organizers do not think regular mass divine services would be held in the multi-faith centres. For example, Orthodox priests do not plan to hold liturgy or administer other sacraments in prayer rooms other than the one in the Coastal Village. But each guest will be able to pray or talk to a priest as well as take part in common prayers there.

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#acenewsservices, #2014-winter-olympics, #information-telegraph-agency-of-russia, #itar-tass, #moscow, #olympic, #olympic-games, #orthodox, #sochi

#Russia : ” Olympic Buses `Heading to Sochi’ Stuck in Heavy Snowfalls”

#AceNewsServices says `Heavy Snowfalls Paralyze Russia’s Southwest

Автомобильные "пробки" в МосквеA state of emergency has been declared in Rostov-on-Don in southwestern Russia, as trucks couldn’t deliver provision to the city because of heavy snow. 

Also, a total of 158 Olympic buses heading to Sochi are now stuck in traffic jams due to heavy snowfalls in southwestern Krasnodar Region situated near the Black Sea. Buses with 700 people onboard are now stuck in the city of Krasnodar.

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#acenewsservices, #krasnodar, #krasnodar-krai, #olympic-games, #rostov, #rostov-on-don, #snow, #sochi, #traffic-congestion

Russia Sochi: "Putin Assures Group of International Journalist's that Athlete's, Spectator's and LGBT are Welcome in Russia"

#AceWorldNews says according to latest RT News President Vladimir Putin has reassured a group of international journalists that athletes and spectators would have no problems at the Sochi Olympics in a discussion dominated by questions on Russia’s “gay propaganda” law and security.

While visiting Sochi ahead of the Winter Games, the Russian president shared his vision of the coming Olympics with journalists from America’s ABC News, Britain’s BBC, China’s CCTV, and the IOC’s own Around the Rings agency, as well as with Russia’s Channel One and Rossiya-1 TV channels.

“None of the guests of the Sochi Olympics will have any problems,” Putin said.

Despite Putin saying that the Olympics were meant to “depoliticize the most pressing international issues,” the majority of questions he had to answer dealt with politics, with much of the interview time being devoted to dispelling fears that LGBT visitors to Sochi would face any discrimination.

Putin reiterated that LGBT community representatives were absolutely welcome in Russia.

Full Interview from the Kremlin: http://kremlin.ru/news/20080

#bbc, #cctv, #ioc, #lgbt, #olympics, #president-vladimir-putin, #rossiya-1-tv, #rt-news, #sochi, #winter-games

Russia:” Sochi Olympic City Causes Local Villages to Have Landslide Problem’s”

#AceNewsServices says according this article on Reuters that the first warning of the problems that eventually swept away Irina Vorochkova’s house near Russia’s Olympic city of Sochi came when the garden began shifting, then the ground slid away downhill towards a river. 

“Look’s Really Good Does it Not: I call this the Before and After” 

Sochi-2014-Olympic-games-wallpaperAs builders worked feverishly to get the Black Sea resort ready for winter games so closely tied to President Vladimir Putin‘s legacy, they failed to notice the effects their work was having on the village below.

Until the walls of Vorochkova’s two-storey home fell. Tell-tale cracks snaked through neighboring houses.

The 58-year-old housewife now lives in an aluminum shack and is fighting a legal battle for compensation over damage she blames on Olympic subcontractors. Other villages near Sochi offer similar complaints of ruined homes, illegal landfills and broken promises that their lives would not be poisoned by construction.

“It started slowly with little things, like the poles for the clothesline were not in the same place, the borders of the garden had moved. Then the front of my house fell off,” she said.

Putin is expected to spend more than $50 billion to show off Russia’s modern face at the Games in Sochi, a Black Sea resort on the edge of the Caucasus Mountains. Moscow promised to set “new environmental standards” in Olympic construction.

Complaints about construction, along with international concerns about gay rights and security, threaten Putin’s efforts to improve Russia’s image through the games.

“A Great Area and Ideal Place for the Venue”

Sochi MapThe Sochi 2014 organizing committee says construction has minimized harmful carbon emissions, and companies carrying out construction say they are sticking to their promises to meet international standards in protecting the environment.

“The air and water in Sochi have become cleaner than in December 2007,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said this month, praising the modernization of local transport and environmental protection work.

But some ecologists say the damage is only the beginning and that construction may have put the region in the path of potential ecological disasters, including poisoned drinking water and flooding.

“Then this is the Real Cost of Putins Perfect Game’s” 

Dust Cloud 2DUST CLOUD:

In the village of Akhshtyr, a few kilometers up the road from Chereshnya, the wells used by villagers for centuries have dried up since Russian Railways started digging a quarry in the adjacent foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.

The quarries mined by Russian Railways, a huge state company run by Putin’s long-time ally and friend Vladimir Yakunin, have provided rock used in the construction of Olympic venues.

Dust CloudTrucks rumble past every few minutes, carrying stones to the construction sites below.

One villager, Alexander Koropov, said that when construction started, local authorities gathered villagers to explain that they would soon be linked into a natural gas grid and a regional water system, delivering modern utilities.

“We thought they would bring us civilization, development, but instead we are now living worse than the Indians did on American reservations 200 years ago,” said Koropov, standing in the orchard where he used to grow persimmons to sell.

The trucks constantly haul off the rock. Villagers say the trucks bring in trash from other construction sites, dumping it in the gorge within walking distance.

A dust cloud covers the village.

Russian Railways says it paid a fine for the illegal dumping and has since stopped the practice, though residents say trucks continue to haul trash into the landfill.

Since the wells dried up, the company has delivered almost daily barrels of water to Akhshtyr residents.

“I don’t even care that they didn’t keep their promises. It’s the fact that they’ve made this place unlivable now,” said Koropov.

Olympic WasteOLYMPIC WASTE:

While the trash itself poses no direct danger, rainwater flowing into the ground and into the nearby Mzymta River, which is used by Sochi residents for drinking water, is at risk of being contaminated by the waste, say local environmentalists.

“When the substances accumulate (in the water supply), it can have a toxic effect, because no one knows exactly what those materials in the landfill are comprised of, where they have come from,” said Yulia Naberezhnaya, spokeswoman for the Russian Geographical Society in Sochi.

Naberezhnaya is one of many Sochi environmental activists who New York-based Human Rights Watch says have been harassed over her work.

Other environmental activists have had criminal cases opened against them, including Suren Gazaryan, who received asylum in Estonia after facing criminal accusations which he called politically motivated.

In 2008, months after Putin won the right to hold the Games in Sochi, a U.N. environmental group paid a visit to the area.

After meeting government ministers, Olympic contractor Olympstroy and local non-governmental groups, the delegation concluded the Olympic project was aimed at economic development “in which environmental aspects play only a minor role”.

“Any sustained efforts to improve the environmental performance will probably have only a minor effect compared to the environmental damage that will be inflicted due to the overall development related to the Games,” said the United Nations Environmental Programme in a mission report.

In the village of Kudepsta, the territory of a former Soviet collective farm have been turned into the factory grounds for several cement producers for Olympic construction. Landfills for construction waste also dot the grounds.

Rubber boots and orange construction helmets lie half-buried in the ground.

“Of all the people who work and have businesses on this land, no one has documents allowing them to work here. Neither the drivers who deliver the cement out nor the ones who bring the trash in,” said Natalya Vorobyova, who has led several pickets outside the grounds of the old collective farm.

“EMERGENCY SITUATION”

Kudepsta, like many other down-river villages, lies around the Imeretinsky lowlands where rain and melted snow drain into the Black Sea through a series of rivers and swamplands.

According to Russian data, Sochi receives 1.7 meters of rainfall every year, more than anywhere else in the country apart from a chain of islands near Japan.

Once a stopping place for migrating birds, much of that area has been turned into Olympic venues, including the Fisht Stadium, where the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies will be held.

Environmental experts say that Olympic construction which has consisted of pouring soil into lowland swamps helped cause the flooding that created a state of emergency in the area in September and could increase the risk for more flooding.

“Those rains were a test to see how prepared we were for a relatively normal occurrence. And it showed the extent to which our Olympic construction failed after getting rid of old drainage systems and installing new ones that don’t work,” said Valery Suchkov, a lawyer specializing in environmental law.

Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska’s company Transstroy was responsible for much of the work to create a foundation for the Olympic venues.

A spokeswoman for the company, Yelena Stakhiyeva, said Transstroy had fulfilled its obligations but that another company had been subcontracted to build the drainage system.

Months after the flooding, residents complain that the ground even on a sunny day is still damp.

“The ground never really dries, it’s been wet for months,” said Kudepsta resident Alexander Tarasovich, poking his boot in to the soft, black dirt.

For most residents, they see the attention that the Olympics will bring as a final chance to be heard, but some barely have the strength left to fight.

“I’m just tired, it’s too much,” says Vorochkova, with tears in her eyes, closing the door to her aluminum shack that sits across from the ruin of her old house.

“All I want to do is sleep,” she said.

(Editing by Timothy Heritage and Ralph Boulton)

 

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#acenewsservices, #black-sea, #caucasus-mountains, #dmitry-kozak, #mzymta-river, #olympic, #russian-railways, #sochi, #vladimir-putin, #vladimir-yakunin

Russia: ” Vladimir Putin Wishes All the Volunteers of the XX11 Olympic and Xl Paralympic Winter Games in #Sochi

#AceWorldNews says President Vladimir Putin wished success to volunteers of the XXII Olympic and XI Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. He met with a group of volunteers on Friday and said they are expected to “create an atmosphere” of the Games. Some 25,000 volunteers will work in Sochi, which makes up 35 percent of the service personnel at the Olympics. The volunteer team for Sochi 2014 includes representatives from all Russian regions and 60 foreign countries, Itar-Tass said.

#olympic, #paralympic-games, #russian-president-vladimir-putin, #sochi, #volunteers, #winter-olympic-games

#AceWorldNews says Russian lawmakers have introduced a new…

#AceWorldNews says Russian lawmakers have introduced a new bill that, once passed, would increase the punishment for terrorist activities to life in prison.

The sponsors of the bill also aim to increase the punishment for a number of terrorist related activities from 10 to 20 years in prison. Some of the proposed amendments to the articles of the Criminal Code will alter the punishment to life imprisonment. Presently, Russian law provides that the acts of terrorism are punished with up to 20 years in prison only if they cause the loss of human life or involve the use of nuclear or radioactive materials and devices.

The new amendments introduce sentences of up to 20 years or even life sentences for “organizing and committing crimes of a terrorist nature and for organizing financial terrorism,” Irina Yarovaya, the head of the Duma Security Committee, told the Interfax news agency.The MP said she expected the Duma to consider the new amendments “as a priority,” as the country has witnessed a number of terrorist attacks.

Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Andrey Lugovoy told Ria Novosti, that the proposed amendments will not only toughen the punishment for those committing terrorist acts, but would also seek tougher sentences for people involved in their preparation and training, as well as propaganda of such extremist activities.

Lugovoy added that the bill proposes to exclude any possibility of softer punishment for a terrorist crime, such as a suspended sentence. The statute of limitations will not apply to terrorist crimes.

Duma deputies also seek to expand the mandate of the FSB, the Russian security service, to allow it not only to check identity documents, but also to carry out searches on suspected citizens and vehicles.

“Now we are increasing their powers and they will be able to not only check documents but also to search people and to inspect vehicles,” Lugovoy said.

To combat the financing of terrorism, lawmakers seek to reduce the sum of one-time money transfers using internet payment systems, from 40 thousand rubles to one thousand, and also seek to introduce necessary ID checks at the time of the transaction for both the sender and the receiver of the funds.

New responsibilities for Internet providers:

Another set of amendments concerns the federal law on information and data protection. It obliges all companies and private persons that organize the spreading of information or data exchange between users on the internet to keep logs of all user activities for six months, and provide the information to law enforcers in a way described by federal laws.

In December, two suicide bombings in a railway station and a trolley bus in the southern city of Volgograd killed 34 people. Three police officers were killed in a car bombing in December in the resort city of Pyatigorsk.

Ahead of February’s Winter Olympics a number of preventative terrorism measures have been introduced to protect spectators in Sochi. Starting last Saturday, airport passengers have also been banned from having any type of liquids in their carry-on luggage.

To provide security for spectators, Russia will deploy surveillance drones, which will be used for the first time at the Olympics in Sochi. In addition, two sonar systems to detect submarines and protect the Olympics from a seaborne terror attack will be used.

More than 40,000 police will be on duty, and more than 5,000 surveillance cameras installed across the city to help the counter-terrorism effort.

“All security is in place. And I want to assure you that despite the global threat of terrorism, here in Sochi everybody will be protected,” the head of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, told RT.

#duma, #lawmakers, #olympics, #russian, #sochi, #terrorist-attacks

Sochi Winter Olympics: “Russia’s Hidden Agenda”

#AceWorldNews says following Monday’s terrorist bombings only 400 miles away from the site of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have a geopolitical back story involving implied threats from Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan to Russian President Vladimir Putin last summer when Bandar was pressing Putin to withdraw his backing for the #Syrian government.

Bandar bin Sultan, Secretary-General of the Na...

Bandar bin Sultan, Secretary-General of the National Security Council of Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to a diplomatic leak detailing the Bandar-Putin meeting in Moscow on July 31, Bandar suggested that Putin’s agreement to abandon the #Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad would lead Saudi Arabia to restrain its Chechen terrorist clients who have attacked Russia targets for years. Putin reportedly grew furious, interpreting Bandar’s offer as a warning that the Sochi games would be threatened by terrorism if Putin didn’t comply.

At the time, I was even told that Putin warned Saudi Arabia of potentially severe consequences – suggesting military retaliation – if Bandar’s implied warning was followed up by actual terrorist attacks like the ones in Volvograd on Monday, killing more than 30 people.

Of course, it is always hard to trace specific terrorist acts back to their origins and many terrorist cells operate with much autonomy. But Putin has staked much of his prestige on a successful Olympics in Sochi, and he also would risk losing face if it were perceived that Bandar had executed a terrorist plan to disrupt the Winter Olympics and that Putin was powerless to stop it.

According to the leaked diplomatic account of last summer’s meeting, Bandar sought Russia’s cooperation on several Mideast concerns, including Syria, and told Putin, “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.”

English: RIYADH. Before the beginning of the R...

English: RIYADH. Before the beginning of the Russian-Saudi talks. Русский: ЭР-РИЯД. Перед началом российско-саудовских переговоров. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Putin reportedly responded, “We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global terrorism that you mentioned. We are interested in developing friendly relations according to clear and strong principles.”

Besides safety for the Sochi Olympics, Bandar raised the potential of Saudi cooperation with Russia on oil and other investment matters, saying, “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” according to the diplomatic account.

I was told by a source close to the Russian government that this mix of overt inducements and implied threats infuriated Putin who barely kept his anger in check through the end of the meeting with Bandar. Putin viewed Bandar’s offer to protect the Sochi Olympics as something akin to a Mafia don shaking down a shopkeeper for protection money by saying, “nice little business you got here, I’d hate to see anything happen to it.”

Putin then redoubled his support for the Syrian government in response to Bandar’s blend of bribes and warnings. The source said Russia also issued its own thinly veiled threats against the Saudis. The Saudis may have substantial “soft power” – with their oil and money – but Russia has its own formidable “hard power,” including a huge military, the source said.

Osama bin Laden compound

Osama bin Laden compound (Photo credit: Sajjad Ali Qureshi)

Bandar and Terrorism:

Over the years, Bandar has often treated the issue of “terrorism” as a situational ethic, an ambivalence well-honed since the days when Saudi Arabia and the Reagan administration teamed up to pour billions of dollars into the Afghan mujahedeen and their Arab jihadist allies fighting Soviet troops in the 1980s.

The anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan brought to prominence Saudi national Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who later consolidated themselves under the global brand, al-Qaeda. In the 1980’s, these roving jihadists’ were hailed as brave defenders of Islam and even “freedom fighters,” but – in the 1990’s – they began targeting the United States with terrorist attacks, leading up to 9/11 in 2001.

At the time of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the United States and was so close to the Bush family that he was nicknamed “Bandar Bush.” Bandar was also very close to the bin Laden family. After the attacks, Bandar even acknowledged having met Osama bin Laden in the context of bin Laden thanking Bandar for his help financing the Afghan jihad project.

“I was not impressed, to be honest with you,” Bandar told CNN’s Larry King about bin Laden. “I thought he was simple and very quiet guy.”

President Obama confirms death of Osama bin Laden

However, immediately after 9/11, Bandar undermined the FBI’s opportunity to learn more about the connections between Osama bin Laden’s relatives and the perpetrators of 9/11 when Bandar arranged for members of the bin Laden family to flee the United States on some of the first planes allowed back into the air – after only cursory interviews with FBI investigators. The only segment of the 9/11 Commission’s report to be blacked out was the part dealing with alleged Saudi financing for al-Qaeda.

Now, as chief of Saudi intelligence, Bandar appears to be back in the game of coercive geopolitics, arranging weapons for some of the most brutal Syrian rebels and Arab mercenaries operating inside Syria, while offering carrots-and-sticks to foreign leaders who are seen are malleable toward Saudi regional interests. The technique may have failed with Putin but had greater success in lining up the French behind Saudi opposition to a negotiated agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

As a repressive monarchy that preaches the ultra-conservative Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia is bitterly opposed to the democratic reforms of the Arab Spring and the growing influence of Shiite Islam, which now stretches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah enclaves of Lebanon.

President Mohammed Morsi

Saudi Arabia backed the military coup in Egypt that ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi. The Saudis also have stepped up assistance to Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria seeking to overthrow the Assad dynasty that is based in the Alawite religion, a branch of Shiite Islam.

The commonality of interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel has given rise to a de facto alliance between the Saudi monarchy and the Jewish government of Israel. Though historically enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia are now on the same page in backing Egypt’s military regime, in viewing Iran as their principal adversary, and in wanting a rebel victory in Syria.

The shifting sands of Middle East interests also have pushed the United States and Russia closer together, with the former Cold War rivals sharing an interest in tamping down disorder across the region. President Putin and President Barack Obama cooperated in reaching a tentative nuclear deal with Iran and in convincing Syria’s Assad to surrender his chemical weapons. Putin and Obama are pressing for Syrian peace talks, too.

Now, however, a new complication has been introduced: Islamist terrorist attacks aimed at undermining the Sochi Olympics. If Putin concludes that the Saudis are behind these bombings – that the attacks are the equivalent of a Mafia don having a store torched after the owner rebuffed an offer of “protection” – then the issue of Russian retaliation could suddenly be on the table.

Courtesy of and by Robert Parry

This article has originally appeared on Consortium News 

[NOTE: Alawites are not a Shiite branch. In fact, the two Islamic sects are different in form and content. Alawites’ are as much different from Shiites as they are from the Sunnis and this can even be observed in the form of daily prayers.]

#AceRelatedNews: Rivers of Hope 

 

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“Russian Police Repeatedly Harassed Two Norwegian TV Journalists”

Sochi (Krasnodar krai), coat of arms

Sochi (Krasnodar krai), coat of arms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#AceWorldNews  says  Reporters Without Borders is Shocked by the Way the Russian Police Repeatedly harassed two Norwegian TV journalists , Reporter Oystein Bogen and Cameraman Aage Aune , while They Were Visiting the Sochi Region from 31 October to 2 November to cover problems related to preparations for next February’s Winter Olympics .

Bogen and Aune, WHO work for Norway’s Privately-owned TV2 Channel, Say the Police Stopped Them six times in the space of Three days, interrogated Them in Detail About Their work and Their local contacts and, at one Point, even took Them into custody for several hours.

“Arbitrary arrest, violation of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, seizure of journalistic material – this string of breaches of freedom of information suggests a strategy of all-out harassment,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Sochi / RU, 2007

Sochi / RU, 2007 (Photo credit: william veerbeek)

“The ordeal That These two journalists underwent bodes ill for the drastic Security Measures That Will be Applied in the Run-up to the games . Combatting terrorist threats is obviously necessary but it does not justify such excesses. We hope the Norwegian authorities will quickly obtain the explanations they have requested from their Russian counterparts. ”

“The international media must not be intimidated by this episode. There is nothing criminal about covering the preparations for the Winter Olympics or meeting local journalists and activists. We reiterate our appeal to foreign reporters to take advantage of the spotlight on Sochi to look beyond the Olympic facade and to meet local civil society representatives.

“At the Same time, we Urge Visiting journalists to Take the Necessary Precautions to protect the confidentiality of sources and Their to avoid Surveillance of Their Communications . To this end, we have Made A ‘Digital Survival kit’ available to Them. ”

Bogen and Aune had proper accreditation and used a rental car to travel around Krasnodar, the region where Sochi is located, and to visit the neighbouring autonomous Republic of Adygea.

They were first questioned about their plans and the people they were interviewing on 31 October.They were questioned again, twice, on 1 November in Maykop, Adygea’s capital. At the end of the second session on 1 November, other police officer suddenly arrived, accused Bogen of taking drugs and made him accompany them to a nearby clinic for a drug test. This episode ended after an hour and a half, when a person identifying himself as the local police chief released the two journalists and apologised for the “mistake.”

The next day, they were stopped again and interrogated for an hour between Maykop and Sochi. And they were questioned again in the early evening near Tuapse, a town in the Krasnodar region. This time they were taken into custody without any explanation and were put in a cell with other suspects.

Their equipment was temporarily confiscated and their repeated requests to be allowed to call their embassy were ignored. They were freed at around 10 pm but, as they reached the outskirts of Sochi, they were stopped again.

After searches and a security check, they were taken to the nearest police checkpoint, where an officer questioned Bogen about his private life and his work, going so far as to ask him for a list of the people he planned to meet in Sochi and the places where he planned to film. After being forced to sign a statement without being given a copy, they were finally allowed to continue their way at around 1 am

The Russian foreign ministry gave the two journalists a formal apology yesterday for the “series of unwarranted actions” and said the police responsible would be punished for “abusing their authority.”

Reporters Without Borders Published an in-depth Report in early October About the State of freedom of information in the Sochi Region .

(Photos: TV2 / Oystein Bogen, Aage Aune)


Foreign journalists must not retreat in the face of intimidation

Reporters Without Borders shocked intrusive actions by the police, who were subjected to two Norwegian journalists in Sochi region during from October 31 to November 2, 2013 Reporter private channel TV2 Heist Bogen and operator Ogge Eyun came to the region for reporting problems, related to the organization of the Winter Olympic Games, which begin in February 2014 According to the journalists they were detained by law enforcement officials six times in three days.During the detention of journalists questioned in detail about their professional and local contacts and even placed under arrest without explanation.

“Arbitrary detention, secret neglect of journalistic sources, the confiscation of professional equipment … This set of violations of freedom of information shows determination to expose harassment of two journalists. Their painful stay in the region does not bode well against tough security measures that will be taken in anticipation of the Olympics, starting in January of next year. Combating the threat of terrorism is certainly necessary, but it does not justify such action. We hope that the Norwegian authorities very soon receive an explanation from the Russian leadership, “- said Reporters Without Borders.

“The international media should not allow themselves to be intimidated by this incident. There is nothing criminal to carry reports on the preparation of the Olympic Games and to meet with local journalists and activists. We again appeal to foreign correspondents calling a wide press coverage of Sochi to not be limited to the Olympic theme and meet with civil society. At the same time, we urge to take all necessary precautions to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information and to avoid total control of their communications: for this purpose we have available for journalists’ digital survival kit ‘. ”

Heist Bogen and Ogge Eyun – duly accredited journalists. They rented a car for journeys in the Krasnodar region, which is located in Sochi, as well as the neighboring autonomous republic of Adygea. Answering questions for the first time on October 31 about the plans and the persons from whom they interviewed journalists were again a series of interviews on November 1 in Maikop (Adygea). At the end of the second interview arrived at the scene other Interior Ministry officials, accusing Heist Bogen in the use of drugs and forcibly took him to the nearest clinic for a series of tests. Journalists detained after half an hour and then released after a man arrived who introduced himself as the local police chief, and brought them to apologize for making a “mistake.”

Nevertheless, the next day journalists were detained and interrogated again an hour between Maikop and Sochi. Then again, in the late afternoon, near Tuapse (Krasnodar region). But this time the journalists detained without explanation in a cell with other suspects, temporarily withdrawing their equipment. Their repeated requests to contact the embassy were not taken into account. Finally, in the area 22 hours journalists released from custody. However, when reporters finally got to Sochi, they once again detained. After the search and security control procedures, they were taken to a nearby checkpoint where police officer questioned Heist Bogen detail about his personal and professional life, asking to provide a list of persons with whom the latter was planning to meet in Sochi, as well as places that he was going to shoot film. Journalists have not received any copies of their statements, which were forced to sign. They finally were allowed to continue their journey in the morning.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented a formal apology to two journalists on November 6 for “a number of unreasonable actions” that they have experienced. The ministry said that law enforcement officials, “exceeded its authority” will be punished.

Reporters Without Borders published in early October, a report on the status of the investigation in relation to freedom of information in the region of Sochi.

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