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16 killed in Russia bus collision, more than 50 injured

Moscow: At least 16 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured on Wednesday when two buses collided head-on in far eastern Russia, officials said.

The Investigative Committee, the nation’s top investigative agency, said the collision occurred on a highway linking Khabarovsk, on the border with China, and Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The agency has opened an investigation of alleged violations of traffic rules.

Prosecutors said the driver of one of the buses drove into an incoming lane to bypass construction vehicles repairing the road and lost control of the vehicle. The bus hit an oncoming bus and overturned.

Russia’s Health Ministry said 56 people were injured. Ambulances and helicopters have rushed to the site to evacuate the wounded, more than 20 of whom were in grave condition.

President Vladimir Putin offered condolences to the victims’ families and ordered officials to work out new measures to ensure traffic safety. “Major accidents with a large number of victims have become far too frequent on our roads,” he said at the start of a Cabinet meeting.

Deputy Interior Minister Viktor Kiryanov reported to Putin that the bus driver had allegedly violated the speed limit and a construction company in charge of road repairs had failed to place warning signs at a required distance.

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov also suggested further toughening punishment for driving drunk, saying that drivers found guilty should have their vehicles confiscated.

  • Published in World

Death selfies: Russia comes up with warning signs for selfie freaks

Moscow: Russia has launched a campaign urging people to take safe selfies, which uses mock road signs to warn against dangerous poses, after a number of people were killed or injured while clicking photos of themselves.

Some 10 people have been killed and 100 hurt this year in accidents in Russia while snapping hazardous images, from posing with a loaded gun or a hand grenade to climbing on to a railway bridge.

The new 'Safe Selfies' campaign launched by Russian police uses road sign-style signs to highlight the dangers when taking personal photos. These include a figure holding a selfie stick on a rail line and one taking a selfie at the top of an electricity pylon, 'skynews.com' reported.

A leaflet published by the Russian interior ministry warned: "A cool selfie could cost you your life." Tips included in the pamphlet contain the cautionary note that "a selfie with a weapon kills".

The warning comes after a 21-year-old woman in Moscow accidentally shot herself in the head while taking a selfie and holding a pistol. At the start of the year, two youths blew themselves up in the Urals while taking a selfie holding a hand grenade with the pin pulled out.

Yelena Alexeyeva, an aide to the Russian interior minister, said that selfies had caused "dozens of deadly accidents". "Unfortunately we have noted recently that the number of accidents caused by lovers of self-photography is constantly increasing. "Since the beginning of the year we are talking about some hundred cases of injuries for sure," Alexeyeva said.
  • Published in Off Beat

U.S., Russian aircraft came within 10 feet over Black Sea

Washington: A Russian fighter jet, flying at high speed, came within 10 feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Black Sea late last month, several U.S. officials told CNN Thursday.

The Russian jet flew alongside the U.S. plane at the same altitude, broke off, and then shadowed the plane before leaving the area in the May 30 incident, the officials said. The U.S. aircraft took no evasive measures, and no other details were immediately available. Military officials could not say whether a diplomatic protest had been filed.

The close call comes weeks after another incident between the U.S. and Russia over the skies of Europe, when a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker in what authorities called an "unsafe and unprofessional manner."

And earlier this month, the U.S. Navy took the unusual step of releasing video of Russian Su-24 aircraft flying past the right side of the guided missile destroyer USS Ross in the Black Sea.

The video was distributed to make clear that the airplanes and ship had a routine encounter, contrary to Russian reports. It shows a warplane approaching from the distance and then quickly zooming past the American vessel.

The Russian aircraft were not armed, according to a U.S. defense official, and the entire matter was considered routine.

The U.S. officials say because there are more military aircraft from NATO and Russia flying over the Black Sea and the Baltics, there are more interactions. However, the two air incidents are of particular concern because of the danger they posed to U.S. aircraft and personnel.
  • Published in World

‘Trees in Russia impact monsoon in India’

Bengaluru: In the near future, it may just be metaphorical dark clouds that hover over the country, rather than rain-bringing ones.

A study has shown that deforestation in high latitudes and the boreal regions — comprising grasslands and forests of Canada, Russia and Alaska in the U.S. — could affect the monsoon in South Asia. The effect of large-scale deforestation could lead to a 12 per cent decline in the monsoons, says a study by scientists of the Divecha Center for Climate Change at Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Numerous studies have shown that declining monsoons auger badly for agriculture as well as the macro-economic climate in India.

The report — authored by Govindasamy Bala, N. Devaraju and Angshuman Modak from IISc. — was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). It shows that the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which drives rain, moves southwards.

“The monsoon is dependent on landmass covered by the ITCZ. If it moves south, it covers more of the Indian Ocean, and less of India. This will weaken the monsoons,” said Prof. Bala.

On the other hand, monsoons will strengthen in the Southern Hemisphere, leading to immense impact on regional economies.

Unlike most studies that focus on emission on greenhouse gases, the IISc. study calculates the impact of surface characteristics (that is, deforestation that modifies reflection of sunlight by the landscape and plant transpiration) on climate.

What the study says

The three-dimensional climate model used by the researchers simulated atmospheric circulation, land surface processes (photosynthesis and transpiration), surface-ocean warming and ice melt. The team experimented with wide deforestation in the tropical, temperate and high-latitude areas to point out effects on global temperatures and rainfall ( see graphic ) leading to the conclusion that deforestation in Russia and Canada is more catastrophic for India.

With the change in land use — from verdant forests to crop land — affecting climate in a “significant” way, Prof. Bala says there is need for an integrated approach to deal with deforestation.

“It isn’t just about carbon dioxide. Afforestation programmes must be in focus too,” he said.
  • Published in Karnataka

Former tycoon calls Putin a 'naked king' ruining Russian economy

London: Former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky said on Thursday Vladimir Putin was a "naked king" presiding over an economy that will weaken further, eventually provoking a battle between rival clans in Moscow. "Putin with bare chest isn't a mighty leader: He is a naked king," Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man who was arrested in 2003 after falling foul of Putin only to be released in 2013, told an audience in London.

Khodorkovsky, who once controlled Russia's biggest oil company, YUKOS, said the Russian economy would weaken further and that eventually its weakness would provoke a battle between the powerful clans which dominate Russia. In a message which is likely to anger the 62-year-old Kremlin chief, the former tycoon also called on the West to build ties with opposition groups in expectation of an end to the Putin era. "Tomorrow when the regime changes you will have to build a relationship and you will have very little time," Khodorkovsky, 51, told an event organised by Chatham House policy thinktank.

Khodorkovsky was convicted of tax evasion and fraud in a Moscow trial which he said was motivated by enemies who wanted to rip apart his company and punish him for his political ambitions. He always denied the charges. YUKOS was crippled with massive back-tax claims and then its main Siberian oil production units were sold off by the state, only to be bought later by state-controlled companies. Khodorkovsky was pardoned by Putin in 2013 and left Russia.

He said Putin was in the twilight of his power but the finale of his presidency, which began in 1999, could last long and be painful and dangerous for both the West and Russia. "Russia will have to stand long in agony by the bed of the sick emperor. It will be painful for the population and dangerous for the West," said Khodorkovsky.

He said he believed the conflict in Ukraine would escalate further as Putin's ultimate goal were much more broad. "Putin doesn't need Donbass (east Ukraine). He wants to determine the fate of the world at talks with a US President," Khodorkovsky said. "Putin is dreaming of getting a deal with the United States about a new-old order for the world, when the world is split on zone of influence. When you cannot interfere in someone else's zone. Not even to mention internal politics," he said.

Al Capone

A chemical engineer who served in the Communist Youth League, Khodorkovsky started to trade goods as the Soviet Union crumbled. He soon began buying up state assets, gaining control of some of Russia's best oil fields and even pushing legislation he favoured through parliament despite opposition of the Kremlin and government. His wealth and power made Khodorkovsky one of Russia's most powerful oligarchs and his jailing made him Russia's most famous prisoner. Putin once compared Khodorkovsky to US gangster Al Capone.

On Thursday, the former billionaire declined to disclose his wealth when asked how much money he could invest in the currently very fragmented Russian opposition. He said he was not looking for any state jobs should power change in Russia but he wanted to make sure the opposition changed the country so it had free elections and economy. "It doesn't matter if it take place tomorrow or in 10 years. Although we all hope to be still alive when it happens."
  • Published in World

Won’t accept unipolar leadership: Russia

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that his country would never accept a unipolar world.

Noting that there was one "undisputed" unipolar leadership trying to control the current world and force others to obey, Putin said Russia would never accept such attempts.

At the congress of Russia's Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Putin stressed that Russia did not intend to be at war with anyone and was always willing to cooperate.

He reiterated that sanctions against Russia would never have the desired effect, although they do have a negative impact on the country's economy.

"We must realise this, and make all possible efforts to strengthen our sovereignty, including in the economic sphere," Putin said in a statement posted online, pledging Russia's firm stance against external pressure which was imposed on the country over Ukraine crisis, Xinhua reported.

US Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday told the 51st Munich Security Conference that Washington would continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was present at the conference, reiterated that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military build-up near the Russian borders was fuelling up confrontation and undermining European security.

"Lavrov stressed that NATO support of Kiev's military action in southern Ukraine hampers attempts to find a peaceful resolution of the deep domestic crisis in Ukraine," said an online statement released by the ministry.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded by saying that all the measures taken by NATO were defensive and promised to maintain an open dialogue channel with Moscow.

Defence ministers of the NATO decided on Thursday to strengthen the alliance's presence in eastern Europe and the Baltic region and expand the size of its rapid reaction force to 30,000.

  • Published in World

Russia to build more nuclear reactors for Iran

Moscow: Russia on Tuesday signed an agreement with Iran for helping the latter build two new nuclear reactors in the latter country, media reported. The two new nuclear reactors will be built in a nuclear power plant based in Iran's Bushehr region, which houses the country's existing 1,000 megawatt reactor that was completed by Russia's Rosatom corporation and started operation last year, Xinhua reported.

According to the protocol signed by Russian and Iranian representatives here Tuesday, the two countries agreed to eventually expand the number of reactors using Russian technology to eight in Iran, including four at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant in southern Iran.

 Nuclear fuel for the eight energy reactors will be provided by Russia and the used fuel rods will be returned to Russia, RIA Novosti news agency reported. Rosatom corporation stressed in a statement Tuesday that the project will be under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.


  • Published in World
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