PETERSBURG A favorite with tourists because of its museums and palaces, St. Petersburg was founded in the early 18th century by Peter the Great and for two centuries was the capital of the Russian Empire. After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the capital was moved back to Moscow. St. Petersburg saw its star rise again when native son Vladimir Putin became president in 2000 and filled the ranks of government and business with old friends and colleagues from his hometown. ___ KALININGRAD Kaliningrad is the capital of the westernmost region of the country, which was part of East Prussia before being absorbed into the Soviet Union after World War II. After the 1991 Soviet collapse, Kaliningrad, which sits between Poland and Lithuania, found itself cut off geographically from the rest of Russia. ___ MURMANSK Murmansk, the largest city in the world above the Arctic Circle, played an important role in the Allied victory in World War II as the port of call for U.S. and British convoys bringing in supplies to help the Soviet Union fight Nazi Germany. In more recent weeks, though, the city has made the news because of the 30 Greenpeace activists in its jails, charged with piracy after a protest at a Russian offshore oil platform. ___ KHANTY-MANSIYSK The center of a Western Siberian region where more than half of Russia’s oil is produced, Khanty-Mansiysk is a boom town in the middle of the taiga that looks more Scandinavian than Russian. The city and region were named for the indigenous people, the Khanty and Mansi, who by tradition are reindeer herders.
Russia Says Drugs Seized on Greenpeace Ship as New Charges Loom
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (on the sidelines of an economic summit in Indonesia) that Iran likely wants “more clarity” about the way forward. “Iran probably wants more clarity,” Lavrov said. “More specific steps to be spelled out on the road to the result which we all want to achieve. And I think this will be discussed next week in Geneva, a meeting to which Iran agreed. And to which Iran and three plus three are getting ready in a very constructive mood, as our contacts in New York show.” Kerry said the United States is encouraged by Iran’s recent outreach efforts, but that actions, and not words, are what will make a difference. “So what we need are a set of proposals from Iran that fully disclose how they will show the world that their program is peaceful,” Kerry said. “And we have made it clear that if there are those indicators, the United States and our allies are absolutely prepared to move in appropriate ways to meet their actions. Kerry said Iran has not responded to an offer the P5+1 group made earlier this year, which called for Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and halt enrichment at one of its nuclear facilities. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Sunday that offer was no longer valid, and that the P5+1 should come to next week’s negotiations with a “new point of view.” Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes and wants the international community to lift a range of sanctions imposed for its refusal to halt enrichment activity. The possible threat of a ballistic missile strike from countries like Iran has led the United States to plan a missile shield in Europe. Russia disagrees with the move, saying the system could neutralize its own strategic missile force and leave it vulnerable to the West. Kerry said Monday it is too early to make determinations about the system as long as the Iranian threat continues. But he said the U.S. and Russia are continuing to talk about the plan and are trying to work out a way that meets the needs of both countries.
Sochi Olympic flame 4-month relay begins, highlighting Putin’s Russia
Investigators are also trying to determine who among the campaigners was responsible for trying to ram into Russias Coast Guard craft, endangering the life of officials, the Investigative Committee said in a website statement today. The detention of 28 activists and two journalists from 18 countries has provoked a diplomatic row as the Netherlands seeks to force Russia to release the Dutch-registered ship and its crew through international arbitration. Two Greenpeace protesters scaled OAO Gazprom (GAZP) s Prirazlomnoye rig in the Pechora Sea on Sept. 18. A day later Russias Coast Guard boarded the groups Arctic Sunrise ship in international waters and towed the vessel to Murmansk. We can only assume the Russian authorities are referring to the medical supplies that our ships are obliged to carry under maritime law, Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement. The ship was first searched by Russian officers weeks ago, they scoured every corner of it, so we assume this announcement is designed to deflect attention from the growing global outrage over the continued imprisonment of the detainees. Adding to the tensions with the Netherlands, President Vladimir Putin yesterday demanded a Dutch apology after police arrested a Russian diplomat in The Hague and allegedly beat him in front of his family, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. The Netherlands today said the envoys diplomatic immunity had been violated and offered its apologies over the incident, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Arctic Sunrise Two citizens of the Netherlands are among the Greenpeace activists in custody in the port city of Murmansk and their boat, Arctic Sunrise, is Dutch-registered. The countrys authorities said Oct. 4 that they had started arbitration on the basis of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, a decision Greenpeace said it applauds. Russian investigators said they found morphine and opium straw onboard the ship as well as dual-use equipment that may have been intended for other than ecological purposes. Greenpeace Internationals executive director, Kumi Naidoo, sent a letter to Putin asking for a meeting and offered to come to Russia and make himself a personal guarantor of the groups activists if they are released on bail, according to an e-mailed statement. Gazprom plans to become the first Russian company to start producing oil in Arctic as soon as this year. Greenpeace activists scaled the same drilling platform in 2012. To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at firstname.lastname@example.org ; Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at email@example.com To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at firstname.lastname@example.org More News: