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March 5, 2014

Wikinews interviews specialists on Russian intervention in Ukraine

Wikinews interviews specialists on Russian intervention in Ukraine

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Map of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and of Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Image: PANONIAN.

People in Ukraine protesting against Russia’s intervention “Crimea is Ukraine”.
Image: ВО Свобода.

A Crimean self-defense group with shields painted as the flag of the autonomous republic.
Image: E. Arrott.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In the past few days, tension has been increasing due to conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation which has led to the United States, the United Kingdom, and France increasing pressure on Russia to remove their troops from Crimea.

Wikinews interviewed specialists in Russian foreign policy and specialists in international law about the legality of Russia’s actions and the consequences of any sanctions imposed by G7 nation economies.

Interviewees

Wikinews interviewed:

  • Jane Burbank, Professor of History and Russian and Slavic Studies at the New York University, New York
  • Jeremy Morris, Senior Lecturer in Russian Studies at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham
  • Craig Brandist, Professor of Cultural Theory and Intellectual History in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield
  • Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.
  • Yanni Kotsonis, Director, New York University Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia in New York.

Wikinews Q&A

File photo of interviewee Craig Brandist.
Image: Craig Brandist.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Are Russian troop deployments into Ukrainian territory a clear violation of sovereignty?

  • Morris: Yes.
  • Burbank: Yes, the borders of the Ukrainian state were drawn up in 1991 and reinforced by the 1994 Budapest accords. See the article by Paul Goble on these accords.
  • Brandist: It would be hard to describe it otherwise. That said, however, it is quite extraordinary hypocrisy for the US and UK to strike moral poses about this, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia clearly has strategic interests in the region, and there is a large Russian-speaking population in much of Ukraine, a majority in Crimea and an important part of the east of the country, and the arrangement after the collapse of the USSR was clearly fragile, especially when NATO expansion took place. None of this is to excuse Russian actions, but they cannot be understood without focus on the ‘great game’ of which it is part.
  • Blank: By any standard Russia’s actions represent a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and integrity, a premeditated break with numerous treaties signed by Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s security, integrity, and sovereignty, and thus Premier Yatsenyuk is right these are acts of war.
  • Kotsonis: On the surface it seems so. Mind you, it is complicated because Russia has been given rights to the bases on the Crimea and this may give Russia the pretext for a larger intervention. But it does not seem to be a clear-cut legal case for intervention and everyone understands that this is Russia smarting over the loss of an ally in Yanukovich and guarding its own back yard interests.

File photo of interviewee Yanni Kotsonis.
Image: Yanni Kotsonis.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are we going to see a proxy war between the United States and Russia?

  • Morris: No.
  • Burbank: I doubt that we will have a real war, but note that the Russians who falsely accused the “West” and the U.S. for instigating the political activism of Ukrainians (denying that Ukrainians themselves wanted to change their corrupt government for a more democratic and inclusive one) now have managed, through provocation, to get the “West” involved in the conflict. (So far this involvement is only diplomatic and verbal.) Moreover, the analysis so common in the Western media of a divided Ukraine (East vs West) has played into Russia’s hands, setting up a scenario for strife and divisiveness.
  • Brandist: I think it unlikely at present. Russia humiliated the US when it entered Georgia to stop it becoming part of NATO, exposing the limits of US power in areas where Russia has an overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons. Russia clearly cannot contest the US on a global basis in the way that the USSR once could, but it remains a great power with a powerful regional presence, while the limits of US power have been graphically illustrated in the Middle East and Caucasus. This is another illustration of that.
  • Blank: It is too soon to know what we are going to see but a proxy war is one possibility as is a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia (note I did not say war). In my personal opinion resolute NATO action combined with economic and political action of a similarly robust nature would force Russia to back down because it knows it cannot afford to go up against NATO. Indeed this operation was undertaken because Putin et al openly and […] publicly declared their belief that Obama and other Western leaders are weak, irresolute, and afraid to act. This calculation must be reversed decisively if peace is to hold.
  • Kotsonis: I doubt it. The US has used stern language but so far has taken direct intervention off the table. On the other hand Russia has declared publicly that it can intervene militarily and has decided that the US will not. “Proxy” does not capture it because Russia is actually in Ukraine and the US won’t be.

File photo of interviewee Jane Burbank.
Image: Jane Burbank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In response to Russia’s build-up of its forces in Crimea, Ukraine has ordered a full military mobilisation. To what extent can Ukrainian troops hold back and successfully fight Russian forces?

  • Morris: Anything is possible, but I think Ukraine lacks the political will to enter large-scale conflict. There may be insurgency-like fighting.
  • Brandist: Russia has overwhelming superiority in both the south and east of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian forces are not necessarily reliable in a conflict with Russia given the support for Russia among a substantial part of the Ukrainian population. Ukraine does, however, have substantial assets elsewhere and if Russia was to try to move into the Ukrainian heartland it would be a substantial operation. This is precisely why it is unlikely to do it. Moreover, Russia does not want a division of Ukraine, which could lead NATO to become established within the borders of the ex-USSR, so it is more likely it is seeking to change the facts on the ground so to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. It is difficult to predict how events will unfold on the ground, however, given the informal and extreme nationalist forces who are operating.
  • Blank: It is unlikely that Ukraine could prevail in such a conflict but I think it would unhinge Russian calculations, create the basis for protracted conflict, including guerrilla war for which Russia is not prepared, and thus force the West to act and begin the process of imposing costs on Russia that Putin did not foresee. Indeed that is one reason why this is an incredibly reckless action on Putin’s part.
  • Kotsonis: No one thinks Ukraine can stand up to Russia. It’s partly because Russia is bigger and better equipped, partly because Russia has bases in Ukraine, and partly because Russia is relatively united. One will have to see whether Ukraine will unite when so many of its citizens identify with Russia. We do not know the answer to this, only anecdote.

File photo of interviewee Jeremy Morris.
Image: Jeremy Morris.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would penalties imposed on Russia by the ‘Western nations’ being the United States, UK and France have severe consequences for the Russian economy?

  • Morris: Not really, so much depends on oil price for Russia, but fall in [the] rouble due to lack of confidence may affect ordinary Russians’ ability to buy imported goods.
  • Brandist: Clearly such measures would have negative effects, and the business community in Russia is clearly worried. That said, however, the likelihood of any coherent action against Russia is not great, not least because much of Europe is reliant of Russian gas. Moreover, it is European states that would face any potential flood of refugees and so European states will not be keen on too much pressure that could lead Russia to press Ukraine even more. Germany effectively vetoed Georgia’s attempt to be part of NATO, and it would have even more interests in trying to stabilize the situation now. In this situation the ‘Western nations’ mentioned have limited leverage, though it clearly would have an impact.
  • Blank: Ejecting Russia from the G8 is meaningless. Sanctions that would register are sanctions on Putin et al so they cannot access their money, action in the WTO [World Trade Organization] to arraign Russia for violating its statutes, legislation placing sanctions on Russia equivalent to those on Iran that have crippled it, staging a run on the rouble, and if necessary blockading the Baltic and Black Seas to prevent maritime commerce. Most importantly but this is over time, Europe must reorient its gas and oil purchases away from Russia on a long-term basis. All these moves must be taken together and in tandem with military-political moves to uphold Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty and thus preserve peace by deterring Russia and imposing excessive costs upon it.
  • Kotsonis: It will probably make matters worse for Russia but it won’t be a causal factor. Russia is overly dependent on commodities exports and is at the mercy of world prices. The world wants those resources and will probably not renounce them, but they may not be enough to keep the economy growing in Russia. Any penalties would only accelerate the secular trend.

Soldiers without insignia guard buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, March 2, 2014.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png There are reports that Russia could be ejected from the G8 group of developed economies. Would this be a major blow for Putin’s domestic popularity?

  • Morris: Not really.
  • Brandist: In present circumstances not. There is a substantial constituency in Russia that is nostalgic about its imperial status, especially after the humiliation inflicted on the state during the Yeltsin period, and these conflicts are presented in this context. Certainly recognition of Russia at the G8 was a prestige factor, but there are clearly compensations on an ideological level in the present situation. This is an illustration of Russia’s ascendency vis-a-vis the US and the EU [European Union] in one sense. What it all means in the longer term depends on a significant amount of variables, however.
  • Blank: Ejecting Russia from the G8 is necessary but insignificant in its own right.
  • Kotsonis: No, it would probably increase his popularity in an us-v-them dynamic. Putin thrives politically on autarky and it may be treated as an attack on Russian prestige. But less on Putin’s reputation at home.

File photo of interviewee Stephen Blank.
Image: Stephen Blank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the Russian general public in full support of the deployment of their own troops into Ukraine, a separate sovereign nation?

  • Morris: No, this is a distraction by Putin from increasing economic and political problems in Russia. A minority of Russians support deployment and I think support from ordinary Russians will fall when they realise deployment may result in the killing of fellow Slavs.
  • Burbank: There is no such thing as a united Russian public. There are many views in Russia, as elsewhere. Clearly, some people in Russia oppose this assault on Ukraine, as we have seen from the arrests and beating of demonstrators in Moscow. There is a section of the academic “community” — also a deceptive word — that is opposed to the invasion.
If you are interested in this, read the discussion on Ab Imperio’s Facebook site, where many young academics are expressing their views.
I would like to repeat one point: the notion of a simple nationalized divide between East and West Ukraine is both false and counter-productive. There are nationalists in many areas of the country, but there are also people with other political commitments. It is dangerous for the Western media to reinforce the notion that nationalist sentiment (pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian) is the only political force in Ukraine. A whole generation has grown up since Ukraine’s independence and many people, old and young and in the middle, have ideas about sovereignty and politics that are not simply “ethnic.”
  • Brandist: Russia does not have a unified or stable ‘public opinion’ any more than anywhere else. Moreover, the Crimea and east of Ukraine are not necessarily viewed as fully a separate nation among many Russians. Many Russians have relatives there and go there for vacations. At present the majority are in support for the reasons I’ve just outlined. However, we have seen significant opposition movements in recent years, which shows that if things turn out badly then Putin may be vulnerable. There is clearly an assessment of risks that has been carried out by the Kremlin, and so far it has paid off. Indeed, it probably strengthens Putin’s compromised standing at home, but if things do go wrong then this could change quickly.
  • Blank: It is probably the case that Putin enjoys public support in Russia but that is irrelevant since the media’s been so thoroughly cowed as to be unreflective of reality and the issue is not public opinion there but Putin and the ruling clique.
  • Kotsonis: Yes, this seems to be the case. You need to understand that Ukraine is in Russian minds somewhere between a close friend and a back yard. It was always assumed that this was the key alliance for Russia and tacitly understood that Russia’s geopolitical interests would be respected. Europe’s gamble last year was to pull Ukraine into the Euro orbit by forcing Ukraine to choose. Almost anyone in Russia saw this as a direct challenge. I can’t say for certain but I imagine a large majority think the intervention is justified.



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May 13, 2010

Russia agrees to construct Turkish nuclear reactor

Russia agrees to construct Turkish nuclear reactor

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Russian and Turkish governments today signed an agreement that would lead to Russia building a US$20 billion nuclear power plant in Turkey, the country’s first.

The plant will be built on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and construction will commence as soon as the deal is approved by both countries; the building process is expected to take around seven years. The reactor will also be owned by Russia, which will hold “no less than a controlling stake,” according to Sergey Kiriyenko, who is the head of Rosatom, a Russian nuclear energy corporation.

The reactor to be built is the second proposed power plant in the same location; a separate proposal for a four-reactor complex built by a Russian-led consortium was rejected by a Turkish court last year. Russia has attempted to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey, and the contract signed Wednesday “really looks rather impressive,” according to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The contract for the reactor was one of 20 signed by the two countries today, expected to result in around US$25 billion of Russian investment in Turkey. Other major contracts signed include projects to transport Russian oil and natural gas through Turkey to ports on the Mediterranean Sea. One such project is a major pipeline between the Turkish ports of Samsun on the Black Sea and Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea, built in conjunction with an oil refinery in Ceyhan.

In a press conference, Russian President Medvedev said that the agreements signal “a new page in our cooperation…Our talks today showed that Turkey and Russia are strategic partners not only in words but in deeds.” Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that the two countries “share a determination to increase the trade volume from a current US$38 billion to US$100 billion in five years.”



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November 12, 2007

Oil spill near Black Sea as storm sinks three ships

Oil spill near Black Sea as storm sinks three ships

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Monday, November 12, 2007

The Black Sea, with the Straight of Kerch visible near the top right flowing into the Sea of Azov.

A fierce storm on Sunday resulted in massive 18-foot waves, which split a Russian oil tanker in two and sank two Russian freighters nearby. The tanker spilled at least 560,000 gallons of fuel into a strait which leads to the Black Sea, and officials say it may take years to clean up. The tankers sank in the Strait of Kerch, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the northeast. The two ships were carrying a total of around 7,150 tons of sulfur, according to Sergei Petrov, Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations regional spokesperson.

The tanker was carrying nearly 1.3 million gallons of fuel oil, and was stranded several miles from shore. Emergency workers were prevented from collecting the spilled oil immediately due to stormy weather; the head of the state environmental safety watchdog Rosprorodnadzor, Oleg Mitvol, said “there is serious concern that the spill will continue”. Workers eventually managed to begin work on cleaning up the spill, an effort which may be long-term. Tar-like sands laden with oil and seaweed were piled on the shore, while oil-covered birds in slick-covered water tried to flap their wings. Regional coast guard officer Anatoly Yanhuck said once weather improves they will begin pumping oil from the tanker, then tow the ship to port.

Two fuel-loaded barges and Turkish freighter Ziya Kos also ran aground in the area, but there was no further environmental damage, said Petrov. Ten ships altogether were sunk or run aground in the area of the Black Sea near the Straight of Kerch and the Straight itself; a Russian freighter carrying metal was also reported as having sunk near the port of Sevastopol on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The Port of Sevastopol on a clear day in 2005.
Image: Vyacheslav Stepanyuchenko.

One of the sulfur-carrying freighters reported three crew members as drowned, and five more as missing, while two members of the sunk freighter carrying metal were reported as drowned and another remains missing. The oil tanker’s 13 crew members were all rescued safely, and all members of the second freighter were also reported as safe.

Captains had been warned Saturday morning of the stormy conditions, regional prosecutor Maxim Stepanenko told Russia’s Vesti 24. The oil tanker was not built to withstand fierce storms, having been designed to transport oil on rivers during Soviet times, he said.

Chemist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Service office of response and restoration, Jim Farr said the sulfur spill from the two freighters wouldn’t create a “hazardous situation”, a statement backed up by Alexei Zhukovin, expert with the Emergency Situations Ministry’s branch in Southern Russia. Although on land sulfur is used as a fungicide, in a marine setting it wouldn’t act as one, said Farr; instead a sulfur spill can be compared to dumping sand on a reef and smothering it, or placing a blanket on a bed of grass. Long-term effects are more difficult to speculate on, however, without better knowledge of the area and its currents. Oleg Mitvol said that although the sulfur spill doesn’t present an environmental danger, the two freighters might also leak fuel oil from their tanks, adding to the pollution.

Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, and Ukraine all border on the Black Sea.

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April 26, 2007

Putin delivers eighth annual address to parliament

Putin delivers eighth annual address to parliament

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

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Nearing the end of his second term as President of Russia, Vladimir Putin delivered his eighth annual state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly of Russia today.

Putin said foreign cash is being used to meddle with domestic affairs, criticised the United States plans to install an anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe, while arguing to declare a moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. He also discussed economic issues and internal affairs, and made it clear that next year’s address would be given by another President.

Putin began his 72-minute long state-of-nation address by requesting one minute of silence for Boris Yeltsin, who died at age 76 last Monday of a heart condition. He suggested that a national library be established in the name of the deceased president. Putin’s speech had originally been scheduled for Wednesday, but it was postponed one day because of the funeral for Putin’s predecessor. Putin followed Yeltsin as Acting President when the latter unexpectedly resigned on December 31, 1999. Putin was then elected May 7, 2000.

Foreign policy

Vladimir Putin.

Putin attacked unnamed foreign political influences in Russia’s politics: “There is a growing influx of foreign cash into the country used for the sole purpose of meddling in our internal affairs,” Putin declared in the Kremlin, before both the upper and lower houses of Russia’s parliament. “Some people are not averse to using the dirtiest methods, trying to foment interethnic and religious hatred in our multi-ethnic country. That is why I call on you to speed up the adoption of amendments to legislation toughening punishment for extremist actions,” the president said.

This month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia complained about U.S. funding to organisations promoting democracy. Putin continued: “There are those who, skilfully using pseudo-democratic rhetoric, would like to return to the recent past — some to loot the country’s national riches, to rob the people and the state; others to strip us of economic and political independence.”

The head of state urged the lawmakers he addressed to give up the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. He explained how NATO countries that signed the treaty did not respect its clauses, which limit conventional military forces in Europe.

Putin: “NATO countries are planning to station elements of anti-missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, and new member countries like Slovakia and Baltic states, despite the agreements with the Alliance, have not yet joined the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. This poses a real danger for us with unpredictable outcomes. Therefore I think it is necessary to declare a moratorium on Russia’s implementation of this treaty.” He thinks the moratorium should be upheld “until all countries of the world have ratified and started to strictly implement it”.

Kremlin aides stressed however that freezing Russia’s efforts to comply with the treaty were not directly linked to the U.S. plans for a weapons shield in Eastern Europe. Prior to the NATO-Russia council meeting in Oslo, Norway today, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the idea that the shield would pose a strategic threat to Russia, calling the Russian concerns “purely ludicrous”.

Domestic issues

Putin acknowledged that political analysts were expecting him to endorse a candidate as his successor, but instead he said: “It is premature for me to declare a political will.” He made it clear, however, that he would not pursue a third presidency in the elections of next March, by stating that “The next state-of-the-nation address will be given by another head of state.” The Russian constitution only permits two terms as president, but last month the head of the Federation Council of Russia, the upper house of parliament, proposed making a third term possible.

On the other hand, Putin didn’t seem eager to give up his political life completely after the end of his second term. “It is premature for me to come out with political last wills and testaments,” the president commented.

On the upcoming parliamentary elections next December and ongoing reforms of the voting system, Putin said that a system of proportional representation would “help the opposition widen its representation,” and ensure a fair result. The Associated Press, however, reports that a new system based on party-lists is perceived by critics as a way of hindering smaller opposition parties.

On foreign influences on Russian culture, Putin said that “Society can only meet big national challenges when … it preserves respect for its native language (and) its distinctive cultural values.”

The president praised Russia’s economy as one of the top 10 economies in the world. Russia’s oil income has soared due to high oil prices on the world market. Putin suggested using some of the money from the auction of bankrupt oil company Yukos to finance housebuilding and transport infrastructure projects. “It is inadmissible for a country with such reserves accumulated from its oil and gas revenues to be at peace with the fact that millions of its citizens live in Khrushchev-era housing,” Putin said, referring to the living conditions under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who reigned between Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev.

Another idea involved a ship canal between the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. He also thinks it would be a good idea to encourage private pension saving by adding top-up payments to the amount of rubles Russians save for their retirement. For Putin, state pensions should rise by 65% by 2009.

On the matter of energy, Putin called for an increase in power generation by two-thirds by 2020. 26 new nuclear power plants could help achieve this goal, the President thinks.

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May 3, 2006

Armenian president offers condolences over Black Sea air crash

Armenian president offers condolences over Black Sea air crash

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Wednesday, May 3, 2006

A similar airplane, the Airbus A320-200

Armenia’s president Robert Kocharyan expressed his condolences Wednesday morning to friends and families who lost their loved ones in the air crash over the Black Sea.

Early Wednesday morning, an Armenian Airbus A-320 flying from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi crashed with the loss of all 113 passengers and crew.

“I was deeply grieved to learn about the air crash,” President Kocharyan said. “I offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the passengers and the crew. I assure that the families of those who died will receive the necessary assistance, and the authorities will make every effort to discover the causes of the accident.”

The Russian and Armenian presidents have also announced on Wednesday that Friday, May 5th, would be a day of mourning in remembrance of the 113 people that died in the air crash.

Russian emergency services said the airliner had crashed at about six kilometers (3.7 miles) from the coast while approaching land in stormy weather.

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May 2, 2006

Flight from Armenian capital Yerevan crashes near Sochi

Flight from Armenian capital Yerevan crashes near Sochi

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Tuesday, May 2, 2006

A similar airplane, the Airbus A320-200

An Armavia Airbus 320 passenger plane flying from Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, to the city of Sochi in southern Russia has crashed into the Black Sea. The jet was found 6 km from the coast and carried a total of 113 people. Among the passengers were 8 crew and 6 children. Controllers lost contact with the plane at 0215 local time (Tuesday 2215 UTC).

Rescuers have found the corpses of a woman and a girl and another 12 body parts at the site of Wednesday’s crash of Armenia’s Airbus A-320 plane off Russia’s Black Sea coast, a spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office told Interfax. Other reports say that at least 25 bodies have been found.

There were 77 Armenian citizens, 26 Russian citizens, 1 Ukrainian and 1 Georgian citizen on board of the Armenian air liner, Armenian Civil Aviation Department head Artyom Movsisian told on a news conference.

“Most of the Russian citizens are of Armenian origin,” Movsisian said.

“Rescue efforts are being hampered by deteriorating weather conditions, heavy rain and rough seas,” a spokesman for the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said.

“The fragments were found six km (3.7 miles) from the shore near the airport of Adler. The search operation continues,” said Beltsov. The location of the crash site has been ascertained by a numerous fragments and life vests, and a large oil slick.

“The only thing [we] know is that when the crew asked for permission to land, the air controller in Sochi responded that bad weather meant this was not yet possible,” Gayane Davtyan, head of Armenia’s civilian aviation authority said. “Contact with the crew was lost at 600 meters, when the plane went to circle for a second time.”

The cause of the tragedy remains unclear, but the investigators are pursuing two main versions: bad weather conditions and poor maintenance.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office believes terrorism can be ruled out as a factor in the A-320 plane crash near the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday morning.

“We don’t have any information that could indicate a possible terrorist attack on board the plane,” Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel told Interfax on Wednesday.

An official from the regional department of the Emergency Situations Ministry in southern Russia said “apparently there were malfunctions on board, as the pilots were making another attempt to land at the Adler airport.”

“The plane was in an ideal technical condition, the crew was well qualified,” said the airline’s deputy commercial director, Andrei Aghajanov. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

In the area where the plane crashed, more rain is expected in the next hours and the water temperature is currently between 8 to 10 degrees celsius.

The Russian and Armenian presidents have announced on Wednesday that Friday, May 5th, would be a day of mourning in remembrance of the 113 people that died in the crash.

The worst crash involving an two-engine A-320, which was first built in 1984 and remains the most popular Airbus on the market, occurred in August 2000, when a Gulf Air plane crashed off Bahrain on a flight from Cairo, killing all 143 people on board. The Airbus A320 is a short-to-medium range commercial passenger aircraft and a total of 328 people have been killed in earlier A320 accidents.

About 20 boats and a Be-200 amphibious aircraft are involved in the recovery operation, emergency services said, adding that two more Be-200s would fly to the scene if necessary. A group of rescuers from the Russian emergency ministry is expected to fly to the crash site in the next few hours.

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February 16, 2006

Europe restricts poultry as bird flu spreads to eight European nations

Europe restricts poultry as bird flu spreads to eight European nations

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

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Authorities across Europe have issued restrictions on commercial poultry farms, following the outbreak of bird flu in eight previously unaffected nations. The virus has been found in migratory birds much earlier than had been expected.

Tests have confirmed that wild swans in Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria and Germany had died from the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus. Other suspected cases of the virus have been detected in Slovenia, Croatia and Denmark.

European health officials had expected wild birds migrating from Africa to Europe in spring to carry the disease into Western Europe. It is thought that swans were migrating from Russia and Ukraine to the Black Sea driven by unusually cold weather.

Globally, 91 people have died after contracting the virus from close contact with diseased birds, but the greatest concern for European authorities is that an outbreak will occur among domesticated fowl, destroying local poultry industries. The H5N1 strain of bird flu is highly contagious, and lethal to birds. A single outbreak can kill tens of thousands of birds, and all birds must be culled across a wide region to prevent the spread of the disease.

No domesticated poultry or humans are thought to be infected in Western Europe at this time. Authorities continue to conduct intensive checks.

A number of countries across Europe, including Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have required that domesticated fowl be kept indoors. In Germany and Hungary, two mile protection zones have been placed around the locations where dead swans, with all poultry required to be kept indoors and the shipping of meat outside the zones prohibited.

The European Union has toughened its bans on poultry products and now bans the importation of untreated bird feathers into its 25 member nations. The EU also hopes to test 60,000 wild birds and 300,0000 domestic birds as part of its bird flu surveillance program.

In France, the government asked citizens to keep domesticated fowl indoors throughout the country. Domesticated ducks will be vaccinated.

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February 28, 2005

Three Romanian ports closed due to heavy fog

Filed under: Archived,Black Sea,Merchant shipping,Romania,Transport,Weather — admin @ 5:00 am

Three Romanian ports closed due to heavy fog

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The Constanţa port, Romania’s largest, was closed due to the fog…

… as was the Danube-Black Sea Canal, a major transitway for ships between the North Sea and the Black Sea

Monday, February 28, 2005

Bucharest, Romania — The Romanian Black Sea ports of Constanţa, Midia and Mangalia were closed on Saturday due to heavy fog. The Danube-Black Sea Canal was also caused due to reduced visibility. The canal, which runs for 64 km, is an important part of the European shipping channel that links the North Sea to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

The port closures left 54 ships in the harbour or stranded at sea, said Alexandru Mezei, the director of shipping navigation at Constanţa Port, the largest port in Romania. However, he claims that the closure was necessary to prevent accidents from occurring, as the fog had reduced visiblity below safe levels.

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