Russia: Police arrest 1,600 migrants after riots
Clearly Russia seems back. But, is this for real or only a temporary interlude? Russian history provides a sense of deja vu. While major powers have risen and fallen over the centuries (Spain, Holland, France, Germany, Japan, England) or simply risen and gently begun to fall (United States), Russia has gone through the cycle several times. Its earlier incarnations as Kievan Rus, Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union were respectively destroyed by the Mongol occupation (1240-1480), the Russian Revolution (1917) and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991) that created 15 new nations in place of the Soviet Union. Russia’s current emergence as a major power depends greatly upon the fate of rival powers. The Obama unwillingness to exert military power in the Middle East, the European Union’s focus on economic problems and consensual decision making, the decline of Japan, the economic issues plaguing India and the preoccupation of rising China with its serious domestic problems (massive corruption, extreme social stratification, extensive air and water pollution) all have provided an opening for Russia. Can Russia sustain its new role? Clearly in the next few years this is likely. But in the longer run Russia’s own deep problems will preclude it from playing a strong international role. Russia’s $2 trillion economy is barely larger than the Canadian economy. Russia’s economy is less than 3 percent of global GDP and only 14 percent the size of the American economy. Its agricultural sector is backward and its trade, dominated by exports of oil and gas, is the profile for a Third World, not First World, country.
Russia keeps Greenpeace ship captain behind bars
Moscow (AFP) – A Russian court on Monday rejected bail requests from the captain of a Greenpeace ship and a young female Argentinian activist involved in a protest against oil drilling in the Russian Arctic. A court in the northern region of Murmansk where the 30 crew members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise are being held ruled that the ship’s captain Pete Willcox, 60, and Camila Speziale, 21, should not be released. Willcox is one of the most prominent of the activists detained as he is a veteran Greenpeace campaigner who also captained the ship Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed by French secret agents in New Zealand in 1985. The Greenpeace crew have been held in Murmansk for almost three weeks after their Dutch-flagged ship was seized by Russian security forces in a commando-style operation in Arctic waters. Two of its activists had climbed on to an oil platform owned by energy giant Gazprom to protest its drilling in a sensitive Arctic environment which Greenpeace says risks environmental catastrophe. The Russian authorities have now charged all 30 crew with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years. The so-called “Arctic 30” have been placed in pre-trial detention until November 24. Last week the same court turned down bail requests from two British activists among the Arctic 30. Russian news agencies quoted Willcox as saying during a break in his hearing on Monday that he had many regrets and if he could start again, would have stayed in New York rather than embarking on the Arctic voyage. He also said he was suffering from heart problems. “I’m innocent and I do not understand what I’m accused of,” Greenpeace quoted Speziale as saying in court Monday. “I don’t have anything against your country. Russia and Argentina have good relations.
Some 1,200 people were yesterday detained at a wholesale vegetable market after it was stormed on Sunday night by local protesters following the stabbing, police spokesman Alexei Shapkin said. Another 450 were detained in north-east Moscow, also near a vegetable market employing migrants. Police said they were all detained to check whether they were involved in any wrongdoing, but they have not been accused of any specific crime. Footage showed detainees standing against walls or lined up in front of camouflage-clad police. By rounding up migrants, authorities seemed to be trying to appease residents who had taken to the streets of the Biryulyovo district to demand police find the killer of Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, and act to prevent crimes by migrants. Migrant labour has played a significant role in Russias transformation during an oil-fuelled boom that took off around the time president Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000. But many in Moscow are uneasy at the influx of migrants from the mainly Muslim North Caucasus and ex-Soviet states of the Caucasus and Central Asia, although many do low-paying jobs, such as in construction, that few local residents want. On Sunday, the mob in the southern neighbourhood fought with police, smashed shops and street stalls and stormed the vegetable market, targeting sites employing migrants. Police arrested at least 380 people as they struggled to quell the violence, which left several people, including officers, injured and shone a spotlight on tension between ethnic Russians and Muslim incomers. Russian authorities frequently carry out raids detaining illegal immigrants but critics say efforts are undermined by police corruption. We must learn to live together and counteract rampant corruption and related attempts to break up our country by exploiting ethnic problems, human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, told state TV. A group that lobbies for economic migrants in Russia warned of an increased risk of ethnic violence in Moscow. The nationalists are pursuing their political goals. This is clearly very dangerous. We are warning migrants to be careful for now in crowded areas and on public transportation, said Mukhamad Amin, head of the Federation of Migrants of Russia.