Monday, July 31, 2017

Putin Shows Off Russia's Naval Might With Major Parade, Cuts U.S. Diplomatic Presence By 755 People,




Putin shows off Russia's naval might with major parade




President Vladimir Putin on Sunday oversaw a pomp-filled display of Russia's naval might as the Kremlin paraded its sea power from the Baltic Sea to the shores of Syria.
Some 50 warships and submarines were on show along the Neva River and in the Gulf of Finland off the country's second city of Saint Petersburg after Putin ordered the navy to hold its first ever parade on such a grand scale.
"Today much is being done to develop and modernise the navy," Putin told servicemen after surveying the military hardware from his presidential cutter.
"The navy is not only dealing with its traditional tasks but also responding with merit to new challenges, making a significant contribution to the fight against terrorism and piracy."
The showcase event to mark Russia's annual Navy Day is the latest to be beefed up by Putin, with the Kremlin strongman also bolstering the traditional WWII victory parade in Moscow as he looks to flex the country's military muscles.

Russia has ramped up its military manoeuvres as ties with the West have slumped over Moscow's meddling in Ukraine, unnerving NATO and its members in Eastern Europe.
Smaller naval parades were also taking place from Russia's European exclave Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to the annexed Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and Vladivostok in the far-east.
For the first time Moscow also showed off its naval hardware at its Syrian base of Tartus in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russian ships have played a prominent role backing up a bombing campaign in support of leader Bashar al-Assad.
Russian news wire Interfax reported that six vessels -- including the latest generation "Krasnodar" diesel submarine -- were taking part in the parade.
Moscow and Damascus in January signed a 49-year deal for Russia to expand and modernise the facility at Tartus, further cementing the Kremlin's influence in the region after its game-changing military intervention.




US diplomatic presence in Russia will be cut by 755 people, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday.
The president said that the cut will make the diplomatic missions of Russia and the United States working in the both countries equal.
"The personnel of the US diplomatic missions in Russia will be cut by 755 people and will now equal the number of the Russian diplomatic personnel in the United States, 455 people on each side," Putin said in an interview with Vesti.ru channel.

Putin pointed out that he believes that the reduction is considerable given that over a thousand American personnel who currently live and work in Russia will have to go back to the United States.
"Because over a thousand employees, diplomats and technical personnel have been working and are still working in Russia, and 755 of them will have to seize their work in the Russian Federation. It’s considerable," Putin added.
Earlier this week, the US Congress approved a bill on new sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Russia, with the White House saying that Trump intended to sign it. The sanctions, if adopted, will impose further restrictive measures on Russia, particularly against the energy industry, due to Moscow's alleged interference in 2016 US presidential election and Ukraine’s internal affairs.
Speaking on the new sanctions, Putin said that Russia will not leave the Congress bill without a response. However, Putin noted, he opposes limitations in any sphere of joint activities with the United States that "could be sensitive" to Washington.
"We could imagine, theoretically, that one day a moment would come when the damage of attempts to put pressure on Russia will be comparable to the negative consequences of certain limitations of our cooperation. Well, if that moment ever comes, we could discuss other response options. But I hope it will not come to that. As of today, I am against it."
Putin said on Sunday that anti-terrorism fight, Syrian settlement and non-proliferation weapons of mass destruction are key areas of Russia's cooperation with the United States.






The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Poland’s government after the nation ignored repeated warnings by Brussels to not proceed with long-promised judicial reform measures.

Having already previously made multiple threats, the European Commission [EC] sent a Letter of Formal Notice to the governing Law and Justice party [Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc, PiS] on Saturday, July 29th, a day after the publication of the government policy document outlining the forthcoming changes.
The EC stated they had a ‘key legal concern’ in court laws requiring female judges to retire at the age of 60, while their male counterparts would continue to work until 65, which they said is seen as contrary to gender equality in employment.
The EC has also set out their concerns with giving the justice minister too much power to dismiss and appoint court presidents.
“The new rules allow the Minister of Justice to exert influence on individual ordinary judges, through, in particular, the vague criteria for the prolongation of their mandates thereby undermining the principle of irremovability of judges” the EC stated in a press release.
Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) explained in a statement on Saturday that the judge’s retirement age was simply adjusted to match the national ages of retirement for both sexes, which has been in force since the Law and Justice government repealed the previous retirement reform. Before the latest reforms, both men and women had to work until 67.
The MFA stressed that ‘social policy and organisation of the judiciary fall within the competence of the member states’ and that the issues would be ‘set out in detail in a Polish position on the European Commission’s reservations.’
The legal action against Poland comes after the EC’s vice president Hans Timmermans, who has in the past branded Viktor Orban an anti-Semite for criticising George Soros, said Wednesday that Article 7, a legal process that would suspend Poland’s voting rights, could be triggered if Poland continued down the path they were taking.



With opposition parties boycotting what they call a rigged election, Reuters reports the streets of Caracas were deserted on Sunday as a minority of Venezuelans trickled to the polls to elect a constitutional super-body that unpopular leftist President Maduro vowed would begin a new era of combat in the crisis-stricken nation. That is good news as, following the death of two people yesterday, shortly after a large group of motorbikes sped through the city, and explosion hit, reportedly injuring a number of police officers.

A number of police officers were injured in Venezuela's capital Caracas after an explosion during an anti-government protest decrying a vote for a constituent assembly on Sunday, according to a Reuters witness.

Further details were not immediately available.
The moment of the explosion...
Social media is awash with clips of injured (it is uncertain if this is from the explosion)...
For now, the fire from the explosion continues...

As a reminder, Reuters reports, Maduro, widely disliked for overseeing an economic collapse during four years in office, has pressed ahead with the vote to create the all-powerful assembly despite the threat of further U.S. sanctions and months of opposition protests in which more than 115 people have been killed. Opposition parties are boycotting what they call a rigged election. Their sympathizers planned protests on highways across the South American country and scuffles were already reported in the provinces - raising the prospect of violent clashes with tens of thousands of troops deployed to safeguard the vote.
Authorities confirmed there were two deaths on Saturday, including the killing of a candidate to the assembly during a robbery, while the opposition put the total death toll in Saturday's protests at five.
Critics say the assembly will allow Maduro to dissolve the opposition-run Congress, delay future elections and rewrite electoral rules to prevent the socialists from being voted out of power in the once-prosperous OPEC nation.
The opposition has vowed to redouble its resistance and U.S. President Donald Trump has promised broader economic sanctions against Venezuela after the vote, suggesting the oil-rich nation's crisis is set to escalate.

"Even if they win today, this won't last long," said opposition supporter Berta Hernandez, a 60-year-old doctor, in a wealthy Caracas district. "I'll continue on the streets because, not long from now, this will come to an end."



Finland has reportedly seen a flood of conversions from Islam to Christianity, with hundreds of asylum seekers from the Middle East turning to the Christian faith, officials in the Evangelical Lutheran community said.
Evangelical Lutheran parishes have begun establishing confirmation classes for Muslim immigrants who want to become Christians. Exact figures on the number of recent Muslim converts aren't available since such records aren't kept – but conservative estimates on the number suggest several hundred in recent years within the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, according to the Finnish news source Yle Uutiset.

Conversion from Islam is a divisive move however, one not readily accepted by many traditional Muslim families; some say that after conversion they are seen as 'infidels' in 'exile' by family in their home countries.
'I haven't been in contact with my family in Afghanistan for a very long time. If they find out I've converted, it would mean trouble for me,' said another convert, Golamir Hossaini.
Many of the Imatra confirmation students reportedly cited a disillusionment with the Islamic faith, and say they will probably never return to Afghanistan.





Less than a month after the US flew two B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula to show off "US attack capabilities", the US Air Force did it again on Sunday, when it the flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula in "a show of force" on Sunday after Pyongyang's Friday test of an ICBM that can reach the continental US. The two B-1Bs flew alongside two Japanese F-2 jet fighters within Japanese airspace before conducting an exercise over South Korea with four South Korean F-15 fighters in response to the latest North Korean missile test, as well as the previous July 4 launch of the "Hwansong-14" rocket, the USAF. 
"In a demonstration of ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies, two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, fly a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula" the statement by Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs said.
"North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability," Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy said in the statement
"If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing".


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