Person of XXI. century Russia – Vladimir Vladimiroch Putin

Russia it’s not only the largest country in the world but also has a significant power and importance in the whole earth.  It has the world’s largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and a lethal nuclear arsenal; it is the world’s second largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia; and it is an decisive player in whatever happens in the Middle East. Russia’s success in the 21 century owes much of one great man and politician, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Early life and education

Vladimir Putin was born after what the Russians call The Great War, on October 7th, 1952 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg, Russia). As a teenager the he used to practice handball and played at radio station. He became top-ranked expert at sambo, a type of martial art.  He received a high level education in university: he graduated from the law faculty of Leningrad State University, where he specialized in international law. In this point began his political experience because he became member of Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

KGB work experience

After graduation he applied and in final was accepted to work in KGB, in the branch where he was responsible recruiting foreigners who would to gather information for KGB intelligence.  After his marriage, with Ludmila, KGB sent him to Dresden, East Germany.  He enjoyed his time there, the culture and Germans people, unlike to others KGB agents.  Putin came back to Russia in 1990 and one year later than the Soviet Union was falling apart he left his job in KGB with the rank of colonel and get involved in politics.

Russian politics

Vladimir Putin used to work for Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor St. Petersburg and in 1994 became deputy mayor.  Already in that time, above his influence the second capital of Russia, St. Petersburg developed. After the defeat of Anatoly Sobchak, Putin gave up his post and moved to capital Moscow.  In 1998, Putin was appointed as deputy head of management in Boris Yeltsin’s presidential administration, in charge of Kremlin’s relations with the regional governments.  Year later, he was named secretary of the Security Council, a body that advices president on the matter of foreign policy, national security, military and law enforcement. In 1999, because of health issued, president of that time Yeltsin, appointed Putin in his place. Many people didn’t trust in the success of Putin because he had a little political experience and also his personality seems to be quite boring. Nevertheless, in a short time he meaningfully increased his popularity among citizens by pursuing the war in Chechnya.  He didn’t blaming various bombing in Moscow and elsewhere on Chechen terrorists, he also used harsh words in criticizing his enemies.

When he became president in 2000 he found his country on the approach of becoming a failed state.  With his determined persistence, a high-pitched vision of what Russia should become the spirit of Mother Russia; Putin has put his country back on the map.  Even if, he was president, he will continue to lead his country as its Prime Minister and tried to transform it into a new kind of nation, bound to neither East nor West.

Putin is considered the person of 21st century person because he is a clear-eyed recognition of the world and one of the most powerful individuals. And maybe he is not a democrat in any way that the West would define it and he is not a model of free speech but he stands, first of all, for stability—stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has barely seen in Russia for a hundred years.  He proved to be a reformer or an autocrat and an extraordinary leadership who took the country back to the table of world power. Vladimir Putin in a key player on the world stage for making Russian a great world power.  His efforts to reignite the forces of Russian imperialism by intimidate former Soviet republics, a likely recognition of the efforts being made by the breakaway ethnic Russian enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia to achieve independence, Russia’s drawing from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and Putin’s own efforts to improve his cult of personality and his political power at home should be of deep concern to any and all Russia-watchers.

Putin’s importance is shown by the desperate attempts by his enemies to discredit him: a new website similar to WikiLeaks was founded in January 2011, and it started it’s activity by posting pictures of a great castle on the shore of the Black sea. Authors claimed that this building belongs to Putin, though it’s not presented in his disclosure of his assets. It turned out that the website tried to disgrace him by feeding false informations like this about him.

Bin Laden Killed

The death of Bin Laden was heavily celebrated in the US. There were pictures from Washington DC, and New York City of people waving flags, and cheering. The US was very happy that the most infamous terrorist in the world, was killed by US special forces. Russia, which is plagued by terrorism issues of their own released a series of conflicting posts and interviews on the ITAR-TASS website.

On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry described the killing as “a milestone in the fight against international terrorism.” The ministry went on to say

“Being partners in the anti-terror coalition we share the American people’s feelings. We appreciate that the Russian authorities had been properly informed of the operation before U.S. President Barack Obama made an official statement,” the ministry said.

 

The Russian Foreign Ministry highlighted the objective laws – “Bin Laden, Basayev and others like them will face retaliation sooner or later.”

 

“The most important principle in the fight against terrorists as well as with criminals in general is to ensure that responsibility for what had been done will be placed. In this sense success of the U.S. special services as well as the effective work of Russia’s special services in the North Caucasus, including that against Al-Qaeda emissaries, is of global importance. This is a clear signal of historical hopelessness of terrorism and inevitable responsibility for its evil acts,” the ministry said.

 

The following day, the Russian parliament warned of the immediate increase in danger as the terrorists may attempt to strike in retaliation for the death of bin Laden. Although, Bin Laden wasn’t as vocal of his desire to destroy Russia as he was the United States, the Russian chairman of the defence and security committee released these comments;

Ozerov underlined that “Al-Qaeda’s activities spread on the territory of the Russian Federation as well.”

 

“Russia’s special services have repeatedly detected Bin Laden’s trace as concerns the preparation for and financing of those terror acts that had been committed on the territory of our regions in the Caucasus.”

 

Russia who has a long history of human rights abuse, especially in pursuing terrorists or suspected terrorists, specifically in the Chechnya in the recent past, had nothing negative to say about the fact that Bin Laden was killed, and not taken as a prisoner. Bin Laden was a shared enemy of the entire free world, and very few people across the world are willing to take the political gamble to advocate for mercy on someone whose goal was to pursue mass murder of thousands of innocent civilians across the globe.

Tschernobyl’s 25th anniversary

According to Medvedev, there are no alternatives of the friendly usage of nuclear technology, and that’s why the security of them should be improved constatly.

Head of the Russian state participated on the ukrainian events around the 25. anniversary of the catastrophe at Tschernobyl. Alexandr Lukasenko, head of the Belorussia didn’t show up despite he was invited too. His presidential office claimed that instead of the official celebrations he visited the  formerly concerned areas of his own country.

The bell of Thschernobyl’s only cathedral was rang by the leaders of Russia and Ukraine and by Kirill, patriarch of Moscow and whole Russia. That was the opening act of the obseques for the victims of the tragedy.

During the ceremonies Russia’s leader asserted that up til now there are no substitutes to supplant nuclear power and that is why the security of this industry should be increased constantly. In addition, he proposed that countries that not act in approriate speed and magnitude to their plant’s accidents should take the responsibility.

Patriarch Kirill spoke about how important it is to remember for the heroism of the so-called liquidators: „Russians, Ukrainans, Belorussians fought side by side. They struggled together to stop the bigger catastrophe, which is a wonderful example of solidarity during the hard times. Don’t let this example fade away from our memories. Let it be the inspiration for maintaining a good relationship with each outher. Don’t let borders share our people”-he said.

Later, at the meeting of the two presidents at Zalesz near Kijev Medvedev promised that Russia will continue to eliminate the consequences of the nuclear catastrophe together with Ukraine.

One day after the anniversary of the most serious nuclear catastrophe of the Earth, Kirill stated that the accident was the punishment from God for the sins of mankind. „The human nature contains sin, which led to the mistake of the people responsible for the accident”.

„They said it was human error, but really it was a punishment let to happen by God.” He also claimed that God could be able to stop the operator in the fourth reactor’s control room.

He was also sure about that last year’s big fires in Russia were also a penalty from God.

The participation of the russian, ukranian and belorussian workers during the salvage operations was titled as a big heroic act by the russian church leader.

He added that the our ever-expanding scientific knowledge drives people to a bigger responsibility about the nature.

Russians Learning English!

Russians Learning English

Having traveled in Russia both in Moscow and St Petersburg, I can personally attest to the fact that people in Moscow will not speak English to you. I found it easily to speak English in St Petersburg especially with the students, but overall Russia has a (well deserved) reputation for not speaking very good English. Russia will host the winter Olympics in 2014. As part of the planning process Russian officials are trying to make their country more English friendly.

Russia hired the company EF (English First) to train 70,000 Russians to learn English. According to a press release “Under the contract, the international firm will educate athletes, Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee staff, service providers — including taxi drivers and hotel maids — judges and volunteers. Most of the training will be carried out online.” This is impressive because of the scope that Russia is going to to train so many individuals on learning English. For instance, the company EF was also retained to help in the planning on the Beijing Olympics. However in the Beijing Olympics they were only responsible for training 6,000 people. This newest endeavor represents a 12 times larger training than was performed in China.

EF which is based in Switzerland was hired after competing bids from 6 other companies. One of the main reasons they were chosen was due to their prior experience in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and the 2008 Olympics in Being.  According to EF’s chief learning officer, EF is responsible for training 500,000 students annually in English. This makes them able to handle the immense task of training the 70,000 Russians. The online content is expected to be available in beginning in May of 2012, and will be available until the start of the games in February of 2014.

The announcement to undertake the large training of individuals related to the Olympics isn’t the only attempt to expand the amount of English spoken in Russia. Currently the Economic Development Ministry is proposing a plan which would call for 20 percent of foreign officials to be fluent in English by 2020. While the idea has not been officially implemented yet, it would require approximately 140,000 government officials to be fluent. The plan would further require fluency in English for all newly hired government workers.

While English in Russia is behind the level that it is in many parts of Europe, these are important first steps to be taken. With both of these major organizations proposing and attempting to modernize their workforce by being fluent in English, it shows evidence that Russia believes in the future of a global economy, and can’t rely on only communication in Russian.

 

Increased radiation worldwide

The Japanese government dismissed the proposal of IAEA on thursday about thickening the area of evacuation near the damaged nuclear plant on thursday. The radiation can be measured on the whole territory of China, but it’s level is very low and it isn’t dangerous for people’s health due to the goverment at Peking.

Other sources claim that the radiation levels in the sea are 4000 times bigger the tolerable limit. Meanwhile  some agreements are made with Russian-Mongolian corporation specialised in exploring the new uranium fields in Mongolia. Their goal is to mine annual 2000 tons of nuclear fuel in the near future.

The Chinese department of preserving natural enviroment announced that they detected the increased radiation all the country’s southern and northern, highly populated areas. Even in Peking they could measure iodine isotopes of number 131, 137 and 134 and some cesium isotopes as well. But the amount of radiation is only 1/1000 part of what we must endure on a 2000 km long flight. They also  claimed that even in the closest chinese cities to Fukushima no extra arrangements are needed.  Last week China made an embargo against the import of fruits, vegetables, milk and sea products from Japanese provinces near the emissing power plant.

The Japanese government evacuated their people in 20 – 30  km radius of the plant. IAEA advised them to evacuate Iitate as well, which is a small town of 6000 inhabitants 40 kilometers far from Fukushima. It isn’t necessary even after the lately increased radiation levels, said Edano Jukio, spokesman of the government.  Evacuation are made in 20 km radius, people who live between 20 and 30 kilometers can decide to move or not. Small amounts of radioactive iodine can be detected in Europe as well, said Attila Aszódi, chief of the Institute of Nuclear Technology of the University of Technology Budapest, Hungary. He added that this has no consequence in national radioactive protection or in public healthcare operations.

The radioactive iodine molecules in fact are so rare in the air that they can be detected only with the most sensitives scientific measurement devices.  These devices are so precise that they can show the changes of concentration when at a nearby hospital someone opens a bottle of iodine for medical testing.

But recently percieved samples are very homogeneous and came from very far, so it’s highly likely that they origin from Fukusima. But there are nothing to worry about: only long time measurements can catch one or two atoms, so they won’t cause any medical problems to no one on the Eurasian continent.

Coalition Overstepping Resolution

“It’s not up to NATO to decide the future of Libya. If someone in NATO thinks otherwise, they are deeply mistaken,” Moscow’s envoy Dmitry Rogozin shared his concerns after a Russia-NATO meeting.

The concern comes from the UN Resolution drafted by the Security Council which Russia has been a strong proponent of. From the start there has been concern over the wording of the resolution, which was supposed to be establishing a no-fly zone so that Gadaffi couldn’t use helicopters or airplanes to target and bomb cities. Now with the current interruption of the resolution, the coalition is using it as a free pass to attack Gadaffi, and provide air support to rebel forces.

Moscow currently has many questions and concerns about how the resolution is being carried out, and is meeting at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels to give their opinion, now that NATO has taken over command of the Libyan operation. Russia has constantly insisted that the coalition stick closer to its original intent, which was to protect civilians. There have been a number of civilian deaths which have been reported, and appear to be confirmed by reliable sources. This is exactly the opposite of the resolution, and  NATO should be aware of this moving forward, as the deaths of civilians are exactly what the resolution was adopted to prevent.

Moscow wants to remind the coalition of the simple and clear initial reason for the resolution. Which includes establishing a no-fly zone, establishing an embargo on arms supplied to Libya, according to international law.  Therefore Russia also needs full transparency of the events as they unfold in Libya, including the operations that NATO is performing, as Russia maintains a key role in NATO, and being a primary NATO partner in the North Atlantic Region.

We have made our positions clear, and the partners have confirmed that they understand our views and positions. We have urged, and have been guaranteed that the coalition will listen to the updates of the situation released by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and to focus on a selective use of force, and only in cases which adhere to the strict interruption of the UN Security Resolution, and not the creative interpretation of the resolution which has some countries mentioning the possibility further action.

It is important for NATO to listen to its partners on this Libyan situation, especially as Russia and  NATO have a meeting April 15th discussing the potential of the Euro Missile Defense shield. Russian and European cooperation is key in Libya, as this will be a test to see how well the two can work together in terms of a missile defense plan..

Russia Quits Smoking!

The tendency of ban smoking from public places seem to spread from the Western world to East. The borderline of these kind of regulations lies in post-communist countries: in Poland it’s already banished, in Hungary this law takes effect in July 2011 and even in Russia there are recent attempts towards.

On Wednesday the healthcare committee of the Moscow government was meeting in Moscow to talk about the opportunity to reduce the list of places where smokers would be allowed to smoke. The list includes places like: state institutions, stadiums, hospitals, schools, theaters and other cultural institutions.

Although the new measure hasn’t got a big chance to pass because the lobby of tobacco industry of Russia is very forceful.

The members of the committee have some proposals about prohibition in stairways and selling tobacco products in all buildings that are the prerty of the local government of Moscow.

Future goals are to reduce passive smoking by 10-15 percent, active somiking by 50 percent until 2014. Weapons of reaching this impressive numbers are narrowing the list of tobacco selling places and a massive anti-tobacco campaign.

Their enthusiasm is understandable: statistics say that 500 000 Russian dies of the effects of smoking every year. Prevention is an other serious issue: the numbers of smoking youth are terrible: forty-three percent of permanent smokers among youth are below 13 years of age. Twenty-one percent of Russian boys started smoking before they turned nine.

On the following picture of a Polish website this East-heading banning tendency shows clearly: http://zakaz-palenia.pl/images/zakaz-mapa-europy.gif Light blue indicates the prohibiting states, countries marked with deep blue are planning to introduce these kind of regulations. Only Schwitzerland and Bulgaria are the exceptions: the first could manage the problem without total prohibitive laws, on the other hand Bulgaria yielded early before this trend.

These laws are not equally strict in different countries: for example while in Iceland or Spain the law covers all public places, in Italy the same excluding some special smoking rooms. In Schwitzerland the strengh of the prohibition depends on each city’s local government, for example in Luzerne we are allowed to smoke in reastaurants.The positive sides of these laws aren’t debate stuff: every statistics show better national health conditions after banning public indoor smoking.

The negative effects are the good substrate for propaganda for both sides: tobacco industry-related statistics shows a decrease of the tax income of states and the lowering profit of the catering trade. Anti-smoke activists claim the opposite. Even official national financial statistics are not very reliable because for example they don’t reveal clearly that besides the missing tax income how much money is spared on healthcare expenses because of the less smoking-related deseases.

List of countries with a total smoking ban in catering and entertainment without being able to create a smoking room :
Ireland – March 2004
Scotland – March 2006
Wales – March 2006
Northern Ireland – April 2007
England – July 2007
Turkey – January 2008
Greece – 2010
Norway – June 2004
Bulgaria – January 2005
Italy – January 2005
Sweden – June 2005
Malta – 2005
Spain – January 2006
Luxembourg – August 2006
Belgium – January 2007
Lithuania in January 2007
France – February 2007
Albania – May 2007
Estonia – June 2007
Finland – June 2007
Iceland – June 2007
Denmark – August 2007
Germany – August 2007
Slovenia – August 2007
Bosnia and Herzegovina – September 2007
Portugal – January 2008

List of countries with a total smoking ban in catering and entertainment with the possibility to create smoking rooms
Netherlands – July 2008
Croatia – November 2008
Austria – January 2009
Romania – January 2009
Macedonia – January 2010
Switzerland – May 2010
Poland – November 2010

List of countries where smoking is allowed in the premises
Belarus
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Latvia
Moldova
Russia
Slovakia
Serbia
Ukraine
Hungary