Russia: The New Counter-Terrorism Unit


April 15, 2010: The government is offering money ($50 million) and goods (25,000 tons of petroleum products) in an attempt to get the new rulers of Kyrgyzstan to toss American and NATO forces out of a former Soviet air base (at Manas). The problem is that Kyrgyzstan is broke, and needs all the help it can get. So they are taking aid offers from both the United States and Russia. But they are not willing to oust the Americans, and risk the loss of aid. Russia has other problems in Kyrgyzstan. The previous government was pro-Russian, and this benefitted the Russian minority in Kyrgyzstan (about nine percent of 5.5 million people). Thus the rebels see the Russian minority as allies with the corrupt dictator they have just driven out. So Russia will probably use all their good will to help the minority Russians in Kyrgyzstan, rather than getting the generous Americans out.

Former Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev has fled to southern Kyrgyzstan, where he has surrounded himself with supporters and refused to officially resign. He's apparently trying to negotiate a clean escape, so that he can go somewhere and freely spend the hundreds of millions of dollars he and his family have stolen in the past few years. Russia is a likely location for Bakiyev to go live.

The government is forming a new counter-terror unit to deal with the Islamic terrorism in the Caucasus. This new unit will probably use methods that will be widely (outside of Russia) condemned, but Russian politicians are under a lot of voter pressure to show some results (as in less Islamic terrorist violence.) The Russians have their own way of getting these things taken care of, although an increasing number of Russians are critical of what amounts to a brute force approach. That means lots of arrests, shooting and torture.

April 11, 2010:  In Dagestan, three policemen were killed and seven injured during counter-terrorist operations.

April 10, 2010: In western Russia, a Polish aircraft, carrying the Polish president and  95 other senior officials and family and aides, crashed in the fog, killing all on board. Russian air traffic controllers had ordered the aircraft to divert to another air port, where the fog was not a problem, but the pilot insisted on landing, and clipped some trees while coming in too low. The black box showed no problems with the aircraft. The polish plane was coming in for a memorial to the 1940 Russian massacre of 20,000 Polish military and civilian leaders at Katyn (outside Smolensk). Until the Cold War ended, the Russians blamed this on the Germans, and most nations went along with the lie. But this year, for the first time, top Russian leadership showed up for the memorial, indicating that Russia had fully accepted responsibility. Some Poles blame the crash on a Russian conspiracy, but most accept it was an accident, perhaps brought on by someone on the plane ordering the pilot to ignore the air traffic controllers and land anyway.

April 8, 2010: A company (150 troops) of paratroopers landed in the Kyrgyzstan air base at Kant, which Russian forces use.

The presidents of the U.S. and Russia went to Prague, Czechoslovakia to sign a new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement. The 1991 version expired last year. The new deal has each country reduce their nuclear warhead stockpiles to 1,550 within seven years. That's a 30 percent reduction. Each country is also restricted to no more than 700 warheads carried by ballistic missiles or aircraft. Currently, Russia has 2,600 nuclear weapons, while the U.S. has 2,252. The two countries will also convert 68 tons of nuclear grade plutonium into power plant fuel.

April 7, 2010: Growing protests, and violence, in Kyrgyzstan, caused president Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee the capital, and move to a stronghold in the south. Five years earlier, pro-Russian president Askar Akayev, was driven out of power by mass demonstrations protesting government corruption. Kurmanbek Bakiyev became president, and promised reforms. This was called the "Tulip Revolution", and it failed. One dictator was replaced by another. As Bakiyev turned bad, he became more pro-Russian, but mainly he was pro-cash. Now he is pro-staying out of prison.

April 6, 2010: The United States complained to Russia about Venezuela buying over $7 billion worth of Russian weapons since 2001, and causing an arms race in the region. Russia ignored the American protests and boasted of their growing arms exports to South America. Russia signed a $20 billion deal with Venezuela that include Russian help in exploring for new oil and gas deposits in Venezuela, and helping the country build nuclear power plants (currently Venezuela is dependent on a few hydroelectric plants, which suffer from periodic droughts.)

April 5, 2010: In Ingushetia, a suicide bomber attacked a police station, and killed two policemen. He had been halted short of the police building. Later, his car was found, and it exploded, wounding a policeman.

April 3, 2010: In Dagestan, a bomb derailed a freight train. Elsewhere in Dagestan, a drive by shooting left three policemen dead.




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