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US and Russian leaders cut nuclear stockpiles

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have signed a treaty to reduce their countries’ nuclear stockpiles by 25 to 30 percent over seven years.

In the Spanish Hall, an ornate chamber within the Czech capital’s Prague Castle, the two countries, which own more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, agreed to downsize their arsenals.

Presidents Obama and Medvedev sat in front of U.S. and Russian flags and signed their countries’ first major nuclear arms reduction accord in almost two decades.

The new ten-year pact, which is called the “New START Treaty”, requires the U.S. and Russia to cut their inventory of nuclear warheads to about 1,500 each in the next seven years. Both countries are estimated to have well over 2,000 warheads now. Read More…

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Chechen militant claims Moscow subway blasts

Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov (Iумар КIант Доккa) has claimed responsibility for Monday’s suicide bombings in the Moscow subway system.

Dokka Umarov in 2003

Umarov personally ordering the Moscow Metro bombings which took the lives of 39 civilians and injured over 60.

He also warned that more attacks were to come on Russian soil because of perceived repressions of Chechnya by Prime Minister Putin.

Two of Umarov’s brothers, Isa and Musa, have been killed in combat and since 2003 several of Umarov’s relatives (as well as many relatives of the other Chechen separatist leaders), have been kidnapped by “unidentified armed men” (presumably government agents); some of them were promptly released but the others have disappeared and are feared dead.

Shortly after the Beslan hostage-taking raid in 2004 Umarov’s close relatives were held for several days at Khankala military base near Grozny, Prosecutor General of Russia Vladimir Ustinov suggested the practice of taking rebel leaders’ relatives hostage.

Two blasts in southern Russia’s Dagestan

Two bombings in the northern Caucasus region of Russia have killed at least twelve people and injured another eighteen.

The explosions occurred in Kizlyar, a town in the Dagestan province. The first bomb was detonated in a car near a school, killing two police officers, at around 08.30 Moscow time (04.30 UTC). According to Russian interior minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, police tried to stop the car before it blew up, as they had thought it looked suspicious.

The second explosion was caused by a suicide bomber disguised as a police officer. He had approached the scene of the first bombing as passerby and security gathered, and set off explosives. Read More…

Suicide bombers in Moscow subway

Female suicide bombers are suspected of carrying out the bomb attacks that killed at least 38 people and injured dozens more. The blasts occurred during the morning rush hour in central Moscow.

Lubyanka Station

The first was at the Lubyanka metro station near the headquarters of the Russian State Security Service, known as the FSB, the successor to the Soviet KGB.

The second came 40 minutes later at the Park Kultury station near the city’s well-known Gorky Amusement Park.

No one has claimed responsibility, but the last suicide bombings in Moscow six years ago were blamed on separatist rebels seeking Chechen independence.

Russia has fought two wars against Chechnya since the 1990s – the latest effort to quell regional separatism since it was conquered by Russia in the 19th century.  Residents of Chechnya and other Caucasus republics complain of widespread corruption and unemployment.  Many come to Russia in search of work.

Sorce: Voice of America

US and Russia to sign new arms control treaty

According to officials from the United States and Russia, the two countries are to sign a new treaty on the control of nuclear weapons in Prague sometime next month.

According to the unnamed officials, some work still remained on the treaty, a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which was signed in 1991 and expired in December 2009.

An American official said that while “we are still working to finalize the treaty,” diplomats from both sides said they were optimistic that the deal was near completion.

The new-found optimism came after a recent breakthrough in negotiations, which have taken nearly a year, longer than either the Americans or Russians expected. Originally, the treaty was to be negotiated in London of April 2009, but the completion date was then pushed back to December 2009, a deadline that passed with no deal. Read More…

On this day March 15, 1917

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was forced to abdicate in the February Revolution, ending three centuries of Romanov rule.

Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov

Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov

Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov (Никола́й II, Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Рома́нов) was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland, and claimant to the title of King of Poland.

His official title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias[2] and he is currently regarded as Saint Nicholas the Passion Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until his abdication on 15 March 1917. His reign saw Imperial Russia go from being one of the foremost great powers of the world to an economic and military disaster. Read More…

On this day March 11, 1985

Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the Soviet Union’s leader. Only 3 hours after the death of Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev, at the age of 54, was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party on 11 March 1985 when Politburo supporters of Grigory Romanov had been out of Moscow.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

He became the Party’s first leader to have been born after the Revolution. As de facto ruler of the USSR, he tried to reform the stagnating Party and the state economy by introducing glasnost (“openness”), perestroika (“restructuring”), demokratizatsiya (“democratization”), and uskoreniye (“acceleration” of economic development), which were launched at the 27th Congress of the CPSU in February 1986.

Domestically, Gorbachev implemented economic reforms that he hoped would improve living standards and worker productivity as part of his perestroika programme. However, many of his reforms were considered radical at the time by orthodox apparatchiks in the Soviet government. Read More…