Cutting Russia off from SWIFT would mean declaration of war – Russian PM

Restricting Russia’s access to the SWIFT international banking payment system would virtually mean a declaration of war, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Medvedev recalled the West once seriously considered the option, and Moscow is aware of it.

“This would in fact be a declaration of war, but nevertheless it was discussed,” the Russian prime minister said, adding that this is one of the reasons why the government is looking into ways to protect the Russian part of the internet.

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The global interbank SWIFT system facilitates cross-border payments between 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries worldwide. First calls to disconnect Russian banks from the money transfer network emerged in 2014 in response to Moscow’s alleged role in the conflict in Ukraine.

The idea was floated again last year by Washington’s special envoy to Ukraine at the time, Kurt Volker. In an interview to Voice of America, Volker said that such a “nuclear option” is still on the table, but it would “have costs for everybody involved.”

Also on Russian banks join Chinese alternative to SWIFT payment system...

In the wake of the potential threat of being cut off from SWIFT, Russia began working on an alternative – a domestically developed financial messaging network called SPFS. The system operates according to the same standards as SWIFT and is already being used domestically. It is set to be linked with the Chinese cross-border interbank payment system CIPS and India’s future payment mechanism. The Russian payment system will also work with Iran’s SEPAM, as Iranian banks have had no access to SWIFT since last year after the US reinstated sanctions.

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‘No evidence of govt involvement’ in Berlin incident, Russian Embassy says after diplomats expelled

The Russian ambassador in Berlin said on Wednesday there has been no evidence of government involvement in the August incident in Berlin in which a Georgian citizen was allegedly killed by a Russian citizen. Earlier in the day, the German Foreign Ministry declared as personae non gratae two staffers of the Russian Embassy.

“We are deeply disappointed by the approach of the German side,” Ambassador Sergey Nechayev said. “We consider this step as groundless and unfriendly. There was no evidence of Russian government involvement in this incident.”

“This is an unmotivated politicization of the crime, the investigation of which is far from being complete, as well as a clear attempt to anticipate the results of this investigation,” according to the envoy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on the sidelines of a NATO summit in London on Wednesday that Germany has made a decision to expel Russian diplomats “because it had received no assistance from Moscow in investigating the crime,” TASS reported.

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Putin: Russia is against militarization of space as US sees it as theater of war

Russia has consistently opposed the idea of space militarization, President Vladimir Putin said. Yet, the actions of the US and its allies force Moscow to counterbalance this growing threat, he added.

“Russia has always opposed and continues to oppose the militarization of space,” the president told a government meeting on military policies. “Yet, developments demand that we pay increased attention to strengthening our orbital group as well as our rocket and space industries,” he added.

The Russian so-called orbital group is a constellation of more than 150 satellites, two thirds of which have military applications. Most of them are parts of military satellite communication systems, but Russia also has satellites monitoring launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as even short-range tactical missiles. This warning system was “significantly enhanced” over the recent years and tested successfully the large-scale military drills in October, the president said.

Also on Nuclear deterrence ready: Putin presides over mega missile exercise involving submarines, bombers & ground launchers (VIDEOS)...

Putin expressed his concern over the US treatment of space as yet another potential theater of war last month when he called NATO's buildup near the Russian borders and “attempts to militarize space” as ones of the most significant security concerns for Moscow.

His words, meanwhile, came as the Alliance finally made space its official war domain. During a summit in London on the 70th anniversary of NATO on Wednesday, its members declared space “the fifth operational domain and committed to ensuring the security of telecommunications infrastructure, including 5G.” 

Nothing has been publicly said about any concrete steps or decisions made in this field, though.

Also on Alliance life after ‘brain death’: NATO focuses on outer space, compares army spending with Russia

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Nineteen people killed in bus crash in Russia's far east: local government

Nineteen passengers died when a bus skidded off a bridge in Russia’s far east on Sunday and plunged into a river, local government said.

“According to updated information, 19 people died, 21 have various injuries,” the local government for the Zabaikalsk region said in a statement.

Russia’s emergencies ministry said in a statement on its website that the bus, traveling from the town of Sretensk to the city of Chita, 6,320-km (3,930 miles) east of Moscow, fell from a bridge into the Kuenga river at around 0938 Moscow time (0638 GMT).

It said about 43 passengers and a driver were on the bus.

A police spokeswoman told Russia-24 TV that the cause of the accident was being investigated.

Russia’s record on road safety is one of the worst in the world. According to the country’s traffic police, 18,214 people died in road accidents last year. That is more than the 15,000 Soviet servicemen who were killed during the whole of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1979-1989.

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IOC contradicts proposal for sport sanctions against Russia

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said today that there is a lack of evidence regarding the Russian sports movement's involvement in alleged manipulation of samples analyzed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and supported the possibility of clean athletes participating in competition.

The statements came after the report by the WADA Executive Committee on alleged fake evidence submitted by a Russian anti-doping laboratory, with modified or deleted data from a database.

The WADA report, which is usually followed by the advice of its independent commissions, proposes to exclude Russia from the 2020 and 2022 Olympic Games, the European Football Championship and the Paralympic Games.

Russian sports authorities argued that the proposal is too severe and would harm sport in their country.

The IOC said it would support the toughest sanctions against all those responsible for manipulations in the Moscow laboratory, and asked Russia to present the raw data so that 'the shadow of suspicion over the new generation of clean Russian athletes can be removed.'

The recommendations of the WADA Compliance Review Committee will be presented to the agency executive at an extraordinary meeting in Paris on December 9, and if approved, Russia will be banned from competing in Tokyo 2020, as well as the world championships of several sports.

The IOC banned Russia from participating in the Pyeongchang Winter Games last year as punishment for the doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

However, some Russian athletes were authorized to compete as neutrals and that remains the case according to the latest recommendations of the Compliance Committee.

  • Published in Sports

Ukraine will accept gas supply as Russian compensation payment

Kiev, Nov 25 (Prensa Latina) Ukraine proposed this Monday the possibility of extending the Russian gas transit agreement through its territory for one year , if Gazprom company complies with European standards and agrees to pay compensation with supplies of that fuel.

Given Gazprom's proposal to sign an agreement for the transit of Russian gas through the Ukrainian gas pipeline system, Naftogaz Director Yuri Vitrienko indicated that a new arrangement must arise from tripartite talks among Russia, Ukraine and the European Union (EU).

Vitrienko insisted on the payment by Gazprom of compensation of almost three billion dollars, although he would be willing to receive that money through a gas supply equivalent to that amount.

The director assured that before the end of this year, Ukraine will be able to certify the creation of a new company to operate the National Gas Pipeline System, outside Naftogaz, as required by the European Commission.

Kiev filed a complaint last year to a European appeals court, instead of paying its debt to Gazprom of three billion dollars and finally won a legal dispute that forced the Russian gas company to pay $2.5 billion.

In addition, Ukraine requests a fine against Gazprom for six billion dollars, for violating anti-trust regulations, and at least 11.5 billion dollars for alleged losses caused by the start-up of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

The aforementioned gas pipeline would take 55 billion cubic meters of gas from Russian terminals to German concentrators, across the Baltic Sea.

Experts believe that although Russia has the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Yamal-Russia and the Blue Stream gas pipeline, these are not yet enough to replace the gas flow through Ukraine to the EU.

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Russian senators call on parliamentary organizations to condemn blockade of Cuba

The Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) has approved a statement on solidarity with the Cuban people and on the prospects of development of bilateral relations, in which it called on international parliamentary organizations and other countries’ parliaments to condemn the ongoing economic blockade of the republic.

"The Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation calls on the parliaments of foreign states, the United Nations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Latin American Parliament, the Central American Parliament, the Mercosur Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Parliament to express their support for the Cuban people by condemning the economic, trade and financial blockade of the Republic of Cuba," the statement reads.

The Federation Council strongly condemns the destructive actions of the US against Cuba that have lasted for sixty years and represent "an act of economic aggression against the Cuban people." "Only in the last year, the damage from the embargo introduced by the US against the Republic of Cuba reached over 4 billion US dollars, while the total damage in all the years has reached nearly 1 trillion US dollars," the senators stated.

The Russian lawmakers are confident that unilateral sanctions bypassing the UN Security Council only aim to make the governments of sovereign states act in the interest of those introducing economic sanctions. "However, the example of unyielding Cuba inspires other states who fell victim to US economic aggression to resist and continue an independent political course. The neocolonial policy of economic coercion is unlawful and categorically unacceptable in the conditions of an emerging multipolar world. It is necessary to apply every effort to eradicate this anti-democratic practice violating human rights and freedoms from modern international relations," the statement stresses.

The senators recalled that in 2019, Russia and Cuba celebrate the 60th anniversary since the USSR recognized the revolutionary government of Cuba, and in 2020, both states will mark the 60th anniversary of restoration of diplomatic relations, "which is another occasion for strengthening the partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Cuba, namely between their parliaments."

The statement also noted that the official visit of the Federation Council degelation headed by Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko to Cuba, which took place on November 14-17, 2019, had demonstrated the high potential of interparliamentary ties between the states, helping to outline the guidelines for furthering these ties in the interest of expanding and intensifying bilateral cooperation on the whole.

In early November 2019, for the 28th time, the UN General Assembly approved the resolution demanding that the US stops the trade-economic blockade of Cuba. The US blockade of Cuba has lasted for nearly 60 years so far. The UN resolution was supported by 187 states. Traditionally, the US and Israel voted against the resolution. This year, they were joined by Brazil. Ukraine and Colombia abstained, while Moldova did not take part in the vote.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba and Moscow universities to strengthen cooperation

The Rector of the Moscow State Technical University of Automobiles and Road Construction, Guennadi Kustarev, and the Counselor of the Cuban Embassy to the Russian Federation, Gustavo Cobreiro, exchanged views on the possibilities of cooperation and exchange in different specialties between the Russian Higher Education and similar institutions of the Caribbean island.

Kustarev expressed his willingness to increase the number of Cubans studying at that higher education institution.

He also gave Cobreiro a broad explanation of the potential of this center in fields such as logistics, pavement design, equipment for the construction and maintenance of highways and aerodromes, and traffic engineering, among others.

During the exchange, both sides recalled that between 1960 and 1990, hundreds of Cuban specialists were trained in Russia.

At the current course, the presence of Cubans returned to this campus with the arrival of 5 professionals to complete their master's degrees.

  • Published in Cuba
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