Russia Refuses To Bail Two Britons Held For Greenpeace Protest

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin MOSCOW | Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:41pm BST MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev dismissed the country’s space agency (Roskosmos) chief Vladimir Popovkin on Thursday, three months after the latest botched satellite launch. “I hope that a number of problems that we have unfortunately seen in Roskosmos’ activity will be overcome with your appointment,” Medvedev told Popovkin’s successor to the post, former deputy defence minister Oleg Ostapenko. Popovkin, a former senior defence ministry official, denied media reports earlier this year saying that had been hospitalised after a drunken brawl in the Roskosmos office. Russia lost roughly $200 million after a rocket carrying satellites crashed shortly after lift-off from the Russian-leased Baikonur launchpad in Kazakhstan in July. Medvedev at the time said that Russia had lost 10 satellites in seven failed launches in less than a year. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees defence industry in the cabinet, wrote on Twitter that Popovkin would be given a senior post in Russia’s space industry. The practice to rotate officials regardless of their failures dates back to the Soviet political system dominated by the Communist Party, operating as a one-class club with internal disagreements rarely coming to light. Russia is increasing spending on space and plans to send a probe to the moon in 2015. But the pioneering Russian programme that put the first man in space in 1961 has been plagued in recent years by setbacks, including abortive satellite launches and a failed attempt to send a probe to a moon of Mars. (Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Just How Rich Are Russia’s Billionaires?

Other countries and companies are seeking to exploit Arctic energy resources and face similar concerns from environmentalists. A Finnish minister resigned on Friday over a row about a Greenpeace protest last year. Putin has said the activists were not pirates but that they had violated international law. The head of the Kremlin’s advisory body on human rights has said he would ask prosecutors to withdraw the piracy charges. Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, has written to President Vladimir Putin asking to meet him and offering to stand as security in Russia for the release of the activists on bail. Putin’s spokesman said the letter, published in Western media on Wednesday, had not yet arrived at the Kremlin, and said it was unlikely to affect the legal process. “(Putin) probably cannot get involved in a discussion about the investigative activity that is taking place,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters. MINISTER RESIGNS Investigators have said more charges will be pressed against some protesters after drugs and other suspect items were found on the boat, the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace denies there were illegal items aboard. Greenpeace, whose activists tried to scale the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya rig, says the protest was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded. Those arrested include American, Argentinian, Australian, Brazilian, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, New Zealand, Swedish, Swiss, Polish, Turkish and Ukrainian citizens. In neighboring Finland, a government minister who had appeared sympathetic to Greenpeace in a separate Arctic protest, resigned. Heidi Hautala, minister for international development who is also in charge of overseeing state ownership of companies, was criticized by colleagues and the media for trying to dissuade state-owned shipping firm Arctia Shipping from filing a criminal complaint against the protest group. Protesters scaled an Arctia icebreaker, contracted by Shell, in Helsinki last year to demonstrate against Arctic drilling.

Russia’s Medvedev fires space agency chief

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Russia Launching New Search Engine ‘Sputnik’ to Compete With Google

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Credit Suisse’s data on billionaires come from Forbes magazine’s “rich lists,” which do count 110 in Russia. The magazine’s wealth estimates, however, are necessarily imprecise. Many large Russian companies are not publicly traded, and Forbes journalists have to go with foreign peer comparisons and analyst estimates of their value. The estimates also include foreign assets, which are largely excluded from the calculations for ordinary Russians due to a dearth of data on foreign holdings. Beyond that, the liability side of the net worth calculation — what you own minus what you owe — presents some unique difficulties in a place like Russia. It’s never clear what the unwritten obligations of a Russian billionaire might be, either in the form of credit agreements or of debts to officials who helped them along the way. In short, measuring wealth is an immensely complicated business. Credit Suisse makes a conscientious effort, but Russia’s example shows how misleading even painstakingly calculated estimates may be. Russia’s inequality problem is relatively mild if measured in a more traditional way, by income rather than wealth. According to the CIA World Factbook, it ranks 52nd in the world by Gini coefficient, which measures the unevenness of a country’s income distribution. The U.S.