Rahman next on Povetkin’s way toward Klitschko bout

After a great uncompromising battle between Aleksandr Povetkin and Marco Huck, and the Russian’s hard victory on points, fans are demanding an immediate rematch. However, the fight will not happen – at least for now.

WBA regular champion Povetkin (24-0, 16 KOs) retained his title with a very tough majority decision over WBO cruiserweight king Marco Huck (34-2, 25 KOs). The scores (114-114, 116-113 and 116-112) are being called controversial by some observers, who saw Huck as the winner.

In a post-fight televised interview, Povetkin said he was ready for a rematch. But according to Chris Meyer, CEO for Sauerland Event, the Russian is now obliged to hold a mandatory defense against former WBC champion Hasim Rahman (50-7-2, 41KOs).

“Povetkin has to do his mandatory against Hasim Rahman first. We can’t get around it,” Meyer told boxingscene.com.

In case the Russian Knight beats the American veteran, he will be able to challenge WBA, WBO and IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko.

As for WBO cruiserweight king Huck, he has now to decide whether to return to cruiser or remain at heavyweight.

G20 finance chiefs against big three rating agencies power.

The Finance Ministers of the G20 want to curb the influence of the ratings agencies. Fitch, Standard and Poor’s, and Moody’s have all been criticised over the year for their unregulated power.

The G20’s Financial Stability Board which recommends changes to the global financial system is looking at ways to reduce the weight ratings agencies have on investment decisions.

It wants to see a regulator controlling the rating agencies. “It was suggested, that the objectivity of rating agencies should be definitely controlled” explains Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.

Meeting in Mexico the G20 Finance Ministers have put a deadline of November this year to come up with a proposal. Russian Vice-Finance Minister says recommendations previously suggested by the FSB haven’t been implemented.

“The great desire to move forward in this direction faced numerous technical problems due to the existing infrastructure of the financial markets, where rating agencies play a significant role”, Sergey Storchak , Vice-Finance Minister of Russia said after the G20 meeting.

Rating agencies have been around the block influencing the decisions of investors, that there are doubts how the finance world would function without their opinion.

The statement from the G20 Ministers says, “We have tasked the FSB to coordinate, with the IMF and World Bank, a study to identify the extent to which the agreed regulatory reforms may have unintended consequences for EMDEs( emerging markets and developing economies”.

Meanwhile European as well Asian officials have long criticized the agencies, especially those based in the United States. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called for the creation of an independent European rating agency. “It is time for Europe to prove capable of facing up to the credit ratings agencies,” Mr Westerwelle said.

While the head of China’s leading ratings agency, Dagong Global Credit, Guan Jianzhong called for the creation of a global credit rating system with uniform standards.

US, S. Korea start war-game of nerves and threats

South Korea and the US have begun controversial annual joint military drills. The war games involving hundreds of thousands of troops are being held despite North Korea’s calling it “provocation” and threatening with retaliation.

­The military drills, entitled Key Resolve, are starting Monday and will last until March 9. About 200,000 South Korean and 2,100 American troops are taking part in the war games, which involve both ground and navy forces.

Separately another joint exercise, Foal Eagle, will take place between March 1 and April 20. It will include Korean and some 11,000 American air forces personnel.

The Combined Forces Command said the drills are “routine and defense-oriented”. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Britain are also taking part in the exercise as part of the command.

Not unlike the previous years, the Communist North Korea denounced the drills, calling them “an unpardonable infringement upon the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK as they evidently target the DPRK, which is in the mourning period.”

On Sunday, North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his late father Kim Jong-il last year, has inspected frontline units of the country’s armed forces. He called on his troops to be prepared to deliver a retaliatory strike if provoked.

The South’s military drills are a tricky issue amid the decades-old hostility in the region. Any massive deployment of troops cannot help but make the North’s generals suspect that it could be a smokescreen for an actual attack. The tension is prone to incidents like the November 2011 attack on Yeonpyeong Island, when North Korean artillery shelled South Korean territory in what they said was response to South’s shelling of North’s territorial waters.

This year’s exercises are the longest held so far by the US and Korea, scheduled to last for more than two months. Washington and Seoul are cornering Kim Jong-un, which may harm the negotiation process with Pyongyang, believes Ruediger Frank, an expert on North Korea and East Asia at Vienna University.

“I am really concerned because we have a new leader in North Korea, Kim Jong-un, with whom we have no experience whatsoever and with whom we have a chance to open some new avenues for cooperation and for resolving all those pressing issues we have on the table,” he told RT.

“By telling him ‘We don’t care. We neither quit nor shorten these exercises, we will actually expand them,’ we sent a wrong signal. North Korea responds the way it was expected to – issuing harsh statement and using the terms like ‘war’ and ‘annihilation’ etc.,” he explained.

The beginning of the drills comes just days after talks between American and North Korean diplomats in Beijing. The US regarded the meeting with optimism.

Prokhorov Announces Party Name Contest to split the opposition

Russian billionaire and presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov announced via Twitter that he will ask the Russian public to choose the name of his new political party.

On February 21, Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest businessmen, said that right after the March 4 presidential elections he will form his own political party that would be larger than the ruling United Russia party.

“Suggest your name for Mikhail Prokhorov’s party. The best name will become official,” he wrote on his Twitter microblog.

Prokhorov is the only independent candidate to run for president on March 4. Since entering politics in May 2011, he has had to face off allegations that he is a Kremlin project designed to split the opposition.

Moskovskie Novosti to Publish Putin’s Foreign Affairs Article

Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin will publish an article on foreign affairs on Monday.

The article, the seventh in a series of Putin’s pre-election publications, will appear in Moskovskie Novosti (Moscow News) daily and will address the problems of the Arab Spring and missile defense, the situation around Iran and North Korea, Russia’s relations with NATO, U.S. and EU and on the role of social networks in the recent political events.

According to Putin, Russia will continue pursuing independent foreign policy.

“Moreover, I am convinced that global security can be ensured only together with Russia,” Putin writes warning against any attempts to weaken Russia and downgrade its defense capability.

“The Americans are obsessed with an idea of their absolute invulnerability, which, mind you, is utopian and technologically and geopolitically impossible. And that is the core of the problem,” Putin writes.

Putin’s previous articles focused on general and economic issues, defense, ethnic problems, democratic development and social policy.

Putin, the frontrunner in this year’s election campaign, served two terms as Russia’s president between 2000 and 2008 but the Constitution barred him from standing for a third consecutive term. He became prime minister after his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, was elected president.

Russia will hold presidential elections on March 4.

How to Measure a Moscow Street in Protesters

In a classic Soviet cartoon, a bunch of jungle animals measured their friend the boa constrictor in parrots. This Sunday, the Garden Ring in Moscow was given a similar treatment, only instead of exotic creatures its whole length was spanned by thousands of opposition protesters.

No one really thinks of the Garden Ring as a street, at 15 kilometers, it is part of the landscape. However, the human chain that lined up along its sidewalks gave a vivid reminder of its length and of the amount of people disgruntled with the government and its head, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The flashmob around the downtown Garden Ring had a turnout estimated between 11,000 by police and 40,000 by organizers.

“Everything is decided for us and we’re fed up with that,” said Lyubov Troshenskaya, the wife of former Interior Troops officer Viktor, who nodded in agreement as they held hands in the human chain near Oktyabrskaya metro.

Putin s poised to return to the Kremlin for a third, non-consecutive term in office in elections on March 4 that saw authorities carefully weeding out his competitors. The prospect does not make many in country’s budding middle class happy and it rallied in the tens of thousands against Putin’s expected return to power since December.

Though the Sunday protest was smaller than at the three biggest rallies this winter, the mood was the same.

Protesters carried white ribbons, scarves and shouted and waved at passing cars, every second of which was also adorned with white and honked back jubilantly.

Justifying the “creative class” label slapped on protesters by the Kremlin, many in the human chain touted cameras and snapped pictures of fellow participants. Some defied the ban on visual propaganda and put stickers on their lapels with Russian-language puns poking fun of Putin’s presidential ambitions. A banner reading, “Better to be honest than to be Putin,” was attached to a streetlamp.

Passers-by could not help but stare, though not all were supportive. “Who, if not Putin?” a female pensioner huffed indignantly.

“There is much I don’t like now but I made a conscious decision to vote Putin,” said the woman, who only identified herself as Galina, 65.

A group of Putin supporters swarmed by the Park Kultury metro, making up for their modest numbers, barely a hundred, with loud chants. One pro-putin supporter harassed an opposition activist for providing free tea (he called himself “the chief water boiler of the revolution”) because, as the Putin supporter put it, the tea and cookies had to be paid for, which means it could not be a grassroots effort, so they must have been getting funding from somewhere.

Opposition Rally tries to Encircle Central Moscow

Russian opposition activists attempted Sunday to make a ring, holding hands in a circle around downtown Moscow in a flashmob protest to press for their demands for fair presidential elections on March 4, which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is set to win.

Participants managed to lock the human chain around the 15.4-kilometer (9.5 miles) Garden Ring road that encircles central Moscow, said leftist leader Segrei Udaltsov, who traveled the length of the ring in a car.

Police said 11,000 opposition activists took part in the flashmob while the organizers put the figure at 40,000. The chain was broken along the road intersections so as not to block car traffic.

The flashmob was the latest in a series of protest rallies that followed parliamentary elections won by Putin’s United Russia party in early December which critics say were marred by fraud. The demonstrations have been the largest anti-government protests seen in Moscow since the early 1990s.

“I’m fed up with the authorities treating the people without respect,” said protester Nikolai Simonov, 26, a financial consultant.

“They need to develop a conscience,” said Simonov, who, like many others, sported a white ribbon with the words, “For fair elections.” “I expect something to change, I want no more impunity for the authorities,” he said.

The organizers of Sunday’s grassroots protest have said that they chose this kind of a demonstration because it does not require permission from the Moscow City Hall. Hundreds of police were deployed downtown, but did not intervene.

The event’s website, 26feb.ru, said that 34,000 people would be needed to “lock” the human chain along the Garden Ring. Meanwhile, only 14,000 people confirmed their participation in the flash mob on the group’s Facebook page, a far smaller number than for previous opposition demonstrations which mobilized tens of thousands of people.

“I saw no holes in the chain, we have about two people per one meter of distance,” said journalist Sergei Parkhomenko of the League of Voters grassroots group that endorsed the flashmob. However, the chain thinned out considerably between the Oktyabrskaya and Park Kultury metro stations, though protesters crowded near the metro exits.

Opposition leaders Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, as well as politically conscious TV hosts Tatiana Lazareva and Ksenia Sobchak, were also in the human chain. Presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov and former Finance Minister and Putin’s friend Alexei Kudrin endorsed the flashmob, but did not attend, while Zyganov’s rival Vladimir Zhirinovsky strolled along the human chain, but did not join.

A motorized opposition rally, the third of its kind this year, took place on the Garden Ring at the same time as the flashmob, the drivers slowing down and honking their car horns to loud cheers from the human chain.

In a first, anti-opposition activists turned out at the protest event, dozens of them crowding around the Park Kultury metro, where many media outlet offices are located, including RIA Novosti, with posters “Putin loves everyone” and chants of “Putin and Victory!”

Counter-chants of “Putin go away!” were heard, and verbal spats between opposition activists and Putin’s supporters, who numbered many sturdy young men and excited teenage girls, flashed in some places, but no outright clashes took place.

Most protesters interviewed by RIA Novosti said the reasons why they were out in the streets were moral as much as political. Many say the authorities are corrupt and that they disregard the general population.

“Nothing is changing. I’m tired,” said pensioner Lyubov Troshenskaya, 56, who cited Putin’s decision to return to the Kremlin as a major turning point for her. Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev announced in September that they would swap places after the elections, which disappointed many supporters of Medvedev, who was endorsed by Putin, but proposed a sweeping, though mostly unrealized, reformist agenda.

“We want the authorities to realize that they’re acting wrongly. They need to stop the hypocrisy, the lies, the corruption,” said Alexei Glubokov, 24, a marketing consultant.

Meanwhile, Putin’s supporters insisted he is the only person fit for the top Kremlin job in the country. “Putin has already brought Russia up from its knees, but can lift it up further,” said Alexander Gubarev, 23, an agriculture engineer. He refused to give his name at first but caved in after learning that his opponents did not mind disclosing personal details to reporters.

All Putin supporters insisted they were grassroots activists not affiliated with any organization. Events by pro-Putin groups in the past have seen many provincial residents participate, attracted by promises of a free trip to the capital and, allegedly, small monetary bonuses.

Some 130,000, mostly state employees, rallied in support of Putin on February 23 in Moscow. Opposition insisted that many participants were forced or paid to attend, though organizers said the majority came voluntarily.

A follow-up flashmob took place on Moscow’s Ploshchad Revolutsii next to the Kremlin on Sunday, where hundreds of protesters chanted anti-Putin slogans and released white balloons into the air before dispersing. Police said it detained 10 protesters for trying to start a fight with members of unspecified other political groups also present at the venue.

Small-scale opposition events also took place across the country, including in St. Petersburg, where 2,500 attended, according to police. Organizers said the turnout was several times higher. The St. Petersburg event was attended by Sergei Mironov, a presidential candidate with A Just Russia.

Turnout at the Moscow flashmob was smaller than at previous opposition rallies this winter, each of which gathered upward of 60,000, by organizers’ estimates, and more than 30,000, according to police.

This has prompted two lawmakers with Putin’s United Russia, Vladimir Burmatov and Ruslan Gattarov, to say on the party’s website that the protest movement is “fizzling out.”

But analyst Alexei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies said it is normal for a flashmob to attract less than a proper political rally.

“The important thing for the opposition was to keep up people’s spirits” ahead of a new round of protests set for after the presidential elections next Sunday, Makarkin, said by telephone.

Death toll climbs on Day 6 of Afghan rage over Koran burning

At least two Afghans have been killed as protests that have rocked the country passed their sixth day. Clashes between law enforcement and rioters have already left more than 30 people dead and hundreds injured.

­President Hamid Karzai appealed to the public, calling for the violence to end. He “condemned with the strongest words” the treatment of Islam’s holy book and said the perpetrators must be punished, but still called for peace. The Afghan president has repeatedly urged an end to the violence, but it was his first direct televised appeal on the issue.

But despite Karzai’s pleas for calm, thousands of angry Afghans still gathered to protest all across the country, causing tensions to flare. A grenade was thrown into a NATO base in northern Kunduz province, with the Alliance so far saying there have been no casualties. However several NATO personnel were injured, with Afghan officials reporting the number of wounded at a total of seven.

At least one demonstrator was killed and others wounded in the Iman Sahib district of Kunduz, as protesters tried to enter the main city. And some 4,000 people took to the streets in Aybal, northern Samangan province, attacking a police station and a US base.

The burning of the Koran, which happened last week, has inflamed anti-Western sentiment already smoldering over abuses by US-led foreign troops. The incident took place at the Bagram military base, where the Koran and other sacred texts that were reportedly seized from arrested Afghans were held. The burning was nothing more that an accident, said NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander.

General John Allen told reporters the texts had been confiscated from the detainee center’s library, as they allegedly had “extremist inscriptions” on some of the pages. US troops suspected that those books were being used in order to “facilitate extremist communications.”

As the international incident began to spiral out of control, US President Barack Obama sent an official letter of apology to his Afghan counterpart.  “I convey my deepest sympathies and ask you and the people to accept my deepest apologies,” the letter read.

NATO officials made their apologies immediately after the incident, but this did not prevent riots breaking out the country.

Piano legend revered in Russia sells his souvenirs

“The Texan Who Conquered Russia” Van Cliburn, who caused a sensation when he won the first Tchaikovsky Piano Competition at the height of the Cold War in 1958, will put his personal art collection on sale, including some Russian objets d’art.

­The rich selection of 150 works belonging to the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner ranges from Russian Art to English furniture, also featuring jewelry. Christie’s auction on May 17 is expected to fetch $3 million.

“Mr. Cliburn’s passionate pursuit of perfection in his music is reflected in the superb works of art he acquired for his personal collection, with historically important and rare examples of English furniture and silver, complemented by dazzling works of art from Russia, a country where he remains revered today,”
Christie’s Head of Private Collections William Strafford stated.

The piano legend who has played for heads of states across the world as well as at home – Van Cliburn has reportedly performed for every American President since Harry Truman – was quoted as saying that at the beginning of his career he spent his earnings on souvenirs to remember all his concerts.

“I have always found throughout my life that beauty raises your consciousness and provides incalculable inspiration. I hope that some of the beauty that has inspired me for decades will find others who appreciate them as much as I always have,”
he said.

New Mediterranean oil and gas bonanza

The Middle East could soon see new battles over rights to oil and gas beneath the eastern Mediterranean in the Levant Basin and Aegean Sea. The discovery of huge reserves off Israel’s coast is changing the geopolitical balance of power in the region.

­Energy self-sufficiency had eluded the state of Israel since its founding in 1948. Abundant oil and gas exploration was repeatedly undertaken with meager results. Unlike its energy-rich Arab neighbors, Israel seemed out of luck. Then, in 2009, Israel’s exploration partner Noble Energy discovered the Tamar field in the Levantine Basin, some 50 miles west of Israel’s port of Haifa and with an estimated 8.3 tcf (trillion cubic feet) of highest-quality natural gas. Tamar was the world’s largest gas discovery in 2009.

At the time, total Israeli gas reserves were estimated at only 1.5 tcf. Government estimates were that Israel’s sole operating field, Yam Tethys, which supplies about 70 per cent of the country’s natural gas, would be depleted within three years.

With Tamar, prospects began to look considerably better. Then, just a year after Tamar, the same consortium led by Noble Energy struck the largest gas find in its decades-long history at Leviathan in the same Levantine geological basin. The gas field was discovered in October 2010 and Israel declared it its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The find is some 84 miles west of the port of Haifa and three miles deep. They named it Leviathan after the Biblical sea monster. Three Israeli energy companies, in cooperation with the Houston Texas Noble Energy, announced initial estimates that the field contained 16 trillion cubic feet of gas—making it the world’s biggest deep-water gas find in a decade. To put the number in perspective, that one gas field, Leviathan, would hold enough reserves to supply Israel’s gas needs for 100 years. Israel went from a gas famine to feast in a matter of months.

With the Tamar and now Leviathan discoveries, Israel was beginning to discuss how to become a major natural gas export nation, as well as whether to significantly tax gas and oil revenues and place them into an Israeli Sovereign Wealth Fund that would make long-term investments in the Israeli economy as China and many Arab OPEC nations do.

Perhaps sensing that major oil and gas discoveries were being confirmed with the potential to change the geopolitics of the entire region, the US Geological Survey (USGS) launched its first-ever estimate of the total reserves of oil and gas in the broad region encompassing the Eastern Mediterranean including the Aegean Basin offshore Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, the Levant Basin offshore Lebanon, Israel and Syria, and the Nile Basin offshore Egypt. Their conclusion was impressive to put it mildly.

The USGS calculated the total for the eastern Mediterranean as a whole currently at 345 tcf of gas and 3.4 billion barrels of oil. Suddenly the entire region is facing completely new geopolitical challenges and conflict potential.

To put the numbers in perspective, the USGS estimates that Russia’s West Siberian Basin, the world’s largest known gas basin, holds 643 tcf of gas. The Middle East and North Africa regions have several natural gas-rich areas, including the Rub Al Khali Basin (426 trillion cubic feet) in southwestern Saudi Arabia and Northern Yemen; the Greater Ghawar Uplift in eastern Saudi Arabia (227 tcf) and the Zagros Fold Belt (212 tcf) along the Persian Gulf and into Iraq and Iran.

Just months earlier, securing foreign gas was a national security priority of Israel as existing domestic gas supplies dwindled dangerously low. Further adding to the energy crisis were the so-called Arab Spring protests sweeping across Egypt into Libya in early 2011. The revolts toppled Mubarak, under whose regime Egypt had supplied some 40 per cent of Israeli natural gas.

With Mubarak toppled and the ban lifted on Egypt’s Islamic parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood and the radical Salafist Al-Nour Party, the gas pipeline delivering Egypt’s gas to Israel was the target of repeated sabotage and disruptions. The most recent was in February of this year in northern Sinai. Israel was becoming more than nervous about its future energy security.

The discovery of Leviathan by Israel in the waters offshore immediately triggered a new geopolitical conflict as Lebanon claimed that part of the gas field lay in Lebanese territorial waters in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Lebanon delivered maps to the UN to back its claim, to which Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman retorted, “We won’t give an inch.”

The fly in the Mediterranean energy soup is the fact that Israel, like the USA, has never ratified the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea dividing world subsea mineral rights. The Israeli gas wells at Leviathan are clearly within undisputed Israeli territory as Lebanon affirms. But Lebanon believes the field extends over into their subsea waters as well. The Lebanese Hezbollah claims that the Tamar gas field, which is due to begin gas deliveries by the end of this year, belongs to Lebanon.

Washington has lost no time adding political gasoline to the natural gas dispute between Lebanon and Israel. In July of 2011, Israel was preparing to submit its own proposal to the UN as to where the offshore demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel should run. At the same time, Frederick Hof, the US diplomat responsible for special affairs regarding Syria and Lebanon, told Lebanon that the Obama administration endorsed the Lebanese document. This addied to the growing tensions reported since the outbreak of the Arab Spring between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama.

Netanyahu has reportedly recently urged America’s eighth-wealthiest person, his close friend Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson to pour millions directly into the campaigns of Republicans, including Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. This would represent an unprecedented direct Israeli intervention into US presidential candidates’ campaigns, in order to try to avert a second Obama term.

New issues of control of the vast energy reserves being discovered off Israeli and Lebanese, Cypriot, Turkish and Greek shores will clearly play a growing role in one of the most entangled political regions on Earth.

­F. William Engdahl, author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics

­Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the story are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Egypt tries foreign-sponsored activists despite US pressure

The trial of NGO workers suspected of illegally using foreign funding and fomenting unrest starts in Cairo on Sunday. Washington is pushing Egypt to drop the charges and release the activists, 16 of whom are American citizens.

The Obama administration is in “intense discussions” with Egypt to resolve issue “in the coming days,” a senior US official said Saturday. Earlier the US threatened to cut a $1.5 billion annual aid to Egypt, unless the activists are released. Cairo lashed out at the pressure, accusing Washington of meddling with Egypt’s internal affairs.

A total of 43 defendants are standing trial, including 16 Egyptians, 16 Americans as well as Germans, Palestinians, Serbs and Jordanians. They are suspected of violating laws regulating NGO activities. Seven US nationals have been barred from leaving the country by the attorney general.

Among the organizations targeted by the December crackdown were four US-based groups: the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House and a group that trains journalists.

The defendants deny the allegations and say the case is politically motivated.

“Let me state clearly that we do not view this situation as a legal matter involving rule of law,”
Freedom House President David J. Kramer said. “The charges are clearly political in nature and without foundation.”

Critics accuse Egyptian ruling military council, which is supervising the country’s transition until a new parliament and a new president are elected, of trying to silence pro-democracy groups. The authorities parry by saying the trial is carried out by judiciary, not the government.

Some local media reported that investigators found information sensitive to national security while inspecting computers seized from suspected NGOs during the raids.

6.8 Magnitude Earthquake in East Siberia Causes No Casualties, Damage

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Russia’s East Siberia on Sunday caused no casualties or damage, the regional emergencies center reported.

“According to specified data, the epicenter was located 107 km (66 miles) east of the city of Kyzyl, at a depth of 15 km. The earthquake struck at 10:20 a.m. Moscow time (06:20 GMT) with a magnitude of 6 to 7 points in the epicenter,” the emergencies center said.

The earthquake, the second powerful tremor in East Siberia in the past two months, was felt in the Republic of Buryatia, the Irkutsk Region, the Republics of Tyva and Khakassia, the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Kuzbass coal basin.

Local residents said the tremor caused their things to fall from upper shelves. Windows and glass rattled and chandeliers swayed during the earthquake.

“Dishes fell from my cupboards; the earthquake shocks were very strong and reminded me of the December earthquake by their magnitude,” a resident of Kyzyl said.

Late last year, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the Kaa-Khemsky district of Tyva, some 100 km east of the city of Kyzyl, at a depth of 10 km. The tremor caused nor destruction or casualties.

The Emergencies Ministry has said the earthquake has not disrupted life-support facilities in the Republic of Tyva, which continued to operate as normal.

The earthquake shocks were also felt at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant, Russia’s largest.

Magnitude 6.8 Earthquake Strikes East Siberia

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Russia’s East Siberia on Sunday, with tremor shocks felt by residents of the Irkutsk Region and the Republic of Khakassia.

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry has said the tremor epicenter was located some 100 km (62 miles) from the city of Kyzyl in the Siberian Tyva region near the border with Mongolia.

The earthquake shocks were felt for four to five minutes from 15:19 to 15:24 p.m. local time (06:19 – 06:24 a.m. GMT). Residents of the upper stories of high-rise residential buildings said the tremor caused their things to fall from upper shelves. Windows and glass rattled and chandeliers swayed during the earthquake.

The earthquake shocks were felt at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant, Russia’s largest.

East Siberia Quake to Trigger New Series of Tremors – Scientist

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Tyva republic in Russia’s East Siberia on Sunday will trigger a new series of earthquakes in the region, a Russian scientist said.

“Judging from the data received from our stations, this is not the continuation of the Tyva earthquake that occurred in late 2011 with its epicenter at the Academician Obruchev Ridge but signals a new series of earthquakes,” said Viktor Seleznyov, director of the Geophysical Institute at the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The earthquake, the second powerful tremor in East Siberia in the past two months, had its epicenter located 107 km (66 miles) east of the city of Kyzyl near the border with Mongolia, at a depth of 15 km. The earthquake struck at 10:20 a.m. Moscow time (06:20 GMT) with a magnitude of 6 to 7 points in the epicenter.

The earthquake caused no casualties or damage, according to preliminary data reported by the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

The previous earthquake with a 6.7 magnitude occurred in December 2011 in the Kaa-Khemsky district of Tyva, some 100 km east of the city of Kyzyl, at a depth of 10 km. The tremor caused no destruction or casualties.

The next earthquake was expected to strike closer to Lake Baikal. Normally, a fault that becomes active in one area causes a series of decreasing tremors by their magnitude, he said.

“In this case, it is most likely that some neighboring fault became active near the previous one. This means that Tyva will now be rattled by two series of earthquakes simultaneously,” he said.

Medvedev Hails Progress in Yemen Transition to Stability

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hailed progress in Yemen’s efforts to restore stability and security in the country and confirmed Russia’s intention to strengthen bilateral cooperation, the Kremlin press office said on its website on Sunday.

Medvedev sent a congratulatory telegram to Yemen’s new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who took the constitutional oath as the country’s new leader on Saturday after winning a single candidate vote that ended Ali Abdullah Saleh’s decades-long rule.

“We note with satisfaction that the Republic of Yemen is moving along the path of restoring stability and security and implementing a wide range of social and economic and democratic transformations based on a broad national dialog and in line with the aspirations of all of the country’s citizens,” the telegram said.

“I confirm our firm intention to further strengthen the bilateral Russian-Yemeni relations of friendship and mutually advantageous cooperation,” the telegram said.

Tuesday’s vote in Yemen was part of a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council and backed by the West in a move to oust President Saleh following year-long public protests against his 33-year rule.

Police Open Criminal Probe into ‘Punk Prayer’ at Christ the Savior Cathedral

Police have opened a criminal probe into the performance of a protest song by notorious female group Pussy Riot at the altar of Moscow’s largest cathedral, the police said on its website on Sunday.

“A criminal case has been opened against the girls who shouted insults at believers and churchmen at the Christ the Savior Cathedral,” the website said.

On Tuesday, four members of Pussy Riot, clad in bright balaclavas, performed an acapella version of what they said was a “punk prayer” entitled “Holy Sh*t.” The lyrics included lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”

The punk protest at the Christ the Savior Cathedral came with less than a week to go before presidential elections in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will seek to return to the Kremlin for a third term. Although Putin is widely expected to triumph at the March 4 polls, his bid comes amid the largest show of dissent since he first came to power in 2000.

The group was briefly detained after their performance, which took place in the presence of several worshippers. And on Wednesday, the rector of an Orthodox school in Moscow asked state prosecutors to bring charges of inciting religious hatred against the group. The charge carries a maximum jail term of three years.

Pussy Riot first hit the headlines in January, when they raced through a musical diatribe against Putin on a snowy Red Square, calling for “Revolt in Russia!” and chanting “Putin’s got scared” before being detained by police.

Scandal turned into musical affair?

Sex, spies and lies. What else is needed to create a blockbuster show? The Profumo Affair, a scandal that shook the UK at the peak of the Cold War, involving an alleged Soviet spy, could be set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

­In the early 1960s, a London osteopath and bon-vivant, Dr Stephen Ward, introduced his “close friend”, 19-year-old dancer Christine Keeler, to the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo. Their affair reportedly lasted only a couple of weeks. The bad news was that the sexy damsel was simultaneously having another affair with someone else, who turned out to be a Soviet naval attaché at the Russian Embassy in London, Eugene Ivanov, an alleged Russian spy.

To cut a long story short, in summer 1963, Profumo had to resign his cabinet post, while Ward was arrested and charged with living off immoral earnings. However, on the last day of his trial, Ward was found dead at his home as a result of an overdose of sleeping pills.

Andrew Lloyd Webber was quoted as saying that it is actually the figure of Stephen Ward, once the flavor of the month in London and the next minute a pariah, that triggered his thoughts of creating his musical.

It is not the first time The Profumo Affair has inspired artists to bring the story on stage. In 1989, a British film called Scandal was created starring John Hurt as Ward and Joanne Whalley as Christine Keeler.

Moscow surrounded: Holding hands ‘for fair elections’

An opposition flashmob supporting fair elections, the Big White Ring, is due to hit Moscow on Sunday. Thousands of people will create a circular human chain, standing along the Garden Ring road in central Moscow, holding their hands in solidarity.

­“We have been on Bolotnaya [Square rally] and Sakharova [Boulevard rally],” says the Facebook page for the event. “Our demands have yet to be met. That is why we will come again.”

The flashmob is due to start at 2 pm Moscow time (10:00 GMT). Organizers say that it should not be considered a rally.

“This day we gather without banners, slogans and speeches. We will stand and keep silent, shoulder by shoulder, hand by hand,” the announcement reads. “We will create our common White Ring which we will conclude in the central Moscow, around the Kremlin.”

Over 14,000 people have signed up for the event and about 3,000 more are “possibly attending”. According to the activists, it is necessary for 34,000 people to show up in order to completely encircle the Garden Ring. Through the website 26feb.ru the people could pick a convenient Metro station along the road and reserve a spot.

The action is not coordinated by any particular group and comes from within the community, said Sergey Parkhomenko, who organized recent protests for fair elections in Moscow.

“People are the main initiators, as much as it was with the event White Ring,” he said. “Such events are good because they have neither beginning nor ending, neither head or tail, neither organizers nor sponsors. They depend on people who decide to gather.”

The Moscow mayor’s office said that the flashmob does not need to be coordinated with the city authorities. However, the participants have been warned not to disrupt city traffic.

Russian Inventors Sue Sony for Vita Patent Violation

Two Russian inventors have filed a patent violation lawsuit with a Moscow court against Sony Electronics in Russia, CNews portal reported.

The inventors claim that a rear touchpad installed on Sony’s new high-powered handheld console PlayStation Vita violates their patent, registered in Russia, which describes alternative ways of controlling an electronic device.

The claimants demand that sales of Vita in Russia be stopped and existing stocks destroyed.

Sony Electronics has not commented on the claims so far. The court will review the case on March 21.

Long-awaited PlayStation Vita, which also features front touch screen, the usual buttons and analogue sticks and is considered Internet user-friendly, hit the shelves in Russia on Wednesday.

Sony introduced the new console in Japan in December 2011 and sold about 600,000 devices so far. Sales in the United States and Europe started on Tuesday.

Russia Pledges Syria Cooperation

Moscow is ready to cooperate on Syria with its partners from the UN, the EU, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

This cooperation should be based on the renunciation of violence and of the imposition of outside solutions on the Syrians, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

Most importantly, there should be no outside interference in Syria’s internal affairs, the ministry said.

Syria has been the scene of continuous anti-government protests for nearly a year. According to the UN, more than 5,400 people have died in the unrest. The Syrian authorities said that over 2,000 military and law enforcement officials were killed in clashes with well-armed militants.

In early February, Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution on Syria that could lead to a military operation against Syrian government forces to prevent a repetition of “the Libyan scenario.”

In Libya, rebels ousted and killed long-standing dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 after a months-long military standoff in which they received assistance from NATO forces.