Climate change report: Weather, rising seas imperil power plants

But on Sept. 3 right in the middle of the Syria crisis the Armenian government abruptly declared that it would drop the whole project. Rather than aligning itself with the worlds largest free-trade zone and some of the worlds most sophisticated democracies, Armenia decided to stick with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and opted to join the Eurasian Customs Union . No one pretends that Armenia was attracted by Russias soft power. By way of explanation, President Serzh Sargsyan has said that Armenia depends on Russia for its security and that Armenia has a large diaspora living in Russia . This sounds odd: Most security alliances, NATO included, do not require their members to join a customs union, and the presence of immigrants in one country doesnt usually affect trade policy in another. But Armenia has been made anxious in recent weeks by Russian diplomatic overtures to Azerbaijan , Armenias main rival, as well as by anti-immigrant rhetoric from Russian officials . The Armenians took the hint: If they signed the trade deal with Europe, Russia might sell more arms to their rival and expel the Armenians who live in Russia. The Armenians were no doubt watching Russian moves elsewhere in their immediate neighborhood, where a distinct pattern is emerging. On Sept. 11, Russia banned the import of Moldovan wine on the grounds that it is a health hazard. Ukrainian chocolates have suffered the same fate . Another old tactic, the use of gas pricing and supply as a tool of political influence , is being resurrected in Ukraine. In essence and Im summarizing here the Russians have let the Ukrainians understand that if they drop their own negotiations with Europe and join the Eurasian Customs Union, the price of gas they import from Russia could drop by more than half. Its an excellent offer, so much so that examined objectively it seems extraordinary that the Ukrainians have not accepted it already . But Ukraine is still deliberating and has been for some time.

Russia wields hard power over Armenia

RELATED Russia threatened to block Facebook for allegedly publishing ads for illegal designer drugs on its website. The state media watchdog said it had added Facebook to a blacklist and that the social network would be blocked within three days if the violations were not resolved. Facebook responded swiftly to the threat, within hours removing the ads which led users to a site selling the designer drug “Spice” and other synthetic narcotics. A spokesman for the California-based company told the Russian tech site Digit.ru that the ads were the result of a “bug”. The tussle was the latest episode in what appears to be a continuing crusade by Russian conservatives to challenge US web giants in Russia. The investigation into Facebook was prompted by a complaint from Ruslan Gattarov, a senator from the ruling party, United Russia, who has recently campaigned against alleged breaches of Russians’ rights by major US Internet firms. This “has shown that there are no untouchable companies — if the law is broken, they must react, and if they don’t, they can expect to be blocked,” the senator told the ITAR-TASS news agency after Facebook pulled the ads. Gattarov had said earlier this week that he wanted Facebook to face a fine of several million dollars. The ads had apparently appeared on the site for some time, but authorities only acted after Gattarov formally complained, independent channel TV Rain reported. Gattarov on Thursday called for Facebook to open an office in Russia. The absence of permanent premises for the company in the country has long been a gripe for the Russian government . Gattarov, who heads the presidential council on developing Internet use, has in recent months called for the law enforcement agencies to investigate Apple and Twitter over alleged violations of users’ privacy and argued that Gmail violates Russia’s constitution. Gattarov has been a particularly vocal critic of the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programmes, revealed by fugitive Edward Snowden.

Russia threatens to block Facebook over drug ads

(Will Rose / Associated Press / August 24, 2013) Also By Sergei L. Loiko September 20, 2013, 9:48 a.m. MOSCOW Russian commandos armed with automatic rifles and handguns seized a Greenpeace ship and detained 30 activists who were protesting oil drilling in the Arctic, Greenpeace and Russian officials said Friday. Activists aboard the the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker ship told Greenpeace officials that about 15 troops rappelled down ropes from a combat helicopter in a surprise raid Thursday night in international waters, said Maria Favorskaya, a spokeswoman for the environmental group. At gunpoint, they rounded up all the people on board and also broke the door of the radio room, where some activists tried to barricade themselves in, Favorskaya said. A statement published on the Russian Federal Security Service website said the Greenpeace ship was maneuvering around the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, in the Russian economic zone in the Barents Sea, and ignored signals and warning fire from a coast guard ship. The troops that boarded the ship shortly before 6.30 p.m. Thursday did not fire weapons and no one was injured during the operation, the statement said. After the captain refused to sign the inventory [of equipment on the ship] prepared by border inspectors, a decision was taken to tow the boat to the Russian port of Murmansk for further action, the statement said. Favorskaya said the activists planned to hang a banner on the platform belonging to Gazprom Neft Shelf, a subsidiary of the Russian state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom. But she said Russian coast guard detained two activists Wednesday as they tried to climb up the side of the platform and seized the ship the following evening. Although the episode happened in the exclusive economic zone of Russia, these are not Russian waters, and Russian border troops had no right to get on board a foreign ship, let alone threaten the crew with arms and arrest them, Favorskaya said. Our activists were peacefully protesting against drilling for oil in the Arctic and thus endangering and polluting the region, and the armed attack against them and the illegal arrest of the boat and the crew is a totally outrageous thing. Those taken into custody are from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand the Ukraine and United States, the group said. Greenpeace issued a statement Friday morning saying it had been over 12 hours since the organization had had any contact with the ship, which appeared to be heading west towards Russian territorial waters. Greenpeace International has not received any formal confirmation of possible charges, and the activists have been denied access to legal or consular assistance, the statement said. Over 20 Greenpeace offices are organizing protests at Russian embassies around the world today. ALSO:

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