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PM Modi to inaugurate Afghanistan’s Parliament building built by India

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PM Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani are expected to issue a joint statement after holding talks.

Narendra Modi and Ashraf Ghani

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Kabul on Friday morning, a day after signing 16 major agreements in Russia. The Prime Minister will inaugurate Afghanistan’s Parliament building, which has been built by India.The PM’s day-long visit, his first to Afghanistan, since taking office – was not officially announced for security reasons, says NDTV, with several specific threats against Indian targets being received and some being foiled.Modi will address a joint session of the two Afghan Houses in the new Parliament complex.The Parliament building project was started by India in 2007 as a mark of friendship and cooperation to help rebuild Afghanistan after the wars. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>PM Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani are expected to issue a joint statement after holding talks. PM Modi is also expected to meet former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.India has invested around $2 billion in aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan and trained scores of officers.India delivered three of four Russian Mi-25 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan on Thursday.Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday wrapped up his two-day visit to Russia, during which the two countries signed 16 pacts to expand cooperation in various sectors, including nuclear and defence.It is learnt that Prime Minister Modi was heading towards the Afghan capital Kabul from Moscow. The Kabul visit has not been officially announced but Modi was expected to make a stop-over in Kabul on his way back home.In Kabul, he is expected to inaugurate the new building of the Afghan Parliament constructed by India at a cost of about $90 million. During his stay in Russia, Modi held annual summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin and underlined the need for the world to unite against terrorism “without distinction and discrimation between terrorist groups and target countries.”As part of the 16th annual India-Russia Summit, Modi and Putin held a one-on-one meeting before they were joined by their respective delegations. Earlier in the day, Modi laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a war memorial dedicated to Soviet soldiers killed in World War II, in Moscow.Last night, Modi was hosted for a private dinner and held a private tete-a-tete with Putin at the Kremlin. The meeting took place hours after Modi arrived in Moscow to a red carpet welcome.

Russia and India hail partnership

Russian and Indian leaders Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi stress the partnership between their two countries as they sign a series of deals.

From Russia with love: PM greets nation on Eid-e-Milad-un Nabi

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Time for business: After red carpet welcome in Moscow, PM Modi set to sign major deals

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Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts PM Modi for private tete-a-tete; to hold talks later today

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The talks between the two countries, bound by “special and privileged strategic ties”, have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday.

PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on Wednesday hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin for a private tete-a-tete at Kremlin during which the two leaders touched upon issues of mutual interest for both countries. The meeting took place hours after Modi arrived here to a red carpet welcome. Putin also hosted a private dinner for Modi.”Building Druzhba-Dosti over dinner. President Putin hosts a private tete-a-tete for PM,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted along with pictures of the two leaders shaking hands.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi and Putin will hold 16th India-Russia annual summit talks on Thursday at the Kremlin following which the two sides are expected to sign a number of pacts to expand cooperation in a number of key areas including defence, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.The talks between the two countries, bound by “special and privileged strategic ties”, have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000.In the nuclear energy sector, India is expected to offer a site in Andhra Pradesh to set up units five and six of Kudankulam nuclear power plant. The new plants will be in sync with broad principles of ‘Make in India’ initiative and a decision in this regard is likely to be finalised tomorrow. It is expected that both countries will seal a number of defence deals as well.Last week, India’s Defence Ministry’s top acquisition council had cleared the purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore and there may be an announcement of the deal tomorrow besides a few others.Besides bilateral issues, Modi and Putin are likely to deliberate on a number of global issues having political dimensions including the situation in Syria and ways to tackle terrorism. It will be Modi’s second summit with Putin who had travelled to New last year for the 15th India-Russia Summit.

Modi arrives in Russia to red carpet welcome

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Modi in Russia: Prime Minister gets red carpet welcome in Moscow; key deals to be sealed

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Stepping up economic engagement and further expanding ties in strategic areas are likely to be the centrepiece of the 16th India-Russia annual summit talks between Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inspecting a guard of honour on his arrival at Vnukovo-2 Airport in Moscow on Wednesday.

PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Moscow on Wednesday to a red carpet welcome on his first bilateral visit to Russia during which both countries are set to seal a raft of deals in key sectors like defence, nuclear energy and hydrocarbons to boost their robust and close partnership. On his arrival, the Prime Minister was accorded a guard of honour at the Vnukova II airport amid light drizzle and overcast conditions.”Reached Moscow. A series of programmes await in this short but very important visit,” Modi tweeted both in English and Russian.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Stepping up economic engagement and further expanding ties in strategic areas are likely to be the centrepiece of the 16th India-Russia annual summit talks between Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.The two leaders are set to deliberate on various global issues such as the situation in Syria and tackling the threat of terrorism as well. It is expected that a number of major pacts including to ramp up cooperation in defence and nuclear energy sectors will be finalised. Russia has been India’s biggest supplier of arms though New Delhi has started buying more military hardware from the US in the last few years.Last week, India’s Defence Ministry’s top acquisition council had cleared the purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore and there may be an announcement of the deal tomorrow besides a few others.In the nuclear energy sector, India is expected to offer a site in Andhra Pradesh to set up units five and six of Kudankulam nuclear power plant. The new plants will be in sync with broad principles of ‘Make in India’ initiative and a decision in this regard is likely to be finalised on Thursday.Setting the tone for the visit, the Prime Minister, before his departure for Moscow, said Russia remained one of India’s “most valued” friends in the world and that he was “very optimistic” about outcomes of the talks with Putin on Thursday.”Our relation with Russia is unique, covering almost every field of human endeavour,” Modi said.The talks between the two countries, bound by “special and privileged strategic ties”, have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000.”I am very optimistic about the outcome of this visit. History is witness to the close ties India and Russia have had over the decades. Russia remains one of India’s most valued friends in the world,” Modi said.He said, “My visit will deepen the cooperation between India and Russia in the economic, energy and security spheres.We also want to increase cooperation in science and technology, mining among other sectors. Trade ties between India and Russia can increase even further, to benefit not only our two nations but also the world.” Tomorrow Modi and Putin will interact with a group of Indian and Russian CEOs in Kremlin. With Russia’s economy badly hit by the Western sanctions in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Putin is keen to expand economic ties with India which, on the other hand, has been expressing keen interest in participating in oil and gas exploration projects in the Eurasian country.Energy-starved India, the third largest oil importer after the US and China, has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia. Russia is one of the top oil producers globally and has huge reserves of natural gas. The volume of current bilateral trade between the two countries is around USD 10 billion and both sides are aiming to take it to USD 30 billion over the next 10 years. The Prime Minister’s engagement in Moscow also includes addressing a gathering of ‘Friends of India’ and around 3,000 people are expected to attend the event tomorrow.At the event, Modi will be greeted by cultural programmes, ‘Abhinandan’ and ‘Abhivyakti’. ‘Abhinandan’ envisages performance of Indian art forms by Russian artists. It will display the popularity of Indian cultural traditions in Russia and its importance of inter-cultural understanding.’Abhinandan’ will commence with a Shloka recital and a creative rendering of Vande Mataram by Russian Brahmakumaris, followed by continuing sequence of brief Kuchipudi, Kathak and Dandiya Raas. The programme will conclude with all artistes coming on stage for a musical enactment of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poem ‘Geet Naya Gata Hoon’ rendered by Lata Mangeshkar.’Abhivyakti’ will be an attempt to articulate and convey an authentic image of Indian traditions, history and culture by Russian artistes and enthusiast. The event, organisers said, will be a reflection of the feeling of brotherhood and amity that exists between the people of India and Russia.The Prime Minister will visit Russia’s National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) here tomorrow. The NCMC is a multi-level coordination centre designed to provide inter-agency coordination and alert the people about the threat of emergency situations.Besides bilateral issues, Modi and Putin are likely to deliberate on a number of global issues having political dimensions including the situation in Syria and ways to tackle terrorism. It will be Modi’s second summit meeting with Putin who had travelled to New last year for the 15th India-Russia Summit.India is also likely to push for a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Zone and is sharing details of study it conducted in this regard. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, without giving specific details, had said yesterday that both Modi and Putin will deliberate on enhancing cooperation in defence and nuclear energy speheres.On whether India will request Russia to share details on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, he had said the issue had figured during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s recent visit to Moscow. “Let’s wait and see what happens. I do not prejudge the Russian response till we get it,” he said.

Modi in Russia: Heritage on display in ‘Friends of India’ to greet Prime Minister

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The Prime Minister will address the gathering of ‘Friends of India’ event at the Expo Centre in Moscow. The cultural show, to be performed by Russian artistes, will have two components – ‘Abhinandan’ and ‘Abhivyakti’.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviews an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at Moscows Vnukovo II airport outside Moscow on December 23, 2015.

AFP photo
A cultural performance reflecting popularity of India’s rich heritage and traditions in Russia will be presented to greet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a public reception in Moscow on Thursday expected to be attended by around 3,000 people. The show will feature artistes staging a musical enactment of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous poem “Geet Naya Gata Hoon” rendered by Lata Mangeshkar just a day before the former Prime Minister’s birthday on December 25.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Prime Minister will address the gathering of ‘Friends of India’ event at the Expo Centre in Moscow. The cultural show, to be performed by Russian artistes, will have two components – ‘Abhinandan’ and ‘Abhivyakti’.’Abhinandan’ – to feature performances by 52 artistes – envisages performance of Indian art forms by Russian artists. It will display the popularity of Indian cultural traditions in Russia and its importance of inter-cultural understanding while portraying the assimilation of India’s performing arts traditions by Russian artistes.’Abhinandan’ will commence with a Shloka recital and a creative rendering of Vande Mataram by Russian Brahmakumaris, followed by continuing sequence of brief Kuchipudi, Kathak and Dandiya Raas.The programme will conclude with the musical enactment of “Geet Naya Gata Hoon”.’Abhivyakti’ is an attempt to articulate and convey an authentic image of Indian traditions, history and culture by Russian artistes and enthusiasts, which resonates in the hearts, and minds of all Indians and well-wishers of India in foreign countries. It is a reflection of the feeling of brotherhood and amity that exists between the people of India and Russia.”‘Abhivyakti’ is dedicated to the expression of goodwill, joy, and enthusiasm aptly represented by our philosophy of ‘Vasudheva Kutumbakam’ that characterises our interaction with the rest of the world,” said organisers.This component of the show would contain performances by 100 artistes and will majorly consist of Namaskaram, Charishnu, Bharatnatyam, Rudra, Pandattam, Khoria, Lavni, Kalina Taal performances.

In Russia, Narendra Modi will regale 3,000 ‘friends of India’

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a two-day visit to Russia on Wednesday for annual summit talks aimed at further expanding the defence ties by signing $1 billion agreement to produce military helicopters in India and focus on nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.

Determined to unveil mystery of the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is set to seek cooperation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to request access to secret Russian files to probe the missing link. Many authors have alleged that under the instructions of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Russian dictator Jospeh Stalin had confined Bose in Siberia’s Yakutsk city, some 6,000km away from Moscow and he could have been buried there.Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a two-day visit to Russia on Wednesday for annual summit talks aimed at further expanding the defence ties by signing $1 billion agreement to produce military helicopters in India and focus on nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The two events, Modi has specifically included in his itinerary, are a detailed briefing at Emercom, Russia’s emergency response agency during disasters, to get an overview of tackling natural catastrophe, so frequent in India over past few years.The Emercom is world famous dynamic force, known in the field of humanitarian response and emergency relief operations. Further, while there is no significant Indian community in Moscow, to recreate the aura of New York’s Madison Square Garden, UK’s Wembly or Dubai’s cricket stadium buzz, ministry of external affairs has identified 3,000 Russians, whom they describe, ‘friends of India’ to listen to the Prime Minister at the Moscow exhibition ground. Weary about Russia warming up and even having agreed to supply military equipment to Pakistan, officials said the summit will provide an opportunity to both countries to look at regional and global issues. Russian ambassador in India few months ago had publicly expressed concern at India’s growing closeness with the United States and switching to alternative defence markets. But the foreign secretary S. Jaishankar said the envoy’s comments were in a context. “If the Russian ambassador does not promote Russian aircraft, whose aircraft he will promote? He is doing his job,” he said. Major challenge between the two countries is that despite being all-weather friends, trade has remained limited. Foreign Secretary said expanding economic ties would be a ‘very big priority’ Energy-starved India, the third largest oil importer after the United States and China, has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia. India is also likely to push for a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Zone and is sharing details of the study it conducted in this regard.Last week, the defence ministry’s top acquisition council had cleared the purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore. It will be Modi’s second summit with Putin who was in India last year for the 15th India Russia Summit.On Wednesday, Putin will host a private dinner for the prime minister and the two leaders will interact with a group of Indian and Russian chief executive officers in Kremlin on Thursday.After the summit talks last year, it was announced that Russia will build at least 12 nuclear reactors besides manufacturing advanced dual-use helicopters. The two countries had signed 20 agreements in oil, gas, defence, investment and other key sectors.

India to offer site in Andhra Pradesh to Russia for nuclear plants

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The two countries are likely to sign an agreement for the two units with provisions for involvement of India’s private sector in the project including in supply of various components.

Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi
File Photo

India is expected to offer a site in Andhra Pradesh to set up units five and six of Kudankulam nuclear power plant by Russia in sync with broad principles of ‘Make in India’ initiative and a decision in this regard is likely to be finalised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow this week. The two countries are likely to sign an agreement for the two units with provisions for involvement of India’s private sector in the project including in supply of various components. “We will follow principles of ‘localisation’ as per Make in India initiative for setting up Kudankulam nuclear power plant five and six,” sources said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> They said a site in Andhra Pradesh has been finalised for the project in line with government’s policy for ensuring optimum use of the available nuclear sites in various states to accommodate more atomic reactors. Incidentally, Centre has already shortlisted the Kovvada site to build a project with the assistance of US-based nuclear vendor, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy. Modi is scheduled to visit Russia from December 23-24 to hold an annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Russia has been a key partner of India in the civil nuclear energy sector. In the last summit between Modi and Putin, it was decided that Russia will build at least 12 nuclear reactors in India by 2035. In April last year, India and Russia had signed an agreement to build units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam project at a cost of Rs 33,000 crore. However, work on the ground is yet to start. The units 3 and 4 are be coming up in Tamil Nadu’s coastal district of Tirunelveli. Earlier this month, Nikolai Spasskiy, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Rosatom – the Russian counterpart of the India’s Department of Atomic Energy, visited India and he is believed have discussed with DAE brass about various aspect of the proposed pact for Kudankulam 5 and 6. Units 5 and 6 of VVER technology are expected to be of the same MW like units 1-4, but the cost details of the project are yet to be finalised. The government is constructing six reactors in new projects like Jaitapur (EPR 1000×6) in Maharashtra built with French technology, Kovadda in Andhra Pradesh (1000MW x 6) and Mithi Virdhi in Gujarat.

Kremlin says Putin ‘fully mobilised’ to tackle threat from Turkey | Reuters

MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin is fully mobilised to tackle what the Kremlin regards as an unprecedented threat from Turkey following the shooting down of one of its warplanes by a Turkish F-16, the Russian leader’s spokesman said on Saturday.

In comments which underscore how angry the Kremlin still is over the incident, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, called the behaviour of the Turkish air force “absolute madness” and said Ankara’s subsequent handling of the crisis had reminded him of the “theatre of the absurd.”

“Nobody has the right to traitorously shoot down a Russian plane from behind,” Peskov told Russia’s “News on Saturday” TV programme, calling Turkish evidence purporting to show the Russian SU-24 jet had violated Turkish air space “cartoons”.

In another sign of tensions after its shooting down of the Russian plane on Tuesday, which resulted in the death of one of the pilots, Turkey’s foreign ministry advised people on Saturday to postpone all non-urgent travel to Russia.

Peskov said the crisis had prompted Putin, whose ministers are preparing retaliatory economic measures against Turkey, to “mobilise” in the way an army does in tense times.

“The president is mobilised, fully mobilised, mobilised to the extent that circumstances demand,” said Peskov.

“The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat.”

President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey will not apologise for downing the jet, but he said on Saturday that the incident had saddened him and that the climate change summit in Paris next week could be a chance to repair relations with Moscow.

“Confrontation will not bring anyone happiness. As much as Russia is important for Turkey, Turkey is important for Russia,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in the western city of Baliksehir.

Peskov said Putin was aware of a Turkish request for him to meet Erdogan on the sidelines of the Paris conference but gave no indication of whether such a meeting would take place.

Peskov denied Turkish press reports which said Moscow and Ankara had struck a deal for their warplanes to stop flying along the Syrian-Turkish border, saying military ties between the two countries had been severed and a hot line meant to avoid misunderstandings among their pilots dismantled.

Peskov, according to the TASS news agency, also spoke of how Erdogan’s son had a “certain interest” in the oil industry. Putin has said oil from Syrian territory controlled by Islamic State militants is finding its way to Turkey.

Erdogan has spoken of slander and asked anyone making such accusations to back up their words with evidence.

Peskov said he “noted” that Turkey’s newly-appointed energy minister, Berat Albayrak, was Erdogan’s son-in-law.

He added that there could be up to 200,000 Turkish citizens on Russian soil. “What’s important is that everyone who is able to use their influence to guarantee at least some predictability in the pattern of Turkey’s behaviour,” Peskov said.

“Russian planes should never be shot down.”

(Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul, Tulay Karadeniz and Dasha Afanasieva in Ankara; Editing by Dominic Evans)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Putin says seeks global anti-terrorism fight after 19 killed in Mali attack | Reuters

BAMAKO Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he wanted global cooperation to combat terrorism in the wake of an Islamist militant attack on a luxury hotel in Mali that killed 19 people including six Russians.

Friday’s assault came a week after militants killed 130 people in gun and bomb attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State, and three weeks after a Russian airliner was downed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula by what Moscow and Western governments say was a bomb, killing 224 all people aboard.

The bloodshed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali, a former French colony, evoked the problems French troops and U.N. peacekeepers face in restoring security and order in a West African state that has battled rebels and militants in its weakly governed desert north for years.

Jihadist groups Al Mourabitoun and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, which ended when Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said two militants were killed in the commando operation.

His government increased security at strategic points around Bamako at the start of a declared 10-day state of emergency.

“Mali will not shut down because of this attack. Paris and New York were not shut down and Mali won’t be. Terrorism will not win,” Keita said during a visit to the hotel on Saturday.

Six employees of Russian regional airline Volga-Dnepr were killed, Russia’s foreign ministry said, while six others were rescued.

Putin sent a telegram of condolences to Keita and said “the widest international cooperation” was needed to confront global terrorism, according to a statement by the Kremlin.

On Tuesday, Putin pledged to hunt down militants responsible for blowing up the airliner, as well as intensified air strikes against militants in Syria, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane.

Putin and French President Francois Hollande also spoke by phone on Tuesday and agreed to boost coordination of their military actions in fighting jihadist militants in Syria.

Chinese President Xi Jinping condemned the “cruel and savage” attack, whose dead included three Chinese executives of a state-run railway firm.

“China will strengthen cooperation with the international community, resolutely crack down on violent terrorist operations that devastate innocent lives and safeguard world peace and security,” the Beijing Foreign Ministry quoted Xi as saying in a statement on its website.

One American and a deputy from a regional parliament in Belgium were also killed in the Bamako hotel attack, though French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was not aware of any French nationals killed.

FLEEING IN TERROR

The attack began at 7 a.m. on Friday when gunmen killed guards at the entrance of the hotel and barged inside.

Malian commandos subsequently stormed the hotel and rescued around 170 people, many of whom had been hiding under beds or in side-rooms and rushed terrified from the building to safety as shooting continued inside.

By around 4 p.m. the hotel was secured but Malians woke on Saturday to a sense of shock at the latest high-profile raid by Islamists this year.

“I feel bruised by this atrocious act, which cannot be justified. No nation, no human life deserves such criminal barbarity,” said Oumar Fomba, a teacher. “I urge the Malian government to fight more fiercely against terrorism.”

In a speech on the sidelines of a summit with Asian nations in Malaysia, U.S. President Barack Obama described the raid in Mali as “another awful reminder of the scourge of terrorism”.

“Once again, this barbarity only stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge. We will stand with the people of Mali as they work to rid their country of terrorists and strengthen their democracy. With allies and partners, the United States will be relentless.”

SETBACK FOR FRANCE

The attack was another jolting setback for France after the shock of the Paris carnage. France has stationed 3,500 troops in northern Mali to try to restore stability after a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs that was later hijacked by jihadists linked to al Qaeda.

“We (France) have proved to be as blind as the Malian elite. Nothing changes in Mali. The elite continues to act like it always has, as does the international community,” said Laurent Bigot, former undersecretary in charge of West Africa at France’s foreign ministry, alluding to U.N. peacekeepers.

“People have been ringing the alarm bell for a long time, but it doesn’t do any good,” Bigot, who now works as a consultant, told Reuters.

The attack also refocused attention on a veteran leader of Al Mourabitoun, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a few months after reports, never confirmed, that he was killed in an air strike.

Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012. They were driven out by a French-led military operation, but violence has continued.

Al Mourabitoun has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, including an assault on a hotel in the town of Sevare, 600 km (375 miles) northeast of Bamako, in August in which 17 people including five U.N. staff were killed.

Belmokhtar is blamed for a large-scale assault on an Algerian gas field in 2013 and a major figure in insurgencies across North Africa.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, an Islamic State militant in Syria told Reuters the organisation viewed France’s military intervention in Mali as another reason to target France and French interests.

(Additional reporting by Joe Penney in Bamako, John Irish in Paris, Jason Bush in Moscow and Michael Martina in Beijing; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Paris attack suspect eludes police, complicating probe | Reuters

BRUSSELS/PARIS French police had three opportunities to catch a Belgian suspect in the Paris attacks and each time let him go, a defence lawyer said on Tuesday, adding to the missed signals complicating efforts to track down those behind an onslaught in which 129 people were killed.

Friday night’s attacks, claimed by Islamic State militants, raised security concerns around the world. Bomb fears prompted Hanover, Germany, police to call off a soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands two hours before game time on Tuesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been due to attend.

In Syria, France and Russia bombed targets to punish Islamic State for the coordinated Paris massacre and the downing of a Russian airliner over Sinai on Oct. 31. In Moscow, the Kremlin acknowledged that a bomb had destroyed the jet last month, killing 224 people.

On the night of the attack in Paris, French police failed to capture Belgian Salah Abdeslam, believed to have played a central role in both planning and executing the Paris attacks, despite having stopped the car in which he was riding three times during a massive manhunt, Xavier Carette, the driver’s lawyer, said.

Police apparently had no idea the passenger in the car would later be identified as having been linked to the attacks.

Speaking to Belgian broadcaster RTBF, Carette said his client, Mohammed Amri, suspected nothing when his friend Abdeslam, 26, called two hours after the attacks for a ride to Brussels and said his car had broken down. Amri is in police custody; Abdeslam remains at large.

“You know, when you’re on a car journey, you can talk about everything and nothing, listen to music, even smoke a joint, but at no time, no, they didn’t talk about that,” Carette said of the massacre. He said young Arab men are used to police stops.

French prosecutors have identified five of the seven dead assailants from Friday – four Frenchmen and a fifth man who was fingerprinted in Greece among refugees last month. Abdeslam is one of two men police believe were directly involved and who subsequently escaped, not one as previously said.

Islamic State said they carried out the attacks in retaliation for French and Russian air raids in Iraq and Syria. Investigators said the Paris plot was hatched in Syria and nurtured in Belgium.

ISLAMIC STATE STRONGHOLD HIT

Syrian targets hit by Russian long-range bombers and cruise missiles on Tuesday included the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. French warplanes also targeted Raqqa on Tuesday evening in the third such bombing raid within 48 hours.

Paris and Moscow are not coordinating their operations, but French President Francois Hollande has called for a global campaign against the radicals in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible and intensify air strikes against Islamists in Syria.

The Kremlin said Putin spoke to Hollande by telephone and had ordered the Russian navy to establish contact with a French naval force heading to the eastern Mediterranean, led by an aircraft carrier, and to treat them as allies.

“We need to work out a plan with them of joint sea and air actions,” Putin told military chiefs.

“Maybe today this grand coalition with Russia is possible,” French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told TF1 television channel on Tuesday evening.

Hollande will visit Putin in Moscow on Nov. 26, two days after the French leader is due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington to push for a concerted drive against Islamic State, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.

A French presidential source said Hollande also spoke by phone to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who backed calls for a united front against the militants.

In Brussels, Le Drian invoked the EU’s mutual assistance clause for the first time since the 2009 Lisbon Treaty introduced the possibility, saying he expected help with French operations in Syria, Iraq and Africa.

The 28 EU member states accepted the French request, but it was not immediately clear what assistance would be forthcoming.

A TALE OF TWO GAMES

Police in Hanover, Germany, said bomb fears prompted them to call off the soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands, but no arrests were made and no explosives were found.

“We had received specific indications that an attack with explosives was planned,” Hanover Police President Volker Kluwe told NDR state broadcaster. “We took them seriously, and that is why we took the measures.”

One of the Friday night targets was outside a Paris stadium where France was playing Germany in a friendly soccer match.

At London’s Wembley Stadium, lit up in the blue, white and red of the French flag, English soccer fans saluted their French opponents at a friendly soccer match on Tuesday by roaring out an emotional rendition of the “Marseillaise” national anthem.

England won the match, 2-0.

REFUGEES AN ISSUE

The discovery that at least one of the Paris gunmen was believed to have slipped into Europe among migrants registered in Greece prompted several Western countries to begin to question their willingness to take in refugees.

Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, worried about Islamist militant attacks, threatened to suspend President Barack Obama’s efforts to allow 10,000 more Syrian refugees into the United States.

The White House said it was looking for ways to tighten screening, noting that people escaping war-torn Syria already undergo rigorous vetting.

Both Republicans and Democrats have voiced fears that housing refugees from a conflict zone in the Middle East could eventually leave the United States open to attacks like those staged by al Qaeda in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Matthias Blamont, Andrew Callus, Marine Pennetier, Emmanuel Jarry, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Jean-Baptiste Vey in Paris and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; Writing by Howard Goller; Editing by Ken Wills)

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Russian acid attack victim shifted to Moscow

Sudhir Shetty
dna
The 23-year-old Russian girl, a victim of an acid attack in Varanasi, was flown back to Moscow early Monday morning. Darya Yurieva, a tourist who had been living in Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, had suffered 46 percent burns after her landlord’s son threw acid on her while she was sleeping, Friday morning.Yurieva was first admitted to Sir Sunderlal Hospital at Banaras Hindu University and then transferred late Sunday night to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, via Medanta’s air ambulance. On Monday, Poonam Dhanda, spokesperson for Safdarjung told the dna that Yurieva had been flown to Moscow at 5 am, on the Russian Embassy’s direction, as her parents wanted her home.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We got the news on Sunday night itself,” said Dhanda, “and she was transferred out of Safdarjung at 1 am.”Yurieva suffered burns to her facial area, according to Dhanda, mainly her face, both eyes, neck, front of the chest, right arm, abdomen, chest, right thigh, with her right eye being worse affected than her left. In the hours that Safdarjung had her, from 10:10 pm to 1 am, the doctors were working towards saving vision in her left eye.Tatiana Kutinova, the international press attache with the Russian embassy in New Delhi, told dna that Yurieva was in a state of shock. “She wants to know if she will get her face back, if she will look the same,” said Kutinova.”She has been shifted to a hospital specialising in burns in Podolsk, a city near Moscow. Though the Indian government has offered all possible help, her relatives want her there with them, instead of flying all the way to India.”Minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, also tweeted in the afternoon that Yurieva had been flown back home, and that the Indian ambassador had met her mother.”The acid victim has been flown to Moscow. Our Ambassador has met the mother of the victim,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.The minister further tweeted that “we have assured her that India will bear all expenses on her treatment in Russia.” She said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has also announced Rs 5 lakh towards this.Kutinova said that too many details couldn’t be given out about Yurieva, as most of the conversations Embassy officials had with her parents centred around the case and the subsequent medical treatment the young girl would need. “Most of what we know we found out from the Indian media; that Yurieva came to India in August and had been travelling. Siddharth, the accused travelled with her and they were friends. We don’t know the manner of their relationship, but it seemed he proposed to her in Varanasi and asked her to stay back in India. However, Yurieva wanted to return to Russia when her visa expired, in early 2016.”Yurieva has a dual citizenships with Bulgaria and Russia, and her family according to the embassy are from the Moscow district. She was an avid traveller, India not being the first place she visited.

Russian acid attack victim goes back; India to pay medicine bills

The minister further tweeted that “we have assured her that India will bear all expenses on her treatment in Russia

The 23-year-old Russian woman who was attacked with acid in Varanasi and was undergoing treatment here has been flown to Moscow with Indian government assuring her that all medical expenses will be borne by it. “The acid victim has been flown to Moscow. Our Ambassador has met the mother of the victim,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.The minister further tweeted that “we have assured her that India will bear all expenses on her treatment in Russia.” She said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has also announced Rs 5 lakh towards this. The woman had suffered 46 per cent burn injuries after a local youth threw acid on her on November 13 in Nand Nagar area of Varanasi.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>She was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the burns wing of Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital after she was flown here on Saturday evening in an air ambulance following a request from the Russian embassy and the Centre.

Flight recorders show crashed Russian jet not struck from outside – investigator | Reuters

CAIRO/MOSCOW The Russian plane that crashed in Egypt was not struck from the outside and the pilot did not make a distress call before it disappeared from radar, a source in the committee analysing the flight recorders said on Monday.

The source declined to give more details but based his comments on the preliminary examination of the black boxes recovered from the Airbus A321 which crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday killing all 224 people on board.

The Egyptian government said the black boxes were being examined by Egyptian and Russian experts along with German and French specialists from Airbus and from Ireland where the aircraft was registered. It said the search was continuing across the 9-sq-km crash site. Security sources said intelligence agencies had obtained a copy of the passenger list.

Russian officials have said the plane, carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, likely broke up in mid-air but said it was too early to say what caused it to crash.

The first bodies recovered from the wreckage arrived on board a Russian government plane at St Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport, where grieving Russians left piles of flowers.

A Reuters photographer saw a white lorry leaving the airport, escorted by police cars, heading for a St Petersburg morgue, where the bodies were to be identified. Egypt said the plane was carrying 196 bodies. A second plane was due to leave Cairo on Monday evening.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had declared Sunday a day of mourning, said on Monday the crash was a great tragedy.

“Without any doubt everything should be done so that an objective picture of what happened is created,” Putin said in comments cited by ITAR-TASS. “So that we know what happened.”

When asked if a terrorist attack could be to blame, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no theory could yet be ruled out.

An Egyptian militant group affiliated with Islamic State said on Saturday it brought down the plane “in response to Russian air strikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land”. Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov dismissed the claim, saying it “can’t be considered accurate”.

‘NO PILOT ERROR’

Alexander Smirnov, deputy general director of airline Kogalymavia, which operated the plane under the brand name Metrojet, said only a “technical or physical action” could have caused the aircraft to break up in the air.

“The plane was in excellent condition,” Smirnov told a news conference in Moscow. “We rule out a technical fault and any mistake by the crew.”

Kogalymavia’s deputy general director for engineering, Andrei Averyanov, said a 2001 incident when the plane’s tail section struck the tarmac on landing was fully repaired and could not have been a factor in the crash.

The airline said the plane’s engines were inspected in Moscow on Oct. 26 and no problems were found and a Russian inspection of its fuel found that it met requirements.

The aircraft had received a certificate of airworthiness earlier this year from regulators in Ireland.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, launched air raids against opposition groups in Syria including Islamic State on Sept. 30.

Islamic State, the hardline group that controls swathes of Iraq and Syria, has called for war against both Russia and the United States in response to their air strikes in Syria.

Sinai is the scene of an insurgency by militants close to Islamic State who have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police and have also attacked Western targets in recent months.

However, militants in the area are not believed to have missiles capable of hitting a plane at 30,000 feet.

Islamic State websites have in the past claimed responsibility for actions that have not been conclusively attributed to them.

James Clapper, U.S. director of National Intelligence, said in Washington: “We don’t have any direct evidence of any terrorist involvement, yet.” On the ability of Islamic State militants to shoot down an airliner, Clapper said: “It’s unlikely, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Those on board the flight included 214 Russians, at least three Ukrainians and one Belarusian, most returning from the Red Sea, popular with Russians seeking winter sun.

Russia and other former Soviet republics have poor air safety records, notably on domestic flights. Some accidents have been blamed on the use of ageing aircraft, but industry experts point to other problems, such as poor crew training and lax government controls.

The A321 is a medium-haul jet in service since 1994, with more than 1,100 in operation worldwide and a good safety record.

The aircraft disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after take off at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 metres), Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said. FlightRadar24, a Sweden-based flight tracking service, said the aircraft was descending rapidly when the signal to air traffic control was lost.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Winning in Moscow, Pyotr Kovalyov in St Petersburg, Ahmed Tolba in Cairo; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Always saw Russia as India’s all-weather friend, says Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday called Russia an “all weather friend” of India ahead of his visit to Moscow, where he is expected to discuss several key deals.

In an interview to Russian news agency TASS, Parrikar said India-Russia relationship should be enhanced.

“I have always seen Russia as an all-weather friend for India – the two countries have always had a great relationship. I believe that this relationship should be enhanced. My visit to Moscow will be an attempt to help the relationship blossom further,” Parrikar said.

File photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTIFile photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“There are many issues that can always be in such relationships, and I think the best way is to have them resolved. I see a certain enthusiasm to resolve them from both sides as well as possibilities to involve Russia in the “Make it in India” programme.

The defence minister will leave India for Russia on 30 October, and will be there till 2 November, after which he will leave for ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM-Plus) in Malaysia.

Asked if any joint projects under Make in India programme were expected to be inked during his visit, Parrikar said there will be discussions to prepare ground for inking some deals when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Russia in December.

“They (projects) may not take final shape during my visit but we’d like to prepare some of them for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to Russia in December – for example, the project for joint production of Kamov Ka-226 helicopters. I hope to use my visit to have it inked on paper when the prime minister arrives. Also the purchase of S-400 missile systems. We anticipate these projects to be coordinated by next month,” he said.

The minister added that there are also proposals for small private-sector companies interested in tying up with Russian companies to manufacture spares for Su-30 jets.

“Then there are Mi-17V-5 helicopters, which we also intend to negotiate and finalize procurement for 48 more. With that, we will have some 280 Mi-17 helicopters,” he said.

Another report by the agency quoting sources meanwhile said that Parrikar during his visit will also discuss leasing of another nuclear submarine, and a deal for it may be inked during Modi’s visit.

IANS

Russia backs Syrian forces in major assault on insurgents | Reuters

BEIRUT Syrian troops and militia backed by Russian jets mounted what appeared to be their first major coordinated assaults on Syrian insurgents on Wednesday and Moscow said its warships fired a barrage of missiles at them from the Caspian Sea, a sign of its new military reach.

The combined assault hit towns close to the main north-south highway that runs through major cities in the mainly government-held west of Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group which tracks the conflict via a network of sources within the country.

Ground attacks by Syrian government forces and their militia allies using heavy surface-to-surface missile bombardments hit at least four insurgent positions and there were heavy clashes, the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdulrahman, said.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia took part in the fighting, a regional sourc said.

Islamic State militants have seized much of Syria since civil war grew out of anti-government protests in 2011, but the areas targeted in Wednesday’s combined assault are held by other rebels, some U.S.-backed, fuelling allegations by Russia’s critics that its real aim is to help the government.

Moscow says it shares the West’s aim of preventing the spread of Islamic State, and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during a televised meeting that four Russian warships in the Caspian Sea had launched 26 missiles at Islamic State in Syria earlier in the day.

The missiles would have passed over Iran and Iraq to reach their targets, covering what Shoigu described as a distance of almost 1,500 km (900 miles), the latest display of Russian military power at a time when relations with the West are at a post-Cold War low over Ukraine.

The terrain-hugging Kalibr cruise missiles, known by NATO by the codename Sizzler, fly at an altitude of 50 metres and are accurate to within three metres, the Russian defence ministry said.

The air campaign in Syria has caught Washington and its allies on the back foot and alarmed Syria’s northern neighbour Turkey, which says its airspace has been repeatedly violated by Russian jets.

Ankara summoned Russia’s ambassador for the third time in four days over the reported violations, which NATO has said appeared to be deliberate and were “extremely dangerous”.

Turkey said Syria-based missile systems harassed its warplanes on Tuesday while eight F-16 jets were on a patrol flight along the Syria border.

IRAQ LOOKS TO RUSSIA

Syrian state television quoted a military source as saying the missiles fired by Russian ships targeted 11 Islamic State positions in Raqqa, Aleppo and Idlib.

The missiles destroyed destroyed bomb-making factories, command posts, weapons and ammunition and fuel depots, as well as “terrorist training centres”, the TV said.

Russian air strikes destroyed the main weapons depots of a U.S.-trained rebel group, the Liwa Suqour al-Jabal, their commander said.

In conversation with Shoigu, Putin said it was too early to talk about the results of Russia’s operations in Syria and ordered his minister to continue cooperation with the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq on the crisis.

However, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States would not cooperate militarily with Russia in Syria, although it was willing to hold discussions to secure the safety of its own pilots bombing IS targets in Syria.

Calling Moscow’s strategy “tragically flawed”, he renewed accusations that the strikes were not focused on Islamic State. The Russian defence ministry accused the U.S. air force of not always bombing Islamic State targets itself.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said only two of 57 Russian air strikes in Syria so far had hit Islamic State, while the rest had been against the moderate opposition, the only forces fighting the hard-line insurgents in northwestern Syria.

But in Iraq, the head of parliament’s defence and security committee said Baghdad may request Russian air strikes against Islamic State on its soil soon and wants Moscow to have a bigger role than Washington in fighting the group.

Iraq’s government and powerful Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias question the United States’ resolve in fighting Islamic State militants, who control a third of the country, saying U.S.-led coalition air strikes are ineffective.

“We might be forced to ask Russia to launch air strikes in Iraq soon … and that depends on their success in Syria,” Hakim al-Zamili told Reuters.

AIR SUPPORT ONLY SO FAR

Russia’s military build-up in Syria included a growing naval presence, long-range rockets and a battalion of troops backed by Moscow’s most modern tanks, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said.

“There is a considerable and growing Russia naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, more than 10 ships now, which is a bit out of the ordinary,” Douglas Lute told reporters ahead of a meeting of alliance defence ministers in Brussels.

Abdulrahman said Russia appeared to have stuck to air support on Wednesday. The assault followed a report by Reuters last week that allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including Iranians, were preparing to recapture territory lost by the government to rebels in rapid advances this year.

“There is no information yet of any (government) advances on the ground, but the air strikes have hit vehicles and insurgent bases,” Abdulrahman said.

The regional source, who is familiar with the military situation in Syria, said forces including Hezbollah fighters were taking part in the ground attack against four rebel-held areas in western Syria.

Hezbollah-run al-Manar television said in a newsflash that “an operation by the Syrian army started in a number of villages and towns in the northern countryside of Hama province”.

A video posted by the media office of an opposition group in Hama province on YouTube purported to show heavy rocket strikes by pro-government forces on Wednesday hitting an areas in the northern Hama countryside. “>here

Other footage from Hama showed rebels from the Free Syrian Amry firing firing anti-tank missiles and hitting two army tanks.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam in BEIRUT, Alexander Winning in MOSCOW, Phil Stewart and Crispian Balmer in ROME and Michael Georgy in BAGHDAD; writing by Philippa Fletcher,; editing by Peter Millership and Giles Elgood)

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Pakistan eying Sukhoi-35 fighter planes as part of defence deal from Russia, says report

Islamabad: Pakistan is negotiating with Russia on acquiring an unspecified number of Su-35 ‘Flanker-E’ multi-role fighter aircraft in potentially the largest military deal between the two Cold War-era adversaries, according to a leading defence weekly.

Pakistan Air Force has discussed buying Sukhoi-35 ‘Flanker-E’ fighter aircraft from Russia in potentially the largest defence deal between the two countries, but a final decision is yet to be made, IHS Jane’s quoted a senior Pakistani government official as saying.

An IAF Sukhoi SU-30 takes off at Aero India 2011 in Bangalore on 11 February 2011. Image courtesy PIB

An IAF Sukhoi SU-30 takes off at Aero India 2011 in Bangalore on 11 February 2011. Image courtesy PIB

The official was responding to Russian media reports that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov had said talks were underway for an unspecified number of Su-35s, which follow a recent agreement to provide Mi-35M ‘Hind E’ attack helicopters to Pakistan.

While the official said “it’s too early to say if a deal will conclude and the terms”, the fact that discussions have taken place shows Russia’s willingness to sell advanced hardware with Pakistan despite Moscow’s longstanding ties with India.

The official said Pakistan’s interest in the Su-35 was driven by the PAF’s need for a twin-engine fighter “that can fly for a longer range than the JF-17 and penetrate more deeply into the enemy’s territory”.

The PAF currently flies a mixed fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s, Dassault Mirage-5s, Chinese-manufactured F-7s, and the JF-17 Thunder, which is jointly produced by China and Pakistan.

Islamabad is eager to improve its ties with Moscow to diversify its military options in the event of any stalemate in ties with Washington, Pakistani media reported.

The Mi-35M chopper deal was signed during the visit of army chief General Raheel Sharif to Russia in June when he met top defence officials.

The two countries last year signed a military cooperation agreement to deepen their defence ties and vowed to translate their relationship in “tangible” terms during Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Islamabad. Shoigu was the first Russian defence minister to visit Pakistan in 45 years.

PTI

President Mukherjee inaugurates ‘Namaste Russia’ in Moscow

President Mukherjee commence a festival of Indian Culture ‘Namaste Russia’ in Moscow on his four-day official visit to Russia.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee(L), Russian President Vladimir Putin (R)

AFP photo
President Pranab Mukherjee, currently on his four-day official visit to Russia, has inaugurated a festival of Indian Culture ‘Namaste Russia’ in Moscow.The President said Indian culture and its heritage of art, music and cinema have enjoyed love and appreciation across Russia over centuries.”In India too, there is enormous warmth and regard for Russian culture as showcased in its ballet, literature and traditions. Russia’s Gerasim Lebedev, who was arguably the first European Indologist, pioneered the Bengali theatre 220 years ago in Kolkata,” President Mukherjee said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The President said with the support of the Russian Ministry of Culture, ‘Namaste Russia’ will reach various regions of Russia over the next six months.”In response to the interest in Indian fine arts across Russia, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations will send Indian teachers of music and dance to regional centres in Russia. These efforts will help people living in different regions of Russia to deepen their engagement with contemporary and classical Indian culture. It is also important that the youth of two countries is encouraged to join these cultural exchanges,” he added.He also said that he was delighted to learn that the logo for ‘Namaste Russia’ is designed by a young Russian from the Russian town of Krasnoyarsk, who succeeded in an open competition with both Indians and Russians.

Russia stages WW2 victory parade, draws rebuke from Ukraine | Reuters

MOSCOW Thousands of troops marched across Moscow’s Red Square on Saturday and tanks rumbled through streets to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, an event boycotted by Western leaders over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin has used the anniversary to whip up patriotism and fuel anti-Western sentiment, and at a parade in Kiev President Petro Poroshenko said Moscow was trying to hog the credit for the World War Two victory at Ukraine’s expense.

Though Western leaders stayed away, Putin was joined under the Kremlin’s walls by about 30 foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, sitting on his right-hand side.

In a sign of closer ties between the two, a column of Chinese troops took part. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was also among those watching.

Dignitaries from India, former Soviet republics and communist-era allies such as Cuba, also attended, underlining Russia’s role as an outcast in Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel skipped the parade, as did U.S. President Barack Obama and the French and British leaders, but will attend a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow on Sunday.

On show was the Armata T-14, Russia’s first new tank to be deployed for 40 years, and soldiers, some in World War Two uniforms, filed past under blue skies and bright sunshine.

War veterans watched from the grandstand, their chests bristling with medals, while crowds of people choked sidestreets around the Kremlin, cheering and shouting as fighter jets roared over Moscow’s city centre.

“Victory day is the most important holiday for Russia. In practically every Russian family, someone has died fighting for this country,” said 43-year-old former marine Alexander Smolkin.

“My own grandfather died defending Russia, this is our day to remember them,” he said, adjusting his light-blue beret, medals and military fatigues.

Putin has warned that fascism could be on the rise again and is suggesting other countries are rewriting history to play down Moscow’s role in winning the war.

“The basic principles of international cooperation have been ignored more often in the last decades. The principles which were hard won by humankind following the global hardships of the war,” he told rows of soldiers standing to attention.

“We’ve seen attempts to create a unipolar world,” he said, echoing a 2007 speech when he lambasted the West’s world view.

Many Russians saw the West’s boycotting of the parade as disrespect. An estimated 27 million Soviet citizens were killed in the 1941-45 war. Ukraine says it lost between 8-10 million of its citizens, including 3.5 million in the Soviet forces.

Poroshenko rebuked Moscow for accusing Kiev of using “fascist” methods to oust Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich in February last year which triggered the confrontation and sparked Russia’s annexation of Crimea and a pro-Russian separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

A minority of Ukrainian fighters in World War Two joined a militia that was prepared to ally itself with the Nazi invaders to fight Soviet Communist rule, leaving Ukrainian nationalism vulnerable since to accusations of fascist sympathies.

“It is the utmost cynicism to depict our country as a supposedly fascist state. It is done with the aim of justifying to the Russian people its own criminal action – Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Poroshenko said.

In a further sign of distancing itself from its former Soviet master, Ukraine joined most of Europe in a separate ceremony on Friday, a day before Russia.

At a second ceremony on Saturday, Poroshenko said: “We will never again mark this day with the Russian scenario which cold-bloodedly uses our victory day as an apology for its expansionist policies and for keeping its neighbours in its orbit and recreating empire.”

More than 6,100 people have been killed in fighting between pro-Russian separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine which Kiev says has been stoked by Russia. Moscow, which annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year, accuses the West of orchestrating the events that led to the Ukrainian uprising.

Though a ceasefire is still tenuously holding, the Ukrainian military said on Saturday that separatists, backed by Russia, were keeping up attacks with artillery and mortar bombing on government forces in the east and south-east of Ukraine.

It said four Ukrainian servicemen had been wounded in attacks in the past 24 hours.

(Additional reporting by Natalya Zinets in Kiev; Writing by Richard Balmforth and Timothy Heritage; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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