Russian spy ship sinks off Turkey after collision

The Liman passes through the Bosphorus on its way to Syria in this Sept. 21, 2016, photo. (AFP)
Updated 28 April 2017
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Russian spy ship sinks off Turkey after collision

ISTANBUL: A Russian naval spy ship on Thursday sank in the Black Sea off Turkey’s coast after hitting a Togo-flagged vessel packed with livestock but all of its 78 crew were rescued by Turkish coast guards.
The Russian military said the Liman — a former research ship re-fitted as an intelligence vessel — had a hole ripped out of its hull in the early afternoon incident.
The collision took place in fog outside the northwestern entrance to the Bosphorus Strait, one of the world’s biggest shipping thoroughfares that passes through Istanbul into the Sea of Marmara.
The Turkish coast guard said in a statement that the collision involved the Togo-flagged vessel Youzarsif H which was carrying a cargo of livestock.
It said that of 78 Russian personnel on board the ship, 63 were rescued by the Turkish coast guard and the other 15 by the Youzarsif H itself.
They were then transferred to a Turkish military ship, it said, without giving further details. “All the personnel were evacuated,” it said.
Turkish media said the Youzarsif suffered minor damage and went on its way after the incident.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the ship had gone down and said the crew were safe and would be taken from a Turkish vessel back onto a Russian ship.
Turkish news agency Dogan said the area where the ships collided was shrouded in thick fog at the time, suggesting that the incident was accidental.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim spoke to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev by phone over the incident, describing it as an accident and expressing his sadness, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
It was not known where the Liman was sailing from or its destination.
The ship was built as a hydrography research vessel in 1970 but turned into a spy ship in 1989 and armed with an Igla missile launcher, according to public records.
Russian warships have traveled frequently through the Bosphorus Strait to and from the Syrian coast, where a navy presence has been deployed to bolster Russia’s air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In February, military sources told Russian media that the Liman would be observing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Sea Shield exercise in the Black Sea.
Cem Devrim Yaylali, an Istanbul-based Turkish naval expert and editor of the Bosphorus Naval News website, said the Liman had previously been to the Syrian coast but it was not clear where it was headed on this occasion.
“A collision is not something that happens very frequently,” he told AFP.
He said the incident was an embarrassment for the Russian authorities as the Liman was likely carrying sensitive surveillance equipment that Moscow would want returned.
“I imagine there will be a salvage effort to raise the ship before anyone else sees it,” he said.
“If the ship cannot be salvaged then Russia surely will try to take away the sensitive equipment from on board by divers.”
Relations between Russia and Turkey hit their worst state since the Cold War in November 2015 when Turkish war planes shot down a Russian jet over the Syrian border.


Greenhouse effect: Roland Garros unveils new look after years of legal wrangles

Updated 8 min 18 sec ago
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Greenhouse effect: Roland Garros unveils new look after years of legal wrangles

PARIS: After years of legal battles and threats to quit its historic home, Roland Garros will show off its new look next week, with a nod to the Eiffel Tower and a World War II resistance fighter while boasting enough plants and greenery to make even the most demanding environmentalist drool.

Ninety years after it was built, the French Open’s showpiece Court Philippe Chatrier was demolished soon after the 2018 event finished.

Fast forward 12 months and it has been almost completely rebuilt to accommodate the necessary strengthening required to support the retractable roof which will be in place for the 2020 edition of the sport’s only clay court Grand Slam.

The metal superstructure weighs half that of the Eiffel Tower, around 3,700 tons, said the French Tennis Federation’s director-general Jean-François Vilotte.

The roof will eventually allow for night sessions to be played even if Roland Garros still lags behind similar developments at the other three Slams.

The Australian Open has three covered courts already while Wimbledon and the US Open boast two retractable roofs apiece.

The 15,000-capacity Chatrier has expanded its shape and size, adding wooden seats to replace its aging green plastic.

Only the famous red clay of the court itself — where the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep will star from this weekend — has remained unchanged.

“We protected it, we put a concrete slab on it all the winter during the work,” said Gilles Jourdan, the head of the modernization project which is believed to cost an overall €350 million. “But the sweat of Mr.Lacoste is still there,” he added in reference to one of France’s greatest tennis icons, a three-time winner in Paris during the 1920s.

This year’s tournament will also see the debut of Court Simonne-Mathieu, a 5,000-seat arena named in honor of a World War II resistance hero and a former Roland Garros champion.

The semi-sunken arena was a controversial development inside the nearby Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, one of the capital’s most beloved green spaces.

It was only last May that the French federation emerged successful after five bruising years of bitter legal battles with environmentalists and well-connected local residents worried over the impact such construction would have over the gardens’ 19th century greenhouses.

At one stage, exasperated Roland Garros chiefs toyed with the idea of upping sticks out of Paris to start afresh in the suburbs.

But the court has been built, enclosed by four greenhouses housing “the only plant ecosystem of its kind,” say organizers of hosting collections from South America, Africa, South-East Asia and Australia.

The 10,000-seater Court Suzanne Lenglen remains although Roland Garros’ Court One ‘bullring’ is earmarked for demolition once the 2019 tournament ends.

In other changes this year, the west of Suzanne Lenglen has also undergone a radical transformation with six new courts built to supplement Court 14 which was a fresh addition in 2018.