Russia negotiates union with former Soviet states

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Updated 20 December 2012
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Russia negotiates union with former Soviet states

MOSCOW: Russia sought yesterday to expand its influence over former territories during integration talks that Washington has cast as a bid to “re-Sovietize” the region.
President Vladimir Putin met separately with the leaders of Belarus and Armenia before engaging the head of resource-rich Kazakhstan about ways to more closely bind the neighbors’ economies.
He also attended a collective security meeting that resolved to create a Moscow-led air defense unit that would focus its activities on the regions surrounding war-torn Afghanistan.
Western attempts “to force other nations to accept their own standards can lead to the most serious circumstances,” Putin said in a trademark swipe at the United States.
This is especially underscored by the “dramatic situation in North Africa and the Middle East,” Putin said.
Putin once called the Soviet Union’s demise one of the 20th century’s great calamities and has sought to stamp Moscow’s authority over its old holdings.
Two blocs have now emerged from Soviet ruins — a Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan as well as an alliance called the Eurasian Economic Community that loosely groups seven other states.
The Kremlin is casting attempts to blur post-Soviet borders as only natural in a world beset by economic problems.
“Considering the current turbulence and unpredictability in the world of economics... (and) the whiff of crisis that is always around us, the only way to survive is by following the integration trend,” said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“So the processes taking shape in the post-Soviet landscape — to call this an attempt at Sovietization is to show a near-complete misunderstanding of what is going on,” Peskov told the state news channel Vesti.
But Washington — keen to maintain its own ties with nations in Central Asia that host key pipelines and some of the world’s biggest energy reserves — has been more than skeptical.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton infuriated Moscow by claiming that “there is an attempt to re-Sovietize the region.”
“We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it,” she said in Dublin before entering Dec. 6 talks with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
The unusually sharp comments came despite US efforts to win Moscow’s backing for a solution to the 21-month conflict in Syria.
Yesterday’s talks in Moscow had also been due to include Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — a former backer of Putin who more recently tried to mend his nation’s bridges with the European Union.


South African court says marijuana use in private is legal

Members of the African Democratic Change political party sing outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg on September 18, 2018, as South Africa's top court is ruling over a law banning cannabis use. (AFP)
Updated 54 min 45 sec ago
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South African court says marijuana use in private is legal

  • The court also ordered parliament to draft new laws within 24 months to reflect the order
  • Previous court hearings on the emotive issue have drawn protests by those opposed to legalising cannabis, as well as by those in favour of decriminalisation

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s top court says adults can use marijuana in private.
The Constitutional Court on Tuesday upheld a provincial court’s ruling in a case involving Gareth Prince, who advocates the decriminalization of the drug.
Prince says cannabis should be regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Government authorities have said cannabis is harmful and should be illegal.
The top court says an adult can cultivate cannabis in “a private place” as long as it is for personal consumption in private. It says the right to privacy “extends beyond the boundaries of a home.”
The court says it would be up to a police officer to decide if the amount of marijuana in someone’s possession is for personal consumption or dealing.