Russia to raise army presence on Kuril islands

Updated 27 May 2016
0

Russia to raise army presence on Kuril islands

MOSCOW: Russia said Friday it was taking unprecedented measures to upgrade its military presence on the far-eastern Kuril islands claimed by Japan, including plans to set up a new base on an uninhabited island.
Col.-Gen. Sergei Surovikin, commander of the eastern military district, announced the launch of “unprecedented measures to develop military infrastructure in the area,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. He said Russia was taking the steps to “exclude the emergence of even the smallest risks.”
Russia has military bases on the Kuril Pacific archipelago, while Japan claims four of the islands in a dispute that has simmered since WWII, preventing the countries ever signing a peace treaty.
Soviet troops seized the four at the end of WWII just after Japan surrendered.
Surovikin listed the measures being taken as “a planned rearmament of the formations and units and boosting the level of social protection for all categories of serving soldiers and their family members.”
Russia earlier this month sent six ships from its Pacific Ocean naval fleet on an expedition to an uninhabited island in the archipelago called Matua.
Surovikin said Friday “the main aim of the expedition is to study the possibility of future basing of Pacific Fleet forces there.”
“The eastern outpost of Russia, particularly Sakhalin Island and the Kuril islands provide unconditional guarantees of security and the territorial integrity of our country,” he said.
Matua is not one of the four islands in the chain claimed by Japan and is closer to Russia.
Russian television showed army tents set up on the island as well as a cargo ship landing military vehicles.
Troops have set up a field camp and organized water and electricity supplies and communications, Surovikin said. The uninhabited island is swathed in fog and has snow at sea level even in late May. It is dominated by a snow-topped active volcano.
Rossiya 24 television showed sappers exploding mines from World War II. It said that the island had housed a secret Japanese base and still has three airstrips and numerous fortifications.
The bullish statements come as Japan hosts a summit of the Group of Seven, which has snubbed Russia over its actions in Ukraine.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in March that Russia would deploy a range of coastal missile systems on the Kurils as part of increased military spending in the region.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Russian President Vladimir Putin this month at his holiday residence in Sochi with peace talks high on the agenda.
The Japanese foreign ministry afterwards said Abe had come closer to a breakthrough on the dispute and had proposed a new approach, while Russia said simply that negotiations between diplomats would continue.
Putin is expected to visit Japan some time this year, a Kremlin adviser told journalists this month.


Venezuela’s rival factions take power struggle to UN after talks fail

Updated 19 September 2019

Venezuela’s rival factions take power struggle to UN after talks fail

  • Guaido is seeking to get more countries, especially the European Union, to implement sanctions on Venezuela
  • Maduro calls Guaido a US puppet seeking to oust him in a coup

CARACAS/WASHINGTON: Venezuela’s rival political factions will take their power struggle to New York next week, where representatives of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition chief Juan Guaido will each try to convince a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations that their boss is the country’s legitimate head of state.
The United States and more than 50 other countries recognize Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, as the rightful president. Guaido in January invoked the constitution to assume a rival presidency to Maduro, arguing the socialist president’s May 2018 re-election was a sham.
But the 193-member UN General Assembly still recognizes Maduro, who retains the support of the UN Security Council’s veto-wielding permanent members Russia and China, setting the stage for the two sides to air their public grievances as they battle for international backing.
A round of negotiations brokered by Norway in recent months, aimed at peacefully resolving the crisis, has failed.
Guaido is seeking to get more countries, especially the European Union, to implement sanctions on Venezuela, as the United States has done.
Maduro, who has overseen a collapse of the OPEC nation’s once-prosperous economy and has been accused by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights of rights violations, wants to heap pressure on the United States to lift sanctions on state oil company PDVSA and members of his inner circle.
Critics say his government’s decisions this week to free a jailed opposition lawmaker and reform Venezuela’s electoral body, long accused of bias, were aimed at improving Maduro’s image before the UN gathering.
“They want to use the UN meeting to wash their face, because they are not reaching any real solutions for the Venezuelan people,” Carlos Valero, an opposition lawmaker who sits on the National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee, said in an interview on Wednesday.
Maduro calls Guaido a US puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, and blames Washington’s sanctions for Venezuela’s economic woes. Maduro himself said he will not attend the UN gathering, but he tasked two cabinet members with presenting a petition condemning the sanctions to Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“The UN Secretary General and all the UN agencies should raise their voice to condemn the aggression Venezuela is being subjected to, to condemn the illegal blockade,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters in Geneva last Friday. “We believe that a lot more can be done from the United Nations.”
’Until Maduro is gone’
Guaido has not yet decided whether he will attend, according to his US envoy Carlos Vecchio. Julio Borges, an exiled opposition lawmaker recently named Guaido’s chief diplomat, will be in New York for side events aimed at spotlighting Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and Maduro’s alleged support for armed rebels in Colombia.
The events include a likely meeting of the signatories of the Rio Treaty, invoked earlier this month by a dozen members of the Organization of American States (OAS), including the United States. The treaty is a Cold War-era mutual defense pact that the countries said they had invoked in response to what they called Maduro’s threat to regional stability. The OAS, unlike the UN, recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
Maduro’s government denies supporting the Colombian rebels and says the Rio Treaty is a precursor to military intervention.
In April, US Vice President Mike Pence called on the UN to revoke the credentials of Maduro’s government and recognize Guaido, but Washington has taken no action to push the measure at the General Assembly. Diplomats said it was unlikely Washington would get the support needed.
Both Washington and Venezuela’s opposition are seeking to counter perceptions that their efforts to oust Maduro have stalled.
Though differences over Iran and Afghanistan policy were the main reasons for US President Donald Trump’s firing of his hawkish national security adviser John Bolton last week, Trump had also grown increasingly impatient with the failure of sanctions and diplomatic pressure to push Maduro from power.
Despite Trump’s vows that all options were on the table, he had resisted Bolton’s push for more military planning, according to a person familiar with the matter. Trump’s aides have made clear that he is likely to impose further sanctions but the economic weapons at Washington’s disposal appear to be dwindling.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Tuesday that the United States continued to stand with Guaido and that sanctions “will not be lifted until Maduro is gone.”
“We look forward to coming together with regional partners to discuss the multilateral economic and political options we can employ to the threat to the security of the region that Maduro represents,” she said.