Russia freezes military cooperation with Lithuania
May 5 Russia has unilaterally halted military cooperation with Lithuania, Izvestia writes. The daily reports that according to the country’s Defense Ministry, the bilateral agreement on measures to boost trust and security, signed in 2001, was suspended by Moscow. According to the document, both sides took the obligation to exchange information regarding Russian military personnel stationed in the Kaliningrad region and similar information pertaining to the Lithuanian military; mutual military inspections were also part of the deal. The newspaper talked with Alexander Sytin, expert of the Institute for Strategic Research, who said: “Moscow’s action reflect policies of Vilnius, especially taking into consideration deteriorating situation in Ukraine. For instance, Lithuania always supported anti-Russian measures initiated by the European Union, especially in the second half of last year, when Vilnius was chairing the European Union’s project ‘Eastern Partnership’.” The newspaper reminds that last November the country’s parliament demanded immediate release of Yulia Timoshenko, at the time serving her sentence in Ukraine, saying that Kiev would not be able to sign the EU association agreement otherwise.
Russia’s Defense Ministry expressed surprise over the US reaction over theallegedly increased intensity of flights of Russia’s Air Force jets near the American coasts, RBC Daily reports. The daily reminds that previously Herbert Carlisle, Air Component Commander for United States Pacific Command, said that the Russian Air Force had increased presence in the Asian Pacific region and linked it to the Ukraine situation. “Public statements made by General Carlisle on the subject of supposedly increased intensity of flights of Russia’s long range aviation due to Ukraine situation have caused bewilderment in the Defense Ministry,” the daily quotes a high-ranking representative of the Ministry. He added that “United States practically border Russia in Bering Strait, thus classifying flights made by Russian Air Force over international waters of the Pacific as some sort of ‘challenge’ to the US is strange at the very least.” Meanwhile, he noted that intensity of flights made by US Air Force near Eastern borders of the Russian Federation has never decreased since the end of the Cold War.
Kommersant reports that Moscow has for the first time commented on the idea being discussed by European politicians: initiating a Geneva 2 conference on Ukraine. Following the ministerial meeting of the Council of Europe in Vienna, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has declared: a meeting between Russia, US, EU and Ukraine is pointless. “What the world community could do, such as to agree on the framework to resolve the Ukraine crisis, was done – this primarily means the April 17 agreement. Meeting in such a format again, while the opposition to the current regime in Ukraine is not at the negotiating table will hardly amount to anything.” However, it’s too early to conclude that agreements reached at the April 17 Geneva meeting have failed, he noted, saying that it’s up to Ukrainians to adhere to the reached agreements – both the current regime and its opponents, as “they all have to live in the same county”.
Visa and MasterCard will still do business in Russia despite a new law that forces them to pay over $3.8 billion as a security deposit to the Central Bank, The Moscow Times writes. The daily notes that at the same time, both international firms consider the measures taken as too severe and think that they will not only make work in Russia more difficult, but also have a negative impact on the whole system of electronic payments in the long-term. The statement said: "Several provisions in the law are unprecedented and will have a severe impact on the payments market in Russia — particularly cardholders, financial institutions and merchants”. Visa added that the company intends to work closely with the government in order to resolve the existing difficulties. MasterCard said that they would also continue their cooperation with government bodies, financial and trade organizations and will examine the new law thoroughly. The newspaper reminds that the new legislation on the national payment system requires all international firms to pay a security deposit equivalent to two days of transactions processed in Russia to the Central Bank.
The Guardian has talked to senior members of Iran's negotiating team, who said that spoilers and "dark forces" are attempting to wreck efforts to clinch a historic compromise between Iran and the west on the country's nuclear program. Speaking before a new round of expert-level talks, due to begin on Tuesday in New York, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, the deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, said Iran remained hopeful that a comprehensive agreement could be reached by the July 20 deadline; however, he warned that many pitfalls remained, including a chronic lack of trust between the US and Iran, a host of inter-related technical issues, and outside attempts to derail the process. The daily notes that while the official not name any country, his remarks appeared aimed at the Israeli government, which believes Iran is intent on covertly developing nuclear weapons – a claim Tehran firmly denies.
An FBI agent is being held on anti-terrorism charges in Pakistan after authorities found ammunition in a bag as he boarded a plane in Karachi, Pakistani and U.S. officials said Tuesday. The Washington Post reports that the agent was detained by airport police in Karachi about 4 p.m. Monday when he tried to board a Pakistan International Airlines flight to Islamabad. He was in possession of 15 bullets and a magazine for a 9mm pistol, police officials said. A U.S. official with knowledge of the case said the agent was not armed and had apparently forgotten about the loaded magazine in his bag. The agent was in Pakistan as part of a multi-agency effort to help the Pakistanis investigate corruption, the official said. While State Department officials also voiced optimism that the matter can be quickly resolved, a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject, said officials are trying to gather more information about the agent’s job in Pakistan.