Nigerian Court Releases Russian Sailors on Bail
A court in Nigeria has freed Russian sailors detained last year on suspicion of arms smuggling. Their bail was raised by the Russian embassy.
The released Russians will be accommodated in the embassy compound in Lagos and stay there until a court rules on the charges against them.
It was revealed on Monday that the federal court in Lagos had released 18 Russian sailors from the cargo ship Myre Seadiver. They had been detained on October 19 of last year on suspicion of smuggling arms, Vadim Gusev, deputy general director of ship-owner Moran Security Group, told Interfax.
“According to court information, it was decided to hand over all the detained Russian sailors to the Russian embassy,” he said. The court granted the Russian embassy’s request to release the sailors under its surety.
The Russian Foreign Ministry views the decision as positive. The ship's crew will remain in Lagos until the trial is over. They have been charged with staying in Nigerian territorial waters illegally and having undeclared weapons on board.
“Our diplomats will be following the course of the trial and pressing for an unprejudiced hearing of the case in accordance with Nigerian legislation,” the ministry said in a statement, “so that the shadow that has been cast over our country’s reputation can be lifted and the ship itself released. They will also be giving the company all necessary diplomatic and practical assistance.” The Russian Foreign Ministry will be keeping the issue under tight control until it has been resolved.
News of the ship’s detention in the port of Lagos broke on October 23 of last year. The ship was found to have , on board 14 Kalashnikov rifles and 3,643 rounds of ammunition, and also 23 Benelli rifles with 4,955 rounds of ammunition. Nine crew members and six security guards were arrested by the military. The sailors were subsequently handed over to the Nigerian police.
A spokesman for the ship owner told Gazeta.ru that the company was protecting merchant ships against pirates.
He said the ship was a kind of base for staff and a place for storing arms and ammunition.
The spokesman said all the ship’s papers were in order and that the ship was in the port legally. He said the visit had been agreed with the Nigerian authorities through an agent. It had lain at anchor for a month while it was undergoing repairs. During that period even its crew changed. But on October 19, the Nigerian military seized the ship and placed the Russians in custody.
Mikhail Voitenko, a Russian marine expert, previously explained to Gazeta.ru that the conflict could have arisen over an attempt to eliminate a competitor. According to him, Moran Security Group guards are fighting pirates, but Gulf of Guinea countries have their own security agencies. “In Nigeria the military itself protects merchant ships as a sideline business. So the seizure of the Russian ship looks like an attempt to squeeze out a rival from the market,” Voitenko said.
United Confectioners Try to Profit from Chelyabinsk Meteor
After the Chelyabinsk meteor crash many Russian businesses rushed to register new meteor-themed trademarks. Even confectionery makers joined the fray.
Chelyabinsk company Patent Grupp was the first to apply to the Federal Service for Intellectual Property to register the Urals Meteorite, Chebarkul Meteorite and Mysterious Meteorite brands. It was followed by Yuzhuralconditer, part of the Moscow-headquartered United Confectioners holding, which sought to register the right to use the word combination Chelyabinsk Meteorite under class 30 of the Nice Classification. United Confectioners was unavailable for comment.
“I don’t think that many of these companies have any clear business model for using their new brands,” said Alexander Yeryomenko, managing director at BrandLab. He said he could imagine a local confectioner producing some kind of star or comet-shaped candy, but this is not a guarantee of success.
Business leaders are always keen to cash in on high-profile events such as a meteor crash, a volcano eruption or a tsunami, but these initiatives are usually limited to local markets and are only good for point-of-purchase products, Yeryomenko adds. In addition, there is always a chance that other companies start copying these products and it will be very difficult to protect the brands.
Russians in Syria: Last to Leave, First to Come Back
Ninety-nine Russian women and children were evacuated from Syria last week. What our reporters Alexander Kots and Dmitry Steshin least expected was so much hatred directed toward the refugees from fellow Russians.
These virtual patriots are always willing to engage in contemplation over the fates of Russia, its historical path and unity. But when it comes to particular lives the picture is very different.
Our reporters went out onto the streets of Damascus to find out what Syria means for Russians.
Only last summer, the Russian Cultural Center in Damascus was buzzing with activity. Language courses, music classes, dancing, computer literacy classes – all taught by Russians who had emigrated from Russia 15 to 20 years ago. An old Soviet habit made them take care of the education of others in a foreign country. You can often come face-to-face with the fruits of their labor – be it a taxi driver speaking Russian or just the friendliness of strangers.
For security reasons, the Russian Cultural Center was closed for three months in late January. Now it hosts a humanitarian aid office that helps Russians from across Syria.
“We don’t keep records of the refugees that have been here,” says director Alexander Sarymov. “They were fleeing from Homs, Hama and Aleppo. Once there was a mother with three kids. Her husband was killed and she had nowhere to go. Her baby had a fever and we took him to the hospital. We provide the refugees with food and clothing. Many of them have no money but they can rest here and then leave for wherever it is more peaceful.”
Some say there are between 20,000 and 30,000 Russians in Syria but this figure includes Belarusians, Ukrainians and Moldovans, so nobody knows the exact number. Military consultants were the first to leave. Construction workers officially employed at Stroigaz facilities still under construction have stayed.
Svetlana Miro is married to a Christian but says that is not so unusual here. She left Russia 18 years ago to marry for love. Svetlana is the leader of the Russian club in Damascus which used to be part of the cultural center.
“For some opposition activists, we were a thorn in their side so I guess closing the center was the right decision,” Svetlana says with a barely noticeable accent. “We still get together but in my home. We often have female guests from the suburbs and they spend the night there just to be safe.”
We are sitting in a hotel lobby, security watching us intently. Weapons rattle in the background but Svetlana does not seem to notice.
“I’m religious and I believe that you live as long as God wants you to live,” her smile is disarming. “When the city was bombed it was horrible. Our house was shaking and I was really scared. But you get used to it.”
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