Australia's Largest State Recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
The legislature in New South Wales, Australia, has recognized the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, the predominantly Armenian-populated region which claimed independence from Azerbaijan in the late 1980s. The motion came ahead of a new round of settlement talks.
Officials in Azerbaijan responded to the news with irritation: “Armenia is indulging in wishful thinking as usual. Now they are trying to present the opinion of one or two members of a regional legislature as recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s supposed independence,” said Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev.
He dismissed the “obscure document” as a “cheap and desperate gimmick” which was probably financed by the Armenian diaspora, adding that Australia had been supporting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity at the official level. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan is going to demand explanations, he said.
Azerbaijani analysts refrained from commenting until there was an official statement from Australia. “In any case, a resolution by one Australian state legislature is not good news for Azerbaijan, but it’s not a catastrophe either,” a source said.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandyan, currently on a visit to Costa Rica, said during a meeting with the country’s parliament speaker: “The harder Azerbaijan in its attempts to preserve a status-quo tries to hamper the [OSCE Minsk Group’ co-chairmen] efforts to end the conflict, the more decisions will be passed similar to the New South Wales parliament resolution, which will eventually pave the way for international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
As well as the resolution on the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh and the right to self-determination of the Karabakh people, the Legislative Council of the New South Wales Parliament also appealed to the national government to officially recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Both resolutions were passed unanimously, the Armenian National Committee of Australia reported.
“This recognition by New South Wales is a very important event,” said Eduard Sharmazanov, Armenia’s deputy parliament speaker. “This is a result of Armenia’s active diplomacy aimed at the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh. Media reports say Uruguay plans to recognize it in the near future.”
President of Nagorno-Karabakh Spokesperson David Babayan also described the New South Wales motion as a success of Armenian diplomacy, along with recognition by the U.S. states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. “It is even more valuable because New South Wales is the most developed and densely populated state, and the Australian state had actually formed around it.”
“It could trigger recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh by other countries as well,” he added.
Former Nagorno-Karabakh Foreign Minister Arman Melikyan said this motion should promote economic and cultural contacts between New South Wales and Nagorno-Karabakh, which would in turn help expand the republic’s international contacts.
“According to preliminary data, the Uruguayan parliament speaker will visit Armenia in late November to reach a final agreement. He will then travel to Nagorno-Karabakh,” Armenian daily Hraparak wrote, hinting that official recognition by Uruguay would follow. Uruguay was also the first to recognize the genocide of Armenians, the newspaper added.
Aeroflot Could Launch Low-Cost Service In Year’s Time
Aeroflot could start a low-cost air service within the next year, most likely based on its subsidiary Donavia. Its routes will stretch to over 30 regional cities and its fleet will number 20 new planes.
Aeroflot General Director Vitaly Savelyev on Friday saw President Vladimir Putin and told him that he was prepared to establish a low-budget airline within six to twelve months. He warned, however, that this would require amending the Air Code and aviation rules: to lift the ban on non-returnable tickets, hire foreign pilots, charge for baggage under 10 kilos and stop providing food to passengers during flights. The budget airline is expected to be based on one of Aeroflot’s subsidiaries.
The most likely option is Donavia, a source close to the company believes, but Rossiya Airlines is not being ruled out either. The budget airline will be based at one of the Moscow Region airports. He promises that in five years’ time it will be flying to 25-30 cities with populations of a million or more: that is the number of regional airports that are capable of taking new planes. The budget carrier will require about 20 new airplanes, he said.
“For the project to get off the ground, medium-haul aircraft are needed to operate with maximum efficiency and returns. A budget airline entails short turnaround periods and many times more flying hours per aircraft,” Savelyev said. He said the Boeing-737 and Airbus A320 are being considered.
It is too soon to speak of the base airport, Savelyev believes: these could be secondary airports near Moscow (Kubinka, Ramenskoye, Bykovo, Chkalovsky) or may be Sheremetyevo. It will not be an airport with sky-high service costs, he added. It should provide the necessary set of services at an attractive price. The goal of the low-cost subsidiary is to cater to those who do not fly Aeroflot and are willing to save on baggage, food and other items, Savelyev concludes.
Moscow Region Governor Sergei Shoigu has already been offered alternative plans for a Moscow air hub: a task group from the Transport Ministry is considering 14 civilian and 22 military and specialized airfields. The Ministry has also drafted laws on hiring foreign pilots and selling non-returnable tariff tickets.
A low-budget airline for domestic Russian air travel is going to be set up by WizzAir in partnership with a group of investors represented by Dmitry Chernyak (one of the founders of Avianova). A successful startup of a low-cost airline costs $60-$100 million, and Avianova needed at least $65 million. He recalls, however, that the real figure proved more expensive: by $10-$15 million, due also to aircraft duties. It will be cheaper for WizzAir and Aeroflot: they already have the infrastructure, he said. In the United States, where budget airlines are widespread, there are two such flights per inhabitant a year. The Russian figure is 0.3. Without low-cost airlines Russia will not have a full-scale airline industry, Chernyak says.
Submersible takes soil samples proving Russia is part of Mendeleyev Ridge
The deep-water nuclear-powered Project 10830 Kalitka submersible, dubbed Losharik (after a Soviet stop-motion animation character – a little horse made of beads) because of its unusual structure, has taken part in offshore drilling operations in the Arctic 2012 expedition to the Mendeleyev Shelf in the Arctic Ocean.
A Russian Defense Ministry official said that the submersible had assisted in drilling operations that were carried out with the “Kapitan Dranitsin” and “Dixon” diesel-electric icebreakers in order to define the outer boundary of Russia’s continental shelf.
“The expedition’s findings will form the basis for an application to the UN to invoke the Law of the Sea to confirm the continuation of Russia’s continental shelf, previously rejected for lack of geological samples, and accordingly, the priority right to develop the shelf’s resources,” said the official.
He added that the Lomonosov and Mendeleyev ridges have oil and gas reserves equivalent to more than 5 billion tons of standard coal, according to the Natural Resources Ministry.
The submersible dived to a depth of 2.5 to 3 km for 20 days. Due to its nuclear reactor and unique titanium hull, it can stay underwater for much longer than civilian battery-powered submersibles.
Since “Losharik” has a nuclear reactor, it requires minor maintenance after each dive.
“The maintenance is to restore the technical readiness of the boat, and check the components and mechanisms, such as shafts and propellers,” said a defense industry source. “Although the dive was not very deep, the hull will have to be smoothed out. During one dive the exterior lighting system failed and we will replace it.”
Losharik is made of high-strength titanium, so repairing dents on the hull is much more complicated than for conventional steel submersibles. A modified Project 667 Kalmar strategic submarine, on which the ballistic missile silos have been dismantled, acts as Losharik’s carrier – the submersible is fastened to its underside.
“There is an ungent need for such a submersible,” said the defense industry source. “In Russia, only the deep-water station Mir can operate like Losharik at a depth of two to three kilometers. The last expedition, led by Artur Chilingarov, used both Mir stations. But now more complex and lengthy underwater work had to be performed, for which Mir lacks the endurance, so we decided to use Losharik.”
The Defense Ministry official said that while Mir is battery-powered, providing 72 hours of operation, Losharik is a complete submarine with a nuclear reactor. It enables autonomous operation of the submersible for several months. It has recreation spaces for the crew, work spaces, a galley, etc. Its life support systems are equivalent to those of a space station.
Losharik and its carrier are currently part of the Russia Defense Ministry’s General Directorate of Deep Water Research (GUGI), which reports directly to Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. GUGI is informally called “underwater reconnaissance,” in defense industry circles.
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