Posts tagged ‘Soviet Union’

May 25, 2011

Georgia’s legacy of arsenic poisoning is killing hundreds of its children

BBC News: Recent scientific research have shown that hundreds of Georgian children are being made seriously ill and some are being killed from the country’s legacy of arsenic poisoning.  The research discovered that the arsenic production sites which had been discontinued after the Soviet Union fell, are now leaking highly toxic substances into the environment.

The area most affected is Uravi in north-west Georgia. However, Georgian authorities have failed to warn the residents of the serious harm the substances are doing to do to their children.

According to Giorgi Khachidze, environment minister, the government knows about the problem, but with its economy severely depressed, the country does not have any resources to put things right. He said: “All over the country we have the legacy of pesticides, landmines, abandoned factories, sources of radiation. Every day we get information about something and we just don’t have the money to sort out all these in a day.”

Arsenic is a deadly poison and can cause death, cancer, skin thickening. liver and digestive disease. It is difficult to treat as it is odourless and flavourless.

[BBC video – click to play]

March 17, 2011

Latvia donates EUR 141,500 to Japan as emergency aid

Latvia, one of Europe‘s poorest countries, with more than 15,000 families in its capital, Riga, without a home, has agreed to donate EUR 141,500 from its emergency fund to assist Japan in its humanitarian crisis caused by the recent earthquake.

The aid was approved by the country’s cabinet of ministers during a closed meeting on March 15th. There is no information about how the funds will be used, but it seems that more, or less all of it will go towards assisting Latvia’s evacuation from Japan of 74, or so citizens who are caught up in the country’s current nuclear and natural disaster incidents.

The donation has been approved by the European Union of which Latvia is a member and participant of its austerity program resulting from the current global financial crisis.
The country’s people, whilst sympathetic to Japan’s problems, are saying that the aid package is ridiculous as Japan is the second richest country in the world, whilst Latvia, a country of some 2.2 million inhabitants, is one of the poorest.
[Baltics Contributor]
February 18, 2011

Russia says ‘nyet’ to people power

[Russia and Asia Contributor]

[primary news source: Voice of America]

Russia is  getting nervous about viralling ‘people power’ in the middle east and Africa. This week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov specifically warned the west against supporting, or encouraging revolution in the middle east referring to the recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. He said that revolution could prove ‘counterproductive’ and the west should be encouraging dialogue in the troubled states instead in the interests of all. He was clear that Russia does not support revolution of any kind.  Well, predictably, that was certain to fall on the deaf ears of Americans who are rightly proud of the achievements of their own revolution from British occupation. In particular, America’s president, Barack Obama, has been encouraging of the people power uprisings in the regions.

Is there a real possibility for the uprisings in the middle east and Africa spreading to Russia and the former Soviet Union states?  Voice of America reports that is a possibility. Former Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev warns in pointed references to the high levels of corruption in Russia, that it could go down the Egypt way rather soon. Mikhail, 80, the last ruler of the USSR, said on Russian radio: “If things continue the way they are, I think the probability of the Egyptian scenario will grow.” However, analysts disagree. They say that the revolting middle eastern and African states have one thing in common – their populations are relatively young, whilst Russia’s population, like Japan’s,  is aging and shrinking. Russians therefore are not all that keen to upset the apple cart. Unlike the young revolutionaries in neighbouring states, most Russians only want their social benefits and pensions paid and on time and are worried that any kind of revolution will disrupt that and leave them quite vulnerable.

Also, say analysts,  the leadership of the ‘people power’ uprisings in the middle east and Africa are relatively old and out of date autocrats, whereas Russia’s leadership is perceived to be young, dynamic and forward thinking.  For example, Russia’s Prime Minister Putin is a popular and sporty 58 and President Medvedev, sometimes known as ‘Winnie the Pooh’ in Russia, is a childlike, soft featured 45.  Again, generally, the Russian oligarchy has more or less delivered – in the past 10 years per capita income increased by a factor of six.

However, whilst political freedoms in Russia are quite comparable to Hosni’s Egypt, Russians don’t seem to mind as they are certainly now a lot better than they used to be in the old USSR days.  Generally now, Russians have comparable wide personal freedoms – freedom to travel anywhere in the world, the choice of ones own vacation, western-style shopping malls right in the middle of Russia, good employment prospects, surfing the Internet and downloading anything at will without fear of recriminations.

But all is not that good for the Russian Muslims in Chechnya who are already in revolt.  Again, in neighbouring southern Caucasus, unemployment is at more than 50 percent and in Belarus, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan there are rumblings of disquiet due to the failure of these states to modernise with popular democratic processes.  Furthermore, in Central Asia, particularly, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, young job seekers are getting nowhere in a failing bureaucratic system – a relic of the USSR days.  A recent report of  the International Crisis Group commented that in neighbouring Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, young people are doing far worse than they did in the USSR days and for them emigration to Russia for work is the only solution. But this is proving problematic as Russia too has its own unemployment problems. As a result of all that, popular revolts have already taken place in Kyrgyzstan and are catching on in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

So what keeps the Russians from joining the swell of disquiet in the former USSR states? Oil is the answer. Oil and gas sales are around 40 percent of Russia’s income. At $100 a barrel currently, the Russian government can afford to give out good social benefits  to its people and has recently uprated pensions by 45 percent.  But if oil drops below $30 a barrel, it is reckoned, it’s ‘viva la revolution’ in all of Russia it would seem.

Will there be a ‘people power’ uprising in Russia? What are your views? Comment in International Times of Dominica…