Inflammation and stories on russia

UN Security Council
The continuing conflict in Syria between the Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition forces, the National Coalition, has led to a grave population in crisis where basic humanitarian needs are not being met.

But despite the push for nationwide access to United Nations relief aid, the Syrian government is determined to keep the course with restrictions. Thus, western powers of the U.N. Security Council have opined for sanctions against Syria.

Russia, however, has continued to veto such proposals.

United States President Barack Obama, alongside French President Francois Hollande, are adamant that save for Russia, the Security Council is completely in favor of aiding the undernourished population. Obama levies criticisms towards Russia in obstructing the Security Council.

The Syrian city of Homs, previously blockaded, recently received food aid under a ceasefire. While its war-torn population, ravaged by famine and in dire need of medical supplies, obtained aid; an estimated 200 individuals were evacuated. The two-year siege was broken with the delivery of a month’s worth of food.

Though the success of the recent ceasefire in Homs prevailed, the conflict is far from over.

The National Coalition also has put pressure on Russia. With peace talks currently underway in Switzerland, the Syrian opposition has expressed that the Russians should push the Syrian government towards a resolution.

In addition, the opposition proposes a transitional government that will maintain a ceasefire throughout the nation; the U.N. would run the proposed government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has also agreed on the need for a transitional government where Assad is not connected.

With discussions at a standstill and a divided U.N. Security Council, progress is slow towards rebuilding a nation where thousands of its civilians have been harmed by violence and hunger with displacement even increasing the numbers negatively afflicted by the conflict.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: Al Jazeera,, New York Times, New York Times
Photo: CS Monitor

The Russian-owned petroleum company Lukoil has signed a landmark deal with Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex to search for and extract petroleum. This is the first deal signed by Pemex since Mexico decided to open up its energy sector to foreign investment in order to increase its efficiency and production capabilities.

Mexico had previously banned foreign presence in its energy sector in 1938. Last December, however, the Enrique Peña Nieto administration pushed through legislation lifting the ban and opening up the industry for foreign partnerships.

Pemex has faced falling investment that subsequently dropped its production levels down from a high of 3.8 million barrels a day in 2004 to 2.6 million barrels a day in 2013.

PEMEX revenues account for one-third of the national revenue of Mexico, and Mexico is deeply dependent on PEMEX revenue for social programs such as education, hospitals and roads.

Deposits of shale throughout the country continue to go untouched due to lack of investment, and it is hoped that this deal with Lukoil will change that. Lukoil is expected to engage Mexico to advance the development of shale gas reserves and exploring deep-water areas.

Lukoil is the second-largest private oil company worldwide by hydrocarbon reserves and provides Russia with 18% of its total oil production. It is also second only to Exxon Mobil in proven oil and gas reserves, and earns approximately $139 billion in revenue and $11 billion in net income.

After failing to obtain new deposits in Russia and left with few opportunities to expand within Russia, Lukoil and PEMEX are working together in an attempt by Lukoil to capture the newly available Mexican market. Lukoil’s CEO, Vagit Alekperov, said the agreement would help “bolster [Lukoil’s] operating and technological capacity.”

Lukoil will also provide Pemex with expertise in the field of environmental protection knowledge. This deal is good for Mexico in that it will allow for increased production over flagging levels, and may signal an inflow of further investment in Mexico’s energy sector by foreign firms.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: RT, BN Americas, ReutersOil Patch Asia, USA Today

As the adage goes, the poor stay poor while the rich get richer. For years, Russia has been regarded as a nation fraught with economic inequality- a land where the rich accrue more and more wealth each year while the poor descend further and further into squalor. Even in the advent of the burgeoning middle class, the growing disparity of wealth has contributed to a widening economic gap between Russia’s rich and poor residents.

Although an astounding 18 million Russians, or roughly 13 percent of the population, live below the official poverty line, having a collective income of $12.4 billion, the 97 wealthiest Russians jointly own $380 billion- nearly 31 times the collective income of the nation’s poorest individuals.

While $18 million residents grapple with the challenges of poverty, Vladimir Putin consistently vaunts the exclusive wealth of Russia. In a sense, Russia has exhibited economic growth. For instance, Moscow now houses more billionaires than New York City, the iconic American city that has long been esteemed as the metropolis of wealth and power of the Western World.

Although Putin boasts about the economic prosperity of the few wealthy elites, little effective action has been taken to curb the growing rates of poverty in Russia. For example, the estimated cost of living in Russia is approximately $210. However, the nation’s minimum wage is wholly insufficient at $155 per month.

Despite this harrowing fact, it appears that the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, set to be hosted in Sochi, has taken prominence over the rampant poverty in Russia. In 5a Akatsy Street, located in a neighborhood with deteriorating infrastructure, a brand-new multi-million dollar highway brazenly cuts through the surrounding poverty.

The glossy highway stands in salient contrast to the squalor of 5a Akatsy Street, a locale in which residents have barely sustained themselves without running water or a sewage system. While the Russian government sanctions the construction of stadiums and highways, the majority of Sochi residents live in dwindling, contaminated and neglected villages.

However, the juxtaposition of the ostentatious Olympic preparations in Sochi and the prevalence of squalor surrounding the slinky stadiums and magnificent mega-malls highlights a general trend that has been observed in Russian society, a dangerous trend in which in which the poor are vastly overlooked while the most wealthy are needlessly glamorized.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: Telegraph, Forbes, TribLive

Sochi, Russia makes the news almost every day. Whether it be about the enormous security being put in place for the forth coming Olympic Games or the various political leaders who are boycotting the games to demonstrate their displeasure at Russian anti-LGBT law. What is left out of the news however are Russia’s poor.

There are currently 18 million Russians living on or below the minimum wage of 4,600 rubles, according to Forbes Magazine. That is the equivalent of $155 a month, in a country whose cost of living is 6,200 rubles or $210. In the United States by comparison, there are 46.5 million people living at or below the poverty line which according to the Huffington Post in 2012 was $23, 283 annually. That works out to around $1940.25 per month.

By the time the 2014 Winter Olympics occur, Sochi will have had spent $51 billion, making it the most expensive Olympic Games to date. However all is not well even inside Sochi, Human Rights Watch has put out a 67 page document detailing some of the abuses that many of the migrant workers have been subjected to while working to prepare Sochi for the Games.

Human Rights Watch points out that the majority of these workers are paid between $1.80 and $2.60 an hour working on constructing the various Olympic venues. Moreover, in an interview with the Washington Post, 64-year-old resident of Sochi, Alexander Dzhadze lives on a pension of $170 a month and was told to make improvements to it in order for it to be an acceptable part of Sochi’s backdrop.

There have also been accusations of corruption concerning the issuing of construction contracts dealing with the Games. For instance, two lifelong friends of Vladimir Putin, Arkady and Boris Rotenberg have received upwards of 21 contracts and $7 billion.

The gap between rich and poor in Russia is also widening. According to Bloomberg, the 110 billionaires in Russia own 35% of the planet’s wealth, in comparison, worldwide billionaires only account for 1 to 2% of the world’s wealth.

The Olympic Games are a time for nations to come together and share in the joy that is the competitive spirit of the sporting world. The games are a chance for nations to shine and to reconnect with their citizens and the athletes who represent them.

Russia’s foray thus far into the Olympics has been met with scandals, allegations of criminal activity and a myriad of other issues and conflicts. However, the Games have also given those in Russia whose plight would have remained a mystery had the games not come to Sochi, a voice and platform from which to tell and share their stories and experiences with the outside world.

This opportunity can result in media exposure for Russia’s poor and will hopefully allow for new and exciting opportunities for them once the Olympics begin. As the Games approach, the world can only wait and see how they will unfold.

Arthur Fuller

Photo: Autostrattle
Mother Jones, Forbes, Business Week, Washington Post

As the Sochi Winter Olympics approach there is growing concern over the Neo-Nazi movement in Russia. Over half of the world’s Neo-Nazi members are in Russia.  This movement is behind the abuse of gays and violation of gay rights.  The group also opposes foreigners, Jews, Muslims, Roma, and Asians.

The group has recently become a paramilitary organization, although they claim to be a sports club.  The Neo-Nazis are training members in weapons as well as hand-to-hand combat.  Many of the weapons used are outlawed, and therefore bought from the black market.  They are strictly anti-drug or alcohol, focusing on fitness and bodybuilding to train for their “revolution.”

There are an estimated 50,000-70,000 Neo-Nazis in Russia according to an ABC News report.  The group seemed to organize around widespread unemployment and poverty in the early 1990s.  Many of the members are young adults who were hit hardest by the economic downturn.  The group operates under the official name of the Russian National Unity, a party founded by Alexander Barkashov in 1990.  The party symbol is the swastika and some members receive military training in Moscow.

In 2007 a student associated with the Neo-Nazis was arrested for posting a video of two migrant workers being beheaded in front of a swastika flag.  Recently the group has been targeting gay youth, finding them on dating sites or social media.  Neo-Nazis may create fake profiles and ask to meet up with someone who identifies as homosexual only to then physically and emotionally abuse them.  Many of these attacks have been posted online.  The group recognizes homosexuality as ‘pedophilia” and see their acts of violence as justified under this definition.  Groups have organized using the slogan “Occupy Pedofilya” as a rally cry against homosexuality.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: The Verge, Pink News