The International Court of Justice rejects Georgian ethnic cleansing case against Russia saying it has no jurisdiction to hear the case; Russian security forces get the go-ahead to crush rising militancy in the Caucasus;
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  • The International Court of Justice has refused to hear complaints of human rights abuses allegedly committed by Russia in Georgia's separatist regions. Georgia had accused Russia of "serious violations" of a 1965 antidiscrimination treaty in its breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and denounced Russia's "systematic policy" of ethnic discrimination against ethnic Georgians. Tbilisi lodged the case at the United Nations' highest court in August 2008 at the end of a brief war with Russia over Moscow-backed South Ossetia. The court ruled that that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case because Georgia never attempted to settle the dispute before bringing it to the court, as required under the treaty. Georgian First Deputy Justice Minister Tina Burjaliani put down Georgia's legal defeat to "a procedural technicality" and said the ruling was a disappointment for her country. Georgia claims Russian forces and allied militias killed thousands of ethnic Georgians and displaced 300,000 more in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in over two decades leading up to a five day war in August 2008. The 10-6 ruling, however, shows that Georgia's complaints were not deemed entirely unfounded1.

    Reports noted that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered his security forces to crush the rising Islamic insurgency in the Caucasus, saying their criminal activities must be wiped out. The President met with security officials as Russian authorities announced that airstrikes and an attack on a rebel base in Ingushetia had killed 17 militants on 28th March 2011. The authorities say Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, who has been charged in the January Moscow airport suicide bombing, may be among the dead. Umarov had claimed responsibility for the suicide attack at Domodedovo airport in January that killed 37 people and last year's double suicide blast in the Moscow subway. He had vowed to keep up his campaign of terror in a drive to set up an Islamic state in the Caucasus. Russia has fought two major and often bloody wars with the Chechnyan separatists in the last 20 years. Violence continues to plague the North Caucasus region, as authorities try to contain an Islamist insurgency that has spread across several provinces.2

    According to reports, Russia’s government- owned nuclear holding company Rosatom has signed a contract worth US$ 2.8 billion to supply enriched uranium to the US. The accord includes an option to double supplies, possibly boosting the value of the deal to $6 billion. Rosatom’s Techsnabexport unit, known as Tenex, agreed a 10- year deal to supply low-enriched uranium to Bethesda, Maryland- based USEC Inc. (USU) from 2013. Tenex has previously worked with USEC on the “Megatons for Megawatts Program,” in which Russia agreed to supply $8 billion of uranium from dismantled warheads3.

    In another development, a Russian cargo spacecraft will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 27. The Progress M-10M will lift off atop a Soyuz-U carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. It is to deliver 2.5 tons of expendables, fuel and foodstuffs to the ISS. The foodstuffs will include 20 packages of marinated cucumbers, green apples, lemons and oranges, as well as unspecified fresh vegetables. The freighter will also deliver "psychological support kits" from the cosmonauts' families, including candy.4

    Russian Military Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinsky has said that more than 500 violent crimes have taken place in the Russian army since January 2011. There has also been a 16 percent increase in the rate of crimes related to hazing and violence in army barracks this year compared to 2010.5

    Russia's armed forces will start taking delivery of the new Tornado-G multiple rocket launching systems (MRLS), replacing the current Grad systems which have been in service since 1964. It is believed that the tornadoes will substantially add to the military’s fire power and standoff capability for effective engagement. The army spokesman mentioned that the Tornados are superior to Grads in their effectiveness, automated control, aiming and satellite navigation systems. A Tornado MRLS vehicle can carry up to twelve 300-mm rockets with an effective range of up to 90 kilometres.6

    The Defence Ministry of Russia has declared that the Naval HQs will be shifted from Moscow to St. Petersburg by early 2012. In 2007, Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, proposed transferring the Navy headquarters from Moscow to St. Petersburg as part of an ongoing military reform. However, several top Russian military commanders were against the idea, saying it would be too costly and ineffective7.

    The Russian government has released the first preliminary results from last year's census, so far confirming a long-running demographic crisis and sparking debate about the latest headcount's accuracy and the government's response. Russia's population dropped by 2.2 million -- or 1.6 percent, to 142.9 million -- since the last census in 2002. A disproportion in favour of women continues to grow as well, with 53.7 percent of the population female. The census also shows that 73.7 percent of Russians live in urban areas. Just 20 of the country's 83 regions saw population increases, many of them the so-called ethnic republics. Complete final results of the census -- including crucial information on mortality and birth rates -- is expected in early 2013.8

    The head of Russia’s Statistics Service, Mr. Alexander Surinov has said that Russia's 'gray, or semi-legal economy amounts to 16% of the country's gross domestic product. The hidden economy now stands at about 16% of GDP. Current data shows that some 13 million people, or 17-18% of the economically active population, are employed there9.

    In other developments, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that government ministers have until July 1 to give up their seats on boards of some of the country's biggest state firms. The move is part of an attempt to improve Russia's investment climate.10 However, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has signed an order granting unhindered and direct access to oil pipelines for independent producers. The new regulations will enter into force in a month.11