вторник, 31 марта 2009 г.

Birth bicentenary of N.V. Gogol'

Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol


On 25 March an unusually strange event occurred in St. Petersburg. For that morning Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch, a dweller on the Voznesensky Prospekt (his family name is lost now — it no longer figures on a signboard bearing a portrait of a gentleman with a soaped cheek, and the words: “Also, Blood Let Here”) — for that morning Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch awoke early, and caught the smell of newly baked bread. Raising himself a little, he perceived his wife (a most respectable lady, and one especially fond of coffee) to be just in the act of drawing newly baked rolls from the oven.

“Prascovia Osipovna,” he said, “I would rather not have any coffee for breakfast, but, instead, a hot roll and an onion,” — the truth being that he wanted both but knew it to be useless to ask for two things at once, as Prascovia Osipovna did not fancy such tricks.

“Oh, the fool shall have his bread,” the wife thought, “So much the better for me then, as I shall have that much more coffee.”

And she threw one roll on to the table.

Ivan Yakovlevitch donned a jacket over his shirt for politeness' sake, and, seating himself at the table, poured out salt, got a couple of onions ready, took a knife into his hand, assumed an air of importance, and cut the roll open. Then he glanced into the roll's middle. To his intense surprise he saw something glimmering there. He probed it cautiously with the knife — then poked at it with a finger.

“Quite solid it is!” he said to himself. “What in the world is it likely to be?”

He stuck in his fingers, and pulled out — a nose! .. His hands dropped to his sides for a moment. Then he rubbed his eyes hard. Then again he probed the thing. A nose! Sure enough a nose! Yes, and one familiar to him, somehow! Oh, horror spread upon his feature! Yet that horror was a trifle compared with his spouse's overmastering wrath.

“You brute!” she shouted frantically. “Where have you cut off that nose? You villain, you! You drunkard! Why, I'll go and report you to the police myself. You brigand, you! I have already heard from three men that, while shaving them, your pulled their noses to the point that they could hardly stand it.”

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Chechen Hero of Russia shot dead in Dubai

A Chechen who was a former leading commander of a crack Russian anti-terrorist battalion has been assassinated at the luxury Jumeirah Beach Resort in Dubai where he lived.

Sulim Yamadayev (36) – former commander of the elite “Vostok” Unit – was shot dead on March 28th as he approached his car outside the luxury complex, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Yamadayev’s bodyguard attempted to stop the attacker but may have been hit with the butt of a weapon or a stun-gun. The assassin then opened fire on Yamadayev.

He was taken to a military hospital but died from his wounds.

Reports in Dubai’s Gulf News said that security guards nearby witnessed the assassination.

“The security guard at that section of the building found the body… in a pool of blood covering the entrance to the lifts…," one guard was reported as saying.

Security staff also said people saw a man fleeing the building and heard gunshots.

Russia’s Consul in Dubai, Sergey Krasnogor, confirmed the killing of the Chechen who was decorated as a 'Hero of Russia’ for his anti-terrorist military service in the Caucasus.

"I just received confirmation from the Dubai police that he was killed," a Russian consular official told the Reuters news agency.

Sulim Yamadayev (L) with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in December 2006

Investigation begins

Dubai police remain tightlipped about the shooting. Chief of the Dubai Police, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, would only say that the victim was believed to have been “under surveillance for some time”.

Gulf News also reported police sources as saying that a Russian national is currently in custody in connection with the killing.

There had earlier been confusion over the victim’s identity. Arab news agencies reported that a 36-year-old ‘Sulaiman Medov’ had been shot. But later it was confirmed the victim was Sulim Yamadayev. The confusion appears to have arisen because of the similarity of both names in Arabic, although other reports said the victim had held a passport in this second name.

According to Kommersant, Sulim Yamadayev together with his wife Milana and 6 children left Russia in late December 2008. It was not known under what circumstances they left for the United Arab Emirates.
Long-running row

In the First Chechen campaign (1994-1996) Sulim Yamadayev fought on the side of militant insurgents, but joined Russian federal forces in the second (1999-2000). In 2003, Yamadayev headed the “Vostok” squadron and by 2006 the armed group is thought to have routed some 400 militants. After that he was promoted as a “Hero of Russia”.

For many years the Yamadayev clan has been in conflict with Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov. In spring 2008, Yamadayev refused to move his auto to the side of the road to make way for a motorcade of vehicles with presidential bodyguards in Chechnya, and a shootout followed.

September 24, 2008 (AFP Photo / Dmitry Kostyukov)

Shortly afterwards, President Kadyrov accused the commanders of the “Vostok” unit, including Yamadayev, of being involved in killings and abductions in the Chechen republic. In May 2008, Yamadayev was removed from his duties. In summer 2008 he was put on a wanted list by Chechen prosecutors. Three criminal cases were launched against him for murder and kidnapping.

In September 2008, Yamadayev’s older brother, Ruslan, a former Duma Deputy and also Hero of Russia, was shot dead while driving through the centre of Moscow.
Different angles of the story

Ziyad Sabsabi, a member of the Federation Council representing the Chechen Republic, says the situation “is obviously provocative and is aimed at destroying tentative positive ties between Chechnya and some Arab states and large private companies from those states”.

Some experts, however speculate, there might be someone behind this who is looking for power in the republic:

“I don’t want to guess what exactly happened in Dubai, but it’s obvious that figures who in one way or another could have a claim for power in Chechnya are being kicked out of the game”, said Sergey Markedonov, an expert on the Caucasus from the Institute for Military and Political Analysis.

Meanwhile, Ali Karimov, President Ramzan Kadyrov’s press secretary, said that Chechnya’s authorities and the republic’s law enforcement bodies will render assistance in investigating Yamadayev’s murder, if requested.

”We hope that the United Arab Emirates’ police will carry out a thorough investigation and find those implicated in Sulim Yamadayev’s death,” Karimov said.

The third angle on the story has Kommersant suggesting the incident could have traces to Saudi Arabia. One of the most prominent Arabs fighting in Chechnya, Abu al-Walid, was from there and he was killed by Russian federal forces in April 2004. For that operation, Sulim Yamadayev received his award.


понедельник, 30 марта 2009 г.

Great Lent and Holy Week

The difference between West and East in calculation of the Easter date has occurred only since 1582 A.D. Prior to that time, both Western and Eastern Christians celebrated Easter according to the decisions of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), a practice still continued by the Orthodox Church. The Council of Nicea was convened to correct a practice which had begun in the Roman Empire in the early Christian era of celebrating Easter on different days of the week, which did not conform to the Christian interpretation of the time of Christ’s Resurrection “on the first day of the week.” The Council of Nicea declared that the date of the Christian Pascha (Easter) should be determined as follows:

1. The Feast of the Resurrection must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox. If the full moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is the following Sunday.

2. The Resurrection must always be celebrated after the Jewish Passover, to insure the proper historical sequence of events as recorded in Holy Scripture.

The season of Great Lent is the time of preparation for the feast of the Resurrection of Christ. In the Orthodox Church, Great Lent is not a season of morbidity and gloominess. Rather it is a time of joyfulness and purification. The Orthodox believe that it is our repentance God desires, not our remorse.

In the Orthodox Church the feast of Easter is officially called Pascha, the word which means the Passover. It is the new Passover of the new and everlasting covenant foretold by the prophets of old. It is the eternal Passover from death to life and from earth to heaven.

Each Wednesday and Friday evening during Great Lent, in most Orthodox Churches, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated. Also on each Friday evening, most Orthodox Churches pray the Little Compline with the Akathist Hymn to Mary the Mother of God.

Each of the Sundays of Great Lent has its own special theme. The first Sunday is called the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. It is a historical feast commemorating the return of the Icons to the Churches in the year 843 A.D., after the heresy of iconoclasm was overcome.

The second Sunday of Great Lent is the commemoration of St. Gregory Palamas. It was St. Gregory who died in 1359, who bore living witness that men can become divine through the Grace of God in the Holy Spirit; and that even in this life, by prayer and fasting, human beings can become participants of the uncreated Light of God’s Divine Glory.

The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross, a day marked by its beauty and pageantry. The Cross stands in the midst of the Church at the midpoint of the Lenten season to remind us of Christ’s redemption and to keep before us the goal of our efforts . But even more importantly to be revered and venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:38). In the Cross of Christ Crucified, lies both “the power of God and the Wisdom of God” for those being saved, (I Corinthians 1:2 4).

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to St. John Climacus (St. John of the Ladder), the author of the work: The Ladder of Divine Ascent. St. John was an abbot at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in the sixth century His work encourages the faithful to persevere in their efforts; for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved;” (Matthew 24:13).

The Fifth Sunday of Lent recalls the memory of St. Mary of Egypt, the repentant harlot. Mary tells us, first of all, that no amount of sin can keep a person from God if the sinner truly repents. In addition, St. Mary tells us that it is never too late, either in life or in lent, to repent. Christ will gladly receive all who come to Him, even at the eleventh hour of their lives. But their coming must be in serious and sincere repentance.

The week following the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt is called Palm Week. At Tuesday services of this week, the Church recalls that Jesus’ friend Lazarus has died and that the Lord is going to raise him from the dead. On Friday evening, the eve of the celebration of the Resurrection of Lazarus the “Great and saving forty days” of Great Lent are formally brought to an end. Lazarus Saturday is a paschal celebration. It is the only time during the entire Church year that the resurrectional service of Sunday is celebrated on another day. At the Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the Church glorifies Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life” who, by raising Lazarus, has confirmed the universal resurrection of mankind, even before His own suffering and death.

The Sixth Sunday after the beginning of Great Lent begins Holy Week. Palm Sunday is the commemoration of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, Christ was hailed by the masses as the long-awaited Messiah. Thus, in fulfillment of the prophesies of the Old Testament, He entered Jerusalem, “the City of the King”, riding on the colt of an ass, (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:12). The crowds greeted him with branches in their hands and shouted praises: “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna to David’s son!” This glorification drove the priests and the scribes to destroy Him and put Him to death.

Palm Sunday is one of the major feasts of the Church. It immediately follows those services of Lazarus Saturday The Church building continues to be vested in resurrectional splendor, filled with hymns which continually repeat the “Hosanna” offered to Christ as the Messiah who comes in the name of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

In the Orthodox Church, the last week of Christ’s life is officially called Passion Week. Each day is designated as “great and holy”. There are special services each day which are fulfilled in all churches. The services for Great and Holy Monday are celebrated on Palm Sunday evening; the Orthodox Church begins her day at sunset. Similarly, the remaining services of the week are sung “in anticipation on the eve of the day.

Each day of Holy Week has its own particular theme. The theme of Monday is that of the sterile fig tree which yields no fruit and is condemned. Tuesday the accent is on the vigilance of the wise virgins who, unlike their foolish sisters, were ready when the Lord came to them. Wednesday the focus is on the fallen woman who repents. Great emphasis is made in the liturgical services to compare the woman, a sinful harlot who has sinned — to Judas — a chosen apostle who is lost. The one gives her wealth to Christ and kisses His feet; the other betrays Christ for money with a kiss.

On Wednesday evening in Holy Week, the Matins (morning) service for Great and Holy Thursday is sung, commemorating the Last Supper and Christ’s washing of the disciples’ feet, Prior to that, the Sacrament of Holy Unction (Healing Oil) is ministered to the faithful in recognition of the “evening of repentance and confession.”

On Good Friday is celebrated the holy, saving, and awful Passion of Jesus Christ. Also celebrated is the confession and salvation of the penitent thief who was crucified with Christ. Participation in the prayers and historical development of events, as related in the Twelve Gospel passages read that night, provide the faithful with a vivid foundation for the great events yet to come. The procession with the Crucifix takes place around the Church after the fifth Gospel.

The Royal Hours are read Friday morning, followed by the Un-nailing Services in the afternoon to commemorate the Burial of Jesus. On Friday evening, the Lamentation service, consisting of Psalms, Hymns and readings, celebrates the entombment of the Divine Body of Christ; and also His descent into Hades, by which our race was recalled from corruption, and permitted to pass over into everlasting life.

On Easter Sunday (Saturday midnight) the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ is celebrated. The people leave the Church in procession, and come to stand in front of the closed doors of the Church. At this point the Resurrection is announced with the gospel reading about the empty tomb (Mark 16, 1-8) which refers to the Angel’s statement: "He is risen; He is not here."

The people, breathless with anticipation, wait for the priest to begin the hymn of the Resurrection ‘‘Christ is Risen from the dead; trampling down Death by His death; and bestowing life upon those in the tombs.” From this moment the entire service takes on a joyous atmosphere. At the end of the Liturgy the festive sermon of St. John Chrysostom is read, calling upon the people to: ‘‘Take part in this fair and radiant festival. Let no one be fearful of death,” he continues, “for the death of the Savior has set us free.”

In most parishes, the glorious and joyful Resurrection Liturgy is followed by a breakfast celebration and fellowship: a breaking of the Fast.

On Sunday afternoon, the Vespers of Love are celebrated. All sing the hymn ‘‘Christ is Risen From the Dead.’’ The people greet one another joyously, saying "Christ is Risen," a Paschal (Easter) salutation, to which the response is “Truly He is Risen.” The Gospel according to John, proclaiming the Good News of the Resurrection. is read in many languages. The week following Pascha is known as “Bright Week’’ during which all the doors in the Church remain open to signify the empty tomb and the whole week is one of rejoicing, feasting and Christian joy.


пятница, 27 марта 2009 г.

Igor Tal'kov- to memory of Viktor Tsoy

Igor Tal'kov is a famous russian singer, poet and composer. He was shot at the Ubileyny concert-hall in Saint-Petersburg in 1991.

The poets are born not by odd chances
They must fly down to Earth from distant heights
Enigma of their fate only enhances
Accessible and common poets' lives

The eyes of such above-sky living envoys
Are always sad, they see another way
In our tangled world their souls shine forever
And light the way to worlds that ran astray

They walk away completing their mission
Being withdrawn by Super Worlds above
They are outside affection and volition
As per the cosmic gaming rule of thumb.

They are leaving making no commitments
The moment that the trumpets sound most
The poets, the actors, and musicians -
Physicians they are for tired souls.

The birds in woods have learned the songs of theirs
The field flowers for them entwine the wreaths
They walk away from us but they will never disappear
In their songs and poems they still breathe

Perhaps today or probably tomorrow
I shall become mysterious envoy
To Super Worlds where went and left us to our sorrow
The poet and composer Victor Tsoy.

Памяти Виктора Цоя

Поэты не рождаются случайно,
Они летят на землю с высоты,
Их жизнь окружена глубокой тайной,
Хотя они открыты и просты.

Глаза таких божественных посланцев
Всегда печальны и верны мечте,
И в хаосе проблем их души вечно светят
Мирам, что заблудились в темноте.

Они уходят, выполнив заданье,
Их отзывают Высшие Миры,
Неведомые нашему сознанью,
По правилам космической игры.

Они уходят, не допев куплета,
Когда в их честь оркестр играет туш:
Актёры, музыканты и поэты -
Целители уставших наших душ.

В лесах их песни птицы допевают,
В полях для них цветы венки совьют,
Они уходят вдаль, но никогда не умирают
И в песнях и в стихах своих живут.

А может быть, сегодня или завтра
Уйду и я таинственным гонцом
Туда, куда ушёл, ушёл от нас внезапно
Поэт и композитор Виктор Цой.

Translated by Viktor P.S link


Kyrgyzstan says position unchanged on U.S. military presence

BISHKEK, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - A spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's president rejected on Friday reports that the country is considering allowing U.S. troops to remain at the Manas airbase.

Earlier on Friday, a high-ranking source in the U.S. administration said the United States had received an offer from Kyrgyzstan to continue negotiations on maintaining the Manas airbase near Bishkek.

The Kyrgyz spokesman said: "Yesterday, the foreign minister [Kadyrbek Sarbayev] stated that Kyrgyzstan is not considering the possibility of returning the Manas airbase to the U.S. This position remains unchanged."

However, the foreign minister, who is currently in Moscow for an international conference on Afghanistan, was more equivocal on the issue.

When asked about the offer to the U.S., he said: "I don't know anything about this, because I've been in Moscow for the past two days."

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed on February 20 a decree to close the Manas airbase. Kyrgyzstan officially notified Washington about the termination of the agreement on a U.S. military presence at the base, and gave it 180 days to withdraw some 1,200 personnel, aircraft and other equipment.

The base, staffed mainly by U.S. Air Force personnel, had been used since 2001 to support NATO operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Bakiyev linked the decision to Washington's refusal to pay more for the base and to the conduct of U.S. military personnel, including the killing of a Kyrgyz national by a U.S. soldier in December 2006.

Kyrgyz officials have rejected any connection between the decision and a recent Russian financial aid package under which Russia will write off Kyrgyzstan's $180 million debt and grant the country a $2 billion soft loan and $150 million in financial assistance. Moscow has likewise denied any link.

Moscow hosts conference on Afghanistan

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is ready to actively contribute to normalization of the situation in Afghanistan, President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday in a welcome message to the participants of an international conference.

The Moscow conference on Afghanistan was held under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - a regional security organization comprising Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The conference participants - SCO ministers and representatives of G8 members, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Iran, the UN, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the OSCE, the EU and NATO - gathered to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and in the Middle East and work out a strategy of fight against terrorism and drug production.

The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

"I am convinced that the conference results will become a weighty contribution to the efforts by member countries and observers of the SCO, other states and international organizations to assist Afghanistan," said the president's message, which was read by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"For its part, Russia is ready for active joint steps aimed at normalizing the situation in the country and ensuring its peaceful and creative development," it said.

Medvedev said the conference was a very important event and noted that its participants would have to discuss a number of serious problems touching upon the interests of Afghanistan and other countries.

The president said Russia is interested in wide cooperation with the international community to resolve Afghanistan's problems.

Lavrov, heading the Russian delegation, said the SCO and CSTO proposed forming belts of drug, terrorist and financial security in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Ministry said Lavrov would attend an international conference on Afghanistan in The Hague on March 31, which will bring together foreign ministers of states involved in Afghanistan, as well as representatives of international organizations.

"The minister will outline the main results of the conference on Afghanistan in Moscow," the ministry said.

At Friday's conference in Moscow, a Chinese deputy foreign minister said China had provided $180 million assistance to Afghanistan and written off all its outstanding debts.

The Turkish foreign minister said Turkey intended to contribute to SCO efforts on an Afghan settlement and an Iranian deputy foreign minister said it was time to switch over from declarations to actions in the Afghan settlement.

Russia to deploy special Arctic force by 2020 - Security Council

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will create by 2020 a group of forces to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic, but does not plan to militarize the region, a spokesman for the Russian Security Council said on Friday.

He said the council had recently posted on its website a document, "The fundamentals of Russian state policy in the Arctic up to 2020 and beyond," which outlines the country's strategy in the region, including the deployment of military, border and coastal guard units "to guarantee Russia's military security in diverse military and political circumstances."

"However, it does not mean that we are planning to militarize the Arctic. We are focusing on the creation of an effective system of coastal security, the development of arctic border infrastructure, and the presence of military units of an adequate strength," the official said.

According to some sources, the Arctic Group of Forces will be part of the Russian Federal Security Service, whose former chief and current secretary of the Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, is a strong proponent of an "aggressive" state policy in the Arctic.

Another goal of the new strategy is to "optimize the system of the comprehensive monitoring of the situation in the Arctic," including border control at checkpoints in Russia's arctic regions, coastal waters and airspace, the spokesman said.

The strategy envisions increased cooperation with neighboring countries in the fight against terrorism, drug-trafficking, illegal immigration and environmental protection.

The document also prioritizes the delineation of the Arctic shelf "with respect to Russia's national interests."

High Arctic territories, seen as key to huge untapped natural resources, have increasingly been at the center of mounting disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark in recent years as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice.

President Dmitry Medvedev said in September at a Russian Security Council session that the extent of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic should be defined as soon as possible.

Medvedev also said the Arctic shelf is a guarantee of Russia's energy security and that the Arctic should become the resource base for Russia this century, adding that "about 20% of Russia's GDP and 22% of Russian exports are produced" in the area.

Russia has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge in the summer of 2007 - to support its territorial claims in the region. Moscow pledged to submit documentary evidence to the UN on the external boundaries of Russia's territorial shelf by 2010.

A Russian proposal on creating security structures in the Arctic region will be discussed at a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in April.

The Arctic Council was established in 1996 to protect the unique nature of the Arctic region. The intergovernmental forum comprises Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

среда, 25 марта 2009 г.

Obama wants to put US-Russian relations on a stronger footing

Barak Obama wants to improve U.S. links with Moscow, while maintaining consistency with NATO policies.

During his Tuesday meeting in Washington with NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, U.S. President Barak Obama spoke about improving U.S.-Russian ties while maintaining consistency with NATO policies.

So far, the Obama administration has been consistent in saying they want to renew their relationships with Russia by pushing the so-called ‘restart button’. Russia has also followed the same line saying that it is open to this. However, obstacles still exist.

The main impediment is the idea of bringing both Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, and this issue seems to be the source of a certain inconsistency within the Obama administration. With today’s statement, it seems like the President, himself, has not chosen either side of the issue.

On the one hand, he said he was looking forward to renewing the U.S.-Russian relationship, while on the other was his notice that NATO-aspiring nations should have the opportunity to join the alliance.

"This administration, my administration, is seeking a re-set of the relationship with Russia, but in a way that's consistent with NATO membership and consistent with the need to send a clear signal throughout Europe that we are going to continue to abide by the central belief that countries who seek and aspire to join NATO are able to join NATO," the AP quotes his words as saying.

De Hoop Scheffer supported Obama's stance on Russia and said NATO and Russia needed each other, despite "many things on which we disagree".

"Let us realise that, also, this relationship can, and in my opinion should, be strengthened," he said.

Having met ahead of the NATO's 60th anniversary next month, Obama and De Hoop Scheffer have also discussed the alliance’s effectiveness in the fight against Islamic militants in Afghanistan. On Friday, the Obama administration is expected to unveil its revamping of U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.


вторник, 24 марта 2009 г.

Cancer: NATO's time bomb in the Balkans

Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the three-month NATO bombing campaign of the former Yugoslavia - and a decade later, the wounds of the war are still felt.

Throughout the areas which have been affected by NATO bombings, hundreds of people are dying of cancer. Experts say that this may be a result of uranium shells being used.

A little cemetery in Bratunac, Eastern Bosnia became the final resting place for a number of cancer victims. A local resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, gave RT the names of some who are buried there. He says they all died of cancer.

Djoko Zelenovic, who worked in the local military repair factory, died from the disease at the age of 65. The 35 year-old mother of two small children also rests here.

There used to be no more than one or two funerals a year in this small Serbian village in Eastern Bosnia. Since NATO dropped bombs on Sarajevo in the summer of 1995, the number has climbed to as many as one or two deaths a month.

Nikola Zelenovic’s parents are buried here. He says they were healthy until the NATO bombings and is now spearheading an investigation.

Nikola says that "my family lived throughout the war years in the town of Hadjici. My father was working in one of the factories there when NATO bombed it. His health problems started soon afterwards. He died from lung cancer. My mother died a year and a half after him from Leukemia. My parents were never sick before."

Starting on March 24th, 1999, for three months NATO bombed Serb targets in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. Four years earlier its forces had bombed Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Their aim was to end the fighting between Serbs and Albanians who lived in the areas.

But they left a time bomb behind them. In the years that followed, hundreds of people living in the areas that were hit have died of cancer

In Kosovo, the number of cancer patients has grown three times over the last ten years, while in Bosnia-Herzegovina, already more than a thousand people have died from cancer.

Doctor Slavko Zdrale has treated several cancer patients over the past years and boldly advances theories on the subject:

He told RT that “a few years ago we started noticing that there was as many as five times the number of people dying of different kinds of cancer as compared to the number of people who had been sick before the war.”

“We worked out that 90% of them came from areas NATO had bombed and from areas where ammunition with uranium was used. Nobody in the international community took much notice until Italian soldiers who were stationed in those areas started dying from cancer-related illnesses.”

In Pale, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the war crimes court is recording evidence of an increased number of cancer patients. The court says that the pieces of ammunition found in the bombed areas had a much higher level of radiation than is internationally allowed. Investigators are convinced that this radiation is the underlying cause of cancer.

Simo Tusevljak, the coordinator of the Research and documentation of war crimes, stated that “we believe that this was a deliberate attempt by NATO forces to kill as many people as possible. It was also a chance for the West to test new weapons.” .

“But there is nothing we can do," he added. "We cannot file any complaint against NATO because all those involved have diplomatic immunity. A NATO soldier can kill and never be prosecuted. But perhaps one day some senior officials from NATO who ordered the bombings will be prosecuted. I believe the order came from high up."

NATO hasn't commented on the claims and has dismissed Serbian and Italian investigations.

There has been no other independent research conducted on the subject.

The little cemetery in Bratunac is already full. But locals fear the number of cancer victims will continue to grow for at least the next fifty years, or for as long as it takes for the air to clean.

Ten years after the NATO bombings, the alliance still has a lot to answer for. But no matter when those answers come (or whether they will come at all) they will be too late for the cancer victims.


Mental Imagery in Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Just as there can be a properly trained voice, there can be a properly trained soul.[1]
—Fr. Alexander Yelchaninov

This presentation is based on the research that I undertook for a book titled Imagine That… : Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion, published in paperback in February of 2009 with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco. The work is an analytical comparison of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox attitudes toward mental imagery. In this presentation, I wish to focus specifically on the Orthodox tradition of prayer.

* * *

Eastern Orthodoxy displays a great degree of uniformity in following a path of stillness of thought and silence of mind to achieve the prayer of heart in private devotion. Saint John Climacus writes in The Ladder (28:19) that “the beginning of prayer consists in chasing away invading thoughts…” (285) The mind is to be freed from all thoughts and images and focused on the words of prayer. Further in the chapter on prayer (28), St. John instructs not to accept any sensual images during prayer, lest the mind falls into insanity (42; 289); and not to gaze upon even necessary and spiritual things (59; 292).

Unlike Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox Tradition does not encourage the use of mental imagery. In fact, it almost appears to forbid sensory imagination during prayer altogether. In the words of one of the contemporary Orthodox elders, Abbot Nikon (Vorobyev) (1894-1963), “that, which sternly, decisively, with threats and imploring is forbidden by the Eastern Fathers—Western ascetics strive to acquire through all efforts and means” (424).

One of the best summaries of the Orthodox patristic tradition of prayer is contained in the works of Bishop Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) (1807-1867), a nineteenth-century scholar, theologian, and saint. Having studied the works of both Eastern and Western saints in their original languages, St. Ignatii was also known as a man of prayer, and his writings breathe not only of academic vigor, but of personal practical experience as well.

St. Ignatii certainly acknowledges that there are visions from God which are shown to those “who are renewed by the Holy Spirit, who put off the old Adam, and put on the New” (Works 2004, 1:86). “Thus,” he writes, “the holy Apostle Peter during prayer saw a notable sheet descending from heaven. Thus, an angel appeared to Cornelius the centurion during prayer. Thus, when Apostle Paul was praying in the Jerusalem temple, the Lord appeared to him and commanded him to immediately leave Jerusalem…” (1:86) But St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) categorically forbids seeking or expecting such “supernatural states”:

The praying mind must be in a fully truthful state. Imagination, however alluring and well-appearing it may be, being the willful creation of the mind itself, brings the latter out of the state of Divine truth, and leads the mind into a state of self-praise and deception, and this is why it is rejected in prayer.

The mind during prayer must be very carefully kept without any images, rejecting all images, which are drawn in the ability of imagination… Images, if the mind allows them during prayer, will become an impenetrable curtain, a wall between the mind and God. (1:75)

Saint Isaac of Syria (d. c. 700), a bishop and theologian, writing centuries earlier, conveys a similar warning to those who desire visions, saying that such a person is “tempted in his mind by the devil who mocks him” (174).

Specifically addressing devotees’ visions of the Lord and the saints, St. Ignatii points out that human imagination can lead to fake sensory experiences, falsely recognized by the person as originating outside of his or her mind:

Guard yourself from imagination, which can make you fancy that you see the Lord Jesus Christ, that you touch and embrace Him. This is empty play of puffed-up and proud self-opinion! This is deadly self-praise! (1:33)

If during your prayer there appears to your senses or spontaneously in your mind an image of Christ, or of an Angel, or of any Saint—in other words, any image whatsoever—do not accept this apparition as true in any way, do not pay any attention to it, and do not enter into a conversation with it. Otherwise, you will surely suffer deceit and most serious damage to your soul, which has happened to many. (1:75-6; see also Philokalia 5:233)

Imagining the Lord and his saints gives to the mind as if materiality, leads it to the false, prideful opinion of self—leads the soul into a false state, a state of deceptive self-praise. (1:76-7)

In other words, according to St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov), purposefully creating images in one’s mind, and even accepting those appearing spontaneously, is not only dangerous spiritually, but can also lead to the damage of the soul, or psychological problems, “which,” he says, “has happened to many.” Undoubtedly, here St. Ignatii refers to the spirituality of some Western saints: “Do not play with your salvation, do not. Take up the reading of the New Testament and the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, but not of Teresa and other Western crazies…” (25) But cases of mental disorders facilitated by improper prayer or state of mind are also known in various Orthodox literature, especially paterikons.

Saint Simeon the New Theologian (949-1022), writing in the late tenth to early eleventh centuries, warns against the method of prayer later used by St. Ignatius of Loyola and other Western saints as potentially leading to mental problems:

The specific features of this… type of prayer are such: when one, standing at prayer and lifting up his hands, and eyes, and mind to heaven, imagines in his mind divine councils, the heavenly goodness, the ranks of angels, and the dwellings of the saints; in other words, all that he has heard from the Divine Scriptures, he collects into his mind… But during this type of prayer, little-by-little, [he] starts to puff-up in his heart, not understanding this himself; it seems to him that what he is doing is from God’s grace [given] for his comfort, and he asks God to let him always be in this state. But this is a sign of great deception… Such a person, [if he practices this type of prayer in seclusion][2] will hardly be able to stay sane. But, even if it so happens that he does not go insane, he, nonetheless, will not be able to acquire virtues… (Philokalia 5:463-4)

Commenting on this passage, St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) calls imaginative prayer “most dangerous”:

The most dangerous of the incorrect types of prayer consists of the person creating imaginary pictures, seemingly borrowing them from the Holy Scripture, but in reality—from his own state of fall and self-pride; and with these pictures he flatters his own self-opinion, his fall, his sinfulness, deceives himself. Obviously, everything which is created by the imagination of our fallen nature, does not exist in reality, is make-belief and false… The one who imagines, with the first step on the path of prayer leaves the area of truth and enters the area of deceit, passions, sin, Satan. (Works 1:160-1)

The teaching of St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) continues the tradition of prayer carried by the Fathers of the Eastern Church. Much of this tradition was compiled into a large work titled Philokalia (Gr. “love of the good”), which contains the writings of the Eastern Fathers from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries. This work, a staple of Orthodox spirituality and an unquestionable Orthodox authority on prayer, forbids the use of mental imagery in no uncertain terms. Saint Macarius of Egypt (A.D. 300-391), for example, writes that Satan appears to those seeking visions as an angel of light to foster in them a proud opinion of themselves as visionaries of the divine, and by this self-pride to lead them to destruction (see 630). Saint Nilus of Sinai (died c. 430) a disciple of Saint John Chrysostom, teaches that the mind must be “deaf and dumb during prayer” (Philokalia 2:208). “When you pray,” he writes, “do not imagine God in any form and do not allow your mind to form any image…” (2:215) St. Nilus also warns to not even desire to see any images or visions: “Do not desire to see any face or image during prayer. Do not desire to see Angels, or Powers, or Christ, in order not to become insane, having accepted a wolf for the shepherd and having worshipped the enemies—demons” (2:221).

Likewise, another one of the Eastern Fathers, Saint John Climacus (A.D. 525-606) asserts that at least some visions and revelations may be created by the demon of pride who uses them to plant and nurture self-pride in devotees:

When the demon of pride becomes established in his servants, then, appearing to them in a dream or in a vision in an image of an angel of light or a martyr, gives to them revelations of mysteries, and as if a gift of [spiritual] gifts, in order that these unfortunate ones, having succumbed to the temptation, completely lost their mind. (191)

A Sinai Father, Saint Gregory (c. 1260-1346) shows an unbroken continuity of the patristic tradition of prayer and continues to caution against mental imagery during prayer:

[N]ever accept if you see anything physical or spiritual, inside yourself or out, even if it is an image of Christ, or an Angel, or some Saint, or a light appears to you and shows in your mind. The mind itself has a natural power of imagination and can easily create a phantom image of a thing, which it desires… In the same way, a recollection of good or bad things usually shows their images in the mind and leads the mind to imagination… (Philokalia 5:224)

In another place, St. Gregory repeats the same warning even more sternly:

When doing your task [of prayer], you see light or fire outside [yourself] or in, or a face—of Christ, for example, or an Angel, or someone else’s—do not accept it, in order not to suffer damage. And yourself do not make images; and those that come on their own—do not accept them, and do not allow your mind to keep them. (Philokalia 5:233)

It becomes clear, therefore, why the Eastern Tradition warns so sternly against accepting any images whatsoever, even those seemingly coming from God. Instead, an emphasis is placed on humility and repentance, which are seen as the foundation and the goal of prayer. Saint Ignatii (Bryanchaninov), summarizing this emphasis for novices, wrote:

Concerning voices and apparitions, one must have an even greater caution: here, the demons’ deceit is closer and more dangerous… This is why the holy fathers taught those beginning prayer not to trust voices and apparitions—but to reject them and not accept them, leaving this to the judgment and the will of God, but for themselves considering humility more useful than any voice or apparition. (Works 2004, 5:306)

Mental[3] prayer, according to Orthodox authors, is achieved “when the nous,[4] pure from any thoughts and ideas, prays to God without distraction” (Hierotheos 145). This type of prayer is achieved by stilling the mind, rather than rousing it with ecstasy, by ignoring apparitions, rather than accepting them as a sign of personal perfection, and by deliberately keeping the mind from creating thoughts and images, rather than using it to exercise imagination. Thus, ecstatic visions, which were the core of private devotion of some Roman Catholic saints, are considered by the Eastern Tradition to be a temptation to either avoid or fight off, rather than “favors” from God, as Teresa and Mechtilde call them. Similarly, desiring the images and visions or creating them with the use of imagination is seen as a dangerous practice, leading to neuro-psychological trauma, rather than as an acceptable form of spiritual exercise.

* * *

In the context of forbidding attitude of the Eastern Fathers toward mental images, it seems necessary to briefly mention elaborate and very imaginative Orthodox iconography.[5] Icons in the Orthodox Tradition are used for prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Yet, even during prayer before icons, which obviously present visual imagery, the use of mental imagery, according to the Orthodox Tradition, is to be avoided. St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) writes:

The holy icons are accepted by the Holy Church for the purpose of arousing pious memories and feelings, but not at all for arousing imagination. Standing before an icon of the Savior, stand as if before the Lord Jesus Christ himself, Who is invisibly everywhere present and by His icon is in that place, where the icon is; standing before an icon of the Mother of God, stand as if before the Most-Holy Virgin Herself; but keep your mind without images: there is a great difference between being in the presence of the Lord or standing before the Lord and imagining the Lord. (Works 2004, 1:76)

The specific canons and stylistic rules which guide the writing of an Orthodox icon, therefore, as well as the proper training of the mind, may be seen as the means to achieve the goal formulated above by St. Ignatii—the real presence before the Lord, rather than to express or influence visual imagination.

* * *

Having briefly described the Orthodox position on the use of mental imagery in prayer, I highlighted the rejection and non-acceptance of visions and imagination by the Fathers of the Church. However, there are some notable exceptions and inconsistencies. On one hand, patristic and Orthodox authors are certainly aware that some (perhaps, many) saints do have visions which do come from God. Orthodox hagiographic accounts abound in visions and revelation, including some in what appears to be the state of spiritual ecstasy. Of the authors, whose works were examined above, St. John Climacus, for example, recounts an apparition he had during prayer, in which he even had a dialogue with the angel:

[A]n angel enlightened me when I thirsted for more revelations. And again, being in the same state [of seeing], I asked him: “What was the Lord like before He accepted the visible image of human nature?” But the Prince of Heavenly Hosts could not teach me this, and he was not allowed. Then I asked him to reveal to me in what state He is now. “In one that is specific to Him,” he said, “but not in these.” I asked again: “What is His state of sitting on the right of the Father?” He answered: “It is impossible to accept the understanding of this mystery through hearing.” I begged him to lead me to that, which I desired. But he said: “This time has not yet come, because you still have too little of the fire of incorruption in you.” However, I do not know and cannot say whether I was in the body or out of the body when this was happening to me. (274-5)

It is interesting in this passage that St. John kept asking the angels about the matters which are difficult to place within a personal soteriological context. Indeed, it may be questionable whether knowing in what state Christ sits on the right of the Father would bring anyone closer to salvation. It is telling that the angel refused to answer and elaborate on these matters. Nonetheless, it appears that St. John not only had a vision, but accepted it, conversed with it, and desired more visions or revelations.

St. Gregory of Sinai in retelling[6] about his meeting a holy monk by the name of Maximus Capsokalivite says that the latter not only had visions, but also disagreed with those who rejected them. Maximus wondered why some people rejected visions despite God Himself offering them to His people through the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28):

Thus, the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord uplifted upon a high throne and surrounded by seraphim. The first-martyr Stephan saw the heavens opened and the Lord Jesus on the right of the Father, and the rest. In the same way, today also the servants of Christ are given to see various visions, which some do not believe and do not accept them as truthful, but consider them deceits, and those who see them they call being in a state of deceit. (Philokalia 5:474)

It is unclear whether Maximus would have considered most Roman Catholic ecstatic visions to be from God, but he does add a qualifier: “[W]hen this grace of the Holy Spirit descends upon someone, then it shows to him not something usual from the things of this sensory world, but shows that, which he has never seen and never imagined” (5:475). A very similar thought is contained in the teachings of St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov), who, while being one of the most outspoken critics of visions, contends that some of them are true:

True spiritual visions and feelings belong to the next age, are fully non-material, cannot be explained in the area of senses, through a material word: such is the true sign of that which is truly spiritual.—The voice of the Spirit is non-material; it is fully clear and fully non-material: it is a noetic voice. In the same way, all spiritual feelings are non-material, invisible, cannot be explained or clearly relayed through human material words… (Works 2004, 5:306-7)

Yet, even St. Ignatii would probably acknowledge that some visions “relayed through human material words” were nonetheless “truly spiritual.” I am not aware of any Orthodox authors, for example, disputing the spirituality of hagiographic accounts of the visions of an angel as told by Abba Dorotheus of Gaza (A.D. 505-565), or the visions of the Theotokos by Saints Andrew and Epiphanius (10th century), Sergius of Radonezh (ca. 1314-1392), Sergius and Herman of Valaam (14th century ?), Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783), or Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833), whom St. Ignatii revered as a master of prayer (see, for example, Works 2004, 1:198), or the vision of the Lord by the same Saint Seraphim during a liturgy.

It appears that the seeming inconsistency in relation to visions in Orthodox patristic writings, may come from their (the writings’) pastoral nature. While the Fathers are aware of true visions from God and experience them, they are also aware of the real dangers along the spiritual path and warn less experienced adepts to not accept any visions until a certain level of spiritual maturity and a skill of discerning spirits is reached. In other words, the Fathers warn the novices not to have the Satan for an iconographer. Having founded prayer on repentance and humility, rather than on visions and revelations, a person stays on the correct path and is able to overcome the temptations and attacks of the devil regardless of the presence of any visions or their absence. Founding prayer on ecstatic visions, on the other hand, according to the Orthodox thought, puts the soul, especially that of a novice, on the path of great danger.

Willful and conscious use of imagination, on the other hand, finds favorable or at least tolerant mentions in Orthodox works influenced by Western spirituality. Saint Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894), for example, who is usually seen as somewhat more tolerant of Western spirituality than is St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) (with whom St. Theophan entered into polemic on more than one occasion), wrote that imagining the Lord is acceptable: “When you contemplate the Divine, then you may imagine the Lord however you want,” but he adds: “During prayer, you should not hold [in your mind] any images… If you allow images then there is a danger to start praying to a dream” (qtd. in Kuraev, Challenge 121).

Another example of Western influence may be seen in the works of Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain (1749-1809), one of the compilers of the Philokalia. His famous work, which was printed in English under the title Unseen Warfare, was based on Combattimento Spirituale by a Roman Catholic priest Lorenzo Scupoli (Handbook, 26), while Nicodemos’ Spiritual Exercises was based on Esercizii Spirituali by Piramonti (28). Nicodemos, in his Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, warns about the dangers of using imagination, but concedes: “Finally, it is permissible, when fighting against certain inappropriate and evil imaginations presented by the enemy, to use other appropriate and virtuous imaginations” (152). The wisdom of such advice was questioned by St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) who suggested that one of his correspondents stop reading the Unseen Warfare (which had recently been translated into Russian by Theophan the Recluse) (see Works 2004, 5:274). While we may never know whether the saint’s correspondent heeded the advice, what is important here is the very fact that even works by respected Orthodox authors, such as St. Nicodemos, may be questioned without much hesitation due to the dissonance they create with the strictly Orthodox path of prayer.


While differences in opinion of Orthodox authors, such as St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) and St. Theophan the Recluse, exist, the overall attitude of the Orthodox Tradition forbids the use of mental imagery in prayer. Even though the adepts on the higher rungs of the spiritual ladder are reported to have visions[7] and revelations, the general advice to those who have not achieved perfection is to reject or at least ignore all and any visions and apparitions as potentially dangerous. The basis and the founding principle of Orthodox prayer is seen in repentance and humility, rather than in ecstasy and “favors.”

With respect to the conscious use of imagination during prayer, the prohibition of the Orthodox Tradition is equally strong. Some use of imagination is viewed by some authors as permissible outside of prayer, but all the Orthodox sources known to me unanimously speak against the conscious and willful use of imagination during prayer. Thus, there appears to be a clear difference in the area of the use of mental imagery between Roman Catholic prayer as exemplified by Saints Teresa of Avila, Angela of Foligno, and Ignatius of Loyola on the one hand, and the Orthodox tradition of prayer as presented by Saints Ignatii (Bryanchaninov), Nilus and Gregory of Sinai, John Climacus, and others. While some of the theologians quoted above may have written in part in reaction to Western mystical experience, others—Macarius (4th century), Nilus (5th century), John (6th century), Isaac (7th century), and Simeon the New Theologian (10-11th centuries)—constitute an earlier tradition that predates the lives of St. Teresa and St. Ignatius by several centuries. Thus, the formative influence of this patristic tradition can be traced through the writings of later Orthodox authors.

Western American Diocese Lenten Pastoral Retreat

17 March 2009

San Francisco, California

[1]Here et passim translation from Russian is mine—S.S.

[2] That is to say, perhaps, devotes enough time and effort to it.

[3] In Orthodoxy, mental prayer is called “noetic,” from the Greek “νοῦς”—“mind.”

[4] Mind.

[5] Similar questions can be raised concerning Orthodox hymnography.

[6] It appears that the text in Philokalia was written down by someone else who had either heard or read the account of St. Gregory.

[7] Including the “uncreated light” of the hesychasts


понедельник, 23 марта 2009 г.

Russian traveller to hit the Silk Road

One of Russia’s most famous travellers, Everest climber Fyodor Konyukhov, is getting ready to ascend more than 6 thousand kilometers of the mountain on a camel’s back.

The adventurer has left for Mongolia where he will be choosing camels and horses for his ambitious expedition entitled “The Silk Road”.

Scientists from different counties will join Konyukhov in the voyage that will last 7 months.

The travellers are expected to get together on May, 2 and pass through Mongolia, Altai, Kazakhstan and Kalmykia. According to Konyukhov, they will be collecting historical materials about trade routes of the past.

An ancient international trade and culture route, the Silk Road served as a bridge between the East and West for two thousand years. German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen named it “The Silk Road” because silk was one of the main items of trade in the late 19th century.

Konyukhov's landmark trips

Fyodor Konyukhov made his first voyage when he was 15 years old as he crossed the Sea of Azov on a fishing boat. Since then he has made up to 50 risky voyages and crossed the Atlantic 14 times. He is the first and only traveller in the world who has reached the five extreme Poles of the planet. In 2004 he set a world record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a maxi yacht.


Putin threatens to review relations with EU

Moscow will start reviewing its relations with the EU if its interests are ignored, Russian PM Vladimir Putin said after an international conference in Brussels on the modernization of Ukraine's gas transit system.

”If Russia’s interests are ignored, we will also have to start reviewing the fundamentals of our relations,” Putin said. “We would very much like things not to reach this point.”
ladimir Putin has made the announcement at a media briefing in Sochi, Ria Novosti news agency says.

“I’d like to be heard,” the Russian Premier said.

Putin also told journalists that the declaration adopted in Brussels by Ukraine and the EU was “poorly thought-out and unprofessional.”

He added that the main condition for investment success, as said in the declaration, may only be the volume of transported gas. “It is natural,” he said, “but who asked our opinion, whether we will be able to deliver such volumes in the future and whether we will do that?

"If it is a small technical failure in a quite complicated triangle of Russia-Ukraine-EU relations – that’s ok. But if it is the beginning of attempts to systematically ignore Russia’s interests – then it’s very bad."

Earlier Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko said Russia has been excluded from talks and the conference was limited to discussions between Ukraine and the EU.

Shmatko said that Russia is not mentioned at all in the declaration as a strategic partner and a key gas supplier to the EU – and that the document nevertheless speaks about gas trade and gas transit through Ukraine’s territory.

He said such things “directly affect Russia’s and Gazprom’s interests.”

Implementation of Ukraine’s gas transit system modernization project is possible only “with all interested sides participating” – and “the signed declaration is about the integration of Ukraine into the EU law area”, the Minister said.

“This declaration has a predominantly political character,” Shmatko concluded.

Also, the Russian Foreign Ministry has commented that any actions to modernize Ukraine’s gas transit system not coordinated with Russia may lead to failures in gas deliveries to Europe and Ukraine itself.

The Ministry is also insisting that the declaration adopted in Brussels does not take into consideration Russia-Ukraine gas agreements concluded in January 2009, and this may lead to increasing gas prices for European and Ukrainian consumers.

"Russia is calling for the steadfast implementation of long-term agreements on a transparent and economically grounded basis,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko.

Meanwhile, the EU says it isn't trying to weaken Russia’s – and in particular Gazprom’s – position on the gas market. Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Energy at the European Commission, stressed that the declaration includes “very reasonable things on the necessity of investment into Ukraine’s gas transit system.”

The agreement between the EU and Ukraine will provide Kiev with billions of euros to invest in upgrading its outdated pipeline network.

According to the signed declaration, Ukraine obliged itself to provide transparency and openness for modernization investors and equal access to corresponding financial and technical information.

It also pledged to guarantee control over the funds received for the upgrade.

How much? Sure?

Ukraine’s gas transport network is the second largest in Europe. Its total length constitutes about 37,600 km. Currently its transit capacity is 290 billion cubic metres a year of input and 175 billion cubic metres of output.

According to the European Commission’s estimates, from 2,5 to 3 billion euros of investment are needed to modernize the network.

Meanwhile, the Russian side believes this sum is not enough. The modernization may require some $16 billion, Gazprom’s Deputy Chairman Valery Golubev said to Ria Novosti.

”Three billion euros is just an initial figure,” he said.


воскресенье, 22 марта 2009 г.

EU searches for kidnapped toddler

European Union police are searching for a 3-year-old girl, allegedly kidnapped by a Russian woman from her French ex-husband.

French citizen Jean-Michel Andre told the police that on March 20th, two men and a woman kidnapped his 3-year-old daughter Eliza (Russian Liza) while they were on their way home from school in Arles, south France, AFP reports. The kidnappers hit the father, took the girl and escaped in a car. Jean-Michel Andre recognized the woman as his ex-wife.

Hundreds of French policemen are searching for the girl now. The information has also been spread to law-enforcement authorities all across the European Union.

On Saturday, March 21st the police found the vehicle, rented for the affair. The same day it emerged that two men and a woman together with a child, all matching the description of the kidnappers, boarded a plane at a Swiss airport heading for Moscow. But Andre didn’t recognize Liza on the passport picture, provided by the Swiss authorities.

The French police won't reveal the name of Liza’s mother but Russian RIA Novosti news agency reports, that is Russian citizen Irina Belenkaya. After her divorce from Jean-Michel Andre, in 2007, a French court ruled that Liza stayed with her father. But shortly after Irina Belenkaya took her daughter to Russia, where she got parental rights. In 2008 Andre came to Russia and took Liza back to France. Irina Belenkaya filed a lawsuit against her ex-husband.

The Frenchman says he will be arrested if he travels to Russia but he will do everything he can to get his daughter back.

Russian law-enforcement services say they are ready to launch search for the missing girl if France requests it. And if the girl is found in Russia, it will be immediately reported to the French authorities.

French prosecutors say that Liza’s abduction by her Russian mother is only one of the theories being considered.


Tales of the Malachite Casket--Hostess of the Copper Mountain

This is a story from the mysterious Ural Mountains. It comes from a time when the spirits of forests and mountains still moved among humans, watching them, searching for those who could be taught their secrets before such ancient wisdom was lost forever. One such spirit was especially revered for her magic and great beauty. Some people knew her as an ancient mountain goddess; others called her the Mistress of the Copper Mountain, or the Malachite Lady, a name taken from the lovely green stone so often found in areas rich in copper...

[Based on Bazhov's stories, Ptushko's 1946 classic film, and other sources]

Once upon a time, a wandering boy was adopted by a lonely stonecutter named Prokopitch. Since Prokopitch had grown too old to care for his small flock of sheep and goats, taking in the orphan allowed Prokopitch to stay at home and carve while the boy drove the flock each day into their pasture above the village. The boy, Danila, loved animals and didn't mind being a shepherd, especially since he now had enough food and a warm bed at night.
Each dawn, Prokopitch would prepare a lunch of thick bread and goat's cheese for the boy and Danila would set off into the mountains. Each evening, the boy would return. After dinner Danila would watch as the old man worked into the night, carving stone boxes and small animals by candlelight. They spoke little--the old man was unaccustomed to human companionship, and the boy was quiet by nature.
One day, Danila forgot to take his lunch. Busy polishing a malachite box for an important client, Prokopitch never noticed. But as the noonday sun shone through the cottage windows, rays of light spilled over the boy's birchen basket and attracted the stonecutter's attention. The old man looked up. "Eh? What's that? Poor boy, he'll need his lunch. He's thin enough as it is. I'll bring it up to him--the walk will do me good." The old man found his walking stick and set off.
As the stonecutter neared the high pastures, he heard the sweet notes of a flute. Touched by the lovely music, he slowed his pace. Imagine his surprise when he went around a bend and saw that the piper was Danila! The boy sat on a large rock completely lost in his music while the herd grazed peacefully around him. On a smaller rock directly across from Danila, a lizard was sunning itself, its bright eyes fixed intently upon the boy. "Danila!" the man called in amazement. The startled boy spun around at the sound. The stonecutter went on, "Even the birds are jealous of you--where did you learn to play like that?"
It's not m-m-me," the boy stammered. "When I carved the p-p-pipe, I heard the music inside the wood." The old man reached for the wooden flute and examined it with a craftsman's eye. It was crude in places, and not well polished, but clearly the boy had a gift. "Hmmm, hmm," he grunted, too wise to argue with the boy. "Yes, yes, I see. It was inside the wood."
After that, he often joined Danila for lunch. At first he came to listen to the music in the clear mountain air. But slowly he also began teaching the boy to carve wooden animals. Danila had nimble fingers and learned quickly. Prokopitch was pleased. Soon he taught Danila to carve more difficult figures, first in wood, then in stone. The old man was amused to see that the bright-eyed lizard often watched their lessons from a nearby rock. "So you want to be an artist too, eh?" he chuckled. The lizard paid no attention.

Years passed and Danila grew from childhood to young manhood. One early spring day, Prokopitch discovered that someone besides the mountain lizard watched Danila. It was Katya, the young daughter of a neighbor. She was lying in the grass, her tender gaze fixed upon Danila's face as he played his flute. The old man smiled to himself and turned around before either of them noticed. The boy's becoming a man, he thought.

Katya hadn't heard the old stonecutter approach that day. She heard only the music. As she watched Danila, she remembered when she had first fallen in love with him. She had been a little girl then. It was she who had first seen him wandering through the village streets, ragged, cold, and hungry. Something about his defiant stare touched her heart. "What's your name?" she asked. "Danila," he replied. "Danila, Danila," she murmured, loving its sound. "Mine's Katya. Where do you live?" He looked away from her. "Nowhere."
The little girl had drawn her brows tightly together and shut her eyes. The face of the old stonecutter flickered behind her eyes. She opened her eyes and pointed up a mountain path to Prokopitch's cottage. "Go there," she said. The boy stared for a moment and then obeyed.
After Prokopitch gave him a home, she sometimes joined the boy in the pasture where they played together with the goats. It was Katya who found the piece of wood that he carved into a flute. "Will you play for me?" she asked when it was finished. "I don't know how yet," he replied. But when she joined him the next day, she discovered he'd already mastered the little flute. A lizard watched him with bright eyes -- and Katya felt a stab of jealousy because it was the lizard, not her, who first heard his music. She glared at the lizard but it ignored her.
When Master Prokopitch began to join Danila, Katya came less frequently so that she wouldn't interfere with their lessons. But once she hid in the trees, watching them. She saw how Danila's eyes lit up when he was carving. She wondered if his eyes would ever light up that way when he looked at her.
Now, as she lay in the grass watching him, listening to the otherworldly music, she wondered again if he would ever feel for her what she had long felt for him. Danila laid down the pipe and smiled at her. Then he reached for a small malachite lizard he was carving and Katya, disappointed, knew she had already become invisible to him. If it wasn't his music, it was his carving -- how could she compete? Sighing, she got to her feet and started back to the village. He never even looked up.
Katya decided to stop visiting Danila after that, hoping he might miss her and call at her home. Weeks passed. Her mother noticed that Katya had become sad and pensive. "What's wrong, little one?" she asked. "Nothing," Katya said. From outside she heard her name being called by a group of village maidens. "Katya, Katya! -- we're going up to the forest! -- come with us!" Grateful for a diversion, Katya accompanied them up to the birch forests on the far side of the village pastures. Being with her friends lightened Katya's spirits. The maidens filled the forest with laughter as they garlanded one another's heads with flowers and braids of birch leaves, and then roamed, singing, among the shining white trunks of the forest.

Katya wandered off from the others. She was humming to herself, dreaming, when she saw a large, elegant white flower growing in the shade of a clump of tall birches. Awed, she drew in her breath. A thin sound floated through the birch grove, a sound like the wind, and suddenly she recognized it as the sound of Danila's flute. She was startled. Usually he pastured his flock at some distance from this place. She listened again, and slowly smiled. Hardly aware of what she was doing, Katya plucked the flower and walked towards the music.
Danila sensed Katya's presence even before she left the shadows of the trees. He stopped piping and turned to face her. He had missed her very much. She saw his eyes light up and her heart skipped a beat. Finally! she thought, finally! Smiling, without a word, she held out the flower. Then, suddenly shy, she fled back into the birch trees and vanished.
Danila was transfixed by the flower's beauty. He had never seen such a blossom before. He ran his fingers over the pale, smooth petals, feeling their coolness, their clean lines. If only I could carve something like this in stone! he thought.
That evening Danila worked like one possessed, determined to find a way to capture the flower's beauty in stone. He memorized every vein and curve of the petals, their lilt and slope. When Katya returned to the pasture a few days later, hoping again to see the light in his eyes, he was nowhere to be found. Instead, a young neighbor's boy watched the flock. "Where's Danila?" she asked. "Working," the child said.
She went to Prokopitch's cottage, peering through the window, and saw Danila attacking a piece of stone with his chisels, sending stone chips flying in every direction. Nearby in a pitcher of water stood the flower she had given him. "What have I done?" she wondered miserably, and turned away.

For many weeks Danila worked on his stone flower. Summer came and went and he continued to work. He thought of nothing else. Prokopitch tried to reason with him but Danila paid no attention.

Autumn arrived and Katya wandered alone up in the pastures and along the streams. Once she thought she saw the lizard watching her, only it suddenly turned into a dark, shimmering woman who laughed at her and then vanished into the falling golden leaves. Katya shook her head, fearful that her heartbreak might lead to madness.

In the early winter Danila finally finished the stone flower. The whole village agreed that it was beautiful. No one had ever seen a better one. But Danila was dissatisfied. The work was cleverly crafted, but lifeless. It looked like stone, not like living petals. He fell into a deep depression. Alarmed, Prokopitch sent for Katya and begged her to help.
She called on Danila the following day and was relieved that at least a glimmer of light entered his eyes when he saw her. She sat across from him at the worktable. "We must talk," she said, "but first will you play your pipe for me?" He protested but she insisted and finally he gave in. The music caught his spirit anew and he felt gently brushed by its joy for the first time in many months. He looked at Katya across the table, his eyes filling with tears. Never had she looked so beautiful to him. How could he not have known he was in love with her! How could he have wasted his time trying to carve something in stone that belonged only in frail tissues of life? He hated himself for his blindness, his foolishness. How fortunate that Katya was still patient with him! He put down his flute. "Will you marry me, Katya?" he whispered.

Fresh snow fell gently on the day of their wedding and the whole village was there to celebrate. After the solemnities, there was feasting and dancing lasting far into the evening. Katya glowed with happiness, but a curious restlessness began growing in Danila. He moved around the room and finally joined a small group of men seated around the village elder. This withered old man was telling stories about the Mistress of Copper Mountain, whose underground kingdom, he said, was filled with jewels and shining flowers made of stone. Danila stared at the man's ancient face. "I never heard of her before -- where is she to be found?" he finally asked. "High up in the mountains," the man said, looking at Danila with a strange half-smile, "where no one ever goes. It's just a story, of course." The other men laughed, emptied their glasses, called for more, and no one noticed when Danila slipped out of the house.
He went back to Prokopitch's cottage and stared at his stone flower in the moonlight on his worktable. It seemed to taunt him, mocking him for his lack of skill. Danila picked up a mallet and smashed the flower into tiny pieces. Then, determined to find the Malachite Lady or perish in the attempt, he ran out into the snowy night and headed for the mountains.
He walked for days. At first he felt neither hunger nor cold. Once, hearing a rustling in the pines behind him, he glanced back and thought he glimpsed a dark-haired woman in rainbow robes following him. He blinked in surprise -- and she vanished. When the pines rustled again, his sharp eyes caught sight of a lizard jumping from one bough to another. My eyes are playing tricks on me, he thought -- first a beautiful woman, then a summer lizard.

After many days Danila found himself in a high mountain pass facing a towering expanse of solid rock. Cold, hunger, and exhaustion swept through him. He couldn't go forward, nor did he have the strength to go back. Despairing, he sank to the ground and put his head in his hands. "I've been a fool," he muttered. "And now I've lost everything -- Katya, my life, my work. I've lost it all."
A sound like the tinkling of crystal bells came to his ears. I'm dying, he thought, and buried his head more deeply in his hands. The tinkling continued, growing louder, then turned into laughter. Startled, Danila looked up and again saw the dark-haired woman in rainbow robes. "You!" he breathed in awe. Lost childhood memories unexpectedly flooded into his mind and Danila realized he had been dreaming of her ever since he was a little boy.
"Yes, I've always been near you," she was laughing again, the sound of tiny temple bells blowing in the wind. "I've been waiting for you for a long time." She seemed to blur for a moment, turning into a woman as tall as the pines, watching him serenely, her embroidered garments as green as malachite. Shapeshifting again, she became human sized, dressed in flowing garments the color of rubies and carnelians. Her face changed, darkened, and the robes were lapis lazuli, amethyst, shimmering, then fading, until Danila was amazed to see nothing but a small lizard, staring boldly, while tinkling laughter rang all around them.
He reached out to touch the tiny creature, but it vanished in a flash, leaving the dark-haired woman in robes of many hues. In her hand was a birch wand, new green leaves sprouting from its tip. She waved it towards the wall of solid rock and the wall began to move, one side sliding out from another, revealing steps cut into the rock, leading down into the depths of the mountain. "Come," she ordered.
Heart pounding, Danila followed. The mountain-goddess guided him through caverns, each one more beautiful than the last. Their walls shone with outcroppings of gems, and more jewels covered the ground. One cavern had a ceiling so low that Danila could barely stand upright -- the amethyst walls were lit from by an unseen light source and he felt as if he and the Mistress of Copper Mountain were held for a moment in the jewel's heart. She touched his brow briefly, and rivers of fire wakened throughout his body. Then she moved on, calling him to follow her into a cavern whose ceiling stretched so far up into the shadows that he could not even see where it ended. She sat on a stone bench and gestured for him to join her. Scooping up a handful of precious gems from the floor, she tempted him with them. "All these can be yours," she smiled. "No," he said firmly. "I'm not looking for wealth." Again she touched his brow. "What then?" she asked. "The Stone Flower," he replied. "I want you to teach me how to carve the stone into something so wondrous that it seems like living tissue." She rose to her feet. "Come then," she said, pleased.
It seemed to Danila that they walked forever through caves of dazzling light before they finally reached one filled with stone flowers, small and large, of many colors, blossoming from the walls and ground. He had never seen anything so beautiful. Shall I ever be able to master this art? he wondered.
"Not even I can answer that," she murmured, reading his thoughts. They went down more steps and finally entered a cave with a great uncut piece of translucent green stone thrusting straight up out of the ground to a height twice Danila's own size. Danila stared in wonder. "This is your Stone Flower," she said quietly. "It's been waiting for you for a very long time. Your tools are there at its foot." She turned to leave.
"B-b-ut," he stammered. "I don't yet know the secret. Forgive me, Holy Lady, but I'd hoped you'd teach me this." She laughed, her form blurring and shifting until she stood as tall as a great pine. "You've always known the secret, Danila. Listen to the music inside the stone just as you listened to it inside the wood when you carved your flute. Don't force it to become what you want. Listen to what the stone wants." Then she vanished.

With a mixture of fear and exhilaration, Danila went to the great stone and leaned his cheek against it, rubbing his hands over it in a caress. He heard nothing. He sat down with his back against the stone, trying to breathe its patterns into his own body. Exhausted, he finally curled up beside it and slept. When he awoke, he discovered warm bread, fresh berries, and a flask of mountain water standing nearby. Ravenous, he ate and drank, then slept again. Finally, rested, he again leaned his face against the stone, embracing it with his arms, staying in that position for hours, listening, listening, and, slowly, hearing.
Only after many days did he finally begin carving, only when the stone's music had melted into him, becoming part of him. Only then did he truly know that the stone was inviting him to carve it into the flower that had long sung, invisibly, deep within the mineral's heart.
In the outside world, winter had turned to spring, then summer, and finally autumn while Katya grieved for her husband. Her parents and friends all urged her to forget Danila and marry someone else, but she refused. At last, to get away from their nagging voices, she went to stay with Prokopitch, helping him polish his stone boxes, selling them for him in the village market, and preparing his meals. The old man rarely spoke, and this suited Katya's own sorrowful mood. She never went up to the pastures anymore. A neighbor's child tended the old man's sheep and goats, but the child had his meals with his own family and Katya rarely saw him.

One evening, while Prokopitch was carving, Katya was brushing her hair in front of a mirror. She stared dreamily into the mirror, mesmerized by the movement of her golden hair in the candlelight. Suddenly, the surface of the mirror trembled and clouded over. Startled, Katya leaned closer and watched as Danila appeared before her eyes! She saw him in a cavern with jewels glistening from the walls, but these were nothing compared with the beauty of the translucent green flower he was carving. "Danila!" she cried, and it almost seemed as if he heard her, for he dropped his chisel, and looked around. She reached out to touch him, but her fingers met only her mirror. Then a second figure appeared -- the dark woman she thought she had seen turn into a lizard when she had wandered heartbroken through the upper pastures a year earlier. The woman reached out for Danila and he moved willingly into her arms. "No!" Katya sobbed, "no." The vision vanished.
Katya went the next day to seek the advice of the village elder, a wise man, older than anyone in living memory. He listened with half shut eyes. "It's Her," he said at last. "That's who you saw. Danila asked about Her the night of your wedding. I told him it was only a story but he must have guessed the truth."
"Her? Who do you mean, 'her'?" Katya demanded. When she learned what the elder knew, little though it was, she decided to follow Danila into the high mountains. Goddess or not, she determined, she and Danila belonged together and she wanted him back.
The first snows were starting to fall when Katya kissed Prokopitch goodbye, told him not to worry, and set off. She was warmly dressed and carried enough food to last for several days, or longer, if she were careful. The elder hadn't known how long she might have to walk and she wanted to be prepared.
The storm worsened as she climbed higher. Trees reached out to catch at her clothing, roots sprang up to trip her, the wind tore at her braids, tangling them in the branches, and a tree uprooted itself before her eyes and nearly crushed her. Several times she thought she heard tiny bells and someone laughing at her, and once she glimpsed the dark lizard-woman, but a moment later there was nothing. "Maybe she's watching me, maybe she's not," Katya muttered aloud. "I don't care. She can't stop me." Katya had great courage. She trusted that even her otherworldly rival would be unable to defeat the strength of Katya's love for Danila. The dangers she might have to face on the way were small compared to treasure she sought.
Danila's work on the Stone Flower was nearing completion. He was awed that the stone had allowed him to shape its music into such beauty. The petals seemed to breathe, lit by an inner radiance. The stone has given me the secret of giving form to its soul, he thought. Sometimes he wondered if the stone's soul and his own weren't the same, so closely were they intertwined. He stepped back now, gazing upwards at the luminous petals. The goddess suddenly appeared at his side, her silken green robes swirling around her. Danila barely glanced at her.
Frowning, she read his thoughts. He's restless, she thought, and irritable. He thinks he's accomplished what he came for but he's wrong. I've been able to awaken his soul but not his human heart. Without both, one day he'll abuse what now still has the power to awe him. He's flawed, like a jewel with no warmth. It's better that he die here. Unless...
She blurred her form into a wind, leaving the caverns far behind, and a moment later she was swirling high above the pines, searching for a hungry, exhausted woman lost in the mountains.

Katya couldn't permit herself to recognize that she was hopelessly lost, starving, her feet swollen, her clothes torn, her body frozen and numb. It would be so good, she thought, just to sit and rest for a moment, to lie in the snow, to fall asleep, and never wake. "No," she muttered grimly. "Never. I'll keep searching as long as I have any strength left." She closed her eyes tightly and tried to summon the visions that had once came to her so readily. But nothing happened. She opened them and stumbled on. "Danila, Danila," she murmured, finding strength in his name.
Hours later, not knowing nor caring how she got there, Katya found herself in a mountain pass facing a towering expanse of rock. It looked impassable, yet scattered birch leaves marked a path towards something glowing at the base of the dark rock, inviting her to draw nearer. When she did, she discovered a secret entrance -- and steps leading down into a cavern shining with light. Cautiously, she entered.
It was warm inside. She found a steaming, hissing pool of mineral waters where she knelt and drank. She felt the warmth coursing through her body, restoring her. Beyond the pool was a tunnel leading into larger caverns. "Danila!" she called as the path drew her downwards.


The Malachite Lady stood at Danila's side and reached out to touch his cheek. He pulled away. "No," he said shortly. "Not now -- forgive me, Holy Lady, but the stone flower is finished now. I need to leave -- I need to show others what I can do. I miss the pastures, the forests. I miss --" and his voice caught in a half-sob, "I miss Katya. I've been down here too long." As he turned, she reached out to hold him back but he tore away and rushed toward one of the tunnels leading out of the cavern. Abruptly, a sheet of rock fell into place, sealing it off. Frightened, Danila ran towards another opening, trying to hurtle through it before she could act. But another sheet of rock was already crashing into place. Her tinkling laughter rang through the air. "You see, you can't leave me if I don't wish it."
From a distance Danila heard someone calling his name and he froze, dazed, as the name echoed through the vast network of caves. Slowly, the voice came nearer until finally he recognized it. "Katya!" he cried, springing towards the last opening. "Katya! Katya!" He leaped through the passage and into the next cavern, still shouting, rushing over the uneven ground. Katya, guided by his voice, now suddenly appeared at the other end of the same cavern and ran towards him as if her feet were winged. They met for a moment in a tearful, joyous embrace. Then Danila broke free. "Come," he whispered urgently, "I must get you out of here before it's too late!"
The laughter of a thousand tiny bells filled the cavern and the Mistress of Copper Mountain towered above them. "Quick!" Danila said, "get behind me." He tried to pull her to safety, but Katya was too fast. She stepped forward, boldly confronting the goddess. "You've kept him long enough," she shouted. "Now it's my turn! -- I want him back!"
The towering figure blurred and coiled itself into a woman in rainbow robes who was now only slightly taller than Katya herself. Katya stared into her dark, fathomless eyes. "I know you've cared well for him," she said more gently, "but no one could love him as much as I do -- please, please, Holy Lady, let him go." The goddess shifted her gaze to Danila. "And you, Danila?" she asked softly. "What is in your heart?" Danila couldn't speak. He moved forward, placing one arm protectively around Katya. Tears streamed down his face as he felt his heart bursting within him. The Malachite Lady read his heart. Yes, she thought, we've succeeded at last.
Turning back to Katya, she reached into her flowing sleeves and pulled out a malachite box. "I entrust it to you, Katya. I've already given Danila the secret of the Stone Flower, but to you, I give of my own essence."
Katya opened the box and gasped. It was filled with pebbles and jewels in all the colors of the rainbow. She picked up a plain stone of polished granite and saw the goddess blur into a spirit of grey mists and fog with a laughter as rich as summer thunder. Then a piece of amber, and the mists swirled downward and turned into a small woman in golden robes embroidered with pine needles. A ruby, and the goddess grew tall, dressed in snapping flames. Lapis Luzuli, and she turned into a cosmic mother whose robes were the night sky scattered with stars. She smiled at Katya. "Back in your world, you'll no longer see me as you just have, but the power remains coiled in each stone, responsive to a heart wise enough to understand."
Then she vanished.


суббота, 21 марта 2009 г.

Anti-government protesters beaten in Ukraine

A camp for anti-government protesters in Kiev’s central square has been broken up by men in camouflage uniforms. Two of the demonstrators have been taken to hospital.

According to the Interfax news agency, the public movement, “Get’ Usih” (“Against Everyone”), claimed two of its members were hospitalised after the attack which was carried out among the movement's activists, at their tent camp on the Independence Square in Kiev on Friday.

The attack was carried out by around a hundred people dressed in camouflage gear with police assistance, the Fraternity Party’s press office said.

The victims sustained head injuries and multiple bruises, the movement’s press office said. The activists say police failed to intervene as they were being attacked. Police denying involvement in the incident.

The protesters oppose President Viktor Yushchenko’s regime and are blaming the authorities for the crackdown.

The best folk-rock from Russia

Inna Zhelannaya & Pelagea --"Who's gonna cover us" from concert "Winter" - 2007

вторник, 17 марта 2009 г.

St. Daniel’s bells toll in their home monastery eighty years afterwards

Moscow, March 17, Interfax – Ensemble of St. Daniel’s historical bells toll in St. Daniel’s monastery for the first time in eighty years on March 17, which is commemoration day of Prince Daniel of Moscow.

In the morning, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the monastery’s Trinity Cathedral. Festival ceremony of the first ringing of the bells returned from Harvard University took place after the Liturgy.

Five bell-ringers performed the ringing almost unrehearsed. Until now, the monastery had used old bells. They were set at a temporary ground based belfry at the central monastery square.

The old bells have last ringed on March 17. Farewell with former temporary bells took place during the ceremony.

Voice of St. Daniel’s bells was considered the most beautiful in Moscow. Today the city authorities realize an expensive project of fortifying the belfry and mounting the historical bells.

Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, presidential envoy to the Central Federal District Georgy Poltavchenko and representatives of the USA Embassy in Russia attended the festival ceremony.

Some hundreds of believers came to St. Daniel’s Monastery to participate in the festival event.

Historical bells of St. Daniel’s Monastery were brought back to their monastery on September 2008 after spending about eighty years in USA “emigration.”

First of eighteen historical bells was brought back from New York to Moscow in September 2007.

The bells hardly survived the 1930s and were sold abroad. Member of the American charitable mission in Moscow and Harvard University Professor Thomas Wittemore saved the bells from total loss. He persuaded American manufacturer Charles Richard Crane, who was interested in Russia, to buy the bells.

Several buildings of the Harvard University campus were adjusted to have the bells installed on them.

First attempts to bring the unique bells back to Russia were taken in the mid 1980s. After talks with Harvard University organized by Alexy II and Svyaz Vremyon foundation and final agreement on their return to Russia signed in March 2007 the Society of Church bell ringers made their exact copies in Voronezh. It was decided to gift two more bells to Harvard. They won't be a part of the University complex.