Israel airstrike left Syria arms warehouse in ruins, satellite images show

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWSPAPER)

 

Israel airstrike left Syria arms warehouse in ruins, satellite images show

Syrian soldiers reportedly arrested in connection with downed spy plane; IAF commander to fly to Moscow to present the findings of Israel’s investigation into the incident

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

A munitions warehouse in a Syrian military facility appears to have been completely obliterated in an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian port city of Latakia late on Monday, satellite images released Wednesday show.

A Russian military reconnaissance plane was shot down by Syria during the Israeli strike, killing all 15 crew members.

On Wednesday Syria released video footage from the site of the attack, reiterating its claim that Israel targeted an aluminium factory, not a weapons warehouse in Monday’s strike, according to the Ynet news site. The veracity of the footage could not be independently verified.

On Monday, Syria accidentally shot down the Russian reconnaissance plane when its air defenses swung into action against the Israeli strike on Latakia. The Russian defense ministry initially blamed Israel, saying the IAF jets used the Russian plane as cover.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin later told reporters that the downing of the plane by Syrian air defenses was a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”

The remains of a Syrian ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a base in Latakia, September 18, 2018. (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

On Wednesday, the Russians approved Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal to fly air force commander Major General Amiram Norkin to Moscow to present the findings of Israel’s investigation into the incident.

Syrian media and opposition sources reported Wednesday that several Syrian soldiers who were involved in the downing of the Russian spy plane were arrested and interrogated.

The fighters from the air force base in Latakia were reportedly arrested by members of the Russian military police. A Syrian unit was also reported to have taken part in the arrest, according to Hadashot TV.

Meanwhile, the remains of another plane, a Boeing 747 aircraft that was destroyed in an earlier alleged Israeli strike at Damascus airport on Saturday, and believed to be in the use of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, can be seen in separate images provided by ImageSat International (ISI).

The remains of a suspected Iranian aircraft which was hit in an Israeli airstrike, Damascus, September 18, 2018. (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the rising tensions between the two countries in the wake of Monday’s airstrike.

In the call, the Israeli leader “noted the importance of the continued security coordination between Israel and Syria that has managed to prevent many casualties on both sides in the last three years,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

The Kremlin said that Putin emphasized that the Israeli attack violated Syria’s sovereignty and also breached the Russian-Israeli agreements on avoiding clashes in Syria. The Russian leader urged Netanyahu “not to allow such situations in the future.”

Israel said its jets had attacked a Syrian military facility that manufactured “accurate and lethal weapons,” which were “about to be transferred, on behalf of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Netanyahu told Putin that Israel was “determined” to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hezbollah lethal weaponry to be used against Israel.

Netanyahu also reiterated that Israel would completely share all the information it had on the circumstances of the raid and suggested sending Israel’s air force chief to Moscow to “deliver all the needed information.”

The conversation came on Tuesday evening just before Israel began observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

Earlier Tuesday, Putin confirmed that Israel did not shoot down the plane, rejecting any comparisons with the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey in 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attends the inauguration ceremony for Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyaninin on September 18, 2018. (AFP/Sputnik/Alexey Filippov)

“An Israeli jet did not shoot down our plane,” the Russian leader said.

The Russian defense ministry on Tuesday morning had blamed Israel for the accident and warned of reprisals.

Putin said he had signed off on the defense ministry statement. “No doubt we should seriously look into this,” Putin said, speaking at a news conference after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Israel said its deputy ambassador in Moscow Keren Cohen-Gat was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said there would be no comment on what was discussed.

Putin also said Moscow would beef up security for Russian military personnel in Syria as a priority response. “These will be the steps that everyone will notice,” he said, without providing further details.

He expressed condolences to the families of the victims, calling the accident a “tragedy for us all.”

The incident was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Russia’s game-changing military intervention in September 2015.

The Russian plane was downed by a Russian-made S-200 air defense supplied to Syria.

The Israeli military on Tuesday acknowledged conducting the airstrike the night before and “expressed sorrow” for the deaths of the 15 Russian airmen.

In a statement, however, the IDF denied all responsibility for the downing of the Russian spy plane, saying that Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah were the ones at fault.

“Israel expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire,” the IDF said, and noted that the Russian plane that was hit “was not within the area of the operation.”

A photo taken on July 23, 2006 shows an Russian IL-20M (Ilyushin 20m) plane landing at an unknown location.
Russia blamed Israel on September 18, 2018 for the loss of a military IL-20M jet to Syrian fire, which killed all 15 servicemen on board, and threatened a response. (AFP PHOTO / Nikita SHCHYUKIN)

The Israeli strike was conducted at approximately 10 p.m. by four F-16 fighter jets, according to the Russian military.

Syrian air defenses opened fire at the incoming missiles, at the attacking aircraft and — according to Israel — at nothing in particular. The Russian Il-20 was shot down in the air battle.

“The Syrian anti-air batteries fired indiscriminately and, from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,” the army said.

According to the IDF, the target of its Monday night strike was a Syrian military facility that manufactured “accurate and lethal weapons,” which were “about to be transferred, on behalf of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Explosions seen in the Syrian city of Latakia after an attack on a military facility nearby on September 17, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The target of the Israeli strike was identified by Syria as a subsidiary of its defense ministry, known as the Organization for Technical Industries, which has suspected ties to the country’s chemical weapons and missile programs.

“These weapons were meant to attack Israel, and posed an intolerable threat against it,” the army said.

Though Israeli officials have said, generally, that the military conducts operations inside Syria against Iranian and Hezbollah targets, the IDF rarely acknowledges specific airstrikes, preferring instead to adopt a formal policy of neither confirming nor denying the attacks attributed to it.

The military said its initial investigation found that its strike was completed before the Russian plane entered the area of the operation and that the reconnaissance aircraft was shot down after the Israeli fighter jets had returned to Israeli airspace.

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident. Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident,” the army added.

This appeared to refute the claim made by Moscow that the Israeli pilots used the surveillance plane as cover for their attack.

A Russian military official gives a briefing on the downing of an IL-20 military plane near Syria on September 18, 2018. (screen capture: Sputnik)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also accused Israel of failing to inform the Russian military of its plans, which he said would have been in the “spirit” of Israeli-Russian coordination in Syria. The Russian defense ministry said Israel warned them of the impending strike “less than a minute” before it began, which left them insufficient time to clear their personnel from the area.

The Israeli and Russian militaries maintain what they call a “deconfliction mechanism,” which is meant to coordinate their activities in Syria in order to avoid incidents like this one. Until Monday night, these efforts had largely succeeded in preventing direct or indirect clashes since Russia became more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war three years ago.

The Israeli military said it had coordinated with Russia ahead of the attack, though it did not address Moscow’s specific claims about the amount of time between the notification and the airstrike itself.

The IDF also said it would “share all the relevant information with the Russian government to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

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Mueller’s investigation bears the hallmark of an organized crime case

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

Mueller’s investigation bears the hallmark of an organized crime case

Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller has extensive experience prosecuting organized crime and white collar cases from his time as FBI director.
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Analysis banner

  • Paul Manafort’s recent plea deal and cooperation agreement with the special counsel Robert Mueller is the latest indication of how the Russia investigation mirrors an organized crime case.
  • The hallmark of any prosecutor’s approach to an organized crime case is the use of cooperating witnesses to move up the chain.
  • “You start low and you ask people: who did you answer to? Who gave you orders? Who did you report to?” said one Justice Department veteran. “That’s the only way to get to the top of a criminal organization, and that’s exactly what Mueller’s doing.”
  • But there are also a few crucial differences that make the Russia probe similar to a complex white-collar investigation.

As the special counsel Robert Mueller works his way through the myriad of threads in the Russia investigation, his approach bears more and more similarities to what prosecutors do when they’re tackling complex organized crime cases.

Mueller’s recent plea deal and cooperation agreement with Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, is just the latest indication of that.

The hallmark of any prosecutor’s approach to an organized crime case, experts say, is the use of cooperating witnesses.

Going up the ladder is critical in these types of cases because the organization typically has a hierarchical structure and a clear chain of command. It also usually involves wide-ranging, multi-party criminal activity.

“The higher you go, the more insulated those people are,” said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor from the Southern District of New York who successfully prosecuted more than 100 members and associates of the Sicilian Mafia. “So the best way to penetrate that closed inner circle is by flipping people, and flipping them up.”

After investigators get a sense of which players are part of a criminal enterprise, they start by targeting those at the lowest levels.

“If they don’t voluntarily cooperate, you get honest leverage on them to compel their cooperation,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino crime family boss John Gotti in the 1990s. “You find their criminal conduct and use that to force them to do what they should have done originally, which is to tell the truth.”

Paul Manafort
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty this week.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Honig said he once nailed a case by flipping someone who was the driver for a more powerful person in the organization.

“That led us right up the chain,” he said. “And you can see that happening in the Russia investigation.”

The first plea deal Mueller’s office announced was that of George Papadopoulos, who served as an early foreign policy aide to the Trump campaign. Next, he looped in Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who admitted to lying to the FBI.

In February, Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, announced that he would be pleading guilty and cooperating with the special counsel. Gates’ cooperation led prosecutors upstream, and his courtroom testimony against Manafort helped them successfully convict his former boss on eight counts of financial fraud last month.

Likewise, legal scholars say, Manafort’s cooperation, as well as that of Trump’s former longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, will likely help Mueller and New York federal prosecutors get information on an even bigger fish.

“It’s a classic strategy used in organized crime,” Cotter said. “You start low and you ask people: who did you answer to? Who gave you orders? Who did you report to? That’s the only way to get to the top of a criminal organization, and that’s exactly what Mueller’s doing.”

‘When you pull at a thread, you never know what you’re going to unravel’

michael cohen paul manafort
Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort are the two highest ranking people who have flipped.
Associated Press/Craig Ruttle; Associated Press/Alex Brandon; Business Insider

That said, there are two critical differences between Mueller’s approach to the Russia probe and prosecutors’ approach to organized crime cases.

The first is that most criminal enterprises don’t have a clear paper trail.

“Organized crime is particularly dependent on insider witnesses, because everything is kind of hidden and done in the shadows,” said Alex Whiting, a former Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted organized crime and corruption cases when he worked at the US attorney’s office in Boston.

“These cases usually aren’t paper heavy because there’s no email trail or documentation,” he added.

The Russia investigation, by contrast, has often been document-heavy. Prosecutors introduced 400 pieces of evidence at Manafort’s first trial in Virginia last month, and they planned to put forward almost three times that amount at his second trial had he not struck a last-minute plea deal.

Similarly, their charging document against Gates extensively cited his financial records, emails, and communications with other witnesses.

In that sense, Whiting said, certain aspects of the Russia probe make it more like a white-collar case.

The other crucial difference is that organized crime cases cases involve activities that clearly cross legal boundaries.

But Mueller’s team is sifting through a mix of legal political activity and potentially illegal activity.

The prototypical example of that overlay, Whiting said, is Trump himself.

“The president has the legal authority to fire the FBI director, but is it obstruction if he fired him to hamper an investigation into him?” Whiting said. “Trump has the power to pardon anyone for any federal crime, but is he obstructing justice if he does it to prevent them from testifying? Is collusion a crime?”

“There’s a complexity here that you don’t often see with organized crime,” he added. “In that respect, it’s much more like investigating white-collar crime, because the main questions there are, what was the conduct, and did the conduct cross into illegal territory?”

The bottom line in a case like the Russia probe, Honig said, is that there’s no way to tell where it will ultimately lead.

“When you pull at a thread, you never know what you’re going to unravel.”

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Good evening folks, tonight I wish to speak with you about a subject matter that is not near or dear to my heart, it is called political correctness. This subject matter touches each and every one of us on a regular basis in our daily lives. In its simplest form political correctness is the attempt to avoid offending anyone at anytime regardless of the subject matter. I believe that when most of us hear the term political correctness it is not a smile that crosses our face, it is more likely to be a disgusted frown. Today if a person says anything about a subject matter when it may in any way shed a light of truth on the events of today, if that truth in the slightest degree has any measure of negatives then you will be labeled as a hater. There was a time in this country when people were allowed to be honest in their speech but unfortunately that is not the case these days. Now if you say anything about anyone person or persons even if you are speaking the total truth to the best of your knowledge, you have become a hater or some kind of a bigot whom is very likely to be sued in court because you dared to be honest. In the past we could describe a dirty old man in simple terms/truths, these days political correctness (stupidity) airbrushed the truth stains away so that you don’t offend that dirty old man. These days that person is a sexually focused chronologically gifted individual. Laziness is now referred to as motivationally deficient. I am now no longer short being only five feet eleven and three-quarters inches tall, I am vertically challenged because I didn’t make it to at least six feet. It is comforting to know that I didn’t really have trouble with algebraic equations in college, I simply had a memory deficiency.

 

We could all just sit back in our Lazy Boy recliners with a glass of Jose Cuervo in one hand and a big blunt in the other and just sit back and laugh at American politicians and media talking heads as they spout this stupidity. The scary part of this is that what we the people call stupidity/political correctness, some of the fore mentioned people cultivate this ignorance as their personal gospel. This ignorance is a gospel of re-education and it does show via the ignorance and apathy we see and hear when today’s streamlined, bought and paid for politicians open their mouths. Today at almost all of our college campuses as well as the secondary and primary schools this re-education propaganda is widely referred to as diversity education. This ignorance that our politicians and the media push down our throats tries to please everyone all of the time and to never offend anyone any of the time. This is a nice story line if it were in a small child’s fantasy or Fantasy Island handbook but in the real world it is simply poison. Most all of us adults know that political correctness if allowed to play out and to become the laws of the land, we are all doomed to be the laughing-stock of the whole world. Today if people dare attempt to speak the truth about real world issues they are branded as haters or we are people with stone-age ideologies. Truth is that when people do dare to speak the truth on real issues what you say will most likely offend some people whom do not happen to agree with you. When we are cultivated away from the truth and told we can’t say such things isn’t this the same thing as saying to advance in our society today that you must either be and idiot, or an habitual liar?

 

For those who might think that this mental disease is a spin-off of the 1960’s and 70’s hippy drug culture then you need to crack open some college level history books and increase your knowledge on this subject matter. My friends, political correctness has been around and practiced through other cultures around the world far longer than any of us have been alive. Political correctness is really nothing more than cultural Marxism in some professors views and I can’t say that I disagree with them. If we compare the basic tenets of political correctness with classical Marxism the parallels of the two are very obvious. When Marxist Communists take over a country such as Russia, China, North Korea or Cuba the personal freedom of speech ceases to exist.

 

I leave you tonight with just one last observation, isn’t it amazing how much Russia and her politics have turned to look more like our politicians rhetorical babbling? Or, is it more correct to say that our government is starting to look more like the Russia of President Putin or even that of Germany of the mid 1930’s in that free honest intelligent conversation can be construed as a hate crime? Is political correctness in places like D.C., Hollywood and New York City going to be a nail in America’s coffin? Time will tell us all what the truth is but I totally have my doubts that anyone alive today will live long enough to see that day. Friends, good night, stay well, God Bless.

Kazakhstan: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Asian Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Kazakhstan

Introduction Native Kazakhs, a mix of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes who migrated into the region in the 13th century, were rarely united as a single nation. The area was conquered by Russia in the 18th century, and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936. During the 1950s and 1960s agricultural “Virgin Lands” program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan’s northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence in 1991 caused many of these newcomers to emigrate. Kazakhstan’s economy is larger than those of all the other Central Asian states combined, largely due to the country’s vast natural resources and a recent history of political stability. Current issues include: developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country’s vast energy resources and exporting them to world markets; achieving a sustainable economic growth; diversifying the economy outside the oil, gas, and mining sectors; enhancing Kazakhstan’s competitiveness; and strengthening relations with neighboring states and other foreign powers.
History Kazakh Khanate

Kazakhstan has been inhabited since the Stone Age: the region’s climate and terrain are best suited for nomads practising pastoralism. Historians believe that humans first domesticated the horse in the region’s vast steppes. While ancient cities Taraz (Aulie-Ata) and Hazrat-e Turkestan had long served as important way-stations along the Silk Road connecting East and West, real political consolidation only began with the Mongol invasion of the early thirteenth century AD. Under the Mongol Empire, administrative districts were established, and these eventually came under the emergent Kazakh Khanate (Ak Horde).

Throughout this period traditional nomadic life and a livestock-based economy continued to dominate the steppe. In the fifteenth century, a distinct Kazakh identity began to emerge among the Turkic tribes, a process which was consolidated by the mid-16th century with the appearance of a distinctive Kazakh language, culture, and economy. Nevertheless, the region was the focus of ever-increasing disputes between the native Kazakh emirs and the neighboring Persian-speaking peoples to the south. By the early 17th century, the Kazakh Khanate was struggling with the impact of tribal rivalries, which has effectively divided the population into the Great, Middle and Little (or Small) Hordes (jüz). Political disunion, tribal rivalries, and the diminishing importance of overland trade routes between East and West weakened the Kazakh Khanate.

During the 17th century Kazakhs fought Oirats, a federation of western Mongol tribes, among which the Dzungars were particularly aggressive.[7] The beginning of the 18th century marked the zenith of the Kazakh Khanate. During this period the Little Horde participated in the 1723–1730 war against the Dzungars, following their “Great Disaster” invasion of Kazakh territories. Under leadership Abul Khair Khan the Kazakhs won major victories over the Dzungar at the Bulanty River (1726) and at the Battle of Anrakay in 1729.[8] Kazakhs were also a victims of constant raids carried out by the Volga Kalmyks.

Russian Empire

In the 19th century, the Russian Empire began to expand, and spread into Central Asia. The “Great Game” period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second less intensive phase followed. The tsars effectively ruled over most of the territory belonging to what is now the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Russian Empire introduced a system of administration and built military garrisons and barracks in its effort to establish a presence in Central Asia in the so-called “Great Game” between it and the United Kingdom. The first Russian outpost, Orsk, was built in 1735. Russia enforced the Russian language in all schools and governmental organizations. Russian efforts to impose its system aroused the extreme resentment by the Kazakh people, and by the 1860s, most Kazakhs resisted Russia’s annexation largely because of the disruption it wrought upon the traditional nomadic lifestyle and livestock-based economy, and the associated hunger which was rapidly wiping out some Kazakh tribes. The Kazakh national movement, which began in the late 1800s, sought to preserve the native language and identity by resisting the attempts of the Russian Empire to assimilate and stifle them.

From the 1890s onwards ever-larger numbers of Slavic settlers began colonising the territory of present-day Kazakhstan, in particular the province of Semirechye. The number of settlers rose still further once the Trans-Aral Railway from Orenburg to Tashkent was completed in 1906, and the movement was overseen and encouraged by a specially created Migration Department (Переселенческое Управление) in St. Petersburg.

The competition for land and water which ensued between the Kazakhs and the newcomers caused great resentment against colonial rule during the final years of Tsarist Russia, with the most serious uprising, the Central Asian Revolt, occurring in 1916. The Kazakhs attacked Russian and Cossack villages, killing indiscriminately. The Russians’ revenge was merciless. A military force drove 300,000 Kazakhs to flee into the mountains or to China. When approximately 80,000 of them returned the next year, many of them were slaughtered by Tsarist forces. During the 1921–22 famine, another million Kazakhs died from starvation.

Soviet Union

Although there was a brief period of autonomy (Alash Autonomy) during the tumultuous period following the collapse of the Russian Empire, many uprisings were brutally suppressed, and the Kazakhs eventually succumbed to Soviet rule. In 1920, the area of present-day Kazakhstan became an autonomous republic within Russia.

Soviet repression of the traditional elite, along with forced collectivization in late 1920s–1930s, brought mass hunger and led to unrest.[9] Between 1926 and 1939, the Kazakh population declined by 22%, due to starvation, violence and mass emigration. Today, the estimates suggest that the population of Kazakhstan would be closer to 20 million if there was no starvation or massacre of Kazakhs. During the 1930s, many renowned Kazakh writers, thinkers, poets, politicians and historians were slaughtered on Stalin’s orders, both as part of the repression and as a methodical pattern of suppressing Kazakh identity and culture. Soviet rule took hold, and a communist apparatus steadily worked to fully integrate Kazakhstan into the Soviet system. In 1936 Kazakhstan became a Soviet republic.

Kazakhstan experienced population inflows of millions exiled from other parts of the Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s; many of the deportation victims were deported to Siberia or Kazakhstan merely due to their ethnic heritage or beliefs, and were in many cases interned in some of the biggest Soviet labor camps. (See also: Population transfer in the Soviet Union, Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union.) The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) contributed five national divisions to the Soviet Union’s World War II effort. In 1947, two years after the end of the war, the Semipalatinsk Test Site, the USSR’s main nuclear weapon test site was founded near the city of Semey.

The period of World War II marked an increase in industrialization and increased mineral extraction in support of the war effort. At the time of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s death, however, Kazakhstan still had an overwhelmingly agricultural-based economy. In 1953, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev initiated the ambitious “Virgin Lands” program to turn the traditional pasture lands of Kazakhstan into a major grain-producing region for the Soviet Union. The Virgin Lands policy brought mixed results. However, along with later modernizations under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, it accelerated the development of the agricultural sector which remains the source of livelihood for a large percentage of Kazakhstan’s population. By 1959, Kazakhs made up 30% of the population. Ethnic Russians accounted for 43%.

Growing tensions within Soviet society led to a demand for political and economic reforms, which came to a head in the 1980s. A factor that has contributed to this immensely was Lavrentii Beria’s decision to test a nuclear bomb on the territory of Kazakh SSR in Semipalatinsk (also known as Semey) in 1949. This had a catastrophic ecological and biological effect which was felt generations later, and Kazakh anger toward the Soviet system has escalated. In December 1986, mass demonstrations by young ethnic Kazakhs, later called Jeltoksan riot, took place in Almaty to protest the replacement of the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR Dinmukhamed Konayev with Gennady Kolbin from the Russian SFSR. Governmental troops suppressed the unrest, several people were killed and many demonstrators were jailed. In the waning days of Soviet rule, discontent continued to grow and find expression under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost.

Independence

Caught up in the groundswell of Soviet republics seeking greater autonomy, Kazakhstan declared its sovereignty as a republic within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in October 1990. Following the August 1991 aborted coup attempt in Moscow and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan declared independence on December 16, 1991. It was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence.

The years following independence have been marked by significant reforms to the Soviet-style economy and political monopoly on power. Under Nursultan Nazarbayev, who initially came to power in 1989 as the head of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and was eventually elected President in 1991, Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward developing a market economy. The country has enjoyed significant economic growth since 2000, partly due to its large oil, gas, and mineral reserves.

But, democracy has not improved much since 1991. “In June 2007, Kazakhstan’s parliament passed a law granting President Nursultan Nazarbayev lifetime powers and privileges, including access to future presidents, immunity from criminal prosecution, and influence over domestic and foreign policy. Critics say he has become a de facto “president for life.”[10][11] Over the course of his ten years in power, Nazarbayev has repeatedly censored the press through arbitrary use of “slander” laws,[12] blocked access to opposition web sites (9 November 1999), banned the Wahhabi religious sect (5 September 1998), drawn criticism from Amnesty International for excessive executions following specious trials (March 21, 1996) and harsh prison conditions (13 August 1996), and refused demands that the governors of Kazakhstan’s 14 provinces be elected, rather than appointed by the president (April 7, 2000).”

Geography Location: Central Asia, northwest of China; a small portion west of the Ural River in eastern-most Europe
Geographic coordinates: 48 00 N, 68 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 2,717,300 sq km
land: 2,669,800 sq km
water: 47,500 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than four times the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 12,012 km
border countries: China 1,533 km, Kyrgyzstan 1,051 km, Russia 6,846 km, Turkmenistan 379 km, Uzbekistan 2,203 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked); note – Kazakhstan borders the Aral Sea, now split into two bodies of water (1,070 km), and the Caspian Sea (1,894 km)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: continental, cold winters and hot summers, arid and semiarid
Terrain: extends from the Volga to the Altai Mountains and from the plains in western Siberia to oases and desert in Central Asia
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Vpadina Kaundy -132 m
highest point: Khan Tangiri Shyngy (Pik Khan-Tengri) 6,995 m
Natural resources: major deposits of petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, manganese, chrome ore, nickel, cobalt, copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, bauxite, gold, uranium
Land use: arable land: 8.28%
permanent crops: 0.05%
other: 91.67% (2005)
Irrigated land: 35,560 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 109.6 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 35 cu km/yr (2%/17%/82%)
per capita: 2,360 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: earthquakes in the south, mudslides around Almaty
Environment – current issues: radioactive or toxic chemical sites associated with former defense industries and test ranges scattered throughout the country pose health risks for humans and animals; industrial pollution is severe in some cities; because the two main rivers which flowed into the Aral Sea have been diverted for irrigation, it is drying up and leaving behind a harmful layer of chemical pesticides and natural salts; these substances are then picked up by the wind and blown into noxious dust storms; pollution in the Caspian Sea; soil pollution from overuse of agricultural chemicals and salination from poor infrastructure and wasteful irrigation practices
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography – note: landlocked; Russia leases approximately 6,000 sq km of territory enclosing the Baykonur Cosmodrome; in January 2004, Kazakhstan and Russia extended the lease to 2050
People Population: 15,340,533 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 22.1% (male 1,734,622/female 1,659,723)
15-64 years: 69.6% (male 5,219,983/female 5,463,468)
65 years and over: 8.2% (male 443,483/female 819,254) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 29.3 years
male: 27.8 years
female: 31.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.374% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 16.44 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 9.39 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.31 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.54 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 26.56 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 31.03 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 21.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 67.55 years
male: 62.24 years
female: 73.16 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.88 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 16,500 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Kazakhstani(s)
adjective: Kazakhstani
Ethnic groups: Kazakh (Qazaq) 53.4%, Russian 30%, Ukrainian 3.7%, Uzbek 2.5%, German 2.4%, Tatar 1.7%, Uygur 1.4%, other 4.9% (1999 census)
Religions: Muslim 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, other 7%
Languages: Kazakh (Qazaq, state language) 64.4%, Russian (official, used in everyday business, designated the “language of interethnic communication”) 95% (2001 est.)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.5%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.3%

Korea, North: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Communist Hell Hole

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Korea, North

Introduction An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. Five years later, Japan formally annexed the entire peninsula. Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored Communist domination. After failing in the Korean War (1950-53) to conquer the US-backed Republic of Korea (ROK) in the southern portion by force, North Korea (DPRK), under its founder President KIM Il Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic “self-reliance” as a check against excessive Soviet or Communist Chinese influence. The DPRK demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang’s control. KIM’s son, the current ruler KIM Jong Il, was officially designated as his father’s successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder KIM’s death in 1994. After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, the DPRK since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of approximately 1 million. North Korea’s history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, and long-range missile development – as well as its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and massive conventional armed forces – are of major concern to the international community. In December 2002, following revelations that the DPRK was pursuing a nuclear weapons program based on enriched uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement with the US to freeze and ultimately dismantle its existing plutonium-based program, North Korea expelled monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In January 2003, it declared its withdrawal from the international Non-Proliferation Treaty. In mid-2003 Pyongyang announced it had completed the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods (to extract weapons-grade plutonium) and was developing a “nuclear deterrent.” Beginning in August 2003, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US have participated in the Six-Party Talks aimed at resolving the stalemate over the DPRK’s nuclear programs. North Korea pulled out of the talks in November 2005. It test-fired ballistic missiles in July 2006 and conducted a nuclear test in October 2006. North Korea returned to the Six-Party Talks in December 2006 and subsequently signed two agreements on denuclearization. The 13 February 2007 Initial Actions Agreement shut down the North’s nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in July 2007. In the 3 October 2007 Second Phase Actions Agreement, Pyongyang pledged to disable those facilities and provide a correct and complete declaration of its nuclear programs. Under the supervision of US nuclear experts, North Korean personnel completed a number of agreed-upon disablement actions at the three core facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex by the end of 2007. North Korea also began the discharge of spent fuel rods in December 2007, but it did not provide a declaration of its nuclear programs by the end of the year.
History Formation

In the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea, which ended with Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945, the Soviet Union accepted the surrender of Japanese forces and controlled the area north of the 38th parallel, with the United States controlling the area south of this parallel. Virtually all Koreans welcomed liberation from Japanese imperial rule, yet objected to the re-imposition of foreign rule upon their country. The Soviets and Americans disagreed on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea, with each establishing its socio-economic system upon its jurisdiction, leading, in 1948, to the establishment of ideologically opposed governments.[11] The United States and the Soviet Union then withdrew their forces from Korea. Growing tensions and border skirmishes between north and south led to a civil war, known as the Korean War.

On June 25, 1950, the (North) Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th parallel, with the war aim of peninsular reunification under their political system. The war continued until July 27, 1953, when the United Nations Command, the Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army signed the Korean War Armistice Agreement.[12] Since that time the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has separated the North and South.

Economic evolution

In the aftermath of the Korean War and throughout the 1960s, the country’s state-controlled economy grew at a significant rate. It was considered the second most industrialized nation in Asia, after Japan.[citation needed] During the 1970s, the expansion of North Korea’s economy, with the accompanying rise in living standards, came to an end, and a few decades later went into reverse. The country struggled throughout the 1990s, largely due to the loss of strategic trade arrangements with the USSR,[13] and strained relations with China following China’s normalization with South Korea in 1992.[14] In addition, North Korea experienced record-breaking floods in 1995 and 1996, followed by several years of equally severe drought, beginning in 1997.[15] This situation, compounded by the existence of only 18 percent arable land[16] and an inability to import goods necessary to sustain industry,[17] led to an immense famine and left North Korea in economic shambles. Large numbers of North Koreans illegally entered the People’s Republic of China in search of food. Faced with a country in decay, Kim Jong-il adopted a “Military-First” policy to reinforce the regime.[18]

Although private property is still formally prohibited, the volume of private trade with China grows year by year. The collapse of the system of state allowances has also contributed to the growth of a multi-sector market economy.[19] Collapse of large state-owned enterprises released a huge amount of workers who engage in cross-border trade with China.

Geography Location: Eastern Asia, northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Korea Bay and the Sea of Japan, between China and South Korea
Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 127 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 120,540 sq km
land: 120,410 sq km
water: 130 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Mississippi
Land boundaries: total: 1,673 km
border countries: China 1,416 km, South Korea 238 km, Russia 19 km
Coastline: 2,495 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
note: military boundary line 50 nm in the Sea of Japan and the exclusive economic zone limit in the Yellow Sea where all foreign vessels and aircraft without permission are banned
Climate: temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer
Terrain: mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys; coastal plains wide in west, discontinuous in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Paektu-san 2,744 m
Natural resources: coal, lead, tungsten, zinc, graphite, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, fluorspar, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 22.4%
permanent crops: 1.66%
other: 75.94% (2005)
Irrigated land: 14,600 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 77.1 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 9.02 cu km/yr (20%/25%/55%)
per capita: 401 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: late spring droughts often followed by severe flooding; occasional typhoons during the early fall
Environment – current issues: water pollution; inadequate supplies of potable water; waterborne disease; deforestation; soil erosion and degradation
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Environmental Modification, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography – note: strategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated
Politics North Korea is a self-described Juche (self-reliance) state.[20] Government is organized as a dictatorship, with a pronounced cult of personality organized around Kim Il-sung (the founder of North Korea and the country’s first and only president) and his son and heir, Kim Jong-il. Following Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994, he was not replaced but instead received the designation of “Eternal President”, and was entombed in the vast Kumsusan Memorial Palace in central Pyongyang.

Although the active position of president has been abolished in deference to the memory of Kim Il-sung,[21] the de facto head of state is Kim Jong-il, who is Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea. The legislature of North Korea is the Supreme People’s Assembly, currently led by President Kim Yong-nam. The other senior government figure is Premier Kim Yong-il.

North Korea is a single-party state. The governing party is the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, a coalition of the Workers’ Party of North Korea and two other smaller parties, the North Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party. These parties nominate all candidates for office and hold all seats in the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Human rights

Multiple international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, accuse North Korea of having one of the worst human rights records of any nation.[22] North Koreans have been referred to as “some of the world’s most brutalized people”, due to the severe restrictions placed on their political and economic freedoms.[23] North Korean defectors have testified to the existence of prison and detention camps with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates, and have reported torture, starvation, rape, murder, medical experimentation, forced labour, and forced abortions.

The system changed slightly at the end of 1990s, when population growth became very low. In many cases, where capital punishment was de facto, it replaced by less severe punishments. Bribery became prevalent throughout the country. For example, just listening to South Korean radio could result in capital punishment. However, many North Koreans wear clothes of South Korean origin, listen to Southern music, watch South Korean videotapes and even receive Southern broadcasts, although they are still prohibited; in most cases punishment is nothing more than a pecuniary fine, and many such problems are normally solved “unofficially”, through bribery.

People Population: 23,479,089 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 22.9% (male 2,733,352/female 2,654,186)
15-64 years: 68.2% (male 7,931,484/female 8,083,626)
65 years and over: 8.8% (male 751,401/female 1,325,040) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 32.7 years
male: 31.2 years
female: 34.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.732% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 14.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.29 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.57 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 21.86 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.46 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 20.18 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.2 years
male: 69.45 years
female: 75.08 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
Ethnic groups: racially homogeneous; there is a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese
Religions: traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way)
note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom
Languages: Korean
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99%

Kyrgyzstan: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Central Asian Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Kyrgyzstan

Introduction A Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, most of Kyrgyzstan was formally annexed to Russia in 1876. The Kyrgyz staged a major revolt against the Tsarist Empire in 1916 in which almost one-sixth of the Kyrgyz population was killed. Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic in 1936 and achieved independence in 1991 when the USSR dissolved. Nationwide demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar AKAYEV, who had run the country since 1990. Subsequent presidential elections in July 2005 were won overwhelmingly by former prime minister Kurmanbek BAKIYEV. The political opposition organized demonstrations in Bishkek in April, May, and November 2006 resulting in the adoption of a new constitution that transferred some of the president’s powers to parliament and the government. In December 2006, the Kyrgyz parliament voted to adopt new amendments, restoring some of the presidential powers lost in the November 2006 constitutional change. By late-September 2007, both previous versions of the constitution were declared illegal, and the country reverted to the AKAYEV-era 2003 constitution, which was subsequently modified in a flawed referendum initiated by BAKIYEV. The president then dissolved parliament, called for early elections, and gained control of the new parliament through his newly-created political party, Ak Jol, in December 2007 elections. Current concerns include: privatization of state-owned enterprises, negative trends in democracy and political freedoms, reduction of corruption, improving interethnic relations, and combating terrorism.
History Early history

According to recent historical findings, Kyrgyz history dates back to 201 BC. The early Kyrgyz lived in the upper Yenisey River valley, central Siberia. The discovery of the Pazyryk and Tashtyk cultures show them as a blend of Turkic and Iranian nomadic tribes. Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the Kyrgyz as red-haired, in addition, blond-haired with a fair complexion and green or blue eyes.

The descent of the Kyrgyz from the indigenous Siberian population is confirmed on the other hand by recent genetic studies.[2] Remarkably, 63% of the modern Kyrgyz men share Haplogroup R1a1 (Y-DNA) with Tajiks (64%), Ukrainians (54%), Poles (56%) and even Icelanders (25%). Haplogroup R1a1 (Y-DNA) is believed to be a marker of the Proto-Indo-European language speakers.

The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uyghur Khanate in 840 A.D. Then Kyrgyz quickly moved as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years. In the 12th century, however, the Kyrgyz domination had shrunk to the Altay Range and the Sayan Mountains as a result of the rising Mongol expansion. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the Kyrgyz migrated south.

Russian influence

In the early 19th century, the southern part of what is today Kyrgyzstan came under the control of the Khanate of Kokand. The territory, then known in Russian as “Kirgizia”, was formally incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1876. The Russian takeover instigated numerous revolts against tsarist authority, and many of the Kyrgyz opted to move to the Pamirs and Afghanistan. In addition, the suppression of the 1916 rebellion in Central Asia caused many Kyrgyz to migrate to China. Since many ethnic groups in the region were (and still are) split between neighbouring states, at a time when borders were more porous and less regulated, it was common to move back and forth over the mountains, depending on where life was perceived as better; this might mean better rains for pasture or better government after oppression.

Soviet era

Soviet power was initially established in the region in 1919 and the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast was created within the Russian SFSR (the term Kara-Kirghiz was used until the mid-1920s by the Russians to distinguish them from the Kazakhs, who were also referred to as Kirghiz). On December 5, 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was established as a full republic of the Soviet Union.

During the 1920s, Kyrgyzstan developed considerably in cultural, educational, and social life. Literacy was greatly improved, and a standard literary language was introduced. Economic and social development also was notable. Many aspects of the Kyrgyz national culture were retained despite the suppression of nationalist activity under Stalin, and, therefore, tensions with the all-Union authorities were constant.

The early years of glasnost had little effect on the political climate in Kyrgyzstan. However, the Republic’s press was permitted to adopt a more liberal stance and to establish a new publication, Literaturny Kirghizstan, by the Union of Writers. Unofficial political groups were forbidden, but several groups that emerged in 1989 to deal with the acute housing crisis were permitted to function.

In June 1990, ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz surfaced in the Osh Oblast, where Uzbeks form a majority of the population. Violent confrontations ensued, and a state of emergency and curfew were introduced. Order was not restored until August 1990.

The early 1990s brought considerable change to Kyrgyzstan. By then, the Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement (KDM) had developed into a significant political force with support in Parliament. In an upset victory, Askar Akayev, the liberal President of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, was elected to the Presidency in October 1990. The following January, Akayev introduced new government structures and appointed a new government composed mainly of younger, reform-oriented politicians.

In December 1990, the Supreme Soviet voted to change the republic’s name to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. (In 1993, it became the Kyrgyz Republic.) In February 1991, the name of the capital, Frunze, was changed back to its prerevolutionary name of Bishkek. Despite these aesthetic moves toward independence, economic realities seemed to work against secession from the Soviet Union. In a referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union in March 1991, 88.7% of the voters approved the proposal to retain the Soviet Union as a “renewed federation.”

On August 19, 1991, when the State Emergency Committee assumed power in Moscow, there was an attempt to depose Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. After the coup collapsed the following week, Akayev and Vice President German Kuznetsov announced their resignations from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and the entire bureau and secretariat resigned. This was followed by the Supreme Soviet vote declaring independence from the Soviet Union on August 31, 1991.

Independence

In October 1991, Akayev ran unopposed and was elected president of the new independent Republic by direct ballot, receiving 95% of the votes cast. Together with the representatives of seven other Republics that same month, he signed the Treaty of the New Economic Community. Finally, on December 21, 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined with the other four Central Asian Republics to formally enter the new Commonwealth of Independent States. In 1992, Kyrgyzstan joined the UN and the CSCE.

The “Tulip Revolution,” after the parliamentary elections in March 2005, forced President Akayev’s resignation on April 4, 2005. Opposition leaders formed a coalition and a new government was formed under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov. The nation’s capital was also looted during the protests.

Political stability appears to be elusive, however, as various groups and factions allegedly linked to organized crime are jockeying for power. Three of the 75 members of Parliament elected in March 2005 were assassinated, and another member was assassinated on 10 May 2006 shortly after winning his murdered brother’s seat in a by-election. All four are reputed to have been directly involved in major illegal business ventures.

Current concerns in Kyrgyzstan include: privatization of state-owned enterprises, expansion of democracy and political freedoms, inter-ethnic relations, and terrorism.

Geography Location: Central Asia, west of China
Geographic coordinates: 41 00 N, 75 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 198,500 sq km
land: 191,300 sq km
water: 7,200 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than South Dakota
Land boundaries: total: 3,878 km
border countries: China 858 km, Kazakhstan 1,051 km, Tajikistan 870 km, Uzbekistan 1,099 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: dry continental to polar in high Tien Shan; subtropical in southwest (Fergana Valley); temperate in northern foothill zone
Terrain: peaks of Tien Shan and associated valleys and basins encompass entire nation
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Kara-Daryya (Karadar’ya) 132 m
highest point: Jengish Chokusu (Pik Pobedy) 7,439 m
Natural resources: abundant hydropower; significant deposits of gold and rare earth metals; locally exploitable coal, oil, and natural gas; other deposits of nepheline, mercury, bismuth, lead, and zinc
Land use: arable land: 6.55%
permanent crops: 0.28%
other: 93.17%
note: Kyrgyzstan has the world’s largest natural-growth walnut forest (2005)
Irrigated land: 10,720 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 46.5 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 10.08 cu km/yr (3%/3%/94%)
per capita: 1,916 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: water pollution; many people get their water directly from contaminated streams and wells; as a result, water-borne diseases are prevalent; increasing soil salinity from faulty irrigation practices
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; entirely mountainous, dominated by the Tien Shan range; many tall peaks, glaciers, and high-altitude lakes
Politics The 1993 constitution defines the form of government as a democratic republic. The executive branch includes a president and prime minister. The parliament currently is unicameral. The judicial branch comprises a Supreme Court, a Constitutional Court, local courts, and a Chief Prosecutor.

In March 2002, in the southern district of Aksy, five people protesting the arbitrary arrest of an opposition politician were shot dead by police, sparking nationwide protests. President Akayev initiated a constitutional reform process which initially included the participation of a broad range of government, civil, and social representatives in an open dialogue, leading to a February 2003 referendum marred by voting irregularities. The amendments to the constitution approved by the referendum resulted in stronger control by the president and weakened the parliament and the Constitutional Court. Parliamentary elections for a new, 75-seat unicameral legislature were held on February 27 and March 13, 2005, but were widely viewed as corrupt. The subsequent protests led to a bloodless coup on March 24, after which Akayev fled the country and was replaced by acting president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. (see: Tulip Revolution).

Interim government leaders are developing a new governing structure for the country and working to resolve outstanding constitutional issues. On July 10, 2005, acting president Bakiyev won the presidential election in a landslide, with 88.9% of the vote, and was inaugurated on 14 August. However, initial public support for the new administration substantially declined in subsequent months as a result of its apparent inability to solve the corruption problems that have plagued the country since its independence from the Soviet Union, along with the murders of several members of parliament. Largescale protests against president Bakiyev took place in Bishkek in April and November of 2006, with opposition leaders accusing the president of failing to live up to his election promises to reform the country’s constitution and transfer many of his presidential powers to parliament.

People Population: 5,356,869 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.9% (male 817,369/female 784,782)
15-64 years: 64% (male 1,681,440/female 1,748,222)
65 years and over: 6.1% (male 127,263/female 197,793) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 24.2 years
male: 23.3 years
female: 25 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.38% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 23.31 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.97 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.55 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.64 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 32.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 37.33 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 27 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 69.12 years
male: 65.12 years
female: 73.33 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.67 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 3,900 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Kyrgyzstani(s)
adjective: Kyrgyzstani
Ethnic groups: Kyrgyz 64.9%, Uzbek 13.8%, Russian 12.5%, Dungan 1.1%, Ukrainian 1%, Uygur 1%, other 5.7% (1999 census)
Religions: Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
Languages: Kyrgyz 64.7% (official), Uzbek 13.6%, Russian 12.5% (official), Dungun 1%, other 8.2% (1999 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.7%
male: 99.3%
female: 98.1%

Is Russian social media giant VKontakte sidestepping the GDPR?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Is Russian social media giant VKontakte sidestepping the GDPR? One user is trying to find out.

As if revealing their users’ personal data to Russian authorities wasn’t bad enough, VKontakte may now run in serious trouble in Europe // Martinsson Serg, CC2.0

Russian social media network VKontakte has been having a bad few months. Multiple platform users have been prosecuted for their posts, and the company has been publicly shamed for its lack of transparency regarding how it shares user data with law enforcement authorities.

Now, VKontakte (VK) is facing a new privacy-related challenge: Kristian Shinkevich, a Belarussian activist living in Poland, is demanding that VK give him all the personal data that it has pertaining to him. The company has yet to comply. And in the meantime, it has suspended his access to the account.

Shinkevich first began wondering about VK’s data collection practices after he faced legal threats for participating in a demonstration in Belarus. Shortly thereafter, he was expelled from his university, where he says an administrator told him that the school had access to all their students’ VKontakte data, including which posts they had liked. In his case, this would have revealed his involvement with demonstrations.

Between this, and the fact that other Belarussian activists have been arrested for VKontakte posts promoting protests (an indication that authorities in Belarus also monitor activity on the social network), Shinkevich found himself wanting to know more about VK’s data collection practices.

So he looked to the European Union’s newly-instituted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of policies aimed at standardizing the handling of personal information by companies and organizations. Under the GDPR, any company that processes the personal information of EU subjects must comply with certain rules regarding the protection and transfer of such data.

Another provision stipulates that EU subjects have a right to access the personal information that companies retain about them, and that they have a right to know how this information is used.

Although Shinkevich is a citizen of a non-EU state, Belarus, he is entitled to request this information under the GDPR, as an EU resident (or “subject”, as described in the GDPR) in Poland. Additionally, despite the fact that VKontakte is a Russian company, it must still comply because it is providing services to EU subjects abroad and handling their information.

Noncompliance would give EU authorities the power to levy a fine of either 20 million euros or 4 percent global gross revenue, depending on which is higher.

When Shinkevich filed a request to VKontakte Support to get access to all the data VKontakte had collected about him, he received the requested file. He described what he found on Facebook:

Today I have received the file, and that’s freaking serious.

They store:
1. the whole name and surname changes history
2. groups and public pages I’ve managed
3. name of files uploaded, from which IP address, city, links to the deleted files, moreover, even simple voice messages from deleted conversations are there
4. complete list of files I’ve removed from my page, their exact address, name, date added, direct link – no matter that they all have been removed – voice messages, PDF documents etc.
5. adresses [sic] of pictures from Saved Photos album (protected). Direct links can be opened without being logged in
6. complete history of conversations, including removed, up to 27.06.2018 20:43:51 (the first message is dated 01.09.2016 21:40:30), with all the attachments including removed ones.
7. complete history of phone number ever linked to the account
8. history of password retrieval requests
9. all the comments and posts from my page timeline, including ones removed about 1-2 years ago (the section is titled “Messages posted on the user’s wall”)

This file is about 1,5 Mbytes but it has al [sic] the history of my activity on VK since 2016 (when my page was created).

Shinkevich was not surprised by what the file contained — but he was surprised at what it lacked. “I am pretty sure that what they have sent me is not the whole information, and they have much more,” he wrote on Facebook.

Indeed, VKontakte’s privacy policy indicates (in section 4.2.1) that the company processes a wide range of information about users and their activities, including but not limited to information about the “user’s operating system, type of a browser, geographic position, the Internet provider, contacts, data obtained accessing the camera, microphone and similar devices.” The policy does not clearly define how this data is treated after being processed. VK’s terms of service (7.2.5) indicate that “the Site Administration has the right to keep archive copies of the user Content for an indefinite period.”

Do these and other types of information qualify as “personal data”? It depends on where you ask the question. While Russian Federal Law 152 defines personal information as any information directly or indirectly related to a specific individual, the GDPR has a very specific breakdown of this wide interpretation. But as the terms of the GDPR apply to all companies providing services to EU subjects, VKontakte is required by law to follow these terms when dealing with customers in the EU.

When Shinkevich asked VKontakte for the rest of the information, it evaded his request. The company later blocked his access to his account at the end of July. His page is still online, but he cannot log in to it or reset his password.

When Russian news aggregator TJournal reached out to VKontakte, they said:

We didn’t block the user’s page. Access was restricted after the user changed several key parameters, including first name, last name, gender, and so on. Such activity is considered suspicious and could be proof that the account was sold or given to another person.

Restricting access to the page isn’t in any way related to the user’s GDPR information request.

Shinkevich has since filed a complaint with Poland’s personal data security service and has taken the controversial step of advocating that VKontakte be blocked in Poland.  He joins a growing number of voices urging users to stop using VKontakteand delete their pages.

Last year, VKontakte’s total revenue was over $200,000,000.If found in violation of GDPR, their fine would be ten percent of that amount. With upwards of two million EU users, the social network could soon pay a hefty price if it doesn’t address privacy concerns.

Liechtenstein: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Small Central European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Liechtenstein

Introduction The Principality of Liechtenstein was established within the Holy Roman Empire in 1719. Occupied by both French and Russian troops during the Napoleanic wars, it became a sovereign state in 1806 and joined the Germanic Confederation in 1815. Liechtenstein became fully independent in 1866 when the Confederation dissolved. Until the end of World War I, it was closely tied to Austria, but the economic devastation caused by that conflict forced Liechtenstein to enter into a customs and monetary union with Switzerland. Since World War II (in which Liechtenstein remained neutral), the country’s low taxes have spurred outstanding economic growth. In 2000, shortcomings in banking regulatory oversight resulted in concerns about the use of financial institutions for money laundering. However, Liechtenstein implemented anti-money-laundering legislation and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the US went into effect in 2003.
History At one time, the territory of Liechtenstein formed a part of the ancient Roman province of Raetia. For centuries this territory, geographically removed from European strategic interests, had little impact on the tide of European history. Prior to the reign of its current dynasty, the region was enfeoffed to a line of the counts of Hohenems.

The Liechtenstein dynasty, from which the principality takes its name (rather than vice-versa), comes from Castle Liechtenstein in faraway Lower Austria, which the family possessed from at least 1140 to the thirteenth century, and from 1807 onward. Through the centuries, the dynasty acquired vast swathes of land, predominantly in Moravia, Lower Austria, Silesia, and Styria, though in all cases, these territories were held in fief under other more senior feudal lords, particularly under various lines of the Habsburg family, to whom several Liechtenstein princes served as close advisers. Thus, and without any territory held directly under the Imperial throne, the Liechtenstein dynasty was unable to meet a primary requirement to qualify for a seat in the Imperial diet, the Reichstag.

The family yearned for the added power a seat in the Imperial government would bring, and therefore sought to acquire lands that would be unmittelbar, or held without any feudal personage other than the Holy Roman Emperor himself having rights on the land. After some time, the family was able to arrange the purchase of the minuscule Herrschaft (“Lordship”) of Schellenberg and countship of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. Tiny Schellenberg and Vaduz possessed exactly the political status required; no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.

Thereby, on January 23, 1719, after purchase had been duly made, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed Vaduz and Schellenberg were united, and raised to the dignity of Fürstentum (principality) with the name “Liechtenstein” in honor of “[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein”. It is on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. As a testament to the pure political expediency of the purchases, the Princes of Liechtenstein did not set foot in their new principality for over 120 years.

In 1806, most of the Holy Roman Empire was invaded by Napoleon I of the First French Empire. This event had broad consequences for Liechtenstein: imperial, legal and political mechanisms broke down, while Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, abdicated the imperial throne and the Empire itself dissolved. As a result, Liechtenstein ceased to have any obligations to any feudal lord beyond its borders. Modern publications generally (although incorrectly) attribute Liechtenstein’s sovereignty to these events. In reality, its prince merely became suzerain, as well as remaining sovereign lord. From 25 July 1806 when the Confederation of the Rhine was founded, the prince of Liechtenstein was a member, in fact a vassal of its hegemon, styled protector, French Emperor Napoleon I, until the dissolution of the Confederation on 19 October 1813.

Soon afterward, Liechtenstein joined the German Confederation (20 June 1815 – 24 August 1866, which was presided over by the Emperor of Austria).

Then, in 1818, Johann I granted a constitution, although it was limited in its nature. 1818 also saw the first visit of a member of the house of Liechtenstein, Prince Alois; however, the first visit by a sovereign prince would not occur until 1842.

Liechtenstein also had many advances in the nineteenth century, as in 1836, the first factory was opened, making ceramics. In 1861, the Savings and Loans Bank was founded, as was the first cotton-weaving mill. Two bridges over the Rhine were built in 1868, and in 1872 a railway line across Liechtenstein was constructed.

When the Austro-Prussian War broke out in 1866 new pressure was placed on Liechtenstein as, when peace was declared, Prussia accused Liechtenstein of being the cause of the war through a miscount of the votes for war with Prussia. This led to Liechtenstein refusing to sign a peace treaty with Prussia and remained at war although no actual conflict ever occurred. This was one of the arguments that were suggested to justify a possible invasion of Liechtenstein in the late 1930s.

Until the end of World War I, Liechtenstein first was closely tied to the Austrian Empire and later to Austria-Hungary; however, the economic devastation caused by WWI forced the country to conclude a customs and monetary union with its other neighbor Switzerland. Liechtenstein’s Army was disbanded in 1868 for financial reasons. At the time of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was argued that Liechtenstein as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire was no longer bound to the emerging independent state Austria, since the latter did not consider itself as the legal successor to the Empire. This is partly contradicted by the coeval Liechtenstein perception that the dethroned Austro-Hungarian Emperor still maintained an abstract heritage of the Holy Roman Empire, which was dissolved in 1806.

In the spring of 1938, just after the annexation of Austria into Greater Germany, eighty-four year-old Prince Franz I abdicated, naming his thirty-one year-old third cousin, Prince Franz Joseph, as his successor. While Prince Franz I claimed that old age was his reason for abdicating, it is believed that he had no desire to be on the throne if Germany gobbled up its new neighbor, Liechtenstein. His wife, whom he married in 1929, was a wealthy Jewish woman from Vienna, and local Liechtenstein Nazis had already singled her out as their anti-Semitic “problem”. Although Liechtenstein had no official Nazi party, a Nazi sympathy movement had been simmering for years within its National Union party. [2]

During World War II, Liechtenstein remained neutral, while family treasures within the war zone were brought to Liechtenstein (and London) for safekeeping. At the close of the conflict, Czechoslovakia and Poland, acting to seize what they considered to be German possessions, expropriated the entirety of the Liechtenstein dynasty’s hereditary lands and possessions in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia — the princes of Liechtenstein lived in Vienna until the Anschluss of 1938. The expropriations (subject to modern legal dispute at the World Court) included over 1,600 km² (618 sq mi) of agricultural and forest land, also including several family castles and palaces. Citizens of Liechtenstein were also forbidden from entering Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. Liechtenstein gave asylum to approximately five hundred soldiers of the First Russian National Army (a collaborationist Russian force within the German Wehrmacht) at the close of World War II; this is commemorated by a monument at the border town of Hinterschellenberg which is marked on the country’s tourist map. The act of granting asylum was no small matter as the country was poor and had difficulty feeding and caring for such a large group of refugees. Eventually, Argentina agreed to permanently resettle the asylum seekers. In contrast, the British repatriated the Russians who fought on the side of Germany to the USSR, and they all perished in the Gulag.

In dire financial straits following the war, the Liechtenstein dynasty often resorted to selling family artistic treasures, including for instance the priceless portrait “Ginevra de’ Benci” by Leonardo da Vinci, which was purchased by the National Gallery of Art of the United States in 1967. Liechtenstein prospered, however, during the decades following, as its economy modernized with the advantage of low corporate tax rates which drew many companies to the country.

The Prince of Liechtenstein is the world’s sixth wealthiest leader with an estimated wealth of USD $4 billion. The country’s population enjoys one of the world’s highest standards of living.

Geography Location: Central Europe, between Austria and Switzerland
Geographic coordinates: 47 16 N, 9 32 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 160 sq km
land: 160 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: total: 76 km
border countries: Austria 34.9 km, Switzerland 41.1 km
Coastline: 0 km (doubly landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: continental; cold, cloudy winters with frequent snow or rain; cool to moderately warm, cloudy, humid summers
Terrain: mostly mountainous (Alps) with Rhine Valley in western third
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Ruggeller Riet 430 m
highest point: Vorder-Grauspitz 2,599 m
Natural resources: hydroelectric potential, arable land
Land use: arable land: 25%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 75% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: NA
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography – note: along with Uzbekistan, one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world; variety of microclimatic variations based on elevation
Politics Liechtenstein’s current constitution was adopted in October 1921. It established in Liechtenstein a constitutional monarchy ruled by the reigning prince of the Princely House of Liechtenstein. It also established a parliamentary system, although the reigning prince retained substantial political authority.

The reigning prince of the Princely House of Liechtenstein is the head of state and, as such, represents Liechtenstein in its international relations (although Switzerland has taken responsibility for much of Liechtenstein’s diplomatic relations). The prince may veto laws adopted by the parliament. The prince can call referendums, propose new legislation, and dissolve the parliament, although dissolution of parliament may be subjected to a referendum.

Executive authority is vested in a collegial government (government) comprising the head of government (prime minister) and four government councilors (ministers). The head of government and the other ministers are appointed by the prince upon the proposal and concurrence of the parliament, thus reflecting the partisan balance of the parliament. The constitution stipulates that at least two members of the government be chosen from each of the two regions. The members of the government are collectively and individually responsible to the parliament; the parliament may ask the prince to remove an individual minister or the entire government.

Legislative authority is vested in the unicameral “Landtag” (parliament) made up of 25 members elected for maximum four-year terms according to a proportional representation formula. Fifteen members are elected from the “Oberland” (Upper Country or region) and ten members are elected from the “Unterland” (Lower Country or region). Parties must receive at least eight percent of the national vote to win seats in the parliament. The parliament proposes and approves a government, which is formally appointed by the prince. The parliament may also pass votes of no confidence against the entire government or against individual members. Additionally, the parliament elects from among its members a “Landesausschuss” (National Committee) made up of the president of the parliament and four additional members. The National Committee is charged with performing parliamentary oversight functions. The parliament can call for referendums on proposed legislation. The parliament shares the authority to propose new legislation with the prince and with the requisite number of citizens required for an initiative referendum.

Judicial authority is vested in the Regional Court at Vaduz, the Princely High Court of Appeal at Vaduz, the Princely Supreme Court, the Administrative Court, and the State Court. The State Court rules on the conformity of laws with the constitution. The State Court has five members elected by the parliament.

In March 2003, the results of a national referendum showed that nearly two-thirds of Liechtenstein’s electorate agreed to vote in support of Hans-Adam II’s proposal of a renewed constitution which replaced the version of 1921. The implications of the referendum, the actual changes to the governance of Liechtenstein, and the repercussions of the vote in the wider context of Europe, are yet unknown.

On 1 July 2007, the Liechtenstein Ruling Prince, H.S.H Hans-Adam II, and Liechtenstein Prime Minister, Otmar Hasler, appointed Dr. Bruce S. Allen and Mr. Leodis C. Matthews, ESQ., both in the United States of America, as the first two Honorary Consuls in history for the Principality of Liechtenstein.

People Population: 34,498 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.9% (male 2,892/female 2,927)
15-64 years: 69.8% (male 11,905/female 12,180)
65 years and over: 13.3% (male 1,964/female 2,630) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 40.5 years
male: 40 years
female: 41 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.713% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9.86 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.42 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 4.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.52 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.03 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.95 years
male: 76.38 years
female: 83.52 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.51 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Liechtensteiner(s)
adjective: Liechtenstein
Ethnic groups: Alemannic 86%, Italian, Turkish, and other 14%
Religions: Roman Catholic 76.2%, Protestant 7%, unknown 10.6%, other 6.2% (June 2002)
Languages: German (official), Alemannic dialect
Literacy: definition: age 10 and over can read and write
total population: 100%
male: 100%
female: 100%

Russia to hold biggest military drills since Cold War

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Russia to hold biggest military drills since Cold War

Russia will next month hold its biggest war games since at least the 1980s, with around 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft

WORLD Updated: Aug 28, 2018 20:18 IST

Russia,Military drill,War games
Military helicopters fire during the Zapad (West) 2017 Russia-Belarus military exercises at the Borisovsky range in Borisov, Belarus, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP File Photo)

Russia will next month hold its biggest war games since at least the 1980s, with around 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft, the defence minister said Tuesday.

The Vostok-2018 exercises will be carried out from September 11 to 15 in the country’s east with the participation of China and Mongolia.

“This will be something of a repeat of Zapad-81, but in some senses even bigger,” Sergei Shoigu said of the 1981 war games in Eastern Europe, in comments reported by Russian news agencies.

He said “more than 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 troops and almost all the ranges of the Central and Eastern military districts” would be involved in the exercises.

“Imagine 36,000 pieces of military equipment moving together at the same time — tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles. And all of this, of course, in conditions as close to combat as possible.”

Moscow said last year’s Zapad-2017 military drills, conducted in ally Belarus and regions of Russia, saw the participation of roughly 12,700 troops.

But NATO claimed Russia could have been massively underreporting the scale of the exercises, which some of the alliance’s eastern members said involved more than 100,000 servicemen.

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 16:48 IST

Lithuania: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Eastern European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Lithuania

Introduction Lithuanian lands were united under MINDAUGAS in 1236; over the next century, through alliances and conquest, Lithuania extended its territory to include most of present-day Belarus and Ukraine. By the end of the 14th century Lithuania was the largest state in Europe. An alliance with Poland in 1386 led the two countries into a union through the person of a common ruler. In 1569, Lithuania and Poland formally united into a single dual state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This entity survived until 1795, when its remnants were partitioned by surrounding countries. Lithuania regained its independence following World War I, but was annexed by the USSR in 1940 – an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but Moscow did not recognize this proclamation until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently restructured its economy for integration into western European institutions; it joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
History The first mention of Lithuania is found in a medieval German manuscript, the Quedlinburg Chronicle, on 14 February 1009. The Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas in 1236, and neighbouring countries referred to it as “the state of Lithuania”. The official coronation of Mindaugas as King of Lithuania was on July 6, 1253, and the official recognition of Lithuanian statehood as the Kingdom of Lithuania.

During the early period of the Gediminids (1316–1430), the state occupied the territories of present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia.[5] By the end of the fourteenth century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe, and was also the only remaining pagan state.[6] The Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretched across a substantial part of Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Lithuanian nobility, city dwellers and peasants accepted Christianity in 1386, following Poland’s offer of its crown to Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Grand Duke Jogaila was crowned King of Poland on February 2, 1386. Lithuania and Poland were joined into a personal union, as both countries were ruled by the same Gediminids branch, the Jagiellon dynasty.

In 1401, the formal union was dissolved as a result of disputes over legal terminology, and Vytautas, the cousin of Jogaila, became the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Thanks to close cooperation, the armies of Poland and Lithuania achieved a great victory over the Teutonic Knights in 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald, the largest battle in medieval Europe.

A royal crown had been bestowed upon Vytautas in 1429 by Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, but Polish magnates prevented his coronation by seizing the crown as it was being brought to him. A new crown was ordered from Germany and another date set for the coronation, but a month later Vytautas died as the result of an accident.

As a result of the growing centralised power of the Grand Principality of Moscow, in 1569, Lithuania and Poland formally united into a single state called the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As a member of the Commonwealth, Lithuania retained its institutions, including a separate army, currency and statutory law which was digested in three Statutes of Lithuania.[7] In 1795, the joint state was dissolved by the third Partition of the Commonwealth, which forfeited its lands to Russia, Prussia and Austria, under duress. Over ninety percent of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire and the remainder into Prussia.

Many Jews fled Lithuania following persecution and followed opportunities that lay overseas.

After a century of occupation, Lithuania re-established its independence on February 16, 1918. The official government from July through November 1918, was quickly replaced by a republican government. From the outset, the newly-independent Lithuania’s foreign policy was dominated by territorial disputes with Poland (over the Vilnius region and the Suvalkai region) and with Germany (over the Klaipėda region or Memelland). Most obviously, the Lithuanian constitution designated Vilnius as the nation’s capital, even though the city itself lay within Polish territory as a result of a Polish invasion. At the time, Poles and Jews made up a majority of the population of Vilnius, with a small Lithuanian minority of only 1%. In 1920 the capital was relocated to Kaunas, which was officially designated the provisional capital of Lithuania. (see History of Vilnius for more details).

In June 1940, around the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.[9][10] A year later it came under German occupation. After the retreat of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht), Lithuania was re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944.

From 1944–1952 approximately 100,000 Lithuanians participated in partisan fights against the Soviet system and the Red Army. More than twenty thousand partisans (“forest brothers”) were killed in those battles and many more were arrested and deported to Siberian GULAGs. Lithuanian historians view this period as a war of independence against the Soviet Union.

During the Soviet and Nazi occupations between 1940 and 1944, Lithuania lost over 780,000 residents. Among them were around 190,000 (91% of pre-WWII community) of Lithuanian Jews, one of the highest total mortality rates of the Holocaust. An estimated 120,000 to 300,000[11] were killed by Soviets or exiled to Siberia, while others had been sent to German forced labour camps and/or chose to emigrate to western countries.

Forty-six years of Soviet occupation ended with the advent of perestroika and glasnost in the late 1980s. Lithuania, led by Sąjūdis, an anti-communist and anti-Soviet independence movement, proclaimed its renewed independence on March 11, 1990. Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to do so, though Soviet forces unsuccessfully tried to suppress this secession. The Red Army attacked the Vilnius TV Tower on the night of January 13, 1991, an act that resulted in the death of 13 Lithuanian civilians. The last Red Army troops left Lithuania on August 31, 1993 — even earlier than they departed from East Germany.

On February 4, 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognize Lithuanian independence. Sweden was the first to open an embassy in the country. The United States of America never recognized the Soviet claim to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Russia currently refuses to recognize the occupation of Lithuania, claiming that Lithuanians decided to join the Soviet Union voluntarily, although the Russia signed a treaty with Lithuania prior to the disintegration of the USSR which acknowledged Lithuania’s forced loss of sovereignty at the hands of the Soviets, thereby recognizing the occupation.

Lithuania joined the United Nations on September 17, 1991 and on May 31, 2001 it became the 141st member of the World Trade Organization. Since 1988, Lithuania has sought closer ties with the West, and so on January 4, 1994, it became the first of the Baltic states to apply for NATO membership. On March 29, 2004, it became a NATO member, and on May 1, 2004, Lithuania joined the European Union.

Geography Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 56 00 N, 24 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 65,200 sq km
land: NA sq km
water: NA sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than West Virginia
Land boundaries: total: 1,613 km
border countries: Belarus 653.5 km, Latvia 588 km, Poland 103.7 km, Russia (Kaliningrad) 267.8 km
Coastline: 99 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: transitional, between maritime and continental; wet, moderate winters and summers
Terrain: lowland, many scattered small lakes, fertile soil
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Juozapines Kalnas 293.6 m
Natural resources: peat, arable land, amber
Land use: arable land: 44.81%
permanent crops: 0.9%
other: 54.29% (2005)
Irrigated land: 70 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 24.5 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3.33 cu km/yr (78%/15%/7%)
per capita: 971 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: contamination of soil and groundwater with petroleum products and chemicals at military bases
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: fertile central plains are separated by hilly uplands that are ancient glacial deposits
Politics Since Lithuania declared independence on March 11, 1990, it has maintained strong democratic traditions. In the first general elections after the independence on October 25, 1992, 56.75% of the total number of voters supported the new constitution. There were heavy debates concerning the constitution, especially the role of the president. Drawing from the interwar experiences, many different proposals were made ranging from a strong parliamentary government to a presidential system similar to the one in the United States. A separate referendum was held on May 23, 1992 to gauge public opinion on the matter and 41% of all the eligible voters supported the restoration of the President of Lithuania. Eventually a semi-presidential system was agreed upon.

The Lithuanian head of state is the President, elected directly for a five-year term, serving a maximum of two consecutive terms. The post of president is largely ceremonial; main policy functions however include foreign affairs and national security policy. The president is also the military commander-in-chief. The President, with the approval of the parliamentary body, the Seimas, also appoints the prime minister and on the latter’s nomination, appoints the rest of the cabinet, as well as a number of other top civil servants and the judges for all courts. The judges of the Constitutional Court (Konstitucinis Teismas), who serve nine-year terms, are appointed by the President (three judges), the Chairman of the Seimas (three judges) and the Chairman of the Supreme Court (three judges). The unicameral Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, has 141 members who are elected to four-year terms. 71 of the members of this legislative body are elected in single constituencies, and the other 70 are elected in a nationwide vote by proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be represented in the Seimas.

People Population: 3,565,205 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.5% (male 264,668/female 250,997)
15-64 years: 69.5% (male 1,214,236/female 1,263,198)
65 years and over: 16% (male 197,498/female 374,608) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39 years
male: 36.4 years
female: 41.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.284% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 11.12 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.72 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.53 male(s)/female
total population: 0.89 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.57 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.86 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.21 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.67 years
male: 69.72 years
female: 79.89 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.22 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,300 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: tickborne encephalitis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Lithuanian(s)
adjective: Lithuanian
Ethnic groups: Lithuanian 83.4%, Polish 6.7%, Russian 6.3%, other or unspecified 3.6% (2001 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 79%, Russian Orthodox 4.1%, Protestant (including Lutheran and Evangelical Christian Baptist) 1.9%, other or unspecified 5.5%, none 9.5% (2001 census)
Languages: Lithuanian (official) 82%, Russian 8%, Polish 5.6%, other and unspecified 4.4% (2001 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.6%
male: 99.6%
female: 99.6%
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