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Russian deputy defence minister Ivanov arrested on bribery charges

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The Russian Investigative Committee has reported that Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov has been detained on suspicion of taking bribes.

“Russian Deputy Defence Minister Timur Vladimirovich Ivanov has been detained on suspicion of committing a crime under Article 290, paragraph 6 (bribery) of the Russian Criminal Code,” the committee said in a written statement.

Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said the necessary investigation into the incident was under way.

A law enforcement source told the Interfax agency that Ivanov would soon be referred to court for arrest.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed that Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov has been detained. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was also informed earlier,” Peskov said.

The relevant article of the Criminal Code contains a charge of ‘large-scale bribery’. The charge covers bribery offences involving more than 1 million roubles.

Such offences carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years or a fine of up to seventy times the amount of the bribe.

According to the Defence Ministry’s website, Ivanov, 49, graduated from Lomonosov Moscow State University in 1997.

Between 1999 and 2012, he worked in the country’s fuel and energy companies and then in the government of the Moscow region.

In May 2016, he was appointed deputy defence minister of Russia by presidential decree.

RUSSIA

Gazprom shares at lowest since 2017

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Shares in Russian energy giant Gazprom have fallen to their lowest level since the autumn of 2017.

According to transaction data from the Moscow Stock Exchange, Gazprom shares fell 3.97 per cent to 117.9 rubles. The company’s shares last traded below this level on 6 September 2017.

In total, since the beginning of the year, Gazprom’s quotations on the Moscow Stock Exchange have fallen by more than 25 per cent.

In May, Gazprom’s Board of Directors recommended to the Annual General Meeting not to declare or pay dividends based on the company’s 2023 results.

Optimistic expectations about the signing of the contract for the Power of Siberia-2 pipeline project, which will increase natural gas supplies to China, at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) last week also failed to materialise.

The company’s natural gas production is also at the lowest level in its history

On the other hand, Gazprom continues to cut production. In its annual report published on Monday, the company reported that natural gas production at the end of 2023 was 359 billion cubic metres.

The report said that 13 per cent (53.9 bcm) of production was lost compared to 2022 and 30 per cent (156 bcm) compared to 2021.

Last year’s result was the company’s worst in the 34 years since it was transformed from the USSR’s Ministry of Natural Gas Industry into Gazprom.

By cutting off gas to most of its European customers, Gazprom lost a market it had been associated with for more than half a century.

Last year it sold only 69 bcm of gas to countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the lowest volume since 1985.

Deliveries to Europe fell to 28 bcm, a level last seen in the second half of the 1970s.

Gazprom ended the year with a net loss under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for the first time since the late 1990s, and the size of the loss, 629 billion roubles, was a record in the company’s history.

Moscow continues to negotiate with Beijing over the construction of the Siberian Power-2 pipeline, which is expected to increase China’s gas purchases fivefold.

But Beijing has been slow to act, expecting Russia to offer new discounts on gas, which is already 46 per cent cheaper for Chinese buyers than for European countries and Turkey.

According to Financial Times (FT) sources familiar with the talks, Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked his counterpart Vladimir Putin to cut the price of gas to the local level. He also agreed to buy only a small part of the 50 bcm of Siberia’s Power-2 capacity.

According to the newspaper, negotiations on the project have stalled and Russian investment banks have excluded the Chinese contract from Gazprom’s future valuations in their special reports.

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RUSSIA

One of the Crocus attackers was trained by ISIS militants in Turkey, Sputnik reports

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Shamsidin Feriduni, one of the perpetrators of the attack on the Crocus City Hall concert hall in Moscow, was linked to Tajik extremist organisations in Turkey, the Tajikistan service of Russian state broadcaster Sputnik reported.

According to the agency’s source, Feriduni trained in Istanbul to carry out the attack, which killed more than a hundred people.

The source said that Feriduni travelled to Istanbul earlier this year and then “began to show signs of extremism in conversations with family and friends”.

According to the source, during this trip he was trained by “mentors” who had fought for ISIS in Afghanistan and Syria.

On the other hand, the source noted that recent operations against ISIS suspects in Turkey were organised thanks to information provided by Feriduni during interrogations.

The Turkish Interior Ministry reported on 31 March that 51 suspects had been detained in operations carried out over four days in 21 provinces.

According to the source, Shamsidin Feriduni was sentenced to six years in prison for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl when he was 16.

After his release in 2020, Feriduni travelled to Moscow, worked as a porter and construction worker, and returned to Tajikistan two years ago.

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IS-K Moscow attack gives another turn to global strategic battling

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The recent Islamic States Khurasan IS-K firing against occupants of a concert hall in Moscow, the capital city of Russia, has not only jolted the world but it is now giving new turns and directions to global strategic battling which is still controlled by two traditional rival US and Russian Federation (successor of USSR). Whatever may be directions and targets of follow up of Moscow firing incidents but its epicenter wouldn’t be other than border regions between former British India and Afghanistan, dominated by Pushtoons.

No one can deny the fact that worriers Pushtoons are no more independent as they have been made slaves and hostages by spy masters of US led allies through Saudi Arab and Pakistan on the sacred name of Islam and Jihad. The Islamic States (IS) also called Daesh is the latest virgin of Mujahideen, sponsored, trained, financed and encouraged by US led allies against former Soviet Union. The IS came into being at the time when at last moment of first decade of millennium, US lead allies made fed up by continuous resistance by Taliban in war devastated Afghanistan.

At early stages, the IS focused almost its attentions and strategies against Shia Iran whereas it was engaged in efforts for the survival of Syrian government. Despite wholehearted support of US led allies especially Saudi led Arab world, the IS had failed in Syrian war. IS militants after its failure, returned to war devastated Afghanistan at the time when Pakistan also pulled al-Qaeda remains out of tribal regions with commencing of military operation Zarb-i-Azab on June 15, 2014 last. Making Afghanistan as its base camp like of al-Qaeda, the IS had made hells lives of all those progressive, nationalists, democrats and moderate Pushtoon elders who are known for opposition to extremism and terrorism. At this stage, the IS constituted 40-member council (Shura) for making its decisions and strategies. Majority of 40-member council were those who remain on important offices in banned Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Still the IS is commanded by Pakistani origin Taliban who are in cordial and friendly links with Taliban (Emirate Islami Afghanistan) governing Afghanistan. The Emirate Islami has already declared Afghanistan as a free and safe place for likeminded militants from all over the world.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin lights a candle during his visit to a church of the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on March 24, 2024, during a national day of mourning following the attack in the Crocus City Hall, POOL / AFP.

IS-K and the regional countries

It doesn’t mean that with killing of Osama Bin Laden and Aiman Al Zawahiri, al-Qaeda lost its existence or its contacts with other hardliners, operating/active on soil of Afghanistan since the so-called cold war. Taliban regime in Afghanistan like of late 90’s, once again give another life to almost alleged terrorists groups especially Arabs and Central Asians. Similarly like of past, the US still maintaining dual standards on the issue of Muslim extremism. Through one or the other ways, the US spy masters are still in command of influencing Taliban (both Afghani and Pakistani), al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups from different countries through its experienced and tested allies like Pakistan and Saudis like Afghan Mujahideen. In 2019, the US helped Afghan in joint combating against IS in Afghanistan’s eastern zone bordering with Pakistan. Over three thousand IS militants, mostly Pakistanis have been arrested during the crackdown but the Emirate Islami accredited itself for their release after returning into power on August 15th 2021 last.

The CAR militants like Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Ittehad Islami Jihad (Youghour), militants associated with East Turkistan Islamic Movement and others having a major space in IS. All these groups remained in good terms. Like Pakistani militants associated with both Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, a large number of CAR militants already slipped to IS. There are also reports of Afghan Taliban and Mujahideen’s joining of IS. Some of these Afghan Taliban disheartened when they were neglected in appointment against choice political, civil and military offices. Whereas someone fell victims of perks and power.

Russia doubts IS did Moscow attack

It comes as another uncertainty when Russia on Monday apparently doubt on assertions by the US that the Islamic State (ISIS) extremist group was responsible for the attack on a concert hall that killed 137 people and wounded 182 more.

The Friday night attack marked as the deadliest inside Russia in the two decades as four IS militants stormed into the Crocus City Hall and immediately want on rampage and brought everyone under fire.

IS-K claimed responsibility for the attack, but Russian officials yet to conform it was the work of Daesh rather they said that these four terrorist were arrested while trying to escape to Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin has not publicly mentioned IS-K in connection with the attackers, who said that some people on “the Ukrainian side” had been prepared to spirit the gunmen across the border.

However, Ukraine had denied any role in the attack, but Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova said the US was spreading a version of the “bogeyman” of IS-K to cover its “wards” in Kyiv and reminded readers that Washington supported the “mujahideen” fighters who fought Soviet forces in the 1980s.

A man suspected of taking part in the attack of a concert hall that killed 137 people, sits in the defendant cage as he waits for his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court.

Afghanistan claims of stern action against IS  

Though apparently, the Emirate Islami Afghanistan is making claims of stern action against the IS militants but it seems hard as  it (Emirate) didn’t wants to harm all those who either played a role either in Afghan war against former USSR or War on terror, declared by US against al-Qaeda lead militants after 9/11. Taliban regime time and again making claims of strengthening its intelligence network again IS but all these foreign groups and individuals have already established better understanding with Afghan Taliban, majority of whom are now in occupation of important offices.

Despite its fueling politico-economic and security issues, Pakistan is still in a bid to get superiority in the region. US and China’s are compelled to have relations with Pakistan. Economically and politically, Pakistan seems in loss in race against India. India is considered biggest consumer market in Asia; therefore, China didn’t afford Pakistan-China hostilities. The new government of Shehbaz Sharif is making its best to have cordial relations between New Delhi and Islamabad but Pakistan’s powerful military establishment is thinking on other lines. Russian Federation President Putin has declared Emergency and War like situation, by saying that NATO troops are in Ukraine. In such a circumstance it could be hard for Pakistan to stay away from another round of Soviet-US tussles. There are apprehensions that like of so-called cold war, Afghanistan, especially Pushtoons dominated areas on both sides of Pak-Afghan border would again be front line in the new battle, commencing through IS.

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