05/01/13: CNN reports Director of National Intelligence James Clapper believes an independent review of how the government handled its investigation of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev prior to the attack is a prudent step “to ensure that nothing was missed.” Clapper spokeswoman Shawn Turner said the DNI believes all of the agencies involved in collecting and sharing information “took all the appropriate steps,” but that the Intelligence Community inspector general, a watchdog that investigates risks, vulnerabilities, and deficiencies within sixteen intelligence-related agencies and departments across the government will lead a review. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with Boston police days after the April 15 bombings. His brother Dzhokhar, also a suspect, remains in custody and has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction.
05/01/13: The Hill reports President Obama further blurred the “red line” he has imposed against Syria over chemical weapons on Tuesday, declining to lay out specific consequences if the line is crossed but reiterated that it would be a “game changer” for the entire international community. Asked about possible US military action if it’s confirmed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons, Obama said only that the administration would “rethink the range of options” available. As the President sounded a cautious tone, however, there were reports Tuesday afternoon that he might be planning to take new steps, including that Obama is now ready to provide arms to the opposition, although he had not made a final decision. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to confirm or deny that report. Obama also spoke by phone Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a strong supporter of Assad, about the chemical weapons allegations.
04/01/13: Reuters reports a top NATO official says the Alliance hopes a US change to global missile defenses will dispel Russian concern and foster cooperation on an issue that has long strained relations. “The change in the US plans ... just simply makes the situation much less ambiguous,” Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said. “There is now no reason for concern that the system going into Europe will have any effect whatever on Russia’s strategic deterrent.” Russia has said US missile shield plans could erode its nuclear deterrent, but has softened criticism since Washington announced on March 16 that it would station fourteen missile interceptors in Alaska in response to North Korean nuclear threats and at the same time forgo a new type of interceptor that would have been deployed in Europe.
03/25/13: The New York Times reports Russian authorities on Monday raided the local headquarters of the human rights group Amnesty International, the latest in a continuing series of office searches aimed at putting pressure on nongovernmental groups. The head of Amnesty International, Sergei Nikitkin, said officials from the general prosecutor’s offices and from the tax police arrived Monday morning unannounced to conduct what they described as an “audit” and demanded a list of documents, most of which Nikitkin said were already on file with the government. “They don’t have any concrete complaints. They say it’s a regular check and other cliché phrases,” he said. Last week, the authorities conducted a similar raid at the offices of Memorial, an international historical society and human rights group that has operated in Russia for more than two decades.
02/17/13: CNN reports Secretary of State John Kerry's call to his Russian counterpart has gone unanswered for nearly a week after North Korea tested a nuclear device. Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the top diplomats South Korea, China, and Japan. But couldn't connect Lavrov, who was in Africa for a conference and had "a very overloaded work schedule," according to Russian government spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. He said the United States did not make additional attempts to call Lavrov. Russia is an ally of North Korea and a member of the six nations that have held talks over the North Korean nuclear program. Washington and Moscow are also on opposite sides of the situation in Syria and have sparred over Russian restrictions on adoptions between the two countries.
02/15/13: The New York Times reports bright objects, apparently debris from a meteor, streaked through the sky in western Siberia early on Friday, accompanied by a boom that damaged buildings across a vast territory. Russia’s Interior Ministry said more than 1,000 people were hurt, 200 of them children, mostly from shards of glass that shattered when the meteor entered the atmosphere. Many of the injuries were suffered by residents of the city of Chelyabinsk, about 950 miles east of Moscow, in a region where many factories for defense, including nuclear weapons production, are situated. But there was no indication of damage that resulted in any radiation leaks, officials said. Russian experts believe the blast was caused by a 10-ton meteor known as a bolide, which created a powerful shock wave when it reached the Earth’s atmosphere, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement. Scientists believe the bolide exploded and evaporated at a height of around 20 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface, but that small meteorite fragments may have reached the ground, the statement said.
02/03/13: Al Jazeera reports a spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy chief said Sunday that world powers have proposed holding a new round of talks with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program the week of February 25 in Kazakhstan. But Catherine Ashton’s team, which coordinates diplomatic contacts with Iran on its nuclear program on behalf of the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain, is still hoping for confirmation of the date and venue from Tehran. Earlier on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi confirmed the proposal for the new round of talks but stopped short of pledging Iran’s attendance. Iran and the six nations held three rounds of talks last year aimed at resolving the standoff over Iran’s nuclear activities.
01/30/13: Reuters reports Russia abandoned a law enforcement agreement with the United States on Wednesday, further turning back the clock on a “reset” in relations since President Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin last year. An order to end the deal, signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, was posted on the government’s website. It said the agreement, under which Washington provides financial assistance for law enforcement and drugs control programs, “does not address current realities and has exhausted its potential.” Lawmaker Alexei Pushkov, a Putin ally who heads the parliamentary committee on international affairs, welcomed the move. “Russia is reformatting its relationship with the USA: this is already the third agreement cancelled in the last half-year. We are saying farewell to our dependence on ‘Power No. 1’,” he said on Twitter.
01/23/13: Reuters reports Russia warned Israel and the West on Wednesday against any military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities but suggested Tehran should be quicker to cooperate over inspections of its nuclear sites. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov mixed words of caution over attacking Iran with a gentle nudge to Tehran over the inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). “Attempts to prepare and implement strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities and on its infrastructure as a whole are a very, very dangerous idea. We hope these ideas will not come to fruition,” Lavrov said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted strongly at possible military action to stop Iran from developing an atomic bomb. Lavrov added that he hopes Tehran will agree to inspections by the IAEA and should act “a little bit faster.”
11/12/12: Reuters reports the United States has refused a request from Russia that convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout be returned to his home country to spend the remainder of his twenty-five-year prison term, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said on Saturday. Bout, 54, was sentenced in April after a jury convicted him on charges that he agreed to sell arms to people he thought were militants intent on attacking American soldiers in Colombia. Bout’s case has strained ties between Moscow and Washington: he said he was a legitimate businessman and the Russian Foreign Ministry has argued he was convicted on unreliable evidence. Konstantin Dolgov, Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law at the Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Russia’s bid to have Bout extradited had failed.