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Russia is now the undisputed master of the UN Security Council

The cost of hosting the Games is expected to rise to $50 billion, much more than expected initially and more than any other Olympics. Much of the city and Olympic village currently resembles a muddy construction site. The legacy of graft and shoddy execution makes many investors wary of new infrastructure projects, especially those accustomed to the huge returns offered by other sectors such as energy and minerals. “I do not see any big problems with the investment climate. I see problems with the attractiveness of investment projects,” said Mikhail Shamolin, chief executive of Russian oil-to-telecoms group Sistema (SSAq.L) (AFKS.MM). “The question is whether there is a business opportunity in which to invest, and invest with a good return.” Many investors in state-led projects cultivate close ties to state officials as a way to safeguard their investments. The barrier to growth caused by creaking infrastructure has been recognized by President Vladimir Putin, who unveiled a $13 billion investment plan to build new roads and railways at an economic forum in June. He promised to build a new motorway around Moscow, upgrade the Trans-Siberian railway in the Far East and build a high-speed rail line from the capital to Kazan in central Russia. CONSTRAINT TO BUSINESS Businessmen say the decrepit infrastructure is a barrier to growth – especially in a vast country where a shrinking labor force will need to become increasingly mobile to be productive. Mikhail Khabarov of A1, the investment vehicle of Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group, finds it hard to get to the Kemerovo region, where his group is involved in a coal business. Better flight connections between regional cities would help, he says. “This is the issue of my time’s efficiency,” Khabarov said. “Regional aviation is a significant constriction on the development of business relations.” Russia ranked 102nd on the World Economic Forum’s 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report in terms of quality of air transport infrastructure, 88th on port infrastructure and 136th for the quality of its roads. A KPMG analysis in 2012 of the relative costs of doing business in 14 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific gave Russia the second-lowest score for its distribution infrastructure – behind China, India and Mexico. Rail logjams can hit business.

Milonov says he believes Fry is a ???bringer of evil???, thinks homosexuality is a perversion.Interpress/AFP/File British actor Stephen Fry speaks outside the city parliament in Saint Petersburg, on March 14, 2013.Interpress/AFP/File Police detain a gay rights activist during an unauthorized protest against Russian laws banning the promotion or display of homosexuality outside the headquarters of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee in Moscow on September 25, 2013.AFP Next Slide Previous Slide Moscow (AFP) Vitaly Milonov believes that British actor Stephen Fry is a ???bringer of evil???, thinks homosexuality is a perversion and thanks God for giving Russia Vladimir Putin to defend its values. Milonov, a lawmaker in the local parliament of Russia???s second city of Saint Petersburg, has become a hate figure for gay rights activists and not just for his inflammatory rhetoric. He has also had a concrete effect on modern Russian society by introducing a hugely controversial law into the local parliament outlawing ???gay propaganda???. Once passed by the former imperial capital, the law was picked up by deputies in the federal lower house of parliament the State Duma and passed nationwide and was signed into law by President Putin in June. But activists say the law can be used for a broad crackdown against gays in Russia and the controversy has created a huge headache for the Kremlin which has faced calls for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. But Milonov remains defiant in the face of the furore and makes no secret of his views about Fry who has called for Russia to be stripped of its right to host the Games and led an increasingly visible Internet campaign. ???For me Stephen Fry is a bringer of evil, as he expresses ideas which are evil,??? Milonov told AFP in an interview in Saint Petersburg. Milonov and Fry became arch enemies after the two men held a face-to-face meeting in Saint Petersburg in March and have traded insults through the media ever since. Fry is an implacable critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he once memorably said looked like the Dobby the House Elf from the Harry Potter books. ‘We don’t have to apologise’ Despite the outcry sparked by the adoption of the law both in Saint Petersburg and nationwide, Milonov sees no harm in what he describes as ???preventative??? legislation.

Russia gay law creator calls Stephen Fry evil


The real story from this week’s UN General Assembly is that Russia, not America, is now the dominant power at the Security Council for the first time in the history of the UN. This dramatic shift in the power balance at the UN seems to have been completely overlooked by many of those covering the meeting, who are more interested in wittering on about the proposed Security Council resolution on disarming Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile (it won’t work)or Iran’s utterly transparent charm offensive (they are desperate to get the sanctions lifted) towards some of the world’s more gullible world leaders. But the key to this disturbing realignment in the global power structureis clearly visiblein the draft of the Security Council resolution on Syria, which entirely reflects Russia’s interests at the expense of those of the Western powers. America, Britain and France, the three Western members of the five permanent members of the Council, wanted the option to take punitive action against the Assad regime if, as most observers expect, Damascus does not fully comply with the U.N.’s requirements. (Nor has anyone considered how U.N. inspectors can be expected to examine and neutralise stockpiles of chemical weapons in the midst of a civil war.) But Russia is determined to prevent any form of military intervention in Syria, and to that end insisted that the resolution be watered down to the effect that, if Assad fails to comply, then the issue will be referred back to the U.N. where, as we know from history, it will be subsumed by the organisation’s bureaucratic complacency. In short, Russia has won the diplomatic battle, and the Western powers, after all their threats to bomb Assad into submission,have been made to look weak and impotent. Apply this paradigm to Iran and it is not hard to see why Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has decided to embark on a charm offensive with the West. Just like Syria, the Russians have no intention of allowing the Western powers and that includes Israel to take military action against Iran over its decade-long refusal to cooperate with the U.N. over its controversial nuclear programme, which most intelligence experts believe is designed to build atom bombs, rather than power stations. And with President Barack Obama desperate to avoid a confrontation with Iran, Syria or any of the regions other rogue states, the key to resolving the Iranian crisis lies in Moscow, not Washington or New York.

Andrey Filatov, co-owner and chief executive of N-Trans, speaks during the Reuters Investment Summit in Moscow September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

They should have known what was coming. A Greenpeace team had already boarded Prirazlomnaya in August last year, braving the crew’s fire hoses, and erected tents on a drilling platform. Soon afterward, a rambling anonymous comment, apparently from a Gazprom functionary who witnessed the boarding, appeared on Greenpeace’s Russian-language website. “People in gaily colored boats break into the 500-meter security area,” the posting said. “No matter how these people are dressed, what kind of face paint they are wearing, what they are shouting and waving, they try to get on board. Who are they? What are their intentions? To seize? To attach a bomb? To install a tracking device so weapons can be aimed?” And finally: “The platform is a vessel, and getting on board without the captain’s permission may and in this case should be viewed as piracy.” Prirazlomnaya has been plagued with technical mishaps and the start of drilling has been delayed several times. Greenpeace insisted the rig was unsafe and attempted a second boarding on Sept.