MOSCOW, February 19 (RIA Novosti)
Defense Ministry and FSB to Use Sniffer Mice Instead of Dogs
The Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of Russia’s General Staff is planning tests of an unusual weapon – specially trained laboratory mice – for this coming spring, a General Staff source told Izvestia. The source said the tests will be conducted for the benefit of all the secret services.
“Mice should replace dogs in detecting explosives and ammunition, as well as people in hiding places or shelters,” he said. “The Directorate is interested in field conditions, while the Federal Security Service (FSB), in the urban environment. Simultaneously, special methods will be developed for units to use mice.”
The source declined to name the location where the secret experiment will be conducted, but pointed out that combat mice are already actively used by Israel’s secret services and army. Rodents have already helped to prevent scores of terrorist attacks in Israel.
He listed the advantages that mice have over dogs. Mice need no special care. Although their lifespan is short (two to three years) their training takes just a couple of weeks. Their olfactory capacity is far superior to that of dogs.
Russia already has a facility conducting experiments with mice: the EVRAAS (Eurasian Association of Producers of Goods and Services in the Field of Security) research center. Its spokesman Anton Venediktov told Izvestia that the things which their animals are trained to spot cause them strong emotional stress.
He said an important advantage of mice over dogs is that their nervous system is less sophisticated and they are therefore less subject to mood swings or emotional fluctuations. Dogs are more likely to be inattentive or capricious at the wrong time and place, whereas the behavior of mice is more stable.
“Mice are taught to identify the smell of specific substances. As soon as they detect it, they run to a specified place in their container, get fussy or strike certain postures. Mice can be trained to signal the smell of arms, explosives, drugs or a human body,” Venediktov said.
They can be taught to distinguish 150 smells within one month. Just a few grams of an explosive are enough for a mouse to detect. Mice can spot weapons from the smell of gunpowder and rifle oil.
A search unit typically includes eight mice. All eight show the same pattern of behavior, says Venediktov.
The working shift of mice is six to eight hours, while a trained complement lasts one year, Venediktov says.
The current unit, called Bio Explorer, is being tested at several Moscow airports. Venediktov declined to speak about the involvement of EVRAAS mice in FSB and GRU tests, but explained that it would not be technically difficult to set up such mobile units.
Search is on for Putin’s Successor
While Putin is expected to be re-elected in 2018, Russia’s upper crust is set to compete for the prime minister’s post, political scientists say. In their report, Yevgeny Minchenko and Kirill Petrov from Minchenko Consulting argue that the motivation behind this rivalry is that potentially a prime minister would replace Putin in the event of unfavorable developments.
This race to find a successor has resumed, with only two participants so far, Dmitry Medvedev and his deputy Dmitry Rogozin. There will be more – encouraged and supported by Putin.
It all started with Medvedev’s statement last November saying that the Kremlin is a river you can step into twice.
There are a few reasons why Medvedev may not be the favorite contender – mainly, the lack of support from voters and people in power, but also the vagueness of the prime minister’s political role.
The “resources” Medvedev has lost are passing to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. Sobyanin has established a good rapport with oil and gas companies and oligarchs. He also manages the second largest government in the country and controls huge finances. He enjoys the support of governors from the Ural regions. One of Sobyanin’s strategies could be an early mayoral election in 2013 or 2014 to show off his electoral potential, and then a transition to the post of prime minister.
‘Greedy knight’ Kudrin has fewer supporters but could head the government to take anti-crisis action.
Another figure who is competent in emergency situations is current Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. However, he has family connections with former President Boris Yeltsin and Buddhist roots, which would not go down well with the Orthodox Christian majority.
His rival on defense issues, Dmitry Rogozin, has less influence but does have proven experience in public policy.
Shoigu and Rogozin are both popular political figures. It could be that political analysts are paying closer attention to them because of their recent appointments. Judging from Putin’s surprise tactics, it is far too early to place bets.
Notably, Kudrin is the only candidate representing the liberal movement. Igor Yurgens, member of the Committee for Civic Initiatives (started by the ex-minister), says all the rivals are quite experienced politicians, however, speculation over a “successor” in a democratic society sounds really odd.
The prime minister’s press secretary, Natalya Timakova, calls the experts and anonymous observers “fortunetellers.” It is the president’s job to evaluate the performance of the government, she says.
Dmitry Orlov of United Russia’s Supreme Council, stresses that while Putin has not ruled out running for president in 2018, it is too early to propose a successor. Medvedev’s influence is very low compared to his time as president. He cannot be seen as a leading candidate. There is also a small chance that Kudrin will return. Rogozin cannot be considered an active player, Orlov adds.
Russia Provides Controversial Loan to Tax Haven
The next president of Cyprus will have to deal with the strict requirements of European financial aid, as well as the restructuring of a €2.5 billion Russian loan which was provided under strange circumstances.
Center-right leader Nicos Anastasiades appears to be the clear front runner after the first round of voting in the presidential election last Sunday.
In December 2011, Russia and Cyprus signed a loan agreement, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told the media. According to Cypriot Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou, the country’s cabinet has approved the raising of a €2.5 billion for a period of 4.5 years at a rate of 4.5 percent per annum. These are very favorable terms for a country whose credit rating has been cut to “junk status” and which stands practically no chance of borrowing on the open market.
Of course Russia’s rationale for this loan did not include potential support for its Cyrus-registered businesses. According to the Russian Finance Ministry, the loan was issued for the restoration of the Vasilikos local power plant, damaged by an explosion in 2011, and for the construction of a second generating unit.
On the other hand, the Cypriot media said the restoration costs would be fully covered by the plant’s insurance. It remains unclear why additional financing from Russia was required to repair the plant.
Officials in Cyprus also said they would repay the loan ahead of time, which sounded stranger still given its dwindling credit scores. But Moscow quickly forgot about these pledges and is ready to consider a deferral until 2021.
Officially, Russia’s Audit Chamber was to oversee the spending of the loan. The agency said Chairman Sergei Stepashin met with Auditor General Chrystalla Georghadji on June 21 to discuss the possibility of a joint inspection. Incidentally, the restoration of the power plant was not even mentioned. The Audit Chamber statement describes the purpose of the loan as vaguely as possible – “for meeting socioeconomic goals.”
“It was established that the money has been spent in accordance with the terms and conditions of the loan,” the Audit Chamber said in its conclusion. No further inspections were recommended.
Some of the analysts interviewed by NG do not find the situation unusual. “The insurable event was questionable and it could have taken years to negotiate with the insurance company,” said the head of investment division at Solid company, Mikhail Korolyuk. The damaged power plant supplied 60 percent of the electricity in Cyprus.
Alpari analyst Mikhail Krylov believes Cyprus will be repaying part of the Russian loan with its insurance compensation provided by Atlantic Insurance. He also said Cyprus could also save on loan interest because Atlantic will conduct the restoration works according to the insurance policy terms. “The restoration of the island’s energy system will positively influence future decisions with regard to Cyprus,” he said.
RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.
Add to blog
You may place this material on your blog by copying the link.
Image Galleries: Classic Car Rally in St. Petersburg
Infographics: Global Warming: Predicting Future Disasters
Cartoons: Polar Explorer Day
The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.