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Siberian Forests Shrinking Due to Strong China Timber Demand

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Legal and illegal logging by Chinese companies in Russia’s Siberia is destroying the vast region’s forests, RFE/RL writes in a recent article.  

According to the report, a “war” is going on between locals trying to protect the Siberian snow forest, the taiga, and illegal loggers who are selling trees in China. The taiga is an ecosystem characterized by coniferous trees such as spruces, larches, and pines.

Most of the illegal loggers are Chinese, the report says. Lyudmila Mysak, a resident of Paspaul village in southern Siberia, said: “It seems that they [Chinese] are selling our homeland, along with the land, the forest, us.”

Antonina Raspayeva, a resident of Kebezeni village in southern Siberia, witnessed trees being cut down. “I just cried when I saw it all…I have a lump in my throat,” she told the news outlet.

Ivan Dek, a resident of Verkh-Biysk, southern Siberia, said locals have reported the problem to Russian prosecutors, but to no avail.

In a 2012 report on the outlook of Russia’s forest sector, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that Russia had a forest area of about 1.18 billion hectares (about 2.9 billion acres) at the beginning of 2010, which accounted for over 20 percent of the world’s forests. At the time of the report’s release, the Russian forest sector—which processes timber such as pine, larch, birch, and oak trees—accounted for only 1.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The underdeveloped industry has given rise to illegal logging, due to lucrative financial incentives: An illegal logger could profit about 6,000 rubles (about $90) from cutting down a pine tree, for example, but a legal logger would earn about 10 times less.  

There is a real fear among Russian citizens that the Chinese could cut down all of Siberia’s forests, according to the Carnegie Moscow Center, a regional affiliate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace based in Washington. The fear has prompted thousands of locals in Siberia’s Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk regions to sign petitions seeking a ban on Russian timber exports to China.

Illegal loggers aren’t all Chinese, according to the Carnegie article, as Chinese companies often hire Russian locals to carry out illegal logging. Some illegal logging is carried out in remote locations that are hard to monitor by Russian authorities, and in other instances, loggers take advantage of the fact that forest rangers are short-staffed due to lack of funding and can’t sufficiently patrol forest areas.

Corruption among border patrol officials has also made the illegal timber trade difficult to quash. According to the Carnegie article, illegally cut timber can easily be cleared through Russian border customs. Loggers often bribe officials for fabricated paperwork that allows them to fell old-growth pine trees in protected areas.

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Moscow Shrugs Off Calls of US Nominee for UN Ambassador to up Pressure on Russia

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Moscow is not paying attention to statements made by Kelly Craft, a candidate for the post of the US ambassador to the United Nations, that the pressure on Russia must be increased, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Thursday.

“This is not surprising,” Ryabkov said. “Perhaps present-day Washington is not picking up other candidates for this post. But we are used to such signals and are not paying any attention to them.”

Speaking earlier in the week at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s session, Craft announced that Russia was not a friend for the United States and Washington would continue building up its pressure on Moscow.

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Kyrgyz Parliament Votes to Strip Former President of Immunity

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Kyrgyzstan’s parliament has upheld a parliamentary commission’s regulation stripping the country’s former President Almazbek Atambayev of immunity, a parliamentary source told TASS.

“The lawmakers have supported the special commission’s decision that ex-President Atambayev be stripped of immunity,” the source said, adding that 95 out of the 100 legislators present at the parliament meeting had voted in favor of the move, while five had voted against it.

However, according to the source, the president won’t be immediately stripped of immunity. “Under the law, the process will be completed only after the Prosecutor General’s Office issues a positive assessment on the matter and the lawmakers approve it, so there will be another vote,” the source pointed out.

The commission on stripping the former president of immunity, established on June 13, includes members of all six parliamentary factions. Parliament members are supposed to complete the process within three months, otherwise the accusations will be considered abandoned.

The former president is particularly suspected of being involved in corruption schemes related to the reconstruction of Bishkek’s thermal power plant and Historical Museum, the unlawful release of crime boss Aziz Batukayev and illegal deliveries of coal to Bishkek’s thermal power plants, as well as in reassigning plots of land in the country’s Issyk-Kul Region and illegally obtaining a plot of land to build a residential house in the Koi-Tash settlement, Chuy Region.

Atambayev served as Kyrgyz president in 2011-2017.

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Russia Welcomes Idea for Persian Gulf Countries to Sign Non-Aggression Pact

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Russia considers as interesting and productive Iran’s proposal for Persian Gulf countries to sign a non-aggression pact, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Thursday.

“We have perceived with interest the recent proposal by Iranian Foreign Minister Mr. [Javad] Zarif that Persian Gulf countries should sign a non-aggression pact. This is also a productive idea,” the senior Russian diplomat said.

Zarif earlier stated that Tehran was seeking to establish balanced relations with Persian Gulf countries and was ready to sign a non-aggression pact with them.

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