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China takes aim at extravagance in military spending
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 24, 2013


Russian sailors freed on bail in Nigeria, trial date set
Lagos (AFP) Feb 25, 2013 - A Nigerian court granted bail Monday to 15 Russian seamen detained since October over alleged illegal possession of arms and set the trial for April 10.

Lagos high court judge Okechukwu Okeke said the crew of the MV Myre Seadiver should be released following a written commitment by the Russian ambassador in Nigeria to produce the suspects on demand.

The court also ordered that the vessel be released after the payment of a bond in the sum of $500,000.

Defence lawyer Chidi Okafor said his clients were innocent and the ship was contracted to provide security to vessels off the region, which sees repeated pirate attacks.

He said permission was also sought and secured before the vessel entered Nigeria's territorial waters.

"Contrary to misinformation, the Russians did not enter Nigeria illegally and did not import any arms," Okafor told AFP.

"The ship in question is a security vessel providing security to merchant vessels in the high seas because of the rising cases of piracy and kidnapping."

The MV Myre Seadiver was seized on October 19 off the coast of Lagos by a naval patrol which also detained its 15 crew members.

Weapons found on the vessel included 14 AK-47 rifles with 3,643 rounds of ammunition as well as 22 Benelli MR1 rifles with 4,955 rounds of ammunition.

The intended destination or planned use of the arms was not clear.

In December, Russia's foreign ministry said it had reached a deal to secure the release of the sailors, explaining that Nigeria had agreed to drop the case to preserve cordial relations between the two nations.

That pact, if it ever existed, appears to have been sidelined.

The vessel reportedly belonged to the Moscow-based Moran Group and was flying a Dutch island flag at the time of its seizure.

Piracy and kidnapping are common off Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer and most populous nation.

China's military has introduced new rules to combat "extravagance and waste" in spending, state media said Sunday, as the country's new leaders stress austerity to fight official corruption.

New Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, approved the rules which aim to promote austerity and control expenditure, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Xi, who is set to become president next month, has repeatedly pledged to fight graft amid rising social discontent at government corruption and political scandals that have tarnished the ruling party.

The new rules require strict control of spending on non-essential infrastructure, procurement and official receptions, Xinhua said.

The military must "resolutely prevent redundant construction, the craving for things big and foreign, extravagance and waste", it said.

Spending should be directed towards the military's core mission, including being able to fight and win a battle, Xinhua said, repeating a slogan which has been described by state media as a key goal for this year.

China is due to announce its annual military budget in early March at a meeting of the National People's Congress, the country's legislature.

Last year it projected the military budget would rise 11.2 percent year-on-year to $106 billion, an increase that has caused unease among Asian neighbours including Japan, which is locked in a territorial dispute with China.

In December the military banned high-ranking officers from being treated to receptions featuring expensive liquor and luxury banquets, in line with similar rules for party officials.

Those rules also called on military officers to prevent family members and associates from accepting bribes.

A corruption watchdog, Transparency International, said last month that China's military is battling a major corruption problem, with little political oversight and no whistleblower mechanism to counter graft.

One of the major problems was the absence of private military defence contractors, meaning less scope for competition, the Berlin-based group said.

It claimed thousands of military-linked enterprises in China were engaged in profit-oriented business.

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