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India PM leaves for Russia, China
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Oct 20, 2013


Kremlin hits back at 'golden pistols' corruption claim
Moscow (AFP) Oct 19, 2013 - Russia's deputy prime minister on Saturday demanded an apology from protest leader and top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after he alleged massive corruption in an arms procurement deal.

The chief critic of President Vladimir Putin claimed Friday in his corruption-busting blog that the defence ministry had announced a tender to buy Glock pistols at a price he called four times the market rate.

The ministry procurement agency was set to buy "ordinary pistols for the price of gold ones," he wrote.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defence sector, on Saturday demanded an apology.

He denied the allegations, writing on his official Twitter account that: "Navalny will have to apologise."

Rogozin's response was a rare acknowledgement by the government of the existence of Navalny, who cemented his reputation by speaking at protest rallies against Putin's return to the Kremlin.

Putin never refers by name to the charismatic 37-year-old lawyer who coined the slogan "Putin is a thief."

Navalny has published online exposes of official corruption that have forced several lawmakers to stand down.

Russia's defence ministry has been rocked by highly damaging corruption scandals, with Putin firing the previous defence minister amid a probe into a huge illegal property scheme.

Navalny called for Rogozin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to investigate the Glock tender.

He also questioned Rogozin's position, mentioning that Rogozin's son used to hold a senior post in a company selling Glock pistols in Russia.

"I have been consistently putting order in the arms sector and will not give anyone a reason to doubt my personal integrity," Rogozin wrote on Twitter.

He said he had ordered a check into the tender before Navalny published the claim.

He added that his son had left his post because of such "idiotic questions" and that he and his family had no shares in the company.

Navalny last month came second in Moscow mayoral polls against an incumbent close to Putin, despite facing the threat of a jail in a long-running trial.

The protest leader returned to Moscow a free man last week after a court in the northern Kirov region suspended his five-year penal colony sentence in a fraud case.

But the court upheld his conviction for embezzlement over the sale of state-owned timber, and the sentence still bars him from standing for political office.

Rogozin referred contemptuously to Navalny's conviction, saying: "As for Navalny, he needs to work on his wood-related problems. I on the other hand look after my reputation."

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left Sunday for a four-day trip to Russia and China aimed at strengthening trade ties and addressing a festering border dispute with Beijing.

The prime minister will also look to secure energy, defence and other economic deals in both countries.

In a statement before leaving India, the 81-year-old spoke of the longstanding defence and trade ties with Russia.

"The scope of our relationship with Russia is unique, encompassing strong and growing cooperation in areas such as defence, nuclear energy, science and technology, hydrocarbons, trade and investment," he said in a statement.

Singh added he would try to address "areas of concern" during his visit to Beijing.

"India and China have historical issues and there are areas of concern," he said, adding they would not affect "the overall atmosphere of friendship and cooperation".

India seeks a breakthrough in a border row with China that has soured relations for decades, after the leaders of the two Asian giants pledged earlier this year to build trust.

Singh will meet President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday with the focus on arms purchases.

India, which is spending billions of dollars upgrading its military, has been Russia's top weapons buyer for years.

Both countries will also be looking to seal accords on the next phase of a Russian-built nuclear power project on India's south coast.

The project is designed to help meet India's surging demand for electricity, but has been dogged by delays and protests over safety.

Singh will head to China on Tuesday looking to forge closer economic ties and ink a pact to ease tension along their disputed border in a remote Himalayan region, following a flare-up in April.

India accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles) into Indian-held territory, sparking a three-week standoff that was only resolved when troops from both sides eventually pulled back.

China and India fought a brief war in 1962 and the border between the two nations has never been properly demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace.

Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang will hold talks Wednesday on the issue, after both pledged to resolve the dispute during Li's visit to India in May.

Singh will also seek progress on closing the trade gap, including through increased Chinese investment through Chinese industrial parks in India.

China is India's biggest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling $67.83 billion last fiscal year, up from $2.1 billion in 2001-02.

But India's trade deficit with its neighbour soared to $40.77 billion last year from just $1.08 billion in 2001-02, Indian figures show.

Singh said the world's two most populous countries have a "growing congruence of regional, global and economic interests".

"The list of areas of our bilateral cooperation is impressive -- trade, investment, infrastructure, trans-border rivers, energy, agriculture, science and technology... we hope to take forward our engagement in many of these areas during my visit," he added.

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SUPERPOWERS
Kremlin hits back at 'golden pistols' corruption claim
Moscow (AFP) Oct 19, 2013
Russia's deputy prime minister on Saturday demanded an apology from protest leader and top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after he alleged massive corruption in an arms procurement deal. The chief critic of President Vladimir Putin claimed Friday in his corruption-busting blog that the defence ministry had announced a tender to buy Glock pistols at a price he called four times the market rate ... read more


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