Russia’s Hurdles For People With Disabilities

Russia ready to send military observers to Syria

The top executives of both countries state train operators inaugurated a route today that links the North Korean port city of Rajin with the Russian border town of Khasan. Initially, the 54-kilometer (33-mile) line will transport Russian coal to markets in the Asia-Pacific region, OAO Russian Railways Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Yakunin said at the ceremony in Rajin. The second phase of the project will involve the construction of a container-handling facility and potentially an oil terminal at the North Korean site, he said. Our common objective is for this link and port to be a pilot scheme for the restoration of a single transport system in North and South Korea that would link the peninsula to countries that gravitate to this region, to Europe via Russia, Yakunin said. The CEO said he hopes the plan will help promote peace between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war following the conflict 1950-53 that divided the countries. The route is part of a larger project, dubbed the Iron Silk Road, that would connect Russia s Trans-Siberian Railway to South Korea via the North for an overland route cutting transportation costs to Europe. Success depends on improved ties between South Korea and its isolated Communist neighbor. Reunions Scrapped North Korea canceled plans today for reunions this week of families separated by the division of the peninsula, and accused South Korean leaders of throwing obstacles in the way of reconciliation. The North also put off talks on resuming tours by South Koreans to its Mount Geumgang resort after recent weeks of improved relations between the two sides. Kim Jong Uns regime accused the South of seeking confrontation, and threatened strong and decisive retaliation against any military provocation. The Khasan-Rajin rail link will carry 100,000 freight containers a year, the Norths official Korean Central News Agency reported in April 2012. The freight terminal at Rajin will be able to handle 4 million tons a year of coal, Yakunin said today, including shipments for OAO Mechel , Russias biggest supplier of the material for steelmakers. The new rail connection will promote the joint economic and transport development of the two countries and welfare of their peoples, North Korean Railways Minister Chon Kil-su said. To contact the reporter on this story: Ekaterina Shatalova in Rajin, North Korea , via eshatalova@bloomberg.net To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net More News:

The steps at the buildings entrance are fitted with narrow metal rails for wheelchairs, ubiquitous in buildings and pedestrian underpasses across Russia, but the rails are too steep for Maria to use. The six month countdown is underway to the March 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. The Paralympics are an opportunity for hundreds of athletes with disabilities to compete in five winter sports, including alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey, and wheelchair curling. But as Russia prepares for plaudits over hosting the Paralympics, it is important to underscore the profound obstacles faced by the millions of people with disabilities living in the country today. In Sochi I visited some of the venues where several of the Paralympic competitions will take place. I toured buildings with gently sloping ramps and elevators to make entrances easily accessible; lowered shower knobs and clothing hooks in the athletes dressing rooms; contrasting paint lining doorways for people with low vision; and elevator buttons with Braille. All in all it felt like a lot of effort had gone into making sure Paralympic athletes and other visitors with disabilities would feel welcome in the Olympic Park. The government has also made efforts to extend this hospitality in the city of Sochi itself, promising hundreds of accessible buildings, buses and transportation hubs. In a February 2013 meeting with Human Rights Watch, one official told us that Sochi can be a model city for Russia in its efforts to promote social inclusion for people with disabilities. Seeing the Olympic venues and learning about Russias ambitious accessibility plans left strong impressions, but Marias experience is telling of how Russia treats people with disabilities removed from the public eye. The number of retrofitted buildings and accessible buses are not meaningful if people living with disabilities in Sochi cannot use these services, in the absence of basic rights such as accessible housing. Marias situation is unfortunately not unusual in Russia, which is home to at least 13 million people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities Human Rights Watch interviewed in Sochi and other cities said that they arent able to get out of their homes or use public transportation. As a result, they find themselves unable to do many or all of the most fundamental tasks of daily life that most people take for granted: getting an education, going to work, visiting the doctor, or socializing with friends. When people we met have sought assistance in being relocated or getting the physical accommodations they need for their homes, as mandated by their state medical documents, the government failed to act on their requests.

However, the Russian official said his country is not considering sending a full military contingent. Under a US-Russian plan, Syria is to give up its chemical weapons. Security is one of the plan’s major challenges, including how to prevent theft of the weapons. In an interview broadcast on Sunday on state TV’s Channel One, Lavrov said Russia has proposed that there be an international presence on the perimeter of all areas where chemical weapons experts will work in Syria. “We are ready to share our servicemen and military police to participate in these forces,” but “it seems to me that military observers will be sufficient,” he said. Although Russia and the US worked together on the chemical weapons plan, Washington and Moscow remain at odds over several aspects of the Syrian crisis. The United States, along with France, have sought a UN security council resolution that would authorize the use of force, if Syria reneges on the chemical weapons agreement, but Russia opposes invoking the UN charter’s Chapter 7 which would allow force. Lavrov criticized what he called “impudent” attempts by the west to include that chapter in the resolution. The minister said the west is unable to admit that previous military interventions, such as in Iraq and Libya, led to severe problems. “They are primarily interested in the evidence of their own superiority . And is not the task that drives us to solve the problem of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said. Mortar lands inside Russian mission A mortar round landed inside the Russian embassy compound in Damascus on Sunday, state media said. Russia is a leading backer of Syria’s President Bashar Assad and rebels fighting to topple his regime have previously targeted the diplomatic mission in Damascus with rockets and mortars.

Russia’s Putin says Syria violence could hit ex-Soviet bloc

“The militant groups (in Syria) did not come out of nowhere, and they will not vanish into thin air,” Putin said. “The problem of terrorism spilling from one country to another is absolutely real and could directly affect the interests of any one of our countries,” he said, citing the deadly attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi as an example. “We are now witnessing a terrible tragedy unfold in Kenya. The militants came from another country, as far as we can judge, and are committing horrendous, bloody crimes,” Putin said at a CSTO summit in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi. His words appeared to be a warning about violence spreading from both Syria and Afghanistan, which shares a long border with CSTO member Tajikistan in Central Asia. BORDER ASSISTANCE Reiterating concerns violence could spread to former Soviet Central Asia and Russia after the pullout of most foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, he said CSTO nations agreed to draft a plan to protect the border. “We will provide additional collective assistance to Tajikistan to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan state border,” Putin said. He gave no details. Russian border guards used to patrol the Tajik frontier with Afghanistan but left in 2005. The CSTO security alliance also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus. Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan all have mostly Muslim populations. Central Asian states Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, neither members of CSTO, also have frontiers with Afghanistan. Russian officials have expressed concern that Russian-born militants fighting in Syria could return to Russia’s North Caucasus and join an insurgency that claims lives almost daily. Russia has been one of Syria’s strongest backers in a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people since it began in March 2011, delivering arms to Assad’s forces and joining China in blocking Western-backed initiatives in the U.N. Security Council.