Pages: 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 ... 10
 31 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:54 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Syrian Kurdish fighters halt Islamic State advance near Kobani

Isis’s latest attempt to take predominantly Kurdish town close to Turkey repelled with aid of Kurds crossing the border

Reuters in Beirut
The Guardian, Monday 22 September 2014 11.34 BST   

Syrian Kurdish fighters have halted an advance by Islamic State (Isis) fighters to the east of a predominantly Kurdish town near the border with Turkey, a spokesman for the main armed Kurdish group said.

“Fierce clashes are still under way but the Isis advance to the east of Kobani has been halted since last night,” Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG said via Skype.

He said the eastern front was the scene of the fiercest fighting in the offensive launched by Isis last Tuesday on Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. More than 100,000 Syrian Kurds have fled its advance, many crossing the border into Turkey.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the Syrian war, said Isis fighters had made no significant advance in the past 24 hours.

The offensive is Isis’s second attempt to take Kobani since June, when it staged a lightning advance across northern Iraq, seizing the city of Mosul and with it Iraqi weapons including US-made hardware that the Syrian Kurds say is being used against them.

The previous attack on Kobani, in July, was fought off with the help of Kurds who crossed the border from Turkey. Xelil said hundreds had crossed the border again to help repel the current offensive.

“There have been no reinforcements apart from some Kurdish youths from Turkey,” he said.

The US has launched air strikes against Isis in Iraq and has said it would not hesitate to attack the group in Syria, but wants allies to join its campaign.

The United Nations said on Sunday the number of Syrian Kurds who had fled into neighbouring Turkey might have topped 100,000 and was likely to go much higher.

“There are still clashes to the west and south of Kobani but not at the same intensity as the eastern front,” Xelil said.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said Isis had made “no progress worth mentioning” in the past 24 hours, but that clashes were “at their most intense“.

There were conflicting accounts of how far Isis fighters were from Kobani. Xelil said they were 12-19 miles (20-30 km) away, while Abdulrahman said they were about half that distance from the town.

 32 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:52 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Jihadists Urge Killing of Citizens from U.S.-Led Coalition

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 September 2014, 10:40

The Islamic State group called on Muslims to kill citizens of all countries taking part in the U.S.-led anti-jihadist coalition by any available means, in a statement posted online Monday.

"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European -- especially the spiteful and filthy French -- or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever... including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him," said Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group's spokesman.

"Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military," he said in the message, which was released in multiple languages.

The United States and France are carrying out air strikes against IS targets across Iraq and seeking to build an international coalition against a group increasingly perceived as a global threat.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that more than 50 countries have come forward with commitments as part of the coalition, including Egypt and other Arab states.

The jihadist group, which has declared a "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria, controls swathes of territory in both countries.

IS has executed hundreds of Iraqis and Syrians, as well as foreign hostages, and its brutal campaign has forced more than a million people from their homes.

Adnani's message -- which was released in an Arabic audio recording and transcripts in other languages including English -- gave instructions on how the killings could be carried out without military equipment, using rocks or knives, or by running people over.

The hundreds of foreigners from various Western countries fighting alongside IS have sparked fears that they could return home to carry out attacks.

On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned that any of its citizens "who fight with terrorist groups... will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for a very long time."

Adnani praised militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, calling on them to "cut the throats" of those fighting for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and saying Tunisians should follow their example.

He criticized Yemen for allowing Shiite Huthi rebels to enter the capital Sanaa, asking: "Is there not in Yemen a person who will take revenge for us (on) the Huthis?"

And he called on Muslims in Libya to unite, saying that "your division is from Satan."

"We are in a new era, an era where the (Islamic) State, its soldiers, and its sons are leaders, not slaves," Adnani said.

"We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted."

He also mocked the U.S. air campaign, saying that "the battle cannot be decided from the air".

"Are America and all its allies from amongst the crusaders and atheists unable to come down to the ground?"

Addressing U.S. President Barack Obama, Adnani said: "You claimed... that America would not be drawn to a war on the ground. No, it will be drawn and dragged. It will come down to the ground and it will be led to its death, grave, and destruction."

 33 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:50 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Obama to Lead U.N. Effort to Halt Movement of Terror Recruits

By ERIC SCHMITT and SOMINI SENGUPTA
SEPT. 21, 2014
IHT

WASHINGTON — President Obama will preside this week over an unusual meeting of the United Nations Security Council poised to adopt a binding resolution that would compel all countries to put in place domestic laws to prosecute those who travel abroad to join terrorist organizations and those who help them, including by raising funds.

The resolution, proposed by the United States, would also for the first time establish international standards for nations to prevent and suppress the recruiting of their citizens by terrorist organizations, and bar the entry and transit across their territory of suspected foreign terrorists.

Already, several European countries and other nations are putting new laws and administrative rules in place, although the extent to which each state enforces these provisions, experts say, will no doubt be balanced with their own policies and priorities.

Counterterrorism officials say the weight of a Security Council resolution could strengthen and unify the legal and political framework to help stem the flow of fighters to conflicts like those in Syria and Iraq, and help address the longer-term threat of battle-hardened Westerners, including Americans, returning to carry out attacks in their home countries.

“It’s an agreement that sends a strong signal to everyone working in this field that we take this issue very, very seriously,” Dick Schoof, the Dutch national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, said in a telephone interview on Sunday. He said 140 Dutch citizens had gone to fight in Syria.

American intelligence officials say 15,000 foreign fighters are now in Iraq and Syria; they are from 80 countries and include more than 2,000 Europeans and 100 Americans.

The resolution is due to be taken up Wednesday afternoon at a meeting led by Mr. Obama and attended by more than a dozen heads of state. Diplomats said there is wide support for the measure, and it is expected to pass.

It would require states to criminalize attempts to travel abroad to join a terrorist organization and to prevent suspected foreign terrorists from entering or traveling through their territory. It would also compel states to require airlines operating in their territory to share passenger lists and for states to share information about such suspects.

The resolution is under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which means that it is legally binding, though nothing in this measure calls for military action. If passed, the resolution would be difficult to enforce.

The text calls on a United Nations panel responsible for monitoring compliance with sanctions against Al Qaeda to investigate where member states fall short in responding to foreign fighters. It also leaves open the possibility of imposing sanctions on those who finance or facilitate the travel of foreign fighters under the Qaeda sanctions list.

Simply traveling to Syria or Iraq to join an extremist group is not a crime in many countries, though committing specific crimes — like murder — is covered by domestic law, and crimes like torture are prohibited by international law, requiring countries to try their own citizens suspected of atrocities.

“The resolution relies a lot on states to implement the provisions in the spirit of the text, as there are few guidelines and no enforcement measures,” said Richard Barrett, former coordinator of the United Nations Al Qaeda and Taliban monitoring team, and a vice president at the Soufan Group, a security consultancy in New York. “Not only will implementation be difficult, but so too will monitoring implementation.”

The resolution puts pressure on some of the United States’ most vital allies in the region. Turkey is being asked to monitor its nearly 800 miles of borders with Syria and Iraq, which have been freely used by militants joining a variety of rebel groups fighting the governments of both countries, including the Islamic State, alternately known as ISIS.

Other allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are under the spotlight for allowing clerics and others to support and raise money for extremist groups. At the same time, some countries in the region have raised concerns about an international effort solely focused on the Islamic State and the prospect of detracting attention from a rival in the region: the government of Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which they say has fueled the rise of terrorist groups. One Western ally told American diplomats last week that it would be exceedingly difficult for them to prosecute their citizens for attending fund-raisers.

But with the resolution, “there will be a legal basis to act,” said a senior European official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of his country’s protocols. “It will also force countries to update their legal underpinnings to prosecute violators.”

The official noted that for some countries, it will be more politically palatable to follow a Security Council resolution on foreign fighters than the urgings of the United States.

The United States heads the Security Council during this year’s session of the General Assembly. The fact that Mr. Obama will preside over a special session on foreign fighters underscores the importance the administration places on the issue and, more broadly, on the president’s strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State.

“The problem of terrorists traveling to foreign conflicts is not new, but the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters has become even more acute,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “The Internet and social media have given terrorist groups unprecedented new ways to promote their hateful ideology and inspire recruits.”

This will be only the second time an American president has led a session of the Security Council. In September 2009, Mr. Obama was chairman of a Council session on nonproliferation.

The draft resolution sidesteps the contentious issue of what is a terrorist organization. It leaves to each state to decide for itself. The United States considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization; many other countries do not. The Security Council has already designated Al Qaeda as a banned terrorist group; a landmark 2001 Council resolution prohibits fund-raising for it and assisting it and its affiliates. This new resolution cites the example of the Islamic State, but is not limited to it.

The new measure requires member states to “prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping of individuals who travel to a state other than their states of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts or the providing or receiving of terrorist training, and the financing of their travel and of their activities.” It also seeks to ensure that domestic laws can “prosecute” and “penalize” them.

It also calls on countries to step up efforts to prevent radicalization and put in place “rehabilitation and reintegration strategies for returning foreign fighters.”

In two days of meetings leading up to Wednesday’s session headed by Mr. Obama, counterterrorism officials are expected to approve a separate series of nonbinding “best practices” such as improved sharing of traveler information, increased law enforcement collaboration and pledges to deny terrorists the benefits of ransoms for hostages.

Many of the initiatives to be discussed this week have been promoted by the Global Counterterrorism Forum, an organization of 29 countries and the European Union created three years ago with the State Department’s support to act as a clearinghouse of ideas and actions for civilian counterterrorism specialists.

The forum has inspired the creation of a global center in Abu Dhabi and a Geneva-based $200 million fund, both to combat violent extremism; as well as a new center in Malta to train justice sector officials from Africa and the Middle East in terrorism-related activities.

 34 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:47 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Promises of Greater Home Rule for Scots Turn Contentious

By STEPHEN CASTLE
SEPT. 21, 2014
IHT

LONDON — When more home-rule powers were offered to Scotland in the heat of the country’s independence referendum campaign, the promises came with rare and unqualified support from the three main British political parties, all desperate to avert a Scottish breakaway.

But soon after the Scots voted Thursday against separation from the United Kingdom, consensus gave way to confusion as politicians bickered over how to carry out the plan, and Scotland’s pro-independence first minister, Alex Salmond, claimed that Scottish voters had been “tricked” into voting no.

Officially, the main British parties say they will meet their promise to give greater powers, including those related to income tax, to the Scottish Parliament, which already controls policy on issues such as education and health. There could be “no ifs, no buts,” said Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, which opened its annual conference in Manchester on Sunday.

Yet the plan is politically contentious, with the Labour Party fearing that it faces a trap over what has become known as the “English question.”

The sticking point is whether granting more powers to Scotland should be linked to offsetting moves that would strengthen the power of English legislators over laws that affect only England. That idea has been proposed by the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron. But the plan would inevitably hurt Labour, which is strong in Scotland.

As they work on the details of the constitutional change they promised, politicians are confronting the ramifications for the rest of the country, which has an unwritten, ramshackle constitution.

England is the dominant part of the United Kingdom, economically and in terms of population, yet the English have usually resisted efforts to build up powerful regional parliaments, preferring to be governed from Westminster.

Scotland currently has a privileged position because, in addition to having its own parliament in Edinburgh, it elects 59 lawmakers to the Westminster Parliament who can vote on all laws, even those that apply just to England.

The Conservative Party wants to stop the Scottish lawmakers from having a say on matters that affect only the English.

For Mr. Cameron, that change would offer a political advantage because his party holds just one of Scotland’s 59 seats.

The Labour Party holds 41 of those seats and would see its power diminished if the lawmakers that Scots elect to the Westminster Parliament lose some voting rights there.

Mr. Miliband wants to move ahead with more self-rule for Scotland before confronting what to do about England. He has suggested a constitutional convention, which would consider all the issues and begin work next year. His party is likely to prefer a less dramatic change, perhaps allowing only English lawmakers on committees reviewing legislation that affects just England, but permitting all deputies, including Scots, to vote.

On Sunday, Mr. Miliband said that he did not want “to play fast and loose” with the constitution, adding that there was no “simple answer” to the issues raised by the aftermath of Scotland’s fractious referendum.

But an ally of Mr. Cameron’s in Parliament, Michael Gove, told The Times of London on Saturday that it would be “impossible” to give further control to Scotland without addressing the role of Scottish members of Parliament at Westminster.

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, said some English voters would be furious if they did not get the same powers as those being proposed for Scots. Some Conservative lawmakers have even suggested creating a first minister for England. And the party is worried because it faces competition from the right, in the populist U.K. Independence Party, which could benefit from any English backlash.

Mr. Salmond, who has announced that he will step down as Scotland’s first minister, seized on the confusion Sunday.

“I’m actually not surprised at the cavilling and reneging on the commitments. I’m only surprised by the speed at which they’re doing it,” he told the BBC program "Sunday Politics.” “It’s the people who were persuaded to vote no who are misled, who are gulled, who are tricked effectively.”

 35 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:43 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Nicolas Sarkozy sets out comeback plans for France's UMP party on TV

Former president says he wants to get his 'political family back to work' after announcing he will return to frontline politics

Kim Willsher in Paris
theguardian.com, Sunday 21 September 2014 22.45 BST      

The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was given a prime-time television news slot to explain his plans after announcing his return to frontline politics. Sarkozy set out his platform for the race to head the opposition UMP party, which will hold a hotly contested leadership vote in November.

For Sarkozy: The Return Part II, he was given 45 minutes to reintroduce himself to the French public.

If viewers had expected a changed, wiser and less confrontational Sarko, they were to be disappointed. Asking the presenter – twice – if he imagined that the former French leader had "just two brain cells", Sarkozy launched into a vigorous defence of his five years in power and a vehement attack on the state of France and the current Socialist government.

Saying he had "perhaps less energy, but more wisdom", Sarkozy explained that he felt duty-bound to return not through personal ambition, but because of the "lack of hope, the anger and the absence of vision" that François Hollande's government had imposed on his compatriots.

Accusing Hollande of "a litany of lies" during the 2012 presidential campaign, which he said he had "lost … but by very little", he repeatedly said he was not there to attack Hollande – but then did.

"I'm not going to caricature him [Hollande], because there's already too much violence in our country. His actions speak for themselves. In two years, he has demolished what we did only because we did it," Sarkozy said. "I don't want to argue with Mr Hollande. He thinks bad things of me; I think nothing of him."

Sarkozy had said he would not speak about the 2017 presidential election; he is ostensibly returning to politics to challenge former colleagues for the post of president of the centre-right UMP opposition party. However, Sarkozy mentioned the UMP only once, confirming the general belief that, if elected to head the party, he will use the post as a springboard for the 2017 vote.

Asked about his rivals in the UMP leadership race, Alain Juppé and François Fillon, both former prime ministers, Sarkozy said he knew them both well and would "need" them in future, giving the impression the choice of UMP leader was already a fait accompli.

The man nicknamed "Super Sarko" for his frenetic, hyperactive personality became animated at the end of the interview when asked about the Socialist government's so-called "marriage for all" legislation that legalised same-sex unions and brought hundreds of thousands of mostly rightwing, traditional, Catholic protesters on to the streets of France. Sarkozy admitted that while he would not repeal the law, he "detested" the way it was introduced by Hollande's Socialist government, and accused the Socialists of "humiliating families and humiliating people who love the family".

A poll by CSA for the television chain BFMTV before the televised interview on Sunday evening found that six out of 10 French voters disapprove of his comeback.

In a newspaper interview after declaring his comeback on his Facebook page on Friday, Sarkozy told Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD): "It's a long march that's beginning."

He suggested he was a new man who had had time to "reflect" after his election defeat in 2012, but insisted he would say nothing of his plans to stand for president again in 2017. "I am without arrogance or a sense of revenge. I'm not announcing that I'm a candidate for the presidential elections. That's for later. The step today is to get my political family back to work."

Despite his protestations of apparent humility, Sarkozy, 59, said his announcement had eclipsed those of his UMP rivals. He told the JDD: "My audience on Facebook doubled that of Hollande's press conference, and in a single day I've gained more new friends than Juppé and Fillon put together," he said. "I've read that one third of people are interested in my return. That's still 20 million people. How many would Hollande, Juppé or Fillon get if the same question was asked of them?"

Sarkozy said he would "change the name of the party, put in place a new organisation, put in a new guard and attract party members and donors to balance the books".

The historian and writer Jean Garrigues, whose book Providential Men examines France's fascination with and quest for a great leader, told JDD Sarkozy's return had put the country into an "almost permanent presidential campaign". He warned this was destroying political parties that he said become "election machines" for candidates instead of generators of political ideas.

However, Garrigues admitted: "The French are very attached to this kind of republican monarchy. On the right we see the resurrection of the myth of the providential man, a kind of saviour who, in times of crisis, can resolve their problems. For some of those on the right who idolise Sarkozy, there is something sacred about him. This idea of the providential man, which goes back to Bonaparte, has always been rejected by the left."

The Socialist prime minister, Manuel Valls, said he had more important matters to deal with than the former president's return. "I'm responsible for the government of France, not the future of the UMP," he told journalists during an official visit on Saturday.

The centrist François Bayrou, whose support will be vital for the French right, said after Sarkozy's comeback announcement: "The questions is to know if men change. In general their basic nature does not change, but we will see. France needs a clear line and a strong will and she needs soothing. During the five years Nicolas Sarkozy was in power, the least we can say was that there was no strong line and soothing wasn't on the agenda."

Florian Philippot, vice president of the far-right Front National, said: "It's not even a return since we've the impression he never left … For me it's a non-event. It'll interest a tiny microcosm for a few days, but the majority of French are completely uninterested in this return."

An Ifop poll for the JDD claimed support for Hollande had dropped to just 13%, the lowest for any modern French president. At his lowest point, Sarkozy still had 28% popularity.

 36 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:41 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Climate change marches: Kerry cites fight against Ebola and Isis as thousands join protests

Worldwide day of protests comes on the eve of the first UN leaders’ summit on climate change in five years 

Suzanne Goldenberg and Lauren Gambino in New York, Damian Carrington and James Randerson in London, Karl Mathiesen in Paris and Oliver Milman in Melbourne
Monday 22 September 2014 08.03 BST

More than 300,000 marchers flooded the streets of New York on Sunday in the largest climate change march in history, vaulting the environmental threat to the top of the global agenda.

On a day of 2,700 simultaneous climate events from Melbourne to Manhattan, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, reinforced the calls from the streets for action by calling on world leaders to take the threat of climate change as seriously as Isis or Ebola.

Organisers had called the day of protests in order to put pressure on world leaders gathering in New York for a UN summit on climate change on Tuesday. It will be the leaders’ first such meeting in five years.

Kerry, in remarks to foreign ministers of the 20 biggest economies, said climate change should be at the top of the agenda despite competition from more immediate challenges.

“While we are confronting [Isis], and we are confronting terrorism and we are confronting Ebola, this also has an immediacy that people have come to understand,” he said. “There is a long list of important issues before all of us, but the grave threat that climate change poses warrants a prominent position on that list.”

Organisers claimed 570,000 people protested in 161 countries, from a handful of protesters in Aleppo, Syria, to the mega-march by 310,000 through New York City – three times as many as the 100,000 people organisers had expected, and easily overtaking the 80,000 who demonstrated for climate action in Copenhagen in 2009.

In Manhattan, the noisy, hopeful cavalcade of protesters – led by Hurricane Sandy survivors carrying placards of sunflowers and Native Americans in traditional headdresses – took over the streets of Midtown, juggling, singing, blowing synagogue shofars and conch shells, whistling and beating drums, with biodiesel-powered floats chugging along.

They hoisted a papier-mache representation of Mother Earth and a giant parachute emblazoned with monarch butterflies, and carried signs reading “Melt chocolate, not polar ice caps” and “May the forest be with you”.

Leonardo di Caprio marched with Mark Ruffalo; the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, marched with the former US vice-president Al Gore. At least three Democratic members of the Senate also joined.

“People are now much more aware in all our countries of how important this topic is,” said the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, who joined the march in Manhattan.

Upper West Side mothers pushed expensive strollers alongside protesters carrying signs reading “angry pacifists”.

“I think it will make a difference,” said Tashina Red Hawk, aged 10, who wore intricately beaded traditional Sioux Indian dress, and who lives on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. “But it would still be good to do all kinds of other stuff.”

She went on: “If you don’t take care of the land, it won’t take care of you.”
people's climate change march in new york From left: French foreign minister Laurent Fabius,

In London, organisers said 40,000 took to the sunlit streets and marched to the Houses of Parliament. The protest was peaceful, although loud jeers rose up as the crowd passed both Downing Street and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

In Melbourne, protesters paraded a giant puppet of the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott.

The People’s Climate March came two days before the US president, Barack Obama, and about 120 other world leaders gather for the UN meeting on climate change.

The challenge for those leaders is clear: left unchecked, the world is on course for a 4.5C temperature rise. “For us that means annihilation,” said Tony deBrum, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands.

Annual carbon dioxide emissions rose 2.5% over last year, a new study found at the weekend. At those rates, that means the global “carbon budget” – the amount governments can afford to emit without triggering catastrophic change – is likely to be used up within just 30 years.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week that June, July, and August were the hottest months on record and that 2014 was on course to break the record for hottest year, which was set in 2010.

But the agenda for Tuesday’s gathering is uncertain. The UN has said repeatedly the gathering is not a negotiation. That will take place in Lima in two months’ time, when diplomats will enter the final stretch of long and difficult negotiations aimed at reaching an international agreement to cut the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, by the time they meet in late 2015 in Paris.

The UN said it will use Tuesday’s gathering to press world leaders to do more: to cut more carbon and, for the rich countries, put up more cash to help poor countries cope with climate change.

DeBrum said countries such as his, on the frontline of climate change, needed to see concrete signs that leaders were prepared to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and put up the cash needed to help poor countries cope with climate change. He said he was disappointed that leaders of some of the biggest polluters – China, India, Canada, and Australia – would not be at the climate summit.

Those at Sunday’s protests said their show of force could help to get the leaders to act.

“You can’t get 200 people together and not have something get out of it. It’s going to be huge,” Ruffalo, a prominent supporter of environmental causes, told the Guardian. “I don’t know exactly the effect, but I promise you one, five, 10, 15 leaders are going to come out of it, and do something. Somebody is going to want to be a hero.”

The day started in Melbourne, where demonstrators carried their giant Abbott in protest at his repeal of the carbon price.

This time the usual call-and-response of “What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now” was revised to “10 years ago”, for a crowd that felt it had already fought this battle.

“I’m deeply concerned about my children’s future. They are the ones who will have to clean it up,” Victoria Marshall-Cerins said. “Australia is now dragging its heels. From one of the world’s leaders, we’re now going backwards. We’re embarrassing.”

In London, the campaign group Avaaz, which helped organise the event, said 40,000 people attended, although other estimates put the crowd at 27,000. A rally was held outside parliament, which the compere kicked off by asking the crowd: “Who’s sick of the ice receding faster than David Cameron’s hairline?”

The bishop of London, Richard Chartres, gave the first speech. “We are tenants, and we must keep the Earth fit for our children,” he said. “Climate change is a moral issue.”

The actor Emma Thompson also spoke: “Every single person on this Earth has the power to change the world. And when we all come together, our power becomes irresistible. Now we must use our power to tackle the biggest threat humanity has ever faced.”

Earlier, she told the Guardian: “Unless we’re carbon-free by 2030 the world is buggered.”

The designer Vivienne Westwood railed against capitalism in her address: “A triad of [fossil fuel] monopolies, banks and politicians are ruining the planet. If runaway climate change kicks in then within a generation there will be very little habitable on the planet and the suffering will be unimaginable.”

Alice Hooker-Stroud, a scientist from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, used the platform to argue that a zero-carbon Britain was attainable with existing energy technologies. “We have huge renewable energy resources in the UK,” she said. “Business as usual is not a possible future.”

In the crowd, Victoria Bamford, a 66-year old gardener from Wales, had left her home at 6am to reach the capital in time. “We are on a knife edge now in every way,” she said. She had noticed changes in the climate in her work.

“You cannot rely on the seasons any more, and plants are getting stressed and ill,” she said. “I’m no bloody expert, but we have to tackle the fossil fuel business, but I don’t think the government is doing anything.”

Nearby, 10-year-old Lauren [her mother declined to give her surname] from Oxford, was carrying a colourful homemade banner which declared: “Tick tock climate clock – stop climate change now.”

The gay rights activist Peter Tatchell told the Guardian: “Climate change is a global emergency – governments governments must act soon.”

Ben Phillips, the campaigns director of the charity Oxfam, explained why his organisation took part: “In the past five years alone, that’s since the last time leaders met to discuss climate change, 112,000 lives have been lost, 650 million people have been affected by climate-change related disasters and half a trillion dollars has been lost.”

He said the march was about keeping the pressure up on politicians. “If you ask the suffragettes, the civil rights movement or the India freedom movement just 10 years in, 20 years in, ‘what have you achieved?’, they’d say: ‘Well we’ll keep on fighting until we win’, and so will we.”

Numerous marchers wore costumes, including a polar bear and small herd of gazelles. One of the latter, Merlin from Brighton, said: “People are important, but animals are vital as well. We are here representing all the animals not here today.”

In Paris, organisers said 25,000 people attended – heavy with the knowledge that history would be made on climate, one way or another, in the city in a year’s time. Police put the attendance at 8,000.

An Avaaz campaigner, Pascal Vollenwieder, said the global action was designed to restore the sense of momentum at the beginning of a year-long campaign leading up to the Paris conference.

“This is just the starting point,” he said. “After Copenhagen, we had to show the people that there is still a climate movement.”

 37 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:35 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

‘Romanian Nuremberg’ trial for Communist labour camp commander

Alexandru Visinescu, 88, charged with crimes against humanity over conditions at brutal prison for Romanian political detainees

Agence France-Presse in Bucharest
The Guardian, Monday 22 September 2014 10.12 BST   

A trial that some have dubbed the “Romanian Nuremberg” opens on Wednesday in Bucharest, with the head of a brutal Communist-era labour camp charged with crimes against humanity.

Alexandru Visinescu, 88, is accused of running an “extermination regime” at the notorious Ramnicu Sarat prison in the east of the country, which he headed from 1956 to 1963.

“In his role as commandant, the accused … submitted the political detainees to conditions designed to destroy them physically, by depriving them of medical care, food and heating and inflicting abuse on them,” the indictment reads.

At least 14 inmates died during his tenure. Many more were left permanently traumatised or disfigured from the camp dubbed “the prison of silence” because detainees were held in solitary confinement and not allowed visitors.

Valentin Cristea, the only living survivor of the camp, remembers “the cold, the isolation, the hunger”.

Now 84, the former engineer was convicted in 1956 of “divulging state secrets” to an aunt who was a member of the anti-Communist resistance. He spent seven years at the camp.

“It was against the rules to approach the walls in case we used morse code to talk to each other,” he told AFP at his home in Campina, north of Bucharest. He said prisoners were also banned from sitting on their beds, except at night time, and even looking out of the window.

The widow of another detainee, General Ion Eremia who died in 2003, recalled the treatment of her husband who was sentenced to 14 years in prison and 25 years’ forced labour for writing a satirical novel about Stalin.

“One day in winter, he was forced to stand for several hours with bare feet in a bucket of ice water,” said Nicoleta Eremia.

“This burly man weighed no more than 30 kilos (70 pounds) and could barely walk when he came out of prison.”

Activists hope Visinescu’s trial will be the first of many, with prosecutors looking at 35 other former Communist officials.

“This trial is particularly important, because for the first time an instrument of communist terror will face justice,” said Radu Preda, head of the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMRE).

“Without hyperbole, this amounts to a Romanian Nuremberg,” he said, referring to the famous trials of Nazi leaders after the second world war.

Visinescu has said he is innocent and was only obeying orders. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

The trial comes a quarter century after the downfall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed, along with his wife Elena, on Christmas Day 1989, following an impromptu trial in which they were convicted of genocide.

Most Communist-era officials went unpunished. Although a few top leaders were also convicted of genocide, many of the charges were later reduced and they were released on health grounds.

But pressure has mounted for a true accounting of the regime’s crimes, which included the imprisonment of more than 600,000 dissidents from the late 1940s onward.

A first complaint by the IICCMRE in 2006 against 210 former prison guards was rejected by prosecutors.

But in 2013, new prosecutors indicated they were finally prepared to listen, accepting a fresh demand for Visinescu and others to go on trial.

Public response to the trial has been muted, amid nostalgia for the Communist era and disillusionment with the country’s entry into the European Union in 2007.

For many victims, any trials would come too late, since most of the accused are already in their eighties.

But historian Adrian Cioroianu says that what matters is “that these crimes are punished and that the truth is re-established”.

Preda also believes it is never too late to seek justice. “We must personalise evil, otherwise it risks becoming an abstraction,” he said.

Romania is an exception in central Europe, where Communist-era leaders have largely escaped punishment.

Former Polish strongman Wojciech Jaruzelski enjoyed a quiet retirement after the end of the cold war, while Bulgarian dictator Todov Jivkov was acquitted after a trial.

“This trial is necessary so that people discover the horrors which marked this epoch,” said Steluta Coposu, sister of Corneliu Coposu, a former detainee and member of the anti-Communist resistance, who died in 1995.

Visinescu’s trial is expected to last several months, possibly even years.

Health concerns could prove an obstacle. His lawyer, Dan Petre, told AFP he was concerned by his client’s “precarious physical and mental state”, a point that sources close to the case say could be used to argue for an acquittal.

 38 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:31 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Soldiers’ Graves Bear Witness to Russia’s Role in Ukraine

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ALEXANDRA ODYNOVA
SEPT. 21, 2014
IHT

SELIZOVO, Russia — In a far corner of a small cemetery outside this tiny village by the Oka River, a black flag proclaiming the military might of Russia’s tank forces ripples in the wind above the recently dug grave of Sgt. Vladislav A. Barakov. A photograph of the baby-faced soldier in full dress uniform sits propped against a wooden cross with a small plaque that says he died on Aug. 24. He was 21.

What the plaque does not say — and what no one wants to talk about — is how and where the young sergeant died: blown up in a tank while sent to fight in eastern Ukraine, where Russia’s leaders have denied any role other than as facilitators of peace.

Sergeant Barakov, who served in Russia’s Sixth Tank Brigade, was one of dozens — some say hundreds — of Russian soldiers killed in action this summer. Their bodies have been returned in recent weeks to loved ones who in many cases had no idea where they were sent to fight, have received little information about how they died and, in any event, are being pressured not to talk about it. Some families have even been threatened with losing any compensation if they do.

“We are just ordinary people,” Sergeant Barakov’s uncle, who declined to give his name, said in a clipped reply when asked for details of his nephew’s death. “You have more ways of finding out than we do.”

Much of the information about regular Russian troops in Ukraine has come from soldiers themselves — posting about their deployments on social media, as well as about the deaths of comrades fighting there.

Yet even as the Kremlin’s official line has crumbled, with at least three online databases charting Russian soldiers killed or wounded in Ukraine, efforts to sustain the cover-up have persisted.

On Thursday, a BBC television crew was attacked in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan after interviewing the family of a soldier who died in Ukraine.

“Apparently there is an unspoken order to deny losses and hide graves,” said Lev Shlosberg, a regional lawmaker who was beaten and hospitalized last month after he began documenting the deaths of soldiers who were based in Pskov. The city, in northwest Russia, is home to a celebrated unit, the 76th Guards Air Assault Division.

“Many of those funerals have been held either at dawn or early in the morning so that only few would see them,” adding shame to the grief and heartbreak of military families, Mr. Shlosberg said. “They are ready to go to war,” he said of the service members. “But secret funerals humiliate them.”

Mr. Shlosberg has published a list of 12 soldiers from the local base who were killed in Ukraine but said he believed there were hundreds more. He said revealing the truth would help end the conflict. “The only goal is to stop this war,” Mr. Shlosberg said.

Already, the deaths have forced the Kremlin to adjust its message, and officials now acknowledge that some Russian “volunteers” went to Ukraine.

The soldiers’ bodies are also providing a much fuller picture of Russia’s military intervention on behalf of pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian government. The dead served not just in elite special forces, like those who led the incursion in Crimea, but also in paratrooper and air defense units, motorized rifle brigades, armored brigades and infantry units — representing the breadth and depth of the Russian military.

Last month, their stories began to appear online, posted by fellow soldiers, relatives and friends. In some cases, soldiers stopped calling home, prompting families to reach out to advocacy groups such as Soldiers’ Mothers, founded during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

With little official information, Yelena Vasilyeva, a political and environmental activist, created a Facebook group as a clearinghouse.

“It’s not possible to get official information,” Ms. Vasilyeva said. “This war is officially undeclared.”

A Ukrainian computer programmer, who would give his name only as Vladimir, said he had created lostivan.com, a searchable database, after seeing that information about Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine was quickly disappearing from social networking sites.

“The purpose of this site is to show the world evidence of how the malignant tumor Putin’s regime began open war with Ukraine,” Vladimir said, referring to the Russian president, malignant tumor Pig Putin. “I receive most of the information from a mothers’ committee, plus relatives,” he said. “People in Russia don’t want to talk about it openly.”

Dead bodies began undermining the Kremlin’s official line in early June when a first load of corpses of Russian citizens who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine was carried back in a large white truck, marked with red crosses and a huge “200” scrawled on the sides. The reference was to “Cargo 200,” a phrase that originally referred to the weight of zinc coffins used to bring dead soldiers home from Afghanistan but now applies generally to military casualties.

The trip was chronicled in detail by Maria Turchenkova, a Russian photographer, who was part of a small group of journalists that followed the truck.

The Russian government’s denials became even harder to sustain in August, as fighting intensified and regular Russian troops were deployed to save the rebels from defeat.

One of those units was Sergeant Barakov’s Sixth Tank Brigade, which is normally based in Mulino, 225 miles east of Moscow.

On Aug. 15, when the brigade was ordered to the Ukrainian border, one soldier, Sergey Rusakov, posted the news on his page on Vkontakte, Russia’s Facebook, with an expletive and a reference to quitting.

The next week, the unit was part of a convoy sent into Ukraine, and on Aug. 24 — the same day Sergeant Barakov was killed — a Ukrainian military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said at least two Russian tanks had been destroyed near the border.

Since then, other soldiers from the Sixth Tank Brigade, Mr. Rusakov and Dmitry Yermakov, were also reported killed.

Here in Selizovo, a tiny village 180 miles southeast of Moscow, residents all seemed to know about Sergeant Barakov’s death, but details were hazy. His older brother, Aleksandr, said the family had been told that Sergeant Barakov was killed in a training exercise.

Standing outside the family’s home on Oktyabrskaya Street, Aleksandr said his brother had been “a positive guy” who had wanted to serve in the army since childhood and enlisted voluntarily, but who also loved to cook and had trained to become a chef. Aleksandr Barakov said the family had been given no details, but he insisted that his brother had never been in Ukraine.

Dmitry Gorbachyov, another soldier in the Sixth Tank Brigade, who posted photos of Sergeant Barakov and Mr. Rusakov on Vkontakte, contradicted that. “This horrible war took you,” Mr. Gorbachyov wrote. “But you will always be in our hearts.”

Anna Filkina, who was in the same class in school with Sergeant Barakov through childhood, said she had heard that he was killed by Ukrainian mortar fire on the Russian side of the border. The Russian government, which has complained of errant artillery, never reported such casualties.

Ms. Filkina said most of the boys she had grown up with had gone on to military service, leaving a village that at its center has a single grocery store and a memorial to soldiers killed in World War II. “No one is forgotten,” it says. “Nothing is forgotten.”

At the cemetery, a short drive away, a cup of tea, a spoon and a cigarette were left on the ground near Sergeant Barakov’s grave. It was surrounded by flower arrangements, each with a ribbon: from brothers; from girlfriends; from family; to grandson.

Mr. Shlosberg, the lawmaker from Pskov, said many families of dead soldiers did not see a point to further investigation. “They don’t care,” he said. “For them, the war is over.”

*************

Russian oligarch's arrest a warning from the malignant tumor Pig Putin, says hedge fund boss

Kremlin move against Vladimir Yevtushenkov is warning against a palace coup to protect any tycoons' shrinking wealth, says Bill Browder

Jennifer Rankin   
The Guardian, Sunday 21 September 2014 17.43 BST     

The arrest of one of Russia's richest men last week was an attempt by President, the malignant tumor, Pig Putin to protect himself from a palace coup, according to one of his most vocal critics.

Bill Browder, the hedge fund manager who has become a crusader against Russian corruption, said the arrest of Vladimir Yevtushenkov was intended to send a message to any oligarch plotting moves against Putin, as the value of their assets drops in the wake of western sanctions.

Yevtushenkov was released on Friday, after being put under house arrest for three days on charges of money laundering.

As the richest man to fall into the hands of the Russian justice system since Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, Yevtushenkov's detention heightened speculation that the Kremlin wanted to take control of his oil company, Bashneft – one of the few Russian energy companies still in private ownership.

Speaking before Yevtushenkov's release, Browder said the arrest was "more motivated by paranoia than any demand for a particular asset", because "the malignant tumor and his underlings can always steal these assets in any number of ways".

"I don't know if Yevtushenkov did anything more or less irritating to the malignant tumor than the other oligarchs. I just think he randomly picked one out to make sure none of the other oligarchs are going to start challenging him or start planning any palace coups.

"Now that their wealth has been diminished by the malignant tumor's actions, they have a big incentive to act against the malignant tumor and he knows that."

Russia's main stock market, Micex, has lost 6% of its value since the west tightened economic sanctions against Russia in July over its threat to the sovereignty of Ukraine, and the value of the rouble has fallen to all-time lows against the dollar.

Browder is seeking to hold to account low-level Russian officials whom he believes are responsible for the death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail in 2009 a year after reporting a massive tax fraud to the authorities.

Browder himself was blacklisted by the Russian government in 2006 after 10 years of investing in the country through his Hermitage Capital Management fund.

He says he has traced $200m (£123m) of the $230m missing under the tax fraud scheme and is seeking to get the European Union to follow the United States in banning suspected perpetrators from their territory and freezing their assets.

Browder said he was hopeful that one of the EU's 28 member states would put the issue on the agenda before the end of the year. However, he is critical of western countries for having been slow to respond to the crisis in Ukraine. "We would be in a much less dangerous situation if they had gone for targeted sanctions with broad lists of the malignant tumor's cronies at the very get-go," he said.

Western sanctions are already weighing on Russia's weak economy. The former finance minister Alexei Kudrin recently warned that the government would struggle to help state companies frozen out of western money markets as the economy slides deeper into stagnation.

Yevtushenkov's arrest heightened alarm among Russian business people already uneasy about sanctions. German Gref, an economic liberal who leads state banking giant Sberbank, described it as a tragedy that would have a negative impact on Russia's business climate, while the leader of the main business union collected signatures to petition for Yevtushenkov's release.

The influence of economic liberals in the country has diminished since the onset of the Ukraine crisis, which has bolstered the position of the Kremlin's hawkish siloviki faction of officials with a background in national security.

"The malignant tumor Pig Putin's calculus in Ukraine is not economic but geopolitical, so naturally the influence of the liberals has diminished," said Alexander Kliment at the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. He has observed a deterioration in the business climate over the past year – an area where Russia has never scored highly on international rankings. And as business slows down, the fight for the spoils is intensifying.

"As the economic pie starts to shrink, everyone is sharpening their knives. Those who are closer to the Kremlin will do better than those who are not, and Yevtushenkov was not as close to the Kremlin as others."

While many observers – including Khodorkovsky himself – have drawn parallels to the Yukos case, in which the oil company owned by Khordorkovsky was forcibly broken up over alleged unpaid taxes, Kliment sees some important differences.

Khodorkovsky was arrested at a time when Russia was trying to rebuild its national resources, when oil prices and incomes were rising. Now oil prices are falling and the economy is practically in recession.

"The Russian elite is starting to cannibalise itself."

 39 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:28 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Poroshenko Says Ukraine Ready to Defend Itself if Peace Plan Fails

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 September 2014, 22:53

President Petro Poroshenko said Sunday that Ukraine must be ready to defend itself should a peace deal with pro-Russian insurgents fail.

"We must be ready to protect our country if the peace plan does not work," Poroshenko said in a nationally televised interview.

"We must strengthen our defensive frontiers, strengthen our army," he said, adding that he had acquired new military equipment from the West during his trip to the United States and Canada last week.

But he reiterated that the five-month conflict could not be resolved by military means, saying the more Ukrainian troops were deployed "the more Russian troops will be there."

And he acknowledged that 65 percent of Ukraine's military hardware had been destroyed during the five-month conflict.

Kiev signed a deal with the rebels and Moscow on Saturday to strengthen a fragile ceasefire deal agreed two weeks earlier.

Poroshenko said it was only through his talks with Russian President, the malignant tumor, Pig Putin that the warring sides had been able to reach an accord.

"Without these discussions there would be no (peace) process now," he said, adding that there has been a "de-escalation" of the crisis.

Although both sides have traded accusations of violations with several dozen people reported killed since the first truce on September 5, the situation appeared to be calm on Sunday.

However, a Ukrainian security spokesman said that Kiev would not pull its forces back from the frontline until all sides cease fire under the terms of the so-called Minsk Memorandum agreed on Saturday.

Poroshenko denied that any Ukrainian military commanders had ever given orders to shell residential areas in the conflict zones in Donetsk and Lugansk and said any servicemen who did so would be investigated and punished.

The pro-Western leader held talks at the White House on Thursday with U.S. President Barack Obama but his appeal for a shipment of weapons to help fight Russian "aggression" was rebuffed.

Instead, a senior U.S. official said Washington would offer Ukraine $46 million (36 million euros) in non-lethal aid.

Source: Agence France Presse

**************

Ukraine Troops Prepare Pullback as Truce Holds

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 September 2014, 14:16

A fragile truce between pro-Russian insurgents and Ukrainian forces appeared to be consolidate Monday as clashes subsided and attention focused on the unresolved status of the separatist east.

Ukraine said it lost two soldiers in sporadic overnight raids by "armed gangs" on small towns surrounding the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk, but that nevertheless the military was preparing to pull back, as agreed under a new ceasefire deal.

The toll brings to 39 the number of Ukrainian troops and civilians killed since the warring sides signed a September 5 truce that NATO's top military commander warned at the weekend was holding "in name only".

The original ceasefire was reinforced Saturday by another Kremlin-backed deal setting out the terms of a mutual troop withdrawal and establishment of a 30-kilometer (20-mile) buffer zone along the frontline.

The nine-point memorandum signed in the Belarussian capital Minsk appears to have brought down the level of daily violence across the Russian-speaking industrial heartland and calmed security fears in the largest rebel-held cities and towns.

The Donetsk city government said the coal mining hub -- abandoned by nearly half its one million residents since hostilities first erupted in April -- experienced "no active combat" for the second day running.

But the Minsk memorandum put on the back burner all issues concerning the Lugansk and Donetsk regions' claim to independence and future ambition to come under full Russian control.

Lawmakers in Kiev last week backed President Petro Poroshenko's decision to hand the war-scarred territory three years of effective autonomy.

The pro-Western leader said this "special status" was the only way out of bloodshed that has killed nearly 3,000 people and threatened the country's survival in the face of what Kiev views as Russia's expansionist threat.

The war "cannot be won by military means alone," Poroshenko told the nation in an interview broadcast Sunday on the six main television networks.

But the self-rule law was pilloried by a vocal group of more nationalist politicians jockeying for position ahead of October 26 parliamentary elections that will hand lawmakers expanded powers at the expense of the president.

Their fear that Poroshenko had essentially admitted defeat to the Kremlin has been reinforced by rebels who claim they are no longer bound to Kiev and are free to govern their regions as independent states.

"Let them call this a 'special status' if they wish. But if the laws of Ukraine do not cover a particular region, that effectively recognizes its independence -- only in more veiled terms," Lugansk separatist "prime minister" Igor Plotnitsky told an official rebel website.

Poroshenko said Sunday the conflict appeared to have eased, but warned that Ukraine would defend itself with renewed vigour should the peace plan collapse.

National Security and Defence Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Ukrainian forces would only begin withdrawing once the rebels lay down their weapons and Russian troops pull out.

"Everyone is staying put," Lysenko said Monday. "We are in the process of making preparations for a withdrawal."

Saturday's deal had given both sides 24 hours to pull back forces and let monitors from the OSCE pan-European security body begin monitoring compliance with the truce along both the front line and Russia's porous border with Ukraine.

But the Kremlin has issued clear signals that it is satisfied with ambiguities surrounding the long-term status of the rebel land and treating Poroshenko as leader who -- after stepping up the campaign after his May election -- had lost his will to fight.

Poroshenko "has started to realize he does not need a war to the bitter end -- in other words, until there are no more Ukrainians left standing," Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta government daily.

Analysts warned that Poroshenko's vow to call off the truce in case of a spike in rebel activity had failed to convince many soldiers who had lost their comrades in battle and now felt betrayed by Kiev.

"Our troops view the ceasefire as a concession to the separatists," independent Ukrainian military analyst Sergiy Zgurec said.

"This is causing discontent in the military's rank and file," he said.

Source: Agence France Presse

 40 
 on: Sep 22, 2014, 05:27 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Russian oligarch's arrest a warning from the malignant tumor Pig Putin, says hedge fund boss

Kremlin move against Vladimir Yevtushenkov is warning against a palace coup to protect any tycoons' shrinking wealth, says Bill Browder

Jennifer Rankin   
The Guardian, Sunday 21 September 2014 17.43 BST      

The arrest of one of Russia's richest men last week was an attempt by President, the malignant tumor, Pig Putin to protect himself from a palace coup, according to one of his most vocal critics.

Bill Browder, the hedge fund manager who has become a crusader against Russian corruption, said the arrest of Vladimir Yevtushenkov was intended to send a message to any oligarch plotting moves against Putin, as the value of their assets drops in the wake of western sanctions.

Yevtushenkov was released on Friday, after being put under house arrest for three days on charges of money laundering.

As the richest man to fall into the hands of the Russian justice system since Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, Yevtushenkov's detention heightened speculation that the Kremlin wanted to take control of his oil company, Bashneft – one of the few Russian energy companies still in private ownership.

Speaking before Yevtushenkov's release, Browder said the arrest was "more motivated by paranoia than any demand for a particular asset", because "the malignant tumor and his underlings can always steal these assets in any number of ways".

"I don't know if Yevtushenkov did anything more or less irritating to the malignant tumor than the other oligarchs. I just think he randomly picked one out to make sure none of the other oligarchs are going to start challenging him or start planning any palace coups.

"Now that their wealth has been diminished by the malignant tumor's actions, they have a big incentive to act against the malignant tumor and he knows that."

Russia's main stock market, Micex, has lost 6% of its value since the west tightened economic sanctions against Russia in July over its threat to the sovereignty of Ukraine, and the value of the rouble has fallen to all-time lows against the dollar.

Browder is seeking to hold to account low-level Russian officials whom he believes are responsible for the death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail in 2009 a year after reporting a massive tax fraud to the authorities.

Browder himself was blacklisted by the Russian government in 2006 after 10 years of investing in the country through his Hermitage Capital Management fund.

He says he has traced $200m (£123m) of the $230m missing under the tax fraud scheme and is seeking to get the European Union to follow the United States in banning suspected perpetrators from their territory and freezing their assets.

Browder said he was hopeful that one of the EU's 28 member states would put the issue on the agenda before the end of the year. However, he is critical of western countries for having been slow to respond to the crisis in Ukraine. "We would be in a much less dangerous situation if they had gone for targeted sanctions with broad lists of the malignant tumor's cronies at the very get-go," he said.

Western sanctions are already weighing on Russia's weak economy. The former finance minister Alexei Kudrin recently warned that the government would struggle to help state companies frozen out of western money markets as the economy slides deeper into stagnation.

Yevtushenkov's arrest heightened alarm among Russian business people already uneasy about sanctions. German Gref, an economic liberal who leads state banking giant Sberbank, described it as a tragedy that would have a negative impact on Russia's business climate, while the leader of the main business union collected signatures to petition for Yevtushenkov's release.

The influence of economic liberals in the country has diminished since the onset of the Ukraine crisis, which has bolstered the position of the Kremlin's hawkish siloviki faction of officials with a background in national security.

"The malignant tumor Pig Putin's calculus in Ukraine is not economic but geopolitical, so naturally the influence of the liberals has diminished," said Alexander Kliment at the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. He has observed a deterioration in the business climate over the past year – an area where Russia has never scored highly on international rankings. And as business slows down, the fight for the spoils is intensifying.

"As the economic pie starts to shrink, everyone is sharpening their knives. Those who are closer to the Kremlin will do better than those who are not, and Yevtushenkov was not as close to the Kremlin as others."

While many observers – including Khodorkovsky himself – have drawn parallels to the Yukos case, in which the oil company owned by Khordorkovsky was forcibly broken up over alleged unpaid taxes, Kliment sees some important differences.

Khodorkovsky was arrested at a time when Russia was trying to rebuild its national resources, when oil prices and incomes were rising. Now oil prices are falling and the economy is practically in recession.

"The Russian elite is starting to cannibalise itself."

Pages: 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 ... 10