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 61 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:10 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Kandahar suicide attack kills cousin of Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai

Death of Hashmat Karzai, a close ally of the outgoing Afghan president, threatens to pitch country into worsening instability

Agence France-Presse in Kandahar
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 09.20 BST   

A cousin and close ally of the outgoing Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been killed in a suicide attack in the volatile southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday, officials said, raising tensions during a struggle over the contested election result.

Hashmat Karzai was a campaign manager in Kandahar for Ashraf Ghani, one of the two presidential candidates involved in a bitter dispute over fraud that threatens to pitch the country into worsening instability.

Hashmat Karzai, who famously owned a pet lion, was killed by a man with explosives hidden inside his turban when visitors arrived to celebrate Eid, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"A suicide bomber disguised as a guest came to Hashmat Karzai's house to greet him," Dawa Khan Minapal, the Kandahar provincial governor's spokesman, told AFP.

"After he hugged Hashmat, he blew up his explosives and killed him."

Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah are at loggerheads over the 14 June second-round election, which has been mired in allegations of massive fraud.

Ghani won the vote according to preliminary results, but an audit of the ballots is under way after Abdullah refused to accept defeat due to fraud claims.

With the audit triggering another outbreak of complaints from both sides, many fear the country could be at risk of a revival of the ethnic violence seen during the 1992-96 civil war.

Hashmat Karzai first worked in this year's presidential election campaign for Qayyum Karzai, the president's brother, and later moved to support Ghani when Qayyum withdrew from the race.

 62 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:09 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
3 Killed in a Facebook Blasphemy Rampage in Pakistan

By WAQAR GILLANI
JULY 28, 2014
IHT

LAHORE, Pakistan — A woman and two of her young granddaughters were burned to death Sunday night in the eastern city of Gujranwala after a member of their Ahmadi minority sect was accused of posting a blasphemous picture to Facebook, the police said.

The mob of roughly 1,000 people began rampaging through an Ahmadi neighborhood after being alerted to the photograph, setting houses on fire and injuring at least eight other people, according to the police.

Ahmadis belong to a reform sect rooted in Islam, but under Pakistani law they are forbidden to identify themselves as Muslim. They come under frequent attack, and have often been targeted under Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws.

The blasphemy accusation was brought against Aqib Saleem, an 18-year-old Ahmadi man who was alleged to have uploaded a picture of the Kaaba, the sacred shrine in Mecca toward which Muslims turn when they pray, with a seminude white woman sitting on top.

Officials said that a Muslim friend of Mr. Saleem’s, Saddam Hussein, 18, noticed the Facebook post and alerted others in the neighborhood. Soon, a crowd of about 400, including some Muslim clerics, reached a nearby police station and urged the police to register a blasphemy case. Meanwhile, the larger mob began rampaging around Ahmadi houses in the Arfat neighborhood of Gujranwala, an industrial city in Punjab Province.

Ahmadi community leaders accuse the police of looking the other way while the violent mob ransacked property, obstructed a fire brigade truck and threw stones at ambulances on their way to the scene. At least eight houses were set on fire.

As the flames spread, Bushra Bibi, 55, and two of her granddaughters, a 7-year-old and her 8-month-old sister, were trapped in their house and died of smoke inhalation, officials said. Another Ahmadi woman, who was seven months pregnant, had a miscarriage.

A police official said cases were registered against 400 attackers. “They looted everything and did not even leave windows behind,” a police official said.

“They are killing innocent people over fabricated issues,” said Salimuddin, a local Ahmadi spokesman. He claimed that the accused teenager’s Facebook password had been stolen, and that someone offensively edited the picture of the holy Muslim site.

Attacks against religious minorities have become a norm in Pakistan, where Islamic extremist groups have been operating more openly than ever and have been able to harass and kill minorities with near-total impunity.

Four years ago, at least 86 Ahmadis were killed in coordinated attacks in Lahore when armed gunmen belonging to banned Islamist groups assaulted Ahmadi places of worship.

Rights activists and Ahmadi community members strongly condemned the latest attacks.

“The people who were killed were not even indirectly accused of blasphemy charges. Their only fault was that they were Ahmadis,” said Zohra Yusuf, chairwoman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “Torching women and children in their house simply because of their faith represents brutalization and barbarianism stooping to new levels.”

 63 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:03 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Delaying climate action will carry heavy economic cost, White House warns

President's council of economic advisers sounds warning over delaying EPA power plant rules in face of industry lobbying

Suzanne Goldenberg   
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 11.00 BST   

The White House has warned that delaying action on climate change would carry a heavy price, racking up an additional 40% in economic losses from climate impacts and other costs over the course of 10 years.

White House officials said the stark finding from the president's council of economic advisers underlined the urgency of Barack Obama's efforts to cut carbon pollution.

In addition to a new report on the economic cost of delay, the White House is poised to launch two new initiatives on Tuesday dealing with fast-rising methane emissions from the natural gas industry, and buffering food security against future climate change.

“We are pushing across the board on the elements of the climate action plan,” John Podesta, Obama's counsellor, told a conference call with reporters.

Several former treasury secretaries and a couple of billionaires have come forward in recent weeks to warn Americans about the economic risks of climate change. By producing its own report on the costs of climate change, the White House appeared to be moving to bolster Obama's climate agenda from industry attacks.

Industry groups claim that new Environmental Protection Agency rules for power plants will cripple the economy.

In their rebuttal, Obama's economic team said the costs of delaying action to cut carbon pollution would be far higher in the long term - 40% over the course of a decade, in terms of the increased costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with climate impacts.

The costs were projected to rise even more steeply with each additional degree of warming above the 2C threshold for dangerous climate change, the report said.

“Each decade we delay acting results in an added cost of dealing with the problem of an extra 40%,” Jason Furman, chairman of the council of economic advisers, told a conference call with reporters. “The total amount we would have to pay today would be 40% larger if we waited a decade instead of acting now.”

Delaying action would deepen the risks to property and livelihoods. It would also make it more costly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A 3C rise above pre-industrial levels would shave about 0.9% a year off global GDP, or about $150 billion a year, the report said. A 4C rise would cost the global economy 3.1% of global GDP a year, it said.

“The cost …..ramps up potentially astronomically to the point that even if you want to you couldn't actually stabilise the temperature,” Furman said.

Furman said the finding was based on an analysis of 16 different economic models, and took into consideration economic damage due to climate change, and lost investment and other opportunities.

The report – and the other interventions – appeared timed to build support around the main pillar of Obama's climate action plan, regulations limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

The EPA is holding public hearings in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington DC this week on regulations to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30% over the next 16 years.

The EPA regulations, which target the country's largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions, are the main pillar of Obama's climate plan – one of the signature issues of his second term - and by default contentious.

More than 1,600 people have signed up to speak at the hearings, and 300,000 have sent in written comments. Some 680 groups have signed up to lobby the EPA, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics – more than any other government department.

The regulations are critical to Obama's commitment to the international community to cut greenhouse gas emissions 17% on 2005 levels by 2020.

The EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, told reporters on Monday that she expected opponents to focus on the economy. “We are bound to hear this week and beyond that EPA actions are bad for the economy,” she said.

Industry groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, accuse the EPA of waging a “war on coal” and say the regulations will damage the economy.

A Republican congressman, Mike Kelly, likened the regulations to terrorism, in an event at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Monday. “You talk about terrorism, you can do it in a lot of different ways,” he said. “But you terrorise the people who supply everything this country needs to be great – and you keep them on the sidelines – my goodness what have we become?”

Opponents of the EPA regulations also argue that they will be ineffective unless China and other big emitters also take action on climate change.

But McCarthy told the call America had to take actions at home to cut carbon pollution “or a global solution on climate change won't make it to the table”.

She said there were already signs that the EPA regulations had encouraged China and other countries to do more to cut their own emissions.

The White House, the EPA Senate Democrats, economists, and environmental groups argue the regulations represent an opportunity – and that it would be far more costly to delay action.

The former treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, wrote in the Washington Post last week that framing the regulations as a trade-off between the environment and the economy was as false choice.

“The real question should be: What is the cost of inaction? In my view — and in the view of a growing group of business people, economists, and other financial and market experts — the cost of inaction over the long term is far greater than the cost of action,” Rubin wrote.

Senate Democrats are expected to expand on that argument at a budget committee hearing on Tuesday called “The costs of inaction: the economic and budgetary consequences of climate change”.

European and British economists have warned for years about the costs of inaction on climate change, with Nicholas Stern coming out with his landmark report in 2006.

But those findings did not get wide airing in the American media until earlier this year when a group of billionaires and former treasury secretaries came out with their report, Risky Business, on the costs of ignoring the climate problem.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration will on Tuesday announce a number of new initiatives on containing fast-rising emissions of methane from the natural gas industry.

The White House is also due to announce a new effort by companies such as Microsoft and Coca Cola on plans to help protect food production.

 64 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 05:55 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Georgia Files Criminal Charges Against Ex-President

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
JULY 28, 2014
IHT

KIEV, Ukraine — The general prosecutor of Georgia filed criminal charges on Monday against former President Mikheil Saakashvili, accusing him of abuse of power, largely for his handling of political protests that turned violent in November 2007.

Mr. Saakashvili, who carried out a series of sweeping political changes from 2004 to 2012, left office in November after serving the maximum of two terms. His popularity had fallen and his party’s candidate lost.

The charges against Mr. Saakashvili are the latest — and most significant — in a series of seemingly politically motivated prosecutions against former officials in his administration. One of Mr. Saakashvili’s closest allies, a former prime minister, was convicted of corruption in February, and a former mayor of Tbilisi, the capital, who is now a political opposition leader, was arrested and jailed without bail this month.

Expecting that he would become a target of his political rivals, Mr. Saakashvili left Georgia after his term ended and has been living and working in the United States and Europe.

Western officials, including the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and the United States ambassador in Georgia, Richard Norland, have expressed concerns about the pattern of politically tinged prosecutions.

The European Union signed a political association agreement with Georgia in June that requires the country to demonstrate commitment to Western-style democratic norms. The government of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has denied any political aims and has pointed to the recent detention of former President Nicolas Sarkozy of France as an equivalent example of a former leader being held accountable by the legal system.

Mr. Saakashvili gained prominence as the leader of Georgia’s peaceful Rose Revolution, which ousted President Eduard A. Shevardnadze, but in November 2007 he found the tables turned as his own government faced a series of huge street protests. The protests turned violent, with the police using tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon to disperse the crowd, and Mr. Saakashvili declared a state of emergency that also shut two television stations, including Imedi, the country’s principal opposition news outlet.

The criminal case announced on Monday accuses Mr. Saakashvili of abusing his authority by using force to suppress the protests and also of illegally trying to seize Imedi television from its owner.

In response to the protests, Mr. Saakashvili called early presidential elections, which he won narrowly in January 2008.

The prosecutor’s office noted that Mr. Saakashvili had been summoned for questioning in other matters and had failed to appear. Four other senior officials in Mr. Saakashvili’s government were indicted with him.

“The violent dispersal of demonstrators,” the prosecutors’ office said, “was based on an illegal order issued by then President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili.”

Mr. Saakashvili and his supporters rejected the charges as baseless and said that voters of Georgia already delivered their verdict on his handling of the protests when they re-elected him to another term.

 65 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 05:52 am 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Russia ordered to pay $50bn in damages to Yukos shareholders

State sought to bankrupt oil firm, appropriate assets and prevent owner Khodorkovsky from entering politics, rules Hague court

Jennifer Rankin   
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 13.48 BST   
   
Russia has been ordered to pay $50bn (£29.4bn) to shareholders of Yukos, the formerdefunct oil company that was broken up a decade ago after its boss fell foul of the malignant tumor Pig Putin.

In a judgment against the Kremlin, a tribunal in the Hague ruled that the Russian state had sought to bankrupt Yukos, appropriate its assets and prevent its owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, from entering politics.

The permanent court of arbitration rejected Moscow's arguments that the assets seizure was driven by tax-collection motives, ruling that the state set out to bankrupt the oil firm in "a devious and calculated expropriation".

In a damning indictment of the rule of law in Russia, the tribunal found that the country's courts had "bent to the will of Russian executive authorities" to "incarcerate a man who gave signs of becoming a political competitor".

The judgment is a blow to the malignant tumor Pig Putin, who led the campaign against Khodorkovsky, and is facing the threat of further western sanctions over the conflict in eastern Ukraine following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The $50bn damages bill, roughly 2.5% of Russia's economic output, is also bad news for an economy the International Monetary Fund deems to be in recession.

Yukos was the largest oil company in Russia when, in 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested at gunpoint on an airport runway in Siberia. The son of two Moscow engineers and leading light of the Communist party's youth wing during the Soviet era, he had made millions in the controversial privatisations of the 1990s to become Russia's richest man. But he roused Putin's ire by refusing to stay out of politics and served 10 years in jail in what were widely seen as trumped-up charges.

Khodorkovsky, who was released in December after a surprise pardon, renounced his claims to Yukos assets during an earlier trial, and restated on Monday that he will not seek to benefit from the Hague court's ruling. The principal victors are the main Yukos shareholders led by Leonid Nevzlin, Khodorkovsky's former business partner, who fled to Israel to avoid prosecution and has a stake of around 70%. Platon Lebedev, another former executive, who was jailed by a Russian court on tax-evasion charges and was released this year, is another victor. About 30,000 ex-employees of Yukos are expected to share in a $458m pension fund that will pay out once damages are collected.

In a statement, Khodorkovsky said it was "fantastic" that the shareholders were being given a chance to recover their losses, but added that it was sad that "the recompense will have to come from the state's coffers, not from the pockets of mafiosi linked to the powers that be and those of the malignant tumor Pig Putin's oligarchs".

He described the results as predictable for unbiased observers of Moscow's court proceedings. "From beginning to end, the Yukos case has been an instance of unabashed plundering of a successful company by a mafia with links to the state."

Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow would "use all possible legal means" to defend its position. But under the rules of the Hague tribunal, which considered 6,500 pages of evidence, Russia has no right of appeal.

The biggest loser could be the state-owned oil company Rosneft, which bought Yukos assets in auctions when the latter's stock was almost worthless. The tribunal concluded that the expropriation had not been carried out to benefit Rosneft, which is controlled by the malignant tumor Pig Putin's ally Igor Sechin.

The payout is worth almost three-quarters of Rosneft's market value and raises awkward questions for BP, which took a 20% stake in the company in 2012

Tim Osborne, a British lawyer and director of GML, the majority shareholder group, rejected suggestions that Russia would not pay the $50bn in damages, saying: "We didn't go into this for a pyrrhic victory to make a point. We went into this to get compensation for the loss we suffered." He warned, too, that shareholders might target BP to collect damages owed. "I think it's safe to say that nobody is safe. We will look at everything and we will take a view and it will be a pragmatic approach."

Emmanuel Gaillard, head of Shearman & Sterling, the lawyer who represented the shareholders, said it could take a long time to collect the damages, but argued that Russia would ultimately pay. "Russia cares about being a powerful international player," he said. "They should respect the rules of the game and I think they will."

Rosneft rejected claims that any claims would be brought against it, arguing that the rulings would have "no adverse effect on its business or assets".

The claim, brought under the energy charter treaty in 2005, amounted to less than the $100bn that claimants had originally hoped for, but is 20 times larger than the previous largest damages award against a government.

Russia has 180 days to pay the $50bn bill, plus $65m in legal fees and arbitration costs, before interest starts accumulating.

David Clark, who was an adviser to the former foreign secretary Robin Cook, said that Putin appeared to be in little mood to yield to foreign pressure, but warned that the economic cost of confrontation was likely to be high. "The malignant tumor Pig Putin's new doctrine of muscular nationalism increasingly points in the opposite direction to Russia's real economic interests."

 66 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 05:43 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

World's largest solar boat on odyssey to find ancient inhabited site in Greece

Scientists on catamaran PlanetSolar will search for village built by Neothlithic Europeans and also survey Aegean Sea

Associated Press in Athens
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 19.02 BST      

The world's largest solar boat, the catamaran PlanetSolar, is to embark on a Greek mission to find one of the oldest sites inhabited by man in Europe, an organiser said on Monday.

Starting on 11 August, a team of Swiss and Greek scientists will seek a "prehistoric countryside" in the south-eastern Peloponnese peninsula, University of Geneva researcher Julien Beck told AFP. The month-long mission, jointly organised with the Swiss school of archaeology and the Greek culture ministry, will search around the Franchthi cave in the Argolic gulf, where early Europeans lived between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods.

The cave was eventually abandoned around 3,000 BC but scientists assume the inhabitants must have built a village nearby.

"This cave was inhabited continuously for around 35,000 years... and we have reason to believe that towards the end of the Neolithic era, the inhabitants moved to a neighbouring site that is now underwater," Beck said.

"If we could find this village, it would be among the oldest in Greece and Europe," he said.

PlanetSolar, built in Germany, is 31 metres (100 feet) long and is powered by over 500 square metres of solar panels.

In 2012, the catamaran became the first vessel to circumnavigate the globe purely on solar energy. It has an average speed of 7.5 knots, or 14 kilometres (8.6 miles) per hour.

Whilst in Greece it will also conduct geophysical research and assist underwater archaeologists in Aegean Sea surveys.

 67 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 05:37 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Senior Kosovo figures face prosecution for crimes against humanity

Possible indictment of senior officials of former Kosovo Liberation Army relate to claims of ethnic cleansing since 1999

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 09.42 BST   

Leading political figures in Kosovo face indictment by a special EU court for crimes against humanity, including killings, abductions, sexual violence and other abuses of Serb and Roma minorities, according to the chief prosecutor leading a three-year special investigation (pdf).

The threat of indictments comes in a progress report published on Tuesday morning in Brussels by Clint Williamson, an American prosecutor appointed by the EU in 2011 to investigate ethnic cleansing committed in Kosovo since the 1999 Nato intervention brought an end to the conflict there.

Williamson does not name the suspects but describes them as "senior officials of the former Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA), which fought an insurgency against the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic. Many former KLA commanders went on to leadership positions after Kosovo declared independence in 2008. It is believed at least some of the indictments prepared by the EU special investigative task force (SITF) are against top figures still actively involved in politics.

Williamson's investigation confirmed earlier allegations that in a "handful" of cases, organs taken from executed prisoners were trafficked for profit, but 15 years after the crimes, the SITF has not been able to gather enough concrete evidence to mount a viable prosecution.

The indictments for wholesale human rights violations are likely to have a far-ranging impact on Kosovo's future and will be embarrassing for the US and western European governments, which provided enthusiastic backing for the KLA leadership during and after the war.

The indictments cannot be issued until a special court to try the cases is established, almost certainly in the Netherlands. But its creation has been held up by bureaucratic delays over funding in the European commission and political turmoil in Kosovo. Williamson said he hoped the court would be set up by early next year, but the cases will be tried by a new chief prosecutor. He will step down after a three-year term next month.

Williamson said he was leaving for personal reasons, to rejoin his family in the US, rather than professional factors.

"There have been press reports that I was leaving because the investigation is collapsing. That is completely untrue. I think we have had a very solid investigation with very good results," he told the Guardian.

In his report, Williamson said the investigation had been rendered far more difficult by pervasive intimidation of witnesses, describing it as "a dark cloud over the country".

"We have taken steps to counter the impact of the witness intimidation and we will continue to do so. We will actively investigate these activities and will prosecute any individuals found to have been involved," Williamson says in his report.

"There is probably no single thing that poses more of a threat to rule of law in Kosovo and of its progress toward a European future than this pervasive practice."

Ten thousand people died in the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, many of them Kosovan civilians killed in a brutal Serbian counterinsurgency. War crimes committed by both Serbian forces and the KLA have been tried in the international criminal court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), but that did not examine abuses since 1999.

The EU investigation covered abuse of Kosovo Serbs and other minorities at the hands of the victorious KLA commanders.

The crimes include "unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, other forms of inhumane treatment, forced displacements of individuals from their homes and communities, and desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites".

"This effectively resulted in the ethnic cleansing of large portions of the Serb and Roma populations from those areas in Kosovo south of the Ibar river, with the exception of a few scattered minority enclaves," the SITF report says.

"We believe that the evidence is compelling that these crimes were not the acts of rogue individuals acting on their own accord, but rather that they were conducted in an organised fashion and were sanctioned by certain individuals in the top levels of the KLA leadership. The widespread or systematic nature of these crimes in the period after the war ended in June 1999 justifies a prosecution for crimes against humanity."

The SITF investigation largely confirms the findings of an earlier Council of Europe enquiry led by a Swiss politician, Dick Marty, in 2010.

It upholds the Marty report's finding that a "handful" of prisoners had been murdered so that organs could be taken and sold. But Williamson said that "to prosecute such offences … it requires a level of evidence that we have not yet secured."

"Fifteen years down the line, we have solid information that these things happened, but no physical evidence. There are no bodies, no names of victims," Williamson told the Guardian.

"The likely reaction of a defence counsel in a murder case would be: there's not enough information to know what I am defending against, and a judge would probably agree. That said, it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that additional evidence will emerge in the next few months, and we will continue pursuing it."

The creation of a special European court would require a change in the Kosovo constitution and therefore a two-thirds majority in parliament. In theory, the suspects themselves could use their political power to obstruct it, but Williamson said that there would face substantial opposition inside Kosovo and beyond.

"I think it would be difficult for them politically if they attempted to block this. If the EU approach doesn't work, the most likely alternative is something set up through the UN security council and most Kosovars oppose that," Williamson said.

"So, it would be a hard sell to say that they were acting for the interests of Kosovo as opposed to just trying to save their own skins. There is a lot of pressure out there to make this work though and people across the political spectrum have been publicly supportive of it, so I am optimistic it will stay on track."

 68 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 05:29 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
US says Russia breached nuclear treaty

Obama administration registers objections, accusing Russian military of testing new cruise missile in violation of 1987 pact

Agencies in Washington
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 02.58 BST      

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands in 1987 after signing the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which Russia is now accused of breaching by Washington. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands in 1987 after signing the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which Russia is now accused of breaching by Washington. Photograph: Bob Daugherty/AP

The Obama administration in Washington has accused Russia of conducting missile tests in violation of a 1987 nuclear treaty, calling the breach "a very serious matter" and bringing into the public sphere allegations that have simmered for some time.

The treaty confrontation comes at a highly strained time between the US president and his Russian counterpart, malignant tumor Pig Putin, over Russia's intervention in Ukraine and granting of asylum to Edward Snowden, who exposed widespread surveillance and collection of innocent people's data by US intelligence agencies.

An administration official said Obama had notified malignant tumor Pig Putin of the US objections in a letter Monday. The finding is to be included in a US state department annual report on compliance with arms control treaties due for release on Tuesday.

The US is accusing Russia tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that Ronald Reagan signed with Mikhail Gorbachev during the Soviet era.

"This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now," an administration official said in a statement.

"We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner."

Another official said the US was prepared to hold high-level discussions on the issue immediately.

The US has raised the matter with Russia in the past through diplomatic channels but has not previously made the accusation publicly. Russian officials say they have looked into the allegations and consider the matter closed. The New York Times first reported the US conclusion on Monday evening.

In raising the issue now the US appears to be placing increased pressure on Russia and trying to further isolate it from the international community. The European Union and the United States plan to announce new sanctions against Russia this week in the face of US evidence that Russia has continued to assist separatist forces in Ukraine.

The public finding comes in the wake of congressional pressure on the White House to confront Russia over the allegations of cheating on the treaty. The treaty banned all US and Russian land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 miles (480km) and 3,400 miles (5,470km).

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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

Pussy Riot members take Kremlin to European court of human rights

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova demand compensation over their 2012 arrest, trial and imprisonment

Alec Luhn in Moscow
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 17.59 BST      

Two members of the feminist group Pussy Riot are suing the Russian government in the European court of human rights (ECHR) over their imprisonment for a 2012 "punk prayer" protest at a Moscow cathedral.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who were given an amnesty in December after serving 21 months in prison and pre-trial confinement, are demanding €120,000 (£71,000) each in compensation, plus €10,000 in court fees. They argue that the investigation and prosecution violated their rights and amounted to torture.

"They didn't get fair trial here in Russia so they want to get it finally in the European court of human rights," said Pavel Chikov, the head of the human rights legal group Agora, which is representing the two women.

"Plus they want this case to set a precedent that Russians can speak publicly on sensitive political issues, even if this speech is not supported by majority. This is a case about freedom of expression and fair trial first of all."

Pussy Riot came to the world's attention with their protest on 21 February 2012, when they attempted to perform their song Mother of God, Drive the malignant tumor Pig Putin Out in Christ the Saviour cathedral near the Kremlin. Three members of the group were convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in a prison colony in a trial that was widely and sympathetically covered by western media.

The vast majority of Russians, however, were disapproving of Pussy Riot's actions. According to surveys during the trial, 86% of Russians thought its members should be punished. Most favoured a large fine or forced labour.

Yekaterina Samutsevich was given a suspended sentence in October 2012, while Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova served time in far-flung prison colonies, where they went on hunger strike in protest against the harsh conditions they faced. Tolokonnikova also corresponded with the left-wing philosopher Slavoj Žižek in an exchange of letters due to be published in September. They were released in December in what was largely viewed as a gesture of goodwill by the Kremlin before the Sochi Olympics.

The activists, who initiated the complaint in 2012, argue that Russia violated four articles of the European convention on human rights guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, liberty and security and a fair trial, and prohibiting torture.

The ECHR's questions to the Russian government on the case earlier this year suggested that the harsh schedule of trial hearings, the glass cage in which the defendants were kept and the heightened security measures could be considered inhumane treatment.

Transport from the court to pre-trial detention took up to four hours, and the women were accompanied by law enforcement officers with dogs at all times.

"People saw them in a glass cage all the time next to police dogs, and the whole thing proved to everyone that they were guilty before they were found guilty by the court," Chikov said. "The practice in Russia where people are put in glass or metal cages in the courtroom has nothing to do with a fair trial and violates the presumption of innocence."

In a 35-page response in June, the Russian government called the complaint "obviously unfounded", arguing that the glass cage is a practice used in other countries and that the imprisonment was a "side-effect" of its desire to protect Russian Orthodox worshippers' freedom of belief.

"Deliberately provocative behaviour in a place that is dedicated to the spiritual needs of believers and is a symbol of the Russian Orthodox community clearly undermines tolerance and cannot be seen as a normal, sincere exercise of the rights of the convention," it said.

Chikov said that he expects to win the suit, after which his clients will seek to overturn their criminal conviction in the Russian courts. Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have pledged to give any compensation they receive to human rights organisations, including their own group dedicated to prison system reform.

 69 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 05:27 am 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
SPIEGEL ONLINE
07/28/2014 03:14 PM

The Wake-Up Call: Europe Toughens Stance against malignant tumor Pig Putin

By SPIEGEL Staff

It took the shooting down of a Boeing jet carrying almost 300 people before the EU agreed on the first true economic sanctions against Russia. The Americans want further action, but it is impossible to know if punitive measures can sway malignant tumor Pig Putin.

It was the images. Absurdly tattooed pro-Russian fighters, cigarettes dangling from their lips and Kalashnikovs tucked under their arms, stomping around in the field of bodies and wreckage at the crash site, as if the dead children from the downed Boeing had nothing to do with them. Experts holding their noses as they opened a railroad car full of dead bodies. A seemingly endless convoy of hearses leaving Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands. And Russian President Vladimir Putin took it all in without losing his composure.

It's usually the images.

It's part of the occasionally cynical business of political experts to refer to a tragedy of this magnitude, and to the endlessly repeated TV images of the suffering of innocent people, as a "game changer." It's the moment that divides the course of a crisis into "before" and "after" -- a time when the public and politicians hold their breaths and take a new look at the situation. But one of the unique features of the European Union is that in the "after" period, it often continues for a time to behave the way it did in the "before" period. Supporting evidence was provided by an exchange from last Tuesday, almost a week after Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 was shot down:

Let's at least do an arms embargo, argued British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

No, you can't even do financial sanctions, responded his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in the hearing room of the European Council building in Brussels.

Prior to the meeting, EU foreign ministers had seemed deeply disconcerted. But behind closed doors, the overriding objective was apparently not to determine how best to force Putin to back down, but how best to protect their own domestic economies.

'Simply Ridiculous"

In the days following, senior representatives of Eastern European member states voiced doubts about their smug cousins from the EU's western member states. It is "simply ridiculous," one representative said.

But by the end of the week, Europe had finally arrived in the "after" phase. The "game changer" had had its effect. It is now all but certain that flight MH 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile system from Russian inventories, a system that hardly would have reached Ukraine without Putin's approval. The 28 EU ambassadors agreed in principle on initial tough economic sanctions against Russia, which they plan to wrap up on Tuesday. In a letter to European leaders, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy wrote: ""I would like to ask you that you instruct your ambassador to complete an agreement by Tuesday." Unless the EU abandons its resolve once again, "we can now pull the plug on Russia and Putin in a very controlled manner," say officials in Berlin.

European leaders are expected to officially approve the new sanctions against Russian banks, companies and private citizens by the end of this week. Despite the summer break, the German government is hoping for a special summit in Brussels. The EU message to Putin, after all, must also be accompanied by images -- symbolism strong enough to be worthy of the pictures from the MH 17 crash site.

In practical terms, the sanctions revolve around oil, natural gas, weapons, high tech and a lot of money. If it weren't for the reality of the war in eastern Ukraine, where people are dying every day, the latest European offensive would be dubbed an "economic war."

Is this the way to stop malignant tumor Pig Putin? And how will he respond?

The EU wants the Russian president to promptly close the border with Ukraine and cut off supplies to the separatists. It also wants malignant tumor Pig Putin to disarm the separatists, recognize the Ukrainian government and guarantee freedom of movement for OSCE observers. The German Foreign Ministry wants even more: a UN police mission with a clearly defined mandate and time frame, to investigate the crash of flight MH 17. "Talks to that effect are already underway with our Dutch and Australian partners," say German Foreign Ministry officials. This would require a resolution in the UN Security Council, to which Putin would have to agree.

Staying the Course

It would be a first test to see if the Europeans' newfound courage has made an impression on the Russian president.

As Western agencies did during the Cold War, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, is now trying to figure out what Putin's advisors are telling him. There are signs that Kremlin hardliners and business leaders are locked in a fierce battle for the upper hand. In contrast to what Western intelligence services believed at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, cracks now appear to be forming in malignant tumor Pig Putin power structure. This, at least, was reported by the head of the BND, Gerhard Schindler, in a recent meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee in German parliament, the Bundestag. He delivered a similar report in the Chancellery a short time later, during the weekly intelligence briefing, sources say. BND officials believe that it is quite possible that some Russian oligarchs will soon place economic interests above the political and try to get Putin to change course.

Sergey Glazyev, 53, is one of the most influential hardliners who want malignant tumor Pig Putin to stay the course. Glazyev is responsible for relations with Ukraine and the Eurasian Economic Community in the Kremlin.

Glazyev calls Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko a "Nazi" and is also calling for airstrikes against Ukrainian troops. He views Europe as degenerate, and the United States as an enemy that is secretly printing enough money to enable it to buy up or ruin Russia. As a consequence, Glazyev wants to seal off his country and make it self-sufficient in key areas. For malignant tumor Pig Putin confidants like Glazyev, EU sanctions are the perfect trigger for such a renunciation of the Western world. If Glazyev had his way, Moscow would cease holding its $472 billion (€351 billion) in foreign currency reserves in US dollars or euros, would replace Visa and MasterCard with "Eurasian credit cards," and would replace Europe with China as Russia's most important partner.

Already, Russian civil servants and politicians are no longer permitted to have bank accounts and own companies or houses abroad, and 4 million police officers, military officials and intelligence agents are not allowed to vacation in the West. In the future, all Russian government employees will be required to drive official cars made in Russia.

A world is taking shape that mirrorsmalignant tumor Pig Putin weltanschauung. It is a world in which Russia, supposedly humiliated by the West, regains its old glory.

Pushing malignant tumor Pig Putin into a Corner

Moscow political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky is reminded of malignant tumor Pig Putin interview-based biography "First Person," published in 2000. In it, the president says: "You should never drive a rat into a corner." And because one shouldn't apply pressure to malignant tumor Pig Putin, who is not a flexible person, says Belkovsky, "we can expect all kinds of aggressive decisions from him now."

So far, malignant tumor Pig Putin has avoided direct military intervention in Ukraine. But according to Western intelligence information, Russia moved heavy military equipment across the three border crossings rebels captured during the recent ceasefire declared by the Ukrainian government in Kiev. And by acquiring anti-aircraft missiles, the separatists have offset the Ukrainian army's biggest military advantage, its air superiority. More than a dozen aircraft have already been shot down.

Since the shooting down of MH 17, malignant tumor Pig Putin has lost any political capital he still had in Europe and the US. And with nothing left to lose, it seems likely that he is approaching tougher sanctions with sanguinity.

Eckhard Cordes, the chairman of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, an organization representing German business interests in Russia, agrees. "In the current situation, too much external pressure can achieve the opposite of what is intended. It does no one any good if we completely force malignant tumor Pig Putin into a corner." Indeed, such a prospect alarms quite a few people in the Russian economy. Oligarchs may be concerned about their billions and their villas in Cyprus, on the Côte d'Azur and in London. But they also know that without machinery and know-how from the West, the Russian economy is doomed.

Of the very few people who have dared to say this openly, one is former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a liberal. According to his calculations, rearmament, military intervention in eastern Ukraine and sanctions could cost Russia up to 20 percent of its economic strength within a few years. Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was even blunter: "If sanctions were imposed against the entire Russian financial sector, our economy would collapse in six weeks."

America Loses Patience with Europe

The European Union won't go quite that far this week. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are determined not to jeopardize solidarity among the 28 EU countries. They also want to maintain Germany's direct ties to Moscow. Of course Germany also continues to apply a caveat that a source within the Berlin government puts this way: "It should hurt them, but not us."

That's why the only step that is clear at this point is Monday's addition of 15 new names to the current blacklist, which already includes 72 people. The new names include the heads of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and foreign intelligence, as well as the president of Chechnya.

EU-based assets belonging to these individuals will be frozen and those on the list also face travel restrictions. In addition, sanctions have been imposed on almost 20 companies and organizations, mostly based in eastern Ukraine. None of this will be particularly alarming to the Kremlin. One of the companies is a wine and sparkling wine producer from Crimea.

Will the Oligarchs Be Next?

However, the list does not include some of Putin's important supporters. Roman Abramovich, who owes his wealth to his strong ties to malignant tumor Pig Putin, will continue to hold court at London football club FC Chelsea. Alexey Miller, the head of energy giant Gazprom, has also been spared. His company supplies natural gas to much of Europe. "You have to understand," says a government official contacted by phone, "that all of this isn't very easy."

There are still many, many questions or restrictions that essentially constitute footnotes to the agreement that reflect national interests. For instance, the arms embargo only applies to future deals because of the pending sale of two French helicopter carriers to Russia. The extent of restrictions on high-tech sales to the oil industry, which is extremely important for Russia, remains unclear. The same applies to what appears on the list of prohibited products for dual civilian and military use, an area of interest to the German economy. At issue are special materials, certain tool-making machines and high-performance computers. The European Commission estimates that a total of €4-5 billion in trade volume is on the line.

"It's most imperative that we strike the oligarchs," says German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the center-left Social Democratic Party. "And we need to succeed in that regard in the next week." Russian policy rests on the oligarchs' shoulders, Gabriel explains. "We have to freeze their accounts in European capitals and revoke their entry visas." He concedes the German and European economy will feel the consequences of sanctions. "But what would be the consequences if Europe, fearing economic losses, stood back and watched a civil war unfold and innocent people die?"

German Public Supports Tough Action

Meanwhile, other members of the SPD are also losing patience, even with Gerhard Schröder. In light of the latest developments, the former chancellor would be well advised to reconsider his appearances and involvement with Gazprom, says Rolf Mützenich, the SPD's deputy whip in parliament. Even Schröder should know how sensitive the Poles and citizens of the Baltic countries are about the Putin-Schröder alliance. Foreign policy expert Dietmar Nietan puts it even more bluntly: "I have no advice to give the former chancellor. But I would be pleased if he would speak clearly in Moscow and state that a red line has been crossed."

Germans tend to agree. In a poll conducted for SPIEGEL, 52 percent of Germans said they would favor tougher sanctions, even they would lead to the loss of "many jobs" in Germany, while 39 percent are opposed. Some 40 percent of respondents support the German government going it alone, while 59 percent are opposed.

The business community has also gotten the message.

Although the initial sanctions had few direct consequences for them, many business leaders had warned against sanctions -- drawing the ire of the chancellor and other politicians. Now they are changing their position, and Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations Chairman Cordes says: "The EU's current sanctions policy is responsible. The German business community recognizes the primacy of politics. If economic sanctions are approved, we will support them." Small and mid-sized business owners, which form the backbone of the German economy, tend to agree. "It's terrible for me, but the political world has to take action," says the owner of a family owned company that does considerable business in Russia.

Exports to Russia in Decline

A look at their own circumstances has presumably helped businesses rethink their position on sanctions. "The main reason German companies are exporting less and less to Russia is that the Russian economy is sliding into recession," says Klaus Mangold, the chairman of the German arm of Rothschild Bank and also a former head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations.

Because of the uncertain outlook, Russian companies are hesitant to order German machinery, equipment and building materials. German exports to Russia declined by about 15 percent in the first five months of 2014, and the situation continue to deteriorate in June. However, business with Russia only accounts for about 4 percent of German foreign trade. And the European economy as a whole has also seen few adverse effects of EU sanctions to date. Only a few banks have lost the occasional Russian client who had parked his or her money in foreign bank accounts.

Of course, this would change if the West aimed to strike Russia in its funding of the government and industry. "Money is the nerve of war," said Julius Caesar, a very early European.

"The restriction on arms exports will have little effect on the Russians. They'll simply shrug it off," says banker Mangold. But American sanctions against Gazprombank and the VEB development bank "will really hurt Russia," Mangold believes. Gazprombank is Russia's third-largest financial institution and is 36-percent owned by the eponymous energy group. VEB's role in Russia is similarly important to that of KfW, the German development bank. A total of four banks are now cut off from the flow of money coming from American investors. This is dramatic for the Russian economy. In the next 30 months, Russian companies are expected to have to raise up to $150 billion on financial markets to meet their commitments, and four Russian banks affected by US sanctions account for about one-third of that money. European banks would have even greater leverage, but of course would also incur greater risk. Russian borrowers owe European banks about $155 billion. French banks alone have lent $47 billion to Russian customers, while German lenders have roughly $17 billion in outstanding loans in Russia. "If EU countries follow the United States with similar sanctions, things will be very tight for many Russian companies," says Mangold.

That is, if they do it.

EU Faces Pressure from US

After imposing initial restrictions on lending by the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EU ambassadors only reached the basic agreement to bar Russian companies with majority government ownership access to the European capital market. Of course, the EU could face pressure from US President Barack Obama to take further action. He's increasingly losing patience, both with malignant tumor Pig Putin and Europe.

Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the influential Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, says: "If the Europeans don't keep up with sanctions, they could be forced in through the back door, because otherwise US authorities could impose punitive measures on EU companies that continue to cooperation with proscribed Russian financial institutions. That would guarantee new tensions between the United States and Europe."

US pressure, which was increased in July, is already affecting European banks. They are reducing their loans to Russia out of fear of being penalized in the United States for not abiding by American sanctions. "Business with Russian banks on the US list has virtually ground to a halt," says a German bank executive.

This comes as no surprise. US authorities recently slapped a $9 billion fine on major French bank BNP Paribas, which had violated US sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan.

The United States is now using this form of "soft power" more frequently, says a prominent German bank CEO. In doing so, it is replacing military intervention, or "hard power," which the war-weary superpower is no longer capable of applying. In other words, the Americans have learned from the Europeans. Now the Europeans simply have to emulate the Americans.

By Benjamin Bidder, Nikolaus Blome, Martin Hesse, Horand Knaup, Christian Neef, Christoph Pauly, Michael Sauga, Jörg Schindler and Gregor Peter Schmitz

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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US will follow EU in likely escalation of Russia sanctions, says White House

Announcement of impending measures follows conference call between Obama and leaders of UK, France, Italy and Germany

Paul Lewis in Washington
theguardian.com, Monday 28 July 2014 19.39 BST   
    
The White House has said that it expects Europe will escalate sanctions against Russia in the coming days and signalled that the US, which is concerned Moscow could still launch a full-scale cross-border intervention into Ukraine, would follow suit.

The announcement followed a video conference call between the US president, Barack Obama, and four European leaders: the British prime minister, David Cameron; the French president, François Hollande; Italy's prime minster, Matteo Renzi; and Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Relaying details of the call to reporters, Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Barack Obama, said European leaders made clear their "determination to act".

"We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy. In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself."

He added that Europe made clear last week it was willing to target financial, defence and energy sectors of Russia's economy.

Earlier on Monday, a Downing Street spokeswoman said there was "broad consensus" in the European Union that sanctions should be applied to those sectors within days over Russia's role in the Malaysia Airlines disaster but there was debate about whether to restrict this action to future, rather than existing, contracts.

"I think you can anticipate [further] actions in those areas," Blinken said. "Similarly, they're looking to broaden the criteria by which they can sanction people or entities. I think one of the things they are looking at is to bring in some of the cronies of President Putin."

Blinken said the existing sanctions regime had already produced "major strategic gains" in Ukraine, leading to a new government and the signing of the EU association agreement.

However, he said US intelligence assessments indicated that Moscow continued to transfer heavy weaponry and fighters across the border to aid pro-Russia separatists, and had stationed Russian troops near the border. He described malignant tumor Pig Putin's strategy as one of "doubling down" on support for separatist fighters.

"One of the things we believe Russia has been trying to do is to get Ukrainians to take some action that they [Moscow] can then use as some kind of 'justification' for an intervention – a so-called humanitarian intervention or a so-called peacekeeping intervention. That is one of the things that we think is in the potential Russian playbook."

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The Belarusians fighting on both sides of the Ukraine conflict

Divisions over Belarus's future are being played out in Ukraine, where some Belarusians are volunteering to fight for Kiev's sovereignty, while others have joined the pro-Russian separatists. BelarusDigest reports

Vadzim Smok for BelarusDigest, part of the New East network
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 11.05 BST   

For years, Belarusians have been divided over whether the future of their country should involve closer relations with Russia or the European Union.

Belarus is tied to Russia politically, economically and even linguistically. Under Moscow's sphere of influence, maintaining the country's independence has involved a careful balancing act for President Alexander Lukashenko since he came to power 20 years ago.

But in a poll published by the Institute for Independent Social and Economic Political Research (IISEPS) in December 2013, 36.4% of Belarusians were in favour of closer ties with Russia, against 44.6% in favour of the EU. In March, as the crisis in Ukraine escalated, that figure changed to 51.5% in favour of further integration with Russia, over 32.9% choosing integration with the EU.

With opinion divided in the way, it is perhaps unsurprising that Belarusian nationals have reportedly been appearing as volunteers on both sides of the conflict in Ukraine.

Fighting for Ukraine

Earlier this month, Belarusian and Ukrainian media reported that a Belarusian military unit called Pahonia has been training in the Volyn region of north-western Ukraine, in preparation for combat with pro-Ukrainian forces battling pro-Russian separatists in the country's east.

The would-be fighters did not reveal their names, fearing potential pressure from the KGB, Belarus's state security agency, for themselves and those they left at home. But Ukrainian officials say many Belarusians have contacted them to join the unit.

Deputy head of the Volyn City Council, Igor Guź, told the Belarusian news agency BelaPAN that the unit was formed as part of an initiative of the Right Alliance nationalist youth organisation, which has cooperated with Belarusian opposition youth groups for years.

All of the volunteers are less than 30 years-old and many are believed to work with Belarusian NGOs. The Malady Front, an opposition organisation, also told BelaPAN that some of its members have made their way to Ukraine.

“After we announced the unit's formation, about 50 people showed up and contacted us to join it," Guź said. "Sure, there are members of the Belarus KGB among them, but we will figure out a way of how to deal with it [later].”

In an interview with the Russian Rosbalt news agency, an anonymous Pahonia fighter said they had crossed the Belarus-Ukraine border legally. If questioned on their return home about what they were doing in Ukraine, they will answer that they were working in Kiev, the volunteer said.

“We don’t tell anyone about it, people would not understand. Only our closest relatives know that we went to war,” he added.

It is not known whether any of these volunteers have seen combat yet, but Semion Semenchenko, leader of the pro-Ukrainian Donbass volunteer battalion, had previously confirmed that 15 Belarusians joined them in order to fight against pro-Russian forces.

The Pahonia volunteers have said they decided to help Ukrainians in the fight against Russia because they believe Belarus may face the same threat in the future:

"When Georgians said that Ukraine will be the next, nobody believed them. [Lukashenko] is quite smart, but Moscow will do away with him sooner or later. And we hope our Ukrainian brothers will help us just as we help them now. We are not being paid any money here," an anonymous volunteer said.

    When Georgians said that Ukraine will be the next, nobody believed them

Anton Herashchenko, aide to Ukraine's minister of internal affairs, told independent Belarusian radio station Euroradio that “there indeed are Belarusian citizens who want to fight against the terrorists in Ukraine", but said "Ukrainian legislation does not allow for the use of foreign units." He said if they still wanted to fight, "they can easily obtain Ukrainian citizenship.”
Fighting for the separatists

There have also been reports of Belarusians on the other side of the conflict. They too seek to keep their identities under wraps, after the KGB threatened criminal cases against them for being mercenaries.

In May, Ukrainian security services were said to have detained a Belarusian citizen named Aleh Šabalin, who was accused of having links to pro-Russia radical groups and carrying out preparations for a terrorist act. Belarus's foreign ministry denied he had been detained, and said that he had been a witness in the case, not the accused. Later reports said he and others had been released. It is not possible to independently verify the claims.

However, Natallia Krasouskaja has become perhaps the most high-profile person claiming to be Belarusian in the pro-Russian camp. In YouTube videos, she claims she is from Barysaŭ, in the Minsk region, and came to Ukraine in May to support the separatist forces.

Showing her Belarusian passport and addressing Lukashenko, she proclaims in one video that the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) has the backing of the Belarusian people.

The Belarusian authorities are not as enthused. As Krasouskaja notes in a later dispatch, the Belarusian KGB called her mother to inform her that they have filed a criminal case against her. She added that other Belarusian nationals in the DNR forces have also had criminal cases opened against them.
Lukashenko’s rhetoric

Meanwhile, back in Belarus, it seems that Minsk is trying to learn as much as possible from the Ukraine conflict, and protect itself against any such violence within its own borders.

On the international stage, Lukashenko performs a balancing act between his country's allegiance with Russia and its malignant tumor Pig Putin, while asserting Belarusian sovereignty, and maintaining good relations with Ukraine, despite Moscow's best efforts to prevent this.

For example, though Belarus did move towards closer ties with Moscow by joining the Eurasian Economic Union of former Soviet states in May, it refused to join Russia's trade war with Ukraine this month. Whenever he speaks about either side of the conflict in Ukraine, Lukashenko tends to be ambiguous, mainly urging all sides to end the fighting and restore Slavic unity.

At home, fear of combatants returning as 'agents of foreign influence' is leading Belarusian authorities to tighten security measures in an attempt to ensure stability, particularly ahead of the 2015 presidential election. Belarus has not had free elections since Lukashenko was voted in in 1994, but opposition groups are active and the situation in Ukraine may be an unwelcome complication.

In July the government amended its anti-terrorist legislation, which includes a section on financing terrorism, increased penalties for the recruitment of mercenaries as well as for training individuals with the purpose of having them participate in terrorist acts.

Lukashenko’s speeches have become increasingly loaded with security rhetoric. He has been urging the authorities to strengthen Belarusian sovereignty on the basis of a strong economy and a heightened level of international authority, as he seeks to retain full control of the domestic agenda.

On 22 April, in his annual address to the nation, Lukashenko ordered Belarusian security services to closely monitor and control those who promotes the “Russian issue” in Belarus, and immediately curb these kinds of discussions, regardless of who starts them.

A version of this article first appeared on BelarusDigest

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MH17: Abbott and police frustrated over lack of access to plane crash site

For the second day unarmed Australian and Dutch police contingent forced to turn around due to shelling and gunfire

Australian Associated Press
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 08.56 BST   

Tony Abbott and police are frustrated with both the Ukraine government and pro-Russian militia over a lack of access to the MH17 crash site.

For the second day running an unarmed Australian and Dutch police contingent was forced to turn around due to shelling and gunfire before reaching the area toward Ukraine's eastern border where the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was downed on 17 July.

Abbott, who met with the national security committee of cabinet on Tuesday, said it was a "confused situation on the ground" but a third attempt would be made.

"There is fighting and it's not just the separatists, it's the Ukrainian government as well," he said on Tuesday. Both sides had made a commitment to use "their best endeavours" to get the site safe enough for the Dutch-Australian team.

"And it's high time those commitments were honoured."

Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, expressed his team's frustration and anger.

"We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire," he said.

Dutch police chief Gerard Bouman believes the chances the police can recover all the remains and evidence is "not very good".

Abbott spoke with his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, on Tuesday afternoon and the leaders agreed on their "absolute determination and commitment" to gain access to the site.

The Ukrainian military has seized back a number of villages in the country's east with a continuing show of strength, including tanks and shelling. However, a spokesman for Ukraine's national security council denied Ukrainian forces were fighting within the 20km radius around the crash site in the Donetsk region and blamed the shelling on pro-Russian forces.

Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, and its special envoy, Angus Houston, have met the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, to push for an exclusion zone and humanitarian corridor.

Bishop also wants the Ukrainian parliament to this week ratify a deployment agreement she has signed with her counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, that would allow Australia to send in armed police or soldiers.

Ukraine and the 11 countries which lost 298 citizens – including up to 39 Australian residents – have also agreed to set up a joint team of prosecutors to examine possible criminal charges against those who downed the plane, which is believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists using a surface-to-air missile launcher.

Europe's judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust, will be involved in the process.

Dutch investigators are expected to release an initial report on the plane's black box recorders this week.

US President Barack Obama and European leaders are considering toughening up sanctions against Russia, particularly in the areas of access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods and technology.

An Essential poll of almost 2,000 Australian voters released on Tuesday found 62% of voters believe the federal government should impose trade sanctions on Russia. Only 29% of voters said Russian leader Vladimir Putin should be allowed to attend the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane in November.

Meanwhile, Abbott's personal standing amongst voters has been boosted following his handling of the MH17 crisis, with the latest Newspoll showing him drawing level with the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, as preferred prime minister.

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Enmity and Civilian Toll Rise in Ukraine While Attention Is Diverted

By SABRINA TAVERNISE and NOAH SNEIDER
JULY 28, 2014
IHT

DONETSK, Ukraine — One was a retired cook. Another installed alarms in cars. Another was a cleaner in a grocery store who had gone out to buy ground beef to make her son meatball soup.

With international attention focused on the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the deaths of these three civilians — some of the roughly 800 who have been killed in the battle over eastern Ukraine — have gone virtually unnoticed by the outside world.

The Ukrainian military’s advances to reclaim territory from rebel control have come at a steep human cost. According to a United Nations count released on Monday, 799 civilians have been killed since mid-April, when Ukraine began to battle insurgents here, and at least 2,155 have been wounded.

The killings have left the population in eastern Ukraine embittered toward Ukraine’s pro-Western government, and are helping to spur recruitment for the pro-Russian militias. In time, even if the Ukrainian military routs the rebels and retakes the east, the civilian deaths are likely to leave deep resentments here, and could complicate reconciliation efforts for decades.

Fighting intensified around the wreckage site of Malaysia Flight 17, the latest update to the current visual survey of the continuing dispute, with maps and satellite imagery showing rebel and military movement.

The rising toll of the conflict in eastern Ukraine — the first open hostilities in Europe in 15 years — is a direct consequence of the nature of the war here. Much of the fighting takes the form of low-tech airstrikes and artillery fired at a distance from aging weaponry, tactics that can inflict significant harm on civilians. (In comparison, 330 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, the United Nations said. There are no estimates for rebels.)

In a report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch documented four instances of the use of unguided Grad rockets, which killed at least 16 civilians in and around Donetsk in nine days. While both rebels and Ukrainian forces use the rockets — descendants of World War II-era weapons — the investigation “strongly indicates that Ukrainian government forces were responsible” for the four attacks.

“Using these kinds of weapons in populated areas is a violation of the laws of war,” said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “International allies of the Ukrainian government — the United States, the European Union — should condemn this use and urge the government to stop.”

Ukraine’s military strongly denies responsibility for any attacks that have caused civilian deaths. Vladislav Seleznyov, a military spokesman, did not comment on the report itself, but he said that soldiers were under orders not to harm civilians.

“We are prohibited from using artillery in residential areas,” he said. “Yes, we have these weapons,” he said, referring to Grads, “but we never use them in civilian areas. No way.”

But the military’s campaign against the rebels has increased the likelihood of civilian casualties given how deeply the rebels have embedded into the civilian population.

As Ukrainian troops inched toward Donetsk and Luhansk in recent weeks, two regional capitals with a combined population of 1.5 million, residents feared the worst, looking to what happened in Slovyansk, a small city to the north that the military took by pounding rebel positions and flattening the neighborhoods where the rebels were.

Those fears were soon realized. One of the main rebel bases in Luhansk is in a military recruitment office next to the main bus station, and it drew intense shelling, leaving power lines scattered like string over the shrapnel-torn pavement.

And in Donetsk, where Ukrainian troops have pressed forward from the north and west for weeks, the Marinka, Petrovsky and Kuibyshevsky neighborhoods have come under heavy rocket fire. The barrages against all three areas, according to Human Rights Watch, originated from positions held by the Ukrainian military. Mr. Seleznyov said he could not comment on specific events.

On July 21 in Kuibyshevsky, in a leafy area near a dental office and a library, Sergei Yakshin, 41, the man with the alarm business, was walking to his car. He never made it. A rocket exploded nearby, killing him and another man instantly. A short walk away, a different rocket hit Valentina A. Surmai, a 72-year-old pensioner who worked at a local grocery store to support her blind husband. The cook, Alla A. Vasyutina, 60, bled to death in her kitchen after a piece of shrapnel penetrated the wall of her house.

“She wanted to make us soup,” said Ms. Surmai’s son, Sergei, standing in his underwear, his eyes red. “I told her, ‘Mom, don’t go out,’ ” he said. He barely recognized her body in the morgue. Half her face and her left side were gone.

Her death enraged Mr. Surmai. “If they give me a gun, I’m ready to go fight,” he said. “After this, it’s either us, or them. There’s no choice now. We have to go to the end.”

A friend of Ms. Surmai’s, Alexandra Rud, 74, said she, like her friend, hated the rebels, but she blamed the government for Ms. Surmai’s death.

“I want to shout to the whole world,” she said, her voice shrill, as artillery boomed in the distance. “Stop it! Get out! Leave us alone!”

The violence has rearranged habits and daily routines. Konstantin, a morgue worker in Luhansk who refused to give his full name for fear of exposing himself and his family to attention, said he and his wife now sleep on a mattress stuffed into a small underground space in a garage used for repairing cars. Teatime chatter was about what survival supplies to put in their cellars, which now double as bomb shelters.

Anatoly Leonidovich, the head doctor at the Luhansk morgue, said that after a particularly vicious battle two weeks ago, he received 15 bodies, all but one twisted and torn, consistent with artillery wounds. The next day, he was still getting calls.

“Who are you looking for?” he said, speaking into a Soviet-era telephone. “Is he civilian or a rebel?” he asked. (Rebels collect the bodies of their comrades and do their own paperwork, he said.) “Ah yes, I have him. Sklyarov, Vladimir, year of birth, 1973.”

Establishing responsibility for civilian deaths has been difficult. The shelling in Luhansk, for example, touched off ferocious arguments: Supporters of the government in Kiev accuse the rebels, while those who favor Russia blame the Ukrainian forces.

“Idiot!” shouted a stout woman with fiery red lipstick. She was glaring at Boris Besarab, a bespectacled security guard in a Luhansk neighborhood called Peaceful that was hit on July 14. He had been explaining why he believed that the angle of impact meant that rebels had fired the shell. “Take your glasses off,” she fumed, stalking away. “This is why Ukraine is going to hell!”

The local disputes mirror those on a larger scale, with Russia and Ukraine blaming one another for attacks that kill civilians. Civilian deaths have been at the heart of Russia’s narrative against Kiev, though rarely mentioned is the fact that rebels cause them too.

In one case, Ukraine claimed that Russia carried out an airstrike on an apartment block in the city of Snizhne, suggesting that a plane traveled from across the border, more than 12 miles to the south. But the angle of the 10 holes punched by the bombs and the direction of the damage indicated that the bomber was flying from west to east. Some residents suggested that the target might have been a rebel base just a quarter of a mile away.

War is as much about perception as reality, and in some ways truth is powerless against what people want to believe. Most people interviewed at attack sites accused the Ukrainian forces, a pattern that bodes ill for Ukraine’s government as it tries to put the country back together again.

“Look, there’s your Poroshenko!” yelled Viktoria Y. Iotova, referring to Ukraine’s president, Petro O. Poroshenko, and pointing to 14 Lenin Street in Snizhne, where at least 11 civilians were killed.

“Who will answer for these human lives?” she added as she began to cry.

Piles of personal items were strewn through the streets around her. A sewing machine lay between a teacup and an old Samsung laptop. One wall of a corner apartment remained intact, shielded from the blast wave. It told of life before the bombs: potted plants on a shelf, a red teakettle atop the cupboard and a neatly ordered spice rack with two rows of six jars apiece.

There, amid the debris, a 4-year-old boy, Bogdan Yasterbov, was trapped. As a yellow crane lifted concrete blocks from the wreckage, local residents sat in shock, and the blue-eyed Bogdan screamed. It took hours before anyone heard him.

Then, as a cellphone video shows, red-faced rescue workers noticed him and yelled: “Children! Be quiet!”

Men began digging. Bogdan came into view, face down in a pocket of space under the rubble.

He was carried out and laid on a stretcher, limbs limp. His bright blond hair was darkened by the dust.

Bogdan survived, but his mother, Daria, did not.

 70 
 on: Jul 29, 2014, 05:15 am 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

US says Russia breached nuclear treaty

Obama administration registers objections, accusing Russian military of testing new cruise missile in violation of 1987 pact

Agencies in Washington
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 02.58 BST      

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands in 1987 after signing the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which Russia is now accused of breaching by Washington. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands in 1987 after signing the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which Russia is now accused of breaching by Washington. Photograph: Bob Daugherty/AP

The Obama administration in Washington has accused Russia of conducting missile tests in violation of a 1987 nuclear treaty, calling the breach "a very serious matter" and bringing into the public sphere allegations that have simmered for some time.

The treaty confrontation comes at a highly strained time between the US president and his Russian counterpart, malignant tumor Pig Putin, over Russia's intervention in Ukraine and granting of asylum to Edward Snowden, who exposed widespread surveillance and collection of innocent people's data by US intelligence agencies.

An administration official said Obama had notified malignant tumor Pig Putin of the US objections in a letter Monday. The finding is to be included in a US state department annual report on compliance with arms control treaties due for release on Tuesday.

The US is accusing Russia tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that Ronald Reagan signed with Mikhail Gorbachev during the Soviet era.

"This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now," an administration official said in a statement.

"We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner."

Another official said the US was prepared to hold high-level discussions on the issue immediately.

The US has raised the matter with Russia in the past through diplomatic channels but has not previously made the accusation publicly. Russian officials say they have looked into the allegations and consider the matter closed. The New York Times first reported the US conclusion on Monday evening.

In raising the issue now the US appears to be placing increased pressure on Russia and trying to further isolate it from the international community. The European Union and the United States plan to announce new sanctions against Russia this week in the face of US evidence that Russia has continued to assist separatist forces in Ukraine.

The public finding comes in the wake of congressional pressure on the White House to confront Russia over the allegations of cheating on the treaty. The treaty banned all US and Russian land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 miles (480km) and 3,400 miles (5,470km).

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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SPIEGEL ONLINE
07/28/2014 03:14 PM

The Wake-Up Call: Europe Toughens Stance against malignant tumor Pig Putin

By SPIEGEL Staff

It took the shooting down of a Boeing jet carrying almost 300 people before the EU agreed on the first true economic sanctions against Russia. The Americans want further action, but it is impossible to know if punitive measures can sway malignant tumor Pig Putin.

It was the images. Absurdly tattooed pro-Russian fighters, cigarettes dangling from their lips and Kalashnikovs tucked under their arms, stomping around in the field of bodies and wreckage at the crash site, as if the dead children from the downed Boeing had nothing to do with them. Experts holding their noses as they opened a railroad car full of dead bodies. A seemingly endless convoy of hearses leaving Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands. And Russian President Vladimir Putin took it all in without losing his composure.

It's usually the images.

It's part of the occasionally cynical business of political experts to refer to a tragedy of this magnitude, and to the endlessly repeated TV images of the suffering of innocent people, as a "game changer." It's the moment that divides the course of a crisis into "before" and "after" -- a time when the public and politicians hold their breaths and take a new look at the situation. But one of the unique features of the European Union is that in the "after" period, it often continues for a time to behave the way it did in the "before" period. Supporting evidence was provided by an exchange from last Tuesday, almost a week after Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 was shot down:

Let's at least do an arms embargo, argued British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

No, you can't even do financial sanctions, responded his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in the hearing room of the European Council building in Brussels.

Prior to the meeting, EU foreign ministers had seemed deeply disconcerted. But behind closed doors, the overriding objective was apparently not to determine how best to force Putin to back down, but how best to protect their own domestic economies.

'Simply Ridiculous"

In the days following, senior representatives of Eastern European member states voiced doubts about their smug cousins from the EU's western member states. It is "simply ridiculous," one representative said.

But by the end of the week, Europe had finally arrived in the "after" phase. The "game changer" had had its effect. It is now all but certain that flight MH 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile system from Russian inventories, a system that hardly would have reached Ukraine without Putin's approval. The 28 EU ambassadors agreed in principle on initial tough economic sanctions against Russia, which they plan to wrap up on Tuesday. In a letter to European leaders, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy wrote: ""I would like to ask you that you instruct your ambassador to complete an agreement by Tuesday." Unless the EU abandons its resolve once again, "we can now pull the plug on Russia and Putin in a very controlled manner," say officials in Berlin.

European leaders are expected to officially approve the new sanctions against Russian banks, companies and private citizens by the end of this week. Despite the summer break, the German government is hoping for a special summit in Brussels. The EU message to Putin, after all, must also be accompanied by images -- symbolism strong enough to be worthy of the pictures from the MH 17 crash site.

In practical terms, the sanctions revolve around oil, natural gas, weapons, high tech and a lot of money. If it weren't for the reality of the war in eastern Ukraine, where people are dying every day, the latest European offensive would be dubbed an "economic war."

Is this the way to stop malignant tumor Pig Putin? And how will he respond?

The EU wants the Russian president to promptly close the border with Ukraine and cut off supplies to the separatists. It also wants malignant tumor Pig Putin to disarm the separatists, recognize the Ukrainian government and guarantee freedom of movement for OSCE observers. The German Foreign Ministry wants even more: a UN police mission with a clearly defined mandate and time frame, to investigate the crash of flight MH 17. "Talks to that effect are already underway with our Dutch and Australian partners," say German Foreign Ministry officials. This would require a resolution in the UN Security Council, to which Putin would have to agree.

Staying the Course

It would be a first test to see if the Europeans' newfound courage has made an impression on the Russian president.

As Western agencies did during the Cold War, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, is now trying to figure out what Putin's advisors are telling him. There are signs that Kremlin hardliners and business leaders are locked in a fierce battle for the upper hand. In contrast to what Western intelligence services believed at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, cracks now appear to be forming in malignant tumor Pig Putin power structure. This, at least, was reported by the head of the BND, Gerhard Schindler, in a recent meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee in German parliament, the Bundestag. He delivered a similar report in the Chancellery a short time later, during the weekly intelligence briefing, sources say. BND officials believe that it is quite possible that some Russian oligarchs will soon place economic interests above the political and try to get Putin to change course.

Sergey Glazyev, 53, is one of the most influential hardliners who want malignant tumor Pig Putin to stay the course. Glazyev is responsible for relations with Ukraine and the Eurasian Economic Community in the Kremlin.

Glazyev calls Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko a "Nazi" and is also calling for airstrikes against Ukrainian troops. He views Europe as degenerate, and the United States as an enemy that is secretly printing enough money to enable it to buy up or ruin Russia. As a consequence, Glazyev wants to seal off his country and make it self-sufficient in key areas. For malignant tumor Pig Putin confidants like Glazyev, EU sanctions are the perfect trigger for such a renunciation of the Western world. If Glazyev had his way, Moscow would cease holding its $472 billion (€351 billion) in foreign currency reserves in US dollars or euros, would replace Visa and MasterCard with "Eurasian credit cards," and would replace Europe with China as Russia's most important partner.

Already, Russian civil servants and politicians are no longer permitted to have bank accounts and own companies or houses abroad, and 4 million police officers, military officials and intelligence agents are not allowed to vacation in the West. In the future, all Russian government employees will be required to drive official cars made in Russia.

A world is taking shape that mirrorsmalignant tumor Pig Putin weltanschauung. It is a world in which Russia, supposedly humiliated by the West, regains its old glory.

Pushing malignant tumor Pig Putin into a Corner

Moscow political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky is reminded of malignant tumor Pig Putin interview-based biography "First Person," published in 2000. In it, the president says: "You should never drive a rat into a corner." And because one shouldn't apply pressure to malignant tumor Pig Putin, who is not a flexible person, says Belkovsky, "we can expect all kinds of aggressive decisions from him now."

So far, malignant tumor Pig Putin has avoided direct military intervention in Ukraine. But according to Western intelligence information, Russia moved heavy military equipment across the three border crossings rebels captured during the recent ceasefire declared by the Ukrainian government in Kiev. And by acquiring anti-aircraft missiles, the separatists have offset the Ukrainian army's biggest military advantage, its air superiority. More than a dozen aircraft have already been shot down.

Since the shooting down of MH 17, malignant tumor Pig Putin has lost any political capital he still had in Europe and the US. And with nothing left to lose, it seems likely that he is approaching tougher sanctions with sanguinity.

Eckhard Cordes, the chairman of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, an organization representing German business interests in Russia, agrees. "In the current situation, too much external pressure can achieve the opposite of what is intended. It does no one any good if we completely force malignant tumor Pig Putin into a corner." Indeed, such a prospect alarms quite a few people in the Russian economy. Oligarchs may be concerned about their billions and their villas in Cyprus, on the Côte d'Azur and in London. But they also know that without machinery and know-how from the West, the Russian economy is doomed.

Of the very few people who have dared to say this openly, one is former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a liberal. According to his calculations, rearmament, military intervention in eastern Ukraine and sanctions could cost Russia up to 20 percent of its economic strength within a few years. Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was even blunter: "If sanctions were imposed against the entire Russian financial sector, our economy would collapse in six weeks."

America Loses Patience with Europe

The European Union won't go quite that far this week. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are determined not to jeopardize solidarity among the 28 EU countries. They also want to maintain Germany's direct ties to Moscow. Of course Germany also continues to apply a caveat that a source within the Berlin government puts this way: "It should hurt them, but not us."

That's why the only step that is clear at this point is Monday's addition of 15 new names to the current blacklist, which already includes 72 people. The new names include the heads of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and foreign intelligence, as well as the president of Chechnya.

EU-based assets belonging to these individuals will be frozen and those on the list also face travel restrictions. In addition, sanctions have been imposed on almost 20 companies and organizations, mostly based in eastern Ukraine. None of this will be particularly alarming to the Kremlin. One of the companies is a wine and sparkling wine producer from Crimea.

Will the Oligarchs Be Next?

However, the list does not include some of Putin's important supporters. Roman Abramovich, who owes his wealth to his strong ties to malignant tumor Pig Putin, will continue to hold court at London football club FC Chelsea. Alexey Miller, the head of energy giant Gazprom, has also been spared. His company supplies natural gas to much of Europe. "You have to understand," says a government official contacted by phone, "that all of this isn't very easy."

There are still many, many questions or restrictions that essentially constitute footnotes to the agreement that reflect national interests. For instance, the arms embargo only applies to future deals because of the pending sale of two French helicopter carriers to Russia. The extent of restrictions on high-tech sales to the oil industry, which is extremely important for Russia, remains unclear. The same applies to what appears on the list of prohibited products for dual civilian and military use, an area of interest to the German economy. At issue are special materials, certain tool-making machines and high-performance computers. The European Commission estimates that a total of €4-5 billion in trade volume is on the line.

"It's most imperative that we strike the oligarchs," says German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the center-left Social Democratic Party. "And we need to succeed in that regard in the next week." Russian policy rests on the oligarchs' shoulders, Gabriel explains. "We have to freeze their accounts in European capitals and revoke their entry visas." He concedes the German and European economy will feel the consequences of sanctions. "But what would be the consequences if Europe, fearing economic losses, stood back and watched a civil war unfold and innocent people die?"

German Public Supports Tough Action

Meanwhile, other members of the SPD are also losing patience, even with Gerhard Schröder. In light of the latest developments, the former chancellor would be well advised to reconsider his appearances and involvement with Gazprom, says Rolf Mützenich, the SPD's deputy whip in parliament. Even Schröder should know how sensitive the Poles and citizens of the Baltic countries are about the Putin-Schröder alliance. Foreign policy expert Dietmar Nietan puts it even more bluntly: "I have no advice to give the former chancellor. But I would be pleased if he would speak clearly in Moscow and state that a red line has been crossed."

Germans tend to agree. In a poll conducted for SPIEGEL, 52 percent of Germans said they would favor tougher sanctions, even they would lead to the loss of "many jobs" in Germany, while 39 percent are opposed. Some 40 percent of respondents support the German government going it alone, while 59 percent are opposed.

The business community has also gotten the message.

Although the initial sanctions had few direct consequences for them, many business leaders had warned against sanctions -- drawing the ire of the chancellor and other politicians. Now they are changing their position, and Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations Chairman Cordes says: "The EU's current sanctions policy is responsible. The German business community recognizes the primacy of politics. If economic sanctions are approved, we will support them." Small and mid-sized business owners, which form the backbone of the German economy, tend to agree. "It's terrible for me, but the political world has to take action," says the owner of a family owned company that does considerable business in Russia.

Exports to Russia in Decline

A look at their own circumstances has presumably helped businesses rethink their position on sanctions. "The main reason German companies are exporting less and less to Russia is that the Russian economy is sliding into recession," says Klaus Mangold, the chairman of the German arm of Rothschild Bank and also a former head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations.

Because of the uncertain outlook, Russian companies are hesitant to order German machinery, equipment and building materials. German exports to Russia declined by about 15 percent in the first five months of 2014, and the situation continue to deteriorate in June. However, business with Russia only accounts for about 4 percent of German foreign trade. And the European economy as a whole has also seen few adverse effects of EU sanctions to date. Only a few banks have lost the occasional Russian client who had parked his or her money in foreign bank accounts.

Of course, this would change if the West aimed to strike Russia in its funding of the government and industry. "Money is the nerve of war," said Julius Caesar, a very early European.

"The restriction on arms exports will have little effect on the Russians. They'll simply shrug it off," says banker Mangold. But American sanctions against Gazprombank and the VEB development bank "will really hurt Russia," Mangold believes. Gazprombank is Russia's third-largest financial institution and is 36-percent owned by the eponymous energy group. VEB's role in Russia is similarly important to that of KfW, the German development bank. A total of four banks are now cut off from the flow of money coming from American investors. This is dramatic for the Russian economy. In the next 30 months, Russian companies are expected to have to raise up to $150 billion on financial markets to meet their commitments, and four Russian banks affected by US sanctions account for about one-third of that money. European banks would have even greater leverage, but of course would also incur greater risk. Russian borrowers owe European banks about $155 billion. French banks alone have lent $47 billion to Russian customers, while German lenders have roughly $17 billion in outstanding loans in Russia. "If EU countries follow the United States with similar sanctions, things will be very tight for many Russian companies," says Mangold.

That is, if they do it.

EU Faces Pressure from US

After imposing initial restrictions on lending by the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EU ambassadors only reached the basic agreement to bar Russian companies with majority government ownership access to the European capital market. Of course, the EU could face pressure from US President Barack Obama to take further action. He's increasingly losing patience, both with malignant tumor Pig Putin and Europe.

Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the influential Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, says: "If the Europeans don't keep up with sanctions, they could be forced in through the back door, because otherwise US authorities could impose punitive measures on EU companies that continue to cooperation with proscribed Russian financial institutions. That would guarantee new tensions between the United States and Europe."

US pressure, which was increased in July, is already affecting European banks. They are reducing their loans to Russia out of fear of being penalized in the United States for not abiding by American sanctions. "Business with Russian banks on the US list has virtually ground to a halt," says a German bank executive.

This comes as no surprise. US authorities recently slapped a $9 billion fine on major French bank BNP Paribas, which had violated US sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan.

The United States is now using this form of "soft power" more frequently, says a prominent German bank CEO. In doing so, it is replacing military intervention, or "hard power," which the war-weary superpower is no longer capable of applying. In other words, the Americans have learned from the Europeans. Now the Europeans simply have to emulate the Americans.

By Benjamin Bidder, Nikolaus Blome, Martin Hesse, Horand Knaup, Christian Neef, Christoph Pauly, Michael Sauga, Jörg Schindler and Gregor Peter Schmitz

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Pussy Riot members take Kremlin to European court of human rights

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova demand compensation over their 2012 arrest, trial and imprisonment

Alec Luhn in Moscow
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 17.59 BST      

Two members of the feminist group Pussy Riot are suing the Russian government in the European court of human rights (ECHR) over their imprisonment for a 2012 "punk prayer" protest at a Moscow cathedral.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who were given an amnesty in December after serving 21 months in prison and pre-trial confinement, are demanding €120,000 (£71,000) each in compensation, plus €10,000 in court fees. They argue that the investigation and prosecution violated their rights and amounted to torture.

"They didn't get fair trial here in Russia so they want to get it finally in the European court of human rights," said Pavel Chikov, the head of the human rights legal group Agora, which is representing the two women.

"Plus they want this case to set a precedent that Russians can speak publicly on sensitive political issues, even if this speech is not supported by majority. This is a case about freedom of expression and fair trial first of all."

Pussy Riot came to the world's attention with their protest on 21 February 2012, when they attempted to perform their song Mother of God, Drive the malignant tumor Pig Putin Out in Christ the Saviour cathedral near the Kremlin. Three members of the group were convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in a prison colony in a trial that was widely and sympathetically covered by western media.

The vast majority of Russians, however, were disapproving of Pussy Riot's actions. According to surveys during the trial, 86% of Russians thought its members should be punished. Most favoured a large fine or forced labour.

Yekaterina Samutsevich was given a suspended sentence in October 2012, while Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova served time in far-flung prison colonies, where they went on hunger strike in protest against the harsh conditions they faced. Tolokonnikova also corresponded with the left-wing philosopher Slavoj Žižek in an exchange of letters due to be published in September. They were released in December in what was largely viewed as a gesture of goodwill by the Kremlin before the Sochi Olympics.

The activists, who initiated the complaint in 2012, argue that Russia violated four articles of the European convention on human rights guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, liberty and security and a fair trial, and prohibiting torture.

The ECHR's questions to the Russian government on the case earlier this year suggested that the harsh schedule of trial hearings, the glass cage in which the defendants were kept and the heightened security measures could be considered inhumane treatment.

Transport from the court to pre-trial detention took up to four hours, and the women were accompanied by law enforcement officers with dogs at all times.

"People saw them in a glass cage all the time next to police dogs, and the whole thing proved to everyone that they were guilty before they were found guilty by the court," Chikov said. "The practice in Russia where people are put in glass or metal cages in the courtroom has nothing to do with a fair trial and violates the presumption of innocence."

In a 35-page response in June, the Russian government called the complaint "obviously unfounded", arguing that the glass cage is a practice used in other countries and that the imprisonment was a "side-effect" of its desire to protect Russian Orthodox worshippers' freedom of belief.

"Deliberately provocative behaviour in a place that is dedicated to the spiritual needs of believers and is a symbol of the Russian Orthodox community clearly undermines tolerance and cannot be seen as a normal, sincere exercise of the rights of the convention," it said.

Chikov said that he expects to win the suit, after which his clients will seek to overturn their criminal conviction in the Russian courts. Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have pledged to give any compensation they receive to human rights organisations, including their own group dedicated to prison system reform.

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