Syria versus OPCW

A global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW says it has deployed fact-finding teams to investigate an alleged chemical attack in Douma, a town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta kept in hands of insurgents.

The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirms that the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team is on its way to Syria and will start its work as of Saturday 14 April, 2018,” – the official confirmed.

The announcement came a few days after the alleged chemical attack which, according to NGOs on the ground, claimed the lives of more than 85 civilians and harmed thousand more.

Syrian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar Al-Jaafari confirmed Damascus’ readiness to provide unlimited assistance to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission coming to the city of Douma in order to investigate into an alleged chemical attack.

“My country Syria stresses its unlimited cooperation with the OPCW to fulfill the commitments stated in the convention of the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons,Al-Jaafari said during an emergency meeting on Syria at the UN Security Council this week.

Once again Al-Jaafari reminded that Syrian government has no possession of any chemicals weapons including chlorine that was allegedly used over the weekend in Douma, he added.

The Syrian Arabic Republic stresses once again it does not possess any chemical weapons of any type, including chlorine,”Al- Jaafari said, while addressing UN.

However the record of co-operation between OPCW and Syrian government is far from being flawless. Back in 2017 Syria rejected the conclusions of the report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism on Khan Sheikhoun incident because it was not “neutral and not professional, and it built its false charges against Syria on the process of fabricating evidence and manipulating informationAl-Jaafari claimed.

In a session (November 2017) of the Security Council on the report OPCW-UN Joint Mechanism, Al-Jaafari wondered how the Mechanism didn’t consider Khan Sheikhoun incident as a political issue, saying “Since when is chemical terrorism considered a fully technical issue and not a political one?”

Al-Jaafari said that some states’ governments claim that they adhere to ethics and they consider themselves as custodians of the provisions of international law and the UN Charter while at the same time they adopt policies that violate these noble moral principles and they exploit them to implement their destructive interference agendas“.

Al Jafari UN

“Some UN committees, such as the Joint Mechanism, which should be neutral, professional, and credible, have proven through their work that they are biased and politicized,” Al-Jaafari continued ‘(2017).

Ambassador cited a number of examples indicating to lack of neutrality and professionalism by the Joint Mechanism, and regretted that the  report on the internal investigations on the incident of Khan Sheikhoun did not reveal the truth about the attack.

Syria-OPCW turbulent record casts doubts if the current mission findings would be accepted by Syrian government as objective. Subsequently it asises even more doubts if military action is an adequate solution: Saddam Hussein also claimed he had no chemical weapons of mass destruction, however four star US Gen.Colin Powell had an alternative point of view…

The question on alleged chemical weapons use in Syria leads the West to another dilemma: is Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi a viable alternative to Bashar Al-Assad?

No new Russian envoy to new NATO headquarters

Russian decision to postpone  the appointment of a new ambassador to NATO announced today marks a new low in rapidly deteriorating relations between the East and the West, but even more it underlines Kremlin assertiveness, and claims of parity,  turning the page of a period when one could label Russia as a “regional power“.

However while looking at new splendid NATO headquarters in Brussels one wonders what it the purpose of the Alliance today? What’s the raison d’être? If it is the revival of the Cold War, what is its aim this time? The Communism has fallen, and there is no official state ideology in Russia to defeat. The authoritarianism, human rights and rule of law issues can hardly be targets of criticism, while NATO ally Turkey’s ‘Sultan’ Erdogan openly, and literally conducts purges against his political opponents, and wages a war against Kurds, describing it the ‘Olive Branch’ operation against Islamic State.

Meanwhile the radicals are not shy about showing faces in Afghanistan. After a decade of military campaign, NATO has withdrawn its troops in 2014 without any definite conclusion, but rapid and widespread rise of Taliban. Nowadays the Islamists are taking grounds, imposing unprecedented levels of violence, and there is hardly a week without news of terrorist attacks, and numerous victims among civilians. Unlike the time of the beginning of the US military mission Jawbreaker (2001)  against Osama Ben Laden in Tora Bora, the radicals are not hiding in the caves, they are claiming  power,  and constructing networks in real and virtual world, controlling two-thirds of Afghan  territory. The airstrikes in defeating the radicals do not help much, but turn against the Kabul and the West the entire population of the provinces for ‘collateral damages’.

However even the rapid progress of Taliban does not motivate NATO to start a coordinated action with Moscow, in spite of the obvious interest of both sides to defeat terrorism,  there are instead allegations of Russians ‘arming Taliban’.

“They say they wouldn’t mind if we gave them weapons, but they don’t need weapons. They say ‘give us money, we’re buying weapons from the stocks of the Afghan army and police’,” Ambassador Zamir Kabulov was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

Ambassador said  that in their talks with the Taliban, the group’s representatives said they buy all their weapons illegally from the Afghan government and police, and asked for financial support for that.

While the West argues with Russia, reducing diplomatic missions and expelling staff, the Taliban actively uses an opportunity to expand, and it will succeed until there is a comprehensive joint NATO-Russia strategy for counter-terrorism. However within the current political situation, the low tight in diplomatic relations does not provide with an effective response to the rapidly growing terrorist threat.

Will Puigdemont follow fate of Companys?

After the rigorous action of German police, stopping Catalan independence leader upon the EU arrest warrant, issued by Madrid, the major question arises: will  German judges condemn Puigdemont to follow the fate of President Companys (1882-1940), who was detained by Gestapo in France and handed to Spain?

Rajoy Puigdemont
President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont next to Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy

The President of Catalonia from 1934 and during the Spanish Civil War , Companys was detained in France, where he lived in exile,  and handed over by the Nazi secret police Gestapo in a formal procedure to Spanish state, where under the dictatorship of Gen.Franco the President Lluís Companys i Jover was tortured in prison, and executed by firing squad in 1940.

Carles Puigdemont at Lluis Companys i Jover tomb
Carles Puigdemont at Lluís Companys i Jover tomb

The lawyer of former President of self-proclaimed Catalan Republic said that highway police had stopped Puigdemont on Sunday (25.03.2018) after he crossed the border from Denmark to Germany. He also confirmed that Puigdemont had been on his way back to Belgium after his trip to Finnish Parliament. A spokesperson for Puigdemont made the following statement:

“1. President Carles Puigdemont was retained in Germany when he was crossing the border from Denmark, on his way to Belgium from Finland. 2. The treatment has been correct in every moment. At the moment he is in a police station and his legal defense is already activated. 3. The president was going to Belgium to put himself, as always, at the disposal of the Belgian justice.”

Madrid assess the independence movement in Catalonia as a ‘plot’ against Spain’s legal and constitutional order. The charges carry up to 30  years in jail. Catalan politicians are accused of rebellion, contradicting the principle of self-determination of people enshrined in UN Charter.

 

#Skripal’ assassination omitted truth

The omitted factors in presumption of Moscow deliberate assault on a former KGB Colonel Sergei Skripal with Cold War mass-destruction chemical weapon Novichok reduce the blame of Prime Minister Theresa May to a highly subjective hypothesis.
Challenging the official conclusions, different episodes from Novichok sinister legend frame the official British version as endogenous, thus serving the political strategy of accusing Kremlin, but not pursuing the search of the truth, which goes begging…

Skripal arrest
Arrest of Colonel Sergei Skripal in his apartment. Moscow, 2004.

The narrative of Novichok is deeply rooted in Cold War, when the USSR was flaunting its military might. The Communist party was so proud of a possession of such a powerful chemical weapon, that honoured both inventors of NovichokVladimir Ouglev (Владимир Углев) and Vil Mirzayanov (Виль Мирзаянов) with Lenin Prize (1991) for a break-thought in science. The special achievements of this new generation of nerve agents were it is unprecedented might – with one liter of liquid a population of multi-million city could be destroyed without a chance of recovery. The other characteristic was in method of application – in unremarkable composing elements, which represent no danger to humans if kept apart, will produce a lethal effect when assembled.
“Scripals are practically dead”, said the Vil Mirzayanov, an immigrant in the USA since collapse of the Soviet Empire. “And even if they survive, they will never recover”, he added. There is not antidote to Novichok.

Vil Mirzayanov
Vil Mirzayanov (Виль Мирзаянов) one of inventors of USSR chemical weapon of mass destruction – Novichok. Facebook page.

Tragically Skirpals attacked with nerve agent were not the only victims who came to public attention. The sinister story of Russian banker Ivan Kivelidi (1995) assassinated by application of chemical weapon to a telephone in his office,  shocked Russians. His secretary (30) and coroner (40) who performed autopsy on Kivelidi’s body also lost their lives – the poison was so powerful, that continued the devastation in derivatives.
After this sequence of suspicious deaths the investigation led to an employer of the scientific laboratory in the institute where the chemical was invented, and his wealthy client, who purchased the formula, – a businessman and former victim’s partner – Vladimir Khutsishvili. Both men arrested and sentenced. It is useful to mention that Kivelidi was not just “a” banker, but a chair of a club of bankers, with a pronounced interest in politics.

Russian banker Ivan Kivelidi poisoned by a powerful nerve agent (1995)
Russian banker Ivan Kivelidi assassinated in Moscow by a powerful nerve agent (1995)

However it was unclear then how the former partner managed to insert the nerve agent in the telephone membrane – one should have special costume,  triple layer gloves and gas mask to survive the manipulation, but the accused Vladimir Khutsishvili entered the office of the victim in tenue de ville

At present one of two Novichok inventors lives in the USA, Mirzaynov claims that he revealed the formula of the chemical in his book, and at collapse of the USSR warned Americans about this secret Russian weapon, that should have been included in the list of prohibited substances. Russian expert at United Nations Igor Nikulin confirmed that the formula of Novichok was known by the potential foes after collapse of the USSR.

At present Russians instantly deny the possession of Novichok – in 1997 Kremlin ratified the Convention of prohibition of chemical weapons, and subsequently President Putin received report of a complete destruction of the entire Soviet arsenal in Russian Federation. But Igor Nikulin added that Novichok samples could have been kept in any of the former Soviet Republics after collapse of the Communist system. In the USSR one of the leading production laboratories of chemical weapons was situated in Noukous, in Uzbekistan,  outside Russian jurisdiction, where the government worked closely with the USA in destruction of its arsenal.

Considering these omitted in public debate factors – the leak of Novichok formula from laboratory in 90th, and migration of  its inventor Vil Mirzayanov to the USA,  the access to production and samples in Soviet Republics, which became independent states, – the circle of potential holders of the nerve agent formula is significantly larger than Lubyanka secret service office in Moscow.

Beyond mentioned above, there are too many inexplicable elements in the assassination of Sripals: why father and daughter collapsed at the same moment? If she was the one who brought poison in her luggage from Moscow, and was exposed to it first, logically there should have been a time difference in their collapse, but there was not. If the suitcase was contaminated with such a powerful nerve agent as British media reports claim, all workers along the air transport chain should have been dead by now, but fortunately there are no reports of any ‘suspicious deaths’ so far. But was it Novichok, or some other nerve agent?.. Only an independent international inquiry can establish the truth, until independent experts have an access to the information, the accusations would remains in the realm of hypothesis, serving political concept of demonizing Russians, and dragging the world backward into Cold War era, where Skirpal belongs.

Recruited by MI6 while serving as a military attaché of Russian Embassy in Spain, Skripal sold 20 000 pages of secret documents, receiving more than £100 000 in 10 years before his arrest in 2004, and subsequent sentence for 13 years.
The former double agent was pardoned five years later in a swap operation between Moscow and Washington. Freed, the disgraced Colonel installed in a small English town of Salisbury, not far from his recruiter, where he led low profile lifestyle, until the spectacular assassination, worth masterpieces of Bondiana, when Skripal’s name stormed the headlines of media worldwide, and ascended to UN debate.

Skripal black cat
Skripal’ black cat vanished. Neighbours in Salisbury suspect it died from nerve agent. (Image from social networks).

 

 

Europarl: Tajani in Salvini’s shadow…

With Matteo SALVINI, MEP, leaving the European Parliament (EP) to lead one of the key economies of the European Union as a prime minister, the EU Institutions face one more set back. However in this particular case with Lega Nord chair ascendance, an extra turmoil is left behind in the Europarliament. 

The incumbent president of the EP Antonio Tajani lost his bid for premiership in Italy, after a short involvement in election at the side of Silvio Berlusconi, his former boss and powerful friend. Many ask, if the EU institution head should demonstrate such a passionate involvement in national politics, ready to ditch his office in Brussels for a glimpse of hope to become a national leader, to succumb to magnetic powers of the Eternal City…

However one can’t step into the same waters twice, Tajani returned to Brussels ‘on his shield’. An initial concept to ‘civilize’ far right Lega Nord in alliance with Forza Italia is in tatters –  it is Salvini, who surfaced as a victor, returning to European Parliament “with his shield”.

And now… There is the ‘loser’ of EP president from a  party, which scored so low in the elections; roughly half of Italy is in Eurosceptic camp, and another congregation which he treated like a nuisance ascended to command. Tajani compromised himself, demonstrating his EU office is his ‘second to best choice’  to his own detriment, and what a disservice to declining European project! Vanitas vanitatum!

#RoadToBrexit as a daydream

Undoubtedly the Manson House speech of the Prime Minister Theresa May has many virtues, offering constructive proposals for Article 50 agreement.  In general it is also attempts to appeal to common sense of the EU leaders, and is reflecting an intense search for the best possible new formula for matching interests of both parties, instead of fitting into old EU dogmas of ‘four freedoms’. May’s vision of the basis of post-Brexit engagement is orientated towards future: robotics and artificial intelligence, the new technologies and most of all the British genius, which brought the nation to the forefront of the Digital Revolution. But can this dazzling and dynamic new engagement attract Brussels?..

If we agree on the leading role of the “outstanding individuals” in sculpturing history, and take a close-up on European Union protagonists influencing Brexit negotiations, we’ll see that they function in totally different modus operandi than the looking forward British PM. The European Commission president (the ‘Prime Minister of Europe’) Jean-Claude Juncker is concerned with keeping the EU project intact in its original form, repeatedly referring to the forefathers – Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet who resurrected Europe from the ashes of the WWII on entirely new basis. Devoting his life to the ideas of the United States of Europe, Juncker’s major preoccupation is the risk of Brexit provoking a collapse of the entire 70 years old architecture, erected gradually after the European Coal and Steel Community united in 1950 in order to secure lasting peace.

Ideologically Juncker faces similar problems in dealing with Brexit as the Pope, who faced unpleasant news from a rebellious English King, rejecting to acknowledge his authority, and thus pay tribute to the Holy See. Juncker’s preoccupation is not to let the heresy to spread, subsequently the creation of a new ‘dynamic and vibrant’ engagement with London would be detrimental to the original project, showing to the other member-states, that life outside the EU can be so much better than inside.

In this case May’ appeal to embrace together the wonders of Digital Revolution falls on deaf ears: Juncker, as usual, is looking backward, contemplating ashes of the WWII. Keeping in mind the origins of the European project, the protection of its ‘sacred’ four freedoms from British ‘heresy’ becomes paramount. Allowing the new engagement to be a success means to give in to those, who ‘betrayed’ the great idea of Schuman, and  ‘tricked’ Britons into the trap of leave vote – an unthinkable compromise for such a ‘guardian’ of the EU Treaties as Jean-Claude Juncker.

In this context one can not exclude the ‘no-deal’ scenario, when the UK faces Brexting on WTO rules. Anyway, when dealing with dogmatics, it would be useful to keep an ace up the sleeve:)

 

The Cheat La Tour

EU Visa-free for Russians

Offering Russians unilateral visa-free to the EU – is one of the major proposals of the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats announced at a year conference on EU-Russia relations #EURussia, taking place on the third anniversary of Boris Nemtsov assassination.

The move is meant in ‘immediate and unconditional’ support of the civil society, experiencing difficulty of alienation from Europe, while regular Russians increasingly perceive the EU as an antagonistic power, especially after confrontation with the negative consequences of the EU Enlargement policy, leading to conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine.

“The biggest mistake on our behalf towards the West is that we trusted you too much,” President Vladimir Putin said. He underlined that the West, in their turn, made an unforgivable mistake – abused this trust.

Would the visa-free enhance exchanges, people-to-people contacts and heal the profound mistrust Russians feel towards the West? While Donetsk and Lugansk are under siege, and Russian children go to school risking being shot by shelling of Ukrainian army, while so-called ‘Syrian opposition’, supported by European, kills Russian pilots on counter-terrorist missions, – while the bloodshed is going on, it will be rather simplistic to consider that visa-free would restore the harmony. Although had it ever existed in relations between Europe and Russia?..

Children Donbass

Image: citizens’ journalism ‘Killed children of Donbass’