Russia denies AstraZeneca theft allegations

Brussels 13.10.2021 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday October 12 that claims put forward by UK media of Russia having allegedly stolen AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine formula are unfounded.

“I don’t think anyone will take these unfounded accusations seriously, there have already been many baseless accusations,” Russian top diplomat said.

Lavrov added that he had not heard these accusations against Russia, and also recalled that the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in many cases had produced negative side effects, particularly thrombosis (blood-clotting).

“No such cases have occurred with Sputnik V. I think that everyone who is interested will draw conclusions for themselves,” the foreign minister has underlined.

On October 10, The Sun, a well-known UK tabloid, published an article that claimed that Russian intelligence services allegedly received information about the formula of the vaccine developed by UK-Swedish company AstraZeneca and later used it to create Russia’s Sputnik V formula.

UNESCO welcomes Nobel prize press awards

Brussels 09.10.2021 UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay welcomed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, reads the statement issued on Saturday, October 10.

“By awarding this prize, the Nobel Committee stated its belief that the freedom of expression of opinions and access to information is the basis of democracy and peace,” Azoulay said. “These ideals fully resonated with the UNESCO mandate.”

According to Azoulay, “reporters are at the frontline of a fight for shedding light where necessary, oftentimes facing a huge risk.”

“Today, they are rightfully considered protectors of justice and truth,” the official said.

On Friday, the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa for “their efforts on protection of the freedom of press, which the basis for democracy and sustainable peace.”.

#PandoraPapers: Ukraine President Zelensky starring

Strasbourg 05.10.2021 The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky may have pledged to reform the country’s corrupt system of politics, but the Pandora Papers reveals otherwise.

Driving the news: Ukraine is the country with the highest number of politicians named in the leak of offshore data, which implicates hundreds of people linked to offshore companies — including President Volodymyr Zelensky, presumably fighting corruption.

Though offshore companies are not themselves illegal, they often help facilitate tax evasion or money laundering, writes the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the network of reporters and media organisations that obtained the records, revealing double-faced politicians.

While being a popular professional comedian, Zelensky had campaigned on reforming Ukraine’s oligarch-dominated system, positioning himself as an outsider of the crooked universe of the politicians, including incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who hid offshore assets.

However the Pandora Papers revealed that Zelenski was involved with a network of offshore companies, which he co-owned with friends and business partners.
Zelensky is one of several politicians who campaigned on anti-corruption platforms — others include Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan — who will now be facing questions over undisclosed wealth tied to them or their close associates, Axios’ eidotor Dave Lawler said.

By the numbers: Ukraine leads with 38 politicians named in the Pandora Papers. The top five are …

– Ukraine: 38
– Russia: 19
– Honduras: 11
– United Arab Emirates: 11
– Nigeria: 10

Lavrov acts as Deripaska lobbyist

Brussels 16.09.2021 Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska has been lavishing gifts on Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his lady-friend and her extended family in exchange for lobbying his business interests internationally.

The recent investigation by the team of Alexei Navalny Anti-Corruption Fund has revealed the strong connection between the top civil servant and the prominent businessmen, indicating that Russian diplomat has been working relentlessly to promote internationally private business of the oligarch in exchange for support of an excessive luxury lifestyle of his favourite and her relatives.

Anti-corruption Fund researches have revealed that the top diplomat mistress Svetlana, as well as her mother Tamara and daughter Polina were frequent passengers on Deripaska’s planes, guests on his yachts and in his mansions since at least 2014. In particular, Lavrov’s favourite and her relatives took the oligarch’s private planes to Montenegro, Austria, Germany, Norway and many other countries for pleasure trips. They have also used systematically chances to join the diplomat on his foreign trips, disguised and a part of the Russian delegation.

Moreover, according to Navalny’s colleagues, the de facto stepdaughter of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Polina, has repeatedly posted photographs from houses belonging to Deripaska. So, for example, she was vacationing at the ostentatious property of an oligarch in Montenegro and celebrated her 22nd birthday at his extraordinary villa located in Sardinia, Italy. In the social networks, while showing off to friends, Polina was ecstatic about the properties dabbing Deripaska’s real estate her “second home”.

Colleagues of Navalny emphasize that Lavrov uses his public office to lobby private interests of Deripaska. In particular, the Foreign Minister made an effort to help the oligarch obtain an American visa.

It it common in contemporary Russia among top officials to exploit their public service to enrich themselves privately, however until present Sergei Lavrov has been considered as an exception of this rule. He has been regarded by majority of Russians and as a true patriot, serving Russian people, and promoting Russian national interests. Apparently after the Navalny Fund revelations the reputation of the Minister and his image of a patriot are in tatters.

NordStream II: Zelensky threatens with U.S. sanctions

Brussels 02.09.2021 The United States will impose sanctions against Nord Stream II in case other countries create energy problems for Ukraine, President Vladimir Zelensky said on Wednesday, September 2, after his visit to Washington.

“So far, we are at a stage when President Biden personally guarantees that if Russia or other parties to Nord Stream II after its commissioning … create energy problems to Ukraine, the United States guarantees it will impose sanctions against Nord Stream II,” he told at a briefing, which was aired by the Ukraina-24 TV channel.

Zelensky said it is a “big victory,” but the issue still needs further discussion.Ukraine’s position on Nord Stream II enjoys serious support in the U.S. Congress, he added.

Nord Stream II is an international project for the construction of a gas pipeline that will run across the seafloor of the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast to Germany bypassing transit states, such as Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and other Eastern European and Baltic countries.

The new 1,230-kilometer pipeline, basically following the same route as Nord Stream I, traverses the economic zones and territorial water of five countries, namely Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.

Works under the project were suspended in December 2019 after Allseas, a Swiss company laying the pipes for the Nord Stream II pipeline, suspended pipe-laying works over possible US sanctions and recalled its vessels. The construction works were resumed only a year later in December 2020 after an intense legal struggle.

On July 21, 2021, the United States and Germany published an agreement on the Nord Stream II project, where Washington recognised that sanctions would not stop the project implementation and Berlin undertook the efforts to ensure the extension of Russian gas exports via Ukraine. The United States however reserved the right to take measures in case Russia, as it put it, uses energy as a geopolitical weapon in Europe and in case of its “aggression” against Ukraine.

The Russian side has repeatedly stressed that Nord Stream II is purely a commercial project and is being implemented jointly with European partners under the WTO rules. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov expressed resentment over attempts of a number of countries to link the future of the project to political context and various circumstances unrelated to trade. Moscow has also repeatedly underlined that it has never used energy resources as an instrument of a political pressure, even providing Georgia with gas during the war.

President Biden recent promises to support Ukraine in its struggle out of economic difficulties, the endemic corruption is not the least factor,and reminds of his own son Hunter adventures in Ukraine entering the board of Burisma energy company without any relevant experience. It is also reminded about the impeachment documents failed by Representative Marjory Taylor Greene last year, clearly stating Joe Biden should be investigated over the conflict of interests caused by his son involvement in corruption scandal in Ukraine.

“Western Bishops” welcome Afghans

Brussels 19.08.2021 Vatican News ‘Western Bishops’ Conferences are speaking out on the situation in Afghanistan, urging their governments to welcome those fleeing the country, and praying for peace through dialogue.

In view of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as the Taliban ascended power, Bishops in Western nations are calling on their governments to help people fleeing the country – especially those who risked their lives to assist the military mission that began 20 years ago. The address has been issued after the Taliban declared the general amnesty, underlining that they have “forgiven all those who fought” against them.

From the United States, Bishop Mario Dorsonville and Bishop David Malloy, chairs respectively of the USCCB’s Committees on Migration and on International Justice and Peace, issued a statement calling on the US government “to act with the utmost urgency, considering all avenues to preserve life.” They note that Catholic organizations and partners have been assisting the government in welcoming Afghan refugees and their families, and add that they “will continue to work as long as necessary until those who are in harm’s way are brought to safety.”

With Pope Francis, the statement says, the US Bishops are “praying for peace in Afghanistan – ‘that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.’”

In Europe, the chairman of the German Bishops Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing said he was “outraged by the widespread suffering and helplessness of those whose future is being stolen from them.”

He said, “The takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan represents a disastrous defeat for the United States and the countries that until recently were committed to its side,” including Germany. He warned that the “life and limb of thousands and thousands of people are endangered and the flame of hope that has nourished them is extinguished” by the surrender of the country to the Taliban.

Bishop Bätzing insisted that western countries must evacuate Afghans who assisted their military forces and international aid organizations, saying “generous admission offers” should be granted, especially to those most at risk. He urged them to help countries in the region accept and care for refugees from Afghanistan, and said the European Union must be prepared to welcome refugees who arrive in Europe.

Bishops insisted on the power of prayer, and invited “everyone to join in prayer with the sufferings of the people of Afghanistan, and to call on God for His gracious help.”

KABUL: Russian Embassy remains functional

Брюссель 15.08.2021 Russian diplomats are not preparing the evacuation of the Russian embassy from Kabul, the diplomatic mission is working in a quiet mode, we are in touch with the ambassador, Zamir Kabulov (pictured), the special envoy of the Russian president for Afghanistan, director of the second department of Asia of the Russian Foreign Ministry, told RIA Novosti.

“No, the evacuation of the embassy is not being prepared. I am in contact with our ambassador, they are calmly working and closely watching the development of events,” Kabulov said.
The Taliban guaranteed security not only for the Russian embassy, but also for diplomatic missions of other countries, Kabulov added.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova, commenting on the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are taking over major cities, said that the world is watching with “horror” the result of another “historical experiment” of Washington.

“It’s surprising, but true: in Afghanistan, there is a confrontation between two forces, both of which are the fruit of the US thinking process. The world is watching with horror the result of another historical experiment in Washington,” Zakharova wrote on the Telegram channel.

The situation in Afghanistan has escalated in recent weeks with the Taliban militant attacks on the country’s major cities. On Sunday,August 15, media and sources reported that the Taliban control all border crossings in Afghanistan, are in the vicinity of the capital and have taken control of the Kabul University.

Meanwhile, the Afghan presidential administration said it was in control of the situation in the country’s capital, Al-Arabiya TV reported. Negotiations with Taliban are ongoing now in Presidential Palace.

Former Afghan Interior Minister and former Ambassador to Germany, Ali Ahmad Jalali, will be appointed head of the country’s transitional government, Afghan Khaama Press reports citing sources.

According to sources, negotiations are underway at the Presidential palace in Kabul to transfer power to the radical Taliban movement. It is noted that the head of the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation in Afghanistan, Dr.Abdullah Abdullah, acts as a mediator.

Earlier, the Taliban said they were negotiating with the government about the possibility of peacefully entering Kabul. They also stated that the Afghan government will be responsible for the security of Kabul until the end of the transition process.

The Taliban movement, while being a terrorist group banned Russia, guaranteed the security of the Russian embassy in Kabul, said Mohammad Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatari political office. Zamir Kabulov, special envoy of the Russian president for Afghanistan, director of the second department of Asia of the Russian Foreign Ministry, added that the evacuation of the Russian embassy in Afghanistan is not planned.

Zamir Kabulov, who was born in Soviet Uzbekistan, graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 1977, and carried on responsibilities in various diplomatic posts in the central offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and abroad, in particular in Afghanistan. His Central Asian background further bolstered his career in dealing with Afghan and Pakistani issues.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic for NATO leadership

Brussels 25.07.2021 Is Former Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in Line for Top NATO Job?
As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Politico portal, announced that for the first time in the 72-year history of the Alliance, the incumbent Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is looking for a successor, preferably from Eastern Europe. Taking into consideration the equity agenda, the time for change and break glass ceiling,
the main candidate is Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was a former Vice President of NATO and was also an ambassador to the United States.

(Image above: archive, Moscow The 2018 FIFA World Cup Final: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovich with Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin)

Another factor is whether the country from which the presidential candidate is coming from meets the NATO target of spending of a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It has been noted that Croatia’s former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has an “impressive biography”, leading this hypothesis to be regarded among relevant political leaders and diplomats.

Back during the 2015 Croatian presidential campaign, the then HDZ candidate didn’t want to reveal what her salary was as an assistant working at North-Atlantic Treaty Organisaton.

“I still follow the instructions given to me by NATO, which oblige me as a former NATO employee to make sure this data isn’t to be disclosed to the public, and the salary is much less than twenty thousand euros,” said former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at the confrontation at which the matter was discussed with Ivo Josipovic (SDP), who claimed that salaries in NATO were not kept secret.

Afterwards in late 2016, there was speculation that former British Prime Minister David Cameron potentially becoming NATO’s new secretary general, and the British newspaper The Independent reported that the salary for the post was £220,000 a year (which is around €21,000 per month). According to the document from the beginning of 2020, the highest monthly salary paid out to a NATO employee stood at €23,646.

Fast forward to November 2020, NATO asked its members to increase funds in order to further improve the salaries of its employees, in accordance with the agreed methodology, which some allies refused, considering it inappropriate at hard times of the pandemic.

At Headquarters, formal talks on Stoltenberg’s successor have just begun, and the new Secretary-General is scheduled to introduce the NATO leaders’ summit in Madrid in late spring or early summer next year.

Image below: A competitor of Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovich  in NATO top job race – incumbent Estonia President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Continue reading “Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic for NATO leadership”

Kremlin issues warning to Taliban

Brussels 14.07.2021 Russian senior official accused the Afghan government of hypocrisy and said it needed to start proper negotiations with the Taliban about the country’s future before it was too late. (Image above: illustration, Afghanistan).

Zamir Kabulov, a special Representative on Afghanistan, issued the warning ahead of upcoming talks about the Afghan crisis in Tajikistan where Foreign Ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation were meeting.

In an interview with state RIA news agency, the high official said that while the Afghan government paid lip service to the idea of talks it was not doing enough to make them happen.

“It’s hypocrisy. It’s an attempt to close their eyes to the reality which exists and these are empty words,” Kabulov told RIA when talking about the Afghan’s government’s stance on negotiations with the Taliban. “We need deeds” Kabulov has underlined.

The only way out of the current crisis which has seen the Taliban make military gains on the back of an exit by U.S. and NATO forces was for all sides to assemble at the negotiating table in Kabul, the official continued. Russia and other regional powers favoured a transitional government in Afghanistan, he added.

Any attempt by the Taliban to damage the security of Russia’s allies in Central Asia will be fraught with large losses for the Taliban movement, continued Zamir Kabulov.
“We are closely monitoring the situation. Taliban should understand that “any attempt to damage the security of our allies in Central Asia will be fraught with great losses for them, if not the loss of everything” Kabulov continued.

PM Sanna Marin trashes EU dress code

Brussels 25.06.2021 Anna van Densky OPINION There is no official dress code in the EU institutions, “however you are expected to dress adequately” the site of the European Commission announced. For most businesses throughout Europe, business attire is formal, which means dark suits, subdued ties, and lace-up shoes. Women’s clothing follows suit.
(Image: Finnish PM Sanna Marin “Friday” casual look at doorstep of the European Council).

Business attire is a formal dress code for many offices and corporate events in the EU. It denotes a professional style of dress that appears smart and sophisticated. For men, a suit is generally required. Women as “newcomers” can interpret business attire in a range of ways. While pantsuits and skirt suits are ideal, polished separates and business dresses are accepted if applied with discretion.

Business casual is a somewhat relaxed style of office wear which is accepted on certain occasions. It is often called upon for contemporary places of work in offices, however nowadays with distant working everything has been even more relaxed due to teleconferencing.

Previously along with “casual Fridays” in more conservative offices. Formal business attire is more sophisticated than business casual and is typically reserved for more traditional offices along with certain professional occasions, such as meetings and presentations.

According to modern dress code women can wear casual pants or skirts. Neither should be tight. Fabrics should be crisp; colours should generally be solid; navy, black,  gray, brown and khaki are always safe bets. For the most business-like appearance, pants should be creased and tailored; neither extreme of tight or flowing. (Image below: Christine LAGARDE -President of the European Central Bank):

“If you are pursuing a conservative industry and are in doubt, observe well-dressed women in your industry on the job, at career fairs, at information sessions, or consult your career coach” the University of Maryland School of Business instructs.

However new generation EU politicians are not willing to look up to the pre-COVID19 era. Lockdowns, social distancing and teleworking reflected upon modern looks. Future is clearly unceremonious!