#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

#PandoraPapers: $32 trillion tax evasion

Strasbourg 05.09.2021 More than 600 journalists from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ @ICIJorg 2021 have conducted a vast investigation named #PandoraPapers which reveals how the offshore money machine operates in every corner of the planet, including the world’s largest democracies.
The Consortium @ICIJorg has uncovered tax evasion and corruption totaling up to $32 trillion involving:

– 35 current/ex-world leaders;
– 336 politicians/public officials;
– 130 billionaires, mostly from Russia, Brazil, UK, Israel.

The Washington Post, owned by the American billionaire Jeff Bezos, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) gained an unprecedented look into the money flowing into trusts in the United States by examining a trove of more than 11.9 million confidential documents maintained by trust and corporate services providers around the world.

The records, presented to public under the name of the Pandora Papers, expose how foreign political and corporate leaders or their family members moved money and other assets from long-established tax havens to U.S. trust companies.

The investigation identified 206 U.S.-based trusts linked to 41 countries holding combined assets worth more than $1 billion. Nearly 30 of the trusts held assets connected to people or companies accused of fraud, bribery or human rights abuses in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The cache of confidential files, obtained by @ICIJ and shared with more than 150 media partners, describe only some of the trusts in the United States but is the most significant set of records ever made public from inside America’s trust industry.

The trust documents come mostly from the Sioux Falls office of Trident Trust, a global provider of offshore services. In a written statement, Trident said it is committed to compliance with all applicable regulations and routinely cooperates with authorities. The company declined to answer questions about its clients.

On Monday, October 4, the European Parliament included Council and Commission #PandoraPapers statements to agenda of the Plenary in Strasbourg. On October 6 at Strasbourg plenary of the European Parliament – implications on the efforts to combat money laundering, tax evasion and avoidance will be presented at 15h00. The MEPs will vote on the resolution at the next part-session.

“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.”

Afghanistan: NATO Extraordinary teleconference

Brussels 19.08.2021 Extraordinary Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs – Brussels, 20 August 2021
An extraordinary virtual meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs will be held via secure teleconference on Friday 20 August 2021. NATO Foreign Ministers will discuss developments in Afghanistan.

The meeting will be chaired by the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.
The meeting will start on 20 August 2021 at +/- 14h00 Brussels. The Secretary General is expected to brief the press after the meeting.

Previously at the press-briefing in NATO HQ Brussels on August 17, the Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said: “The North Atlantic Council has met to discuss Afghanistan.
“The situation is extremely serious and unpredictable.
Kabul has fallen, and the Taliban have taken control of most of the country.
I am deeply saddened by what I see unfolding in Afghanistan.

“NATO’s focus right now is to ensure the safe departure of personnel from Allied and partner countries, and of the Afghans who have helped us.
NATO has been working round the clock to maintain operations at Kabul international airport.
Around 800 NATO civilian personnel have remained to provide key functions under very challenging circumstances.
“Including air traffic control, fuel, and communications.
And I would like to thank them.
Let me also thank the military forces of NATO Allies, in particular Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom for their vital role in securing the airport.
Operations at the airport are now gradually resuming.
And during today’s meeting Allies announced that they are sending additional airplanes.

“We have also maintained our diplomatic presence.
Our Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Pontecorvo and his team have been working closely with Allies and the rest of the international community to coordinate and facilitate the evacuation.
And we remain committed to completing evacuations including of our Afghan colleagues, as soon as possible.
The Taliban must respect and facilitate the safe departure of all those who wish to leave.
The airport, as well as roads and border crossings, must be open.
All Afghan men, women and children deserve to live in safety and dignity.
There must be a peaceful transfer of power to an inclusive government.
With no revenge or retribution.

“A government that does not respect the fundamental rights of all Afghans and reinstates the reign of fear, risks international isolation.

“The United States agreed with the Taliban last year that US troops would withdraw by May.
And after many rounds of consultations, all Allies agreed to follow the US decision.
Ending our military mission was not easy.
We were faced with a serious dilemma.
Either leave, and risk seeing the Taliban regain control.
Or stay, and risk renewed attacks, and an open-ended combat mission.

“We never intended to stay in Afghanistan forever.
Over the past few years, from over 100,000 troops we went down to less than 10,000 – and now to zero.
But what we have seen in the last few weeks was a military and political collapse at a speed which had not been anticipated.
Parts of the Afghan security forces fought bravely.
But they were unable to secure the country.
Because ultimately, the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted.
This failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today.

“At the same time, we need to have an honest, clear-eyed assessment of NATO’s own engagement in Afghanistan.
Despite our considerable investment and sacrifice over two decades, the collapse was swift and sudden.
There are many lessons to be learned.

“But we should also recognise the gains we have made.
NATO Allies and partners went into Afghanistan after 9/11 to prevent the country from serving as a safe haven for international terrorists to attack us.
In the last two decades, there have been no terrorist attacks on Allied soil organised from Afghanistan.
Those now taking power have the responsibility to ensure that international terrorists do not regain a foothold.
Allies have the capabilities and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.

“Due to our military presence and the support of the international community, a new generation of men and women have grown up in a new Afghanistan.
Able to get education, take part in the political process, run their own businesses, and enjoy a vibrant media scene.
Today’s Afghanistan is very different to the Afghanistan of 2001.
So those gains cannot be easily reversed.

“The world will be watching.
And must continue to support a stable and peaceful Afghanistan”.

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.

Putin: “extraordinary individual” Trump

Brussels 11.06.2021 Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his interview with NBC News that he respects former US leader Donald Trump, defining him as a “extraordinary individual”. (Image: meeting in Helsinki, July 2018)

“Well even now, I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. President,” Putin said.

“He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. And, but he didn’t come from the U.S. establishment, he had not been part of big time politics before, and some like it some don’t like it but that is a fact,” Putin noted.

The full version of the interview will be aired on Monday, June 14 on Trump’s birthday.

On Thursday, June 10, Trump asked Joe Biden in a written statement to give Putin his “warmest regards” at the upcoming Geneva summit. The former president said his meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki, Finland in 2018 was “great and very productive.”

In the statement the 45th President of the United States of America Donald J. Trump wrote:

As President, I had a great and very productive meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with President Putin of Russia. Despite the belated Fake News portrayal of the meeting, the United States won much, including the respect of President Putin and Russia. Because of the phony Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax, made-up and paid for by the Democrats and Crooked Hillary Clinton, the United States was put at a disadvantage—a disadvantage that was nevertheless overcome by me. As to who do I trust, they asked, Russia or our “Intelligence” from the Obama era, meaning people like Comey, McCabe, the two lovers, Brennan, Clapper, and numerous other sleezebags, or Russia, the answer, after all that has been found out and written, should be obvious. Our government has rarely had such lowlifes as these working for it. Good luck to Biden in dealing with President Putin—don’t fall asleep during the meeting, and please give him my warmest regards!”

Previously President Putin has already expressed his opinion about the impeachment of President Trump in an interview in 2019: “Absolutely far-fetched reasons. This is just a continuation of the political struggle. Democrats are charging Trump with charges of collusion with Russia, or they have invented some kind of pressure on Ukraine.” Putin added that Senate Republicans are unlikely to want to impeach their president.

Russian President added that Russia is interested in developing relations with the United States, regardless of who sits in the White House.

GAZA: RSF calls for investigation

Bruxelles 17.05.2021 “Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to include Israeli air strikes on more than 20 media outlets in the Gaza Strip in her investigation into the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Targeted Israeli airforce attacks have destroyed the premises of 23 Palestinian and international media outlets in the past week. The latest airstrikes destroyed the bureaux of the US news agency, the Associated Press, and the Qatari TV broadcaster Al Jazeera. According to the Israeli military, these attacks were justified because the “military intelligence” wing of Hamas, the Gaza Strip’s ruling Islamist movement, had equipment in these building.

Deliberately targeting media outlets constitutes a war crime,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “By intentionally destroying media outlets, the Israel Defence Forces are not only inflicting unacceptable material damage on news operations. They are also, more broadly, obstructing media coverage of a conflict that directly affects the civilian population. We call on the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor to determine whether these airstrikes constitute war crimes.”

The first Israeli attack on media outlets occurred four days ago, after Hamas fired a series of rockets into Israel. In the early hours of 12 May, Israeli airstrikes destroyed the Al-Jawhara Tower, a 10-storey building in Gaza City that housed 14 media outlets including the Palestine Daily News newspaper and the pan-Arab TV channel Al-Araby.

The next day, an Israeli airstrike destroyed Gaza City’s Al-Shorouk Tower, a 14-storey building that housed seven media outlets including the Al-Aqsa radio and TV broadcaster. The IDF said they were “striking Hamas weapons stores hidden inside civilian buildings in Gazaconcludes the RSF press-release.

Israel is ranked 86th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

#COVID19: Scientists against lockdown

Brussels 16.10.2020 REVIEW: From October 1-4, 2020, the American Institute for Economic Research hosted a remarkable meeting of top epidemiologists, economists, and journalists, to discuss the global emergency created by the unprecedented use of state compulsion in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. The result is The Great Barrington Declaration, which urges a “Focused Protection” strategy. (Image above: EU Council 15-16 October, Brussels).

DECLARATION:
he Great Barrington Declaration – As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.

Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection… (Full text on the site: https://gbdeclaration.org )

Mali political crisis

Mali’s political crisis deepened further when the opposition M5-RFP rejected the Charter negociated by the officers led by Colonal Assimi Goita and the ECOWAS. The stalemate is about than whether a civilian or a soldier should lead the transition. What looks like a crisis of confidence, in reality is a wrestling for power, while interests of Malians go begging. The country is suffering from block of the borders, and freezing of financial transations as a reaction of Mali neigbours to coup d’etat of August 18. Here is my comment for the Eye on Africa TV.

Khabarovsk: Russians protest against Putin

#Khabarovsk #Russia The protestors started with the demands of release of their governor Sergei Furgal, who was abdicted, they believe, because of his refusal to falsify the results of the Constitution referendum, which aimed at crowning Putin lifelong President of Russia.

The Far East region of Khabarovsk showed very little support to a plan of leaving Putin at power to 2036, with 36,64% of «NO» votes among 44% turnout, and after that failure Sergei Furgal «lost confidence» of the President, and was literally kidnapped, and transported to Moscow prison.

The abdicated on July 9 governor denies all accusation of plotting murders of businessmen committed in 2004-2005, claiming his innocence.
People in Khabarovsk insist the entire Furgal affair is fabricated, being the revenge for his independence, and democratic attitude towards the plebiscite, letting the vote happen without manipulations.

Nowadays the citizens are not only demanding his liberation, but also the resigantion of Putin, and respect of democracy, being indignant by the foul play around Constitution, with one single aim of continuation of Putin’s presidency.

They are chanting «Putin’s thief!», «Putin resign!», «Putin out!», «Crime against Constitution», «Russia without Putin!». National Guards sent to the central square said they will not act against people, in case of order to use force, they will surrender uniforms and quit.

Remarkable, that Khabarovici use method of Catalans and Yellow Vests, manifesting on Saturday, and working during the week to keep movement going for a long period of time.
It is also special that people went out in the streets in spite of the summer heat: + 31 C°
Cases of heat stroke were reported, and at least one woman received medical assistance.
Citizens-journalists claimed there were 100 000 people in streets today, more than last Saturday.
The protests started shortly after arrest of Sergei Furgal, and became massive from July 11.

Reacting upon the situation, Putin has appointed a new governor Mikhail Degtiarev from the same Liberal party, however he was not accepted by the citizens, even as deputy to revolve the situation temporarily.

At present the authorities try to play the COVID-19 card, demanding everyone «STAY HOME-STAY SAFE», but it is obvious that they are concerned about FREEDOM – “the most contagious virus known to man” spreading all over Siberia, already showing discontent with Putin’s authoritarian rule, absence of genuine political competition causing endmemic corruption.
Following Bolshevik Revolution the Far Est Republic was established in 1920-1922 in Siberia by Social-Democrats, but after the failure of White movement requested joining Russia. However nobody in Siberia has forgotten the legendary years of independence.

Review by Anna van Densky