Crimea: EU non-recognition policy

Brussels 15.10.2021 The EU condemns the decision of the Russian Federation to conduct a population census in the “illegally annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol” from 15 October until 14 November, and the launching of yet another conscription campaign on 1 October.

“These actions are an attempt to legitimise the illegal annexation of Crimea and further undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders”.(Tweet below: new road infrastructure).

The European Union calls on Russia to stop all violations of international law and international humanitarian law on the Crimean peninsula. The European Union will continue to work for a peaceful end of Russia’s “illegal annexation of the peninsula”, as reiterated at the first summit of the International Crimean Platform on 23 August. The European Union will continue and to enforce its non-recognition policy.

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.

#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.

UN: Borrell-Lavrov meeting in NYC

Brussels 24.09.2021 The EU High Representative Josep Borrell met with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, in the margins of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday. They discussed EU-Russia relations as well as pressing international issues.(Image: archive)

High Representative Borrell addressed some of the challenges in EU-Russia relations, the objective being to aim at a more stable and predictable relationship. Disagreements persist, in particular in regards to Russia’s violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, in the area of democracy and human rights, as well as with regard to cyber, disinformation and other hybrid threats.

The discussion focused on international issues where the EU and Russia should continue to cooperate, with a view to addressing global security challenges such as the situation in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, the Middle East Peace Process or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

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.

ex-President Ashraf Ghani brother joins Taliban

Brussels 21.08.2021 Ashraf Ghani’s brother joins Taliban, EHA News reports. Former President Ashraf Ghani’s brother Heshmat Ghani pledged allegiance to Taliban,the video of the ceremony was released on the social media.

Heshmat Ghani Ahmadzai joined the Taliban in the presence of Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, a senior Taliban member, and declared his support for the Taliban.

Local Pajhwok news agency said on Saturday, August 21, that Hashmat Ghani, brother of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, had pledged allegiance to the movement. Heshmat Ghani, who heads the Kush (Bedouin) Grand Council in Afghanistan, held no official post during Ashraf Ghani’s eight-year presidency.
Heshmat Ghani appeared in a video pledging allegiance to Khalil Rahman, a prominent member of the Taliban movement, according to the Afghan agency.

Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Tajikistan has accused Afghan President Ashraf Ghani of stealing nearly $170 million while fleeing Kabul, and the diplomat is calling for international authorities to arrest him.

Ambassador Zahir Aghbar, during a news conference said said Ghani, who fled the country as the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday, on August 15, and “stole $169 million from the state coffers,” according to The Associated Press.

He did not offer any additional details regarding his allegation.

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.

EU stands with Russian civil society

Brussels 23.07.2021 “Russian authorities recently announced a number of new decisions targeting independent media outlets, journalists and civil society organisations” reads the statement by the European External Action Service spokesperson on the continued crackdown on independent media outlets, journalists and civil society in Russia.

“The Institute of Law and Public Policy (ILPP) and a number of journalists were designated as so-called “foreign agents”, and the media outlet Project Media, Inc. was declared a so-called “undesirable organisation”. In addition, the association of lawyers and journalists Team 29 (Komanda 29), defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia, decided to cease its activities following pressure and unjustified accusations by the Russian authorities”.

“The cumulative impact of these latest developments, in conjunction with a raft of repressive measures targeting highly respected NGOs and individuals in Russia, results in further quashing dissent, opposition, critical voices and independent institutions from the Russian public sphere. This is particularly worrisome ahead of the State Duma elections in September”.

“The European Union has repeatedly condemned Russian laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable organisations”, as they run counter to Russia’s international obligations and human rights commitments, including with regard to freedom of expression and association. We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities to reverse these decisions and to stop the unabated crackdown on civil society and independent media”.

“The European Union stands in solidarity with Russian civil society, human rights defenders and independent journalists and will continue to support them in their important work”.