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.

Moscow Ryabkov-Nuland talks

Brussels 12.10.2021 The talks between US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov ended at the Russian foreign ministry. The negotiations lasted more than an hour and a half.(Image: Moscow skyline).

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that during the talks with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, the sides addressed bilateral issues with a focus on strategic stability.

“We deliberated at length on all the issues on bilateral agenda. This was our main focus. Among international topics, we addressed strategic stability and the prospects for continuing work in this area. Although, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nuland does not nominally discuss this topic as the so-called Russian portfolio is assigned to her, she expressed several considerations and we responded to them,” the senior diplomat told TASS.

Ryabkov left the building at 12:25 p.m. Moscow Time, while Nuland got into her car five minutes later, refraining from giving any comments to reporters.

Nuland arrived in Moscow on Monday, October 11, to hold several meetings with Russian officials. The diplomat’s visit will last until October 13. It was reported that apart from the meeting with Ryabkov, Nuland would hold talks with Aid to the Russian President for Foreign Policy Yuri Ushakov and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak.

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: $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).

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.

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”.

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.