• Austria’s ‘State Defamation’ Against Stephan Templ

    Austria's 'State Defamation' Against Stephan Templ

    Not only have prosecutors deliberately and repeatedly misinformed the media regarding the details of the Stephan Templ case, but diplomatic staff including the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have also issued false statements distorting the court record.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 27, 2014

5506-07-Filonov-Parad-C-400TODAY: Results of OPEC meeting under scrutiny as oil prices bode ill for Russian budget; Merkel launches verbal attack on Moscow for Ukraine conflict; reports of new convoy entering emerge; NATO perturbed by Kremlin’s warfare tactics;  Kremlin negotiating $3 billion missile deal with China. Dozhd editor honored by CPJ. 

With the news that Russia foresees an average oil price of around $80-90 per barrel in the medium term, and requires an oil price of $100 per barrel to balance its 2015-2017 budget, commentators are wondering why the Kremlin did not press to cut production at its meeting with OPEC.  The difficulty of halting production, or the fact that it cannot afford to are both possible reasons cited by Businessweek.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has asserted that Russia and Saudi Arabia did not want oil production targets to be subject to ‘political or geopolitical designs’.  Another question is what or whom is responsible for the drop in prices.  The CIA? ISIS?: the Moscow Times offers some expert opinions.  The statistics are less opaque: Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has warned that Russia could lose between $90 billion and $100 billion each year from the 30% fall in the price of crude since the summer.  An additional problem, the BBC notes, is that extraction is becoming harder as Western sanctions bite.   Read More »

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 26, 2014

TODAY: Putin suspected of wooing Europe’s far-right, renewed accusations of major corruption; Russia will not, can not cut oil production; France indefinitely postpones warship delivery due to Ukraine crisis; Putin praises ties with Vietnam; journalists flee Russia over gay rights.

President Vladimir Putin is suspected of being involved in a ‘cash and charm offensive targeting far-right populist parties in Europe, a bid to strengthen the Kremlin’s political influence in the EU; this includes a Russian bank granting an $11 million loan to France’s Front National.  The party’s head, Marine Le Pen, commented: ‘These insinuations are outrageous and injurious. Does getting a loan dictate our international position?’  Soviet scholar Karen Dawisha spoke to the New York Times about Putin’s ‘thievery’ which, she says, has made him and his coterie ‘fabulously rich’.  Sergei Kolesnikov, in exile after uncovering a Putin-commissioned plan to build a ‘Black Sea palace’ with ill-gotten funds in 2010, tells RFE/RL that the President has no choice but to stay in power if he wants to avoid criminal investigation.  Following an OPEC meeting in Vienna, Russia says it will not cut oil output to boost prices; Energy Minister Alexander Novak says it simply wouldn’t be possible for Russia to change levels quickly.  Rosneft head Igor Sechin made similar comments, adding that new oil price lows are not having much of an effect in Russia.  A Gazprom oil refinery has been fined $30 million in connection with an old pollution case.  Russia is apparently heating up 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 25, 2014

TODAY: Russia losing $140 billion a year due to sanctions and oil prices; Novak says Russia could cut oil production to boost prices; Norway suspends diplomatic relations over Ukraine crisis; Georgia accuses Russia of plotting the annexation of Abkhazia; Lavrov slams Ukraine’s freezing of state support to troubled regions, coal supplies to Ukraine suspended; Gorbachev interview.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov estimates that Russia is currently losing $40 billion per year due to sanctions, and $90-100 billion per year due to lower oil prices, bringing total estimated losses to $140 billion a year.  Some are anticipating that prices could drop even further to $60 a barrel if OPEC does not agree on an output cut when it meets this week.  The ruble has had its best run in over two years, gaining every day last week; Bloomberg says it is thanks to Elvira Nabiullina’s action to end the Central Bank’s previous policy of intervention.  The FT says the currency’s ‘comeback’ was spurred by the Energy Minister Alexander Novak’s hints that Russia may cut back on oil production in a bid to raise prices; and suggests that China’s interest rate cut may have also played a part – although as Reuters points out, Novak’s comments were ambiguous, also hinting at more of a shift towards flat production than a decrease.  An analyst at Sberbank suggests that ‘Russia doesn’t have the technology, the infrastructure or even the climate to control the price of oil’.  Norway has suspended all political contact with Moscow over the Ukraine conflict.  The Georgian foreign ministry says Russia took ‘a step toward the de-facto annexation’ of its breakaway territory, Abkhazia, after Vladimir Putin signed a treaty giving Russia more military control over the region.  The U.S. State Department says it will not recognise any ‘so-called treaty between Russia and Abkhazia.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 24, 2014

TODAY: Putin gives in-depth interview, promises not to remain president forever, shrugs off sanctions; sharp increase in capital outflows, Kudrin says ruble will continue to fall; property prices dropping. Russiaa and Abkhazia to sign partnership agreement; Browder claims kidnap threat; Ekho Moskvy drawing up staff social media regulations. 

In a lengthy new interview with philosopher Nikolay Berdyayev, President Vladimir Putin spoke on a range of personal and political topics (the full text is here; the Moscow Times has selected some highlights).  Regarding the future of his presidency, he said he would not stay in power ‘forever’, and expressed his need to follow the constitution, but did not rule out taking another term in 2018.  He described his relationship with Russia as ‘more than just love’, but said he tries not to become ‘enslaved by contemplation of his own popularity ratings; (Pussy Riot members say his soaring approval ratings are due to efficient Kremlin propaganda and citizens’ general lack of information). Putin blamed the West for deteriorating relations since the Ukraine crisis began, vowing that Russia would not become internationally isolated as a result of sanctions; and shrugged off their effects, saying there will be no ‘catastrophic consequences’ for the economy – although many are expecting a recession for Russia next year, and capital outflow last month was nearly half the total for the entire year previous.  Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin sees the ruble weakening further over the next two years, albeit more gradually than in recent months due to its now having assimilated the effects of sanctions: ‘The ruble has found its equilibrium.’  It’s not just the ruble that is struggling – the property market is also struggling, with prices down an average of 20% in Moscow since the Ukraine crisis.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Western sanctions brought against Russia in retaliation for its role in the Ukraine crisis are really an attempt to force regime change in Moscow.  The FT’s John Thornhill says it might be time for the West and Ukraine to cut a deal with Russia.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 21, 2014

5502-05-ratingTODAY: Putin warns the White House against supplying arms to Kiev; NATO concerned about increased Russian air activity; ‘ceasefire’ period sees 957 fatalities. Kudrin decries ‘populist’ economic policies; VTB faces nosedive in profits.

With U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden due to land in Kiev today, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has warned Washington against any attempts to supply arms to Ukraine.  Some lawmakers have adopted a harsher tone, with Alexey Pushkov, the head of the Russian State Duma committee for international affairs proposing a ‘Nobel War Prize’ for President Barack Obama.  The UN’s human rights watchdog has found that nearly 1,000 people have been killed during the Ukraine ‘ceasefire’ agreed at the start of September.  NATO jets have had to scramble 400 times this year in response to the increase in Russian air activity around Europe, of a scale not seen since the Cold War.  A report by the European Leadership Network has described the incidents as ‘a highly disturbing picture of violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles’ and narrowly avoided mid-air collisions’.  Following the first visit by a Russian defence minister to Pakistan since 1969, Russia and Pakistan have signed their debut military cooperation agreement.  President Putin has used his meeting with the Security Council to lambast ‘illegal, uncontrolled migration’, ‘colour revolutions’ and ‘extremism’, which he sees as ‘a geopolitical instrument to rearrange spheres of influence’.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has announced that North Korea is willing to resume stalled international talks on its nuclear program. Read More »

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 20, 2014

TODAY: Putin seeks closer ties with North Korea, praises friendship with Hungary, offers a reserved welcome and warning to new U.S. ambassador; Lavrov says Kiev’s withdrawal of support from east prepares the ground for invasion; VTB Bank profit drop; Russia’s banking sector most vulnerable in all emerging markets; historic McDonald’s branch re-opens.

Just after North Korea threatened to carry out a new nuclear test, Putin said that a deepening of political ties and trade with the country is definitely in the interests’ of all parties; and he hailed Hungary as one of Russia’s most important partners – a worry for Europe and the U.S. due to the pair’s planned operation on the South Stream pipeline, says the Moscow Times.  But comments from an Italian minister about South Stream may indicate a policy change: ‘It’s useful infrastructure, but maybe it’s no longer in the list of priorities.’  John Tefft, the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, met with Vladimir Putin yesterday in a ‘slightly awkward ceremony’ as the former presented his credentials, marking the beginning of his new role.  Putin told Tefft that Washington must treat Moscow as an equal, and called for ‘noninterference in internal matters’.  The New York Times interprets Putin as having ‘softened his tone’ for Tefft; the Washington Post says their meeting does not seem to herald a smooth ride for the ambassador in his new role.  Naftogaz may cut gas supplies to eastern Ukraine; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Kiev’s cutting off of other forms of state support to violent regions in east Ukraine is ‘preparing the ground for another invasion’.  He says the current conflict can be blamed on 25 years of Western policies of ‘strengthening their own security at the expense of the security of others’.  Concert halls are supposedly being closed to those with anti-Kremlin views, part of the ‘cultural rift’ opening up over Ukraine.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 19, 2014

TODAY: Putin says U.S. will never ‘subdue’ its rival; Russia asking Nato to make a promise over Ukraine membership; Nato warns of serious military build-up in Ukraine; EBRD, Finance Minister see imminent recession; new legislation to regulate offshore assets; Nabiullina and Putin defend ruble float; Sechin expected to pressure Opec; journalist to be charged over LGBT support website.

President Vladimir Putin says the United States wants to ‘subdue’ Russia, but vows that it will never succeed.  Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, says Russia is asking Nato for ‘a 100% guarantee that no one would think about Ukraine joining Nato’, because the alliance has made Moscow nervous.  Nato is warning of a ‘serious’ Russian military build-up in eastern Ukraine, and calling once again on Russia to pull back its troops.  The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development blames Russia’s imminent recession on the Ukraine crisis.  Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says Russia will see a recession next year if the oil price drops to $60 a barrel and the West intensifies current sanctions; Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukaev painted a similarly grim picture of the economy at a Kremlin economic meeting last month.  Newly passed legislation will tighten reporting requirements for the offshore income of Russian citizens, making it subject to taxation for the first time, and possibly making Russian-owned, foreign businesses more vulnerable to pressure by bringing them under Russian law.  The new law is expected to hit hard in the business community, and to face strong opposition from individuals and companies alike.  Organic farmer Boris Akimov says food sanctions blocking Western imports to Russia have forced people ‘to think more about where their food comes from’.

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Austria’s ‘State Defamation’ Against Stephan Templ

templ620LONDON, 18 November 2014 – Defence counsel acting on behalf of Jewish activist Stephan Templ have denounced the recent conduct of Austrian public officials, arguing that their politically motivated persecution in this case constitutes state defamation.

According to international lawyer Robert Amsterdam, not only have prosecutors deliberately and repeatedly misinformed the media regarding the details of the case, but diplomatic staff including the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have also issued false statements distorting the court record. The fact that these misleading comments continued while the court was considering Mr. Templ’s sentencing appeal represents a form of state defamation intended to damage the defendant’s character and influence the legal outcome, says Amsterdam.

“Representatives of the Austrian government have improperly and incorrectly sought to defame and tarnish the reputation of our client by willingly distorting the court record,” said Amsterdam. “This sort of Kafkaesque persecution cannot be justified in any rule of law state.”

Mr. Amsterdam stated that if the Austrian government’s attempts to intentionally mislead the public continue, that the legal team would be forced to seek out international condemnation of this misconduct by individual political figures and members of government.

Mr Templ, an Austrian citizen, has been sentenced to one year, reduced from three, in prison for “defrauding the Austrian Republic” following a restitution claim for a share of a 19th-century hospital in Vienna that was seized by the Nazis in 1938.

Mr Templ has been an outspoken critic of Austria’s poor post-war record of returning art and property confiscated from Viennese Jews during World War II.

A 2001 treaty between the U.S. and Austria pledged the return of Nazi-looted property to owners and their heirs. Mr Templ was found guilty based on his failure to name his aunt in his application for restitution.


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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 18, 2014

TODAY: Media giant linked to Putin allies; West provoking a Cold War, Putin says, threatens Kiev; HRW accuses Crimea of human rights violations; Merkel says Russia not likely to stop at Ukraine; Shoigu discussing military cooperation with China; inflation to reach 9% by end of year; German and Polish diplomatic tit-for-tat; Deripaska given head role at Rusal.

News agency R.B.C.’s efforts to construct the ownership of private media company National Media Group uncovered ‘a litany of President Vladimir Putin’s friends and allies, many of whom are under sanctions from the U.S. and EU over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.’  Speaking to German television channel A.R.D., Putin suggested that Russia is being provoked into a Cold War by the West; that the Western response to the annexation of Crimea was ‘totally disproportionate to what had happened’; and warned that ‘a catastrophe’ would happen if Kiev continues to ‘surreptitiously support Russophobia in Ukraine’.  Human Rights Watch accused Crimean authorities of serious human rights abuses against residents who opposed Crimea’s ‘belligerent occupation’ by Russia.  The European Union decided not to impose further sanctions on Russia yesterday, but increased existing restrictions on individual separatists in Ukraine.  This piece says Putin’s comments about the positive effects of European sanctions on aspects of the Russian economy indicate a belief that sanctions ‘will force the Russian economy to evolve past its dependence on the oil and gas industries’.  German and Georgian leaders both say Russia is seeking to interfere in countries other than Ukraine across southeastern Europe.  Giving a speech in Sydney, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out against Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, warning that consequences would likely not remain regional.  The Foreign Ministry says the U.N. Human Rights Council’s actions show ‘a tilt towards the settling of political accounts’ and ‘groundless sermonising’.  John Kampfner says the pugilist reception of Vladimir Putin by Western leaders at the G20 should have happened much earlier.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 17, 2014

TODAY: Putin leaves G20 summit early after attacks by various leaders, expresses hope for resolution of Ukraine crisis; 30,000 march in Tbilisi against Russian integration; Wikipedia not reliable, Russia to create its own version; Nato head says Russian bombers put civilians at risk; falling oil prices hitting hard; state-sanctioned sexism?

President Vladimir Putin left the G20 summit in Brisbane early yesterday ‘after enduring hours of browbeating’ by various Western leaders over his support for separatist rebels in Ukraine. Putin initially insisted that his early departure was due to the need to get some sleep, but it has been widely interpreted as a response to his frosty reception at the gathering.  Fyodor Lukyanov says the early exit was a mistake, correctly anticipating that it would be seen ‘as a sign of stress’.  Putin’s most spectacular confrontation was with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who, whilst shaking Putin’s hand, bluntly told him, ’you need to get out of Ukraine’, and then called him a liar.  The Times has video of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama both slamming Putin in their summit addresses, as well as a clip of Putin’s speech in which he expressed hope for a resolution of the conflict in Ukraine; but Putin also told German television that Russia will not allow Kiev to destroy its political adversaries in eastern Ukraine.  State-run Channel One claimed it has proof that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian government fighter.  30,000 people marched in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi over the weekend in protest of a proposed treaty between Russia and Abkhazia that would create joint military forces.  Russia is planning to create its own version of Wikipedia in order to provide ‘reliable’ information to its public, deeming the existing encyclopedia incapable of providing information ‘in a detailed or sufficient way’.

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