- The purpose of the document is alert the international community to the grave risks faced by Thai citizens who may be subjected to an unlawful coup and removal of the elected prime minister. There are serious concerns of a repeat - or worse - of the 2010 massacres of protesters ...
- The Nigerian government's attempt to pin a criminal case against its former Central Banker Lamido Sanusi after he exposed a multi-billion dollar corruption scheme reeks of political motivations.
This weekend I spoke via Skype to a rally of hundreds of thousands of Red Shirt activists in Bangkok, who had come out to show support for the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra against the pending threat of her removal by a judicial coup. The video of the speech is below, with my part starting around 9:20.
Referring to a public rally last month in which Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke in front of a banner reading “Crimea is in my heart,” [Swedish Foreign Minister Carl] Bildt said, “You have to ask yourself, what else is in his heart?”
TODAY: Pro-Russia protesters storm Ukraine government buildings, Kiev blames Putin; Nato urges members to boost armed forces, Georgia and Azerbaijan worried; Merkel says E.U. ready with sanctions; Yatsenyuk rejects new Gazprom prices; Bush paints Putin.
Ukraine’s acting president, Olexander Turchynov, called an emergency meeting after pro-Russian rallies in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Lugansk ended with protesters storming regional government buildings, and reportedly demanding a referendum on joining Russia. (Some footage is available here.) Ukraine accused President Vladimir Putin of ‘order[ing] and pa[ying] for the latest wave of separatist disorder.’ The Times called the protests ‘an echo of the demonstrations that preceded last month’s annexation of Crimea’. The Secretary-General of Nato says its members countries must boost their armed forces to protect against the threat of Russian aggression. Both Georgia and Azerbaijan are reportedly worried about Russia’s next moves: ‘Azerbaijan’s position is complicated by the fact that it […] has pursued an independent foreign policy.’ Surrounding regions need U.S. support, says this piece. Europe’s foreign ministers met in Athens to discuss the crisis, concluding that Russia needs to defuse tensions, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the E.U. would make good on its promise to introduce tougher sanctions if Russia makes any further moves into Ukrainian territory. U.S. intelligence is apparently unable to predict Putin’s next moves, with further action widely expected but difficult to foresee.
Interesting post over on Tech Dirt about the case against Kim Dotcom’s former company, Megaupload. The U.S. Department of Justice continues to have no answer for the millions of users whose data was seized on Megaupload’s Virginia servers. This conduct of course raises many questions about the motivations behind the government’s case, and who exactly they are serving.
The whole situation is bizarre. Individuals who had legitimate content stored on Megaupload are still asking for access to get back their content, but the DOJ doesn’t seem to care at all. In fact, it’s coming up with increasingly bizarre excuses to justify shutting down an entire business based on the entertainment industry’s say so, and seems to have no qualms about how many people this has created massive problems for.
As the Aereo case is about to be heard, and various concerns about its impact on cloud computing are being raised, people should look over at what’s happening with Megaupload’s servers and be even more concerned. If the broadcasters succeed in redefining what is a “public performance,” it’s entirely conceivable that the DOJ could choose to do the same to other cloud services you rely on — and there seems to be no recourse whatsoever.
TODAY: Russia raises Ukraine gas price for the second time this week; Ukraine vows to respond to and defend against Russian aggression, blames Russia for protester deaths in February; Ryabkov tells U.S. to chill out over Crimea; recession looms, economy contracted in 2014; music labels suing Vkontakte for piracy; JPMorgan to process disputed payment.
In a move widely seen in the West as politically motivated, Russia has hiked the price that Ukraine pays for its gas for the second time this week, creating an overall price rise of 80%, or $100 more per 1,000 cubic meters. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev justified the action by saying it was in line with Russia’s termination of agreements with Ukraine on the Black Sea Fleet. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk says the price rise is ‘absolutely unacceptable’, but anticipates that Russia will only continue to raise energy pressures for Ukraine, and eventually begin to limit gas supplies. Yatseniuk also vowed that Ukraine would retaliate against any Russian aggression: ‘If Russia wages war, we will defend our country’. A billboard in Ukraine’s Donetsk bids ‘goodbye’ to Russia, in advance of a planned anti-Russian action on April 12. The head of Ukraine’s security service partially blames Russia for the killing of more than 100 protesters in Kiev in February. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov suggested that the U.S. should ‘come to terms with the new situation’ in Crimea by replacing its ‘childish tantrums’ with ‘yoga’. Russia is on the brink of recession; its economy contracted during the first three months of this year, according to a new survey of purchasing managers, indicating that Russia was experiencing economic troubles before Crimea, and that the current international backlash will only prolong stagnation.
TODAY: Nato commander warns of imminent and swift Ukraine invasion; Foreign Ministry accuses alliance of reviving Cold War; NASA bans contact with Kremlin reps; capital flight continues; Moscow ups arms deliveries to Syria; Lavrov wants international recognition for Russia’s aid donations; Russian Railways corruption scandal brewing; Putins finalise divorce.
Nato military commander Philip Breedlove has warned of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling Russia’s troops a ‘very capable and very ready force’, and suggesting that large areas of Ukrainian territory could be taken in a matter of days. The New York Times says the ‘sleek, new’ troops lining Ukraine’s border exhibit various signs of having recently undergone an upgrade. The Foreign Ministry described Nato’s decision to suspend cooperation with Russia as reminiscent of ‘Cold War sword-swinging’. One Nato official suggested that the alliance ‘may have had an overly optimistic view of Russia for many years’. Repercussions of the Crimea annexation continue: NASA members have been banned from contacting Kremlin representatives; Western banks are tightening payment procedures for steel and grain deals; the U.S. has suspended a number of bilateral projects with Russia and plans to transfer its funding to Ukraine; and a new app to help Android users identify and boycott Russian goods is apparently gaining popularity in Ukraine. Investors and capital in general are ‘fleeing’ from Russia in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, says the WSJ. Sergei Guriev laments the death of Russia’s economic growth, blaming the current situation on years of corruption and arguing that, in turn, the annexation of Crimea is a logical outcome: ‘[O]nce economic growth is gone, territorial expansion is an authoritarian regime’s tool of choice for […] holding on to power.’ A representative of Vladimir Putin tried to reassure young Siberian scientists that new housing incentives and high wages will put an end to the brain drain. But what about the politically-driven outflows? Pavel Durov’s exit from VKontakte, the social networking website that he founded, is raising questions about internet freedom.
Sergei Guriev, the respected economist from Moscow’s New Economic School who was forced into exile last year, has published a new article in the Financial Times examining the relationship between Russia’s pervasive corruption and President Vladimir Putin’s recent interest in expanding and swallowing up neighboring territories.
In Russia, the social compact of the 2000s was based on economic growth of 7 per cent a year. Citizens were happy with a government that provided substantial material benefits, even if it curtailed democratic freedoms. This was supposed to last. When Vladimir Putin took up the presidency for the second time in 2012, he promised to increase government spending – pledges that were premised on projected growth of between 5 and 6 per cent a year.
But this social compact is no longer feasible. Last year growth slowed to 1.3 per cent. Independent forecasters expect the economy to shrink in the first two quarters of 2014, as does the World Bank. (…)
Recession means Russia’s government can no longer use money to buy public acceptance. Repression and propaganda have to take up the slack. In these circumstances, nothing could be more helpful than a small and victorious military adventure. Tangible victories – no matter how small or how costly – boost the ruler’s popularity. It is not surprising that Mr Putin’s approval ratings now stand at 80 per cent.
Scary stuff. A small group of corrupt elites willing to risk the lives of millions to protect what they have stolen. Welcome to modern Russia.
TODAY: Bulgaria on high alert; Nato says no withdrawal of troops from Ukraine border; Russia warns Ukraine on Nato integration, Nato suspends cooperation with Russia; Kremlin says JPMorgan blocked embassy transfer; Kiselyov berates U.S. on television; Gazprom hikes Ukraine prices; pipeline to Crimea; government seeking to increase punishments for public gathering; VKontakte founder steps down.
Bulgaria is on high alert thanks to a recent spike in Russian military flights near its aerial borders. Nato Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was no evidence of Russia making good on its promise to withdraw troops from the Ukrainian border. ’Russia’s most immediate task is to prevent Ukraine from joining Western economic and security structures such as the European Union or Nato,’ says the BBC. Russia warned Ukraine that the future of economic ties between them depended on it not integrating with Nato, blaming their earlier exchanges for currently strained ties with both parties. Nato has suspended all practical cooperation with Russia to protest its annexation of Crimea and is formulating plans to increase military co-operation with former Soviet states south of Russia such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova. Russia accused U.S. bank JPMorgan of blocking an embassy money transfer ‘under the pretext of anti-Russian sanctions’, calling the action ‘unacceptable, illegal and absurd’, and vowing to retaliate. Responding to America’s criticism of the Ukraine crisis, popular television anchor Dmitry Kiselyov (‘Russia’s chief spin doctor’) has slammed the U.S. as – among other things – incapable of rising to the global responsibility proper to its status.
Doug Bandow writes in the American Spectator about the case of our client Georges Tadonki, who challenged political corruption in Zimbabwe and paid for it with his job.
In 2008 Tadonki had been on station for six years and predicted epidemics of both cholera and violence. Journalist Peta Thornycroft interviewed Tadonki at the time, concluding that the OCHA official was unafraid to speak the truth, making him “another kind of UN voice—one that I was not used to in Zimbabwe.”
Unfortunately, UN country chief Agostinho Zacarias apparently was a more traditional international bureaucrat and dismissed Tadonki’s warnings. By the end of the year 100,000 people had been infected with cholera and thousands had died. Zacarias “forced us to put the figure very low,” explained Tadonki: Months into the epidemic the UN still was predicting only 2,000 cases. During the election campaigns hundreds also had been killed by government thugs, who succeeded in derailing democracy.
TODAY: Medvedev visits Crimea; Putin promises to withdraw some troops from Ukraine border; Lavrov slams E.U. and U.S. ‘blockade’ of Transdnestr, flaunts China ties; ‘foreign agent’ law to be amended; Dozhd gets another 50 days; BP appoints new Russia head.
To the chagrin of Ukraine, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Crimea yesterday, promising more cash and reinforcing Russia’s control. Russia wants Crimea to ‘generate sufficient income for its own development’, said Medvedev, announcing that the region will be made into a special economic zone offering tax breaks to attract investors. In the mean time, pensions in the region have been doubled and public sector salaries boosted. President Vladimir Putin says that Russia will withdraw some troops from along its shared border with Ukraine, although details about numbers have not been released. ‘It would be a grave mistake not to plan for a prolonged, multi-layered confrontation,’ says the Washington Post of the Ukraine crisis. Putin will surely draw the line at an invasion of Finland, says this piece. But Alaska could be next, says The Moscow Times. Crimea is only the latest step in Russia’s withdrawal from international law, which actually began last fall, says Andrei Malgin. Under proposed amendments to the current laws on labeling foreign-funded rights organisations as ‘foreign agents’, the government would be able to register NGOs as such without their consent; another new law would ban the publication of ‘inaccurate’ information about the Kremlin. Independent television channel Dozhd will have another 50 days to operate thanks to a successful fundraising campaign, and is planning its next steps.