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Obama rolls out new sanctions on Russia, Moscow says it won’t hurt

RT | April 28, 2014

New round of Western sanction against Russia will target seven individuals and 17 companies. They are meant to affect Moscow’s stance over the ongoing Ukrainian crisis.

The individuals listed by the US Department of Treasury on Monday include Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, chair of the parliamentary commission on Foreign Affairs, Aleksey Pushkov, chief of presidential office, Vyacheslav Volodin, and Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft oil company.

The list of sanctioned companies, which Washington believes to be “linked to Putin’s inner circle,” includes several banks, construction and transport companies.

The Volga Group, an investment vehicle that manages assets on behalf of the businessman, Gennady Timchenko, and SMP Bank, whose main shareholders were affected by the previous set of US sanctions, are among those to face restrictive measures.

Oil and gas engineering company, Stroytransgaz, and one of Russia’s biggest rail transporters of oil, Transoil, are also among the companies affected by the sanctions.

The US Department of Commerce has introduced additional restrictions on 13 of those companies by imposing a license requirement with a presumption of denial for the export, re-export or other foreign transfer of US-originating items to the companies.

Later in the day, Washington announced a tightened policy to deny export license applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russia’s military capabilities.

But the US may move even further and impose sanctions against specific branches of the Russian economy if Moscow begins a military operation in Ukraine, Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said.

The announcement of a new round of US sanctions against Russia is “revolting” as they go against the way civilized states should communicate, Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said.

“We will respond, although it is not our choice,” Ryabkov is cited as saying by Itar-Tass news agency. “But we can’t leave this situation without reaction, without practical reaction, without reaction by means of our own decisions. US behavior in the field is becoming provocative.”

According to the deputy FM, the American decision stems from a “distorted and groundless” assumption on the state of affairs in Ukraine.

Obama said the US and its allies would keep broader sanctions “in reserve” in the event of further escalation on the ground in Ukraine. He admitted that he was uncertain whether the latest round of measures would be effective.

“The goal is not to go after Mr. Putin personally; the goal is to change his calculus, to encourage him to walk the walk, not just talk the talk” on diplomacy to resolve the crisis, Obama said in Manila during a trip to Asia.

As the US pushes for more sanctions against Russia, EU members have preliminarily agreed to also impose asset freezes and visa bans on 15 more people. The names of those to be added to the list will not be made public until they are published in the EU’s Official Journal on Tuesday, Reuters reported citing an unnamed diplomat source. However, Many Europeans are opposed anti-Russian sanctions, which would target the economy as opposed to individuals close to the Russian leadership, since economic sanctions would hurt European economies as well as that of Russia. The US, being economically tied with Russia to a much lesser degree than Europe, says it would not impose economic sanctions unilaterally.

“I would be very surprised if all European countries found a common position on economic sanctions,” Thierry Mariani, a member of the French National Assembly, told RT. “When one country says ‘we don’t speak about finance’… and some other country says ‘we don’t speak about energy,’ then we don’t speak about anything. That’s why we arrive unfortunately [at] personal sanctions, which are completely nonsense.”

The Russian leadership has thus far brushed off the threat of sanctions as ineffectual, arguing they might in fact buoy the Russian economy in the long term.

“Over reliance can lead to a loss of sovereignty,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a media forum in St Petersburg on Thursday.

Western-led sanctions have several advantages for Russia, Putin said.

Putin said the threat of real economic sanctions is already bolstering domestic businesses, bringing more offshore funds back to Russia, and giving policymakers the push they need to establish a domestic payment system.

His comments echo sentiments made by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last week, who similarly argued that further sanctions would only make Russia stronger.

“Thanks to Western sanctions, Russia has been given the incentive to reduce its dependence on outside and instead regional economies are being more self-sufficient,” Medvedev said April 22.

Medvedev said any restrictions on Russian goods to the EU or US would serve to redirect Russian exports to Asian markets, which are more robust.

April 28, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Video | , , , , | 1 Comment

Confessed Brazilian Torturer Found Murdered

By Michael Uhl | This Can’t Be Happening | April 27, 2014

At approximately four o’clock this past Thursday afternoon, Paulo Malhaes, a retired officer who served in the ‘70s during the years of Brazil’s military dictatorship, was murdered at his small farm outside of Rio de Janeiro.

Malhaes had become infamous in recent weeks, as I wrote in this space recently [1], for his lurid testimony before the Brazilian Truth Commission, where he described in graphic detail how the bodies of opponents of the repressive regime had been disappeared after being killed under torture.

According to news reports, Malhaes, his wife and a house mate, in some reports described as a valet, had arrived at the farm around two p.m. and were confronted by three intruders already in their home.  The wife, Cristina Malhaes, and the house mate, later identified by police only as Rui, were restrained and led off into one room, while the former lieutenant colonel was taken to another.

Cristina and Rui were later released unharmed as the assailants departed the scene by car.  Neither of the survivors reported having heard a sound to suggest the Malhaes had been worked over or “tortured.” But when police examined Malhaes’ body Friday morning they found marks on his face and neck, and have tentatively concluded that he died from asphyxiation.  The only items the murderers removed from the premises were a computer, a printer, and several weapons that had belonged to the victim.

The announcement of Paulo Malhaes’ murder, reported in front pages all over Brazil, has sent shock waves through the country, including among surviving junta participants. The big question being debated is which side did him in.

It’s certainly conceivable that a victim of the dictatorship, or a relative of someone who was disappeared, might have orchestrated Malhaes’s death in an act of vengeance long delayed.  But this hypothesis is being given little credence, as is an alternative theory that Malhaes’ demise occurred in the course of a simple robbery unrelated to his notoriety.

The head of the Sao Paulo Municipal Truth Commission, Gilberto Natalini, suggested uncontroversially that Malhaes’ assassination “demonstrates that this page of Brazilian history has not yet been completely turned.”

His counterpart on the Rio de Janeiro Truth Commission, Wadih Damous, offers a darker theory, saying,  “In my opinion, the murder of colonel Paulo Malhaes was an act of witness elimination.  He was an important agent of political repression during the dictatorship, and a repository of information on what actually took place behind the scenes in that era.”

“He still had a lot to say,” agreed the former Minister of Human Rights, Maria do Rosario, “and could have been seen as a threat.  True, he had already told what happened, but he didn’t reveal who did it.”

One Brazilian senator, Randolfe Rodrigues, speculated on how far those still operating in the “shadow of the dictatorship” might be willing to go “to erase the past.”  He warned that the members of the various truth commissions had better start looking to their own security.

April 28, 2014 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment

Turkey gave Syria militants anti-tank missiles: Report

Press TV – April 28, 2014

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) provided foreign-backed militants in Syria with US-made anti-tank missiles, a local daily reports.

The Turkish daily Aydinlik said in a report that the former commander of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), Salim Idris, acted as a middleman in the transfer of the TOW anti-tank missiles from Turkey to the militants in Syria.

About a dozen militants have been trained in Turkey on how to use the weapons, the report said.

The decision for the transfer of the missiles reportedly came after a meeting between Idris and US Republican Senator John McCain last year.

Militants fighting against the Syrian government are also seeking to recruit new militants in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

On March 30, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the Turkish government was facilitating the entry of foreign militants into the Christian town of Kasab in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border.

Zoubi added that Ankara’s move was in violation of international resolutions as it constitutes involvement in terrorism.

Earlier in March, an audio recording uploaded on YouTube revealed a plot by top Turkish officials to conduct a false-flag attack as a pretext to invade Syria.

The recording contained the voices of Turkey’s intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Deputy Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler and other senior officials discussing the possible assault.

April 28, 2014 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment