Aletho News


Europe Needs ‘Own Mueller’ to Probe Alleged Russian Meddling: EU Brexit negotiator

Sputnik – 30.07.2018

Europe needs its own special counsel, similar to Robert Mueller in the United States, to look into the alleged Russian disinformation campaign, president of the European parliament’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Guy Verhofstadt said Monday.

On Sunday, the Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee issued a report in which the panel members said they had heard some evidence pointing to a campaign to influence UK election and referenda, allegedly led by Moscow.

“Europe needs it’s own Mueller, to investigate the extent of Russian disinformation campaigns & other attacks on our democracies. In September I will push the Eur Parliament to such measures to clean up our internet & social media. It’s time to fight back!” Verhofstadt, who serves as the main EU negotiator on Brexit, said on Twitter.

Mueller has been looking into the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and the purported collusion between the Russian government and the campaign of US President Donald Trump. The US president has repeatedly described the probe as a witch hunt.

Russian officials have stressed that Moscow does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and pointed out that the allegations against Russia had not been substantiated.

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions. What if he’s serious?

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 27, 2018

The frequency with which US President Donald Trump holds out threats to other countries is such that he is no longer being taken seriously. The list of countries threatened by Trump so far includes North Korea, Germany, Canada, China, Venezuela, Pakistan, Syria, Iran and Turkey.

In all fairness, Trump makes no distinction between enemies, adversaries, friends or allies. Turkey, a NATO ally, holds a record of sorts as the country most threatened by the Trump administration. In separate tweets on Thursday, Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence gave an ultimatum to Turkey that unless Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical pastor of a small Protestant church in western Turkey, is released from detention immediately, Ankara should be “prepared to face the consequences” in the form of “significant sanctions.”

For the benefit of the uninitiated, Brunson who has been living in Turkey for 23 years was arrested in the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan, charged with spying and involvement in the failed coup. The Turkish government had probably hoped for a tradeoff – Brunson in exchange for the Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen who is living in Pennsylvania whom Ankara regards as having masterminded the 2016 coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan. Ankara has been pressing Gulen’s extradition and Washington has been stonewalling. It’s a complicated case history, since Gulen has had links in the past with the CIA.

Turkey has shrugged off the latest threat from Trump and Pence. However, for Trump, Christian groups form a core constituency politically, and taking a tough stance on the high-profile Brunson case has endeared him to those groups. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently made the following remark in praise of the White House effort: “I thank God we have an administration that cherishes the freedom of religion as our founders hoped we would.”

Trump’s latest threat puts Erdogan in a fix because releasing Brunson without a reciprocal move on Gulen’s extradition means a loss of face. Erdogan is acutely conscious of his strongman-image. He must be wondering whether Trump is serious about the ultimatum on Brunson’s release. Brinkmanship comes naturally to Trump. Indeed, with Trump one really doesn’t know what happens next.

But Erdogan can be more than a match for Trump in the ‘art of the deal’. At a meeting today with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in South Africa, Erdogan added disdainfully that Trump’s real grouse in giving such an ultimatum yesterday could be that Turkey has drawn close to Russia in the recent times. That is a spin, of course. But then, Erdogan is also hoping to extract a big concession from Putin – deferment of the planned military operation to liberate the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib on the Turkish border from Ankara’s proxy groups. Turkey is keen to retain Idlib as its zone of influence.

Does Putin feel impressed that US-Turkish ties are deteriorating? There are no easy answers here. Nonetheless, Erdogan sees no harm in playing Trump against Putin. After all, who knows, Putin may hold back on the assault to liberate Idlib…

Yet, the chances are that this time around, Trump probably intends to carry out his ultimatum to impose sanctions on Turkey. The point is, US patience with Turkey seems to be wearing thin. Turkey is no longer a ‘swing’ state in the US’ Middle East strategies, given the poor state of Turkish-Israeli relations, Erdogan’s ‘pivot to Russia’ and the overall trust deficit in Turkish-American relationship. Erdogan snubbed the US threat of sanctions and upheld his decision to purchase S-400 missile defence system from Russia. Last week, Erdogan bluntly rejected the demarche by Washington that Turkey should cut back its oil imports from Iran.

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Western Collapse… Scapegoating Trump & Putin

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 29.07.2018

Former US President Barack Obama was in South Africa last week for the centennial anniversary marking the birth of the late Nelson Mandela. Obama delivered a speech warning about encroaching authoritarianism among nations and the “rise of strongman politics”.

Coming on the heels of the summit in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, media reports assumed that Obama was taking a swipe at these two leaders for supposed growing authoritarianism.

Obama’s casting of the “strongman” as a foreboding enemy to democracy is a variant of the supposed threat of “populism” that Western political establishments also seem concerned about.

Trump, Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan, Italy’s Salvini, Victor Orban in Hungary and Sebastian Kurz in Austria, among many others, are all lumped together as “strongman politics”, “populists” or “authoritarians”.

Here we are not trying to defend the above-mentioned political leaders or to make out that they are all virtuous democrats.

The point rather is to debunk the false narrative that there is some kind of dichotomy in modern politics between those who, on one hand, are supposedly virtuous, liberal, democratic, multilateralists, and on the other hand, the supposedly sinister “strongman”, “authoritarian”, or “populist”.

In Obama’s pompous depiction of world political trends, people like him are supposedly the epitome of a civilized, democratic legacy that is now under threat from Neo-fascists who are darkly rising to destroy an otherwise happy world order. That world order, it is presumed, was up to now guided by the magnificence of American political leadership. In short, the “Pax Americana” that prevailed for nearly seven decades following the Second World War.

Following the Helsinki summit, the Western media went full-tilt in hysterics and hyperbole. Trump was assailed for “embracing a dictator” while repudiating Western democratic allies.

In a Washington Post article, the headline screamed: “Is Trump at war with the West?” It was accompanied by a photograph of Trump and Putin, bearing the caption: “The New Front”.

Meanwhile, a New York Times piece editorialized: “His [Trump’s] embrace of Putin is a victory dance on the Euro-American tomb.”

Another NY Times op-ed writer declared: “Trump and Putin vs. America”.

The Western establishment political and media commentary promulgates the notion that the US-led Western order is breaking down because of “populist”, “strongman” Trump. In this alleged assault on the pillars of democracy and rule of law, Trump is being aided and abetted by supposedly nasty, like-minded authoritarians like Russian leader Vladimir Putin, or other nationalistic European politicians.

The premise of this establishment narrative is that all was seemingly salubrious and convivial in the US-led order until the arrival of various renegade-type politicians, like Trump and Putin.

That premise is an absolute conceit and deception. If we look at Obama’s presidency alone, one can see how the supposed guardians of democracy and international order were the very ones who have actually done the most to decimate that order.

Obama, you will recall, was the US president who notched up seven simultaneous overseas wars conducted by American military, arguably without a shred of international legal mandate. Under international law, Obama and other senior officials in his administration should face prosecution for war crimes. He also greatly expanded the executive use of assassination with aerial drones, reckoned to have killed thousands of innocent civilians in several countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia, merely on the suspicion of being terrorists.

It was Obama who ramped up the covert war policy of his predecessor GW Bush in Syria, arming and directing terrorist proxies in a failed bid to overthrow the elected government of President Assad. That US-backed covert war in Syria, along with Obama’s overt regime-change war in Libya, largely contributed to the refugee crisis that has destabilized the politics of the European Union.

So here we have the supremely bitter irony. Obama now lectures audiences with his pseudo-gravitas about the specter of strongman politics and xenophobic populism, when in fact it was politicians like Obama who created much of the refugee problems that have given rise to anti-immigrant politics in Europe.

It really is a conceited delusion among US and European establishment politicians, pundits and media that somehow a once virtuous, law-abiding US-led Western order is being eroded by rabble rousers like Trump, Salvini, Orban and so on, all being orchestrated by a “strongman dictator” in the Kremlin.

For the record, Putin, the supposed “strongman” in the Kremlin, warned more than a decade ago in a seminal Munich speech that the international order was being eroded by rampant American unilateralism and disregard for law in its pursuit of illegal wars for US hegemony. That was at the height of US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which killed more than one million civilians and forced millions more into infernal destitution.

In truth, the Pax Americana that is presumed to have prevailed over the past 70 years was never about order, peace or justice in the world. The notion that the US guided the world with its “moral authority” and maintained stability throughout is one of the most fatuous delusions of modern history.

From the atomic holocaust in Japan and during subsequent decades, the US has waged wars non-stop in almost every year, whether from covert operations in Latin America and Africa, to full-on genocidal wars in Indochina. The past quarter-century has seen an acceleration and expansion of these US wars, sometimes with the assistance of its military axis in NATO, largely because Washington viewed that its license to kill for mass murder was unchecked after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This is the real dynamic underlying why the Western order is now seen to be collapsing. The US and its minions among European allies have destroyed any foundations of international order from their unabated wars and campaigns of mass murder. Their corporate-capitalist plunder has eviscerated the planet.

The chaos from these wars, including economic impacts of gargantuan costs to Western populations, has created social conditions which engender politics of protest, anti-establishment, anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-immigration, and so on.

If the supposed order is shaking for the establishment political class and its flunkies like Barack Obama it is because of their own criminal depredations – depredations which have been going on for decades under the guise of Pax Americana.

The writers at Monthly Review had it so presciently right years ago, when they analyzed the actual Western order as “Pox Americana” – a diseased affliction.

This is the historical context which accounts for why US and European establishments are decrying “strongmen” and “populists”. They are essentially scapegoating others for the historic failure of institutionalized Western criminality led primarily by “democratic” regimes in Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands out as the one international leader who put a brake on the US-led criminal assault on global peace. Putin’s stand first emerged with his landmark speech in Munich in 2007, and then came into clear expression when he helped put an end to the US-led covert criminal war on Syria.

That is why Putin is so vilified and demonized by the Western establishment. The poachers have been stopped from raiding the globe, and in their exasperation, they have whipped up all sorts of disparaging epithets like “strongman” and “authoritarian”.

No one has practiced more fascist-style criminality and brutality towards law and peace than the polite-sounding pseudo-democrats who have been in office for the past 70 years in the US and Europe.

The Western political establishment and its elite-driven capitalism is rotten to the core. Always has been. Its own erosion and oozing corruption is the source of the putrid smell that it now wishes to waft away by scapegoating others.

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

Russia swats away Israeli bluster on Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 25, 2018

The Russian version of the visit by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov to West Jerusalem on July 23 became available, finally, on Wednesday in the nature of a terse TASS report quoting a ‘military-diplomatic’ source in Moscow as saying that the visiting Russian officials “looked into the tasks of completing the anti-terrorist operation in Syria’s South.”

An unnamed Israeli official had earlier floated a story that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did some tough talking with Lavrov and “rebuffed” a Russian offer to create a 100-kilometre buffer zone adjacent to Golan Heights. Netanyahu reportedly insisted that he won’t be satisfied with anything short of Iran ending its presence in Syria conclusively.

The first indication that the talks didn’t go well came when Israel shot down a Syrian jet on July 24 in Quneitra bordering Golan. It was a calculated act of belligerence by Israel. (The Islamic State fighters who are present in the region have since released the photograph of the wreckage and the mutilated body of the Syrian pilot.)

The TASS report today punctures the Israeli version that the two Russian officials were deputed by President Vladimir Putin specially to discuss with Netanyahu the future of Iranian presence in Syria. (It now transpires that the Russian officials were on a tour of Israel, Germany and France.) The Israeli bravado can only be seen as a desperate ploy to cover up its humiliating defeat in Syria with the terrorist groups that were its proxies surrendering lock, stock and barrel in Daraa and Quneitra to the Syrian-Russian forces – especially the hasty exfiltration of the controversial group known as the White Helmets to Jordan via Golan Heights with the logistical help from the Israeli military.

Quite obviously, Moscow does not want to get entangled in the Israel-Iran tensions. This is also the American assessment of the Russian thinking, as articulated by the Director of the National Intelligence Agency Daniel Coats on Thursday:

“We have assessed that it’s unlikely Russia has the will or the capability to fully implement and counter Iranian decisions and influence (in Syria.) Russia would have to make significantly greater commitments [in Syria] from a military standpoint, from an economic standpoint. We don’t assess that they’re keen to do that.”

Nonetheless, the Israeli propaganda has gone overboard in attempting to create a wedge between Russia and Iran. (Read a fine piece, here, by Moon of Alabama on the Israeli disinformation campaign.) This couldn’t have gone down well in Moscow. At any rate, the Russian Foreign Ministry came out on July 24 with some sharp criticism of the move by the Israeli parliament (six days earlier) to adopt a bill known as Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

The operation by the Syrian forces (backed by Russian allies) to liberate Quneitra succeeded beyond expectations once Washington signaled that the extremist groups entrenched in the southern provinces bordering Jordan and Israel should not expect any American intervention to bail them out.

Damascus is now turning its attention to the liberation of the northwestern province of Idlib. It will be a major confrontation due to the presence of a large number of foreign terrorists in Northwestern Syria. The Iranian media reported that a Russian flag ship Ro-Ro Sparta was spotted crossing the Bosporus en route to Syria’s Tartus, carrying military cargo mostly ammunition, shells and missiles and that the reinforcements are meant for the Syrian Army’s “upcoming assault” on Idlib province.

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Freedom Flotilla Boat to Gaza, Al-Awda, hijacked by Israeli occupation forces

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – July 29, 2018

The motor vessel Al Awda (The Return), traveling in international waters towards Palestinian waters, 49 nautical miles from the port in Gaza City, has been contacted by the Israeli Occupation Forces navy and warned. The Israeli navy claims our ship is breaking international law and threatens that they will use “any measures necessary” to stop us. In fact, the only “necessary measures”  would be to end the blockade of Gaza and restore freedom of movement for all Palestinians. At last news from on board, Al Awda maintains her course towards Gaza, where the crew and participants hope to arrive this evening around 21:00 local time.

A number of warships have appeared, so an attack, boarding and capture appear to be imminent, and we anticipate that all communications with the vessel will be lost shortly.

Al Awda is sailing under a Norwegian flag, carrying 22 people and a cargo of medical supplies, including #Gauze4Gaza. Passengers and crew on board are from 16 nations, including human rights supporters, journalists and crew, along with €13,000 worth of urgently needed medical supplies. The boat itself, a former fishing vessel from Norway, is a gift to Palestinian fishers in Gaza.

Four boats left Scandinavia in mid-May and have since stopped in 28 ports building support for a ‘Just Future for Palestine’, that demands Israel end its ongoing breaches of international law and the twelve-year blockade of Gaza, thereby enabling the only closed port in the Mediterranean to open and for people to have their right to freedom of movement.

Al Awda is being followed by the Swedish-flagged yacht, Freedom, which is also carrying medical supplies along with people from a number of nations. We anticipate that it will reach a similar area where the IOF attacked Al Awda within the next two days. Two smaller sailing boats that traveled from Scandinavia and sailed through the canal system in Netherlands, Belgium and France visiting inland ports, participated in the mission until Palermo.

“The Freedom Flotilla Coalition calls on the Norwegian Government, the national governments of those aboard Al Awda and the Freedom, other national governments, and relevant international organizations to act immediately”  said Torstein Dahle of Ship to Gaza Norway, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. “The international community must assume its responsibilities and demand that Israeli authorities ensure the safety of those on board, the speedy delivery of our gifts to the Palestinian people in Gaza, an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza,  and to stop impeding our legal right of innocent passage to Gaza to deliver our gift of much-needed medical supplies”.

More information about the ‘Right to a Just Future for Palestine’ flotilla and the FFC:

Web:  Facebook: Twitter: @gazafflotilla

For US citizens, please call the US Department of State and demand that the State of Israel be held accountable for piracy–and demand that the medical supplies for Gaza on Al Awda be sent from Ashdod harbor to Gaza as provided by international law.

Call/email/tweet for release of US participant Joe Meadors

Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State

Tel: +1 202 647 4000 (ask for Israel & Palestine desk, and American Citizen Services, and/or Operations Center



 Twitter: @SecPompeo

Also call:

US Embassy in Israel

U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

14 David Flusser

Jerusalem 9378322, Israel

Phone: 02-630-4000 (ask for Ambassador, American Citizen Services and/or Duty Officer)


Branch Office Tel Aviv

71 HaYarkon Street

Tel Aviv 6343229, Israel

Phone: 03-519-7575 (ask for Ambassador, American Citizen Services and/or Duty Officer)

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 9 Comments

America’s latest witch-hunt

By Tony Kevin | OffGuardian | July 29, 2018

The current Maria Butina indictment in the US reminds one of Voltaire’s famous saying: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. I do not share Maria Butina’s fondness for guns or for the National Rifle Association’s aggressive lobbying for easy public access to guns. Nor would I put up my hand to attend National Prayer Breakfasts in the US. But she seems to be an innocent victim of current Washington elite Russophobia.

Maria Butina was keen to develop networks in these major pro- Republican US civil society organisations, especially in the years leading up to Trump’s election in late 2016. She has recently been arrested – on 15 July, one day before the Helsinki Summit – on two grounds : conspiracy (18 USC §371) , and failing to register as an agent of Russian influence (18 USC §951(a) ) . Here are the indictment documents.

With sympathetic US government representations to the Court, penalties for failing to register as a foreign agent §951 could conceivably be waived or minimised . But the conspiracy charge §371, if found proven by the Court , is very serious indeed. As Reuters reports the case:

Butina has been accused of working with a high-powered Russian official and two unidentified U.S. citizens, trying to infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization in the United States and influence the United States’ foreign policy toward Russia.’

Maria Butina faces up to ten years in US prison on these charges. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, protested vehemently to his counterpart Mike Pompeo, saying the charges are fabricated. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova was similarly forceful in condemnation, saying the long-planned indictment had been timed to try to derail the Helsinki Summit. Her detailed 18 July statement:

Arrest of Russian national Maria Butina in the United States

We are dismayed by the reported arrest of Russian citizen Maria Butina in the US on July 15. According to a statement on the website of the US Justice Department, she is charged with conspiracy to act as a foreign agent without registration.

These unsubstantiated claims against our fellow national seem odd, to say the least. As we know, Maria Butina has been in the United States for a long time as a student at a university in Washington and she has not been hiding from anybody.

It appears that instead of dealing with its core responsibilities in fighting crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is carrying out a blatant political order. As we understand it, the order came from those who continue to stir up Russophobic hysteria, for which purpose they regularly plant more fictional sensations about Russia’s alleged interference in the internal affairs of the United States.

On July 13, twelve Russians, who are currently outside the United States, were charged, as we have already mentioned. Now these ridiculous claims are made against Maria Butina – and she has even been arrested.

We could go on and on analysing this situation. We have the impression that the arrest, as a restrictive measure, was selected specifically to show the seriousness of the issue to the US public and to allies outside the country. The media immediately started referring to Butina as a spy and looked for connections with the security services, to build up tension without any substantial facts.

All this is happened right before the bilateral summit in Helsinki, with the obvious purpose of minimising the positive effect of the meeting and doing this as soon as possible. It appears that somebody took a watch, a calculator and timed when the decision on Maria Butina’s arrest should be taken in order to do as much as possible to sabotage the results of the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. This is how good the timing was.

It is possible to elaborate on the subject in the following way. If you have complaints against a person (and it is not a national security issue) you can always bring it to Russia’s attention. And more importantly, the matter could have been discussed, for example, in preparation for the summit. The US could have provided the details to its Russian counterparts and, also for example, discussed it on the margins of the summit or somehow touched base on the issue during the summit. Not a single word was said about it. The entire problem was concocted right after the summit. Given that Russia is a permanent topic of discussion in the US, that all the media are pumping up the hysteria, the bomb eventually detonated.

For our part, we are taking all possible measures to protect the rights and legal interests of the Russian national. The Russian Embassy in Washington contacted the US authorities and is pressing for an urgent consular meeting with Ms Butina, and this consular meeting is mandatory.

Immediately, allegations and rumours spread via social media. Users started to search for pictures of Maria Butina taking part in Russia-US meetings over the past two years.

There was a follow-up Russian Foreign Ministry media statement a week later, on 26 July, which offers disturbing detail of the harsh process of her arrest, and culminating in the claim that she is a political prisoner:

Arrest of Russian citizen Maria Butina in the US

We continue to closely monitor the fate of Russian citizen Maria Butina, arrested in Washington on July 15. Russian Embassy employees have visited her in prison, and have attended the court sessions where a measure of restraint and other procedural issues were determined, including yesterday. We have sent a resolute protest to the US State Department against the actions taken against her, including the severe psychological pressure she was subjected to.

Butina was subjected to an eight-hour search in the arrest process, as FBI agents armed with automatic firearms burst into her rented apartment, literally breaking furniture, shaking and even tearing up things, opening floors and walls. They found nothing incriminating, but despite the complete lack of evidence, Maria Butina was refused release.

The FBI’s thin case against Butina, as anyone can read on the internet, is actually based on decontextualised excerpts from her personal correspondence in social media. They are trying to incriminate her in a violation of the US foreign agents law, although she did not work for any foreign state, but studied at a Washington university and, taking a great interest in weapons, went to National Rifle Association of America events. She did this openly, not hiding her Russian citizenship, not hiding acquaintances or contacts, because there was nothing to hide.

However, certain political forces in the United States, pursuing self-serving interests, invented a story of Russian interference in the US elections, and this mudslinging campaign against Russia actually sent Butina to prison on a framed case – in fact, simply due to her nationality. What is this, if not a witch-hunt? There are fears that any of our compatriots in America might find themselves to be the next targets.

We demand that the US authorities immediately stop this arbitrariness and release Maria Butina. Her arrest is motivated solely by US domestic and foreign politics, and, therefore, she is a political prisoner.

Claiming her to be a likely flight risk into the Russian Embassy, the FBI quickly secured a court order to detain Butina pending her trial. Her trial is proposed by the prosecution to be held in secret because evidence to be presented is claimed to relate to ongoing national security investigations.

The Russian Embassy in Washington commented on Facebook:

We are surprised by the prosecution’s continued attempts to classify #FreeMariaButina case, thereby limiting public access to the details of the legal proceedings. Same tactic, as we see, is used by the 🇬🇧 special services concerning the Skripals case.

According to the Bloomberg report, the next hearing has been set for 10 September. So Maria Butina will have been jailed for eight weeks without trial, preparatory to a secret trial. One can only imagine her fear and distress.

I share the widespread Russian sense of outrage at this cruel and misconceived arrest and legal process. Maria Butina has not been accused of being a spy, of stealing American national security secrets, or of subverting American officials. At worst, she was a naive admirer of American ‘Wild West’ culture and its gun laws, which she wanted to emulate in Russia. She has publicly compared her birthplace, Siberia, to the American West, and Russian Cossacks to cowboys. She is, at worst, naive and imprudent, a fantasist about her imaginary idealised America. Not a spy or criminal by any reasonable or civilised measure.

Most of the preceding and following biographical detail comes from the Wikipedia article on Maria Butina and the court indictment papers, referenced above.

Maria Butina, now aged 29, was born in 1988 in Barnaul, in Altai Krai, Siberia. A tall athletic girl, her father used to take her hunting with him and taught her to shoot and handle guns from an early age. She did well at school and university, taking a degree in political science at Altai State University at age 19 in 2007. She moved to Moscow in 2011 , starting an advertising agency after building a successful furniture retail business in Altai. She joined the youth wing of the United Russia Party, the dominant political party in Russia.

Also in 2011, Butina founded a gun-rights organization, Right to Bear Arms, that lobbied to change Russia’s strict gun control laws. She began traveling back and forth to the U.S., initially with Aleksandr Torshin, who was then a Senator in the Federation Council of Russia, and a leading member of United Russia Party. He had hired her as his “special assistant” that year. In 2012, they lobbied the Federation Council to expand gun rights. In 2015, Butina said that Right to Bear Arms had 10,000 members and 76 offices in Russia.

In August 2016, two years ago, she moved to the United States on a student visa, and enrolled as a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C. Torshin had become a deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia in January 2015, and she worked as his special assistant until May 2017.

While a graduate student in US, her favoured hobbies were networking and cultivating her contacts in NRA and National Prayer Breakfast circles, and dipping into American Republican politics. In a June 2015 article published in The National Interest, a conservative American international affairs magazine, just before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, she urged better relations between the United States and Russia. At a public meeting in July 2015, she had asked candidate Donald Trump about prospects for lifting US sanctions against Russia If he were elected. She was delighted at his reply that he saw no need for such sanctions.

She was effectively an amateur lobbyist for the cause of improved Russia-US relations and for Russia to adopt US gun laws. In one sense, therefore, she was paradoxically an agent of American influence in Russia. There is a photo of her leading a street demonstration in Moscow with banners advocating relaxation of Russia’s quite strict gun ownership licensing laws.

She loved guns. She thought wider gun ownership would deter violent crime and make Russian society safer. Naturally she became popular in some NRA circles. There are many photos of her toting guns in her cowboy gear.

She cultivated older wealthy men along the way. Nothing unusual there, in a young ambitious woman with no family connections. Torshin had allegedly helped to fund and arrange her move to Washington, and put her in touch with the Russian Embassy there.

Once settled there, she soon developed a personal relationship with an older American, a senior NRA member. The indictment papers report that she told some people this was not for her a deep or committed relationship.

The indictment papers say that she regularly reported on her activities, through entirely overt and non-clandestine open telephone or Internet channels, to a contact in the Russian Embassy in Washington, who was expelled in March 2018 as an alleged spy, in the post-Skripal round of diplomatic expulsions. This history of contact with the Embassy is now being held against her, to support the more serious conspiracy charge.

This vindictive politically motivated prosecution will damage US-Russian relations even further. Her distressed father has called the charges against her ‘psychopathy and a witch-hunt’.

The more this sort of thing happens to Russians in the US, the more that Russians will despise America as a strange and cruel country.

My country, Australia, has just passed similar Agent of Foreign Influence laws. One can readily imagine such a prosecution of an ambitious but naive Russian immigrant or temporary student resident here, coming under surveillance and being eventually arrested for some relatively innocuous political activity like joining in environmental activism involving some minor temporary activities defined in the new laws as sabotage, with some sexual misconduct allegations being thrown in to spice the stew. Sentencing could be severe, as in US. In the current Russophobic official political climate in Australia, no mercy could be expected from government or opposition parties.

This story leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. To my mind, Maria Butina is an innocent casualty of American liberal-Democratic Party and anti-Trump Russophobia, gone feral.

She ticks so many of her accusers’ ‘hate’ boxes : Trump admirer, Putin admirer, admirer of the NRA and Prayer Breakfast cultures, sexually liberated, open about her wish to bring the two countries she loved most – Russia and America – closer together. A lot of ideological scores are being settled here, and this poor young woman is the first victim. There could be more such victims, in the US and possibly here in US camp follower Australia.

Trump has very little scope to help her, even if he wanted to. She is now caught up in the brutal mechanics of the US justice system, and the liberal democratic mainstream media are already busily trying to convict her in the court of US public opinion., crafting a false ‘Red Sparrow’ or Anna Chapman spy image of her. It is a very sad story and I fear it will not end well for Maria.

Tony Kevin, a former Australian senior diplomat, is an independent non-fiction author. His most recent book is ‘Return to Moscow’, a literary travel memoir published by UWA Publishing in 2017.

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Neither German nor British intelligence can prove Russia is behind Skripal poisoning – German MP

RT | July 29, 2018

Failure to release any evidence of Russia’s alleged involvement in the Skripal case shows that neither German nor British intelligence services have anything on it, a member of the German Left Party, Heike Haensel, believes.

Western media and politicians still seize every opportunity to pin the blame on Moscow for the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. However, German lawmakers received nothing but the allies’ assurances about the case, according to MP Heike Haensel. Speaking to daily newspaper Junge Welt, she revealed that two requests for any proof of the allegation, from her and her fellow MP Sevim Dagdelen, were left unanswered.

“Still neither British nor German intelligence agencies have evidence of Russian responsibility for the attack in March,” Haensel said in an interview published on Saturday.

The German federal government formally responded to the Left Party’s requests only to say that the alleged evidence cannot be released as the data in question is classified. It also claimed that the British side had presented some details regarding its decision to blame Russia, and its contention that no alternative explanation seemed plausible – the mantra that the UK’s Western allies have been repeating since the Salisbury incident, without revealing any substantial details.

Still waiting for any proof to be provided, German politicians seem to be increasingly skeptical about the UK’s claims regarding Russia. In June, the German Bundestag’s Research and Documentation Services concluded that Moscow violated no international norms during the inquiry into the case. The German parliament’s agency report followed news that Berlin had not received a single piece of evidence to suggest that Russia may be behind the attack that took place in early March, according to German media.

Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations, and has complained that the results of the investigation have been kept secret. The Russian envoy to the UK has on several occasions said that London had even tried to “destroy” evidence during the probe. Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also failed to establish any links to show that the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals came from Russia.

Read more:

The plot thins: How gel became a liquid and the whole Novichok affair began to smell to high heaven

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

Warm welcome greets Ahed and Nariman Tamimi upon their release from Israeli prison

Ahed and Nariman upon their release
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – July 29, 2018

Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi, 17, and her mother, Nariman Tamimi, were released from Israeli occupation prisons in the morning of Sunday, 29 July 2018 after serving eight-month prison sentences. Ahed and her mother were arrested on 19 December 2017 after a video of Ahed confronting occupation soldiers on the family’s land in the village of Nabi Saleh, including slapping one soldier, went viral on social media. Ahed and her family are leaders in the anti-colonial indigenous land defense movement in Nabi Saleh, where the village’s land and even springs are targeted for confiscation and theft by the neighboring illegal, Jewish-only settlement of Halamish.

A crowd of friends and family awaited the Tamimis’ release as the Israeli occupation repeatedly changed the designated location, from the Jabara checkpoint to Rantees to Jabara again, leaving them to travel the one-hour distance between the locations repeatedly. Ahed and Nariman were greeted with joy upon their actual release; they will hold a press conference at 4:00 pm in their village of Nabi Saleh.

One day before Ahed’s release, Israeli occupation forces arrested three artists involved in the painting of a massive mural on the Apartheid Wall saluting the teen’s struggle and celebrating her liberation.

Two of the detained artists are Italian and one Palestinian, including the lead artist, Jorit Agoch (Agostina Chirwin) a street artist from Naples known around the world for his massive, realistic murals.

An occupation spokesperson accused them of having “damaged and defaced the defense barrier in the Bethlehem area.” The Wall is well-known as a location for a number of famous graffiti murals saluting the Palestinian struggle.  The mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, called for the artists’ immediate release, saying that this was a matter of freedom that concerned everyone.

As the Tamimi family and Palestinians celebrate Ahed’s release, their joy is, of course, not complete – among the over 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails is Ahed’s 21-year-old brother, Wa’ed, seized in May by the Israeli occupation and accused of “participation in popular terror activities” such as organizing demonstrations.  A number of Ahed’s cousins, including Mohammed and Osama Tamimi, are also behind bars, targeted for their involvement in the defense of Palestinian land from confiscation, theft and colonization. The village of Nabi Saleh itself was closed by occupation forces last Thursday, preventing inhabitants from entering or leaving.


Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes, congratulates and welcomes Ahed and Nariman Tamimi upon their release. They are not only symbols of protest, but leaders in an anti-colonial, indigenous movement to defend their land from occupation, colonization and confiscation. Ahed’s case drew the attention and support of thousands – indeed millions – of people around the world, with protests in global cities and over 1.5 million people signing a petition demanding her freedom. That support had an important role to play in the freedom of Ahed and Nariman today. It also reminds us how critical it is to escalate our organizing for the freedom of all Palestinian political prisoners.

There are over 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including over 450 jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention. There are over 350 Palestinian children in Israeli jails and 60 Palestinian women and girls. They are leaders, teachers, organizers, workers, farmers, students and beloved family members, and they represent the true leadership of the Palestinian people targeted by the Israeli occupation for isolation. Of course, there are also prisoners of the Palestinian struggle in imperialist jails around the world – from the Holy Land Five in the United States to Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, jailed for 34 years in French prisons. Their freedom is critical to achieving the goal for which they struggle and sacrifice – freedom for the land and people of Palestine.

Free all Palestinian prisoners! Free Palestine!

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment