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RT to continue legal battle after UK Court of Appeal backs Ofcom’s £200,000 fine against broadcaster

RT | October 26, 2021

RT says it’s going to challenge a ruling by the Court of Appeal in London, which decided that the six-figure fine imposed by British broadcast regulator Ofcom for an alleged breach of impartiality rules was “proportionate.”

The Court of Appeal announced its decision on Tuesday, saying that the High Court of Justice was right to rule that the enforcement action taken by Ofcom against RT was “necessary in a democratic society” in order to protect the public. It added that the action taken was “proportionate.”

RT’s deputy editor-in-chief, Anna Belkina, reacted to the development by announcing that the broadcaster is planning to appeal the decision.

“We… firmly believe that both Ofcom’s code and the law have been misapplied,” she insisted. “We shall continue the fight to protect the validity of diverse views in media discourse.”

The British broadcast regulator imposed a huge fine of £200,000 ($276,000) on RT in July 2019 after saying earlier that it found seven instances of failure to adhere to the country’s impartiality rules.

The alleged violations occurred during coverage of such controversial issues as the suspected poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in 2018, as well as the role played by the US in the conflict in Syria, according to Ofcom. The regulator initiated most of the probes on its own, without receiving complaints from viewers.

RT has rejected the allegations of breaching impartiality rules and went to court to appeal against the regulator’s sanctions. It also insisted that the fine seemed “particularly inappropriate and disproportionate per Ofcom’s own track record,” pointing to instances in which cases of hate speech and incitement to violence resulted in much lower financial penalties.

October 26, 2021 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

NATO, Not Russia, Perpetuates Cold War Logic… It is a Relic Best Ignored

Strategic Culture Foundation | October 22, 2021

It was the end of an era this week when Russia announced that it was severing diplomatic links with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For the past 30 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation has engaged with the US-led military bloc in a bid to establish partnership and secure peace.

The incipient detente culminated in the NATO-Russia Founding Act in 1997 which demarcated certain boundaries for peaceful coexistence. Those boundaries were subsequently flouted as NATO doubled its members over the ensuing years to stand at the current membership of 30 countries, including states that share a border with Russia.

There was also established in 2002 a NATO-Russia Council which in principle provided a forum for dialogue between delegations hosted in the Belgian capital Brussels where NATO has its headquarters.

But the truth is initial promises of partnership have waned. For several years now, at least since the 2014 Ukraine crisis, NATO’s relations with Russia have been characterized more and more with an imperious attitude of lecturing Moscow over a litany of alleged transgressions. These allegations are more accurately described as slanders because they are never substantiated beyond bald accusation.

Russia is routinely accused of posing a threat to Europe and plotting to sabotage Western democracies. This week the NATO defense ministers held a summit in which it was breathlessly claimed that Russia is becoming an even greater threat to the transatlantic alliance. On the back of that hysterical claim, NATO has now moved to implement  a “master plan” to “defend” Europe from a “potential Russian attack on multiple fronts”.

Reality check. Moscow has repeatedly stated that it has no intent of aggression towards the United States, NATO, Europe or anyone else for that matter. Despite this categorical assurance, the Western bloc has persisted in talking up tensions with Russia.

It is the United States that has abrogated several arms-control treaties and introduced new missile systems into Europe. It is NATO that is encroaching on Russia’s territory. Reality is turned on its head by Western accusations.

Indeed there have been conflicts over Georgia in 2008 and ongoing in Ukraine. But in each case, there are substantial grounds for laying the blame of these conflicts on NATO. How did the coup d’état in Kiev happen in 2014, who supported it? And why did the people of Crimea vote in a constitutional referendum to secede from Ukraine to join the Russian Federation with which they have centuries of shared history and culture?

In any case, if there were proper partnership and dialogue between NATO and Russia then such concerns and disputes could have been appropriately aired and discussed in the assigned forum. But the fact is there was never any genuine attempt at dialogue by NATO. Russia has become an object of harangue and hostility. The supposed partnership envisaged some three decades ago became a travesty. Instead of dialogue and debate there was simply disdain. Instead of equality there was vilification, opprobrium, and sensationalized smears without the slightest due process afforded to Russia (the Skripals, Navalny, Novichok, electoral interference, cyberattacks, shooting down a Malaysian airliner, and so on and so on, like an old skipping vinyl record incapable of moving on.)

The supposed diplomatic channels were nothing but echo chambers for NATO propaganda talking points, rather than being used as a means to resolve misapprehensions through mutual dialogue and presentation of evidence.

As the Russian foreign ministry noted this week in explaining the severance of diplomatic ties, it is NATO that systematically destroyed relations and “chose the Cold War logic”.

Alexander Grushko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, commented that normal relations were not possible amid unfriendly steps taken by NATO “sliding into Cold War schemes”.

The last straw was the expulsion earlier this month by NATO of Russian diplomats from the NATO forum in Brussels. The Russian staff were accused of being “undeclared spies” allegedly working for military intelligence. No evidence was provided, as usual, by the accusers. It was the familiar high-handed approach of fait accompli and Russia “guilty until proven innocent”.

Everyone recognizes that relations between the Western states and Russia are at their lowest since the end of the former Cold War. Thus it may be put to Moscow that it is being reckless to close down channels of communication at this precarious time.

Russia has not ruled out pursuing a more productive relationship in the future. It has said, however, that it is up to NATO to make the first move towards improving relations. Until then, henceforth, any communications can be submitted through Russia’s ambassador to Belgium.

It is our view that Russia has made the correct call to drop diplomatic channels with NATO. Russia will pursue bilateral relations with individual nations as it does already, for example, with the United States on the vital issues of arms control and cybersecurity. NATO has proven to be incapable of progressive negotiations owing to an organizational “groupthink” that is encumbered with Russophobia and Cold War ideology.

By engaging directly with individual nations, it may be more productive for mutual understanding to be advanced because the noise of “groupthink” and of competing group negativity is removed.

Unfortunately, it has to be noted that the original purpose of NATO when it was formed in 1949 was rooted in Cold War hostility towards the Soviet Union. Such animosity has not abated even though the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Fundamentally, NATO is an organization in search of enemies in order to justify the militarism that is essential for the functioning of Western capitalism. There is a pivotal contradiction between NATO and today’s emerging world of multipolar cooperation and peaceful development. Its disgraceful, diabolical destruction of Afghanistan alone debars that organization from having any progressive role in today’s world.

Russia is right to disabuse the illusion of “partnership” with NATO. It is a relic of Cold War hostility that belongs in a war museum not in a modern forum for diplomacy.

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , , | 2 Comments

Russia to suspend direct diplomatic ties with NATO from November

RT | October 18, 2021

Moscow has announced that it will completely suspend the operations of its mission to NATO, two weeks after the US-led bloc expelled eight Russian diplomats for alleged ‘undisclosed espionage’ at its Brussels headquarters.

Speaking on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also revealed that the NATO information bureau in Moscow will be forced to shut down as part of retaliatory measures.

Earlier this month, NATO officials decided to slash the size of the permanent Russian delegation to the bloc, revoking the credenitals of eight envoys, in response to what it called “suspected malign Russian activities.”

Following NATO’s decision, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that Moscow would work on a response.

Now, if the US-led bloc wants to talk to Russia, it must deal with the embassy in Belgium, Lavrov said.

“As a result of purposeful steps by NATO, we do not have the right conditions for elementary diplomatic activities,” he told TASS news agency.

“In response to NATO’s actions, we are suspending the work of our permanent mission, including the work of our chief military representative.”

“The NATO International Secretariat has already been notified.”

“If NATO members have any urgent matters, they can contact our ambassador in Belgium, who ensures bilateral relations between Russia and the Kingdom of Belgium,” the minister said.

October 18, 2021 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 2 Comments

IEA: More Renewable Investment Required to Stabilise European Energy Markets

By Eric Worrall | Watts Up With That? | October 17, 2021

According to Dr. Fatih Birol, $4 trillion per year of global renewable investment would reduce European dependence on Russian Gas, though Russia is also to blame for the recent energy crisis for not sending more gas.

IEA: Green energy needed to avoid turbulent prices

By Jonathan Josephs
Business reporter, BBC News

A failure to invest sufficiently in green energy means “we may well see more and more turbulence in the energy markets”, the head of the International Energy Agency has told the BBC.

Dr Fatih Birol said that “is not good news for the global economy.”

Energy prices in the UK, Europe and Asia have hit record highs in recent weeks triggering inflation concerns.

IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook warns clean energy and infrastructure need a $4 trillion a year investment.

Such an outlay would mean the world could limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in Paris six years ago.

The warning has been timed to greet the COP26 climate change summit, due to take place in Glasgow at the end of this month. Dr Birol said it was up to world leaders to incentivise the necessary investment at the summit.

“If you push clean energy, energy efficiency, solar electric cars and other [solutions], you don’t need any more to use fossil fuels, you switch to clean energy sources. […]

Russia, which is one of the world’s biggest producers of natural gas has been accused of withholding supplies that could ease those price pressures for political reasons. Dr Birol said “Russia could have been, and still can be more helpful. Our numbers show that Russia can easily increase the gas it is sending to Europe by 15%, which could underscore that they could be qualified as a reliable partner.

“There are some statements coming from Moscow, which are helpful. But in addition to the statements, I would be very happy to see some gas volumes come to Europe”. […]

The IEA boss says that government money could be the trigger for renewed private investment in clean energy and the he is optimistic about what can be achieved in Glasgow.

“It’s also very important that in COP government leaders around the world come together, unite and give a unmistakable signal to investors, saying that you investor, you see we are united to build a clean energy future”, but that “if you continue to invest in the old energy [such as fossil fuels], you may well lose money.”

If you invest in the clean energy, you can make handsome profits. That’s [the] political signal I hope will go to investors.”

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-58901566

My question to Dr. Birol – how is Russia expected to supply more gas to Europe, without investing in “old energy”? Is IEA head Dr. Fatih Birol demanding Russian investors sacrifice themselves for the greater good of Europe?

Can you imagine what it must be like for Russian trade representatives discussing energy sales with their European counterparts? “You guys are evil, but please send some more evil right now, because your withholding of evil is evil.”

No doubt President Putin has tears of laughter streaming from his eyes, whenever he receives an update of the latest insanity of his trading partners.

October 17, 2021 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Soaring gas prices in Western Europe due to mistaken reliance on wind farms, Russia on track for record exports in 2021 – Putin

RT | October 13, 2021

A surge in the cost of gas which has seen bills shoot up for households and industry is down to a shortfall in electricity generation, and not because Russia is somehow squeezing supplies, President Vladimir Putin has argued.

Speaking as part of a keynote address at Russian Energy Week on Wednesday, Putin said that a fall in output from wind farms had meant electricity prices shot up, having a knock-on effect on demand for gas. Wind power makes up an increasingly large share of Europe’s energy generation, particularly in the west of the continent, he went on.

“The rise in gas prices in Europe was the result of a shortage of electricity, and not vice versa,” the president insisted.

Putin went on to accuse Western leaders of “trying to cover up their own mistakes,” following a series of claims that the situation is because Russia is withholding supplies. He added that “proper analysis of the situation is often replaced by empty political slogans.”

According to the Russian president, an exceptionally long winter drained the continent’s energy reserves and disrupted pricing. Now, “the invisible hand of the market” is at play, Putin said.

Contrary to Russia seeking to worsen the crisis, Putin insisted that the country could well see record levels of exports in 2021 as Moscow works to meet the growing demand. That said, though, he claimed that the Kremlin doesn’t relish the prospect of shortages and that “the high price environment can have negative consequences for everyone, including producers.”

Some countries have seen gas prices rise by as much as 250% in recent days, with a knock-on effect being felt in the industry. Homeowners also face higher heating bills with winter fast approaching. Several energy companies in the UK, which has seen some of the sharpest increases, have entered into talks with the government to prevent them from potentially going bust.

Last month, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the state energy firm, Gazprom, is already fulfilling all of its contracts and no customers have been denied deliveries. According to him, “nobody has any grounds to claim otherwise,” and the company is making preparations to strike new deals and increase the volumes flowing westwards.

October 13, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Biden signs ‘Havana Syndrome’ law, Berlin police report new ‘cases’ blamed on mystery weapons scientists say don’t exist

RT | October 8, 2021

As President Joe Biden signed a law funding the treatment of 200-plus US officials who claim to have been affected by so-called Havana Syndrome, German police said they were looking into more possible cases.

Berlin police confirmed on Friday they were investigating an “alleged sonic weapon attack on employees of the US Embassy,” in response to reporting by the tabloid Der Spiegel. The embassy declined to comment on the investigation.

Meanwhile in Washington, Biden signed into law the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act, passed unanimously by Congress last month, providing money for the treatment of more than 200 government employees who claim to have been affected by the mystery syndrome.

“Civil servants, intelligence officers, diplomats, and military personnel all around the world have been affected by anomalous health incidents,” Biden said in a statement. “Some are struggling with debilitating brain injuries that have curtailed their careers of service to our nation. Addressing these incidents has been a top priority for my administration.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the US government is “determined to get to the bottom as quickly as possible of the attribution and cause of these incidents,” with the intelligence community “in the lead on that.”

“They’re actively examining a range of hypotheses, but they have not made a determination about the cause of these incidents or who is responsible.”

US media and many members of Congress, however, seem convinced that the symptoms – which were first reported at the US Embassy in Cuba in 2016 – were the work of some kind of weapon, and have pointed the finger at Russia. About half of the Americans who claim to have been affected are employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.

CIA Director William Burns said in July that there was a “very strong possibility” the symptoms were caused deliberately, and pointed to a study by a National Academy of Sciences panel from December 2020 that listed “directed energy” beams as a plausible cause.

Last month, however, the State Department released a redacted version of the classified 2018 report by JASON, a scientific advisory group, that ruled out microwave or ultrasound energy, saying that the power requirements were prohibitive and pointing out that electronics were not affected.

The JASON report said that a third of the original reports were “most likely” caused by the noise made by a specific species of cricket – a conclusion a US Berkeley scientist reached independently in early 2019 – while others may have been of psychological origin.

October 9, 2021 Posted by | Russophobia, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 2 Comments

‘Superspreader of misinformation’: NYT corrects story that exaggerated child Covid-19 hospitalizations by over 90%

RT | October 8, 2021

The New York Times had to issue a doozy of a correction on an article by its Covid-19 reporter Apoorva Mandavilli, who somehow inflated the number of US children hospitalized with the virus to 14 times the actual level.

Mandavilli claimed in her article, published on Tuesday, that nearly 900,000 Covid-infected children had been hospitalized in the US since the pandemic began. As the Times admitted on Thursday, the available data shows that the correct figure from August 2020 to October 2021 was more than 63,000.

The inaccuracies didn’t stop there. The correction also noted that contrary to Mandavilli’s reporting, Sweden and Denmark haven’t begun offering single-dose vaccines to children. The newspaper added that the story misstated the timing of an upcoming FDA meeting regarding proposed use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children as young as five years old.

The scale of the erroneous hospitalization figure was reminiscent of gaffes by President Joe Biden, such as saying 120 million Americans had died from Covid-19 and 150 million had been killed by gun violence. It’s not clear how the blunder occurred, but the mainstream media has been accused of hyping the severity of the pandemic. A hidden-camera investigation by Project Veritas in April purported to show a CNN technical director saying the outlet purposely stoked fears of Covid-19 to boost ratings.

Ironically, the Times itself has decried Covid-19 misinformation. For instance, the newspaper posted an article earlier this week vilifying Dr. Joseph Mercola as “the most influential spreader of coronavirus misinformation.” In August, the Times said ‘Russian disinformation’ was being spread to suggest that the Biden administration would impose a Covid-19 vaccine mandate. A month later, Biden ordered that healthcare facilities, federal contractors and businesses with more than 100 employees force their workers to be inoculated, taking the choice over getting the jab away from about 100 million Americans.

While the Times and other mainstream outlets have billed themselves as the arbiters of truth, Mandavilli’s error-laced article is only the latest in a long line of inaccurate reporting by the newspaper. For example, the newspaper falsely claimed that Russia had offered bounties on American troops in Afghanistan and that police officer Brian Sicknick was murdered by pro-Trump rioters at the US Capitol.

“The New York Times is a superspreader of misinformation,” said Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Mandavilli stirred anger among conservatives in May, when she said the theory that Covid-19 leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology had “racist roots.” She later deleted her Twitter post, lamenting that the pushback to her remark had been “ridiculous.”

“Someday, we will stop talking about the lab-leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots,” Mandavilli said in the original tweet. “But alas, that day is not yet here.”

It’s not clear why the reporter was rooting for the lab leak theory to go away, as even chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said it should be investigated after previously trying to squash the notion.

The Wall Street Journal had reported two days earlier that three scientists at the Wuhan lab had been hospitalized with Covid-19 symptoms in the fall of 2019, near the time when the first cases of the virus were reported in China.

The Times’ former lead reporter on Covid-19, Pulitzer Prize nominee Donald McNeil Jr., resigned under pressure in February after co-workers campaigned for his firing. His sin was responding to a high school student’s question about a classmate’s use of the N-word by repeating the slur when he asked for context on how it was used. He had worked for the newspaper since 1976.

October 9, 2021 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 1 Comment

FULL OF GAS

By Paul Robinson | IRRUSSIANALITY | October 8, 2021

It’s 20 degrees here in Ottawa. For October, that’s something of a heatwave, and it’s meant to stay this way for a week or so, well into the middle of the month. Beyond that, the weather guys say that we’re in for a generally warm autumn. No need for the winter tires just yet.

Europe, though, is said to be headed for a deep cold spell in the coming months. So good for us, bad for Europe – unless you like winter sports, of course, in which case it’s the other way around. But regardless of what weather you prefer, cold has consequences, one of which is that you have to turn the heating up, for which you need fuel. And in the modern post-coal world, that increasingly means burning natural gas.

Unfortunately, this is a bad time to do so, for the price of natural gas has shot up in recent months, as you can see from the chart below. This is a result of increased demand, reduced output from wind turbines, and a reduction in supplies as Europe’s main suppliers – Norway and Russia – fill up their own stocks before winter. This has apparently ‘all but wiped out stocks’ in the rest of Europe. The markets have responded with a binge of frenzied speculation, shoving natural gas prices up to unnaturally high levels.

Which is obviously Russia’s fault. Because, well … it’s bad, and it’s natural gas, and so Russia must be to blame. After all, we know that all those traders on the futures markets take their orders from the Kremlin.

To give example of the hysterical rhetoric floating around, CNBC ran this headline yesterday: ‘The US was right – Europe has become a “hostage” to Russia over energy, analysts warn.’ The following story then told readers that ‘Europe is now largely at Russia’s mercy when it comes to energy,’ citing analyst Timothy Ash (who regularly pops up on the pages of the Kyiv Post) denouncing Russia’s ‘energy blackmail’ and saying that:

‘Europe has now left itself hostage to Russia over energy supplies … [It’s] crystal clear that Russia has Europe (the EU and U.K.) in an energy headlock, and Europe (and the U.K.) are too weak to call it out and do anything about it … Europe is cowering as it fears [that] as it heads into winter Russia will further turn the screws (of energy pipelines off) and allow it to freeze until it gets its way and NS2 [North Stream 2] is certified.’

If I get this right, the logic is that Russia is deliberately withholding supplies from Europe in order to force Germany to complete the certification of the North Stream 2 pipeline linking Germany and Russia. Unfortunately, Ash fails to provide a shred of evidence for this claim, and it’s not as if the Russians are expressing any sort of concern that the certification may not happen, or that they are specifically targeting Germany.

In fact, there’s no evidence that Russia is blackmailing anybody. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin even sought to calm international markets by telling the Russian gas company Gazprom to keep sending supplies through Ukraine even though it would be cheaper to send them via alternative routes. It’s important to maintain Russia’s reputation as a reliable supplier of energy, he noted, adding that Russia would indeed increase supplies to Europe this year, with exports possibly reaching a record high.

Critics complain that Russia could be pumping more gas to Europe than it currently is. It is apparently true that the volume of deliveries has been down in the past couple of months, as Russia fills up its own stocks before what is expected to be a harsh winter. But, deliveries for 2021 as a whole are on par with last year and Russia is meeting all its contracts. Furthermore, as Ben Aris has pointed out, it’s not that easy for Russia to greatly increase the quantity of gas it supplies Europe via existing pipelines. This is because different gas fields serve different pipelines, with limited connections. The line going via Ukraine comes from fields that are already ‘maxed out’. Additional gas would have to come from the Yamal peninsula – i.e. via North Stream or North Stream 2. With the former already at capacity, that in essence means the latter. In other words, Aris concludes:

‘It is possible for Russia to send more gas west without using NS2 but it’s limited & most expensive option for Gazprom. By far easiest & cheapest option for both Gazprom & EU is to turn NS2 on. This would solve the current gas crisis.’

It seems to me that Russia’s critics need to decide what they want. For years, they’ve been complaining that Europe is buying too much Russian gas. Now, though, they’re complaining that the Russians won’t sell them more! The Russians sell you gas – that’s a sign that they’re out to get you. They won’t sell you gas – proof that they’ve got you!

Frankly, it makes no sense.

Besides which, people don’t sell you stuff unless you ask them to, which in business terms means signing a contract with them. Russia, as previously said, is fulfilling its contracts. What more is it meant to do? As German chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out this week, if European states haven’t signed up to buy Russian gas, they can’t really complain if they don’t get it. She said:

‘To my knowledge, there are no orders where Russia has said we won’t deliver it to you, especially not with regard to the pipeline in Ukraine. Russia can only deliver gas on the basis of contractual obligations, and not just only like that.’

Absolutely.

Of course, if Russia was exploiting the rising cost of gas by engaging in price gouging, there might still be some grounds for complaint. But that’s not the case. Russia prefers to lock its customers into long-term contracts. Anybody who had the good sense to sign such a contract with Gazprom a while back when prices were low will now be laughing: their supplies are guaranteed and they’ll be cheap. Germans, Hungarians, Serbs, and the like are probably feeling a bit smug right now. Others who preferred to gamble on the market, or to dump Russia for an alternative supplier such as American LNG will now have to pay the price. But that’s their fault not Russia’s. As Putin pointed out:

‘The practice of our European partners has confirmed it once more that they made mistakes. We talked to the European Commission’s previous lineup, and all its activity was aimed at phasing out of so-called long-term contracts. It was aimed at transition to spot gas trade. And as it turned out, it has become obvious today, that this practice is a mistake.’

None of this, unfortunately, has stopped the flood of stories blaming Russia for Europe’s gas crisis, a crisis that is in large part due to the latter’s own errors. To give a flavour, here’s some of the headlines in the American and British press this past 24 hours:

‘Don’t Fall For Putin or Orban as They Try to Exploit Europe’s Energy Crisis’ – Washington Post

‘As Europe Faces a Cold Winter, Putin Seizes on the Leverage From Russia’s Gas Output’ – The New York Times

‘Russia has the West over a barrel: Fury at “bullying” Putin for offering Europe more natural gas IF his Nord Stream 2 pipeline is approved.’ – Daily Mail

‘Gas price crisis: Is Putin using energy supply as a weapon and what is its new Nord Stream 2 pipeline?’ – Sky News

‘UK dubbed “Putin’s puppet” as “Soviet” Britain’s gas prices plummet after Russian offer’ – Daily Express

‘How “Sleepy Joe” handed Putin the bargaining chip he is using to hold Europe to ransom in gas crisis’ – Daily Mail

Now, I can understand why Western politicians would want to find a scapegoat for their own failings, but why does the press go along with this? Wasn’t there a time when the Fourth Estate prided itself on holding the powers that be at home to account? Apparently no more. Blaming Russia obviously sells more copy. As long as that remains the case, expect the pipelines of BS to keep on flowing profusely!

October 8, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 2 Comments

US is only country still hanging on to chemical weapons, Russia says, after Washington unveils ‘Novichok’ questions

An open storage for the collection of burnt ammunition containing toxicant agents. © Sputnik / Ilya Pitalev
RT | October 6, 2021

Russian diplomats have hit out at the US after American officials signed a letter demanding information on the circumstances of the purported poisoning of opposition figure Alexey Navalny, accusing Washington of double standards.

On Tuesday, Moscow’s embassy in Washington issued a fiery statement after the US and 44 other countries presented a series of answers from Russia over the incident as part of a missive passed over to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Navalny and his German doctors insist that he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok last year. The envoys blasted the allegations as “unfounded,” and the Kremlin has argued that all requests for evidence from Berlin have gone unanswered.

In response to the allegations, the embassy argued that Russia “is committed to its obligations” under chemical weapons treaties and, “in 2017, our country destroyed all national stocks of chemical warfare agents, which was documented by the OPCW.”

However, the envoys argue that “the US continues to be the only country in the world that has not destroyed its impressive arsenal of chemical weapons.” In 1991, then-US President George H.W. Bush committed to destroying its stockpiles of lethal agents, but progress has since been hampered by a number of issues and decommissioning is still underway, leaving large quantities of chemical munitions, including mustard gas shells.

In March, the US slammed Russia with sanctions, urging Moscow to get rid of the country’s chemical weapons stockpile following the allegations of the use of Novichok against Navalny. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, however, maintained that “Russia declared and verified the destruction of all chemical weapons on its territory many years ago and fully complied with international conventions… Russia has no chemical weapons.”

“By the way,” Peskov added, “we expect that our counterparts will also comply with these conventions.”

This is not the first time that Russia has called on the US to dispose of its chemical weapons. In 2018, the spokesperson for the country’s Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, responded to former US President Donald Trump’s request for Russia to “stop the arms race” developing between the two nations. “Great idea,” Zakharova said. “Let’s start by getting rid of chemical weapons. American ones.”

In response to the US’ latest accusations regarding Russia’s supposed chemical warfare capabilities, the embassy said that it is in the world’s interest that Washington complies with the UN’s international regulations surrounding disarmament. “We call on Washington to complete the chemical demilitarization program as soon as possible and fulfill international obligations, making the world safe from the potential use of this type of weapon,” the embassy added.

October 7, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

With much of Europe facing a worsening squeeze on gas supplies, the West is already looking to blame Russia

By Rachel Lloyd | RT | October 6, 2021

With gas prices rising dramatically across much of Western Europe, and a dip in its transit through Belarus and Ukraine to the EU, many commentators have pointed the finger once again at Russia, as the source for all their woes.

For some, this is evidence that President Vladimir Putin is weaponizing energy to the detriment of the rest of Europe. However, recent events and well-established agreements seem to tell another, less glamorous, story.

Turning off the taps?

The issue being painted as the next big Russian conspiracy is a noticeable drop in gas supplies being moved through Belarus to the EU. Posted on the site of Gazprom – Russia’s state energy corporation and Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas – are numbers that appear to substantiate a 70% dip in volumes reaching the EU, compared with last month.

That number has upset many, especially in the face of Europe’s biggest energy crisis in years. However, the fact is that there are other well-known factors at play using these numbers as evidence that Russian malevolence is more fear-mongering than fact.

Likely the biggest reason is last year’s agreement between Gazprom and its Belarusian subsidiary operator, where it was decided that much less gas would be transited through the Yamal-Europe pipeline in the fourth quarter of 2021. Unsurprisingly, this change was set to start in October of this year, perfectly coinciding with the drop seen today.

Could Moscow really predict a crunch in the European gas market a year in advance? Not likely, especially considering the uncertainty of Covid-19 and its effect on the near future of the world economy and society.

While there may be a dip in gas deliveries right now, when all data is placed on a timeline of the last four years rather than just two misleading months, it’s clear that such anomalies are typical and that there have been similar falls, which have quickly recovered.

Also, overall supplies from Russia to the EU are still on pace with the prior month’s numbers, if not a bit better. The first four days of October show an average of 210 million cubic meters, which is par for the course compared to September and previous months.

The full picture

There are, of course, other variables that need to be considered, some of which existed before the energy crisis first reared its ugly head. In December of 2019, Kiev and Moscow struck a deal on gas transit via Ukraine. As part of it, Russia’s minimum pledged for shipment was changed to 40 bcm annually from 2021 to 2024, down from 65 bcm in 2020 and 86.8 bcm in 2018.

Additionally, the September agreement between Moscow and Hungary has seen the TurkStream pipeline begin pumping supplies to the Central European nation, starting last week. The deal will supply Hungary with 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia annually for the next 15 years. Gas supplies that may have generally transited through Ukraine or the Yamal pipeline are now being funneled through a new route across the Black Sea in order to reach Hungary and Croatia.

There’s also the genuine concern about the cold and snow of the winter season. Russia, known for its harsh winters, can see temperatures drop below -40 centigrade in Siberia – where many of Russia’s gas fields are located. The lower temperatures and harsh conditions of an extreme winter can directly impact oil and gas production and transit.

Typically, to avoid shortages, reserves are filled for storage. However, last year, Russia dealt with an especially long and cold winter and is currently scrambling to stockpile oil and gas to meet its own domestic needs. Gazprom’s oil and gas inventories plummeted to 16% at the end of last winter, well below the standard 35% seen in years prior.

And with the expectation of another brutal snowy season comes the unfortunate understanding that the natural gas powerhouse is not yet in a position to provide more gas to the rest of Europe. In November, when Gazprom should have storage sites replenished, there is hope that Russia can begin to prioritize taking excess volumes and channeling them into the Western European market.

Not orchestrated by Moscow

The unprecedented gas crisis in Europe is currently causing consternation from politicians and economists to those getting their heating bills in the mail. Prices have surged over the past few weeks, often breaking records each day. Current costs are six times higher than last year, with seemingly no end in sight.

However, faulting Putin for the increase is a reach. Demand globally has spiked, potentially as a result of the world economy’s reemergence after the end of global lockdowns. There is more competition among East Asian countries as they angle for a piece of the pie. Just as in Russia, Western European stocks of natural gas were depleted significantly following last winter. There may also be issues developing from Europe’s energy transition.

Delayed by American sanctions in 2019, Nord Stream 2 is beginning to run tests, with natural gas currently being filled in one of the two pipelines. The project will double the current export capacity of gas supplies to Western Europe and is currently awaiting German approval. Had such a delay at the behest of the US not occurred, perhaps gas prices would not be soaring.

In essence, Europe’s current crisis is the result of a perfect storm of conditions – many of which are out of Moscow’s control.

Gazprom “cannot wave a magic wand and deliver extra gas to any place in Europe that requires it on short notice,” notes Vitaly Yermakov, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “No matter how hard Gazprom tries, it cannot single-handedly balance such a huge market as Europe.”

Perhaps those countries worst affected should come together and start searching for solutions, rather than just for someone to blame.

Rachel Lloyd is a policy analyst at the Russian Public Affairs Committee (Ru-PAC). She writes about Russia-US relations, international law, and American foreign policy.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

There’s a wide range of factors causing massively increased gas prices in Europe, but Russia is not one of them: Kremlin

By Jonny Tickle | RT | October 6, 2021

Russia has nothing to do with the rapidly rising gas prices in Europe, and the country is providing as much as it possibly can to the rest of the continent, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, amid accusations that Moscow is to blame.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the idea that Russia is playing any part in the rising prices. Earlier that day, the price of gas in Europe once again reached a historical record of $1,900 per 1,000 cubic meters.

“The first and most important thing is that we not only believe, but we insist that Russia is playing no role in what is happening on the gas market in Europe,” Peskov said, noting that Gazprom is pumping as much gas as it can “within the framework of the existing contracts.”

According to the Kremlin spokesman, Russia has avoided huge gas prices due to a well-thought-out strategy, while Europe has made mistakes.

“It’s all very simple. If you bet on the development of wind energy, you create the appropriate infrastructure,” Peskov explained. “But different climate processes happen and suddenly there is less wind. This is what is happening this year in Europe. There is less wind and generation is down.”

Some have accused Moscow of intentionally limiting gas supplies to Europe as a means to speed up the launch of the controversial pipeline Nord Stream 2, which was recently completed.

On Tuesday, the European Commission announced it would look into suggestions that Moscow is trying to boost gas prices. However, according to European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, Russia is “fulfilling its long-term contracts.”

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

Could the CIA be behind the leak of the Pandora Papers, given their curious lack of focus on US nationals?

By Kit Klarenberg | RT | October 4, 2021

Hailed as shedding new light on the global elite’s complex financial arrangements, the Pandora Papers pose many questions – not least where are the Americans? Are the authors unwilling to bite the hidden hand that fed them?

On October 3, the Washington, DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) announced the leak of almost three terabytes of incriminating data on the use of offshore financial arrangements by celebrities, fraudsters, drug dealers, royal family members, and religious leaders the world over.

The ICIJ led what it called “the world’s largest-ever journalistic collaboration,” involving over 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries, to comb through the trove of 12 million documents, dubbed the ‘Pandora Papers’.

Among other things, the data reveals the use of tax and financial secrecy havens “to purchase real estate, yachts, jets and life insurance; their use to make investments and to move money between bank accounts; estate planning and other inheritance issues; and the avoidance of taxes through complex financial schemes.” Some documents are also said to be tied to “financial crimes, including money laundering.”

While the publication of articles related to the documents’ bombshell contents is only in its early stages, the Consortium promises that the records contain “an unprecedented amount of information on so-called beneficial owners of entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, Belize, Panama, South Dakota and other secrecy jurisdictions,” with over 330 politicians and 130 Forbes billionaires named.

Despite the voluminous haul, many critics have pointed out that ICIJ maps of where these “elites and crooks” hail from and/or reside are heavily weighted towards Russia and Latin America – for example, not a single corrupt politician named is based in the US. The organization itself notes that the most significantly represented nations in the files are Argentina, Brazil, China, Russia and the UK – which seems odd, when one considers the Consortium identified over $1 billion held in US-based trusts, key instruments for tax avoidance, evasion, and money laundering.

Then again, past blockbuster releases by the ICIJ, and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), its chief collaborator, have contained similarly incongruous omissions. For instance, in March 2019, the latter exposed the ‘Troika Laundromat’, through which Russian politicians, oligarchs, and criminals allegedly funnelled billions of dollars.

The OCCRP published numerous reports on the connivance, and detailed information on the many millions laundered via major Western financial institutions in the process, including Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase. However, not once was HSBC ever mentioned – despite the Troika having openly advertised the bank as its “agent partner,” and then-OCCRP data team head Friedrich Lindberg publicly conceding that HSBC was “incredibly prominent” in “all” of the Troika’s corrupt schemes.

The reason for this extraordinary oversight has never been adequately explained, although one possible answer could be that the OCCRP’s reporting partners on the story were the BBC and The Guardian. The former was headed by Rona Fairhead from 2014 to 2017, who also served as non-executive director of HSBC between 2004 and 2016. Meanwhile, the latter has long enjoyed a lucrative commercial relationship with the bank, which is surely vital to keeping the struggling publication’s lights on.

The April 2016 Panama Papers investigation, jointly led by the ICIJ and OCCRP, revealed how the services of Panamanian offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca had been exploited by wealthy individuals and public officials for fraud, tax evasion, and to circumvent international sanctions. The pair’s reporting, and resultant media coverage, focused heavily on high-profile individuals such as then-UK prime minister David Cameron, who profited from a Panama-based trust established by his father.

key promoter of the Papers’ most lurid contents was billionaire Bill Browder. What the convicted fraudster, and indeed a vast number of news outlets that featured his comments about the leak, have consistently failed to acknowledge was that he himself is named in Mossack Fonseca’s papers, linked to a large number of shell companies in Cyprus used to insulate his clients from tax on vast profits he amassed for them while investing in Russia during the tumultuous 1990s, and disguise ownership of lavish properties he owns abroad.

As Browder has testified, he enjoys an intimate relationship with the OCCRP, having engaged them in his global crusade against Russia since his unceremonious ban from entering the country in 2005. Furthermore, many other mainstream outlets, including Bloomberg and the Financial Times, which he has likewise used as pawns in his Russophobic propaganda blitz, have reportedly declined to publish stories about his dubious financial dealings.

Such evident reluctance to bite the hand that feeds could well explain why the Pandora Papers appear largely silent on the offshore dealings of wealthy US nationals and US-based individuals.

Take for instance the fortunes of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and investor George Soros, which reportedly total at least $11.6 billion and $7.5 billion respectively – no information implicating them in any questionable scheme has yet been unearthed. It may not be a coincidence that both provide funding to the ICIJ and OCCRP via their highly controversial Luminate and Open Society ‘philanthropic’ enterprises.

The OCCRP’s roll call of financiers offers other reasons for concern – nestled among them are the National Endowment for Democracy and United States Agency for International Development, both of which avowedly serve to further US national security interests, and have been embroiled in numerous military and intelligence operations to destabilize and displace foreign “enemy” governments since their very inception. Moreover, though, there are disturbing indications that the OCCRP itself was created by Washington for this very purpose.

In June, a White House press conference was convened on the subject of “the fight against corruption.” Over the course of proceedings, a nameless “senior administration official” announced that the US government would place “the anti-corruption plight at the center of its foreign policy,” and wished to “prioritize this work across the board.”

They went on to state the precise dimensions of this anti-corruption push “[remained] to be seen,” but it was expected that “components of the intelligence community,” including the director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency, would be key players therein.

Their activities would supplement existing, ongoing US efforts to “identify corruption where it’s happening and take appropriate policy responses,” by “[bolstering] other actors” such as “investigative journalists and investigative NGOs” already receiving support from Washington.

“We’ll be looking at what more we can do on that front… There are lines of assistance that have jump-started [investigative] journalism organizations,” they stated. “What comes to my mind most immediately is OCCRP, as well as foreign assistance that goes to NGOs.”

These illuminating words, completely ignored at the time by Western news outlets, have gained an even eerier resonance in light of recent developments. Indeed, they seem to establish a blueprint for precisely what has transpired, courtesy of the OCCRP, the very organization it “jump-started” and financially supports to this day.

For its part, the media merely state that the ICIJ “obtained” the documents, their ultimate source unspecified. As such, it’s only reasonable to ask – is the CIA behind the release of the Pandora Papers?

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. 

October 4, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment