Recalling the Bad Old Days in Russia

[It is time that the world remembers the forgotten history of Communist genocide of peasants, Jews and political opponents within its own borders, which certain American and European political forces would prefer to remain forgotten.]

http://www.factualtv.com/documentary/gulag-archipelago

Stalin. © Flickr.com/Vicky TGAW/cc-by-nc-sa 3.0

The Memorial international society is holding an event in Moscow to recall all the victims of Stalin’s terror years in the run-up to the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions, which is marked in Russia and other former Soviet republics on October 30th. The Voice of Russia has the details.

It may take one a lot of time recalling the Great Terror period, citing facts and figures. Political reprisals assumed horrific proportions in the Soviet Union in the late 1930s. Dozens of thousands of arrested Soviet citizens were sent from the building of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, NKVD, in Moscow’s Lubyanka Square, to either forced labour camps in the north of the country, or to places where they were executed by shooting. 30,000 people were shot dead in 1937 and 1938 in Moscow alone.

The event to recall the names of victims of political repression, titled Restoring Names, has been held in the run-up to the Victims’ Remembrance Day in Lubyanka Square for almost 20 years now. The participants meet near the monument to the victims of Stalin’s system, – a huge granite stone that was brought to Moscow from the Solovetsky Islands, a one-time site of a forced labour camp with the toughest penitentiary regime. The names and surnames of those executed by shooting are read out one by one. The age, profession and the date of execution are also read out in what is seen as an appeal to people’s consciousness, a reminder of the errors made by our recent predecessors, says a prominent human rights activist, former political prisoner of the Soviet years, winner of the Andrei Sakharov Prize, as well as of many other international awards, chairman of the Memorial society Sergei Kovalev, and elaborates.

Stalin was actually engaged in selection work on the Soviet people, Sergei Kovalev says. He was moulding the people that he needed, through the use of terror, which is perfectly reflected by the newspapers of that time. The order for selection is clearly expressed in the coverage of related events, with the forced labour camps, the school system and Komsomol, or the Communist Youth League, being used as the selection ground.

It is very important that the people should have a true picture of their past, since it’s on the past that both the present and future depend, the Russian human rights activist believes.  Besides the Restoring Names event, Memorial also holds a number of excursions that are related to political repression history on October 29th. The sites that are known for the most painful associations are the Ivanovo Convent, which was turned into a concentration camp after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, and the ill-famed House on the Embankment where Soviet Government Ministers, prominent Bolsheviks, writers and journalists lived in the 1930s. Repressive action was taken against many residents of the building, and even entire families during the Great Terror years.

The Voice of Russia on the Memorial international society activities on the eve of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions tomorrow. The date is marked extensively in Russia and other former Soviet republics each October 30th.

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion U.S. dollars) to buy new weapons.

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion U.S. dollars) to buy new weapons.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates welcomes Russia's Defence Minister Serdyukov to the Pentagon in Washington

U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates welcomes Russia’s Defence Minister Serdyukov to the Pentagon in Washington

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion U.S. dollars) to buy a new weapon.

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion U.S. dollars) to buy a new weapon in the next decade when the country was trying to modernize its Soviet-era military.

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, in an interview with Bloomberg news agency that aired Tuesday, said the government was in the process to approve a plan to raise the armament on the 2011-2020 budgets by 46 percent from the previous budget of about 13 trillion rubles, as quoted from the AFP.

Serdyukov, who spoke after talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, also said Russia was interested in U.S. technology. He did not elaborate the statement.

Much Russian military equipment from the Soviet period and the government in recent years has promised extra money to modernize its armaments.

Russia has been negotiating with France for a few months to buy a helicopter carrier Mistral, to purchase military hardware from the first NATO member. The talks, however, has slipped due to disputes about the transfer of technology.

Turkmenistan Warms Up to Caspian Delimitation Deal with Baku

Turkmenistan Warms Up to Caspian Delimitation Deal with Baku

09:39 27-10-2010


Matt Stone
Independent Consultant

The global economic crisis has put Ashgabat in a difficult position. In April 2009, faced with falling European gas demand, Turkmenistan’s top gas customer, Gazprom, halted purchases of Turkmen gas, leading to the unexpected explosion of the Central Asia Center-4 pipeline. For the next nine months—until December 2009—Turkmenistan and Russia haggled over new terms for their bilateral gas trade, robbing Ashgabat of vital export revenues in the meantime. When gas exports to Russia finally resumed in January 2010, they did so at a much lower level—about 10 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/y) rather than 40 or more bcm/y previously exported [1]—and at a lower price—from something approximating 300 USD per thousand cubic meters in the first quarter of 2009 to a price less than 200 USD per thousand cubic meters through 2010. [2]

In response to his country’s weakened position in the Eurasian gas trade, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammadov engaged other external partners, including opening pipelines to China and Iran, and awarding hydrocarbon sector contracts to German, Korean, Emirati, and Chinese firms (as well as a couple Russian firms). The most recent manifestation of this outreach was the government’s indications in August [3] and October [4] that US, French, and Emirati firms may be the next in line to win contracts to develop oil and gas deposits in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea. In August, President Berdymukhammadov also called for negotiations to secure a 4 billion USD loan from China. With Chinese gas purchases increasing only incrementally and Russian purchases flat-lining until European gas demand rebounds, Turkmenistan’s flurry of activity signals a government with its back to the wall, confused as to whence it will earn the currency necessary to preserve its domestic balance.

However, Ashgabat’s external engagement is stymied by complex regional geopolitics. To the southeast, the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan undermines investor confidence in a putative trans-Afghan gas pipeline, delaying its realization by at least another decade. To the south, Iran, which has been a willing buyer of Turkmen gas, is under the strain of multilateral sanctions, limiting the volumes it can reasonably purchase at the price Turkmenistan demands. And to the west, Ashgabat’s disagreement with Baku over the proper delimitation of the bi-national maritime boundary and sovereignty over the Kapaz oil field (called “Sardar” by the Turkmen), as well as Russian and Iranian opposition to a trans-Caspian gas pipeline, has hampered Turkmenistan’s goal of opening a westward-oriented oil and gas export corridor.

Despite mutual mistrust, the Turkmen government’s actions in 2009-2010 suggest that it is looking to resolve its disagreements with Baku in order to open this export corridor. In July 2009, two weeks after vocalizing his country’s interest in the Nabucco pipeline, President Berdymukhammadov called for international arbitration of the Azeri-Turkmen Caspian delimitation dispute, declaring, “We [Turkmenistan] are ready to accept any decision of an international court.” [5] While initially interpreted by observers as a hostile move, the president’s statement was the first indication that Ashgabat would be open to an internationally mediated resolution. In October 2009, the Turkmen government backed off the call for international arbitration—probably after clarifying the extensive process that arbitration would entail—but left the option on the table should bilateral negotiations fail. [6]

It seems there has been little tangible progress toward a negotiated solution in 2010, but the August announcement that approximately 40,000 barrels of Turkmen crude oil are now transiting the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline daily points to tentatively expanding bilateral cooperation in the energy trade (these volumes were previously shipped to Neka, Iran). [7] The precedent of exporting Turkmen crude oil by tanker to Baku and then through BTC may have demonstrative implications for a seaborne trans-Caspian natural gas export project, with Turkmen gas shipped to Baku and onwards through the South Caucasus Pipeline to Erzurum, Turkey. In this regard, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced on September 15 after a meeting with his Azeri and Turkmen counterparts in Istanbul that Turkey is interested in purchasing the 5 bcm/y of gas that Malaysian firm Petronas will produce in the Turkmen offshore, specifically calling for “the long-term supplies of Turkmen gas across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and further abroad.” [8] Turkey itself may be attempting to broker a resolution between Baku and Ashgabat in order to open up access to Turkmen gas reserves for the Turkish domestic market and the Southern Corridor.

The creeping internationalization of the Azeri-Turkmen Caspian delimitation dispute is further complemented—or complicated, depending on one’s point of view—by European Union (EU) efforts to foster a bilateral deal on a trans-Caspian pipeline. In August, Bloomberg reported on an EU-sponsored framework for a trans-Caspian pipeline that, according to the document, should “not be interpreted as affecting Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan’s jurisdiction over sub-soil resources or their sovereign rights under international law to the Caspian Sea.” [9] The EU effort to tie Turkmenistan into the Southern Corridor without dealing with the fundamental issue in Azerbaijani-Turkmen relations hints at desperation: after a number of years of fruitless negotiations Brussels now wants to selectively and conveniently forget about Caspian delimitation. The proposal, however, is unlikely to succeed. Ashgabat understands that if it wants a favorable outcome in the delimitation dispute, it will need to leverage its copious gas resources to bring European (and Turkish) pressure to bear on Baku. To agree to a trans-Caspian pipeline without a final resolution to delimitation would be to sacrifice Turkmenistan’s main trump card.

And yet, when Turkmenistan was exporting over 50 bcm/y Ashgabat had the luxury of holding out for Western pressure on Azerbaijan. (At the same time, Ashgabat also had to worry about a Russian cutoff or Iranian belligerence in the event that the country did throw its support behind a trans-Caspian pipeline.) Now that Turkmenistan is exporting a little more than 20 bcm/y, Ashgabat does not have time to wait and may be more amenable to a speedy bilateral resolution that paves the way for the short-term opening of a trans-Caspian gas export corridor.

In December, the Caspian littoral states will meet in Baku to discuss—again—the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Moscow and Tehran will be vocal and forthright in their opposition to a trans-Caspian gas transportation project. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan is likely to be looking for a sign from Azerbaijan that the bilateral delimitation dispute could be settled once and for all. The nationalist attitudes that have shaped Turkmen behavior during many years of talks may now be overshadowed by economic necessity.

Baku’s window of opportunity may not last long, however. Once China ramps up its purchases of Turkmen gas and gas prices return to their record highs of 2008-2009, Ashgabat will again be able to afford to take a hardline stance in negotiations. In the meantime, Turkmenistan remains in a position of relative weakness.

Notes

[1] Bloomberg, 16 April 2010.

[2] Kommersant, 15 April 2010; Eurasia Daily Monitor, 7 September 2010.

[3] Turkmenistan.gov.tm, 12 August 2010.

[4] Turkmenistan.ru, 9 October 2010.

[5] Reuters, 10 July 2010.

[6] Reuters, 1 October 2010.

[7] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 August 2010.

[8] Reuters, 15 September 2010; Turkmenistan.ru, 16 September 2010.

[9] Bloomberg, 3 August 2010.

http://ada.edu.az/biweekly/issues/vol3no20/20101026023520372.html

Jeff Feltman’s ‘really great plan’ for Lebanon

Jeff  Feltman’s ‘really great plan’

“ Let’s  blame (Imad) Mughniyah for killing Hariri. He’s dead so the investigative trail ends. Just say, ‘We had no idea what he was doing’.  No more tribunal. Everyone is happy.  And as a sweetener we’ll take Hezbollah off our Terrorism list.” US undersecretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Hezbollah via the Saudi-Syrian, back channel on 10/22/10

“Do you think we’re that stupid?” Hezbollah (smelling a set-up) to Obama via the same channel 10/23/10

Franklin Lamb,

Dahiyeh, South Beirut

Beirut is abuzz this morning over some pretty bizarre events that have been unfolding the past few months concerning Hezbollah and the UN created International Tribunal for Lebanon, created in 2007 to bring to justice those involved in the Valentine Day 2005 assassination of then Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Another one occurred yesterday morning, 10/27/10, at 9:00 am at  Dr. Iman Charara’s  street level private obstetrics and gynecology clinic, here in Dahiyeh, a Hezbollah south Beirut neighborhood which is still recovering from Israel’s 33 days of carpet bombing in 2006 which destroyed pretty much everything including  more than 250 homes, scores of businesses, and much of the infrastructure.

Some, but not all of the facts of this still unfolding episode are agreed upon.  Two English speaking male investigators, two male security persons, and one female interpreter, all from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon arrived in Dahiyeh to speak with Dr. Charara. They asked for phone numbers and addresses of 17 of her patients for as far back as 2003. The STL had called on 10/22/10 to make an appointment, and after checking with the Lebanese Medicinal Association regarding privacy issues, Dr. Charara agreed.  When she led the delegation into an adjoining office to consult with her secretary about researching her office files, according to Dr. Charara, “I was surprised by the large number of women who came shouting and cursing the investigators,” she told this morning Beirut’s Daily Star. Dr. Iman Charara told New TV that she does not know how the clash between the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigators and the women at her clinic erupted.

According to one witness who has a business opposite the clinic:

“The women were yelling ‘you are American, Israeli!’ and they were cursing the investigators and demining that they leave.”  At least one briefcase, a laptop computer, cell phones,  notebooks and other material was taken from the STL investigators during the melee.  According to the Office of the STL Prosecutor:  “ Mr Bellemare and the STL takes this incident very seriously and we are currently conducting an investigation,” the media relations unit of the Hague-based  Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) stated by email. “We want everything returned, including the cell phones that were stolen.”

Bellemare’s office also  denounced the “use of violence” against two of its investigators  saying that the event will not deter the office’s investigation. “Several items belonging to Bellemare’s office staff were stolen during the attack,” it added. A security source told The Daily Star the belongings that were confiscated during the attack contained important STL documents.

So far unproven allegations in Beirut this morning claim that some of the Burqa clad “women” were in fact men.  “One woman definitely had a man’s hand and was very strong.  I saw  a man’s hand as  ‘she’  bit mine” one police officer reported.

Visibly upset, an anti-resistance March 14 Member of Parliament, stated,  “Where are the briefcases?  Who cares now? Within two hours Hezbollah surely has copied everything—CD’s, flash memories, the works. Hezbollah may now know as much about the STL prosecution’s  case as Bellemare does. Maybe more!  This is one hell of a mess.”

The March 14 Secretariat General issued a statement saying “the incident represents an attack on the international community’s legitimacy and its resolutions, and particularly, UN resolutions 1701 (UNIFIL and disarming of Hezbollah)  and 1757 ( setting up the Hariri Tribunal).”

Hezbollah has denied any connection between the incident at Dr. Charara’s clinic and the Party.  “It seems it will not be the last in a series of violations of the country and its sovereignty under what is said to be investigation and truth,”  a Al-Manar television news anchor said.  Meanwhile, Hezbollah  Secretarial-General Hassan Nasrallah is expected to hold a news conference on the subject.

Some  knowledgeable sources are starting to ask questions this morning regarding the STL investigators conduct.  “ If the Media Office of the STL had followed the rules and contacted the Media Office of Hezbollah before sending in their team, things would have been different”, Human Rights Ambassador Ali Khalil told this observer.

It is true that the STL knew, or should have known, apart from the common courtesy aspect, that for security reasons the rules regarding such visits include contacting the Hezbollah Office of Media Relations in Dahiyeh.  If its Director, Dr. Ibrahim Mousawi is not in, his competent and gracious assistants  Wafa or Rana will  professionally assist  visitors. Practically  everyone in Lebanon, certainly media representatives, know this.  Why did the STL  apparently attempt an end run around security especially since just this week the Lebanese court sentenced 32 more Israeli spies to jail terms, five from the Mossad’s overseas intelligence service?  In addition, more than 100 people have been arrested on suspicion of espionage just since April 2009, including telecom employees, members of the security forces and even some active duty troops.

People are edgy in Dahiyeh and elsewhere in Lebanon about foreigners seeming to snoop around.

Broad ranging analyses are running the gamut this morning. MP Yassine Jaber of the Shia Amal movement, an ally of Hezbollah, said during  an interview with local television, that the incident was a sign the tribunal was “not welcome” in Lebanon.

Various diplomatic sources, as well as  some political party officials and security contacts think they know what caused yesterday’s incident.

Jeffrey Feltman, the Undersecretary of State for near eastern affairs and a Bush administration holdover is the prime suspect among some.  Feltman was the American Ambassador to Lebanon from 2004-2008.  In reality he never left although Michele Sison and now Maura Connelly, both handpicked by Feltman, succeeded him here in Lebanon.  Connelly was his former personal assistant, and like Sison before here,  functions, according to one Congressional source, as “ a talking potted plant. Both served to occupy the  Ambassadors office at the US Embassy in Beirut but Feltman  still calls the shots, just as David Welch did before his retirement.”

What caused yesterday’s incident according to the above sources approximate the following:

Feltman was beside himself as were many in the State Department and on Capitol hill by the reception Lebanon gave to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month.  At the time Feltman was in Saudi Arabia discussing his claimed creation and pet project, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. He spoke to increasingly unsympathetic Saudi ears what he thought was “ a really great plan” how to solve the growing STL problem which he admitted Washington and Tel Aviv had underestimated.

The Saudi’s told Feltman they would discuss the matter with the Syrians who would contact Hezbollah.

Feltman had planned to drop in on Damascus but instead he tore over to Lebanon, on White House short notice orders, he told his friend, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. His mission was  to denounce Ahmadinejad’s  visit as “provocative,  creating instability, and not helpful to the “peace process.”

Lebanon yawned at his airport statements, including the identical one that Hilary Clinton made earlier in Bosnia: “With respect to President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon, the United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon. We are very committed to supporting the Lebanese Government as it deals with a number of challenges in its region.” To many Lebanese, it was Mr. Feltman’s  visit that violated Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty. His problems began to increase and he found that  Lebanon was still largely in a state of rapture over the Iranian Presidents visit and the juicy prospects for up to S10 billion in trade ( having already received $ 1 billion in aid)  between Iran and Lebanon.  His meeting with Lebanon’s President Suleiman  and Prime Minister  Saad  Hariri were perfunctory.  Parliamentary Speaker Berri, ally of Hezbollah  even declined to meet with Feltman citing a “conflict of schedule” which one Amal source joked meant Berri wanted to watch the latest Sherlock Holmes movie with his family.  Some did complain in the media about Feltman not observing ‘diplomatic protocol’ by not giving advanced notice and expecting Lebanese officials to clear their weekend relaxation time to be at his beck and call.

But what apparently really caused Feltman to urge to STL to squeeze Hezbollah by sending its investigators to Dahiyeh  to signal that the Tribunal was impossible to stop, was the rejection by all factions but the Lebanese Forces, of the Feltman Plan. Its reported essence, now apparently scrapped, was as follows:

Given that Washington realized that there is no way  that the Tribunal is going to work out, it is best to find a way to trash it. Feltman has a “Dead men don’t talk” plan.  Imad, Mughniyah who many thought was dead these past 26 years was really killed this time on February 12, 2008  in Damascus. Beirut sources reveal that Israel, who killed Mughniyah, aimed for February 14, not the 12th in order to deliver the message that it can carry out an assassination at will and on any date.  Israel wanted to kill Mughniyah on the same day they killed Hariri, i.e. February 14.  But they missed their target date by  less than 48 hours due to “mission correction  contingencies”.

Feltman beleives, but has never been able to prove according to former CIA agent Robert Baer, that Mughniyah might have been involved in anti-American acts in April of 1983, (US Embassy), October of 1984 (US Marine barracks) and other  so-called “terrorist” activities.

Earlier this month, Feltman  sent a message to Hezbollah to the effect than if Hezbollah will go along with blaming Mughniyah for killing Hariri that works for the Americans because it will be circumstantial evidence that he also did acts of terrorism in the 1980’s so all files could be closed once and for all. He told more than one person he met with in Beirut this month  that he thought  his was “a really great plan.”

Apparently Secretary Clinton and President Obama did too.

Hezbollah did not.

One knowledgeable source explained: “ Feltman’s project is unimaginable.  First Hezbollah had nothing to do with Prime Minister Hariri’s assassination.  Secondly, if even a 9 year old Madhi scout or one of our street sweepers committed an offense the Party would accept full responsibility. We our one.  Nasrallah has made this clear.  We would never betray one of our own or allow a false charge to be made against him or her.”

One party member told this observer: “Feltman knows exactly what he is doing and its an infantile attempt to set up the National Lebanese Resistance.  It is well known that he has spent the past more than six years hatching a series of projects with the Israelis to destroy the resistance to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and  advance Israel’s plan for territorial gains in Lebanon. The attempted destruction of Hezbollah’s fiber optic communications network, airport security, an airbase at Kleit, Nahr al Bared’s destruction,  and various Salafist projects to note  just a few, carry his signature.  All aimed at starting another Lebanese civil war or at least a Shia-Sunni conflict.  The Tribunal is just the lasted but not the last of these.”

Another  Dahiyeh source explained; “If Hezbollah were to sacrifice Imad Mughniyah or any of its members, Feltman and the Israelis would shout,  ‘See, the Shia killed the Sunni so let’s go hang them!’  He tried to trick Hezbollah.”

So Feltman may have messaged the STL investigators to “do your job” yesterday.

The “ladies” of Dahiyeh sent a return message.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

“With respect to President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon, the United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon. We are very committed to supporting the Lebanese Government as it deals with a number of challenges in its region.”

Can Pakistan produce one Arundhati Roy to speak truth?

Can Pakistan produce one Arundhati Roy to speak truth?

Dr Shabir Choudhry 28 October 2010

Arundhati Roy, a famous Indian writer and human rights activist has, once again, made headlines and won minds and hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. She said what she believed – Kashmir is not legally part of India. Kashmir is not part of Pakistaneither, although both countries control State of Jammu and Kashmir and have no desire to relinquish their control over these areas.

There is demand in some parts of India that Arundhati Roy should be charged for ‘sedition’. But there are many rational people who support her. Alok Tiwari, a prominent Indian journalist wrote in her defence that what she said was ‘definitely against the government line on Kashmir. It was also against the popular opinion. Mercifully, there is no law that obligates us to toe the government or popular line. Going against it is dissent, not sedition; and democracies thrive on dissent. They do not shun it.’

India claims to be the biggest democracy on earth, and that democracy is alive and kicking, at least, in India, if not in Jammu and Kashmir. Demand of a genuine democracy is that people must be allowed to express their views without fear or intimidation; and Arundhati Roy is an Indian citizen, and at least, she should be entitled to enjoy fruits of democracy. Alok Tiwari further writes:

‘Freedom in a society is tested by its tolerance of what most of its members consider offensive. Freedom to say goody-goody thing is actually no freedom. If we assert before the world that Kashmiris in India are living in freedom, it means even those Kashmiris who would rather not be part of India. They have as much right to air their opinion as the rest of us have to assert Kashmir is an integral part of India. If we find Geelani’s ideas offensive then let us come up with better ideas to counter them.’

It is best for government of India to resolve the Kashmir dispute rather than charge all those who express their disagreement on Kashmir policy of government of India. The Kashmir dispute is real. It will not go away by closing eyes; or by using force.

In Kashmir there is a strong resentment against what Indian government do there; and that anger and sense of alienation will not go away by continuation of the present policies. The government of India has to come out with a new policy and new approach and satisfy demands of the people, as policy of gun and bullet cannot win minds and hearts of the people.

Arundhati Roy is brave and honest in her assertions on Kashmir. She had courage to say that India’s claim on Kashmir is not correct; and is against popular will of the people of Kashmir. She said all that even though Jammu and Kashmir ‘provisionally’ acceded to India; and India’s claim on Kashmir rests on that ‘accession’.

That ‘provisional accession’ had to be ratified by the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and due to Pakistan’s refusal to withdraw troops from Kashmiri territory, as demanded by the UN Resolutions, conditions for a plebiscite could not be created to hold a referendum to test will of the people, hence the present forced division and suffering of the people on both sides of the LOC.

Despite India’s claim on Kashmir and its claim to democratic ideals, people like Arundhati Roy speak against India’s Kashmir policy. They tell government of India that hearts and minds of people could not be won with use of force. They tell the government that you cannot make people Indian by pulling their finger nails.

On the other hand Pakistan also occupies two parts of State of Jammu and Kashmir, namely Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, from which Pakistan generously gave away around 2200 sq miles to China in 1963 to improve bilateral relations.

Pakistan has military strength to control the Kashmiri territory under its occupation, but has no legal cover to justify this occupation. It has no legal mandate to be in control of the Kashmiri territory, but still has managed to divert attention away from areas under its control and call them ‘azad’ meaning free; and many Kashmiri collaborators happily advance the cause of Pakistan.

Many in Pakistan, especially writers and scholars know shallowness of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. They also know that people of so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan are not happy with what Pakistan and its secret agencies do to the people of these areas; and yet they decide to remain quiet. Their conscience does not trouble them, and they follow the government policy on issue of Kashmir. They happily promote government’s version on Kashmir, knowing well that it is based on lies.

They know, as it has been confirmed by many impartial surveys that people of Jammu and Kashmir DONOT want to join Pakistan; and yet they broadcast lies that people of Jammu and Kashmir are desperate to join Pakistan. They are reluctant to speak about plight and exploitation of the people living under Pakistani occupation; and will only focus on events taking place on other side of the LOC.

Can Pakistani society produce one prominent writer, scholar and human rights champion who has guts to challenge Pakistan’s Kashmir policy; and tell the world thatPakistan’s control of Kashmiri territory is not legal? Someone who could tell the world people of Jammu and Kashmir State living on this side of the LOC are also deprived of their fundamental human rights. Or is this too much to ask, and Pakistani writers, intellectuals and scholars will continue to follow the out of date policy ofIslamabad?

Writer is Head Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com
View my blog and web: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com

The rise of the radical right in Ukraine

The rise of the radical right in Ukraine

Andreas Umland writes: Svoboda is a phenomenon that is not untypical for contemporary Europe.

The year 2010 has seen a number of new, disturbing political developments in Ukraine. If these trends continue, they many undermine Ukraine’s international image as the only solidly pro-democratic oriented country in the former Soviet space.

All major institutions and structures that make up a functioning democracy have suffered from worrying interventions by the new Ukrainian leadership: parliamentary procedures, the rule of law, mass media, civil society and even higher education. They have been widely reported in both the Ukrainian and international press.

Another emerging problem for Ukraine’s future international reputation has, at the same time, remained largely ignored by most observers: the recent rise of the right-wing All-Ukrainian Association “Svoboda” (Freedom) of Oleh Tiahnybok, a physician and lawyer from western Ukraine’s largest city, Lviv. His ultra-nationalist party grew out of the clearly fascist Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU) founded in 1991 in Lviv.

It seems likely that Svoboda will have a faction in the next Verkhovna Rada. That will mean additional damage for Kyiv’s already dented international reputation.

Andreas Umland, leacturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

The SNPU’s name deliberately sounds like Hitler’s Nazi-inspired National-Socialist German Workers Party. Its symbol was the so-called Wolfsangel once used by the SS Division “Das Reich,” and today popular among various European neo-Nazi groups.

In 2004, the Social-National Party renamed itself into Svoboda and abandoned the Wolfsangel. While Svoboda remained explicitly nationalistic, it has toned down its revolutionary rhetoric in recent years.

It also embraced, in its front-stage statements, a national-democratic discourse, and proclaims its adherence to the Ukrainian Constitution.

Its leadership includes a number of articulate intellectuals such as Iryna Farion, a senior lecturer in Ukrainian philology at Lviv’s Polytechnical Institute, and Andriy Illyenko, son of the legendary nationalist film director Yuriy Illyenko (1936-2010) and a political science researcher at Kyiv’s Shevchenko University.

They and, above all, Tiahnybok himself have recently become regular guests on Ukrainian TV shows, and sought-after interviewees or authors of many Kyiv periodicals.

As a result, Svoboda’s popularity has, especially in Western Ukraine, been constantly growing during the last year. It has also made inroads into the less nationalistic regions of central Ukraine.

As Ukraine has a proportional electoral system with a relatively low 3 percent barrier for an entry into parliament, it seems likely that Svoboda will have a faction in the next Verkhovna Rada.

That will mean additional damage for Kyiv’s already dented international reputation.

Svoboda is a racist party promoting explicitly ethnocentric and anti-Semitic ideas. Its main programmatic points are Russo- and xenophobia as well as, more recently, a strict anti-immigration stance.

It is an outspoken advocate of an uncritical heroization of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – an interwar and World War II ultra-nationalist party tainted by its temporary collaboration with the Third Reich, as well as its members’ participation in genocidal actions against Poles and Jews, in western Ukraine, during German occupation.

Although Svoboda emphasizes the European character of the Ukrainian people, it is an anti-Western, anti-liberal, and anti-EU grouping. It belongs to the international so-called Alliance of European National Movements.

This radically right-wing pan-European party association includes, among other groupings, France’s Front national, The Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) and the British National Party – three of Europe’s most prolific and extreme nationalist parties today.

Tiahnybok’s most prominent new political friend on the international scene is, incongruously, the Frenchmen Jean-Marie Le Pen who also used to be friendly with Vladimir Zhirinovskii – an aggressively anti-Ukrainian Russian imperialist politician.

A country as domestically unconsolidated and internationally non-integrated as Ukraine, a prominent ultra-nationalist party in parliament would be a dangerous luxury.

Andreas Umland, leacturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

Svoboda is a phenomenon not untypical for contemporary Europe.

Several EU member countries had or have politically significant parties and, sometimes, parliamentary factions with ideologies comparable to that of Tiahnybok’s association.

However, a country as domestically unconsolidated and internationally non-integrated as Ukraine, a prominent ultra-nationalist party in parliament would be a dangerous luxury.

Svoboda will, as a Verkhovna Rada faction, further estrange many Ukrainians in the country’s east and south as well as a number of international partners from the Ukrainian state.

It will contribute to the already high geographical polarization within the Ukrainian electorate.

Svoboda’s presence in the national legislature would undermine the development of a Ukrainian political nation, and of a trans-regional, pan-ethnic patriotism.

Public opinion in countries like Poland, Israel and Germany would become more skeptical towards the Ukrainians as a European nation. Svoboda’s further rise will help cementing its current under-institutionalization in the European security structure.

The entry of ultra-nationalists into Ukraine’s political establishment will be an alienating factor between Kyiv and Brussels. It will thus, oddly, make Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian attempts to undermine this post-Soviet state’s independence and integrity.

Though many observers think that Ukraine is now already at the lowest point of its post-Soviet development, even more bad news might be in store for the largest country of Europe.

Andreas Umland was formerly a fellow at Stanford, Harvard and Oxford. He currently teaches within the Master in German and European Studies program at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and edits the scholarly book series “Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society” published in Stuttgart, Germany.

“American Perestroika” Makes It To Kiev Post

Online journal: American perestroika The ‘capitalism’ that Gorbachev had in mind was not the ‘democratic-capitalist’ of the United States.

Peter Chamberlin writes:

It would be nice if the world of man were a simple creation, where honest effort was its own reward. In such a world, mistakes would be understood as signals of corrections which needed to be made. It is not our good fortunes to live in such a world, at least not as far as all the governments of the world are concerned. Human governments are in the business of capitalizing upon mistakes, especially turning the mistakes of the opposing party to political advantage.Read the story here.

Two Versions of Attack on UN Investigators at Beirut Gyno Clinic

[I tend to think that the first report below, from Naharnet, is the correct version of the incident.  The second report from Hezbollah press Al Manar, is a whitewash of the incident, which doesn't even mention the burka-clad women (and possibly men), as well as other disclaimers--about suffering patients having to wait, claiming the presence of the investigators was the attack and the ruckus was because patient reaction to the UN appointment taking so long.]

Men Disguised as Women Likely Involved in Attack on UN Investigators in Dahiyeh
Men disguised as Muslim women clad in burqa (black veil and top to toe gown) were reportedly part of the group of women that attacked U.N. investigators at a Beirut clinic who were on a mission to obtain phone numbers of between 14 to 17 people.
On Wednesday, a group of women stormed into a gynecologist’s clinic in Beirut’s southern suburbs and clashed with investigators from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

They snatched the briefcase of one of the two male investigators who were talking to gynecologist Iman Sharara.

The investigators, who were accompanied by a local female translator, were trying to obtain phone numbers of between 14 to 17 people who visited Sharara’s practice since 2003.

MTV television station quoted a soldier who was in charge of the security of the U.N. investigators said he was grabbed and bitten by an attacker who seemed to have the strength of a man.

The hand which attacked him looked more like a man’s hand than a woman’s, the soldier said.

Saudi newspaper Okaz, for its part, quoted Sharara’s secretary as saying she had never seen the women attackers before.

She said men clad in burqa were likely to have been among the crowd of women.

Pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted sources as saying that the stolen briefcase contained a laptop and some documents of special use by members of the team of investigators to jot down responses to questions during their interview with doctor Sharara.

Doctor Sharara, who runs the private obstetrics and gynecology clinic, told reporters a team of two male investigators and their female translator arrived at her practice mid-morning on a scheduled appointment.

“They asked me for the phone numbers of between 14 and 17 patients since 2003 and I told them it would take me some time to review my files,” she said at her clinic in the Hizbullah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut.

When she opened the door to inform her secretary of the files needed, Sharara said she was surprised to see a crowd of some 30 women had stormed the waiting room although she had cancelled all appointments for the morning.

A security source told AFP the angry women rushed towards the interrogators, shouting insults at them, and managed to snatch a briefcase from the pair who escaped unscathed.

“The Office of the Prosecutor takes this incident very seriously and we are currently looking into it,” the media relations unit of The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon told AFP by email.

Sharara’s lawyer Mustafa Shoqeir told reporters his client had sought legal advice and conferred with the medical practitioners’ union before agreeing to meet the investigators.

“We are still willing to cooperate with Lebanese authorities and investigators representing the tribunal as per international decree and procedure,” Shoqeir said.

State prosecutor Saeed Mirza has opened an investigation into the incident.

Meanwhile a judicial source speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said that some women also stole mobile phones from two plainclothes security forces who were escorting the investigators.

The parliamentary majority March 14 coalition, for its part, denounced Wednesday’s incident as an attack on international law.

“We condemn this attack on a team of investigators and the theft of their files by civilian troops loyal to Hizbullah,” March 14 said in a statement at the end of their weekly meeting.

“This… marks an attack on international laws and decrees.”

AMAL movement MP Yassin Jaber said, however, the incident was a sign the tribunal was “not welcome” in Lebanon.

The U.N.-backed court was formed by a 2007 U.N. Security Council resolution to find and try the killers of Hariri, who was assassinated in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005.

Lebanon is facing a full-blown crisis over the tribunal as unconfirmed reports indicate the STL is set to accuse members of Hizbullah.

Hizbullah has confirmed several of its members, both male and female, have been interrogated in connection with the Hariri murder.

The Syrian- and Iranian-backed party has accused the United Nations of interfering in Lebanese affairs and called instead for a local investigation.

But Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain ex-premier, has vowed to see the U.N. tribunal through.(Naharnet-AFP)

Flagrant Violation: Is Truth Hidden in File of Female Patient?

Hussein Assi

28/10/2010 Is the so-called “truth” hidden in the file of some patient in a female clinic?
The question is more than logical after Wednesday’s scandalous incident, the incident which proved once against that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is nothing but a tool in the Western hands, a tool that doesn’t hesitate to disrespect people’s privacies and specialties.

On Wednesday, a team of investigators in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafiq Hariri entered a gynecology clinic in Southern Suburb of Beirut, sparking dispute with women there.

Witnesses said a team of two investigators and their translator entered Dr. Iman Charara’s gynecology clinic. Women waiting for their turn in the clinic, including an urgent case, were annoyed because the investigators stayed for long time in a meeting with the doctor, witnesses said, adding the voices were loud as other women from other clinics in the building rushed to Charara’s clinic.

That’s it… Under the transparent banner of “searching for truth” in Hariri’s murder, the politicized tribunal made another scandal in a blatant attack by the international investigation commission on a gynecology clinic.

The incident is alarming. Yet, the “truth defenders” in Lebanon didn’t find themselves embarrassed. Perhaps, they didn’t ask themselves the natural question of the “mission” of the investigators in a women clinic in the southern suburb of Beirut.

Perhaps, they didn’t perceive that the mere demand for the archive of 17 women including their addresses and phone numbers is a flagrant violation. They didn’t know that these women have privacies that should be respected.

Nevertheless, Wednesday’s incident sets a dangerous precedent and apparently it won’t be the last in terms of violating the country under the banner of investigation and truth.

But what’s next? The final verdict is already written and everybody known its content as well as its objective. The tribunal is politicized, its process is politicized, the timing of issuing its verdict is also politicized. It became more than clear that the STL is nothing but a tool aimed at undermining the Resistance. Yet, no one reacts.

So, what’s next? Would Lebanese welcome the plot to sow strife in their country without any resistance?

Questions must be asked, but it’s unlikely to find answers very soon…

Russian Interior Min. Proposes Censoring Internet, Building Patriotism for “Motherland”

В МВД России предлагают законодательно ужесточить контроль за интернетом в качестве мер по усилению противодействия экстремизму и перевести экстремистские преступления в разряд тяжких

In the Russian Interior Ministry proposed legislative tighten controls on the Internet, as measures to strengthen the fight against extremism and to translate extremist crimes in the category of serious

The Interior Ministry is prompted to enter “public censorship” for the Internet

Publication time: 16:42
Last update: 16:42

In the Russian Interior Ministry proposed legislative tighten controls on the Internet, as measures to strengthen the fight against extremism and extremist move into the category of serious crime.

The recommendations of the international scientific-practical conference held in Moscow on Thursday with representatives from law enforcement agencies and the public, to “develop proposals for changes and additions to the legislative acts concerning the legal status of the Internet in order to tighten control of its resources to commit crimes of an extremist, “according to Interfax .

According to the authors of the document, the solution of the question, “possibly by inclusion in the Russian law” On mass media “rules governing the basics of organization and functioning of the Internet, which will impose on the activities of the network relevant government censorship restrictions and prohibitions on the spread of extremist propaganda.”

Russia has prepared two bills to regulate the Internet: “delusional” and “power”

As an alternative, proposed to amend the Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement to hatred or hostility), including the use of the Internet in a number of conditions of the crime. “Develop a proposal to toughen penalties for crimes of an extremist (Articles 280, 282, 282.1 and 282.2 of the Criminal Code) with regard to increasing prison terms for their commitment to translating these kinds of acts in the category of serious”, – stated in the recommendations.

Under the current Criminal Code, these crimes are categorized as moderate – penalties related to them does not exceed 5 years imprisonment. The intention of the document, Innovation “will expand the ability of law enforcement in conducting search operations for members of organized criminal groups and communities of extremist and terrorist orientation.”

In addition to legislative initiatives, the Ministry considers it necessary in order to counter extremism subjects of the activity “initiate a clarification in the media of real plants extremism, often contrary to Islamic principles.” Also, law enforcement agencies are encouraged to participate in the organization of lectures, aimed at building youth patriotic attitude of the Motherland, a tolerant attitude towards people of different nationalities, religions and races. “

Earlier in the conference the head of Institute of Internal Affairs, General Sergei weights reported that Russia annually growing number of neo-fascist groups, as well as crimes of an extremist. As explained in the press service of the Institute of Internal Affairs, in the near future theses listed recommendations will be formulated and forwarded to the Legal Department of the Ministry, which in turn will prepare a bill.

x

The West and Russia Do Not Trust Each Other

The West and Russia do not trust nor

As long as the Russian commitment to the dubious standards of international behavior remains, should no agreement be signed.

Sarkozy, Merkel und Medwedew in Deauville: ein schwieriges Verhältnis
PHOTO: AP / DPASarkozy, Merkel and Medvedev in Deauville: a difficult relationship
Janusz Onyszkiewicz

Do you remember in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which aimed at the “shared values” of Russia and the European Community to lay down? Signed in 1994, during the first hopeful days of Russian democracy, the PCA in 1999, reinforced by the creation of the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union (ESDP).

Both sides often express a desire to forge a “strategic partnership” to closer ties. But at the meeting of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Deauville, it would be wise to recognize that the Kremlin seems to change the terms of this early relationship.

As a result of the apparent reversal of democratization during the presidency of Vladimir Putin and the war in Chechnya and Georgia, the EU draws on an increasingly cautious language. As regards the prospects for a genuine partnership to sound less optimistic.

In the 2004 verabschiedten European Security Strategy states that: “We must continue to strive for closer relations with Russia, which is an important factor in our security and our prosperity. The pursuit of common values will reinforce progress towards a strategic partnership. “

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Impact of the conflict in the region

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the North Caucasus to break open many previously suppressed ethnic and religious conflicts. Main focus was long …

The formulation according to the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, sounded resolute: “A strategic partnership is not possible if the values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law are not fully shared and respected.”

Meanwhile, the Russians are busy bringing their different views on Europe under one roof. Some profess that they “are tired of dealing with bureaucrats in Brussels”. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the State Duma, Konstantin Kosachev put it this way: “In Germany, Italy or France, we can achieve a lot more.”

And for good reason to believe Kosachev and not others, that the EU is committed to serious talks on the essential for Russia “hard” security issues. How to Russia with regard to these safety issues – especially energy security – to deal, is one of the issues that the EU provides the most divisive. Despite the commitment to speak, to Russia with one voice, various EU countries negotiate as often as possible on a bilateral level with Russia (especially when it comes to lucrative commercial contracts). Under a common EU umbrella includes one made up only if necessary. This gives Russia great leeway when it comes to pit countries against each other.

In Russia, meanwhile, is deeply disappointed by the approach of the West after the collapse of communism. During the Gorbachev era, it was assumed that the West would maintain its policy of containment of the Cold War substantially.Russia expected to be not as legitimate partners and treated as a defeated enemy as soon as the country no longer looked to confrontation and expand. It was assumed that it would retain its status alongside the United States on the international stage, that the territorial integrity would remain unchallenged and that they would deal with its internal affairs without any interference or criticism from outside.

DEADLY ATTACK ON PARLIAMENT IN GROZNY

Growing resentment of the West have the continued preference of Russian leaders to the concepts of “great power” and “spheres of influence” as well reinforced as the belief that international relations are a zero sum game in which Russia lost the gains of other countries would be. The Russians can not therefore accept that stronger multilateral institutions, trust, cooperation and interdependence can ensure international security. On the contrary, the loss of superpower status for Russia is completely unacceptable.

Economic growth during the Putin years and the defeat of Georgia – which was seen in Russia as the beginning of a great political comebacks – awarded to the Russians that self-confidence that was to reshape the transatlantic security architecture is necessary. In Medvedev’s proposal for a trans-Atlantic security treaty, the principle of avoidance of external forces to solve national disputes would be committed. This international interventions in conflicts in the North Caucasus, including Chechnya would be ruled out.

The status quo was also strengthened by the principle that no country should increase its security to the detriment of another. However, it remains unkar who decides what is a disadvantage. Even worse is that the freedom to join military alliances – such as the Helsinki Accords of 1975 and in other major international agreements such as the Charter of Paris for a New Europe or the European Security Charter sets out – was disposed of in ominous ways.The expansion of military alliances such as NATO is presented as a threatening action.

Europe should respond to this Russian proposal first to the recognition of the fact that Russia has to play in the transatlantic security a crucial role and should not be treated with caution but also with respect is. Deal with the issue itself is a series of Instititutionen: OSCE, NATO-Russia Council and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, to name but a few. These existing institutions could revive and strengthen new, but there is no need to create more of these facilities.

Indivisibility of European and American security

Second, the remains upright during the Cold War, so fundamental principle of the indivisibility of European and American security. Security initiatives should be first discussed bilaterally within the NATO-EU framework. Only then should you present to the OSCE, a common position. There is talk of absolutely crucial importance to Russia with one voice.

Third, the idea implicit in Medvedev’s plan – under which Russia would have in connection with all security decisions by NATO or the EU veto power – are rejected. Given the fact that NATO is represented in Russia’s own new military doctrine as a potential threat, as Russian leaders logically claim that any expansion of NATO to undermine Russia’s security.

Russia should be consulted on all major safety issues in

Nevertheless, Russia should be consulted in all important security issues. The consultations between Russia and NATO during the drafting of the latest Strategic Concept of NATO is a good example – from Russia rejected this approach, however, before we even adopted a new military doctrine. In the consultations on the Medvedev plan should include other former Eastern bloc countries like Ukraine are included.

The best way to deal with the Medvedev plan would be an OSCE statement, similar to Istanbul in 1999 – that a political resolution and not a legally binding contract. To win the efforts of the EU and the USA, the Russian leadership for a serious security dialogue, a more formal recognition of Russia could be helpful as a great power. But as long as the Russian commitment to the dubious standards of international behavior remains, should no agreement be signed.

Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a former Polish defense minister and chairman of the Euro-Atlantic Association.

Putins Shock Forces

Putin’s Shock Forces

Young militants provide new muscle for the Kremlin.

The attacks came in crushing waves. Hours after Estonia removed a statue of a World War II-era Soviet soldier from Tallinn on April 27, a virtual blitzkrieg struck the tiny Baltic nation’s computer systems. Massive onslaughts of spam brought down the Web sites of government agencies, banks and news services and paralyzed large parts of Estonia’s cyber-reliant economy. NATO sent emergency Internet security assistance to defend the embattled member state. The Kremlin denied any role in the assault, whose source had yet to be positively identified as the electronic bombardment finally subsided last week.

Even so, the Russians have not tried to hide their rage against Estonia. On the contrary, the Kremlin has rolled out its newest weapon in the drive to reclaim Russia’s bygone regional dominance: a shadowy youth movement known as Nashi (Russian for “ours”). Highly disciplined and lavishly bankrolled by the Kremlin, the militant young nationalists have developed a formidable organization to oppose alleged enemies at home and abroad and to glorify Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. When the Estonians removed the statue from their capital’s main square, a Nashi-led mob shut down the highway out of Russia into Estonia. In Moscow, Nashi protesters stormed a press conference by the Estonian ambassador, retreating only after her bodyguards sprayed them with pepper gas.

But the United States, not Estonia, is Nashi’s particular bugbear. “It is time to put an end to America’s being the strongest and most influential empire,” says Nikolai Panchenko, a ranking member of the group. He’s echoing the views of the Russian leadership, whose stance toward the United States is more belligerent now than at any time since the cold war. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Moscow last week, seeking to tamp down the hostility before Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin sit down together at a G8 summit next month in Germany. Nevertheless, in two days of talks Rice won no concessions from the Russians beyond an agreement to cool the anti-U.S. rhetoric—such as Putin’s grim reference in a speech earlier this month to certain countries’ making “claims of exceptionality” and becoming “a new threat, as during the time of the Third Reich.”

Nazism is a recurring topic in Russia at the moment. The young militants call the Estonians fascists, and Russian dissidents (an endangered species) compare Nashi—and kindred groups such as Walking Together and the Young Guards—to the Hitler Youth of the ’30s and ’40s. New recruits to Nashi are given basic military training and can graduate to the black-uniformed street patrols of the Nashi Police or the fledgling Nashi Army, which earlier this month held military exercises 25 miles south of Moscow in Podolsk, marching, running obstacle courses, field-stripping firearms and practicing marksmanship. Two weeks ago, in the city of Sosnovy Bor, on the Estonian border, Nashi volunteers visited local schools to show a film titled “Lessons in Courage.” It opens with footage of a vast Nashi meeting of young people wearing identical white T shirts marked with a big red star. Next came shots of Putin juxtaposed with photos of a noble-looking wolf, followed by images of rats. “Putin is a lonely wolf surrounded by rats,” Panchenko told the schoolkids. “Russia has become too corrupt. It is time to change things, time for stronger leaders—like us.”

Yet one of Nashi’s principal aims is to prevent change. The group, which now claims 15,000 ranking members and 100,000 supporters, was launched by the Kremlin in response to the pro-democracy Orange Revolution that toppled a pro-Moscow regime in Ukraine in 2004. “The idea was to create an ideology based on a total devotion to the president and his course,” says Sergei Markov, one of the Russian youth movement’s architects. The Young Guards recently held a training exercise in which members defended a local TV station against a mob of “riot-ers” wearing orange bandannas. In April Nashi deployed thousands of volunteers across Moscow to hand out brochures and 10,000 specially made SIM cards for mobile phones. Recipients were told they would get special text messages in case of a Ukraine-style uprising. “Now people have a chance to receive precise instructions what to do to save their motherland if there is a pro-Western revolution,” says Nashi activist Tatyana Matiash, 22. Meanwhile, they can bully neighboring countries for daring to defy the Kremlin’s will.

Turkmenistan denies Russia’s “gas deals” statements

Turkmenistan denies Russia’s “gas deals” statements

* Turkmenistan raps deals touted by Russian officials

* Says significance of Europe-bound energy routes to grow

By Marat Gurt

ASHGABAT, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Turkmenistan denied on Thursday Russia’s statements that its gas export monopoly Gazprom could take part in a trans-Afghan gas pipeline and that Moscow and Ashgabat had agreed to freeze a Caspian pipeline project.

Russia’s top energy official, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, told reporters during President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Turkmenistan last week that Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote) could take part in the central Asian state’s TAPI pipeline project.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, conceived in Soviet days, never got off the ground. But last month plans to build it were revived after the four nations signed a new framework agreement.

Sechin was later quoted by Russia’s Kommersant business daily as saying that Moscow and Ashgabat had decided not to revive the mothballed Caspian Sea Gas Pipeline as demand for fuel in Europe is yet to recover.

“Turkmenistan views such statements as an attempt to hamper the normal course of our country’s cooperation in the energy sector and call into question its obligations to its partners,” Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkmenistan, which in 2007 agreed with Russia and Kazakhstan to build a gas pipeline to Russia along the Caspian Sea, said it had launched construction of its stretch of the conduit.

“This is why reports that this project has been put on hold, based on statements by Russian officials, cause bewilderment. In all appearance, the declaring side does not implement or does not want to implement its obligations,” it said. There was “no agreement whatsoever” on the participation of Russian firms in the TAPI project, the Foreign Ministry said.

“SENSE OF REALITY”

“Turkmenistan hopes that when making their statements Russian officials will be guided in the future by the sense of responsibility and reality,” Turkmenistan said.

Turkmenistan, Central Asia’s largest natural gas producer and holder of the world’s fourth largest reserves of the fuel, plans to triple annual gas output within 20 years from the current 75 billion cubic metres level.

The desert nation is also keen to lessen its dependence on its former imperial master and traditional gas buyer, Russia.

As of Oct. 1, the country shipped 7.9 bcm of gas to Russia.

Annual gas purchases by Moscow previously accounted for two thirds of Turkmen gas sales, or around 50 bcm.

But in 2009 Gazprom stopped buying Turkmen gas for nine months after a pipeline explosion, sparking a broader diplomatic row over the fuel. The move cost Turkmenstan about $1 billion a month, and the standoff prompted Ashgabat to turn eastward.

Last December Turkmenistan launched a China-bound pipeline running to China’s north-western Xinjiang region through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Turkmenistan is also one of the preferred suppliers for the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline, intended to ship Central Asian gas to an Austrian gas hub via Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Hungary and reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.

“Turkmenistan will continue to raise the significance of Europe-bound projects in its energy policy and will independently choose partners,” the Foreign Ministry said.

(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Alfred Kueppers; editing by Keiron Henderson)

American Democracy: Pro-Israel Tweedledum and Tweedledee

American Democracy: Pro-Israel Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Helen Keller’s pithy observation about American democracy being little more than a choice “between Tweedledum and Tweedledee” was never more true than in the upcoming midterm elections in the ninth congressional district of Illinois.

 

In a district which includes the affluent northern suburbs of Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan, the central issue is not the two wars—or is it now three?—the country is fighting, nor is it the tanking economy, in great part caused by those debt-inducing wars. No, the burning issue here is… who cares more about Israel?

“A Jewish candidate has been trying to convince the mostly Jewish voters that his Jewish opponent has not done enough to protect the Jewish interest,” reports Ynetnews, the English language website of Israel’s most-read newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Although less than 25 percent of the ninth district’s constituents are Jewish, and there is little agreement about what constitutes “the Jewish interest,” it’s not a bad summary of Republican challenger Joel Pollak’s campaign to oust the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

Pollak, an Orthodox Jew born in South Africa, charges Rep. Schakowsky with being “soft on Israel’s security.”

Let’s take a brief look at Congresswoman Schakowsky’s record on Capitol Hill to see if there’s any truth to Pollak’s allegations.

Since she was first elected to Congress in 1998, Schakowsky has consistently backed policies sought by Tel Aviv and its unregistered foreign agents in Washington, ensuring the continuation of the U.S. military, diplomatic, and financial support on which Israel crucially depends. As might be expected, her “100 percent” pro-Israel record has included a reflexive defense of Israeli aggression and demands for crippling sanctions against Iran.

In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, which killed over 300 Palestinian children, Schakowsky voted for a House resolution supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza. Later, she co-sponsored what Rep. Dennis Kucinich dubbed the “wrong is right” resolution condemning the Goldstone report, which Kucinich said his colleagues had not even read. And after Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen armed with nothing more than a small video camera, was murdered execution-style by Israeli commandos on the Gaza flotilla, she signed the Poe/Peters letter to President Obama again touting Israel’s right to self-defense.

Echoing Tel Aviv’s rhetoric about the “existential threat” posed by Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons programme, Congresswoman Schakowsky has long been lending her name to a raft of legislation targeting Tehran. In 1999, Schakowsky co-sponsored the Iran Nonproliferation Act. In 2001, she co-sponsored the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act Extension Act. She has also co-sponsored the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, and the Iran Freedom Support Act. More recently, Schakowsky co-sponsored the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, which a former CIA officer and political analyst described as “basically an act of war.”

“There’s more, much more, but you get the idea,” as Steve Sheffey, a pro-Israel political activist, put it in his Huffington Post defense of Schakowsky.

Her opponent, however, does not get the idea.

To Joel Pollak and his supporters, which include his Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, Schakowsky is “too sympathetic” to Palestinians and the sanctions against Iran are “weak.”

But the GOP nominee is most concerned about Obama’s feeble efforts to coax Netanyahu to comply with international law by ceasing the building of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. In a statement, Pollak called on Schakowsky to join him in “condemning the Obama administration’s ongoing attack on Israel.”

Among pro-Israelis there are concerns, however, that “efforts to transform support for Israel from a long-standing bipartisan national consensus into a divisive partisan wedge issue” could be counterproductive. “Ironically, by using Israel as a political football for partisan gain,” writes Sheffey, “Pollak’s supporters ignore the cardinal principle of pro-Israel advocacy: Support for Israel is and must remain bi-partisan.” According to Sheffey, Pollak has broken the Republican Party’s “friendly incumbent rule,” whereby pro-Israel opponents are expected to “disregard all other issues and vote solely based on Israel.”

Deeply concerned about the increasing use of support for Israel as a partisan issue in American domestic politics, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, reminded everyone that “bipartisan support for Israel is a strategic national interest for the State of Israel.”

One rule that Pollak didn’t break, however, is the tacit agreement among both major parties to never expose how profoundly corrupt the political system really is.

In 2000, the FBI began wiretapping Congresswoman Schakowsky as part of a wider investigation into foreign espionage and the corruption of American public officials. “The epicenter of a lot of the foreign espionage activity was Chicago,” according to former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, in an interview with The American Conservative magazine. “They needed Schakowsky and her husband Robert Creamer to perform certain illegal operational facilitations for them in Illinois.”

One would think that Joel Pollak would relish exposing Schakowsky’s entrapment by a female Turkish agent, revealed in Edmonds’ testimony under oath in a court case filed in Ohio. The problem for the aspiring pro-Israel legislator, however, is that the FBI investigation “started with the Israeli Embassy.”

And what choice does that leave American voters? As one frustrated commentator put it, there’s “not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.” Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to their corrupt bipartisan support for Israel.

Christine Fair’s Report On Indian Influence from Afghanistan

India in Afghanistan, part II: Indo-U.S. relations in the lengthening AfPak shadow

BY CHRISTINE FAIR

Despite deepening security threats from both the Taliban and other Pakistan-based proxies operating against Indian personnel and institutions in Afghanistan, thus far India has remained committed to staying in Afghanistan. India has its own concerns about the ultimate settlement in Afghanistan given that such a political settlement will likely come about through some sort of a twinned process of reconciliation and reintegration of former Taliban fighters back into Afghanistan’s political landscape.

Surely this will be a prominent matter of discussion when U.S. President Barack Obama undertakes a state visit to India next month. As one Indian commentator recently wrote:

The real criterion for measuring success [of the Obama visit] would lie in assessing whether or not the two leaders have reached consensus on defining the dangers that their, and other, countries face from the Af-Pak area and how they intend to tackle it. They must agree on a mechanism for arriving at such assessment and there is only one way of doing it. What is needed is a trilateral forum of consultations consisting of the U.S., India, and Afghanistan.

In some measure, India should be assured that the Obama administration’s assessment of the "Pakistan challenge" more closely mirrors that of India than that of the Bush administration, which remained doggedly committed to its Panglossian assessments of Pakistani President Parvez Musharraf’s various promises to contend with the terrorism menaces based in and from Pakistan. However, as Bob Woodward lays bare in Obama’s Wars, while the Obama White House has a better appreciation of the challenges with Pakistan it lacks any significant strategy to contend with them.

Moreover, Obama has much to prove to the Indians following a shaky start. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to China first — not India. Both Obama and Clinton made various statements attesting to the primacy of China in the U.S.’s Asia strategy. India was piqued by the Obama administration’s lack of attention, having become habituated to the incessant wooing of the Bush administration, which urged the United States to alter its entire nonproliferation regime to accommodate the controversial Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear deal. The deal was important to Washington ostensibly to constrain China. Ashley Tellis, the architect of the deal, explained the importance of such a move in 2005:

If the United States is serious about advancing its geopolitical objectives in Asia, it would almost by definition help New Delhi develop its strategic capabilities such that India’s nuclear weaponry and associated delivery systems could deter against the growing and utterly more capable nuclear forces Beijing is likely to possess by 2025.

Any U.S. retrenchment from this position on China would leave India exposed.

India continues to watch with concern as Washington continues to ply military assistance to Pakistan while remaining unable or unwilling to compel Pakistan to abandon militancy as a tool of foreign policy and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that has inflicted such harm upon India and other countries the region. Worse, India fears that Washington will provide funds and access to weapon systems that are more appropriate to target India than Pakistani insurgents. In the wake of the recently concluded U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue, more defense wares will be on their way to Pakistan. India’s Defense Minister A.K. Antony summarized India’s concerns during a September 2010 trip to Washington: "We feel that even though the U.S. is giving arms to Pakistan to fight terrorism, our practical experience is (that) it is always being misused. They are diverting a portion against India," Antony had said during his visit here.

Will India stay the course in Afghanistan? Planning for the "day after"

Obama’s (largely misconstrued) announcement that U.S. troops will begin drawing down military forces from Afghanistan in a conditions-based fashion in July 2011 has been widely read as "sever and saunter," or perhaps even "cut and run" among Afghanistan’s neighbors. The Obama administration’s assurances that the United States will remain committed to Afghanistan’s development and transition have had little palliative impacts upon these calculations. India is no exception. Obama’s commitment to ending the military commitment to Afghanistan has triggered a vigorous domestic debate within India about its future role in Afghanistan.

Indians are right to worry about how they will continue their programs and initiatives in Afghanistan as the United States and other international military forces reconfigure their posture away from active military operations in the future. Indian personnel have been under steady attack in Afghanistan.

After the 2008 attack on India’s Embassy in Kabul, the Indian Express ran a poignant editorial that captured this dilemma. The author wrote:

After the Kabul bombing, India must come to terms with an important question that it has avoided debating so far. New Delhi cannot continue to expand its economic and diplomatic activity in Afghanistan, while avoiding a commensurate increase in its military presence there. For too long, New Delhi has deferred to Pakistani and American sensitivities about raising India’s strategic profile in Afghanistan.

Some Indian analysts have articulated an explicitly military option for India in Afghanistan. Dr.Subhash Kapila, writing in December 2009, explains, "India has wrongly shied away from a military commitment in Afghanistan for two major reasons. The first was the American reluctance to permit Indian military involvement in Afghanistan out of deference to Pakistan Army sensitivities. The second reason was the political and strategic timidity of India’s political leadership who have yet to recognize that being a big power would involve shouldering military responsibilities to reorder in India’s favor the security environment in South Asia." He argues that since the U.S. exit is a question of when not if, India must begin preparing extensive contingency planning for the "day after" of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

In August of 2008, Pragati (an online, independent Indian defense publication) dedicated an entireissue to debating whether or not India should send troops to Afghanistan. One author argued that India should expand its civilian effort as well as forge a military option. Shushant T. Singh, one of the contributors to that issue, explains, "A significant Indian military presence in Afghanistan will alter the geo-strategic landscape in the extended neighborhood, by expanding India’s power projection in Central Asia."

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, in the same issue of Pragati, urges India to stay the course and push to train Afghan National Security Forces over the objections of the United States, NATO, and Pakistan. At the other extreme are those who worry that the benefits of any Indian presence in Afghanistan are outweighed by the cost. (India has already been forced to expand its security forces’ presence in Afghanistan to secure the civilian efforts underway.) Proponents of scaling back argue that India should do so when the United States and other coalition partners reduce their kinetic operations and retract their military footprints beginning in July 2011.

The stakes for India are higher than some may appreciate. India’s efforts to shape the outcome in Afghanistan with its own security interests will be important evidence that India has what it takes to be a power of any consequence outside of South Asia — much less globally. If India cannot effectively shape the course of events in its own "immediate neighborhood," how can it credibly lay claim to its great power aspirations at home or abroad?

Christine Fair is an assistant professor at Georgetown University and the author of Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States. In part one of this post, she considered India’s historical interests in Afghanistan.

Rand Corp. Experts Warns of Indian Influence from Afghanistan Soil

India wants to influence events in Pakistan from Afghan soil: Top US expert

http://app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=120443&Itemid=2

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (APP): India has not only Pakistan-specific interests in Afghanistan but also wants to be seen as extra-regional power through its presence in that country, according to a top American expert on the region.

“India is interested in retaining Afghanistan as a friendly state from which it has the capacity to monitor Pakistan and even, where possible, cultivate assets to influence activities in Pakistan,” Christine Fair, a known South Asia expert, writes in an analytical piece for Foreign Policy magazine.
Analyzing New Delhi’s regional policy, Fair, who is currently an assistant professor at Georgetown University, says “India is interested in retaining Afghanistan as a friendly state from which it has the capacity to monitor Pakistan and even, where possible, cultivate assets to influence activities in Pakistan.”
In the piece headlined “India in Afghanistan : Strategic Interests, Regional Concerns” the expert notes “India’s profile in Afghanistan has been a quiet but looming concern for New Delhi, Washington, Brussels and of course Islamabad with all wondering what is the optimal role for India in Afghanistan’s reconstruction in light of the enduring security competition between India and Pakistan.”
On the one hand, she says, are those who want to expand India’s presence in Afghanistan through increased Indian training of Afghan civilian and military personnel, development projects, and expanded economic ties.”
On the other hand are those that caution against such involvement.  This view was articulated forcefully by then-top NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his August 2009 “COMISAF’s Initial Assessment.”
McChrystal opined: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”
Other analysts see Indian and Pakistani competition in Afghanistan as a new “Great Game” and argue that Afghanistan can be pacified only through a regional solution that resolves once and for all the intractable Indo-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir, adds Fair, who recently compiled a Century Foundation study on “India in Afghanistan and Beyond: Opportunities and Constraints.”
Fair remarks that “American officials are often unaware of how Indians conceive of their neighborhood.”
Indian policy analysts claim that India’s strategic environment stretches to the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf in the west (some will even claim the eastern coast of Africa as the western-most border of this strategic space); to the east, it includes the Strait of Malacca and extends up to the South China Sea; to the north, it is comprised of Central Asia; and to the south, it reaches out to Antarctica.
Raja Mohan, a doyen of Indian security analysis, explains in comparable terms that India’s grand strategy:
“Divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security.”
Thus, in many regards, India’s interests in Afghanistan can be seen as merely one element within India’s larger desire to be able to project its interests well beyond South Asia, the expert observes.
Indians claim that developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan have important
and usually deleterious effects upon India’s domestic social fabric as well as its internal security apart from the well-known problems in and over Kashmir.
“Indian interlocutors have explained to me that Islamist militancy coexists with a burgeoning Hindu nationalist movement that seeks to re-craft India as a Hindu state.
Hindu nationalists and their militant counterparts live in a violent symbiosis with Islamist militant groups operating in and around India. Islamist terrorism in India and the region provides grist for the mill of Hindu nationalism and its violent offshoots.”
After the Taliban consolidated their hold on Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, India struggled to maintain its presence and to support anti-Taliban forces.
Working with Iran, Russia, and Tajikistan, India provided important (but not fully detailed) resources to the Northern Alliance, the only meaningful challenge to the Taliban in Afghanistan. According to journalist Rahul Bedi, India also ran a twenty-five-bed hospital at Farkhor (Ayni), Tajikistan, for more than a year. The Northern Alliance military commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud, died in that hospital after he was attacked by al-Qaeda suicide bombers on September 9, 2001. Through Tajikistan, India supplied the Northern Alliance with high altitude warfare equipment worth around $8 million. India also based several “defense advisers,” including an officer of a brigadier rank, in Tajikistan to advise the Northern Alliance in their operations against the Taliban.
“Since 2001, India has relied upon development projects and other forms of humanitarian assistance. To facilitate these projects and to collect intelligence (as all embassies and consulates do), India also now has consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-e-Sharif, in addition to its embassy in Kabul. There also are a number of smaller-scale activities throughout Afghanistan. According to U.S., British, and Afghan officials interviewed over the last several years, India’s activities are not isolated to the north, where it has had traditional ties, but also include efforts in the southern provinces and in the northeast, abutting the Pakistani border.”

The Decomposing American Corpse and the Carrion-Eaters

Foreclosure fortune buys cars, yacht, mansions for doc-mill attorney

BY DAVID MCLAUGHLIN • BLOOMBERG NEWS

For Americans, the foreclosure crisis has wiped out fortunes, bringing destitution and homelessness. For Florida attorney David J. Stern, it has brought mansions, a Bugatti sports car and a luxury yacht.

Florida has the third-highest residential foreclosure rate in the U.S., and Stern, 50, has made a fortune off the bust. His foreclosure-processing business has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue preparing documents for the cases that his law firm brings on behalf of lenders seeking to reclaim homes from borrowers who can’t pay their mortgages.

Now his business is under scrutiny, as banks suspend foreclosures and evictions amid allegations that some home seizures were based on fraudulent documents. Attorneys general in every U.S. state have joined to probe foreclosure practices generally. Stern’s foreclosure firm and three others are under investigation by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

“Some of these law firms we’re dealing with, we have reason to believe, actually forged documents, committed fraud, did all kinds of things,” McCollum said in an interview Oct. 15. “We don’t know where this is headed right now.”

Stern’s attorney, Jeffrey Tew, said Stern has used technology and a well-organized operation to efficiently process foreclosures. Stern gets a flat fee of about $1,400 a foreclosure, according to Tew, of Tew Cardenas LLP in Miami.

‘His acumen’

“David’s wealth is a reflection of his acumen and the tremendous volume of foreclosures,” Tew said in an interview yesterday. “He had something to do with the acumen part. He had nothing to do with the amount of foreclosures we have.”

Stern’s firm handles thousands of cases a month. It conducted a review of its files and found 21 had “issues with the affidavits,” Stern said in a Sept. 8 conference call to discuss second-quarter results for DJSP Enterprises Inc. DJSP provides non-legal foreclosure services, such as title searches, for his law firm, Law Offices of David J. Stern PA. Both businesses share the same Plantation, Florida, address.

Yushchenko May Have To Answer For Illegal Arms Sales To Georgia

 

Yushchenko May Have To Answer For Illegal Arms Sales To Georgia

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s ex-President Viktor Yushchenko has every chance of becoming a prime suspect in the ongoing criminal probe into illegal arms sales to Georgia.

Viktor Yushchenko
At least that’s the opinion of Valery Konovalyuk, who heads a parliamentary investigation commission looking into the matter.

As to the Prosecutor General’s Office, it denies having any new such cases on its radar.

In 2005 Georgia received six Buk-M1 missile complexes, which the Russian military insists were used to shoot down all the four Russian jets lost during the August 2008 war in South Ossetia.

Basing on the information obtained by his commission, Valery Konovalyuk insists that the sale was illegal, that the Buk missiles were taken off combat duty in Ukraine thus baring the country’s airspace. If this allegation proves to be true, Yushchenko will be in serious trouble.

According to members of the parliamentary commission probing the whole matter, by authorizing the sale of the advanced weapons to Georgia at a fraction of their real cost to boot, ($200 million instead of $2 billion they were really worth) the President did a great deal of harm to national defense.

Many MPs suspect that someone had his palms very well greased in that shady transaction that was personally overseen by the then President.

The commission submitted its report back in 2009 but with the new leadership now in place the MPs hope that the whole thing can finally get some traction.

In Kiev political analyst Vadim Karasev says that there’s been a whole bunch of statements by Viktor Yushchenko and his defense minister Yuri Yekhanurov that Ukrainian arms sales to Georgia, effected until August 2008, were fully in line with the laws of the land and pertinent international agreements.

In any case, chances of Tyshchenko’s case ever reaching the court floor are next to nil, believes another Ukrainian political analyst Vitaly Kulik.

Facts obtained clearly point to the Ukrainian law having been bent, namely where it comes to the Buk missiles that were taken off combat duty and sold to the Georgians.

However, it looks like the only one who is going to suffer is an obscure official who, responding to a verbal order from his superiors, authorized the delivery of the Buk missiles and other weapons to Georgia.

On the other hand, we are talking about the moral and political responsibility of the country’s previous leaders for arming Georgia ahead of the conflict in South Ossetia… Unfortunately, this does not entail any criminal prosecution for either Viktor Yushchenko or any other top official of his government.

The shady arms deals made as part of the Yushchenko-Saakashvili brotherhood cost the Ukrainian state both money and prestige. That’s the opinion of the parliamentary commission and something the ex-president should be held personally accountable for.

Source: The Voice of Russia

Ukranian Oligarch, Organized Crime, Questions for American Politician

Website ignores key facts in bid to tie Lincoln Chafee to organized crime in Ukraine

By C. Eugene Emery Jr.

Then-U.S. Ambassador William Taylor, Akhmetov lawyer Mark MacDougall, Lincoln Chafee and Toby Trister Gati, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, in Ukraine in 2007 / Photo courtesty Mark MacDougall

Given Lincoln Chafee’s record of being willing to buck the system and the Chafee family’s reputation, Rhode Islanders were jarred to hear the independent gubernatorial candidate being accused of consorting with someone who might have ties to organized crime.

But on Oct. 7, GoLocalProv, a five-month-old local news website, published the headline “International Intrigue: Chafee Consults to Controversial Ukrainian Billionaire.” It reported that its investigation had revealed that Chafee earned “as much as $100,000″ from a three-year-old foundation established by “a Ukrainian billionaire with widely reported ties to organized crime.”

The foundation is The Foundation for Effective Governance, established “to facilitate systematic dialogue between experts, government, business, civil society, organizations, and mass media.” Its website says the foundation is the private initiative of Rinat Akhmetov, who established it with a $50 million gift, designed to cover five years.

Akhmetov is the billionaire son of a coal miner whose empire includes steel, iron and coal operations. Forbes.com regularly includes him in its list of the world’s richest people. In the 2010 ranking, he was pegged at number 148, with an estimated net worth of $5.2 billion.

The GoLocalProv story

To back up the suggestion of an organized crime link, GoLocalProv cited — and offered links to — English language versions of two stories, both from 2005, one from Kiev and the other from Russia.

One, at Kommersant.com, reported that Akhmetov had been called in for questioning by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. The ministry did not give a reason. That story quotes Sergey Kornicha, head of the ministry’s Economic Crimes Department as saying, “I am deeply convinced that Akhmetov is the real head of an organized crime group,” a quote repeated by GoLocalProv.

Omitted from the GoLocalProv account is information in the same paragraph reporting that Kornicha’s boss, Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko, had said he personally had not seen any evidence that Akhmetov was implicated in any criminal offenses. The minister had said that Kornicha was promising that he would prove his case or apologize to Akhmetov. Five years later, we could find no evidence that either has occurred.

The second story is on the website of the Kyiv Post, also from July 2005, which offers the even more inflammatory suggestion — but not directly mentioned by GoLocalProv — that Akhmetov was suspected of being involved in the 1988 shooting of Serhiy “Botsman” Chernyshev.

That story also reports that Akhmetov’s Washington law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, was asserting that it had a sworn statement from Botsman insisting that Akhmetov had no involvement in the shooting. The firm also said that Botsman had given the same assurance to prosecutors.

The Kyiv Post story cites political analyst Vadym Karasiov as saying that it is no secret that Ukraine’s elite has, in the past, been closely tied to organized crime groups. It quotes Karasiov as predicting that Akhmetov would likely be arrested in early 2006. We were unable to find any evidence that Akhmetov was ever arrested for anything.

GoLocalProv also said that “Akhmetov was named as a suspect in a murder investigation,” citingan article about former presidential candidate John McCain in The Nation. But that article offers no details and GoLocalProv offers none.

In the Kyiv Post article, Akhmetov’s law firm suggested that the government was pursuing Akhmetov because he had been an active supporter of the previous Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

The 2005 allegations came after Yanukovych was overthrown as part of the so-called “Orange Revolution,” which began in November 2004. When officials tried to question Akhmetov as part of a murder investigation, he was out of the country. When Yanukovych’s party regained power in 2006, Akhmetov returned to Ukraine, according to the article in The Nation, which mentions Akhmetov in passing.

Akhmetov was then elected to the Ukrainian parliament and continues to serve there.

The billionaire, now 44, has not taken crime allegations lightly. In 2008, a London court awarded him $100,000 after he objected to stories in the Ukrainian paper Obozrevatel, according to a report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, at ReportingProject.net. In January 2010, after the French daily newspaper Le Figaro described him as “a bandit in the past,”he got a retraction.

Cianci picks up the story

After GoLocalProv released its story, its media partner, WPRO-630 radio, gave it wider distribution by airing an interview with Taras Kuzio, a visiting fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., and editor of the Ukraine Analyst newsletter.

Kuzio told former Providence mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, now a WPRO talk show host, that Akhmetov hails from Donetsk, a large industrial town in Eastern Ukraine. “Donetsk was basically the wild east in the 1990s and many people who were involved in so-called business were also involved in corruption and organized crime,” Kuzio said.

WPRO’s online summary of Kuzio’s comment says, in part: “Mr. Kuzio described Rinat Akhmetov as Ukraine’s Tony Soprano.” (Kuzio, in the interview, referred to the fictional crime boss twice.)

Kuzio, a critic of the current Ukrainian leadership, which Akhmetov supports, said in a telephone interview with PolitiFact Rhode Island that there is no solid proof that Akhmetov is a mobster. He claimed that there’s no proof because the Ukrainian system is so corrupt and all the witnesses are dead.

He said the rich businessmen in the country are either former bureaucrats who used their connections or former mobsters who used muscle. Akhmetov wasn’t a bureaucrat, so people assume he became wealthy because he was involved in organized crime.

But that doesn’t make it true.

Another view from Ukraine

For another perspective, we called Brian Mefford, who spent 10 years in Ukraine working for a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development, and is now a political consultant there.

He said the probes of Akhmetov never went anywhere.

In a telephone interview, he agreed that in the 1990s “all the former Soviet Union was sort of the Wild East. A lot of fortunes were made overnight and (Akhmetov) was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on that.”

Mefford said the laws in Ukraine “are archaic and they create a system where everyone is in violation of the law, so you could find something bad to say about every single businessman in the country because the laws don’t create an environment where you can operate in an openly Western manner. So I think everybody has questions about where people in this country make money.”

“There’s a saying in the Ukraine for these situations,” he said, referring to the millionaires of the region. “Nobody knows how they got the first million. But the second million they can explain. How did Akhmetov get his first million? Nobody knows. But I don’t think anybody knows for any businessman here in this country. But his business now is operating above board. It’s a well-known, respected business employing thousands of people across the country.”

So while some people may suspect Akhmetov of being involved in organized crime, there is no evidence to back that up.

Chafee’s involvement

Chafee, who says he wants to fight corruption and refuses to go on WPRO during the time slot occupied by Cianci because of Cianci’s felony convictions and behavior while mayor, went onWPRO’s John DePetro program to explain that he was invited to join the foundation in 2007. At the time, he was working for The Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

“I received a phone call from a Washington law firm and they were recruiting individuals to advise the Ukraine on their emerging economy from the Soviet era,” he said.

Chafee said he asked questions about the job but was reassured by the fact that the board included other distinguished people, including Kim Campbell, Canada’s first female prime minister;Frances Cairncross, rector of Oxford University’s Exeter College and a Brown University graduate; and Gyorgy Suranyi, a former president of the National Bank of Hungary.

“These are all very, very distinguished individuals,” Chafee said.

Mark MacDougall is the lawyer who contacted Chafee. He said the former Senator had lots of questions and went to Ukraine before agreeing to serve on the Foundation’s board. “He asked me about Mr. Akhmetov and where his money came from,” said MacDougall. But his chief concerns were about the foundation. “He wanted to make sure his good name wasn’t being misused.”

“Ukraine is thought to be an ongoing laboratory in how democratic institutions develop and I think [Chafee] was very attracted to that,” said MacDougall. “He was never hired as a consultant.”

Chafee, in an interview with PolitiFact Rhode Island, recalled MacDougall saying that Akhmetov had a reputation in Ukraine. “He pretty much shared all the rumors with me. But he said they’re unsubstantiated, and you can take them as you wish.”

Chafee said he can understand the rumors. People ask, “‘How did it happen so fast, from state-owned businesses going into privately owned? How did that happen?’ Those were the questions I had,” he told DePetro.

For as much as $100,000 a year, “We travel throughout the Ukraine to learn about the economy and give our best advice we can,” Chafee told DePetro. He acknowledged that it’s a lucrative position and said he could understand why people are suspicious of Akhmetov because he controlled major industries once owned by the state.

Chafee also told WPRO that he met Akhmetov “very briefly” on one occasion. When we interviewed Chafee, he said he met Akhmetov twice. The first time was when “We just said ‘Hi’” and the second was in the past year when Akhmetov hosted an informal luncheon for the foundation’s board and they discussed issues involving Ukraine.

Chafee said he has never seen any evidence of impropriety at the foundation and would have resigned if he did. “We’re not taking political sides or giving any kind of varnished advice, and I would not participate if I wasn’t comfortable with any kind of contribution I was making.”

Akhmetov checks his own background

In 2005, Akhmetov, sensitive to the allegations of criminal activity swirling around him and eager to do business in other countries, hired Kroll Associates, an investigations firm in London, to look into the billionaire’s background.

The probe — for which Kroll insisted on being paid in advance to avoid pressure to reach a specific conclusion — took about six months and included interviews with scores of government officials, police contacts and Akhmetov associates, along with records kept by the former Soviet Union to make sure the Ukrainian records hadn’t been altered, according to Omer Erginsoy, a senior managing director who led the investigation.

The resulting report is shown to companies seeking to do business with Akhmetov’s or one of his companies.

“We couldn’t find any basis for supporting the [criminal] allegations,” Erginsoy told us. They all seemed to be cases of “kompromat,” a Russian word for an attempt to compromise a political or business rival, he said. “You try to discredit the guy by coming up with some supposed fact, you can embellish on and place it in the public domain of the media. It goes viral and it gets quoted, and it’s even easier now, with the Internet.”

Such allegations can gain traction because doing business in Ukraine could be rough in the 1980s and ’90s. There were, for example, murders involving rival regional clans of traders who competed to supply goods to various businesses as the old Soviet system dissolved. “It became inevitable that these successful guys, each and every one of them, were variously accused of having ties to criminal organization in the period,” Erginsoy said.

Akhmetov was a trader, but he didn’t remain one, said Erginsoy. “Rather than just supplying goods to these industrial companies that were really faltering, he decided to buy these debt-ridden companies from the state and turned them around. He was one of a handful of guys who had a vision of getting out of the informal economy and owning these assets, developing a real asset base and turning it into a proper company.”

MacDougall said Chafee was shown a copy of the 49-page report, but Chafee said he doesn’t remember seeing it.

(MacDougall’s firm allowed us to read the report. But they would not allow us to copy it. Because we can’t share it with our readers, we are not quoting from it here.)

Ambassador urged Chafee’s involvement

Some may be suspicious of a report about yourself that you pay for, even if you pay for it in advance from a respected investigations firm.

So we spoke with William B. Taylor Jr., U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.

Taylor was at the initial meeting in Ukraine where Chafee was deciding whether to join the foundation.

“Everybody in Ukraine has a history, but we know more about some than others,” said Taylor, now a vice president at the United Institute of Peace in Washington.

“There have been a lot of rumors and unsubstantiated claims about (Akhmetov’s) background. But the embassy has done some checking and other United States government agencies back in Washington have done some checking,” he said. “While there are a lot of press stories, we had nothing to indicate that it would be a problem for people to be dealing with Mr. Akhmetov. Not just Senator Chafee, but others as well.”

Taylor said he met with Akhmetov many times and “he saw that if the country was going in a direction of more openness and transparency in business dealings, it would be better for individual companies like his.”

Taylor said he advised Chafee and others about becoming involved in the foundation.

“I told them this foundation [Akhmetov] was putting together, near as we could tell, would mean good things for the country,” said Taylor. With “the benefit of advice and guidance from internationally known and respected people like Senator Chafee and others, they could do some good things for the country.”

Extraordinary claim, inferior evidence

We contacted the cofounder of GoLocalProv, Josh Fenton, to inquire about the story. He asked us to email our questions. We did. That was Wednesday afternoon. Neither he nor his staff has given us any answers.

We decided not to apply the Truth-O-Meter to this story because while the careful wording of the GoLocalProv headline may be technically accurate, it became clear to us when we probed deeper that key elements of the story are false or unproven.

GoLocalProv offered no evidence that Chafee is paid to directly consult with Akhmetov. He is paid to advise a foundation created by Akhmetov to improve conditions in Ukraine.

As for Akhmetov’s “widely reported ties to organized crime,” we’re reminded of the fact that it can be very difficult to prove a negative. After all, how would you prove to someone that you’re not involved with organized crime?

In the end, we’ve seen no convincing evidence of such a link. As far as we could tell, Rinat Akhmetov has never been indicted or convicted of any crime. We couldn’t find any reference of even a minor arrest.

All we found were suspicions, suggestions, innuendo, and conspiracy theories circulating in the rough-and-tumble world of an emerging Ukrainian democracy.

In the end, what the GoLocalProv story is stating is that Chafee is involved with a mobster.

That’s an extraordinary claim, given Chafee’s reputation.

Astronomer Carl Sagan used to say that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

In this case, the evidence doesn’t even rise to the level of the ordinary.

Turkey moves to deepen China ties

[Should we see the Turkish and US missions as competition, or as the old "one-two-punch"?  SEE: Clinton heads to Asia to assure China's neighbors]

Turkey moves to deepen China ties

FULYA ÖZERKAN 

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will set out for China late Wednesday. AP photo
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will set out for China late Wednesday. AP photo

With China rising as a world power, Turkey has intensified its efforts to increase dialogue, sending its foreign minister to the Asian nation for a weeklong trip just three weeks after receiving the Chinese prime minister.

Experts say, however, that it will not be easy to establish an equal relationship with Beijing.

“The increase in trade with China is creating a situation [weighted] against Turkey,” Selçuk Çolakoğlu of the Ankara-based think tank USAK, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “Economic targets set by the two countries are not overlapping.”

The trade balance between Turkey and China is heavily in the latter’s favor. Turkish exports to China surpassed $1.45 billion in the first eight months of 2010, compared to imports of $10.67 billion. Statistics show that 65 percent of Turkey’s $28.5 billion total foreign trade deficit from January to June was due to imports from Russia, China and the United States.

Turkey imports natural gas from Russia and technological products from the United States, while the trade deficit with China largely comes from consumer goods.

Though Turkey officially recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1971, the country has not been prominent in Ankara’s strategic vision. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s departure for China late Wednesday indicates that is changing. Turkish businessmen expressed high hopes about the new engagement, saying high-level interaction in the political realm will encourage mutual investment.

“We were continually in the position of being the importing country. Exports were long neglected. Now there’s an awakening,” said Derya Aydıner, head of the Turkish-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. “We are moving from one-sided interaction toward mutual trade with China.”

Both economic and political relationships between the two countries remained weak until the 1990s, when China stepped onto the world stage after its reform and opening-up drive in 1978, becoming a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001. Turkey and China have set a timetable to increase their trade volume to $50 billion by 2015 and to $100 billion by 2020, boldly vowing to trade in their national currencies.

A strategic partnership?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said earlier this month that Turkey and China had agreed to boost their relationship to the level of strategic cooperation, something he hailed as an important sign following the institution of similar policies with Russia and Iran.

Though Western-oriented opinion makers have recently criticized Ankara for moving away from Europe and forging close links with countries in the Middle East, especially Iran, analysts say the warming of Turkish-Chinese relations will not fuel such debates. Instead, they say, the growing ties should be seen as an effort to fill a significant gap in Turkish foreign policy.

President Abdullah Gül visited China in 2009 and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao became the first Chinese premier in eight years to visit Turkey when he traveled to Ankara early this month. Turkey and China have signed eight separate agreements to deepen their ties on issues ranging from energy and transportation to telecommunications and culture. The relationship has also grown in the military sphere, with NATO-member Turkey inviting China to join an Anatolian Eagle military exercise.

Not all analysts think the relationship will continue to progress smoothly, though.

“All this should not be interpreted as Turkish-Chinese relations turning into a strategic partnership. This is not the case at all. Whatever Turkey and China do to improve their relationship, they will remain rivals,” said Sinan Oğan, the chairman of the Ankara-based think tank TÜRKSAM. “In 15 to 20 years time, Turkey will become part of a natural alliance made up of the United States, Russia and Japan against China. The Turkish position will not be for, but against China.”

Energy could be a key part of the two countries’ future relations, but with both dependent on oil and gas, and competing for Caspian-based resources, cooperation will not be easy to come by. Experts say renewable energy and nuclear energy could be more promising.

Uighur Turks a source of concern

Connections between Turkey and Uighur Turks in China continue to be a potential source of problems in Turkish-Chinese relations.

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, shares linguistic and religious links with the Uighurs in China’s western-most region, known in Turkish as Doğu Türkistan (East Turkistan). There are several associations belonging to Uighur Turks in Turkey.

Ankara was only able to normalize its relationship with Beijing after it made some restrictions on activities of Uighur Turks in Turkey, who protested Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s trip to Ankara early this month. Members of the East Turkistan Culture and Solidarity Association chanted slogans and unfurled banners in front of the hotel where Wen was staying. One of the protesters attempted to throw a shoe at the Chinese leader but failed to connect with his target.

The relationship with China was strained by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s describing the 2009 ethnic violence in China’s Xinjiang region as “a kind of genocide” and granting a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled Uighur based in the United States who China has blamed for the ethnic unrest that killed some 184 people.

FM Davutoğlu’s schedule

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will set out for China late Wednesday, after attending the National Security Council meeting in Ankara. He will first visit Kashgar, an oasis city in the western part of the Xinjiang region, and then travel to Urumqui, the capital of Xinjiang, on Thursday. Davutoğlu will fly to Shanghai on Saturday and visit the Turkish pavilion at the EXPO fair. On Monday, he will travel to the capital, Beijing, to participate in official meetings and lecture on Turkish-Chinese relations at the Beijing International Studies Institute.

The Systematic Attack Upon Islam in Tajikistan

[Tajikistan's anti-Islam purge stinks of Stalin and his program for the elimination of Christian churches (SEE: USSR anti-religious campaign (1928–1941) "In the period between 1927 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 29,584 to less than 500.").]

Islamic Party Cries Foul As Tajikistan’s ‘Women’s Mosque’ Burns

Tajik officials say the Islamic Renaissance Party had been warned many times about holding prayers and selling religious materials at its headquarters. Tajik officials say the Islamic Renaissance Party had been warned many times about holding prayers and selling religious materials at its headquarters.

October 25, 2010
By RFE/RL
Tajikistan’s Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) says a fire that destroyed the party’s cultural center in Dushanbe — widely known as the “women’s mosque” — was not an accident.

The building, adjacent to the party’s headquarters and its main prayer hall, was almost completely destroyed by fire on the afternoon of October 23.

The religious center functioned as the only mosque in Tajikistan that allowed women to pray alongside men.

Mahmadali Hayit, a deputy head of the IRP, suggested the building was set ablaze deliberately. “I think it was arson and it was done with some type of fuel,” he said. “The fire started from the back of the building, which does not have any electrical line.”

Authorities in Dushanbe say the incident is under investigation and that “nothing is clear at this point.” Interior Minister Abdurahim Qahhorov visited the site to talk to party leaders and assess the situation.

Religion And Politics

IRP leaders say the incident took place a day after officials from the country’s Religious Affairs Committee visited the center to tell the party to stop using the building for prayers.

The IRP’s Mahmadali Hayit believes the fire was no accident.

“I see a direct connection between the delegation’s visit and this fire,” Hayit was quoted by the IRP’s website as saying.

Earlier in the week, the party headquarters was raided by law enforcement agencies. They disrupted prayers and “also took away some disks and literature on display there for sale,” Hayit said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mahmadullo Asadulloev said the IRP had repeatedly been told not to use its headquarters for prayers and for selling religious compact disks.

“Such raids were taking place for years. But now they are reinforced,” Asadulloev said. “Tapes and disks that are being sold there illegally should be confiscated.”

Closure Order

The mosque is at the center of a long-running dispute between Tajik officials and the IRP, the only officially registered Islamic party in Central Asia.

The state Committee for Religious Affairs insists the building is not officially registered as a prayer house and that political parties should not have mosques.

Party officials have in the past said the government was seeking to close down the mosque to prevent any future growth in the party’s influence.

Hayit said the party previously had been warned by the Religious Committee that the mosque would be closed by October 13. However, according to Hayit, the party was hoping “the issue will be resolved peacefully.”

According to party officials, between 2,500 and 3,000 people attend Friday Prayers at the party headquarters’ mosque.

Women attend Friday Prayers at Islamic Renaissance Party headquaters in Dushanbe.

At least 100 women took part in Friday Prayers in the adjacent prayer room, which is separated by a partition from the main hall where the men pray. The IRP, however, calls it a women’s religious cultural center.

Traditional Islam

Tajik religious authorities banned women from attending mosque prayers in 2004. No official reason was given, but pro-government clerics had argued that the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam — followed by a majority of Tajiks — does not require women to attend mosque prayers.

But the decision sparked some protests by women and religious leaders, who criticized it as a violation of women’s rights.

Women and girls in Tajikistan do not traditionally attend mosque prayers.

In certain places, most notably in the Muhammadiya Mosque in the Vahdat district outside Dushanbe, and in a mosque run by prominent Mullah Hoji Mirzo in the southern city of Kulob, some women used to participate in Friday Prayers.

However, in recent years the authorities have ordered both mosques to stop holding women’s prayers.

written by Farangis Najibullah with contribution from RFE/RL’s Tajik Service

Pak Army Closes Afghan Border Boxing-In Shia of Parachinar

Pak Army blockades fiercely anti-Taliban tribe near Afghan border

Kurram, Oct 27 (ANI): Pakistan’s military has blockaded a strategically important district in the country’s north, sealing in a fiercely anti-Taliban tribe.
The Turi community is a bitter enemy of the Taliban, and has been keeping them out of Kurram tribal district, near the Afghan border, the BBC reported.

After Colonel Tausif Akhtar of the Pakistani security forces announced the move on Monday evening at a news conference in Parachinar, the main town in Kurram, five border crossing points- Terimangal, Spina Shaga, Khairlachi, Burki and Shahidano Dand- have been shut, with security beefed up.

“We have done this due to internal security concerns, because there have been sectarian clashes in Kurram and we do not want miscreants from outside to exploit the situation,” said Akhtar.

The blockade comes amid reports that the Turis have once again refused to allow the militants to enter Afghanistan via Kurram.

However, many in Kurram suspect that the government is pressurising the Turis to meet Taliban demands to cross their land, as the blockade means that the Turis are hemmed in by the military on one side and by the Taliban on the other.

After the Taliban blockaded the east of Kurram, effectively cutting off the area from the rest of Pakistan, the tribe had been forced to rely on trade with Afghan towns and villages over the border.

But the government decision to block this route, too, now places the Turis under an economic stranglehold, said the BBC.

Last week, Haqqani network members had held talks with Turi leaders in Islamabad in a bid to strike a deal on gaining access to Kurram, it added.

Though the Taliban allegedly offered safe passage for Turis travelling overland from Kurram to Peshawar in return, they reportedly rejected the Taliban approach- for at least the fourth time since 2008.

While the Turis, who follow the Shia branch of Islam, have traditionally abhorred the Taliban, who adhere to a hardline Sunni form of the faith, many Taliban consider Shias to be non-Muslims. (ANI)

Russian Troops May Train Afghans Outside Afghanistan

Russian troops may train Afghans

London, Oct 27 – Twenty years after the Soviet army quit Afghanistan, the Russian military may resume training Afghans, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

But NATO officials said the plan did not envisage having Russian troops in Afghanistan.

The Red Army was forced out by US-backed mujahideen in 1989 after fighting the guerrillas for about a decade.

The Guardian said the proposed plans precede an alliance summit next month to be attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Several joint NATO-Russian initiatives on Afghanistan were on the cards including the use of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, possible Russian training of Afghan national security forces and increased cooperation on counter-narcotics and border security, officials said.

But the officials said there was no question of Russian troops coming back to Afghanistan.

‘There are no plans to reintroduce Russian soldiers into Afghanistan – (it’s) not part of Russia’s intent, not Afghan, and not ours. Russians may get involved in training helicopter pilots if they provide some helicopters, but not in Afghanistan itself,’ a NATO spokesman said.

‘In the past, Russians have collaborated on training counter-narcotics police outside of country. None of the initiatives on the table involve Russian troops in Afghanistan.’

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was quoted as saying: ‘Russia is strongly interested in increased cooperation… Last December, when I visited Moscow, I suggested that Russia provide helicopters for the Afghan army.

‘Since then Russia has reflected on that and there are now bilateral talks between Russia and the US. I would not exclude that we will facilitate that process within the NATO-Russia council.’

Officials feel that Russian-made helicopters were more suited to Afghan conditions than their Western equivalents.

A diplomat pointed out that the Hamid Karzai government’s attitude would be key to the Russian plan to get involved in training Afghan army recruits.

IANS

NATO planning vastly stepped up Russian involvement in Afghanistan

NATO planning vastly stepped up Russian involvement in Afghanistan

From ANI

London, Oct 27(ANI): The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is reportedly in the final stages of negotiations with Russia for a joint initiative in Afghanistan.

According to the Telegraph, a formal agreement may be reached at NATO’s two-day summit, which will be attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in Lisbon from November 19.

“The summit can mark a new start in the relationship between NATO and Russia,” the newspaper quoted Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary-General, as saying.

“We will hopefully agree on a broad range of areas in which we can develop practical co-operation on Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics,” he added.

According to reports, the deals would include supply of Russian helicopters and Russian crews to train Afghan pilots.

Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov hopes that Western peacemaking troops will not withdraw before they have fulfilled their mission in the region.

“We are watching things in Afghanistan very closely and we are exchanging our experience with the Americans. Russia is ready to pass on to America the experience gained by our veterans of the war in Afghanistan,” the Independent quoted Serdyukov, as saying.

“Withdrawal of the [Western] troops would naturally affect the situation in central Asia, we currently cannot even imagine how. For this reason we want to help the West, among other things with helicopters, whose delivery we are now discussing,” he added.

Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com

Ukrainians have their own heroes and vision of history

Stop hanging over us!

Ukrainians have their own heroes and vision of history

By Ivan KAPSAMUN, The Day
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day
THE ECHO OF THE TOTALITARIAN EPOCH

Last days saw, so to speak, a “sign of de-Stalinization.” What prompted some writers to focus on this was an important event in Russia’s public life — a statement by Mikhail Fedotov, the newly-appointed head of the Human Rights Council under the president of Russia, which was in many ways groundbreaking. He said that it is necessary to “de-Stalinize the social mentality of Russia’s citizens.” Ukrainians are especially interested in Russia finally opting for a democratic system. It is clear that Stalinism today is, above all, an imperial mentality that endures and rejects the Ukrainian identity, recognizing the Holodomor as genocide, and the right of Ukrainians to have their own heroes. It is a reason to impose on us their ideology in the form of the so-called common history manual.

We have already written about the Big Politics program on the Inter TV channel, which triggered a hot-heated debate. There was a particularly interesting moment in it: Sergei Uvarov, a Moscow guest and, presumably, a Ukraine expert, was outraged that his speech drew no applause. He exhibited an emotional reaction and began to suspect that he had spoken to a handpicked audience.

A young man from the audience raised his hand and replied with outstanding personal dignity. It took us quite an effort to track him down: he is a Kyivan student, Nazar Lytvyn. This program featured the very rational political scientist Vadym Karasiov, whom The Dayhas already interviewed, and the historian Vladyslav HRYNEVYCH, who agreed to answer The Day’s questions about the show, de-Stalinization and other topics.

THE UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENTSIA MAY ONLY SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT IF IT REVERSES ITS MEMORY POLICY

VLADYSLAV HRYNEVYCH

Mr. Hrynevych, why do you think there is so much trickery in today’s Ukraine in regards to the topic of de-Stalinization?

“As a matter of fact, we have not heard the term ‘de-Stalinization’ since the new team came to power. Moreover, the leadership is always trying to adjust to Russia — to its canons and approaches to historical research. It is afraid of offending Russia and, in general, of saying a ‘wry’ word. Actually, speaking of de-Stalinization, we must note that this process began in full after the Orange Revolution. It is during this period that we began to depart from Soviet history and tried to create or recreate our own democratic canons, which can help us assume our own identity.

“When Putin came to power in Russia, de-Stalinization, which had begun in that country in the Yeltsin era, essentially slowed down. This signaled an overall rollback, i.e., a return to Stalinist values, because Stalin is a crucial element for Russian empire. This helps Russian leadership to attempt to recreate a powerful super-empire, for imperial values are very important for Russian mentality: everybody was afraid of us, we ruled the world, the Kremlin used to pick up a phone and tell half of Europe, Asia and Africa what to do. This really moves the Russian heart. In this case, Stalin, with all his crimes and atrocities, was the one who forced the entire world to fear and reckon with Russia. And, what is more, he is associated with winning the World War II. What he had done before is receding to the background. For modern-day Russian identity, the victory in World War II is the most significant event, which made Russia a superpower. In this sense, Stalin cannot be thrown away because we say ‘Stalin’ and mean ‘victory,’ we say ‘victory’ and mean Stalin. If you delete Stalin from this word combination, that victory will be empty. Therefore, Stalin is a butcher and a murderer on the one hand, and a great victor on the other.

“Russian school manuals published in the past five years, after Putin ordered the ‘right’ textbooks to be written (moreover, he promised to bring to justice the publishers who would produce the ‘wrong’ books), have seen a U-turn from de-Stalinization. For example, the manual by Danilov and Filippov ends in 1945. It does not explain what totalitarianism is because the authors consider it a bad word and suggest using the word ‘modernization.’ In other words, Stalinism is regarded as a period of modernization that turned a peasant Russia into a rocket-launching one. Stalin is treated as a great manager who succeeded in carrying out this modernization. The manual’s authors mainly emphasize industrialization, devoting 80 positive pages to it, while the Holodomor, owing to which the industrialization was in fact possible, takes up but one passage.

“I am not inclined to exaggerate the role of the Orange period, but, against the backdrop of economic failures, negative effects on public wellbeing, and political chaos, Yushchenko’s national memory policy, criticized, incidentally, by many historians, was about de-Stalinization. I just wonder why these historians are silent now. How are they going to criticize this policy now? As you know, there was so much mocking of Lviv’s Lontsky Prison and Bykivnia in Kyiv. The right approach was to get rid of our Soviet legacy. Even the Occupation Museum, which many people also ridiculed for lack of wisdom, was a rational project that fit in with the de-Stalinization concept.”

What is your attitude to the Russian politician Sergei Markov’s idea to write a common manual on Russian and Ukrainian history? Is this possible at all?

“Whenever we raise this question, I have another one to ask: why do the Russian, or our leaders, need this? It is very simple. The Russians are very well aware that it will be difficult to restore their empire without Ukraine. As a matter of fact, when they say we should write a common manual, it is, above all, an attempt to use identity as a means of caging Ukrainians, especially those who still find it difficult to find their identity. The Russians know only too well that ours is a split country and, hence, they take advantage of this, manipulating the awareness of the people. If you deprive people of their language, history, and identity — they will think it is normal. The Russian imperial project is in fact aimed at tying Ukraine up — intellectually, morally, and in terms of identity — to Russia as tightly as possible, and uses history as an argument.

“The European democratic rhetoric, which both Markov and Kolesnichenko resorted to, hides Russian imperial intentions. When somebody always urges us to be more democratic and tolerant, and to embrace European values, this means they are pulling wool over our eyes. Because their media is frank about the fact that [Russia] will not manage to restore an empire of sorts without Ukraine. Who guarded the Chinese border in the Soviet era? The Ukrainians. They are not there now. In other words, there is no, pardon the expression, ‘cannon fodder’ to do the dirty work.”

What about Fedotov’s statement about Russia’s intention to carry out de-Stalinization?

“Russia is as eager as Ukraine to integrate into the European space. They are motivated by a host of economic problems. So it is extremely important for Russia to have the image of a civilized country, and Stalinism is quite an uncivilized thing. This is why both Putin and Medvedev have been dissociating themselves from and condemning Stalinism in the past few years. The real situation is that, on the one hand, Stalinist methods and crimes are being condemned and, on the other, Stalin is being glorified. Frankly speaking, I would be very glad if Russia embarked on a democratic path and condemned Stalinism, among other things. The point is that deeds not always follow words. I have already mentioned Danilov’s and Filippov’s textbook. It is about not only history but also about political spin. It is teachers, rather than pupils, who must study this manual to know how to teach history. Incidentally, this book came under scathing criticism in the West for being biased.

“Besides, the State Duma of Russia passed two resolutions on the ‘right’ interpretation of Ukraine’s past. Then they set up the so-called Medvedev Commission that deals with countering the falsification of history. The Russian authorities are actively supporting this: a number of projects have been launched to study history textbooks in neighboring countries. We know there have already been some conflicts, as with the relocation of [Red Army soldiers] monuments in Tallinn and Kutaisi. Another resolution is aimed at countering the rehabilitation of Nazi war criminals and their henchmen in the former Soviet republics. Passed on the eve of Victory Day, this law prescribes punishment for attempts to revise the assessment of World War II. This virtually Stalinist document is a manifesto of sorts by which Moscow is asserting its rights and laying claim to ideological control in the post-Soviet space, first of all, in its European part. Russia is just making it clear that it will not tolerate any pluralism of views on the history of World War II. Incidentally, the institutions that promote writing a ‘true’ history of Russia are far from always considered academic.

“Therefore, de-Stalinization in Russia is a desired, rather than an actual, thing. In other words, Russia’s national memory policy is very far from its leader’s recent declarations. We will see whether Russia’s declarations on de-Stalinization will be backed up by actions or whether they are just meant to woo the West. In reality, the latest Western research shows there is no de-Stalinization going on. Russia is not waging a large-scale campaign to condemn Stalinism. All this sank into oblivion after Yeltsin because the authoritarian regime does not want any parallels to be drawn with the Stalinist regime.”

Perhaps, at least in words only, Russia is trying to snatch the de-Stalinization initiative from Ukraine?

“While in the Yushchenko era it was possible to analyze something because many institutions dealt with this issue, now we simply do not have any national memory policy. There is the Institute of National Remembrance, which has done very much in pursuing the national memory policy. We can clearly see this only now that de-Stalinization is being folded up, especially when this institute is now headed by the communist Soldatenko who is guided by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, and is mulling over the publication of a book of documents on UPA atrocities. Pursuing this policy, the institute only discredits the authorities, particularly Yanukovych, instead of doing any good. I do not think it will hold out for a long time, if it continues moving in this direction. So, taking into account that fact that the government is not pursuing any national memory policy, we cannot say that Russia can overtake us. Not only are doing nothing: on the contrary, we are ruining what was done during the presidency of Yushchenko.

“The new leadership has completely lost the support of Ukrainian intellectuals who do not wish, on their part, to cooperate with the authorities. And the people who hang around Yanukovych only pretend to be intellectuals. In this case, the leadership has found itself in a blind alley by its own effort. So they ought to think of how long they will manage to stay in power without relying on the potential of Ukrainian intellectuals. The Ukrainian intelligentsia will only offer its support if the leadership reverses its current national memory policy. It is not a question of political preferences. The leadership simply does not know how to cope with what they can possess at last when nobody gives them a helping hand. Therefore, the point is not that Russia has overtaken them — the point is that they still fail to understand that de-Stalinization is a needed and civilized thing to do.”

What do you think causes the leadership to be unaware of the necessity to carry out this process?

“The cause is absolutely clear. Ukraine is a country that has a lot of identities, of which we can single out two and call them, for convenience, pro-Ukrainian and pro-Soviet. The latter is largely based on Russian patriotism. This means preference for the Russian language and culture as well as nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Yushchenko brought in an elite that endorsed the idea of pro-Ukrainian identity and considered it necessary to Ukrainize this country’s identity for the sake of development. But the current ruling elite, mostly hailing from Donetsk, was born and raised in a region, where all things Ukrainian were weak and all things Russian and Soviet were blurred. The Ukrainian language, culture, and identity are of no value for them. They thought that once they had come to power and imposed their will, all the rest would become resigned to their fate. This leadership does not understand that no social, mental, and intellectual questions can be answered by injunctions. This cannot be done by force. Stalin was once bent on physically destroying the Ukrainian elite. This is now, naturally, impossible. After all, what did Stalin manage to do? As soon as the regime foundered in the late 1980s, the Ukrainian identity immediately came to the fore.

“Power is now wielded by people whom I cannot possibly call an elite. They do not know at all whether they are Ukrainian or Russian. I once read that when non-ethnic Ukrainians were appointed to top offices in the Soviet era, they would become Ukrainian patriots within a year or two. Somebody even complained to Moscow that the rotation of cadres was too slow and people here became Ukrainian patriots too fast. In this case the Donetsk clan found itself in a similar situation. These people came to Kyiv, where they felt a certain influence and resistance, because neither Kyiv nor Lviv support them. For example, they can politically cancel an election or do something else, but this will not produce a result. Unfortunately, the Donetsk clan continues to discredit itself when it allows its inner circle to stage all kinds of provocations. Among them are Tabachnyk and Soldatenko, who are acting against, rather than for, their leaders. But even they will be unable to de-Ukrainize Ukraine.

“For this reason, the Donetsk clan will have to adapt and become Ukrainized. There is no other way out. Either they will adjust to Ukrainian rules or go nowhere. They will not draw up their own rules. Even Prof. Tolochko, who opines that Ukrainians created the Russian Empire and that it is our common heritage, will not help here, let alone Tabachnyk with his still crazier ideas. The Russian and Soviet empires are not our common heritage. The proof of this is the Holodomor, the OUN-UPA, and Chornobyl. Our historical memory is entirely different, so we will never adapt to the Russian mentality. I think the current leadership will gradually understand this and will, sooner or later, try to get rid of their most odious members — in other words, they will opt for a compromise. This is meant to attract the Ukrainian elite to ruling the state.”

There was a very interesting moment at the Inter TV channel’s latest program Big Politics, when a student from the audience raised his hand and spoke to the Russian guest Sergei Markov, responding to his passionate speech: “If we had a normal security service, you would be in no laughing mood.” Would you comment on this? What does this mean?

“Apart from being an academic historian, I am also a professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. This means I mingle with young people who study impartial history. A Norwegian acquaintance of mine surveyed the state of languages in Ukraine and found that Russian-speaking young people in Kharkiv believe that Ukrainian should be the official language. Kyiv-Mohyla Academy is one of the few institutions in Ukraine where Ukrainian is spoken everywhere. I think that people, who have gone to Ukrainian schools and studied Ukrainian textbooks deprived of imperial and totalitarian bombast are the foundation of Ukrainian patriotism.

“During the abovementioned talk show, young people never applauded Markov, which means they took a dim view of the idea of a common textbook. And Ganapolsky was certainly wrong to give this student a talking-to for being ‘undemocratic.’ Can you imagine that our compatriot comes to France or Germany and begins to say in a TV program what Markov said in Ukraine: ‘your textbooks are not your business and if you are undemocratic and dim-witted, we will tell you what to write?’ This is a national insult. The student spoke from the bottom of his heart. And he was right because he meant: ‘If you have come to a foreign country and want to foist your approaches on us, where is our security service, which is supposed to protect us from you?’”

***

The Day got in touch with the person who responded to Markov’s “progressive” statements. He is Nazar Lytvyn, a 5th year (master’s degree) student, majoring in finance, at Kyiv National Vadym Hetman Economic University.

“WE MUST CORRECTLY ASSESS STALINISM AND CLEAR OUR CONSCIENCE OF THE SOVIET PAST”

NAZAR LYTVYN

Nazar, you could have remained silent during Markov’s speech. Why did you choose to speak?

“Firstly, I am very grateful to you for an opportunity to express my opinion. That moment on the talk show, I had prepared no special questions. I was just listening to the debate. I will tell you straightaway that Mr. Markov’s words revolted me. I could not help responding, for I was not indifferent to what he said. In general, I think any patriotically-minded person would have done the same in my place. He, a Russian State Duma member, came to us — to a Ukrainian TV channel — first of all, as a guest, so he should not have taken the liberty to lecture us on how to write Ukrainian history textbooks and, in general, to express contemptuous ideas about our history and heroes. I think the SBU should deal with this kind of people. I am not going to assess the performance of this organization under the previous president, but they really dealt with such people as Zatulin and Luzhkov, who also allowed themselves, whenever they visited Ukraine, to express doubts about Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.”

There have been instances in Europe, when the French and the Germans wrote common history manuals. What do you think should occur in Ukraine-Russia relations to enable the two countries to write common textbooks? It is possible now, or ever?

“I do not think it is possible today. And, in general, I do not understand how we can write about a common history if we are different countries and have different histories. Naturally, there can be some common positive moments for both countries, but Russia is a conqueror, while Ukraine is a country that has always been fighting for its independence, mainly against Russia. In other words, we have a history of liberation. So there is very little in common between the two countries. And if we recall the Russian leadership’s comment about how collapse of the USSR is the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century — and we know that this ‘catastrophe’ resulted in Ukraine’s independence, what common history can we talk about? Yes, Ukraine and Russia are close in many respects, we are neighbors and, in all probability, a common textbook will be possible in the future. But, for this to happen, each side should admit its own faults and failures. History consists of black and white streaks, so one should not say that Russia has always been good for us. This is wrong. Moreover, our people do not think so. We have heroes of our own that Russia must recognize if it wants common textbooks to be written.”

Why do you think Russia has recognized the Polish tragedy in Katyn but does not want to recognize the Ukrainian Holodomor tragedy?

“Yes, Poland was at times part of the Russian imperial or Soviet sphere of influence, but Ukraine was much closer. Even Russians themselves are saying that it is impossible to reestablish a Russian empire without Ukraine. Taking into account that in the early 2000s Russia embarked on the path of the restoration of what I may call a once powerful empire, Ukraine has become the main object of pressure on the part of Russia. Moreover, they need our human and economic resources. The Polish situation is different: new world realities and, hence, new geopolitics. But the main thing is that the Poles are more unanimous in defending their interests. Poland has always been taking the same view on the Katyn tragedy, no matter who was in power. This has never been the case in Ukraine because some Ukrainian politicians do not consider the Holodomor as genocide. Russia will not recognize the Holodomor as long as there is no unity on this question in Ukrainian society and, what is more, among politicians. Only united can we resist Russian pressure.”

What do you think causes de-Stalinization to slow down in today’s Ukraine?

“I represent the younger generation that was shaped in independent Ukraine, although I was born in the USSR. My views were formed in independent Ukraine. It is perhaps the patriotic upbringing by my parents that allows me to say that de-Stalinization must be carried out to the end. Stalin was one of the greatest butchers of the Ukrainian people, so I don’t think de-Stalinization is bad. We must properly assess that period and clear our conscience of the vestiges of the Soviet past.

Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day
BYKIVNIA

“You know, whenever officials and the opposition attend such TV programs as Big Politics, they try to tell the public that economic matters and people’s wellbeing is the thing to focus on. I do not think so because what is the most important is our language and history, i.e., social issues, as well as whether people abide by democratic procedures, laws, and the Constitution. I think politicians wangle public opinion when they say that earning money and, pardon, eating is the main thing. Politicians believe that ordinary people are disillusioned with politics. This may be partially true, but, as far as the younger generation is concerned (I don’t mean myself only), they are taking a keen interest in our political life, and they are concerned whether it will be worse or better.”

In your speech during the talk show, you said the phrase: “If we had a normal security service.” What is wrong with the security service and the government in general?

“I would not like to criticize the SBU for cooperating with Russia and in fact selling out our national interests. I just want to say that it is doing nothing to resist the Russian onslaught — sometimes it even encourages this onslaught. Why did it happen? Ukraine is diverse. I find it difficult to say what would have happened if another candidate had won, but the tragedy is that our democratic forces failed to unite. Nor can they, unfortunately, do so today, when the authorities are constantly pressuring them. Let us hope they will be able to unite in the future. The opposition will hardly manage to recoup its losses in the upcoming local elections, but they stand a good chance in the next parliamentary vote. They must unite by all means in order to offer at least some resistance to the government and avert any further ‘passionate love’ of Russia by way of integrating into Europe.”

I wonder why you have such a strong liberal arts background while you study exact sciences at the university. Secondly, can you tell us about the way audiences are selected for the Big Politics program? What was the audience’s reaction to Markov’s words?

“I have a good liberal arts background thanks to the school I went to. I come from Ternopil oblast. I have read and still read literature. Family upbringing is also important. My father and grandfather always take interest in politics and history, and they handed this down to me when I was still a child. Although politics is a dirty thing, I am interested in it.

“Yevgeny Kiseliov was right to say that it is mostly the students’ audience which was not ‘bribed.’ The students applauded the guests they liked and kept silent when they disagreed with somebody. In this case I managed to respond and thus express my protest. In reality, most of the Ukrainian, especially Kyivan, universities represented by their students in the audience applauded to the idea that there should be no common history textbook. The audience was patriotically-minded and did not support Markov’s theses. I know many of those who took part in this program, so I can say that most of them are opting for Ukraine’s democratic future and movement towards Europe, as well as better standards and values.”

Iran Urges Global Fight Against Money Laundering, Terrorism

Iran Urges Global Fight Against Money Laundering, Terrorism

Journal of Turkish Weekly (JTW)

 

TEHRAN, Oct. 23 (MNA) — National Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei has called on the world’s legal organizations to launch intensive campaign against money laundering, terrorism, and drug smuggling.

Mohseni Ejei made the remarks at the conference of prosecutor generals of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in China on Friday.

During the recent years, several national and international conferences have been held on these issues, however, more serious measures must be taken in this regard, Mohseni Ejei stated.

The chief prosecutor said over the past three decades, Iran has been under the intense pressure of the U.S., the Zionist-backed terrorist groups and drug mafia.

He also said the Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified certain laws and regulations in the campaign against terrorism, drugs, and money laundering.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Mohseni Ejei noted that the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan has led to a rise in drug trafficking in the region and created major problems for Iran.

In his address to the conference, Mohseni Ejei proposed the following steps to help resolve such crises:

(1) Establishing a special committee to explore the roots of global organized crimes.

(2) Taking necessary measures to increase bilateral and multilateral cooperation at regional and global levels on identification and extradition of criminals, fight state and non-state terrorism, exchange data and so on.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental mutual-security organization which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

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