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First thoughts on arrest and sacking of Russian economy minister

Former Russian Economics Minister Ulyukaev has been dismissed in disgrace after being arrested on corruption charges. Though there is probably no political motive behind his arrest and dismissal, more will become clearer when Putin names his successor.

Alexander Mercouris

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Following swiftly from the dramatic news of the arrest of Russian Economy Minister Alexey Ulyukaev comes confirmation of his dismissal by President Putin. 

The wording of the Kremlin’s statement confirming Ulyukaev’s dismissal is short and simple but could not be clearer, and leaves no doubt that he has been dismissed in disgrace:

“Vladimir Putin signed Executive Order dismissing Alexey Ulyukaev of his duties as Economic Development Minister due to the loss of trust.”

It is important to say that so far Ulyukaev has not been convicted of anything, and that he denies the charges of bribe taking brought against him.  His lawyers say that he considers himself to be the victim of a “provocation”. 

The news that Putin has summarily dismissed him for “loss of trust” is however a sure sign that Russia’s president at least accepts the validity of the charges against him.

In truth, though there is much about the case that of necessity at this point remains obscure, the evidence against Ulyukaev appears to be compelling.

Essentially the charge against Ulyukaev is that he abused his position to extort $2 million worth in bribes from the Russian state oil company Rosneft, threatening, unless the bribe was paid, to obstruct Rosneft’s acquisition of 50.08% of the shares in the Bashneft oil company, which is based in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan.

The sale of Bashneft’s shares to Rosneft has not been uncontroversial, and I will take a little time to explain this tangled affair since it is certain to feature prominently in Ulyukaev’s defence. 

Bashnet was originally privatised in 2002 and 2003, following which it was acquired by Sistema, a Russian holding company owned by the Russian businessman Vladimir Yevtushenkov.  Yevtushenkov was arrested in September 2014 on money laundering charges in connection with Sistema’s acquisition of Bashneft, leading to the seizure of 72% of Bashneft’s shares by the Russian government. 

Yevtushenkov was, however, released in December 2014, and in January 2016 all charges against him were dropped, with the Moscow Arbitration Court ordering the government to pay Sistema $1.1 billion compensation for the wrongful seizure of Bashneft.

There was speculation back in 2014 that the person who was ultimately behind the case against Yevtushenkov was Igor Sechin, the powerful CEO of Rosneft, with rumours circulating that Sechin had concocted the case against Yevtushenkov as part of a plan for Rosneft to gain control of Bashneft. 

Needless to say, when it became known this year that Rosneft was indeed acquiring a majority stake in Bashneft after the Russian government decided to sell its stake, those who alleged that Yevtushenkov’s arrest had been arranged by Sechin to enable Rosneft to gain control of Bashneft claimed that they had been proved right.

Given that it was Rosneft which apparently tipped off the police that Ulyukaev was extorting a bribe from them by threatening to obstruct Rosneft’s acquisition of Bashneft’s shares, there will inevitably be those who will say that the case against Ulyukaev is also the result of Sechin’s intrigues, and that far from being a bribe taker, Ulyukaev has fallen victim to a set up fabricated by Sechin.  

Whilst I strongly suspect this will be the defence Ulyukaev and his supporters will eventually come up with, I will now in advance express my skepticism.

Though Sechin is unquestionably a tough and forceful manager of Rosneft, I doubt that he is remotely capable of manipulating Russia’s police agencies in the way this complicated scenario would require.

Also, it seems that Ulyukaev has been under observation for some time because of suspicions he was engaging in extortion and bribe taking, and that his telephone was being tapped since at least the early summer, with Putin being informed of the concerns about him, and being kept regularly updated on the conduct of the investigation into his activities. 

As I have said, the fact that Putin hurried to dismiss Ulyukaev so soon after his arrest, and the wording of the dismissal with the pointed use of the words “breach of trust”, points to Putin believing the charges that have been brought against Ulyukaev. 

Also, whilst we obviously do not have the full details, the Investigative Committee (Russia’s equivalent to the FBI) says Ulyukaev was caught red handed, and that the case against him is foolproof.

When a member of the Russian government is publicly arrested and dismissed in this way, it is inevitable that many search for a political motive behind what has happened.

The most common view in Moscow at the moment is that Ulyukaev’s dismissal is the first step in the purge of the liberals from the Russian government, that many have been long talking about and long expecting.

All I would say about that is that though Ulyukaev is undoubtedly a liberal and is one of the last survivors of the team of liberal reformers brought into the Russian government by Yegor Gaidar, (Boris Yeltsin’s ultra liberal acting Prime Minister of the early 1990s), he has always seemed to me somewhat detached from the dominant liberal grouping within the government, which consists of Kudrin, Central Bank Chair Nabiullina, and Finance Minister Siluanov.

Ulyukaev has long been a critic of the Central Bank’s tough monetary policy, pressing continuously for a lowering of interest rates, and my distinct impression at SPIEF this June was that he and Central Bank Chair Nabiullina were personally on extremely bad terms.  When Ulyukaev’s name was mentioned by a member of the audience at a panel that Kudrin, Nabiullina and Siluanov all attended – but from which Ulyukaev was pointedly excluded – it seemed as if a chill had descended on the room.

In addition, if Ulyukaev really was dismissed as part of some sort of purge I don’t understand why Putin felt the need to go about his dismissal in such a complicated way.  Ulyukaev is neither popular nor a major power broker, and if Putin simply wanted to get rid of him I can’t see why he didn’t just sack him.

Unless more information comes to light that more is involved than appears on the surface, my operating hypothesis will be that Ulyukaev has been dismissed for the reason the Russian authorities have said – because he was caught extorting bribes – and for no other reason than that. 

I appreciate that most people probably won’t agree with me, but until I see some evidence that more is involved, I shall accept the official explanation, which seems to me sufficient to explain what has happened. 

More should become clearer when Putin announces who Ulyukaev’s successor will be.

There is one further point I do, however, want to make.  This is that though there is a general blanket assumption that corruption is rife in high places in Russia, the sort of people who get caught with their hand in the till invariably seem to be liberals: former Prime Minister Kasyanov, former Defence Minister Serdyukov, former governor of the Kirov region Belykh, and now of course Ulyukaev.

Whether that is because liberals are more prone to corruption than other officials – as many Russians believe – or because liberals are more likely to be targeted for corruption investigations than other officials – as many liberal commentators in Russia and outside claim – the fact speaks for itself.  For the record my opinion is the former.

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World War I Homage – A Triumph of Lies and Platitudes

The unilateral, lawless imperialism that engendered World War I and 20 years later World War II is still alive and dangerously vigorous.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via Strategic Culture:


World leaders gathered in Paris on Sunday under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the centennial anniversary ending World War I. In an absurd way, the Napoleon-era arc was a fitting venue – because the ceremony and the rhetoric from President Emmanuel Macron was a “triumph” of lies and platitudes.

Among the estimated 70 international leaders were US President Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, each sitting on either side of Macron and his wife. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also given pride of place beside the French president.

Macron’s address to the dignitaries was supposed to be a call for international multilateralism. He urged a “brotherhood” for the cause of world peace. He also made a pointed rebuke of “nationalism” as posing a danger to peace – a remark which seemed aimed at Donald Trump who recently boasted of his politics with that very word.

But, ironically, everything about the ceremony and Macron’s speech resonated with jingoistic French nationalism, not his avowed multinationalism. As the politicians sat under the Arc de Triomphe, Macron walked around its circular esplanade in a salute to assembled French military forces bearing assault rifles and bayonets. The French anthem – The Marseillaise – was played twice, once by an army brass band, the second time sung by an army choir. There was also a military plane flyover displaying the blue, red and white tricolor of the French national flag.

In his speech, Macron talked about soldiers coming from all over the world to “die for France” during the 1914-18 Great War. He even said at one point that the war was fought for “the vision of France” and its “universal values”.

This was fluent drivel, French-style. No wonder Russia’s Putin momentarily gave a look of boredom as Macron waxed lyrical.

The speechifying and commemoration was completely detached from current realities of conflict and international tensions.

Among the “brotherhood” whom Macron was appealing to were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose military forces continue to bomb and slaughter Palestinian civilians in illegally occupied territory. Also present was Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko whose armed militias continue to terrorize the people of eastern Ukraine with the blatant objective of instigating a war between the US-led NATO alliance and Russia.

Listening to Macron one would think that World War I erupted mysteriously from no specific cause and that an estimated 10 million soldiers were all killed in heroic battles for noble principles.

There was, of course, no mention by Macron of imperialist warmongering and the barbaric sacrifice of humans as slaves in the service of national capitalist power interests.

Grotesquely, as the world leaders donned solemn faces and mouthed pious platitudes for peace, the whole occasion was a triumph in burying reality and the ongoing causes of wars, as well as whitewashing the very culprits responsible for wars. Among the war criminals wearing a mournful black suit was former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who launched the NATO blitzkrieg on Libya in 2011.

While the empty, self-indulgent rhetoric was ringing out, one couldn’t help but recall some of the most glaring contemporary contradictions that were blocked out with awesome Orwellian efficiency.

Just this week, reports emerged of the horrific civilian death toll from the American air force bombing the Syrian city of Raqqa. The city was razed to the ground by US air strikes last year – supposedly to defeat the ISIS terror group. Some 8,000 bodies of civilians, mainly women and children, have now been recovered by Syrian government forces. And that’s only from clearing away a tiny area of rubble for the whole city.

What the Americans did in Raqqa was a monumental war crime, all the more criminal because US forces, along with their NATO partners Britain and France, are illegally present in and assaulting sovereign Syrian territory.

As Macron was telling world leaders about “the vision of France”, hundreds were being killed in Yemen in a battle to strangle the entire population by taking the port city of Hodeida. The genocidal war on that country – which is putting up to 16 million people at risk from starvation – has been fully backed by France, the US and Britain, from their supply of warplanes and bombs to the Saudi and Emirati aggressive forces.

We could mention other specific conflicts where the culprits are clearly identified. For example, the multi-million-dollar support from Washington for the Azov Battalion and other Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, which openly emulate the genocidal conduct of Hitler’s Third Reich to exterminate ethnic Russians.

We could mention how US-led NATO forces continue to expand towards Russian territory with outrageous provocation. The mounting earlier this month of the biggest-ever NATO war drills since the Cold War in the Arctic region adjacent to Russia’s northern border was a brazen threat of rehearsing invasion. The announced tearing up of yet another nuclear arms control treaty unilaterally by Washington is a reckless undermining of global security.

Washington threatens China with naval forces marauding near Beijing’s maritime territory in the South China Sea. Washington blockades Iran with illegal economic warfare and openly agitates for regime change. Washington declares Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba a “troika of tyranny” and reserves the right to threaten each of these countries with military invasion at any time.

Meanwhile, this weekend, Russia hosted peace talks in Moscow between the warring parties of Afghanistan. It was seen as a major breakthrough in trying to bring peace to the Central Asia country which has been wracked by 17 years of violence since US forces began their ongoing military occupation – allegedly to defeat terrorism.

Elsewhere, Russia has engaged with Turkey, Germany and France to convene a summit for peaceful reconstruction of Syria. The latest summit held in Ankara at the end of last month follows several other such meetings in Astana and Sochi, largely at the behest of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, to find a political settlement to the nearly eight-year war in Syria – a war that was fomented covertly by Washington and its allies for regime change.

France’s Macron talks about “multilateralism” for world peace, yet the two countries which have arguably supported and implemented multilateralism in practice are Russia and China in their calls and policies for global partnership and economic development.

And yet it is Russia and China that are being harassed with American and European sanctions, and US military provocations.

The unilateral, lawless imperialism that engendered World War I and 20 years later World War II is still alive and dangerously vigorous. We only have to look around the present world to realize that. But when the culprits indulge in a triumph of bullshit then we also know that the world is once again in very grave danger.

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Creepy Porn Lawyers’ disgusting assault on Tucker Carlson and his 19 year old daughter (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 14.

Alex Christoforou

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Days after ANTIFA targeted Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s home, trying to intimidate and scare the TV host into curbing his free speech against totalitarian mob rule propagated by ANTIFA and their paymasters, it appears that the SJW establishment swamp is going after Tucker with everything they got…sending in the expendable, and always eager to get publicity, Creepy Porn Lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to try and ensnare Carlson in some sort of racist assault scandal.

The entire event appears to be a staged, purposefully hitting upon all the right identity politics buttons…so as to maximize full SJW pressure on Tucker and Fox News.

The Gateway Pundit reports that Tucker Carlson has denied Michael Avenatti’s charges of assault, and explains that his actions were prompted by an unhinged gay man calling his daughter a wh*re and a c**t…

Creepy porn star Michael Avenatti made headlines again this weekend with trumped up charges of assault against FOX News host Tucker Carlson.

On Saturday Avenatti released video of Tucker Carlson in an argument with a crowd of people at a country club in Virginia.

Avenatti claims Tucker assaulted a gay Latino immigrant for no reason.

Avenatti posted this video made the allegations on Saturday.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the SJW swamps’ latest attempt to smear Tucker Carlson, by going after his 19-year old daughter, in a disgusting display of misogyny and hate towards the very women that establishment liberal claims to defend.

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Here’s Carlson’s full statement about the incident:

“On October 13, I had dinner with two of my children and some family friends at the Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. Toward the end of the meal, my 19-year-old daughter went to the bathroom with a friend. On their way back through the bar, a middle aged man stopped my daughter and asked if she was sitting with Tucker Carlson. My daughter had never seen the man before. She answered: ‘That’s my dad,’ and pointed to me. The man responded, ‘Are you Tucker’s whore?’ He then called her a ‘f—— c—.’

“My daughter returned to the table in tears. She soon left the table and the club. My son, who is also a student, went into the bar to confront the man. I followed. My son asked the man if he’d called his sister a ‘whore’ and a ‘cunt.’ The man admitted he had, and again become profane. My son threw a glass of red wine in the man’s face and told him to leave the bar, which he soon did.

“Immediately after the incident, I described these events to the management of the Farmington Country Club. The club spent more than three weeks investigating the incident. Last week, they revoked the man’s membership and threw him out of the club.

“I love my children. It took enormous self-control not to beat the man with a chair, which is what I wanted to do. I think any father can understand the overwhelming rage and shock that I felt seeing my teenage daughter attacked by a stranger. But I restrained myself. I did not assault this man, and neither did my son. That is a lie. Nor did I know the man was gay or Latino, not that it would have mattered. What happened on October 13 has nothing to do with identity politics. It was a grotesque violation of decency. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

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Former Hillary Clinton Advisor: She’s Running Again in 2020

Clinton admitted that while she doesn’t want to run again — she would “like to be president.”

The Duran

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Via The Gateway Pundit…


Hillary Clinton’s former adviser Mark Penn is warning the public that we should brace ourselves for another run from the power hungry sore loser in 2020.

Penn co-wrote in a Sunday op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that she “won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House.”

“True to her name, Mrs. Clinton will fight this out until the last dog dies,” the op-ed that Penn authored with Andrew Stein claims. “She won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House.”

Like a cockroach that just won’t die, or the final boss in a video game that keeps obnoxiously coming back after each defeat — Clinton just won’t go away.

Penn said that by “reinventing herself as a liberal firebrand, Mrs. Clinton will easily capture the 2020 nomination.”

“You can expect her to run for president once again,” he said. “Maybe not at first, when the legions of Senate Democrats make their announcements, but definitely by the time the primaries are in full swing.”

Last month, Clinton admitted that while she doesn’t want to run again — she would “like to be president.”

Even some of her closest allies want her to give it a rest though.

“She’s more likely to win Powerball,” Philippe Reines, Clinton’s longtime adviser, told The Hill.

While nobody really wants to hear that woman’s voice ever again — at least the right can recycle all their best memes from 2016.

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