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Protests in Moscow and across Russia fail to shake the Kremlin

Protests called by liberal opposition activist in Moscow and across Russia attract few supporters.

Alexander Mercouris

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Some sections of the international media including RT,  Russia’s publicly funded international TV broadcaster, are reporting today that Moscow and Russia has been hit by a “wave of protests”.

Here is a detailed description of the Moscow protest by The Duran’s Vladimir Rodzianko, who went to see what was happening for himself (photographs and video provided).

There have indeed been scattered protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other Russian cities.  The protests were called by the Russian neoliberal ‘non-system’ activist and ‘anti-corruption’ campaigner Alexey Navalny, purportedly in order to protest against the alleged corruption of Russia’s Prime Minister and former President Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev seems an unlikely target for these protests.  His time as President from 2008 to 2012 is sometimes seen as a sort of liberal heyday, and it is indeed a fact that in the last weeks of his Presidency he rushed through a series of liberalisation measures in response to the protests which took place in Moscow and elsewhere following the 2011 Duma elections.  The fact that the very same liberals who whilst he was President hailed Medvedev as their hero and who are the main beneficiaries of his liberalisation of the political system should now turn on him does rather seem like a case of of them biting the hand that fed them.

Whether Medvedev is actually corrupt or not is another matter.  Navalny’s allegation is that Medvedev has creamed off funds paid into various charities and NGOs in order to enrich himself by investing the money in a series of corrupt property deals.  As is often the way with Navalny, his allegations are simultaneously detailed and entirely circumstantial, making it possible and indeed likely that he is simply cobbling various unconnected transactions together to create the appearance of a case.

As it happens, despite Navalny’s reputation in some quarters as an exposer of corruption, he played no role in exposing what have been by far the two most serious cases of corruption in high places in recent years – the ones involving former Defence Minister Serdyukov and former Economics Ulyukaev – whilst Navalny himself was not only recently re-convicted of embezzlement in the Kirovles case, but has also in recent years been convicted of embezzlement in another unrelated case involving Yves Rocher, putting his credentials to pose as an anti-corruption campaigner in serious doubt.

Today’s protests, though purportedly called to protest the alleged corruption by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, are really intended to prepare the ground for Navalny’s heavily trailed Presidential bid in the Presidential elections next year.

As it happens it is not clear at the moment whether because of his recent conviction in the Kirovles case Navalny is eligible to stand in this election.  However if he does stand then he has absolutely no chance of being elected.  As I discussed recently in an article written immediately after last autumn’s parliamentary elections in Russia, Parnas – the party with which Navalny is most closely associated – only won 0.70% of the vote in that election, whilst the combined vote of all the anti-government liberal parties in that election came to no more than 2.56%.   That this is a totally insufficient electoral base from which to launch a serious bid for the Presidency should not need explaining.

It is in fact highly doubtful that Navalny genuinely believes that he can win the Presidential election next year, or that he seriously aims to.  However he has to show to his supporters and funders – both those in Russia, and more importantly, those in the West – that he is an active force in Russian politics and that he is providing some value for all the backing they are giving him.  That leads him to make wild allegations against people like Medvedev, to announce a bid to stand in an election he cannot win, and to call a protest in Moscow and across Russia which on any objection assessment simply highlights the absence of widespread support for him.

It is this need to retain attention which explains why Navalny not only called the protest today but insisted on holding it in the form of an unsanctioned march along Tverskaya in central Moscow rather than in the various locations offered him.  Through this act of seeming ‘defiance’ Navalny is able to strike a heroic (though fake) pose (since he knows nothing will actually be done to him), provoke conflict – including his own arrest – and disguise the fact that only a few thousand people turned up to support him (the police in Moscow put the number between 7,000 to 8,000) by mixing his supporters up with ordinary pedestrian traffic and the large number of onlookers who might normally be expected on a Sunday in what is Moscow’s main and busiest thoroughfare.

Elsewhere the police estimate that Navalny brought out a further 3,000 people in a protest rally in St. Petersburg (where no incidents are reported) and there are scattered reports of much smaller protests elsewhere.  A reasonable guess might be that Navalny brought out a total of between 15-20,000 people to protest across the whole of Russia, including in Moscow and St. Petersburg, some in sanctioned protests, some in unsactioned ones, though that may be an overestimate.  He of course will claim that there were many more.

Regardless, a serious ‘protest wave’ it certainly was not, or anything close.

 

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BREXIT chaos, as May’s cabinet crumbles (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 18.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the various scenarios now facing a crumbling May government, as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is forcing cabinet members to resign in rapid succession. The weekend ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the UK and its position within, or outside, the European Union.

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If Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is eventually rejected this could trigger a vote of no confidence, snap elections or even a new referendum…

Here are six possible scenarios facing Theresa May and the UK (via The Guardian)

1 Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations

May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.

If the remaining 27 EU member states sign off the draft agreement on 25 November, the government will have to win over MPs at a crucial vote in early December.

If May loses the vote, she has 21 days to put forward a new plan. If she wins, she is safe for now.

2 May withdraws the current draft agreement

The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU.

This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.

3 Extend article 50

May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

4 Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister

If Conservative MPs believe May is no longer fit for office, they could trigger a no-confidence vote.

Members of the European Research Group claim that Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, will receive the necessary 48 letters this week.

A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.

5 General election – three possible routes

If May fails to get support for the current deal, she could call a snap general election.

She would table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. She would then set an election date, which could be by the end of January.

This is an unlikely option. May’s political credibility was severely damaged when she called a snap election in 2017, leading to the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

Alternatively, a general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. May would remain in office while MPs negotiate a new government.

Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. A new act would have to be passed through both the Commons and the Lords – an unlikely scenario.

6 Second referendum

May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote.

The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.

 

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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