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Russia versus the European Court of Human Rights: Russia rejects the Court’s Yukos verdict

Russian Constitutional Court for the first time strikes down a Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, saying that its award of $2 billion to the former shareholders of Yukos, the former company of the fugitive Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is contrary to Russia’s Constitution.

Alexander Mercouris

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The Russians have taken their first practical step to challenge the previously undisputed authority of the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) on Russian legal decisions.

Russia’s Constitutional Court, Russia’s highest court, has for the first time exercised its new doctrine, which reaffirms that it is the sole court with jurisdiction to decide questions pertaining to Russia’s constitution, by rejecting a Judgment of the ECHR awarding $2 billion to the former shareholders of Khodorkovsky’s former oil company Yukos.

The ECHR in a series of Judgments which have received scant coverage in the West had previously ruled that Khodorkovsky had engaged in massive and systematic tax evasion, just as the Russian courts had convicted and jailed him for doing.  After coming under strong criticism for these Judgments from Khodorkovsky’s supporters in the West and in Russia, the ECHR nonetheless in a separate Judgment awarded $2 billion to the shareholders of Yukos, Khodorkovsky’s former company, which was the vehicle and beneficiary of his tax fraud.

I should say that the ECHR’s Judgment to award the Yukos shareholders $2 billion is an entirely different Judgment from the totally different decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (“The Hague Tribunal”) to award the Yukos shareholders the incredible amount of $50 billion for the supposedly illegal seizure by the Russian authorities of the company.  That decision is wholly contrary to the various Judgments of the ECHR in Khodorkovsky’s case – which The Hague Tribunal treated with total disdain – and has been successfully appealed by the Russians, though the latest word is that the Yukos shareholders are now bringing another appeal in an attempt to get The Hague Tribunal’s decision reinstated.

The Russian Constitutional Court in rejecting the ECHR’s Judgment is saying that it is illogical to demand that Russia compensate the Yukos shareholders out of the Russian budget when the ECHR has itself said that the Russian budget was badly affected by Yukos’s and Khodorkovsky’s tax fraud.  In the words of Valery Zorkin, the Chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court

This contradicts the constitutional principles of equality and fairness

Interestingly, the Constitutional Court nonetheless urges the Russians to look for a compromise with Yukos’s shareholders, provided any compensation paid to them is not paid from Russia’s budget, but is paid out of funds formerly held by Yukos outside Russia.

Since the ECHR is a creature of interstate treaty, no legal mechanisms exist to enforce its Judgments, which ultimately depend on the willingness of the states that make up the Council of Europe to abide by them.  In theory a state which persistently disregards ECHR Judgments can be expelled from the Council of Europe.; however that is not going to happen in this case, and so far as this chain of proceedings relating to Yukos in the ECHR goes, this Judgment of the Russian Constitutional Court should be considered final.

However the suggestion that the Russian authorities to look for a compromise with the Yukos shareholders may be a sign that the Russians – who have become increasingly annoyed by the recent growing trend of Judgments in the ECHR going against them – are keen to come to some sort of modus vivendi with the ECHR rather than pull out of its jurisdiction completely.

Recently the Chair of the ECHR visited Russia where he met senior Russian judicial officials (including Zorkin) and it may be that behind the scenes an attempt to reach some sort of understanding is underway.

One point the Russians are known to have made is that they are very unhappy with the ECHR’s increasingly common practice of declaring cases involving Russia “priority cases”, a fact which enables the ECHR to rule on them before the internal appeal process within Russia has been completed.

One particular case where that happened was the case involving the Russian opposition activist Alexey Navalny – a controversial decision in many ways – where the Russians are known to have been furious that the ECHR “prioritised” the hearing of his case – enabling him to circumvent the Russian appeal process – despite the fact that he was never imprisoned because he was only given a suspended sentence.

If the ECHR’s practice of “prioritising” Russian cases is discontinued, then Russia’s two superior courts – the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court – can have their say before the ECHR makes its decisions, something which might have important consequences for the way cases like Navalny’s are decided in future.

That the Russians nonetheless still want to work with the ECHR is shown by the way RT reports Zorkin saying

that the European system for protection of human rights was of fundamental value, and that it would be best if Russian authorities and the European court found a compromise.

(bold italics added)

There is a case for saying that the Russians actually have an interest in working successfully with the ECHR.

Not only is the ECHR’s jurisprudence at its best very good – helping the Russians to improve the operation of their own legal system if they can access it – but the fact that Russia accepts its jurisdiction is a powerful argument against those who claim Russia is a dictatorship.

Dictatorships do not make their legal systems accountable to an outside body, and on the (actually quite numerous) occasions when the ECHR has decided in Russia’s favour – as for example in Khodorkovsky’s case – that has provided the Russians with an exceptionally strong argument which they can use against their Western critics.

One recent case where in my opinion the Russian authorities would be well advised to heed the ECHR Judgment is in relation to the so-called Dima Yakovlev law, which prohibits inter-country adoptions from Russia to the US.

The Dima Yakovlev law was passed in anger in response to the wholly outrageous Magnitsky Act passed by the US Congress in 2012.  Though the circumstances in which the Dima Yakovlev law was passed makes it understandable, the ECHR – rightly in my opinion – says it is wrong because it discriminates against Americans on the basis of their nationality.

Not only does this seem to me right in principle but by accepting this Judgment Russia will put itself in a stronger position to argue to the ECHR that the various blanket bans on Russian athletes made purely on the basis of their nationality are – as I have repeatedly argued – equally discriminatory and wrong.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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