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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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Why are Russian Tu-160 Nuclear Bombers in Venezuela? (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 40.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda take a look at Russia’s military cooperation with Venezuela, and how this military partnership leaves neocons in Washington crying ‘Russian aggression’.

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Via Press TV


A pair of Tu-160 bombers, known as Blackjack”, landed in Caracas on Monday following a 6,200-mile flight, which is said to be aimed at showcasing Moscow’s growing military prowess and shoring up the position of Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro.

The planes touched down at the Simón Bolívar international airport as part of a larger fleet also including an An-124 military transport plane and an Il-62 passenger jet

The Russian defense ministry said the bombers were shadowed by Norwegian F-18 fighter jets during part of their flight.

Venezuela’s defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, said the arrival of the aircraft for joint maneuvers was not intended as a provocation. “We are makers of peace, not war,” he was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster Venezolana de Televisión (VTV).

Russia’s ambassador in Caracas, Vladimir Zaemskiy, told VTV the deployment reflected the “very fruitful” military partnership that had developed since the relationship was forged by Venezuela’s late leader Hugo Chávez in 2005.

However, specialists say the move is designed to signal to Washington that Caracas is not without international support.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at last week’s meeting with Lopez that Russia would continue to send its military aircraft and warships to visit Venezuela as part of bilateral military cooperation.

Russia sent its Tu-160 strategic bombers and a missile cruiser to visit Venezuela in 2008 amid tensions with the US after Russia’s brief war with Georgia. A pair of Tu-160s also visited Venezuela in 2013.

Russia-US relations are currently at post-Cold War lows over Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. Russia has bristled at the US and other NATO allies deploying their troops and weapons near its borders.

Asked about the Russian bombers, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said he had no specific information about the deployment.

The bombers’ deployment follows Venezuelan President Maduro’s visit to Moscow last week in a bid to shore up political and economic assistance even as his country has been struggling to pay billions of dollars owed to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday voiced support for Venezuelan leader, telling him, “We support your efforts to achieve mutual understanding in society and all your actions aimed at normalizing relations with the opposition.”

Russia is a major political ally of Venezuela, which has become increasingly isolated in the world under growing sanctions led by the US and the European Union, which accuse Maduro of undermining democratic institutions to hold onto power, while overseeing an economic and political crisis that is worse than the Great Depression.

Hit by low oil prices and the impact of US sanctions, Maduro is seeking support from allies after winning a second presidential term this year.

Maduro, who took over following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, has come under strong pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration.

After talks last year between Maduro and Putin, Russia, Venezuela’s major creditor, agreed to restructure $3.15 billion of debt from a loan taken out by Caracas in 2011 to finance the purchase of Russian arms.

Russia and Venezuela enjoy a long history of ties and Maduro’s predecessor Chavez, known for his passionate tirades against the United States, was a welcome guest at the Kremlin.

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America’s wars are against American’s interests

War is a racket

Richard Galustian

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To advocate wars are good is insane!

For one, Afghanistan is about a ridiculously flawed US government foreign policy. it is not about ‘winning’ a war as Erik Prince describes in his video.

There is no reason for the US to be in Afghanistan.

Something Mr. Prince seems to fail to understand the reader can judge by watching Prince’s presentation promoting war.

That said, what Erik Prince explains about the military industrial complex is correct. Weapons purchases must be curtailed.

However more importantly, what he fails to say is America must stop its ‘’regime change policy’ and avoid future wars, is the real issue.

To provoke war for example with Russia or China is absolute insanity producing eventually only nuclear armageddon, the consequence is the destruction of the planet.

Trillions of dollars should not be spent (and wasted) by the Pentagon but that money should be used to build America’s roads; expand railways; build hospitals and schools, etc.

Especially also to pay much needed disability benefits to disabled vets who wasted their lives in past pointless wars from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq et al. Americans soldiers need to ‘go home’.

Withdrawing its unnecessary US bases worldwide; a left over outdated idea from the end of WW11, such as America’s military presence in Korea, Japan, Germany; the Persian Gulf, even in the UK.

Foreign military interventions are adventures pursued by ‘elites’ interests, ‘using’ NATO in most cases, as its tool, only for their (the elites) profit at the expense of ordinary people.

“War is a Racket” to quote the much decorated hero and patriot, US Marine, Major General Smedley Butler.

We can learn from history to understand America’s current predicament.

Brown Brothers Harriman in New York in the 1930s financed Hitler and Mussolini right up to the day war was declared by Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbour.

A little taught fact in America’s colleges and ivy league universities is that Wall Street bankers (with a degree of assistance from the Bush family by the way) at the time had decided that a fascist dictatorship in the United States would be far better for their business interests than Roosevelt’s “new deal” which threatened massive wealth re-distribution to recapitalize the working and middle class of America and build America’s infrastructure.

So the Wall Street bankers recruited the much respected General Smedley Butler to lead an overthrow of the us government and install a “Secretary of General Affairs” who would be answerable to Wall Street, not the people; who would crush social unrest and shut down all labour unions. however General Smedley Butler only pretended to go along with the scheme, then exposed the plot. The General played the traitors along to gather evidence for congress and the president. When Roosevelt learned of the planned coup, he initially demanded the arrest of the plotters but this never happened because Roosevelt was in effect blackmailed by those same US bankers; another story!

Read the words of Major General Smedley Butler who explains what exactly happened.

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to major general. and during that period I spent more of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for wall street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. “I suspected I was just a part of a racket at the time. now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession, I never had an original thought until I left the service. my mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service. Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the national city bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of wall street. the record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that the standard oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals and promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. the best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. I operated on three continents.” —

General Smedley Butler, former US Marine Corps Commandant, 1935.

We need peace not wars.

We need infrastructure building in America and Europe……not wars.

Somebody should explain this to Mr. Prince, and perhaps to his sister too…..who happens to be part of President Trump’s administration!

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Theresa May goes to Brussels and comes back with a big fat donut (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 39.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Theresa May’s trip to Brussels to try and win some concessions from EU oligarchs, only to get completely rebuked and ridiculed, leaving EU headquarters with nothing but a four page document essentially telling the UK to get its act together or face a hard Brexit.

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Via Zerohedge


Any confidence boost that might have followed Theresa May’s triumph this week over her party’s implacable Brexiteers has probably already faded. Because if there was anything to be learned from the stunning rebuke delivered to the prime minister by EU leaders on Thursday, it’s that the prime minister is looking more stuck than ever.

This was evidenced by the frosty confrontation between the imperturbable May and her chief Continental antagonist, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, which was caught on film on Friday shortly before the close of a two-day European Council summit that descended into bitter recriminations. After offering token praise of May’s leadership, Brussels’ supreme bureaucrat criticized her negotiating strategy as “disorganized”, provoking a heated response from May.

Earlier, May desperately pleaded with her European colleagues – who had adamantly insisted that the text of the withdrawal agreement would not be altered – to grant her “legally binding assurances” May believes would make the Brexit plan palatable enough to win a slim victory in the Commons.

If there were any lingering doubts about the EU’s position, they were swiftly dispelled by a striking gesture of contempt for May: Demonstrating the Continent’s indifference to her plight, the final text of the summit’s conclusions was altered to remove a suggestion that the EU consider what further assurances can be offered to May, while leaving in a resolution to continue contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Even the Irish, who in the recent past have been sympathetic to their neighbors’ plight (in part due to fears about a resurgence of insurrectionary violence should a hard border re-emerge between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), implied that there patience had reached its breaking point.

Here’s the FT:

But Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, warned that the EU could not tolerate a treaty approval process where a country “comes back every couple of weeks following discussions with their parliament looking for something extra…you can’t operate international relations on this basis.”

Senior EU officials are resisting further negotiations — and suggestions of a special Brexit summit next month — because they see Britain’s requests as in effect a bid to rewrite the exit treaty.

Mr Varadkar noted that many prime ministers had been called to Brussels “at short notice” for a special Brexit summit “on a Sunday in November,” adding: “I don’t think they would be willing to come to Brussels again unless we really have to.”

In response, May threatened to hold a vote on the Brexit plan before Christmas, which would almost certainly result in its defeat, scrapping the fruits of more than a year of contentious negotiations.

Given that Mrs May aborted a Commons vote on her deal this week because she feared defeat by a “significant margin,” her comments amounted to a threat that she would let MPs kill the withdrawal agreement before Christmas.

Mrs May made the threat to German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and EU presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk as the two day Brussels summit descended into acrimony, according to diplomats.

“At the point where there is no prospect of getting anything more from the EU, that’s when you would have to put the vote,” said one close aide to Mrs May.

If this week has taught May anything, it’s that her plan to pressure the EU into more concessions (her preferred option to help her pass the Brexit plan) was an unmitigated failure. And given that running out the clock and hoping that MPs come around at the last minute (when the options truly have been reduced to ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’) leaves too much room for market-rattling uncertainty, May is left with a few options, two of which were previously ‘off the table’ (though she has distanced herself from those positions in recent weeks).

They are: Calling a second referendum, delaying a Brexit vote, pivoting to a softer ‘Plan B’ Brexit, or accepting a ‘no deal’ Brexit. As the BBC reminds us, May is obliged by law to put her deal to a vote by Jan. 21, or go to Parliament with a Plan B.

If May does decide to run down the clock, she will have two last-minute options:

On the one hand she could somehow cancel, delay, soften or hold another referendum on Brexit and risk alienating the 17.4 million people who voted Leave.

But on the other hand, she could go for a so-called Hard Brexit (where few of the existing ties between the UK and the EU are retained) and risk causing untold damage to the UK’s economy and standing in the world for years to come.

Alternatively, May could accept the fact that convincing the Brexiteers is a lost cause, and try to rally support among Labour MPs for a ‘softer’ Brexit plan, one that would more countenance closer ties with the EU during the transition, and ultimately set the stage for a closer relationship that could see the UK remain part of the customs union and single market. Conservatives are also increasingly pushing for a ‘Plan B’ deal that would effectively set the terms for a Norway- or Canada-style trade deal (and this strategy isn’t without risk, as any deal accepted by Parliament would still require approval from the EU).

But as JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank anticipated last week, a second referendum (which supporters have nicknamed a “People’s Vote”) is becoming increasingly popular, even among MPs who supported the ‘Leave’ campaign, according to Bloomberg.

It’s not the only previously unthinkable idea that May has talked about this week. Fighting off a challenge to her leadership from pro-Brexit Conservative members of Parliament, the premier warned that deposing her would mean delaying Britain’s departure from the European Union. That’s not something she admitted was possible last month.

The argument for a second referendum advanced by one minister was simple: If nothing can get through Parliament — and it looks like nothing can — the question needs to go back to voters.

While campaigners for a second vote have mostly been those who want to reverse the result of the last one and keep Britain inside the EU, that’s not the reason a lot of new supporters are coming round to the idea.

One Cabinet minister said this week he wanted a second referendum on the table to make clear to Brexit supporters in the Conservative Party that the alternative to May’s deal is no Brexit at all.

Even former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is urging his supporters to be ready for a second referendum:

Speaking at rally in London, Press Association quoted Farage as saying: “My message folks tonight is as much as I don’t want a second referendum it would be wrong of us on a Leave Means Leave platform not to get ready, not to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.”

Putting pressure on Brexiteers is also the reason there’s more talk of delaying the U.K.’s departure. At the moment, many Brexit-backers are talking openly about running down the clock to March so they can get the hard Brexit they want. Extending the process — which is easier than many appreciate — takes that strategy off the table.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has continued to call for May to put her deal to a vote principally because its defeat is a necessary precursor for another referendum (or a no-confidence vote pushed by an alliance between Labour, and some combination of rebel Tories, the SNP and the DUP).

“The last 24 hours have shown that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “She’s failed to deliver any meaningful changes. Rather than ploughing ahead and recklessly running down the clock, she needs to put her deal to a vote next week so Parliament can take back control.”

The upshot is that the Brexit trainwreck, which has been stuck at an impasse for months, could finally see some meaningful movement in the coming weeks. Which means its a good time to bring back this handy chart illustrating the many different outcomes that could arise:

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