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Turbines and children are the latest targets of irrational western sanctions on Crimea

Latvia wants the names of its kids who dared to have fun in Crimea, while German giant Siemens demands Russia enforce sanctions against itself

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Ostracism, as a political negotiating tool is increasingly today’s answer in negotiating what some call politically aligned settlements, or the “inclusive” world’s version of this millennium’s diplomacy. In short, it seems sanctions are necessary for fashionable progressive politicking. It is a pity that the main tool in international relations is pressure, not dialogue. It has no finesse and needs no professionalism.

Reminds me of my long-ago days in kindergarten when one child whose parents insisted he wear “appropriate” clothes (tie, white shirt, lace up shoes and a jacket) was instantly isolated into a hell of ridicule and banned from the sandbox by his fellow brats. It either toughened the child up, or broke him, flip or fly; it has a lasting legacy effect.

The progressive political effect caused by Western sanctions against Crimea have similarly succeeded in touching on the well-known children’s camp “Artek”, which has always been internationally oriented (www.Artek.org). This fall a scandal broke out in EU’s Latvia, when they learned that a number of children who lived in those countries vacationed at Artek this past summer!

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the EU’s Latvia then demanded information from the camp of the names of the children (and their parents) who attended from Latvia. Is this the new standard of behavior a parent would wish to pass on to children in our pugnaciously brave new world? The camp thankfully refused to comply with the Latvian “request”.

Since 1924, over more than nine decades of its existence, Artek has welcomed over 1.5 million children and teens from more than 150 countries. In 2016, they registered as a Russian legal entity headquartered in Crimea, in addition becoming a full member of the International Camping Fellowship (ICF).

The camp/center is increasingly becoming an international destination. In the last three years, from 2014 to 2016, 1,118 children from 45 countries visited Artek, including Argentina, Austria, Bahrein, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Serbia, Slovakia, United States, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UAE.

The administration of the camp would like to see Artek ignored by these on-again-off-again political “blue plate specials” as their sole concern is providing a rich, wonderful development experience to kids from any country.

From the West’s viewpoint and with sanctions fever unabated, it will be tough for Artek. This because since 2014 Russia has provided the camp funds with which they could finally organize, get transparent, upgrade, modernize, build and further expand programs and facilities which were largely ignored since the late 1980’s. This and the fact that they have the temerity to be located in Crimea are all the reasons apparently needed to feel the bite of sanctions.

Map of international children’s camp “Artek”

The “constructive” effects of the anti-Russian/Crimean sanctions can also be appreciated in the now “scandalous” Siemens affair. Crimea has a resident population of roughly 2.5 million with several hundred thousand vacationers swelling that number over the summers. In 2015, Ukraine cut Crimea off from their electrical grid, and mainland water sources, no doubt with the kindest intentions and the bracing lessons “tough love” might achieve. They did not win back any hearts or minds among Crimeans.

The Russian company Technopromexport saw their way clear to supplying Crimea the needed gas turbines from a Russian company that built them (using Siemens Gas Turbines Technologies). This past January 10 the Moscow Arbitration Court considered and ruled on a lawsuit filed by Siemens demanding the return of those gas turbines delivered to the Crimea for their power plants. Furthermore, Siemens wanted the court to recognize the contract for their delivery as invalid. The arbitration court rejected these demands.

What is the ripple effect? For one, a precedent has been set in Russia, which shows that it is illegal to demand that Russian companies comply with US or EU sanctions within the territory of the Russian Federation. Throughout the course of this legal wrangle Siemens was attempting to ensure that Russian companies, and Russian courts, on Russian soil comply with the sanctions requirements of a foreign international organization – in this case the European Union – which would be direct interference with an independent sovereign government.

The above is the quick version, there is lots more detail to this story which is better researched independently on the internet should anyone have the time and wish to do so, but the key point I believe has been made.

Many Crimeans with whom I spoke, are indifferently disposed to the sanctions that were imposed against them since they voted themselves part of Russia. They feel that self-determination voiced through their referendum to rejoin Russia is a human right, not something granted from afar. They are however quite angry with the European Union, who officially considers them still part of Ukraine, and despite vaunted “human values” did nothing to support these people’s basic human rights when Ukraine cut off their electricity, and shut off water sources for both irrigation and drinking.

In 2015 when Ukraine cut off the electricity supply to Crimea, the peninsula received electricity from mobile power stations, generators and through quickly run electrical cables laid on the bottom of the sea from Russia. By early 2018, two new power plants should be up and running, after which Crimean’s will be able to meet their basic electricity needs, but only after several years of forced duress.

To put a cap on this continuing saga, on January 26, 2018 the Department of the US Treasury – Office for the Control of Foreign Assets (OFAC) – included in the new and improved Sanction List (SDN) three Russians who oversaw the supply of Siemens gas turbines to the Crimea.

This is Deputy Energy Minister Andrew Tcherezov, Director of the Department for Operational Control and Management in the Electric Power Industry Eugene Grabchak , as well as the general director of Tekhnopromexport (who is developing power plants in the Crimea and supplies turbines) Serge Topor-Gilka. The list also includes Alexei Mordashov, who is a minority shareholder in the Siemens Gas Turbine Technology factory in Russia, the supplier of the four gas turbine units sent to Crimea.

Now the assets of these individuals in the US will be frozen, they also will not be able to conduct any business with the United States. I cannot imagine most people in the US, EU, Russia or anywhere else see this as a win-win dialogue that has been positively negotiated for the benefit of all peoples concerned. It is telling to all but the most occluded that when doing the right thing earns a person the honor of being sanctioned, or as was said in another time only 60 years ago – blacklisted. Time for this witch-hunting frenzy to reassess motivations and get on with the business of living life.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:


To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Russia’s Lukoil Halts Oil Swaps In Venezuela After U.S. Sanctions

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades.

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Via Oilprice.com


Litasco, the international trading arm of Russia’s second-biggest oil producer Lukoil, stopped its oil swaps deals with Venezuela immediately after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA, Lukoil’s chief executive Vagit Alekperov said at an investment forum in Russia.

Russia, which stands by Nicolas Maduro in the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis, has vowed to defend its interests in Venezuela—including oil interests—within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us.”

Because of Moscow’s support for Maduro, the international community and market analysts are closely watching the relationship of Russian oil companies with Venezuela.

“Litasco does not work with Venezuela. Before the restrictions were imposed, Litasco had operations to deliver oil products and to sell oil. There were swap operations. Today there are none, since the sanctions were imposed,” Lukoil’s Alekperov said at the Russian Investment Forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Another Russian oil producer, Gazprom Neft, however, does not see major risks for its oil business in Venezuela, the company’s chief executive officer Alexander Dyukov said at the same event.

Gazprom Neft has not supplied and does not supply oil products to Venezuela needed to dilute the thick heavy Venezuelan oil, Dyukov said, noting that the Latin American country hadn’t approached Gazprom Neft for possible supply of oil products for diluents.

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades. Analysts expect that a shortage of diluents could accelerate beginning this month the already steadily declining Venezuelan oil production and exports.

Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 59,000 bpd from December 2018 to stand at just 1.106 million bpd in January 2019, OPEC’s secondary sources figures showed in the cartel’s closely watched Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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