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Ambassador urges calm as US prepares to release list of corrupt Russian oligarchs

John Huntsman asked the Kremlin not to react too strongly to the list, which is to be released Monday

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(ZeroHedge) – The US Ambassador to Russia urged the Kremlin to react “calmly” to the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of “corrupt oligarchs” due Monday. The list is designed to “name and shame” elite Russians into thinking twice before engaging in business with Putin’s government. It will be up to Congress to decide whether the list should be published.

“I urge to take this report, based on its real and not a contrived essence and without emotions, because relations between our countries are far from being exhausted by this one legal act, and I was reminded about it in Washington, where I was two weeks ago,” – US Ambassador John Huntsman via –newsru (translated)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters two weeks ago that Russia will react to any punitive measures against its businessmen, stating “The principle of reciprocity remains,” suggesting that Putin would employ a commensurate response to a U.S. crackdown on oligarchs. 

As we previously reported, the list was created pursuant to an August, 2017 law requiring the Treasury and State Departments identify officials and oligarchs as determined by “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth” in order to penalize the Kremlin for its alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

The report is intended to “name and shame” Russia’s elite who prop up Putin, and to send a message “that Putin’s aggression in terms of Russian interference in our elections will be very costly to them,” said Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of State who led the State Department Russia sanctions office.

It is likely to signal to Russia’s political and business classes that they’d be better off maintaining a distance from the Putin government, and it could lead to further sanctions against individuals who participate in corruption, Fried said.

The Russian elite reacted with something between anxiety and panic about the prospect of this list,” Fried said. “They focused on this immediately, and they’re very worried about it.” –USA Today

The list will include “indices of corruption with respect to those individuals,” along with any foreign assets they hold. According to Bloomberg, this sent Russian fat cats into a liquidation frenzy – with many scrambling to contact D.C. lobbyists in order to buy their way off the list.

Some people who think they’re likely to land on the list have stress-tested the potential impact on their investments, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Others are liquidating holdings, according to their U.S. advisers.

Russian businessmen have approached former Treasury and State Department officials with experience in sanctions for help staying off the list, said Dan Fried, who previously worked at the State Department and said he turned down such offers. Some Russians sent proxies to Washington in an attempt to avoid lobbying disclosures, according to one person that was contacted. –Bloomberg

Corruption Index

The Treasury’s report must include “indices of corruption,” which will list any foreign assets next to an oligarch considered corrupt. “Because of the nervousness that the Russian business community is facing, a number of oligarchs are already beginning to wind back businesses, treating them as if they are already designated, to stay ahead of it,” said Daniel Tannebaum, head of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s global financial sanctions unit.

Russia’s well-connected billionaires have hired law firms to try to keep them off the list, said Ariel Cohen, a Russia analyst at the Atlantic Council think tank. Russians believe the list is a first step toward increasing the current 29 Russians under U.S. sanctions by adding 40 to 400 names, Cohen added. –USA Today

Vladimir Putin has warned wealthy nationals over worsening U.S. sanctions, and provided them with a capital amnesty program designed to allow oligarchs to repatriate some of their overseas assets. Meanwhile, Putin has issued special bonds which will allow the wealthy to hold assets outside of the reach of the U.S. Treasury.

Separate sanctions handed down

As we reported earlier in the month, Treasury officials are concerned that people will confuse Monday’s list of corrupt oligarchs with separate sanctions handed down to Russians over the Ukraine crisis.

On Friday, the Treausry Department added 11 individuals to a “blacklist” which now contains 21 Russian or Ukraainian nationals and nine companies – most of which are power or energy firms. The Treasury’s announcement reads in part:

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated 21 individuals and 9 entities under four Executive Orders (E.O.s) related to Russia and Ukraine, including three individuals and two entities related to Russia’s transfer of four turbines made by a Russian-German joint venture to Crimea.  Today’s action is part of Treasury’s continued commitment to maintain sanctions pressure on Russia until it fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements.  This action underscores the U.S. government’s opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and firm refusal to recognize its attempted annexation of the peninsula.  These sanctions follow the European Union’s recent extension of sanctions and reinforce our continued unity in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

As a result of today’s action, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked.  Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons involving these persons are generally prohibited.

“The U.S. government is committed to maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to targeting those who attempt to undermine the Minsk agreements,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.  “Those who provide goods, services, or material support to individuals and entities sanctioned by the United States for their activities in Ukraine are engaging in behavior that could expose them to U.S. sanctions.”

Today, OFAC also identified 12 subsidiaries that are owned 50 percent or more by previously sanctioned Russian companies to provide additional information to assist the private sector with sanctions compliance.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, sparking the conflict in Ukraine. Diplomatic ties have worstened between the two nuclear superpowers, with Washington accusing Moscow of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.

In December 2016, President Obama closed two diplomatic compounds used by Russia in retaliation for “hacking the election,” expelling 35 diplomats amid fresh sanctions. Then in July 2017, the Senate voted to increase sanctions on Russia by a 98-2 margin, which Trump reluctantly signed off on  August 2 – stoking fears over a trade war after comments by Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev that the law had ended hope for improving US-Russia relations.

Days after the Senate vote, Russia responded by expelling 755 US diplomats – to which President Trump thanked Putin for having “cut our payroll.”

“I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States,” Trump said, adding “we’re going to save a lot of money… there’s no real reason for them to go back.”

Several weeks later in August 2017, the Trump administration “thanked” Russia again – giving them 72 hours to vacate three more diplomatic facilities in San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York City.

Towards the end of 2017, Washington took a series of steps to further vilify Russia, branding the country a “rival power” and “revisionist power,” while imposing new sanctions on several individuals linked to the Kremlin.

Trump’s Executive Order

Perhaps one of the main drivers behind Russian oligarchs shedding assets before the U.S. Treasury’s “indices of corruption” are released is an Executive Order signed quietly in Late December which freezes the U.S. housed assets of foreign government officials or executives of foreign corporations deemed to be corrupt

In fact, anyone in the world who has “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material or technological support for, or goods or services” to foreigners targeted by the Executive Order is subject to frozen assets. This would apply to D.C. lobbyists working for corrupt Russian oligarchs, or U.S. government officials who have, say, effectuated a uranium deal deemed corrupt.

As such, tomorrow’s release of “corrupt oligarchs” by the US Treasury Department may have serious consequences for the finances of Americans who have done any type of business with any Russians deemed corrupt by the United States.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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