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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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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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