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Moscow’s ‘influence’ on US election a myth – Russian FM to Italian newspaper

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RT | November 30, 2016

Allegations that Russian hacking attacks aided the victory of Donald Trump are a myth, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Italian newspaper Corriere della sera. The interview also focused on sanctions against Moscow and NATO-Russia tensions.

In the immediate aftermath of the victory of Donald Trump at the US presidential elections, American and international media were quick to assume the alleged hacking of the camp of the Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by “Russian hackers” was to blame for the result.

Speaking to the Corriere della sera in an interview published late Wednesday, Lavrov stressed that the only ones who really “helped” Donald Trump to become the 45th US president were American citizens.

“It is symptomatic that the authors of such insinuations, who had inflated Russophobic hysteria in the United States on the eve of the vote, are now playing mum. No promised ‘evidence’ of interference in the electoral process has been presented neither to the American, nor to the international public,” Lavrov said.

In October, Washington officially accused Moscow of staging hacking assaults on US officials and institutions, though not delivering any facts or other information backing the serious statement. Kremlin rebuffed the accusations by the US as “nonsense.” The lack of proof has raised numerous questions as to what exact purposes the allegations might have actually served, Lavrov said.

“This confirms once again that the whole story is from the field of myth-making with a goal to solve the short-term political objectives,” the foreign minister added.

On November 29, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also weighed in, linking the recent hacking attacks on the country’s telecommunications group Deutsche Telecom to Moscow. However, the German leader admitted she did not know who exactly the attackers were.
‘Italy businesses dissatisfied with Russia sanctions’

When asked on how Russia is viewing relations with Italy, which is among the countries who imposed sanctions on Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis, Lavrov noted that both sides are suffering from the measures.

“Sanctions introduced by the EU against Russia, joined by Italy, and the Russian retaliatory steps had a negative impact on bilateral trade and economic cooperation,” Lavrov said. He also noted that Italy, which used to be the fourth-largest trading partner with Russia, now ranks sixth, while Washington has surpassed Rome and is now placed fifth.

“Thus, Washington, who became the initiator of a large part of the anti-Russian intentions, is not suffering any losses. Perhaps there is something our Italian and in general European partners have to think about,” Lavrov said. Russia, for its part, has already “adjusted” itself to the restrictions with the country’s economy solidly “standing on its feet.”

The Russian foreign minister also noted that “Italian political, business, public circles are increasingly expressing [their] dissatisfaction with the sanctions policies, advocate for the return” of the growing bilateral ties between the two states.

“A number of regions in Italy adopted a resolution calling for the removal of anti-Russian sanctions,” Lavrov said. He added Moscow hopes that Rome will build relations with Russia “based primarily on self-interest.”

“All the rich history of Russian-Italian relations, which are based on years of experience of fruitful cooperation, is an example that with joint efforts we managed to achieve significant results,” Lavrov said.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nothing Important Happened in Syria on Tuesday, Nov. 29

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | November 30, 2016

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, after more than five years of fighting in Aleppo, Syrian government forces recaptured a major portion of the “rebel” enclave often called “east Aleppo”.

It now should be called “southeast Aleppo”, and soon perhaps just “Aleppo”. Thousands of grateful Syrian civilians ran into the arms of the soldiers, and were provided with food, shelter, transportation, medical services, and other needs.

They recounted horror stories of how the “rebels”, under the leadership of the extremist al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (AKA Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), denied them food and water and shot at them when they tried to leave (after confiscating their mobile phones so that no one could hear their story). Nevertheless, hundreds of fighters decided to accept the government offer of amnesty, and laid down their arms, while the rest retreated into the shrinking enclave.

The main water pumping station for the entire city had been in this liberated section of the city, and government engineers promise that service will soon be restored for the first time in many years.

It is a major turning point in the Syrian war, signaling the beginning of the end for efforts by the US, NATO and the Arabian monarchies to create “regime change” and a failed state in place of the secular government supported by the vast majority of Syrian citizens.

But apparently none of this is of any importance. After following what I thought were exciting developments through Twitter, Facebook, RT, and various alternative media sites, I flipped through the evening news of the three major US television networks (ABC, NBC & CBS) to see what sort of coverage they might have. I was expecting denunciations, accusations of Russian and Syrian atrocities, and the usual lies and distortions.

Instead, I found nothing at all. There was no coverage of Syria. Apparently, nothing of any consequence had happened. Instead, there was a story about how a group of US workers had won the lottery and had all become millionaires.

Silly me! I had thought it was a historic turning point. I can only imagine that the lavishly funded Aleppo Media Center and White Helmets “impartial” “volunteer” organizations were too busy running for their lives, along with their head-chopping heroes, to concoct their stories and stage their imitation rescue and black flag operations, and distribute them to the western media. Without these sources, the corporate media were left with nothing to report except stories that contradicted everything they had been reporting for months and years.

Silence is golden.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Hermon National Park’ land appropriation and settlement expansion condemned by human rights group

Al-Marsad | November 28, 2016

Human rights organisation Al-Marsad has written to the EU, European governments and the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council regarding the approval last month by the Israeli government to expand the largest illegal Israeli settlement in the Occupied Syrian Golan by 1,600 settlements units; and the planned appropriation of Syrian land under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan. The letter is available here.

In October, the Israeli Finance Ministry approved plans for the construction of 1,600 settlement units in the illegal Israeli settlement of Katzrin. With a population of 8,000, Katzrin is the largest Israeli settlement in the Occupied Syrian Golan. It was built over the destroyed Syrian villages of Qasrin, Shqef and Sanawber whose inhabitants were either forced to leave their homes by the Israeli army or were displaced by fighting during the Israeli occupation in 1967.

Katzrin is also home to various settlement businesses that illegally exploit the natural resources of the Occupied Syrian Golan, such as the Golan Heights Winery and Eden Springs / May Eden mineral water. In addition, Afek, an Israeli oil company that is illegally conducting oil exploration in the Occupied Syrian Golan, has an office in Katzrin. Afek is owned by a US company, Genie Energy, that includes Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney and James Woolsey (former head of the CIA) on its advisory board.

Furthermore, this announcement follows approval by the Israeli government in 2014 for a $108 million investment to establish 750 Israeli settlement ‘farming estates’ on 7,100 acres of land in the Occupied Syrian Golan.

Meanwhile, under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan the Israeli authorities are seeking to appropriate 25,000 acres of land that have been used by the residents of Syrian villages, Majdal Shams and Ein Qynia, since Ottoman rule for agriculture and housing. If approved the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan would, in particular, surround Majdal Shams in the north and west. Therefore, the only area available for urban expansion of the village would be agricultural land in the south – a main source of livelihood for the local Syrian population. It is not possible to expand the village to the east given its close proximity to the fortified ceasefire line.

The designation of land by the Israeli authorities as a ‘national park’, ‘abandoned property’ or for ‘military or public needs’ is a regularly used tactic to either prevent the expansion of Syrian and Palestinian communities under occupation, or to appropriate land for settlement construction.

Therefore, Al-Marsad:
• Calls on the international community to strongly condemn plans for the construction of 1600 settlement units in the illegal settlement of Katzrin and the planned expropriation of Syrian land under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan; and obtain binding commitments from Israel that it will stop these activities.
• Invites foreign governments and international organisations to send fact-finding missions to the Occupied Syrian Golan to witness firsthand the deteriorating human rights situation.

Al-Marsad is an independent, not-for-profit, legal human rights organisation – it is the only human rights organisation operating in the Occupied Syrian Golan. For additional information, please contact marsad@golan-marsad.org or researcher.almarsad@gmail.com.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Saving Poroshenko? US State Dept offers $800k to Ukraine NGOs

RT | November 30, 2016

Washington is offering a grant of up to $800,000 to Ukrainian public organizations that will monitor regional authorities and secure ties with local media. Experts say it’s a way to keep President Petro Poroshenko in power amid declining popularity.

“[The] goal is to enhance the accountability and responsiveness of the Ukrainian government at the local level through civil society advocacy, monitoring, and civic activism,” reads a US State Department funding announcement, published this week on the  website.

It explains further that the State Department is looking for “civil society organizations,” either non-profit or for-profit (with some conditions) that will provide proposals “to perform a watchdog function and advocate for democratic governance” in Ukraine.

The description states the program is aimed at increasing civic activism in Ukraine at a local level and building and training a network of civic activists throughout the country. These in turn are to keep watch on the activities of local governments and encourage partnerships between civil society and media “to communicate important information about local reforms to the public.”

The organizations applying for the grant must present a program for their activities, along with a financial plan, by January 17, 2017. They are also required to have ties with “thematic or in-country partners, entities and relevant stakeholders, including private sector partners and NGOs” and provide proof of these links or their potential development.

The description states that applicants are also requested to have “demonstrable experience in administering successful, and preferably similar, projects.”

It adds that: “Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms, and should have potential for sustainability beyond DRL (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the State Department) resources.”

Among other things, the bureau says it welcomes projects that “advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most vulnerable or at-risk populations,” with one of the criteria for the selection of candidates being their cooperation with minority groups.

The State Department reserves a significant role for itself in the implementation of the program that receives the grant. It will, for instance, demand quarterly reports on the program’s spending and progress.

‘Chance to keep Poroshenko at helm’ – experts on funding grant

Experts believe that this and other such funding opportunities Washington has offered Ukraine are a means of preventing the fall of the country’s president and Washington favorite, Petro Poroshenko. The Ukrainian leader’s public approval ratings have plunged recently.

According to , in November Poroshenko’s rating drew 14.3 percent of popular support – having plummeted to a low of 10.7 percent in summer. He is still behind former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the ratings.

 to RT Russian, political analyst Nikolay Shlyamin said: “The activists who will work in the country under this program and for the money from this grant will penetrate [Ukraine’s] state agencies to monitor the spending of officials and then publish reports on the expenditures from the state budget.

“In addition, they will attract the media who will cover the process of fighting against corruption in the country. In this case, there is a chance that the Americans will be able to keep their favorite at the helm for the upcoming presidential elections,” Shlyamin believes.

He notes that the Ukrainian people have become disillusioned with Poroshenko’s leadership, with his promises to introduce visa-free travel with the EU and eradicate corruption proving a failure.

“Under Poroshenko, Ukraine has so far been unable to secure European Union and NATO membership. In domestic policy [there have been] also continuous failures,” Shlyamin told RT Russian.

He believes the current grant is one of the final efforts by US President Barack Obama’s administration to maintain US-Ukraine relations as they have been since the coup in 2014.

“Obama will soon leave office. Therefore, he needs to have time to allocate the necessary financial resources to continue the current policy and prevent future president Donald Trump from building a new line of cooperation with Ukraine,” he says.

Some, like film director Oliver Stone, have called the Maidan revolution of 2014 a , while former US Congressman Ron Paul called on foreign actors – like Washington, NATO or Moscow – to stay out of the country.

In 2015, Sputnik news agency reported that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – a bureau much like the DRL, which is offering the current grant – played a significant role in the preparation of the Kiev coup. From 2011 to 2014 it was  to have given some $14 million to Ukrainian NGOs which facilitated media coverage of mass demonstrations and organized youth movements.

After much speculation on the US role in the upheaval of 2014, President Obama last year openly  to having a hand in the events, or in his words “broker[ing] a deal to transition power in Ukraine.”

Shlyamin’s colleague Sergey Sudakov said that, given its political significance, a major grant like the one currently being advertised for Ukraine is likely to end up in the hands of someone trusted by Washington, such as billionaire investor George Soros.

“The government must be sure of the loyalty of those who are entrusted with such projects. After all, their goal [is] espionage and site preparation for the implementation of pro-American policy,” he said.

Experts say that under Obama, Washington has been striving to gain full control over Ukraine – a strategically important region due to its location close to Russia. Shlyamin noted that in this “struggle for Kiev,” Washington has been pursuing “soft force,” introducing US democratic values through methods such as education and cultural training.

Indeed, the US government has been known to large sums to work with Ukrainian media, businesses and civil society activists. Last year, Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s top diplomat for Europe, acknowledged that since 1991 America has poured $5 billion of taxpayers’ money into what she said was assisting Ukrainians in building “democratic skills and institutions.”

Grants were distributed through the DRL, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), with the money going to sponsor various NGOs, political parties and media outlets.

However, Ukraine is not the only country whose internal affairs Washington is keen on being closely involved in. Just two months ago it emerged that USAID had  $3 million to Russian non-governmental entities, according to data posted on government website .

The organization, which was banned in Russia in 2012 as “undesirable,” announced the funding opportunity just as Russia was preparing to hold parliamentary elections. The investment was listed under the heading ‘For activity in Russia,’ set to be completed by 2017.

Read more:

US allocates $3mn to back Russian NGOs ahead of parliamentary elections

Brokering power: US role in Ukraine coup hard to overlook

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Corruption | , , , | 1 Comment

Kosovo Spent IMF Funds on Pensions for Veterans Now Fighting for Daesh

Sputnik – 30.11.2016

Over the past two decades, the Kosovar government has spent over $2 billion on payments to former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) paramilitary organization. Kosovo received the money from the United States and the European Union and since 2009 mostly from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Kosovo Liberation Army was formed during the mid-1990s by Kosovo Albanians seeking independence from Serbia and the creation of a monoethnic state. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.

There have been numerous reports of abuses and war crimes committed by KLA members during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war, including massacres of civilians, prisons camps, allegations of organ theft etc. A special court in The Hague has been established to investigate those crimes. According to different estimates, currently at least 500 KLA veterans are fighting in the ranks of Daesh in Syria.

“Compared to the entire population of Kosovo, this number is the fifth-largest among other European countries. Many of the KLA veterans fighting for Daesh receive payments from the Kosovar budget which [is] regularly funded by the US, the EU and the IMF,” journalist Brankica Ristic wrote for Sputnik Serbia.

Currently, there are 46,000 KLA veterans in Kosovo. A list was made up to identify those who deserve pensions from the budget. The IMF unveiled €106 million ($113 million) for the initiative.

The first payments were made in 2015. Some 12,000 former KLA members, who fought against the Yugoslavian government and law enforcement agencies in the 1990s, received €170 ($181) each.

However, since that time the number of officially registered veterans has increased fourfold. Pristina had to ask the IMF to unveil more funds. The Kosovar budget for 2017 is €2 billion ($2.1 billion), including money to transform the Kosovo security forces into full-fledged armed forces, which will be funded by the IMF. However, the IMF does not want to give money for pensions for 46,000 KLA veterans. The fund asked Pristina to clarify the number of veterans. The government hopes that if the IMF rejects giving the money the US could do [so]. But the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election has put this into question.

“After the 1999 war Kosovo received $3.8 billion of international aid. According to different sources, between 2000 and 2010 the region received up to $40 billion. Part of this money could have been paid to those fighting now in the ranks of Daesh,” the journalist wrote.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UN, US Fail to Offer Humanitarian Aid to 90,000 Freed Aleppo Citizens

Sputnik – 30.11.2016

The United States, the United Kingdom, France and the United Nations have not yet offered humanitarian relief to 90,000 Aleppo citizens, liberated from militants two days ago, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman said Wednesday.

“Two days after over 90,000 Aleppo residents were freed from terrorists, no offer of humanitarian assistance came from the office of UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, the British and French Foreign Ministries or the US State Department,” the ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

Konashenkov reminded about the previous US, UK, UN and French demands to provide humanitarian access to eastern Aleppo when it was held by the militants.

“Apparently, the [humanitarian] assistance was destined for certain other people living in the eastern parts of Aleppo,” Konashenkov said highlighting the absence of the above-mentioned sides’ interest in providing civilians with humanitarian aid after all the necessary conditions for the aid delivery had been created.

On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Syrian government forces had cleared almost half of eastern Aleppo from militant strongholds, liberating tens of thousands local residents.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Despite Rapprochement, Turkey-Russia Relations Remain Uneasy Over Syria

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 30.11.2016

While a year has passed since Turkey shot down a Russian jet in Syria and while a few months have passed since the beginning of rapprochement between both countries that includes co-operation in Syria and co-operation in the field of energy, their bi-lateral ties remain uneasy—a situation that largely owes its existence to the still-lingering disagreement over Syria, particularly the future of Assad, and the dual role Turkey happens to be playing there. On the one hand, it has sent its own troops to supposedly fight the Islamic State, and on the other, there are on the ground proxy groups who are receiving support from Turkey. Therefore, while Turkey has repeatedly said that it “respects” Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, it continues to support these “rebel” groups who are in Syria, first and foremost, to oust the Syrian president and to contain the Syrian Kurds—something that not only is a violation of Syrian sovereignty but also pits Turkey against Syria and Russia in the region.

As such, while Turkey rhetorically respects Syria’s territorial integrity, it has still created a “safe zone” inside Syria, in the name of creating a shield against the Islamic State’s incursions into Turkey, and is pushing for bringing more of the Syrian territory under its direct control—a step that is akin to a de facto territorial disintegration of Syria due to a foreign (Turkish) occupation. Hence, the contention that while Turkey may not actually be seeking to create a permanent “zone” in Syria—something that Turkey and Russia have developed some understanding about —Turkey certainly has not changed its mind towards Assad’s future as Syria’s president (read:  Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu recently acknowledged in an interview that Turkey and Russia have disagreement over Assad’s future). This un-changed position makes Turkey more of a NATO ally, which it is by all means, and less of a partner of Syria and Russia against terrorism.

What the current nature of relationship between Turkey and Russia implies is that it is yet to convert itself into a full-fledged strategic alliance. Although we have seen a lot of progress towards normalization, this normalization is of tactical nature only wherein Russia appears to be an important actor for Turkey to neutralize the prospects of Kurds, who are being continuously supported by the US, establishing their own state i.e., Kurdistan. Besides it, Turkey also sees in Russia an opportunity to counter-balance its relations with the US and EU and send them a signal that it does have other ‘avenues of support.’

That Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia is of tactical nature only is also evident from the fact that this rapprochement and normalization has not so far created any rupture in NATO. This normalization is likely to stay what it actually is i.e., normalization and, as such, least likely to turn into a strategic re-alignment, although earlier signs had shown that it was not an impossibility.

What impedes this transformation is, as stated above, Turkey’s contradictory dual role in Syria, where it is carrying on NATO’s agenda of ousting Assad and where it is also seemingly targeting IS along with Russia and Syria.

What such a position further implies is that Turkey is tapping into both blocks to take advantage of its geographical location and achieve all of its major objectives i.e., oust Assad and roll back Kurds to other side of Euphrates river. While Turkey does aim at both targets, this perusal puts it in a conflicting position vis-à-vis Syria. Some recent incidents strongly indicate the potential of this conflicting position to transform into yet another war.

For instance, the advance by largely Turkmen and Arab rebels backed by Turkey towards al-Bab, the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in the northern Aleppo countryside, potentially pits them against both Kurdish fighters and Syrian government forces, leading to clashes between them.

Al-Bab is of particular strategic importance to Turkey because Kurdish-dominated militias have also been pursuing a campaign to seize it. Ankara is determined to prevent Kurdish forces from joining up cantons they control along the Turkish border. Turkey is backing the Syrian rebels with troops, tanks and artillery, as well as reconnaissance flights along the border.

However, while Turkey is out there to prevent the Kurds from having any territory under their control in Syria, Syria itself is not ready to ‘host’ Turkish troops on its territory. This has created the threat of direct clashes occurring between them. In fact, such incidents have already started to occur.

On last Friday, the Turkish military said that Thursday, November 24, air strike, which killed three of its soldiers, was thought to have been carried out by the Syrian air force. It would be the first time Turkish soldiers have died at the hands of Syrian government forces. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed this attack on Turkish troops in Syria with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday as Turkish-backed rebels pressed an offensive to take the Syrian city of al-Bab, a report from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency stated.

While no major dispute of diplomatic and military nature has so far been reported developing between Turkey and Russia, this incident unambiguously underlines the fundamental disagreement both have in Syria.

Therefore, it is not energy-co-operation merely that would determine the future of their bi-lateral relations. While co-operation in this field required normalization, which they have already achieved, it is also quite clear today that the transformation of this normalization into a strategic realignment depends upon how smoothly both countries resolve their differences over Syria. In the coming months, the progress of the operation, as well as the battle for Aleppo, will become the decisive points in setting the trajectory of their bilateral relations.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Erdogan’s Statements Contradict with Earlier Russia-Turkey Agreements: Diplomat

Sputnik – November 30, 2016

Turkish President’s intention to depose Syrian leader contradict with previously reached agreements between Russia and Turkey, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s statements on his intention to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad run counter to earlier reached agreements between Russia and Turkey, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday.

“This runs counter to all agreements. First, Resolution 2254, Resolution 2268, decisions of the Vienna format, Lausanne format. We have been participating in these formats jointly with Turkey,” Bogdanov told reporters.

Erdogan said Tuesday the Turkish armed forces’ military operation in Syria is designed to put an end to the rule of President Bashar Assad.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment