Reprieve | April 19, 2015
A court in Germany is set to take evidence from a Yemeni victim of the USA’s secret drone programme – in the wake of revelations that military bases on German soil play a key role in the strikes.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana’a who lost two relatives to a 2012 drone strike, has won the right to give evidence next month, as part of a constitutional claim filed in Germany.
The claim, filed in October last year by international human rights organisation Reprieve and its German partner, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), seeks measures by the German administration to stop the use of German territory for illegal actions by the U.S. in Yemen. They argue that the German government is acting in breach of the German constitution by allowing the U.S. to use its air base at Ramstein for illegal drone attacks abroad.
Mr Jaber lost his brother-in-law Salim – a preacher – and nephew Waleed – a local police officer – to a US drone strike on the village of Khashamir on 29 August 2012. Salim often spoke out against extremism, and had used a sermon just days before he was killed to urge his congregation to reject Al Qaeda.
The case represents the first time that a court in a country which provides support to the US drone programme will hear from one of its civilian victims. The U.S.’ campaign of drone strikes – carried out in secret by the CIA and U.S. Special Forces – has come in for widespread criticism due to a lack of transparency and accountability. Many legal experts have argued that it violates both domestic and international law, while humanitarians have warned of the large number of civilians killed in the strikes.
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve and Mr bin Ali Jaber’s lawyer: “This is a crucial step in efforts to gain accountability for the civilian victims of secret US drone strikes. It also highlights that the US is not alone in this campaign – support is quietly provided by allies including Germany and the UK. Faisal’s story demonstrates how the misguided drone programme is not simply unacceptable, but deeply counterproductive. Not only is it killing civilians; it has even killed the very people who should be our allies in fighting extremism. Let’s hope this marks the start of some long overdue scrutiny of a programme characterised by secrecy.”
Andreas Schüller, Mr bin Ali Jaber’s attorney at ECCHR, said: “Germany must now take effective measures to stop the US from using Ramsteinn airbase for combat drone missions.”
This file photo shows a previous “Cologne Wailing Wall” exhibit displaying photographs of Palestinian children killed by Israel’s aggression
A German court has shut down a long-standing anti-Israel exhibition in the western city of Cologne, accusing its organizer of anti-Semitism and glorification of violence.
The German municipal court said the permanent exhibit, which displayed numerous pictures of the Palestinian children who were killed and injured during the Israeli regime’s bloody offensive against Gaza last summer, violates a law designed to protect minors.
Walter Hermann, the organizer of the exhibit, has protested for years against Israel with his exhibit dubbed the “Cologne Wailing Wall.”
Hermann, 76, whose anti-Israel campaign is named “Peace Demonstration,” told the German Express newspaper that the wanted to draw public attention to Israeli policies against Palestinian people.
The court ruled that Hermann will face a fine of USD 635 and a possible second trial should he continue to display the pictures. The anti-Israel activist intends to appeal the ruling.
Earlier in 2010, the city partnerships of Cologne-Tel Aviv and Cologne-Bethlehem issued a joint statement condemning the anti-Israel exhibit.
According to the statement, “The anti-Semitic and anti-Israel presentation” of the Cologne Wailing Wall “feeds anti-Israel resentments.”
In its latest major act of military aggression against Gaza, the Israeli regime started airstrikes on the Palestinian territory in early July 2014 and later expanded its campaign with a ground invasion. The war ended in late August that year.
Nearly 2,200 Palestinians lost their lives and some 11,000 were injured in the assaults. Gaza Health officials say the victims included 578 children and nearly 260 women, adding that more than 3,100 children were injured in the offensive.
Moreover, the UN has said that up to 1,500 children were orphaned in the Israeli war.
The Times of Israel reports that an Israeli op-ed writer has advocated the nuclear annihilation of both Iran and Germany.
In an article written in Hebrew for Israel National News, Chen Ben-Eliyahu advocates the use of 20 or 30 nuclear bombs against Germany in revenge for the holocaust and also against Iran which the author suggests is an existential threat to Israel.
“Twenty, thirty atomic bombs on Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Dresden, Dortmund and so on to assure the job gets done. And the land will be quiet for a thousand years,” he wrote.
“To an existential threat we must respond with an existential threat,” he wrote, “not with speeches in Congress. We must make it clear to the Iranians that Israel will wipe out their nuclear program and Tehran and Isfahan as well.”
The German federal television channel ZDF got into a bit of trouble recently after a citizens’ media monitoring group called them out over false reporting on the presence of Russian tanks in eastern Ukraine.
A German media monitoring organization has filed a complaint against federal channel ZDF over false reporting on the situation in eastern Ukraine, Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten has reported.
The complaint, filed by a citizens’ group known as the Permanent Open Committee of Media Monitoring, revolves around a photo accompanying a recent news segment airing on ZDF about alleged Russian military presence in eastern Ukraine.
The segment, which described the alleged movement of Russian tanks and missile systems into eastern Ukraine, featured a photo with the caption “Russian armored vehicles moved through Isvarino in the Lugansk region, February 12, 2015,” citing “Ukrainian army spokesman Andrei Lysenko in Kiev.” The only problem is that the image in question was actually taken several years earlier, in 2009, and in South Ossetia, not Ukraine.
In their complaint to ZDF, one of Germany’s largest broadcasters, the Open Committee notes that “it would be interesting to know why such an image, which has nothing to do with the news in question, is being repeated, meant as it is to convince a third party of the truthfulness of assumptions about an “invasion by [Russian] armor.”
Maren Mueller, one of the founders of the Open Committee and a former media worker herself, believes that much of German coverage of events in eastern Ukraine is tainted by distortions, half-truths and outright lies. Mueller says that “the coverage of events in Ukraine by the media has reached the height of fantasy, and is not worth taking seriously.” She notes that the tank story is just one example of the kinds of distortions that regularly occur. Recently, German media watchers forced an ARD correspondent to retract his words on the deaths of two civilians in Krasnoarmeysk, after the latter had erroneously claimed that the deaths were caused by “the bullets of the new rulers,” meaning the anti-Kiev rebels. The channel has since been forced to issue an apology over the mistake.
Ms. Mueller believes that among the biggest problems of the German media’s coverage of events is the “dangerous closeness” between the media’s line and that of the description of the conflict being provided in the government.
Last week a senior American official faced embarrassment on the Senate floor after it turned out that photos of Russian tanks he was presenting as proof of Russian involvement in Ukraine were also from the war in South Ossetia. After finding out that the photos weren’t from the Ukraine war, Inhofe stated that “the Ukrainian parliament members who gave us these photos in print form as if it came directly from a camera really did themselves a disservice. We felt confident to release these photos because the images match the reporting of what is going on in the region. I was furious to learn one of the photos provided now appears to be falsified from an AP photo taken in 2008.”
The eastern Ukrainian militias have stopped all military action in accordance with the Minsk peace deal. They will suppress any provocations that may be organized by Kiev forces, said Aleksandr Zakharchenko, head of Donetsk People’s Republic.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered troops to cease fire at Sunday midnight local time (22:00 GMT) in line with the Thursday Minsk agreement. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page that “all National Guard and Interior Ministry units will halt fire at midnight.”
Meanwhile, Defense Ministry spokesman of Donetsk People’s Republic, Eduard Basurin, has ordered that all eastern Ukrainian militia units halt fighting “on the entire line of contact,” RIA Novosti reports. A similar statement has come out of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, saying that local militia are to stop all combat actions at midnight.
Earlier, leaders of the restive Ukrainian republics said their regions have ratified the peace deal.
The militias will stop all military action outside the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Zakharchenko said. However, he said that the self-defense forces will reply to any provocative actions by the Kiev troops, including assaults and precision fire.
The DPR leader also said that rebels won’t release a large group of Ukrainian troops, who have been entrapped near the village of Debaltsevo since early February.
“Their every attempt to break out will be suppressed,” Zakharchenko is cited by RIA-Novosti news agency.
The rebels’ leader reminded that “there wasn’t a word mentioning Debaltsevo in the agreements” signed in Minsk on February 12, which means that “Ukraine simply betrayed the 5,000 people trapped in the Debaltsevo ‘cauldron’.”
Earlier, Basurin said that the Ukrainian troops near Debaltsevo won’t be shelled, but won’t be released as well, with surrender being the only option.
Zakharchenko has put his signature under a decree, which foresees the beginning of the ceasefire at 01:00 AM local time on Sunday – midnight for Kiev and 2200 GMT.
The DPR head also said that the Donetsk People’s Republic won’t grant control over its border with Russia to Ukrainian border guards: “Today an order will be issued to create the border guard service. Not a single Ukrainian soldier will enter our territory.”
Poroshenko warns of martial law
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has once again warned that if the Minsk agreements fail, “martial law will be implemented not only in Donetsk and Lugansk, but in the whole country”.
Moscow has expressed hopes Kiev and the rebels, as well as all the sides, which supported the Minsk peace deal, including France and Germany, “will do everything for the signed agreements to be scrupulously implemented,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“Ukraine’s official representatives… as well as those of several Western countries, the US in particular, have essentially expressed solidarity with the opinion of radical nationalists in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) and have began distorting the contents of the Minsk agreements,” the ministry said.
On Saturday, Poroshenko spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on the phone, with the three heads of state stressing that all sides must fulfill the obligations they’ve taken according to Minsk agreements, first of all, those concerning the ceasefire.
The Ukrainian president also had a telephone conversation with US president Barack Obama, during which the two leaders “agreed on the further coordination of efforts in the event of an escalation” in Ukraine’s southeast.
Poroshenko and Obama “discussed the situation in Donbass and expressed concerns about the situation in Debaltsevo,” according to the Ukrainian president’s website.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, also discussed the situation in southeastern Ukraine on the phone, and stressed “the importance of strict implementation of the ceasefire regime by the conflicting sides.”
Lavrov also emphasized that the Minsk peace deal “also includes obligations by Kiev to remove the financial and economic blockade of the [Ukrainian] southeast; to provide an amnesty; to stage a constitutional reform by the end of the year and adopt legislation on the special status of Donbass,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on its Facebook page.
The contact group, which includes representatives from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, held video consultations on Saturday, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said.
According to the OSCE, all parties agreed to take necessary measures to establish the agreed truce and de-escalation of the conflict, including in the areas of Debaltsevo and Mariupol.
The contact group will continue holding consultations on a regular basis to ensure the implementation of the Minsk agreements, a statement from the watchdog added.
The Minsk agreement provides for a security zone separating the Kiev forces and the rebels, a ceasefire beginning on Sunday and a heavy weapons pullout to be completed in 14 days. The deal was signed by the contact group, which includes the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, a representative of the OSCE, Ukraine’s former president Leonid Kuchma, and the Russian ambassador to Ukraine,
A separate declaration supporting the deal was agreed upon by the so-called “Normandy Four” leaders – French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who also gathered in Belarusian capital.
In accordance with the deal, on Saturday the eastern Ukrainian republics also proposed amendments to the constitution. One of the key demands is to grant certain regions the right to define and form the structure of local governments themselves, Denis Pushilin, DPR representative at the Minsk talks, said.
The rebels also want the official status for the Russian language and other minority languages, spoken in Ukraine’s central regions, he said. Another proposed amendment foresees the decentralization of fiscal and tax systems, “up to the possibility of creating in free economic zones and other special economic regimes on certain territories,” Pushilin is cited by TASS news agency.
While the Minsk deal is hoped to secure an end to the bloody and devastating internal conflict that has taken the lives of over 5,300 people in the UN’s estimates since last April, shelling in Donetsk was reported throughout the whole of Saturday.
An agreement has been brokered in Minsk to stop hostilities in Ukraine from Sunday. The deal was reached after marathon talks between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, and signed by the Ukrainian rebels.
“I believe we agreed on a big deal. We agreed to a ceasefire starting at 00:00 on February 15,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media after the talks were finished.
“The main thing achieved is that from Saturday into Sunday there should be declared – without any conditions at all – a general ceasefire,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told journalists in a separate statement.
A compromise decision was taken over the disengagement line, which was the biggest stumbling block in the negotiation. According to the document, Kiev’s troops would pull back heavy weapons from the current frontline. The rebels would pull back from the line as it existed in September, when the previous ceasefire agreement was signed.
The security zone separating the warring parties must be at least 50km wide for artillery over 100mm caliber, 70km for regular multiple rocket launchers and 100km for heavier weapons with a longer range, such as Tochka-U ballistic missiles, the document states.
The weapons pullout must start on Sunday and be completed in no longer than 14 days. The OSCE is charged with implementing the ceasefire on the ground and will use its drone fleet and monitors to verify that both parties are sticking to the deal.
The ceasefire deal provides for withdrawal of all “foreign troops, heavy weapons and mercenaries” from Ukraine under an OSCE monitoring. “Illegal armed groups” would be disarmed, but local authorities in the future would be allowed to have legal militia units.
The agreement involves exchange of all prisoners, which is to be completed within 19 days. A general amnesty for the rebels would be declared by Kiev.
The national government’s control over the borders between Donetsk and Lugansk Regions would be fully restored a day after municipal elections, which would be held in the regions as part of a profound constitutional reform.
The agreement requires a political reform in Ukraine to ensure decentralization and a special status for its rebel provinces. It requires Ukraine to adopt legislation which would provide permanent privileges to the Lugansk and Donetsk Regions, currently self-declared republics, by the end of 2015.
The legislation would include the right for language self-determination and trans-border ties with Russia, as well as the authority of the local governments to appoint local prosecutors and judges, the document states.
Humanitarian and economic issues are also mentioned in the deal. Kiev would restore economic ties and social payments, which it cut in rebel-held areas, the document says. An international monitoring mechanism may be established for these payments.
During the transition period an internationally-monitored mechanism for humanitarian aid to the regions affected by the war would be implemented, the document sates.
Direct talks needed
Putin said that Kiev’s unwillingness to hold direct talks with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics was among the reasons it took so much time to reach an agreement.
“They may be unrecognized, but we have to deal with real life here, and if everyone wants to agree and have sustainable relations, direct contacts are needed,” Putin said.
He added that the ‘Normandy Four’ expect the parties involved in the conflict to show restraint even in the days before the ceasefire takes effect.
The terms of the ceasefire are spelled out in a document signed by members of the so-called contact group, which includes representatives from the rebel forces, Kiev, Moscow and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, Putin said.
The members of the ‘Normandy Four’ – Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande – supported a joint declaration describing the results of their work.
The declaration was not meant to be signed by the leaders, Germany FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
If broken, no new memorandum possible
Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Zakharchenko, who signed the Minsk document, said it required additional consultation and warned that “if these terms are broken, there will be no new meetings or memoranda.”
He added that he and Igor Plotnitsky, the head of Lugansk People’s Republic, agreed to sign the document “due to guarantees from the president of Russia, chancellor of Germany and president of France,” with the hope that it would allow their people to “achieve peaceful development.”
The new Minsk accord gives hope for de-escalation of the Ukrainian conflict, although it would require a major effort to build trust between the parties involved. The previous deal collapsed as neither Kiev nor the rebels implemented it fully, which means the threat of renewed hostilities in Ukraine continue to loom.
World leaders gathered in Germany to discuss international security on Saturday, with the meeting somewhat descending into ‘Russia-bashing’. But the West showed itself to be more divided than ever on Ukraine, with the EU and US drifting further apart.
The Americans led the harsh anti-Russian rhetoric at the conference, and once again, they did not exclude the possibility of lethal arms deliveries to Ukraine in the future.
Speaking to reporters, NATO’s top commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, said that although no troops would be sent to Ukraine, providing Kiev with lethal weapons and equipment was on the cards.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, British Conservative politician and former foreign secretary Malcom Rifkind, and US senator Lindsey Graham notably took a pronounced anti-Russian stance, blaming the Kremlin for the violence in Ukraine.
Moscow hit back, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressing in his Munich speech that it is the US and its European allies who have played the key destabilizing role in Ukraine, from helping to overthrow the democratically elected government to failing to condemn the new Kiev government for shelling the civilian population in the east with cluster bombs.
“Through every step, as the crisis has developed, our American colleagues and the EU under their influence have tried to escalate the situation,” Lavrov said, adding that the West has always been urging world governments to enter into dialogue with opposition groups or figures, even when it came to extremist groups such as the Taliban. However, in Ukraine it has bluntly been supporting every one of Kiev’s actions.
Lavrov then spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry, warning him that Washington’s plans to supply Kiev with military equipment might have “unpredictable consequences”, including “disrupting the efforts to resolve the crisis in southeastern Ukraine,” according to a Facebook statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry. He stressed that Russia and the US agree that the only basis for any solution is a comprehensive national dialogue on constitutional reform in Ukraine.
Russia will not sacrifice its national interest, but is ready to “engage constructively” with the US, Lavrov stressed.
At the press conference, the Russian top diplomat was pelted with questions implying that Moscow is responsible for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
“It felt like orchestrated hate fest. Obviously these people live in a surreal world. The US try to change the balance of forces in eastern Europe and the EU join the band wagon,” Srdja Trifkovic, foreign affairs editor of the Chronicles magazine told RT, adding that “whenever a major power wants to change the status-quo, the result is a crisis.”
Despite the recent efforts to try and to stop the violence and find a peaceful way out of the Ukrainian conflict, with French and German leaders having taken an initiative to discuss a peace plan with Russia’s President Putin and Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, the actions of the West are still “profoundly self-righteous,” critics say.
“What I saw today in the press conference is a total unwillingness from the European, Western side to even take into consideration the arguments of the other side…the questions they pose are so selective, so predetermined by their self-righteousness – that is not the way you try to get peace,” former security consultant at the OSCE Lode Vanoost told RT, adding that the West is hypocritical to a level “so profound that [its behavior] is not a serious way to try to get peace.”
However, despite the overwhelmingly anti-Russian rhetoric coming from the West, there are increasingly numbers of politicians who are softening their stance.
Following the Friday meeting of President Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Moscow, which was said to be “constructive,” the French leader revealed that the discussion included the creation of a larger demilitarized zone between the Kiev and militia-controlled territories. He also called for “quite strong” autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday that Paris does not want a new Cold War, considering that Russia and France having a long history of common interests and values. The former state leader also said that it was Crimea that had chosen to join Russia and it “cannot be blamed” for its choice. Previously, former Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, said that Crimea has “always” been a part of Russia.
While the European leaders have largely been united in their support for the Kiev government, only a few have agreed with the United States on supplying weapons to Ukraine. Instead, the German leader stressed that the crisis “cannot be resolved militarily” and that sending more arms can only worsen the conflict.
The issue of military aid to Ukraine is now considered to be the main subject causing the divide in the West, with many in Europe realizing that the potential threat of an escalating conflict on its territory exists.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the 51st Munich Security Conference on February 7, 2015. (RIA Novosti/Flickr MFA Russia)
Political analysts agree that hidden from the public eye, “there is definitely a big divide between the US and the EU on the whole issue of Ukraine,” Vanoost told RT. “It’s very difficult to know how the game will finish, because it’s not an open game, it’s behind the scenes,” Bruno Drweski, an analyst specializing in eastern Europe, said.
Sanctions against Russia have economically hit the EU itself, but have not affected the US. The conflict is also happening on the European continent, not in America, with the EU generally not eager to further escalate it.
“First of all, the European Union is directly involved if the conflict escalates – which is not the case for the United States. Secondly, in the EU they are realistic enough to know that the government in Kiev is very unstable, that they don’t even have full control of all parts of their own military,” Vanoost explained, while speaking about the Western split in regard of the Ukrainian crisis.
However, toning down rhetoric puts some in the firing line, too.
After Merkel said that Europe wants security alongside with Russia, rather against it, and reiterated Berlin’s stance that the Ukrainian conflict must be resolved peacefully, US senator Graham lashed out at the German leader for her refusal to send arms to Ukraine.
“She can’t see how arming people who are willing to fight and die for their freedom makes things better,” the US politician said, adding that the West cannot “turn [its] back on the struggling democracy.”
In an effort to silence voices against harsher anti-Russian measures, US Vice President Joe Biden has labeled those questioning sanctions against Moscow “inappropriate and annoying,” Der Spiegel reported, quoting the participants of the Brussels meeting. The US official called on European countries to show unity when it comes to sanctions against Russia. Biden even reportedly added that critics of the policy should be aware that they also benefited from the current low price of oil.
“The Americans want to run this show, and they have no interest in stopping the crisis in Ukraine because it is really driving a wedge between the Europeans and Russia. And to their [the US’] mind, it is only pushing Europe ever so firmly back into the NATO fold,” Trifkovic told RT.
Meanwhile, Lavrov said Moscow is ready to guarantee agreements between the warring sides if a peaceful solution to the crisis is found, which would satisfy both Kiev and the eastern Ukrainian regions.
Quoting the “aggression” against the federal republic of Yugoslavia, the current crisis has been named “an ongoing assault against the Russian Federation” by the former deputy head of OSCE, Willy Wimmer. Calling for a hastier end to the conflict, which “is the best for all of us,” the ex official of the European security and cooperation organization said that “it’s better to have Polish apples in Russian stores than US tanks at the Russian border.”
An aide to the German chancellor has become the victim of a cyber-attack, according to media. The highly-sophisticated Regin virus that was found on her infected USB stick is reported to be a product of British and US spy agencies.
Having written a draft of a speech at work, one of Angela Merkel’s senior staff members decided to take it home to polish it on her private laptop in the evening. When the head of the Department of European Policy brought the USB stick with the document back to her work computer, virus scanning software revealed that it was infected, according to Monday’s report of Bild newspaper.
The USB stick was infected with the Regin spying software, but additional checks revealed no other infections on any of the 200 other high-security laptops in the Chancellery, sources from German security services said.
Regin was first warned of at the end of November by cyber-security company Symantec. A back door-type Trojan is able to “provide its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance.”
According to the report, the virus demonstrates such a “rare degree of technical competence” that indicates it has probably been developed by a nation state – and it could have taken years. Regin is able to fulfill a range of customizable tasks, such as making screenshots, controlling the mouse cursor and stealing passwords, depending on the target of a spying operation.
Media reports associated Regin with the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The virus is believed to begin operating in 2008, targeting governments, infrastructure operators, researchers, as well as private individuals and businesses.
French President Francois Hollande has called for a joint effort by the leaders of France, Russia, Germany and Ukraine to calm the conflict in Ukraine.
“Together with Mr. Putin, Mr. Poroshenko and Ms. Merkel, we should start a process aimed at reducing tensions. It should begin with reducing verbal tensions, followed by concrete actions in Ukraine,” the French president at a news conference following talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana.
According to Hollande, it is necessary to “focus on the future without forgetting the lessons of the past… The existing tensions and pressure do not contribute to resolving problems,” Hollande said.
He said that Ukraine’s territorial integrity should be preserved, but eastern regions should be granted “a certain level of autonomy.”
In April, the authorities in Kiev launched a military operation in the country’s eastern regions, which refused to accept the results of the February coup.
According to the latest UN estimates, the conflict has claimed the lives of 4,300 civilians and left 10,000 people wounded.
photo © РИА Новости. Алексей Никольский
The financial crisis in Europe is prompting some nations to repatriate their gold reserves to national vaults. The Netherlands has moved $5 billion worth of gold from New York, and some are calling for similar action from France, Switzerland, and Germany.
An unmatched pace of money printing by major central banks has boosted concerns in European countries over the safety of their gold reserves abroad.
The Dutch central bank – De Nederlandsche Bank – was one of the latest to make the move. The bank announced last Friday that it moved a fifth of its total 612.5-metric-ton gold reserve from New York to Amsterdam earlier in November.
It was done in an effort to redistribute the gold stock in “a more balanced way,” and to boost public confidence, the bank explained.
“With this adjustment the Dutch Central Bank joins other banks that are keeping a larger share of their gold supply in their own country,” the bank said in a statement. “In addition to a more balanced division of the gold reserves…this may also contribute to a positive confidence effect with the public.”
Dutch gold reserves are now divided as follows: 31 percent in Amsterdam, 31 percent in New York, 20 percent in Ottawa, Canada and 18 percent in London.
Meanwhile, Switzerland has organized the ‘Save Our Swiss Gold’ referendum, which is taking place on November 30. If passed, it would force the Swiss National Bank to convert a fifth of its assets into gold and repatriate all of its reserves from vaults in the UK and Canada.
“The Swiss initiative is merely part of an increasing global scramble towards gold and away from the endless printing of money. Huge movements of gold are going on right now,” Koos Jansen, an Amsterdam-based gold analyst for the Singaporean precious metal dealer BullionStar, told the Guardian.
France has also recently joined in on the trend, with the leader of the far-right National Front party Marine Le Pen calling on the central bank to repatriate the country’s gold reserves.
In an open letter to the governor of the Banque de France, Christian Noyer, Le Pen also demanded an audit of 2,435 tons of physical gold inventory.
Germany tried and failed to adopt a similar path in early 2013 by announcing a plan to repatriate some of its gold reserves back from the US and France.
The efforts fizzled out this summer, when it was announced that Germany decided to leave $635 billion worth of gold in US vaults.
Germany only keeps about a third of its gold at home. Forty-five percent is held in New York, 13 percent in London, 11 percent in Paris, and only 31 percent in the Bundesbank in Frankfurt.
There are clear signs that a major war is about to break out in Ukraine: A war actively promoted by the NATO regimes and supported by their allies and clients in Asia (Japan) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia).
The war over Ukraine will essentially run along the lines of a full-scale military offensive against the southeast Donbas region, targeting the breakaway ethnic Ukraine- Russian Peoples Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk, with the intention of deposing the democratically elected government, disarming the popular militias, killing the guerrilla resistance partisans and their mass base, dismantling the popular representative organizations and engaging in ethnic cleansing of millions of bilingual Ukraino-Russian citizens. NATO’s forthcoming military seizure of the Donbas region is a continuation and extension of its original violent putsch in Kiev, which overthrew an elected Ukrainian government in February 2014.
The Kiev junta and its newly ‘elected’ client rulers, and its NATO sponsors are intent on a major purge to consolidate the puppet Poroshenko’s dictatorial rule. The recent NATO-sponsored elections excluded several major political parties that had traditionally supported the country’s large ethnic minority populations, and was boycotted in the Donbas region. This sham election in Kiev set the tone for NATO’s next move toward converting Ukraine into one gigantic US multi-purpose military base aimed at the Russian heartland and into a neo-colony for German capital, supplying Berlin with grain and raw materials while serving as a captive market for German manufactured goods.
An intensifying war fever is sweeping the West; the consequences of this madness appear graver by the hour.
War Signs: The Propaganda and Sanctions Campaign, the G20 Summit and the Military Build Up
The official drum- beat for a widening conflict in Ukraine, spearheaded by the Kiev junta and its fascist militias, echoes in every Western mass media outlet, every day. Major mass media propaganda mills and government ‘spokesmen and women’ publish or announce new trumped-up accounts of growing Russian military threats to its neighbors and cross-border invasions into Ukraine. New Russian incursions are ‘reported’ from the Nordic borders and Baltic states to the Caucusus. The Swedish regime creates a new level of hysteria over a mysterious “Russian” submarine off the coast of Stockholm, which it never identifies or locates – let alone confirms the ‘sighting’ of. Estonia and Latvia claim Russian warplanes violated their air space without confirmation. Poland expels Russian “spies” without proof or witnesses. Provocative full-scale joint NATO-client state military exercises are taking place along Russia’s frontiers in the Baltic States, Poland, Romania and Ukraine.
NATO is sending vast arms shipments to the Kiev junta, along with “Special Forces” advisers and counter-insurgency experts in anticipation of a full-scale attack against the rebels in the Donbas.
The Kiev regime has never abided by the Minsk cease fire. According to the UN Human Rights office 13 people on average –mostly civilians –have been killed each day since the September cease fire. In eight weeks, the UN reports that 957 people have been killed –overwhelmingly by Kiev’s armed forces.
The Kiev regime, in turn, has cut all basic social and public services to the Peoples’ Republics’, including electricity, fuel, civil service salaries, pensions, medical supplies, salaries for teachers and medical workers, municipal workers wages; banking and transport have been blockaded.
The strategy is to further strangle the economy, destroy the infrastructure, force an even greater mass exodus of destitute refugees from the densely populated cities across the border into Russia and then to launch massive air, missile, artillery and ground assaults on urban centers as well as rebel bases.
The Kiev junta has launched an all-out military mobilization in the Western regions, accompanied by rabid anti-Russian, anti-Eastern Orthodox indoctrination campaigns designed to attract the most violent far right chauvinist thugs and to incorporate the Nazi-style military brigades into the frontline shock troops. The cynical use of irregular fascist militias will ‘free’ NATO and Germany from any responsibility for the inevitable terror and atrocities in their campaign. This system of ‘plausible deniability’ mirrors the tactics of the German Nazis whose hordes of fascist Ukrainians and Ustashi Croats were notorious in their epoch of ethnic cleansing.
G20-plus-NATO: Support of the Kiev Blitz
To isolate and weaken resistance in the Donbas and guarantee the victory of the impending Kiev blitz, the EU and the US are intensifying their economic, military and diplomatic pressure on Russia to abandon the nascent peoples’ democracy in the south-east region of Ukraine, their principle ally.
Each and every escalation of economic sanctions against Russia is designed to weaken the capacity of the Donbas resistance fighters to defend their homes, towns and cities. Each and every Russian shipment of essential medical supplies and food to the besieged population evokes a new and more hysterical outburst – because it counters the Kiev-NATO strategy of starving the partisans and their mass base into submission or provoking their flight to safety across the Russian border.
After suffering a series of defeats, the Kiev regime and its NATO strategists decided to sign a ‘peace protocol’, the so-called Minsk agreement, to halt the advance of the Donbas resistance into the southern regions and to protect Kiev’s soldiers and militias holed-up in isolated pockets in the East. The Minsk agreement was designed to allow the Kiev junta to build up its military, re-organize its command and incorporate the disparate Nazi militias into its overall military forces in preparation for a ‘final offensive’. Kiev’s military build-up on the inside and NATO’s escalation of sanctions against Russia on the outside would be two sides of the same strategy: the success of a frontal attack on the democratic resistance of the Donbas basin depends on minimizing Russian military support through international sanctions.
NATO’s virulent hostility to Russian President Putin was on full display at the G20 meeting in Australia: NATO-linked presidents and prime ministers, especially Merkel, Obama, Cameron, Abbott, and Harper’s political threats and overt personal insults paralleled Kiev’s growing starvation blockade of the besieged rebels and population centers in the south-east. Both the G20’s economic threats against Russia and the diplomatic isolation of Putin and Kiev’s economic blockade are preludes to NATO’s Final Solution – the physical annihilation of all vestiges of Donbas resistance, popular democracy and cultural-economic ties with Russia.
Kiev depends on its NATO mentors to impose a new round of severe sanctions against Russia, especially if its planned invasion encounters a well armed and robust mass resistance bolstered by Russian support. NATO is counting on Kiev’s restored and newly supplied military capacity to effectively destroy the southeast centers of resistance.
NATO has decided on an ‘all-or-nothing campaign’: to seize all of Ukraine or, failing that, destroy the restive southeast, obliterate its population and productive capacity and engage in an all-out economic (and possibly shooting) war with Russia. Chancellor Angela Merkel is on board with this plan despite the complaints of German industrialists over their huge loss of export sales to Russia. President Hollande of France has signed on dismissing the complaints of trade unionists over the loss of thousands French jobs in the shipyards. Prime Minister David Cameron is eager for an economic war against Moscow, suggesting the bankers of the City of London find new channels to launder the illicit earnings of Russian oligarchs.
The Russian Response
Russian diplomats are desperate to find a compromise, which allows Ukraine’s ethnic Ukraine- Russian population in the southeast to retain some autonomy under a federation plan and regain influence within the ‘new’ post-putsch Ukraine. Russian military strategists have provided logistical and military aid to the resistance in order to avoid a repeat of the Odessa massacre of ethnic Russians by Ukrainian fascists on a massive scale. Above all, Russia cannot afford to have NATO-Nazi-Kiev military bases along its southern ‘underbelly’, imposing a blockade of the Crimea and forcing a mass exodus of ethnic Russians from the Donbas. Under Putin, the Russian government has tried to propose compromises allowing Western economic supremacy over Ukraine but without NATO military expansion and absorption by Kiev.
That policy of conciliation has repeatedly failed.
The democratically elected ‘compromise regime’ in Kiev was overthrown in February 2014 in a violent putsch, which installed a pro-NATO junta.
Kiev violated the Minsk agreement with impunity and encouragement from the NATO powers and Germany.
The recent G20 meeting in Australia featured a rabble-rousing chorus against President Putin. The crucial four-hour private meeting between Putin and Merkel turned into a fiasco when Germany parroted the NATO chorus.
Putin finally responded by expanding Russia’s air and ground troop preparedness along its borders while accelerating Moscow’s economic pivot to Asia.
Most important, President Putin has announced that Russia cannot stand by and allow the massacre of a whole people in the Donbas region.
Is Poroshenko’s forthcoming blitz against the people of southeast Ukraine designed to provoke a Russian response – to the humanitarian crisis? Will Russia confront the NATO-directed Kiev offensive and risk a total break with the West?
James Petras latest book is THE POLITICS OF IMPERIALISM:THE US,ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST (CLARITY PRESS:ATLANTA)
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry rejected a report by Germany’s foreign intelligence agency that E. Ukraine militia shot down flight MH17 with a BUK missile captured from a Ukrainian base. The report also accused Kiev of falsifying intelligence.
“The Command of the Air Force of Ukraine officially states that information about the capture of anti-aircraft missile system Buk-M1 from a military unit of the Air Force of Ukraine by militia is not true,” the country’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry has responded to a recent report published by the German daily Der Spiegel. It revealed that on Oct. 8 BND President Gerhard Schindler announced at a secret meeting that there is “ample evidence” that militia in Donetsk captured BUK defense missile system from a Ukrainian base and fired a rocket from it. The alleged launch on July 17 resulted in deadly crash of civilian MH17 flight by Malaysian Airlines, with 298 passengers and crew on board, the report claims.
The Ukrainian Ministry insists that the BND’s finding cannot be true because “personnel, military equipment and armament stationed in the Donetsk region” was “quickly” relocated on June 29, more than two weeks before the tragedy.
“At the time when rebels entered the territory of that military base, only old and unusable vehicles were left there,” the Ministry said.
In its report the German intelligence agency has also accused Kiev of providing false information on the crash, saying that “this can be explained in detail.”
However, no “evidence” has been presented by the BND yet, which claims that it based its conclusions on “satellite images and diverse photo evidence.” It has not made any official statements on the matter.
Germany has officially refused to comment on the report, saying that the BND “collects data that are reported to the Audit Committee of the Bundestag, reported to the government.”
“But this is all secret information,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy spokesman, Georg Streiter, told reporters as he was asked to comment on the news.
The Head of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency has said that Moscow “does not understand this position, the conclusions reached by German intelligence.”
“First of all, it is hard to speak about any information presented by German intelligence, because now everybody is discussing [only] what was published in this magazine,” Aleksander Neradko said.
He said that from the very beginning Russia has been calling on everyone to report only facts and hard information to the investigation committee.
“The Russian side, for example, did so: all facts we had we passed to the investigation committee. Thus, we are adherents of the principle of transparent, comprehensive, open and objective investigation. Therefore, we do not understand this position, these findings of German intelligence.”
An international probe led by Dutch experts is still ongoing. A preliminary report issued in September confirmed that the plane crashed as a result of structural damage caused by a “large number of high-energy objects” that struck from outside. The investigation has not yet established who was behind the fatal launch.
Shortly after the plane’s downing, Ukrainian side blamed the crash on anti-Kiev rebels in eastern Ukraine. Officials claimed that militia targeted MH17 with a BUK system provided by Russia. This view was echoed by the international community, but no evidence proving that has ever been presented.