Monday, February 22, 2010

Letter to Le Monde

Via Rights in Russia:

The Russian authors of an article published in the French newspaper Le Monde write: "While European leaders proudly proclaim the beginning of a new era of cooperation with Russia, inside the country journalists, democracy advocates and dissidents are subjected to ever greater pressure."

The article was signed by Elena Bonner-Sakharova, Konstantin Borovoi, Vladimir Bukovsky, Natalia Gorbanevskaya, Andrei Illarionov, Garry Kasparov, Sergei Kovalev, Andrei Mironov, Andrei Nekrasov, Valeria Novodvorskaya, Oleg Panfilov, Grigory Pasko, Leonid Pliushch and Aleksander Podrabinek, reports citing InoPressa.

The authors write: "Journalists are being harassed when they criticize the government and criminal prosecution is not the greatest risk faced by those who do not "inform" public opinion in a "patriotic" manner. In 2009, about a dozen journalists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition were killed."

The government of Vladimir Putin, having shut the mouths of those who criticize its policies in the Caucasus, has now taken up with those who are doing this abroad, especially if they dare to speak in Russian, the authors note. These attacks are supported in Europe itself, the authors declare, and point to the case of the First Caucasian TV channel, whose broadcasts to Russia were terminated by the European company Eutelsat.
"Capitulating to the dictates of Moscow, Eutelsat is sending a clear message: a Russian-language television company that does not support the Kremlin's line will not be allowed to broadcast in the Russian Federation - even if this company is located outside Russian borders, and even if it has a signed contract with a European broadcaster," the authors note.
And the case of the First Caucasian is not unique, the article goes on to say. "Putin’s grand project of strengthening the "vertical of power" within the country, and returning to military imperialism in foreign policy, is fuelled by the connivance and complicity of some of the Europeans," the authors say.
Thus, the French government intends to sell Russia one or more Mistral helicopter carriers, and yet scarcely a year has passed since Russian tanks, as the signatories say, "occupied part of Georgia." They recall how NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that in such circumstances the co-operation that had existed hitherto with Russia was impossible.

Russian troops still remain in Georgia, yet NATO says it intends to strengthen its relations with the Putin regime, the article continues.

"While Moscow muzzles opposition media, eliminates dissenting journalists and intimidates its neighbours, European leaders have not been silent: they speak out for closer ties with the Russian government," the authors of the article write, expressing the belief that these leaders should stand up for freedom of speech and opposition media.

First of all, they should "remind European companies that they must not become instruments of Putin's censorship." European leaders, the signatories are convinced, must also show that “at the beginning of the XXI century a country cannot occupy the territory of other states with impunity.”

The human rights defenders conclude that European leaders must take a tough stance, and not sell arms to Russia, because "what is at issue is not only the freedom of Russian citizens and of Russia’s neighbouring countries, but the conscience and honour of Europe."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tymoshenko 'to boycott inauguration'

Yulia Tymoshenko will not attend the presidential inauguration of Viktor Yanukovych on February 25, and will continue to hold the office of Ukraine's prime minister, Unian reports, citing information from BYuT supporters. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tymoshenko demands third round of elections

Ukraine's prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has filed a lawsuit with Ukraine's Supreme Administrative Court, alleging electoral fraud and demanding a third round of presidential elections. (UNIAN)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chechen ghosts - 2

The BBC's Frank Gardner has once again invoked the "Chechen ghosts" in his latest video dispatch from "Operation Moshtarak", which contains references to insurgents from Chechnya. Although the video is not on the BBC's website, it repeats allegations from Gardner's earlier reports, such as this one from October 2009 (excerpt):

The overall picture is further confused because some Pakistani officials erroneously assume that Islamic fighters from other countries - such as Chechnya - are from Uzbekistan. 

While it's perfectly possible that some of the foreign fighters in the region are Chechen, it would be good to see some proof or demonstration of this by the BBC - otherwise, the reports merely look either Kremlin-influenced or Kremlin-supporting.

Chechen ghosts

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tymoshenko will not resign

Ukraine's prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has no plans to step down from her post, BYuT MP Valery Pisarenko told Ekho Moskvy radio today. (

Kadyrov drops suits

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has dropped his lawsuits against a number of Russian human rights defenders, writes Michael Schwirtz in the New York Times.

Recount underway in Ukraine

With 100% of the votes in Sunday's presidential run-off now counted, Viktor Yanukovych has only a slender margin of victory over his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is refusing to concede and alleging that some of the results are fraudulent. Reuters reports that votes are being recounted in several districts of Ukraine.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Tymoshenko "defiant"

According to Russian and Ukrainian news sources, including and, Yulia Tymoshenko is refusing to acknowledge the victory of Viktor Yanukovych in the presidential run-off and is preparing to contest the result in Ukraine's courts. Possible scenarios include a third round of elections.

OSCE satisfied with Ukraine election

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has declared itself satisfied with the presidential run-off vote in Ukraine, and has urged Yulia Tymoshenko to concede defeat, which so far she has refused to do, Reuters reports.

Update: political analysts in Ukraine and Russia are speculating that Tymoshenko will "bargain" to retain her post as prime minister in a new government.

No rights for terrorists

A senior official at Amnesty International, Gita Sahgal, has gone public and has openly accused the human rights organization of collaborating with terrorist suspects. In the Sunday Times, Richard Kerbaj writes that Sahgal has taken this step because she feels that Amnesty has ignored warnings about the involvement of a prominent British Islamist, Moazzam Begg, in Amnesty's "Counter Terror with Justice" campaign:

“I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International’s integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights,” Sahgal wrote in an email to the organisation’s leaders on January 30. “To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.”

Gita Sahgal has been suspended from her post at Amnesty.

The Islamist tactic of embarrassing and isolating human rights organizations by methods that include infiltration and false propaganda is not a new one. In Eastern Europe organizations like Prague Watchdog, which monitors human rights in Russia's North Caucasus, have long tolerated the unauthorized appropriation of their material by jihadist websites which republish it without attribution, and try forcibly to establish an association in this way. While Prague Watchdog has not yet been infiltrated, it is the object of virulent attacks by sites like Kavkaz Center, which seek to weaken its influence and harm its reputation.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Ann Clwyd on Iraq

Almost ignored by the mainstream UK press and TV, which had earlier devoted much air time and column space to Clare Short, the testimony of UK human rights envoy Ann Clwyd to the Chiilcot Inquiry gives a picture of the genesis of contemporary Iraq that is rather different from the one propounded by the critics of Tony Blair's policy who are currently so vociferous in the British media. For one thing, unlike many of the media "opinion-formers", Clwyd obviously knows Iraq and cares about its civilian population, especially the Kurds among whom she has lived and worked at intervals for many years. Instead of focusing on issues from the past, she is concerned for the present and the future of the fledgling democracy that has emerged from years of brutal dictatorship - and like Iraqis themselves she sees an improvement. On police training, for example, she has this to say:

Obviously we have been helping through our police training, through our training of judges --

BARONESS USHA PRASHAR: When you say "our police training" -- I was going to come to that -- what sort of support have you been giving to them on police training? Because the evidence we have had shows that our kind of model is not necessarily relevant.

RT HON ANN CLWYD MP: They have never actually said that in my hearing. I haven't heard that from the Iraqis. In fact, they want more of the British. They have always said, I have to say, right from the beginning, you know, "The British understand us. We would like more of the British to come here, and, you know, we don't want you  to go away. We would like more help from you".  That's why they can't understand Inquiries like this. The Iraqis always say to me, you know -- because weapons of mass destruction was Saddam -- "Why are you still operating in this area? What we need is your help and your attention", and obviously the Iraqis can pay for a lot of things  themselves now, but nevertheless they appreciate the guidance that we can give them and we have had police trainers there. We have also had them in round tables. 

Ann Clwyd's testimony can be viewed here (scroll down to Video 2), and the transcript is here (pdf). Via Harry's Place

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Saving Obama

Daniel Pipes, writing in the Jerusalem Post, has a suggestion for a way to save the Obama presidency.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

English antisemitism

In an excerpt from his book Trials of the Diaspora, published in Times Online, Anthony Julius describes the subtle nature of a discrimination that operates "by stealth, by tacit understandings and limited exclusions."

"A cesspit of Islamists"

England is "a cesspit of Islamists", according to the Nobel prizewinning author Wole Soyinka.

See also: US: Britain is an al-Qaeda hub

Monday, February 01, 2010

Censoring the unsayable

In her Spectator blog, Melanie Phillips takes issue with a new study which claims that negative portrayals of Muslims in the British media are leading to a growth in hate crime:

The view that Islamists who, for tactical reasons alone, oppose al Qaeda are not a threat to Britain -- and should indeed be treated as allies against al Qaeda -- is one of the most lethal mistakes that has been made by the British counter-terror world.  One example of such egregious establishment wrong-headedness that I cite in Londonistan is in fact one of the authors of this report, Robert Lambert. A former officer in the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terror Command, who until 2008 ran the Metropolitan Police Muslim Contact Unit, Lambert told a conference organised by the Danish police that terrorism could not be fought by contact with moderate Muslims but through partnerships with the Salafists (radical Islamists) – two of whom were at one stage at least actually officers in his own police department. I wrote:

Lambert believed that this would enable the police to understand the way extremists thought before they committed any acts of terror. But it surely goes without saying that a Salafist officer, who is committed to the overthrow of the west and its replacement by an Islamic society, poses a security risk of the first order. For a police counter-terrorism specialist to be promoting this situation beggars belief.

Now Lambert has co-authored this study which claims that identifying such Islamists as extremists is to incite attacks upon British Muslims. But just look at the organisation behind this study, the European Muslim Research Centre. On its advisory board sit Anas Altikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain, which supports Hamas, and Mohamed Abdul Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain, which supports the Islamisation of Britain and which has a number of Islamist affiliates.  The study also says it drew its information from, amongst others, the Muslim Safety Forum, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) UK, the Federation of Islamic Student Societies and the Muslim Council of Britain – all of which are Islamist fronts.

Son of the Caucasus

Kavkazskii uzel notes that on January 29 events were held in a number of Caucasian republics and regions, including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Krasnodarsky Krai to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Anton Chekhov. The most extensive celebrations were held in Taganrog, Rostov Oblast, the writer's birthplace, with more events to follow throughout 2010.