Let’s Give In to Russian Blackmail

nod-constitution day-1“The Russian Constitution: The Basic Law or Legal Sabotage?” Front page of a newspaper handed out on the streets of Petersburg by memberx of NOD (National Liberation Movement) on December 12, 2018, celebrated as Constitution Day in Russia. This article argues that Russia’s current constitution, adopted in 1993, was drafted by CIA agents working under the cover of USAID. Their goal, allegedly, was to colonize Russia by subjugating its sovereignty to international law.

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Don’t Let Russia Leave the Council of Europe
Yuri Dzhibladze and Konstantin Baranov
oDR
December 13, 2018

Those who wish to punish the Kremlin for its aggressive actions in Ukraine and elsewhere are missing the target: it is not the Russian government, but the Russian public who will suffer if the country leaves the Council of Europe.

After the Kerch Strait incident, proponents of pushing Russia out of the Council of Europe seem to have got additional justification for their position in a discussion that rages in the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). In fact, the potential costs of this departure appear to be too high and far-reaching—not only for the Russian society, but for the whole of Europe.

More than four years since its delegation has been deprived of voting and participation rights in the PACE, Russia is now a step away from leaving the Council of Europe – either at its own initiative or as a result of expulsion for non-payment of its membership fees. In recent months, the situation has reached a deadlock due to an uncompromising position of both the Russian authorities and their critics in the PACE.

Those who wish to punish the Kremlin for its aggressive actions in Ukraine and elsewhere miss the target: it is not the Russian government, but the Russian public who would suffer the most should the country leave the Council of Europe. Since 1996, when Russia joined the organisation, for millions living in the country (including nationals of other states), the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has been an ultimate hope for justice, which they cannot find in Russia. In this period, almost 2,500 judgements have been delivered to Russia. In 2017 alone, the state paid over 14.5 million euros as just satisfaction to victims. The judgments have had a significant positive impact on Russian laws and judicial practice, despite their implementation being far from ideal and counting to roughly one-third of cases. Should Russia depart from the Council of Europe, the scope of human rights problems in the country will grow exponentially, including a threat of speedy reinstatement of the death penalty.

The potential consequences would go far beyond the deterioration of the internal situation. This move would not resolve the issue of the annexed Crimea or put an end to the armed conflict in Donbass. On the contrary, expelling the violating country would demonstrate the weakness of the European system of protection of human rights and the rule of law in dealing with such gross violations.

What is more, Russia’s withdrawal would definitely worsen conditions of citizens of Ukraine and other countries who are held in Russian prisons and face unfair trials, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. It would also result in a denial of the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to inhabitants of Russia-controlled Crimea. It would eliminate effective guarantees from deportation for refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Finally, the practice of expulsion of a member state might trigger other countries to leave the Council and deter Belarus from returning to a special observer’s status at the PACE.

Politicians should assume full responsibility for making the choice that may define Europe’s future and work towards a solution that would preserve the common European legal framework and space for critical dialogue aimed at promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law on the entire territory of Europe, including Russia.

We do not demand to “give in to blackmailing.” Lifting all restrictions on the Russian delegation in the PACE would be indeed unprincipled. However, finding a reasonable solution, in our view, would be a courageous decision to take responsibility and to advance the core values of the organisation by allowing the critical dialogue to continue. Amending the PACE rules of procedure – restricting national delegations’ rights only within the Assembly itself and not depriving them of the voting rights in elections of non-PACE mandates—including ECtHR judges, Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary General—appears such a legally sound and reasonable solution.

Threats by Russian officials to leave the Council of Europe are not just a bluff to raise the bargaining stakes. There are many influential people in the Russian political establishment in favour of isolationist policies who actually want the country to withdraw. If a reasonable solution is not found before next spring, Russia’s authorities will not wait for the official discussion of its potential expulsion at the Committee of Ministers in June 2019 and will announce the withdrawal from the Council before.

It should be clear to everyone: Russia’s departure from the Council of Europe would not stop human rights violations and halt the authoritarian backslide in our country, or prevent the Kremlin’s aggressive behaviour in the international arena. Instead, it would put an end to a difficult struggle of Russian civil society to make Russia an important part of Europe on the basis of shared norms and values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. It will turn a large territory in Europe into a legal “grey zone” for decades to come.

The authors represent a group of Russian human rights defenders who recently issued a Memorandum on the crisis in relations between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation.

About the authors

Yuri Dzhibladze is a founder and president of Moscow-based Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights and advocacy coordinator at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. He has worked on human rights, democracy, and international organisations since the late 1980s.

Konstantin Baranov is member of the Coordinating Council and international advocacy coordinator at the Youth Human Rights Movement, an international NGO enjoying participatory status with the Council of Europe. He is an expert on the protection of civil society space and fundamental freedoms in Russia and the post-Soviet area.

NB. This article was originally published by oDR under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence

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When will Russia stop behaving like the enemy of Western Europe?
Dima Vorobiev, I worked for Soviet propaganda
Quora
Answered Feb 18

Russia is not the enemy of the Western Europe. The disruptive policy of President Putin is aimed at (1) weakening the political and military dominance of the US in Europe and/or (2) full or partial acceptance by the West of the following list of Russia’s political objectives:

  • Recognition of Crimea as Russian territory
  • Total freeze on expansion of NATO. No membership for Sweden, Finland, Ukraine or Georgia.
  • No NATO bases in the Baltics, Poland, Czech republic and Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. Removal of the American anti-ballistic bases in Central Europe.
  • Finlandization of Georgia, Ukraine and guarantees of such arrangement for Belarus, in case it gets a pro-Western government in the future.
  • Guarantees of unhindered land connection through Lithuania between the Russian heartland and the exclave of Kaliningrad. The unhindered transit through the Suwalki gap would be very useful for Russia as a gauge of the level of determination on the part of NATO in the case of a swift escalation in tensions.
  • Recognition of Russia’s right to permanent military presence in the Mediterranean (through bases in Syria and possibly in Libya or other places)
  • Repeal of all sanctions against Russian oligarchs, their companies and sectoral interests.

If the West won’t agree to such a new global security arrangement, the current confrontation will continue, with variations only in the level of tensions. Because of the technological gap, the Russian military-industrial complex will increasingly depend on China for high-tech components for our weapons systems. Russian economy will also be more and more streamlined to accommodate the needs of Chinese manufacturing.

This stalemate can continue for many years, unless one of the following happens:

  1. Unexpected massive deterioration of economy in Russia.
  2. Low-probability, high-impact catastrophe in the US or Europe that makes the West seek help from Russia
  3. Power shift in Russia with full revision of national policy. (Highly unlikely with President Putin still in power).

Tags: Border, Shopping

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Tourists Forced to Leave Four Quintals of Finnish Food at Border

May 11, 2016, 2:25 pm / Tags: Border, Shopping

More than 410 kilograms of animal-derived produce were seized from travelers at the border between Finland and Leningrad Region from May 6 to May 9.

Russians brought pork, fish, sausage, cheese, butter, yoghurt, and cottage cheese back from Suomi, but not everyone stayed within the permitted limit of five kilograms per person. Passengers who exceeded the limit were also lacking Rosselkhoznadzor import permits and veterinary documents.

“Documents for the return of the goods to the Republic of Finland have been drawn up,” reported the press service of Rosselkhoznadzor’s Petersburg regional office.

Source: Fontanka.fi; translated by the Russian Reader

Hyvää paivää, Pakkasukko

pakkasukko

 

Good Day, Ded Moroz
Aulikki Oksanen

—Good day, Ded Moroz!
What have you brought with you?

—A whole big brotherly family
New Year’s gift bag.
Wheat breads from Russia,
Meat stews from Lithuania.
Sugar from the Ukraine,
Butter from Byelorussia.
Silks from Uzbekistan.
Karakuls from the lands of Kazakhstan.
Apricots from Armenia.
Grapes from Georgia.
Oil from Azerbaijan.
Coal from Tajikistan.
Herds from Kirgizia.
Steel ships from Latvia.
Maize from the lands of Moldavia.
Rugs from Turkmenistan.
Fish from the shores of Estonia.

—What else have you brought with you, Ded Moroz?

—Books and plays,
And scientists’ inventions.
Wealth and health,
And the friendship of neighbors.
Fishing rods and lures,
And little children’s skates.

source: Aune Morozova, Suomen kielen oppikirja 5, Petrozavodsk: Karjala, 1987, p. 92

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Punatähdet, “Hyvää päivää, Pakkasukko” (music, Kaj Chydenius; lyrics, Aulikki Oksanen). From the LP Punainen joulu (2001)

Tom of Finlandization

An anonymous reader’s comment in the September 24, 2014, edition of the Finnish daily newspaper Etelä-Saimaa:

Valtavat Tom of Finland-taulut pitkin itärajaa tyrehdyttävät Venäjän erikoisjoukkojen hyökkäyksen Suomeen.

(“Huge Tom of Finland signs along the eastern border will suppress an invasion of Finland by Russian special forces.”)

IMAG5144

Stamps designed as a tribute to homoerotic artist and gay icon Touko Laaksonen—also known as Tom of Finland—went on sale Monday [September 8, 2014]. According to the postal service company Posti, the risqué stamps are [Finland’s] biggest seller ever, with pre-orders made in 178 different countries. The stamps, which hold pride of place in the newly-opened postal museum in Tampere, attracted a long queue of individuals eagerly anticipating the first day issues.

Tom+of+Finland+postimerkki+postipaketti

From a September 12, 2014, article published on the Russian-language news site of Yle (“Yleisradio”), the Finnish public broadcaster:

In Russia, there is a law prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality. Journalists from the regional branch of Yleisradio in Tampere decided to test how Russian postal workers would react to parcels and letters adorned with ambiguous stamps featuring Laaksonen’s work. On Tuesday, two parcels and two letters pasted with the homoerotic stamps were sent to Russia.

According to Finnish postal workers, on average letters take six to nine days to get to Russia, while parcels take a little longer, fourteen to thirty days. The parcels were delivered to the international postal terminal in Vantaa on Wednesday and from there sent to Russia. 

The journalists from Tampere are tracking the movement of the parcels in real time. Readers can find about the further adventures of the “double agents” on Twitter by using the hashtag #TomofRussia.

Finlandization

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Environment Minister defends “Finlandisation” comments
September 18, 2014
yle.fi

Environment Minister Ville Niinistö has taken to social media to defend comments he made to the influential business daily Financial Times, where he charged that Finland has been kowtowing to Russia in its foreign policy decisions. Niinistö came under heated attack from senior politicians of all stripes who roundly condemned his comments as being “unpatriotic”.

Environment Minister and Green League chair Ville Niinistö found himself at the centre of a firestorm Wednesday when the Financial Times reported his comments that Finland had been putting Russian interests ahead of its own values and returning to the days of “Finlandisation”, a policy of Soviet appeasement practiced during the Cold War.

Niinistö objects to the construction of more nuclear power plants in Finland, and wants to hold government to a pledge not to build new nuclear capacity, as a condition for his party to remain in government.

On Monday however Economic Affairs Minister Jan Vapaavuori announced that he would recommend that government approve a revised plan to construct a new Russian-built plant for the Finnish power consortium Fennovoima.

Niinistö: Finland giving Russians leverage

On Wednesday Niinistö told the Financial Times that building a new nuclear reactor with Rosatom, the contractor selected to deliver the Fennovoima plant, would increase Finland’s energy dependency on Russia. Rosatom currently owns some 34 percent of the plant.

“There is a sense of Finlandisation here. We are giving the Russians the very leverage they are looking for with the west and the EU. This puts us into a very vulnerable position . . . Bluntly speaking, it is totally bewildering that the rest of the government thinks this is OK,” he added.

On Yle’s A-Studio discussion programme Wednesday evening, veteran politicians Mauri Pekkarinen of the Centre Party, Pertti Salolainen of the National Coalition and the Social Democrats’ Jouni Backman unanimously roasted Niinistö for the comments, calling them “less than patriotic”.

Minister Vapaavuori also weighed in Thursday, condemning the Green chair’s statements as ”low” and “below the belt”.

“It’s very confusing to talk about Finlandisation and these kinds of things when we consider that for example that I myself have long been a staunch supporter of NATO membership,” Vapaavuori added.

Greens want investment in renewable energy

Niinistö returned fire via social media, commenting on Facebook that Finland would appear in an odd light in the European Union if it took on board a joint investment with Russia in a major nuclear power plant in the middle of a sanctions regime against Russia.

“A few old politicians have taken issue with one word, but haven’t been able to address a single word of the actual content,” Niinistö wrote in Facebook as he commented on the A-Studio discussion.

“Russia will use this to its own advantage to show that not all EU countries believe that there is anything wrong with Russia’s actions. Their media have already said so,” Niinistö pointed out.

Niinistö said it’s odd that the nuclear project to be delivered by Rosatom has been automatically presented as the only right choice, when another alternative could have been to invest in domestic renewable energy and increasing energy self-sufficiency.

“If we can’t talk about this in Finland, then there’s something very strange about the political discourse in this country,“ Niinistö concluded.

On Thursday, Niinistö’s boss, Prime Minister Alexander Stubb limited his comments to noting that the word Finlandisation was a sensitive term.

“”It’s odd that it came out of the mouth of a Finn,” Stubb added.

The premier called for cool tempers, noting that a nuclear power project involves a long process.

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Thanks to Comrade Sergey and Sofi Oksanen for the heads-up on the hilarious video, and Google Maps for the photo of the Russian-Finnish frontier somewhere in South Karelia.