Ukraine Bank – Pivdencom Bank Thu, 13 Jan 2022 11:06:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ukraine Bank – Pivdencom Bank 32 32 Sanctions against Putin would be a bit too far, warns the Kremlin in the United States Thu, 13 Jan 2022 10:31:00 +0000

The United States’ plan to impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin would be an “extreme” measure that would mean a complete severing of ties between the two countries, the Kremlin noted Thusday.

US Senators, with the support of the White House, unveiled Wednesday evening, a package of severe sanctions intended to “devastate” the Russian economy if Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The measures would include personal sanctions against Putin, as well as against several other senior officials, including Prime Minister Mikhail Mishoustin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Sanctioning a head of state and other senior officials would be a rare move, as the United States previously limited its sanctions to lower-level officials.

“The introduction of sanctions against the head of government or the head of Russia is an extreme measure which is comparable to a severing of relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a briefing , according to the official TASS news agency.

“What is Russia ready to do? Russia is always ready and will always do what is in the best interest of our country, ”he added.

Under the bill, the US government would also be required to investigate and publish a report into the wealth and personal assets of Putin, members of his family, and anyone else the United States believes has assets. in his name.

Because of the United States’ leadership role in the global economy, personal sanctions effectively prohibit individuals from going to or accessing property and bank accounts held in most Western countries.

Talks between Moscow, Washington and NATO in Europe this week have so far lack bring the parties closer to a resolution of what Moscow called “great and fundamental differences. “

Moscow wants legal guarantees that NATO will never admit Ukraine as a member and has demanded that troop deployments across the alliance be reduced to the 1997 positions, before the bloc spreads to the ‘Eastern Europe.

The United States has called the proposals “not started,” and high-level talks in Geneva and Brussels this week have failed to bring the parties closer together.

Peskov on Thursday rejected NATO calls for Russia to defuse the situation by withdrawing the estimated 100,000 troops who have been deployed near the Ukrainian border.

“It is hardly possible that NATO can dictate to Russia where to move its troops on its own territory,” he said.

Guy Verhofstadt ashamed of Belgium’s fall in defense spending as he calls for the European army | Politics | News Tue, 11 Jan 2022 11:24:00 +0000

The Belgian politician said Russia’s threat to the border with Ukraine and US attempts to negotiate with Vladimir Putin to defuse tensions amounted to a return to a cold war. Mr Verhofstadt called on the EU to act by deploying a European army against the Russian president and to avoid “fixing history” by being excluded from the negotiations.

He said: “The Cold War is back… and Europe is back to what it was during that war: a spectator as her own fate is being decided.

“History repeats itself like a farce …

“It is time to have a European strategy on the threat that Putin poses to peace on our continent!”

But the Belgian MEP was quickly humiliated by Jonathan Eyal, associate director of RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, who noted that Belgium’s own defense spending had considerably decreased since the 1960s.

Sharing a World Bank data chart, Mr Eyal pointed out that Belgium spent almost 3.4% of its GDP on defense and international security in 1960.

But by 2020, that figure had fallen to just 1.08 percent.

With publicly pessimistic diplomats, the United States and Russia began difficult negotiations in Geneva on Monday, so that Washington hopes it can avert the danger of another Russian invasion of Ukraine without giving in to the country’s far-reaching security demands. Kremlin.

Brussels lamented that she was being excluded from the negotiations, with EU Commissioner Josep Borrell and President Ursula von der Leyen begging Joe Biden to be included in the talks last week.

Russia said on Tuesday it was not optimistic after a first round of talks with the United States on the Ukraine crisis and that it would not let its demands for security guarantees from the West s get bogged down in tortuous negotiations.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was positive that Monday’s talks in Geneva were conducted in an open, substantial and direct manner, but that Russia was only interested in the results.

He said: “There are no clear deadlines here, nobody sets them – there is just the Russian position that we will not be happy with dragging this process endlessly.”

Russia has pushed the West to the negotiating table by assembling troops near the Ukrainian border as it presses a wide-ranging set of demands that would prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and push back two decades of alliance expansion in Europe.

Washington has said it cannot agree to these requests, although it is willing to engage on other aspects of Russia’s proposals by discussing missile deployments or limits on the size of military exercises.

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Peskov said the situation would be clearer after two more rounds of talks Russia is due to hold this week – with NATO in Brussels on Wednesday and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the two sides had “in some respects opposing views”. He told reporters: “For us, it is absolutely obligatory to ensure that Ukraine never, ever, ever becomes a member of NATO.”

US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said: “We have been firm …

The United States has urged Moscow to reverse the build-up of around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, which has raised Ukrainian and Western concerns about a possible new invasion, eight years after Russia took Crimea to Ukraine.

Ryabkov said Russia had no plans to attack Ukraine, but Sherman said she was unsure whether Russia was ready to defuse by returning troops to their barracks.

Ukraine has been under Moscow’s rule for centuries, including as a member of the Soviet Union, and President Vladimir Putin has said the prospect of NATO accepting it as a member, or y stationed weapons that could strike Russia, is a “red line”.

Ukraine wants to join NATO, which would come with a promise of protection against attacks.

The alliance does not intend to admit this immediately, but says Russia cannot veto its relations with other sovereign states.

US President Joe Biden warned Putin in two conversations last month that any further Russian aggression would carry serious economic costs in the form of unprecedented sanctions. Putin replied that such steps would be a colossal mistake and lead to a complete breakdown in relations.

Eight dead in ‘shocking’ West Bank traffic accident Fri, 07 Jan 2022 23:07:18 +0000

The president of the General Labor Union warns against “a certain catastrophe” in Lebanon in the midst of the economic crisis

BEIRUT: The president of the General Labor Union, Bechara Al-Asmar, warned of “a certain catastrophe, since hospitalization is now only available to the richest”.

At a press conference on Friday, he commented on the multitude of crises facing the Lebanese, including “the persistent dollar exchange rate madness, insane increases in fuel prices, the electricity bill, the abolition of the dollar. drug subsidies; and depositors’ loss of savings resulting from bank circulation – considered organized theft.

He warned that “the budget proposal included a provision to increase the customs dollar, which would raise the prices of goods by 30%, and increase all taxes and duties.”

He added: “This is unacceptable because it involves the removal of subsidies on everything in exchange for nothing, which amounts to IMF conditions without any supervision.”

The new warning came as the ruling elite tried to resolve its many conflicts that are blocking political and administrative progress.

President Michel Aoun signed a decree calling on Parliament to hold an extraordinary session starting Monday and ending March 21.

This will restore parliamentary immunity to ministers charged with the crime of the Beirut port explosion, including current MPs, one of whom was the subject of an arrest warrant in absentia and who did not still been executed.

The parliamentary session paves the way for the transfer of power from a forensic investigator to a parliamentary body charged with prosecuting ministers and MPs allegedly responsible for the explosion.

Lawyer and activist Hassan Bazzi said that “the main actors in the settlements are the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun”.

This follows the intense political discord between Aoun and Berri which peaked last week.

Bazzi said the settlement prompted Aoun to sign a decree calling on parliament for an extraordinary session.

He also said the parliamentary session’s agenda includes amending the law under consideration by the Constitutional Council – approving only six seats for expatriate voting instead of letting them participate in national elections. .

Bazzi also indicated that parliament is likely to approve the amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code, setting up a parliamentary judicial committee to examine appeals against the decisions of Judge Tarek Bitar who issued arrest warrants against several ministers. .

As Cabinet is called to meet on this basis, Bazzi said appointments for the panel would be made on a quota basis, where “the diaspora loses the opportunity for change and the political system regains control.”

Berri and Aoun tried to hide the parameters of this regulation by triggering a new debate concerning the extraordinary parliamentary session.

Although the main title of the emergency session is the discussion and approval of the two draft budgets, the presidential decree – bearing the signature of Prime Minister Najib Mikati – has on its agenda “the laws ratified that the president may ask to be re-examined and the urgent and necessary bills or proposals of laws related to the legislative elections.

Berri said in a statement on Friday that “parliament is independent and is not limited to any description of projects or proposals that the office of parliament decides to present and that the president has the right to respond to after their publication by the General Authority. . “

The statement added: “This is the provision and case law of the constitution.

The president’s team responded indirectly through unidentified sources that “they don’t want to get into a debate with Berri”.

They added that article 33 of the constitution “stipulates that the parliament can be convened in extraordinary sessions by a decree fixing their opening, their end and their agenda”.

Parliamentary sources replied to Aoun’s party that “the procedural authority can certainly set parliament on the agenda it wishes to consider during this extraordinary session, provided that the work of parliament is not limited to this agenda”.

The regulations to be followed require the convening of the Cabinet.

However, Hezbollah’s bloc of MPs ignored governance issues and only supported the opening of an extraordinary parliamentary session extending until the date of the regular session, given the urgent need to adopt laws relating to “rescue, liability and regularity of the state”.

Questions remain as to whether these regulations will allow Cabinet to meet.

Political observers have indicated that the settlement between Aoun and Berri – which has been favored by Hezbollah – may require the absence of ministers of Hezbollah and the Amal movement at the next cabinet session, with the exception of the finance minister, because the Cabinet had to discuss the general budget. .

They added: “This aims to tie the ongoing conflict further to the resumption of Cabinet work and the removal of the dossier from Judge Bitar’s port. “

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The autocratic regime propagated by Putin threatens us all Wed, 05 Jan 2022 22:06:06 +0000

Sifting through the looming challenges of the coming year, it looks like the threat of Covid will subside in a way that geostrategic threats won’t – as Russia inexorably returns to the peak of Cold War belligerence . The difference between yesterday and today is simple: unlike the present, the West at that time knew it was facing an existential challenge and acted accordingly. Moscow is clearly determined to take back its empire. The West remains in denial. The Kremlin has aligned invading forces with Ukraine, a country it has invaded with impunity twice since I co-authored two books in my mid-twenties warning of such events to come. Since then, we have not given Putin any reason to give up. A sort of cheeky chest slap entered the tone of the official Russian demands of the United States: Washington must negotiate directly with Moscow above the head of Europe; spheres of interest must be re-established; the Warsaw Pact countries must be returned. If you don’t believe it, read this absolutely fascinating and very alarming summary of the Kremlin’s position (“Americans… must take seriously what is put on the table, or they face a military-technical alternative”).

How did we get there ?

For starters, we have offered no retreat against all of the myriad attacks, large and small, on the credibility of the West. The incessant cyber warfare, the incidents of Havana Syndrome, the interference in American and allied elections with money and disinformation, the complicity of the Taliban insurgents, the assassinations of political dissidents in our territory, the instrumentalization of Kremligarchs and black money networks around the world, the abuse of Interpol, the maintenance of authoritarian regimes, the corruption of Western elites, and much more. Perhaps the biggest tangible difference between the peak conditions of the Cold War and the present is the astonishing amount and flow of Kremlin money deployed overseas. This was once the great insurmountable advantage of the West – we had all the money. No more. Yet much of it still comes from the West and we are helping financially support the Cold War against us – through petrodollars, by investing and buying Russian commodities and companies, at least to the extent that they can also do. of business in the global economy. To keep the process going, Moscow continues to appoint former Western politicians to Gazprom’s board of directors, especially Germans. The argument for appeasement is that it returns favorably – in purchases of German cars, American real estate, French wines, tourism everywhere, etc. But it also amounts to subverting our rule of law.

The decades-old model for such economic recycling stems from the West’s dealings with oil kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia, where petrodollars went east for oil and returned as spending on oil. armaments, political public relations, real estate, luxury goods, consumer goods, etc. Russia is playing the same oil state game, but in a more malicious way. And it sets the example that other countries with autocratic systems now freely emulate. Let’s break down the tracks focusing on the oligarchs / Kremligarchs. Their funds have infiltrated the arteries of the West by using and abusing legitimate institutions. Lawyers and public relations professionals hired by oligarchs, especially in the UK, readily target journalists whose work causes unease. Author Catherine Belton and her publisher Harper Collins have been sued for defamation by Roman Abramovich and the Russian state-owned energy company Rosneft. The book in question is Putin’s people: how the KGB took over Russia and attacked the West. The case was recently settled, with the author and publisher agreeing to remove certain passages, including the allegation that Abramovich bought the Chelsea football team at Putin’s request.

But the super-expensive, apparently drawn-out trial has caused great concern among advocates of transparency. Here is a link to a petition from concerned groups fearing the effect of muzzling on freedom of expression. Lawsuits like this cool the scrutiny of the oligarch’s affairs, now more necessary than ever, and can serve as a weapon of disinformation.

If one accepts the premise that the oligarchs only keep their billions with the tolerance of the Kremlin, then the way they deploy their funds abroad certainly deserves a closer look. Take the example of Dmitry Ryboloviev who, for a few years, has been suing his former art dealer Yves Bouvier, alias the king of free ports, in many jurisdictions for having (essentially) overloaded the oligarch with works of art ( among others). Here is a BBC article developing free ports. So far, Ryboloviev has lost in all jurisdictions while causing a huge scandal in Monaco which led to the resignation of the Monaco prosecutor for being in Ryboloviev’s pay. Details are summarized in this Artnet article.

Bouvier pursues the oligarch with multiple allegations, including the rather pointed one according to which “he wanted to steal my free port business in Singapore and build his own for the Russian Federation in Vladivostock”. Vladivostock is a border town through which flow all kinds of profits from Siberian raw materials such as logging and diamonds and everything in between. Suffice it to say that free ports, if misused, can be a very effective channel for money laundering and for evading US sanctions. Indeed, Bouvier accuses Rybolovyev of having played for the Kremlin. We must not forget that it was Rybolovyev who paid an additional $ 50 million for Donald Trump’s property in Palm Beach. Rybolovyev made his money from Russian potash and invested heavily in the Belarusian potash industry, the country’s main export, helping to keep the regime there. The regime has since moved towards integration with Russia.

The alternative black money economy in the world, worth several trillions of dollars, works in symbiosis with the oligarchs and helps to corrupt the countries where the oligarchs operate. The process began in the 1990s when tough oligarchs intimidated or outright murdered their rivals and took over industries by force. In Ukraine, they then invested money in politics to fund politicians who in turn would protect the power and money of the oligarchs. In Russia, a different result prevailed. Putin simply allowed the bosses to stay if they complied with his demands. He imprisoned or replaced others. Whether oligarch-kleptocrats control the state or vice versa, or something in between, a rough version of this structure has proliferated around the world and threatens the West in various ways.

Take the Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, now under official US sanctions for corrupting Ukrainian governance. He is also under investigation by the Fed for siphoning billions from a Ukrainian bank and placing them in assets across Central America, such as major real estate in downtown Cleveland and worn-out steel plants in small towns. Against which he and his partners have borrowed huge loans from local authorities and defaulted on the loans, according to the allegations.

The great Achilles heel of the autocratic-oligarchic world system periodically arises and massive street protests erupt, as they inevitably do – hence the riots in Kazakhstan now. The consolation that such regimes offer citizens – stay out of politics and we’ll take care of you – fails at predictable stress points (Moscow’s version differs slightly; the deal is “you stay out of politics and we make you feel good by rebuilding the Empire ‘). The elites monopolize power and funds, which leads to inefficiency and corruption. A lot of money disappears abroad. The value of the country’s basic raw material often drops in world markets and hits domestic subsidies. Inevitably, they fail, at various times, to deliver their end of the bargain. Here is a terrific essay on the phenomenon titled “Can ‘good’ economics coexist with ‘bad’ politics? ”

The author, among others a former senior official of the World Bank, identifies how corruption spreads externally to affect global standards. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings include one such example. “There are invariably,” he writes, “large public sectors – particularly where natural resources are important – in which state-owned enterprises continue to play a prominent role. The latter operate in symbiosis with strategically placed private companies, some of which have been acquired through privatization ”. He evokes the famous Yukos dispute in Russia and the Tristan Oil affair in Kazakhstan.

Here’s another way post-Soviet autocratic regimes are inundated with money – the uncertain national rule of law allows the privatization of assets of outside investors. The issue can then be argued endlessly in several Western jurisdictions, thus exploiting Western institutions against Western interests. Governments in the UK and US have launched various initiatives to stop the incursions of black money, to improve transparency and the like (for example, to stop the abuse of Interpol by autocratic regimes, see the TRAP law). But too many separate jurisdictions, states and cities still prefer to turn a blind eye as funds pour in, especially in the age of Covid. Until sufficient weight and coordination is demonstrated at the federal level, there is little hope of a real response.

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Canadian court awards C $ 107 million to families of downed Iran airliner Tue, 04 Jan 2022 00:15:06 +0000

Palestinian parties urged to remove obstacles to local elections in Gaza and West Bank

GAZA CITY: Hamas rejected plans to hold municipal elections in the Gaza Strip – as is the case in the West Bank – where the Palestinian Authority was preparing for the second phase of elections in March.

More than 100 Palestinian NGOs published a petition calling on Hamas and Fatah to remove any administrative, technical or legal obstacles and to guarantee the holding of local elections in Gaza and the West Bank.

The director of the NGO Network in Gaza, Amjad Al-Shawa, said that the consensus on the holding of local elections will give hope to the Palestinian people in the possibility of achieving internal reconciliation.

Hamas and Fatah have failed to achieve internal Palestinian reconciliation after several attempts.

NGOs said holding local elections would push the process towards completing the remainder of the legislative and presidential elections.

Hamas has called on the Palestinian Authority three times to participate and authorize the second phase of local elections in the Gaza Strip.

In a letter sent to the Palestinian Central Election Commission, Hamas called for general elections to be held simultaneously or consecutively, in which local elections are part and not substitute for them.

Hamas has asked for a written pledge from President Mahmoud Abbas to ensure that the elections will not be called off at the last minute, and also wants his amendments to the law on municipal elections to be overturned.

Hamas spokesman Hazim Qasem said the movement did not want by-elections.

He said the movement’s demands match national aspirations and should be discussed as part of a “serious national dialogue to discuss elections at all levels, setting precise timetables, with written guarantees that” they will be respected ”.

Hamas wants to hold full Palestinian elections for the Legislative Council, the Presidency, and the National Council, as nationally agreed – either simultaneously or consecutively.

Abbas has indefinitely postponed the parliamentary elections scheduled for last May, citing Israel’s refusal to hold them in Jerusalem.

The Central Election Commission announced that it had received an official letter from Hamas containing its position on the second phase of local elections scheduled for March 26.

This stage of the elections will not take place in Gaza, according to the letter from Hamas, confirmed the director of the regional office of the electoral commission in Gaza, Jamil Al-Khalidi.

He said the letter included “political demands,” which Hamas defined as the basis for agreeing to participate and hold elections in Gaza.

Election law-related demands, such as the annulment of the formation of the electoral tribunal and the return of jurisdiction to adjudicate appeals to the lower courts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hanna Nasser, the chairman of the commission, responded to Hamas with a written letter.

He stressed that Hamas’s demands “are political and require addressing the political level about them.”

The president said that the commission had an executive mission and that it was not within its competence to pronounce on these political questions.

The committee believes that it is currently impossible to hold local elections in Gaza due to the limited time before the voter registration process for the local elections, which is expected to start in a few days.

The first phase of local elections took place partially in early December in 154 local councils of villages and towns in the West Bank, but not in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has controlled the situation in the coastal strip since the split in mid-2007.

The Palestinian law on local elections stipulates that “elections shall be held every four years by decision of the council of ministers, provided that the term of office of the council is four years and that it continues to deliberate until the holding of elections. elections. . “

The last local elections were held in 2017 in the West Bank, when Hamas also refused to hold them in Gaza.

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Plethora of threats leaves eurozone facing another tumultuous year Sat, 01 Jan 2022 12:00:00 +0000

With war on its doorstep, the far right in power, wrangling over debt rules and the ECB stuck in an inflation deadlock: 2022 could be anything but easy navigation for the eurozone.

Prices are already skyrocketing and lockdowns have spread across the continent. But even if the virus is ultimately defeated, there are an assortment of potential new threats ahead that are likely to fuel another tumultuous year for the bloc’s economy if it ignites. The markets have a lot to navigate.

Tensions between policymakers will emerge in Brussels over post-Covid spending, Emmanuel Macron faces voters in France, political unrest is likely to return to Rome and Vladimir Putin could arm Europe’s gas supply then that the Russian troops amass at the Ukrainian border.

The following year was supposed to be another marked by recovery, but for Europe it could be a difficult year.

Debt settles the battle

Exhausting discussions of how to reshape European debt rules for a post-pandemic world will leave a lasting mark on the region’s economy. Tensions between north and south over new spending restrictions are about to explode.

The EU’s Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) requires countries to limit their debt to 60% of GDP and the deficit to 3%, rules that have been suspended until 2023 due to the pandemic.

However, the countries in the south of the bloc believe that a return to the old regulation is unimaginable in a post-pandemic Europe. Debt amounts to over 150% of GDP in Italy and over 110% in Spain and France.

Mountains of public debt make it impossible to meet current targets, and the south wants more flexibility in spending to spur growth through investment. But they will face fierce resistance from the north.

Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, called for debt limits to be set country by country given the huge variation between Germany and Italy.

The former Italian prime minister warned that EU rules “cannot group all countries together” because the “differences in debt ratios are too high for that”.

Yet the ultra-cautious nations of the North are lining up against a radical change in the rules that would allow indebted countries to borrow more. The anti-borrowing “Frugal Four” of Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden have already warned that “reducing excessive debt ratios must remain a common goal” in the new rules.

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Fed moves in 2022 could end stock market pandemic Fri, 31 Dec 2021 10:00:20 +0000

For two years, the stock market was largely able to ignore the reality that Americans lived during the pandemic – the increase in coronavirus cases, loss of lives and livelihoods, lockdowns – due to underlying policies that kept it dynamic.

Investors can now say goodbye to all of this.

By 2022, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates to fight inflation, and government programs to stimulate the economy during the pandemic will have ended. These policy changes will cause investors, businesses and consumers to behave differently, and their stocks will eventually take some air off the stock market, analysts say.

“This will be the first time in nearly two years that the Fed’s step-by-step decisions could force investors or consumers to become a little more wary,” said David Schawel, chief investment officer at Family Management Corporation, a management company. heritage in New York. .

At the end of the year, the general opinion on Wall Street is that 2022 will be a bumpier ride, if not quite a roller coaster. In a recent note, analysts at JP Morgan said they expected inflation – currently at 6.8% – to “normalize” in the coming months, and that it was unlikely the surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is slowing economic growth.