US sanction Chechen special police force in latest Magnitsky Act blacklist for ‘human rights abuses’

The US has blacklisted a Russian police unit in the southern republic of Chechnya as well as five individuals, under the Global Magnitsky Act that allows Washington to sanction ‘human rights abusers’ anywhere.

Thursday’s announcement by the Treasury Department affects the Terek Special Rapid Response Team (SOBR), the Russian equivalent of a SWAT team. The sanctions also apply against the team commander, listed as Abuzayed Vismuradov.

Four more individuals were added to the blacklist, including the warden of Penal Colony IK-7 by the name of Sergey Leonidovich Kossiev. The official positions of three other sanctioned Russian citizens were not given.

Also on rt.com ‘As if Germany is a US colony’: Bundestag energy chief lashes out at Russia sanctions...

“We are focused on holding accountable those responsible for atrocious acts within Russia, including the extrajudicial killing of Boris Nemtsov and the pervasive abuse of LGBTI persons in Chechnya," Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Under Secretary of Treasury Sigal Mandelker told reporters.

Enacted in December 2016, the Global Magnitsky Act allows the US government to sanction anyone it sees as violating human rights anywhere in the world, freezing any assets they may have in the US and preventing them from entering. It was an expansion of the 2012 law specifically targeting Russia.

Also on rt.com ‘Putin smiles’: Russophobic media is having none of Pompeo’s diplomacy...

These are the first Magnitsky-related sanctions in 2019, and the first addition to that particular blacklist since the November 2018 sanctions against 17 Saudi nationals suspected of involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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‘As if Germany is a US colony’: Bundestag energy chief lashes out at Russia sanctions

Only the US – not Germany or the EU – is interested in economic sanctions against Russia, the head of the Bundestag’s economy and energy committee has said. German MPs are looking at ways to lift the restrictions, he added.

Bundestag energy and economy chief Klaus Ernst of Die Linke party accused the US of behaving as if Germany is its colony, as Washington tries to bully Europeans out of buying Russian gas.

“Those measures don't only target Russians, they deliberately target Europeans, for example German energy companies involved in Nord Stream 2,” he said at a conference on the prospects of energy cooperation between Russia and the EU, organized by the Russian Gas Society – an association of Russian energy companies, relevant research institutions and local administrations.

Also on rt.com US must prevent construction of Nord Stream 2 pipeline to counter Russia – Pompeo...

US officials, including President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Berlin ambassador Richard Grenell, have mounted an offensive against the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that is expected to be completed in 2019. With the stated goal of countering Russian “leverage,” they are threatening European companies with sanctions if they continue investing in the project.

“The actions of the US ambassador to Germany are simply unacceptable,” Ernst said, as cited by Russian media.

It's as if Germany is a US colony.

The real goal, according to Ernst, is to make the EU buy American gas instead: “The Americans are using politics to realize their own interests in this field.”

The threats have had no effect so far, with Nord Stream 2 construction continuing to surge ahead. The Gazprom-owned pipeline's operator stated that each of its European partners, which include German, French, British, Dutch and Austrian companies, have invested around a billion euros in it.

Speaking of other economic measures in place against Russia, Ernst noted that the US is the only party that wins from them.

“There are currently discussions about this in the Bundestag economy committee, and it is growing stronger – how sanctions against Russia can be lifted. Neither Germany, nor Europe is interested in these sanctions. The only ones winning from these sanctions are the Americans.”

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New U.S. sanctions over chemical weapons would be 'illegal': Kremlin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia would consider any new chemical weapons-related sanctions imposed by the United States to be illegal, a Kremlin spokesman said on Wednesday.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it would impose additional sanctions on Russia after Moscow failed to give reasonable assurances it would not use chemical weapons after a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England.

“We consider restrictions imposed by the United States against Russia illegal,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

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Tensions aside: US to take delivery of 4 rocket engines from Russia

Despite political tensions here on Mother Earth, Russian-American cooperation in space still persists. The US will take delivery of four Russian-built engines crucial for its Atlas rockets, with several more to come.

Four RD-180 rocket engines built by Russia’s NPO Energomash have been commissioned for the US buyers, the manufacturer said in a news release. “On October 26, 2018, Pratt & Whitney, United Launch Alliance and RD AMROSS singed the engine log books,” it reads. 

Prior to the handover, Pratt & Whitney and United Launch Alliance (ULA) checked the engines along with NASA and US Air Force experts to ensure they are of good quality. The RD-180s are now ready to be shipped out, and this is not a one-of-a-kind purchase.

Three more rocket engines will be supplied later in November. And in April, the US bought four more engines from Russia, according to Energomash.

The United Launch Alliance, a joint company owned by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has relied on Energomash RD-180 engines for years to power the Atlas V rocket. They recently ordered 20 engines from Energomash despite economic sanctions imposed on Russia.

 
Aside from RD-180 engines, the US buys RD-181s from Russian manufacturers. The RD-181 is used to propel Antares rockets that launch Cygnus cargo tugs to the International Space Station for NASA.

When the US introduced its initial set of restrictions against Moscow, space exploration was excluded. As NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said“when other channels of communication break down, nations can still communicate on space exploration and space discovery and science.”

NASA has been doing its utmost to cut its dependency on Russian engines and to produce a viable alternative to the dual-nozzle, kerosene-fueled RD-180s, but to no avail so far. And while some Russian officials have at times vowed to ban the rocket engine sales, they are continuing.

Space is one of the few areas of Russia-US cooperation that remains relatively unscathed by political tensions. “We’re all breathing the same air. We can draw borders, but from space you can’t see them,” NASA astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock said last year.

“In the US we have a sarcastic saying: ‘We can put a man on a Moon, but we cannot figure out how to get along with our Russian partners,” the New York native said after working at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City.

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Russia to treat further US sanctions as an open declaration of economic war – PM

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned the US that any sanctions targeting Russian banking operations and currency trade will be treated as a declaration of economic war and retaliated against by any means necessary.

“If they introduce something like a ban on banking operations or the use of any currency, we will treat it as a declaration of economic war. And we’ll have to respond to it accordingly – economically, politically, or in any other way, if required,” Medvedev said during a trip to the Kamchatka region.

"Our American friends should make no mistake about it,” he emphasized.

 

Medvedev noted that Russia has a long history of surviving economic restrictions and never caved in to the pressure in the past. “Our county had been living under constant pressure through sanctions for the last hundred years,” Medvedev said, accusing the US and its allies of employing sanctions to undercut global competition. “Nothing has changed.”

The prime minister said that by targeting Russia’s gas exports to Europe, Washington wants to push its own LNG shipments to the continent. “It’s an absolutely nonmarket anti-competition measure aimed at strangling our capabilities.”

Medvedev pointed out that the US is simultaneously imposing tariffs on China. “The Chinese, obviously, don’t like it. No one does. And our goal is to resist all these measures.”

On Wednesday, the US State Department announced a new round of sanctions targeting Russian exports of dual-purpose electronics and other national security-controlled equipment, which will come into effect on August 22.

The stated reasoning behind latest punitive actions are accusations levelled against Russia over the Sergei and Yulia Skripal poisoning back in March, which the UK and its allies pinned on Moscow without due investigation. Washington subsequently accused Moscow of breaking the 1991 international law against chemical and biological warfare.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegations, while the UK authorities have provided no proof of Russia’s involvement in the case. Furthermore, Moscow eliminated all stockpiles of its chemical weapons under international obligations, unlike the US, which has still to honor its commitment.

While Russia reserved the right to retaliate against new trade restrictions, the US threatened to intensify sanctions within three months, by potentially cutting off nearly all exports and imports and banning the Russian airline Aeroflot from flying to the US.

To avoid further pressure, Washington demands that Moscow confess and provide “reliable assurances” that Russia will not use chemical weapons in the future. The US also seeks to have “on-site inspections” of alleged chemical production facilities, which Russia has already shut down.

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Obama, EU leaders agree to keep anti-Russian sanctions over Ukraine

US President Barack Obama and EU leaders have agreed to keep anti-Russian sanctions in place for a further year over the situation in Ukraine.

President Obama, who is on his final official visit to Europe, met with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK on Friday.

Among the main topics on the agenda were extending sanctions against Russia, cooperation within the framework of NATO, the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, and possible new anti-Russian sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Syria.

"The leaders agreed on the necessity of working collectively to move the transatlantic agenda forward, particularly on bringing stabilization to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as securing diplomatic resolution to the conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine," the White House said in the statement.

READ MORE: Russian sanctions cost Italy €7bn and up to 200,000 jobs – Italian MP

"The leaders also affirmed the importance of continued cooperation through multilateral institutions, including NATO," the White House added.

Sanctions won’t stop Russia from improving its dialogue and ties with other countries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

We [Russia] have never initiated sanctions. These [sanctions] don’t prevent us from building dialogue and continuing the dialogue on matters that are of interest to us, to Russia,” Peskov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and outgoing US President Obama are likely to talk informally on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in the Peruvian capital of Lima, Peskov said on Friday.

“The two administrations have not agreed on any separate meetings, but we can assume that President Putin and President Obama will cross paths on the sidelines of the forum and will talk,” Peskov said.

READ MORE: EU’s dialogue with Russia should be ‘correct and pragmatic’ – Italian FM

Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave a speech at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), where he said that Europe and the United States “are close economic and trade partners” and mentioned potential threats for the alliance.

“Russia, breaking international law. Turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. The refugee and migration crisis. International terrorism. Hybrid warfare. And cyber-attacks,” said Stoltenberg, listing the perceived dangers.

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European Union Avoids Addressing Sanctions Against Russia

Moscow, Oct 21 (Prensa Latina) In its final document, the European Union (EU) summit has refrained from mentioning possible sanctions against Russia for its position on the Syrian conflict, according to Russian television.
 
The Bloomberg agency stated that several major members of the EU had expressed this possibility, but apparently there was no consensus in the union to make an agreement.

The statement, however, condemns the attack against civilians allegedly by Russian aviation and Syrian troops, although Damascus accuses Western powers, including some from the EU, of financing and supplying armed groups such as the Islamic State.

The document also calls for an end to the fighting and a vote of confidence for the UN to lead a political process in Syria.

The EU statement also called for punishment for those responsible for the violation of international humanitarian law and human rights in Syria.

Following the agreement reached in Geneva, the United States bombed Syrian troops instead of terrorists, while Moscow reported on Wednesday that Belgian F-16 jet fighters killed six civilians in the outskirts of Aleppo.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said that his country is concerned about the situation in Syria, and supports the document in favor of ending the fighting and initiate a political process, but, as he said, it does not make sense to mention sanctions.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stated she saw no content to address the issue of restrictions on Russia and considered it more important to create the conditions for humanitarian aid to be distributed Syria, especially in the city of Aleppo.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin warned recently that sanctions against his country for its position on the events in Ukraine or Syria will not solve any particular problem, and are only aimed at a political and development containment of Russia.

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Russia to respond to any new US sanctions with ‘painful’ measures – deputy FM

Moscow will find response measures that would be “painful” for Washington if the US decides to continue toughening its sanctions against Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russian MPs.

“If the US opts to further toughen sanctions in defiance of common sense and in disregard of its experience that has already been quite painful for them, then we will find measures in our toolbox that will have a painful impact, particularly in terms of America’s positioning in the world,” Ryabkov told the deputies of the Russian State Duma, ahead of a vote on a bill suspending the Russian-American deal on reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium.

 
The Russian deputy foreign minister also said that the US continues to issue threats “on a daily basis” concerning the imposition of new sanctions against Russia “under various pretexts.” He added that 281 Russian legal entities and 81 officials, including a number of high-ranking figures, are now on the US sanctions list.

At the same time, the US “continues its efforts aimed at bringing its military infrastructure nearer to Russian borders and forming anti-Russian alliances with its European allies,” he said.

Russia’s response moves are “strictly proportionate and adequate” and show that “Russia pursues a rational line and is not guided by emotions,” Ryabkov stressed.

He went on to suggest that Russia could always shift gears and resort to “asymmetrical” measures in its response. He pointed to the recently suspended agreements between the US and Russia in the nuclear energy field as an example.

The “essence” of the present crisis in relations between the US and Russia lies in the fact that “under the current administration, [US foreign policy] became even more arrogant, forceful and focused on the attempts to impose its will on other countries,” the diplomat said, adding that such policy “is doomed to failure from the start in relations with our country.”

“The White House has only itself to blame for the problems in many parts of the world as well as for the difficulties in relations with Russia,” Ryabkov said.

On Wednesday, the Russian State Duma voted in favor of a bill submitted by the president’s office that suspends a deal between the US and Russia on reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium extracted from decommissioned warheads.

The deal, ratified in 2000, envisaged a specific procedure of disposing plutonium by fabricating nuclear plant fuel from it. However, the US later said that this procedure was too costly and instead opted for mixing plutonium with special dilutants and storing it indefinitely.

Russia regarded this as a breach of the agreement and stressed that the US could now potentially restore its weapons-grade plutonium.

The bill adopted on Wednesday lists measures the US should take for the agreement to be resumed. This includes reducing the US military presence on the territory of the NATO members that joined the bloc since September 1, 2000, as well as the lifting of all anti-Russian sanctions and compensating the loss Russia suffered as a result.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending the reprocessing agreement on October 3, in view of “a threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the US against Russia.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the time that it was a “forced measure” that should become “a signal to Washington.”

On October 5, Moscow also announced the suspension of cooperation agreements with the US in the nuclear and energy sectors. Russia said that the agreements covering scientific and technical cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes were “in a sleep mode” in the past two years because of US actions, and that Moscow’s move simply “reflects the reality.”

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