‘Massive Explosive Decompression’ brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight #MH17


One of the two black boxes recovered from the crash site of the MH17 jet in Donetsk on July 22, 2014.  © AFPOne of the two black boxes recovered from the crash site of the MH17 jet in Donetsk on July 22, 2014. © AFP

(Reuters) – Analysis of the black box flight recorders from a downed Malaysian airliner show it was destroyed by shrapnel coming from a rocket blast and went down because of “massive explosive decompression”, a Ukrainian security official said on Monday.

The spokesman for Ukraine’s Security Council, Andriy Lysenko, told a news conference in Kiev the information came from experts analysing the recorders from the plane that came down in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on July 17.

Britain was tasked with downloading the data from two black boxes recovered from the crash site and handing that information over to international investigators for analysis.

Kiev and the West accuse pro-Russian rebels of shooting down the plane. Moscow says the Ukrainian government is responsible for the crash, which killed all 298 people on board.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams)

Reuters.

Hague court orders Russia to pay $50 billion in Yukos case


By Megan Davies and Vladimir Soldatkin.Derricks at Yuganskneftegaz oil processing facility at Mamontovskoye oilfield outside the Siberian town of Nefteyugansk.  CREDIT: REUTERS/SERGEI KARPUKHINDerricks at Yuganskneftegaz oil processing facility at Mamontovskoye oilfield outside the Siberian town of Nefteyugansk. Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

(Reuters) – The Hague’s arbitration court ruled on Monday that Russia must pay a group of shareholders in defunct oil giant Yukos around $50 billion (29.45 billion pounds) for expropriating its assets, a big hit for a country teetering on the brink of recession.

The Hague court said it had awarded shareholders in the GML group just under half of their $114 billion claim, going some way to covering the money they lost when the Kremlin seized Yukos, once controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Tim Osborne, director of GML, welcomed the award, which he said was the largest ever, as “very favourable”.

But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would most likely appeal the decision, underlining that the shareholders, who have battled through the courts for a decade, will have to fight further to receive the compensation.

“The Russian side, those agencies which represent Russia in this process, will no doubt use all available legal possibilities to defend its position,” he said when news of the award leaked ahead of the official announcement.

The ruling hits Russia at a time when it faces international sanctions about its role in Ukraine and anger over the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed rebels are fighting a separatist campaign. The country is also grappling with slowing economic growth.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague announced that Russia must pay the compensation to subsidiaries of Gibraltar-based Group Menatep, a company through which Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, controlled Yukos.

Group Menatep now exists as holding company GML, and Khodorkovsky is no longer a shareholder in GML or Yukos.

Khodorkovsky, who is not a party to the action, was arrested at gunpoint in 2003 and convicted of theft and tax evasion in 2005. His company, once worth $40 billion, was broken up and nationalised, with most assets handed to Rosneft, a company run by Igor Sechin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Rosneft was not immediately available for comment.

Its shares were down 0.6 percent at 0830 GMT (9.30 a.m. BST), while the RTS index of Russian shares was down 1.8 percent.

Separately, The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is expected on Thursday to announce a decision on Yukos’s multi-billion-dollar claim against Russia, ruling on ‘just satisfaction’ or compensation, a Yukos spokeswoman said.

Yukos’s application in the ECHR, which is on behalf of all Yukos shareholders, argued that Yukos was unlawfully deprived of its possessions by the imposition of bogus taxes and a sham auction of its main asset.

KREMLIN JUSTICE

In a case that Kremlin critics said offered a stark example of Putin’s increasingly autocratic rule, Khodorkovsky was arrested at gunpoint in 2003 and convicted of theft and tax evasion in 2005. Putin justified the move by saying: “A thief must be in jail,” quoting a popular Soviet blockbuster.

Putin pardoned Khodorkovsky in December after he had spent 10 years in jail. He now lives in Switzerland.

The newspaper Kommersant, which earlier reported the Hague ruling, said the court ruled that Russia had infringed an international energy charter, adopted in 1991, that envisaged legal issues for investments in energy sectors.

The court also ruled, according to the newspaper, that Russia had to start paying the compensation by Jan. 2 next year, or face growing interest on the fine.

It cited GML director Osborne as saying GML will force Russia to pay out the compensation “if it wouldn’t make payments within the court-defined timeframe”.

Any funds won will be shared amongst the shareholders. The biggest ultimate beneficial owner is Russian-born Leonid Nevzlin, a business partner who had fled to Israel to avoid prosecution. He has a stake of around 70 percent.

A spokesperson for Nevzlin declined to comment.

The other four ultimate beneficial owners, each of whom owns an equal stake, are Platon Lebedev, Mikhail Brudno, Vladimir Dubov and Vasilly Shaknovski.

After he was jailed, Khodorkovsky ceded his controlling interest in Menatep, which owned 60 to 70 percent of Yukos, to Nevzlin.

GML shareholders are not expecting to claim twice, so if they receive monies pursuant to one case it would reduce their claim under the other, Osborne has previously told Reuters.

(Reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva, Vladimir Soldatkin and Megan Davies in Moscow, Tova Cohen in Tel Aviv, reporting by Thomas Escritt and Anthony Deutsche in Amsterdam, Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Will Waterman)


Reuters.

Lavrov Says Russia Not Planning Tit-for-Tat Sanctions Against West


Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov looks on during a news conference in Maribor, Slovenia.Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov looks on during a news conference in Maribor, Slovenia.

Russia will not impose like-for-like measures or act “hysterically” over Western economic sanctions, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday, trying to stake out the high ground amid growing tensions with the West.

Speaking at a news conference, Lavrov said he hoped that an investigation into a downed Malaysian jet liner, which Western leaders say was almost certainly shot down by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, would be objective.

He said sanctions could only make Russia more economically independent as Europe prepared new measures over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis, which has plunged Russia’s ties with the West to their lowest since the Cold War.

“I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength,” he said.

“We cannot ignore it. But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country.”

By far, oil major BP has the largest exposure to the Russian economy with its 19.75 percent holding in Russian top oil producer Rosneft.

The Kremlin-controlled oil producer also has agreements with ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil to tap Russia’s Arctic offshore oil and gas.

Members of the European Union, angered by the MH17 downing on its way from Amsterdam, were expected to reach a final decision on Tuesday on measures including closing the bloc’s capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo on arms sales and restrictions on dual-use and energy technologies.

The EU added new names on Friday to its list of individuals and companies facing travel bans and asset freezes over their alleged involvement in Ukraine and could agree to extend the list further as early as Monday.

The Moscow Times.

In Ukraine’s east, Soviet-style economy withers under onslaught


By Lina Kushch, Elizabeth Piper and Natalia Zinets.A man walks past a coal mine in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, July 8, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/MAXIM ZMEYEVA man walks past a coal mine in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, July 8, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/MAXIM ZMEYEV.

(Reuters) – After pro-Russian rebels took 720 kg of explosives, 360 detonators and almost 1 km of wiring, the Skochinskiy coal mine, an ageing stalwart of the economy in Ukraine’s Donbass region, was put out of action.

Fierce fighting and rebel requisitioning have stopped work at many of the coal mines in and around the strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk. Without the fuel, nearby steel factories and electricity plants across Ukraine are struggling to work.

Many in Ukraine’s western and central regions see the industrial east as a burden, home to an outdated Soviet economy of monolithic factories that offer little to the rest of a country where other sectors and smaller firms are more common.

But officials say with a budget unable to finance the Ukrainian army after losing revenues from Crimea, annexed by Moscow in March, Kiev not only needs the contributions from its east but also its heavy industry, albeit in a modernised form.

“There’s a war in Donetsk and Luhansk and practically all revenue from these regions to the state budget has fallen. Plus they annexed Crimea,” said Mikhailo Noniak, deputy minister for revenue and duties at Ukraine’s tax agency.

“The reality of the financial situation is pretty bad at the moment because of Russia’s aggression. A lot of money goes to defence.”

Ukraine is virtually bankrupt, running wide external deficits and struggling to cover state wages, never mind feed and equip an army whose numbers have risen as fighting against rebels who want independence for the Donbass intensifies.

Western lender, the International Monetary Fund, has thrown a financial lifeline, stumping up $17.1 billion as part of a two-year bailout package. Kiev has received $3.2 billion so far and hopes to get an additional $1.4 billion in late August.

Oligarchs, who became wealthy in the chaos following the fall of the Soviet Union and own much of the country’s private economy, have also stepped in, with one, Ihor Kolomoisky, financing and arming several battalions fighting the rebels.

But while financing from businessmen is unsustainable, Western funding demands that a reluctant Ukrainian parliament make some tough changes to its economy, where the state has long subsidised energy bills and has a bloated state sector.

Much of that budget spending goes to its east, especially Luhansk and Donetsk, impoverished regions where a flat panorama of pot-holed roads and grassy fields is punctuated by slag piles or mining machinery.

EASTERN DRAIN

Donetsk contributed 11.7 percent, or 170.8 billion hryvnias UAH=, to Ukrainian gross domestic product last year and Luhansk contributed just over 4 percent, at 38.9 billion hryvnias. Continue reading

Russian TV helps prosecution in Nadya Savchenko case in a Russian kangaroo court


By Halya Coynash
Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, 31, fought in eastern Ukraine in the ranks of the Aidar volunteer battalion and in June was taken prisoner by militia forces near the town of Shchastya in Luhansk Oblast. © CourtesyUkrainian pilot Nadya Savchenko, 31, fought in eastern Ukraine in the ranks of the Aidar volunteer battalion and in June was taken prisoner by militia forces near the town of Shchastya in Luhansk Oblast. © Courtesy

When a criminal trial involves a pilot taken captive by insurgents in one country and found imprisoned and facing serious criminal charges in another, questions are inevitable. Russia has thus far proven unable to credibly explain how Nadya Savchenko came to be in Russian detention and to be charged with involvement in the deaths of a Russian journalist and cameraman.  It is instead applying dubious tactics to ensure that the questions are either not asked, or not heard.  Not for the first time, Russian TV has been assigned a key role.

A Voronezh court on July 25 rejected Savchenko’s appeal against the court ruling remanding her in custody until August 31.  She is likely to soon be transferred to the Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.  The judge was unmoved by the fact that the original court’s detention order, as well as the investigators documents, refer to the Donbas region of Ukraine as “the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics”.  The latter are the Kremlin-backed militants’ self-proclaimed ‘republics’ which even Russia has not officially recognized.

It is likely that the fault for such a telling mistake lies with the Investigative Committee of Russia which has been initiating ‘criminal investigations’ with a distinctly political slant for many months now.  The documents in question refer to a number of cases opened from May 30, including occasions where Russian journalists were, according to Ukraine detained for unacceptable activities and deported or, according to Russia ‘abducted’.

The defence had insisted that Savchenko be brought to the court and that the hearing be open.  The latter application was allowed, however there was only video contact with Savchenko from her cell.  Her lawyers’ application for a change of interpreter was also rejected, although there are clear grounds for concern that Savchenko’s words are being distorted.  Savchenko, for example, said that she was abducted from Ukraine with this being translated as that she was caught in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian consul was only allowed to see Savchenko after numerous attempts, and is now being stopped from visiting her again.  This could well be because he passed on her account of how she was abducted into Russia with a bag over her head and in handcuffs.  The pretext, however, is that Savchenko has already had the second visit she is allowed each month.

The supposed ‘visit’ was from a LifeNews journalist who was permitted by the investigator to interview her.

The edited transcript remains on the channel’s website under the title: “The insurgents did not shoot down the Malaysian BoeingLIfeNews took an exclusive interview of a woman who took part in a punitive operation in Ukraine and is now in the Voronezh SIZO”.

As during her interrogation by the militants who captured her around June 18, Savchenko is not cowered and denies all claims that she could have been involved in any way in the killing of unarmed journalists. There is no point in analysing particular parts of the interview since it seems likely that the tape has been carefully edited.  There is a suspiciously short amount of time given to her abduction and how she ended up in Russia. Even Savchenko’s doubts about whether the militants could have shot down the plane should be treated with caution. They come after a month held captive first by the militants then in Russia. Any access to the news over recent weeks has therefore been via Russian TV channels whose distortion of information about the shooting-down of  MH17  has itself made world headlines.

Even with manipulative editing, Savchenko creates a very good impression. Perhaps for that reason, LifeNews  took another ‘exclusive’ interview, this time of Vladimir Markin from the Investigative Committee.  This is entitled “Savchenko lived in Russia for two weeks before being detained” and begins with the presenter claiming that Savchenko when detained, “beat her breast, admitting “yes, I killed them, I killed them” and has now changed her tune.  The interviewer’s very tone makes it clear that the audience should view all denials of guilt as an attempt now to wriggle out of trouble.  Markin joins in claiming that ‘as one can see’, Savchenko contradicts herself at each point.  In fact, one cannot see anything of the sort, and there is no evidence that Savchenko ever ‘confessed”

Markin first states that Savchenko did much more than simply point out the journalists’ whereabouts.  When asked for more detail, however, he backtracks saying that other charges ‘are still being confirmed’.  He asserts that Savchenko was in Russia for two weeks and doesn’t know ‘how she escaped’ from her militant captors.  She was then, he claims, detained after she took a taxi dressed in camouflage gear.  He can’t remember why the police patrol stopped the car, perhaps she didn’t have her seatbelt on, he suggests. He alleges she said that she was a refugee and had run away from Ukraine as she didn’t agree with the new authorities’ politics.  The story is almost comically implausible, with the details clearly seen as less important than the overall task of discrediting Savchenko and casting doubt on her words.

Nadya Savchenko

LifeNews is focused on here since it provided ‘exclusive’ interviews, however the  line taken is that presented by the Russian authorities and will be identical on all mainstream Russian media.  Russians, and Ukrainians in those parts of eastern Ukraine still under militant control, have little chance of understanding how grossly they are being misled.

None of this, unfortunately, is new. Two left-wing activists Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzaev were convicted by a Moscow court last week of ‘organizing mass riots’ on May 6 2012. In October that year the Russian authorities abducted Razvozzhaev from Kyiv where he was in the process of applying for asylum and took him to Moscow. The charges laid against both men stem from allegations made, without corroboration or identification of the person supposed to have ‘exposed them’ in a scandalous ‘documentary’ entitled “Anatomy of Protest” on NTV.

The abduction in 2012 took place under the former president Viktor Yanukovych and almost certainly with the connivance of the Ukrainian authorities. Those days have gone. Savchenko is Ukrainian, was captured by the militants and handed over to the Russians against her will and is now facing charges that bear no scrutiny. The questions Russia’s investigators cannot answer urgently need to be asked – publicly and loudly. They should not stop until Nadya Savchenko is released and back in Ukraine.

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG).

Editors Note: Nadiya Savchenko trial is a farce with trumped up charges and the russians have already decided that she is guilty. This is nothing short of a medieval witch hunt with no chance of defense!

Publishing The Facts, Not Fiction.

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