#Ireland has sanctioned 100s of Russian officials since February. Last week, #Russia did the same back. Media histrionics from FF/FG ensued. But it is not 'hybrid warfare,' as Micheál Martin ridiculously claimed. It's nothing more than a predictable diplomatic consequence of his own government's decisions.
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Rhetoric of MEPs on #EU-#China relations makes it difficult not to conclude the #EuropeanParliament is an increasingly extremist institution. Even Biden administration is now communicating a less hawkish line than the theatrics in here. Where does madness this stop?
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Either decision - to restrict or ban Russian visas - is a mistake. As the Financial Times makes clear in a Sunday editorial, visa bans would target civilians and affect civilians, not Russian officials.
Though sanctions aimed at degrading Vladimir Putin’s ability to wage his war have inevitably affected ordinary Russian people, they have not targeted them directly. Even bans on Russian planes entering EU airspace and on supplying parts for its aircraft aimed to weaken its economy, not keep Russians out. A visa ban is different, because it specifically targets civilians... Even moderate Russians might turn against the EU.It is unclear how visa restrictions are supposed to alter Russian government policy. The only arguments that are being made for doing this appeal to the idea that Russian civilians, having elected their government, bear collective responsibility for the invasion of Ukraine, and that they must therefore suffer for it. The Financial Times quotes an unnamed EU official that "[i]t is inappropriate for Russian tourists to stroll in our cities, on our marinas. We have to send a signal to the Russian population that this war is not OK, it is not acceptable."
While it is not made explicit, the idea being outlined here - and in the calls by Eastern and Central European and Baltic politicians - is the idea of collective punishment, something which is not only widely accepted to be morally abhorrent, but is prohibited under international law. It is also difficult to fathom how confining Russians to the Russian Federation, where they are far less likely to meet other Europeans or encounter open criticism of their government’s actions, “sends” any “signal” that the war in Ukraine is “not acceptable.”
In reality, any move to interfere with visas for Russian citizens will send a very different signal. By separating or making life more difficult for millions of binational families, this proposal will alienate Russians who are friendly to the West, and confirm for them that the EU is Russophobic. This is by no means a niche view. It is shared by the governments of France and Germany, and even by Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned pro-Western opposition campaigner, whose words are normally seized upon by EU leaders, but now fall on deaf ears.
The real motive for the calls for visa bans has nothing to do with stopping war in Ukraine, or trying to correct Russian policy. It is instead a transparently vindictive measure, driven by extremist political forces. It is a policy led by emotion, not by practicality or reason. It stands to entrench Russian public opinion behind the Kremlin's position, even as it feeds toxic nationalist fervour in Europe. It is vindictive, counterproductive and stupid. Irish politicians, knowing our own history, should be ashamed to support it.
On the 8th of November we released Binding the Guardian, a study commissioned by MEP Clare Daly, which provides a critical analysis of the European Commission’s annual rule of law reports (2020 & 2021). See press release here: https://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Press-release-Binding-the-Guardian-08-11-2021.pdf
(The following is a brief explainer and update on the case of Algirdas Paleckis, a Lithuanian journalist currently subject to prosecution on "espionage" charges. The case is an example - along with that of Julian Assange - of how espionage law is being misused in Europe and further abroad to stifle dissent, and how the space for challenging Europe's foreign policy orthodoxy is shrinking.
Photos from my recent visit to Lithuania along with MEPs Mick Wallace and Tatjana Ždanoka to support Paleckis can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/judejimas.ausra/photos/pcb.139925711712862/139906478381452 )
Algirdas Paleckis (50) is a Lithuanian journalist and politician who was arrested on charges of “espionage for Russia” in 2018. He spent 17 months in the solitary confinement cell before any trial started and is under house arrest since 2020.
In July this year the district court sentenced him to 6 years in prison. A. Paleckis appealed. The district court completely ignored the lack of evidence (see below) and just copy-pasted into its verdict the final speech of the prosecutor. Many Lithuanian courts are known for their dependency on the Government, so A. Paleckis risks spending another 6 years in jail, as the final ruling of the Appeal court approaches (in January or February next year).
The journalist is accused of “gathering and passing to Russia” information about Lithuanian judges who investigated the events of 1991 in Vilnius, as Soviets troops clashed with civilians. However, no proof of it was presented in the court – no documents, or files, or any other type of information allegedly “gathered” by A. Paleckis. Moreover, no person has been identified as a foreign agent who “gave instructions” to him, so no link to foreign services was established.
The prosecutor claims that A. Paleckis contacted with “unidentified” foreign agent, but the whole accusation is based on the testimony of a witness who is a convicted pedophile (Deimantas Bertauskas). It is also based on the secret memos of Lithuanian secret services. Part of the court sittings were also held secret, although the prosecutor admitted that there are no state secrets in A. Paleckis case.
As a journalist and politician, A. Paleckis has been a long-time critic of the Government. His “guilt” was to make his journalistic investigation into the events of 1991 in Vilnius. The authorities feel quite uneasy about this topic, as they already fined him for such investigation in 2012. During its last sitting (on the 16th of November 2021 in Vilnius) Lithuania’s Court of Appeal decided:
- to reject A. Paleckis’ request to make the psychological expertise of the sole witness in the case who is a convicted pedophile (D. Bertauskas) and on whose testimony the whole case is based. This person was acquitted as a reward for his “testimony”. A parallel exist here with J. Assange case, where a pedophile gave testimony against J. Assange.
- to reject A. Paleckis’ request to interrogate Mr Butkevicius (a high-ranking official during the events of 1991).
- to approve A. Paleckis request and ask the State Security Department to present to the court the protocols of secrete interrogations of the mentioned witness. These protocols are still secrete, which is a juridical nonsense because accusation against A. Paleckis are based on them.
The next court sitting is due on 12th of January 2022. If the court will not receive the mentioned secret protocols of secret interrogations (which is quite likely), then final speeches will be pronounced, and the court will convene for a verdict at some point in January or February 2022. The verdict will come into force immediately.