MOSCOW FURIOUS AFTER BOTH BELGIUM AND FRANCE FREEZE RUSSIAN STATE ASSETS

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 6.26.59 PMWill only serve to further inflame tensions between Russia and Europe

by ZERO HEDGE | JUNE 18, 2015

Russia has summoned the Belgian ambassador to Moscow and threatened to “respond in kind” after bailiffs instructed nearly 50 Belgian companies to disclose Russian state assets, a move which reportedly sets the stage for the seizure of Russian property in connection with the disputed $50 billion Yukos verdict. Essentially, Russia was required to submit a plan for a €1.6 billion payment pursuant to the ECHR decision by June 15, and because Moscow did not do so, Belgium will attempt to extract the payment on its own.

As a refresher, here’s what we said last year regarding the arbitration:

The Hague is not Vladimir Putin’s favorite place today. Following the “war crime” comments earlier, the arbitration court’s decision to rule in favor of Yukos shareholders (and thus against the allegedly “politically motivated” confiscation of the firm’s assets by the Russian government) with a $50 billion settlement (half what was sought) has prompted a quick and angry response from the Russian government. Blasting the “one-sided use of evidence,” and re-iterating the massive tax evasion that the leadership were involved in, Russia slams “the puzzling unprecedented amount of damages” awarded, claiming the process is “becoming increasingly politicized.”
Here’s RT on Belgium’s move to freeze Russian assets:
The bailiffs were reportedly acting at the behest of the Isle of Man-based Yukos Universal Limited, a subsidiary of the Russian energy giant, dismantled in 2007. They have given the target companies a fortnight to comply..

Russia will appeal the court’s arrest of Russian property, Russian presidential aide Andrey Belousov said. According to the official, “the situation with the arrest of the property is politicized, [and] Moscow hopes to avoid a new escalation in relations.”

A letter accompanying the notice, reportedly drafted by the law firm Marc Sacré, Stefan Sacré & Piet De Smet, accused Moscow of a “systematic failure to voluntarily follow”international legal judgments.

The addressees included not just local offices of Russian companies, but international banks, a local branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and even Eurocontrol, the European air traffic agency headquartered in Brussels. Only diplomatic assets, such as embassies, were exempt.

The situation was not unexpected, and Russia is considering a number of measures to deal with possible asset seizures both in Belgium and in other countries, said Andrey Belousov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yukos Universal Limited was awarded $1.8 billion in damages by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in July 2014, as part of a total settlement for approximately $50 billion, owed to its former shareholders and management. The court concluded that the corporation, once headed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent more than a decade in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion from 2003 to 2013, “was the object of a series of politically motivated attacks.”

Russia has not accepted the ruling, saying it disregards widespread tax fraud committed by Yukos, and constitutes a form of indirect retribution for Russia’s standoff with the West over Ukraine.
And more, from Interfax (Google translated):

Russian institutions in Belgium, except for diplomatic missions, received on Wednesday by bailiffs arrest warrants in their possession of the State Property of the Russian Federation.

The document stated that the arrest is made on the basis of the decision of the Belgian Court of Arbitration of 18 July 2014 to the claim of “Yukos Universal Limited.”

The specified amount of the claim in it – 1.6 billion euros.

Bailiffs indicate that the plaintiff has demanded such a measure, “because it has serious concerns about the possibility to receive the sum due, in particular, due to a systematic failure of the Russian Federation to fulfill handed down judgments against it and considering the attitude of the Russian Federation to the decision.”

As explained by “Interfax” the representative offices of bailiffs’ Marc Sacre – Stefan Sacré – Piet De Smet “listed in the organizations are obliged to declare within two weeks at their disposal cash, property of the Russian Federation and the debt to the Russian Federation.

The list covers almost all the major banks, registered in Belgium, and even organizations such as “Eurocontrol”, which regulates air traffic over Europe. In it – all Russian representative, except for the protected diplomatic immunity until the Archbishopric of Brussels and Belgium ROC, including the representation of non-governmental organizations and the media.
But it’s not just Belgium. France also froze the accounts of Russian companies on Thursday, targeting Russian firms run by a French subsidiary of the country’s second largest lender, VTB. Here’s RT again:

French law enforcement has frozen the accounts of Russian companies operated by the French subsidiary of VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, CEO Andrey Kostin told RBC. Diplomatic accounts were briefly frozen as well, but have since been unlocked. “As of this morning [diplomatic accounts] were unfrozen… The sums are small, some dozens of thousands of euros, [but] Russian companies’ accounts are still frozen,” the bank chief was cited as saying. “We are working on the problem with our lawyers now.”
And the response from the Kremlin:

RUSSIA SUMMONS BELGIAN AMBASSADOR OVER FREEZES OF RUSSIA ASSETS
RUSSIA: FREEZES OF ASSETS IN BELGIUM `UNFRIENDLY ACT’
RUSSIA MAY RESPOND IN KIND TARGETING BELGIAN ASSETS IN RUSSIA
“[Remove the violations], otherwise, the Russian side will be forced to consider taking adequate response measures against properties of the Kingdom of Belgium, including properties of the Belgian embassy in Moscow, as well as of its legal entities”
We imagine this will only serve to further inflame tensions between Russia and Europe amid escalating violence in Ukraine and an increasingly aggressive stance towards the Kremlin on the part of Washington and NATO.

Moscow summons Belgian envoy over seizure of state assets, threatens retaliation

http://cdn.rt.com/files/news/41/6b/c0/00/belgium-russian-assets-yukos.mp4?event=download

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Moscow has summoned the Belgian ambassador to lodge a protest over the freeze of its state assets. It said that Moscow may consider retaliatory measures against Belgium if the assets are seized, including against Belgium diplomatic property in Russia.

This comes after Belgian bailiffs notified Belgian, Russian and other international companies of the seizure of assets belonging to Russia at the behest of the Isle of Man-based Yukos Universal Limited, a subsidiary of the Russian energy giant, which was dismantled in 2007. They have given the target companies a fortnight to comply.

READ MORE: Russian companies’ accounts in VTB French subsidiary frozen – CEO Kostin

Russia will appeal the court’s arrest of Russian property, Russian presidential aide Andrey Belousov said. According to the official, “the situation with the arrest of the property is politicized, [and] Moscow hopes to avoid a new escalation in relations.”

Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it could consider retaliatory measures against Belgium if the assets are seized.

Read more
Amsterdam court says Yukos International has legitimate compensation claim against Rosneft

A letter accompanying the notice, reportedly drafted by the law firm Marc Sacré, Stefan Sacré & Piet De Smet, accused Moscow of a “systematic failure to voluntarily follow” international legal judgments.

The addressees included not just local offices of Russian companies, but international banks, a local branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and even Eurocontrol, the European air traffic agency headquartered in Brussels. Only diplomatic assets, such as embassies, were exempt.

The situation was not unexpected, and Russia is considering a number of measures to deal with possible asset seizures both in Belgium and in other countries, said Andrey Belousov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The situation is very politicized,” Belousov said. “Let’s hope that common sense prevails and we don’t sink deep in this story, that there won’t be a new round of retaliatory escalation.”

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Russia has not accepted the ruling, saying it disregards widespread tax fraud committed by Yukos, and constitutes a form of indirect retribution for Russia’s standoff with the West over Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Russian ministry of justice said it would take “preventative measures” to avoid property confiscation, and challenge each decision in national courts.

Read more
​Russia appeals $50bn Yukos verdict

A separate ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last summer awarded Yukos shareholders €1.9 billion in compensation. Russia’s Dozhd channel quoted ECHR representatives as saying that the reported seizures are not related to its legal decision as several media reports have previously suggested.

Neither Belgium, nor Russia have yet released official statements about potential asset seizures.

Russia spent much of the 1990s embroiled in legal squabbles with several foreign creditors, who attempted to seize its property abroad, but each time the dispute was settled without asset confiscation.

Putin: 40+ ICBMs targeted for 2015 nuclear force boost

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Over 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles will be delivered to Russia’s strategic forces in 2015, President Vladimir Putin announced at the opening ceremony of the Army-2015 Expo, an international military forum held near Moscow.

This year, our nuclear forces are going to get more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of penetrating all existing, even the most advanced missile defenses,” the Russian president said, adding that the state would persist in paying specific attention to realization of a massive military rearmament program and modernization of the defense industry, Putin said.

Read more
‘Are you crazy?’ People in Moscow widely oppose fake petition to nuke America (VIDEO)
Vladimir Putin also said that tests of a new radar station capable of beyond-the-horizon aerial target detection will start soon in Russia. The system will be directed westward. A similar radar station is also due to be deployed eastward. And in April a new radar station started operations in the city of Armavir, in southern Russia.

READ MORE: ‘Most aggressive since Cold War’: Russia may beef up border if US arms stationed in E. Europe

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov says that NATO is provoking Russia into an arms race. Antonov’s statement was made referring to US plans to put its F-22 jets in Eastern Europe.

I believe the statement must be looked at together with other similar statements, which have recently been numerous,” the deputy defense minister said. “A few days ago, reports started to turn up about certain [American] missiles put in a certain location and about certain ammunition depots in Eastern European countries and the Baltic. It looks like our colleagues from NATO member states are pushing us into an arms race,” he said.

GDP of BRICS could surpass G7 in 2-3 years – senior Duma MP

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The GDP of the BRICS countries may surpass that of the G7 within two or three years, as it has already hit $32.5 trillion and rising, claims State Duma Foreign Relations chief Aleksey Pushkov.

“In 2014, the total gross domestic product of BRICS countries reached 30 percent [of the world’s GDP – Ed.]. This is less than that of the G7, but the difference is seven or eight percent. The combined GDP of the BRICS countries, according to the International Monetary Fund is $32.5 trillion [by purchasing power parity – Ed.]; the G7’s is $34.7 trillion. Given that the BRICS members mostly show much higher growth rates than the G7, we can assume that in the next two or three years the aggregate GDP of the BRICS countries will exceed the G7’s,” said the head of the State Duma Foreign Relations Committee, Aleksey Pushkov, speaking to reporters at the first BRICS Parliamentary Forum in Moscow.

He went on to say that BRICS should make this Forum regular, preferably annual, and when that happens, it would help to make the world more equitable and multipolar, based not on the superiority of one country over the other, but on the balance of interests.

Read more
​BRICS summit in Russia to launch New Development Bank & currency pool – Putin

The economic center of the world is changing, the developed West will have to share its influence and authority in the global arena with players like BRICS, said Pushkov.

READ MORE: German police clash with anti-G7 protesters day before summit

Speaking about Western counter-efforts to consolidate and integrate, he mentioned the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US that aims at tariff reductions and the elimination of regulatory barriers to business.

If signed, it would turn Europe into the branch of the US economy, said Pushkov.

READ MORE: German business leaders rebuke G7 for ditching Russia

Pushkov’s comments were made as G7 leaders were meeting in Kruen in the Bavarian Alps. Russia was expelled from the group last year over reunification with Crimea.

BRICS skyrocketing
Since being established in 2006, the BRICS group has proposed many projects aimed at enhancing business relations between the members.

In July 2014, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa agreed a $100 billion BRICS New Development Bank intended to rival the IMF and World Bank and sponsor business projects of the group.

Russia expects to launch the bank as well as a currency reserve pool worth another $100 billion at the July BRICS summit in Ufa, said Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among other projects is a special business travel card which will simplify visa procedures and boost business between members.

BRICS account for more than 40 percent of the world’s population and about 30 percent of the world’s GDP.

NUCLEAR MISSILES COULD BE SITED AGAIN ON BRITISH SOIL IN NEW ‘COLD WAR’ WITH RUSSIA

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 3.30.17 PMVladimir Putin is “keeping his options open”

By Christopher Hope, Chief Political Correspondent

The UK could site American new nuclear missiles on British soil amid heightened tensions with Russia, Philip Hammond has indicated.
The comments raise the prospect of a return to a Cold War-type arms race with Russia over the use of nuclear missiles
The Foreign Secretary said there were “worrying signs” about the increased activity of Russian forces and the UK would consider the pros and cons of taking US intermediate-range weapons.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 3.32.41 PMMr Hammond said there was “no clear sign” of an imminent attack on Ukraine but Vladimir Putin is “keeping his options open”.
But he warned against making “unnecessary provocations” against Russia, which has a “sense of being surrounded and under attack”.
Mr Hammond told BBC1’s Andrew Marr programme that Mr Putin “has not ruled out a military option”.
• Ukraine’s president warns army to be ready to repel ‘full scale’ Russian invasion
• Russian bombers threatening Britain could hit passenger aircraft
He said: “As we go into the G7 meeting and then to the European Council later this month renewing sanctions, we have got to send very clear signals to the Russians that we will not tolerate any breach of their obligations under Minsk.”

The UK is thought to retain a stockpile of around 225 thermonuclear warheads, of which 160 are operational, but has refused to declare the exact size of its arsenal.
Since 1998, the submarine based Trident programme has been the only operational nuclear weapons system in British service.
The Pentagon is reportedly considering axing a Cold War-era treaty and deploying nuclear-capable missiles in Europe in response to Russia’s breaches of international law.

The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the G7 must send a ‘clear message’ to Russia
Asked if he would back plans to re-introduce US missiles to Europe, Mr Hammond said: “I would need to see the detailed case for that. I haven’t seen a detailed case for it.
“I think it is right to be concerned about the way the Russians are developing what they call asymmetric warfare doctrine.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 3.34.42 PMPressed on whether that would be a way to send a message to the Russian president, he replied: “It could be, but I think we have got a very delicate act to perform here.
“We have got to send a clear signal to Russia that we will not allow them to transgress our red lines.
“At the same time, we have to recognise that the Russians do have a sense of being surrounded and under attack and we don’t want to make unnecessary provocations.”
• Russia’s Victory Day Parade marks new East-West divide
• Europe faces a ‘real threat’ from Russia, warns US army commander
• Britain ‘cannot defend itself’ against Putin’s military might
Asked if American missiles could be based in Britain, he said: “We would look at the case. We work extremely closely with the Americans.
“That would be a decision that we would make together if that proposition was on the table. We would look at all the pros and the cons and come to a conclusion.”
He added: “There have been some worrying signs of stepping up levels of activity both by Russian forces and by Russian-controlled separatist forces.”

Obama: More G7 sanctions against Russia if Ukraine conflict continues

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The G7 states are ready to implement additional Russia sanctions over Ukraine, US President Barack Obama said at the G7 summit in Bavaria on Monday.

“There is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the Mink agreement,” Obama said. He added that the Western partners also need to encourage Kiev to stick to the Minsk deal.

“There was discussion of additional steps,” if Russia “doubles the aggression on Ukraine”, however they were on a technical and not political level, he added.

READ MORE: Leaders at G7 in Bavaria in call to uphold Russia sanctions

“Our hope is that we don’t have to take additional steps,” he said.

Obama said that the sanctions are hurting the Russian economy. He added that President Vladimir Putin would have to make a decision.

“Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate glories of the Soviet empire, or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?” Obama said.

The G7 summit gathered world leaders for two days in southern Germany, with the crisis in Ukraine and the Greek economy topping the agenda.

On Monday, the G7 issued a joint communiqué summing up the results of their meeting. In regard to the Ukrainian crisis, the leaders agreed “that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

READ MORE: Russia has better things to do than start WW3 (OP-ED)

Investigative journalist Tony Gosling told RT that it seems Western politicians are being driven by the US into rhetoric about uniting against Russia.

“This is our old Cold War talk, that is really driven by the Americans, and it certainly does not represent the views of European people or business, which is a bit worrying,” he said.

Speaking to reporters Monday, French President Francois Hollande said that “there are currently no reasons” to lift sanctions against Russia. He added that the sanctions are “likely” to be extended until the end of 2015, and that the issue will be reviewed by the European Council in June.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that negotiations with Russia are taking place, adding that “international crises can be solved with the Russian Federation.”

At the opening of the G7 on Sunday, European Council President Donald Tusk said that “all of us would prefer to have Russia around the G7 table.”

However, Tusk also backed tougher sanctions against Russia, saying that he hoped they would be put in place at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels in the end of June.

There has been a recent escalation of violence as residential areas were shelled in eastern Ukraine’s rebel-held territories. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors have reported violations of the Minsk ceasefire agreements by both sides in the conflict.

Moscow has urged the implementation of the ceasefire, connecting the recent escalation with the upcoming EU summit in Brussels.

“Yes, indeed, in the past Kiev had already heated up tensions amid some large international events. This is the case, and now we are seriously concerned about the next repetition of such activity,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

At the UN Security Council meeting on Saturday, Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said that Ukraine’s “flagrant violation and blunt ignorance of the Minsk agreements” caused frustration even among the Western states “loyal to Kiev.”

Obama to urge G7 leaders to maintain Russia sanctions – while admitting they don’t work

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US President Barack Obama will urge EU leaders to keep sanctions in place against Russia at the G7 summit in Germany, US officials said. The US says it needs to “maintain the pressure” on Moscow.

The G7 nations will meet in Bavaria, Germany for a two-day summit beginning Sunday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the sanctions imposed on Russia will be on the agenda.

“My understanding is that the plan is for the President, when he goes to Europe, is to have a discussion with fellow European leaders about the need to extend the sanctions regime that’s currently in place that I believe expires sometime at the end of this month,” Earnest said in his daily press briefing.

“I would acknowledge that we have not yet seen the kind of change in behavior that we have long sought now,” he added.

Charles Kupchan, the White House Senior Director for European Affairs, confirmed that meetings at the summit will be centered on the US and Europe putting pressure on Moscow.

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“The President will be making the case to his European colleagues that the EU should move ahead and extend sanctions when they meet at the end of this month,” Kupchan said.

The US has criticized Russia recently for an increase in fighting in Eastern Ukraine. However, on Thursday, the Kremlin released a statement saying that the tensions, which had been stoked by Kiev, were increased to coincide with the upcoming EU summit, which is to take place in Brussels on June 25-26.

“Yes, indeed, in the past Kiev had already heated up tensions amid some large international events. This is the case, and now we are seriously concerned about the next repetition of such activity,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

However, rather than further looking to sideline Moscow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that it is essential to continue cooperation with Russia in a number of key international questions.

Read more

Italian ex-FM: Sanctions affecting EU much more than expected, not impacting US at all

“Of course we want and should cooperate with the Russian Federation,” Merkel told the DPA news agency. “In order to settle some conflicts, such as the one in Syria, we cannot go forward without Russia’s help. Therefore I support maintaining contact with President Vladimir Putin.”

The Obama administration says that the longer the sanctions are in place, “the more of an economic bite they take out of the Russian economy.” However, the sanctions are also having a negative effect on a number of EU members who have been hurt by Russian counter-sanctions.

“I think these sanctions are affecting Europe much more as a whole than was expected, and the others on the other side of the Atlantic are not affected at all,” said former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who spoke to RT in November.

Some EU nations are becoming wary of introducing further sanctions against Moscow. During a visit to Moscow in March by the Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, he stated: “[Russia and Cyprus] will cooperate without paying attention to who is reacting or who may have concerns,” according to CNA.

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The current EU sanctions expire in June, after which time the bloc will hold a vote on prolonging them. However, a Russian politician, Leonid Kalashnikov, says he is confident that the bloc will not look to impose further measures against Moscow as it will not be in their interests.

“As far as new sanctions are concerned, now I am sure that Europe is very unlikely to impose them, because there are nations that would not agree to this – Greece, Cyprus, Hungary and Italy. And if even a single nation does not agree there would be no decision, such is the voting procedure,” Kalashnikov, the deputy head of the State Duma’s committee for international relations, told the Izvestia daily.

Obama: ‘We have to twist arms when we need to’

Kalashnikov also said that almost daily meetings are held in the State Duma with foreign politicians who are trying to find a way to resume dialogue with Russia.

In February, Spain evaluated the losses suffered by the EU in the “sanctions war” with Russia at €21 billion ($23.78 billion).

In December 2014, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the US was “twisting arms” of their own allies so that they could continue an “anti-Russian front” and follow US policies on sanctions against Russia.

“But the US is not ashamed of insisting on cooperation with us [Russia] on matters affecting its own interests,” he said. He used the example of the Iranian nuclear talks, in which both Russia and the US take part.

Read more

Obama: ‘We have to twist arms when countries don’t do what we need them to’

Even President Obama admitted that: “We occasionally have to twist the arms of countries that wouldn’t do what we need them to do,” in an interview with Vox in February.

Even Washington has found the sanctions they have implemented against Russia have not always served their own interests. The US discreetly managed to create a loophole in its sanctions against Russia to allow communications software to be exported to Crimea to try and limit Moscow’s ability “to control the narrative of local events,” according to the Commerce Department, which was cited by Bloomberg.

The move comes after the State Department’s former senior adviser for innovation, Alec Ross, mentioned that the Russians have done “an excellent job of flooding the zone in Crimea with their propaganda,” and that the US needed to introduce media platforms in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, which Moscow would be unable to control.