Russia

UN climate talks delayed one year by COVID-19

International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced May 28. The next summit, officially dubbed the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year's summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. Instead, critical decisions were put off for COP26. This means a full two years will have passed before any progress can be made. (STV

Kremlin in new drive to co-opt US 'alternative' voices

In a truly surreal irony, your trusty CounterVortex chief blogger (me, Bill Weinberg) just got e-mail from RT.com editor-in-chief Igor Ogorodnev, saying he's impressed with our website and inviting me to contribute to RT! Can this possibly be real? All I ever do is diss RT—an organ of Russian state propaganda that is openly serving the Putin-Trump agenda. Is this some "gotcha" thing, where Igor (or some imposter?) waits for me to take the bait by responding and then doxes me as a hypocrite? Or do they really think I'd sell out? Or are they just fishing around all lefty and "alternative" seeming websites without actually bothering to pay any attention to the content?

Trump tears up arms control treaties

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced on May 21 that the United States would formally submit notice the following day of its intent to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, a post-Cold War trust-building measure signed in 1992 by the US, Russia and 33 other countries. The treaty, which took effect in 2002, allows each state-party to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others' entire territories to collect intelligence on military forces and activities. In accordance with Article XV, the US withdrawal will take effect six months after formally submitting notice. In a letter addressed to Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and President Trump, Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Adam Smith (D-WA) protest that the withdrawal is in violation of Section 1234 of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the president to notify Congress at least 120 days before giving formal notice of intent to withdraw from the treaty. (Jurist)

Amnesty sees Russian-backed 'war crimes' in Syria

A report published by Amnesty International on May 11 found that the Syrian government, supported by Russia, committed a series of war crimes in northwest Syria in late 2019 and 2020. The report found that "attacks from the air and the ground repeatedly struck residential areas and crucial infrastructure." The findings are based on interviews of Syrians on the ground and international aid workers, as well as videos, photographs, satellite imagery, logs of aircraft observations and intercepted aircraft radio communication. The attacks mainly occurred in opposition-held areas of Idlib province, western Aleppo province and northwestern Hama province. The report documents 18 attacks in these areas on schools and medical facilities. The report calls these attacks "serious violations" of international humanitarian law.

Kremlin propaganda machine weaponizes Tara Reade

We at CounterVortex are not doubting (nor accepting) Tara Reade's claims of sexual assault by Joe Biden. But it is certainly instructive to note how they are being politically weaponized, and by whom. It is hardly surprising that her accusations are being widely touted by the Kremlin propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik, nor that RT and Fox News are offering nearly identical spin (the Dems and their "loyalist media" are giving Biden a free ride, despite the fact that the claims are all over the headlines). But things got considerably more interesting with the news that a prominent Trump donor has been named as Reade's attorney. This is Douglas Wigdor, who according to AP gave $55,000 in contributions to the Trump campaign in 2016. And of greater interest to followers of Russian propaganda efforts on behalf of Trump is a second attorney named in the story... 

Has Assad outlived usefulness to Putin?

The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a diplomatic think-tank established by presidential decree, has issued a report predicting that Russia, Turkey and Iran will soon reach a joint agreement to remove Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from power, replacing him with a transitional government including members of both the regime and opposition, as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In its coverage of the report, Russian news agency TASS suggested that Moscow fears a repeat of the "Afghan scenario" in Syria if it continues to back an unpopular regime. It also suggested that Assad is perceived by Moscow as too beholden to Tehran.

Negative oil prices slow tar sands production

Despite last week's agreement by Saudi Arabia and Russia to end their price war, the oil market remains in free-fall amid the virtual shut-down of the world economy by the COVID-19 pandemic. The price of the main US oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, fell on April 20 to $30 below zero—the first time oil prices have ever turned negative. This means anyone trying to sell a barrel would have to actually pay a buyer. The global industry output of 100 million barrels a day would appear to be on borrowed time. (NYT)

UN panel: 'highly likely' Assad bombs hospitals

A report by a special UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry ordered by the Secretary-General finds that it is "highly probable" that the Bashar Assad regime and allied forces have bombed hospitals and other civilian targets in Syria. The report, turned in April 6, cited air-strikes last year on a hospital, a clinic, and a childcare facility in opposition-held areas of Idlib and Hama provinces. All three were on a "deconfliction list" of protected sites that the UN had provided to Damascus. The Board of Inquiry also found it "plausible" the regime targeted another healthcare center. Yet the report failed to specifically mention Russia, which has also been engaged in the air-strikes, referring only to "the Government of Syria and/or its allies." The Assad regime has claimed that the targeted sites were being used by "terrorists."

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