SUNDAY, MAY 31, 2015
EU politicians ‘proud’ to be on Russia travel ban list n Agencies Russia has imposed an entry ban on 89 European politicians and military leaders, according to a list seen by Reuters, a move that has angered Europe and worsened its standoff with the West over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict. More than 6,200 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Russia dismisses accusations from Ukraine, NATO and Western powers that it is supporting the separatists with arms and its own troops. The list, which says it was compiled by the Russian Foreign Ministry and handed to a European Union delegation in Moscow this week, includes outspoken critics of Russia as well as security officials. Since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the EU has imposed economic sanctions, visa bans and asset freezes on scores of Russian and Ukrainian citizens and organisations. A spokesperson for EU foreign affairs told Reuters that in recent months Russia had denied entry to a number of EU politicians, based on their inclusion on a “confidential ‘stop
list’.” “We take note that the Russian authorities have decided to share the list. We don’t have any other information on legal basis, criteria and process,” the spokesperson said. Asked about the list while on a visit to Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it would hamper peace efforts. “At a time in which we are trying to defuse a persistent and dangerous conflict, this does not contribute towards that,” Steinmeier said. The Russian Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Among those on the list is Uwe Corsepius, current secretary general of the European Union council in Brussels who is due to take over as foreign affairs advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Others blacklisted include Britain’s former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and former Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the Liberal group in the European parliament. The list also carries the names of several former and acting ministers, such as Poland’s deputy Justice Minister Robert Kupiecki and
former British defence minister Malcolm Rifkind, as well as Swedish tax authority head Eva Lidstrom Adler. Last Monday, Germany protested to Russia over its refusal to let a conservative German lawmaker Karl-Georg Wellmann, who had called Russia a “warmonger” earlier this year, into the country. Meanwhile, European politicians who discovered they were on a Russian travel blacklist said yesterday they were proud of being included and would continue speaking out against Russia’s policy towards Ukraine, reports AFP. “Being on this list does not change my commitment to the people of Ukraine,” said Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a tweet. “I have more to be proud of than to be afraid of!... Putin’s list is a confirmation that I am doing right as a parliamentarian,” the centre-right politician, married to Sweden’s former foreign minister Carl Bildt, added. She was among eight Swedes which the Nordic country’s foreign ministry confirmed as being part on the list of 89 names banned
from entering Russia – mostly European politicians and officials. Several names have been made public including Guy Verhofstadt, head of the Liberal group in the European Parliament and a former Belgian PM, and Sweden’s former centre-right culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth. Former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, a staunch critic of Russia’s policy towards Ukraine, also confirmed he was on the list and welcomed it. “When I saw the other names (on the list), I found out I was in a very decent club. I consider this a reward,” he was quoted as saying by news agency CTK. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte revealed Friday that the list had been handed to EU embassies and that he would let “Moscow know... in no uncertain terms” that the Netherlands rejected it as it was “not based on international law.” Russian authorities drew up the list in response to the EU’s own sanctions and travel bans over Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year and its alleged involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict, he said. l
Rollback of US spy powers would mark post 9/11 watershed n Reuters, Washington
Belgian sailors help migrant children and women off the Godetia logistical support ship of the Belgian Navy yesterday upon its arrival in the port of Crotone in the Italian southern region of Calabria AFP
More than 4,200 migrants rescued in Mediterranean n Reuters, Italy More than 4,200 migrants trying to reach Europe have been rescued from boats in the Mediterranean in last 24 hours, the Italian coastguard said yesterday. In some of the most intense Mediterranean migrant traffic of the year, a total of 4,243 people have been saved from fishing boats and rubber dinghies in 22 operations involving ships from nations including Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Britain. Migrants escaping war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East this year have been pouring into Italy, which has been bearing the brunt of Mediterranean rescue operations.
Most depart from the coast of Libya, which has descended into anarchy since Western powers backed a 2011 revolt that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. Last month around 800 migrants drowned off Libya. That spurred the European Union to agree on a naval mission to target gangs smuggling migrants from Libya, but a broader plan to deal with the influx is in doubt due to a dispute over national quotas for housing asylum seekers. Around 35,500 migrants arrived in Italy from the beginning of the year up to the first week of May, the UN refugee agency estimated, a number which has swelled considerably since. About 1,800 are either dead or missing. l
At 3:59 pm US EDT on Sunday, the National Security Agency and telecommunications companies will begin mothballing a once-secret system that collected Americans’ bulk telephone records, shutting down computers and sealing off warehouses of digital data. If the US Congress fails to act, key provisions of the USA Patriot Act will lapse in a watershed moment in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era. Intrusive government powers, created and wielded in the name of preventing another mass-casualty terrorist attack, would be at least partly scaled back, proponents and critics of the surveillance say. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, for instance, will no longer be able to employ “roving wiretaps” aimed at terrorism suspects who use multiple disposable cell phones, and will have more difficulty seizing such suspects’ and their associates’ personal and business records. “We’re past the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack. And we can look at these issues more calmly,” said Peter Swire, who served on a review panel appointed by President Barack Obama after former contractor Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations of vast NSA surveillance. With the clock ticking, a coalition of Senate Republican libertarians and security hawks has blocked action on new legislation known as the USA Freedom Act that would reform the bulk telephone data program but not kill it. Libertarians want the program ended altogether, while the hawks argue it should be maintained as it is now. Currently, telecom providers are legally
required to send phone records to the government. The USA Freedom Act would require private firms to hold the data, which the NSA could search with court authorization. The US Senate is scheduled to hold a special session to consider the legislation at 4 p.m. on Sunday - just as security officials say they have to begin shutting the NSA program down to meet a midnight deadline. The USA Freedom Act already has passed the House of Representatives and has Obama’s strong support. It is unclear if supporters of the Freedom Act can get the 60 votes needed in the Senate to move forward. A previous attempt on May 23 fell short, 57-42, but the bill’s backers have been pushing hard to win over three more senators. How badly US counter-terrorism efforts would be disrupted by even a temporary suspension of the telephone data collection and other legal authorities is disputed. The Obama administration is issuing increasingly dire warnings, sometimes citing Islamic State’s calls on its supporters to conduct attacks wherever they live. “The intelligence community will lose important capabilities,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement. “At this late date, prompt passage of the USA Freedom Act by the Senate is the best way to minimize any possible disruption of our ability to protect the American people.” But many experts and civil liberties advocates say that US intelligence and law enforcement authorities have other powerful - and less objectionable - tools to investigate and prosecute militant plots. Those include court orders, subpoenas and other forms of electronic surveillance. l