-Top News Europe

EU likely to sanction Putin’s alleged girlfriend

Sources have confirmed to the BBC that she is on the latest list of individuals to be sanctioned by the EU…reports Asian Lite News

Russia is already under unprecedented sanctions due to its invasion of Ukraine and now the European Union (EU) could target Alina Kabaeva, a politician, media boss, former Olympic gymnast, and, if the rumours are true, President Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend and mother to some of his children, according to a media report.

The sanctions imposed by the EU and others are designed to punish those closest to Putin — the oligarchs, politicians and other officials said to have benefited from their proximity to the President, said the BBC report.

Last month, the US and UK imposed sanctions on Putin’s daughters Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova. They are his children with former wife Lyudmila.

Until now, Kabaeva has escaped, despite her reported status. She might have felt something was coming: an online petition in March demanded her expulsion from her residence in Switzerland, says the BBC report.

Sources have confirmed to the BBC that she is on the latest list of individuals to be sanctioned by the EU.

The Russia, leader has always been intensely private. When asked about his private life, he has tended to brush off the queries.

He has, though, explicitly denied a relationship with Kabaeva.

In 2008, the Moskovsky Korrespondent newspaper reported that he was planning to divorce his wife Lyudmila and marry Kabaeva.

Both rejected the story and soon after, the authorities shut the newspaper down.

Putin and Lyudmila however, announced their split five years later, the BBC reported.

At the time, the President denied he was involved with Kabaeva, who was transitioning from a successful sporting career to one in politics.

There are rumours that they also have children together, although reports vary on how many, BBC reported.

A Swiss newspaper reported that Kabaeva had a boy in 2015 at an exclusive clinic near Lake Lugano, and another boy at the same place in 2019.

But The Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal said she had twins in 2019 in Moscow although they disagree on how many children she has had.

The Kremlin denies such reports. Back in 2015, Putin’s spokesman said “information about the birth of a baby fathered by Vladimir Putin does not correspond to reality”.

Such is Putin’s guarded nature. In public, he’s never mentioned the names of the children he has with Lyudmila, other than to say he has two adult daughters, the BBC reported.

Kabaeva has been in and out of the spotlight since reports of her relationship with Putin emerged.

There was a Vogue cover in 2011, where she wore a pricey gold dress from French fashion house Balmain. She was also a torch bearer at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

More recently in April, she appeared at a junior gymnastics festival in Moscow, quashing suggestions she was in hiding.

Since the Ukraine war began, there have been calls for her to face sanctions.

The Wall Street Journal has suggested that the US is reluctant to sanction Kabaeva, for fear it may be deemed “so personal a blow” to Putin that it may escalate tensions further.

ALSO READ-Europe bats for Modi as peacemaker in Ukraine conflict  

-Top News Europe USA

Our sanctions will hurt you: Russia warns West

Russia warned earlier this week that oil prices could shoot up to over $300 per barrel if the United States and European Union banned imports of crude from Russia….reports Asian Lite News

Russia warned the West on Wednesday that it was working on a broad response to sanctions that would be swift and felt in the West’s most sensitive areas.

Russia’s economy has been facing the gravest crisis since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union after the West imposed crippling sanctions on almost the entire Russian financial and corporate system following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia’s reaction will be swift, thoughtful and sensitive for those it addresses,” Dmitry Birichevsky, the director of the foreign ministry’s department for economic cooperation, was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday imposed an immediate ban on Russian oil and other energy imports in retaliation for the invasion.

Pic credits Twitter@potus

Russia warned earlier this week that oil prices could shoot up to over $300 per barrel if the United States and European Union banned imports of crude from Russia.

Russia says Europe consumes about 500 million tonnes of oil a year. Russia supplies around 30% of that, or 150 million tonnes, as well as 80 million tonnes of petrochemicals.

Ukraine says it is fighting for its existence and the United States and its European and Asian allies have condemned the Russian invasion.

China, the world’s second largest economy, has called for restraint but President Xi Jinping has cautioned that sanctions will slow down the world economy.

ALSO READ: No fighter jets for Ukraine, says NATO

-Top News Asia News USA

US to hit Iran with more sanctions for missile, drone program

The planned sanctions come as the Biden administration considers tightening enforcement of existing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry amid a stall to nuclear negotiations ongoing in Vienna….reports Asian Lite News

The Biden administration is planning a sanctions campaign against Iran’s growing precision drone and missile strike capability, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Officials are concerned that Iran’s missile and drone program — administered exclusively by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) — represents a more immediate danger to US allies and Middle East stability than Iran’s nuclear enrichment and ballistic missile programs.

While some elements of Iran’s missile program have already been sanctioned, the new measures will cast a wider net by targeting its procurement networks, such as part-providers.

“It’s part of a comprehensive approach so we’re dealing with all aspects of the Iranian threat,” a senior U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal.

The new measures come as US forces and allies in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East have increasingly found themselves on the receiving end of drone and missile attacks by Tehran’s IRGC-aligned regional proxies.

“Iran’s drones are becoming an increasing threat to our allies in the region,” said another U.S. official.

The planned sanctions come as the Biden administration considers tightening enforcement of existing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry amid a stall to nuclear negotiations ongoing in Vienna.

Biden has offered a reduction in sanctions if the Islamic Republic returns to the terms of the 2015 deal, which saw curbs to Iran’s nascent nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

However, the issue of Iran’s sub-atomic weaponry, including ballistic missiles, guided missiles and drones has increasingly become a bone of contention between the two longtime enemies.

Iran’s pursuit of further-reaching, more accurate and more powerful missiles earned it a suite of US sanctions, and the Biden administration has made clear that those sanctions are outside the scope of the ongoing nuclear negotiations.

Tehran said it would only return to the 2015 deal if all sanctions on its missile program are lifted, as well as the terror designation the US and others have placed on the IRGC.

The US Treasury department, which is in charge of implementing sanctions, has already placed a variety of restrictions on the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist group in Yemen. The Houthis have used Iranian weapons to wage their ongoing war against the UN-recognized Yemeni government, as well as to target Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.

In 2019, drones were used to target an important oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, seriously damaging the facility and disrupting the global oil market.

Saudi Arabia alone has been attacked over 100 times in recent months by Iran’s proxies in Yemen, using Iranian equipment including large and small drones, ballistic missiles, and precision missiles.

Iran’s growing domestic arms and drone manufacturing base has proved useful in supplying its proxies, and the new sanctions will aim to disrupt elements of the industry that rely on illicit imports from abroad.

Robert Czulda, an assistant professor specializing in Iran at Poland’s University of Lodz, told the Wall Street Journal that the sanctions “would notably disrupt Iran’s defense supply chain.”

ALSO READ: N-talks with Iran cannot go on indefinitely, says Blinken

-Top News China USA

Sanctions on 34 firms over Russia, Iran, China ties

Commerce Department says sanctions were imposed for their involvement or risk of becoming involved in, activities contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the US, reports Asian Lite News

The US announced sanctions against 34 companies and other entities involved with China’s military and policy toward the Uighur Muslim minority, and for facilitating exports to Russia and Iran.

The group was sanctioned “for their involvement in, or risk of becoming involved in, activities contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States,” the Commerce Department said in a statement.

Fourteen are based in China and involved in its policy toward the Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the northwest Xinjiang region, where the statement said Beijing “continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.”

Another five were involved with assisting China’s military acquire lasers and other technology to modernize its military.

Eight entities were sanctioned for exporting US technology to Iran, the Commerce Department said, while another seven were blacklisted for involvement with Russia’s military.

“We will continue to aggressively use export controls to hold governments, companies, and individuals accountable for attempting to access US-origin items for subversive activities in countries like China, Iran, and Russia,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

Russia slams sanctions

Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, DC has described the Biden administration’s blacklisting of Russian firms for security reasons a “confrontational” move, as relations between the countries fray even further.

The comments by Anatoly Antonov were in response to the announcement by the U.S. Commerce Department that Russian firms were among 34 global entities banned because their activities were opposed to “the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States.”

A statement by Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, said that the ban on Russian entities was due to “their involvement in the procurement of U.S.-origin electronic components, likely in furtherance of Russian military programs.

“Additionally, Commerce added one entity to the Military End-User List under the destination of Russia,” the statement added.

However, Antonov complained that the U.S. did not “provide any specifics” regarding the alleged violations by the Russian firms.

“They used the notorious ‘likely’, saying that our companies allegedly bought electronic components from the USA for some Russian military programs,” he said in a statement in Russian and English on his embassy’s Facebook page.

“This approach does not stand up to scrutiny. This is another confrontational step as part of Washington’s deliberate efforts to restrict the access of domestic enterprises to high-precision technologies from abroad,” he said.

Antonov added that the move “fundamentally contrasts” with U.S. statements, including during the Geneva summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, “about the need to normalize the entire range of bilateral relations.”

Only last month, Antonov returned to Washington, DC after spending almost three months in Moscow, following a diplomatic spat between the capitals, which followed U.S. sanctions for the SolarWinds hack and U.S. election interference.

Tensions also increased after Biden agreed with an interviewer that Putin was a “killer.”

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week warned that Moscow would respond “harshly and resolutely to unfriendly steps,” from the US.

ALSO READ: Biden says Kabul’s fall to Taliban not inevitable

-Top News ASEAN News China

Beijing Rubbishes Sanctions Against Myanmar Military Junta

China continues to insist that Myanmar’s crisis is an internal affair and has – along with Russia – blocked all UN attempts to take action against the military regime, reports Anwesha Bhaumik

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has rubbished sanctions against Myanmar’s military junta, describing them as “inappropriate intervention”.

Instead, Wang Yi urged Myanmar’s many stakeholders to settle the political crisis through “internal dialogue and reconciliation”.

Analysts say this may be a prelude to some overtures for dialogue that the military junta might initiate on Chinese advice instead of continuing its brutal repression of the pro-democracy movement.

The junta has been releasing thousands of protesters detained during five months of agitation though top NLD leaders like Aung Saan Suu Kyi are still in jail with more cases filed to frame her.

Wang Yi highlighted Myanmar as one of a number of global ‘hotspot issues’ during his address to the opening ceremony of the 9th World Peace Forum held at Beijing’s Tsinghua University at the weekend.

“On Myanmar, the central task is to promote internal dialogue and realise political reconciliation,” said Wang, in remarks published on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar.

“The twists and turns in Myanmar’s democratic transition process are in essence the country’s domestic affairs. They should be settled by political means as soon as possible through dialogue and consultation within the framework of its constitution and laws,” the Chinese Foreign Minister added.

Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing. (Xinhua_U Aung_IANS)

The US and European Union have imposed sanctions on the junta leaders and their spouses, while some western companies have exited the country in response to the human rights violations by the junta.

Nearly 900 people have been killed during the crackdown on anti-coup protesters.

But China continues to insist that Myanmar’s crisis is an internal affair and has – along with Russia – blocked all UN attempts to take action against the military regime.

ALSO READ: The story of deceit and China’s first aircraft carrier

Despite the nationwide resistance against the junta, that is increasingly turning violent, Wang told his Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin in Chongqing last month that Beijing was ready to work with Myanmar.

He said China’s policy toward its neighbour is “not affected by changes to Myanmar’s domestic and external situation.”

“China has supported, is supporting and will support Myanmar in choosing a development path that suits its own circumstances,” Wang had said at the time.

A Myanmar police officer

China has also pushed its support through the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) proposals for Myanmar.

An ASEAN special summit on April 24 set out its engagement policy with the junta and China has supported that.

However, Myanmar coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said he would carry out ASEAN’s suggestions “only when stability comes to Myanmar”, a way of ignoring ASEAN’s proposals.

Wang Yi said China “firmly supports ASEAN in working in the ASEAN way for a ‘soft landing’ of the situation”.

“The international community should truly respect Myanmar’s sovereignty and the choice of its people, do more to help narrow differences, and refrain from imposing unilateral sanctions and inappropriate intervention,” said Wang.

On Saturday, in the latest round of sanctions against the Myanmar regime, the US sanctioned 22 members of the regime and their spouses and children.

Washington also blacklisted three Chinese companies for providing support to the Myanmar regime through revenue-sharing arrangements with the military-owned and already sanctioned Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited.

Appalled at Chinese backing of the military junta, angry mobs have burnt down more than 35 Chinese factories in a bid to pressure Beijing to get the Myanmar junta to restore democracy.

But the junta has cleared nearly 15 Chinese mega projects involving billions of dollars and Beijing has so far backed and shielded the junta in all global and regional forums.

“The junta and its Chinese backers are one and the same. We will have to attack both. This is a new war of independence for us,” said Aung Gyi, a commander of the civilian resistance group PDF.

“If China continues backing the bloodthirsty junta, all Chinese projects and those involved with it will be legitimate targets,” he said.

ALSO READ: India’s Africa outreach aimed at keeping China at bay

-Top News India News UAE News

UAE-based Indian national sanctioned for smuggling Iranian oil

According to the US Treasury, UAE-based Sabharwal is a maritime shipping professional who manages shipping operations for al-Jamal’s network…reports Asian Lite News

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated India national, Manoj Sabharwal, among members of a smuggling network that helps fund Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and the Houthis in Yemen.

Led by Iran-based Houthi financier Said al-Jamal, this network generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of commodities, like Iranian petroleum, a significant portion of which is then directed through a complex network of intermediaries and exchange houses in multiple countries to the Houthis in Yemen.

According to the US Treasury, UAE-based Sabharwal is a maritime shipping professional who manages shipping operations for al-Jamal’s network and advises al-Jamal on smuggling Iranian oil products.

Sabharwal is responsible for coordinating shipments of Iranian petroleum products and commodities throughout the Middle East and Asia while obscuring al-Jamal’s involvement.

Sabharwal is being designated for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of al-Jamal.

Since the onset of the conflict in Yemen, the Houthis have relied on support from the IRGC-QF to wage their campaign against the internationally recognised Yemeni government and the Saudi-led Coalition.

Despite growing calls for peace, the Houthis have continued to escalate their lethal attacks inside Yemen and in the region, with dire consequences for Yemeni civilians and Yemen’s neighbors. The Houthis have used ballistic missiles, explosives, naval mines, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to strike military targets, population centres, infrastructure, and nearby commercial shipping in Saudi Arabia, along key international trade routes.

ALSO READ: UAE sends 20 ambulances to Gaza

-Top News Europe UK News

UK sanctions Belarusian individuals, entity

He said “UK and our partners have today sanctioned those responsible for the continued suppression of democracy and human rights in Belarus.”…reports Asian Lite News.

Joining the US, Canada and EU, the UK has imposed sanctions against 7 individuals and 1 entity from the Belarusian regime as part of a new sanctions package after the Ryanair incident in May and for alleged human rights violations.

The government said sanctions are in response to the detention of journalist Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega following the unlawful diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 in May 2021.

Four individuals and 1 entity have also been designated in response to the continued suppression of democracy and human rights in Belarus by Lukashenko and his regime, it announced.

Sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes against senior-ranking officials in the Belarusian regime and BNK (UK) Ltd, an exporter of Belarusian oil products.

“The Lukashenko regime endangered the lives of airline passengers and crew in a shameful ruse to snatch Roman Protasevich,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

He said “UK and our partners have today sanctioned those responsible for the continued suppression of democracy and human rights in Belarus.”

Raab added, “We will hold the regime to account in co-ordination with our allies including through further banning travel, freezing assets and cutting off oil export revenue streams.”

Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department has designated 16 persons and five entities from Belarus, including the State Security Committee (KGB) and the press secretary of the Belarusian president.

The list of sanctioned individuals also includes the Belarusian Prosecutor General, the chairman of the KGB and the chairperson of the upper house of the country’s parliament.

Another eight officials have been sanctioned for certifying the results of the presidential elections in August that the US government considers to be fraudulent.

Earlier on Monday, the European Union adopted the fourth sanctions package against Belarus, noting that the bloc has added 78 individuals and eight organizations to its sanctions list for allegedly endangering aviation safety and for detaining Pratasevich and Sapega.

In May, a Ryanair plane from Athens to Vilnius made an emergency landing in Minsk over a bomb threat that turned out to be fake. Pratasevich – founder of a Telegram channel that Minsk designated as extremist – and his partner Sapega were detained by the Belarusian authorities during the stopover. (including reports from ANI/Sputnik)

ALSO READ-Russia, Belarus warned against threatening allies

READ MORE-Belarus flights ban decision not political: EU Commission

-Top News EU News USA

Treasury sanctions Bulgarian individuals, entities

In a statement, the Department said that the sanctions were the single largest action targeting corruption to date….reports Asian Lite News

The US Treasury Department has sanctioned three Bulgarian individuals for their extensive roles in corruption in the country, as well as their networks encompassing 64 entities.

On Wednesday, the Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Vassil Kroumov Bojkov, a prominent Bulgarian businessman and oligarch; Delyan Slavchev Peevski, a former MP; Ilko Dimitrov Zhelyazkov, the former Deputy Chief of the Bulgarian State Agency for Technical Operations who was appointed to the National Bureau for Control on Special Intelligence-Gathering Devices; and the companies owned or controlled by the respective individuals.

In a statement, the Department said that the sanctions were the single largest action targeting corruption to date.

“The US stands with all Bulgarians who strive to root out corruption by promoting accountability for corrupt officials who undermine the economic functions and democratic institutions of Bulgaria,” OFAC Director Andrea M. Gacki was quoted as saying in the statement.

“Not only does corruption deprive citizens of resources, it can erode the institutions intended to protect them.

This designation under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program shows that we are committed to combatting corruption wherever it may be,” she added.

In a separate statement also issued on Wednesday, the State Department said it also designated Peevski, Zhelyazkov, as well as former Bulgarian officials Alexander Manolev, Petar Haralampiev, and Krasimir Tomov due to “their involvement in significant corruption”, barring them and their immediate families from entering the US.

ALSO READ: Biden eyes narrowing racial wealth gap

-Top News UK News

UK sanctions 22 individuals linked to int’l corruption

22 Individuals across various countries also targeted with the measures including asset freeze and travel ban…reports Asian Lite News

The UK has imposed sanctions on 22 individuals, 14 of them Russians, involved in notorious corruption cases under a new anti-corruption regime.

Individuals across South Africa, South Sudan and Latin America were also targeted with the asset freezes and travel bans.

Announcing the sanctions in the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Global Britain is standing up for democracy, good governance and the rule of law. We are saying to those involved in serious corruption: we will not tolerate you or your dirty money in our country,”

“The individuals we have sanctioned today have been involved in some of the most notorious corruption cases around the world.”

“Corruption has a corrosive effect as it slows development, drains the wealth of poorer nations and keeps their people trapped in poverty. It poisons the well of democracy,” Raab added.

Also read:Indian companies’ contribution to UK economy grows

The measures are deliberately targeted, so the UK can impose sanctions on corrupt individuals and their enablers, rather than entire nations.

They are being taken partly in tandem with the US, which is today also announcing further corruption sanctions. Acting together sends the clearest possible signal that corruption comes with a heavy price.

Sanctions were imposed on people from six countries, including:

14 Russians involved in a massive tax fraud uncovered by the lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who later died in custody

Three businessmen – the brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta – accused of serious corruption in South Africa

Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali – dubbed Al Cardinal – accused of misappropriating state assets in South Sudan

And three individuals accused of serious corruption in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala

This is the first time the UK has imposed sanctions for international corruption.

Also read:Quarter of UK adults receive both jab doses

-Top News ASEAN News EU News

EU sanctions Myanmar officials

The individuals “are all responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law” in Myanmar, and for “repressive decisions and serious human rights violations”, said the Council of EU…reports Asian Lite News

The European Union (EU) has imposed fresh sanctions on 10 individuals and two companies in Myanmar for their alleged involvement in the February 1 military coup.

The individuals “are all responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law” in Myanmar, and for “repressive decisions and serious human rights violations”, the Council of the EU said in a statement on Monday following a virtual meeting of the bloc’s Foreign Ministers.

In the statement, it said the two entities, Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC), were large conglomerates “owned and controlled by the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw), and provide revenue for it”.

Pre-existing EU restrictive measures also remain in place, said the press release.

EU citizens and companies are forbidden from making funds available to the listed individuals and entities.

Also read:Myanmar may extend state of emergency

A one-year state of emergency was declared in Myanmar after President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, along with other officials from the National League for Democracy (NLD), were detained by the military on February 1.

A demonstrator stacks bags on a street as a barricade during a demonstration against the military coup and the detention of civilian leaders in Myanmar(ians)

The military had claimed that there was massive voting fraud in the country’s November 2020 general elections, which saw the NLD win a majority of seats in both houses of parliament.

The February coup has prompted widespread protests, to which soldiers have responded with a violent crackdown on the population.

Nearly 2,850 have been arrested, and at least 598 have been killed, including 48 children, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-profit organization.

Also read:ASEAN summit on Myanmar to be held on April 24