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Sanctions for Russian oligarchs unlikely to seriously impact Putin, experts say

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Among those named was Oleg Deripaska, a man known not just for the billions he accrued as an aluminum magnate but also because of his ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Another, Kirill Shamalov, is reportedly Putin’s son-in-law and Russia’s youngest billionaire thanks to his large stake in the petrochemical giant Sibur.

Igor Rotenberg is the son of Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s childhood friend and erstwhile judo sparring partner.

Also sanctioned were Vladimir Bogdanov, Suleiman Kerimov, Andrei Skoch and Viktor Vekselberg.

They were punished because of what the Treasury called Russia’s “malign activity around the globe,” namely its actions in Ukraine, Syria, and its attempts to meddle in Western elections, including in the U.S.

“The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” the Treasury said, adding that these people “who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.”

Pressuring Putin’s rich friends equates to pressuring Putin — at least that’s the theory.

“The guys we’re talking about now, they are very, very rich, but they do not have power over the Kremlin.”

“The guys we’re talking about now, they are very, very rich, but they do not have power over the Kremlin.”

However, according to experts like Galeotti, this thinking is based on an outdated understanding of the role oligarchs play in Putin’s Russia.

“No one gets to be rich in Russia and not have a relationship of some sort with the Kremlin,” Galeotti said. “The guys we’re talking about now, they are very, very rich, but they do not have power over the Kremlin.”

It’s certainly true that in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, people who made lots of money from the carve-up of state resources held considerable sway. That all changed under Putin, however, with the Russian president making it clear that he wouldn’t tolerate such behavior.

This shift severely weakened the role of the oligarchs in Russian political life, according to Jonathan Eyal, international director at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank known as RUSI.

“Today, it is not like the Yeltsin period, where the oligarchs told the president what to do,” Eyal said, referring to Boris Yeltsin, who was Russian president between 1991 and 1999. “These oligarchs are not likely to sway Putin’s hand about the major things that he wants to do.”

This is the same point made by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov this week.

“The phrase ‘Russian oligarchs’ is considered inappropriate,” Peskov told reporters. “The time when there were oligarchs in Russia passed long ago. There are no oligarchs in Russia.”

Not everyone agrees that the latest U.S. sanctions won’t hurt Putin.

On Twitter, financier and longtime Putin critic Bill Browder called the news “huge” and commended the government for “finally hitting Putin and his cronies where it counts.”

And while analysts like Eyal and Galeotti caution that the sanctions may not change Russian policy more broadly, that doesn’t mean the moves are useless, they add.

“The last thing that the oligarchs appreciate is being put on lists that make it very difficult for them to travel abroad, buy property abroad, have their girlfriends abroad or send their children for education abroad, all the things that makes them enjoy the finer things in life,” Eyal said.

Despite their reduced importance, Eyal still sees the oligarchs as one of the “pillars of the regime,” adding that “if the pillars start suffering themselves, then there is a cumulative impact” that could have some influence on Putin if combined with other measures.

“The sanctions are not what’s going to change Russia’s behavior,” he added, “but they are intended to increase the costs of the defiance of Putin of international norms.”

“The sanctions are not what’s going to change Russia’s behavior, but they are intended to increase the costs of the defiance of Putin of international norms.”

“The sanctions are not what’s going to change Russia’s behavior, but they are intended to increase the costs of the defiance of Putin of international norms.”

Galeotti also stressed that the sanctions should be welcomed as a means to clean out dirty money in the West — just not as a way to curb Putin’s foreign policy.

Part of the reason for this, according to many analysts, is that the Russian president is a man who is not so much interested in wealth but in power.

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“The thought that Putin is going to be bothered, to the point of actually reversing what is a clearly not just a pragmatic policy but one that he genuinely believes in, because there’s a few hundred million in stake in condos in Florida or whatever, I think that’s misunderstanding the man,” Galeotti said.

Another problem that some critics have identified with Friday’s sanctions is that the people targeted will have likely seen this coming a mile away.

All of the oligarchs named had already been mentioned on a much larger list of Russian billionaires released by the Treasury in January.

This list was widely mocked because it was cribbed from Forbes’ ranking of the “200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017.”

And what it effectively did was give oligarchs time to hollow out investments in the U.S. that will be impacted by the new restrictions, according to some experts and U.S. officials.

“Those people have a thousand different ways to channel money that will go unchallenged by any sanctions,” according to Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow at the London think tank Chatham House. “It’s a headache but it’s not a problem for Russia.”

He added that “sanctions do not affect the Russian leadership the way we would want them to. They are not a magic wand we can agitate in front of the Kremlin and hope to curb Putin’s cost-benefit calculus.”

This echoed what one U.S. official told NBC News ahead of Friday’s sanctions. “They had to know these were coming,” the official said, referring to the oligarchs.

Nor will the sanctions cause the Russian public to turn against their strongman leader, or foment a debate inside the country about the direction of its foreign policy, according to Boulègue.

“Sanctions have been in place since 2014 and the Russian state has transformed them into a show of force in their propaganda,” he said. “Russia has learned to live with them. They are a new normal in relations with the West.”



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Lithuanian defence ministry urges people to ‘throw away’ Chinese phones after discovering censorship tools | Science & Tech News

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The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence has urged people to stop buying Chinese phones and throw away the ones they already possess after discovering censorship software.

It followed a report from the country’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) which found that Xiaomi devices were censoring terms deemed to be offensive to Beijing.

According to an analysis by the Lithuanian NCSC, the Chinese company’s flagship devices sold in Europe have a built-in ability to detect and censor particular terms.

The phrases included “demonstration”, “free Tibet”, “long live Taiwan independence”, and “church” according to the Lithuanian authorities.

Although the censorship capability had been turned off for devices in the European Union, the ministry of defence warned that it could be turned on remotely.

“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” said Defence Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius, according to Reuters.

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Chinese Ambassador banned from parliament: ‘Standing up for free speech is critical’

A spokesperson for Xiaomi declined to comment when contacted by Sky News.

The call to throw away Chinese phones comes amid growing tensions between Lithuania and China over the former’s support for Taiwan – which China claims as part of its own territory.

China demanded Lithuania recall its ambassador in Beijing last month and recalled its own envoy from Vilnius in a protest over Taiwan announcing its mission in the country would use the name of Taiwan, instead of the city of Taipei, which is typically used in other European nations and in the US.

Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber security expert at the University of Surrey, told Sky News: “We all know there are different builds of phones for different countries. If you want to sell a device in a country then you have to obey the laws there.

“But to have censorship software left in that can be remotely activated… that’s a whole different level of one country effectively exporting its domestic regulations via technology,” he said.

Professor Woodward said he could understand the thought process behind the Lithuanian warning: that if one Chinese vendor has included a censorship capability to please Beijing then that made it harder to trust others haven’t done so too.

“Lithuania is a small market so I can imagine this might blow over, but the censorship software seemed to specifically be addressing items that were part of the tension between the two countries,” added Professor Woodward.

“That starts to look like a deliberate attempt to interfere,” he said.

“I’m sure other countries are also looking at these devices, so it behoves the Chinese government to make sure that they aren’t trying to export their censorship regulations elsewhere or else they could destroy trust in all Chinese vendors, and that won’t end well for anyone.”

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Boris Johnson says France needs to ‘get a grip’ amid anger over AUKUS pact | Politics News

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Boris Johnson has said France should get over its anger at a partnership between the UK, US and Australia that saw the latter pull out of a major contract with Paris for submarines.

“What I want to say about that is I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip [get a grip] about all this and donnez-moi un break [give me a break],” the prime minister said when asked about the continuing row over the AUKUS initiative.

“This is fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It’s three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder and creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology.

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‘AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever’

“It’s not exclusive, it’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It is not adversarial towards China, for instance.

“It is there to intensify links and friendship between three countries in a way that I think will be beneficial for things that we believe in.”

The AUKUS deal saw the UK, Australia and the US form a trilateral security pact to develop and deploy nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western military presence in the Pacific region.

Nuclear-powered submarines are superior to their diesel counterparts, as they can operate more quietly and stay underwater for longer.

France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in a backlash over the new security partnership, with foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian describing it as a “stab in the back”.

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La Palma eruption: Residents warned of earthquakes, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain | World News

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Authorities have warned people on the island of La Palma of fresh dangers after a new volcanic vent blew open and rivers of unstoppable lava flowed towards more densely populated areas and the sea.

Residents were cautioned on Tuesday about earthquakes, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain after several small earthquakes shook the Spanish island, which sits in the Canary Islands archipelago off northwest Africa.

How bad has the damage been?

A cross is seen as lava and smoke rise following the eruption of a volcano on the Island of La Palma, in Los Llanos de Aridane, Spain September 21, 2021. Picture taken September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
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Lava and smoke billow into the air following the eruption of a volcano on La Palma
Lava from a volcano eruption flows destroying houses on the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. A dormant volcano on a small Spanish island in the Atlantic Ocean erupted on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people. Huge plumes of black-and-white smoke shot out from a volcanic ridge where scientists had been monitoring the accumulation of molten lava below the surface
PIC:AP
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Lava from the volcanic eruption destroys houses on La Palma

The volcanic eruption on Sunday afternoon forced the evacuation of 6,000 people and unstoppable rivers of molten lava have destroyed around 190 houses and caused significant damage to farmland and infrastructure.

The island of 85,000 people is a popular tourist destination for Europeans.

Thousands of small earthquakes have happened in the days following the eruption.

How long will the eruption last?

The aftermath of the volcanic eruption could last for up to 84 days, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute has said.

It based its calculation on the length of previous eruptions in the archipelago.

A house remains intact as lava flows after a volcano erupted near Las Manchas on the island of La Palma 
PIC:AP
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A house remains intact as lava flows near Las Manchas on La Palma. Pic: AP

On Tuesday a new volcano vent opened up 3,000ft north of the Cumbre Vieja ridge, where the first eruption happened on Sunday.

Why is lava meeting the ocean so dangerous?

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Drone footage shows lava swallowing swimming pools and homes

The flow of lava has slowed to around 120m (400ft) an hour and was not expected to reach the Atlantic Ocean until Wednesday, according to the head of the Canary Island Volcanic Emergency Plan, Miguel Angel Morcuende.

Angel Voctor Torres, the head of the Canary Islands government, said there would be a “critical moment” when the lava reaches the sea.

Lava advances through Cabeza de Vaca in El Paso, La Palma
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Lava advances through Cabeza de Vaca in El Paso, La Palma. Pic: AP

The rivers of molten rock, which are up to six metres (nearly 20ft) high, have a temperature exceeding 1,000C and could cause explosions and produce clouds of gas when they meet the sea.

Mr Torres reminded locals of the island’s last eruption in 1971, when one person died after inhaling the gas emitted as lava met the water.

A house burns due to lava from the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park at Los Llanos de Aridane, on the Canary Island of La Palma, September 20, 2021. REUTERS/Borja Suarez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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A house burns due to lava from the volcano

Late on Tuesday, emergency services attempted to divert some of the lava by using front-loaders to clear a path for it to follow in the hopes of steering it away from properties. Officials said they did not know if it would work.

What dangers lie ahead?

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Firefighters filmed lava oozing down streets

A change in wind direction on Tuesday blew volcanic ashes, which irritate the eyes and lungs, over a vast area on the western side of the island.

The volcano has also been spewing out 8,000 to 10,500 tons of sulfur dioxide, which also affects the lungs, every day, according to the Volcanology Institute.

How is the government helping?

Copernicus Sentinel-2 image shows the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park, on the Canary Island of La Palma
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An image from the satellite Copernicus Sentinel-2 shows the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano

Mr Torres described the region as a “catastrophe zone” and said he would request funding to rebuild roads, water pipes and create temporary accommodation for families who have lost homes and their farmland.

Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia will visit the island on Thursday.

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