World Inside

US issues new Russia sanctions for annexations in Ukraine

Publish: 10:30 AM, 01 Oct, 2022


The United States on Friday imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia over its declared annexation of parts of Ukraine, targeting hundreds of people and companies, including those in Russia's military-industrial complex and lawmakers.

Washington acted after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday proclaimed the biggest annexation in Europe since World War Two, declaring Russian rule over 15% of Ukraine territory occupied by Russian forces.

"We will rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable. We will continue to provide Ukraine with the equipment it needs to defend itself, undeterred by Russia's brazen effort to redraw the borders of its neighbour," US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

The latest sanctions come on top of sweeping measures already imposed by the United States and allies this year that have already crippled Russia's international trading and local economy. But they stop short of Russia's energy industry, the country's largest source of hard currency.

Russia's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. In a speech on Friday, Putin criticized the West as neo-colonial and Satanist; Ukraine said it would fast-track its application to join NATO, the US-led Western military alliance.

Guidance from the US Treasury and Commerce departments warned that anyone outside Russia, including companies, that provide political, economic or material support to Moscow faced a heightened risk of sanctions.

The Treasury sanctions generally freeze any US assets of those designated and bar Americans from dealing with them.

Commerce added 57 entities in Russia and Crimea to bar exports.

Treasury said it imposed sanctions on 14 people in Russia's military-industrial complex, two leaders of the central bank, family members of top officials and 278 members of the legislature "for enabling Russia's sham referenda and attempt to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory."

Russia moved to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in eastern and southern Ukraine after holding what it called referendums – votes that were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive.

Among those designated for US sanctions were Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak; 109 State Duma members; the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia and 169 of its members; and the governor of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina.

Among the targets related to Russia's defense procurement was a Chinese supplier the Treasury accused of supporting Radioavtomatika, a US-designated Russian defense procurement firm.

Washington said Sinno Electronics Co Ltd, previously placed on the Commerce Department's entity list, maintained a relationship with the Russian firm even after the invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Sinno did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Taco LLC in Armenia, Russia's Novastream Limited, a Belarusian state-owned supplier, and Russian technology and defense firms were among other companies designated over Russia's defense procurement.

Family members

Treasury also designated family members of Russia's National Security Council, such as Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin's wife and two adult children, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's wife and adult children and National Guard head Viktor Zolotov's wife and adult children.

In addition, the immediate family members of the deputy chairman of Russia's Federation Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko, and Saint Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov were hit with sanctions.

The U.S. State Department in a separate statement said it imposed visa restrictions on more than 900 people, including members of the Russian and Belarusian military and "Russia's proxies for violating Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence," barring them from traveling to the United States.

The United States singled out a Russian national, Ochur-Suge Mongush, for his involvement in what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called "a gross violation of human rights perpetrated against a Ukrainian prisoner of war," and said Mongush and his immediate family members cannot enter the United States.

Canada also announced measures on Friday against dozens of oligarchs, financial elites and their family members, plus 35 Russian-backed senior officials in the regions where the referendums took place. Britain also put sanctions on the central bank governor and imposed new services and goods export bans.

The United States hopes Friday's sanctions will reduce Russia's military's ability to menace Ukraine, and "undermine Russia's major sectors" in technology, industry and defense, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said "so that it's capacity to project power, threaten and coerce its neighbors and wage wars of aggression is reduced over time."

Washington's targets are largely proportionate to Russia's annexation, said Brian O'Toole, a former Treasury official now with the Atlantic Council think tank.

The action against Sinno Electronics serves as a warning to other Chinese companies and those that might do business with Russia, he said.

"I'm impressed at how robust this is given that this was a relatively short turnaround," O'Toole said.

Sullivan spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday about their "shared concern" over the Russian annexations and the need to protect critical infrastructure after the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, the United States said.

- Reuters

Russia   Ukraine   Sanction  


World Inside

US Justice Department charges Senator Bob Menendez with bribery

Publish: 07:58 PM, 25 Sep, 2023


The US Justice Department has indicted high ranking Senator Bob Menendez, a familiar name in Bangladesh, for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, according to reports of leading international news outlets.

Federal prosecutors charged the powerful US Senator on Friday saying the Justice Department found gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash at his house.

Prosecutors said they also gathered evidence that Menendez had provided sensitive information to the Egyptian government to help an Egyptian-American businessman protect his monopoly.

Menendez became a familiar name in Bangladesh three years ago when the ranking Democrat member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee along with several of his colleagues urged the then Trump administration to impose sanctions against the country.

Sixty-nine-year-old Menendez along with several of his colleagues representing both the Republicans and Democrats in 2020 called on the then Trump administration to impose sanctions on senior commanders of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) for carrying out alleged extra judicial killings.

"The senator and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for Senator Menendez using his power and influence to protect and to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt," AFP reported quoting federal prosecutor Damian Williams.

According to BBC Menendez and his wife vehemently denied the charges but Reuters reported Menendez later stepped down temporarily from his role as chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee until the case is resolved.

But AFP said calls for his resignation even came from fellow Democrats, with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy saying the charges were "deeply disturbing."

"The alleged facts are so serious that they compromised the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation," he said in a statement.

The BBC report said the pair each faced three criminal counts: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

“The indictment comes after a years-long Justice Department investigation,” the BBC reported.

The US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee records suggest the bipartisan letter addressed to the then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, the senators urged the administration to impose targeted sanctions on senior RAB commanders under “applicable authorities”.

CNN TV channel said the New Jersey Democratic senator was charged with corruption-related offenses for the second time in 10 years.

AFP supplemented the information saying the case might place into question his hold on his seat in Congress and the Democratic Party's slim majority in the Senate.

According to AP news agency a growing number of Democrats are calling for Menendez to step down with Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman became the first Democratic senator to do so.

It said several members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, along with the state’s Democratic governor, have said he should resign.

According to Reuters Menendez has been an important ally to President Joe Biden as he sought to reassert US influence on the world stage, rally support for congressional aid to Ukraine, and push back against a rising China.


World Inside

US Citizen Dr. Love's Letter to Senator in Favor of truth

Publish: 07:27 PM, 06 Sep, 2023


In a compelling letter addressed to U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, American citizen Dr. Richard R. Love has made an urgent appeal for the United States to adopt a neutral stance regarding recent events in Bangladeshi politics. Despite his American citizenship, Dr. Love's heartfelt letter emphasizes the need for truth and impartiality in addressing the complex political landscape of Bangladesh.

Dr. Love, who has been actively involved in Bangladesh since 2007, initially engaged in breast cancer research projects before shifting his focus towards establishing a new medical center in the remote village of Rampal. His work there centers on primary care and addressing noncommunicable diseases in a region grappling with extreme poverty and climate change challenges.

The backdrop of Dr. Love's plea to Senator Baldwin is marred by personal experiences witnessing the political turmoil in Bangladesh. He recalls chilling incidents, such as the 2009 murders of the Director General of the Border Guards Bangladesh and 55 of his associates, as well as encounters with violence, including a Bangladesh National Party (BNP) mob attack on police officers.

Dr. Love's letter underscores the deep-rooted political struggles, war crime trials, and street violence in Bangladesh, which he argues are partly rooted in the nation's tumultuous founding liberation. He points out that the United States played a role in this history, as documented in Gary Bass' book "The Blood Telegram," which details American foreign policy actions during the West Pakistan-East Pakistan war that led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

The crux of Dr. Love's letter revolves around two key issues. First, he criticizes a recent New York Times article titled "Quietly crushing a democracy: Millions on trial in Bangladesh," describing it as biased and one-sided. He argues that it fails to consider the historical context and the violence-promoting tendencies of the BNP, which has been a home for anti-democratic voices. Dr. Love believes it is inexcusable to overlook BNP corruption and violence against the Awami League, including assassination attempts on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Secondly, Dr. Love addresses the international campaign by Muhammad Yunus, protesting "harassment" on tax evasion charges. He believes that the charges against Yunus are substantial and advocates for U.S. neutrality in this matter.

In his letter, Dr. Love calls for a non-involvement approach and urges the U.S. to adopt a neutral stance on both issues. He expresses a desire to hear promptly from Senator Baldwin regarding the specific actions taken to share these perspectives with President Biden and Secretary Blinken.

Dr. Love's letter serves as a reminder that, despite being an American citizen, he remains deeply engaged and concerned about the truth and neutrality in the ongoing political dynamics of Bangladesh. His plea underscores the importance of impartiality in addressing complex international issues.


World Inside

'Perceptions of Bangladesh in the US and the Jamaat-e-Islami problem'

Publish: 11:56 AM, 15 Aug, 2023


On 16th of August (Wednesday) at 3 PM, the Observe Research Foundation (ORF) is organizing a discussion session titled ' Perceptions of Bangladesh in the US and the Jamaat-e-Islami problem'.

This event will delve into various questions that have arisen recently regarding the revival of some aspects of the Islamic movement in Bangladesh and the state of Dhaka's relationship with the United States, particularly in the context of the upcoming 2024 elections. The entire assembly will be moderated by Kabir Taneja, an associate of ORF.

Bangladesh holds significant importance in South Asian geopolitics, economics, and security. This event, conducted in collaboration with Mr. Clifford Smith, will shed light on regional and international perspectives of Bangladesh's politics and how these developments are perceived by American observers.

The speakers for the event will be Clifford Smith (Director of Washington Project, Middle East Forum, United States) and Kabir Taneja (Associate, ORF).


World Inside

China Rejects US Proposal for Defense Chiefs' Meeting in Singapore Amid Strained Relations

Publish: 12:53 PM, 31 May, 2023


China has rejected a proposal from the United States for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet with his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu at the Shangri-La Dialogue Security Forum in Singapore this week, according to a statement from the Pentagon.

The refusal comes at a time of strained relations between the two countries, exacerbated by various incidents, including Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last August and the US shooting down a Chinese spy balloon in February.

In its statement, the Pentagon acknowledged that China had declined an invitation for a meeting in early May but affirmed that the US remains committed to seeking open lines of communication with the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon Press Secretary, expressed concern over China's reluctance to engage in meaningful military-to-military discussions but emphasized that it would not deter the US from pursuing improved communication channels.

China's Defense Ministry, on the other hand, stated that it attaches importance to developing US-China military relations but blamed Washington for hindering communication. Spokesperson Tan Kefei placed responsibility for the current difficulties on the US side, claiming that while the US claims to want stronger communication, it disregards China's concerns and creates obstacles that undermine mutual trust between the two militaries.

The Chinese Embassy in the US issued a separate statement questioning the sincerity and significance of the invitation. It pointed to US sanctions imposed on Chinese officials, institutions, and companies, urging the US to lift what it deemed "illegal unilateral sanctions" to create favorable conditions for dialogue. The statement did not specifically mention the sanctions against Li imposed by the Trump administration in 2018 over China's purchase of Russian weapons.

The Wall Street Journal first reported China's rejection of the proposed meeting between the defense chiefs. Defense Secretary Austin had previously stated in an interview with CNN that he had not spoken to his Chinese counterpart in months, while China has consistently rebuffed requests for meetings and phone calls from US officials.

A defense official noted that this was not the first time China had rejected invitations to communicate, citing numerous instances where the Chinese side declined or failed to respond to requests for engagements. However, China's Defense Ministry refuted this characterization, asserting that there has been no interruption in contacts and exchanges between the two militaries.

The strained relations between China and the US continue to present challenges in establishing effective communication and cooperation, with both sides trading blame for the current difficulties.


World Inside

Gujarat ATS arrests 4 Bangladesh nationals, says al-Qaeda module busted

Publish: 09:06 PM, 23 May, 2023


Four Bangladesh nationals have been arrested in Gujarat on charges that they illegally entered the country and were trying to radicalise local youth in Ahmedabad and collecting money, according to a statement by Gujarat’s anti-terrorist squad (ATS) on Monday.

The four were part of a local al-Qaeda module trained by their handlers in Bangladesh, the statement issued by deputy inspector general (DIG) Gujarat ATS, Deepan Bhadran said

The four persons were identified by the police as Mohammad Sojib, Munna Khalid Ansari, Azharul Islam Ansari, and Mominul Ansari.

“Based on the received intelligence, four illegal Bangladeshi immigrants involved in recruiting for ‘al-Qaeda’ were arrested,” said Bhadran.

He added that the police first picked Sojib, who earlier lived in Ahmedabad’s Rakhial area, for questioning.

“Sojib revealed that he and three other individuals are associated with al-Qaeda’s network and were receiving instructions from their handler based in Bangladesh, identified as Shariful Islam. Through Islam, these youths came into contact with Shayba, who is reportedly heading al-Qaeda’s operations in Mymensingh district, Bangladesh.”

According to the ATS, the suspects were trying to radicalise people in Gujarat and were also transferring funds to Bangladesh. The ATS did not, however, indicate how much money had been transferred.

“Gujarat ATS received information about four Bangladeshi nationals residing illegally in Ahmedabad’s Odhav and Narol areas, using duplicate IDs. They are associated with al-Qaeda and have been motivating Muslim residents of the city to join the militant organization, as well as collecting funds for al-Qaeda.”

ATS said fake identity documents and literature produced by the terror group’s media wing were seized at the instance of the four suspects.

ATS said the focus of its inquiry was to identify individuals who facilitated their border crossing, ascertain methods to raise funds, identify local contacts, and individuals who may have been influenced by them.