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Hungary fights for Russian oligarchs, while America traces the rebels

7-9-2022 |

Fresh - freshly squeezed news from the international press. We prepare it 3 times a week.

Politico: Hungary worries about Russian oligarchs

Hungary is again proving to be the roadblock when it comes to EU sanctions against Russia — this time by pushing for three Russian oligarchs to be removed from the sanctions list.

The EU has a deadline of September 15 to renew its measures against individuals who were sanctioned since the outbreak of Russia's war in Ukraine or they will lapse. Within the bloc, this extension was seen as a technical formality, as it has been with previous sanctions against Russia over Ukraine since 2014.

But Hungary has thrown a spanner in the works. Budapest has asked to remove three Russian nationals from the EU's sanctions list, according to four EU diplomats and officials who spoke to POLITICO on condition of anonymity. The move has infuriated other EU countries, which have bitter memories of Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán's hold-up on the EU's oil ban earlier this year.

According to two of the diplomats, the Russian businessmen concerned are Alisher Usmanov, Petr Aven and Viktor Rashnikov.

Alisher Usmanov
Photo: Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the EU would reach a joint decision on the sanctions list. "The EU sanctions lists are constantly under review, and there are concerns time and again that the inclusion of certain persons or entities on the sanctions list is not sufficiently justified," he tweeted.

Hungary has also asked the EU to broaden the exception on sanctions for humanitarian aid. This has created fear among other EU countries that Budapest wants to create loopholes in EU sanctions at a time when the European Commission is trying to tighten the rules.

The Guardian: FBI found document on foreign nuclear defenses at Mar-a-Lago

The FBI recovered a document describing a foreign government’s nuclear capabilities during its search of Mar-a-Lago, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Photo: Joshua Roberts / Getty Images

The content of the more than 11,000 government documents and photographs FBI agents recovered from Donald Trump’s Florida estate last month has not been revealed, but previous reporting from the Post indicated classified documents about nuclear weapons were among the items federal authorities were looking for.

Among the records recovered by the FBI were documents detailing top-secret US operations that require special clearances “on a need-to-know basis”, beyond a top-secret clearance, according to the Post report.

Some of the Biden administration’s most senior national security officials were not authorized to review some of the documents because they are so restricted, the Post said.

Trump is under investigation by the justice department for his unauthorized removal of highly sensitive government records from the White House and for allegedly improperly storing them at Mar-a-Lago.

AP: Extremist group members appear to work in US law enforcement

The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies — including as police chiefs and sheriffs — and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or served in public office as of early August. The membership information was compiled into a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.

The data raises fresh concerns about the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military who are tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the U.S. It’s especially problematic for public servants to be associated with extremists at a time when lies about the 2020 election are fueling threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions.

“Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up,” the report says.

Appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t prove that a person was ever an active member of the group or shares its ideology. Some people on the list contacted by The Associated Press said they were briefly members years ago and are no longer affiliated with the group.

Reuters: The richest financial companies are preparing for an energy crisis

Some of Europe's biggest banks are preparing back-up generators and to dim the lights as they brace for potential power cuts and energy rationing that threaten the money system underpinning the region's economy.

As Russia throttles gas supplies to the continent, banks are stress-testing how they can cope with power shortages and lining up alternative sources of energy, such as generators, so that ATMs and online banking don't go dark.

There is a special urgency for financial firms to act because of the importance of payments and transactions to Europe's economy, already fragile due to the fallout of war.

JPMorgan, which employs thousands across European hubs in London and Frankfurt, has conducted power outage simulations, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Depending on the severity, the bank could switch to diesel generators that could keep key office locations up and running for several days, the person said.

Italy's second-biggest bank UniCredit has tested its operational resilience this summer, a source familiar with the plans said.

Its latest disaster recovery test focused on the resilience of data processing, the source said, adding the bank's two core data centres had power supply from two independent power stations.

Euronext, which runs the French and Italian stock exchanges, said it had reassessed its energy use since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, adding it had back-up generators, without elaborating.

Deutsche Bank said it was rolling out a slew of energy saving measures across its 1,400 buildings in Germany, to save 4.9 million kWh of electricity each year - enough to power roughly 49,000 light bulbs for an hour.

Major insurers also said they were cutting their energy use.

Switzerland's Zurich said it would darken offices at night and mothball "decorative power consumers" like fountains.

Should the crisis worsen, the sources said companies will take more drastic steps.

BBC: Applause and irony - how the world is reacting to Britain's new prime minister

Global leaders have been sending their congratulations to the UK's new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, but in the international media, there have been snarkier remarks, too.

"She has gone to see the Queen," said Russian television presenter Ivan Trushkin. "If she [the Queen] recognises her of course."

In France, meanwhile, she has been branded not the Iron Lady - which was former UK PM Margaret Thatcher's nickname - but the Iron Weathercock.

Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

This is a reference to Ms Truss's changing views on the UK leaving the European Union - she went from opponent before the 2016 referendum, to supporter afterwards, saying in July that "some of the portents of doom didn't happen". It's believed the term was first coined in Les Echos in July - but has since caught on among some commentators.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he had offered Liz Truss his congratulations, adding that he had told her: "We are available to work as allies and friends."

"The United Kingdom is a great country that, like us, is committed to defend democracy, by the side of Ukraine, and that also needs to strengthen its energy sovereignty and win the battle against climate change," the French leader said.

The first leader to congratulate publicly Ms Truss was German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

"In these challenging times," he wrote in English, London and Berlin would carry on co-operating as "partners and friends".

Warm words also came from EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen - but not without an apparent reference to the Brexit-related Northern Ireland protocol.

"I look forward to a constructive relationship, in full respect of our agreements," she said in a tweet.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Liz Truss the "very best", Poland's Mateusz Morawiecki said he was "very, very pleased" by her commitment to Ukraine.

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he looked forward to working with Britain's new PM but sections of the Irish media were less than enthusiastic.

"She will make [Boris] Johnson seem a political genius, [Theresa] May a mistress of empathy, David Cameron a beacon of sincerity," Fintan O'Toole wrote in The Irish Times, referring to Ms Truss's Conservative predecessors.

As expected, the reaction from Russia has been more negative, with presenters on Gazprom-owned NTV describing Ms Truss's election as a "catastrophe" for the UK.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the former UK foreign secretary of being unwilling to compromise and said her approach would not help the UK internationally.

However, Ms Truss's win was welcomed by other Russians. Leonid Volkov, chief of staff for jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said it was "excellent news".

"In the Kremlin they were cracking open the champagne when Johnson resigned, but there are no grounds for supposing that Truss will be a softer touch," he wrote on Twitter (in Russian).

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said he looked forward to working with Ms Truss.

"We in Ukraine know her well - she has always been on the bright side of European politics," he said. "And I believe that together we will be able to do a lot more to protect our nations and to thwart all Russian destructive efforts."

Picked and squeezed for you: Irina Iakovleva