Showing posts with label EU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EU. Show all posts

July 19, 2019

EU Fines Russia For Its Anti LGBT Actions

Russian blogger, Zhenya Svetski, stands with a sign reading “I am not ‘gay propaganda’” in Moscow, December 2018.
Russian blogger, Zhenya Svetski, stands with a sign reading “I am not ‘gay propaganda’” in Moscow, December 2018. 
© 2018 Dmitry Belyakov for Human Rights Watch

Kyle Knight 

Researcher, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights ProgramHRW

The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week that the Russian government must pay approximately $41,000 in damages to three lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights groups for having refused their registration in recent years.

From 2006 to 2011, Rainbow House, the Movement for Marriage Equality, and the Sochi Pride House attempted to register their respective organizations with Russian authorities. The government denied their applications, claiming the organizations “will destroy the moral values of society” or “undermine [Russia’s] sovereignty and territorial integrity…by decreasing its population.”

Most perniciously, in denying Movement for Marriage Equality’s registration, the government construed LGBT rights activities as “gay propaganda,” and said the organization’s work amounted to “extremist activities.”

Formally called the law “aimed at protecting children from information promoting the denial of traditional family values,” the “gay propaganda” law – a classic example of political homophobia – bans the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” a reference universally understood to mean a ban on providing children with access to information about LGBT people’s lives. The ban includes, but is not limited to, the information provided via the press, television, radio, and the Internet.

As it was debated and passed in 2013, the law contributed to an intensification of stigma, harassment, and violence against LGBT people in Russia. The law has been used to shut down online information and mental health referral services for children, and to discourage support groups and mental health professionals from addressing LGBT issues with children. It has further entrenched antipathy toward LGBT people.

The law has rightly been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Council of Europe.

The European court’s new judgment, which found Russia responsible for discrimination and violation of freedom of association, is a cautionary reminder to the Russian government that the baseless and vitriolic gay propaganda law should be repealed.

November 26, 2018

Dustin Lance Black is Concern About Leaving The EU

The EU pushed some countries into following their mandate towards not discriminating against LGBTQ and even on gay marriage.

Dustin Lance Black is an Oscar-winning screenwriter, married to Olympic diver Tom Daley, who believes the UK would be better off remaining in the EU.
Ulrika Jonsson is best known for her TV presenting and staunchly believes in Brexit.
So the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has brought them together for lunch.
They discuss the potential impact of Brexit on LGBT communities. 

January 26, 2018

EU Court Rules Asylum Seekers Must Not Be Made to Take Gay Tests

Asylum seekers must not be subjected to psychological tests to determine whether they are homosexual, EU's top court has ruled. 
Tests to determine sexual orientation are controversial but are sometimes used when assessing asylum claims.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling is binding in all 28 EU states.
The Nigerian's claim was rejected after a psychologist's report failed to confirm his homosexuality.
A court in Szeged, Hungary, must now reconsider his case in light of the ECJ ruling. 
In December 2014 the ECJ ruled on a similar case in the Netherlands and found that sexuality tests violated asylum seekers' human rights. 
In the new ruling, the ECJ said "certain forms of expert reports may prove useful" in such cases, but added that such reports interfered with a person's privacy. Authorities must also determine the reliability of a claimant's statements, the judges said.
In 2013 the ECJ ruled that asylum could be granted in cases where people were actually jailed for homosexuality in their home country.
Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries, including key Western allies such as Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Botswana.

What happens next in this case?

The Hungarian court cannot appeal against the ECJ ruling, so the Nigerian man - identified only as "F" - now has a stronger claim for asylum.
The ruling means that EU countries now have no legal right to impose psychological tests to determine an asylum seeker's sexuality.

What did Hungary originally decide?

The ECJ says Hungarian officials had not found F's statements to be fundamentally contradictory but had still concluded that F lacked credibility. 
Their decision was based on a psychologist's report, which included:
  • An exploratory examination
  • An examination of personality
  • Personality tests (Draw-A-Person-In-The-Rain, Rorschach and Szondi tests)
The report "concluded that it was not possible to confirm F's assertion relating to his sexual orientation".

What sort of tests was at issue here?

They were quite general psychological tests, aimed at identifying F's personality type and emotional characteristics.
F said the tests had violated his fundamental rights and they had not provided any assessment of "the plausibility of his sexual orientation", the ECJ said.
It also said any indication of sexual orientation provided by such tests could only be "approximate in nature". They were "of only limited interest for the purpose of assessing the statements of an applicant for international protection".
In 2010 the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency condemned the Czech authorities for using "phallometric" sexual arousal tests on some asylum seekers to determine whether they were gay. Czech officials said the tests had been used in fewer than 10 cases, with the individuals' consent.
Hungarian border fence, Sept 2015
In 2015 Hungarian police (R) guarded a new razor-wire fence to keep migrants out
The Hungarian court handling F's case quoted him as saying that he had not undergone any physical examination and had not been required to view pornographic photographs or  Is Hungary a special case?
No - other EU countries also conduct psychological tests on asylum seekers, to assess whether their statements can be believed.
In F's case tests were imposed on him - unlike the Dutch asylum case of 2014, when several Africans offered evidence of their homosexuality. 
In the Dutch case, the ECJ ruled that it was wrong to conduct "detailed questioning as to the sexual practices of an applicant for asylum".
F's asylum claim in 2015 came during a migrant crisis in Hungary. The country faced a huge influx of migrants - many of them Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans fleeing war. Most of them moved to Germany, via Austria, and Hungary then built a formidable border fence to keep migrants out.

January 12, 2018

EU Court Adviser Says Gay Couples Merit Residency Rights

A gay Romanian-American couple is entitled to the same residency rights as other married couples in the European Union, a top EU legal adviser said in an opinion published Thursday.
European Court of Justice Advocate General Melchior Wathelet said the key legal issue in the case of Romanian Adrian Coman and his American husband, Claibourn Robert Hamilton, was "not that of legalization of marriage between persons of the same sex but that of freedom of movement of a Union citizen."
So while the 28 EU countries "are free to provide or not for marriage for persons of the same sex," they must not limit their application of spousal rights in a way that infringes "on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States," Wathelet wrote.
Coman has been fighting since 2012 to get his marriage to Hamilton in Belgium two years earlier recognized in Romania, which doesn't acknowledge same-sex unions. The couple lives in New York.
Romania's Constitutional Court asked the European Court of Justice, which is based in Luxembourg, to weigh in with its legal interpretation of the case. Thursday's decision is non-binding on EU court judges, who are expected to issue a ruling this year, but they often follow the reasoning laid out by advocates general.
"We are overjoyed," Hamilton said in a written statement. "It shows the Romanian authorities were wrong to refuse to treat us as a family."
Coman added: "Romanian citizens can't be divided into good and gay. We can't be treated as inferior citizens, lacking equal rights, based on prejudices that some have about homosexuality."
The couple's case is giving the European Court of Justice its first opportunity to consider if an EU directive on the rights of citizens and their family members to "move and reside freely" within the bloc applies when married spouses are two men, according to Wathelet.
Same-sex unions remain difficult in Romania. Homosexuality was only decriminalized in the conservative, Eastern European nation as Romania prepared to join the EU in 2002.
About 3 million people signed a petition backing a referendum to amend the Romanian Constitution so it explicitly states that marriage only can be a union between a man and a woman.
The Alliance of Romanian Families and the Coalition for Family, two conservative Christian groups which oppose same-sex marriage didn't immediately respond to requests asking for comment on the development.
Same-sex marriages or civil partnerships are recognized or have some protections in 22 of the 28 countries. Like Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia do not give same-sex couples any legal rights or responsibilities.

June 21, 2017

The Appointment of a Lesbian PM in Serbia Tells More About the EU than for Serbia Advancing Gay Rights

Ana Brnabić; Photo: Tanjug/Tanja Valić
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has nominated Ana Brnabić as the country’s next Prime Minister. Brnabić, whose appointment is now largely a formality, will be Serbia’s first female and openly gay Prime Minister. Koen Slootmaeckers argues that while many observers outside the country have portrayed the appointment as a step forward for LGBT rights in Serbia, the decision says far more about Vučić’s attempts to advance the country’s EU accession process.
As the BBC put it, “Just a few years ago, the appointment would have been unthinkable. But EU hopeful Serbia can present it as proof of increasing tolerance.” And although the BBC remained cautious in its interpretation of the political meaning of the appointment, its local correspondent, Guy De Launey, argued that the symbolism of Brnabić’s appointment carries real weight. Whilst the EU has not yet formally commented on the developments, one can anticipate Serbia will be commended for their progress on LGBT rights. Indeed, already on Friday, the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, shared the news on its Facebook page as “Wonderful news from Serbia”. However, should we really consider the appointment as proof of the progress made in Serbia? When the appointment is placed in its full context, the answer is arguably no.The news that Serbia is set to have its first openly gay and female Prime Minister has generated a response from the global LGBT community and Western media that can best be described as ecstatic. As the news developed on the evening of 15 June, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were overwhelmed with people congratulating Serbia for this ‘historic’ appointment: a double first for the county. Many media outlets noted that given less than a decade ago the 2010 Pride parade in Serbia was marred by riots, the appointment of Ana Brnabić demonstrates remarkable progress for the country.
Tactical Europeanisation
I would not wish to claim that the appointment of an openly LGBT person as Prime Minister has no positive implications for LGBT people in Serbia. One can optimistically imagine, for instance, that it sends a message to LGBT people that they can make it professionally in Serbian society even if they are open about their sexuality. But it is important to be cautious with such interpretations, particularly if we are to take these political developments as proof of Serbia’s progress from a country where less than a decade ago LGBT people were beaten on the streets while organizing a pride parade.
Indeed, rather than taking this development at face value and considering it as a sign of Serbia’s progress in LGBT rights, the appointment of Brnabić is a continuation of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić’s politics of tactical Europeanisation. Under this approach, LGBT issues are used to speak to the EU’s self-proclaimed LGBT-friendly identity without engaging with LGBT issues domestically.
In the past, and again with the appointment of Brnabić, international observers have often responded to small improvements in LGBT rights with great enthusiasm, as if every small step taken in the Serbian context towards the protection of LGBT people represents a major shift in the country – moving from backwards and homophobic to modern and LGBT friendly. Such a superficial reading not only reifies a problematic East-West dichotomy but more importantly, it hides the underlying politics in which LGBT rights have been instrumentalised by the Serbian government to guarantee and advance Serbia’s progress in the EU accession process.
Indeed, the latest developments are merely a continuation of existing practices in Serbian politics regarding LGBT issues. My research on LGBT rights in Serbia has shown that advancements in the protection of LGBT rights are to be read against the context of Serbia’s EU accession process, as ‘homonationalist’ moves to demonstrate Europeanness without engaging with the lived experiences of LGBT people in Serbia.
The tactical use of LGBT rights becomes even more visible when one considers the Pride Parade events. When Pride reappeared in Belgrade in 2014, this was done with an eye on the political capital the government would gain by successfully protecting such events (as shown here and here). The return of Belgrade Pride is best understood as what can be labeled ‘tactical Europeanisation’, i.e. an act of compliance to communicate to the EU a readiness to Europeanise by aligning oneself with certain ‘European norms’. International observers have treated Pride as a litmus test for Europeanness and the protection of the 2014 and subsequent Belgrade Prides were aimed largely at advancing the EU accession process.For example, consider the anti-discrimination legislation which was adopted in 200as part of the EU visa liberalization process. 
Despite being in place for almost a decade, the implementation of the law remains minimal. Here, the lack of political engagement and will to stop the discrimination of LGBT people is a significant barrier to the implementation. My research has shown that the institutions which are responsible for protecting citizens from discrimination (the ombudsman and the commissioner for the protection of equality) often face indirect political pressure to speak out on the topic, but not to pursue politically sensitive cases. The country’s anti-discrimination strategy (2013) and action plan (2014) remain under-implemented and little is being done to improve court practices regarding anti-discrimination cases or to improve treatment of LGBT victims by police officers. Tackling the roots of hate crimes and discrimination remains a topic that is low on the political agenda.
This being the case, the uncritical engagement of international observers with Serbian LGBT politics has done a great deal of harm. While Serbia was widely commended by international observers for holding Pride events, the Pride parade itself has been ‘co-opted’ by the state, making it a ritual march void of local LGBT politics. Indeed, Vučić – who described Pride as a leisurely walk – used the event to emphasize the state’s (or his) power and sovereignty. The militarized nature of the Pride parade transformed it into a ‘Ghost Pride’, i.e. a state tolerated manifestation of Pride which takes place in a militarized ‘transparent closet’ that keeps LGBT people’s visibility strategies invisible and outside the public sphere.
A real step forward?
The appointment of Brnabić represents a similar instrumentalisation of LGBT issues to distract international observers from what is actually happening. Several elements of the recent developments suggest that the new PM might not have a significant impact on LGBT lives in Serbia. First, there is the fact that although Brnabić is appointed as Prime Minister, Vučić reportedly clarified that she would only lead the technical working of the government, while the current acting Prime Minister Ivica Dačić – known for his homophobic statements – is set to oversee the political workings of the new cabinet. Such a division of labor makes it relatively unlikely that the government will take tangible actions to improve LGBT people’s lived experiences. In fact, it is quite likely that Brnabić will become a shield for EU criticism on Serbia’s LGBT record. And in all likelihood, the EU will fall for it, as for how can one perceive a country with a gay Prime Minister to be homophobic?
Aside from the international politics underlying the appointment, there is little hope that the new Prime Minister will improve the lives of LGBT people in Serbia. Although she may be a suitable role model for the country’s LGBT population, it is doubtful whether she will have a significant impact on wider attitudes towards LGBT people. In fact, the comments made on Brnabić’s sexual orientation, both by herself and Vučić, might actually reinforce the commonly held opinion that any discussion of sexual orientation should be kept “within four walls”.
Consider, for example, the statements made when Brnabić was first appointed as a minister last year. At the time, Vučić said that he was only interested in her results and that “her personal choices” do not interest him. Similarly, she commented on the commotion around here sexuality by saying: “Hopefully this will blow over in three or four days, and then I won’t be known as the gay minister.” Although I do not want to claim that Brnabić’s sexual orientation should be made the central point of discussion, the constant displacement of it to the private sphere does not help in overcoming the stigma that exists in Serbia around LGBT issues.
Against this background, the appointment of Brnabić should be welcomed with some healthy skepticism and should not be taken as more than it is. It is a politically symbolic appointment, but we should wait for concrete achievements on the ground before we conclude that Serbia has made progress in protecting LGBT people. I would urge those observing Serbia from a distance (also those within the European institutions) to listen more closely to individuals who have been engaged in analyzing Serbia’s politics in greater detail. Indeed, many of those with greater proximity to the topic have argued that appointing Brnabić not only contributes to the further consolidation of Vučić’s semi-authoritarian power but also serves as a smoke screen to divert attention away from the increasing democratic backsliding within the country. Hopefully, the coming months and years will prove this skepticism wrong, but it is about time international observers realize that symbolic politics are just that, symbolic
Article by  Koen Slootmaeckers, originally published at LSE's EUROPP Blog. The original article can be found here.

April 7, 2017

EU Court Rules Forced Sterilizations of lgb’T’ Violates Human Rights

THE European Court of Human Rights has ruled that requiring the sterilisation of people seeking to change their legal gender violates human rights.

Twenty-two countries across Europe currently require sterilisation for legal gender amendment. This decision mandates that those countries change their laws.

“Today the world moved in the right direction for trans rights everywhere,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International.

“Forcing unnecessary medical interventions to access basic human rights like legal recognition of a person’s gender is barbaric. As more countries review laws for gender identity recognition, it is essential that they forgo outdated policies and follow legislation from places like Malta or Argentina which prioritise self-determination.

“The decision from the European Court raises the bar globally.”

The ruling results from three cases against France submitted in 2012 and 2013, which leveraged Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (“the right to respect for private and family rights”) and well as Article 3 (“prohibition of torture”) and Article 14 (“prohibition of discrimination”).

The news follows recent legislation being introduced in Sweden to financially compensate trans people who were forcibly sterilised under former laws.

Only four European countries—Norway, Ireland, Malta and Denmark—currently have gender identity recognition policies that are based on the principle of self-determination without medical requirements.

Amnesty Int. UK

March 3, 2017

EU Calls for Americans to Apply for Visas When Traveling to Europe

The European Parliament called on the EU executive on Thursday to force Americans to apply for visas before visiting Europe this summer, stepping up pressure to resolve a long-running transatlantic dispute on the issue.

The European Commission stressed it was pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the row, leaving it unlikely that it would act on the vote by lawmakers setting a May deadline to impose visas - a move that could hurt Europe's tourism sector.

Washington refuses to grant visa-free access to people from four east European states and Cyprus, while those from the other 23 member states can enter using the U.S. visa waiver program. EU rules call for equal treatment for all Union citizens.

Commission officials noted a planned EU-U.S. ministerial meeting on June 15 to try and resolve the issue, which has been running since 2014. The EU executive already allowed a deadline for a solution to pass nearly a year ago, without taking action.

"We will report on further progress made before the end of June and continue to work closely with both the European Parliament and the Council," a Commission spokeswoman said, referring to the council which groups the governments of the 28 EU member states.

A Commission official said contacts are ongoing with the U.S. administration "to push for full visa reciprocity," but fell short of saying that immediate action would be taken.

Former Communist countries Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, have been calling on Brussels to end U.S. discrimination against their citizens.

But the economic cost of imposing visa restrictions on the millions of American tourists and business travelers who visit Europe each year is a major disincentive.

Most EU countries are part of the Schengen zone that allows people to travel freely inside Europe without passport checks.  

The Parliament, by a show of hands, urged the Commission to adopt restrictive measures against U.S. citizens "within two months". Lawmakers have little immediate power to ensure that the executive complies with such demands.

Canada also imposes visa requirements on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, but it has announced that they will be lifted in December.

(by Francesco Guarascio 

PanARMENIAN.Net - European Union member countries have backed a proposal to allow Ukrainian citizens into the bloc for short stays without visas, The Republic reports.
Ambassadors of EU member states on Thursday, March 2 endorsed an agreement reached by negotiators earlier this week. It will allow Ukrainians who have biometric passports to enter the EU for up to 90 days within any 180-day period.
The visa waiver will apply to all members of the 28-nation EU except Britain and Ireland. The agreement also won't give Ukrainians the right to work in the EU.
The European Parliament must still sign off on the agreement.

February 16, 2017

Russian Plant in WH is Discovered-What Else is Putin up to Now?

 Putin with “Bebe”(as Trump Called him) in visit to Kremlin
Former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn looks like a Kremlin plant. Russian fighter jets are buzzing a U.S. Navy destroyer at close range. One of its spy ships is hanging out off the east coast. And last night, we learned President Donald Trump’s campaign aides were in contact with Russian intelligence officials last year. But don’t think Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing the U.S. for a fool just because solely because he despises America—there’s a lot of precedent for these tactics.

Putin’s Kremlin has been hacking and meddling in the domestic affairs of its neighbors in Europe since the 2000s, so they had a lot of practice leading up to its alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee. Be it the cyber attacks against Estonia in 2007, the hacking of Georgia’s government internet servers during its war against the country in 2008, the power grid hack in Ukraine in 2015 and its fake news offensives in Europe against opponents of nationalists politicians who favor the Kremlin, the Russians are pros at engineering chaos in a country’s political affairs.

Below is a brief history of how the Kremlin has masterfully meddled in its neighbors’ affairs, and how this kind of high-level destabilization is a new kind of warfare.

The Lead Up To Russia Hacking Estonia In 2007

In April and May of 2007, Russian hackers launched a series of cyber attacks that shut down dozens of government and corporate sites in Estonia for weeks. The denial-of-service attacks overwhelmed state-owned websites and commercial servers, forcing them to shut off access from outside of the country in some cases. (Russia denied any involvement.)

This all started when the Estonian government decided to relocate a six-foot-tall bronze statue in downtown Tallinn commemorating the fallen soldiers of World War II. The decision drew many ethnic Russians to the streets because they felt it was a slap in their faces. As far as the Estonian government was concerned, it was a symbol of colonialism that needed to be removed from downtown. (A little background: The Nazis occupied Estonia, along with the other Baltic nations Lithuania and Latvia, during the war. When the Soviets defeated the Nazis, they decided to stay and set up shop in the country until 1991 when the USSR fell. Roughly a quarter of the country is ethnic Russian, and Soviet imagery means a lot to them.)

In any case, the mere thought of moving the statue infuriated Moscow and is widely viewed as the motivating factor behind its hacking of the Estonian government’s internet systems.

The hack was preceded by a fake news offensive with Russian-leaning news sites claiming the Estonians cut the statue into pieces, making ethnic Russians in the country even angrier. Of course, as CNN reported, that wasn’t true at all. But the damage was already done. Ethnic Russians, who were already pissed that they were marginalized by the state (long story), had another reason to rise up against the government and develop a protectionist attitude towards Moscow.

The Estonians have since beefed up their digital security and are aiming to become what they call “a hack-proof government.” Now, no country is really hack-proof, but they’re giving it a go—having Russia as a neighbor gives them incentive to try. The U.S. would be wise to take a few lessons from the Estonian experience.

The Georgian President Became Hitler In 2008

I was in Georgia in August of 2008 when the Russians hacked into that country’s government computer systems. The hacking took place during its short, eight-day war with Russia, which was prompted by Georgian forces invading South Ossetia because they claimed the Russians were preparing to attack them first.

As far as the hack goes, David Hollis, a senior policy analyst with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and a reserve Army officer at U.S. Cyber Command, said the hacks in Georgia were concealed through third-parties, making it harder to link the attacks back to Moscow, according to Foreign Policy.

According to Hollis, Russian offensive cyber operations began several weeks before the outbreak of the more familiar kinetic operations. Russian cyberintelligence units conducted reconnaissance on important sites and infiltrated Georgian military and government networks in search of data useful for the upcoming campaign. During this period, the Russian government also began organizing the work of Russian cybermilitias, irregular hackers outside the government that would support the campaign and also provide cover for some of the government’s operations. During this period the government and cybermilitias conducted rehearsals of attacks against Georgian targets.

When the kinetic battle broke out on Aug. 7, Russian government and irregular forces conducted distributed denial-of-service attacks on Georgian government and military sites. These attacks disrupted the transmission of information between military units and between offices in the Georgian government. Russian cyberforces attacked civilian sites near the action of kinetic operations with the goal of creating panic in the civilian population. Russian forces also attacked Georgian hacker forums in order to pre-empt a retaliatory response against Russian targets. Finally, the Russians demonstrated their ability to disrupt Georgian society with kinetic and cyber operations, yet refrained from attacking Georgia’s most important asset, the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and associated infrastructure. 

By holding this target in reserve, the Russians gave Georgian policymakers an incentive to quickly end the war.

It is important to note that Georgia’s former president, Mikheil Saakashvili, won office in 2004 after leading a pro-west “Rose Revolution” that aimed for EU and NATO membership. This irked Putin and put Saakashvili in Putin’s crosshairs onward.

Hackers were even able to create a collage of Saakashvilli photos next to images of Hitler. A widespread information war ensued with Russian television broadcasting RT-style coverage placing all of the blame on for the war on the Georgian government. Walking through the streets of Batumi, a sea resort town in western Georgia, during the middle of this, I often ran into Georgians who were just as angry with Saakashvili as they were with Putin. Though the country rallied in protest against Russia’s actions, the information war against Georgia’s leadership had done its damage.

Ukraine’s Power Grids Hacked In 2015 

A quarter million people in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine lost power in December of 2015, after Russian hackers attacked its power girds, as reported by CBS News. Unable to respond, workers at the electric control center filmed the blackout with their cellphones. But the cyber attack went even further. Emails with infected attachments were sent to employees that collected their login information, leading to the loss of power at nearly 60 substations.

Russia, as usual, said, “It wasn’t me.”

The Ukrainians restored power in just a few hours, but experts told CBS News that such an attack in on U.S. power grids could take days to repair because our grids, which are automated and far more advanced, are more complicated to fix.

At any rate, the motive behind the hacks is tied to its two-year war against Kyiv in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow supports anti-government rebels. Nearly 10,000 people have died since the conflict began.

Now The Kremlin Is Hacking Europe

Just this week, French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron’s party chief, Richard Ferrand, claimed Russia is running a cyberattack against the candidate, according to France 24. The attacks, Ferrand said, are mainly targeting its databases and email boxes. Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate competing with Macron for the presidency in May, is a Kremlin darling whose National Front party has received millions in loans from Russian banks to fund party activities.

It is widely believed that the Kremlin has a vested interest in Le Pen because she wants France to leave the European Union and seeks for France to become more isolationist. This would favor Putin, who is very suspicious of the EU, NATO and other international bodies that he feels threaten Russia’s security and economic interests.

Germany and the Netherlands have also charged Russia with attempting to influence its political affairs by launching cyber attacks against left-wing candidates so that nationalist ones that favor the Kremlin have a better shot at winning.

What does all of this mean, exactly?

Russia is a exercising a multi-prong attack that doesn’t require a single missile or bullet to be fired. With cyberattacks against a sovereign nation, Moscow doesn’t have to worry about a military reaction because NATO doesn’t have clearly established protocols on how to retaliate against hacking. This is all new territory for everyone involved, including the United States.

That said, Trump is clearly losing the optics warfare game against Putin right now. If Russia can look like it placed a compromised national security advisor in the White House, what is stopping the Kremlin from trying it in Europe, where most of its leadership looks to Washington for protection against a much bigger Russia?

June 29, 2016

Putin is Loving BREXIT But Wait….




There is no doubt that Moscow was hoping for Britain to leave the European Union. Its propaganda channels such as RT eagerly championed the "Leave" case, and following the narrow but clear vote in the UK to leave the EU, Russian newspapers and commentators were jubilant.
It’s not so much Brexit itself that matters to the Kremlin, but rather the hope that this will generate yet more division and distraction in the West. But Vladimir Putin ought not to regard this as an undiluted win, because there are some buried risks for Russia, too.

A Europe focused on its own internal problems is one not focused on Russia’s transgressions

The Kremlin’s calculation is that the Brexit referendum will not only lead to protracted negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal but will also encourage other fragmentary pressures.
Already, populists across Europe are calling for their own referendums, from France's Front National and the Dutch Party for Freedom on the right to the Five Stars movement in Italy on the left.
There is also a new enthusiasm for secession in Scotland by the Scottish Nationalists, who narrowly lost an independence referendum in 2014, and in Italy from the Lega Nord, which campaigns for the independence or autonomy of northern Italy from Rome.
Although there is no evidence of any meaningful Russian impact on Brexit, its propaganda machine and covert "active measures" operations are much more active and effective in continental Europe — for example, the Front National received an $11.7 million loan from a Russian bank in 2014.
Russian assets will continue to be thrown behind these various campaigns. But regardless of whether these parties and movements succeed, as long as Europe is occupied with its own internal problems, then as far as Putin is concerned, the Kremlin wins.
It’s not that Putin expects or necessarily even wants the EU to fall apart. After all, he does not harbor any imperialistic designs on Europe. What he wants is a West too disunited and inward-looking to be able meaningfully to resist Russian adventurism in its self-claimed sphere of influence.
Already, figures such as Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin have suggested that Britain’s departure will lead to a relaxation of the sanctions regime imposed on Russia since it annexed Crimea and invaded southeast Ukraine.
Putin is also hoping that turmoil in Europe will infect NATO, undermining its coherence. Governments needing to shore up their domestic support or facing separatist political campaigns at home may be less committed to maintaining or increasing their defense expenditure, for example, or to deploying troops to support their allies.
Finally, a post-Brexit Britain is likely to suffer prolonged economic troubles. Desperate to attract business, London may be tempted to ignore calls for greater transparency and accountability in its financial sector.
As a result, it would become a welcome hub for Russian dirty money and dubious business deals, allowing Moscow some opportunities to bypass the effects of Western sanctions.

But there are lots of ways this could backfire on Russia

For all this, there are some grounds to suggest the outlook will not be quite so purely beneficial for Russia.
The economic impact of Brexit is already mixed. Russia made a $3.7 billion paper profit on its gold reserves in the first 24 hours after the vote, as prices rose in response to global uncertainty.
But much of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves were in sterling, which duly shrank in value by about $1.2 billion in the same period. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak is also worried about the risks of a serious further slump in oil prices, on which the budget depends.
Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Russian Senate’s foreign affairs committee, has warned that "if the EU gets weighed down in its own problems, and crosses the line into crisis, then it will affect our trade relations."
While Britain accounts for just 2.7 percent of Russia’s exports and 1.9 percent of its imports, the EU as a whole is the country’s main trading partner, accounting for about half of each. If Brexit has negative economic implications for the rest of the EU, then this will inevitably have knock-on effects on Russia, already stuck in a recession likely to last years.
The weaker the Russian economy, the harder it is to maintain the loyalty of the elites, to pacify the masses, and to keep spending on the modernized military on which Putin is relying for so much of his international clout these days.
Furthermore, if Brexit seriously weakens the EU, it might actually make Russia’s geopolitical position more challenging, not less.
In Moscow, it has become fashionable to sneer at the EU’s sluggish and hesitant foreign policy initiatives, constrained as they are by both bureaucratic inertia and a culture of consensus and conciliation. As one Russian foreign ministry staffer put it to me, "Europe just wants to make things nice for everybody."
However, there is also a growing recognition that the EU acts as a moderating influence on some of its more aggressive and ambitious members. A particular concern is Poland, a country with a growing economy, a desire to assert a strong regional role, longstanding antagonism toward Russia, and a strong, nationalist government.
Russia’s business ombudsman Boris Titov called Brexit "not the independence of Britain from Europe, but the independence of Europe from the US." However, while he claimed there would be a "united Eurasia" within a decade, the more immediate likelihood is that Washington will double down, not withdraw from Russia’s immediate strategic neighborhood.
If it feels that Europe is increasingly ineffective, a post-Obama White House may look more assiduously at cultivating direct regional relationships with Ukraine and in Central Asia. This would be a much more direct challenge to Moscow's authority, forcing it to come to terms with its lack of positive support and real soft power in Eurasia.
Overall, then, Putin may still have reasons to regret what he wished for. His ideal is an EU that is distracted, divided, and weakened, but not mortally so. He may, however, find that he has traded a cozy and polite neighbor for an uncertain, volatile, and sometimes aggressive one.
Mark Galeotti is a senior research fellow at the Czech Institute of International Affairs, a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the director of Mayak Intelligence. He blogs at In Moscow’s Shadows and tweets as @MarkGaleotti.

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