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Human rights NGO #OpenDialogueFoundation suspected of 'co-operating with Russian intelligence'

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Recently, growing numbers of members of European institutions have become puppets and tools of the hidden political propaganda of controversial human rights NGO ), the purpose and activities of which are concealed behind a mask of human rights advocacy, writes Phillip Jeune.

Who are you, Ms. Kozlovska? Following the emergence of the Warsaw based ODF, certain members of the Council of Europe began to engage with the NGO, and started expressing dissatisfaction with post-Soviet republics, such as Moldova and Kazakhstan.

The head of ODF, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, is a well-known personality among human rights activists and, thanks to alleged financial support from convicted fraudsters and murderers, including Vyacheslav Platon, Mukhtar Ablyazov, Nail Malyutin and Aslan Gagiyev, has become acquainted with many influential European figures.

Lyudmyla Kozlovska

Kozlovska  represents herself as a supporter of civil society, who allegedly protects human rights, but instead acts as a lobbying force on behalf of ODF’s patrons, most of who appear to share something in common; convictions for money laundering. ODF defends these people’s interests on the political platforms of the European Union portraying them as politically persecuted oppositionists. It has been alleged that European politicians have been paid for criticizing Moldova and Kazakhstan.

ODF itself was the subject of a special investigation by the Sunday Times, published in April of this year. Journalists concluded that ODF was implicated in the laundering of more than £26 million through Scottish companies, some £1.5 million of which of which allegedly found its way into ODF coffers. At the same time, Kozlovska is the subject of investigations initiated against her in Poland, Ukraine and Moldova.

On 21 April, the British Sunday Times published an article containing the main thesis of a report prepared by the Moldovan parliamentary committee… I would like to examine the involvement of the Open Dialog Foundation in the internal affairs of this country and the financing of certain political parties. As reported by the Sunday Times journalists, Moldovan parliamentarians accuse the activists of ODF of acquiring £1.5m from Scottish front companies in exchange for lobbying for oligarchs. In their opinion, these companies had to "launder" a total of about £26m, which was intended to finance organizations suspected of cooperating with Russian intelligence and acting to destabilize countries remaining in opposition to the Russian Federation.

A commission of inquiry by the Moldovan Parliament, published last November, concluded that Kozlovska and her NGO were “involved in subversive activities directed against the institutions of the Republic of Moldova, which are funded and orchestrated by special services that are hostile to the state”.

Its report alleged Kozlovska and the ODF had been funded from transactions with Russian military companies banned from trading in America and the EU under international sanctions, as well as from “the supply of military equipment to states involved in regional conflicts”. Payments also came from offshore areas of dubious unknown routes and origins and from “Laundromat” money-laundering schemes, it said.

The report added: “The sophisticated mechanism through which the ODF is funded bears all the hallmarks of a money-laundering scheme and indicates practices involving financial intelligence which only the special services employ.

In reality, the ODF and Lyudmyla Kozlovska are a vehicle for lobbying and influencing various international institutions and for protecting and furthering the interests of certain persons with a dubious past, usually with considerable wealth originating from fraud and money laundering, contrary to the law.

The report accuses the ODF and Kozlovska of having “relationships with and obligations towards agents of the intelligence services of the Russian Federation and are dependent on them . . . making them a tool for soft power intervention which is used by the special services of the Russian Federation in the hybrid war that has begun to be waged against states regarded by it as enemies of the geopolitical interests of the Russian Federation in Eastern Europe”.

A former employee of the ODF, who for obvious reasons remains anonymous, has stated that the main focus of the foundation is on Kazakhstan. Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who was convicted of the embezzlement of some $7.6 billion from Kazakhstan’s BTA bank, as well as the murder of his predecessor, is trying through Kozlovska to create a network within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Their goal is to create a climate of suspicion based on slander, and to form a network of MPs who will interfere in the political processes in Kazakhstan. It can be said that the Foundation partially managed to form an opinion among the some MPs that Ablyazov and his associates are fighters for democracy, and that in Kazakhstan there is still a dictatorial regime.

Meanwhile, French MEP Nicolas Bay at a Public Hearing of the European Parliament’s Special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (known as TAX3)  openly named Ablyazov of having “launched a foundation called Open Dialogue... there are now very real questions about the funding of the activities of that Foundation”.

“All too often” the deputy continued, “perpetrators of white collar crimes are able to pass themselves off as victims”, referring to ODF’s presentation of Ablyazov and others implicated in his crimes, as persecuted political oppositionists, and victims of human rights violations.

Italian Senator Roberto Rampi, German MP Frank Schwabe, Austrian Member of Parliament Stefan Schennach, as well as Dutch parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt, however, have accepted ODF’s version of reality.

Another figure of interest in this story is president of the Italian League for Human Rights rights Antonio Stango who last year visited Kazakhstani businessman Iskander Yerimbetov, who is currently under investigation on suspicion of money laundering in jail. Yerimbetov and his sister Bota Jardemalie, a former sidekick of Ablyazov and currently resident in Brussels. Jardemalie is also accused of money laundering offences.

For instance, Frank Schwabe, who is a chair of Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, actively campaigns among party members to support all Kozlovska’s initiatives.

He appears indifferent to the facts that the head of ODF is suspected of having connections with the Kremlin and the Foundation itself is involved in money laundering activity.

Frank Schwabe helped Kozlovska obtain a temporary visa to Germany, after Poland’s Internal Security Agency expressed “serious doubts” about the financing of ODF, placing her on a Schengen blacklist, stating that she poses a security threat following allegations that she works for Russian interests.

Some of those with whom ODF cooperates are not known for the consistency of their views. Dutch politician Pieter Omtzigt, who become a member of the PACE in 2010, at first expressed his concern about the political situation in Armenia during the first two years of his deputy. Suddenly, in 2012, he completely abandoned his previous statements and began to criticize Azerbaijan, expressing concern about human rights situation in the country.

Austrian MP Stefan Schennach, another supporter of Ablyazov & Kozlovska,  was himself involved in a corruption scandal in the framework of of PACE, according to the April 2018 report of the Independent Investigation Body on the allegations of corruption within the Parliamentary Assembly.

Schennach was found to have breached the Code of Conduct for rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Code of Conduct of the Monitoring Committee, as well as the PACE Code of Conduct.

In addition, the Centre for the Study of Corruption and Organised Crime (OCCRP), in collaboration with Transparency International and several European media organisations, published a report, which claims that the ruling elite of Baku through fictitious companies “laundered” a $2.9 billion to bribe European politicians and purchase luxury goods.

The establishment of partnerships between deputies belonging to one or more parliamentary groups, can give a positive result. It is very important when different movements unite to protect rights, promote democracy and develop the system of government, overcoming political differences.

It is absolutely normal when representatives of civil society or non-governmental organisations participate in political debates and from time to time cooperate with parliamentarians. However, the above facts concerning the “human rights” activities of the above-mentioned MPs are far from their true desire to protect the great and noble ideals of the great European family.

In general, the statements of such politicians are used by the oligarchs Platon and Ablyazov in the struggle for power. It is clearly in the public interest to inquire into the connections of parliamentarians with controversial NGOs, such as ODF. As a result of such connections trust in the Council of Europe has been severely undermined.

EU

#Nagorno-Karabakh - Presidents of the US, France and Russia call for an immediate cessation of violence

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In a joint statement on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh the Presidents of the United States, France and Russia condemned in the strongest terms the escalation of violence along the line of contact in the conflict zone. The leaders have called for an immediate cessation of violence. 

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group was established in 1992 to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The statement comes as a special European Council meets in Brussels to discuss taking a more strategic approach to relations with Turkey. Turkey has been accused of intervening in the conflict by the French President Emmanuel Macron.

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EU

NATO brokers' de-confliction mechanism between Greece and Turkey

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Following a deterioration of relations in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly between Greece and Cyprus, NATO has just announced the creation of a bilateral military de-confliction mechanism.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has led a series of technical meetings between the military representatives of Greece and Turkey at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. The mechanism is designed to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean. It includes the creation of a hotline between Greece and Turkey, to facilitate de-confliction at sea or in the air.

Stoltenberg said, “I welcome the establishment of a military de-confliction mechanism, achieved through the constructive engagement of Greece and Turkey, both valued NATO Allies. This safety mechanism can help to create the space for diplomatic efforts to address the underlying dispute and we stand ready to develop it further. I will remain in close contact with both Allies.”

Military de-confliction between Allies is a role NATO has played before. In the 1990’s, NATO helped establish a similar mechanism in the region, which was effective in helping to reduce tensions and provide the space for broader diplomatic talks. 

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Armenia

Terror threat in South Caucasus can spread to Europe

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During the whole period of conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia the escalation has never reached to such critical point. Even in April 2016 when the Armenian side started massive operations against Azerbaijan, the two sides have never openly talked about a war so confidently. The army mobilization of both sides is an alarming fact that should be taken seriously by the international community.

International organization such as OSCE are failing to solve the problem by peaceful means which causes a decline in public trust in them. The Azerbaijani side openly claims that OCSE’s efforts are useless and highly non-effective -  writes Galib Mammadov, an independent expert and MA in International Relations from Washington University in St. Louis.

Even Azerbaijani government officials refer to photos of OCSE Minsk Group co-chairs having a party in Nagorno Karabakh instead of conducting conflict resolution and peacekeeping activities.1 This serves to public anger in Azerbaijani side and makes a war inevitable. On the other hand, any probability of war creates security issues for Armenia and as a last resort their government is aiming to use their relations with regional terror organizations such as ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia) and PKK as a guarantee for their security. When going back to 70s, 80s and 90s, it becomes evident that Armenia has a tendency of collaborating with terror organizations and using them as a hard power for achieving their goals. Involvement of such organizations in the region is a huge threat for the whole World. Thus if they get reinforced in the region, they may get aligned with other terroristic agencies in the Middle East which would boost a global terror.

Brief Background of Nagorno Karabakh Conflict

Relations between two countries worsened after ethnic Armenia forces occupied Azerbaijani territories between the years of 1988 and 1994. Since the 1994 ceasefire, the Karabakh conflict has remained frozen despite international mediation. Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories as a result of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, displacing approximately 800,000 Azerbaijanis from their territories. Additionally, the United Nations recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan Republic and has four resolutions that call on withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied districts of Azerbaijan.2

Background of ASALA’s Terror

Terrorist organizations like the ASALA and the armed wing of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) were one of the most dangerous terrorist movements in Europe during the early 1970s. ASALA launched in Lebanon Beirut in 1975 for the purpose of Approximately 90 individuals were killed and hundreds were wounded through a terrorist attack by these organizations. Such attacks covered North America, Europe, the Middle East and the south Pacific regions targeting ethnic Turks (mostly diplomats).3 But they also took lives of American, French, Italian and Yugoslav people. Taking into account the fact that, 1981 Armenian terrorists accounted for the highest number of documented international terrorist attacks, the U.S. government defined Armenian terrorists as the most dangerous group in the World at that time. 4

Major terror operations of ASALA were explosion at the Consulates General of the Republic of Turkey in the cities of Frankfurt, Cologne and Essen, Germany, explosion at Yeşilköy Airport in Istanbul, killing 5 and injuring 42, hostage crisis at Esenboga Airport in Ankara, killing 10 and injuring 82, explosion at an international trade fair in Marseilles, France, killing one and injuring 26, Explosion at the Turkish Airlines office at Orly airport in Paris, killing 8, and injuring 55. 5

Armenian political violence peaked between the fall of 1979 and the summer of 1983. By the end of July 1983, assassinations, armed assaults and bomb attacks took the lives of many Turkish Foreign Ministry officials, dependents and employees, as well as French, American, Italian, Yugoslav, Swiss and German nationals. The period was marked by the particularly brutal automatic weapon assaults at the Esenboğa Airport, the Istanbul Covered Bazaar, and Turkish Embassy and Ambassadorial Residence in Lisbon in the summers of 1982 and 1983, and the premature detonation of a bomb designed to explode in mid-air at the Orly Airport in Paris in July 1983. Eight people were killed, including four French citizens, two Turks, an American, and a Swedish, and close to sixty others were wounded.6 Former CIA director of counterterrorism commented the situation as following: “They [Armenians]’re brutal… They don’t take hostages to negotiate. It’s just out-and-out murder.” 7 Armenian terror was a nightmare for both Europeans and Americans and ASALA was a unique case that shall not be forgotten as a lesson by International community.

Armenia – ASALA relations

Armenia’s prior president Ter-Petrosyan attended ASALA member’s Monte Melkonian's funeral in 1993. It clearly means ASALA regarded as a legitimate entity in Armenia. Armenia showed their support to terrorist organization which took lives of many people all around the World. In addition, Members of ASALA are officially regarded as national heroes. Thus, after death Monte Melkonian was awarded with the highest military honors of Nagorno Karabagh and the Republic of Armenia, including the Military Cross, First Degree and the Golden Eagle medal.8 Armenia openly promotes terror activities and gives legitimacy to such actions. That shall be an alarm not just for the region, also for the whole World. Thus, terror operations of ASALA affected not just Turks and Azerbaijani people in the region, also affected Europe and the United States of America taking lives of many people.

In addition, according to legitimate Armenian media sources Armenian government started a program on settlement of Lebanese Armenians to occupied territories of Azerbaijan. In august 2020 Armenian media declared two Lebanese-Armenian families move to Nagorno-Karabakh.9 In September 2020 the number reached to one hundred people.10 Armenian sources describe such settlement as humanitarian help to Lebanese Armenians regarding the catastrophe happened in Beirut. On the contrary Azerbaijani sources recall it as an intentional provocation aiming settle terrorist to Karabakh and revive so-called ASALA terror organization which was a nightmare for Europe. According to Azerbaijani sources director of Russia’s Political Researches Institute, philologist Sergey Markov in his interview with APA’s Moscow correspondent called Armenia’s actions as an attempt to a terror by saying “Through Pashinyan’s deeds, terror experience in Middle East may spread to the South Caucasus”. 11 Another Russian expert Andrey Petrov in his statement to APA’s Moscow correspondent alarmed Russian government about danger of terror: “By deploying terrorists to Azerbaijan’s occupied territories, Armenia creates great problem for Russia”. 12Armenia’s policies for achieving of its goals by means of terror and war would jeopardize peace not just in the region also in Europe.

Conclusion

Both Armenia’s respect to country’s terrorist leaders in government level and its settlement plan regarding Armenians of Lebanon gives a basis to build a hypothesis that Armenia is aiming to revive its historical terror organizations like ASALA. International community shall use its all means (sanctions, notes and etc.) to prevent Armenia using a terrorism as a tool for their political goals, like they did in 70s, 80s, and 90s. Deployment of terrorist groups like PKK and ASALA to Nagorno Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan, will take lives not just Azerbaijani or Turkish people, also, European, American, Russian and even Armenian people may be victims of their operations like it happened in the near history. The message shall be clear that any goal shall not be achieved by assault, terror, assassinations and massacres. If Such organizations succeed, it will motivate many other terror organizations to act which will jeopardize global peace and security. Sanctions and relevant measures by international community shall be imposed to any government that supports act of terror.

The opinions contained in this article are personal to the author.

2 http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/ga10693.doc.htm

3 Gunter M.M. (2011) Armenian Terrorism in the Twentieth Century. In: Armenian History and the Question of Genocide. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230118874_3

4 “Armenian Terrorists,” January 10, 1983, CIA, CIA-RDP88-01070R000100520004-4; “Patterns of International Terrorism: 1981,” in Department of State Bulletin Vol. 82, No. 2065 (August 1982): 16; and Gunter, “Pursuing the Just Cause of their People”

5 Christopher Gunn (2014) Secret Armies and Revolutionary Federations: The Rise and Fall of Armenian Political Violence, 1973-1993

6 ABC News, July 15, 1983; Greg MacArthur, AP, Paris, July 15, 1983; “5 Killed, 60 Hurt by Paris Bomb; Armenian Extremists Take Blame,” Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1983; Peggy Turbett, UPI, Paris, July 15, 1983; Brigid Phillips, UPI, Paris, July 15, 1983; “5 Killed in Orly Airport Bombing; Armenians Claim Responsibility,” New York Times, July 16, 1983; “A Long History of Vengeance,” NYT, July 16, 1983; “Armenian Blast Kills 5m Hurts 56 at Paris Airport,” LAT, July 16, 1983; Claire Rosemberg, “American student killed in bomb explosion,” UPI, Paris, July 16, 1983; UPI, Paris, July 16, 1983; Greg MacArthur, AP, Paris, July 16, 1983; “Armenians Claim More Victims,” NYT, July 17, 1983; “Death Toll Climbs to 6 in Orly Bombing,” NYT, July 17, 1983; “American Among Dead in Orly Blast,” Washington Post, July 17, 1983; “Turkish Press Review: July 16-18, 1983,” ANKARA 06192, July 18, 1983, DOS; “Orly Blast Claims Seventh Victim, New Threats,” Associated Press, July 21, 1983; Death Toll Rises to 7 After Terror at Orly,” NYT, July 22, 1983; “ASALA Bombing of Orly Airport Takes Heavy Toll; Paris Police, in Major Sweep, Detain Over 50 Suspects,” Armenian Reporter, July 21, 1983; and “ASALA-planned blast at France’s Orly Airport,” Armenian Weekly, July 23, 1983

7 “Terrorist Group Baffles Experts in Armenian Tactics,” Washington Post, July 26, 1983

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