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Controversial Russian constitutional amendments enter into force

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Controversial Russian constitutional amendments enter into force


A set of controversial constitutional amendments that will enable Russian President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036 entered into force on Saturday, with the full text published by the government.

The news comes a day after Putin signed a decree to enact the amendments.

Putin received landslide approval for the package in a nationwide referendum earlier this week, with more than three-quarters of the votes in favour, according to the official tally.

The referendum was not independently observed by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has traditionally monitored Russian elections.

The European Union demanded that Russia investigate allegations of irregularities in the voting, including voter coercion and multiple voting.

The amendments enable Putin to run for re-election twice more and bolster the power of the government’s legislative branch, dominated by the United Russia party, which is loyal to Putin.

They also instate a constitutional ban on gay marriage and make it so that Putin’s fiercest challenger, Alexei Navalny, cannot attempt to run for the nation’s top political office for the next 15 years, as every presidential candidate now must have lived in Russia for the past quarter-century.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

Emmanuel Yashim: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Foreign

BP posts second-quarter post-tax loss of $16.8bn

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Global energy giant BP on Tuesday reported a post-tax loss of 16.8 billion dollars in the second quarter amid lower oil prices and writedowns.


The loss compared to a post-tax profit of 1.8 billion dollars in the April to June period a year ago.

The company said that costs for writedowns of inventories and exploration charges weighed heavily on the results.

Second-quarter oil prices were down by over one half compared to a year ago in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and a oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia earlier this year.

“These headline results have been driven by another very challenging quarter, but also by the deliberate steps we have taken as we continue to reimagine energy and reinvent BP,” chief executive Bernard Looney said.

By the end of decade, Looney said BP would be investing around 5 billion dollars in low-carbon projects a year, and during the same period expected daily oil and gas production to drop by 40 per cent from 2019 levels.

The company said it would cut its dividend payout for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Shareholders were to receive 5.25 United States cents per share, compared with the previous quarter’s 10.5 United States cents per share.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Economy

Lobbying for Russian pipeline spikes in Washington

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As United States lawmakers plot to stop one of Moscow’s most important projects in Europe, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, lobbyists supporting it are busier than ever but disclosing few details of their work, according to government filings and current and former United States officials.


The pipeline linking Russian gas fields to Western Europe has become a lightning rod of contention in United States-Russia relations.

This is as the Trump administration concerned it would dangerously expanding the region’s energy dependence on Moscow but backers, including in Europe, saying the gas is needed.

United States President Donald Trump has already signed a sanctions bill that delayed construction on the $11 billion project, wholly-owned by Russia’s state-run Gazprom and headed by Alexei Miller, a long-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But lawmakers fearful the measures are not enough to prevent the pipeline’s completion are contemplating further action.

Nord Stream 2 AG has paid lobbyists at BGR Group, Roberti Global LLC, and Sweeney & Associates a combined $1.69 million during the first half of this year, according to Senate records.

That is more than double the amount during the same period a year ago, and more than all of 2018, the first full year the project lobbied in Washington.

But exactly who the lobbyists meet with is a mystery because they have not registered with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), a law passed in 1938 to limit the influence of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia in United States politics.

Under FARA, lobbyists must disclose every meeting with United States officials, along with the materials they distribute.

Instead, the Nord Stream 2 lobbyists have registered under the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, a law that amended FARA by allowing lobbyists for foreign companies or individuals to report much less information as long as their work is not intended to benefit a foreign government.

Representatives for Nord Stream 2 and the lobbying companies did not respond to requests for comment.

But Nord Stream 2 has characterised itself as a commercial, not political, project.

A senior Trump administration official took issue with that, saying the lobbyists are seeking to further Moscow’s national interests.

“The fact that you’ve got people working for Gazprom, which is essentially the Russian state, you know to manipulate our processes … it’s crazy,’’ the official said, asking not to be named discussing the issue.

Danielle Nichols, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, which handles FARA registrations, said the department had no comment at this time.

Lobbyists for Nord Stream 2’s foreign opponents, by contrast, have registered under FARA.

Yorktown Solutions LLC, for example, which lobbies for Ukraine’s state-owned Naftogaz and its partner companies against the pipeline, is among them, according to FARA records.

Andriy Kobolyev, Naftogaz’s Chief Executive told Reuters in an email that company representatives travel to Washington about once a month to provide updates on the status of Nord Stream 2 and discuss how to stop the pipeline.

Nord Stream 2 will double the capacity of an existing line to Germany under the Baltic Sea to 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year, enough to supply 26 million households.

It would circumvent United States ally Ukraine, depriving it of potentially billions of dollars in transit fees, and compete with United States efforts to sell liquefied natural gas into Europe.

United States senators Ted Cruz, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, are among the pipeline’s biggest opponents in Congress.

Both are pushing new sanctions measures that would target insurers of Gazprom vessels that would lay the last 100 miles (160 km) of pipe in Danish waters, where unexploded bombs from World War II lie in the pipeline’s path.

Neither senator responded to a request for comment.

Nord Stream 2 backers say Germany and other European countries need Russian gas and Germany has threatened retaliatory action if United States sanctions stop the project.

Austria’s OMV, German firms Uniper and Wintershall, Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Engie provide half the project’s long-term financing.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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COVID-19

15 countries purchase Russia’s Avifavir COVID-19 medication – Direct Investment Fund

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Russia says it is delivering its Avifavir medication against COVID-19 to 15 countries already.


Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which took part in the creation of the remedy, disclosed this to Russia-24 broadcaster in an interview.

“We can boast great achievements in this area, as the medication has been delivered to over 15 countries,” Dmitriev said.

“This is really important, as there are in fact only two international antiviral drugs that are delivered to a certain number of countries: the United States’ Remdesivir and the Russian Avifavir.

“Ninety per cent of the produced Remdesivir have been purchased by the United States

“So, it is no surprise that 15 countries purchase our medication,” the RDIF CEO explained.

Earlier on Monday, Kromis — a joint venture of the RDIF and the ChemRar pharmaceutical company — announced it had reached agreement on Avifavir deliveries to South Africa and seven countries in Latin America.

Avifavir received a registration certificate of the Russian Ministry of Health in late May, becoming the world’s first favipiravir-based drug approved for treatment of COVID-19.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Foreign

Russia vows tit-for-tat retaliation for EU sanctions

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The Russian Foreign Ministry pledged a tit-for-tat response on Friday to the new European Union (EU) sanctions against a number of Russian citizens and government agencies under the pretext of their involvement in cyber attacks.


“As you know, in diplomacy, everything is mirrored,” the ministry said in a statement.

The decision made Thursday by the Council of the EU to introduce unilateral restrictive measures against a number of citizens and entities of Russia, China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea causes bewilderment and regret, it said.

Moscow has several times suggested that the EU establish a professional dialogue on issues of concern in the information sphere, or use the existing channels and mechanisms through the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the ministry said.

Joint efforts are required to develop universal rules, standards and principles of responsible behavior for states in the information sphere and Russia has long been proposing this approach, it said.

But instead, Brussels preferred to use a sanctions toolkit, presenting it as promoting international security and stability in cyberspace, the ministry said.

The ministry also pointed out that the EU sanctions are absolutely illegitimate from an international legal point of view.

It said that the EU applied the sanctions retroactively, as the Russian citizens were accused of involvement in a cyber incident that took place in 2018, that is, a year before the establishment of the cyber sanctions mechanism by the EU.

EU lawyers, obviously, deliberately forgot about the fundamental principle that a law cannot have retroactive effect, the ministry said.

(XINHUA)

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Contact US: editor @nnn.com.ng, nnnnews247 @gmail.com

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