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A Former UN Ambassador Says Russia Made Him A Target. Now He Wants To Warn The US.

UN Photo

A former ambassador to the United Nations claims he was improperly removed from his post last year following repeated pressure from Russian officials.

Vlad Lupan, who served as Moldova’s ambassador to the UN from 2012 until he was asked to leave in June 2017, told BuzzFeed News that he was the subject of years of attacks by Russia through diplomatic channels and others means, including a fake news campaign in 2014 that contributed to a vote of no-confidence in parliament against the ruling coalition in Moldova, a country that has long wrestled with Russian influence.

Lupan told BuzzFeed News in an interview that shortly following a visit to Moscow in early 2017, Moldovan President Igor Dodon told a meeting of foreign diplomats that removing Lupan from his post at the UN was a priority. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also made complaints against Lupan to Moldova’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Galbur at a meeting in December 2016, according to a confidential document reviewed by BuzzFeed News. BuzzFeed News was not able to independently verify Dodon’s comments about removing Lupan.

Moldova, which is wedged between Ukraine to the east and Romania to the West, was part of the Soviet Union until its fall in 1991, and Western observers have long warned against turning a blind eye to Russian influence in the country. Transnistria, in the eastern part of the country, has been in a state of frozen conflict since a 1992 civil war, when Russia sent troops to support the separatist movement there. “Geopolitics here, unfortunately, sometimes play a bigger role than they are supposed to,” said Stanley Vartanian, a representative of the Socialist Party. “That’s how the politics work here.”

The fake news campaign against Lupan revolved around a speech he gave at the UN on March 27, 2014 as the General Assembly was preparing to vote on the “territorial integrity of Ukraine,” following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Russian-language media reported that Lupan had argued that Russia should lose its veto on the UN Security Council because of the invasion. However, video footage of the speech and the UN’s official record of the meeting show that Lupan never mentioned Russia in his comments.

“I never, never said that. Because this is impossible,” said Lupan. “For all of the implications that Russia had in Ukraine, this is impossible. Because there are certain rules in the UN that prohibit that.”

The UN vote that preceded the false reports was tense — Russia was accused of threatening Moldova and other countries with retaliation if they voted for the resolution. As the false reports spread, Moldova’s pro-Russian Communist party called for a vote of no-confidence in the government leadership and raised Lupan’s supposed statements in support of their case. Lupan was also later told that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov demanded an apology from the Moldovan government.

Gheorghe Brega, who was Moldova’s acting prime minister from October 2015 until January 2016, accused Moldova’s current president of instigating the the 2014 fake news incident, saying that Dodon, then a member of parliament, was acting on “the Kremlin’s instructions.” Brega also told BuzzFeed News he suspected the pro-Western Democratic Party of collaborating with Dodon in 2017 to oust Lupan, saying the Democratic party “would prefer someone [at the UN] who would play both cards.”

As the US continues to grapple with the specter of fake news and Russian election meddling, Lupan says the the former Soviet satellite state offers important lessons for Americans concerned about Russian interference and the rule of law.

“Moldova is a testing ground, and Eastern Europe generally, is a testing ground for whatever technologies that Russia is using,” he said. “All the fake news, all the involvement in elections. We’ve had them…If you want to learn our experience, please do come ask us. We can share with you a lot of technologies that will be used in the United States later.”

“It’s a media environment that suffers a great deal from a frequent lack of connection to reality,” says Dr. William Hill, a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center and former Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova.

In January, the Moldovan government passed a law aimed at prohibiting the broadcast of Russian news programs in Moldova. Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine have also pursued measures to limit the influence of Russian media in recent years, and in September the US Department of Justice asked Moscow-based RT to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

“With Moldova having its own parliamentary election at the end of this year, we’ve seen Russia become more and more active in Moldova this year,” said Timothy Fairbank, a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. “This is, I think, a very necessary step that Moldova has taken to make sure that there’s not inappropriate foreign interference.”

The law was ratified over opposition from the country’s president, who has publicly aligned himself with Moscow. Vartanian, of the Socialist Party, disputed that President Dodon was pro-Russian, but acknowledged that Dodon campaigned on a platform of restoring good relations with Russia in 2014 and Dodon made his first state visit to Moscow in 2017.

There is already substantial resistance to the law from some parts of the country. In the autonomous region of Gagauzia, pro-Russian Governor Irina Vlah has said she would not recognize the new law and would continue to permit Russian broadcasting.

Such regulations have also raised concerns among free speech advocates. The office of OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media said the impact of the Moldovan law remains to be seen, but that it would follow the implementation to ensure that the changes “do not affect freedom of the media in the country,” and added that the answer to propaganda “must be in quality of information, support to ethical journalism, pluralism, and media literacy, not in censorship.”

With elections in November, however, many see the law as a play to consolidate power by the oligarch and politician Vlad Plahotniuc.

“You have to look at who is actually pursuing policies that benefit Moldova,” Hill, of the Wilson Center, said.

Plahotniuc, who currently controls 70% of the Moldovan media market according to report from Freedom House, leads the Democratic Party and has positioned himself as pro-Western, though various analysts have speculated that Plahotniuc and the Democratic Party occasionally collaborate with Dodon. Brega, from the Liberal Party says that, for him, the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party are “one and the same.”

Andrian Candu, Speaker of Parliament and a member of the Democratic Party, told BuzzFeed News that Lupan was recalled because he was a political appointee of the previous government and that his term limit was up. Candu also denied any association with Dodon and the Socialist Party saying, “It is nothing related to Dodon, because these decisions are taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the government.”

Lupan said he found out that he would be dismissed in February after reading an article in the Moldovan press that stated as much. He said he made multiple inquiries about his dismissal and tried to fight it, but didn’t receive a reply until getting the official notice of his recall on May 12.

Lupan, who first joined Moldova’s foreign ministry in 1996, reflected on the 2014 fake news incident, saying: “You throw a lot of mud, eventually some will stick. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s true, your image is damaged anyway.”

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Mourinho target prefers Man City, Man Utd ready to make him their highest earner

Mourinho target prefers Man City, Man Utd ready to make him their highest earner – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Real Madrid midfielder Isco has been linked with a move away from the club in the recent weeks.

Apparently, Zinedine Zidane is prepared to sell the player at the end of this season following a series of underwhelming performances.

The Spaniard has been left out of the squad a few times already this season and he might have to switch clubs in order to play more often.

As per the reports, Manchester City and Manchester United are keeping tabs on the player.

Jose Mourinho wants to add more creativity to his side and is ready to pay big money for the Real Madrid playmaker.

Don Balon adds that Mourinho is prepared to shell out 150 million Euros for the Real Madrid midfielder. Apparently, Mourinho is ready to make him the highest paid player in the squad along with Paul Pogba.

However, there is a feeling that Isco prefers to join Manchester City because of Pep’s style of football. Considering David Silva’s age, Isco could be a very good addition to the City squad. He could be the long-term replacement for the Manchester City legend.

Similarly, he would be a terrific addition to the United side as well. It will be interesting to see where he ends up at the end of this season.

From Sportslens.com – Football News | Football Blog

Raheem Sterling is a target of hate after Leicester

Manchester City beat Leicester 5-1

Another weekend, another three points for Man City.

The writing was on the wall for Leicester after just three minutes when Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock.

Sergio Aguero stole the headlines going on to score foul goals. The Argentine is now up to 21 league goals: the same as Liverpool’s Mo Salah and two behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane.

Yet it was Kevin De Bruyne who stole the show and bossed the game. The Belgian registered a hat-trick of assists, while he’s now closing in on Thierry Henry’s 20 EPL assist record for the season.

‘Cheating’ Raheem Sterling

Every week, it seems, the topic of diving in the Premier League winds fans up.

In recent times Tottenham’s Dele Alli has been one of the chief targets for hate.

Alli recently picked up his third booking for diving for the season, and that lead to widespread criticism of the Tottenham star.

But others have been keen to shine on light on Raheem Sterling this weekend, after the Man City forward was labelled a cheat for his antics against Leicester.

With the match tied at 1-1, Sterling went down in the Leicester box.

Raheem Sterling dive vs Leicester (1)

Raheem Sterling dive vs Leicester (1)

With his arms stretched out, and a pained look on his face, it was clear that Sterling was searching for a penalty.

The ref, however, waved ‘play on’. But should Sterling have gone in the book for diving?

Raheem Sterling dive vs Leicester (2)

Raheem Sterling dive vs Leicester (2)

The ref had a perfect view of the incident. So why didn’t he punish Sterling?

Fans took to social media to blast the Man City and England star.

Also see: Jose Mourinho: Pep Guardiola ‘cries’.

Sergio Aguero vs Mohamed Salah vs Harry Kane betting tips: Premier League top goalscorer odds.

Chelsea blow: Arsenal set to hijack managerial target

Arsenal are looking into the possibility of hijacking Chelsea’s move for Luis Enrique, according to Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

The Gunners’ hierarchy will take into consideration Enrique at the end of the season, as they prepare for life without Arsene Wenger.

The Telegraph reported earlier this week that Chelsea were also looking at the former Barcelona manager as they prepare to replace Antonio Conte.

Arsenal’s hijack

Arsenal have placed Enrique on their list of potential candidates to replace Wenger, should they relinquish him of his duties at the end of the season.

However, Chelsea are unwilling to let him join Arsenal and will make a strong attempt to bring him to the West side of London should they let Conte leave.

Following a successful spell at Barcelona, the 47-year-old is now considered around Europe as one of the best managers.

The Spanish coach is currently taking a break from management, with a move to the Premier League being an attractive proposition for him.

Poor results

It is understood that Wenger is finally coming under fire with another season passing with Arsenal yet again failing to challenge for the title.

This has meant that the Arsenal’s bosses to take the future of their French coach into consideration.

Meanwhile, on Monday evening, Chelsea host West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge as they look to avoid a third consecutive defeat in the league.

The West Londoners find themselves trailing league leaders Manchester City by a substantial gap of 19 points, having lost to both Bournemouth and Watford in the space of the last week.

This has meant that Conte has come under fire in recent weeks with results with the Blues’ title defence being left in tatters.

Cliven Bundy has set his sights on a new target

For the first time in nearly two years, Cliven Bundy is a free man.

In January, U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ruled that the 71-year-old scion of the Bundy family — best known for leading an armed 2014 standoff with federal officials in Bunkerville, Nevada after he refused to pay his grazing fees — should be released from custody and sent on his way. The government’s bungling of the case is just the latest failure in efforts to bring the Bundy family to justice; a 2016 ruling set Cliven’s sons, Ammon and Ryan, free following their hostile takeover of the Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon.

Citing “flagrant” behavior on the part of federal prosecutors, Navarro, who had already declared a mistrial, specifically cited the government’s move to withhold evidence on surveillance and snipers near the Bundy ranch in her decision. Said Navarro, “The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated.” And just like that, with over 100 Bundy supporters watching in the courtroom, all charges against Bundy were dropped. As with the Oregon case against Cliven’s sons, the ruling — which should have all but certainly gone against Bundy, given that so much of his flagrantly illegal behavior was obvious for all to see — illustrated just how poorly the government had presented its arguments.

In the few weeks since the verdict, Bundy has picked up where he left off: advocating for Western ranchers and land-owners to disregard federal law, especially the agencies tasked with environmental management. In late January, Bundy traveled to speak in Paradise, Montana, where he managed to attract a few hundred onlookers — a larger number than the town’s total population. According to the New York Times, Bundy received a “hero’s welcome.” All of this while both Cliven and Ammon have indicated their interest in potentially running for elected office.

As such, instead of spending years in prison for leading his armed followers against federal officers, Bundy has begun roaming free — and continued pushing his message of nullification, of ignoring laws he and his followers don’t want to follow, and of acting as a lodestar for the anti-government extremists who gathered to him over the past few years.

Few people have followed the ongoing saga surrounding the Bundy family — their members, their motivations, their means of protest — as closely as JJ MacNab, who covers anti-government extremism for Forbes. MacNab spoke with ThinkProgress about the Bundy rulings, and what comes next for the family at the fore of armed resistance in the American West.

For those who haven’t been following closely, or who missed the news due to everything else that’s going on, can you give a quick overview of the case and ruling we saw pertaining to Cliven Bundy?

Cliven Bundy, along with two sons and militia leader Ryan Payne, finally went to trial last October for their roles in the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville. As the trial progressed, the court became aware that the prosecution team had failed to produce several pieces of potentially exculpatory evidence to the defendants and their attorneys. After considerable legal wrangling, the federal judge dismissed the case with prejudice in January, which means that, unless the Department of Justice appeals the ruling, Cliven Bundy will never stand trial for his “range war.”

This obviously wasn’t the first ruling that’s gone for a member of the Bundy family recently — just look at what we saw with Ammon and Ryan Bundy in Oregon. Why does the government keep bungling these cases?

These cases were deceptively simple. Did Cliven Bundy organize a group of militants to retrieve his cattle at gunpoint in defiance of a federal court order? Yes. Did Cliven’s sons take over a federal bird refuge in Oregon? Yes. The defendants in these cases gave multiple interviews, posted photos of their exploits, and appeared in numerous videos showing them committing these crimes. They did almost everything out in the open, so it should be easy to prove the conspiracies, right?

“It’s not surprising that jurors would find Bundy and his followers sympathetic.”

The prosecutors tried very hard to keep the cases focused on these facts — what the defendants did. The defendants tried equally hard to introduce into evidence flawed legal theories — why they were justified doing it. Every time the prosecutors and judges tried to prevent these bad legal theories from being presented in court, it made it look like they were trying to hide relevant information from jurors. According to a handful of jurors who have been interviewed so far, the prosecutors came across as arrogant bullies.

Add in the myth of the romantic, hard-working, honest cowboy, the distrust that many in the West — both left and right — have for D.C., the growing distrust of law enforcement following the 2014 Ferguson protests, and the vitriol surrounding the 2016 general election, and it’s not surprising that jurors would find Bundy and his followers sympathetic.

From your vantage, what does last month’s ruling for Cliven portend?

There are two issues here. Some politicians in Western states want to parlay Bundy’s victories into an excuse for states to take ownership of federal public land, or at least, to open up more public land to resource extraction. There’s also the problem of the anti-government extremists who brought their guns to Bundy’s cause. They’re now emboldened by these cases, by the explicit endorsement of certain politicians, and by President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric. My concern is that they will be shopping for future violent encounters.

Is there any aspect to Cliven’s case that stands out to you as the most surprising, or the most unexpected? Or was the final ruling the most shocking aspect of it all?

Before the case was dismissed, I was trying to figure out which was worse: a not-guilty verdict from the jury or a presidential pardon. Roger Stone has promised the Bundy family and supporters that he would lobby on their behalf.

Having the case dismissed for government misconduct is the worst of all options. The people who brought their guns to Bunkerville and the Malheur Refuge didn’t know or care about public land laws. They came because they thought that the federal government had abused Cliven’s rights. This outcome confirmed those beliefs.

We’ve seen a wide range of descriptions of the Bundy family: anti-government extremists, so-called “patriots.” The AP even recently called them “states’ rights” activists. How would you describe the Bundy family and their motivations?

Cliven Bundy is a Sagebrush rebel, a hold-over from the public land “wise use” movement of the 1990s. He cares about states’ rights as they pertain to public land control.

His armed supporters are from a different fringe movement called anti-government extremism. This latter movement contains a mix of sovereign citizens, tax protesters, Constitutional Sheriffs, and private paramilitary groups such as the militias, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters. They generally knew nothing about public land issues before they traveled to Bunkerville, Nevada. Most had never heard of the Bureau of Land Management, the office in the Department of the Interior tasked with managing the land where Bundy’s cattle grazed. They rushed to Bundy’s side because he told them that federal snipers were planning on killing him and his family.

What are the misconceptions that still exist about the Bundy family, especially Cliven?

I’ve seen a lot of people call Cliven Bundy a sovereign citizen, but he isn’t really. His son Ryan Bundy became one in the 20 months between the Bunkerville and Malheur, as did Malheur co-defendants Shawna Cox and Jake Ryan. Cliven has adopted some beliefs from the movement over the years, the mythical role of the Constitutional Sheriff, for example, but he’s stayed away from the larger sovereign schemes and beliefs.

“The Bundy family’s faith has played a role in their ongoing fight with the federal government, but most anti-government extremists aren’t Mormon.”

There have also been several conspiracy theories surrounding Cliven’s fight with the government — supporters have touted Chinese solar power, Agenda 21, and Uranium One plots. Some detractors view the entire anti-government extremist movement as a Mormon dominance scheme. Certainly, the Bundy family’s faith has played a role in their ongoing fight with the federal government, but most anti-government extremists aren’t Mormon.

What comes next, both for the Bundy family and their followers, as well as the movement(s) they represent?

Cliven Bundy still has a plan to transfer the ownership of public land to state control, and he’s filed a civil lawsuit against both Nevada and Nevada’s Clark County to try to force them to take possession of the land. Meanwhile, he still has hundreds of cattle grazing for free on what he calls “Bundy Ranch,” a stretch of federal land that is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. The Trump administration may not have the political will to remove the trespass cattle, so in effect, Bundy may profit for years to come.

The anti-government extremist movement had already moved on from public land issues to other causes such as putting public officials on trial for imaginary crimes in common law courts and engaging antifa in street fights at pro-Trump and Confederate rallies. Now that the Nevada case has been dismissed and Bundy is declaring victory, it’s likely that the movement will circle back to public land issues since they believe that a Western jury will acquit them.

It certainly seems like Cliven’s wasting no time, now that he’s officially free. What did you make of Cliven’s recent pow-wow in Paradise, Montana, last month? 

I think a lot of people expected the recent Montana meeting to be a call to arms. Cliven arrived wearing a “not guilty” pin even though his case was thrown out on a technicality, and the Paradise location was interesting because it was near the home of Bundy supporter Jake Ryan, who was scheduled for sentencing in the Malheur case later that week.

Instead of calling on anti-government extremists to unite in violence against the federal government, the meeting seems to have signaled that Cliven has stuck to his Sagebrush rebellion roots, seeking out other public land users — ranchers, miners, etc. — to tear up their permits and join him in his stand. If they do so, the implication is that Cliven’s armed supporters will protect them.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Exclusive: Trump administration may target immigrants who use food aid, other benefits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is considering making it harder for foreigners living in the United States to get permanent residency if they have received certain public benefits such as food assistance, in a move that could sharply restrict legal immigration.