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UN Notes Russia Counter-Sanctions' Impact, Adds Italy, Changes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 10 -- When UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs' “World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015” came out from under embargo on December 10, Inner City Press asked about its page on the impact of sanctions on Russia, and its counter-sanctions.

  But DESA's two panelists did not want to answer about this section, instead turning over the question to another staffer sitting in the audience. What he added to the paragraphs quoted below was the name of another impacted country: Italy.

  That country's new foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni is said by multiple sources to have referred to the impacts on Italy in a briefing he held at Italy's mission to the UN. When Gentiloni's predecessor Federica Mogherini, now EU foreign policy chief, last spoke there, Inner City Press was invited and asked about Syria and the International Criminal Court, here. Now, not. What's changed? We'll have more on this.

  Today's UN DESA report says that “the crisis in Ukraine has led to several rounds of sanctions between the Russian Federation and leading OECD economies. In August of 2014, the Government of the Russian Federation decided to impose counter-sanctions against those countries”

  It specifies that “the slowdown in the Germany economy is the second quarter is partially explained by lower exports of automotive components to the Russian Federation. Moreover, the restriction of supplying deep-water drilling equipment to sanctioned Russian companies affected Germany's producers.”

After describing Russia's one-year ban on imports of food products, UN DESA in its report Wednesday said this “will mostly hurt those countries which are strongly exposed to trade with the Russian Federation, not only through direct losses by the agricultural sector, but also their consequential effects. Total EU food exports to the Russian market amount to approximately $11 billion annually. The forgone food exports would impact the entire logistics sector (including transport), put pressure on the states' budgets to compensate for farmers' losses, put banks exposed to agricultural borrowers at risk by increasing the number of non-performing loans, and constrain credit extended to farmers.”

Naming specific impacted countries, the UN DESA report said “for some Eastern European countries, especially the Baltic States and Poland) and also for Finland and Finland, will lose transit revenue.”

  It did not mention Italy, although the answer from the audience did. We'll have more on this, too.

Here's how today's UN deals with Ukraine: after its President Petro Poroshenko and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke on November 25, Ukraine puts out its own read-out, including that "Ban Ki-moon assured that the entire world supported Ukraine."

  Inner City Press tweeted this quote at 6:44 pm, noting that the UN hadn't put out any read-out of the call at all, while Ban's spokesman left the UN.

 At 8:36 pm, the UN Spokesman's office put out this read-out:

"The Secretary-General spoke by telephone today to H.E. Mr. Petro Proroshenko, President of Ukraine. The Secretary-General thanked the President for his tireless efforts to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict in south-east Ukraine. They discussed the severe challenges surrounding the delivery of funds and essential supplies to parts of eastern Ukraine, and the President’s efforts to find an adequate solution.
"The Secretary-General and the President agreed that the Minsk agreements provided a clear path towards peace and their implementation was essential. The Secretary-General informed the President that in continuation of his good offices he had asked Under-Secretary-General for Political Affaris Jeffrey Feltman to return to Kiev in mid-December for further consultations with the Government and key stakeholders."

   No mention of the "entire world" supporting Ukraine. And the euphemism about "delivery of funds" seems to be a reference to Prime Minister Yatsenyuk cutting off pension payments in Donbas. The UN's Ivan Simonovic spun this issue to select scribes; his office has since said that

"Indeed a briefing on Ukraine was organised on Wednesday with a couple of journalists on the Ukraine report that was published earlier yesterday. Invitations at this briefing were sent on no scientific basis and can certainly be expanded for future occasions. 

"Indeed, following on your suggestion at yesterday's noon briefing as well as on many similar suggestions, including from other journalists, we are looking into the possibility of holding wider briefings on various human rights issues, including in the press conference room. We will keep you posted on those plans."

 But since then, no information or "postings," including to follow up questions Inner City Press on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked. This is how today's UN is dealing with Ukraine - and much else. Watch this site.

  Back in October, Ukraine was scheduled to speak at the UN about its “Committee on Information” on October 21, but as UN speeches usually go longer than allowed, its turn was postponed until October 22.

That didn't stop the “UN Radio” Russian service from reporting on the speech on October 21 as if it had in fact been given that day. As translated, UN Radio on October 21 reported

The representative of Ukraine accused Russia of using the information strategy of the Cold War

One of the main prerequisites of violence in Ukraine became a propaganda information. This was stated by the representative of the Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, speaking at a meeting of the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly.”

  The UN's Fourth Committee did meet on October 21 - but Ukraine didn't speak. Instead it was the first speaker on the afternoon of October 22. Its speech, delivered in perfect French including the word “rigolo,” linked Russia to Joseph Goebbels.

  In reply, the Russian mission's spokesman brought up the recent Human Rights Watch report of the Ukrainian government using cluster bombs in and against Donetsk, and the lack of clarity on who called the snipers shots in Maidan Square.

  Later in the Fourth Committee meeting, Bolivia slammed “powers” who use information technology to intervene and violate privacy, bringing to mind USAID's “Cuban Twitter” and, of course, the NSA.

  Then Jordan said it was first among Arab nations to enact an Access to Information law, in 2007. The Free UN Coalition for Access has been pressing for a Freedom of Information Act at the UN, click here and here for that.

  FUNCA covers the Fourth Committee, including on Decolonization, and the Committee on Information, where at least theoretically the UN's descent into censorship could be raised and resolved. The old UN Correspondents Association, a part of this trend toward privatization of briefings and even censorship -- ordering Press articles off the Internet, getting leaked copies of their complaints to the UN's MALU banned from Google's search, here -- was nowhere to be seen. We'll have more on this.


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