Ukrainian NGOs Lobbied US Congress for Anti-Russian Sanctions

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Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ

30th June, 2016


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Lifenews has succeeded to discover that behind the lobbying of anti-Russian sanctions and resolutions in the United States stood the non-profit organization “European Center of Modern Ukraine” (ECFMU). This NGO in 2014 transferred $120,000 to US lobbying firm Mercury for the promotion of a number of legislative acts in Congress.

In early 2014, the European Center of Modern Ukraine transferred $70,000 dollars to the account of Mercury. These funds, under the mediation of a specialist organization Max Sandlin, were aimed at lobbying for several resolutions of Congress, including a resolution “condemning the illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine” (S. Res. 378 – adopted by Senate), a resolution supporting the “territorial integrity of Ukraine and condemning Russian military aggression in Ukraine” (S. Res. 370 – was discussed in the Committee on International Relations), and a number of other acts of Congress, in the interests of post-revolutionary Ukraine.

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Thus, the resolution S. Res. 370 (submitted 5th March 2014) calls for expanding the list of persons on the Magnitsky Act to include “all officers of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation responsible for the invasion of Crimea, the leadership of the State Duma responsible for condoning the invasion, and Crimean officials complicit in its execution”.

The document also contains a demand to the President of the United States “to consider additional sanctions, such as the suspension of the right of Russian citizens for temporary or seasonal work visas”. Senate, according to the text, shall urgently “identify an integrated package of economic sanctions and other measures that will force President Vladimir Putin to remove his Armed Forces from Ukrainian territory and return it to full Ukrainian sovereign control.”

Resolution S. Res. 378 (amended March 11th, 2014), among other things, urges the US President “to use all necessary economic elements of national power of the United States in coordination with US allies” to protect the independence, sovereignty, and economic integrity of Ukraine, and also to use economic and diplomatic measures, including sanctions, tailored against persons responsible for the capture of Crimea.” The document also contains a call to European governments to take similar and coordinated actions”.

In addition, the text of both resolutions calls for the suspension of Russia’s membership in the G8, the activities of the Council Russia — NATO military and diplomatic missions to NATO, and a call for FIFA to reconsider its decision to stage the 2018 World Cup in Russia”.

In addition, in 2014, the European Center of Modern Ukraine provided funding to the amount of $50,000 for a similar scheme of services for the same lobbying agency Mercury for the resolution of Congress H. R. 4154 Russia Visa Sanctions Act (submitted to the Subcommittee on migration and border security). This document imposes a ban on visas for Russian officials until the Secretary of State will tell Congress that: (1) Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine has stopped, and (2) the Russian Federation respects the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine in accordance with the Budapest Memorandum of 1994″.

Note that among the lobbyists of the centre was also Vin Weber – the former head of the nonprofit organization NED.

The history and key figures of the European Center of Modern Ukraine does not exist on the official website. The contents of the section “About the Center” suggests that the organization is located in Brussels. Its main goal is the strengthening of Ukrainian-European relations for political partnerships, trade, and international interaction. The Center stands for the European integration of Ukraine and is engaged in the promotion of joint Ukrainian-American projects. The creator of the center is Leonid Kozhara – former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, member of the Party of Regions, and now the head of the “Socialists” party.

As a source of funding for the centre, Kozhara, in an interview with the Ukrainian agency “Podrobnosti” in June 2012, specified both private financial investments, and the state money and means from business structures as a source of financing the Center, noting insufficient financing. However, in the period 2012-2014, the organization spent substantial funding on lobbying the interests of Ukraine and formation of its positive image in Europe and the United States: 2012 – $800,000; 2013 – $790,000; 2014 – $120,000.

It is worth noting the rhetoric on the website of the European Center of Modern Ukraine: prior to the Ukrainian crisis the Center took a neutral position towards Russia, claiming that Ukraine shouldn’t choose between the EU and Russia. But after the annexation of Crimea to Russia, the rhetoric of the Centre changed to the anti-Russian side. Leonid Kozhara at the time did not occupy the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is no information about changes in the status of the head of the Center.

According to Kozhara’s party, “Socialists” call themselves centre-left: it harshly criticized social and economic reforms and is against the neoliberal policies of the Poroshenko administration. In international affairs it supports the strengthening of the UN’s role instead of its incapacity in modern conditions, and condemns the annexation of Crimea to Russia. On the question of international sanctions, the party referred to the competence of the entire world community, not the individual states. “Socialists” consider perspective cooperation with NATO, but not membership, and the prospect of the EU Association as necessary, but in modern reality quite remote. The party opposes violent settlement to conflicts, including internal ones.

Professor of the Department of Comparative Politics Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia Yuri Pochta notes that this is a feature of American legislative systems: with the help of lobbyists, congressmen have more comprehensive information necessary for making laws.

“There are just too many facts that indicate lobbying organizations have influence on political decisions in the United States. In Congress, dozens, if not hundreds of lobbying firms are registered. In the US, this is a kind of business, where this practice is not a crime. It is assumed that this is done legally through the introduction of congressional opinion from the other side, they transmit more fuller information so that they begin to more clearly understand the problem and make the right decisions, ” said the analyst. “The US’ policies are more determined by internal processes. But some course correction may be needed. Congressmen often take serious decisions, not having full coverage of the situation: many are not well versed in geography, don’t know the figures, are not aware of the latest events. Lobbyists can make any decisions concerning foreign countries, on account of the information provided. They may be correct, maybe not. It is a certain way to influence US policy.

Meanwhile, an expert in international relations, political sociologist Gennady Kozyrev believes that it is proof of the process of the “creation of the image of a victim”, as the West got used to representing Ukraine in 2014.

“Such organizations typically say and do what they are told from above. NGOs cannot initiate laws, but can make noise about the need to take certain measures. And then “kind uncle” legislators say, “You see, the world community requires that we should support sensible people”. And, based on this hype, they initiate certain bills or sanctions, as in this case. This so-called system of “constructing the victim,” said the expert. The victim, in this case is Ukraine, is first thought out, then the updating begins, and all around start to talk about it. And then there is its recognition at the official level: the authorities pick it up and say that the laws should be adopted “at the request of the workers”.

It should be noted that this is not the first case of lobbying anti-Russian bills in the US Congress. The media has repeatedly provided evidence of investment on the part of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the Magnitsky Act and a number of resolutions against Russia. Just yesterday journalist Abbas Djuma published the results of his own investigation, which shows the connection between Khodorkovsky and Barack Obama, whose cooperation started even before the last accession to the post of President of the United States and continued after the beginning of his governance.

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