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UK Officials Rub Shoulders with Sanctioned Russian Arms Firms at World Defence Show

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/04/2022 - 9:00pm in

Experts cast doubt on the logic and morality of the Government’s decision to attend a Saudi arms fair alongside firms held responsible for the devastation in Ukraine

In early March, as Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine entered its second week, senior British officials attended a Saudi arms fair during which state-owned Russian firms flogged its weapons – the very weapons that were killing and maiming Ukrainian civilians and soldiers.

This week, Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin attempted to excuse the UK’s attendance at the World Defence Show, claiming that the Government officials’ visit to the arms fair was vital to dissuade buyers from purchasing weapons from Russian firms. 

In response to a parliamentary question by Labour MP Sam Terry, Quin said: “We believe that a senior UK presence at such events is important to impress upon potential purchasers that alternatives may exist to acquiring Russian weapons. In doing so we hope to deter support for the Russian arms industry, economy, and potentially armed forces.”

But arms trade experts have found Quin’s justification “hard to credit”. 

Kirsten Bayes, spokesperson for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), told Byline Times: “The UK minister was trying to say a variant of, ‘if we don't illegally sell them weapons, the Russians will’, as if the morality or legality of the UK’s foreign policy should be set by how low the Russian regime is willing to stoop.”

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a member of the parliamentary committee on arms export controls, was also unconvinced by Quin’s justification for attending the Saudi World Defence Show. He said: "I’d be interested to know how the minister actually deterred others from purchasing Russia goods at the show. Did he have UK officials physically placed at their stall?”

Russell-Moyle suggested that the Government should have instead used its close links to Saudi Arabia to persuade organisers to block Russian firms from exhibiting at the arms fair. 

Agents of War

Four of the six Russian exhibitors at the arms fair were companies, or subsidiaries of companies, that have been sanctioned by the UK Government following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. 

But the UK’s “toughest sanctions regime against Russia” – as promised by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – was not tough enough to deter Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials from attending the same three-day event as the blacklisted firms. 

One of the sanctioned Russian exhibitors was Rostec, the Russian-state owned defence and technology conglomerate. According to official Government documents, Rostec faced sanctions in the UK because the firm is a “major supplier of the Russian military”, and provides financial support that “could contribute to destabilising Ukraine”. 

Fellow exhibitor, Almaz-Antey, is also currently sanctioned by the UK Government because the Russian-state controlled firm “contributes to the destabilisation of Ukraine” by supplying weapons to the Russian army and separatists in eastern Ukraine. 

As the arms fair prepared to open, a 40-mile-long Russian military convoy advanced towards Kyiv. The tanks in that convoy are likely to have been produced by UralVagonZavod – another World Defence Show exhibitor sanctioned by the UK – making the firm a key player in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The state-owned company is one of the largest tank manufacturers in the world and has “contributed towards threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”, according to the UK Government

A Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government has introduced some of the largest and most severe economic sanctions that Russia has ever faced, including sanctioning key defence sector organisations and banning the export of critical technologies. We continue to push the international community to act robustly.

“Events such as the World Defence Show provide important platforms for engaging international partners and senior UK representation is vital to pursue a range of Government objectives.”

Arming Riyadh

The Saudi regime’s military abuses in Yemen has led arms experts to raise concerns over the Government officials’ presence at the World Defence Show, hosted in its capital, Riyadh.

The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, now in its seventh year, has resulted in “human rights abuses and laws-of-war violations”, according to Human Rights Watch

UN figures revealed that 377,000 people had been killed in the civil war by the end of 2021. More than 150,000 of these deaths were the direct result of the armed conflict, while a greater proportion have died due to hunger and disease as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war.

Labelling the UK’s attendance “a disgrace”, CAAT’s Kirsten Bayes said that the UK’s participation in the arms fair was not intended to dissuade buyers from purchasing Russian weapons but to continue the Britain’s lucrative relationship with Saudi – the regime is the UK’s largest market for defence exports.

“It is clearly about keeping the arms sales flowing,” she said. “It is high time the UK stopped flooding the Middle East with weapons.”

£11 billion in export licences for military goods has been approved to Saudi Arabia since 2010 – comfortably the largest total of any country in the world – despite an attempt by the British courts to pause sales because of the regime’s crimes in Yemen. 

The Government is indeed keen to sustain this military relationship – according to a Government briefing document obtained by the Byline Intelligence Team under Freedom of Information – and even seeks to extend the influence of the Kingdom into other areas of the British economy.

Although Jeremy Quin claimed that the UK's presence at the World Defence Show was necessary to punish questionable regimes, in practice, MoD officials’ participation may in fact do the very opposite.

By rubbing shoulders with sanctioned Russian companies responsible for the devastation in Ukraine at an arms fair hosted by a state responsible for war crimes, Boris Johnson is effectively giving a green light to tyrants.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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How Johnson’s Government is Using Oligarchs in its Attempt to Rebuild the ‘Red Wall’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 9:11pm in

Sam Bright and Sascha Lavin explore how the Government is inviting questionable regimes into Britain’s former industrial heartlands

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If the second half of the 20th Century and the first 10 years of the 21st represented the age of affluence in Britain and America, the period since the financial crisis of 2008 has been marked by stagnation and inequality.

In the UK, real wages have flatlined while state spending has been retrenched. Unlike the post-war period, when economic growth heralded an era of mass prosperity – a period of enduring abundance – the rising tide of GDP no longer lifts all boats.

With prosperity now in shorter supply, people pay closer attention to the concentration and imbalances of wealth – both in terms of social class and region. This was exposed through the Brexit referendum, with people in ‘left-behind’ areas of the country protesting against their relative deprivation – in terms of education, infrastructure and industry – compared to the UK’s thriving metropolitan hubs.

The architects of Brexit were scorned for predicting that the ‘dividends’ of the project would not be seen for decades, but there is a reason these gloomy forecasts didn’t repel voters in the 'Red Wall': people thought that short-term pain was necessary, in order to re-orientate an economy that didn’t serve their interests.

Since the era of deindustrialisation, the status quo has delivered the slow breakdown of pride and prosperity in these places. In their view, at least Brexit promised some light at the end of the long tunnel.

And, if Brexit has shown that raw economic growth is only valuable if it’s accompanied by certain terms and conditions, so has the war in Ukraine. The UK is now desperately attempting to decouple itself from the Russian economy, after the years it spent awarding ‘golden visas’ to Russian oligarchs and allowing Vladimir Putin’s men to exploit our courts.

As Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee said in its 2019 report on Russian interference in British politics:

“Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’, and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth. This level of integration – in ‘Londongrad’ in particular – means that any measures now being taken by the Government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation.”

In other words, even after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed Crimea, the UK was both directly and indirectly fuelling Putin’s war effort. Short-term economic self-interest trumped human rights and geopolitical concerns – the consequences of which are now being felt by Ukrainians suffering and fleeing from genocide, and in higher energy prices on the home front.

However, it appears as though the UK Government is set to repeat its mistakes.

While the assets of foreign oligarchs – including and especially those from Russia – have been used to swell our all-consuming capital, these sources of morally dubious finance are now being channelled north.

Indeed, in a briefing paper obtained by the Byline Intelligence Team, relating to an October 2020 meeting between the Saudi Minister of Commerce, Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, and the UK’s Minister for Investment, Lord Gerry Grimstone, officials emphasised the commercial opportunities for Saudi firms looking to invest in the UK.

This was portrayed, by the UK officials, as a means of fulfilling the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

One of the top objectives of the meeting was to “promote the levelling-up agenda and the opportunities in the regions, including for the top Saudi companies their Government wants to see go global as part of their National Companies Promotion Programme”, the briefing paper states.

“There are significant opportunities, including as part of the levelling-up agenda, for star names like Saudi Aramco, SABIC, Saudi Telecoms, ACWA Power and others to come and invest in and grow their global shares/R&D potential in the UK,” it goes on to say – noting that a positive outcome would be to secure a “regional investment visit” from the Saudi administration “in support of the levelling up agenda”.

In mid-March, it was revealed that the Saudi firm Alfanar Group would be investing £1 billion into Teesside to produce sustainable aviation fuel. This followed the announcement in October that Saudi chemical company SABIC would be injecting £850 million into a Teeside chemical plant.

This policy was taken up by the Government’s long-awaited levelling up white paper – setting out the scope of its regional investment project – released in February, which emphasised the merits of foreign direct investment (FDI) into left-behind areas.

“The UK Government’s goal is to maximise the opportunities of its independent trade agenda for UK business,” it said. “Internationally mobile companies are among the most productive, innovative and high investing firms in the UK: UK businesses with inward FDI links were two-thirds more productive than businesses without an FDI link in 2018. However, over half of the UK’s inward investment stock is in London and the south-east.”

The logic behind this was epitomised by former Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry, who told BBC Newsnight: “The key to unlocking levelling up is to bring foreign direct investment into the north of England, so taxpayers in the garden of England or anywhere else in this country do not have to pay for all of it.”

Department for International Trade (DIT) records show that the Government has been holding a series of meetings in recent months with sovereign wealth funds and foreign investment companies, about directing their resources to the UK.

DIT records for the final quarter of 2021, for example, show that ministers met with the Saudi National Bank, the Kuwait Investment Authority and the Qatar Investment Authority to discuss ‘investment opportunities’ in the UK. All of these institutions are majority owned by their respective governments.

In March 2021, the UK’s Office for Investment and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company – owned by the Gulf state – also signed the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership (SIP), with the UAE pledging to invest £10 billion in technology, infrastructure, healthcare, life sciences, and renewable energy in the UK.

Mubadala invested £1.1 billion between March and September 2021, while holding a series of meetings with UK ministers, seven in total, over a six month period from February 2021. 

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Economic Kompromat

FDI is clearly important to the economic growth of a country. It is a dangerous myth – one perpetuated by Donald Trump in the US and some Brexiters in the UK – that a nation is able to be prosperous and entirely self-sufficient.

However, Putin’s war in Ukraine has shown the need to more closely align our economic and geopolitical interests – not allowing our commercial centres to be bought and compromised by the actors of hostile states.

The UK’s recent economic reliance on autocracies has been justified, politically, under the notion that liberal capitalism will calm the worst excesses of these regimes. However, in practice, integration has not led to moderation.

While Foreign Secretary in 2017, Boris Johnson said “we want to encourage Saudi Arabia down the path of reform and modernisation”. Yet this did not stop the Kingdom from murdering Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul less than a year later – at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Just a few days before Johnson visited Riyadh in March this year, the Saudi regime executed more than 80 people, confirming the concerns of Amnesty International late last year, that accused the Saudi Government of launching a “relentless crackdown” on dissidents.

Saudi authorities “have brazenly intensified the persecution of human rights defenders and [have] stepped up executions over the past six months,” Amnesty said.

Qatar and Kuwait don’t have a clean slate, either, in terms of human rights abuses. More than 24,000 workers have suffered from human rights abuses on the projects devoted to the football world cup set to be held in Qatar later this year, while the Guardian reported last year that 6,500 migrant workers had died during the course of construction.

Human Rights Watch said in its 2022 report on Kuwait that authorities continue to restrict free speech and prosecute dissidents – including criminalising speech deemed insulting to the emir, its ruling monarch.

These are archetypal oligarchies, with state power and wealth amassed among a narrow band of influential families. The ruling Al Sabah family of Kuwait is estimated to be worth $360 billion, the House of Saud $1.4 trillion, and the House of Thani in Qatar some $335 billion.

Inviting investment from bodies attached to these families is therefore fundamentally different to encouraging the construction of a new factory by a Japanese car company or a German pharmaceutical giant. Unlike the German and Japanese firms, the sovereign wealth funds of Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have political interests as well as economic ones.

The question is therefore whether we want our infrastructure and our economy to be reliant on countries that do not share our core values – states that are perpetuating abuses in the present day, regardless of the crimes that they may commit in the future.

This is an issue agitating the Conservative Party – but largely focused on the case of China.

There was a Conservative rebellion after the Government decided to allow a role for the Chinese tech company Huawei in the construction of the UK’s 5G network – a backlash that forced a Government U-turn. This is an ongoing concern, continuing this week with the takeover of Newport Wafer Fab – a semi-conductor supplier – by Nexperia, a company with links to the Chinese Communist Party.

“We are, seemingly, handing over critical security infrastructure to overseas companies with well-documented links to the Chinese state,” Conservative chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, has said in response – with his colleague Iain Duncan Smith calling the sale “ridiculous”.

However, perhaps due to financial self-interest – the Conservative Party has raised substantial amounts of cash from foreign oligarchs in recent years – it hasn’t lifted its gaze beyond the corrupting influence of investment linked to the Chinese state.

As a result, the Government is actively incubating new versions of Londongrad – creating silos of foreign states in the former industrial midlands and north. Following the lead of the capital, these areas are becoming safe havens for the wealth of oligarchs and an insurance policy for foreign governments seeking geopolitical leverage against Britain and the West as a whole.

Boris Johnson recently spoke of the “freedom” sought by Brexit voters – in comparison to the convictions of those repelling Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. It seems unlikely that these voters had foreign economic dependence in mind, when they plumped for Johnson’s project.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Official Documents Show Government is Falling into Another Russia Trap – With Saudi Arabia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/04/2022 - 10:10pm in

The Byline Intelligence Team has obtained internal official briefing notes showing how the Government is making overtures to Saudi Arabia on multiple fronts

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Speaking at the Conservative Party Spring Conference last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed to have learned a valuable lesson in geopolitical relations.

Referencing the West’s response to Vladimir Putin’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, in eastern Ukraine, Johnson said:

“I know there are some around the world... who say that we’re better off making accommodations with tyranny. I believe they are profoundly wrong and to try to renormalise relations with Putin after this, as we did in 2014, would be to make exactly the same mistake.”

Yet, when it comes to engaging with Saudi Arabia, Johnson’s administration is doing the very thing he warned against. The Government is making accommodations – and even overtures – to a regime that is responsible for a catalogue of human rights and military abuses.

Documents from a meeting in October 2020 between the Saudi Minister of Commerce, Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, and the UK’s Minister for Investment, Lord Gerry Grimstone, seen exclusively by the Byline Intelligence Team, reveal the Government’s desire to develop a close relationship with Saudi Arabia – a policy that was further pursued during the Prime Minister's recent visit to the Kingdom in March. 

In Riyadh, Johnson adopted the same 'see no evil' approach that the UK Government has previously taken with Russia, in a bid to ramp up energy exports to the West – a response to the Russian President's invasion of Ukraine, and a domestic cost of living crisis.

Responding to a question about the execution of three people by the Saudi state as he arrived in the Kingdom, Johnson said: “In spite of that news you’ve referred to today, things are changing in Saudi Arabia. We want to see them continue to change and that’s why we see value in engaging with Saudi Arabia and why we see value in the partnership."

Johnson mirrored the remarks made a decade earlier, in 2011, by his predecessor David Cameron during an address in Moscow. He said: “We can rebuild the relationship between Britain and Russia, working together to develop a modern and ambitious partnership which will help both our countries achieve a more prosperous and secure future.”

These were also attitudes shared by Johnson. Despite the Salisbury poisoning in 2018 and the annexation of Crimea, Johnson, as Foreign Secretary, still wanted to “regularise contact” with Moscow. In fact, three years after Putin invaded Crimea, Johnson told his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that the UK and Russia had “substantial interests in common”

Now, details of a 2020 meeting between the Department for International Trade (DIT) and Saudi officials obtained under Freedom of Information show that the UK risks falling into the same trap by fostering links with a regime that is notorious for its human rights abuses, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, war crimes in Yemen, and a crackdown on Government critics.

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Newcastle United

How the Saudi regime came to own an 80% stake in Newcastle United via its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), has puzzled football fans and human rights activists alike. 

It has previously been revealed that Government ministers and officials held meetings with the Saudi regime about the protracted Newcastle takeover (completed in October last year) – although the UK has insisted that “officials were clear... that any prospective takeover of Newcastle United Football Club was a matter for the two parties concerned”.

Now, however, the DIT’s notes from the October 2020 meeting reveal that the Government may have played a greater role than previously disclosed.

The first objective on the DIT’s briefing document for the meeting states that “the Newcastle deal is still possible”. It adds: “HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] would encourage a resolution which addresses the underlying (legal) matters to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.”

Despite then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden claiming that it was for the Premier League alone to make assessments regarding the acquisition of Newcastle United by PIF, DIT officials were told to express to Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Commerce that the UK Government would “encourage” the purchase.

It has previously been revealed that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned Boris Johnson via text message that UK-Saudi relations would be damaged if the UK Government did not help the sovereign wealth fund to acquire Newcastle United.

Levelling-Up

The DIT also saw the October meeting as an opportunity to further embed Saudi links in the UK by encouraging Saudi firms to help with the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda. 

Controversial oil giant Saudi Aramco was listed in the briefing note as one of the firms that the Government hoped would invest in the most deprived areas of the UK.

Saudi Aramco is the firm that contributed most to global carbon dioxide levels from 1965 to 2017, according to the Climate Accountability Institute, which somewhat contradicts Johnson’s aspiration to position the UK as a world leader in the fight against climate change.

“There are significant opportunities, including as part of the levelling-up agenda, for star names like Saudi Aramco, SABIC, Saudi Telecoms, ACWA Power and others to come and invest in and grow their global shares/R&D potential in the UK,” the document reads.

Aramco also has a history of workers’ rights controversies: the firm was accused of allowing racism against one of its migrant staff members, after they were dressed as a “human hand sanitiser” at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. The company released a statement expressing “strong dissatisfaction with this abusive behaviour”.

In 2012, employees of the company were also allegedly dismissed after protesting for civil rights.

In mid-March, it was revealed that the Saudi firm Alfanar Group would be investing £1 billion into Teesside to produce sustainable aviation fuel. This has echoes of the UK’s economic policy towards Russia that – until recently – encouraged close cooperation between firms in both countries and even downplayed the influence of sanctions imposed after 2014.

Defence

As Boris Johnson defends Ukraine’s freedom and hopes for peace, meeting documents from 2020 highlight Saudi Arabia's appetite for weaponry and the UK’s desire to comply. 

The DIT briefing states: “As is well-known, Saudi is the UK’s largest market for defence exports.” Hoping to continue this lucrative relationship, UK officials confirmed their desire “to make the UK presence centre stage with a strong ministerial showing” at the World Defence Show, held in March this year. 

£11 billion in export licenses for military goods has been approved to Saudi Arabia since 2010 – comfortably the largest total of any country in the world, with the second-placed US standing at £6.3 billion, ahead of France at £4.6 billion.

In other words, Saudi Arabia represents more than a-fifth of the military export licenses granted by the UK since 2010 – despite the country’s inclusion on the Government’s human rights watchlist.

Indeed, in total, two-thirds of military export licenses granted by the Government since 2010 have been directed towards human rights problem countries.

Many of these arms have been used in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, now in its seventh year. Schools, hospitals and weddings have been targeted, according to the Yemen Data Project, and the conflict has led to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

The UN has estimated that the war in Yemen had killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021. More than 150,000 of these deaths were the direct result of the armed conflict, while a greater proportion have died due to hunger and disease as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war. 

At the time of Johnson’s visit to the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia had killed or injured almost 800% more civilians in Yemen from explosive violence than Russian forces (and Russian-backed separatists) have harmed in Ukraine, over the last decade, according to data from Action on Armed Violence

Arms sales to the Kingdom quickly resumed after a landmark court ruling in 2019 forced the UK Government to pause sales because of the regime’s crimes in Yemen. 

The DIT maintains that the UK operates “one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world”, a spokesperson told Byline Times. Before the arms are traded, an assessment is made on the “clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression”.

Britain’s relationship with Saudi Arabia shows that Boris Johnson hasn’t learnt from the Government’s past mistakes. As was the case in Russia, there is little prospect of Saudi Arabia becoming a more cooperative partner for Western governments, even as we increase economic ties.

This stands in contrast to the approach of the Government, expressed in another document obtained by the Byline Intelligence Team relating to the meeting between Ken Costa – the UK’s special representative for Saudi’s ‘Vision 2030’ initiative – and the Business Secretary, in March 2021.

A briefing document for the meeting says that Costa “has established links with key players in the Government of Saudi Arabia and advocates working behind the scenes to support modernisation and reform”.

The UK’s policy of integration didn’t tame Vladimir Putin – why would it tame Saudi Arabia? 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Wheat Wars: How the Conflict in Ukraine is Afflicting North Africa

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/03/2022 - 9:20pm in

Dimitris Dimitriadis and Iain Overton consider the ways in which violence in Ukraine may provoke social and economic unrest across the globe

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As the conflict in Ukraine continues to run its devastating course, the chaos of war is spilling beyond its casement. The reverberations of the fighting now seem to be travelling down the Black Sea, into the Middle East and Africa.

Ukraine is known as the breadbasket of Europe, but it is not only Europe’s food security – and, in large part, political stability – that is at stake. When it comes to critical food imports, such as wheat and maize, Europe is relatively sheltered from the conflict. Because, while the same cannot be said of energy and fertilisers – the bulk of which originates in Russia – it is countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that are much more vulnerable to the inadvertent food costs of this war. 

Many countries in MENA import vast quantities of wheat from Ukraine and Russia; they also consume more wheat per capita than the global average and, as such, are vulnerable to the knock-on effects of the fighting.

Global wheat prices have soared to record highs over the last month. Russia’s invasion has made wheat coming from the region either extremely costly or entirely inaccessible. Trade routes have been blocked, infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, and exports have ground to a near halt. Suppliers continuing to trade face prohibitive insurance premiums – part of the cost of doing business in wartime – and freight costs.

Compounding these issues are a raft of Western sanctions against Russia that have made trading with the country a much more complicated exercise, despite the fact that food does directly not fall under the restrictions.

If Vladimir Putin’s aim was to undermine global food security, Russia could have hardly picked a better target. Together, Russia and Ukraine account for around 30% of the world’s traded wheat. With the conflict raging on, an estimated 13.5 million tonnes of wheat and 16 million tonnes of maize are currently held in the two nations combined. Millions more tonnes are at risk; the harvest season for Black Sea wheat runs in the summer, and planting typically takes place in April. This year, the black fields of Ukraine may well run fallow. 

Just how bad this proves for food markets will hinge on the duration of the conflict. But even if it ended tomorrow, the risks to global food security are unlikely to dissipate. Farmers have been fleeing the conflict in droves and infrastructure has either been decimated or claimed by the invader. In addition, most of the country’s wheat production comes from eastern Ukraine – exactly where the conflict has been most intense. Patching up this breadbasket is going to take time.

Time, though, is a luxury that countries like Tunisia and Egypt cannot afford. The latter is the world’s largest importer of wheat and around 60% of its cereal imports come from Russia and Ukraine. The former is among the top buyers of Ukrainian wheat, accounting for half of its imports in 2019. 

“Bread is the thing that fills the stomachs of the poor and the working classes,” says Fadhel Kaboub, associate professor of economics at Denison University.

For decades, a vicious cycle of import dependency has not been broken. Kaboub traces it back to the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) which “forced farmers in the Global South to switch to cash crops which are very water and energy intensive, and gave governments dollar and Euro revenues to pay for energy imports”. 

This, he adds, sustained an external debt trap and meant that poorer countries never developed the food sovereignty that would have shielded them from conflicts.

If anything, their import dependency has intensified. Consider Egypt, whose population has been outpacing increases in domestic production. Now its Government is facing a sky-high bill of $763 million that it may need to add to its bread subsidies programme, following the import disruption.

On the one hand, Egyptian officials have said that bread subsidy reforms may come up in the upcoming budget, and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has not gone to any great lengths to hide his contempt for the programme.

On the other hand, the Government seems to be desperately trying to contain the fallout. On top of banning staple food exports, it has capped the price of unsubsidised bread – which has soared in recent weeks – and said that its wheat reserves are enough to last for the next four months. It is also paying local farmers more to stimulate local production and diversify its sources of wheat. 

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Tunisia is in a similar squeeze. Even before the conflict, the country was facing severe flour shortages amid difficulties in securing import contracts and paying for shipments. This has in turn undermined its credibility as a trading partner, with “some suppliers now refusing to ship before payment is made,” according to Kaboub. 

Timing is not on the country’s side, either. Ramadan, which is typically when food consumption is the highest, is just around the corner and expectations of more shortages have led to panic buying.  

The country is cornered in another way, too. It will need to commit to “deep reforms” and public spending cuts if it wants a rescue deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). So far, axing its own bread subsidy has not been openly raised in the negotiations. 

But that may not come as a surprise. “Since the 1980s,” Kaboub says, “the IMF has done away with the ‘shock therapy’ type interventions of removing bread subsidies. What has replaced that is shrinkflation, whereby the size of the loaf is gradually reduced and its price is gradually increased. We’ve had that in Tunisia for decades.” 

Both countries, he adds, will ultimately need to “build resilience” and switch out of “deficient economic models”. In the short term, they might be tempted to cut bread subsidies to take some pressure off their exploding budgets. But doing so would also cause widespread hunger and possibly pave the way for social unrest.

‘Bread, Freedom and Social Justice’

History tells us that food prices and political instability often go hand in hand. And where food inflation is coupled with rising literacy rates and unprecedented access to information, it can mean the difference between unrest and revolution. 

Consider the year of European revolutions: 1848. The ‘hungry ‘40s’ were a time of privation, famine and disease. In 1847, a Prussian Minister said: “The old year ended in scarcity, the new one opens with starvation. Misery, spiritual and physical, traverses Europe in ghastly shapes – the one without God, the other without bread.”

Trade had come to a near halt, grain crops had been decimated, food prices were through the roof. Protestors in Paris would soon give authorities a choice: “Bread or lead”.

The 1840s were also a time of relative enlightenment, with literacy rates rising rapidly around Europe in the first half of the century. And while the revolutions were largely acephalous and uncoordinated, widespread printed news and presses enabled the dissemination of political ideas across different nations which, in turn, fomented dissent.

This dual role of food and revolutionary information was also central to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. Those events, which would unseat a number of tyrants, started with food riots in Tunisia and Algeria, but also coincided with the widespread dissemination of Wikileaks highlighting endemic corruption. Political scandal came at the same time as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued a warning: food prices were reaching record levels.

Arab regimes responded by increasing subsidies – a tactic that autocrats often rely on – but grain prices kept climbing and the release of vast amounts of incriminating and revelatory information on the embattled regimes led people to take to the streets. A popular chant during the uprising in Egypt was: “Bread, freedom and social justice”.

Over a decade later, those chants are more muted but there are familiar grounds for concern. Food prices have recently reached a new all-time high, topping the peaks of February 2011. This pre-dates the Ukraine conflict, so the revised outlook is even bleaker for some of the world’s largest importers of wheat. There has also been a swelling of urban centres in both Egypt and Tunisia – and any increases in the price of bread will stoke existing tensions and discontent.

In Tunisia, thousands of people have already taken to the streets to protest the rule of President Kais Saied, who seized power last year. The country’s economy and democratic transition may be hanging in the balance. The shockwaves of the conflict in Ukraine could not have come at a worse time. 

The longer the conflict in Ukraine draws out, the more pressure these regimes will come under. Whether they or their people crack, remains to be seen.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Russian-Led Attacks More Deadly for Civilians

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/03/2022 - 8:30pm in

Although US forces have killed more civilians in conflicts over the past decade, Russian-led attacks using explosive violence are more lethal per incident to civilians, Sian Norris reports

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Russian-led attacks using explosive weapons over the past decade are more deadly per incident to civilians than those committed by the US, new data from the research charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reveals today. 

Data exclusively shared with Byline Times shows that, between March 2012 and February 2022, there have been at least 1,360 Russian or Russian-backed incidents involving explosive weapons, killing 4,390 civilians and injuring 5,062 more. 

This means that, on average, each Russian-led incident led to 6.95 civilians harmed. The incidents killed or injured 13,887 people in total.

In the same time period, US-led attacks using explosive weapons killed 5,812 civilians and injured 2,171, with 22,608 people killed or injured in total.

Although the number of civilian and military casualties are higher, each US-led incident led to 4.2 civilians being harmed. As a result, Russian-led attacks are 65% more injurious to civilians than US attacks.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, there have been further civilian casualties caused by explosive violence deployed by Russian forces, which are not included in the dataset.

Up until 22 March 2022, AOAV’s data, gathered from reputable English language media sources, has reported 493 civilians killed with a further 346 injured. Of these, 55 are children. 

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Civilian Targets

Vladimir Putin’s approach to warfare has long involved the targeting of civilian infrastructure. The investigative journalist organisation Bellingcat has recorded 64 events targeting civilian spaces in Ukraine between 8 March and 22 March. 

Shopping centres, theatres and apartment blocks have all been shelled in that time period, with the Kremlin claiming these are legitimate military targets. At least four civilians were injured in Kherson, after Russian forces fired snipers at a crowd of protesters. 

In the besieged city of Mariupol, hospitals have also been considered a legitimate military target, with three pregnant women killed in the recent attack on a maternity hospital in the city. A heavily pregnant woman who was photographed while being carried out on a stretcher to safety was one of those who lost their lives, along with her child. The doctors tried to save her baby by performing a caesarean section. When it was clear the child would not survive, the mother reportedly said “kill me now”. She died not long after. 

The tactics deployed against civilians in Ukraine are familiar to people in Syria, where Russian forces have assisted the dictator Bashir al-Assad with a bombing campaign since 2015.

At least nine hospitals in Syria were targeted by explosive violence between 2015 and 2020, killing 37 civilians including medical staff. Schools, residential neighbourhoods, a prison and markets have also been the focus of attacks, with the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure amounting to war crimes, according to Human Rights Watch

Russian-led explosive violence was also instrumental in the siege of Aleppo in 2016, with the treatment of that city offering a disturbing playbook for the current scenes in Mariupol.

Syrian Government forces sealed off Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern half, depriving citizens of basic necessities. At the same time, Russian forces conducted a brutal bombing campaign against the population. In the entire course of Syria’s war, 51,731 named individuals have been killed in Aleppo. These are not all casualties from Russian-led attacks, and they are not all civilians. 

People in Mariupol are now facing the same trauma – under siege and under bombardment. The fear among the Ukrainian people is that Putin will repeat his Syria strategy in their country, besieging and bombarding town after town. 

US Killings

The US shares a poor record on killing civilians, not least in Iraq and Afghanistan which it invaded in 2003 and 2001 respectively, and in the campaign against ISIS. 

AOAV’s data shows that 5,812 civilians have been killed and 2,171 injured in US-led explosive violence attacks since March 2012. 

Most recently, a drone strike by US forces in Kabul led to the killing of 10 civilians. Seven of those killed were children. 

In 2017, the US military admitted that 105 civilians were killed in an airstrike carried out against the Iraqi city of Mosul, while days earlier a US-led airstrike killed 35 civilians in Syria.  

According to the US military’s own numbers, 1,417 civilians have died in airstrikes in the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Since 2018 in Afghanistan, US air operations have killed at least 188 civilians. This may be an underestimate, as analysis from The New York Times found that “many allegations of civilian casualties had been summarily discounted”.

During the Iraq War, the battle between US forces and Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah saw 600 civilian casualties, of which half were women and children. Not all the civilians were killed by US personnel or through explosive violence. 

AOAV’s data is based on English language media reports of explosive violence. There may be more incidents from Russian-backed forces in Syria that have not been included, having instead been reported as attacks from the Assad regime, but as their methodology is consistent across the world it means comparing nation states such as the US and Russia is possible.

Iain Overton, executive director of AOAV, also leads the Byline Intelligence Team

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Russia’s Long War and a Pivotal Moment in History

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/03/2022 - 2:22am in

Canadian diplomat and politician Christopher Alexander argues that Putin is still fighting the wars of the 20th Century, and reversing his invasion of Ukraine could finally put those ghosts to rest

Vladimir Putin is still fighting his forefathers’ war. Of the four dictatorships that started the Second World War – Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the Empire of Japan and Stalin’s USSR – three were defeated.

Germany, Italy and Japan are thriving democracies today. Only Russia – a Nazi co-belligerent in 1939 and only briefly our de facto ally – has fought on. 

Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Communist Soviet Union sealed their infamous pact in August 1939, then invaded Poland together in September 1939, as allies. It was a deep bond. Stalin had seeded Germany’s far-left and far-right for decades, while helping Germany re-arm from 1922 to 1933, making him a kind of authoritarian godfather to Hitler – so much so that leading scholars such as Richard Pipes saw “the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and Italian Fascism as having developed from the Bolshevik model”.

Stalin wanted to be the last dictator standing after the war. In January 1943, with the battle of Stalingrad not yet won, Stalin was a no-show at the Casablanca Conference, where Roosevelt, Churchill and de Gaulle agreed on the policy of ‘unconditional surrender’. Roosevelt still worried the Soviet leader might yet conclude a separate peace with the Nazis.

Russia’s biggest post-Soviet windfall has been new channels for its disinformation. Kremlin propagandists have lit up Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with rolling tidal waves of viral lies. RT (Russia Today) and Fox News took the Pandora’s box of Russian propaganda into every American home.

By 1945, Stalin was stronger than ever, with a license from the Tehran Conference later in 1943 (as well as Yalta) to strangle democracy in Central Europe – as Lenin had done in 1917-24.

Stalin never deviated from his subversive agenda. Igor Gouzenko, the Soviet defector whose revelations announced the Cold War, confirmed in excruciating detail to Canada’s 1946 Taschereau-Kellock Royal Commission that the USSR had never stopped spying on its ‘allies’. With Mao, Stalin launched the Korean War in 1950. His successor Khrushchev set up the Warsaw Pact and triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan bore the brunt of the ‘containment’ policy announced by American diplomat George Kennan’s long telegram, written just as Gouzenko’s disclosures were hitting home. But Soviet subversion, terrorism and war claimed millions of victims in dozens of states across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, many assumed their long war was over. They did not reckon with Vladimir Putin’s lifelong grudge – directly analogous to Hitler’s resentment of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles – that it was hiding in plain sight.

As a venal and forgettable mid-ranking functionary in St. Petersburg, Putin was complaining in 1994 about the loss of “huge territories” which – in his openly chauvinist view – “historically have always belonged to Russia”. As President of Russia, he was more explicit, telling the Duma in 2005 that the USSR’s collapse had been “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

At the Munich Security Conference in 2007, he called NATO expansion “a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust”.

In 2008, he invaded Georgia. In 2011, he backed Assad’s genocide in Syria.

The Next Onslaught

Putin’s special obsession was Ukraine, which he sought to subjugate first by corruption, then by force, while continuing to occupy parts of Georgia and Moldova. His wars in Syria and Libya aimed to deepen Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, while destabilising dozens of democracies with massive flows of irregular migrants.

After a 2019 speech on Africa, Putin’s mercenaries played a role in five coups across the continent, while regaining their position as the top arms exporter to Africa and fomenting conflicts to drive a new flood of refugees northwards.

Putin uses Stalin’s toolbox. The Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of Russia’s General Staff, Gouzenko’s spy outfit, got him elected – and poisoned the Skripals at Salisbury.

21st Century Russian malign influence has been greater than during the Cold War precisely because of the intimacy of Moscow’s post-1991 access. Russian oligarchs courted Western politicians. Kremlin surrogates backed fringe parties. Putin’s money flooded ‘grey zones’ of business, finance, the media and organised crime.

But the game-plan is ultimately unchanged since Stalin: to weaken or break the Euro-Atlantic unity. A book published in 1997 – three years before Putin became president – reads like a checklist for a quarter-century of Kremlin mischief.

Russia has cheered on the world’s leading state sponsors of terror, including Iran’s IRGC and Pakistan’s ISI. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow, on the very day Putin launched his larger war in Ukraine, highlighted Pakistan’s role in forcing a humiliating US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer.

Russia courted terrorists after 1991. Credible evidence from the murdered Alexander Litvinenko (among others) shows Moscow used Ayman al-Zawahiri, who spent the first half of 1997 in Russian custody, to turn Al Qaida’s main effort towards US targets.

But Russia’s biggest post-Soviet windfall has been new channels for its disinformation. Kremlin propagandists have lit up Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with rolling tidal waves of viral lies. RT (Russia Today) and Fox News took the Pandora’s box of Russian propaganda into every American home. Corporate alliances, alongside digital channels like Breitbart, Info Wars or Rebel News, have torqued democratic debate in made-in-Moscow directions.

Putin’s crew have played hardball with US politics. Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn went from giving a lecture on ‘intelligence and leadership’ at GRU headquarters in Moscow hosted by the Russian general who later quarterbacked Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, to being Putin’s guest at a RT dinner, a proponent of a military coup in the US, and an advocate of the QAnon cult. Paul Manafort went straight from advising Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, ousted in 2014, to being Trump’s campaign manager.

In Canada, Russia-directed assets helped to defeat Stephen Harper, who led the charge in ejecting Putin from the G8, sanctioning Russia for its first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and scaling up training for Ukraine’s army in 2015.

The same assets have since backed anti-immigrant, Western separatist and anti-vaxx movements, further splintering Canada’s political spectrum. In late 2021, a large Bitcoin payment originating in Bulgaria was relayed through several US intermediaries to those behind Canada’s ‘trucker’s blockade’ – just as Putin’s war machine was kicking into higher gear.

The Final Rout

The Russian dictator’s father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, was a submariner, saboteur and soldier under Stalin, whose ideology fuelled decades of Cold War violence, as well as Putin’s recent wars in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, Ukraine, Libya and elsewhere in Africa.

Ukraine now bears the brunt of this onslaught, which has cost our world so much.

By inflicting massive losses on Russian invaders, Ukraine has created an opportunity to defeat Russian aggression that we should now seize – by implementing a full energy embargo on Russia, including by use of secondary sanctions, and by providing the air assets, air defences, a no-fly zone and other weapons systems Ukraine needs to save lives and win the war. 

Since the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, we have never had a clearer path to stopping the war Lenin and Stalin started – and Putin has continued – to the enormous detriment of international peace and security, as well as democracy and freedom worldwide.

It’s not enough to see Putin ‘fail’: only defeat in Ukraine will end Russia’s war, at long last.

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Ukraine Latest: More Shortages; Misunderstanding Russian Strategy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/03/2022 - 9:53pm in

Some brief Ukraine sightings.

Human Rights Problem Countries Receive Two-Thirds of UK Military Export Licenses Since 2010

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 9:49pm in

Sam Bright digs into the data to reveal the billions of pounds of lethal equipment sold by the UK to questionable regimes

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Some £33 billion in export licenses for military goods have been approved to countries on the Government’s human rights watchlist since 2010, Byline Times can reveal.

This constitutes two-thirds of the £50 billion in military export licenses granted to countries around the world during this period.

Notably, a staggering £11 billion in export licenses for military goods has been approved to Saudi Arabia since 2010 – comfortably the largest total of any country in the world, with the second-placed USA standing at £6.3 billion, ahead of France at £4.6 billion.

In other words, Saudi Arabia represents more than a-fifth of the military export licenses granted by the UK since 2010, in terms of overall value, and a-third of the military export licenses granted to countries on the UK’s human rights watchlist.

All the cited data is provided by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). The figures demonstrate the value of goods that licence holders – typically private companies – are allowed to export; the UK Government does not publish the value of actual exports.

There are 31 countries included on the Government’s list of ‘human rights priority’ states – “where we are particularly concerned about human rights issues, and where we consider that the UK can make a real difference”.

In relation to Saudi Arabia, the Government’s report says that, “Reports of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment in detention and lack of access to adequate legal representation [remain]. Freedom of expression and media freedom were very restricted.”

The Government also cites state executions carried out by Saudi Arabia – a country governed by an absolute monarchy. This practice has been in the news in recent days, presenting a backdrop for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to the country, in an effort to increase energy exports to the West. The country carried out its biggest mass execution in decades last weekend, executing 81 men for “terrorism” and other offences including holding “deviant beliefs”. A further three people were executed on Wednesday – the day of Johnson’s visit.

Amid Russia’s war with Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said last week that the UK and the Western world must reduce its “strategic economic reliance on authoritarian regimes”. When asked why Saudi Arabia is an ally whereas Russia is a foe, she said that: “the reality is we are facing an aggressor in Vladimir Putin, who is wantonly destroying a neighbouring sovereign nation and we do need to work with countries across the world to find alternative sources of oil and gas”.

War and Profit

The CAAT data shows that, of the licenses granted for military exports to Saudi Arabia, £6.2 billion was for ‘aircraft, helicopters, drones’ and £4.3 billion was for ‘grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures’.

£7.1 billion of the £11 billion total has been approved since 2015, when the Saudi-backed coalition began its war in neighbouring Yemen – a conflict which continues to this day. The UN has estimated that the war in Yemen had killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021. More than 150,000 of these deaths were the direct result of the armed conflict, while a greater proportion have died due to hunger and disease as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war. 

Other estimates suggest that the brutal conflict has pushed 5 million people to the brink of famine and 16 million towards starvation.

As reported by the Byline Intelligence Team, new data from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) shows that almost 11,000 civilian casualties have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s use of explosive weapons in Yemen since 2015, with 9,881 civilian deaths and injuries caused by airstrikes. This compares to the more than 1,200 civilians reported to have been harmed by Russian-backed operations in Ukraine over the same period.

In June 2019, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Government’s decision-making process for granting export licences to Saudi Arabia was “irrational” and therefore “unlawful”. However, the UK announced a year later that it was resuming sales to the country.

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The CAAT data shows that, second to Saudi Arabia, the country on the UK’s human rights watchlist that has been approved the next highest value of military exports since 2010 has been Israel, at £473 million. As noted by the Government, Israel has been in military conflict with Palestinian groups for a number of years – with Israel carrying out “a campaign of airstrikes, naval and land bombardment in Gaza”. Between 10 and 21 May 2021, 4,360 rockets were launched into Israel, resulting in the death of 12 civilians, injuring 330 others. Israel’s military response killed 256 civilian Palestinians, including 66 children.

As Byline Times has previously reported, the UK has approved the export of £56 million worth of military goods to Russia since 2010 – £54.9 million in the immediate run-up to its annexation of Crimea in 2014 – considerably more than the value of licenses approved to Ukraine.

“The UK takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world,” a Department for International Trade spokesperson told Byline Times.

“We rigorously assess each export licence application on a case-by-case basis against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, and will not license the export of equipment where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria, including where there is a risk that the items will be diverted to an undesirable end-user or for an undesirable end-use”.

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Conflict and Complicity: 11,000 Civilian Casualties Caused by Saudi Coalition’s Use of Explosive Weapons in Yemen Since 2015

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/03/2022 - 2:00am in

CONFLICT AND COMPLICITY11,000 Civilian Casualties Caused by Saudi Coalition’s Use of Explosive Weapons in Yemen Since 2015

New data shows the extent of the death toll that can be placed at Saudi Arabia’s door – as Boris Johnson seeks closer energy ties with the Gulf state

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Almost 11,000 civilian casualties have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s use of explosive weapons in Yemen since its military interventions began in 2015, data from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reveals.

AOAV has recorded 15,905 civilian deaths and injuries from the use of explosive weapons in Yemen since 2015, accounting for 70% of the total recorded casualties in the country from explosive weapons (22,843). Of the civilian casualties, 68% (10,854) have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s and Saudi Arabia’s use of explosive weapons.

Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition have been the primary weapon of harm to civilians, accounting for 9,881 civilian deaths and injuries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is visiting Saudi Arabia today in an effort to ramp up energy exports to the West – following the decision to divest from Russian oil and gas due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

AOAV data reveals that Saudi Arabia has killed or injured almost 800% more civilians in Yemen over the past decade from explosive violence than Russian forces (and Russian-backed separatists) have harmed in Ukraine.

Taking data from English-language media sources, AOAV has evidence that, over the past decade, the Saudi led air-campaign over Yemen has killed or injured almost 11,000 civilians – compared to the more than 1,200 civilians reported to have been harmed by Russian-backed operations in Ukraine.

This is not to diminish the casualties suffered in Ukraine, which are likely to markedly increase in the coming weeks. Rather, the comparison shows the double-standards of Johnson’s Government, in pursuing closer energy ties with Saudi Arabia.

Both figures are likely to be conservative estimates owing to the limitations of reliable reporting in conflict zones. Russia has also been responsible for countless deaths in Syria.


Boris Johnson’s Saudi Arabia TripTRADING OneMurderous RegimeFor Another
Adam Bienkov

The UN has estimated that the war in Yemen had killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021. More than 150,000 of these deaths were the direct result of the armed conflict, while a greater proportion have died due to hunger and disease as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war. 

This morning, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News that although she does not agree with all the policies of the Saudi Government – questioned in particular about its public execution of 81 people in recent days – “the reality is we are facing an aggressor in Vladimir Putin, who is wantonly destroying a neighbouring sovereign nation and we do need to work with countries across the world to find alternative sources of oil and gas”.

But is Saudi Arabia not also – as Truss described Russia – a country that is “wantonly destroying a neighbouring sovereign nation”? 

‘Dictator to Dictator’

Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen are only outranked in harm caused to civilians from explosive violence since 2011 by Syrian regime forces (25,074 civilian casualties), and ‘unknown’ state users of explosive weapons (17,317).

Though the leading perpetrator of civilian casualties from explosive weapons use so far in 2022, Russia ranks sixth as a perpetrator since 2011 (4,685) – though Russia may well be part of the ‘unknown’ belligerents in Syria.

Russia’s status as the leading state perpetrator of civilian casualties from explosive weapons this year is down to Putin’s indiscriminate bombing of populated areas in Ukraine.

According to AOAV data, the Russian state has caused at least 582 civilian casualties from explosive weapons use in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia is the second-worst perpetrator, causing 390 civilian casualties to date this year.

However, as Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen enters its seventh year, the average number of civilian casualties per incident of explosive weapons use is nearly double that of Russia’s average in Ukraine.

In Ukraine, there is an average of seven civilian casualties per explosive weapon strike by Russian armed forces. In Yemen, the average number of civilian casualties killed and injured per strike by the Saudi-led coalition is 15.


UK Trade With ProblematicHuman Rights CountriesIncreased by 36%After Brexit
Sam Bright

The UK has approved arms export licenses worth £8.2 billion to the Saudi-led coalition since 2015. In June 2019, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Government’s decision-making process for granting export licences to Saudi Arabia was “irrational” and therefore “unlawful”. However, the UK announced a year later that it was resuming sales to the country.

Byline Times has previously revealed that £56 million worth of export licenses for military goods have been approved to Russia since 2010 (not including the current crisis) – £18 million more than the value of military export licenses approved to Ukraine.

The Government’s attempt to expand ties with Saudi Arabia also fits an economic pattern, with trade increasing markedly since the 2016 EU Referendum with countries listed on the UK’s human rights watchlist.

“Going cap in hand from dictator to dictator is not an energy strategy,” Labour Leader Keir Starmer has said of Johnson’s Saudi Arabia trip. “Saying we are not going to rely on Russia and then going to Saudi Arabia is not an energy strategy.”

Additional reporting by Emily Griffith

Iain Overton, executive director of AOAV, also leads the Byline Intelligence Team

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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The World Is Facing A Critical Diesel Shortage

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/03/2022 - 12:55am in

An oil price drop gives an illusory sense of relief from an ongoing and set to worsen diesel squeeze.

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