Russian Economy Minister Charged for Solicitation of Bribe

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe


MOSCOW, Russia — Russia’s economy minister, Alexei Ulyukayev, was charged and detained on charges of soliciting a $2 million bribe on Tuesday.  Ulyukayev accepted the bribe money from Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, in exchange for his ministry’s approval of a sale between Rosneft and another government-owned oil company.

Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, who was detained on corruption charges, is escorted to his hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, who was detained on corruption charges, is escorted to his hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Authorities told reporters that Ulyukayev’s phones were tapped, and his electronic communications were being monitored.  Investigators set up an operation in which the bribe was handed to Ulyukayev on Monday.  According to authorities, Ulyukayev threatened to use his position as economy minister to create problems for Rosneft unless it handed him the $2 million.  Svetlana Petrenko, spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, told reporters that “Ulyukayev was caught red-handed as he received the bribe.”

Vyacheslav Voloshin, former head of Putin’s administration and current speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, praised Ulyukayev’s detainment because it “means there are no ‘untouchable people’ in Russia.”

Others view the arrest as a sign of political tension in the Russian government.  Gleb Pavlovsky, former Putin strategist, called the move a “terrible sign of weakness at the top of the executive power” because Putin apparently knew of the investigation for months, yet allowed Ulyukayev to remain in office instead of firing him.

Some find the situation odd for a few reasons.  First, the man Ulyukayev apparently threatened, Sechin, is believed to be one of the most powerful men in Russia and one who has Putin’s ear.  Considering their close relationship, many believe that Sechin could have told Putin about the threat and no investigation would have occurred.  Second, Alexander Shokhin, a man who worked with Ulyukayev on the Russian cabinet, pointed out that it was odd Ulyukayev would have asked for a bribe considering the oil company sold at market price.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, assured that Putin was aware of the investigation throughout the process.  Peskov stated that “[t]hese are very serious accusations, and only a court can pass a verdict.”

Ulyukayev has been under investigation by Russia’s Federal Security Service for over a year.  He is the highest-ranking Russian official to be detained while holding office since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  If guilty, he could face up to 15 years in jail, a maximum financial penalty of 70-100 times the sum of the bribe, and/or he would be stripped of the ability to serve in certain state office positions for 8-15 years.


For more information, please see:

The New York Times — Russia’s Economy Minister is Detained on Bribery Charges — 15 November 2016

Reuters — Russian Economy Minister Ulyukayev  Denies Extorting $2 Million Bribe — 15 November 2016

RT —  Russia’s Economy Minister Detained, Investigated Over Alleged $2 million Bribe Linked to Big Oil Deal — 15 November 2016

The Washington Post — Top Putin Aide Caught with $2 Million in Russian Bribery Sting — 15 November 2016

Syria Watch Weekly Update: Battle Resumes in Eastern Aleppo

November 18, 2016

Dear Readers,Welcome to the weekly Syria Deeply newsletter. We’ve rounded up the most important stories and developments about Syria and the Syrians in order to bring you valuable news and analysis. But first here is an overview of what happened this week:The Syrian government resumed its aerial campaign on Aleppo, targeting the eastern, rebel-held side of the city for the first time in more than two weeks. Up to Thursday, at least 70 people have been killed since the offensive began and hundreds more have been injured.Airstrikes on Aleppo were reported to have hit hospitals, a blood bank and several ambulances. According to Doctors Without Borders – Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), all eight hospitals in eastern Aleppo have been targeted at least once, including the Bayan Children’s Hospital. Only 32 doctors remain to treat the roughly 250,000 people who remain in eastern Aleppo, MSF reported.Russia said it was not participating in the bombing of eastern Aleppo. However, it did fire cruise missiles from Tu-95MS airplanes, targeting the so-called Islamic State and the former al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham elsewhere in Syria, according to Reuters. On Tuesday, Russia also targeted several Syrian provinces, including Homs and the largely opposition-controlled Idlib.The situation has deteriorated quickly in eastern Aleppo as food supplies dwindle. “People are only getting about 15 percent of what they need,” Brita Hagi Hasan, president of the city council for opposition-held Aleppo, told Reuters.Food production all across Syria hit a record low this week, according to the World Food Program (WFP). Wheat output has dropped sharply between 2011 and this year and there are far fewer cattle, sheep, goats and poultry in the country.As the war economy in Syria wreaks havoc on food production and agriculture, the European Union and United States put further sanctions on the country’s financial sector. An additional 18 Syrian officials were hit with E.U sanctions on Monday, including Syria’s central bank chief and finance minister.The following day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed new legislation sanctioning the Syrian government that would target anyone who does business with the transport, telecommunications or energy sectors. The bill was passed in an attempt to quell atrocities in Syria.“Something needs to jolt this crisis out of its bloody status quo,” said Eliot Engel, the leading Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee. “This bill would give the administration more tools to do so. If you’re acting as a lifeline to the Assad regime, you risk getting caught up in the net of our sanctions.”Weekly Highlights:

Pixels of War: One Student’s Path to Photography in Eastern Aleppo

In the second installment of “Pixels of War,” our diary series on Syrian photographers, Yehya Alrejjo recounts how the Syrian uprising and war transformed him from a student of chemistry into a photographer with the opposition in the besieged and contested city of Aleppo.

Buildings destroyed by airstrikes in eastern Aleppo. Yehya Alrejjo

How the White Helmets Have Evolved During the Civil War

Over the past three years the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer operation active in eight of the country’s 14 provinces, has had to adapt technically and emotionally in order to continue doing one of the hardest jobs in the conflict.

Syrian civil defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, search for victims amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a government forces airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Bustan al-Basha in the northern city of Aleppo, on October 4, 2016. AFP/ THAER MOHAMMED

Male Refugees in Lebanon Face Abuse and Neglect Alone

Single men are not often the priority for refugee assistance programs, but they are vulnerable in their own ways. Federica Marsi reports on the difficulties that lone Syrian men in Lebanon face in accessing aid and protecting themselves from exploitation.

I belong to no country, nowhere. I build my home and my world wherever I am. My home country is my relation with the place where I live at the moment and the accumulation of memories there. ©Joe Saade

Additional Reading:

Top image: A Sukhoi-33 aircraft is about to take off from the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft-carrying cruiser to hit armed groups in Syria with bombs and missiles. Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation via AP

Find our new reporting and analysis every weekday at
You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at

Lebanese Special Forces Capture Eleven ISIS Fighters

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Eleven members of the Islamic State group (ISIS), including a local commander, were captured by Lebanese special forces on the morning of Friday, November 25th.

Lebanese special forces capture local ISIS commander (Photo courtesy of Middle East Monitor)

The Lebanese military issued a statement indicating that the eleven terrorists were captured in an operation targeting ISIS headquarters. It took place in an area heavily populated by hundreds of ISIS fighters along the Lebanese-Syrian border. The statement indicated that the operation led to the capture of ISIS’s local commander in the town, Ahmad Youssef Amoun, who fired upon the Lebanese soldiers attempting to arrest him. He was seriously wounded in the operation and subsequently taken to a hospital in Beirut for emergency treatment.

Photographs said to be of Mr. Amoun were posted on local media websites showing a “young man with a thick beard lying on a hospital bed with a blood-stained sheet covering most of his body.” The Lebanese military stated that Mr. Amoun was responsible for several recent explosions that hit the country. He is alleged to have been involved in making car bombs used in attacks throughout the country. The military further stated that he was also behind the attacks on army posts carried out in August 2014 when ISIS briefly occupied the town of Arsal.

A presidential statement released on behalf of the country’s newly appointed president, Mr. Michel Aoun, indicated that he praised the “pre-emptive security operation.” He is quoted as saying “such special operations strengthen stability and limit terrorist schemes.” The statement issued by the military indicated that no army personnel were injured in the operation.

Over the past two years, ISIS has claimed responsibility for multiple explosions in the country which have killed hundreds of people. The terrorists also captured twenty-five Lebanese soldiers and policemen in August 2014, and have been holding nine of them hostage since then.

For more information, please see:

International Business Times—ISIS In Lebanon: Army Arrests 11 Members, Including Local Commander—25 November 2016

Gulf News—Lebanon army detains Daesh commander near Syria border—25 November 2016

Middle East Monitor—Lebanon captures 11 alleged Daesh militants—25 November 2016

ABC News—Lebanon Army Says 11 IS Militants Detained Near Syria Border—25 November 2016

The Day After: Syrian views on international agreements regarding Syria: Cessation of hostilities, Geneva III, and any upcoming elections under UN supervision

Syrian views on international agreements regarding Syria: Cessation of hostilities, Geneva III, and any upcoming elections under UN supervision

November 17, 2016
Contact: Razan Saffour
Phone:    +90 (552) 216 35 82
 تجدون أدناه البيان في اللغة العربية
Turkey – Istanbul: The Day After (TDA) conducted a survey between 1 March 2016 and 19 April 2016, with the aim of identifying Syrians’ views on international agreements regarding a political solution in Syria. Our team of field researchers carried out face-to-face interviews with a sample group of 3183 Syrian citizens inside Syria, consisting of 2113 men and 1070 women.
The nature of war and situation in Syria makes it difficult to gain a representative sample, that said our team of researchers managed to obtain answers from diverse samples which allowed us to contrast and compare over the differing demographic and social make-up of the Syrian landscape.
Aims of survey:
This survey aims to identify and better understand the views of Syrians regarding the international agreements taking place about Syria; the direct and indirect impact of these international agreements; and most importantly airing the views of the main stakeholders, the Syrian people, who are otherwise absent from the negotiations and decision-making table.
Key outcomes:

  1. Plurality of respondents do not have high hopes regarding the international agreements that have taken places regarding the Syrian situation and for the most part are not convinced that the representatives of states on the negotiation table will bring Syria any closer to a democracy. Only 8.5% of the participants expressed conviction in the agreements, whilst the larger contingent of participants said they see the situation remaining unaffected by the agreements, and if anything, will lead the country to the worst yet, or to how Syria was before the revolution, or believed that Syria will become a split country across sectarian and geopolitical lines.
  2. The larger percentage of participants, 40.5%, believe ceasefires serve the regime more than opposition factions, whilst 37.1% believe they changed little in the existing balance of power in the country. A small percentage believe the ceasefires served opposition factions.
  3. There is a general consensus among participants over the nature of the agreements regarding ceasefires between the regime and the opposition. Only 14.7% of participants, most of which lived in regime-held areas, classified the nature of agreements as settlement or reconciliation.
  4. Across all areas, the Syrian regime was viewed as primarily responsible for the catastrophic situation in the country, closely followed by Russia and the United States.
  5. The number of voters who participate in the upcoming elections which will take place a year and half from the Geneva three talks as proposed in UNSC resolution 2254 increase with age.  The youth who participated in the survey of 25 years or under were largely against the elections at 41.3%, in contrast with the 10.2% of those against the elections at the of 56 and above.

آراء وتوجهات سورية في الاتفاقات الدولية حول سوريا: وقف إطلاق النار ومفاوضات جنيف (3) والانتخابات الرئاسية

المقبلة برعاية الأمم المتحدة
تركيا – اسطنبول:
أجرت اليوم التالي” خلال الفترة الممتدة بين 1 آذار/مارس و19 نيسان/ أبريل 2016 مسحاً اجتماعياً، بهدف التعرف على أبرز الآراء والتوجهات حول الاتفاقات الدولية للحل السياسي في سوريا، وقام فريق الباحثين الميدانيين بإجراء مقابلات وجهاً لوجه مع مواطنين سوريين داخل سوريا، شملت (3183) شخص: 2113 رجل و1070 امرأة.
إن ظروف الحرب والنزوح التي تعيشها البلد تجعل من غير الممكن الحصول على عينات تمثيلية، لكن فريق البحث تمكن من الحصول على عينات ذات تركيبة متنوعة، وكافية تسمح بإجراء مقارنات بين مختلف المتغيرات الديمغرافية والاجتماعية، قادرة على التزويد ببيانات مهمة عن أبرز الآراء والتوجهات حول الاتفاقات الدولية تمت دراستها (وقف إطلاق النار، مفاوضات جنيف 3، الانتخابات المنصوص عنها في قرار مجلس الأمن ٢٢٥٤).
بالإضافة إلى ذلك، تم الأخذ بعين الاعتبار ظروف وشروط الحياة المتفاوتة جداً والتي يعيشها السوريون في ظل الحرب الدائرة منذ سنوات، فتم التمييز بين مناطق محاصرة، وأخرى تحت هدنة، وأخرى تحت سيطرة قوى المعارضة أو النظام، وتم التمييز أيضاً بين أولئك الذين اختبروا معاهدات واتفاقات مشابهة سابقة لوقف إطلاق النار (المدنيين أو المقاتلين وعائلاتهم الخارجين من مناطق هدن) وغيرهم من السكان الذين لم يسبق لهم أن عاشوا تجربة مماثلة.
أهداف البحث:
يهدف هذا البحث إلى التعرّف على أبرز الآراء في سوريا بخصوص الاتفاقات والتفاهمات الدولية حول سوريا، الأمر الذي يساعد على فهم بعض تبعاتها وآثارها المباشرة وغير المباشرة، بالإضافة إلى ذلك، ستساهم هذه الدراسة في إيصال صوت السوريين المغيبين عن طاولة صناع القرار، وصانعي السياسات الدولية.
أهم النتائج:
  1. لا يبدو أن المستجيبين يعقدون أمالاً كبيرة على ادعاءات القوى الدولية والأمم المتحدة بأن مفاوضات جنيف ستكون بوابة انتقال سوريا إلى الديمقراطية. فقط 8.5 % قالوا إن سوريا ما بعد جنيف ستدخل في مرحلة انتقال ديمقراطي، بينما اختار حوالي نصف المستجيبين إجابات متشائمة تجاه مستقبل سوريا بعد جنيف، حيث قالوا إن الأمور ستذهب نحو الأسوأ، أو سيعود الحال لما كان عليه قبل الثورة، أو سيبقى الوضع على حاله، أو أن سوريا ستصبح بلداً مقسماً.
  2. النسبة الأكبر من المستجيبين تعتقد أن وقف إطلاق النار سيكون في صالح النظام (40.5 %) أو أنه لن يغير من التوازن العسكري القائم (37.1 %)، نسبة قليلة قالت إنه سيكون في صالح المعارضة.
  3. هناك شبه إجماع بين المستجيبين على وصف الاتفاقات التي جرت وتجري بين النظام والمعارضة بالهدنة أو وقف إطلاق نار، فقط 14.7 % تصفها بتسوية أو مصالحة، ويبدو أن هاتين التسميتين الأخيرتين تنتشران بشكل رئيسي في مناطق سيطرة النظام.
  4. يأتي النظام وحلفاءه الإقليميين في المرتبة الأولى في كافة المناطق كمسؤول عن هذا المآل الكارثي لسوريا ويأتي بعده كل من روسيا والولايات المتحدة الأمريكية.
  5. تزداد نسبة المشاركة في الانتخابات  المزمع عقدها بعد عام ونصف من انطلاق جنيف (3) بحسب قرار مجلس الأمن 2254 مع التقدم في العمر، فالشباب في العينة (أقل من 25 عام) هم الأكثر رفضاً لهذه الانتخابات 41.3% مقابل 10.2 % عند الذين تجاوزا ال 56 عاماً.

The Day After (TDA) is a Syrian civil society organisation working towards democratic transition in Syria, and focuses on work in the following sectors: rule of law, transitional justice, security sector reform, constitutional design, electoral system design, and post-conflict social and economic reconstruction.

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Atrocity Alert: South Sudan, Burma/Myanmar and Iraq

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting and updating situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.

South Sudan

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, visited South Sudan from 7 to 11 November to meet with government officials, and religious and community leaders amidst ongoing reports of targeted ethnic violence throughout the country. Since widespread fighting broke out between the army and rebel soldiers in Juba between 7 and 11 July this year, there has been growing ethnic polarization, with increasing use of hate speech in the media, as well as targeted killings and rapes. Following visits to Juba and Yei, Special Adviser Dieng released a statement emphasizing that, “the signs are all there for the spread of this ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians that could evolve into a genocide, if something is not done to stop it now.” The UN, African Union and Inter-governmental Authority on Development must urgently engage with the government of South Sudan to ensure immediate action is taken to end violence, prevent further fracturing of South Sudanese society, and protect populations from atrocity crimes, regardless of their ethnic or political affiliation. The UN Security Council should impose a long overdue arms embargo to halt the flow of weapons to South Sudan and into the hands of those who target and kill civilians.


The situation in Burma/Myanmar continues to deteriorate following the start of a joint army-police operation in Arakan/Rakhine state on 10 October. Violence between the army and the Rohingya population – a distinct Muslim ethnic minority group – has escalated while humanitarian assistance for more than 150,000 people remains suspended. On 12 and 13 November the army responded to an attack that killed two soldiers by deploying helicopter gunships to several Rohingya villages, resulting in the death of more than 30 people. There are reports of the widespread destruction of Rohingya buildings and mosques in army-led “clearance operations” as well as ethnically-motivated attacks on Rohingya civilians, including allegations of rape and sexual assault of women and young girls. Under existing discriminatory laws in Burma/Myanmar, the Rohingya minority have been systematically disenfranchised and marginalized.


On 14 November Human Rights Watch released a report detailing a pattern of unlawful demolition of buildings, homes, and entire villages within Kirkuk and Nineveh governorates between September 2014 and May 2016 by Kurdistan Regional Government security forces and Peshmerga fighters in areas where they have defeated the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The report follows the 11 November announcement by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of alleged revenge killings and home demolitions in Kirkuk by civilians and members of the Iraqi security forces since the start of the Mosul offensive on 17 October. While the offensive has revealed further atrocities perpetrated by ISIL, forces combatting the group must ensure their own actions consistently comply with international humanitarian and human rights standards. As the military campaign to liberate Mosul from ISIL continues, it is essential that all parties take effective measures to ensure the protection of civilians and uphold their obligations under international law.

Human Rights Watch Photo

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