The Magnitsky Act – Behind The Scenes.

By Jerry Alatalo

he highly controversial death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison in 2009 is the focus of the film “The Magnitsky Act – Behind The Scenes”, released to the public in 2016 by director Andrei Nekrasov – literally censored in every nation (but Norway), region and locale in the Western world. People might ask themselves why a film which puts forward a different narrative than that used by U.S. politicians to pass the Magnitsky Act in late 2012 has suffered from near unanimous censorship, especially when made by Mr. Nekrasov, an artist/activist whose previous efforts in Russia were in opposition to government policies.

Perhaps Arizona Senator John McCain, one of the leaders in drafting and passing the Magnitsky Act, with Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin and others, would welcome a Senate screening of director Nekrasov’s film, as the Arizona senator and his colleagues surely believe in free speech. What could incentivise any U.S. government elected representative to oppose bringing director Nekrasov’s film to the awareness of the American people, surely a “win-win” proposition – for, on one hand, it exposes a very serious coverup, or, however, it exposes the uncomfortable, equally serious, necessary truth.

Mr. McCain has on many occasions since 2009 referenced Sergei Magnitisky on the floor of the United States Senate, recently on the seventh anniversary of Magnitsky’s death (captured in the screenshot above). Most men and women feel appreciative when provided information which corrects previously strongly held, but erroneous, perceptions. The sole avenue for determining if the information presented in the West-censored film “The Magnitsky Act – Behind The Scenes” is the truth, leading to potentially tremendous-in-scope, beneficially corrected perceptions – is by allowing people everywhere to simply view it.

***

For some context, here is what Russia’s Vladimir Putin said in late 2012, after the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, in response to a reporter’s (lengthy) question during an annual news conference of 4-hours and 30-minutes. His exchange with a Russian reporter representing the Los Angeles Times came at slightly past the 4-hour mark.

—-

Vladimir Putin: “Here is our colleague, his sign says Los Angeles – he was so angry that he did not get a chance to speak. Let’s not provoke him anymore. Please, go ahead.”

—-

Reporter: “Dear Mr. President, I am Sergei Loiko, Los Angeles Times. … But coming back to today’s main topic, we could say that in 2009 Sergei Magnitsky found himself in 1937. … 1,500 orphans, whom State Duma deputies’ initiated draft bill prohibiting U.S. citizens from adopting Russia(n) children, of which (2012) 49 are seriously ill with American families ready to take them in.”

“You will agree with me that in any case these children will be better off in America than in an orphanage. My question is as follows. I’m going back to Sergei Magnitsky, because you talked about him yourself. Russia has had three years to resolve the case but this did not happen. And in that event (case resolved) there would have been no Magnitsky List, you would not have quarreled with the U.S., the children would have gone to America, and everyone would be satisfied and happy. But there has been no satisfactory answer. Why not?”

“You demonstrate a remarkable awareness of other high-profile criminal cases, which I will not name. I would like to hear your answer to the question about the $230 million that allegedly customs inspectors and the police – militiamen, as they used to be called – stole from the budget. These funds could have been used to rebuild beautiful children’s homes, and Mr. Medvedev would not have had to assert in vain that we should do something”.

“If we had already done something, we would have been able to keep our orphanages in normal conditions. What happened to Sergei Magnitsky? Why did he find himself in 1937? Well, this is not the case for everyone. But why does 1937 keep merging with our lives?”

—-

Vladimir Putin: “Regarding Magnitsky… (Applause) Why are you applauding?”

Reply: We like the question.

“You liked the question, fine. When Mr. Magnitsky’s tragedy occurred, I myself was Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. I learned about this tragedy from the media. And to be quite honest, even today I do not know the details surrounding this person’s tragic death in custody. But of course I feel that I have to find out more”.

“But that is not the issue. I want you to listen, too. I understand that you work for the Los Angeles Times, and not for Pravda or Izvestia, and that you have to take a certain position. I want our position to be clear. Mr. Magnitsky personally is not the issue at stake. The issue is that U.S. lawmakers, having got rid of one anti-Russian, anti-Soviet act – the Jackson-Vanik Amendment (and they were forced to do so for economic reasons) – decided they would pass another anti-Russian act immediately. So we understood it as U.S. lawmakers making clear to us ‘who’s the boss here’, and keeping a certain level of tension”.

“If Magnitsky did not exist, they’d have found another pretext. That’s what upsets us. This is the first thing. Second. I don’t know the details, but I am nevertheless aware of the fact that Mr. Magnitsky did not die of torture. Nobody tortured him, he died of a heart attack”.

“The inquiry into his case is set to establish whether he received or didn’t receive medical assistance in due time. If a person is denied assistance, especially in a public institution, of course we must figure out what happened. This is the second thing. Third. Do you think that no one ever dies in American jails, or what? Of course they do. And so what? Must we make a story of each and every case?”

“Do you know how many people U.S. law enforcement agencies seize around the world in violation of national jurisdictions, drag them off to their prisons, and try them there? Is this normal? I don’t think so. I’ve already questioned once: Why does one country feel entitled to extend its jurisdiction to the entire world? This undermines the fundamental principles of international law”.

“In addition, as you know, Mr. Magnitsky was not some human rights activist, he was not fighting for the rights of all. He was a lawyer for Mr. Browder, who our law enforcement agencies suspect of committing economic crimes in Russia, and he was defending Mr. Browder’s interests. Everything connected with this case is extremely politicized, and this is not our fault”.

“Now about the children. I have said many times and I want to repeat again that we are grateful to the American citizens, who have adopted or want to adopt our children, Russian children, Russian citizens from the heart. And they do this very well, they do so in accordance with the highest principles of humanism”.

“You said that these children will be better off in the U.S.. But judging by what we know of certain tragic events, such as the case where a child was left in a car and died of heat stroke – is that better or worse? We know of other cases where children were beaten to death. Is that better or worse? But the issue at stake is not these particular cases; after all, children also die in Russia”.

“The issue at hand concerns official liability for these tragedies. People are exempt from criminal liability, and sometimes the judicial system does not even want to consider these cases. That’s what bothers Russian legislators, and this is what they are reacting to in the well-known draft bill that triggered such a reaction. I repeat: I must look at the details of the law, but in general I understand the mood of the State Duma deputies”.

***

Moving from late 2012 ahead to 2016 and the release of “The Magnitsky Act – Behind The Scenes”, the film’s director made statements perhaps impossible to ignore in an interview with Russian media group “Komsomolskaya Pravda”:

—-

Author: Roman Golovanov

Translated by: Sergei Malygin

Who Stole a Quarter of a Billion?

Question: Andrei, why did you choose this story for investigation?

Andrei Nekrasov: In the West Magnitsky is known as a whistleblower who paid for it with his life. There is no other version. My movie is a bomb for the West, they did not know the facts. I did not plan to investigate anything. I thought Magnitsky revealed everything and Browder told us about it – I was confined in a simplistic narrative of this complex story. The staging shooting took place in Kiev in the fall of 2014. Even then I started to realize that everything is much more complicated. Browder words were not substantiated. For example, it was not Magnitsky who went to the police with revelations, it was the other way around: the law enforcement called him for questioning in the already existing criminal case.

Question: …You started filming firmly believing in good Browder and bad Russia who killed Magnitsky?

Andrei Nekrasov: Yes, even in the movie Browder’s account remains – searches in his companies, confiscation of documents. Browder’s companies are stolen and it is Magnitsky who goes to the police where he is beaten with batons. That is how our story begins.

Question: What did you come to at the end?

Andrei Nekrasov: This picture has almost nothing to do with Magnitsky’s death. The gist is in three Russian companies Browder owned through offshore companies. These firms paid taxes from sales of Gazprom shares. Then these companies declared that they had losses and the state returned their tax payments – a quarter of a billion dollars – huge money! That is what the crime was. The question was: who controlled the companies when the payments were returned? Browder says that at the time when money was transferred, the companies were already overtaken. But there are suspicions that he is lying, he returned his money through stooges.

Question: Do you have a proof?

Andrei Nekrasov: In the movie I am not accusing him in stealing the money, I do not have direct evidence. But Magnitsky, as an expert, possibly filled out needed documents. I came to the main question – were Browder companies stolen or not? I proved that Browder’s story about Magnitsky is a lie, possibly invented to divert attention from real machinations with huge money. “Rubber baton” turns into “beating”

Question: Who was Magnitsky?

Andrei Nekrasov: He was an accountant and auditor. He could be called a martyr only in comparison with Norwegian prisoners who have comfortable cells. One must not make up a whole fairy tale out of it! Human rights activist Borschev, for example, deliberately wrote in his reports that Magnitsky was kept in “torturous conditions”. When this text was translated into English, this term turned into “torture”. On that basis the US Congress passed “Magnitsky Act”. But that is not true! In another report a “rubber baton” was mentioned which in the process of translation turned into “beating lasting for 1 hour and 18 minutes”. That is a deliberate word play for achieving political purposes.

Question: Then from what Magnitsky died?

Andrei Nekrasov: He died from a heart attack. By the end of his life he had hepatitis, pancreatitis, diabetes, obesity – the whole bunch of diseases. I have sincere sympathy for Sergei and his family, but it is not me who is using his tragedy, it is Mr. Browder. Nobody tormented or tortured Magnitsky. There was a criminal negligence on doctor’s behalf. Even the doctor from the emergency psychiatric help Kornilov, who Browder often cites and who arrived on Magnitsky’s call three hours before his death never mentions signs of beating. In the conclusion made by the Public Oversight Commission, nothing says that Magnitsky was beaten or killed. Some believe that the auditor’s death was beneficial to Browder. There is no proof for that, but it is clear that Russia did not need the murder of accountant.

Question: Are the facts supported by documents?

Andrei Nekrasov: I used public sources. At first, trusting Browder, I used his two sites. All documents are there. I am sure they simply forgot to remove some of the materials. Comparing investigator reports, texts of interrogations, I came to the conclusion that Magnitsky was not killed. Also there was a forensic examination. Browder says that these are unreliable sources, but he quotes them where it is beneficial for him. Frau turns into Fury.

Question: Did Browder lobby Magnitsky Act in the US?

Andrei Nekrasov: Of course he lobbied it, that is the whole point.

Question: Did the movie change you?

Andrei Nekrasov: I was seriously worried about all this. I have developed my attitude towards the Russian government. I sincerely love the country, previously I contributed to its democratization – I was involved in opposition politics, knew Nemtsov, talked with Yashin and Kasyanov. Magnitsky was my hero, next after Litvinenko. I could make a movie in line with this, as intended. But what broke here is not the story itself, it was my understanding of my role in Russian society – it changed. I made serious conclusions and I cannot be silent about it.

Question: Why are there so many scandals around the movie in the West?

Andrei Nekrasov: This especially affected my position. Browder has lawyers in every country. They threaten organizers of screenings and companies who financed my film. But these organizers are all western state-owned, they are not financed privately! One cannot condemn the movie as Russian propaganda! They banned showings in Belgium, threatened German channel, in Norway we could only show the movie on second attempt. In the US there was a closed screening of the movie, but Browder tried to cancel it as well. He has unlimited financial resources, I don’t have money to sue him. I have always criticized Russia for censorship and I remain a critic of the authorities now. But earlier my movies have been banned in Russia, now they are not shown in the West. This is a joke with the truth in it! The most terrifying thing is that Browder can call you a liar and a bastard who is dancing on the remains, he can destroy your reputation, insult your mother. You cannot do anything about it.

Question: Did Browder sue for libel?

Andrei Nekrasov: No, because he would have to discuss details of the story then, give official responses, I think he is afraid of it.

Question: Can your investigation lead to abolishment of the Magnitsky Act?

Andrei Nekrasov: I want politicians who passed the Act to know the truth and to feel ashamed before their voters. Democracy cannot be abused like that! One Bundestag member was a polite, democratic frau, but after I told her about a few inconsistencies in Magnitsky’s case she turned into a fury and called me an FSB agent. To friends their political circle is more important.

Question: You supported Russian opposition and you are not a stranger to them now, but you made such film. Why?

Andrei Nekrasov: It is a problem for me. Friends accused me of some kind of betrayal. When I tell Ilya Yashin that Magnitsky did not investigate anything, he turns facts on their heads in bad faith. Opposition members tell me that the movie was released specifically to abolish anti-Russian sanctions. But I started filming from a different position when there were no sanctions! I thought my friends from the opposition will not exchange the truth. The opposition is good, but when their political circle is more important to them than the truth, that is sad. I have always been a rebel, but they don’t discuss the content of the movie, they just tell me: why did you do that? They are searching for financial motivation. I have a question for the opposition: how could you have such low thoughts? I am very disappointed.

Question: Before you have been filming movies accusing Russia..

Andrew Nekrasov: Yes, they caused a furore in the West – movies about explosions of apartments in Moscow, Litvinenko’s case, the war in Georgia in 2008, wounded and killed children in Chechnya.

Question: Did they have evidence base?

Andrew Nekrasov: I understood them as opposition documentary maker. I am not denouncing these movies, but in Magnitsky’s film I became a detective. I did not do such detailed scrupulous investigation in my earlier movies.

Question: Where do you live? In Russia or in Europe?

Andrew Nekrasov: I live between Germany and Scandinavia. I am completely independent of Moscow professionally and politically. The ideological war goes on.

Question: What topics are you planning to take in the future?

Andrew Nekrasov: Norwegian producers want me to film a sequel about Magnitsky. The West has great prejudices about Russia. When a Western journalist investigates corruption in his country, he must present irrefutable evidence. When it comes to Russia he can refer to an unfounded claim in a blog: courts are corrupt, police are criminals. Proof? Not necessary. Even Magnitsky’s case was built on prejudices. I know how the West thinks, I want to make a movie to dispel these prejudices.

Question: What is going on between the West and Russia right now?

Andrew Nekrasov: An ideological Cold War is taking place. It is happening not only between Russia and the West, but also within the Russian society. I suspect Browder has more allies in Russia than it seems. How could a not elected, private citizen Browder have such a huge political influence? Why? It should concern not only Russia, but I think the West as well.

***

Unfortunately it is disappointingly difficult to find any lengthy interviews about the film “The Magnitsky Act – Behind The Scenes”, either with the director or anyone else interested in what his censorship-victimized work conveys, reveals, and/or otherwise exposes. If what the director Mr. Nekrasov asserts is accurate, a global push for wide distribution and removing censorship of the film – involving people from all regions – has the potential for effecting timely improvement in U.S.-Russia relations.

If Mr. Nekrasov is speaking honestly, and while considering the amazing level of censorship of his important film in the West, one must seriously acknowledge the possibility information contained in the work is on the level of world-changing. In other words – extremely important. One place to demand the truth is at the doors of those in the U.S. Congress responsible for writing, advocating and passing the Magnitsky Act – in particular, the door of Arizona Senator John McCain.

Another place to act is worldwide through the many readily available channels on the internet.

—-

On the very consequential state of affairs and relations between the United States and Russia… Nothing less than total transparency will do; practicing the greatest possible freedom of speech is paramount. Honoring truth is all that matters.

(Thank you to Russia Insider at YouTube)

Upanishads In 2017 As Powerful, Relevant As Ever. (Part 1)

By Jerry Alatalo

“The Self is everywhere. Bright is the Self, indivisible, untouched by sin, wise, immanent and transcendent. He it is who holds the cosmos together.”

or whatever historical, cultural, social, religious, or other reasons, discussions about the core elements found in scriptural writings of the world’s major traditions rarely take place, in particular as those extremely profound teachings relate to, and provide real answers for, today’s problematic situations of war, income inequality and greed, indifference to the suffering of innocent others, non-concern for the Earth’s environment, and so on.

Perhaps (re)turning to the spiritual knowledge of those described as “the ancients”, who lived thousands of years before the birth of Christ, can provide no small measure of assistance in effectively dealing with the persisting historical problems of 2017.

***

The Isha Upanishad* (from the 1987 book by Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999), “The Upanishads”)

(*The Isha Upanishad is one of the shortest of the collective of major Upanishads familiar to all students of Vedanta. Vedanta is the term used for the Upanishads, the last parts or sections of the Vedas, the four major Vedas of Hindu scriptures being the Rig (the oldest), Sama, Atharva, and Yajur Vedas.The first Western philosopher to express widely known appreciation for the Upanishads was the German-born Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), who said: “They have been the consolation of my life, and will be the consolation of my death.”)

—-

The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all. The Lord is the supreme reality. Rejoice in him through renunciation. Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord. Thus working may you live a hundred years. Thus alone will you work in real freedom.

Those who deny the Self (Creator, God, Brahman, Allah, Great Spirit, Great Mystery, Supreme Being, etc.) are born again blind to the Self, enveloped in darkness, utterly devoid of love for the Lord.

The Self is one. Ever still, the Self is swifter than thought, swifter than the sense. Though motionless, he out runs all pursuit. Without the Self, never could life exist.

The Self seems to move, but is ever still. He seems far away, but is ever near. He is within all, and he transcends all.

Those who see all creatures in themselves and themselves in all creatures knows no fear. Those who see all creatures in themselves and themselves in all creatures know no grief. How can the multiplicity of life delude the one who sees its unity?

The Self is everywhere. Bright is the Self, indivisible, untouched by sin, wise, immanent and transcendent. He it is who holds the cosmos together.

In dark night live those for whom the world without (external) alone is real; in night darker still, for whom the world within alone is real. The first leads to a life of action, the second to a life of meditation. But those who combine action with meditation cross the sea of death through action, and enter into immortality through the practice of meditation. So we have heard from the wise.

In dark night live those for whom the Lord is transcendent only; in night darker still, for whom he is immanent only. But those for whom he is transcendent and immanent cross the sea of death with the immanent and enter into immortality with the transcendent. So have we heard from the wise.

The face of truth is hidden by your orb of gold, O sun. May you remove your orb so that I, who adore the true, may see the glory of truth. O nourishing sun, solitary traveler, controller, source of life for all creatures, spread your light and subdue your dazzling splendor so that I may see your blessed Self. Even that very Self am I.

May my life merge in the immortal when my body is reduced to ashes. O mind, meditate on the eternal Brahman. Remember the deeds of the past. Remember, O mind, remember.

O god of fire, lead us by the good path to eternal joy. You know all our deeds. Deliver us from evil, we who bow and pray again and again.

***

The most precise descriptive word for the Vedic scriptures is mysticism. Writers on the Vedas, the first portions emphasizing rituals and their meanings, and in contrast the non-ritual, mystical portions focused on the inner worlds, have in their books many multiples of words over the Upanishads themselves, in the writers’ attempts to fully explain and/or interpret the deep meanings of these ancient writings.

As an example … in the following lecture, just the 1st of 7 over 1-hour talks by Swami Rama ( (1925-1996), one of the first yogis to become studied by Western scientists) on the 18-verse Isha Upanishad, his detailed exposition makes the deep concepts come alive and practical for people now in the year 2017. One can only wish such profound mystical knowledge became more widely understood; when that occurs, most certainly the world will change for the better.

World peace is possible.

Ilan Pappe: “Israel Has Lost The Moral Argument.”

By Jerry Alatalo

any academics, political analysts, peace activists, experts in global affairs and others consider the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict the most important international relations challenge of our time. Israel-born Jewish Professor Ilan Pappe (currently lecturing in the United Kingdom) is one of thousands of men and women academicians on Earth who firmly hold that belief. He has written a new book “Ten Myths About Israel”, a (in his words) “concise pocketbook” for those interested in learning about the situation. He visited Seattle, Washington in the northwest region of the United States recently to speak about the long-endured, at times seemingly insoluble problems – along with his vision for a solution.

During an interview while in Seattle, Professor Pappe shared both his personal experiences and knowledge of the conflict as well as some little-known facts making it clear that major changes in Israel’s political system are necessary. His view is authoritative as its foundation is the raw historic truth: Israel is the only national government on Earth implementing apartheid policies and conditions, with the example most recently seen – and rightly abolished – of South Africa.

Professor Ilan Pappe draws similarities between the settler colonialist history of America, the inhumane, genocidal treatment of Native Americans and Israel’s Zionist factions’ treatment of the indigenous Palestinian people, in particular since 1967. With experience as a professor in Israeli universities before becoming essentially thrown out of his country, he describes the role of education in Israel as a large factor responsible for perpetuation of the conflict.

***

“The whole education system is built on dehumanization of the Palestinians, so even liberal Israelis are Israelis who regard the Palestinians as aliens, but they are tolerant enough to let them be there, or have some of the land. There’s a basic misunderstanding… even the more liberal Zionists – that Zionism emigrated into the homeland of someone else, not that these natives emigrated. They’re not immigrants.”

“Not that we should treat immigrants in some bad way… Of course, we shouldn’t. But it’s funny that the whole liberal discourse in Israel about the Palestinians is the discourse of immigrants. So, if you’re a liberal person… you tolerate immigrants. You’re willing to let them be absorbed into the society. But this is not the situation – these (Palestinians) are not immigrants. You (Israelis) are the immigrants, and you have to ask the Palestinians to allow you to stay.”

“And this is something very difficult; after 100 years of oppression, to understand that the oppressor needs the legitimacy from the oppressed is very difficult to accept.”

***

Often Israel is described as the “only democracy in the Middle East”. This is one of the myths which Professor writes about in his new book, “Ten Myths About Israel”, upon which he by use of analogy says:

“If one-fifth (20%) of the American population would have been under military rule, meaning that only a military person would determine your basic rights, you would not call the United States a democracy.”

“In many ways Israel reminds me of South Africa because whites in South Africa enjoyed a certain level of democracy but the Africans did not enjoy any level of democracy. And the same is true of Israel. So, you can say that for the Jews in Israel, Israel is a democracy, but anyone who is not a Jew is a 2nd-rate, if not a 3rd-rate citizen.”

“There are practices which are not officially admitted, but very known to everyone, that discriminate against you. I will give you one fact that I think is very important, and which most of your listeners probably do not know. I’m talking pre-1967 borders, to make it clear. According to Israeli law most of the land belongs to the Jewish agency. According to the law of the Jewish agency, it is not allowed to sell land to non-Jews. So, 97% of the land of Israel is not for sale to the Palestinian citizens of Israel who are 20% of the population.”

“So they have no access to buy land, to purchase land, to expand… In fact, in the past 70 years only Jewish settlements and Jewish towns have been built – not one Palestinian citizen. Another example… We have a law in Israel which allows a Jewish community to reject the presence of a Palestinian citizen, or citizens, from their midst because they are… the only reason is they are Palestinians – they are not Jewish.”

“Imagine if there would be a neighborhood in Seattle which could be by law decided that African-Americans could not live there. I’m talking about official racism. I’m not talking about informal racism that exists in every society; I don’t think Israel is unique in that. But I think it’s quite unique for a country that pertains to be the only democracy in the Middle east to have laws that discriminate against people just because of their identity.”

“That for me is the definition of an undemocratic society.”

***

After the interviewer asked Professor Pappe toward the end of the interview for his views on what is the best option to resolve the conflict, he responded:

“The first thing I believe even before one-state solution – and I’ve devoted my life to this – is to convince the international community, that it’s in the interests of the international community, to put pressure on Israel to first of all change its immediate policies of oppression, even before we talk about a solution, in order to create conducive circumstances for a solution. We need to get the Israelis out of the life of the Palestinians in the West Bank, to lift the siege of the Gaza Strip, to stop the discrimination against the Palestinians in Israel, and to seriously consider the right of the Palestinian refugees to come home.”

“Now, if I take all these three basic rights that Israel violates, the rights to live in peace in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a democracy inside Israel, and the right to come back home for the refugees, I can only see one political outcome that will enable us to implement these right – and that’s one democratic state for all. Because I think, otherwise, any other political solution would perpetuate it, would make it even worse than it is today. When I say worse it means mainly for the Palestinians, but I also think it’s not very positive for the Jews.”

“So I think that for everyone we should live democratically as you here in the United States, as human beings regardless of our identity, religious identity, national identity, gender or color. One person, one vote… I’m willing to take a bi-national state if that is what people want. It’s much better than what we have today. Maybe people would want a collective identity; I can appreciate it, especially on the Jewish side because they’ve built a culture of their own. I think a lot of Palestinians would go along with this. “

“But the state has to be a state for everyone, and should not be divided, or be partitioned. And the 3rd generation of settlers and the native people have a very good chance of making Palestine, and Israel – or whatever we will call it – one of the best places on Earth.”  

***

(Thank you to TalkingStickTV at YouTube)