Putin visits Crimea


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Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with local residents and veterans at the historical memorial the Malakhov Kurgan (Malakoff redoubt) in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with local residents and veterans at the historical memorial the Malakhov Kurgan (Malakoff redoubt) in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)


Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with local residents and veterans at the historical memorial the Malakhov Kurgan (Malakoff redoubt) in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)


Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, visits a new power plant in Crimea, part of Moscow's efforts to upgrade the region's infrastructure in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)


Putin visits Crimea to mark 5th anniversary of annexation

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

Associated Press

Monday, March 18

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin marked the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula on Monday, as NATO and the European Union once again strongly condemned the land grab.

Putin began his trip by attending the launch of new power plants in Crimea, part of Moscow’s efforts to upgrade the region’s infrastructure. Ukraine has cut off energy supplies to the peninsula and blocked shipments of Crimea-bound cargo via its territory after Moscow annexed the region in 2014.

“The situation has changed radically,” Putin said, adding that the new power facilities will fully cover Crimea’s needs.

Russia’s modernization effort has included the construction of a 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) bridge which opened last year across the Kerch Strait that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The $3.6-billion project gave Crimea a land link to Russia. Previously, a ferry crossing that was often interrupted by gales served as the only connection.

Russia has also beefed up its military presence in Crimea with new navy ships, missiles and warplanes. Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Russian upper house’s defense affairs committee, said the new weapons included the Iskander-M missiles and the Tu-22M3 long-range bombers.

Moscow’s annexation of Crimea drew U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia that hurt its economy.

NATO allies said in a statement Monday that “we strongly condemn this act, which we do not and will not recognize.” They also criticized Russia’s military buildup in Crimea and alleged rights abuses including “arbitrary detentions, arrest, and torture” against members of the Crimean Tartar community.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said “we stand in full solidarity with Ukraine, supporting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

NATO and the EU also called for the release of Ukrainian seamen who were seized by Russia in November’s standoff in the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry protested Putin’s visit to Crimea as a “crude violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Putin claims that Russia “re-integrated” Crimea after the ouster of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president in 2014 to protect ethnic Russians who made up the majority of Crimea’s population from Ukrainian nationalists. The Kremlin was also worried that a new Ukrainian government could annul Russia’s lease on its key Black Sea navy base in Crimea and welcome NATO there instead.

Crimea was first seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great.

The 27,000-square kilometer (10,425-square mile) territory, roughly the size of Massachusetts, became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia, a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union meant that Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

The Kremlin has argued that Khrushchev’s move violated then-Soviet law, making the transfer illegitimate.

Russian troops swept Crimea just days after the February 2014 ouster of Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president, catching the West by surprise. The Russian forces blocked Ukrainian soldiers at their garrisons, setting the stage for a hastily-called referendum in Crimea that the West denounced as illegitimate.

Putin on Monday hailed the referendum as a true expression of the Crimean people’s will, charging that the Western refusal to recognize it shows “disrespect for democratic principles.”

“It was a landmark event in the history of Russia,” the Russian leader said at a meeting with local residents. “We have shown the entire world that we nurture our interests and can protect them.”

He also vowed to support various economic projects in Crimea. During a meeting with local residents that involved religious leaders, Putin said he had invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to attend the opening of a new mosque in the region and suggested also inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit a ceremony for unveiling a new synagogue.

The Russian leader has said he put Russia’s nuclear forces on combat readiness during the 2014 developments in Crimea and warned his Western counterparts that Moscow was ready to defend what it considered its land. The annexation gave Russia hundreds of miles of coastline along the Black Sea, a near-stranglehold on commerce in the Sea of Azov and access to vast potential energy riches on the Black Sea shelf.

The U.S. and the EU responded to the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support for a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s east with waves of sanctions that have limited Russia’s access to global financial markets and to energy and defense technologies. The Kremlin fired back by cutting imports of most Western food.

The annexation of Crimea, a lush peninsula which long has been a favorite vacation destination for Russians, helped bolster Putin’s popularity at home and strengthened Moscow’s positions in the Black Sea. However, public enthusiasm in Russia about the land grab has worn off over years amid the country’s economic difficulties and a plunge in living standards.

“After Crimea was annexed, there was a sense of almost universal euphoria,” said Masha Lipman, a Moscow-based independent policy expert. She noted the majority of Russians still feel proud about the annexation of Crimea but “it no longer works the way it had, it does not improve the mood.”

A poll conducted earlier this month by the Public Opinion Foundation, a Moscow-based survey firm, showed that most Russians continue to support the annexation, but also indicated an increasing public awareness of its costs.

The nation-wide survey of 1,500 had 46 percent of respondents saying the seizure of Crimea had a negative impact on the country’s international standing, while 26 percent said it had a positive influence and the rest were undecided. It had a margin of error of no more than 3.6 percentage points.

Lorne Cook contributed from Brussels.

Rights activist gets 4-year sentence in Russia’s Chechnya

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA

Associated Press

Monday, March 18

KURCHALOY, Russia (AP) — A court in Russia’s province of Chechnya has sentenced a prominent rights activist to four years in prison on drug charges widely seen as an effort by the authorities to stifle a critical voice.

The court in Chechnya’s city of Shali sentenced Oyub Titiyev to four years in penal colony on charges of drug possession he has denied as fabricated. His lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

Titiyev has been in custody since his arrest in January 2018 in what has been largely perceived as a vendetta against a rare critic of the Chechen government. As the head of the Chechen office of prominent rights group Memorial, he played a major role in exposing extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture perpetrated by security forces in Chechnya.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who previously dismissed rights activists as liars and traitors, publicly called the 61-year-old Titiyev a “junkie.” Titiyev’s supporters said the case aimed not only to silence the activist, who is known as a devout Muslim, but also discredit him in the eyes of the community.

Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Marie Struthers, denounced the verdict as “an affront to human rights, reason, and justice.”

“By pronouncing him guilty, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the court has demonstrated how deeply flawed the Russian justice system is,” Struthers said in a statement. “The court has revealed itself to be little more than a tool that the regional authorities have used to silence one of the last human rights defenders working in Chechnya.”

She charged that the federal authorities “proved to be accomplices in this gross injustice” by failing to heed the rights defenders’ demands to transfer proceedings out of Chechnya where she said the court was unable to give Titiyev a fair trial because of pressure from regional authorities.

“We call on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release (Titiyev) as he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his human rights work in Chechnya,” Struthers said.

Titiyev’s 72-year-old sister Zharadat Titiyeva said that the prosecution aimed not only to silence her brother, but also to smear his reputation as a devout Muslim who doesn’t drink or smoke, let alone take drugs.

“They decided to disgrace him in front of the people: Look who your defender really is: he’s just a junkie,” she said at the family’s home in the village of Kurchaloy, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from regional capital Grozny,

Titiyev’s wife and three children fled Russia after he was jailed. His eldest daughter still lives in Chechnya.

The Chechen leader last year pledged unhindered access to hearings in the Titiyev case, but vowed to make Chechnya after the end of the trial a “no-go zone” for human rights activists whom he described as being no better than “terrorists and extremists.”

Rights activist gets 4-year sentence in Russia’s Chechnya

Monday, March 18

KURCHALOY, Russia (AP) — A court in Russia’s province of Chechnya has sentenced a prominent rights activist to four years in prison on drug charges widely seen as an effort by the authorities to stifle a critical voice.

Oyub Titiyev has been in custody since his arrest in January 2018 on drug possession charges in what has been largely perceived as a vendetta against a rare critic of the Chechen government.

Titiyev was the head of the Chechen office of prominent rights group Memorial and played a major role in exposing extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture perpetrated by security forces in Chechnya.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who previously dismissed rights activists as liars and traitors, publicly called the 61-year-old Titiyev a “junkie.” Titiyev’s supporters say the case aims not only to silence the activist, who is known as a devout Muslim, but also discredit him in the eyes of the community.

The Conversation

Which countries have the most immigrants?

Updated March 18, 2019

Author: Gilles Pison, Anthropologue et démographe, professeur au Muséum national d’histoire naturelle et chercheur associé à l’INED, Muséum national d’histoire naturelle (MNHN) – Sorbonne Universités

Disclosure statement: Gilles Pison does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: Sorbonne Universités provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation FR. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle provides funding as a member of The Conversation FR.

The proportion of immigrants varies considerably from one country to another. In some, it exceeds half the population, while in others it is below 0.1%. Which countries have the most immigrants? Where do they come from? How are they distributed across the world? We provide here an overview of the number and share of immigrants in different countries around the world.

According to the United Nations, the United States has the highest number of immigrants (foreign-born individuals), with 48 million in 2015, five times more than in Saudi Arabia (11 million) and six times more than in Canada (7.6 million) (figure below). However, in proportion to their population size, these two countries have significantly more immigrants: 34% and 21%, respectively, versus 15% in the United States.

Looking at the ratio of immigrants to the total population (figure below), countries with a high proportion of immigrants can be divided into five groups:

The first group comprises countries that are sparsely populated but have abundant oil resources, where immigrants sometimes outnumber the native-born population. In 2015, the world’s highest proportions of immigrants were found in this group: United Arab Emirates (87%), Kuwait (73%), Qatar (68%), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman, where the proportion ranges from 34% to 51%.

The second group consists of very small territories, microstates, often with special tax rules: Macao (57%), Monaco (55%), and Singapore (46%).

The third group is made up of nations formerly designated as “new countries”, which cover vast territories but are still sparsely populated: Australia (28%) and Canada (21%).

The fourth group, which is similar to the third in terms of mode of development, is that of Western industrial democracies, in which the proportion of immigrants generally ranges from 9% to 17%: Austria (17%), Sweden (16%), United States (15%), United Kingdom (13%), Spain (13%), Germany (12%), France (12%), the Netherlands (12%), Belgium (11%), and Italy (10%).

The fifth group includes the so-called “countries of first asylum”, which receive massive flows of refugees due to conflicts in a neighbouring country. For example, at the end of 2015, more than one million Syrian and Iraqi refugees were living in Lebanon, representing the equivalent of 20% of its population, and around 400,000 refugees from Sudan were living in Chad (3% of its population).

Small countries have higher proportions of immigrants

With 29% immigrants, Switzerland is ahead of the United States, while the proportion in Luxembourg is even higher (46%). Both the attractiveness and size of the country play a role. The smaller the country, the higher its probable proportion of foreign-born residents. Conversely, the larger the country, the smaller this proportion is likely to be. In 2015, India had 0.4% of immigrants and China 0.07%.

However, if each Chinese province were an independent country – a dozen provinces have more than 50 million inhabitants, and three of them (Guangdong, Shandong, and Henan) have about 100 million – the proportion of immigrants would be much higher, given that migration from province to province, which has increased in scale over recent years, would be counted as international and not internal migration. Conversely, if the European Union formed a single country, the share of immigrants would decrease considerably, since citizens of one EU country living in another would no longer be counted. The relative scale of the two types of migration – internal and international – is thus strongly linked to the way the territory is divided into separate nations.

The number of emigrants is difficult to measure

All immigrants (in-migrants) are also emigrants (out-migrants) from their home countries. Yet the information available for counting emigrants at the level of a particular country is often of poorer quality than for the immigrants, even though, at the global level, they represent the same set of people. Countries are probably less concerned about counting their emigrants than their immigrants, given that the former, unlike the latter, are no longer residents and do not use government-funded public services or infrastructure.

However, emigrants often contribute substantially to the economy of their home countries by sending back money and in some cases, they still have the right to vote, which is a good reason for sending countries to track their emigrant population more effectively. The statistical sources are another reason for the poor quality of data on emigrants. Migrant arrivals are better recorded than departures, and the number of emigrants is often estimated based on immigrant statistics in the different host countries.

The number of emigrants varies considerably from one country to another. India headed the list in 2015, with nearly 16 million people born in the country but living in another (see the figure below); Mexico comes in second with more than 12 million emigrants living mainly in the United States.

Proportionally, Bosnia and Herzegovina holds a record: there is one Bosnian living abroad for two living in the country, which means that one-third of the people born in Bosnia and Herzegovina have emigrated (figure below). Albania is in a similar situation, as well as Cape Verde, an insular country with few natural resources.

Some countries are both immigration and emigration countries. This is the case of the United Kingdom, which had 8.4 million immigrants and 4.7 million emigrants in 2015. The United States has a considerable number of expatriates (2.9 million in 2015), but this is 17 times less in comparison to the number of immigrants (48 million at the same date).

Until recently, some countries have been relatively closed to migration, both inward and outward. This is the case for Japan, which has few immigrants (only 1.7% of its population in 2015) and few emigrants (0.6%).

Immigrants: less than 4% of the world population

According to the United Nations, there were 258 million immigrants in 2017, representing only a small minority of the world population (3.4%); the vast majority of people live in their country of birth. The proportion of immigrants has only slightly increased over recent decades (30 years ago, in 1990, it was 2.9%, and 55 years ago, in 1965, it was 2.3%). It has probably changed only slightly in 100 years.

But the distribution of immigrants is different than it was a century ago. One change is, in the words of Alfred Sauvy, the “reversal of migratory flows” between North and South, with a considerable share of international migrants now coming from Southern countries.

Today, migrants can be divided into three groups of practically equal size (figure above): migrants born in the South who live in the North (89 million in 2017, according to the United Nations); South-South migrants (97 million), who have migrated from one Southern country to another; and North-North migrants (57 million). The fourth group – those born in the North and who have migrated to the South – was dominant a century ago but is numerically much smaller today (14 million). Despite their large scale, especially in Europe, migrant flows generated since 2015 by conflicts in the Middle East have not significantly changed the global picture of international migration.

For more information, see “The number and proportion of immigrants in the population: International comparisons”, issue no. 563 of Population and Societies (downloadable free of charge).

This article was originally published in French.

From dollars to bytes: Digital payment tech companies merge

By SARAH SKIDMORE SELL

AP Business Writer

Tuesday, March 19

Fidelity National Information Services is buying Worldpay for about $35 billion to combine forces as financial transactions increasingly move online.

The payment service industry works behind the scenes to help complete the process for purchases. It was a simpler exercise when those transactions took place in person with a swipe of a card. But transactions have largely moved online and grown in complexity, forcing those background players to deal with multiple currencies, various forms of payment and more at lightning speed. The industry also faces a growing base of startup competitors.

Fidelity, or FIS as it is known, is a more traditional payment service provider, supporting more staid practices such as banks transactions. Worldpay is the “crown jewel” of the e-commerce niche, said Instinet analysts Dan Dolev and Conan Leon. It has grown quickly as the companies that it services have grown, and that makes it an attractive acquisition target.

Worldpay processes more than 40 billion transactions a year and supports more than 300 payment types across more than 120 currencies. Combined, Worldpay and FIS would have had 2018 revenue of $12.3 billion. The deal represents the biggest acquisition for FIS since it spent more than $5 billion for SunGard in 2015.

A number of established players have consolidated recently in order to adapt, particularly in light of increased competition. In a similar move, Fiserv announced in January that it was buying First Data in a $22 billion all-stock deal. That created a giant in the payment and financial technology sector at the time, but Dolev said Worldpay represents a much more notable purchase, given its size and reach.

“Scale matters in our rapidly changing industry,” said Gary Norcross, chairman and CEO at FIS. “Upon closing later this year, our two powerhouse organizations will combine forces to offer a customer-driven combination of scale, global presence and the industry’s broadest range of global financial solutions.”

Worldpay Inc. shareholders will receive 0.9287 FIS shares and $11.00 in cash for each Worldpay share they own. FIS shareholders will own about 53 percent of the combined company, which will keep the name Fidelity National Information Services Inc. Worldpay shareholders will own approximately 47 percent.

Worldpay was originally a British company that was acquired less than two years ago by Vantiv, based in Cincinnati. Vantiv then took on the Worldpay name.

The combined company will be based in Jacksonville, Florida, where FIS is headquartered. Norcross will continue as CEO and chairman. Worldpay executive chairman and CEO Charles Drucker will become executive vice chairman.

With Worldpay’s debt included, the companies put the deal’s value at $43 billion. They expect organic revenue growth of between 6 percent and 9 percent through 2021. The deal, with regulatory and shareholder approval, would likely close in the second half of the year.

Shares of Worldpay jumped nearly 10 percent to $108.51 Monday. Shares of Fidelity edged down 76 cents to close at $108.12, as the broader market ended trading higher.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with local residents and veterans at the historical memorial the Malakhov Kurgan (Malakoff redoubt) in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122518909-89a8bd038e734988a6a9f93708a6a8c1.jpgRussian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with local residents and veterans at the historical memorial the Malakhov Kurgan (Malakoff redoubt) in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with local residents and veterans at the historical memorial the Malakhov Kurgan (Malakoff redoubt) in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122518909-6c7db3d7138f464e99513d3edde35770.jpgRussian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with local residents and veterans at the historical memorial the Malakhov Kurgan (Malakoff redoubt) in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, visits a new power plant in Crimea, part of Moscow’s efforts to upgrade the region’s infrastructure in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122518909-5febd29b7eee440d800d9b35b6f7b711.jpgRussian President Vladimir Putin, center, visits a new power plant in Crimea, part of Moscow’s efforts to upgrade the region’s infrastructure in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, March 18, 2019. Putin visited Crimea to mark the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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