Moscow demands answers after FBI arrests Russian

Whelan, a security official at a US auto parts company and former US Marine, was arrested on December 28 “while carrying out an act of espionage,” the FSB security service announced. (AFP)
Updated 05 January 2019

Moscow demands answers after FBI arrests Russian

  • FBI agents arrested Dmitry Makarenko on December 29 on Saipan, a US island in the western Pacific and he had since been taken to Florida
  • A top Russian diplomat on Saturday said the case of Paul Whelan, the US national detained in Moscow, was very serious

MOSCOW: Russia said Saturday it wanted an explanation from Washington over the arrest of one of its nationals, as Moscow continued to hold a US citizen for alleged espionage.
FBI agents arrested Dmitry Makarenko on December 29 on Saipan, a US island in the western Pacific and he had since been taken to Florida, a Russian foreign ministry statement said.
It did not detail the accusations against him but said the US authorities had failed to inform them of his arrest and they had only found out from his family.
Meanwhile, a top Russian diplomat on Saturday said the case of Paul Whelan, the US national detained in Moscow, was very serious.
Whelan, a security official at a US auto parts company and former US Marine, was arrested on December 28 “while carrying out an act of espionage,” the FSB security service announced.
“The situation around Mr.Whelan is very serious,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA Novosti news agency.
“He came to Russia, as we understand, to take measures to carry out intelligence activities in violation of Russian law,” he said, indicating that Whelan had not yet been formally charged.
But Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told RIA Novosti on Thursday that his client had been charged — with espionage.
Whelan’s family said he was visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding and US security experts have raised doubts that he was a spy, given a reportedly chequered history in the US military.
Some observers believe his arrest was in retaliation for last year’s arrest in the US of a Russian woman called Maria Butina.
Butina was indicted and pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government — a legal charge sometimes used against foreign intelligence agents.
Analysts have speculated that Moscow might be hoping to swap Whelan for Butina or another Russian held by the United States.
Ryabkov said that given the fact that Whelan has not yet been charged, it was too early to talk about his possible release in a spy swap.
Although Whelan entered Russia on his US passport, he also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship.
Ryabkov said the question of which country’s diplomats would have access to Whelan would be decided on a case-by-case basis, based on conventions on consular relations.


UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

Updated 8 min 51 sec ago

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

  • Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year
  • SOAS said that it had taken short term action to reduce costs

LONDON: A UK university specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East has been forced to slash costs and implement drastic staff cuts after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its financial problems.
Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, said they feared that management was cutting costs to make the college an attractive takeover target for an overseas institution or one of its London rivals, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year.
The effects of the pandemic on student recruitment meant “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the school’s ability to continue as a going concern” over the next 12 months, SOAS’s auditors warned.
One academic at SOAS told the Guardian that the college’s senior managers had “been unable to make significant changes over the last few years, and now it has ended in a big crisis. This is a serious failure of management.”
Its senior academics were ordered to identify staff cuts that were to be submitted on Friday, and departments were asked to balance their budgets while expecting a 50 percent drop in new international students, the report said.
SOAS’s International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies Center, which provides courses to international students, has reportedly been told to make so many cuts that it will effectively disappear, along with its 55 staff.
The college’s highly regarded international development department, which is ranked eighth in the world, will also suffer from major cuts. Its famed anthropology and sociology department is likely to lose between a third and half of its academic staff.
“I think people are in shock,” a staff member said. “This all happened while we are still coping with COVID-19.”
SOAS released a statement on Friday saying the coronavirus pandemic had affected all British universities and that it was “taking decisive action now so that we can continue to ensure we provide an excellent student experience to our new and returning students.”
It acknowledged that although its “accounts show that SOAS has already taken steps to reduce its deficit position,” the “impact of COVID-19 has put finances across the HE sector under even greater pressure than before.”
It added that it had taken short term action to reduce costs including “pausing capital spend, line by line scrutiny of non-pay budgets” and reducing the use of building space in the Bloomsbury area in London, outside its core campus.
SOAS also said that additional proposals for change were being considered and would be implemented ahead of the start of the new academic year in September. 
SOAS, University of London, has been ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for Arts and Humanities, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
The rankings place SOAS 13th in the UK and 57th in the world.