Russian CEO’s Arrest Sounds the Humanitarian Alarms for Kuwait

  • The United States has a vital role in sustaining Kuwait’s security and secured multilateral diplomatic efforts to get more cooperation from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
  • Facing years of failed international efforts to bring peace to Yemen, Kuwait is now pursuing diplomatic involvement with Russia with hopes that Moscow officials will help end the civil war.
  • Marsha Lazareva is the single mother of a four-year-old son, who is an American citizen.

The recent arrest of the Russian citizen Marsha Lazareva in Kuwait for her alleged involvement in a financial fraud has once again rung the humanitarian alarms for the US and the Arab nation. It has also brought forth some crucial dignitaries, including Neil Bush, the son of the former president, to get involved in the release of the Russian woman.

However, before we delve further into this particular incident, let us first understand the relations that Kuwait has had with the United States in the past.

The Kuwait-US Relations in the Past

Kuwait is a constitutional sovereign state with a semi-democratic political system. Kuwait has a high-income economy backed by the world’s sixth largest oil reserves. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world. According to the World Bank, the country has the fourth highest per capita income. The Constitution was promulgated in 1962. Kuwait is home to the largest opera house in the Middle East.

Kuwait, a small yet highly influential part of the Arab Gulf has had friendly relations with the United States of America, the most influential western nation. Since the establishment of their diplomatic ties that go as back as 1961, when Kuwait became independent, it has witnessed a long time of friendship and cooperation.

During 1990, when Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait, the US-led multinational the coalition brought the air of independence to the emirates in February 1991. The United States has a vital role in sustaining Kuwait’s security and secured multilateral diplomatic efforts to get more cooperation from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Kuwait has provided the US with a platform and other coalition operations in Iraq and its fight against the global threat of ISIS since 2003. It is also a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and headquarters the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. Kuwait is an essential ally for the US counterterrorism efforts, which includes blocking of finance of the terrorist groups.

US-Kuwait Economic Relations

As far as economic conditions go, the US signed trade and investment agreements with Kuwait back in 2004 and the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2012. It gave both the countries a platform to address mutual trade concerns and any economic reforms. The United States is also one of Kuwait’s largest suppliers of goods and services, and Kuwait is the largest market of the US in the Middle East.

The US has a substantial advantage when it comes to competing on the price of advanced technology, especially in the field of oil, power, telecommunications, automobiles, and consumer goods.

Now, let us look at the latest happenings between Kuwait and Russia

Russia and Kuwait

Facing years of failed international efforts to bring peace to Yemen, Kuwait is now pursuing diplomatic involvement with Russia with hopes that Moscow officials will help end the civil war. On a visit to Moscow in March, Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Jarallah praised Russia’s contributions to resolving the conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.

It has also shown the extent to which Russia’s prestige has increased throughout the Arab world. Russia has demonstrated its influence on the countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Gulf Cooperation Council member-states have also witnessed Russia as a key player in resolving the Yemen crisis. It is due to the significant role played by the Kremlin’s mediation efforts in the Qatar region and Russia’s cultivation of a neutral image in Libya. Kuwait’s turning towards Russia on this issue also highlights the declining US influence across the region. Russia is capitalizing on the friction between the US and many of its older the Middle East and North Africa partners, including Kuwait.

However, the recent incident has once again ringed the humanitarian alarms in Kuwait, owing to a woman held responsible for fraud.

Kuwait’s History of Human Rights Abuse

The Kuwaiti authorities are notorious for their violation of fundamental human rights, including free speech. Authorities often cite national security law and other legislation to crush political dissent.

As of now, the migrant workers still do not have any legal protection and remain open to abuse, forced labor, and even deportation for minor infractions.

In 2017, the Kuwait Constitutional Court struck down the 2015 law, which made it necessary for Kuwaiti citizens and residents to give their DNA samples to authorities. The court struck it down, as it invaded the right to privacy. The government is still to ensure a fair process to address the citizenship concerns of at least 100,000 Bidun, who are living stateless in Kuwait.

The Conviction of Marsha

Kuwait has a petroleum-based economy, petroleum is the main export product. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest-valued unit of currency in the world. According to the World Bank, Kuwait is the seventh richest country in the world per capita. Kuwait is the second richest GCC country per capita (after Qatar). Petroleum accounts for half of GDP and 90% of government income. Non-petroleum industries include financial services.

Marsha Lazareva is a businessperson working in the Middle East and North African countries. The Kuwaiti judicial system has accused her of misusing public funds, and the conviction is based solely on the statement of one discredited witness from the Kuwait State Audit Bureau who gave out the forged documents.

Lazareva, who is 44, is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the single mother of a four-year-old son, who is an American citizen. Marsha was convicted in May 2018 and received the ten-year sentence with hard labor for crimes related to the embezzling of funds, which included investments from the Kuwaiti government.

The A Kuwaiti court has issued a verdict without allowance of the legal counsel to present a defense and is serving a 10-year sentence in the Sulabibiya prison. As a Russian citizen, her case has international attention from Russia and the US at the highest level of government.

The Fight to Free Marsha

The battle to free Lazareva is going on public relations front and involves legal entities of the court with the relatives to raise humanitarian alarms to bring global pressure on Kuwait.

Among those fighting for her release are Cherie Blair, a human rights lawyer and wife of former UK PM Tony Blair and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s daughter, Tatyana Yumasheva.

As of now, Lazareva has taken shelter in the Russian embassy in Kuwait among high-level diplomatic conversations. KGL investment, the fund that Lazareva setup after working with Saeed Dashti, her former boss has spent funds freely and has a team of experts to free Marsha and her boss.

Supporters of Marsha have told the Kuwaiti authorities to remove out the ‘made up’ charges so she can move to her house in Bryn Mawr and live with her preschool son, Yvan.

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Stephen Mark

The recent arrest of the Russian citizen Marsha Lazareva in Kuwait for her alleged involvement in a financial fraud has once again rung the humanitarian alarms for the US and the Arab nation. It has also brought forth some crucial dignitaries, including Neil Bush, the son of the former president, to get involved in the release of the Russian woman.

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