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  • Day of Dignity and Freedom
    UT UKRAINE TODAY Nov. 21, 2015

    Ukrainians mark anniversaries of the Orange Revolution and Revolution of Dignity on November 21

    November 21st in Ukraine marks the second anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity and the eleventh anniversary of the Orange Revolution.

    Millions of Ukrainians participated in both events starting in late November 2014 and 2004, respectively. Both nationwide protests lasted for months and led to a change of the country's leaders.

    Unlike the Orange Revolution, which produced change without bloodshed, the Revolution of Dignity claimed the lives of more than 120 protesters in Kyiv.

    Most of the fatalities occurred on February 20, 2014 when men dressed up as riot police methodically mowed down anti-presidential protesters using automatic weapons in the center of the Ukrainian capital.

    November 21st is an official holiday, established by decree last year, named "The Day of Dignity and Freedom." A number of events are planned to mark the anniversary and commemorate those who lost their lives in the struggle against corrupt top government officials.

    On the second anniversary of the Euromaidan, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has released a special video message reminding viewers around the world about what brought thousands onto Kyiv's Maidan: the Ukrainian people's conviction that Ukraine is Europe.

    VIEW and SHARE VIDEO
    Day of Dignity and Freedom - watch on - uatoday.tv

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    • All EU countries ratify EU-Ukraine Association Agreement
      20.11.2015 UNIAN

      Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced that all the European Union member states have signed the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

      "Brussels Parliament ratified [the] EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. All EU countries completed the ratification process!" he tweeted on Friday evening.

      At the same time, the European Commission's website says that only 23 EU member states have completed all the necessary procedures to finalize the ratification of the agreement and submitted instruments of ratification to the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. These include Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, and Slovakia.

      The following countries have not provided their ratification instruments: Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands, thus, the five countries will have to complete this procedure.
      All EU countries ratify EU-Ukraine Association Agreement : UNIAN news

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      • RADIO FREE EUROPE Pete Baumgartner November 21, 2015
        Possible Russia-West Rapprochement Over Syria Stokes Fears In Europe's East

        France's surprise embrace of Russia in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris has raised concerns across the former Soviet bloc that Moscow wants to leverage the fight against Islamic extremists in Syria to secure Western concessions over Ukraine.

        Just days after the massacres in the French capital killed 129 people and injured hundreds of others, President Francois Hollande called for the formation of a grand coalition -- including Russia -- to destroy the Islamic State (IS) group, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.

        Putin followed by ordering his navy to cooperate with the French Navy in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russia has a base in the Syrian port of Tartus.

        Hollande's push for cooperation with Russia was a major pivot for France, which has been a loyal partner in the multinational U.S.-led coalition fighting IS militants in Syria and Iraq.

        The French government had also objected vehemently when Russia began its Syrian air campaign on September 30, saying Moscow's ulterior motive was to keep embattled President Bashar al-Assad in power.

        Former Ukrainian diplomat Bohdan Yaremenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on November 18 that following the Paris attacks, Putin had "created the opportunity for dialogue with the West that he had lost due to the situation in Ukraine."

        Concessions On Ukraine?

        Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were the key EU leaders in establishing the economic sanctions regime against Russia in response to its illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and support for separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

        The two leaders also led the way for the West in forging the Minsk cease-fire agreement in February.

        "Now the French and other diplomats have to decide if it is possible to cooperate with Russia in Syria without changing their positions on Ukraine -- on maintaining sanctions and possibly expanding them if the Minsk [peace] agreement fails," Yaremenko said.

        Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas told parliament on November 17 that "there cannot be bargaining over compliance of the [cease-fire] conditions." He added, "Cooperation elsewhere does not mean for Europe concessions in its neighborhood."

        Hollande is set to meet Putin in Moscow next week in what would be the first bilateral visit to Moscow by an EU leader in half a year, Reuters reported on November 18.

        Splitting Europe?

        Kalev Stoicescu, a research fellow at the International Center for Defense and Security in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, says that Russia is using the Paris attacks "to again split European solidarity in terms of sanctions and the promulgation of sanctions."

        But he says that while Russia and the West "may unite forces to combat IS, the common enemy, and sweep the caliphates from the face of the Earth, that doesn't solve the Assad question or resolve Syria's [political] future."

        Paul Goble, a longtime Russia analyst and author of the Window on Eurasia blog, says there is concern among some Baltic governments that "the French could be peeled off from Germany and then things would go downhill fast."

        Such worries were compounded by comments from Merkel's deputy chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, who suggested that the EU sanctions against Russia were counterproductive because Moscow has become a partner in resolving problems in the Middle East.

        Goble adds that he does not think anyone "expected [U.S. President Barack] Obama and Hollande to cave in [to Putin] as far and as fast as they have."

        Yuriy Ruban, a political analyst and head of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's Humanitarian Policies Department, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that if the West forgets about Ukraine, then "in several months [Russia's] hybrid war will expand to the Baltic states and beyond, something that our Baltic colleagues are lamenting right now."

        Some politicians in Poland, where a new government deeply distrustful of Russia was sworn in on November 16, have likened Hollande's decision to join forces with Moscow to siding with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to fight the Nazis during World War II.

        Russian political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky said on November 16 that the West can deal with IS militants without Russia, but that this will take "political will."

        He added that it would even be easier for the West to fight IS if it did not have to compromise with Putin and his dependent ally, Assad.

        But Stoicescu and Goble say that Putin is mistaken if he believes he will get a pass on Ukraine or be able to slouch on the Minsk agreement because of Russia's bombing raids in Syria.

        The Wall Street Journal on November 18 quoted EU officials and diplomats as saying that the 28-member bloc was likely to extend Ukraine-related economic sanctions on Moscow, which are set to expire in January.

        "All of Putin's dreams about the handing over to him of Ukraine in the context of an 'anti-Hitler coalition' in the same way that Eastern Europe was handed over to Stalin, were not realized" at the November 15-16 Group of 20 summit in Turkey, Piontkovsky said.
        Possible Russia-West Rapprochement Over Syria Stokes Fears In Europe's East

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        • Political violence and the Yanukovych factor
          EUROMAIDAN PRESS Vitaliy Portnikov 2015/11/20

          What the Yanukovych regime really brought into the political and public life of our country is the culture of beatings, the culture of thugs, the culture of the impunity of the “titushky” (hired thugs — Ed.) who beat peaceful demonstrators when there were no legal pretexts to limit the protests. The beatings of activists. The beatings of journalists. According to numerous accounts, Yanukovych even beat up his associates in his own office. Perhaps he even kicked them. None of us liked it. Then there was the final act — the beating of students. And then Maidan. It seemed that society understood clearly that the beating of anyone is a manifestation of savagery, of baseness, of the absence of self-respect. It seemed that Ukrainians really wanted to join Europe not because there were more baubles and money there but because politicians in Europe do not engage in beatings.

          But no! It turns out that there is a Yanukovyh in everyone. It is not the beatings that are considered unacceptable but the beating of one’s own people. And when unpopular people are beaten, it is a good thing. And when the assailant gets off scot free, all is wonderful. What triumph of democracy!

          There is no need to explain all this by the fact that judicial reform has not yet taken place in the country, that those responsible for the tragedy on Maidan have not been brought to justice, that the question of justice has not been resolved. When you want to engage in beatings you will always find a justification. Simply today you will beat strangers because they are criminals. Tomorrow you will beat your own because they are traitors, The next day your wife and children because life has let you down. There is a civilizational chasm that separates the culture of discussion from the culture of fist fights. The chasm between punishment and violence, between Europe and the “sovok” (Soviet man — Ed.), between respect for rules and the belief in the priority of one’s momentary instinct. This is the chasm between a human being and a Yanukovych.

          I don’t know if it is necessary to explain one very simple thing. In a country where an activist attacks (Mikhail) Dobkin, the master will always be Dobkin or someone like Dobkin. Because this is the norm for Dobkin. To hit, not to harangue. To frighten, not to discuss. To demonstrate who is strong and not to argue. In this situation the winner is not the person with the law and the truth on his side but the one who has no restraint. We know very well that Dobkin has none. I don’t know anything about the activist who hit him. If he has no restraint either, he will go all the way and turn into Dobkin. Because the person who hits another — first out of helplessness and then out of impunity always turns into Dobkin. First into Dobkin and then into Yanukovych. (Mikhail Dobkin, deputy from the “Opposition Bloc” and former Yanukovych associate, was recently attacked by an unknown assailant who accused him of crimes against Maidan demonstrators — Ed.)

          Because impunity is when you hit with the assurance that no one will dare even lift a finger against you. Impunity is beating with a mandate. In that case the beating can involve even kicking, why not? Volodymyr Parasiuk differs from Viktor Yanukovych not because one demanded the resignation of the other during the last horrible night on Maidan, but because one was already president and the other one not yet. But if you exchange their places, you will understand that Yanukovych — if he had been in Parasiuk’s place during the meeting of the parliamentary committee — could have kicked just as skillfully if not better. This is the country of Yanukovych — a country where you strike with your feet if you disagree with something. It does not matter if it is out of despair, bitterness, or satisfation. The motive is not important, only the action. We are not interested in the motives of Yanukovych or Putin. It is possible one simply wanted to establish order and the other to save collaborators from extremists. Perhaps they really think so? But the motive is not important, only the result. (Deputy Volodymyr Parasiuk kicked Gen. Vasyl Pisnyi, accused of corruption, during a scuffle at a meeting of the Parliament’s anti-corruption committee. — Ed.)

          The same is true here. A country of fist fights will always be a country of Yanukovych, whatever the illusions of its inhabitants. When some attack and others applaud this is a clear indication that we have not changed much over these past two years, that we continue to live “in the region” and not in a European country.

          And in order to make it to Europe, we must first squeeze out the Yanukovych in us. Political violence and the Yanukovych factor -Euromaidan Press |
          --------------------------------------
          Source: Espresso TV

          Vitaliy Portnikov is a Ukrainian editor and journalist. Born in Kyiv in 1967. Since 1989, he works as the analyst of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specializing in post-Soviet countries, and cooperates with the Russian and Ukrainian services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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          • Russia asks Lebanon to close airspace for naval maneuvers
            21.11.2015 UNIAN

            Lebanon says it is studying a Kremlin request for it to close its airspace so that Russian forces can conduct naval maneuvers off of Lebanon, according to Radio Liberty.

            Russia informed Lebanese officials on November 20 that at midnight it would begin three days of exercises along Lebanon's coast and that all flights from Beirut should be diverted.

            Lebanese Transportation Minister Ghazi Zeaiter said on November 20 that Beirut initially refused the Russian request but would make a final decision after talking to Russian officials and regional transportation staff, RFE/RL wrote.

            Russian fighter jets are currently involved in an intensive bombing campaign in Syria.

            Lebanon has few options for alternative routes from Beirut because it does not fly over Israel, its southern neighbor, and is avoiding Syria due to the hostilities there.

            Lebanese national carrier Middle East Airlines said in a statement that its flights would proceed as normal from Beirut at the current time but added that some flights to Persian Gulf states could take longer if alternative routes need to be taken.

            Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt wrote in a tweet that Russian seemed to "consider Lebanon as a district of Moscow, infringing and insulting our sovereignty." Russia asks Lebanon to close airspace for naval maneuvers : UNIAN news

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            • United States prepares six-month course for Ukrainian special forces
              UKRINFORM 21 Nov 2015

              The U.S. instructors will conduct the six-month course for Ukrainian special operations forces in Khmelnytsky region.

              Spokesperson for the Defense Ministry of Ukraine Viktoria Kushnir said this, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

              "The qualifying course for the special operations forces starts in Khmelnytsky region. The U.S. instructors will train Ukrainian specialists for over six months so that on completion of training the Ukrainian officers could share their knowledge with the colleagues," Kushnir said.

              According to her, the training is carried out at the military special forces base and is primarily aimed at getting practical skills.
              United States prepares six-month course for Ukrainian special forces — Ukrinform News

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              • Ukraine Power Cable Blasts Leave Crimeans Suffering Blackout
                BLOOMBERG Volodymyr Verbyany, Elena Mazneva, Eduard Gismatullin
                November 22, 2015 — 3:12 AM EST

                Power to region annexed by Russia from Ukraine halted

                May take `few days' for supplies to be resumed, Ukraine says
                -------------
                Ukraine suspects an explosion caused a power cut to Crimea, the peninsula of about 2 million people to its south annexed by Russia last year.

                It will take a “few days” to restore electricity to the region, Ukrainian Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn said Sunday by telephone. Crimea declared a state of emergency after it lost power supply from Ukraine at 12:19 a.m., Russia’s Energy ministry said in a statement. Supplies through two cables from Ukraine were halted after being damaged, probably by explosive devices, it said.

                "We are taking measures now, law enforcement officers are involved, as there might be third-party interference," Demchyshyn said. "I’m not an expert, but I suspect a blast."

                Local authorities in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March 2014, managed to resume power supplies to “socially significant” and “potentially hazardous” facilities using backup generators, Russia’s Emergency Ministry said in a separate statement on Sunday. About 1.6 million people in Crimea had no power as of 1 p.m. Moscow time, the Energy Ministry said.

                Crimea restored about 30 percent of power supply using it own resources, the region’s head, Sergei Aksenov, said in an interview with Russian radio station Govorit Moskva aired at about 11 a.m. local time on Sunday.

                While power lines connecting Ukraine and Crimea were impaired on Friday, they continued to work until they were damaged a second time, supposedly by an explosion, at 11:20 p.m. on Saturday, Demchyshyn said. It will take four to five hours to restore one of the less-damaged links, he said.
                Action Plan

                “Russian authorities are expecting from us any plan of action at least, to know when the supplies will be resumed,” he said. “Nobody has presented any ultimatum to me so far.”

                Russia remains an important partner for power supplies in Ukraine, which faces the threat of coal and electricity shortages since pro-Russian rebels seized its coal extraction districts in the East. While Ukraine stopped importing electricity from Russia this month, it still plans to import as much as 200,000 metric tons of coal from Russia by year-end.

                Ukraine is supplying electricity to its border districts in the Kherson region using backup measures, local authorities said in a statement on the regional administration’s website. There was a threat of cut-offs to 40 percent of consumers in the Kherson and Mykolayiv regions, Interfax news agency reported, citing the Energy Ministry. Ukraine Power Cable Blasts Leave Crimeans Suffering Blackout - Bloomberg Business






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                • Civil society struggles to keep Ukraine's government on European path
                  UT UKRAINE TODAY Nov. 22, 2015

                  NGOs step in to help advise and influence state bodies on the ambitious reforms programme

                  Ukraine Today is joined by Zoriana Mishchuk, a member of the EU-Ukraine civil society platform about the challenges Kyiv faces in monitoring the implementation of the Association Agreement with the European Union.

                  "There are so many tasks on the list and obviously, the civil servants [in] Ukraine are not able to cope with all of them and here is the expertise, experience and knowledge of European policies which has been accumulated by civil society. It is of crucial importance."

                  "We know that the culture of ignoring laws is very dispersed and typical for this country [Ukraine]."

                  "[Ukraine] is my country. I'm very interested to see it prosperous, efficient and democratic and this time, we [civil society] feel that it is up to us to move the reforms and it is very rewarding... I think that now we have a lot more courage than we did before the Revolution of Dignity. We feel much more empowered [with] having rights to have a say in this process and this courage really is giving energy to our action." Civil society struggles to keep Ukraine's government on European path - watch on - uatoday.tv

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                  • Samuel Ramani: Now is the right time to provide lethal aid to Ukraine
                    Nov. 22, 2015, 12:03 p.m. Samuel Ramani KYIV POST

                    On Nov. 10, the United States Congress passed a defense policy bill that authorized up to $50 million in lethal military aid to Ukraine and mandated an American response to any Russian violations of arms control treaties. The Obama administration is expected to approve these measures, which include expanded US military training efforts in Ukraine, closer military-to-military communications and reconnaissance cooperation.

                    While Congress has been actively pushing for US lethal arms supply to Ukraine for some time (a vote on arms provisions in the US House of Representatives in March passed by anoverwhelming 348-48 margin), U.S. President Obama has resisted Republican-led efforts to escalate America’s involvement in the conflict.

                    In the context of open hostilities, Obama’s policy of checked resistance to Russian aggression was the most rational approach for US policymakers to pursue. The Ukrainian military’s lack of preparedness and technological shortcomings raised serious questions about the usefulness of lethal arms.

                    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s insufficient control over oligarch-led militias sparked fears of weapons entering into the wrong hands. Europe’s resolve to support American efforts in Ukraine was also seriously questioned, as was the West’s willingness to continue to escalate further in the likely event of a Russian counter-deployment.

                    Although it seems counter-intuitive that US arms supplies to Ukraine are occurring at a time when hostilities in Donbas are dying down, lethal arms can be very valuable in a frozen conflict scenario for two main reasons.

                    First, America’s new Ukraine strategy raises the costs of continued Russian ceasefire violations.

                    Second, the experiences of Nagorno-Karabakh and Georgia demonstrate how the Kremlin can re-inflame frozen conflicts at will for its own purposes. Arms provisions can deter Putin from destabilizing Ukraine in the future, and also provide protection against continued Russian provocations in the CIS region.

                    Repeated cease-fire violations in Donbas necessitate lethal arms provisions

                    From the very inception of the ceasefire mandated by the Minsk II peace talks in February 2015, eastern Ukraine has been beset by periodic episodes of violence that have occurred inflagrant defiance of the Minsk agreement. The first incident was the takeover of Debaltseve by pro-Russian separatists, and this conquest was followed by astring of more indirect acts of aggression from both sides. On July 15, Newsweek reported over 100 cease-fire violations in one day in Donetsk and Luhansk.

                    The landmark agreement to remove heavy weaponry from the Ukraine conflict was a major boost to theprospects of peace. Following this deal, hostilities subsided, but a sharp increase in ceasefire violations in early November confirmed that the war inDonbas is not as frozen as previously thought.

                    The war of words between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian forces on who is responsible for ceasefireviolations, makes lethal arms provisions to one side, seem like a dangerous misreading of the conflict that will only escalate tensions.

                    To prevent this outcome, a distinction needs to be made between offensive and defensive weaponry. It isundeniable that Russia has conducted destabilizing military activities in eastern Ukraine.

                    Some of these military operations use Ukraine as a testing ground for new military hardware, like air defense systems, that the Kremlin could utilize in Syria. The use of Ukrainian territory for these kinds of trials is an egregious violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty that Poroshenko must implore the West to resist.

                    Ukrainian government forces are therefore in need of improved logistical training and defensive weapons, like anti-tank and anti-artillery technologies, to neutralize and deter further Russian aggression. To avoid a reheating of the conflict that would bedetrimental to the Ukrainian economy, the temporary focus should be onpreserving the Minsk II boundaries and not recapturing territory illegally annexed by Russian troops in 2014.

                    Lethal arms will prevent Russia from reheating Ukraine conflict

                    Since the mid-1990s, Russia has exploited and intervened militarily to create frozen conflict situations across the CIS region. Russia’s most significant interventions occurred in Moldova, Georgia and the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno Karabakh. In these countries, the Kremlin sought to gain what New York Times journalist Ivan Nechepurenko recently described tome as a “golden stake” over their future. Russia’s military presence wouldobstruct national unity efforts by shoring up support for semi-autonomousregions and secure Russian hegemony by preventing NATO’s expansion too close toits borders.

                    The prevalence of unresolved, infrequently inflamed border disputes in the CIS region is the lasting legacyof Russia’s neo-imperial strategy. Despite outward demonstrations of support for lasting peace in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia has stoked the conflictrepeatedly through arms sales to the Armenian government.

                    And in Georgia, Russia has frequently attempted to redraw the border boundaries in the areathat encompasses the BP-operated Baku-Supsa pipeline. Leading Russia expert Karen Dawisha, a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and the authorof the best-selling book Putin’sKleptocracy told me in a recent interview that these border skirmishes inGeorgia are a direct reaction to perceptions of Russian weakness in Ukraine.

                    Ukraine is at high risk of similarly destabilizing Russian activity, especially if it attracts more European investment by launching aggressive anti-corruption efforts and deepens its security linkages with the West. While France and Germany still are reluctant to guarantee Ukraine’s security, public support for NATO membership is at an all-time high and Ukraine has officially rejected its long-standing neutrality policy.

                    Therefore, the specter of EU and NATO integration of rUkraine, which alarmed the Kremlin in 2013, remains and Russia could be tempted to escalate in a knee-jerk fashion in Donbas if it feels as if its losing its grip over Ukraine. Russia’s full control over the Black Sea and Sevastopol, combined with its residual military presence, makes a sudden escalation a low-cost endeavor that would be easily justifiable to the Russian public.

                    Therefore, Ukraine needs to guarantee its security and lethal arms provide a potent deterrent to Russian provocations. Ukraine was woefully unprepared for the 2014 war (it shed more than 80% of its military personnel in the first two decades after the Sovietcollapse and was dependent on out-of-date weapons systems); and it must becareful to ensure it is not caught off guard again. Escalated sanctions, theblacklist of pro-Kremlin individuals, the suspension of electricity imports and renegotiations of its debt obligations, demonstrate that Poroshenko is pursuing a strategy of self-isolation from Russia.

                    Poroshenko must demonstrate that Ukraine can fend for itself on the world stage. Putin’s reluctance to engage in military campaigns that lead to widespread Russian civilian casualties plays in Ukraine’s favor. So if Ukraine possesses effective Western-made defensive weaponry, it will make a successful Russian charge for Odesa extremely unlikely.

                    The Obama administration’s decision to provide Ukraine with lethal arms at a time of reduced hostility in Donbas is a wise move that will contribute greatly to Ukraine’s long-term security. Lethal arms will increase the credibility of Ukraine’s efforts to develop economically and build security pacts outside of Russia’s orbit. As the locus of Russia’s military efforts shift to Syria, Putin’s capacity to provide a counter-deployment in Ukraine will decline, increasing the prospect for long-term peace in Donbas.
                    Samuel Ramani: Now is the right time to provide lethal aid to Ukraine

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                    • Russian attacks in east Ukraine rapidly increase
                      UT UKRAINE TODAY Nov. 22, 2015

                      Russian forces fired at Ukrainian positions 40 times overnight

                      Russian terrorists opened fire 40 times against Ukrainian defensive positions in eastern Ukraine over the past 24 hours, the military has said.

                      Russian forces used rocket-propelled grenades, small arms and machine guns, targeting villages and towns in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. No casualties were reported.

                      November has seen a sharp increase of attacks from Russian forces. Eight Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the month. Dozens have also been wounded. Russian attacks in east Ukraine rapidly increase - watch on - uatoday.tv

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                      • People vs the System. Who wins the battle two years after Maidan
                        EUROMAIDAN PRESS Olena Makarenko 2015/11/22

                        New angels and old demons. Big positive transformations of society and tightening of the pre-revolutionary knots. Unity and betrayal. All these controversial consequences are the result of the Euromaidan revolution. So what really changed after the revolution? In general, the formula is: we receive success in areas where “new people” are working and failure where the old system remains.

                        Life goes faster for those who act. Oleksandra Dvoretska is a human rights activist and heads the public organization Vostok-SOS [Ukr: “East Ukraine-SOS”] together with her husband. He is from Luhansk and she is from Crimea. Because of her active position in opposing the Russian aggression in Ukraine, visiting home for her is dangerous now. However, it doesn’t stop her from working: she coordinates the human rights direction in her organization, lobbying legislature and actively supporting support people displaced from Crimea and East Ukraine.

                        “For me it is important that the people who took part in Maidan can’t return to their previous lives and pretend that nothing happened, that the revolution hasn’t happened on the level of authorities, but in the minds of many people. This makes it a revolution,” says Oleksandra.

                        While many honest and helpful public organizations have emerged, there are others who are less trustworthy. However, this does not lessen the achievements of those who really work.

                        According to the survey conducted by the US Agency for International Development, activities of NGOs in Ukraine has become more efficient and effective. The survey took into account seven indicators: the legal environment in which NGOs operate, their organizational capacity, financial viability, the number of members, services which they provide, technical support and reputation in society.

                        Compared to previous years, public trust to non-governmental organizations has increased in Ukraine: the reason lies in strong volunteer movements, which work more effectively than registered associations, that were born after Euromaidan.

                        Euromaidan made people rethink their values and attitude toward their country. Many discovered a love towards their Fatherland and started to identify it in a visible way – a T-Shirt, an accessory a profile picture in social media. Some might have made it sincerely, some not; nevertheless, Ukrainian attributes have now become mainstream. However, talking about real unconditional love, the best example is people who ready to even die for their country.

                        Volodymyr Nebir is one of the “cyborgs” who used to defend Donetsk Airport. He managed to survive in a very difficult moment and to save his comrades. It is not easy for him to define his love for Ukraine:

                        “Everyone expresses it in different ways. It is enough is everyone does his own work sincerely, lives according to the truth and is honest. This will lead to other results: throwing rubbish to rubbish bins, not giving bribes, not taking bribes, not using obscene language, which we, by the way, borrowed from Russia. The love to Ukraine starts from such details. Everybody should do things according to his own abilities. But again, everything should be done honestly with truth. Love is in my actions. I can’t describe it by words. Look at what I have done and then decide whether I love Ukraine or not.”

                        It is hard to say how many such loving soldiers had been serving in Ukrainian army before the war, but the Army itself had been perceived as totally corrupted and demoralized structure which was considered as a burden for the country previously.

                        Still today, the Ukrainian Army is regularly criticized. Usually because of the people of the old Soviet generation, corruption, and other remains of the system. However, new forces are coming to the Army and this war made it to wake up.

                        So far the police service reform is the only one which has a straightforward positive response. All the old workers of the corrupt traffic police were replaced and the service itself was liquidated. The new strictly selected workers who are mostly young people have formed a totally new service with new functions – The Police. All external attributes also were replaced. So far the new police is working in Kharkiv, Odesa and Lviv regions and in Kyiv.

                        The reform had been overseen by Eka Zguladze, the first deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who had implemented a similar reform in Georgia. There, the success of the reform was also related to a total replacement of people of the old system.

                        One of the requirements of Euromaidan was to reform the old law enforcement services. And what about politicians? It is fair to say that there are new faces and new forces. For example, the recent local elections in Ukraine brought sensational success to two new political parties – Power of the People and Democratic Alliance in Western Ukraine, as well as in Donbas. The former has representatives in 20 out of 22 regions where they were taking part and the latter has 27 candidates and is represented in a few satellite cities, in Chernihiv the Democratic Alliance has representatives in regional and district councils. Mykolayiv has also seen a completely new mayor in the city council as IT-manager Oleksandr Senkevych won recent elections. So a new generation is coming. So far it’s too early to evaluate their results.

                        On the other hand, the word “zrada” (betrayal) can be heard often in Ukraine, especially closer to elections, as many ex-Party of Regions representatives took part in it under the color of different political forces, including pro-presidential Solidarity.

                        If we follow where the roads of disappointment in society lead, in the end, again we will find the remains of the old system. The oligarchic system is observable in the work of the media, when every channel is owned by someone, it is visible in politics. The events on the frontline in East Ukraine are usually influenced by the people from old Soviet system. This system also is deeply ingrained in other governmental institutions.

                        The fight with oligarchs, announced by the President Petro Poroshenko, leaves an ambivalent impression. When in March, 2015 Mr. President fired Ihor Kolomoyskyi, an influential Ukrainian oligarch, from the post of Dnipropetrovsk governor, it was explained as a step toward deoligarchisation. When Hennadiy Korban, a politician from the Kolomoyskyiy circle, was arrested in the middle of the electoral race in Autumn 2015, many questioned whether it is really a war against oligarchs in general or Poroshenko’s personal fight against Kolomoyskyi. In any case, Ukraine’s deoligarchisation is far away from being completed.

                        Euromaidan has taught us to rely on ourselves and to organize ourselves without help of the state. It helped new people to enter politics and government. However, many questions are left unanswered: how to resist the pressure of the old system and how to change it. If we imagine that only 1% of the population is serving this system on different levels, that means almost a half of a million people. The question is how these people can be changed. People vs the System. Who wins the battle two years after Maidan -Euromaidan Press |

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                        • The other jihadist playground - Libya’s civil war has allowed Islamic State to consolidate its position there - Eliminating IS in Syria and Iraq is just the start
                          Nov 18th 2015 THE ECONOMIST

                          THE massacre in Paris on November 13th has been met with martial rhetoric and muscle-flexing by world leaders. Barack Obama and François Hollande have vowed to “destroy” Islamic State (IS). France and Russia have intensified their air strikes on the group. The fight, for now, is focused on Iraq and Syria, where IS controls a large swathe of territory. But eliminating that stronghold may just be a start. The group has affiliates, some self-proclaimed, across the globe, from Algeria to the Philippines.

                          Many of the official branches have only loose ties to the central leadership. Most find it difficult to hold territory, but some are quite potent. The civil war in Yemen, long home to a deadly al-Qaeda franchise, has allowed a branch of IS to emerge from the country’s ungoverned spaces to attack government, military and religious targets. An affiliate in Egypt, operating in the rugged Sinai peninsula, has tormented the government of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian passenger jet on October 31st that killed all 224 people on board.

                          But perhaps the most worrisome offshoot of the caliphate is made up of its three “provinces” in Libya, where it is estimated to have some 3,000 fighters. The group has gained ground there amid the chaos of a civil war between rival governments, and their allied militias, in the east and west of the country. State structures do not exist to counter its rise. Weapons, from rifles to rockets, abound. And the borders are porous. These are “the perfect conditions for a terrorist campaign”, writes Wolfgang Pusztai, a former Austrian defence attaché to Libya.

                          As in Syria, defeating IS in Libya is no one’s priority; both sides in the civil war prioritise attacks on each other. The jihadist group’s advance has been largely opportunistic, writes Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think-tank. It has taken advantage of “the fissures, distraction, and incapacity of rival factions.” Much as it did in Syria, IS has tried to steal members and lure recruits by outdoing other Islamist groups in its radicalism. This has not always worked. After IS fighters took over Derna, a small port in the east, and instituted their savage brand of justice, they faced a backlash and were ultimately pushed out of the city by a coalition that included other jihadists.

                          More recently, though, the group has consolidated control of parts of central Libya, including the city of Sirte and much of the coastal area to the east, according to the United Nations. Other IS militants are now fighting for a foothold in Benghazi, a city divided between the eastern military, militias and extremist groups. Those battling IS say they have seen an influx of foreigners in the group’s ranks. Many come from neighbouring Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. As pressure on IS mounts in Iraq and Syria, it appears some recruits are being redirected to Libya, which has become a jihadist hub.

                          The advance of IS in Libya is particularly troubling for Europe, which sits some 400km away across the Mediterranean Sea. “In Libya there is the perfect mix ready to explode and in case it explodes, it will explode just at the gates of Europe,” said Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign-affairs boss, earlier this year. The presence of IS on the coast has heightened concerns that terrorists may mix with war-fleeing migrants on boats bound for Europe.

                          But analysts say those fears are overblown, not least because IS does not control the main embarkation points. The group poses a greater threat to neighbouring countries, which worry that Islamic militants, foreign or home-grown, will find inspiration, training and refuge in Libya. The jihadists who carried out two deadly attacks on foreign tourists in Tunisia this year are said to have trained in Libyan camps. The Tunisian authorities claim to have foiled another big attack, dreamed up in Libya and Syria, this month.

                          Nevertheless, officials in the West are mulling aggressive action against IS in Libya—and taking some. On November 13th an American air strike is thought to have killed the group’s leader, Abu Nabil al-Anbari, an Iraqi said to be in direct contact with the group’s central command in Syria. The strike, planned before the massacre in Paris, was the first time that America had hit IS outside Iraq and Syria. An American strike that took place earlier in the year in Libya was targeted not at IS but al-Qaeda: it killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of the group’s leaders.

                          IS has made many enemies in Libya, which may eventually be its undoing. Its attempts to expand have put it into conflict with tribes and militias that are willing to fight back. It has also been prevented from acquiring any of the country’s vast energy resources. Most Libyans are Sunni, so the group cannot prey on sectarian tensions as it has done elsewhere. And a hit to its brand in Iraq and Syria may make it less popular abroad. But as long as Libya is consumed by chaos, the jihadists of IS are likely to endure. Libya’s civil war has allowed Islamic State to consolidate its position there | The Economist
                          -------------------------
                          ISIS is like a superbug. Resistance can be developed, but there is no cure.

                          The only way America can win is by not participating.


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                          • RADIO FREE EUROPE Carl Schreck November 22, 2015
                            Road Warriors: Russia Yields On New Transport Tax After Long-Haul Trucker Protests

                            The Russian government has walked back a controversial new levy on long-haul trucks after protests by their drivers in and around dozens of cities, the latest example of the grassroots political sway wielded by the country's motorists.

                            The Transport Ministry said in a November 20 statement that it has drafted legislation that would cancel fines for drivers of 12-ton trucks who fail to pay the federal road tax and lower fines for truck owners, though the tax itself appears set to remain in place.

                            The concession followed a nationwide wave of protests by truck drivers against the levy, which took effect on November 15 and charges 1.5 rubles ($0.02) for each kilometer that large trucks traverse on Russia's roads.

                            Officials say the initiative is necessary to collect funds to repair damage to roads inflicted by trucks transporting heavy loads, while opponents of the new tax say it threatens to bankrupt small- and mid-sized companies and drive up inflation.

                            Some truckers and their supporters have also voiced outrage that the levy's electronic collection system -- called Platon -- is operated by a company controlled by the son of construction magnate Arkady Rotenberg, a former judo sparring partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has landed billions of dollars in state contracts.

                            Truckers have flashed placards denouncing what they call the "Rotenberg Levy."

                            Over the past 10 days, truck drivers have staged protests in more than 70 Russian cities, from the country's western borders to Vladivostok in the Far East, snarling traffic in places by driving their trucks at slow speeds on major thoroughfares.

                            "We pay taxes! Why are they introducing this?" one truck driver protesting on the side of a freeway in the Sverdlovsk region in the Ural Mountains told RFE/RL's Current Time TV. "This money didn't go to fixing roads, and it won't, because it's going into pockets filled with holes."

                            The protests have rattled officials in Moscow.

                            The Federal Roads Agency has asked the Interior Ministry to investigate protest organizers, citing a November 19 incident near the western city of Tver in which a truck veered off the side of the road and struck a group of demonstrating truck drivers, killing one and injuring three.

                            Meanwhile, State Duma Deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov, a member of Putin's ruling United Russia party, released a November 20 video in which he accused the protesting truck drivers of being manipulated by "national traitors" and a "fifth column" working for the United States.

                            Motorist Power

                            The Kremlin and state-controlled media under Putin have consistently portrayed the marginalized liberal opposition as nefarious instruments of Western governments seeking to undermine Russia's stability and autonomy.

                            Attempts to paint Russia's drivers in similarly traitorous tones have proven trickier for officials.

                            Over the past decade, motorists in Russia -- who number tens of millions across virtually all social strata -- have repeatedly forced the hand of a government that has tightened the screws on political opponents and is notoriously reluctant to bend to public pressure.

                            In 2006, car owners nationwide protested after Siberian railway worker Oleg Shcherbinsky was sentenced to four years in prison for failing to avoid the speeding car of Altai Governor Mikhail Yevdokimov, who was killed in the ensuing crash. Shcherbinsky's conviction was ultimately overturned.

                            Tariffs on imported cars also sparked widespread protests by motorists in 2008-09, most notably in Vladivostok, where Japanese imports are popular. Riot police dispatched all the way from Moscow violently dispersed protesters in the Far Eastern city, while Putin continued to stand behind the tariffs.

                            Motorists have also spearheaded protests against the impunity with which officials, the wealthy, and the well-connected in Russia violate the rules of the road, often with the help of flashing blue sirens called "migalki" atop their vehicles.

                            Aleksandr Kotov, a leader of this month's protests by truck drivers, said the demonstrations will continue until the Platon payment system is scrapped but that they will be moved farther away from the road to avoid incidents like the deadly accident near Tver, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported on November 20.

                            Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was quoted by the Russian news agency RBC as saying on November 19 that that the Kremlin is aware of protests over the new levy on 12-ton trucks, but that all questions about the initiative "are an issue for the government," not the president.

                            He added that "minor hiccups" in the system would be fixed, RBC reported.
                            Road Warriors: Russia Yields On New Transport Tax After Long-Haul Trucker Protests

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                            • ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape
                              NEW YORK TIMES AZADEH MOAVENI NOV. 21, 2015

                              The Women Who Left ISIS
                              -The three Syrian women interviewed for this article, all former members of the Islamic State morality police who escaped to Turkey this year, met with a reporter in a southern Turkish city for hours of interviews, together and separately, over the course of two multiday visits.
                              -The names Aws, Dua and Asma are pseudonyms used for their protection, but they fully identified themselves and their family connections.
                              -Their accounts of working for the Islamic State, of their lives and of events in Raqqa, Syria, in recent years were consistent with one another and with interviews and accounts of other former and current residents of Raqqa.
                              -The women also shared cellphone images of locations in Raqqa, and of their lives there, that were independently confirmed.
                              -------------------------------------------------
                              SOUTHERN TURKEY — Dua had only been working for two months with the Khansaa Brigade, the all-female morality police of the Islamic State, when her friends were brought to the station to be whipped.

                              The police had hauled in two women she had known since childhood, a mother and her teenage daughter, both distraught. Their abayas, flowing black robes, had been deemed too form-fitting.

                              When the mother saw Dua, she rushed over and begged her to intercede. The room felt stuffy as Dua weighed what to do.

                              “Their abayas really were very tight. I told her it was their own fault; they had come out wearing the wrong thing,” she said. “They were unhappy with that.”

                              Dua sat back down and watched as the other officers took the women into a back room to be whipped. When they removed their face-concealing niqabs, her friends were also found to be wearing makeup. It was 20 lashes for the abaya offense, five for the makeup, and another five for not being meek enough when detained.

                              Their cries began ringing out, and Dua stared hard at the ceiling, a lump building in her throat.

                              In the short time since she had joined the Khansaa Brigade in her hometown, Raqqa, in northern Syria, the morality force had grown more harsh. Mandatory abayas and niqabs were still new for many women in the weeks after the jihadists of the Islamic State had purged the city of competing militants and taken over. At first, the brigade was told to give the community a chance to adapt, and clothing offenses brought small fines.

                              After too many young women became repeat offenders, however, paying the fines without changing their behavior, the soft approach was out. Now it was whipping — and now it was her friends being punished.

                              The mother and daughter came to Dua’s parents’ house afterward, furious with her and venting their anger at the Islamic State.

                              “They said they hated it and wished it had never come to Raqqa,” Dua said. She pleaded with them, explaining that as a young and new member of the Khansaa Brigade, there was nothing she could have done.

                              But a lifelong friendship, with shared holiday gatherings and birthday parties, was suddenly broken. “After that day, they hated me, too,” she said. “They never came to our house again.”

                              Dua’s second cousin Aws also worked for the brigade. Not long after Dua’s friends were whipped, Aws saw fighters brutally lashing a man in Muhammad Square. The man, about 70, frail and with white hair, had been heard cursing God. As a crowd gathered, the fighters dragged him into the public square and whipped him after he fell to his knees.

                              “He cried the whole time,” Aws said. “It was lucky for him that he had cursed Allah, because Allah shows mercy. If he’d cursed the Prophet, they would have killed him.”

                              Today, Aws, 25, and Dua, 20, are living in a small city in southern Turkey after fleeing Raqqa and its jihadist rulers. They met up here with Asma, 22, another defector from the Khansaa Brigade, and found shelter in the city’s large community of Syrian refugees.

                              Raqqa is widely known now as the capital of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate and as the focus of heavy airstrikes by a growing number of countries seeking revenge for the group’s recent terrorist attacks. But the city in which the three women came to adulthood used to be quite different. Identified here by nicknames, the women spoke for many hours over the course of two visits this fall, recalling their experiences under Islamic State rule and how the jihadists had utterly changed life in Raqqa.

                              All three described themselves as fairly typical young women of Raqqa. Aws was more into Hollywood, Dua into Bollywood. Aws’s family was middle-class, and she studied English literature at a branch of Euphrates University, a three-hour bus ride away in Hasaka. She devoured novels: some by Agatha Christie, and especially Dan Brown books. “Digital Fortress” is her favorite.

                              Dua’s father is a farmer, and money was tighter. But her social life was closely intertwined with Aws’s, and the cousins loved their charming city. There were long walks to Qalat Jabr, the 11th-century fort on Lake Assad; coffee at Al Rasheed Park; and Raqqa Bridge, where you could see the city lights at night. In the gardens and amusement park in the town center, there was ice cream and communal shisha pipes to gather around.

                              “In the summer, everyone went out at night and stayed out late, because it was so hot during the day,” Dua said.

                              The women keep pictures of their old lives in Raqqa on their cellphones, scenes from parties and countryside outings. Aws’s gallery includes days on the lakeshore, her friends in bathing suits, dancing in the water.

                              Asma, with a bright gaze, was another outward-looking young woman, studying business at Euphrates University. Her mother was a native of Damascus, the capital, and Asma spent some of her teenage years there seeing friends, swimming at pool parties, going to cafes. She is also an avid reader, fond of Ernest Hemingway and Victor Hugo, and she speaks some English.

                              continue read: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/wo...=top-news&_r=0

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                              • Opinion: The doomed past and uncertain future of Russia’s elite
                                A member of the Duma explains how the authorities must change, if they want to survive
                                MEDUZA 10 Nov 2015

                                EXCERPT:

                                And history is already quietly reaching the desks of figures from the Yeltsin and Putin eras, too, though they're too self-satisfied to notice. The first heads have already started to roll, tangled in their own scarves.

                                I'm sure every generation of self-appointed gods thinks, this time, things will last forever. They think Jupiter was talking precisely about their regime, when he said in The Aeneid, "For these I set no limits, world or time." But time catches up to everyone. Just ask Khrushchev, who toddled off to work his garden as a pensioner, and was lucky for it.

                                Can we even compare Russia to the likes of the United States, where political and business dynasties maintain a firm grip on their elite status for decades (and soon centuries)? If the US is too dissimilar, then we can instead consider the other BRICKS nations—the same countries to which Kremlin-friendly analysts so enjoy comparing Russia. But the stability of India's political life, its continuity, for instance, is already light years more developed than Russia, with its constant upheaval.

                                What's wrong with us and what's the reason for this—pardon the phrase—historical diarrhea? Why can't a single generation of elites hold on long enough to pass its influence to its own descendants (both in blood and in spirit)? The elites can't even manage the simple process of securing their own children's future in Russia. Just look at the fate of the heirs of the "Soviet nobility" and you'll understand. Stalin's granddaughter now owns a vintage clothing store in Portland; Khrushchev's son is a scholar in Rhode Island; Mikhail Suslov's daughter lives peacefully in Austria; Brezhnev's niece is in California; and his grandson is involved in various shady political projects. And these are the stories that turned out happiest.

                                Do today's rulers at the helm think it will be any different with them? Do they think they're to Russia what the Kims are to North Korea—generations that have finally taken root in the Russian soil? I fear that instilling that kind of Juche in Russia won't work. It would require recreating the elite from scratch, and raising the new one to be slavishly devoted to a single master, with nothing to its name but the gifts of that master. But over the past quarter century, we've built a market economy of sorts. Too much, fortunately, has been privatized (though that process was hurried and often dishonest).

                                That's why North Korea and its quiescent elite can't exist in Russia. Instead, gradually (and we can already see it happening now), that lovely word "elite" is coming to signify bulldogs fighting under a carpet, and soon enough it will be spiders packed in a jar. This perhaps is where we exit the senseless and bloody lessons of the 20th century. The problem for Russia is that the West, with its entrenched elites, ultimately relies on the people as its source of authority. An obvious bond forms in the West: the people (and not just in the United States) become the source of authority for the elite, who in turn influence the people. And so you get both unity and struggle. In our country, the people have never been a source of authority for the elites. Even in Sergey Uvarov's Triad ("Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality"), there wasn't so much as the concept of the people.

                                In Russia, the source of authority is something else entirely: in rough times, it's weapons, and on brighter days, it's oil. But it has nothing to do with the people. As a result, there's no feedback. So, when one resource is exhausted, like we're seeing with falling oil prices now, the authorities have no alternatives to which they can turn. You can't form a civic bond with oil prices.

                                All this leads to a very simple conclusion: if today's elite wants to survive, it must change. It's no wonder that all the world's successful developed nations arrived at one or another form of democracy, whether it's a parliamentary republic or a constitutional monarchy. With democracy, humanity has stumbled onto a certain universal law, not unlike the discovery of the periodic table. Are you committed to sustainable development? Would you rather not end up suddenly swept away in some meaningless, merciless revolt, or in a meaningful, but nonetheless very unpleasant, palace coup? Take a cue from the real leaders out there (and I don't mean Mr. Putin). Then it becomes clear that surviving peacefully in power and quietly, gradually withdrawing into retirement is possible only with functioning democratic institutions.

                                If Russia refuses to learn this lesson, the next hundred years are as good as written. History might even get bored of holding back a slacker like Russia and sooner or later just expel it from class altogether. The choice is simple.

                                READ COMPLETE ARTICLE
                                https://meduza.io/en/feature/2015/11...russia-s-elite

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