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  • Donald Trumpovich. Did Trump say it, or was it one of Russian politics’ nuts? Take the quiz.
    MEDUZA 2:49, 8 December 2015

    Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in the 2016 race, is famous for making shocking statements that often spit in the face of what is generally regarded as politically correct (others might say "sane") public discourse. Yesterday, he issued what might be his most controversial declaration yet, calling for a complete and total "shutdown" of all Muslims entering the United States, until the government "can figure out what is going on." Trump's behavior isn't so different from that of many Russian politicians, who owe their jobs and reputations to a capacity for outrageous outbursts that keep them in the headlines. Meduza challenges readers to guess which statements below belong to Donald Trump, and which sprung from the lips of Russia's state elite.

    1(On the death penalty) “When a man or woman cold-bloodedly murders, he or she should pay. It sets an example. Nobody can make the argument that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent. Either it will be brought back swiftly or our society will rot away. It is rotting away.”

    2(On Europe) “They needed to close down the borders like 20-30 years ago. Now it won’t do any good, because the terrorists are already there. You can deport everyone who isn’t a native French, suspend all air traffic ties to terrorist zones, and go the way of isolation. Then the Europeans would save their people, but their economy would take a hit.”

    3(On borders) “We have to tighten our control over the ability of people to come here. Our borders are basically wide open. Tightening control over exiting the country, too, would make it harder for terrorists to get away so quickly.”

    4(“I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.”

    5(“I think the handshake is barbaric… Shaking hands, you catch the flu, you catch this, you catch all sorts of things.”

    READ all ten and guess if it was Donald Trump, Vladimir Zhirinovsky or Putin...https://meduza.io/en/quiz/donald-trumpovich

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    • Opinion: Putin’s theater Signs and slogans for the Russian elite
      MEDUZA 9 December 2015

      In cooperation with the Carnegie Moscow Center, Meduza presents a text by Andrei Kolesnikov on Vladimir Putin’s annual national addresses, which he argues was short of ideas, but served the purpose of sending signals to the Russian elite. This year, Kolesnikov explains, Putin set out to underline the idea of Russia as a nation under siege. This translation originally appeared on the Carnegie Moscow Center's website here.
      ----------------------------
      President Vladimir Putin’s annual “state of the nation” speeches have gotten briefer. The one he delivered at the Kremlin on December 3 was twelve minutes shorter than the one he gave last year.

      The address contained no new ideas, but that was not its purpose. It was a piece of theater that sent signals of ideological guidance to the Russian elite about the state of their nation under siege.

      Finding something original to say in a speech of this type is not a new problem. Putin’s team of writers would sympathize with the plight of Alexander Bovin, who worked as Leonid Brezhnev’s speechwriter in even more restrictive times. Once Bovin was so bored that he composed a poem about his work:

      Another speech, another dacha,
      Drink after drink—with none to spare—
      With tears and laughter, simple structure,

      When every day is a nightmare.

      The General Secretary of the Communist Party apparently did not like the poem.

      The idea of an annual presidential address to the nation was devised in 1993, reportedly by President Boris Yeltsin’s then-adviser, Yury Baturin, with another vision in mind: a kind of conversation between the leader and the nation.

      The current master of the Kremlin does not want a conversation. Putin uses the occasion to conquer his audience with populist sound bites that solidify his “tough guy” image. In that spirit, he told his audience that “Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking away their mind and reason.”

      More importantly, the speech also served the purpose of warning the elites to maintain their vigilance in an era when Russia is at odds with almost the entire Western world and part of the East, as well. It was a set of instructions on the need to consolidate around their leader and his now-hopelessly-besieged fortress.

      For instance, Putin called for the development of import-substitution programs and set a goal of making the domestic market fully provided with Russian-produced foods by 2020. This suggests that his Russian fortress will need to be completely outside the world’s supply chain by then.

      The address neatly fitted the spin doctors’ construction of “Putin the Savior.” It matched well with the news of the evening before, when Putin visited Crimea to open the first phase of an “energy bridge” with the Russian mainland to save the peninsula from dependence on Ukrainian electricity. The next morning Putin was already back in Moscow, again skirmishing verbally with his foreign adversaries.

      The background to the speech was the slogan of “permanent war,” which Putin has inculcated in Russia and which is meant to serve as a substitute for a lack of economic prosperity. Crimea, Donbas, Syria, terrorists, and Turkey all form a chain of events that obviates both the need for an economic miracle and any critical reflections on the nature of the Russian political regime.

      An already-standard arsenal of PR techniques was on display. The president drew direct analogies between the anti-Hitler coalition of World War II and the anti-Jihadist coalition of today. He equated patriotic sentiments with moral ones. He advanced the concept of a preventive and just war, which was very reminiscent of Lenin’s thesis of just wars waged by the proletariat.

      Myths and symbols got the better of actual facts. The president ostentatiously thanked the engineers and workers of Russian defense companies for providing technology for the military operation in Syria in language that was reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War against the Nazis. He praised Russia’s farmers for catapulting Russia into a world club of food exporters, disregarding the fact that Russia’s villages and farms are actually decaying.

      The president also attributed Russia’s growing birthrate to the government’s maternity program, whereas the evidence suggests that the country is at the top of a long-term demographic curve that started a long time ago in the twentieth century and is about to fall again.

      The president looked to the future by saying, “We have repeatedly faced a historical choice of which road to take to further development. We crossed another milestone in 2014, when Crimea and Sevastopol were reunified with Russia. Russia resoundingly reaffirmed its status as a strong state with a millennium-long history and great traditions, as a nation consolidated by common values and common goals.”

      This conclusion will be especially worrying to the 10–15 percent of the population who believe Russia is on a road to ruin and see no place for themselves in the president’s vision of the future.

      The notion of “common values and common goals” was declared, but its meaning was only hinted at, just as Russian television viewers were told in confidential tones about the weather in the Syrian war zone. The military operation in Syria, the takeover of Crimea, and the backlash against the Turks all reflect a new poorly articulated but commonly and intuitively felt idea of Russian national consolidation. https://meduza.io/en/feature/2015/12...utin-s-theater

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      • A Two-track Subversion Strategy for Russia’s War in Ukraine
        EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2015/12/09

        Russia has not given up on destroying Ukraine, but how will this be accomplished? A straight-up invasion would be extremely costly and Putin’s actions show that he is hesitant to risk the lives of regular Russian troops and is aware of the enormous costs that an open war with Ukraine would entail for Russia. So, just like in the spring of 2014, he will probably attempt to disintegrate Ukraine using irregular forces and subversion rather than open warfare (though the latter is always a possibility.) His proxies took Donetsk and Luhansk in early 2014 with token resistance, and this is a model for how he would like the rest of the war to go. This strategy could be accomplished while the “Minsk process” is supposedly going forward. As the Prussian military thinker Clausewitz said: “A conqueror is always a lover of peace… he would prefer to enter our lands without opposition.”

        A strategy of slow subversion would require very strong political and propaganda components. In the last week, two famous propaganda mouthpieces gave us clues about a possible two-track strategy of political and violent subversion in Ukraine. These two stars of Kremlin agitprop about the fighting in Ukraine are Mikhail Sergeyevich Tolstykh, a.k.a. “Givi” the commander of the “Somali” battalion and Arseny Pavlov a.k.a. “Motorola” Since the famous battle for Donetsk airport they have been a media tag team, often giving joint interviews. Their style is the classic tall/suave and short/gruff motif. Givi is the Seinfeld to Motorola’s Costanza.

        Motorola: We should Join Ukraine
        A week ago Motorola said something that would have been very surprising to hear just a few months ago. During an interview he was asked about Donbas joining Russia with a “Crimean Scenario.” He replied: “I think now there is no need to think about joining Russia, and (instead) about the DNR and LNR joining Ukraine in order to free the people from the fascist government and terrorist groups. That is far more important than accession to Russia. We can, of course, to join Russia…”

        Why this interest in “joining Ukraine?” If the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk are formally “re-admitted” into Ukraine without disarming the “militias,” without Ukrainian control of the border, and with the DNR and LNR granted some form of political recognition, then Putin’s plans to federalize Ukraine and wreck the Maidan revolution will take a big step forward.

        Notice, Motorola is framing “joining Ukraine” as an offensive move against “Fascism.” This latest statement might be a trial balloon, similar to some proposals that have appeared in the Russian press over the past year (sometimes making reference to the Republike Srpske as a model.) The best part about this statement is that Motorola is a Russian citizen. Is he trying himself to “join Ukraine?” Will Russian thugs and mercenaries such as him be allowed to reside on Ukrainian soil once the “Minsk Process” is complete? Some might say this while “join Ukraine to fight fascism” line is just a conciliatory propaganda line for the consumption of radical pro-Russian fighters, but on Sunday Motorola’s partner Givi reiterated the older, more hardline propaganda line: destroy Ukraine through conquest.
        Givi: Old Line

        Givi gave an interview published on Sunday in Svpressa where he reiterated a lot of the older lines from Russian propaganda about the emergence of “Novorossiya.” Political Solutions for the conflict won’t work. Ukraine will soon collapse because of economic woes and political/military failure. Novorossiya will conquer and liberate other territories. etc.

        “The Ukrainians are now gathering strength and bringing in NATO trainers, updating their weaponry. Is all this in order to respect the Minsk agreement? No. That monkey from overseas will order an offensive… The President of the DNR Alexander Zakharchenko said it many times: There is no way back. All the (new) state institutions have been created and are successfully functioning. Getting a political solution to the problems of Ukraine, with all praise an honor to politicians and diplomats. – It won’t work…Our state is able to protect itself. And we will liberate the occupied territories inside the administrative boundaries of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions… Last winter her (Ukraine’s) supplies were good, but this year more than a third of her companies are in a coma, a technical default has been declared…In Kyiv the rulers have one explanation for all their problems: the separatists, the terrorists…. “

        “…This is beginning to be understood in the territories controlled by Kyiv. I speak with many people in Dnepropetrovsk, Odesa Kherson, Zaporozhye, Kharkiv, and even Lviv. They all say with one voice: ‘We are waiting for you, only you.’ In the future most of the territory of the failed state will be part of Novorossiya. The Western regions should be given the right to self-determination – let them go in peace. The gaping jaws of the EU have been waiting for a long time. “

        Good Cop, Bad Cop
        A few days ago Motorola said that the “republics” should join Ukraine in order to fight the Fascists and terrorists from the inside, and Givi here is throwing back to the older lines about straight-up conquering and dismembering Ukraine. Which one is it? Perhaps both. Imagine this: The Russians can shift between the two outlooks at will depending on the political situation. Motorola (a Russian citizen) could be the proponent of conciliation and a political solution. Givi, on the other hand, (the Ukrainian) could the figurehead of the subversive “splinter” group that continues the good fight against Ukraine, including violent subversion and propaganda in other regions of Ukraine. Motorola can play the “good cop” who can influence his friend Givi – provided concessions are forthcoming from Ukraine and her allies. In propaganda, the dichotomy will be between the “Minsk Process” that is, the Russians getting what they want, and a “frozen conflict” – which would be anything but frozen.

        This relationship between the peacenik “separatists” and the warlike separatists would be a microcosm of the greater proxy-client relationship between Russia and the Donbas “Republics.” Russia has insisted that it is not waging war in Ukraine, and the Russian fighters in Ukraine are volunteers working without the direction of the Russian government. A two-track subversion strategy in Ukraine would see the “official separatists” insisting they want peace and denying involvement of the activities of “radical” factions inside Russian-occupied Donbas. Of course, any future operation to root out Givi and his ilk from Donbas would wreck the ceasefire agreement and possibly trigger a Russian invasion, Russia will imply. A Two-track Subversion Strategy for Russia's War in Ukraine -Euromaidan Press |

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        • Ukraine Says Breaks Up Armed Insurgent Group in Kyiv, 2 Killed
          Reuters VOICE OF AMERICA December 10, 2015 9:12 AM


          KYIV—

          Ukraine's security service said on Thursday it had broken up an armed insurgent group that operated out of Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities and that two people had been killed during the operation.

          The SBU security service said it had detained three Russian and four Ukrainian citizens after a shootout in which a special forces officer and the Ukrainian leader of the armed group were killed.

          "Just in one place in the capital we found eight homemade explosive devices, four kilograms of TNT, automatic weapons, about forty hand grenades and 2,000 cartridges," spokeswoman Olena Gitlyanska said in a Facebook post.

          Kyiv has repeatedly accused Moscow of supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and of attempting to destabilize other Ukrainian regions.

          The SBU believes the detained Russians could be members of Russian intelligence agencies, SBU official Oleksandr Tkachuk told a briefing.

          "Russian intelligence agencies are increasing their activities in peaceful (Ukrainian) cities," he said.

          The United Nations said this week that arms and fighters were still pouring into rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine from Russia and that the death toll from 20 months of fighting now exceeded 9,100.

          The United States and European Union have slapped economic sanctions on Russia over its role in Ukraine.
          Ukraine Says Breaks Up Armed Insurgent Group in Kyiv, 2 Killed

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          • Putin’s anti-terrorism, like Stalin’s anti-fascism, all about expanding Moscow’s influence abroad, Pavlova says
            EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2015/12/10

            Ever more people are drawing parallels between Vladimir Putin and Joseph Stalin, but there is one parallel that has attracted less attention than it should, Irina Pavlova suggests, and that is this: Putin now is using his anti-terrorist campaign in the same way Stalin used his anti-fascist one, not to defeat an enemy but to expand Russia’s influence abroad.

            In a blog post yesterday, the US-based Russian historian argues that “the goal of Russia’s military operation in Syria is gradually becoming ever more clear” and the parallels between what the Kremlin is doing now and what Stalin did in the 1930s and early 1940s ever more obvious.

            “If Stalin in the 1930s had the goal of the sovietization of Europe under the flag of broadening ‘the front of socialism,’ then the present Russian leadership has as its goal the broadening of ‘the Russian world’ in the Middle East under the flag of the struggle with terrorism and the preservation of Orthodox civilization,” Pavlova says.

            Sergey Stepashin, former Russian prime minister and now head of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society, has made that clear in two recent interviews, one with the Russian television channel “Dozhd” and a second with Israeli journalists.

            In his “Dozhd” interview, Stepashin said that “for us, Syria is our culture and historical memory, more than Chersonesus [an ancient town in Crimea believed to be the site of the baptism of St. Volodymyr, the Grand Prince of Kyivan Rus – Ed.]. There a genocide against the Syrian people and Christian civilization is taking place. Russian Orthodoxy came from Syria.”

            “These are not simply words,” Pavlova says. “The Russian powers that be for a long time have had an ambitious plan for expanding their influence in one of the most ancient cities of the Middle East – Jerusalem – a plan which they are now carrying out.”

            “It is no accident,” she says, that a Russian Spiritual Mission operates there and that “the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society (IPPO) not long ago received official status in Israel” even though it traces its origins to tsarist times. During his visit to Israel last month, Stepashin outlined its current agenda.

            “IPPO,” he said, “has structures both in Palestine and in Israel which already are carrying out on these territories unique ideological work. However, the Russian leadership considers as spheres of its influence not only [their] territories but also the present-day states of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and also Saudi Arabia.”

            “A Russian school has been built in Bethlehem,” Stepashin continued. “The construction of schools in East Jerusalem is planned.” Russia has regained the territory in the city that Khrushchev gave up in 1964 just as it has regained Crimea. Russian influence is returning: “One of the streets of Bethlehem now bears Putin’s name,” Stepashin said.

            But Moscow’s campaign to spread its influence is not limited to IPPO, Pavlova says. Instead, in order to oppose the US, Russia’s special services “intend to cooperate further with such organizations as Hamas and Hezbollah. And in order to expand Russian influence, it is taking a long-term view.

            Moscow has just announced that its own economic problems notwithstanding, Russia has offered Egypt a 25 billion US dollar credit for the construction of its first atomic energy station, money likely to recycle back to Russia because Russian firms will be involved in this project. Putin’s anti-terrorism, like Stalin’s anti-fascism, all about expanding Moscow’s influence abroad, Pavlova says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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            • RADIO FREE EUROPE December 10, 2015
              Khodorkovsky Says New Russian Revolution 'Inevitable'

              Exiled former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has said that a new Russian revolution is "inevitable and necessary," and predicted President Vladimir Putin's government will be out of power within a few years.

              Speaking on December 9 from London, Khodorkovsky also rejected accusations from Russian authorities of involvement in the killing of a Siberian city mayor in 1998.

              Khodorkovsky's remarks at an online news conference were some of his strongest criticism of Putin since he was pardoned by the Russian president in 2013 and flown out of Russia after more than 10 years in prison.

              "With the absence of fair elections and other mechanisms for a legal change of power, the only way to change things is revolution," Khodorkovsky said.

              Citing an ongoing crackdown on democratic institutions and political dissent, Khodorkovsky suggested Putin had hijacked the country in a "full-fledged unconstitutional coup."

              "The return to a legal space is called revolution," he said. "Revolution is inevitable and necessary."

              Khodorkovsky, who is 52 and now lives in Europe with his family, said he was not interested in a political career but that he "cannot stand idle and watch what is going on in Russia."

              He said that "Putin and his inner circle must be held accountable for what they have done before an independent court. This is my goal."

              "Revolution is a good word. It can be and must be peaceful. To make the revolution peaceful is our common goal," Khodorkovsky said.

              Kremlin 'Buys Loyalty'

              Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 and convicted of financial crimes in trials supporters said were engineered to punish him for challenging Putin and place the assets of his oil company, Yukos, in the hands of the state.

              His December 2013 pardon and release is widely seen as part of an effort by Putin to improve Russia's image ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February 2014.

              Russia annexed Crimea the following month and has supported separatists in a conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014, leading the United States, European Union, and other Western countries to impose sanctions on Moscow.

              Khodorkovsky said that Putin's government had brought Russia into international isolation.

              The Kremlin was using the state budget "to buy loyalty" and while trying to pressure the West to lift sanctions, he said.

              Khodorkovsky asserted that the Russian government had enough financial reserves to sustain the country's economic situation for only two more years.

              "If the West lifts the sanctions, then Russia' current leadership will probably be able to survive for another two years after 2017," he added.

              He said Russia's future presidents should not be allowed to serve more than two terms and should be prevented from any attempt to prolong their power.

              Putin moved to the prime minister's post in 2008 to avoid violating a bar on more than two consecutive terms, but was elected president again in 2012 and has not ruled out seeking a fourth term in 2018.

              Murder Charges

              Khodorkovsky, who has not returned to Russia since his release but has worked to support its beleaguered liberal opposition parties and movements from abroad, spoke days after Russian investigators summoned him to Moscow for questioning. His spokeswoman said he will not go.

              The former oil tycoon told the online news conference that he learned on December 8 that the federal Investigative Committee intends to charge him with involvement into the 1998 killing of Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of Nefteyugansk, a Siberian city that was the focus of Yukos's main production assets.

              Khodorkovsky dismissed the allegations and said they were politically motivated. He said Russian authorities had "falsely linked" Petukhov's killing to Yukos in 2003 after Khodorkovsky publicly spoke about corruption among Russia's top officials, "which irritated Putin."

              Former Yukos security chief Aleksei Pichugin is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of organizing Petukhov's killing and other murders. He and his supporters insist he is innocent.

              Putin has suggested in the past that he believes Khodorkovsky had Petukhov killed.

              The Investigative Committee announced in June that it had obtained new evidence allowing it to reopen a probe into Petukhov's slaying, with spokesman Vladimir Markin saying Khodorkovsky "might have personally ordered this murder and a number of other extremely serious crimes." Khodorkovsky Says New Russian Revolution 'Inevitable'

              Source AP

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              • The Power Vertical Brian Whitmore Dec 07, 2015
                The Daily Vertical: Russia Runs Out Of Energy
                The Daily Vertical: Russia Runs Out Of Energy
                ====================================

                The Power Vertical Brian Whitmore Dec 08, 2015
                The Daily Vertical: Russia's Faith-Based Economics
                The Daily Vertical: Russia's Faith-Based Economics
                =====================================

                The Power Vertical Brian Whitmore Dec 09, 2015
                The Daily Vertical: Why Khodorkovsky? Why Now?
                The Daily Vertical: Why Khodorkovsky? Why Now?
                =====================================

                The Power Vertical Brian Whitmore Dec 10, 2015
                The Daily Vertical: Hey, Look At My Nukes
                The Daily Vertical: Hey, Look At My Nukes!
                =====================================

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                • RADIO FREE EUROPE Frud Bezhan December 10, 2015
                  Russian Expats In Turkey Fear Politics Could Destroy Harmony

                  ANTALYA, Turkey -- Inside the Shemall shopping center here in this coastal resort city, dozens of children from Turkish and Russian schools, in traditional garb and with hands clasped, sing together animatedly.

                  The public show of solidarity is part of the Friendship and Peace Festival, one of a number of cultural events being held across Antalya on this December day, amid a deepening political feud between Ankara and Moscow.

                  With the Turkish community in Russia reporting incidents of harassment since Turkey shot down a Russian jet near the Syrian border last month, leaders of Antalya's 40,000-strong Russian expatriate community are making a concerted effort to prevent a repeat of the ugly scenes in Moscow.

                  Most of the Russian community here expresses hope that the political bickering will subside, but there is also an outpouring of concern that politics might encroach on their daily lives in Turkey.

                  A Big Family

                  "We are like a big family," says Larisa, an organizer at the festival. The mother of two, who like many Russian women living in Antalya is married to a Turk, maintains that Russians "don't have any problems here."

                  "The relationship [between the communities] is growing year by year," says the tall blonde. "It can't be destroyed in a moment. That's impossible."

                  Irina Balci walks her dog along a beachfront promenade. For eight years, the head of the Russian Arts and Culture Association has called Antalya "my home."

                  The soft-spoken mother of four says Russians in Antalya are well-integrated, with intermarriages playing a big role.

                  "A big amount of Russian people here are married to Turkish people and have created families," Balci says. "Russians who are married to Turks are integrated into Turkish families and in Turkish neighborhoods. We don't see any danger from Turks here."

                  Hers is a classic love story in Antalya. She visited the Mediterranean resort on holiday, fell in love, and married a local. She has been living here ever since.

                  As a symbolic gesture of harmony, Balci named her recently adopted puppy Mira, derived from the Russian word for peace.

                  Fellow Citizens

                  Many Turks in Antalya, which has a large number of foreigners living or vacationing in the city, see the Russian expatriates positively.

                  "Russians are our citizens and our friends," says Emel Cakmak, the co-director of the Foreigners Culture and Solidarity Association, a cross-cultural group that helps Russian nationals integrate in Antalya.

                  "There are no problems between us," adds Cakmak, a short, energetic woman. "We are living happily side by side."

                  Many Russians in Antalya speak Turkish and mingle with their hosts, she says.

                  Many work in the tourism industry and have set up dozens of businesses and bought property in the picturesque resort. Mixed children often attend international schools where they study both Russian and Turkish.

                  Growing Fears, Uncertainty

                  But while Russian expats are keen publicly to play down any fears amid the diplomatic spat between Ankara and Moscow, privately they express growing fear and uncertainty.

                  "They said, 'Stupid Russians, go back to Russia. It's really nice that your plane crashed in Egypt. We hate you,'" Alina, a 29-year-old Russian expat, recalls of a recent encounter with a group of Turkish teenagers in Antalya's city center.

                  She also cites another incident in which a friend was confronted by a group of Turkish men who shouted obscenities and threatened to hit her.

                  Alina, who has a Turkish husband and a 4-year-old daughter, says such people represent a minority. She says most Turks have gone out of their way to make her "feel welcome" since political tensions first erupted last month.

                  An outwardly confident woman who works as a translator, Alina also says she is afraid to go to Russia because she might be harassed over her Turkish surname or her daughter's Turkish passport. She also fears she might not be allowed back to Turkey by Russian authorities.

                  Her worries are mirrored by other Russians living in Antalya.

                  "There are some worries, I have to confess, because my family is in Russia and I like my father and brother to come here with their families," says Svetlana, a native Muscovite who moved to Antalya 13 years ago.

                  "If we will have a visa regime again, it's going to be harder," she adds, referring to one of the punitive measures announced late last month by the Kremlin. "There is also an issue of dual citizenship, and maybe at some point one of the countries will tell us to choose."

                  Svetlana, who is sitting on a bench outside a shopping mall in downtown Antalya, calls over her daughter, Margarita, who attends an international school in the city.

                  "It will be very difficult for my child because she is really half-Russian, half-Turkish," she says, hugging the little girl. "She has two motherlands."
                  Russian Expats In Turkey Fear Politics Could Destroy Harmony

                  Infographic: How Important Is Russian Tourism For Turkey?
                  http://gdb.rferl.org/363533F1-F77C-4...10D9B_w640.png

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                  • At least 85 people arrested in massive anti-terror operation near Ukraine's Donetsk
                    UT UKRAINE TODAY Dec. 10, 2015 VIDEO

                    Watch: Security forces handcuff suspects allegedly involved in militant-related activities

                    Ukraine's Security Services along with military and police personnel were involved in the operation on December 10. A video published on the SBU's official online YouTube account shows masked armed law enforcement officers arrested and searching the detainees.

                    Several grenades, banknotes and what appears to be small weapons were discovered on one man, the video shows. The door-to-door searches occurred in the village of Krasnogorovka, located near to the line of contact, west of militant-controlled Donetsk.

                    At least 85 people arrested in massive anti-terror operation near Ukraine's Donetsk - watch on - uatoday.tv

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                    • Diplomats See EU Extending Russia Sanctions Next Week
                      VOICE OF AMERICA REUTERS Dec 10, 2015 4:02 PM

                      BRUSSELS—

                      The European Union is likely to extend economic sanctions against Russia next week before leaders of the bloc meet for a summit, diplomats said, after unexpected opposition by Italy blocked the rollover earlier this week.

                      The EU targeted Russia's energy, banking and defense sectors in July 2014, blaming Moscow for driving a separatist revolt in east Ukraine, where 9,100 people have been killed in fighting between Russian-backed rebels and Kyiv's forces.

                      Italy's last-minute demand Wednesday for a discussion on extending the sanctions, which expire at the end of January, meant that a six-month rollover was not rubber-stamped by member states' envoys to the EU, as had been expected.

                      But diplomats said Thursday that the extension was likely to come next week before member states' leaders meet in Brussels on December 17-18 for their last summit of 2015. Migration, countering terrorism and British EU negotiations are expected to dominate the agenda.

                      The decision on sanctions could take place when the bloc's foreign ministers meet on December 14-15 or during another meeting of the EU envoys to Brussels before the summit.

                      Diplomats said there was little appetite among member states to put the decision on the leaders' agenda. If it happened, it would highlight the growing lack of unity within the EU on the issue.

                      The conflict in Ukraine sent ties between Moscow and the West to post-Cold War lows, but signs of a tentative rapprochement have since emerged.

                      Some European capitals believe it is important to engage with Moscow on fighting terrorism, especially following the November 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead. Diplomats See EU Extending Russia Sanctions Next Week

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                      • Economists Slam Russian PM’s Optimistic Growth Forecast
                        Daniel Schearf December 10, 2015 12:43 PM

                        MOSCOW—

                        Russian economists have slammed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s optimistic outlook on his country's economy.

                        In a group interview with five Russian television channels Wednesday, Medvedev claimed Russia’s economy was no longer receding and, by his estimation, would begin growing in 2016.

                        “Based on the data that are available to the government, I can tell you that the downturn in the economy and production has been stopped,” he said, “and we believe that growth will resume next year.”

                        Russian economists, however, described Medvedev’s assessment as having little grasp of economic reality and being overly optimistic in forecasting growth.

                        “All the authorities in Russia have raised their voices and said that the GDP (gross domestic product) will still be shrinking,” said Andrei Movchan, director of the Economic Policy Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “The Ministry of Finance was talking about -1.5 percent; the Central Bank was talking about -1.5 percent, at least; a few other personalities and authorities were talking about even worse figures, like -2, -2.5 percent.”

                        The Russian prime minister acknowledged that other authorities disagreed with him, including Russia’s Central Bank, which projects no growth until 2017. But he still tried to paint a more positive outlook, saying “under the most pessimistic forecasts we’ll have zero growth.”

                        Seen as out of touch

                        Movchan told VOA that the prime minister and president often contradict statements made by their subordinates. “I think either the prime minister knows something else nobody else is knowing or he is just not that competent on the issue,” he said.

                        Russia’s economy is suffering as a result of its dependence on raw material exports like oil, with oil prices at their lowest point in seven years, as well as Western sanctions over the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.

                        There has been a slight reduction in how quickly Russia’s economy has been contracting, but it is still expected to shrink by at least 4 percent this year.

                        Nonetheless, Medvedev credited his government’s anti-crisis plan with turning the economy around. “I can say that the anti-crisis plan delivered on its objectives,” he said. “This has helped us weather the most difficult period this year, and this plan has succeeded in nearly all spheres that we identified as being of the utmost importance.”

                        Igor Nikolayev, director of strategic analysis at the Moscow-based audit consulting company FBK, disputes Medvedev's claim. “I see that the anti-crisis plan has not worked, the economy continues to be in crisis and, in reality, we won't have economic growth next year,” he told VOA. “No 1.7 percent growth envisaged next year, but a decline by probably 2-3 percent.”

                        Medvedev said if there is no economic growth, the government will extend anti-crisis measures as needed. He said his economic outlook could also change if oil prices continued to drop. Prices have dropped to below $40 a barrel, the lowest since 2009.

                        Critics have long chided Russian authorities for doing little to end the country's economic dependence on energy exports. “The most important peculiarity of the present crisis that Russia is living through is that without the fall in oil prices, and without the sanctions, the Russian economy would have gotten into a crisis anyway, because serious structural disproportions and structural problems have accumulated,” Nikolayev said.

                        The prime minister acknowledged that oil still accounts for 44 percent of Russia’s federal budget, but said its importance is changing. “Oil used to account for 50, 60 and even 70 percent of the budget revenue,” Medvedev said. “This goes to say that our budget revenue structure is changing for the better.”

                        Sinking living standards

                        He said the government’s key priority was to prevent a decline in Russian living standards, and that it is up to the people to decide if it has succeeded or not. He touted measures such as indexing pensions to adjust for inflation.

                        November's inflation rate was 15 percent, but the prime minister noted it was slowing and said it was realistic to project inflation dropping to 6.4 percent in 2016.

                        Regardless, Movchan said living standards have been declining and will continue to drop. “The level of salaries dropped dramatically and the indexation of salaries and pensions would not come in 2016 at levels comparable to the levels of inflation and the loss of the purchasing power of the ruble. With that regard, the consumption will fall even more."

                        Despite concerns that consumer prices, already up thanks to Russian counter-sanctions targeting Western food imports, may continue to rise, Medvedev defended a ban on Turkish fruits and vegetables set to go into effect in January.

                        “I’m not going to contest the fact that counter-sanctions affect prices to a certain extent. But this impact is not fatal,” he said. “We have started to forget that food price inflation in early 2008 was 13 percent, you can look it up. And in early 2015 it remained at a similar level.”

                        The sanctions were announced after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian warplane along its border with Syria for allegedly crossing into Turkish airspace despite repeated warnings. Russia denies the Su-24 crossed the border and called the action a planned provocation.

                        Medvedev said Russia could have justifiably gone to war with Turkey: “How did states normally behave in a situation like this in the 20th century? A war started, because this amounts to a direct attack on a foreign state.”

                        The prime minister added: “Naturally, in our present life, under current circumstances, a war is the worst option.”
                        Economists Slam Russian PM’s Optimistic Growth Forecast

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                        • French Far-right in Last Push as Poll Predicts Election Defeats
                          VOICE OF AMERICA Reuters December 10, 2015 12:36 PM

                          PARIS—

                          France's National Front prepared for a last push for regional election votes on Thursday as an opinion poll showed tactical voting will keep it from power in
                          two main target regions even though it topped a first round vote nationally.

                          In a TV interview ahead of a Paris rally of the party faithful later in the day and Sunday's decisive second round vote, the far-right party's leader Marine Le Pen was upbeat about her prospects.

                          "I hope to be elected. A good portion of the key to the result is in the hands of those who abstained," Le Pen told BFM TV. "We will show what we are able to do."

                          In the first round last Sunday, the FN won more than 40 percent of the vote in the north, where Le Pen is standing, and in the south-east, where her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen leads the party list.

                          Fears over immigration and the Islamic State attacks in Paris that killed 130 people last month, disaffection with mainstream politics and frustration at high unemployment were among the factors driving the best performance in its history.

                          Since the first round however, the third placed Socialist Party has pulled out of the race in both those key regions, urging its supporters to back Nicolas Sarkozy's The Republicans to keep the FN out of power.

                          A poll on Wednesday night showed voters heeding that call.

                          In the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Le Pen would win 47 percent of the vote while Xavier Bertrand, a former minister with the conservative The Republicans, would get 53 percent, the TNS Sofres-OnePoint poll showed.

                          In the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region, Marechal-Le Pen would get 46 percent against 54 percent for Christian Estrosi, the conservative mayor of the Riviera city of Nice.

                          The poll found that 77 percent of left-wing voters in the two regions planned on voting for the conservatives with only 14 percent expected to abstain from voting.

                          Sunday's vote gives would-be candidates for the next presidential election in 2017 one of their last opportunities to gauge their chances.

                          The poll for newspaper Le Figaro and television channel LCI was conducted online December 7-8 with 803 respondents in both regions.
                          French Far-right in Last Push as Poll Predicts Election Defeats

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                          • Scion Seeks Revival Of Ancestral Hometown
                            KYIV POST Anna Yukutenko Dec. 10, 2015 22:48

                            HLUKHIV, Ukraine – An empty pedestal stands in the central square of Hlukhiv, a forlorn city of 35,000 people in Sumy Oblast, 300 kilometers northeast of Kyiv and only 15 kilometers from the Russian border. Previously, it bore a large statue of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin.

                            But there’s a new power in charge of Hlukhiv now – its new mayor, Michel Terestchenko. One of his first actions after the election in October was to order the removal of the statue. It was taken down on Dec. 7.

                            For Terestchenko, 61, the issue was personal.

                            He is a descendant of the Terestchenko family, one of the Russian Empire’s richest industrial dynasties, who built schools, orphanages and churches in Hlukhiv and Kyiv. Terestchenko’s grandfather Mikhail was forced to flee to France when Lenin came to power.

                            Now Terestchenko is back in his ancestral home as the third mayor of Hlukhiv in the family. The French-born Ukrainian won the election in October with more than 60 percent of the vote. With a supporting majority in the City Council, he hopes to give a fresh start to Hlukhiv, a city he says was on the edge of dying.

                            “Young people had no prospects, as the social lift was totally frozen. The only options were contraband, corruption and smuggling,” Terestchenko says.

                            Authorities in the former regime of President Viktor Yanukovych “liked it when people were poor, because it was easier to buy them and to get all the administrative resources,” he adds.

                            Fighting corruption is the priority for Terestchenko. He says that for last 18 years, the city was under the control of lawmaker Andriy Derkach, until Terestchenko defeated his protégé, former Hlukhiv Mayor Yuriy Burlaka, a former member of fugitive Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

                            Terestchenko says that he faced pressure during the election campaign he won. He couldn’t hold any meeting with voters in public halls or find billboards to place his campaign posters. So he held his meetings on the streets, meeting mostly with the elderly. Surprisingly for him, his pro-European position didn’t turn away the “babushkas.”

                            “The babushkas were my biggest supporters. They defended me like bodyguards,” he says with a smile.

                            Terestchenko says the corruption in Hlukhiv was “pure banditry.”

                            Prosecutors carried out political orders, tenders were not transparent, and crimes were not investigated.

                            All this led to the closure of most of the factories and plants in the town.

                            Terestchenko in particular named Hlukhiv’s meat factory, bakery, textile factory, food plant and our engineering plants - where 6,000 people worked – as victims of the city’s corruption.

                            Moreover, people couldn’t get a well-paid job if they had no ties to the authorities, according to Terestchenko. That made young people leave the city in search of better career opportunities.

                            The mayor has launched an anti-corruption commission in the city hall that investigates the cases filed by civic organizations. But to deliver justice, the city needs an honest city prosecutor, the mayor says.

                            The current prosecutor opened six investigations against Terestchenko. He suggests that the mayor lied in his income declaration, made libelous statements about lawmaker Derkach in an interview to newspaper Day, and evaded taxes.

                            Terestchenko says all the cases are politically motivated. He plans to ask Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to replace the prosecutor.

                            Another obstacle that the new mayor of Hlukhiv faces is the administrative reform of Sumy Oblast, which has divided the town into two parts and taken away its status as a district center.

                            Terestchenko says he’s trying to persuade Kyiv to reverse the decision on Hlukhiv, otherwise the city will lose a number of services and the district’s state hospital.

                            Terestchenko created a team of volunteers who are currently working on a six-month plan to transform City Hall. He wants to eliminate corruption in City Hall by changing the procedure so that a citizen coming to city hall would be in touch with only one official. This one official will be collecting the documents required by the client from all the departments.

                            The mayor says that the same change worked well in Horlivka of Donetsk Oblast before the war broke out.

                            “For 40 years the goal of those lovely ladies in city hall was to fill in forms. They forgot that the only goal is to make Hlukhiv citizens happy with their service,” the mayor says.

                            Terestchenko also has an ambitious plan to develop tourism in Hlukhiv, which was an administrative center for the Zaporizhian Cossack state in the 18th century. He wants to reconstruct the historical center, creating reconstructions of the houses of the hetmans, Ukrainian military commanders, who lived in the city, where people dressed in period costume will blow glass or cook traditional dishes.

                            “We can be as successful a tourist city as Lviv, why not?” Terestchenko says.

                            For the new mayor, making a success of Hlukhiv is not just a local or even regional affair – it’s a matter of international significance.

                            Russian President Vladimir Putin “wants the left bank of Ukraine to be weak, so he can create a buffer zone between the occupied territories and the rest of Ukraine,” Terestchenko says. “Hlukhiv is a lovely city, and I don’t want it to have anything to do with that.”
                            Scion Seeks Revival Of Ancestral Hometown

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                            • Until Ukraine’s politicians begin to listen to their own people, the revolution will continue
                              EUROMAIDAN PRESS Mychailo Wynnyckyj 2015/12/11 PART 1

                              Tonight, December 10-11, marks the second anniversary of the attempted nighttime clearing of Maidan by Yanukovych’s Berkut forces. Two years ago tonight the bells of St. Michael’s Monastery called Kyiv’s residents to the city center to defend their Maidan. That night, the call to arms didn’t come from political leaders. It came from the people. And thousands responded.

                              A group of activists commemorated that event on the square in front of St. Michael’s tonight – the night Kyivans proved that they were Citizens, not merely residents of their city.

                              But after the solemn commemoration, attention shifted back to Ukraine’s political theatre; to the personalized circus seemingly designed to distract attention away from fundamental issues. Will Yatseniuk survive as PM? Who should replace him? Which oligarch’s interests are served by such decisions? Will the corrupt MP O. Martynenko actually resign? Who will boisterous MP V. Parasyuk punch or kick next? Should Prosecutor General Shokin be fired?… Sadly, these are the questions that fill political discourse – both on TV and in social media. Clearly, a receptive electorate prefers discussing individual celebrities over actually thinking about the issues of the day. This is a sad fact, and it means as a society, we’ve regressed back to the pre-Maidan condition when commentators would discuss “interests” rather than ideas, “leaders” rather than policies.

                              Maidan had no leaders. The crowds were led by a charismatic idea, not a charismatic leader. When any one individual tried to grab the reigns (e.g. Yatseniuk, Tyahnybok, Klitschko, Lutsenko, Poroshenko) his level of success was comparable to that of a shepherd herding cats. The crowd (the cats) had a collective voice, and the multiple squares across the country (with their virtual extensions in Facebook) were places where that voice formed, consolidated, and was expressed. The resultant chorus was not only effective, it was electrifying, and intellectually stimulating. Without leaders/celebrities to talk about, the people discussed ideas: “Yanukovych has to go, but what then?” was a question that was not only legitimate, but popular!

                              I lament, that we regressed… Now (and for the past 20 months) the top story is Putin – not Russia’s policies; not Ukraine’s response; certainly not the vision of the country we are building. The discussion focusses on Putin’s persona, his motives, his next likely moves, our and others’ leaders’ possible responses.

                              Behind the scenes however, the paradigm of the charismatic idea (in contrast to the charismatic leader) has again shown its effectiveness. Since late November, several hundred brave (and largely nameless) Crimean Tatars have amplified Crimeans’ understanding of their dependency on Ukrainian electricity – a message delivered in the best traditions of Maidan: with effect, but without a “leader” gaining political capital in the process. Putin travelled to Kerch to install an “energy bridge”, but it didn’t work. Sevastopol remains dark.

                              Leaderless (and effective!) charisma is the antithesis of the (momentary) personality cult. It was the core of direct action on Maidan, but gradually, and perhaps (ironically) with western help, we have sunk back into “political normality”. This week Ukrainian journalists and politicians tripped over themselves to get a photo op with visiting US Vice President Joe Biden. Granted, he gave a great speech in Parliament, but what of it? His message to Ukraine’s political class was “seize the day!” Apparently, according to the US Number 2, if Ukraine’s leaders “act”, they will be remembered as “Founders.” In case you missed the ego stroking, he added – seemingly enviously: “what an opportunity, and what a responsibility!”

                              What scares me, is that several of Ukraine’s politicians seem willing to take the US VP’s message literally. The week before Biden’s visit, President Poroshenko experienced a Freudian slip when, during a speech “thanking” Ukraine’s volunteers for their massive role in supplying the war effort in the Donbas, he said something to the effect of “we would have won anyway, but thank you.” Poroshenko later apologized (the Administration’s speed of the reaction to the uproar on Facebook was impressive), but the remark clearly demonstrates the President’s state of mind: He sees himself as the leader who brought victory! The fact that “victory” (however one defines the term) is still a very distant prospect (Crimea remains ‘de facto’ Russian), and that the Kremlin’s obvious failure to craft “Novorosiya” in Ukraine’s east and south had very little to do with Pororshenko’s leadership abilities, but rather was caused by grassroots defenders, is not relevant to the President’s narrative.

                              Late last August, during the lead up to the first vote in Parliament on the amendments to Ukraine’s Constitution that were mandated by the Minsk Accords, I was part of a delegation of Maidan activists invited to the Presidential Administration to explain to Poroshenko personally, why we opposed having the Constitution dictated to Ukraine from afar. I remember two clear impressions from that event:

                              Although we commended President Poroshenko for having invited us (he was not obliged to), he clearly was not interested in hearing any opinions other than his own. When pressed to explain his position, Poroshenko stated outright: “Someday you will all realize that I am the best President Ukraine has ever had, and the best of all possible Presidents for the present day” (my translation, but this is a direct quote). I hesitate to paraphrase the classic idiom “power corrupts”, but at the time I had no doubt that “high office swells heads.” Given the personal qualities one must possess to compete for the Presidency of any country, it is perhaps idealistic to expect humility from a person like Poroshenko. On the other hand, we should not be surprised that as Commander-in-Chief of an army that stopped Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he sees himself as a “victorious Generalissimo.”

                              At the end of the 3 hour meeting, when it had become clear that our two sides were destined to agree to disagree, I suggested to Poroshenko that he initiate a referendum on the Constitutional amendments. After all, I argued, a nation’s basic law is simply too important to be adopted by the political elite without the support of the electorate. But my suggestion was dismissed outright. Implicitly, the message from Poroshenko was: “I was elected to govern, and I will govern according to what I believe to be the interests of Ukraine. If others disagree, we have free speech, but decisions will be taken.” Clearly, in this paradigm, the distance between governance and authoritarianism becomes short indeed.

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                              • Until Ukraine’s politicians begin to listen to their own people, the revolution will continue
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Mychailo Wynnyckyj 2015/12/11 PART 2


                                According to rumors circulating in Kyiv, one of the fears expressed by Biden during his visit (and a concern voiced by several US-based policy advisors) involves a risk of return to authoritarianism for Ukraine under Poroshenko. These rumors have gained particular salience during the past month because discussions of who should succeed Yatseniuk as Prime Minister have gained significant traction. The current Prime Minister has been accused of corruption, and his approval rating in public opinion polls has fallen below 3%. Behind the scenes, the personal friction between Yatseniuk and Poroshenko is no longer a secret, and according to government insiders, the animosity is becoming difficult to manage. In this situation, a change of personalities may well be in order, but the question arises: replace Yatseniuk with whom? Apparently many fear an appointment from Poroshenko’s faction precisely because executive power would become overly consolidated. Odesa governor and former Georgian President M. Saakashvili is often mentioned as an alternative, but his authoritarian tendencies are well documented, and so magnify the Americans’ fears. Under these conditions, keeping Yatseniuk as a balance to Generalissimo Poroshenko, may not be as illogical as would seem at first glance.

                                But the problem is not Poroshenko. Nor is the problem Yatseniuk. Nor is it Parasyuk, Kononenko, Martyniuk, Saakashvili, Shokin, or any other persona. The problem is the system – a system that is overly dependent on the personal qualities (honesty, charisma, effectiveness, leadership) of the office holder. Today, Parliament adopted a new Law on the Civil Service – a key reform that may actually change the system. That is to be welcomed. In principle, the anti-corruption measures (Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, Anti-Corruption Bureau, etc.) are also positive signs of systemic change. But they are based on a “catch the bad guy” and “keep ‘em honest” paradigm. What about building positive institutions? What about building the new Ukraine that we all froze for (and many died for) on Maidan? What about having politicians who actually listen to the people, and who govern expressly and concretely within their mandate? If this bunch can’t do it, maybe it’s time to adopt the model of the US Congress, and hold elections every two years? Maybe it’s time to make judges accountable to the people by electing them? Maybe it’s time to think and talk about alternatives, rather than relying on the politicians to build the country for us…

                                This kind of institution-building requires an ideal – a principle that is never attained, but striving towards its fulfilment is inherently seen by its adherents as a moral pursuit. The ideal of the protesters on Maidan was “dignity” – a concept that involves self-reliance, collective recognition of the value of the other, and most importantly, freedom. This week Mr. Biden’s speechwriters captured the task facing Ukraine brilliantly: At the same time as fighting corruption, and in tandem with defending itself from Moscow’s aggression, this country MUST create an environment for self-actualization, and freedom. The world is watching! If we fail, the world will have lost…

                                But as I listened to the US Vice President’s speech, I could not help wondering, whether it was possible for the individuals in his audience on December 8th, those same people who during the past 2 years had distanced themselves (mentally in the first instance) from their own electorate, and who had convinced themselves of their own exceptionalism, whether it was possible for these people to create institutions that would ensure an environment of dignity in Ukraine. I hope and pray that I’m wrong, but I doubt it. Until such time as Ukraine’s politicians begin to listen to their own people, the revolution will continue…
                                -----
                                God help us!
                                Mychailo Wynnyckyj PhD Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

                                Until Ukraine’s politicians begin to listen to their own people, the revolution will continue -Euromaidan Press |

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