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  • The Donbas Paradox: Russia prepares to 'gift' Ukraine a 'poisoned chalice'
    THE BLACK SEA Dec. 10, 2015 Michael Bird, Lina Vdovii and Yana Tkachenko

    Russian-backed separatists have plundered the rebel-held regions in Ukraine’s industrial heartland and created an economy stricken with fear, hypocrisy and contradiction
    ----------------
    I am from a simple family and have always treated people well,” says entrepreneur Vladimir Veseolkin. “When I turned 18, I got a job at the mine in Horlivka in the Donetsk region. Then in 1998, I started businesses: a small distribution center, shop, bakery and a company producing concrete products. I employed 100 people, they were mid-sized enterprises, but ok for the town of Horlivka.

    “But now they are completely ruined.”

    Veseolkin is among numerous business-owners whose livelihoods have been devastated by the ongoing civil war in Ukraine.

    The worst of the fighting took place in the Donbass region of Luhansk and Donetsk. Here Russian-backed rebels claimed locals supporting Kyiv were the enemy, providing justification to raid companies and commandeer homes.

    “I was a member of [now-Prime Minister] Yatsenyuk’s ‘Fatherland’ party and in 2013 I became the head of a village, Zaitsevo,” Veseolkin says. "I bought a tractor and a truck for the village and started cleaning it up. When the demonstrations in Kyiv started, I went to the Maidan square at weekends."

    After President Victor Yanukovich fled Ukraine in February 2014, pro-Russian protests sparked up in the Donbass and rebels began to take over Government buildings. Horlivka was seized by the separatists, but Veseolkin stayed, found some guns and began moving from place to place, never sleeping at home. “The separatists sent guys to me to convince me to fight for them," he says. "I told them we had different views.”

    In April 2014, the body of Horlivka city councillor Volodymyr Rybak was found tortured and dumped in a river in the nearby town of Sloviansk, then controlled by the rebels.

    “When they killed Rybak, my wife came home for two days. That night, somebody smashed our apartment window. I fired a gun at the front door, opened the window on the other side of our flat, and we escaped."

    “I had some informers and learned there was a hit out on me. That’s when my family and I left for good."

    Veseolkin has since started up a bakery business in his new home of Kyiv.

    He explains how pro-Russian fighters had a convenient way to steal from the locals.

    "Either you are with the separatists or you are a fascist," he says, "and because I was a 'fascist', it was easy for the rebels to take my companies."

    He explains how pro-Russian fighters had a convenient way to steal from the locals.

    "Either you are with the separatists or you are a fascist," he says, "and because I was a 'fascist', it was easy for the rebels to take my companies."

    Since March 2014, the rebels of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) have stolen over 50 state-owned mines, raided military-owned companies and looted foreign and Ukrainian-owned businesses.

    They have claimed that all businesses on the occupied territory belong to them. At first rebels wanted to nationalize industry and power generation, bringing them into the lap of the Republic, severing all links with Ukraine and creating a self-sufficient state.

    But this did not happen.

    Today, small and medium businesses are destroyed, stolen or forced to register in the new Republic. But the giant factories owned by oligarchs remain, for the most part, unmolested. Kyiv buys coal and electricity from the separatist region, and supplies the territory with gas and water. Companies on rebel land who pay taxes in Ukraine can trade between the borders, but to operate in the separatist zone, firms must pay taxes to the rebels. While business contributes to financing both Kyiv and Donetsk, many retirees now receive two pensions.

    Yet gunfire is still heard every day - and casualties on both sides continue to rise.
    With Russia reducing its financial assistance for the zone since mid-2015, a dual-state has emerged of mutually-dependent adversaries, locked in an abusive marriage, with little sign of divorce or reconciliation.

    Oligarchs: too big to hijack
    Donbass is Ukraine’s center of heavy industry and coal mining, which includes Soviet-era metal, transport and fertilizer factories and power stations. It is home to massive Ukrainian companies. Metal manufacturer Metinvest and mining and energy group DTEK are both owned by Ukraine’s richest man, 49 year-old Rinat Akhmetov. Another giant operation is the iron and steelworks in the town of Alchevsk run by the Industrial Union of Donbass (IUD), bought in 2010 by Russian investors, such as metal trading magnate Alexander Katunin.

    Metallurgy in Ukraine generates over 40 per cent of all foreign currency inflows and employs more than 200,000 people in crushing, smelting and shaping. Centred on the Donbass, this makes region a major blacksmith of Europe.

    But Donbass was reliant on state subsidies, taking more out of the Ukrainian state than contributing, according to Ukrainian officials. Many of its factories are decrepit and inefficient - and its economy was dependent on this state injection of cash and cheap gas from Russia.

    “By and large this is a useless rust belt,”
    Anders Aslund, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    The worst of the fighting took place in the Donbass region of Luhansk and Donetsk. Here Russian-backed rebels claimed locals supporting Kyiv were the enemy, providing justification to raid companies and commandeer homes.

    The Donbass was run by oligarchs who made dubious deals with the state and Russia to maintain regional power and keep large numbers of people in jobs, especially in mining

    Last year, DPR and LPR leaders proclaimed their desire to nationalize heavy industry, much of which is owned by Russians and Ukrainians with close ties to Moscow. These industries are labor-intensive and low-profit and the rebels have no expertise to manage such risky enterprises. But today these industrial giants remain registered in Kyiv and pay taxes to the Ukrainian state.

    The Kremlin has also allegedly forbidden their takeover. One business analyst tells us leading figures from enterprises in occupied territories visit Moscow each month to negotiate deals directly with an official in the presidential administration, circumventing local rebel leaders. However Jock Mendoza-Wilson, Director of International and Investor Relations at Akhmetov’s SCM Holding states: “To the best of my knowledge, this is not happening with SCM.”
    The rebels grant this ownership status their “silent approval”, according to ex-governor of Donetsk Sergiy Taruta.

    Now there is a hybrid economy of state-sanctioned private ownership. One Donetsk business analyst calls Akhmetov’s giant Yenakiieve Steel mill a “dual property” between the oligarch’s company Metinvest and the DPR. “De jure, it is a Ukrainian company,” says the analyst, “but once in a while DPR President Alexander Zaharchenko visits and gives out some orders.”

    The message from Moscow to the rebels seems to be “take what you can and behave like organized criminals” argues Aslund. “They are allowed to take over smaller enterprises and state companies, but must leave the big companies alone.”

    Most industrial giants are operating at a reduced level or sporadically, when they have the necessary raw materials and can transport their goods through the region’s wrecked infrastructure.

    But they are hemorrhaging money. Rinat Akhmetov’s SCM posted a net loss of 1.84 billion USD in 2014. “Akhmetov and the other oligarchs have bled enormously,” says Aslund.

    continue read
    The Donbass Paradox

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    • 16:56 11.12.2015 INTERFAX-UKRANE
      MP Barna involved in Rada brawl says he leaves Petro Poroshenko Bloc in parliament

      Member of Parliament Oleh Barna says that he has left the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction at Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada.

      "Five minutes ago I left the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction," Barna said at a meeting of the Rada committee for procedural rules on Friday.

      The Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction in turn said that he had been expelled from the faction at their initiative.

      "The faction had a meeting to expel Oleh Barna," head of the faction's press service Taras Pastushenko told Interfax-Ukraine.

      An Interfax correspondent has reported that parliamentarian Oleh Barna (Petro Poroshenko Bloc), who is collecting signatures for the draft resolution of no-confidence in the government, brought a bunch of roses for the prime minister to the rostrum and tried to drag the prime minister from it.

      MPs clashed at the rostrum and the prime minister's speech was interrupted for several minutes.

      Head of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction Yuriy Lutsenko said that Barna had behaved outrageously and apologized for the incident. Then he said that the faction would not expel Barna.

      The Rada committee for procedural rules and ethics stripped Barna of the right to attend the next five parliament meetings.

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      • All who help Ukraine from abroad do so because they have faith in it. It is important that Ukrainians have faith in themselves – French volunteer Nicolas Tacussel
        UKRAINE CRISIS MEDIA CENTER

        Kyiv, December 11, 2015. Over this year French volunteer organization “Smile for Ukraine” has held individual psychological consultation sessions for over 650 Ukrainian servicemen, organized seminars for about 130 Ukrainian psychologists and volunteers as well as has traveled about 15 times to the areas at the contact line. “Together with the French organization ‘France-Ukraine Solidarity’ we have delivered almost 500 kg of clothes and toys to orphanages,” said Nicolas Tacussel, French volunteer, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “We are here to help everyone affected by the conflict, we seek to do our utmost to decrease traumatic consequences for them so that Ukraine gets back to normal life as soon as possible,” noted Tacussel.

        Volunteers of “Smile for Ukraine” planned one more training session for psychologists who will continue working with ATO veterans. However, due to the lack of resources they were able to train only 40 out of 90 applicants. “It happened this way because we are travelling to the ATO zone, holding individual training sessions and working with orphans at the same time. Besides, I have a job in Paris that is actually a financial source for these activities in Ukraine,” explained Tacussel. He noted that it is still too early to summarize 2015 work results: another seminar starts in Kharkiv, the one for psychologists working with servicemen of various battalions nearby the contact line.

        Volunteers plan to work in two main directions in 2016. First one includes training sessions for servicemen on self-control in stressful situations that will help prepare them psychologically to what they might come across at a battle field. “Delivering psychological training to servicemen prior their participation in combat actions brings better results. Human brain is designed in such a way that if it is ready for a stress that one may come across on the battlefield the stress will be smaller,” explained Tacussel. Second direction includes systematic work with orphans. Tacussel noted that these children especially the ones living in the frontline areas drastically need psychological assistance: “They already have numerous traumas – abandoned by parents or having lost their parents, some of who were killed defending Ukraine. And on top of that they actually live in the combat zone”. At the same time in the orphanage that the volunteers visited in ATO zone there was only one psychologist per 150 children. “When working with these children it is very important to appease and ‘calm’ them as majority of them absolutely don’t understand how this war has become possible. They are sometimes full of anger and hatred, it may transform into catastrophic consequences for Ukraine,” noted Tacussel. In the view of the situation “Smile for Ukraine” plans to train 10 psychologists who will later go to work to orphanages located in the ATO zone. Additionally 20 French and Ukrainian volunteers are preparing a brochure – a comic strip for children of school age in which they will try to explain what has happened in the country. Nicolas Tacussel emphasized that it is now extremely important to implant universal human values and love to their own country in the children, to teach them to look forward into the future after everything that has happened and that some of them have probably went through.

        “’Smile for Ukraine’ is open for cooperation with both NGOs and various ministries and agencies interested in our projects,” noted Tacussel adding that volunteers can be reached through the organization’s website or by writing him personally on Facebook. “Although our projects are mostly designed for servicemen and children it would be nice to work with wider society to bring back people’s faith in the future and help overcome these complicated times. All who are helping Ukraine from abroad are doing it because they have faith in it. It is now important that Ukrainians have faith in themselves,” summarized Nicolas Tacussel.
        11.12.2015 / !Press Releases, #Video, Press Briefings

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        • Another baker’s dozen of neglected Russian stories
          2015/12/12 EUROMAIDAN PRESS

          Anti-Putin protester Ildar Dadin received 3 years of prison for participation in four peaceful protests. In this picture he is holding a sign saying “Stay Quiet -- Then When They Will Come for You Tomorrow, the Next Will Stay Quiet about You." (Image: Social media)
          --------------------
          The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

          1. Stalin Drew Wolves but Putin Doodles. A photographer has captured Vladimir Putin doodling as he gives an interview (novynyuk.blogspot.com/2015/12/blog-post_172.html). But he can’t always hold his audience: Dmitry Medvedev again slept through part of Putin’s speech and he can’t tell the truth.

          2. Putin Updates Nazi Vocabulary. A Moscow commentator shows the ways Vladimir Putin has updated Hitler’s words, as Russian historians have shown the way Hitler copied Stalin’s techniques, including horrific medical experiments on inmates.

          3. The Russian Orthodox Church Says Pray to Putin and Treat Other Faiths as Foreign Agents. Patriarch Kirill has been petitioned by a religious organization to have the church approve a special prayer for Russians to Vladimir Putin. And the Moscow Patriarchate wants the Duma to extend the “foreign agents” law to religious groups.

          4, Turkish Crisis Catches Russia with Its Pants Down. Vladimir Putin’s ban on imports from Turkey has created numerous problems, the most humorous being Moscow’s inability to produce anti-Turkish t-shirts; the most serious being that Russians may not be able to buy new underwear as most of that now on sale comes from Turkey. Perhaps these problems provide additional evidence for one Moscow scholar’s contention that Russia has now finally succeeded Turkey as “the sick man of Europe.”

          5. Russians Don’t Need Tolerance: They have ‘Friendship of the Peoples.’ A conference of regime ideologists has concluded that Russians don’t need the false Western value of tolerance because they have “friendship of the peoples,” even though Soviet behavior thoroughly discredited that term for almost everyone.

          6. Russian Internet Both ‘More Mobile’ and a Lot Less. A new study finds that Russians increasingly go online via mobile devices. In what may be an ironic related development, Russian officials have announced that Wi-Fi will soon be available at several of Moscow’s largest cemeteries.

          7. Silantyev Wants to ‘De-Turkify Islam’ in Russia. Roman Silantyev, a specialist on Islam with close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, has called for “de-Turkifying Islam” in the Russian Federation, an appeal which fits in with the current anti-Turkish hysteria and also reflects the fact that many in Russia divide Islam not between Sunni and Shiia but between Turkish and Iranian. If Silantyev’s plan were to be implemented, there would be far fewer Sunni mullahs and far more Iranian Shiite imams.

          8. Crimeans Who Say They Have No Electricity Face 15 Days In Prison. The Russian occupation authorities have said that those Crimeans who say they have no electricity will face criminal penalties. And these authorities have also announced that they will “never recognize” the United States.

          9. As Crime Rises with Economic Decline, Russia Opens World’s Largest Prison. Russian statistics show that crime in Russia is on the rise, a natural result experts say of the decline in the standard of living. Russian officials are ready, however. They’ve announced that they have opened what is the world’s largest prison.

          10. Official Who Owns Villa Abroad Tells Russians Foreign Vacations are ‘Harmful to their Health.’ A senior Russian official has told Russians that taking vacations abroad would be harmful to their health, a position he maintains even though he owns a vacation home abroad.

          11.Finno-Ugric Nations to Develop Their Own Computer Terminology. Instead of simply borrowing from Russian–which in this area has borrowed mostly from English–Finno-Ugric nations in the Russian Federation say they will develop their own computer terminology, drawing on words from the three Finno-Ugric peoples who currently have their own countries, Estonia, Finland and Hungary.

          12. Lake Baikal a ‘Well for China?’ In a development that will enrage some Russians, a Chinese firm is now taking water from Lake Baikal and sending it back to a thirsty China, a move that has prompted one Russian site to ask whether the lake is on its way to becoming “a well for China.”

          13. Russian Updates Pastor Niemoeller’s Aphorism. Reacting to the spread of repressive measures from one group to another in Putin’s Russia, many there and elsewhere now recall Pastor Niemoeller’s observation of why he didn’t protest Nazi attacks on groups he wasn’t a member of and what that led to. Now a Russian has come up with an update: He held a sign saying “Stay Quiet — Then When They Will Come for You Tomorrow, the Next Will Stay Quiet about You.” Another baker’s dozen of neglected Russian stories -Euromaidan Press |

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          • RADIO FREE EUROPE December 12, 2015
            Activists: Human Rights Violations Rampant in Russian-Held Crimea

            WASHINGTON — Ukrainian activists say human rights violations are rampant in Crimea, the Russian-annexed peninsula of Ukraine, including people being forced to acquire Russian citizenship and intimidation of nationalists.

            Activists spoke December 11 at a meeting of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, a U.S. government agency that monitors international adherence to the 1975 Helsinki Accords on human rights.

            “The practice of human rights in occupied Crimea is dire and continues to deteriorate,“ said Ivanna Bilych, a Ukrainian lawyer and one of several authors of a report documenting problems on the Black Sea peninsula.

            Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, several weeks after long-running protests in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv turned violent and forced President Viktor Yanukovych to flee.

            Bodhan Yaremenko, a former diplomat, called on the international community to keep in place the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and urope on Russia after the annexation.

            Andriy Klymenko, a former economist and editor-in-chief of website Black Sea News, said authorities have been quick to tamp down any signs of Ukrainian nationalism.
            Activists: Human Rights Violations Rampant in Russian-Held Crimea

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            • Ukraine's minister of infrastructure resigns
              UT UKRAINE TODAY Dec. 11, 2015

              Pyvovarskiy says some of his biggest achievements include restructuring state owned enterprises

              Ukraine's Minister of Infrastructure Andriy Pyvovarskiy has resigned following an annual cabinet minister's report in parliament. Pyvovarskiy said it was a personal decision.

              Andriy Pyvovarskiy, Ukrainian Minister of Infastructure: "The decision to leave the post of the minister of infrastructure I made for myself. It's a personal and absolutely conscious decision. I hope the deputies will support my wish."

              During his press conference Pyvovarskiy reported that thanks to his work several chiefs of state enterprises were fired and Ukraine's customs service began working more efficiently.

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              • REUTERS UNITED NATIONS Louis Charbonneau Dec 11, 2015
                U.S. and Russia trade accusations at U.N. over Ukraine conflict

                The United States and Russia blamed each other on Friday for the continued conflict in Ukraine, with Washington accusing the Kremlin of attempting to suppress public discussion of facts about the nearly two-year-old war.

                The mutual accusations came during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine, a session that was delayed for an hour and a half after Russia insisted U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic should not brief the 15-nation council.

                In the end, Simonovic spoke during the meeting, though Russian United Nations Ambassador Vitaly Churkin made clear his displeasure. He said human rights discussions belong in Geneva at the Human Rights Council.

                Churkin also criticized U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power's handling of the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, saying she has "introduced wrong elements."

                On Thursday, China and Russia tried unsuccessfully to block a U.S.-organized council meeting on alleged human rights abuses in North Korea.

                "Washington is playing a destructive role" in Ukraine, Churkin said.

                Fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels seeking independence from Kiev erupted in April 2014. Violence dropped significantly in September, but Kiev and separatists continue to report daily ceasefire violations and casualties as a result of enemy fire.

                Power said Russia was the destructive one and accused the Kremlin of trying to prevent the open discussion of facts.

                "In arguing, as the Russian ambassador did earlier, that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should not brief, one does wonder what Russia seeks to hide," she said. "But we understand its very unfortunate desire to prevent the council from hearing inconvenient facts."

                Power cited the latest U.N. report on Ukraine, which said arms and fighters were still pouring into eastern Ukraine from Russia, with the death toll from 20 months of fighting approaching 9,100.

                "We are here because even today Russia continues to arm, train, support and fight alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine," Power said.

                Russia denies arming and financing pro-Moscow rebels.

                Simonovic said there continued to be fresh allegations of human rights abuses in eastern Ukraine - "killings, torture and ill-treatment, illegal detention and forced labor." He also cited allegations of arbitrary detention, torture and other abuses by the Kiev government.

                Churkin said Kiev was continuing an economic blockade of eastern Ukraine and refused to engage in direct dialogue with the separatists.

                Power encouraged Kiev to speed up efforts to ensure supplies and services make it to the east. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin blamed Russia for blockages.

                U.S. and Russia trade accusations at U.N. over Ukraine conflict | Reuters

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                • Corruption in Ukraine - Making Joe Biden mad as hell - Ukraine is not punishing its criminals. The West is getting tired of nagging it
                  Dec 12th 2015 | KIEV |THE ECONOMIST

                  JOSEPH BIDEN, America’s folksy vice-president, is not known as an enforcer—except in Ukraine, where he has become the spearhead of American policy. This week Mr Biden made his fourth visit to Kiev since Ukraine’s Maidan revolution and delivered a fiery speech in parliament, imploring the country’s leaders to eradicate “the cancer of corruption”. He invoked the “Heavenly Hundred”, the protesters slain on Kiev’s icy streets in 2014. “Their sacrifice, to put it bluntly, is now your obligation,” Mr Biden roared.

                  Even as Mr Biden was speaking, Roman Baidovsky faced a panel of expressionless judges in a cramped courtroom halfway across town. Mr Baidovsky’s 23-year-old son, Sergey, was one of the Heavenly Hundred. Sergey’s killers and their superiors have yet to be punished. Incompetence has hampered the investigation, and the old guard in the security services have undermined it. Most crucially, says Taras Hatalyak of OPORA, a human rights group, “there’s no political will” among the country’s leaders to pursue the cases, an assessment echoed by senior Ukrainian lawenforcement officials.

                  When Sergey left for the protests, he told his father that “I want my kids to live in a normal country.” So far, the promises of the revolution have not been fulfilled: Ukraine remains far from normal. Since the Maidan, it has run through three chief prosecutors, none of whom has closed a single case against high-level officials from former president Viktor Yanukovych’s regime. Only two men have been convicted of crimes connected with the murder of protesters, both low-level foot soldiers. Key suspects have been allowed to escape. So little has been done to prosecute economic crimes that the European Union may have to lift its sanctions on ex-Ukrainian officials.

                  The latest prosecutor-general, Viktor Shokin, a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko, has ignored high-level corruption among the new authorities. Talk of Mr Shokin’s fate dominated Mr Biden’s meetings in Kiev this week. Ukrainian activists have been calling for Mr Shokin to be fired, but Mr Poroshenko has refused. An independent prosecutor would deprive him of a powerful political instrument and might expose his associates to investigation.

                  Attempts to create new anti-corruption institutions have encountered enormous resistance. “If they let big fish get caught, those people will start to speak,” says a Western diplomat. Selecting a special anti-corruption prosecutor, needed for the new National Anti-Corruption Bureau to start, dragged on till the last possible day, endangering Ukraine’s hopes of visa-free access to the European Union. Last week a seemingly independent candidate was picked, but only under the dual press of civil society and the West. “Many of us are feeling tired of patronising these guys and watching them all the time,” the diplomat adds.

                  Yet removing Mr Shokin alone would amount to little. An ongoing project to select new prosecutors will likely result in some 80% of the old guard being rehired, says Vitaly Kasko, a deputy prosecutor-general who has been at odds with Mr Shokin. “Herpes is not on the lips, it’s in the blood,” says Yulia Mostovaya, editor of Zerkalo Nedeli, a weekly. “We have to fight the virus, not just its symptoms.” As justice fails to materialise, many in Kiev have come to blame not just Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whose authority eroded earlier this year, but Mr Poroshenko as well. “The guys who came to power weren’t the ones who should have,” says Volodymyr Bondarchuk, whose father Sergiy, a high-school physics teacher, was also killed last year. “Their goals are far from the ideals of the Maidan.” Making Joe Biden mad as hell | The Economist

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                  • 'Russia can say Elvis is alive but no amount of lies will change the facts'
                    UT UKRAINE TODAY Dec 12, 2015

                    Ukraine's FM in UN speech refers to the Kremlin's denials of deploying troops to Donbas

                    Ukrainian Foreign Miniser Pavlo Klimkin spoke at a UN Security Council meeting over Ukraine on Friday in New York"

                    "This mission or the extension of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) will let implement such provisions of the Minsk agreement as the disarmament of illegal armed groups, the formation, monitoring and verification of the withdrawal of Russian troops and military hardware, ensure distribution of humanitarian aid, ensure proper conditions for local elections under the OSCE standards. I urge the Security Council once again to take the lead in establishing such a mission."

                    "Just two weeks ago, we exchanged a Russian major for one of our hostages. Of course, the Russian side can also claim that Elvis is alive, but no amount of lies will change the facts."

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                    • Kremlin’s French front
                      12.12.2015 | UNIAN Kostyantyn Honcharov

                      On December 13, France will hold the second round of regional elections, which are considered a dress rehearsal before the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2017. UNIAN gathered expert opinions on what the change of the French political elites would mean for Ukraine.

                      In the first round of local elections, the far-right National Front led by Marine Le Pen showed the best results in six out of 13 regions of the metropolis scoring 27.88% of the votes across the country. At the same time the Republicans Party led by Nicolas Sarkozy, in alliance with the centrists, took 26.98% and topped the lists in four regions. The ruling Socialists led by Francois Hollande received 23.33% becoming leaders in only three regions.

                      On the eve of the second round, the leaders of the Socialist Party called on party members to abstain from participation in the second round of elections in those regions of the country, where the far-right National Front won the most votes. According to the first secretary of the party of Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, this way the Socialists intend to set up a "Republican obstruction" to the ultra-right.

                      In turn, the leader of the center-right Republican Party, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy ruled out the possibility of withdrawing the party’s candidates and creating a coalition with the Socialist Party of Francois Hollande before the second round of regional elections. According to Sarkozy, he "heard and understood the profound disappointment” of the French citizens.

                      The fuse against the populists

                      Despite the fact that such a failure of the traditional parties made the local political elite plunge into a state of despondency, there is no reason to expect the same resounding success of Le Pen in the second round of regional elections, said the political scientist, director of the Institute of Global Strategies, Vadym Karasyov.

                      In particular, that’s because the French electoral system aims to ensure that the two key forces dominate in the representative bodies – left-socialist forces, led by Francois Hollande, and Sarkozy’s Republicans. "The radicals are screened out in the second round. Moreover, [the radicals’ success in the first round made the moderate political forces realize the seriousness of a threat and mobilize," he said.

                      As for the future elections to the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament), the expert says that the outcome of the elections in the country’s west usually differs from that in a national campaign. That is, while the non-system parties may win at a local level, the voter does not dare entrust power to all sorts of radicals and populists at the national level.

                      According to the diplomat, an expert at the Maidan of Foreign Affairs foundation, Oleksandr Khara, the success of the extreme right in France has been forecast, in general, as this is a pan-European trend in the wake of terrorist attacks and problems with the wave of refugees from Syria. "These are the reasons why societies resort to extremes. And it is the National Front of Marie Le Pen which resonates with anti-immigrant sentiment, opposing the EU as an institution. So, of course, the French voted exactly for the National Front,” he said.

                      Besides, the choice of the French is influenced by economic problems. "People see what is happening, and they blame the EU as an organization, and its member states want more sovereignty and independence,” said the expert. “All of these sentiments are pushing the majority of society toward radical views, in particular, to the extreme right."

                      However, according to the diplomat, as in all normal countries, if people see that some extremist force can win the elections, it encourages others, more informed people to mobilize and also cast their vote. Therefore, the second round may see either a leveling of forces, or the balancing of the results obtained by Marie Le Pen in the first round.

                      In turn, the political analyst at the Institute Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Volodymyr Horbach, notes that increased anxiety about the outcome of the French local vote is premature. "These are the elections in local communities, and there may be any kind of coalitions. In addition, these authorities do not deal with security of foreign policy issues. Therefore, as a rule, regional coalitions are made up by the arithmetic of the vote in each municipality. As a rule, the National Front remains beyond the coalition framework, but if such coalition can’t be formed without it, the systemic parties do work with it in a coalition," said the expert.

                      “Cherchez Charles de Gaulle”

                      However, whatever the local results of the radical forces, the ruling socialists should think seriously about the upcoming parliamentary and presidential campaigns, especially considering that the Socialists have no new leader while the leadership qualities of Francois Hollande raise many questions. "Now that the role of military geopolitics is growing globally, there is a demand for strong leaders,” said Vadym Karasyov. “Why does France have plenty of Vladimir Putin’s sympathizers, both implicit and explicit? Or why are there so many sympathizers of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Middle East? There is a demand around the world for strong leaders amid instability, when all institutions are being destroyed, scattered, softened and becoming jelly-like."

                      In the context of the war on terror, increased terrorist threat and militarization of geopolitics as a key factor in foreign relations, France may see a demand for the new Charles de Gaulle, with Nicolas Sarkozy actively pressing to be one such leader. The latter, according to Karasyov, is clearly shifting to the right, moving closer to Putin and Russia, pushing out the National Front of Marie Le Pen.

                      Therefore, the main intrigue of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in France is a competition on the right wing. "This means that the main battle for power will be between the Republicans (Sarkozy) and national-populists (Le Pen), while France’s traditional left political culture, now embodied in Hollande and the Socialists, is perhaps unlikely to play a decisive role in the upcoming election campaign," said Karasyov.

                      In turn, Volodymyr Horbach believes that Sarkozy is a likely winner in this possible duel victory. Sarkozy really is controversial, and he can hardly be called a good friend of Ukraine. We should remember his claims of legitimacy of Crimea’s pseudo-referendum held at Russia’s gunpoint, as well as the visit of the members of his party to the illegally annexed peninsula. However, his flirting with the Russian political leadership is not some new precedent in his biography. "The current French President Francois Hollande would be more appropriate for Ukraine, but Sarkozy is also not Le Pen. It’s just that, as a public politician, he seeks revenge and tries to flirt with the public mood persistent in French society today, and to take advantage of all possible allies, including the foreign ones," said the expert.

                      All French politicians try to consolidate as much votes as possible, including Hollande with his visit to Moscow. His flirtation also dictated by political infighting, Horbach said. Therefore, in his opinion, the game of the French officials (no matter, whether it will be Hollande or Sarkozy) with Russia will continue until the completion of a presidential campaign in France. Right after the election, the new French president will act solely in accordance with the national interests of France, rather than his political ones.

                      Kremlin "puppeteers"
                      In turn, political analyst Taras Chornovil considers the increasing role of Le Pen and Sarkozy in France a negative signal for Ukraine. He believes it is clear signal that destructive processes are developing across Europe. "The outcome of these elections is the result of skillful manipulations on the issue of a migrant crisis,” he said. “It should be noted that this crisis has for some reason arisen at the time when it was beneficial for Russia, as it attacked the unity of the EU on the eve of the elections, rather than emerging before, at the time when there was the highest number of casualties in Syria, when there was a terrible rampant war."

                      In this regard, according to Chornovil, "there is a growing suspicion that this flow of refugees to Europe was well orchestrated." The political analyst recalls that refugees have "suddenly" and massively rushed to Europe just at a time when Russia became actively involved in the Syrian conflict - first politically, then with its bombing campaign. And no one can explain why the refugees did not pour into Europe in the early stages of the Syrian conflict when a quarter of a million people were killed. "This resulted in the victories of the pro-Russian forces, or the forces tolerant to Russia, in the EU; those who have always been eurosceptics with radical sentiments," he said.

                      According to the expert, marginal, radical, anti-European and revisionist forces may also win the elections at different levels in other EU member states, and it is "part of Russia’s well thought-out plan."

                      Chornovil is convinced that the outcome of the second round of the French elections can be predicted: the population will shift to the right sharply and start practicing the principles of isolationism. And this euroskepticism is the very essence of the parties, supported or funded by the Russian Federation, or friendly tied with Moscow else wise. >>>>>>

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                      Kremlin’s French front : UNIAN news

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                      • Kremlin’s French front
                        12.12.2015 | UNIAN Kostyantyn Honcharov

                        On December 13, France will hold the second round of regional elections, which are considered a dress rehearsal before the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2017. UNIAN gathered expert opinions on what the change of the French political elites would mean for Ukraine.

                        In the first round of local elections, the far-right National Front led by Marine Le Pen showed the best results in six out of 13 regions of the metropolis scoring 27.88% of the votes across the country. At the same time the Republicans Party led by Nicolas Sarkozy, in alliance with the centrists, took 26.98% and topped the lists in four regions. The ruling Socialists led by Francois Hollande received 23.33% becoming leaders in only three regions.

                        On the eve of the second round, the leaders of the Socialist Party called on party members to abstain from participation in the second round of elections in those regions of the country, where the far-right National Front won the most votes. According to the first secretary of the party of Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, this way the Socialists intend to set up a "Republican obstruction" to the ultra-right.

                        In turn, the leader of the center-right Republican Party, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy ruled out the possibility of withdrawing the party’s candidates and creating a coalition with the Socialist Party of Francois Hollande before the second round of regional elections. According to Sarkozy, he "heard and understood the profound disappointment” of the French citizens.

                        The fuse against the populists

                        Despite the fact that such a failure of the traditional parties made the local political elite plunge into a state of despondency, there is no reason to expect the same resounding success of Le Pen in the second round of regional elections, said the political scientist, director of the Institute of Global Strategies, Vadym Karasyov.

                        In particular, that’s because the French electoral system aims to ensure that the two key forces dominate in the representative bodies – left-socialist forces, led by Francois Hollande, and Sarkozy’s Republicans. "The radicals are screened out in the second round. Moreover, [the radicals’ success in the first round made the moderate political forces realize the seriousness of a threat and mobilize," he said.

                        As for the future elections to the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament), the expert says that the outcome of the elections in the country’s west usually differs from that in a national campaign. That is, while the non-system parties may win at a local level, the voter does not dare entrust power to all sorts of radicals and populists at the national level.

                        According to the diplomat, an expert at the Maidan of Foreign Affairs foundation, Oleksandr Khara, the success of the extreme right in France has been forecast, in general, as this is a pan-European trend in the wake of terrorist attacks and problems with the wave of refugees from Syria. "These are the reasons why societies resort to extremes. And it is the National Front of Marie Le Pen which resonates with anti-immigrant sentiment, opposing the EU as an institution. So, of course, the French voted exactly for the National Front,” he said.

                        Besides, the choice of the French is influenced by economic problems. "People see what is happening, and they blame the EU as an organization, and its member states want more sovereignty and independence,” said the expert. “All of these sentiments are pushing the majority of society toward radical views, in particular, to the extreme right."

                        However, according to the diplomat, as in all normal countries, if people see that some extremist force can win the elections, it encourages others, more informed people to mobilize and also cast their vote. Therefore, the second round may see either a leveling of forces, or the balancing of the results obtained by Marie Le Pen in the first round.

                        In turn, the political analyst at the Institute Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Volodymyr Horbach, notes that increased anxiety about the outcome of the French local vote is premature. "These are the elections in local communities, and there may be any kind of coalitions. In addition, these authorities do not deal with security of foreign policy issues. Therefore, as a rule, regional coalitions are made up by the arithmetic of the vote in each municipality. As a rule, the National Front remains beyond the coalition framework, but if such coalition can’t be formed without it, the systemic parties do work with it in a coalition," said the expert.

                        “Cherchez Charles de Gaulle”

                        However, whatever the local results of the radical forces, the ruling socialists should think seriously about the upcoming parliamentary and presidential campaigns, especially considering that the Socialists have no new leader while the leadership qualities of Francois Hollande raise many questions. "Now that the role of military geopolitics is growing globally, there is a demand for strong leaders,” said Vadym Karasyov. “Why does France have plenty of Vladimir Putin’s sympathizers, both implicit and explicit? Or why are there so many sympathizers of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Middle East? There is a demand around the world for strong leaders amid instability, when all institutions are being destroyed, scattered, softened and becoming jelly-like."

                        In the context of the war on terror, increased terrorist threat and militarization of geopolitics as a key factor in foreign relations, France may see a demand for the new Charles de Gaulle, with Nicolas Sarkozy actively pressing to be one such leader. The latter, according to Karasyov, is clearly shifting to the right, moving closer to Putin and Russia, pushing out the National Front of Marie Le Pen.

                        Therefore, the main intrigue of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in France is a competition on the right wing. "This means that the main battle for power will be between the Republicans (Sarkozy) and national-populists (Le Pen), while France’s traditional left political culture, now embodied in Hollande and the Socialists, is perhaps unlikely to play a decisive role in the upcoming election campaign," said Karasyov.

                        In turn, Volodymyr Horbach believes that Sarkozy is a likely winner in this possible duel victory. Sarkozy really is controversial, and he can hardly be called a good friend of Ukraine. We should remember his claims of legitimacy of Crimea’s pseudo-referendum held at Russia’s gunpoint, as well as the visit of the members of his party to the illegally annexed peninsula. However, his flirting with the Russian political leadership is not some new precedent in his biography. "The current French President Francois Hollande would be more appropriate for Ukraine, but Sarkozy is also not Le Pen. It’s just that, as a public politician, he seeks revenge and tries to flirt with the public mood persistent in French society today, and to take advantage of all possible allies, including the foreign ones," said the expert.

                        All French politicians try to consolidate as much votes as possible, including Hollande with his visit to Moscow. His flirtation also dictated by political infighting, Horbach said. Therefore, in his opinion, the game of the French officials (no matter, whether it will be Hollande or Sarkozy) with Russia will continue until the completion of a presidential campaign in France. Right after the election, the new French president will act solely in accordance with the national interests of France, rather than his political ones.

                        Kremlin "puppeteers"
                        In turn, political analyst Taras Chornovil considers the increasing role of Le Pen and Sarkozy in France a negative signal for Ukraine. He believes it is clear signal that destructive processes are developing across Europe. "The outcome of these elections is the result of skillful manipulations on the issue of a migrant crisis,” he said. “It should be noted that this crisis has for some reason arisen at the time when it was beneficial for Russia, as it attacked the unity of the EU on the eve of the elections, rather than emerging before, at the time when there was the highest number of casualties in Syria, when there was a terrible rampant war."

                        In this regard, according to Chornovil, "there is a growing suspicion that this flow of refugees to Europe was well orchestrated." The political analyst recalls that refugees have "suddenly" and massively rushed to Europe just at a time when Russia became actively involved in the Syrian conflict - first politically, then with its bombing campaign. And no one can explain why the refugees did not pour into Europe in the early stages of the Syrian conflict when a quarter of a million people were killed. "This resulted in the victories of the pro-Russian forces, or the forces tolerant to Russia, in the EU; those who have always been eurosceptics with radical sentiments," he said.

                        According to the expert, marginal, radical, anti-European and revisionist forces may also win the elections at different levels in other EU member states, and it is "part of Russia’s well thought-out plan."

                        Chornovil is convinced that the outcome of the second round of the French elections can be predicted: the population will shift to the right sharply and start practicing the principles of isolationism. And this euroskepticism is the very essence of the parties, supported or funded by the Russian Federation, or friendly tied with Moscow else wise.

                        continue read:
                        Kremlin’s French front : UNIAN news

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                        • Dutch approval of Ukraine-EU treaty under threat after art scandal: How can Kyiv recover?
                          UT UKRAINE TODAY Dec. 12, 2015

                          Civil society must promote and inform Dutch citizens about Ukraine through media, diplomacy & NGOs

                          An investigation into stolen Dutch art supposedly held by Ukrainian nationalist fighters could tarnish the image of the government in Kyiv.

                          Read also Ukraine Interior Ministry says investigation underway to return Dutch art works to museum

                          With Poroshenko's recent trip to the Netherlands, the current MH17 investigation and a fast-approaching Dutch referendum on Ukraine's treaty with the EU, the story could not arguably have come at a worse time. So what went wrong? Moreover, what impact could this have on bilateral relations? And what can Ukraine do to improve its image in Europe following the scandal.

                          To discuss this and more, Oleksandr Khara, Director of the Department of Multilateral Relations at the NGO Maidan of Foreign Affairs.

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                          • Thousands protest vote-rigging in Kryvyi Rih, demand to change oligarchic rule
                            EUROMAIDAN PRESS Olena Makarenko

                            Thousands protest vote-rigging in Kryvyi Rih, demand to change oligarchic rule

                            The falsified results of mayoral elections in Kryvyi Rih has led to several protests with thousands participants. This example has shown that even in regions where life is much like it was during Soviet times, people desire change. Also reaction to the election raises the the question as to whether the central government is ready to listen to the citizens of Ukraine who are from the provinces.

                            Kryvyi Rih is an industrial city in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast with a population of more than a half of a million. For many years the city was considered totally loyal to the Party of Regions (the former party of the disgraced pro-Russian ex-president Yanukovych). After the Euromaidan revolution the same people remained in power in this city. The mayor of the city is Yury Vilkul, a member of Opposition Bloc (the reborn Party of Regions) who is close to the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. Yuri Vilkul has been the mayor since 2010.

                            http://euromaidanpress.com/wp-conten...yvyi-rih33.jpg

                            The results of the local elections in the city came as a bolt out of the blue. Several pro-democratic forces now will be represented in the local city council. All together they earned more votes than Opposition Bloc:

                            Oppostion Bloc – 39,06% (29 seats),
                            Samopomich – 9,58% (7),
                            UKROP – 9,02% (7),
                            Solidarnist – 8,48% (6),
                            Batkivschina – 7,61% (6),
                            Radical Party of Oleg Liashko – 7,16% (5),
                            Syla Lyudey – 5,95% (4).

                            Moreover, the representative of the Samopomich party Yuriy Milobog got the second place in the first round of the mayoral election, which let him run for the position in the second round. The second round which was held in November 15 also came as a surprise.

                            What happened in the second round

                            “I was an observer and I could not believe my eyes. I saw that Milobog was winning and started to call friends from other districts. They told me that they were seeing the same thing,” says Anton Kravchenko, coordinator of the pro-reform movement “Automaidan” in Kryvyi Rih. The final result showed that the candidate from Samopomich won 6 out of 7 city districts. However, in the end a difference of only 752 votes provided victory for Milobog’s opponent Vilkul.

                            “The vote gap between the candidates is most visible on the special voting districts – hospitals, mental health facilities, prisons, where the overwhelming majority voted for Vilkul, and in fact did not vote for the Samopomich candidate. So we went to the police and demanded to know who was in the hospital at that time. Almost 200 people voted in one of them, but in fact there were only 10 people in the hospital,” said Yehor Firsov, the MP from Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc.

                            Among other violations, ballot stuffing, observers noted the inclusion of election commission members in voting lists after the deadline and the traditional use of the local government’s administrative resources to drum up votes. Anton says that a lot of people are still dependent on the places they work or study. So when they are told to vote for Vilkul or to take part in schemes that break the law, they really believe that not participating will cost them their job or their place in a university. Anton estimates that 12 thousand votes were delivered to Vilkul using illegal means.

                            Samopomich complained about several violations. However, they were not considered by the territorial commission. The newly elected mayor could not wait to take the office. The election committee refused to consider bills of complaints and appointed the city council meeting at 18 of November.

                            How the citizens reacted

                            This time things were different. People did not just follow along and did not accept the situation as was usually expected. For three Sundays in a row after the second round, citizens gathered at the main square. These gatherings had an estimated 5 to 10 thousand participants, according to activists. The numbers provided by local media are different. Some even reported that there were just two hundred – but unfortunately local media outlets are not objective sources of information.

                            “As far as I understand, all the media outlets are taking the information about the amount of people from the original sources [local]. All municipal media in Kryvyi Rih act like Russian TV, as they distort the facts so much. During two years after the Revolution of Dignity there were always some “Maidans” and meetings in Kryvyi Rih. However, as most of the municipal media belong to Vilkul’s family, such events in Kryvyi Rih were not covered,” said Anton.

                            The amount of people at the meetings after the election were not even as large as they could have been. Anton explained that those who came are just normal non-confrontational people, but activists are also keeping in touch with the youth, workmen and soldiers who are waiting until the situation worsens and their help becomes really needed as the position of this people is more desperate. Activists admit that they were not expecting that the the people of the city would dare change the status quo and not support Vilkul in the election.

                            The events in Kryvyi Rih serve as a signal to the current government and the remnants of the previous Yanukovych regime, (which often co-exist in a quite friendly way) that people are not going to submit to the old unwritten election rules that institutionalized corruption and vote-rigging and will take a stand for justice and their future.

                            “At the last meeting in Kryvyi Rih, a some people came up with the idea: ‘Let’s go to Kyiv and blockade the Parliament’.”

                            We answered “Why blockade? Let us first try do it positively.” Yehor Sobolev, an MP from the Samopomich, party wrote at his Facebook page.

                            Who is Yuriy Vilkul

                            Activists are saying that in these circumstances who exactly the second candidate is is unimportant. The main message is that the citizens just want to get rid of the power of Vilkul which is the bane of the city. The results show that people put a lot of hope on the elections.

                            Yuriy Vilkul as well as his son Oleksandr are instruments for maintaining the empire of the oligarch Renat Akhmetov.

                            Akhmetov has a special interest in Kryvyi Rih. The city plays an important role in the Ukrainian mining and smelting business, so it is an important city for Akhmetov’s company Metinvest, which is also the largest player in the field. The majority of shares of Metinvest belong to Akhmetov’s company SCM group. Key mining and processing plants are located in or near Kryvyi Rih. The local government has a huge leeway in tax collection in the city, including real estate taxes. After losing a big part of his national influence after the shift of political power in Ukraine in 2014, it is important for Rinat Akhmetov to have local political support in this economically important region. Yuriy Vilkul is just a convenient person for him.

                            Apart from Akhmetov’s interests, the Vilkul family is associated with other large businesses connected to construction and real estate. In March 2015, the family was accused of involvement in a corruption scheme that embezzled local government funds of revenues from outdoor advertising.

                            “As a result of corrupt schemes during the past 5 years the city budget of Kryvyi Rih has not received more than 40 million UAH (USD $1,680,680), which led to declines in health care, education, social security, physical culture, sports, and so on,” stated the MP from Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc Vitaliy Kupriy.

                            Anton observes that Kryvyi Rih has not developed at all over the past few years. For example, in an oblong city sprawling over 126 km, public transport does not operate late in the evening. “There is nowhere to go. It seems that in the city people can only sit in the yard, drink and watch TV. So therefore it is easy to control them.” All attempts by activists to collaborate peacefully with the local government have failed.

                            What was achieved by the activists

                            In the end, the voice of society in Kryvyi Rih was heard. The city election commission appealed to the deputies of Verkhovna Rada [Parliament] of Ukraine to hold another election. Later, a temporary special committee of the Verkhovna Rada on verifying violations of the election of the mayor of Kryvyi Rih decided to propose a re-election in Kryvyi Rih to the Parliament. This decision was made because of the impossibility of establishing the results of the election accurately. A draft law on second election in Kryvyi Rih was submitted to parliament factions leaders on 10 December 2015.

                            CONTINUE READ
                            Thousands protest vote-rigging in Kryvyi Rih, demand to change oligarchic rule -Euromaidan Press |

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                            • Poroshenko announces reload of Cabinet
                              12.12.2015 | UNIAN

                              Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the reload of the government, as not all the ministers meet the expectations of the Ukrainian citizens; the President also pledged to make every effort to strengthen the coalition, as he spoke at the forum of his BPP Solidarity deputies of local councils, according to an UNIAN correspondent.

                              "The reload of the government will happen, because not all ministers today meet and comply with the criteria the society expects from them," he said.

                              In addition, the President stressed the need to maintain the current coalition as the main political structure for the implementation of reforms.

                              "Maintaining this coalition as the main political structure for the implementation of reform and political stability is a determining factor for the decision making, including decisions on personnel, by the way," he said.

                              Poroshenko added that he make every effort to strengthen the coalition. Solidarity, People's Front, Samopomich and Batkivshchyna - these are today's authorities, and we have a shared responsibility for the fate of the country. And our unity is a key to successful reforms," said the President.

                              "I have done, I do, and I will do everything I can to strengthen the coalition," said Poroshenko
                              Poroshenko announces reload of Cabinet : UNIAN news










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                              • Power says Ukraine crisis "remains no less real, no less urgent"
                                12.12.2015 |UNIAN VIDEO

                                Speaking during December 11 UN Security Council meeting, US Ambassador Samantha Power cited the latest UN report on Ukraine, which said arms and fighters were still pouring into eastern Ukraine from Russia, with the death toll from 20 months of fighting approaching 9,100. The ambassador cited Russia as the source for the military support for the separatists, according to Ukraine Today.

                                "While major combat is down since the September 1st ceasefire – and that's extremely important for all of the lives affected – this crisis remains no less real, no less urgent, and no less troubling. There are still, as we've heard, daily ceasefire violations. And as has been described in great detail today, the citizens of Ukraine – all of Ukraine – continue to suffer enormously," said Power, Ukraine today reports

                                "Let us be clear about why we are gathered again and what continues to drive this crisis,” she said.

                                She added: "We are here because Moscow and the separatists continue to obstruct international monitoring efforts, undermining the ceasefire and the prospects for peace."

                                Power says Ukraine crisis "remains no less real, no less urgent" : UNIAN news










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