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  • New Russian Strategy Document Calls NATO a 'Threat'
    VOICE OF AMERICA Danila Galperovich Jan 05, 2016 1:46 PM


    On December 31, President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new national security strategy for Russia that unequivocally identifies NATO as a threat. The new strategy, observers say, reflects the recent deterioration in relations between Russia and the West, following Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, as well as its more recent military intervention in Syria.

    The 40-page document is generally harsh in tone, focusing on what it characterizes as Russia's isolation in the current international system. In addition, it gives clear priority to state interests over personal interests. It emphasizes the need to guarantee "the inviolability of the constitutional order, the sovereignty, independence, government and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation."

    US, both opponent and partner

    The strategy document takes a two sided approach to the United States. On the one hand, it says that Russia's "independent" foreign and domestic policy has "provoked opposition from the United States and its allies, which are seeking to maintain their dominance in world affairs." It condemns the United States for continuing to deploy anti-missile defenses, accuses it of supporting an "anti-constitutional coup" in Ukraine and even claims that "a network of U.S. military-biological laboratories" is being expanded on the territory of states neighboring Russia.

    On the other hand, the document goes on to say that Russia is interested in building a full partnership with the United States. It notes the need to further develop arms control and confidence building measures related to nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The new strategy also calls for expanded cooperation" in fighting terrorism and resolving regional conflicts.

    The call to partnership is almost at the end of the document.

    'Threat' from NATO

    Taking aim at the Western military alliance, the new Russian national security strategy describes a "buildup" of power on the part of NATO, "imparting to it global functions undertaken in violation of the norms of international law, the intensification of military activities of the bloc countries, the further expansion of the alliance, the approach of its military infrastructure up to Russia's borders." Russia says all of this is a threat to its national security.

    Writing in The National Interest Thomas Fedyszyn, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College, says that the document fails to note that NATO decided to bolster its rapid reaction force "in direct response to Russian revanchism [a foreign policy aimed at the regaining of lost territories] in Crimea and Ukraine, several months after the aggressions occurred."

    Fedyszyn, who served as U.S. Naval Attaché to Russia and two tours of duty at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, also notes that NATO troops in Poland and the Baltic states are "rotational," not permanently-stationed forces, and that their numbers "are dwarfed by Russian counterparts across the border."


    Alexander Konovalov, president of the Moscow-based Institute for Strategic Assessments, noted in an interview with VOA that the new strategy document reflects Russia's international isolation since it no longer seeks to connect with either former Soviet countries or those in central Asia.

    "In the previous strategy, the priority in foreign policy and security policy was given clearly, directly in the text, to cooperation with the CSTO [the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes, Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan], with some Asian countries - the SCO [the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China, Russia and four Central Asian countries] was mentioned. This time I found no mention of the priority of cooperation with CSTO member states, the widely publicized turn to the East."

    Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based independent military expert, said the new national security strategy is more "defensive-aggressive" than its predecessors.

    "The ideology of the document is that Russia is ringed by enemies; Russia is resisting Western countries, which don't like that it is conducting an independent and autonomous foreign policy," he told VOA. "It explicitly states that if Russia cannot achieve its goals using diplomatic and political means, it may resort to military means."

    Still, Golts said he is sure that the document approved by Putin is not a practical guide for the Russian governmental bodies responsible for national security.

    "It is necessary to understand that such documents in Russia are purely bureaucratic," he said. "A meticulous researcher could find signs here of conflicting points of view between different bureaucratic clans. But you have to understand that this 'strategy' does not represent the thinking of Russia's leaders: it is what Russia's leaders want to convey to the world about their views, so that the world thinks this is how they are thinking."
    New Russian Strategy Document Calls NATO a 'Threat'

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    • Putin and the evolving politics of prepositions about Ukraine
      EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/04

      Political cartoon: Putin paints "Russia" over Ukraine

      The use of “v” versus the use of “na” as a preposition about being “in Ukraine” has become so politicized that many Russians view the use of the first as indicating that the speaker backs Ukraine against Moscow while others see the use of the second as showing that its user is virtually a Russian imperialist.

      But as in all such things, the reality is more complicated and has a most interesting history, something pointed out by Irina Levontina, a specialist at the Institute of the Russian Language of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview given to

      Language evolves all the time, and only rarely do its speakers recognize the change. Thus, in Russian, “metro” used to be masculine although its ending would appear to dictate another gender, and “v” as preposition of “in the Internet” displaced “na” or “on the Internet” for almost all Russians except emigres. But “no one makes anything dramatic out of that.”

      However, Levontina points out, with regard to the preposition to be used to designate “in” Ukraine, the issue was “not simply raised to the level of principled heights but politics interfered as well.” Indeed, not only do most people think that the choice has a profound meaning, but they make jokes about it.

      Her favorite, she continues, the following: “’Yanukovych is put on the international search list but up to now, it isn’t known where he is: “na” Ukraine or “v” Ukraine.’”

      Before relations between Moscow and Kyiv soured, the Russian authorities asked linguists whether it would be all right to use “v.” Then, “even Putin used the preposition ‘v.’” But his use of it depended on the outcome of talks on gas. “If everything went well, then it would be ‘v’ Ukraine; if badly, then ‘na.’” Because things went badly, the latter became de rigueur.

      More than that, those linguists who questioned the latter were viewed as engaged in “the betrayal of [Russian] national interests,” and some even began to ask whether those who took that position had Ukrainian roots somewhere in their backgrounds.

      Both of course are possible. According to Levontina, revered Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko [1814-1861] used both; but by the 20th century, “na” had become the norm in the Russian literary language. That reflects Muscovite usage, but elsewhere, including in Ukraine, there are regional variants and in Kyiv certainly “v” is thus correct. (She stresses she’s talking about Russian there and not the separate Ukrainian language.)

      Levontina also discusses the evolution of meaning of three words from ones that designate an enemy to proud self-evaluations. These are “vata,” “ukrop,” and “colorad.” The first has “a very interesting history in which are manifested the normal laws of the semantic development of the word.”

      “Vatnik” and its derivative “vata” were first used as Ukrainian terms of abuse for those Russians who blindly follow “Russian imperial consciousness.” But very quickly, she says, those took it on as a term in which they were proud. This shift was special only in that it was so quick.

      “A less complicated but similar history occurred with ukrop,” she points out. First, there was the abbreviation “ukr,” from which “ukrop” arose, first as a Russian term of abuse for Ukrainians and then as a Ukrainian expression of national pride. And “colorad” or beetle, as a term for Donbas residents who were pro-Moscow, evolved in the same way.

      Levontina concludes by expressing the hope that current tensions between Russia and Ukraine and between Russians and Ukrainians will be overcome and that the two will have “normal relations. Politicians,” she says, “are insane; one can’t expect anything good from them.” Putin and the evolving politics of prepositions about Ukraine -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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      • RADIO FREE EUROPE January 06, 2016
        Christmas Eve For Orthodox, Eastern Rite Christians

        It's Christmas Eve for many Orthodox and Eastern Rite Christians.

        The faithful will be concluding a monthlong period of fasting during which they confessed their sins and received forgiveness and communion from the church.

        On Christmas Eve, the fasting will continue "until the first star," a tradition stemming from the Biblical account of how the Three Wise Men arrived at the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem by following a star.

        A candle in front of the altar is lit at the end of Christmas Eve services at about noon to symbolize the star.

        Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill will recite the Christmas Eve liturgy at a January 6 festive service at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The night service at the cathedral will be telecast by Russian television.

        Services will be held at night and on Christmas morning in almost 30,000 churches worldwide that are affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church. Christmas Eve For Orthodox, Eastern Rite Christians

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        • RADIO FREE EUROPE January 06, 2016
          Kyrgyzstan - It's Not Just About The Horse Penis, It's About The Gold Mine

          Kyrgyz were variously enraged and bemused after a British expat working at a foreign-owned gold mine jokingly compared a beloved local equine delicacy to a "horses penis" (sic).

          But the Facebook jest by Michael McFeat -- a welding superintendent at the Kumtor Gold Company in Kyrgyzstan -- could scarcely have come at a worse time for his Canadian bosses, whose relations with Bishkek are at an all-time low.

          The mine's owners have recently been locked in a fierce battle with the Kyrgyz government over fresh mining permits and a redivision of profits from an enterprise that generates around 10 percent of Kyrgyzstan's GDP.

          McFeat is already paying a price for the perceived slur. He was detained at Bishkek's Manas Airport early on January 3 for "document irregularities" and sent to the regional capital, Karakol, before being expelled two days later, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service confirmed, quoting the border service.

          Initial reports said he faced racially motivated hate charges that could have resulted in up to a five-year jail sentence.

          Issyk-Kul police chief Emilbek Saliev told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that dozens of Kyrgyz employees at the Kumtor gold mine filed a collective complaint about McFeat's comments on January 2.

          They also staged a brief strike at the mine the next day to protest the failure by Kumtor management to punish McFeat for his comment, which he deleted from his Facebook page before issuing an apology.

          Many in Kyrgyzstan were outraged that McFeat would dare to compare chuchuk -- a sausage prized among the former nomadic Kyrgyz, who consider the horse a noble animal that is only eaten on special occasions -- to horse genitalia.

          Prominent Kyrgyz historian and publicist Kyias Moldokasymov wrote on Facebook: "The guy who mocked chuchuk must definitely be punished! And don't you think that those who are destroying Kyrgyz glaciers and creating irreparable damage to our environment while taking natural wealth out of the country are also laughing at us and asking, 'What can you do about it?' must also be punished?"

          Samat Dolotbakov, a director at the Emark construction company and the CEO and founder of the magazine #ONE, wrote on Facebook: "Dear friends, I saw in [McFeat's] post written in English that he laughed [and made fun] of our nation. ... I can't leave that without reacting. It is not his first day in Kyrgyzstan. He works here, makes his money. I want him and other foreign guests to learn their lesson. Because I will never insult another nation while visiting it, I hope you wouldn't either ..."

          But some Kyrgyz suggested the real outrage was the authorities' response to the Facebook quip, which merely appeared crafted -- however crudely -- to get a laugh out of McFeat's friends and family in Scotland.

          "Horsesausagestan -- a country without leadership, where the emotions of three-year-old hooligans rule the day," tweeted Edil Baisalov, a former parliament member and government official.

          Bektour Iskender, founder of the website, asked: "OK, to call chuchuk a horse's penis is, of course, not the smartest thing. But please tell me why for doing this someone should be taken to the police station? What law is violated when somebody refers to horse sausage like that? I would like to now hear from the most competent lawyers."

          Aliya Suranova, a well-known Kyrgyz blogger, said the strong reaction to McFeat's comment is a symptom of something deeper in society.

          "What happened is that this story is a very vivid reflection of us [and our society] at the current time. It is the result of our anger toward 'strangers, foreign agents, State Department spies,' etc. We have so much hatred and anger toward all of them that we are ready to go out and start beating anyone who is not Kyrgyz by blood," she wrote on Facebook.

          Whether an overreaction or not, McFeat's comment has certainly resulted in some bad PR for Centerra, the Canadian-based company that owns the Kumtor mine -- which is Central Asia's largest Western-managed gold-deposit project.

          Centerra has been especially image-conscious since 1998, when a Kumtor truck carrying cyanide overturned while driving along the curvy mountain road that leads up to the mine. The spill poisoned the Barskoon River that supplies water to many of the villages along the southern shore of the lake at Issyk-Kul. Hundreds of people became sick and several died; pregnant women were advised to have abortions and the government evacuated many of the downstream villages.

          After that tragedy, Kumtor officials made infrastructure investments in the region and in small communities near the mine, partly, no doubt, in an effort to generate positive PR.

          In 2014, government officials heeded calls by Kyrgyz nationalists and told Kumtor to revise its agreement with the state to give the government a bigger share of the mine and, therefore, its profits.

          Under a veiled government threat to nationalize the gold mine, negotiations between the two sides began nearly two years ago. At issue was a government proposal to exchange its 32.7-percent stake in Centerra for 50 percent of a joint venture that would give the state control over the gold mine. Those talks broke down on December 22, with the government citing its "national interest" in walking away from the table, casting doubt on the sides' ability to agree on mining permits that were running out fast.

          Kyrgyz officials said afterward they will propose a new deal that would give Kyrgyzstan "an increase in financial flows."

          The government has also accused Centerra -- which is also Kyrgyzstan's biggest taxpayer -- of lowballing its estimate of the gold reserves at the Kumtor site.

          Centerra officials have argued that Kyrgyzstan is bound by the current agreement and that any dispute over the current contract should be decided by an international court.

          Prospects of reaching an agreement have been complicated by a Canadian court's freezing of Bishkek's portion of Centerra stocks after international arbitrators ruled in favor of foreign investors. It's Not Just About The Horse Penis, It's About The Gold Mine

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          • RADIO FREE EUROPE Qishloq Ovozi (blog)
            Russia Seeks To Drive Wedge Into Central Asia Bruce Panner Jan 5 2016

            Russia appears to be practicing a bit of "divide-and-conquer" politics in Central Asia, and state-owned Gazprom is spearheading the campaign.

            On January 4, Russia's main news agencies quoted a "source" within Gazprom Export, the Gazprom wing charged with handling gas imports from other countries, saying Russia would not be importing any gas from Turkmenistan this year. Shortly after, those same Russian news agencies quoted what they said was the same source saying a new deal had been reached for gas supplies from Uzbekistan.

            At the time, the "source" provided no further details. He or she did not need to; the reasons seem clear enough.

            Turkmenistan has been a thorn in the Kremlin's side for many years now. Turkmenistan downgraded its participation in the CIS to "associate" status a decade ago and Ashgabat does not participate in any of the Russian-led intra-CIS groupings, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) or Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

            More recently, Turkmenistan, which has the world's fourth-largest gas reserves, has been pushing to open new export routes, including one to Europe that would put Turkmen gas in direct competition with Russian gas.

            And all this happened as Turkmenistan continued to sell gas to Russia. In fact, not so long ago Russia was Turkmenistan's primary gas customer, buying some 45 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen gas in 2008.

            That amount has dwindled, and Gazprom announced at the start of 2015 it would purchase only 4 bcm of Turkmen gas, not the 10 bcm the Russian company bought in 2014. Ashgabat complained bitterly about the 2015 reduction and later accused Russia of failing to pay for gas it received.

            Small wonder that Gazprom, already with more of its own gas than it can sell, has now canceled all purchases of Turkmen gas.

            But at the Qishloq, we think there is more to this development than just gas purchases.

            As mentioned, the Gazprom Export "source" said the company would continue to buy gas from Turkmenistan's neighbor Uzbekistan. In 2015, Gazprom also reduced the amount of gas it bought from Uzbekistan, from 4 bcm in 2014 to 1 bcm.

            Gazprom chief Aleksei Miller confirmed a new agreement for gas purchases from Uzbekistan on January 5 and sources in his company said Gazprom would buy at least 3.1 bcm from Uzbekistan this year.

            Uzbekistan's ties with Russia are not much better than Turkmenistan's ties with the former colonial master, and like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan is not a member of the CSTO or EEU.

            Not surprisingly, the Turkmen and Uzbek leaders have seen in recent years they share much common ground and the relationship between the two countries is probably the best it's been since 1991 independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And not only has that left Russia with little influence in either country, it is an example of how some former Soviet republics in Central Asia can do without Moscow's help, the sort of example the Kremlin would rather not see.

            By rejecting any more purchases of Turkmen gas while at the same increasing the amount of Uzbek gas, Gazprom is creating a rift between the two Central Asian countries.

            Turkmenistan only has two other customers for its gas at the present -- China and Iran -- and the Turkmen economy is beginning to show strains from lower prices of gas on world markets. It is a symbolic slap in Ashgabat's face that Turkmenistan will not be selling even modest amounts of gas to Russia, and instead that revenue will be going to Turkmenistan's neighbor.

            There is more subtext here. Although Uzbek-Russian ties have never been great since the fall of the Soviet Union, Tashkent has allowed Gazprom and Russian company LUKoil to explore and develop gas and oil fields in Uzbekistan. This makes it difficult for Gazprom to cut ties totally with Uzbekistan. In fact, the gas Gazprom said it will buy from Uzbekistan is probably coming from gas fields Gazprom is developing.

            Ashgabat has never allowed Russian companies to develop the huge onshore fields in Turkmenistan. The only company that has such a contract is the China National Petroleum Corporation. That makes it easy for Gazprom to cut ties with Turkmenistan.

            There is one more point worth considering when reviewing Russia's refusal to buy Turkmen gas, and it has nothing to do with hydrocarbons.

            On January 3, the Russian news agency Interfax reported, Aleksandr Sternik, identified as the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Third CIS Department, announced Russia is ready to assist Turkmenistan with security problems along the Turkmen-Afghan border. Sternik said, "Russia, Turkmenistan's neighbors, its partners in the CIS have been monitoring with friendly attention the efforts of Turkmen friends to strengthen what actually is our common southern borders."

            Ashgabat denies there is any security problem along the Turkmen border with Afghanistan.

            Sternik also mentioned that along the Turkmen-Afghan border "more resources are needed for solid protection than, for instance, on the Uzbek-Afghan border." Again, Russia draws a distinction between the situations in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

            Gazprom's January 4 announcements were a low-cost move that could pay big political dividends for the Kremlin in its effort to restore some of the lost Russian influence in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Russia Seeks To Drive Wedge Into Central Asia

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            • 9:27 06.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
              Ukraine to file claim against Russia at International Court of Justice

              Ukraine is to file a claim at the International Court of Justice against Russia for supporting terrorism, Ukrainian Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko has said.

              "The next year will be devoted to the initiation of a large-scale lawsuit at the International Court of Justice through which Ukraine will sue Russia under the convention [for the suppression of] the financing of terrorism," Petrenko told Channel 5 on January 5.

              The minister said that the evidence had already been gathered, the pre-trial process of communication with the Russian side was about to end, and "we'll go to court."

              Petrenko also said that state-owned Oschadbank, and oil and gas giant NJSC Naftogaz Ukrainy were individually suing Russia at the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.

              He also added that over 700 Ukrainians – an their number was growing every day – had filed private lawsuits at the European Court of Human Rights against Russia's annexation of the Crimea and aggression in Donbas.

              In his words, rulings on the first cases may be announced by the end of 2016.

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              • "LPR" pledges to release all captives for Christmas
                06.01.2016 | 09:30

                The self-proclaimed leader of the "Luhansk People’s Republic,” Igor Plotnitsky, is reported to to have ordered release of all the Ukrainian soldirs held captive in LPR, honoring Christmas time, according to Russia’s RIA Novosti new agency.

                "It’s on the eve of and in honor of Chritmas have I given the order to release all the captive soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, held in the ‘LPR’,” Plotnitsky said in a public address.

                However, the number of prisoners to be released was not specified.

                Earlier, the Presidential Envoy for the peaceful settlement of the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukraine’s representative in the sub-working group on humanitarian issues of the Tripartite Liaison Group, Iryna Gerashchenko, said that the Russian-controlled militants often release in exchange operations only the captives who are on the brink of death, to absolve themselves of responsibility for the torture and killing of captives.

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                • Ukraine launches alternative transit route to China bypassing Russia
                  06.01.2016 | 12:30 UNIAN

                  The pilot container train en route Ukraine - Georgia - Azerbaijan - Kazakhstan - China (through the Caspian and Black Seas) will leave the Ukrainian port of Illichivsk on January 15, the press service of the Infrastructure Ministry reported.

                  "This route is a new "Silk Road" direction and an alternative enabling us to divert traffic flows in eastern direction bypassing the Russian territory. It includes ferries through the Black and the Caspian Seas (Illichivsk - Batumi and Aliat - Aktau Port) and should become a competitive route in comparison with the traditional overland route," a statement reads.

                  The ministry noted that the description of the project possibilities of the Trans-Caspian international transport route was presented to potential consignors during a roadshow on November 16, 2015 and during the International Forum "Bridging Europe and Asia: a new look at formation of the transcontinental routes" (Odesa) on December 3, 2015.

                  "There have been reached agreements as for technology, faster delivery, tariff conditions and specific train operators prior to the launch of the container train. The pilot container train will open an alternative route for delivering goods from Ukraine to Central Asian countries. The container train will consist of approximately 20 rail cars," the ministry said.

                  It is also noted that against the background of the termination of transit of Ukrainian goods through the Russian territory, the Infrastructure Ministry jointly with the Ukrainian Railways will continue working on the creation of alternative routes to divert cargo flows in eastern direction.

                  As UNIAN reported earlier, the Trans-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor "New Silk Road" was launched bypassing Russia. In particular, on December 13, China sent the first transit container train to Georgia through the so-called "New Silk Road."
                  Ukraine launches alternative transit route to China bypassing Russia : UNIAN news

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                  • Russian ruble tumbles to another record low amid sliding oil prices
                    06.01.2016 | 13:45 UNIAN

                    The Russian ruble is reaching record lows in the trading session on January 6, battered by declining oil prices.

                    At trading on the Moscow Stock Exchange, the U.S. dollar rose 0.73% against the ruble to 74.04 RUB/USD, hitting August 2015 levels.

                    The euro rose 0.74% against the ruble to 79.46 RUB/EUR.

                    The value of a dual-currency basket amounted to RUB 76.94.

                    As UNIAN reported earlier, oil prices resumed their decline on Wednesday having risen 4% since the beginning of the new year, as renewed conflict in the Middle East failed to quell concern over persistent oversupply.

                    Brent futures slid 1.8% to $35.79 a barrel, while WTI crude futures were down by 1.06% to $35.59 per barrel during the trading on the Intercontinental Exchange.

                    Market attention is focused on news from North Korea as a reported nuclear test has heightened investors' concerns about the security in North East Asia.
                    Russian ruble tumbles to another record low amid sliding oil prices : UNIAN news
                    Currently Russia is 500 Billion dollars in foreign debt, which needs to be paid back in foreign currency.

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                    • Inflation in Ukraine reaches 20-year peak
                      06.01.2016 | 14:15 UNIAN

                      Inflation in Ukraine rose 43.3% in 2015 (December 2015 to December 2014) as compared with 24.9% recorded in 2014, hitting the highest level over the past 20 years, the State Statistics Service reported on its website.

                      In December 2015, inflation slowed down to 0.7% against November 2015, from 2% recorded a month earlier.

                      As UNIAN reported ealier, Ukraine’s main creditor, the IMF, forecast a 2% growth in 2016. The IMF forecast for inflation coincided with that of the Ukrainian government: 45.8% in 2015 and 12% in 2016. The World Bank was a bit more pessimistic in its forecasts. The Bank believes that Ukraine’s economy will decline by 12% in 2015, with a 2016 increase not exceeding 1%.
                      Inflation in Ukraine reaches 20-year peak : UNIAN news

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                      • REUTERS Ankara Jan 6, 2016 3:57am EST
                        Russian refusal to issue visas to Turkish carrier violates aviation rules, minister says

                        Jan 6 Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday Russia's refusal to issue visas to crew members working for budget carrier Pegasus was an "arbitrary" measure and violated international aviation rules.

                        Istanbul-based Pegasus said on Tuesday it suspended flights to and from Russia until Jan. 13 after authorities in Moscow failed to give its crew visas.

                        Turkey would use diplomatic channels to appeal to Russia to abide by "international norms," Yildirim said at a news conference. Russian refusal to issue visas to Turkish carrier violates aviation rules, minister says | Reuters

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                        • 12:18 06.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                          Petro Poroshenko Bloc plans to radically reform customs service

                          MP from Petro Poroshenko Bloc Andriy Antonyschak will register a bill on national customs service, aiming at radically changing the service, next plenary session week of the parliament, the press service of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc has reported.

                          "Today the customs service actually does not exist. Its role is fiscal function: to protect economic interests of the state and replenish the national budget," Antonyschak said.

                          He also said that the document aims at creating the National Customs Service that will protect the customs interests, customs security, domestic market, development of the Ukrainian economy, its integration into the global economy and prevent customs irregularities.

                          He said that MPs held several meetings with European experts and everyone came to the conclusion that the customs service should become a separate institution.

                          "The main goal of the customs service is not replenishment of the budget. The main task of the customs service is the smooth and transparent movement of goods and protection of the borders from smuggling. We propose in this bill that an independent customs service is created and subordinated to the Finance Ministry," he said.

                          The bill envisages the creation of separate services – customs, tax, financial investigation and auxiliary services (analytics and customs value of goods).

                          The document toughens criminal punishment for bribing.

                          "For example, if a customs officer takes a bribe of $10, he will be automatically deprived of the job record, an apartment, social benefits and other things," Antonyschak said.

                          He added that the next step for conducting the radical reform of the customs service should be direct negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU).
                          Petro Poroshenko Bloc plans to radically reform customs service

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                          • Province proclaims 2016 the year of Saskatchewan Ukrainians
                            It's been 125 years since the first arrival of Ukrainian immigrants
                            CBC NEWS Jan 05, 2016

                            This is the year of Saskatchewan Ukrainians.

                            Premier Brad Wall has announced that 2016 will be the year of Saskatchewan immigrants. The province is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the first wave of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada.

                            "Ukrainian culture and traditions are deeply embedded in the Saskatchewan mosaic," Wall said in a news release. "Settlers from Ukraine helped build our province, bringing to their new home what our motto proudly proclaims: 'From Many Peoples, Strength.' Those traditions manifest themselves today in countless community celebrations, in educational programs, and in the longstanding relationship Saskatchewan enjoys with Ukraine."

                            Ukrainians still arriving

                            According to the provincial government, more than 13 per cent of Saskatchewan residents can trace part or all of their ancestry to Ukraine. Immigration from Ukraine continues today, with the country ranking fourth on the list of where newcomers arrive from.

                            The proclamation serves as a launch for anniversary celebrations that will happen across the province and the rest of the country.

                            Ukrainians will also celebrate Christmas this week. Ukrainians and Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January the 7th.

                            Province proclaims 2016 the year of Saskatchewan Ukrainians - Saskatoon - CBC News

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                            • THE THINGS WE DO...
                              Orysia Paszczak Tracz THE UKRAINIAN WEEKLY December 31, 2006,

                              A Spider for Christmas?

                              What says Christmas more than a spider and its spiderweb? Well, considering that Ukrainian Christmas and New Year traditions include those memorable and special seasonal symbols such as poppy seeds, hemp oil, garlic, hay, wheat stalks, goats, and even cross-dressing, hey, why not include the "pavuk" - the spider?

                              The spider-web-covered "yalynka" (Christmas tree) is now a standard Ukrainian Christmas story. It comes in many versions, and has appeared in a number of contemporary children's books. Basically, a poor family has nothing with which to decorate their yalynka and, hearing this, a spider overnight spins its web all over the tree, making the spiderweb sparkle and glitter in the morning sunlight. This explains the tradition of tinsel on the Christmas tree.

                              The various embellishments of the story depend upon the teller and the tale. Another version has the Holy Family hiding in a cave during their flight to Egypt. The benevolent spiders spin webs and cover the whole entrance to the cave. When Herod's soldiers pass by, they do not bother searching the cave, because obviously it has not been disturbed in a long time - and the Holy Family is safe.

                              Now, a few things need to be clarified. First of all, the custom of the Christmas tree arrived in Ukraine from Germany in the 19th century. It became a supplement to the Ukrainian "didukh," the sheaf of wheat and other best grains, which symbolizes Ukrainian Christmas. The spirits of the ancestors come into the home in the didukh for the holy days. They had lived in the fields in the grain helping the bountiful harvest. The didukh is symbolic, the yalynka is decorative.

                              The yalynka, originally based on tree worship in early Germany, became a separate Christmas tradition, decorated with home-made paper and metallic ornaments, and apples, walnuts, candies and candles. Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky even wrote a delightful children's story about going to cut down the tree, called "Yalynka." A short 16-minute film based on this story was produced and directed in Canada in 1975 by George Mendeluk (Faroun Films, Montreal). The cast included Mike Mazurki and filmmaker Linda Sorensen.

                              The paper or wire in "pavuchky" (little spiders) and spider webs are just one example of the traditional ornaments for the tree. The gift shop of The Ukrainian Museum in New York sells pavuchky and a booklet on traditional ornaments, and its Christmas workshops teach how to make them (see The Ukrainian Museum Online Shopping).

                              A book on international Christmas ornaments includes the Ukrainian pavuchok and the gilded walnut: "Christmas Crafts from around the World (Kids Can Do It)" by Judy Ann Sadler, illustrated by June Bradford (Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2003. ISBN 1-55337-428-2 [paper], ISBN 1-55337-427-4 [cloth]).

                              A few children's books have the Ukrainian Christmas spider and web story as their theme: "Spider's Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story," by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Katya Krenina (Holiday House, 2007. ISBN: 0823417433) tells the basic story; "Starre Baba and the Christmas Spider: A Ukrainian Story," by Ina C. Shoonover (XLibris, 2007. ISBN: 1-4134-3822-9) is a historical novel set in Ukraine during the Holodomor. (Why "starre" instead of "stara" baba?)

                              The award-winning and now classic "Silver Threads" by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, with illustrations by Michael Martchenko, also combines history and the spider tale. This story is set in Canada just before and during World War I, and tells the story of an immigrant family and its travails during the internment of "enemy aliens" by the Canadian government (originally published in Toronto: Viking, 1996; new edition, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004. ISBN 1550419013 [cloth], 155041903X [paper]).

                              While the story of the spider and its web on the yalynka probably arrived from Germany along with the Christmas tree, the pavuk as a special symbol is well-established in Ukraine. The arachnid has been held in high esteem since prehistoric times.

                              In many cultures, it is not a good thing to kill a spider - you will "call evil upon yourself." The pavuk was considered the center of the universe, with the spiderweb contributing to the world's creation.

                              Yevhen Onatskyi gives examples of the pre-Christian "koliadky" (Christmas carols) about spiders and spiderwebs: "Oy, yak to bulo z pochatku svitu, Yak shche ne bulo neba ni zemli? Oy no, na mori odna pavutynka, na tii pavutyntsi try tovaryshi - Yeden tovarysh - yasne sonenko, Druhyi tovarysh - yasnyi misiachenko, Tretiy tovarysh - dribnyi doschenko." (Oh, how was it at the beginning of the world, when there still was no heaven nor earth? Oh, only on the sea there was one spiderweb, and there were three friends on this spiderweb: one friend - the bright sun, the second friend - the bright moon, the third friend - the light rain.)

                              Another ancient koliadka: "Oy, yak to bulo z pochaku svitu, oy yak ne bulo sviatoyi zemli? Oy, na mori pavutynonka. Oy, tam bratonky radiat: Yak by nam brate, svit obsnuvaty. Pustysia brate, v hlyboki vody, todi my brate svit obsnuyemo, Svit obsnuyemo i nasytymo, Svit nasytymo I napovnymo." (Oh, how was it at the beginning of the world, when there was no sacred land? Oh, there was a spiderweb on the sea. Oh, there the brothers were seeking council: Brother, how should we surround the earth with a web? Brother, dive into the deep waters. Then, brother, we will spin a web around the world, we will surround the world with a web and feed it, we will feed it and fill it up/populate it.)

                              A ritual wedding song from Bukovyna sings: "Dva pavuky zemliu stochyly, dva bratchyky do mista khodyly." (Two spiders tumbled or rolled out the earth, and two brothers went to town).

                              There are two sides to most symbols - the positive and negative. In ancient times, the spiders, along with amphibians such as snakes and frogs, were considered benevolent creatures, while at the same time having their faults. The spider sucks the life out of his prey, and can be considered creatively sterile and unproductive, since the web is so fragile and easily destroyed. However, in her epic "Robert Bruce," Lesia Ukrainka depicts the spider as an inspiration for persistence and tenacity. A spiderweb protects from the "unclean spirit" (i.e., evil) - as it did the Holy Family during their flight. And in folk medicine, a spiderweb is used to stem bloodflow, as it contains a natural coagulant.

                              The spider and spiderweb motifs appear in Ukrainian folk art in many guises - on pysanky, in embroidery, weaving and other arts. As often happens, not always are they immediately recognizable as a spider or web, often being quite abstract. Other designs, woven of straw, not necessarily appearing spider-like, are also called pavuchky. These are hung from the ceiling near the pokuttia [the ceremonial corner of the home] as talismans, protecting from evil spirits. Interestingly - and obviously, once you think of it - a chandelier, in Ukrainian, is called a pavuk. This especially applies to the hand-carved wooden ones hanging in the old Hutsul and Boiko churches.

                              So as you hang your traditional and contemporary ornaments on your yalynka, you can think of the positive purpose of including at least one pavuchok among all the other lovely and sentimental decorations. Just in case. THE THINGS WE DO...: A spider for Christmas? (12/31/06)

                              æ, !

                              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                              • 19:38 06.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                                Poroshenko wishes Ukrainians for Christmas great changes for better

                                Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has wished Ukrainians merry Christmas.

                                "Having come to our world, Christ gave us hope - even for the victory over death, hope for the victory over evil. Hope for justice, which is crucially important for Ukraine in times of tough challenges of our country," the president said in his Christmas greetings posted on his website.

                                In his words, Christmas is also "a huge heritage of purely Ukrainian traditions." "In these truly sincere folk texts we glorify the Newborn and wish each other happiness," Poroshenko said.

                                He wished every family warmth and comfort, blessing of the Christmas star and delicious kutia (a traditional Ukrainian Christmas dish).

                                "I especially want to greet Ukrainian warriors who currently defend our Homeland. Just as the Church defends us spiritually, our heroic troops defend us on earth. I ask little Jesus to provide great changes for the better in our Ukraine! For the entire Ukraine and for every Ukrainian," Poroshenko said.

                                æ, !

                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp