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  • The prehistoric holiday of Christmas
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS Alya Shandra 2016/01/07

    As Christmas Eve approaches on January 6, Ukrainians all over the country prepare for their Sviatvechir (literally, “Holy Evening”) 12-dish supper, and groups of carolers set out to sing koliadkas, Christmas carols, some of which span back many thousands of years. Despite years of state-enforced atheism during the USSR, Christmas traditions in Ukraine were not all lost. In its entirety, the Ukrainian Christmas is a mystery of actions, foods, songs, and recitations, gathering the living and dead around a ritual meal that once celebrated the birth of the world at the winter solstice, and now honors the Birth of the Creator of the world.

    After 988 AD, with the adoption of Christianity by the Kyivan Rus, the medieval kingdom that spanned over modern-day Ukraine, Belarus, and West Russia, the Church strategy for dealing with pagan culture was either to prohibit the old rituals (this was mostly ineffective, as it was ineffective later on in Soviet times), or to keep the form, replacing the meaning. Yet it was a Ukrainian Catholic priest that would piece together remnants of old beliefs to reconstruct the Ukrainian pre-Christian Christmas, or Koliada, and to find universal human values in the pre-Christian religion of Ukrainians. His comparison of rituals scoffed away as “primitive” by his contemporaries with cultures ranging from the Middle East to Oceania was too revolutionary to be fully appreciated during his time, but led to one of the most remarkable books in the history of Ukrainian culture – “The cultural and historical figures of the ancient Ukrainian holidays of Christmas and Shchedryi Vechir.” Some of his findings are shared below.

    Ancient Christmas-Koliada is a celebration of the birth of the world

    Most Ukrainian carols (koliadkas) that are sung on Christmas refer to Christian themes of the Nativity, some connect Christ’s coming to the world with His imminent crucifixion, but the oldest ones are full of symbols and stories that bear no resemblance to Christianity. It is from these songs that Ksenofont Sosenko reconstructed the celebration of the birth of the world, observed in many cultures around the winter solstice. One of the most well known carols is “Oh, how it was before all time,” recorded in Hruzke village of Kyiv Oblast.

    must see, and hear rest:
    The prehistoric holiday of Christmas -Euromaidan Press |

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    • A Night of Faith: Ukrainian Christmas Eve
      EUROMAIDAN PRESS Jeffrey Stephaniuk 2015/01/06

      Imagine a time so filled with anticipation that as the family prepares the house for the evening Christmas meal, arguments among the children are forbidden, and the smallest detail is considered so that all may know that this is no ordinary day. Here is a glimpse of Ukrainian Christmas.

      Imagine a winter’s day when even farm animals are treated to the cleanest of stables, the best hay, and portions of their masters’ festive meal. “They were the first to see God as a child, and they warmed the child when he was born,” instructs the folklore, “so now on one night a year they are granted a time to speak as we do, to speak about the treatment they have received: are they warm enough; do their masters beat them?” Here is a glimpse of Ukrainian Christmas.

      Hay is scattered on the dining room table, which is then covered with a cloth. The hay is a symbol of the manger where Jesus was born. The hay is also a symbol of the hope one has for an abundant harvest and for healthy livestock. The holiday season is a time to wish prosperity to everyone. Straw and hay are scattered under the table as well, with nuts and candies hidden there for the children to find after the meal. “May the innocence of the children’s laughter bring good fortune to this home.”

      Imagine a moment in time when time itself is not what it seems. The food and song and customs of the day weave into one the recent and ancient past with the present and the future like the dough that is braided into the round ritual bread of the season. On such a night as this, parents and children who have died are remembered by the living. There are family members who have departed from this world, yet the banquet table is set with an extra plate and candle for their sake. “When you left me, dear, we sang ‘Eternal Memory’ for you, and on this night of faith I remember you still.”

      An extra plate for an unexpected guest remains set until the end of the meal, keeping in mind the words of St. Basil the Great, that “one never knows if this is God himself who enters.” A sheaf of wheat saved from the last harvest has its place of honor in the corner of the dining room. In this way, family members one could never have met from generations back are acknowledged at this present moment. Here is a glimpse of Ukrainian Christmas.

      Imagine a meal where a dish is chosen for its famous taste and for what it represents beyond itself. For example, what are the roots of that dish of cooked wheat, poppy seeds, nuts and even raisins? Here is a food which calls the attention of the living to those who have lived in the past. Here, too, is a food which becomes a wish for prosperity in the new year. And when the wheat is cleaned of wild oats and other seeds in the weeks of preparation before Christmas, it can become for the young girls who clean it a form of fortune telling, a wish for love to be returned. “He loves me, he loves me not. Two grains in a pair. Two grains again. O Lord, where is my beloved? He promised he’d return. I will wait until he does.” Here is a glimpse of Ukrainian Christmas.

      Twelve dishes are prepared for the Christmas meal. In addition, there are appetizers such as pickled mushrooms and pickled herring. Borshch, fish, holubtsi, beans, and varenky are among the other traditional foods. For dessert there is a dish of stewed dried fruit, and an assortment of pastries. The finest meal possible. Yet not without a silent reference to something beyond the moment, beyond the warm house and gathered celebrants. Twelve. Apostles of Jesus. This is after all a night of faith. Twelve. Months of the year. This is a night of unity of all time and of all creation. A meal that is a feast, and yet remains a Lenten meal. All meat is absent. A remembrance. A holy family’s difficult journey. Fish is eaten, and it too is a remembrance. Blessed by Jesus after his resurrection, it was for the early Christians eaten as a remembrance of him. Here is a glimpse of Ukrainian Christmas.

      Imagine a manger. It is in a cave. Within this rock a woman gives birth to a son. The mother is the main image in this picture. She rests and the child is wrapped in linen which resembles burial cloths as much as it does swaddling clothing. Jesus is still a child and he is depicted as being born in a place alarmingly similar to the tomb in which he is to be buried thirty three years later. A birth, a death already expected. A savior for a holy night of anticipation when life and death are so much on the minds of the family gathered for the Christmas meal. Here is a glimpse of Ukrainian Christmas.

      Imagine food and drink, songs and toasts, items of everyday use and those reserved for special occasions, prepared for Christmas celebration. And from this day, the memories. On such an evening the old can fly to the days of their youth, to their parents and their childhood home, perhaps even to Ukraine itself. “So many years have gone by. And yet it is as if today I hear the sound of dad’s boots on the snow outside. Here he comes into the house. My older brother is with him, carrying a sheaf of wheat. “Christ is born,” they announce. From the kitchen we reply, “Let us glorify him.” Here is a glimpse of Ukrainian Christmas.
      A Night of Faith: Ukrainian Christmas Eve -Euromaidan Press |
      Artwork by Ev Melekhovets

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      • The Unknown Ukrainian Carol that everyone knows
        EUROMAIDAN PRESS Alya Shandra 2015/01/07

        There’s a Ukrainian folksong that you know. Except that you don’t know that it’s Ukrainian, and a folksong. The enchanting music that from the pen of Peter J. Wilhousky became known to the world as “Carol of the Bells” was composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1904 based on a Ukrainian folk song. Peter J. Wilhousky made his arrangement following a performance of the original song by Alexander Koshetz’s Ukrainian National Chorus at Carnegie Hall on October 5, 1921. The tune became extremely popular and has been arranged for and covered by many different genres.

        Make sure to read complete artcle and enjoy the music:
        The Unknown Ukrainian Carol that everyone knows -Euromaidan Press |

        A Christmas Greeting from All at Euromaidan Press

        Dear Readers,
        On this day when many of you celebrate Christmas, we wish for you the joy that overcomes sorrow, the good that overcomes all evil, and the courage to lift up hope for tomorrow after tomorrow.

        We are inspired by the martyred Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych, who wrote the first Carol of the Bells (Shchedryk) in 1904. He did this by synthesizing Ukrainian folk chants and classical styles, which was unheard of at the time. He also wrote the first common language Ukrainian liturgy. His achievements provided all Ukrainians with powerful tools of identity that still inspire after more than a hundred years!

        Hark how the bells of freedom ring without end!

        Hear the Song Without End: A Carol Rings for Ukrainian Freedom
        as performed by The National Ukrainian Choir in Belgium 1921

        A Christmas Greeting from All at Euromaidan Press -Euromaidan Press |

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        • Ukrainians flock to Kyiv's St.Volodymyr's cathedral for Christmas Eve service
          UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan 6, 2016 VIDEO

          Christian Orthodox Church uses Julian calendar and celebrates Christmas on 7 January

          Members of Ukraine's Orthodox Christian community are attending a Christmas Day church service in Kyiv's St. Volodymyr's Cathedral.

          The Christian Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar and celebrates Christmas 13 days after most of the Western world, which uses the Gregorian calendar.

          Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas Day with various traditions, many light a small fire of blessed palms and burn essence to commemorate the three wise men's gifts to baby Jesus.

          Orthodox Christians ususally celebrate Christmas Eve with a festive dinner of 12 dishes, which represent the 12 apostles.
          Ukrainians flock to Kyiv's St.Volodymyr's cathedral for Christmas Eve service - watch on -

          Enthusiasts in Odesa re-enact nativity scene as part of Orthodox Christmas
          UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan 6, 2016 VIDEO

          Orthodox Church in Ukraine celebrates Christmas on January 7 using the Julian calendar

          Performers in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa have attempted an historical re-enactment from around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ as part of celebrations of Orthodox Christmas in Ukraine.

          Among the enthusiasts were key characters from the nativity story, including Mary and Joseph.

          Aleksey Yefimov, performer playing Joseph: "For us it's really important. We want to play our part and inform people about God and the real meaning of Christmas. That it was the birth of Christ."

          Basing their reconstruction on the bible and other sources, some participants took the parts of Roman soldiers, emphasising that their costumes were true to the historical record.

          Artem Papakin, re-enactor playing Roman soldier: "The things I'm wearing, everything on me is a real historical replica. The helmet, coat of mail, sword, belt, all of it is based on archeological artifacts and iconography from the first centuries AD."

          Children meanwhile could pet and feed goats, sheep and a donkey and traditional Christmas songs were sung by enthusiasts and a choir. The Orthodox Church in Ukraine celebrates Christmas using the Julian calendar which puts the date of the holiday at January 7. Enthusiasts in Odesa re-enact nativity scene as part of Orthodox Christmas - watch on -

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          • RADIO FREE EUROPE Golnaz Esfandiari Jan 6, 2016
            Persian Letters - The Mystery Behind The Saudi Embassy Attack In Iran

            Two things are clear about those who ransacked and set alight the Saudi Embassy in Iran -- their actions got Riyadh's attention, and the clerical establishment in power in Tehran wants nothing to do with them.

            Who actually carried out the attack on the embassy in the Iranian capital, as well as a separate attack on the Saudi Consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad, remains a mystery, however.

            Depending on who you speak to, it was official defenders of the Islamic republic; foreign-backed members of the opposition; or hard-line loyalists gone rogue who were responsible for the January 2 attacks.

            The attacks, part of protests that followed Saudi Arabia's execution of prominent Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, prompted Riyadh and several of its allies to cut or downgrade ties with Iran.

            Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on January 3 predicted "divine vengeance" for the execution of Nimr, and the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) -- a military branch tasked with protecting Iran's Islamic system -- promised "harsh revenge."

            The Iranian government, officially, was quick to distance itself from the violence that followed. Even as he condemned Nimr's execution, President Hassan Rohani on January 3 denounced the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic offices as "totally unjustifiable." And the authorities announced that 44 protesters had been arrested in connection with the attacks.

            Blame Game

            A number of Iranian officials went on to insinuate that the attacks could have been carried out by "infiltrators" with alleged ties to foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia.

            "According to comments by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei regarding the infiltration of the enemy, the recent move against the Saudi Embassy could have been planned and supported by infiltrated elements," Justice Minister Mostafa Purmohammadi said on January 5.

            Some Iran watchers, however, believe hard-liners connected to the country's security establishment were more likely to be behind the attacks.

            They point to the apparent ease with which the protesters entered the Saudi diplomatic missions despite the presence of police; in some cases documenting their destructive actions for posterity. "They appeared to have been well organized, they were not afraid to be identified, they took pictures with property from the embassy," Istanbul-based Iranian journalist Reza Haghighatnejad noted.

            This suggests that they may have been acting with some degree of support from the centers of power, because in the past Iranian forces have shown no reluctance to respond forcefully to opposition gatherings and protests.

            "Protests are not allowed," Haghighatnejad said. "The attack on [the embassy] lasted for an hour and a half before the commander of the police arrived."

            At the same time, the authorities have also had difficulty in the past controlling hard-line elements said to be involved in disrupting gatherings by reformists and critics.

            Haghighatnejad a, a member of the editorial board of the news site IranWire, said the actions of the protesters were similar to those of members of the Basij force, a volunteer militia that was involved in an attack on the British Embassy in Tehran in 2011 that led Britain to cut ties with Iran.

            Esprit De Corps

            Aliasghar Ramezanpour, a former deputy culture minister, told RFE/RL he believes the IRGC ultimately bears responsibility because of incendiary comments made ahead of the attacks.

            In a statement issued on January 2, the IRGC vowed that Nimr's execution would cost the "hated Saudi regime" dearly, predicting that "a harsh revenge from Al-Saud in a not so distant future that will lead to the collapse of the foundations of the reactionary, medieval, and terrorist-fostering Saudi regime."

            In the aftermath of the violence, senior IRGC commander Mohsen Kazemeyni denied any corps involvement, saying that the "calculated and preplanned" actions were "very wrong" and "unjustifiable." Kazemeyni, who heads Tehran's Rasulollah Corps, said that "we're confident that this action was not carried out by the faithful and Hezbollahi forces [eds. regime loyalists]."

            Ramezanpour, however, believes Kazemeyni was trying to wash IRGC's hands of its statement and the ensuing street violence.

            "Even if the IRGC wasn't directly involved, its statement and the harsh tone prepared the ground for [the storming] by forces that were powerful enough to go past the police forces," he said.

            Anyone And Everyone

            Speaking on January 4, senior Qom-based cleric Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi criticized the violence, while leaving ample room as to who may have carried it out. "A group of establishment supporters are angry at Saudi actions and policies, but sometimes they get out of control," Makarem Shirazi was quoted as saying by local media. "It's necessary for them to be cautious."

            But he also named a second group that could be responsible: "infiltrators" who aim at increasing tensions between Shi'a and Sunnis.

            Hard-line media outlets, meanwhile, took conspiratorial angles.

   quoted an unidentified security official as saying that "a preliminary investigation from witnesses and those at the scene confirms that there was a fire in the embassy before the protesters entered it."

            The conservative website, meanwhile, quoted eyewitnesses as claiming that Saudi infiltrators were encouraging protesters to throw rocks at and firebomb the embassy.

            "Security forces say infiltrators have to be watched carefully because they want to change the direction of rightful protests by the people so that the crimes by the Saudis are not at the center of the world's attention," reported.

            Israel did not escape blame, either.

            Asked at a January 5 press conference whether Saudi elements and others allegedly trying to weaken the Iranian government were involved in the attack, government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said that "even some affiliated with Israel" could be seen among the attackers.

            "A few people -- with whom it's not clear which country's interests they are serving -- took advantage of people's feelings," he said, adding that the attacks were "in favor of Saudi Arabia's policies."

            Whoever was behind the suspicious attacks, police chief Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari suggested on January 6, was no revolutionary. "Holding protest meetings against Saudi Arabia is acceptable, but no person who is loyal to the Islamic republic invades an embassy in this way," he said. The Mystery Behind The Saudi Embassy Attack In Iran

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            • RADIO FREE EUROPE January 07, 2016
              U.S. Suspects Russia Behind Cyberattack On Ukraine Power Grid

              U.S. security agencies are investigating whether Russian government hackers were behind a cyberattack on the Ukrainian power grid last month.

              Computer security experts at the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Homeland Security Department are examining the malicious software found on the networks of a power company in western Ukraine, which said on December 23 that a large area of the country had been left without electricity due to “interference” in its systems, the Daily Beast and Washington Examiner reported.

              The attack in Ukraine could be a bad sign for the U.S. power grid, because malicious software known as BlackEnergy that was found on the networks of the Ukrainian power company, Prykarpattyaoblenergo, was also used in a campaign targeting power facilities in the United States in 2014.

              The 2014 attack caused no damage but it set off alarms among U.S. security and intelligence agencies.

              U.S. utility watchdogs, including the North American Electric Reliability Council, have warned U.S. power companies to be on the alert and review their network defenses in light of the successful Ukraine attack.

              Ukrainian officials have publicly blamed Russia for the attack, but Russia's involvement hasn't been confirmed separately. A Moscow-backed group, Sandworm, has been suspected of using BlackEnergy for targeted attacks in the past.

              Confirmation that Russia was behind the Ukraine attack would put pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama to publicly assign the blame as he did when he identified North Korea as the culprit in a cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014. Obama later ordered sanctions on North Korea and ordered a cyber-counterattack on its web system.
              U.S. Suspects Russia Behind Cyberattack On Ukraine Power Grid

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              • RADIO FREE EUROPE Tom Balmforth January 07, 2016
                Russia - For Protesting Russian Truckers, A Christmas Far From Home

                KHIMKI, Russia -- After dark in the frigid parking lot of an Ikea outlet north of Moscow, in the trailer of a grubby white truck heated by a generator, a dozen men are sitting in winter coats and hats watching a Soviet blockbuster on a projector.

                The cramped space has been a living room, a kitchen of sorts, and, more recently, the center of New Year festivities for a small group of protesting long-haul truckers who have lived in this parking lot since December 3. They intend to stay until spring -- or longer -- to protest a new road-tax-collection system called Platon that they say will drive them out of business.

                With Russia's economy staggering through a dark time brought on by dropping oil prices, and no sign that Western sanctions over Moscow's interference in Ukraine will be lifted soon, their unusual blue-collar protest is a sign of strain on President Vladimir Putin's working-class support base.

                "[Putin] has lost all 10 votes from my family, that's for sure," says Ivan Alutai, a 31-year-old trucker from Petrozavodsk, far north of Moscow, smoking a cigarette outside the vehicle.

                The ranks of the protesting truckers at this encampment have thinned to less than a dozen rigs since they set up base last month -- although some of them have been joined by their wives and children so they can celebrate the New Year and Orthodox Christmas together. Russia's main faith marks Christmas on January 7, and the official holiday stretches from December 31 to January 11 this year.

                Inside the truck, up a wooden pallet used as a stepladder, a small electric stove sits next to some tea bags. The walls are draped with tinsel and a hat for Grandfather Frost, the Russian Santa Claus. The men are watching a black-and-white Soviet film -- Optimistic Tragedy, a popular 1963 movie about the Bolshevik Revolution -- beamed onto the far wall by a projector.

                Illuminated in the glow are a sack of potatoes and plastic bags filled with supplies brought to them as holiday gifts by supporters in Moscow.

                Forlorn Sight

                With its 10 or so parked trucks draped with banners lambasting the road tax and the state media that has largely ignored their protest action, the encampment in Khimki, 20 kilometers north of Moscow, makes for a forlorn but defiant spectacle.

                In this filthy urban sprawl next to a massive road junction flanked by tower blocks and commemorative tank traps marking the point where Nazi forces were stopped during their assault on Moscow, the truckers while away their time.

                Young activists from the capital have put on a series of film nights for the truckers using a projector in the back of a truck. The truckers have accordion sessions, as one of their number plays the instrument. On December 17, they were treated to a visit from Russian rock legend and protest bard Yury Shevchuk, who performed for them:

                Alutai's wife and 3-year-old son, Lavrenty, were visiting for Orthodox Christmas, and his mother dropped in at the New Year. Until recently a staunch supporter of Putin, Alutai's mother had been fiercely against the protest and her son's participation -- because of state television, he believes.

                "She came here and everything in her head changed," he says. "What they show on TV, it isn't true at all. It's all lousy lies. Until you actually come here, the moron box has its effect."

                Uncle Vova

                Alutai says he has no intention of abandoning his protest in the face of the cold temperatures that have dropped to -16 degrees Celsius. "I've already got nothing to lose," he says.

                Alutai, who owns his own truck and is self-employed, says that the tax will severely erode his profits. He's also angry that the payment collection system is run by a company controlled by a son of Arkady Rotenberg, an old friend and judo sparring partner of Putin.

                Alutai blames Putin for his predicament. "To be honest, I thought until the very last moment that Uncle Vova was going to say there had been a mistake. And then it turned out that he had known about this all the time," he says.

                "Uncle Vova has lost my trust," he adds, using a diminutive form of the name Vladimir.

                Days in the truckers' protest camp are bookended by police checks. "They come and note down the number plates of the vehicles," he says. The truckers, meanwhile, are convinced they are closely watched and listened to by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and police.

                "We started drawing out plans in the snow, and the next thing, there was a police build-up," says Sergei Gorodishenin, a 33-year-old trucker from Vologda, a small city northeast of Moscow.

                The truckers say it has made it hard for other drivers to join them, or for those in Khimki to stage protests such as the "Snail," in which truckers have driven in convoys at minimum speed, clogging up highways.

                Gorodishenin, who has fallen ill during the cold snap in Moscow, says that some truckers' families have been pressured back home, and they themselves fear that they could be punished by the authorities for their protest.

                Despite all these factors, the truckers assert they are intent on maintaining their encampment. "Naturally, we're not going to reveal what our plans are," Gorodishenin says.

                "And there are FSB agents sitting over there in the corner," Alutai chips in with a laugh, adding, "They're warming their ears" -- a Russian idiom for eavesdropping.

                Before long, Alutai's wife returns from Auchan, the French hypermarket across the huge mall from Ikea, along with 3-year-old Lavrenty. As they posed together for a picture, Alutai jokes darkly with his wife, "We'll have something to remember in the gulag." For Protesting Russian Truckers, A Christmas Far From Home

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                • 09:13 07.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                  Kyiv reports 21 instances of shelling by militants on Orthodox Christmas Eve

                  Militants have shelled the positions of the Ukrainian troops in Donbas on 21 occasions since midnight, the press center of the headquarters of the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) said.

                  The situation has deteriorated. The enemy has fired weapons against Ukrainian servicemen on 21 occasions in the course of the day, the press center said in a statement on its Facebook page (the report as of 1800 Kyiv time on Wednesday).

                  In particular, according to the Kyiv data, militants have simultaneously fired small arms and grenade launchers of different systems on four checkpoints of the Ukrainian military in the area of Maryinka.

                  Meanwhile, the enemy sought to hit units of the ATO forces by a precise small-arms fire in Shyrokyne. A sniper was firing near Zaitseve.

                  Militants have repeatedly waged a disturbing fire by small arms and large-caliber machineguns in the direction of the Ukrainian positions in the area of Pisky and Opytne.

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                  • Over 800 monuments to Lenin toppled in Ukraine
                    UT UKRAINE TODAY 10:38 Jan. 7, 2016

                    There are about 1,400 monuments to Lenin left in Ukraine

                    UNIAN: Ukraine has dismantled more than 800 monuments to Lenin, a Russian communist revolutionary, politician, and political theorist (1870 - 1924), according to head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance Volodymyr Vyatrovych.

                    "More than 800 monuments to Lenin have been dismantled in Ukraine as of now," Vyatrovych told TV Channel 5 on Tuesday (January 5) Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda wrote.

                    He also said that statements that objects with artistic value were destroyed on the pretext of de-communization were not true. At the same time, he claims that the spontaneous process of de-communization, which had started before Ukraine adopted the law on de-communization, is still under way.

                    "The de-communization law gives us an opportunity to disassemble everything that has some artistic value and store it in museums, otherwise it will be part of spontaneous d de-communization, which is still under way in Ukraine," he said.

                    "We can showcase the Soviet past in special museums, theme parks, but we cannot let the Soviet past remain part of our life, as it distorts us," he added.

                    According to rough estimates, there are about 1,400 monuments to Lenin left in Ukraine.
                    Over 800 monuments to Lenin toppled in Ukraine - read on -

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                    • Russia’s security strategy means more problems for its neighbors
                      07.01.2016 | 11:00 UNIAN Anatolii Baronin


                      On the New Year’s eve, December 31, Vladimir Putin signed the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation, which is the basic document of strategic planning, defining Russia’s national interests and strategic priorities. Judging by the text of the document, it is too early to relax for the Ukrainians.

                      The National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation is updated every six years, and the new edition covers the period up to 2022.

                      What’s interesting in the newest edition of the Strategy is the risk assessment for the military, political and economic system of the Russian Federation, as well as the Kremlin's vision of the situation developing around Russia.

                      According to official Moscow, a polycentric world is forming today. Despite this, further development of Russia's foreign policy is seen as part of a confrontation with the U.S. and NATO, that is, within the bipolar model. This vision can mean the uncertainty in the Kremlin’s estimates of its future relations with China. Another indicator proving this point is a number of provisions of the Strategy, in its logistics and transport sector that can be interpreted as preparation for mobilization in Siberia and the Far East, and for increasing combat readiness, including in this part of the country.

                      The new edition of the Strategy pays much attention to the strengthening of Russia’s external influence. Military measures are defined as actions taken in case of failure to achieve the objectives through diplomacy. Thus, the use of force goes beyond defensive needs. Compared with the last edition of the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, this may indicate a shift to the offensive concept and attempts to gain positions in foreign policy through the use of force. The Russian leadership perceives military action in Syria and Ukraine as a demonstration of the ability to protect the rights of compatriots abroad and the role of Russia in solving major international problems and conflicts. This gives grounds to forecast Moscow’s further attempts to engage in military operations abroad, and intensification of interference in the affairs of the former Soviet states.
                      In foreign policy, the Kremlin is trying to form its own axis of influence. The emphasis on equal partnership means that Moscow will bet on the development of relations with weaker partners of the Third World in Africa and Latin America. The priorities in relations with the alliances and associations are set on APEC, SCO and BRICS. There are indications of the Kremlin's ambitions to gain leadership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Strengthening the eastern direction of the Russian foreign policy will lead to increased confrontation between Moscow and Beijing, according to our estimates.

                      Russia will continue the policy of integration in the area of the CIS, developing regional and subregional projects: the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Maintaining control over the area of the former Soviet Union is seen by the Kremlin as one of the foundations of national security.

                      The absence of any approach to the development of Russian-Ukrainian relations and the fact that Ukraine is only referenced in the context of consequences of "color revolutions" suggest that:

                      1. The Russian leadership does not consider the conflict in Ukraine resolved. The military and subversive action will remain a priority in Russia’s policy toward Ukraine.

                      2. The Kremlin’s subversive action in Ukraine will continue until a pro-Russian political regime sets in Ukraine, as Moscow expects.

                      3. The Russian leadership does not consider Ukraine’s foreign policy choices as final and hopes that the country will shift them, similar to the situation in 2005.

                      complete article Russia’s security strategy means more problems for its neighbors : UNIAN news

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                      • Ukraine border guards arrest Iran national wanted by Germany
                        07.01.2016 | 17:40 UNIAN

                        The Ukrainian border guards detained an Iranian national who arrived in the Boryspil airport from Tehran on January 6, during a routine identity check.

                        According to the Interpol database, the German law enforcers put the Iraninan citizen on a wanted list seeking his arrest and subsequent extradition, the press office of the State Border Guard Service reported.

                        The individual is suspected of fraud and breach of legislation in the field of arms control, facing up to 15 years in prison.

                        The border guards informed the national bureau of Interpol.

                        The detainee was transferred to the unit of the National Police at the Boryspil airport.
                        Ukraine border guards arrest Iran national wanted by Germany : UNIAN news

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                        • Iran bans Saudi imports, pilgrimages to Mecca
                          07.01.2016 | 23:30 UNIAN

                          Iran has banned all imports from Saudi Arabia and told Iranians they can't join pilgrimages to its holy cities of Mecca and Medina, according to CNN.

                          The announcement Thursday follows Saudi Arabia's decision to break off diplomatic and economic ties with Iran after its embassy in Tehran was attacked, CNN reports.

                          Saudi Arabia doesn't rank among Iran's top trading partners but the ban on pilgrimages could hurt: it makes around $18 billion a year from religious tourism, and Iranians comprise one of the biggest groups of visitors.

                          Officials estimate around 600,000 Iranians travel to Saudi Arabia every year to perform pilgrimages. Some flights between the two countries have already been suspended.

                          The latest spike in tension between the regional rivals began at the weekend when Saudi Arabia said it had executed an outspoken Shiite cleric and a critic of the Saudi royal family. The execution triggered the angry demonstrations at the Saudi embassy.

                          Saudi Arabia immediately cut diplomatic ties with Iran. Bahrain and Sudan followed suit, while Kuwait and Qatar recalled their ambassadors to Tehran. The United Arab Emirates also officially downgraded its diplomatic relations with Iran.
                          Iran bans Saudi imports, pilgrimages to Mecca : UNIAN news

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                          • World Bank predicts economic recovery in Ukraine in 2016 - BBC
                            07.01.2016 | 14:30 UNIAN

                            The World Bank predicts economic growth in Ukraine in 2016 by 1% following a 12% reduction in 2015, with a 2% growth forecast for 2017, according to BBC Ukraine.

                            “Economic activity in Russia is projected to contract by 0.7% in 2016 after shrinking by 3.8% in the year just ended,” according to BBC Ukraine citing the Wednesday’s report by the World Bank presented in Washington.

                            In general, the World Bank lowered its growth forecasts for the world economy in 2016 to 2.9%. Earlier, in June of last year, the organization's experts forecast a global economic growth of 3.3% in 2016.

                            The World Bank estimates the last year's global economic growth at 2.4%.

                            “There is greater divergence in performance among emerging economies. Compared to six months ago, risks have increased, particularly those associated with the possibility of a disorderly slowdown in a major emerging economy,” said World Bank Group Vice President and Chief Economist Kaushik Basu, referring to China’s economy.
                            World Bank predicts economic recovery in Ukraine in 2016 - BBC : UNIAN news

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                            • REUTERS Caroline Valetkevitch Jan 7, 2016 7:08pm EST
                              Dow, S&P off to worst four-day Jan start ever as China fears grow

                              U.S. stocks sold off further on Thursday, giving the Dow and S&P 500 their worst four-day starts to a year ever, dragged down by another drop in Chinese equities and oil prices at 12-year lows.

                              China allowed the biggest fall in its yuan currency CNY=CFXS CNY= in five months, adding to investor fears about the health of its economy, while Shanghai stocks .SSEC were halted for the second time this week after another steep selloff.

                              Oil prices CLc1 LCOc1 fell to 12-year lows and copper prices CMCU3 touched their lowest since 2009, weighing on energy and materials shares. Shares of Freeport McMoran (FCX.N) dropped 9.1 percent to $5.61. All 10 S&P 500 sectors ended in the red, though, and the Nasdaq Biotech index .NBI fell 4.1 percent.

                              "People see the weakness in China and in the overall equity market and think there's going to be an impact on corporations here in the United States," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth in New York.

                              "When you have a market that begins a year with weakness, people are sort of suspect anyway. The economy isn't moving all that well, the outlook is modest at best, and they don't want to wait for the long term. China creates more uncertainty."

                              The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed down 392.41 points, or 2.32 percent, to 16,514.1, the S&P 500 .SPX had lost 47.17 points, or 2.37 percent, to 1,943.09 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC had dropped 146.34 points, or 3.03 percent, to 4,689.43.

                              The Dow has lost 5.2 percent since the end of 2015 in the worst first four trading days since the 30-stock index was created in 1928. The S&P 500 is down 4.9 percent since Dec. 31, its worst four-day opening in its history, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices, while the Nasdaq is down 6.4 percent.

                              Stocks extended declines late in the session, and the CBOE Volatility Index .VIX, the market's favored gauge of Wall Street anxiety, ended up 21.4 percent at 24.99, its highest since Sept. 29.

                              Investors also braced for Friday's U.S. government jobs report, which could show how well-insulated the U.S. economy is from international stresses.

                              Billionaire investor George Soros, speaking at an economic forum in Sri Lanka, drew similarities between the present environment and the financial crash of 2008. He said global markets were facing a crisis and investors needed to be very cautious, Bloomberg reported.

                              Apple (AAPL.O), which generates a lot of its business in China and is still the most valuable U.S. company, fell 4.2 percent to $96.45, its lowest since the August market swoon.

                              Yahoo (YHOO.O) fell 6.2 percent to $30.16 after Business Insider reported the company was working on a plan to cut its workforce by at least 10 percent. Alibaba (BABA.N), in which Yahoo has a stake, was down 6 percent at $72.72.

                              Volume has been heavy this week. About 9.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges Thursday, well above the 7.2 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

                              Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,704 to 415, for a 6.52-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 2,492 issues fell and 390 advanced for a 6.39-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

                              The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 82 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 16 new highs and 302 new lows.
                              Dow, S&P off to worst four-day Jan start ever as China fears grow | Reuters

                              1:23AM EST Chinese mkt circuit breakers have been turned off for now...

                              Jan 8, 2016, 1:27 AM EST - U.S. Markets open in 8 hrs 3 mins
                              China stocks up after circuit breaker axed, yuan fixed higher
                              58 minutes ago
                              China stocks up after circuit breaker axed, yuan fixed higher - Yahoo Finance

                              Last edited by Hannia; 8th January 2016, 07:30.

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                              • Emergency workers train for icy water rescues in Ukraine's Dnipro River
                                UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan. 7, VIDEO

                                Emergency workers say most ice water-related incidents occur when the victim is under the influence.

                                With a cold snap having hit Ukraine, officials are reminding residents to stay safe around large frozen bodies of water.

                                In the capital Kyiv emergency service workers are conducting ice water safety and rescue drills.

                                The first part of the training deals with skills involved in an ice rescue operation, which includes one worker posing as the victim and wearing a cold water suit. The second part of the assignment focuses on more complex cold water situations, with a diver being sent in to rescue a submerged victim.

                                n another scenario a drone is sent to drop a life line where rescue workers are unable to reach.

                                Roman Tkachyk, Head of Kyiv's Emergency Services: "The drones are vital in for emergency rescue work. To see the situation, and for video recording and for situations like this."

                                Emergency workers say most ice water-related rescue incidents occur when the victim is under the influence. Ice fishing, a popular winter pastime in Ukraine, in many cases amounts to drinking alcohol while on the ice.

                                Serhiy, Ice Fisherman: "All fishermen have to be a little drunk, otherwise the fish don't bite. It means drinking 100 mililitres."

                                Oleksiy, Ice Fisherman: "It's for lifting morale, to help get into the fishing mood."

                                Rescue workers are strongly urging all fishermen to refrain from all alcohol drinking and to be on alert while on the ice. They also caution that ice conditions change each day and of course remind all fishermen of the age old wisdom: if in doubt, don't go out! Emergency workers train for icy water rescues in Ukraine's Dnipro River - watch on -
                                Meanwhile a few days ago in Russia...

                                Frozen and forsaken 80 people in Orenburg say they were nearly left for dead, trapped on a highway in a snowstorm
                                MEDUZA 13:13, 6 January 2016 TV Rain

                                Dozens of people were trapped in their cars on the highway between Orenburg and Orsk, when a powerful snowstorm hit on the night of January 3. Motorists say they were stuck on the road, freezing in their vehicles, for almost 16 hours, though local emergency workers claim they responded much sooner. According to officials, one person didn't survive the ordeal, apparently succumbing to hypothermia. On January 6, the television network Dozhd published a special report on this incident. Meduza summarizes that text here.
                                Emergency workers in Orenburg say the snowstorm halted traffic along roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) of highway. The next day, January 4, officials rescued more than 80 people stuck on the road, confined to their cars.

                                Officials told Dozhd television that rescuers found the body of one man on the highway's shoulder. The man apparently froze to death. Tatiana Samoilova, the spokesperson for Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations in Orenburg, told Dozhd that a full garrison of rescuers was alerted and dispatched the moment the first distress calls started rolling in from the highway.

                                Stranded motorists tell a different story, however, saying they waited 16 hours before help arrived. When it did come, drivers tell Dozhd, all that arrived was a tractor and a truck.

                                Samoilova contends that motorists weren't able to see the full crew of rescue workers, due to low visibility during the storm. She says a whole column of rescuers worked behind the tractor, ahead of a whole array of special equipment. After evacuating people to temporary accommodations, workers set about clearing the cars and snow from the road, Samoilova explains.

                                One woman caught on the highway in the storm told Dozhd that a snowplow arrived earlier in the evening, around 8 p.m. After it cleared the road, traffic resumed, only to come to a complete halt once again. “Nobody saw the plow again after that,” the woman said. “When people's fuel started running out, they moved to cars that still had some gasoline left. In one of the cars, people were burning everything they could: the upholstery, their personal things. There was an old woman who suffered a stroke.”

                                According to Dozhd's eyewitness, one of the other women caught in the storm was bringing home a newborn child from a maternity ward in Orenburg. “Just think of sitting there and watching the fuel gauge fall lower and lower, and in your arms is a small baby,” she told Dozhd. “Naturally, I started calling every rescue service, telling them that they'd find the video I'd recorded showing how everything happened, if we died out there.”

                                Last edited by Hannia; 8th January 2016, 06:50.

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