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  • Head of Russian Orthodox Church says national recession is no tragedy, warns against ‘weak-willed’ materialism
    MEDUZA 11:29, 7 January 2016 Interfax

    Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has called on the nation not to despair because of the economic crisis.

    “Right now, generally speaking, the burden is relative: people are earning a little more or a little less (God forbid, of course, the economic situation should get worse), but generally speaking there's no tragedy in the country today,” Kirill said in an interview that aired on national television on Thursday, January 7. The Patriarch added that Russians failing to cope with the current recession are "faint-hearted, weak-willed, and empty."

    «If you associate your well-being only with money, if well-being is measured by the quality of your vacations, by the material conditions of life, then the slightest drop in consumption might seem like a terrible tragedy. But what does this mean? It means that such people arenʼt terribly resilient, » the Patriarch said.
    → Interfax

    In the same interview, Kirill also defended Moscow's airstrikes in Syria as a justified "defensive war."
    https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/01/07...ed-materialism
    Last edited by Hannia; 8th January 2016, 06:55.

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    • Ukraine conflict divides Slavic diaspora in Berlin
      Deutsche Welle Nikita Jolkver, Markian Ostaptschuk 07.01.2016

      Thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union live in Berlin. Collectively referred to as "Russians," many are Ukrainians. Now, the conflict that began with the annexation of Crimea is catching up with them.

      Seven years ago, Anastasia married a German, and moved with him to Berlin. She met him in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that was annexed by Russia in 2014. He was vacationing there, and she was a student from Donetsk, working there for the summer. Anastasia's family still lives in Donetsk. She says her sister-in-law used to be in favor of joining Russia, but that the behavior of Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine made her change her mind. "My father, my mother, and my brother were always against Russia, and for the new government in Kyiv," she says, adding that the corruption under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was oppressive.

      Anastasia met many of her Russian-speaking friends in Berlin at demonstrations held to support the pro-Western Ukrainian Maidan movement. At the same time, she says she unfriended many people on social media who branded her a fascist for her participation in the protests.

      Efim, who is from Odessa, says such insults can normally be traced back to Russian propaganda. He knows many Russians and Ukrainians in Berlin, and says a lot of the people he meets in bars and restaurants talk about a worldwide American-led conspiracy. "There are also Ukrainians who support Putin. If they watch Russian television morning, noon, and night, then they're just as susceptible to being brainwashed," Efim said.

      Aljona doesn't like 'Putin-lovers'

      Just like Efim, Aljona, who comes from the Ukrainian city of Saporoshje, says she doesn't understand people from the former Soviet Union in Berlin who like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

      She says it's impossible to have a reasonable discussion with such "stubborn people." "They won't listen to reason, but they don't have any decent arguments themselves. They just repeat what they hear on Russian TV," said the media-studies student, who has lived in Germany for three years. She was also affected by the Maidan movement. In the spring of 2014, Aljona helped wounded Ukrainian soldiers who were being treated in Berlin hospitals. Her disappointment about the state of affairs in Ukraine today is evident. She says that reforms were approached too slowly, and that's why she doesn't wish to return to her homeland.

      Emil prefers Russian broadcasters

      Emil arrived in Berlin 14 years ago as a teenager from Moscow. He says he gets his news from Russian, Ukrainian, and German broadcasters. They're all guilty of propaganda in his eyes, but he says he trusts the Russian media the most.

      "Unlike Ukrainian media, the Russian media at least broadcasts facts," Emil said. He approves of Putin's foreign policy. He likes Russia's foreign minister, too, but describes his American counterpart as a "clown."

      As for the new government in Ukraine, Emil says it's corrupt: It didn't fulfill the promises it made to the people. He has broken off contact to all his Berlin friends who share Kyiv's position instead of Moscow's, arguing that it doesn't make sense to speak with people who are "overly patriotic."

      He added that he doesn't understand the trend toward wearing traditional Ukrainian shirts and blouses. That's "peasant clothing" in his view. He himself frequently dons a T-shirt with a Russian flag, or one that reads "Crimea is ours." He says he doesn't do it to show support for Putin, but out of protest against the "overwhelmingly pro-Ukrainian mainstream in Germany."

      Sergey's new Ukrainian friends

      Sergey from Moscow, however, likes traditional Ukrainian shirts. For him, they're an expression of Ukrainian national unity. He says there are plenty of Russians and Ukrainians among his acquaintances at the Berlin business school he attends.

      It's not that we immediately start discussing politics, but the topic is always there in the back of your mind," he said. "You have to be very careful if you start getting into the conflict between Russia and Ukraine." Associating with Ukrainians in Berlin is something new for Sergey. He says he was surprised at the way Ukrainians identify as one people, even though they come from different parts of the country.

      Russians are careful on the Internet

      Irina is also from Russia. She is studying international relations in Berlin. She and most of her Russian and Ukrainian friends sympathize with the Maidan movement. But unlike the Ukrainians, she says the Russians are careful about what they say on Facebook, in chats, and on Skype. "Eventually, they're going to go home, and they're afraid that they are being monitored. As long as you have a Russian passport, it's better to keep quiet," Irina said.

      She recently tracked down a former school friend on social media, and they talked for hours on Skype about old times. "It was only at about 3 a.m. that she dared ask me who I thought Crimea belonged to," Irina said. It emerged that her friend took part in the anti-Kremlin demonstrations on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square between December 2011 and May 2012. The two women now have a closer friendship than ever before. Ukraine conflict divides Slavic diaspora in Berlin | Germany | DW.COM | 07.01.2016

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      • Ukraine intel identifies Russian commander of militants in Donetsk region
        UT UKRAINE TODAY 10:37 Jan. 8, 2016

        Recently United Nations warned that ‘ammunition, weaponry and fighters' are continuing to pour from Russia into eastern Ukraine

        UNIAN: The Russian officer previously participated in the Chechen War, according to the report by the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

        Ukrainian Military Intelligence has identified the commander of the so-called 9th separate motorized rifle regiment (stationed in Novoazovsk) of the 1st Army Corps of the Center of Territorial Troops of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces.

        This was reported in the press service of the military intelligence.

        It was revealed that the man is the Colonel of the Russian Armed Forces, Bondarev Dmitry Yevgenyevich, born 1971, former commander of the 51st Parachute Regiment (located in Tula) of the 106th Airborne Division (based inTula) of the Russian Airborne Forces.

        "The officer has experience of fighting in the Chechen Republic," the press service said.
        It was revealed that the man is the Colonel of the Russian Armed Forces, Bondarev Dmitry Yevgenyevich, born 1971, former commander of the 51st Parachute Regiment (located in Tula) of the 106th Airborne Division (based inTula) of the Russian Airborne Forces.

        "The officer has experience of fighting in the Chechen Republic," the press service said. Ukraine intel identifies Russian commander of militants in Donetsk region - read on - uatoday.tv

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        • Home Schooling Amid A Military Standoff In Eastern Ukraine

          Published 8 January 2016 RADIO FREE EUROPE VIDEO

          The village of Zaytsevo, near Horlivka in eastern Ukraine, is split down the middle by checkpoints and armed forces. On one side is the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. On the other side are Ukrainian government forces. Sporadic shelling strikes the town in spite of a cease-fire. Some children are separated from their school by the front lines, so they study and play at home, confined by the conditions of war. (Zenovia Stefanyuk, RFE/RL's Current Time TV)
          Home Schooling Amid A Military Standoff In Eastern Ukraine

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          • 'Quite a formidable foe' Ukraine facing: Canadian training commander - From IEDs and tanks to drones and cyber-warfare, Russian-backed rebel insurgency a 'hybrid war'
            CBC NEWS Susan Ormiston Jan 07, 2016

            They are not at the front lines of the war in eastern Ukraine, not even close. But the commander of Canada's training mission in the western part of the country feels that his team is having "a profound impact" on the culture and professionalism of the Ukrainian army.

            "We really established our credibility as instructors, and I think that helped sort out any doubts they may have had about what the Canadian Army could offer them," Lt.-Col. Jason Guiney told CBC Thursday.

            At first there was resistance, he said, with veteran Ukrainian military officers wondering how Canada's experience in Afghanistan related to the rebel war along that country's eastern border with Russia.

            "This is not Afghanistan, it's a much more hybrid war; a mixture of everything from insurgency, roadside bombs, conventional tactics, cyber-electronic warfare, so it's a quite a formidable foe they are facing there," said Guiney.

            In return, though, the Ukrainians are also teaching Canada about that kind of multifaceted war.

            "They are quite open about the use of drones, radio jamming, modern tanks. These are lessons we didn't learn in Afghanistan, and very valuable lessons for our own army," he said.

            Operation Unifier began in September last year after Canada committed 200 soldiers and officers to help build and modernize the Ukrainian army.

            The first rotation from the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment from Petawawa, Ont., wraps up its five-month deployment this week. A second team, mostly from the 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Regiment based in Valcartier, Que., arrives next Monday. The mission is supposed to last until March 2017.

            Fighting continues

            Officially, a ceasefire is supposed to be in effect in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists control much of the area.

            But fighting continues to flare up, including a powerful explosion in the centre of Donetsk, one of the largest cities in the region, on Dec. 21.

            Over 9,000 people, both military and civilians, have died during the almost two years of conflict, according to the UN.

            "We are training a mixture of combat-experienced infantry, who have just rotated out of Donbass, and veterans who were trained years ago but have been brought back into the army," said Guiney.

            A 55-day training course takes soldiers through basic rifle shooting and combat first aid to company-level mechanized tactics.

            More senior level training focuses on engineering, military policing and countering IEDs, improvised explosive devices.

            Canada has supplied $3.5 million worth of counter-IED equipment, some of which is being used now in eastern Ukraine. Since January 2014, there have been over 500 IED incidents across Ukraine, according to Guiney.
            Casualties high

            The Ukrainian army has suffered a large number of casualties since the conflict started in March 2014. The Ukraine army is operating with old, Soviet-style equipment, which is not a match for the newer Russian-supplied weaponry used by the separatists.

            In a twist of history, much of Ukraine's army was trained by the Soviets before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

            The training facility in Starychi, where the Canadians are based, has changed its name to the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre, but it used to be a Soviet training base.

            Guiney said much of what he deems successful has been convincing Ukraine's senior military leadership to consider changes to its "top heavy military structure," where the decision-making is left to only the highest levels.

            "They have a dated military culture," he said. They've been able to see "how we delegate responsibility and authority" further down the ranks.

            A lieutenant-colonel who served in Afghanistan and also on several peacekeeping missions in East Africa and Haiti, Guiney describes this experience as "kind of surreal."

            "When I joined the army, it was post-Cold War, but we were still training against Warsaw Pact tactics. We studied their doctrine, their vehicles and now we are working with that kind of equipment." 'Quite a formidable foe' Ukraine facing: Canadian training commander - World - CBC News

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            • 08.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
              Ukrainian military say their positions shelled on 24 occasions in Donbas over past day

              The militants have violated the ceasefire regime on 24 occasions in Donbas over the past day, the press center of the headquarters of the military operation said on its Facebook page on Friday morning.

              In particular, the militants have fired 82mm mortars on the positions of the Ukrainian military situated on the northern outskirts of Lebedynske not far from Mariupol since Thursday evening. A Ukrainian checkpoint in the Zaitseve area has been shelled by the same weapons.

              "A disturbing fire" has been waged by small arms, grenade launchers of different systems and large-caliber machineguns on several occasions in the direction of the Ukrainian military near Pisky, Opytne and Novhorodske, the headquarters said.

              Since last midnight the militants, who have entrenched at the destroyed Donetsk airport, have waged the fire at random at about 1.00 a.m. for 15 minutes in the direction of Ukrainian units near Opytne.

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              • 08.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                Ukraine initiates visit to Donbas by group of envoys of UN Security Council members

                Ukraine's permanent representative at the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko has reported the intention to organize a visit to Donbas by a group of permanent representatives of the UN Security Council member countries to convince them that there is a need to deploy a peacekeeping operation.

                "This idea has appeared literally recently: to try to organize a visit to Donbas for a group of permanent representatives of the UN Security Council member countries so that they could become convinced that Ukraine really needs it [a UN peacekeeping operation in Ukraine], that the global community needs it," he said on TV Channel Five on Thursday.

                Yelchenko recalled that he raised the question of a UN peacekeeping operation in Donbas at a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He also said he has begun discussing this issue with his colleagues in the UN Security Council specifically, with the representatives of France and the UK, and "the meetings will continue this week."

                "This idea [the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas] has not been officially discussed in the Security Council. There have been some test contacts, that is, we tried to understand why this idea is taken without enthusiasm. Clearly, there is a fully predictable Russian veto. But besides that, there are a lot of other issues," Yelchenko said.

                He recalled that in order for negotiations on this issue to begin the UN Secretariat needs to send an evaluation mission to Ukraine, "which will see how many staff and military men are needed, what the communications are, and what the size of the territory where they will be deployed is, and many other issues."

                "I asked the secretary-general, and I will have a substantive talk with his deputy next Monday about what Ukraine needs to do for the UN Secretariat or the UN secretary-general to make such a decision [to send an evaluation mission to Ukraine]. This decision has not been made yet," the Ukrainian envoy at the UN said.

                Yelchenko said a lot of work remains to be done.

                "I wanted to speed it up, but nothing is done fast in the UN," he said.

                Yelchenko also recalled that he is raising the issue of opening a UN office in Ukraine to support the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

                "It's a little easier because it does not require the Security Council's decision, but the issue needs to be discussed," the diplomat said.

                Yelchenko said work is being done on these tracks.

                "I think the first results will appear in several weeks," he said. Ukraine initiates visit to Donbas by group of envoys of UN Security Council members

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                • Jan. 8, 2016 RADIO FREE EUROPE
                  Russian hacker Sandworm blamed for Ukraine power outage

                  U.S. cyberintelligence firm iSight Partners said it is certain that a Russian hacking group known as Sandworm caused last month's unprecedented power outage in Ukraine.

                  "We believe that Sandworm was responsible," iSight's director of espionage analysis, John Hultquist, told Reuters.

                  ISight and other cybersecurity companies had been leaning toward blaming Sandworm, a nebulous, Moscow-based hacking group that has been strategically aligned with the Russian government, because of the Ukraine hackers' use of BlackEnergy malware associated with Sandworm.

                  U.S. security agencies have suspected that Russia was behind the Ukraine power outage as well as similar attacks in the United States and Europe, but have not publicly named any culprits to date.

                  Ukraine's state security service has blamed Russia for the blackout affecting 80,000 customers in western Ukraine on December 23.

                  ISight came to the conclusion it was Sandworm based on its analysis of BlackEnergy 3 and KillDisk malware used in the attack, and intelligence from "sensitive sources," Hultquist told Reuters.

                  Hultquist said it is not clear whether Sandworm is working directly for the Russian government. The group is named Sandworm because its malware is embedded with references to the "Dune" science-fiction series.

                  "It is a Russian actor operating with alignment to the interest of the state," Hultquist said. "Whether or not it's freelance, we don't know."

                  To date, Sandworm has primarily engaged in espionage, including a string of attacks in the United States using BlackEnergy that prompted a December 2014 alert from the Department of Homeland Security, according to iSight.

                  That alert said a sophisticated malware campaign had compromised some U.S. industrial control systems.

                  While no outages or physical destruction was reported as a result of those attacks in the United States and similar ones in Europe, some experts said that may be simply because the attackers did not want to go that far.

                  ISight said the earlier attacks outside Ukraine may have been experimental in nature.

                  “ISight believes the activity is Russian in origin and the intrusions they carried out against U.S. and European SCADA systems were reconnaissance for attack,” an iSight spokesperson told Infosecurity Magazine.

                  "It's not a major stretch to conclude the difference in the outcomes of the attacks in the Ukraine versus those in the U.S. were an issue of intent, not capability," Eric Cornelius, managing director of cybersecurity firm Cylance Inc. and a former U.S. homeland security official responsible for securing critical infrastructure, told Reuters.

                  ISight said Sandworm has been staging attacks against Ukrainian officials and media for some time. During Ukrainian elections last fall, for example, Sandworm's "malware of choice," BlackEnergy, was allegedly used in destructive attacks against Ukrainian media. Russian Hacker Sandworm Blamed For Ukraine Power Outage

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                  • RAIO FREE EUROPE January 08, 2016
                    Russian Bloggers Pinpoint Alleged Russian Cluster-Bomb Use In Syria

                    Russian open-source bloggers say they have documented more evidence that Russia is using cluster bombs in its air campaign supporting Syria’s embattled regime.

                    The findings by Ruslan Leviev and the Conflict Intelligence Team, which has uncovered other secretive Russian military activity both in Syria and Ukraine in the past, adds to reports by international human rights group that accuse Moscow of putting civilians at risk with indiscriminate use of cluster bombs.

                    Russia is not party to the 2008 treaty that bans the use of cluster munitions, which after exploding scatter tiny bomblets across a wide area. The weaponry has been condemned for its indiscriminate nature and the danger of civilians accidentally detonating the bomblets.

                    Russia has denied using such munitions, most recently last month after Human Rights Watch published a detailed report documenting at least 20 instances of their alleged use since Moscow launched its air campaign on September 30 to support its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in his war against both extremist and more moderate rebel groups.

                    In their report published January 7, Leviev and his team of bloggers scoured Russian news photographs and video footage to document several types of cluster munitions being stored or attached to aircraft at the Hemeimeem air base, in western Syria.

                    Though no markings can be seen, the bloggers say the underwing bombs are identical in form to a commonly used Russian cluster bomb known as the RBK-500. They also identify the jets as Su-24 and Su-25 bombers, which are based at the Shagol air base in Russia. They also point to imagery from early last year showing RBK-500 munitions on identically marked jets at the base.

                    “After the [Russian Air Force] operation in Syria started, more and more evidence began to emerge of cluster munitions being used on civilian targets in rebel-controlled areas,” the group said. “Some of those munitions...previously hadn’t been used in the conflict.”

                    Other photographs gathered from Syrian social media show unexploded bomblets on the ground in Syria.

                    In its report, Human Right Watch said it had documented instances of other Russian-manufactured, rocket-launched cluster munitions being used in Syria.

                    Syria has long been a major recipient of Soviet and Russian weaponry.

                    Last year, prior to the start of Russia’s air campaign, Leviev’s team documented the deployment of Russian marine infantry to Syria, contrary to Moscow’s denials of such troop movements.

                    They also located the graves of Russian soldiers who appeared to have been killed fighting in eastern Ukraine. Russia has long denied any of its military personnel have fought there in an official capacity.
                    Russian Bloggers Pinpoint Alleged Russian Cluster-Bomb Use In Syria

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                    • Jan. 8, 2016 UT UKRAINE TODAY
                      Dinner for Homeless: Volunteers provide hundreds with traditional Ukrainian Christmas dishes

                      Candlelit festive dinner includes kutya, which is made from wheat, honey, and chopped nuts

                      Dozens of homeless and low income families have gathered at a local restaurant in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to receive a warm Christmas dinner. The bitter cold snap during the holiday season in Ukraine has hit the homeless population particularly hard this year.

                      Inside the restaurant people sit down to a candlelit festive meal. The menu includes the main Ukrainian Christmas dinner dish- the kutya, which is made from wheat, honey, ground poppy seeds, and chopped nuts.

                      One Kyiv resident happily confirms, "It's real kutya, it has poppy seeds, and honey!"

                      One of the organizers tells us that they prepared to serve a holiday dinner to hundreds of people.

                      Yevhen Sabateev, volunteer: "Overall in Kyiv we invited over 250 people. These are the folks we see almost every week and give them food and tea."

                      At this meal organizers tried to provide an assortment of dishes, but many said the simple ones were the best.

                      Anatol, Kyiv resident: "I like mashed potatoes best. We're Ukrainian so we're used to potatoes, we can't live without them."

                      Before the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine with Russian-backed militants, it was widely reported that there were over 12,000 homeless people in Kyiv.

                      But the fighting, which began in 2014, has crippled Ukraine's economy, threatening to push that number higher.

                      According to World Bank figures Ukraine's GDP fell by 12% in 2015. Credit Suisse research institute report meanwhile says that Ukraine was ranked as one of the poorest countries in Europe last year. Dinner for Homeless: Volunteers provide hundreds with traditional Ukrainian Christmas dishes - read on - uatoday.tv

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                      • 11:49 Jan. 8, 2016 UT UKRAINE TODAY VIDEO
                        Ukrainian troops mark winter holidays on the frontline of conflict against militants

                        Soldiers suspect their service may be prolonged

                        Ukrainian troops stationed in eastern Ukraine marked Orthodox Christmas on the frontline. In the war-torn village of Pisky servicemen say they are looking forward to their demobilisation date.

                        "If nothing changes then on January 31 we're going home."

                        Last winter this area saw some of the heaviest fighting against Russian-backed militants in and around Donetsk Airport. Many of the soldiers have been stationed here for at least nine months while for some this is their second Christmas on the frontline.

                        ‘Ded', soldier: "I came here on 26 April 2015 and haven't been back. It's hard during war but we don't complain. We're here and everything is okay, if everything is according to law then let it be."

                        Ukrainian soldiers suspect their service may be prolonged, but some say this hasn't deterred them from enlisting under certain conditions.

                        Bohdan Tkachenko, serviceman from 93rd Brigade: "I'll stay but on a contract."

                        Less shelling has been reported in recent weeks in east Ukraine as a holiday ceasefire agreed to by militants and Ukrainian troops appears to be enjoying some success. Ukrainian troops mark winter holidays on the frontline of conflict against militants - watch on - uatoday.tv

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                        • Dec. 30, 2015 UT UKRAINE TODAY VIDEO
                          Volunteers in Ukraine organise New Year celebration for displaced children

                          More than a million Ukrainians are internally displaced

                          Internally displaced children from Ukraine's eastern regions have received presents from volunteers in Kyiv.

                          The kids enjoyed a colourful celebration organised with them in mind, with performances from Father Frost - a Russian version of Santa Claus - and volunteers dressed as cartoon characters welcoming kids of all ages at the biggest volunteer centre in Kyiv.

                          Alchevsk resident, Kateryna: "It is the second year in a row when I want to cry because I am so happy. Many thanks! They [the volunteers] are very good and always help us a lot."

                          Thousands of Ukrainian families left eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2014. Many of the internally displaced ended up in Kyiv, often with nothing to their names but the clothes on their backs.

                          This year is not the first time the people of Kyiv, touched by the plight of those who were forced to flee their homes, have organised celebrations for their families.

                          Luhansk resident, Vasyl: "We are always welcomed here. It is always very beautiful here, nice, friendly. People, volunteers work with their soul here. We want to thank them for everything because we are here not for the first time. We have been here last year and we liked it."

                          Volunteers distributed presents to children and parents who queued in lines dividing attendees into age groups, with different packages prepared for children of different ages.

                          Donetsk resident, Iryna: "Of course, we are happy that they take care of us. But we would like to return home and we want everything to end. And children from Kiev will come to these celebrations - not only internally displaced people - so that the same celebration will be held for Kiev residents as well."

                          More than a million Ukrainians are internally displaced after leaving the country's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2014 caused the exodus and has since resulted in the deaths of more than 9,000 people.
                          Volunteers in Ukraine organise New Year celebration for displaced children - watch on - uatoday.tv

                          SOURCE REUTERS

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                          • Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins: Jerry Skinner, the lawyer, is going to the ECHR with the case against Russia and Putin himself about MH17 and Russia’s involvement in Ukraine
                            08.01.2016 | 14:37 UNIAN Iryna Somer

                            Bellingcat, the expert and journalist team investigating into the downing of MH17 over the Donbas sky in July 2014, recently announced it brought the number of the Russian soldiers possibly involved in this crime down to 20 people. In an exclusive interview with UNIAN, the founder of Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, has revealed some details of his investigation.

                            The report holding the names and the photographs of the Russian troops involved in the MH17 crash, according to Bellingcat, was handed over to the Dutch prosecutors two weeks ago.

                            Earlier in the past year, the Bellingcat team found out that it’s the Russian 53rd air defense Brigade based in Kursk which is actually behind the tragedy with flight MH17.

                            Are you done with this investigation?

                            We have spent a year just looking at those members of the 53rd Brigade [anti-aircraft brigade stationed in Kursk]. It’s kind of difficult to know where to look next. We have already gone through every single scrap of social media we can find related to this incident. So I think we’ve pretty much exhausted that. There might be new things that surface, and new information that appears we should all take a look at.

                            Are you planning to publish this report on your website?

                            We are planning on January 25 to do a redacted version of the report, which will have most of the same information but we’ll redact the names and the identities of the individuals, but it’s a 123-page report, and there’s plenty of relevant information in there.

                            We have people doing Russian language articles that we have translated. Now we’re looking for funding to do a Russian version of Bellingcat, because there’s such an interest coming from the Russian language organizations and individuals about open source investigation. We really want to encourage that by having a Russian-language version. I think we’re talking about GBP 50,000-60,000, that’s really just a pay for a translation of the articles. We have a team of volunteers, but I’d rather be able to hire them full time.

                            How many pictures and videos have you gone through?

                            The process is that we had to find a name, and we can figure out someone’s in the 53rd Brigade, and we’d look at all the friends they have, look at all those accounts and see if they’ve got any relatives… There’s probably hundreds if not thousands of relevant pictures that we’ve looked at.

                            But how do you know that it’s not a fake, that it really is solid information? Do you know if the Joint Investigation Team can trust the information that you provide?

                            A lot of people think about this stuff as it’s just a photograph on the Internet. What they don’t think about is how that photograph is then connected to other information. So if we have a photograph of a soldier it’s not just a guy standing in a field. Then we have his name, his social media profile, we look at his activity, we see who his friends are, we see his friends also in the same unit [taking part in attack on MH17]. We build up a network of information around the individual images, and this is an important part of our process.

                            You have at least 20 people on the list. But is it possible to identify among them a person who really pushed a button or gave an order?

                            We said there were 20 people [those involved in the downing of MH17]. Those 20 people are basically the commanders, the brigade leaders, the battalion leaders, the system leaders, the kind of people that orders would have been passed through. Then you have those individuals who are the kind of the commanders of the individual missile launchers. There are also individuals who seem out of the ordinary, who we knew were part of the convoy, people who we were not expecting to see part of that convoy, I can’t say much at the moment, but thy seem suspicious. So they’re also part of that twenty. We’ve tracked the convoy of the 53rd Brigade on June 24-June 25. That was made up of multiple soldiers, multiple vehicles, transport units. These people traveled together as a unit all the way down towards the border with Ukraine We’re talking of maybe around 100 people or so. And these are all people who are part of the same unit. So they observe what they’re doing, they know that they travel down as a complete unit with all the systems in place. So if one of those systems disappears one morning and a few of the soldiers disappear, they’re going to notice that. Even though they’re not part of that core twenty, they’re still going to be witnesses to what happened in that camp. They talk to each other. They’ll have good idea who went across the border and who didn’t.

                            Do you believe that Russia will allow these people who are really involved in this crime to be in court?

                            I very much doubt it. I’m sure, if they get interviewed, which I doubt, they’ll be very well briefed beforehand about what they should be saying and what they shouldn’t be saying. And it’s very difficult to imagine a scenario where they will be in court. What we have at the moment is that the lawyer, Jerry Skinner, who represents the victims of the PanAm 103 Lockerbie crash, which Libya eventually admitted responsibility for thanks to his work [PanAm passenger jet was brought down by an explosion of a bomb planted onboard on December 21, 1988. 243 passengers and 16 crew members died in a crash], he’s now going to the European Court of Human Rights with a case against the Russian Federation and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin himself about what happened to MH17 and about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. There has to be publicity surrounding what Russia did, the fact that there are witnesses and they need to be spoken to, and that Russia lied repeatedly about the MH17 case.

                            Are there any signs of involvement of any higher rank Russian military leaders?

                            We can only assume that the soldiers who drove across the border and shot down MH17 had orders to do so. There are people of different ranks those orders would have been passed through. So, where that order originated from, I would assume that it would have been up fairly high, and that it would have gone down through the ranks. And if it had been skipped over the ranks, I’m sure the people of various ranks would be very aware of what was going on.

                            Talking about this crime, what is your personal opinion? What happened? Did they really target this exact aircraft, or any aircraft, or was it a stupid mistake?

                            It’s possible that they targeted an aircraft thinking that maybe it was a Ukrainian transport aircraft, a military air transport, not realizing that it was in fact flight MH17, and then they shot it down accidentally. We of course know that a couple of days beforehand a Ukrainian An-26 military transport aircraft had been shot down, so this may have been another attempt to repeat that.

                            Do you expect any feedback from the Netherlands?

                            We’re in contact with the Dutch police. I’ve been interviewed twice as a witness, they took a lot of interest in a work we’re doing. They don’t tell us very much. They say “Thank you,” but they never say about any details of the case.
                            Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins: Jerry Skinner, the lawyer, is going to the ECHR with the case against Russia and Putin himself about MH17 and Russia’s involvement in Ukraine : UNIAN news

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                            • Ukraine intel identifies Russian commander of militants near Novoazovsk
                              07.01.2016 | 19:50 UNIAN

                              The Russian officer previously participated in the Chechen War, according to the report by the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

                              Ukrainian Military Intelligence has identified the commander of the so-called 9th separate motorized rifle regiment (stationed in Novoazovsk) of the 1st Army Corps of the Center of Territorial Troops of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces, according to the press service of the This was reported in the press service of the military intelligence.

                              It was revealed that the man is the Colonel of the Russian Armed Forces, Bondarev Dmitry Yevgenyevich, born 1971, former commander of the 51st Parachute Regiment (located in Tula) of the 106th Airborne Division (based inTula) of the Russian Airborne Forces.

                              "The officer has experience of fighting in the Chechen Republic," the press service said.
                              http://www.unian.info/society/123098...novoazovsk.htm

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                              • 08.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                                Yatseniuk orders recalculation of payment for heating if service was not quality

                                Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has stated that payment for heating should be recalculated in the buildings where the service was not provided at the appropriate level.

                                "Payment should be recalculated for all the objects of district heating where the service was not provided qualitatively. And the main thing is to plan repairs in such buildings for the current year," Yatseniuk said at a meeting of the interagency operative headquarters of the State Commission for Emergencies Situations in Kyiv.

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