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  • Charlemagne - Referendum madness
    Plebiscite-pushers have got Europe’s voters hooked on the cheap rush of direct democracy
    Jan 16th 2016 THE ECONOMIST

    ONE dodgy referendum lost Ukraine Crimea. Another threatens to lose it the European Union. On April 6th the Dutch public will vote on the “association agreement” the EU signed with Ukraine in 2014. The deal cements trade and political links with one of the EU’s most important neighbours; the prospect of losing it under Russian pressure triggered Ukraine’s Maidan revolution. But last summer a group of Dutch mischief-makers, hunting for a Eurosceptic cause they could place on the ballot under a new “citizens’ initiative” law, noticed that parliament had just approved the deal. Worse luck for the Ukrainians.

    Unlike the Crimeans in 2014, the Dutch will not be voting under foreign occupation. But nor are they likely to have familiarised themselves with the Ukraine agreement’s 2,135 pages. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, says a Dutch “No” could unleash a “continental crisis”. That is a stretch: as the referendum is non-binding, the Dutch government could ratify the agreement anyway, and its most important provisions are already in force. But Mr Juncker put his finger on something, because national referendums on EU matters are turning into a throbbing headache.

    Margaret Thatcher once dismissed referendums as “a device of dictators and demagogues”. The opposite was true for the central and eastern Europeans who joined the EU in the 2000s; their accession votes, usually passed with whopping majorities, marked the final rejection of tyranny. Elsewhere most EU referendums have turned on one-off issues, like joining the euro or ratifying an internal treaty. Negative votes, such as the French and Dutch dismissals of an EU constitution in 2005, have at least forced Eurocrats to pause for breath before resuming the march of integration.

    But now the silly season is here. A few months before the Dutch referendum, Danes were asked to vote on whether their government should convert its “opt-out” on EU justice and policing matters to an “opt-in”. They plumped for the status quo, leaving their government with an awkward negotiation in Brussels. A few months earlier Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, called a referendum on a euro-zone bail-out agreement that would expire before the vote was held. His mighty oxi (“no”) victory was quickly converted to humiliating assent when his government realised that tough bail-outs were the price of euro membership.

    EU referendums are held for many reasons. The hapless Mr Tsipras hoped to boost his negotiating hand in the euro zone. David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, is holding an EU membership vote largely as a tool to manage his fractious Conservative Party. Some, more cynically, are called to provide a seal of legitimacy to something a government was going to do anyway.

    But a growing number of referendums serve as brakes on European integration. If voters cannot throw out the bums in Brussels, they can at least lob rotten fruit at them. Politicians, too, find them useful: of the national referendums that have consequences for the entire EU (such as treaty ratifications), a third have been called for partisan rather than constitutional reasons, according to Fernando Mendez at the Centre for Research on Direct Democracy in Switzerland.

    The trouble is that the politics of referendums cuts both ways. Two years ago the Swiss voted to restrict immigration from the EU. That directly contradicted free-movement agreements, and Swiss officials are struggling to square the circle. Brussels threatens to suspend a raft of bilateral agreements if the Swiss go through with it—partly to avoid emboldening the British, who want immigration concessions in their EU renegotiation. In turn, should Britain vote to leave, the EU will have every incentive to take a hard line when the British come back to negotiate their post-EU trade deal. Mr Tsipras’s gambit flopped because the euro zone could not allow the precedent of a debtor state unilaterally changing the terms of its loans.

    No referendum is an island

    The tools of direct democracy are always controversial—at times, they have threatened to make American states like California ungovernable—but they are doubly difficult in the EU. First, in America federal law trumps state law, meaning no state can vex another by placing a lunatic proposal on the ballot. But in the EU, which is not a federal construction, there is nothing to stop one member holding a referendum that causes trouble for the rest. When things go wrong, the usual remedy is to tweak whatever regulation or accord made voters unhappy (usually a treaty) and to seek a second vote that produces the correct answer.

    A second problem is that the EU needs more integration just when many voters are turning against it. The euro zone and EU migration policy are both half-built ships. Each may require changes to EU treaties to allow more centralisation. But extending Brussels’s powers into new areas will fuel the appetite for referendums that could scupper the changes. Moreover, notes Stefan Lehne, a former Austrian diplomat, these days EU politicians test the existing treaties to breaking point in order to avoid triggering referendums. The clamour for direct democracy thus fosters the legalistic jiggery-pokery to which it has been a reaction.

    All this smells horribly undemocratic to some. But joining a club, or striking a deal with it, will always limit governments’ room for manoeuvre. National politicians can shoulder some of the blame for not being clear with voters about what their arrangements with the EU imply. But too often EU officials seem wedded to the views of their founding father, Jean Monnet, who wrote that he “thought it wrong to consult the peoples of Europe about the structure of a community of which they had no practical experience”. That may have worked when Eurocrats restricted themselves to tinkering with agricultural subsidies and fisheries policy. Not any more: the age of referendums is here to stay.

    Referendum madness | The Economist

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    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • Moscow, Damascus, sign deal on indefinite deployment of Russian warplanes in Syria
      14.01.2016 | 22:00 UNIAN

      The Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic have signed an agreement on the deployment of the Russian air group in Syria for an indefinite period, according to the Russian online portal of legal information.

      "This agreement is concluded for an indefinite period. In case if one party intends to to terminate the agreement, it must inform the other party in writing. In this case, the application of this agreement is terminated within one year from the date of receipt of the notice," reads the document published today.

      It is noted that the agreement was signed in Damascus on August 26, 2015, in Russian and Arabic, with both texts being equally authentic.

      As UNIAN reported earlier, over 50 warplanes and helicopters joined the air group of Russia’s Aerospace Forces, which has been carrying out air strikes on Syrian territory.
      Moscow, Damascus, sign deal on indefinite deployment of Russian warplanes in Syria : UNIAN news

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      • "DPR," "LPR" should have no illusions on special status of Donbas - OSCE Chairman
        14.01.2016 | 21:21 UNIAN

        The Chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, stressed that the terrorists in the east of Ukraine should not have any illusions about getting the special status for Donbas, while Russia must influence them in this matter, an UNIAN correspondent reported from a Vienna press conference following a special meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, the first one under the German presidency in 2016.

        "At the last meeting at the level of the Foreign Ministers, we - the Germans and the French - have made it clear that we will continue to rely on Russia using its influence on the separatists, in order to make sure the weapons are being withdrawn, that it will be possible to allow the mission of the OSCE to carry out its task of verifying that the weapons are actually being withdrawn, that the separatists don’t have expectations that cannot be fulfilled as regards the special status for Donbas,” he said.

        “And in return, we need to have Ukraine to stand by the commitments it entered into in creating the legal foundation, or a legal basis, for the law-governed local elections [in Luhansk and Donetsk regions]," said Steinmeier.

        Steinmeier added that he was expecting from the both parties to the conflict willingness and desire to see Minsk agreements as foundation for measures to be taken.
        "DPR," "LPR" should have no illusions on special status of Donbas - OSCE Chairman : UNIAN news

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        • Reforms in Ukraine: An open online property registery has been set up
          VOICES OF UKRAINE by chervonaruta January 14, 2016

          By: Reforms in Ukraine, which collects and posts all reforms in Ukraine since the Maidan revolution
          Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

          03.26.2015, date posted
          Source: The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine
          Reform enacted by: The Ministry of Justice
          Law (in Ukrainian): , ... | 15.05.2003 755-IV ( 1 4)
          English: USR register | State Enterprise Information Resource Centre

          The Ukrainian Parliament passed a law that increases transparency re: property belonging to government officials. Law 2423 was voted in by 240 members of Parliament.

          “The law reveals all the information that’s important about the property, the land, the vehicles. Illegal enrichment, rewriting of the property to others – the law makes all of this impossible,” – explained MP Egor Sobolev, speaking in Parliament (Verkhovna Rada).

          According to Speaker of the Parliament Volodymyr Groysman (Chair of the Rada), thanks to the legislation passed, all officials will publicly declare their property. He stressed that this is one of the anti-corruption laws.

          According to the authors of the legislation, its purpose is to prevent corruption, to ensure the transparency and openness of legal relationships in society, as well as to establish public control over government officials.

          The law, according to them, will simplify the procedure of accessing information contained in the State Registry of rights on immovable property, providing free access to the government state land cadaster and the United State Register [of Legal Entities] held by the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. Reforms in Ukraine: An open online property registery has been set up | Voices of Ukraine
          Source:Reforms in Ukraine -

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          • Stereotypes paralyze Russia’s potential for change
            EUROMAIDAN PRESS Kseniya Kirillova 2016/01/12
            Part 1

            The Russian opposition and Western analysts have pointed out repeatedly that Russia’s authorities are actually a “Chekist clan” – former KGB officers who obtained control over the country’s basic resources. As Ukrainian journalist Vitaly Portnikov noted in one of his latest articles, recent revelations by Alexei Navalny and the report of a Spanish prosecutor have both exposed one more connection of the “old” Russian security forces: with the mafia.

            “The Russian mafia group emerged in Spain in 1996, that is, three years before the emergence of Vladimir Putin in Russian politics. Meanwhile, among those who have been associated with the Mafia are almost all known people from Putin’s entourage, the so-called Lake Co-operative and all of the inner circle”, says Portnikov.

            “Once, a high-ranking security officer told me with a sigh that after the liquidation of the Communist Party his colleagues from the KGB thought that now, after the party has “evaporated”, all the power and all financial flows are their own. However, the officer said, they then faced with strong pressure from the criminal world. Now we can say that the KGB did not deal with the criminal world the same way they struggled over the years with the party apparatus. They chose to be part of the criminal world, because the main objective of the security officers and the criminals – power and money – fully coincided,” says the publicist.

            The connections that that gag
            While the connections between organized crime and the KGB today are not an open topic for discussion in Russia, but even supporters of the current government would not deny that after Yeltsin’s resignation the “security officers” were able to monopolize both resources and positions in Russia. It is ironic that rampant crime, gangsterism, “new Russian” mafia showdowns and all other ugly realities of the so called “the wild 90s” are still associated in the minds of the ordinary Russians only with reforms, democracy, and the West. At the same time, the newly revealed facts suggest quite the opposite: in the 1990s those associated with crime most closely were not young reformers but the people of the
            former Soviet KGB, which is now idealized by Kremlin propaganda. At the same time the West itself was not at all pleased with this symbiosis: Western countries do not control the process of criminalizing the elites in Russia; and moreover, they themselves have suffered from it.

            However, in recent years books (both fiction and non-fiction) have often appeared in the United States describing how the Russian thugs, who gained their veneer of respectability, are laundering the money in European and American banks they acquired in illegal ways,. The books also reveal how that the thugs were building their agent network even in the pre-Putin era. Through these recent revelations, we know that the actions of these agents are directed primarily against the West itself, in order to discredit and corrupt its basic institutions. These people acted under democratic and pro-Western slogans, but with the aim of deceiving and damaging the West in anticipation of revenge, which we see today.

            Nevertheless, Kremlin propaganda has succeeded in making the majority of Russians firmly associate crime with the reforms, the reforms with democracy, democracy with the West, and the West itself solely with the CIA. Therefore, many sincere patriots firmly believe that there are “CIA agents” who plundered Russia, while in fact they were mostly “KGB agents”. This false association largely explains why Russians are so afraid of a return to the ‘90s and are so hateful of the West.

            The best success of the Kremlin propaganda has been the creation of false associations, stereotypes and patterns that the Russian government then skillfully uses. Perhaps, these false “templates” are the core of the Russian propaganda. Inspired false associations are so strong that their influence is felt even among Russians living abroad. It seems to me, that this propaganda pattern creates a significant number of supporters of Putin, even among Russian Americans. Weak civil society traditions and underdeveloped “horizontal” relations have led many Russians to unite around foreign organizations created by the Kremlin that are in fact, affiliated with Russian consulates and missions which are under the close control of the KGB’s successor, the FSB.

            One of the reasons that lead Russian expats and emigrants to unite around such organizations is a subconscious sense of guilt. Kremlin propaganda creates this sense by depicting all emigrants as “traitors”, an old Soviet stereotype that is being revived in recent years in Russia. This sense settles in the subconscious of people so deeply that creates a completely illogical guilt. As a result, for many Russians the newly acquired awareness of their conflict with the state is a fairly traumatic factor – except, of course, for those who deliberately chose the path of dissent.

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            • Stereotypes paralyze Russia’s potential for change
              EUROMAIDAN PRESS Kseniya Kirillova 2016/01/12 Part 2

              Therefore, these people perceive with joy any form of association imposed by the Kremlin. Participation in these organizations’ life becomes for them an official restoration of their connection with the former homeland – they get assured that no one can call them traitors any longer. The internal dilemma is resolved, and such people would enjoy the benefits of America and at the same time feel that they are “forgiven” by Russia.

              In fact, they sit on two chairs, as they would feel obliged to support the Russian government and the Putin regime in particular while at the same time demonstrating loyalty to the U.S. Very often the situation of such people is manipulated not only by Russian propaganda but by secret FSB agents who involve then in spying or having a corrupting influence on American institutions. But few people even think that this dilemma is created artificially, falsely. It would not arise at all without the efforts of their beloved Russian state.

              Opponents as well as supporters of the Putin regime are captured by the patterns imposed by the Kremlin. I already wrote about the fact that many in the opposition movement succumbed to the artificial division between “liberals” and “patriots”, not even trying to defend the meaning of the word “patriotism”. Another stereotype that is enticing for the opposition is that the opposition is always, everywhere and in everything unjustly persecuted.

              The feel of futility
              I myself lived in Russia all my life until March 2014, and in recent years before emigrating I participated in the opposition. I know how hard it is to live in an atmosphere of harassment and slander. In such a situation a special feeling of one’s innocence is a temptation, and such feeling is not caused by personal merit, but only by the unjust and mean persecution by the political enemy. Such persecution makes it meaningless for those in the opposition to think critically about themselves, to correct old mistakes, to look for new approaches. All this becomes meaningless because in any case you would be slandered, harassed or even arrested on fabricated charges, and all that you created would be destroyed. To make the opposition meaningless is one of the aims of the government. However, the fact that criticism of the opposition in our country involved mostly incompetent people, slanderers and propagandists (remember the recent example of the infamous Lesi Ryabtseva) does not abolish the need for criticism as such.

              Moreover, the victimized consciousness often shown in the Russian opposition (of course, often not without clear reasons) is defective. It does not add any constructive ideas in the fight, but only affirms stereotypes repeatedly broadcast by numerous propagandists.

              How to fight between the cracks
              What strategy really could bring success in the struggle against the current regime is a strategy of breaking stereotypes. Protesting truckers, who are really fighting for their rights and cannot be labeled as any political opposition group designated as “enemy of the regime”, like so called “liberals” or “grant eaters”; soldiers and even officers, who refuse to go on Putin’s orders to another country and kill foreign citizens; police officers who refuse to disperse the protesters – all those people are free of both pro-Putin propaganda and a victimized conscience. They are free from the captivity of templates created by the Kremlin. They neither repeat propaganda, nor act in the “usual” way, even though this attitude brings them into their comfort zone.

              The dependence on propaganda templates, no matter on which side, would not bring success. Only the breaking of stereotypes by those who cannot be subjected to manipulations can lead to liberation. Stereotypes paralyze Russia's potential for change -Euromaidan Press |
              Source: Radio Svoboda
              Guilt by Associatio

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              • Giorgio Gomelsky, Rock Producer Who Gave the Rolling Stones Their Start, Dies at 81
                NY TIMES WILLIAM GRIMES JAN. 14, 2016

                Giorgio Gomelsky, a rock impresario and record producer who gave the Rolling Stones their first exposure, managed the Yardbirds and went on to champion an eclectic batch of progressive rock groups in the United States, died on Wednesday in the Bronx. He was 81.

                The cause was complications of colon cancer, his longtime girlfriend, Janice Daley, said.

                Mr. Gomelsky was a pivotal figure in the London music scene of the early 1960s, with an adventurous ear and a flair for promotion that helped some of the greatest talents of the era get their start. As the operator of Crawdaddy, a club in the London suburb of Richmond, he booked the Rolling Stones for their first paid appearances, managed and produced the Yardbirds in their prime, brought the Animals from Newcastle and organized one of the first blues festivals in Britain.

                Later in the decade, his Marmalade label recorded innovative artists like the keyboardist Brian Auger, whose group the Trinity, with the singer Julie Driscoll, had a Top 10 hit in Britain with “This Wheel’s on Fire,” a song written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko, in 1968. He also produced the guitarist John McLaughlin’s first album, “Extrapolation,” and recorded the first demonstration records by the rock band Soft Machine.

                In the 1970s he continued to seek out artists at the fringes of rock, like Gong, Henry Cow and the French group Magma, whose lyrics were written in an invented language spoken on the imaginary planet Kobaia.

                For years after relocating to New York in 1978, he operated his townhouse in Chelsea as a creative center and performance space for musicians like John Zorn, Richard Hell and the Bad Brains.

                “My mission was to innovate, to push envelopes, to get a new thing established, to allow the underdog, the underground, to come forward and up,” he told Richie Unterberger, the author of “Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers: Overlooked Innovators and Eccentric Visionaries of ’60s Rock” (2000).

                Giorgio Sergio Alessandro Gomelsky was born on Feb. 28, 1934, on a ship traveling from Odessa, Ukraine, to Genoa, Italy. He grew up in Switzerland, where his father, originally from Odessa, practiced medicine.

                He was a jazz fan from an early age and a devoted listener of the Voice of America’s jazz broadcasts. While attending the School of Humanity, a progressive private school in Hasliberg Goldern, he bicycled around Europe with friends, listening to jazz in French and German nightclubs.

                His mother, the former Eliane Wust, from Monte Carlo, was a hat designer for Claude Saint-Cyr in Paris and was sent to run the company’s shop in London. She sent her son copies of the newspaper Melody Maker, which clued him in to the British jazz scene. With a group of friends, he founded a jazz appreciation society in Locarno and formed a trio in which he played drums.

                After completing his military service in the Swiss Air Force, he decided to make a film record of the bubbling British jazz scene. He wangled the financing from an Italian television station, left for London in 1955 and began filming performances by the jazz traditionalist Chris Barber at the Royal Festival Hall. Through his work with the National Jazz Federation, he was given the rights to film the second National Jazz Festival in 1960.

                As big-city blues began to catch on in Britain, Mr. Gomelsky became interested in setting up blues nights at small clubs. He found his way to the Station Hotel in Richmond, where the owner agreed to let him present shows on Sunday nights, when business was slow. Mr. Gomelsky named the club BRRB, for British R&B, but soon changed the name to Crawdaddy. The Rolling Stones opened there in February 1963, before a crowd of three, an appearance for which they received the equivalent of one dollar each. Word of mouth led to bigger crowds, and they became the club’s resident act.

                “I felt that we needed young people to play this music, in order for it to get to young people and their need to identify with a musical style,” Mr. Gomelsky told Mr. Unterberger. “The Rolling Stones became the breakthrough.”

                After Andrew Loog Oldham, a young press agent, snatched the Stones from under Mr. Gomelsky’s nose and began managing them, he booked the Yardbirds. Mr. Gomelsky managed the group and produced their records, through the 1966 hit “Shapes of Things.” It was his idea to record the Yardbirds live for their first album, “Five Live Yardbirds.”

                Mr. Gomelsky also gave Eric Clapton, the group’s original lead guitarist, his nickname. Mr. Clapton told The Daily Mail in 2013: “I used light-gauge strings, with a very thin first string, which made it easier to bend the notes, and it was not uncommon, during frenetic bits of playing, for me to break at least one string, While I was changing my strings, the audience would often break into a slow hand clap, inspiring Giorgio to dream up the nickname of Slowhand Clapton.”

                Mr. Gomelsky arranged for the Yardbirds to tour Newcastle and, in exchange, brought in the Animals to play what was now a circuit of Crawdaddy clubs, giving that group its first London exposure. He also organized one of Britain’s first blues festivals, in Birmingham, with a list of acts that included the Yardbirds, the Spencer Davis Group and Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men, with Rod Stewart.

                By the late 1960s, after his Marmalade label went out of business, Mr. Gomelsky grew restless and disillusioned. “By then the Brits had blown it,” he told The New York Times in 2013. “They had been seduced by the American dream of making a lot of money playing music in incredibly bad conditions like stadiums.”

                He pursued his dream of ever more experimental music, played in small clubs, in Paris and then in New York, where, in 1978, he organized the Zu Manifestival, a showcase for emerging progressive artists. At Tramps in the 1980s, he produced “Tonka Wonka Mondays,” where unknowns performed jazz, rock and world music for professional critics, and a house band headed by David Soldier backed up invited jazz avant-gardists.

                Mr. Gomelsky’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to Ms. Daley, his survivors include two daughters, Alexandra and Donatella; and a son, Sergio.

                “I had no presumption, assumption or desire to have a career in the music business,” he told Mr. Unterberger. He added: “I just wanted to prove a point. I was passionately interested in change, and change was needed.”

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                • Hidden Sting Raises Costs for Ukraine in Russian Trade War
                  BLOOMBERG Daryna Krasnolutska Jan 13, 2016

                  --As well as canceling free trade, Russia curbed onward transit
                  --Trade between the two former allies has plunged since 2012

                  With the conflict in Ukraine already having ravaged bilateral trade, Russia canceling a free-trade pact with its former ally wasn’t seen as a big danger. But there was a twist.

                  On top of annulling the accord, a response to Ukraine’s trade agreement with the European Union, Russia halted onward transit of its neighbor’s goods to markets in central Asia. Even if other routes are eventually found, the trade disruption -- along with a ban on Ukrainian agricultural imports into Russia -- may add up to 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent of 2016 gross domestic product, investment bank Dragon Capital in Kiev predicts.

                  Highlighting the significance of sales including grains, metals and medicines to countries such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, data reported Thursday showed exports to central Asia reached $1.4 billion in the first 11 months of 2015.


                  Russia’s move, which Ukraine says breaches World Trade Organization rules, comes at a delicate moment for the nation’s economy. Having exited a 1 1/2-year slump in the third quarter, a Bloomberg survey of economists in December put the chance of another recession in 2016 at 60 percent. Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, has weakened by almost a third in the past year and may also face renewed stress.

                  “The transit blockade poses meaningful risk to Ukraine’s current account and will compound pressures on the hryvnia in the coming weeks and months,” Dragon said this week in a research note.

                  It will also push inflation “slightly” higher, the Economy Ministry said Thursday. Consumer prices, still feeling the effects of the hryvnia plunge, surged 43.3 percent from a year earlier in December.

                  Trade between Ukraine and Russia was already on the rocks when President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in 2014. That was a response to the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed after refusing to sign EU association and free-trade pacts. Russia had wanted Ukraine to join a rival trading bloc that now includes Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia. Ukraine instead sealed the EU deal, which began Jan. 1.

                  The EU and China have since overtaken Russia in terms of trade with Ukraine. Exports to Russia dipped to 12.7 percent of the total in the first 11 months of 2015 from 18.8 percent a year earlier, official data showed Thursday.


                  Russia’s transit ban has left Ukraine searching for alternative export routes. One option is to send shipments through its northern neighbor, Belarus, though journeys are longer. More ambitiously, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says Ukraine will this week test deliveries to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan via Georgia, another nation to plump for free trade with the EU over the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.

                  Ukraine’s trade partners may also help. In a phone call Tuesday with President Petro Poroshenko, Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev vowed to prevent discrimination in bilateral trade.

                  Even so, the trade war shows no signs of letting up. Yatsenyuk this week ordered officials to expand a list of banned Russian goods.

                  “From Jan. 1, a powerful, large-scale economic aggression has begun, imposing an embargo on a great range of Ukrainian goods,” Poroshenko said Thursday. Hidden Sting Raises Costs for Ukraine in Russian Trade War - Bloomberg Business

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                  • German parliament approves IDs for refugees - Under the new law, refugees in Germany will receive IDs that will contain information, such as fingerprints and country of origin. A centralized system will allow all German government agencies access to the information.
                    DEUTSCHE WELLE 14.01.2016

                    The new law is aimed at providing authorities a way of keeping track of those entering the EU's most populous country after some 1.1 million refugees arrived in 2015.

                    The legislation was previously approved by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet.

                    Beginning in February, refugees registered in Germany would receive one ID card containing all the information required for an asylum request, according to officials.

                    The IDs will include information such as fingerprints, country of origin, contact details, health status and qualifications.

                    The new system is expected to be fully implemented by the summer, allowing all government agencies access to the centralized system.

                    The move comes after criticism of Germany's decentralized system, which allowed some migrants the ability to fake their identity or register multiple times.

                    Europe's duty
                    Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said EU partners needed to provide more money to tackling the mass influx of migrants from war-torn countries to Europe, describing the 28-nation bloc's responsibility as "Europe's number one duty."


                    Funds are necessary "for a reduction of the refugee movement and cooperative support to our neighboring regions," Schäuble told journalists in Brussels ahead of a Friday meeting of EU finance ministers.

                    "We need…more funds for the stabilization of the Middle Eastern region," he added. "Europe has to do more there."

                    Schäuble's statement comes as the Federal Criminal Office BKA confirmed Thursday a sharp increase in violent attacks on refugee shelters in 2015, stating the number was six times that recorded in 2014.

                    German parliament approves IDs for refugees | News | DW.COM | 14.01.2016

                    German parliament approves IDs for refugees | News | DW.COM | 14.01.2016

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                    • 'People really feel the lack of security right now' – a day at a fencing trade fair - The market in ‘perimeter protection’ has boomed, as individuals look to protect their properties and governments attempt to shore up entire borders
                      THE GUARDIAN Kate Connolly Nuremberg 15 Jan 2016

                      Anyone who steps unwanted over the threshold of a property with a Peperosso atomiser installed can expect an immediate burning sensation as chilli paprika is sprayed in their face. The instruction booklet promises “tears and coughing” and “a lot of slime”.

                      “We usually talk about paprika as the most popular ingredient in our national cuisine,” says Erika Madlena, from the Hungarian company Umirs that makes the Peperosso. “But in this case it provides an effective and good value way of safeguarding your home from intruders”.

                      At under €500, the slick white gadget is at the cheaper end of the market at the Perimeter Protection trade fair, which is taking place in Nuremberg this week. Umirs, for instance, also sells a range of perimeter electric fence systems, which cost several thousand dollars per metre.

                      About 100 companies – all leaders in the field of “perimeter protection components”– are in Nuremberg, selling fences, gates, electronic barriers and much more besides.

                      The market has boomed in tandem with Europe’s refugee crisis and wider geopolitical and terror fears, as individuals look to protect their properties and governments attempt to shore up entire borders.

                      “We recently installed a thousand kilometres [621 miles] of our Quadrosense fencing for $5.5m on the border between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Iran,” says Madlena, Umirs’ international relations director. “The government says they are extremely happy with it and would like to order more.”

                      The fences are fitted with detection cables attached horizontally or in a zig-zag, which set off an alarm at a central control station if the fence vibrates. The cables can also be placed under the surface to detect anyone trying to dig beneath the fence. To prevent those trying to go over it, it’s advisable to place the euphemistically named “NATO concertina” – otherwise known as galvanised razor wire – on top.

                      The Hungarian government viewed the Central Asian project with interest. According to Madlena, Victor Orbán’s administration has been testing the Quadrosense fence for the past few months on Hungary’s border with Serbia in its effort to keep out the refugees and migrants who had been arriving in their thousands. It clearly works, as the numbers of entries has fallen dramatically.

                      “Our fences are obviously effective,” Madlena says. “And while it might not be good for European cohesion, it’s what the majority of Hungarians want.”

                      Hungary is not out of step with the rest of the continent. Boundary experts say that Europe is now on the verge of having as many security fences and border walls between countries as it did during the days of the Berlin Wall.

                      Having found its groove, the company would welcome other challenges, such as erecting the wall between the US and Mexico that Donald Trump has pledged if he becomes US president. Trump’s notion has been widely dismissed as unworkable, but Madlena insists that “it’s certainly possible”.

                      First, the company must deal with the requests from large numbers of ordinary Germans who say their shepherd dogs no longer provide adequate protection and want to fortify their gardens with hi-tech fencing.

                      Fears over terrorism and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants in Europe have been a huge boost to Budapest-based Umirs, which last year had an annual turnover of €8m, as well as to the entire fencing technology and building security sector.

                      “We’ve seen a huge growth in demand for fencing systems as the need for security increases for a variety of reasons, and we see a lot of potential for growth,” says Kai-Uwe Grögor, head of the German quality assurance association for metal fence technology, who talks of a rapidly growing multimillion-euro industry in Germany alone.

                      Jorge Saura is the director of Quickfence, a company from Toledo, Spain that he describes as one of the biggest mesh-makers in Europe. “I have seen through our sales how ordinary people have been affected by the fear,” he says. “We make everything from prison fencing to border fences between countries, and while we’re doing a good trade in that, we’re also selling a lot more fencing to home owners these days”.

                      According to Saura, it is a logical development: “People really feel the lack of security right now, as they are right to. What with all these things with the refugees and the bombings in Paris and what happened in Cologne, people have a heightened need to want to protect themselves. Building a fence means you have a chance to decide if someone can come in or not. If there’s a fence, there’s a gate, so you have more control over who comes in and who stays out”.

                      While Saura has manufactured extensive fencing for UK prisons, his experience of providing meshing for borders between countries has been less positive. The company recently looked to put in a bid for the protective fence the Ukrainian government is building along the border with Russia. “But it worked out at a per-metre price of €10. We said forget it,” he says.

                      The company’s first foray into border fencing came in 2005 when it won the contract to build the 6.8-mile (11km) border fence between Spain and Morocco in North Africa. “That would have been more successful but the Spanish interior ministry insisted on a looser mesh because it was a third of the price, which meant it was too easy to climb. The thing is, you get the security you pay for”.

                      The Nuremberg fair promises the best the market has to offer to “prevent unwanted guests from entering”, as Perimeter Protection’s patron, Bavaria’s interior minister Joachim Herrmann, puts it in an introduction to visitors: myriad alarm tones, CCTV devices disguised as lamps and flowerpots, swing gates and sliding gates, turnstiles and bollards, and accessories including razor mesh and ornamental panelling.

                      Some of the manufacturers and the police talk tongue-in-cheek of how the fair is also something of a magnet for would-be criminals looking to quiz companies on the latest in high-security technology and the minutiae of how it works.

                      Andrea Scholz, a Vienna-based risk prevention consultant and one of just a handful of women at the fair, says: “I can’t believe how easy they make it for the criminals. I’ve seen them here with my own eyes, relishing the opportunity of being able to find out the newest obstacles they’ll be looking to overcome.”

                      Nuremberg is in Bavaria, the entry point for the majority of the 1.1 million people who have arrived in Germany over the past year. The state government has aired the idea of erecting a border fence and repeatedly threatened to reintroduce border controls to stem the flow. Consequently, sensitivities over safety are running particularly high and there is much discussion about the vulnerability that many Germans increasingly feel.

                      “I’ve had lots of inquiries from people living near refugee homes who feel the particular urgency of wanting to secure their properties,” says Jürgen Kuch, the importer of a €500 “plug and play early-warning perimeter system” developed in South Africa. Called Roboguard, he boasts of its simplicity and reliability and the fact it “doesn’t need to be fed”.

                      Martin Möhring, a crime prevention officer from Bavaria’s State Office of Criminal Investigation, claims the region has seen a huge increase in domestic break-ins in recent years “because of our open border [and] our proximity to eastern Europe, together with the increasing number of people keeping money under the mattress because interest rates are so low, and the growing gulf between rich and poor. Now, due to the refugees, people’s subjective sense of security has taken a further, considerable knock.”

                      Dictator is an 80-year-old company that producers “door dampers” – the mechanism which allows a door or gate to close slowly and quietly. Matthias Kassak, its marketing director, dismisses claims that the perimeter protection industry is merely cashing in on fear.

                      “Sure, the industry might underline people’s fears, but people also very much bring their fears with them … as we’ve seen, these fears are justified,” he says. “Plus, if they weren’t sufficiently protected, the insurance companies would never pay up.”

                      Scholz, the risk consultant, grew up among scrap metal dealers and has more recently been working for jewellery traders keen to solve a series of international diamond heists. She says her experiences mean she can’t help but see through a lot of what the exhibitors have to offer.

                      “Much of it reminds me of the emperor’s new clothes,” she says, before an address to attendees on the need to take a more instinctive and a less technological approach to security.

                      “Many of the exhibitors are on the level of ‘you show me your fence and I’ll show you one that is even better and safer’, though they’re often unable to explain why theirs is better, instead bombarding non-plussed customers with jargon – like ‘perimeter protection’ – in the hope they’ll buy it because it sounds good and it makes them feel they have less need to be scared.

                      continue read
                      'People really feel the lack of security right now' – a day at a fencing trade fair | World news | The Guardian

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                      • 09:19 15.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                        Open skies agreement between Ukraine and U.S. takes effect

                        The agreement on liberalization of airspace between Ukraine and the United States has taken effect, Deputy Infrastructure Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Omelian wrote on his Facebook page late on Thursday.

                        "The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine has reported that all legal formalities have been completed and the agreement on air transportation between the Ukrainian and U.S. governments has taken effect," he wrote.

                        Omelian added that from date Ukraine and the United States are valid partners in open skies.

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                        • Russia agrees to swap Sentsov, Kolchenko for captured Russian GRU officers
                          15.01.2016 | 11:29 UNIAN

                          Yuriy Grabovskiy, the lawyer of Russian GRU officer Alexander Alexandrov, captured and held in custody in Ukraine, has said that he talked with Ukrainian prisoners swap negotiator Volodymyr Ruban about a possible exchange of his client for Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, Ukrainian activist Oleksandr Kolchenko or Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko, who have been imprisoned in Russia, according to Radio Liberty.

                          Grabovskiy said the issue was not opened yet, but noted he supported the initiative of the exchange.

                          Head of the Ukrainian center for the release of prisoners of war Ruban confirmed this conversation with the lawyers and said that Russia had agreed to exchange Sentsov and Kolchenko for Russian GRU officers Alexandrov and his teammate Yevgeny Yerofeyev.

                          Ruban said that at a recent meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk he had received an offer to exchange Sentsov for Yerofeyev, but the Ukrainian side proposed the "two-for-two swap model:" the two Russian officers for Sentsov and Kolchenko.

                          The Russian side's negotiators agreed to such a model, he added.

                          "The main swap model cannot be applied until the verdict of Alexandrov and Yerofeyev has been announced. Then it will be the exchange as agreed by both sides – they will serve their sentence in their home country. Under some guarantees, the diplomats will exchange them as convicts rather than as hostages or prisoners of war, and each of them will go to his own country, where he will be granted a pardon," Ruban said.

                          However, according to him, there is also a possibility that the two Russian officers could be exchanged for captive Ukrainian pilot, Member of Parliament Nadia Savchenko, who has been on trial in Russia, and this swap can happen at any time if there is the political will on both sides, but it can also happen after a court verdict.

                          As UNIAN reported earlier, Alexandrov and Yerofeyev were detained near the city of Schastia in Luhansk region on May 16, 2015, during a skirmish in which a Ukrainian soldier was killed.

                          During interrogations, they claimed they were serving in the Russian army and were performing a service task in Ukraine. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the two detainees had been dismissed from the army in December 2014.

                          On August 26, 2015, Ukraine's chief military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios announced that a pre-trial investigation into the case of Alexandrov and Yerofeyev was over.
                          Russia agrees to swap Sentsov, Kolchenko for captured Russian GRU officers : UNIAN news

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                          • Ukrainian refugees face deportation from Russia
                            UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan. 15, 2016 VIDEO

                            RFE/RL: New rules imposed last autumn mean an uncertain future for refugees

                            Russia's harsh winter is bleak – and so is the future of these 300 Ukrainian refugees. The Kremlin is forcing them to pack their bags. Last autumn, new rules were imposed – meaning anyone who fled the war from Ukrainian-controlled territory must leave by February 1.

                            Among them is Tetyana. She gave birth here only two months ago. She told a reporter from Radio Free Liberty she was happy when Russia accommodated them – but to end up on the street in winter is not good.

                            When Russian troops began entering eastern Ukraine in April 2014, hundreds of thousands fled to the safety of Russia.

                            But now, these housing centres are weighing down the Russian budget which is already strained by low oil prices and international sanctions. With the center's closure, some of the Ukrainians don't have anywhere suitable to go.

                            This lady says: "They warned us on January 3 that the camp would close and we would have to leave. I don't know where we will go. It's winter. My home is still intact, but it has no windows."

                            Sporadic gunfire echoes across the front line in Ukraine's industrial heartland. It's a far cry from the most intense fighting seen during the summer of 2014. But the potential of an upsurge in fighting scares some refugees.

                            This lady says: "We are waiting for the war to end. We are all preparing to return. I don't know what to do. You know, [at home] it seems to be quiet, there's no shooting. We wait a month and then begin getting ready to return. Then: boom, they're shooting again."

                            The Russian authorities say the most vulnerable will be able to stay - such as pensioners and disabled people.
                            Ukrainian refugees face deportation from Russia - watch on -

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                            • 09:44 15.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                              Poroshenko says visa liberalization for Ukraine with EU must go on

                              Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he will do his utmost to prevent the blocking of visa liberalization for Ukraine with the European Union.

                              "We should not cut down momentum, and I'll be warding off such initiatives – I won't let this process be stalled," Poroshenko said at a press conference in Kyiv on Thursday.

                              In his words a system for electronic income declaration should be launched. "This is in our interests, and the visa-free regime is only a reason for us to accelerate that process," he said.

                              The second issue mentioned by the president concerned the National Agency for Recovery and Management of Stolen Assets. "We cooperate both with Americans and Europeans to return the assets stolen from Ukraine, and that agency should work efficiently. Why haven't we submitted that bill [to parliament] yet? This is because we're jointly with our partners analyzing the efficiency of building that legislative initiative," he added.

                              The president said he hoped that the parliament would be able to support early in February all the initiatives that are Ukraine's commitments to the EU that are related to visa liberalization.

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                              • RADIO FREE EUROPE Rikard Jozwiak January 15, 2016
                                EU Document Reflects Concerns About Pace Of Reforms In

                                BRUSSELS -- Kyiv has touted the promise of a visa-free regime for Ukrainians traveling to the European Union as evidence of its success in carrying out reforms, but behind the scenes several key EU member states are bemoaning the country's slow progress of implementation and lack of engagement both with its citizens and with Brussels.

                                A discussion paper supported by nine EU member states and seen by RFE/RL declares that the government and parliament in Kyiv "urgently need to respond to public demands and reinforce their efforts to adopt and implement effective reforms, in particular in the area of anticorruption."

                                The paper suggests that the establishment of a deputy prime minister for European integration could foster the creation of a "transparent and effective coordination structure for reforms."

                                The document acknowledges that substantial progress has been made as regards the passage of new laws but highlights the many problems still facing the country.

                                "In some areas the actual implementation of reforms lags behind and is hampered by vested interests and lack of capacity," the paper said. "The complex processes of change and perceived lack of tangible results create disappointment and frustration among Ukrainians."

                                The document is backed by EU heavyweights Germany and the United Kingdom; the Netherlands, which is the current EU holder of the rotating EU Presidency; and Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Sweden, countries that are generally supportive of the European Union's Eastern Partnership.

                                The discussion paper emerged as President Petro Poroshenko boasted to journalists on January 14 about Ukraine's implementation of a wide range of reforms in 2015, the success of which was evidenced by the EU's executive backing visa-free travel to Ukrainian citizens. The European Commission backed Ukraine's bid for visa-free access to the European Union in December, citing the country's implementation of reforms as a reason. The commission must now formally recommend granting visa-free status, which will then be subject to approval by EU governments and the European Parliament.

                                Poroshenko on January 14 also vowed to continue the reform process and said that new, corruption-free law-enforcement and judicial structures would be established.

                                The EU document suggested that if the Ukrainian government demonstrates a new push toward carrying out reforms, the "EU should respond to Ukrainian demands for assistance and assist Ukraine in overcoming the current obstacles in the reform process."

                                No concrete monetary figures were mentioned regarding assistance, but the document specified that Brussels should step up its "communication efforts and enhance its visibility in Ukraine" by way of regular visits to Kyiv at the highest political level. It also said that more attention could be paid to Ukraine's regions by sending various EU representatives on joint trips to cities beyond Kyiv.

                                Another suggestion is that the bloc might consider selecting "a few flagship projects in key areas that could demonstrate short-term tangible results, including in the regions, and improve the visibility of the EU."

                                The issues presented in the document will be discussed on January 18 when EU foreign ministers assemble in Brussels for the year’s first EU Foreign Affairs Council. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin is scheduled to be in the EU capital that day and is expected to meet several of his EU counterparts.

                                On January 14, EU diplomats opened discussions on prolonging asset freezes and visa bans against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and 16 of his associates, as well as an additional list of restrictive measures targeting 149 individuals and 37 entities that violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine during Russia's seizure of Crimea. Both lists are up for renewal in March, and it is expected that they will be carried over for one more year.
                                EU Document Reflects Concerns About Pace Of Reforms In Ukraine

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