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  • 09:38 15.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
    Ukraine made considerable progress in removing oligarchs from power

    Ukraine will continue moving towards de-oligarchization by removing the possibility of political influence on the management of state companies and oligarchs' involvement in corruption schemes, the country's president Petro Poroshenko has said.

    "The goal is to separate oligarchs from state money, from power, from politics, so that they turn into ordinary entrepreneurs and work in a competitive environment. In my view, we have come most of the way," the president told a press conference in Kyiv on Thursday.

    Already practices have been improved at Ukrnafta and within the coal mining sector and the country has introduced transparent rules for price-formation and competition-based appointment of managers, said Poroshenko, adding that 2016 will also see the introduction of independent directors.

    A special role in this de-oligarchization process will be played by the new anti-corruption bodies which were formed without political influence, the president said.

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    • 15:05 15.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
      Death toll of Ukrainsk explosion reaches two persons, baby killed under obstructions

      As a result of the explosion in an apartment in Ukrainsk of Donetsk region, a five-year old child was killed under obstructions, a press service of prosecutor's office of Donetsk region reported.

      "As of 1220, a woman born in 1983 and a nine-year old girl with injuries have been brought to the hospital. Another girl born in 2011 also was free from the obstructions, but she died at a hospital due to grave injuries received. Moreover, a five-year child killed under obstructions on a site. Now the rescuers attempt to take his body out of the obstructions," said the report.

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      • The Power Vertical Brian Whitmore Jan 15, 2015
        The Daily Vertical: Austerity, But For Whom?
        The Daily Vertical: Austerity, But For Whom?

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        • Ukraine: The European Union's unsolved problem - Juncker
          UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan 15, 2016 VIDEO

          Ukraine has been sidelined by other EU challenges including the refugee crisis and terrorism

          Ukraine remains an unsolved issue for the EU. Those words were from Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president. During a press conference in Brussels summing up the work of 2015, the EU diplomat said despite at least six meetings with President Petro Poroshenko and three with Vladimir Putin, other difficult situations had to be tackled elsewhere – namely terrorist attacks in Europe, the migrant crisis and problems in Greece.

          Last month, a European Commission report said Ukraine had met all the criteria for visa liberalisation – although had consistently voiced concerns about the pace of reforms against corruption.
          Ukraine: The European Union's unsolved problem - Juncker - watch on -

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          • Pensioners block Sochi streets to protest loss of free access to public transport
            MEDUZA 08:00, 15 January 2016 TASS

            Earlier today, several dozen pensioners in Sochi protested the cancellation of public transport privileges by blocking one of the city's main thoroughfares, according to the news agency TASS.

            Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov met with the protesters to explain the reason for the cancellation and to outline what steps the authorities are taking to support the poor.

            In particular, city authorities are considering the option of an “average-adjusted pension for retirees.”

            The issues of canceling municipal transport privileges and introducing a new form of compensation will be discussed at a Sochi City Council special session on January 21, said the mayor's press office.
            Municipal transport benefits for Sochi pensioners were canceled at the beginning of January 2016, in accordance with a new regional law.
            Transport benefits were granted only to those pensioners who received a monthly pension of 7,728 rubles (nearly $100) or less.

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            • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Alexei Sobchenko January 13, 2016
              The Complex History of the Ukrainian Nation: A Review of "The Gates of Europe"

              During a time of war, history becomes a weapon used to justify claims and raise soldiers' spirits. In this case, successful histories are simple, unequivocal, and confirmed by the experiences of past centuries.

              The current Kremlin version of history of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine fully meets these criteria. According to Moscow, there was once a great nation that was divided by its enemies (Mongols and Poles). Since then, the two related peoples have yearned to be reunited, but evil enemies (Austrians, Poles, and Americans) have used arcane tricks to keep them apart. This version has been recited by many Western scholars, and can be found in some of the most recent books on the topic.

              The dominant Ukrainian narrative is no more complicated: Ukraine is an ancient nation which has always strived for freedom and independence, but evil enemies on all sides have done their best to prevent Ukrainians from creating their own state. The Ukrainian dream was finally achieved only in 1991.

              Many distinguished historians have tried to write the comprehensive history of Ukraine, but each has been a product of his or her zeitgeist, with its biases and limitations. In these circumstances, one must admire the courage of Harvard Professor Serhii Plokhy, who took upon himself the challenge to rethink the history of Ukraine from Herodotus to the present day, embarking upon a long path filled with ideological traps. His major distinction from his predecessors is that he has interpreted the history of Ukraine applying the modern concept of national identity, which is still not widely familiar in post-Soviet republics.

              The history of Ukraine, as we see in Plokhy's magnum opus, The Gates of Europe, is much more winding and fascinating than either Russian and Ukrainian nationalists describe. In particular, Plokhy repeatedly shows how flexible the Ukrainian elites were during various eras, how easily they managed to adjust to the political cultures of the kingdoms and empires to which Ukraine belonged, and how quickly they moved up in the pecking order.

              For example, after the creation of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the sixteenth century, the Ukrainian magnate families of Ostrozsky and Vyshnevetsky were easily integrated into Polish aristocracy. In the Tsardom of Muscovy, "Simeon Polotsky helped to lay the foundations for the emergence of Russian secular literature," writes Plokhy, while the Synopsis written in Kyiv provided Moscow Tsars with reasons to claim Kyivan Rus heritage. As Plokhy notes, "Russian empire builders would fully appreciate the innovation of the Kyivan monks...only in the nineteenth century." And Kyivan theologians influenced religious reforms occurring in Moscow, causing a split in the Muscovite Orthodox Church.

              In the Russian Empire, Ukraine became a source of cadres for the imperial administration. "Between 1754 and 1768 alone, more than three hundred alumni of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy chose imperial service or moved to Russia... There were twice as many Ukrainian as Russian doctors in the empire," Plokhy writes. Alexander Bezborodko, who was Ukrainian, became the Grand Chancellor of Russia and the chief designer of Catherine the Great's foreign policy.

              In the Soviet Union, particularly during the time of Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, there was a conveyer belt of Ukrainian cadres filling senior positions in the Communist Party, the Soviet Army, and the KGB.

              Turbulence, when it happened, was never caused by established elites, but by newcomers from lower social layers who wanted to move up the social ladder. For example, in the seventeenth century Cossack officers wanted to be included in the Polish nobility. It was only when their demands were rejected that the Cossacks started to look for allies against Poland. Bohdan Khmelnytsky, their leader, was willing to accept the suzerainty of the Ottoman Sultan, the King of Sweden, or the Tsar of Moscow, or to enter into an alliance with the Crimean Khan or Moldovan Hospodar, in order to raise the social status of Cossack officers. The headlong decision to enter into a union with Moscow happened to be fateful, and could not be reversed despite a number of attempts.

              The next wave of discontent with ethno-linguistic coloration came from rural Ukrainian-speaking areas. The tension was epitomized by the juxtaposition of two Ukrainian literary geniuses of the nineteenth century. Nikolai Gogol, who belonged to the Ukrainian gentry, opted to write in Russian and became a famous Russian writer, while Taras Shevchenko, a peasant, wrote in Ukrainian and laid the foundations of Ukrainian literature.

              A weak movement for linguistic-cultural autonomy that sought support among the peasants of central Ukraine received an unexpected opportunity in 1917 with the collapse of the Russian Empire. However, Ukrainians were not eager to fight and die for their own state, and the first attempt to declare an independent Ukrainian republic failed.

              Another boost for Ukrainian national identity came unexpectedly from Soviet authorities who not only created a Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic but also launched a program of "Ukrainization" of the newly created polity. Though brutally interrupted by Stalin in 1929, the results of Ukrainization could never be completely dismantled.

              The next opportunity for Ukraine came with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukraine's communist elite was not eager to support Gorbachev's perestroika, and when the August 1991 coup happened, "the Ukrainian Communist leadership, headed by Leonid Kravchuk, refused to implement the emergency measures, but in striking contrast to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow, did nothing to challenge the coup." However, after the failure of the anti-Gorbachev conspiracy, Ukrainian Communists embraced this new opportunity and declared Ukraine's independence.

              It took another twenty-two years to de-Sovietize the new nation, and the process isn't yet complete. Two civil uprisings, the toppling of the pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych, the deaths of dozens of pro-democracy activists, Russia's annexation of Crimea, and a war with Russia which has claimed at least nine thousand lives led to the birth of the Ukrainian civic nation, where ethnic Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Tatars, and others consider themselves Ukrainian citizens, regardless of their linguistic and religious affiliation.

              Plokhy's book was written to help Western readers sort out a plethora of controversial information about Ukrainian history, which emerged at the beginning of the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Hopefully, it will also help Russian and Ukrainian readers understand and accept the complex history of their relationship.
              The Complex History of the Ukrainian Nation: A Review of "The Gates of Europe"

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              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • Turkey 'acting illegally' over Syria refugees deportations
                BBC Mark Lowen Turkey 15 Jan 2015

                Stray dogs prowled around the entrance. The fence was topped with barbed wire. It was an icy cold morning.

                "We're here to visit one of your inmates," we said. The guards took our names - but not our professions. Journalists are not allowed inside detention centres, so we went undercover.

                Soon, Ahmad appeared at the gate. "Nice to see you again," he said. "You've lost weight."

                We first met Ahmad in September on the Turkey-Greece border in the town of Edirne.

                He was among 2,000 Syrians who had camped out at the local stadium there, trying to travel legally across the land border into Greece, rather than risking their lives in overcrowded rubber boats.

                After a few days, they were cleared away by police. But not all obeyed. About 120 vowed to stay put.
                'I would rather die'

                Deemed "troublesome", they were rounded up by police and taken off by bus. We followed as they arrived at the local detention camp.

                The policemen refused to tell us their final destination. Through the railings, dozens of inmates already there shouted from their windows, one gesturing that his arm had been broken.

                Suddenly we lost the mobile phone contact that we had kept with a handful of them.

                In early December, Ahmad got in touch. He was in a new detention camp, he said, in Tekirdag - a two-hour drive from Istanbul.

                "And what of the others?" I asked.

                "They were sent back to Syria," he replied.

                Under the "non-refoulement" principle of international humanitarian law, a state is prohibited from deporting individuals to a war zone.

                We decided to visit Ahmad in Tekirdag to hear more of the allegations that Turkey is acting illegally.

                "I was beaten badly in Edirne," he said. "They hit me."

                He passed us a photograph, which shows heavy bruising on his leg. It was caused, he said, by mistreatment at the hands of the guards.

                After Edirne, he was taken to three other camps - in Aydin, Erzurum and now Tekirdag - with no prospect of a trial.

                "I'm sitting here without charges - and I don't know how long I'll be here," he continued.

                "Did the others want to go back to Syria?" I asked.

                "No. I'm absolutely sure that most of them were running from Syria."

                What would he do if they tried to send him back?

                "I would rather die".
                'Forced us to sign papers'

                Two other members of the group arrested in Edirne also made contact.

                One, from the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Raqqa, messaged with the words: "We are out of prison today. They sent us to Syria.

                "Bye my friend. Don't write to me until I do please," he wrote, clearly fearful of retribution by IS.

                We tracked down the other to southern Turkey, where he said he had returned after being deported to Syria in late November. He showed us the Turkey exit stamp on his passport.

                "They drove us to the border and forced us to sign a piece of paper on which was written 'I want to go back to Syria'," he told me.

                "They were shouting at us and said they would send us back to Erzurum (detention centre) if we didn't sign.

                "I didn't want to go back to Syria. Some of my friends have now been put in prison there, and many people were afraid of returning to a war zone."
                'Absolutely illegal'

                More than two million Syrians are now in Turkey - it is the largest host of refugees in the world.

                Many are settled here, glad of sanctuary. But others are using it as a transit to Europe.

                Of the more than one million migrants and refugees who travelled to the European Union in 2015, most have come through Turkey.

                The Turkish government has now signed a deal with the EU to receive about €3bn (£2.2bn; $3.3bn) to stem the flow.

                But that is contingent on improving conditions for refugees so more feel they can stay here, not deporting them back to a war zone.

                Amnesty International says its research has found that scores - possibly hundreds - of refugees and asylum-seekers have been sent back to Syria and Iraq.

                "This is absolutely illegal, both under Turkish and international law, because you cannot forcibly return someone to a place where their lives and rights are in danger," said Andrew Gardner, the head of Amnesty in Turkey.

                "The EU needs to wake up to the fact that on its own borders, international law is being broken on a regular basis.

                "And the EU needs to wake up to the fact that its gatekeeper in Turkey is violating the rights of refugees in detaining them secretly and arbitrarily - and returning them to Syria."
                Grave charges

                We asked the Turkish government for an interview. They declined, but issued this statement:

                "We categorically deny that any Syrian refugees have been deported from Turkey to Syria... The UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) interviews all returnees at the border to make sure they're going to Syria voluntarily."

                When we replied, telling them our interviewees spoke of being forced to sign voluntary return papers, they replied: "To ensure public safety, individuals with criminal ties may be asked to reside at a refugee camp.

                "If certain individuals would rather return to Syria… the government can't forcibly keep them in Turkey".

                But Ahmad is being forcibly held in Turkey, and we have seen no evidence that the group arrested in Edirne had "criminal ties".

                Being bussed between detention centres is rather different from being "asked to reside at a refugee camp".

                Covert detention, deportation to a war zone: the charges are grave.

                A country that has warmly and proudly welcomed so many Syrians now stands accused of illegal acts.
                Turkey 'acting illegally' over Syria refugees deportations - BBC News

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                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Brent falls below $29 per barrel, first time since 2004
                  15.01.2016 | 20:38 UNIAN

                  The price of the futures contract for Brent crude oil March delivery declined by 7.18% to $28.81 per barrel on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in the course of the trading on Friday, according to TASS.

                  The price of WTI oil is trading at $29.2 per barrel, TASS reported.

                  At the same time, the dollar on the Moscow Exchange grew by 2.3% to RUB 77.8, the euro rose by 3.2% to RUB 85.3.

                  The Russian federal budget for 2016 is based oil prices of $50 per barrel. The Finance Ministry proposed to adjust the budget at the rate of $40 per barrel. Ministries and departments need to present their proposals on a 10% reduction of their spending to the Finance Ministry before mid-January. The adjusted budjet will be presented at the end of Q1 2016.

                  Earlier on Friday, the price of the futures contract for Brent crude oil February delivery declined by 3% to $29.8 per barrel on the London Stock Exchange (ICE).
                  Brent falls below $29 per barrel, first time since 2004 : UNIAN news

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                  • Terrorist attack prevented in Mariupol
                    15.01.2016 | 20:15 UNIAN

                    The Security Service of Ukraine has prevented a terrorist attack by a militant subversive group in one of the local government buildings in the strategic port city of Mariupol, having revealed a cache with a Shmel flame-thrower and a city map, according to the SBU press service.

                    "During the raid, law security officers have found a cache in the basement of an abandoned house in the village Kyrylivka in Volnovakha district, seizing a Shmel jet infantry flame-thrower, as well as the maps of Mariupol. A local government building of one of the city districts was marked on the map," reads the statement.

                    It is noted that weapons and maps were intended to be used by a sabotage group from the so-called "DPR," which was plotting a terrorist attack in a marked building of a state institution.

                    Investigation continues in the framework of a launched criminal case, to identify persons involved in plotting the crime.
                    Terrorist attack prevented in Mariupol : UNIAN news

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                    • "We have lost": Sberbank of Russia's CEO calls Russia "downshifter state"
                      15.01.2016 | 19:10 UNIAN

                      Era of hydrocarbons is over, and Russia has found itself among the losers, "the downshifter states,” said German Gref, Head of Sberbank of Russia speaking at the Gaidar Forum. He called to change all state systems, including the system of education.

                      Gref spoke of the crisis in the oil market, which, as he believes, was caused by the "radical shifts in consumption." "The era of hydrocarbons is over. Just like the Stone Age was over not because there were no stones left, the Oil Age is now over as well," Gref said.

                      "The future has come sooner than we expected. We are already living in this future today,” the head of Sberbank said, adding in English: “Welcome to the future!”

                      As RBC reported, Gref believes that the future price of oil does not really matter: "We will really lag behind if we don’t change the concept of our popular approach."

                      "We lost the competition, ending up among of countries that are losing, "the downshifter states." The winners are the states and individuals, who were able to adapt and invest in it in due time. Those who weren’t, are going to lose big time," he said. According to Gref, Russia is facing "a huge income gap" with "the winner states.”

                      In order to adapt to new conditions, Russia must "change all the national systems, particularly education - from kindergartens to universities," Gref believes. The CEO of Sberbank of Russia said in the world of new technology, "big problems" arise from "the people at the medium level," those who fail to engage in in either qualified or low-skilled labor.

                      In an early January’s interview with The Financial Times Gref called the falling oil prices, Western sanctions and lack of structural reforms the main problems of the Russian economy.

                      In April 2015 Gref said that the primary reform Russia needs is that of an "absolutely inefficient system of governance." "Russia is not ready to any reform ... As soon as we carry out this reform, then we can implement all the rest," said Gref. "We have lost": Sberbank of Russia's CEO calls Russia "downshifter state" : UNIAN news

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                      • Bypassing Russia: Yatsenyuk shows map of New Silk Road to Asia
                        15.01.2016 | 19:44 UNIAN

                        Russian transit ban and trade embargo will not prevent Ukrainian freight transportation to Central Asia, that’s according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who revealed in his Facebook posting a map of a new cargo route to Asia bypassing the Russian Federation.


                        Launching a new freight train on the new Silk Road - from the Ukraine through Georgia and Azerbaijan to Central Asia would allow Ukrainian exporters to bypass transit and trade embargo imposed by Moscow early January 2016.

                        "Today, the first experimental shipping on a route Ukraine - Georgia - Azerbaijan - Kazakhstan – China is launched. This will be a new route of the Silk Road and the alternative way of delivery of cargo from from Ukraine to these markets bypassing Russia,” said the head of government. “Thanks to the government's decision on launching this train, the Ukrainian and European products will get to the Central Asian states despite restrictions under the Moscow sanctions. Russian transit and trade embargo will not prevent transportation of our goods to the markets of Central Asia."
                        Bypassing Russia: Yatsenyuk shows map of New Silk Road to Asia : UNIAN news

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                        • Kremlin-backed fighter turns in his guns
                          UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan. 15, 2016

                          Ukraine's security agency touts 'Waiting for You at Home' defection program

                          The press service of Ukraine's State Security Service (the SBU) says a militant from an illegal armed formation in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) abandoned his accomplices and defected to Ukraine,

                          The man joined the LNR ranks in spring, 2014. He was responsible for patrolling checkpoints and streets in the town of Lisichansk, in the Luhansk region. The militant said he was frustrated at the New Russia (Novorossiya) ideas which turned out to be merely false promises.

                          He eventually learned about the SBU special program 'Waiting for You at Home' and decided to turn to Ukraine's authorities, as he neither participated in hostilities nor committed murder.

                          The militant says: "I, like many others, was disappointed at the Novorossiya idea. I came to realize it made no sense and I should go home to join my family. I started looking for an opportunity to return home, until it got too late, until I killed somebody or got killed," said the former pro-Russian militant.

                          The SBU says an increasing number of militants are defecting under the "Waiting for You at Home" program.

                          Kremlin-backed fighter turns in his guns - read on -

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                          • life changes to lifecell as part of rebranding
                            15.01.2016 | 17:45 UNIAN

                            Ukrainian mobile operator Astelit announced rebranding and changed its life brand to lifecell, consonant with its owner's brandname Turkcell, the company's press service reported.

                            According to the statement, such rebranding aims to bring Astelit closer to the company's shareholder, while highlighting the connection between them.

                            In addition, as part of the rebranding, the corporate colors of the parent company will be used – blue and yellow, according to the report.

                            It is also noted that the company plans to focus on the corporate market, saying its target audience has expended to include a category of users with considerable customer experience, knowledge of modern technologies and expectations of high quality service.

                            Astelit said it would continue positioning itself as a multifunctional and universal operator for all subscribers, connecting a broader category of Ukrainian customers.

                            UNIAN memo. Entering the Ukrainian market in 2005, Astelit has created a mobile communications network under life brand, which covers the territory populated with over 98% of Ukrainian citizens.

                            In May 2015, Astelit launched its commercial 3G+ network in Ukraine supporting the maximum data speed of up to 63.3 Mbps.

                            The number of subscribers reaches over 13 million people.

                            Astelit's sole shareholder is Turkish mobile phone operator Turkcell.
                            life changes to lifecell as part of rebranding : UNIAN news

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                            • Canadian meat gains expanded access to Ukrainian market
                              15.01.2016 | 16:32 UNIAN

                              Canadian pork and beef have gained expanded access to the Ukrainian market, as Ukraine opens its doors to imports from more Canadian beef and pork producers, according to a press release by Canada's Agriculture and Agri-Food Department.

                              Following a successful inspection last September by Ukrainian authorities, 15 additional Canadian beef and pork establishments are now eligible to export to the country, bringing the current total to 27, the press release said.

                              Access to the Ukrainian market for Canadian beef and pork is estimated to be worth up to $50 million annually.

                              Ukraine's global imports in 2014 were $17.1 million for beef products and $193.6 million for pork products.

                              According to the press release, Canada is committed to strengthening commercial ties with Ukraine and securing improved market access for Canadian exporters.

                              Last July, Canada and Ukraine successfully concluded negotiations toward the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA). The two countries are currently undertaking the legal review of the negotiated text, and once it is signed, both parties can undertake their respective domestic implementation processes, the report said.

                              Once fully implemented, the Agreement will result in the elimination of all non-agricultural tariffs and the vast majority of Ukraine's agricultural tariffs, including on Canadian beef, certain pork, pulses, grains, fish and seafood, canola oil, processed foods, and animal feed.

                              Total bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Ukraine is expected to expand by 19% as a result of the implementation of the CUFTA.

                              During the talks on a free trade agreement between Ukraine and Canada, the former managed to negotiate an asymmetric liberalization of markets to protect its domestic producers in sensitive areas. Upon entry into force of the Agreement, Canada should immediately eliminate tariffs on 99.9% of current imports from Ukraine. This includes elimination by Canada of tariffs on all industrial products, fish and seafood, and 99.9% of agricultural imports from Ukraine. At the same time, Ukraine should immediately eliminate tariffs on 86% of Canada's current exports, with the balance to be phased out or subject to tariff reductions over periods of up to seven years.
                              Canadian meat gains expanded access to Ukrainian market : UNIAN news

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                              • Recording Ukraine’s revolution — interview with the director of Oscar-nominated film
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Maria Shchur, Yevhenia Oliynyk

                                Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of the Oscar-nominated film Winter on Fire, speaks of his experience making the documentary film on the Maidan revolution in Ukraine.
                                On January 14 in California the American Film Academy selected the films that will compete for this year’s Oscar. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, a film about the massive protests that took place on Maidan (central square) in Kyiv during the winter of 2013-14 was one of the five films selected in the documentary films category. The winner will be announced at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on February 28 in Los Angeles. Winter on Fire is a chronicle of events that took place during the 2013-14 winter with comments by participants. It includes footage from 28 Ukrainian cinematographers, including public TV channels Spilnobachennia, Ukrstream TV, Channel 5, Radio Liberty, Espreso TV, Channel 24, as well as amateur footage of Maidan volunteers. The production of the film was supported by the American company Netflix. On the eve of the film premiere in Kyiv (November 21, 2015), director Eugene Afineevsky gave two interviews to Radio Svoboda where he explained his objectives and experiences in producing the film.

                                – From the very beginning I did not try to make a political film because this film is about people, about their fate. I tried to stay away from politics. I myself don’t like politics. There are no politicians in the film. There are people in the film. The film describes what forced people to come out on the square and to stand there. They continued to stand there despite the cold weather, under police batons, under bullets. This is why the film is about people’s fate, the fate of people who were there.

                                You say you don’t like politicians, but they like you. President Petro Poroshenko gave you Ukraine’s state award and he stated that your film absolutely must be seen as the best film of last year. How do you feel about that?

                                – There is a difference between politicians in the film and the reaction of politicians to the film. There are no politicians in the film because this film is not about them. The fact that President Poroshenko saw this film as an individual, as president, even as father of children — because his children are the same age as the students in the film — is not surprising, and that the film touched him on a personal level. This does not apply to him as a politician.

                                President Poroshenko recommended two works: your film and the book Airport by journalist Sergei Loiko, who is also of Russian origin. Do you feel that you are contributing to the creation of some new mythology?

                                – I don’t think I’m creating some kind of mythology. I think that it was important for (Poroshenko) to emphasize that these are two independent views. The fact that we are not Ukrainians stresses that this is an outside view. It is the perspective of a person who is not taking a particular side. I did not side with the Ukrainians. I’m an American who was born in Russia. I’m a person from the outside, which proves this is neutral. The same is true for Loiko. It was important that he was an independent party.

                                In your presentation you said that Maidan, where the first victims were an Armenian, Serhiy Nigoyan, and a Belarusian, Mikhail Zhyznevsky, demonstrated that people who are not of Ukrainian origin can be patriots of Ukraine. Do you feel a patriot of Ukraine to any extent?

                                – I don’t think I’m a patriot of Ukraine. I’m not a patriot of Russia and I don’t think I’m a patriot of Israel. I’m a person who is engaged in films, who lives in America. I’m an American. I don’t think I have feelings of patriotism to any of these countries. Well, perhaps to America because I have lived there for a long time and my life is connected to it. My obligation is to the viewer no matter where he lives. I serve the global audience. I serve the country that is called “cinema.” It is universal; it has no borders.

                                Where did the idea of making this film come from?

                                – The proposal to film Maidan came from producer Den Tolmor with whom I had worked before. He introduced me to the Spilnobachennia team, which then joined us in making the film. Den got me to come here (Ukraine) from Los Angeles. At first I was there incognito because I am a former Russian and an American. During the first days this was something of a festival. Nobody knew what would happen next. I observed and then, after November 30, we already understood that history was being made here. We began to expand our team with volunteers who were filming on Maidan — Spilnobachennia, Ukrstream TV, and other operators, Radio Liberty in particular.

                                Everyone wanted to bring this story to the West. So that people could see and understand that people here are fighting for their independence. After the beating of the students, the issue was no longer about integration with Europe but about the accumulated pain. Different segments of society rebelled against the state apparatus and corruption.

                                Therefore, this project is also dedicated to the unity of the real documentarians — professionals and amateurs. They are the real heroes who helped create this film. At that time nobody thought that bullets were flying, that the Berkut (police forces) were raging. All wanted to tell this story. This film is a grand memorial made with the hands an eyes of all those who were on Maidan.

                                How did you experience this story after its completion?

                                – I remember in the morning after everything was over and it had to be completed I had a real emotional cataclysm. It was as if you were in a completely different, warlike situation, and you had lost someone. Things were also very difficult during the three months of editing abroad. I still weep when I watch this film. I ache for all these who stood on Maidan, for all those nights when Berkut poured cold water on the protesters. I have asthma from that period and some of my friends who sang professionally have lost their voices.

                                But I persevered. I promised people that the film would be released. The international premiere was held in Venice and the response was amazing. Then it was Toronto, where we received the People’s Choice Award. And now the film is being shown in more than 50 countries where Netflix operates. I was born in Russia, grew up in Israel, and have been living in the U.S. for more than 15 years. For me it was very important to see this big Maidan family. I have never seen anything like it.

                                I have never seen, for example, where religion was with the individual. A classic example: In Russia religion is an instrument of control. In Ukraine, Jews and Muslims were united. I grew up in the Middle East and there is no such thing there. Serhiy Nigoyan was not born in Ukraine but he was a patriot of this country. The world needs this film in order to understand that patriotism is not dependent on the place of birth. For example, this Syrian migration. The migrants are also members of society.

                                What audience were you targeting when you filmed this movie?

                                – I was targeting the Western world because that is where I live and also because events in Ukraine were not really being covered in the media. I think this film is about people behind the headlines. I’m frequently asked why I didn’t interview the Berkut or the politicians. But why would I want to do that? After all, the politicians did not go out on the square. I tried to aim my camera in the direction of the security forces, but they were silent. And the politicians were promoting themselves.

                                What didn’t make it into the film?

                                – Some materials were removed by the Security Service of Ukraine to investigate the snipers. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get them back. I hope this will help bring about the punishment of those responsible.

                                Is Russian propaganda present in the U.S.? And taking that into account, how understandable is the film for Americans?

                                – Russian propaganda is everywhere where there is Russian television. My objectivity is ensured by the fact that I came here (to Ukraine), I experienced everything, and I have my own views on events. The propaganda factor exists and will exist. Right now I’m reading some things about how I was paid, that Klitschko paid me because there is some footage with him in the film. I was not trying to counter Russian propaganda. For me it was important to remain true to the moment I was living. My hair turned gray here. I had to reexamine my values.

                                Will this film be seen in Russia?

                                – Pirated copies have been distributed very quickly. Netflix is fighting this, but it appears we are not lagging behind the Hollywood blockbusters. I have already read several ugly things that have been written about the film in Russia. It will be seen. It’s the same as with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ — the greater the restriction, the greater the interest.

                                Evgeny Afineevsky, 43, was born in Russia. He is an Israeli producer, film director, actor, screenwriter and the president of New Generation Films in Hollywood, California. Netflix is an American multinational provider of on-demand online streaming media for more than 60 million clients. Recording Ukraine's revolution - interview with the director of Oscar-nominated film -Euromaidan Press |
                                Source: Radio Svoboda

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