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  • Russian repentance has to come before any ‘brotherhood,’ Portnikov says
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/16

    In recent days, Moscow has renewed its effort to promote the idea of “Russian-Ukrainian brotherhood” and the notion that the two form a single nation, an effort that has three goals, none of which have anything to do with promoting the genuine restoration of ties between the two peoples.

    Instead, this new push is intended to prevent Russians from concluding that their own travails are the result of the Kremlin’s policy in Ukraine, to win points with the West by putting out what to many will seem an anodyne view and then having Ukrainians reject it, and to lay the foundation for expanded Russian pressure on Ukraine to address Russian concerns.

    Ukrainians overwhelmingly have seen through Moscow’s intentions and rejected this latest “friendship” offensive, something that has prompted those Russians who have participated in it to express their regrets and even anger about the Ukrainians’ failure to accept their outstretched hands.

    In a commentary on the Grani portal today, RFE/RL commentator Vitaly Portnikov provides a compelling explanation of why that is so and describes precisely what Russians would have to do if they were ever to have any hope that their offer of friendship with Ukrainians would be credible in the future.

    Portnikov says he could deliver a long lecture on history and point out that Russians should not accept the notion that “three centuries of occupation will make the occupiers one people with the occupied. And even centuries of relative equal existence,” he adds, “will not do so either.”

    “The English and the Scots are not one people, true?” he asks rhetorically. And the Castilians and the Catalonians are not either. And even the [ethnic] Russians and the Tatars [the second largest ethnicity in Russian Federation — Ed.]” – and he asked “forgiveness” for his “political incorrectness” – are not one people although you still live together in one state.”

    But arguing about history is never all that useful, Portnikov says, and so he will explain why Ukrainians now view Russians as they do by making reference to his own experience as a member of a family who lost many of its older generation in the Holocaust and might be expected to hate Germans but does not.

    When he became an adult, Portnikov says, he realized that “German Jews hardly felt themselves alien among the Germans and many of them, indeed, almost all, viewed themselves as Germans of the Jewish faith. And I assure you that these people were less prepared to the wholesale destruction of their compatriots than Ukrainians were to Russia’s attack on them.”

    The commentator says that he did not come to terms with the Germans because of any collective repentance by them. In general, he says, he doesn’t believe in such collective repentance and especially repentance by those who have been defeated. Instead, he came to terms with the Germans because of “one single man, Willy Brandt.”

    When Brandt came to the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, he got down on his knees before these victims of the Nazis; and the picture of him doing so, Portnikov says, has reconciled him with the Germans.

    “Brandt did not have any relation to the crimes of Hitlerism. None at all. He left Germany immediately after Hitler came to power. He struggled against Nazism all the years of its existence. He became a Norwegian citizen and returned to his motherland in a Norwegian military uniform,” Portnikov continues.

    Consequently, “he could calmly and even dispassionately look on a memorial to people with whose murder he had no relation. More than that, he did everything he could that that would not occur … But [Brandt] felt a responsibility because the more your non-involvement, the more your responsibility before the victims of the regime which exists in your own country.”

    “It isn’t important whether there is one people or two; it isn’t important what Ukrainians say or write to you – you can’t even imagine what Jews could have written to the federal chancellor of Germany in 1970,” Portnikov say. What is important is that you have the desire to “fall on your knees at the grave of every Ukrainian” who has died in this conflict.

    Only a desire is necessary. “Nothing else.” Ukrainians don’t need anything else from the Russians, and “this is the only thing which can perhaps something decades from now reconcile us, your repentance and your understanding of our pain.”

    It is possible that Russians can’t understand this and still view the war as something alien to them, especially if they personally opposed it. But they must ultimately recognize that for Ukrainians, this is their war, and they know who caused it and inflicted the pain they feel so intensely now.

    Those Russians who have supported Ukraine at this difficult time do themselves honor “whatever [they] think about one or two peoples. But please grow up. Learn at long last to take responsibility for your own state, for its crimes and its mistakes. And understand that the level of your responsibility is 100 percent greater than that of the criminals and fools” who do not understand.

    And there is an additional reason, Portnikov says. “On this understanding depends not our future but your own.”
    Russian repentance has to come before any ‘brotherhood,’ Portnikov says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |
    Portnikov article Grani - Russian language
    Грани.Ру: Не боги и не герои | Колонки / Портников

    Last edited by Hannia; 16th January 2016, 23:09.

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    • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Luke A. Drabyn January 12, 2016
      Ukraine Should Do More to Combat Human Trafficking

      Ukraine remains one of Europe's most notorious sources of human trafficking. Since 1991, over 160,000 men, women, and children have been exploited for labor, sex, forced begging, and organ removal, according to a mid-2015 report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

      Ukraine's Ministry of Social Policy, with recommendations from domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, is currently in the final stages of updating the country's five-year action plan on combating human trafficking.

      However, recent challenges—like Russia's continued aggression in eastern Ukraine and the country's 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs)—have diverted the government's attention and resources from meaningful anti-trafficking collaboration. The result has been an extreme over-reliance on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to raise awareness, assist victims of trafficking, and promote legislative reform to comply with international standards.

      "Since the security situation started in the east of Ukraine, other things were blocked. All money went to subsidies, to the military, to IDPs," says Olga Streltsova, the IOM's advisor to the Ministry of Social Policy, the main body in charge of Ukraine's anti-trafficking program.

      The predicted budget for this next action plan has been slashed by 30 percent relative to the previous plan, which covered 2013–2015. Outside contributors, such as human rights organizations and foreign governments, will continue to supply the vast majority of funds to the program. These donors will contribute the equivalent of $1.47 million through 2020, or over 92 percent of the entire bill. The other 8 percent will be divided almost equally between local governments and the central government. Funding from the latter will not kick in until 2017.

      The money issue "is a big problem for our government," says Tetyana Taturevych, social programs manager for the NGO La Strada-Ukraine. "When we start talking about trafficking, they start to think, 'Oh, that's not a big problem for our society. We don't have money, we have a war.'"

      While the government of Ukraine has consistently pledged reform to meet international obligations—for example, as a signatory of the UN's Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children—it has failed to adequately support anti-trafficking organizations that do the bulk of the work.

      "Our government so far has not given civil society a defined role in the national referral mechanism," says Hanna Antonova, a counter-trafficking coordinator at the IOM. The referral mechanism is the process by which law enforcement refers alleged victims of trafficking to anti-trafficking organizations to receive psychological, legal, and social support.

      For the past four years, the number of trafficking victims referred to the IOM for assistance by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies has decreased by roughly half annually. In 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 there were 232, 105, 52, and 27 victims referred, respectively. These numbers are dramatically different from those of the IOM; the average number of victims identified annually by the IOM has remained close to one thousand.

      Moreover, President Petro Poroshenko's effort to push through legislation that would decentralize authority and empower Ukraine's regions threatens to reverse progress in efforts to combat trafficking. If passed, NGOs may have to collaborate with officials from over twenty different oblasts. Each regional administration would decide how to prioritize anti-trafficking prevention efforts and assistance to victims, if at all, throwing nationwide coordination efforts into disarray.

      "We don't know what decentralization will look like," says Antonova. "If the local administration does not believe that trafficking is a problem for this specific region, then they are not going to allocate any funding, or they will allocate so little funding that it is not going to make any difference."

      International bodies such as the US Department of State and the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) have also criticized Ukraine's government for not devoting enough attention to the issue.

      For instance, for the third straight year, Ukraine has been placed on the State Department's Tier 2 Watch List, avoiding an otherwise mandatory downgrade to Tier 3 (the worst rank) simply because it has a written anti-trafficking action plan. The State Department notes with concern the decreasing number of prosecutions of traffickers, as well as "poor coordination at the national level" between the fifteen ministries responsible for anti-trafficking work.

      GRETA's first-ever report on Ukraine's anti-trafficking program, published in September 2014, also acknowledged poor coordination among government ministries. The executive interdepartmental council on human trafficking, headed by ministers, deputy ministers, and representatives from civil society, has not convened for five years.

      Despite the government's shortcomings, some positive steps have been taken. The Ministry of Social Policy plans to re-adjourn the interdepartmental council in early 2016, and has sent letters to NGOs in the anti-trafficking coalition requesting that they nominate representatives to the council. And throughout the past few years, the ministry has implemented campaigns to raise awareness about human trafficking through television and radio broadcasting, and the publishing and distribution of books and pamphlets.

      Yet more needs to be done, especially since the war in the east has created a large population of individuals prone to exploitation.

      "We have a proverb," warns La Strada-Ukraine's Taturevych. Translated from Russian, it states: "Sink or swim; if you are drowning, you are on your own." Currently, only NGOs—and not the Ukrainian government—are struggling to keep those vulnerable to trafficking afloat.

      Officials from Ukraine's Ministry of Social Policy did not respond to interview requests.
      Ukraine Should Do More to Combat Human Trafficking

      Luke A. Drabyn is a Fulbright Scholar working with human rights organizations in Kyiv.

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      • Week’s balance: New Silk Road, electric shock to Crimea, and price of petrol
        16.01.2016 | 20:07 UNIAN Dmitry Sydorenko

        Ukraine has opened a New Silk Road bypassing Russia and refused to supply electricity to Crimea on the terms of the occupier, while the controversy is raging within Ukraine over petrol prices amid rapidly falling global oil prices - these are the main economic news of the past week.

        Ukraine has opened a New Silk Road bypassing Russia: the pilot train was launched last week from the port of Ilichyvsk on route Ukraine-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan-China. It is assumed that this will be the path the Ukrainian goods will be exported to Asia.

        "It’s cool in Il Ilichyvsk, but the mood is excellent. The Silk Road is an alternative path of delivery of our goods, bypassing Russia," tweeted the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Aivaras Abromavicius, who attended the opening ceremony.

        Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has also written on his Facebook page that the route will be the new direction of the delivery of goods from Ukraine to the Asian markets, bypassing Russian territory. “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," said Yatsenyuk.

        According to him, an alternative route will significantly reduce the cost of cargo transportation. The route was developed in early January 2016, when it became clear that Russia’s ban on the transit of Ukrainian products which followed introduction of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU is going to last. On January 14, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Azerbaijan signed a protocol providing fore preferential tariffs for cargo transportation on the Trans-Caspian international route, which passes through China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and further - to Europe.

        An eye for an eye
        The Ukrainian authorities did not limit themselves to finding detours around Russia. On January 10, Ukraine imposed an embargo on the import of 30 commodity items from Russia in response to similar actions of the Russian side. The ban covers food products, vodka, tobacco and chemical products, as well as railway equipment. In addition, Ukraine imposed import duties on Russian imports at rates varying in the range of 1.5-19% with a transition period of three-five years. But this was not enough for the Prime Minister.

        At the Wednesday’s meeting of the Cabinet, Yatsenyuk has instructed the Ukrainian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade to “revise and expand” the list of Russian goods that will fall under Ukraine's response measures.”

        However, the experts advise Ukraine to adhere to the strategy of prior consultations with the European Union on the issue of Russia’s trade sanctions. The Ukrainian government should not hesitate to lodge claims with the WTO in against the aggressive neighbor.

        Unneeded electricity and gas
        Last week, it became clear: there will be no supplies of Ukrainian electricity to the occupied Crimea. The issue has been self-resolved. Russia has offered to extend the contract for electric power supply to Crimea, but Ukraine has put forward a condition – the annexed peninsula should be called “Ukrainian territory” in the text of such deal. Quite expectedly, the Kremlin refused to sign the extended contract on such terms. Accordingly, Ukraine has officially and completely cut off power supplies.

        The Russian propaganda is desperately spreading the idea that Crimean residents have no fear over further blackout, waiting for salvation through the “energy bridge” form mainland Russia via the Kerch Strait.

        Meanwhile, Russia has threatened to ban any exports of electricity to Ukraine. "We now have sufficient spare capacities. And it’s not them who refused [to export electricity], it’s us who did not ask them," said the Energy Minister, Volodymyr Demchyshyn.

        By the way, according to the Energy Ministry, the energy consumption in 2015 decreased by 12% compared to 2014.

        Besides electricity, Ukraine also refuses to buy Russian gas. "We do not buy gas from Russia, because we buy gas in the European Union at the price lower than that offered by Russia," said the prime minister.

        By the way, Naftogaz resumed on January 12 and then increased its imports of hydrocarbons from Europe thanks to the loan of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The Ukrainian energy giant has contracted until March 2016 1.7 bcm of gas in December and January tenders from five European companies. The cost of the EU gas ranges between $188 and $211 per 1,000 cubic meters, which is less than the price offered by Russia.

        As of mid-January, there was 13 bcm of natural gas accumulated in the Ukrainian gas storage facilities, which is 2.3 bcm more than it was at the same period last year.

        Russian business in Ukraine
        Despite Russia’s military and economic aggression, its businesses continue acquisition of assets in Ukraine. A major deal was sealed last week in the banking market – a Luxembourg-based ABH Holdings SA (ABHH), owned by the Russian Alfa Group headed by Mikhail Fridman, has agreed on acquisition of UniCredit Bank, owned by Italian banking group sharing the same name.

        UniCredit Bank was set up through a merger of two subsidiary banks of UniCredit Group in Ukraine – UniCredit Bank and Ukrsotsbank (the latter was acquired by the Italians from Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk in 2007). Alfa Group already owns Ukraine’s Alfa Bank, which is among the country’s major banks. In case the two banks merge, the new financial institution will become one of Ukraine’s largest in terms of assets among private banks.

        The growth is slight but obligatory
        The World Bank has once again forecast in its fresh report on the world economic outlook Ukraine’s economic growth in 2016 at 1%. This is lower than the estimates of the Ukrainian government and the expert survey used by UNIAN late December to draft a consensus forecast of the national economy. In particular, the government expects at least a 2% GDP growth, while the experts believe the growth in 2016 may reach 2.7%. The analysts from the World Bank pointed out the preconditions for recovery of the Ukrainian economy, but argued that our country will be able to achieve growth of 2% no earlier than 2017. It is worth noting that the World Bank is also skeptical about the state of the world’s economy. For example, the World Bank earlier downgraded its growth forecast for the world’s economy in 2016 by 0.4%, down to 2.9%.

        Many international experts still believe that the Ukrainian economy could grow by more than 1% this year. This is stated in the latest consensus forecast by Bloomberg, compiled based on a survey of leading economists from different countries. It says the possible growth of the Ukrainian economy in 2016 is expected in the range between 1.2% and 1.4%. At the same time, the agency added: there is a probability of recession and the risk of a return to negative indices ​​of economic development.

        The Economist reported last week that the rate of Ukrainian currency is undervalued by 68.7%. However, this assessment is based on the so-called "Big Mac Index" invented by the British publication in 1986 based on the theory of purchasing-power parity – the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move toward the rate that would equalize the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries. According to the Index, the U.S. dollar should trade for UAH 7.3 instead of UAH 23.35.

        The cost of fuel: more oil price or taxes
        While the global oil price is plunging, the fuel price in Ukraine is not. Prime minister of Ukraine drew the Cabinet’s attention to such an injustice. "I am asking the Minister of Energy, along with the Anti-Monopoly Committee, to hold [a meeting with oil traders]. The price of oil is around $30, while the gas stations use the same price parameters as a month ago. It is necessary to hold a meeting with the operators of the market. This is not the administrative pressure. There are economic prerequisites to reduce the cost of petroleum products at gas stations," said Yatsenyuk.

        Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn met Ukraine’s major oil traders. They agreed that the price of petrol and diesel should be reduced following the oil quotes.

        But the prices may fall no earlier than in two weeks. Oil traders asked to wait for new supplies of imported petroleum products. In addition, the business tried to convince the authorities that the structure of the oil takes less than a half of petrol price formula, while the rest is made up of taxes and excise duties. Therefore, the price of petrol cannot change with the same dynamics as the price of oil. To check the assumption, the Energy Ministry reported on setting up a permanent advisory and analytical group with the participation of the ministry itself, the State Fiscal Service, and the National Bank of Ukraine. Indicative prices of fuel and the structure of such price are to be published regularly, according to the analysis of the situation. Week’s balance: New Silk Road, electric shock to Crimea, and price of petrol : UNIAN news

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        • Police block trucks from Ukraine's capital after winter storm
          UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan. 17, 2016 Video

          Snow removal in progress

          Ukraine's capital Kyiv over the weekend prevented trucks from entering the city in order to allow municipal workers to remove snow from the city streets.

          A winter storm dumped about 5 inches on early Saturday and more is in the forecast.

          Special police patrols have been set up on the nine major roads leading in Kyiv to help stranded motorists truckers.
          Police block trucks from Ukraine's capital after winter storm - watch on -

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          • BILD Exclusive | How Russia finances the Ukrainian rebel territories
            BILD Von Julian Röpcke 16.01.2016

            The “People’s Republics” were never financially viable

            Although separatists in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk already declared their independence from Ukraine in April 2014, the government in Kiev maintained most state services until June and partly July of the same year. The salaries for public servants continued to be paid; citizens could still use their accounts with Ukrainian banks.

            It was only in the summer, when it became obvious that the regions could not be brought back under its control, that Ukraine adapted to the situation and ended most payments – except pensions and benefits.

            At that time, Alina, a young teacher, was living in the large city of Horlivka. She worked at the Elementary School No. 16. In July 2014, she received her last teacher’s salary of about 117 euros in her Ukrainian bank account. After that, Ukraine stopped paying her salary. With the beginning of the new school year, the new leadership promised to continue paying all teachers – but independently of their working age, and only 78 euros.

            The reality turned out to be different. Between September 2014 and February 2015, only one salary was paid to Alina and her colleagues. “That was at the beginning of the school year, to keep up the impression of normality, and so that we would come to work at all,” says Alina. After that, the funding of all social services in both “People’s Republics” broke down completely, because the ambitious aims of the new rulers were totally unrealistic.

            Three more of those concerned confirmed to BILD that virtually no salaries and pensions were paid in the regions controlled by separatists in the winter of 2014-15.

            The next salary, plus back pay for November only, did not follow until March 2015, both paid in Ukrainian hryvnia. It seemed, Alina says, that the Ministry of Education of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” was ordered to pay out as salaries the money reserves that had been held back until then. “They didn’t seem to need the Ukrainian money anymore,” the teacher remarks.


            From April 2015 on, salaries began to be paid regularly again, and the salary losses of the previous months were also paid back. Area-wide (from June), they were paid in brand new Russian rouble notes and coins.

            The old Ukrainian hryvnia salaries were converted 1 to 2 into new rouble salaries and then frozen. The actual exchange rate is one hryvnia to three roubles (in December 2015). This was a severe loss for millions of people, especially given that the food prices were adapted to the Russian standard and hence almost tripled.

            Since the banks were no longer operating from summer 2014, the school director had to pick up the salaries each month at the “Republic’s” Ministry of Education and then hand them out to the schools’ teachers in cash. Alina does not know where the 4,000 roubles – approximately 51 euros – per month for the public servants came from.

            “The banks that paid out pensions and the money transporters were heavily guarded by soldiers with guns.” Today, armoured tracked vehicles still follow the columns of Russian army trucks that arrive in Horlivka and other cities once a month with millions of roubles, a witness said to BILD.

            Russia finances everything, even job-creation measures
            Much has happened in the self-proclaimed “independent (!) states” since April 2015. The majority of the economy has been nationalized. Salaries in the private and public sector, pensions and benefits for single and disabled persons etc. are paid more or less regularly in roubles.

            In September 2015, the “People’s Republic of Luhansk” officially declared the rouble to be, by law, the state currency. Similar proclamations came from Donetsk in October.

            Even job-creation measures were then undertaken with Russian money in the occupied territories. Maria lives in the city of Antratsyt in the Luhansk region, close to the Russian border. After troops loyal to Russia took over power, she lost her job, because she did not agree with the new rulers on several issues.

            “I can buy five chickens from that, that’s all.” At the time of the interview, at the end of December 2015, she had also not yet received her salary for November. In the local job centre, a few days earlier, she was told: “We are sorry, but the money comes from Moscow, it’s probably cancelled or will come later.”

            Ukrainian-Russian double pensions are essential for survival

            Maria and her one-year-old son can only survive, because the young mother has her mother’s Russian “republic pension” that her mother gives to Maria in cash. Like many other pensioners, Maria’s parents drive to the Ukrainian part of the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk once per month to receive their regular pensions in hryvnia. This is only possible in the free part of the region and requires a journey of several days, taking the travelers over the frontline.

            BILD is in contact with more pensioners from the territories occupied by Russia. Every month they face the risks and exertion of crossing the frontline. In the city of Luhansk, one of these persons – who wishes to remain anonymous – receives a pension of 1,243 hryvnia (50 euros) and 2,248 roubles (28 euros) per month. That is hardly enough for the most essential needs.

            In the Donetsk region alone, 25,000 people cross the contact line between Ukraine and the occupied territories each day, Pawlo Zhebriwskyi, Governor of the region, tells BILD. Of the 638,000 registered refugees in the region, 250,000 in fact mostly still live in the “Republics”.

            It is safe to assume that many of them are pensioners and benefit claimants who use their status as refugees in order to cope financially with their everyday lives.

            However, Zhebriwskyi points out that Ukraine does not intend to prohibit this. “Double pensions are surely a problem,” he says. But, the politician explains, it is not in the interest of Ukraine to punish its citizens in the occupied territories. The raids at the border checkpoints are merely directed at smugglers who want to profit from people’s misfortunes or “support the terrorists with money”.

            A high-level security official also justifies Ukraine’s policy of not taking action against the double pension recipients, even though, in theory, they could: “Who wants to blame these people?” They live under rough conditions in the occupied territories, and their Russian “republic pensions” are “not particularly high. It is very hard to survive there, even if you receive both pensions.”

            continue read
            BILD Exclusive - How Russia finances the Ukrainian rebel territories - Politik Ausland -

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            • 11:56 Jan. 17, 2016 UT UKRAINE TODAY
              Ukraine stops trade with occupied Crimea
              Government's decision to ban trade enters into force on Sunday

              UNIAN: According to the government's decision of December 16, 2015, Ukraine stops trading with the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

              The government's decision comes into force on January 17, 2016.

              According to the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, the ban does not apply to personal belongings of citizens, which are transported in carry-on baggage and/or accompanied baggage, as well as to socially important food products, the total invoice value of which does not exceed the equivalent of UAH 10,000, and the total weight does not exceed 50 kilograms per person.

              "The decision does not apply to the supply of electricity from the temporarily occupied territory to another territory of Ukraine and/or from the other territory of Ukraine to the temporarily occupied territory, which is carried out in accordance with the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, for the supply of goods from the temporarily occupied territory to another territory of Ukraine that are of strategic importance for industries and national security, on confirmation of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. In addition, the decision does not apply to the import of humanitarian aid in the temporarily occupied territory, which is provided by international humanitarian organizations, according to the list approved by the Ministry of Social Policy," the report says.
              Ukraine stops trade with occupied Crimea - read on -

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              • 4:48 Jan. 17, 2016 UT UKRAINE TODAY
                Hundreds of new police patrol officers attend oath rite in Dnipropetrovsk

                Central Ukrainian city becomes ninth to introduce US-style police reform

                950 new police patrol officers swore an oath to serve and protect the citizens of Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine, on Sunday, January 17. Their training programme started last June.

                According to Dnipropetrovsk police patrol chief, 250 officers will be patrolling the city daily.

                The successful candidates had been chosen from over 8,000 applicants. One fifth of all the officers are women.

                The revolution in Ukrainian policing spreads across the country with law enforcement being one of the most visible reforms, as government departments attempt to strive for European level standards.

                Dnipropetrovsk became the ninth Ukrainian city where new US-style police patrols started working. The next one is Ivano-Frankivsk in the country's west.
                Hundreds of new police patrol officers attend oath rite in Dnipropetrovsk - read on -

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                • How UK scientists solved Alexander Litvinenko riddle - Ahead of the report, witness tells how London’s scientists identified fatal poison
                  THE GUARDIAN Robin McKie Science Editor 16 Jan 2016 16.39 EST

                  The poisoners of Alexander Litvinenko made one major blunder when they used radioactive polonium to kill the former Russian intelligence agent. They chose to carry out their crime in London, the one city in the world with the doctors and medical infrastructure to reveal the cause of his death.

                  This is the stark view of Norman Dombey, emeritus professor of theoretical physics at the University of Sussex. “Almost anywhere else on Earth, Litvinenko’s death would have been merely suspicious and its cause would have remained unknown,” he said.

                  Dombey was a key witness at the inquiry, held in London last year, into the former Russian spy’s murder. The inquiry’s report is to be published on Thursday and may well conclude that the Russian state was responsible either on the balance of probabilities or beyond reasonable doubt.

                  However, the inquiry would never have been held, nor would the murder of Litvinenko have been revealed, had it not been for the location where his poisoners chose to slip him a fatal dose of polonium. After drinking a cup of tea in a London hotel on 1 November 2006, Litvinenko began vomiting, lost hair and suffered blistering in his mouth. He was taken to Barnet general hospital and then transferred to University College hospital,. The latter has links to nearby University College London and its medical physics department. Experts there attempted to trace the cause of Litvinenko’s illness.

                  The puzzle was straightforward: the former Russian agent – who had fled his native country in 2000 – showed all the symptoms of radiation poisoning but produced no signs of radioactivity when tested with Geiger counters. The issue turned out to be one directly concerned with the nature of radiation.

                  Three forms of radiation are emitted by radioactive substances: alpha particles, which are made of nuclei of helium atoms, beta radiation, which consists of electrons and gamma radiation, a form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation. Beta and gamma radiation can penetrate tissue, but alpha particles are stopped by thin layers of matter such as skin. In addition, Geiger counters can easily detect beta and gamma radiation, while alpha radiation requires special detectors. If Litvinenko had ingested an alpha-emitting substance, this would explain his symptoms – and the failure to detect radiation from his body.

                  Samples from the agent were sent to the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment, at Aldermaston in Berkshire. There, scientists suspected that polonium, a powerful alpha emitter, was involved. Polonium sticks to metal, so a silver disc was suspended in the body fluids taken from Litvinenko. The disc attracted a substance whose alpha particles had a particular energy signature that matched the isotope of polonium known as polonium 210.

                  “Virtually all the world’s supply of that particular isotope is made at the nuclear weapons assembly plant at Avangard in Russia,” added Dombey. “That points a finger directly at Russia. However, had it not been for the experts on hand in London, that link would never had been made.”
                  How UK scientists solved Alexander Litvinenko riddle | World news | The Guardian

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                  • VOICES OF UKRAINE

                    Reforms in Ukraine: National Bank of Ukraine simplifies procedure for bank openings of business accounts.
                    Posted on January 17, 2016 by chervonaruta

                    Economic Pravda posted in Reforms in Ukraine, which collects and posts all reforms in Ukraine since the Maidan revolution
                    Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
                    Reform enacted by: National Bank of Ukraine (NBU)

                    The NBU has simplified the procedure for opening, use and closure of accounts in national and foreign currencies. This was announced in a statement by the regulator, according to the Financial Club.

                    According to the report, the NBU has simplified the bank procedure for opening accounts for business entities. Now banks, when opening accounts, can independently obtain information about business entities from the official website of the Unified State Register of Legal Entities and Sole Traders. In this case, the regulator has foreseen it to be the bank’s duty to independently carry out client verification itself.

                    In addition, the principle of tacit consent was introduced in the case of the bank’s non-receipt of notice from a supervisory authority of the taking of accounts for register.

                    The regulation simplifies the procedure for opening accounts for non-resident investors, providing the opportunity to certify the validity of signatures on the card with samples of notarized signatures from a foreign state.

                    The regulator has also enabled physical entities to receive foreign currency from abroad on their current account.

                    In addition, the resolution defines the procedure of opening a current account by a guardian of a physical entity recognized as incompetent by the court.

                    The appropriate changes were made to the Regulations on Opening, Use and Closure of Accounts secured by the NBU Number 833 on November 27 and come into force on December 2nd. Reforms in Ukraine: National Bank of Ukraine simplifies procedure for bank openings of business accounts. | Voices of Ukraine

                    Source: Economic Pravda
                    Reforms in Ukraine

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                    • Ukrainian lawmaker says Russian-separatist forces obstruct prisoner exchange
                      KYIV POST Alyona Zhuk Jan 17, 2016

                      Iryna Gerashchenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and the presidential commissioner for the peaceful settlement of the situation in the Donbas, says Kremlin-backed separatists are not cooperating with an agreement to exchange prisoners.

                      “Those, who went through the hell of (Donetsk) airport, are still in captivity of (separatist) fighters. We mention the names of the heroes in every list for their release,” she wrote on her Facebook page on Jan.16, referring to the bloody and months-long battle that ended with Russian-separatist forces seizing control of the ruined airport a year ago.

                      In her words, Russian-led separatists have been ignoring Ukraine’s latest proposal to free 25 Ukrainian soldiers, submitted on Jan.13. An exchange of 50 prisoners on both sides was one of the steps agreed during the first 2016 peace talks, held on Jan.13.

                      The two sides also negotiated to impose a cease-fire by midnight; however, Ukrainian military reported multiple attacks since then.

                      Two days after the peace talks, on Jan.15, Yuriy Tandyt, an adviser of the Security Service of Ukraine, said in a Skype interview with that in terms of the Minsk agreements, Ukraine can legally release 35 prisoners.

                      “We are told that we might get 25 or 26 released soldiers back,” he said.

                      A separatist news website in Donetsk on Jan.17 quoted Denis Pushilin, one of the Kremlin-backed separatist leaders, as saying that Ukraine included into the exchange lists those arrested for political reasons as well as other prisoners.

                      He wants to release only fighters.

                      Earlier Gerashchenko said in an interview with the Ukrainskiy Tyzhden newspaper that Russian-controlled separatists often agree to exchange only those Ukrainian prisoners who are on the brink of death.

                      She also said that at the same time they want the Ukrainian side to free criminals who have been convicted even before Russia launched its war in the Donbas. Ukrainian lawmaker says Russian-separatist forces obstruct prisoner exchange

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                      • “Mom, I’m alive”: mother receives word from son declared KIA
                        EUROMAIDAN PRESS Valentyna Eminova 2016/01/17

                        The incredible story of the mother of an ATO soldier who received official notice of her son’s death, and a year later was reunited with him on the doorstep of their home.

                        Olha Pohrebnyak told us that she had continued waiting and believing when everyone else had given up. 46-year-old Olha from Lviv lives alone with her two sons: 22-year-old Oleksiy and seven-year-old Mykyta. Oleksiy left for the front in the summer of 2014.

                        Oleksiy had repeatedly said that he wanted to serve as a volunteer, and one day Olha came home from work and found a note on the table saying he had gone to fight.

                        She got a call a few weeks later: “Mom, I’m alive, everything’s fine!”

                        “Our conversations were always very brief.” recalls Olha. “He didn’t tell me where he was stationed. He said he shouldn’t repeat such information over the phone as it might fall into enemy hands. Once he mentioned that he was with the Azov Battalion.”

                        Olha cried, prayed and watched the news in horror, when she learnt about the Ilovaisk hellhole.

                        The official death notification arrived in late August.

                        “Aliosha’s last called me on August 25 last year, and on August 28 I received the official death notification. At first, I believed it, but when I was told that Aliosha’s body couldn’t be found, I began having second thoughts.”

                        Long days stretched into sleepless nights filled with anguish, pain and faint sparks of hope. Olha’s heart refused to believe that her son was gone…

                        “All my attempts to get more information were useless. I searched everywhere, and even learned to use Facebook. If not for my youngest Mykyta, I really don’t know if I’d been able to cope with this endless sorrow. I told Mykyta about Alyosha’s death said, but not at once; I was very worried how he’d take the news… But he listened to my story and told me he’d never leave me.”

                        Three months after receiving news of her son’s death, Olha went on the Ministry of Internal Affairs website – “unidentified bodies” – which displays hundreds of photos of soldiers’ mutilated bodies.

                        “I filled in my son’s data and clicked on “Search”. I can’t talk about it… the photos are gruesome and horrible to look at. In most cases, all you see are charred remains… I shiver every time I think of it.”

                        Olha was relieved… she did not recognize Oleksiy in any of the photos.

                        In May, Olha got a text message from an unknown number: “Mom, I’m alive.” She wanted to cry for joy, but she knew that these could be scammers who report about men held as prisoners and claim money from their victims.

                        “No one answered when I called that number. Volunteers warned me that they might be pranksters who try to take advantage of people’s grief. I went to the SBU where I was told that it was impossible to determine exactly where this text message came from. They could only say that it originated in the Donbas, and that most likely these were fraudsters trying to get money from me as my son had died and his name didn’t appear in the lists of prisoners or missing persons.”

                        Olha continued to wait for her son…

                        “You know, I prayed all the time. Not just for my son, but for all the boys fighting in the east.”

                        On August 5, close to a year after the official notification, Olha dreamt of an enormous bright red kalyna bush (guilder rose). The next day she posted the following message on Facebook:

                        “I had such a strange dream… It seemed as if I wasn’t looking directly at the bush. In fact, I had actually become the kalyna. How could that be? The kalyna symbolizes motherhood and represents the home, parents and everything dear. The kalyna is the Ukrainian symbol of unity, unity between the living, those who have departed to the other world, and those who are waiting to be born… Was it a sign from my Alyosha?”

                        On August 9, Olha wrote and posted a poem dedicated to her son. “Dear son of mine, I trust and believe that you will return home.”

                        Oleksiy returned the next day…

                        “I went to visit my sister in Volyn; she was taking care of Mykyta then. When I came back in the evening, my neighbour Dusya said: “Olia, dearest, some guy has been sitting on your doorstep since Saturday. I said to myself: “It’s Oleksiy!” My knees buckled and I felt faint…”

                        Below is Olha’s Facebook post:
                        Olha Pohrebnyak, August 10 – “I can say nothing…just tears of joy. Dear Lord, You have answered my prayers. Oleksiy has returned home.

                        It turned out that Oleksiy had been held prisoner, and had really sent his mother the text message. He was thin, with scars on his head and cheeks, several teeth were missing, several broken ribs had not mended properly and were sticking out strangely from under the skin; he refused to go to the hospital, shook and trembled at every loud noise, covering his head and face with his arms. Oleksiy screamed at night during his sleep, and refused to leave his bed…

                        Little Mykyta was a great help to Oleksiy.

                        “Mykyta didn’t leave his brother’s side. He told him stories, and Alyosha listened and listened. He hardly talked to me, but I wasn’t offended; I was thankful that both my sons were home. Mykyta is so serious and proud that his brother has come back from the war; I hardly recognize my youngest. I ask him what they talk about, but he tells me that it’s men’s talk.”

                        One day, Olha decided to call in a psychologist, but nothing worked out. When Oleksiy heard that his mother had called a doctor, he got angry, turned the table over, yelled at both of them and locked himself in his room.

                        But, one day, the bubble burst… When official data on the number of victims during the battle of Ilovaisk was announced, Oleksiy said it was all a lie and that the men had lived through hell. Olha was sitting at the computer in the kitchen; it was about four in the morning when Oleksiy came up to her and said: “Mom, let’s have a drink.”

                        “And so, it all came out… like blood pouring from a fresh wound. He told me about the horrors they had experienced, about the boys who didn’t return home, how he felt when they were being shelled with Grads in Ilovaisk, how everything became confused before his eyes and he didn’t know where the sky was and where the ground was, how he didn’t know where to go and what to do. He told me about the moment when he realized that only God could help, when a friend with whom he was talking a few minutes ago was suddenly killed, when he had no more strength left to pull his friend away, when he began blaming himself for having survived.”

                        At one point Olha said she just stopped her son because it was too hard and painful to listen to his story.

                        After talking about those terrible times, mother and son spoke about how many soldiers had remained unburied on the battlefield, been taken prisoner, and what anguish and pain the families of these fighters were experiencing.

                        “I wanted to help and support all the women who were left in the dark like me. They should also express themselves, share their pain and I decided we should get together and find out what really happened to their loved ones. Alyosha and I decided to draw up a list of men who had died or were missing in action. This task gradually turned Oleksiy’s life around.”

                        Many people responded to their call to action; people sent their own lists, some offered to help with data processing, another person created a website and published the collected data. Olha admits that it took her a long time to publish the lists as they were afraid that fraudsters would take advantage of the families. Oleksiy finally convinced his mother that it was the best thing to do.

                        “He told me that the boys over there should know that families and friends are looking for them and waiting for them to come home. It seems that Alyosha thought I had learned to live without him and didn’t expect him to come home…What terrible thoughts come to our sons in this awful war!”

                        Oleksiy calmed down, began to communicate more with his family and friends, slept easily and began renewing the documents that had been lost during his captivity. However, he refused to go in for rehabilitation therapy, saying that it was far too expensive.

                        Oleksiy got even better when Olena came to see him. Olha knew nothing about this young girl…

                        “Alyosha didn’t tell me anything about Olena; he just said that she’d helped him a lot on his way home, and if not for her, he wouldn’t have made it home. It seems I have a daughter now.”

                        The home where recently lived a lonely woman with her young son now houses a large family plus Barsyk the cat, a new member of the family. The young men don’t have much to say, but it’s enough for a mother to see her son again and dream of grandchildren. She doesn’t want to publish photos of her Alyosha and hasn’t changed her FB profile picture – a candle burning in memory of all the other men who never returned from the war.

                        Olha has become a symbol of hope for many Ukrainian mothers who want to believe that one day they will come home and also hear a familiar voice saying: “Hello! Recognize me?”

                        “A mother’s heart never makes a mistake. Believe me, it can never be fooled. Dear women everywhere, don’t give up, pray, trust your heart, and don’t believe what you hear. Have faith and hope, despite everything and contrary to everything!”

                        According to official figures announced by the SBU, 800 Ukrainian servicemen were declared missing in action as of October 2014.
                        “Mom, I’m alive”: mother receives word from son declared KIA -Euromaidan Press |

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                        • Moscow disinformation escalating from mass media to Russian academic output
                          EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/17

                          When most people think about Russian disinformation now, they think almost exclusively about stories directed to a mass audience, be it via the print media or the Internet. That is a certainly a serious problem, but attention to it has kept many from focusing on what may be an even more serious development.

                          That problem is the spread of propaganda and disinformation from these mass media outlets to what are ostensibly scholarly publications, a development that represents a return to some of the worst excesses of Soviet times when scholars were forced to follow the party line on issues of importance to the Kremlin.

                          And this development threatens both Russian scholars who, while they may not have to cite Lenin as their parents and grandparents did, have to hew the Putin line on such issues and Western scholars who may not recognize the way in which this new “party” line has infected nominally “academic” research.

                          The challenge of identifying and countering such propaganda and disinformation in ostensibly academic articles is far more difficult than pointing up the latest lies, misrepresentations and distortions in the statements of Russian officials or commentators. It requires more time, more expertise, and more effort.

                          But it is an effort that is well worthwhile, and everyone who is concerned about accuracy can only be grateful to those who take the time to analyze such pieces and show how they weave together misrepresentations with real facts in order to lead astray both Russian and Western audiences by promoting the Kremlin’s ideology.

                          A remarkable example of this is provided this weekend by two members of the International Circassian Council, Iyad Youghar and Adel Bashqawi who analyze one such example of Russian disinformation and in so doing highlight both the insidious nature of such things and the reasons it has to be done.

                          They focus on an article by two researchers at Russia’s Southern Federal University entitled “The Circassian Question: Transformation of Content and Perception” that has been published in Bylye gody, vol. 36, no. 2 (2015): 450-460.

                          Among the distortions this brief work contains, Youghar and Bashqawi point out, are the following, each of which reflects Russian efforts at disinformation cast in terms that make the article sound less like propaganda than like scholarship and that as a result are likely to be accepted by many and inform the thinking of those less attuned to the issues involved.

                          -First, they note, the article not only falsifies dates of the Russian-Circassian War which lasted from 1763 to 1864 but rechristens that conflict as “the Caucasian War,” a Russian innovation which ignores what really happened in the western North Caucasus.
                          -Second, the article suggests that “the so-called Circassian question” only became “hot” in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Olympiad. In fact, Circassians have been protesting Russian actions in their homeland for a long time, most prominently in recent times in 2007 when Moscow invented the idea that the Circassians had been “voluntarily” associated with Russia for 450 years.
                          -Third, the article presents as fact Vladimir Putin’s mistake about the history of the Sochi coastal area. He talked about the Greeks settling there in antiquity without making reference to the fact that it was already populated by Circassians.
                          -Fourth, the article says that the rise of the Internet has allowed Russia to expose Circassian falsifications and overcome Circassian resistance. In fact, Youghar and Bashqawi say, to the contrary, the World Wide Web has led to greater Circassian activism and greater attention to the real history of the Circassians.
                          -And fifth, the article blames outside powers for everything bad that has occurred in the North Caucasus and presents Russia as being an invariably positive force, a misrepresentation that falls on its face if one examines any of the records of the conflict and the genocidal expulsion of the Circassians by Russian forces.

                          Highlanders Leaving Their Village” by Petr Gruzinsky shows the Russian deportation of Circassians, the indigenous peoples of the region from their homeland at the end of the Russo-Circassian War. The expulsion was launched even before the end of the war in 1864 and it was mostly completed by 1867. The peoples expelled were mainly the Circassians (Adyghe), Ubykhs, Abkhaz, and Abaza. (Image: Wikimedia)

                          In Western academic life, any article that got so much wrong would be the subject of intense criticism by other scholars. But Russian articles of this kind often seem to get a pass, with those who read them forgetting to do the basic fact checking that they would insist upon if the article were published anywhere else.

                          It is time for that to stop, not only for the benefit of those in the West who need to know the truth about what Moscow has been doing but also for the benefit of scholars and others within the borders of the Russian Federation who once again are being spoon fed the kind of propaganda that many had hoped had ended with the demise of the USSR. Moscow disinformation escalating from mass media to Russian academic output -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                          • TELEGRAPH Peter Foster, Europe Editor & Matthew Holehouse in Brussels Jan. 16, 2016
                            Russia accused of clandestine funding of European parties as US conducts major review of Vladimir Putin's strategy

                            Russia accused of clandestine funding of European parties as US conducts major review of Vladimir Putin's strategy - UK warns of "new Cold War" as Kremlin seeks to divide and rule in Europe

                            American intelligence agencies are to conduct a major investigation into how the Kremlin is infiltrating political parties in Europe, it can be revealed.

                            James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, has been instructed by the US Congress to conduct a major review into Russian clandestine funding of European parties over the last decade.

                            The review reflects mounting concerns in Washington over Moscow’s determination to exploit European disunity in order to undermine Nato, block US missile defence programmes and revoke the punitive economic sanctions regime imposed after the annexation of Crimea.

                            The US move came as senior British government officials told The Telegraph of growing fears that “a new cold war” was now unfolding in Europe, with Russian meddling taking on a breadth, range and depth far greater than previously thought.

                            “It really is a new Cold War out there,” the source said, “Right across the EU we are seeing alarming evidence of Russian efforts to unpick the fabric of European unity on a whole range of vital strategic issues.”

                            A dossier of “Russian influence activity” seen by The Sunday Telegraph identified Russian influence operations running in France, the Netherlands, Hungary as well as Austria and the Czech Republic, which has been identified by Russian agents as an entry-point into the Schengen free movement zone.

                            The US intelligence review will examine whether Russian security services are funding parties and charities with the intent of “undermining political cohesion”, fostering agitation against the Nato missile defence programme and undermining attempts to find alternatives to Russian energy.

                            Officials declined to say which parties could come into the probe but it is thought likely to include far-right groups including Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece, the Northern League in Italy and France’s Front National which received a 9m euro (£6.9m) loan from a Russian bank in 2014.

                            Other cases of possible Moscow-backed destabilisation being monitored by diplomats includes extensive links in Austria, including a visit by Austrian MPs to Crimea to endorse its annexation, as well as cases of Russian spies discovered using Austrian papers.

                            Russian influence has also been detected in a referendum in the Netherlands next April over whether to block the EU’s closer relations with Ukraine. Sources said arguments deployed in support of the referendum “closely resembled” known Russian propaganda.

                            Russian desire to influence politics in Britain is also in the ascendant, sources said, as the Kremlin eyes the forthcoming EU referendum and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader as potential opportunities to weaken Europe.

                            Igor Sutyagin, the Russia specialist at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said that Russia’s propaganda machine was currently “very active”, deploying what security experts call “hybrid warfare” that blends conventional military power with guerrilla tactics and cyber warfare.

                            “The Russian campaign exists in a grey area, operating covertly - and often legally - to avoid political blowback, but with the clear aim of weakening Western will to fight, maturing doubts over Nato, the EU, Trident and economic sanctions,” he said.

                            “It is a clever game. There are unwritten rules between nation states, and these rules are clearly being violated by the Russian side, but they know the West cannot ban them without harming their own values of freedom of expression.”

                            Analysts have noted how Russia Today, the Kremlin-controlled television channel which operates in Britain, gave extensive and very positive coverage of Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign. It covered six of his public rallies and speeches, which it did not do for rival candidates.

                            In an unprecedented intervention in Britain’s domestic affairs, Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to London, hailed Mr Corbyn’s election as a “radical breakthrough”.

                            He hailed the election as a “democratic mandate” for his platform of “opposition to military interventions of the West, support for the UK’s nuclear disarmament, conviction that NATO has outstayed its raison d'etre with the end of the Cold War, just to name a few”.

                            Andrew Foxall, director of the Russian centre at the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said Russia had become "more audacious" in its approach as it attempts to fight off the Crimea sanctions.

                            "No-one is suggesting that Corbyn is on the payroll of the Kremlin at all - simply that his interests demonstrably overlap with what the Kremlin is saying. Russia has ramped up its influencing policy and is trying to achieve in six months or a year what it previously took a decade to achieve.

                            “Wherever the opportunity presents itself, Russia wants to undermine the West – to present the argument that the West is no better than they are. It wants to see an end of the European Union because it much prefers a policy of divide and rule."

                            Relations between London and Moscow have been in the diplomatic deep freeze for more than a decade, and are likely to chill a few more degrees this week with the publication of a public inquiry into murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent who claimed asylum in Britain.

                            The inquiry was charged with identifying who was responsible for the poisoning of Mr Litvinenko in London in 2006 using radioactive polonium-210, and is widely expected to point the finger at the Kremlin.

                            The UK has recently taken steps to combat Russian meddling. In August, the Russian embassy claimed that the Home Office had effectively forced out four of its diplomats by refusing to extend their visas.

                            Among them was Sergey Nalobin, a familiar face on the Westminster drinks circuit who was associated with the Conservative Friends of Russia, a pro-Russian group backed by several prominent MPs that dissolved in 2012 after questions emerged over its neutrality.

                            Mr Nalobin was previously stationed in Venezuela, and is now thought to be working at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

                            Russia also took an active interest in the Scottish referendum which threatened Britain’s Trident base at Faslane and which was given extensive coverage on Russia Today. Afterwards, Russia claimed the count was flawed and suggested the result was rigged.

                            Ukip has also faced scrutiny, given that Nigel Farage and other senior staff have praised Mr Putin and accused the EU of “provoking” Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. However, there is no evidence of any direct contacts between the party and Russian officials.
                            Russia accused of clandestine funding of European parties as US conducts major review of Vladimir Putin's strategy - Telegraph

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                            • Czechs Eye New Spec Ops Unit; Ukraine To Establish Training Center
                              DEFENSE NEWS Jaroslaw Adamowski 2 p.m. EST January 17, 2016

                              WARSAW — Numerous Eastern European allies have intensified their efforts to develop special operations units following Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and the role played by hybrid warfare in Moscow’s takeover of the Crimean peninsula.

                              The region’s increasingly shared threat perception is intensifying the cooperation among local allies with the aim of enhancing their special operations capacities.

                              “Some decision-makers from countries located on NATO’s eastern flank fear that the military scenario seen in Ukraine could be repeated elsewhere, in a different country, with the use of similar tactics,” said professor Marek Jablonowski, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw.

                              Drawing on the experiences from Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the Czech Defense Ministry has decided to establish a special forces unit that will be able to carry out operations in a hybrid warfare environment. The move is caused by Prague's increased security concerns, which are rooted in Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Moscow’s hybrid warfare tactics.

                              “The current complex security environment is characterized by diversified, complex means of combat, which requires the Czech Army to adapt itself and react to new threats,” Jana Ruzickova, the spokeswoman for the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, told local daily Lidove Noviny.

                              The new unit will complement the activities of the Czech military’s 601st Special Forces Group. It will be set up in Olomouc, in the country’s east, and is expected to reach initial operational readiness in early 2017. The unit will consist of 200 troops.

                              In Ukraine, which has served as the main outpost for hybrid warfare in Eastern Europe, Maj. Gen. Ihor Luniov was appointed the new commander of the country’s special operations forces (SOF) this month. Following his appointment, Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, Ukraine’s chief of the General Staff, said that Luniov’s main task for this year will be to set up the much-awaited SOF training center.

                              Ukrainian Special Operations Forces troops are currently deployed in eastern Ukraine where they are combating Russia-backed insurgents.

                              Muzhenko said that the new commander will need to ensure that relevant military units cooperate on training activities for Ukraine's special forces troops, as reported by local broadcaster 112 Ukraina.

                              US-led Training
                              Meanwhile, some Eastern European states that share Ukraine’s threat perception are increasing their commitment to the country’s special forces efforts. This January, Lithuania’s Defense Ministry decided to raise its contribution to the US-led Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, a task force set up with the aim of training Ukrainian special operations forces, and deploying more troops to the program, the ministry said in a statement.

                              Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said that cooperation on military training is one of Lithuania’s priorities in its assistance to Ukraine’s ongoing armed forces modernization. Vilnius aims to help Kiev overhaul its military, ensure its compliance with NATO standards and increase its interoperability with the militaries of NATO allies, according to Olekas.

                              “The role of special operations forces has grown amidst the current security situation and hybrid threats, therefore, we will give more focus to multinational initiatives aimed at assisting training the Ukrainian special operations forces as we cooperate with Ukraine in the security and defense area,” Olekas said.

                              “The role of special operations forces has grown amidst the current security situation and hybrid threats, therefore, we will give more focus to multinational initiatives aimed at assisting training the Ukrainian special operations forces as we cooperate with Ukraine in the security and defense area,” Olekas said.

                              “I am certain that the experience of the Lithuanian special operations forces in developing the force and serving in multinational operations will be … relevant and useful for the transformation of the Ukrainian armed forces.”

                              As part of the program, Lithuanian officers will advise representatives of the General Staff of Ukraine and the Ukrainian special operations forces. The setting up of the new SOF training center by the Ukrainian military could further enhance its international cooperation in this field.Czechs Eye New Spec Ops Unit; Ukraine To Establish Training Center

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                              • Ukraine gets $23 mln worth of U.S. military communications, medical devices
                                18.01.2016 | 08:00 UNIAN

                                The United States has provided vital military communications and medical equipment to Ukraine to the tune of $23 million, according to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.

                                "The shipment included $21 million in secure radio equipment to help Ukrainian soldiers communicate effectively without putting themselves in harm’s way, as well as nearly $2 million in battlefield life-saving medical equipment," the embassy said in a statement.

                                The equipment arrived at Kyiv's Boryspil International Airport on January 16.

                                "After clearing customs, the U.S.-donated equipment will be delivered to Ukrainian Army units participating in U.S.-led training taking place at Yavoriv and Khmelnytsky. U.S. trainers from the Joint Multinational Training Group (JMTG-U) will train Ukrainian soldiers on the equipment for use on the frontlines," the statement said.

                                This $23 million in assistance is part of the United States' $75 million dollar European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). Since the Ukraine conflict began, the United States has committed more than $260 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including the provision of body armor, vehicles, night and thermal vision devices, medical equipment, heavy engineering equipment, radios, patrol boats, rations, tents, and counter-mortar radars.
                                Ukraine gets $23 mln worth of U.S. military communications, medical devices : UNIAN news

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