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  • Scandal shakes donor-funded Hromadske TV
    KYIV POST Alyona Zhuk Jan. 19, 2016

    A lingering inside conflict at, a Ukrainian news platform funded by several governments and foundations, broke into the open on Jan. 19 when news surfaced that a former top employee is trying to hijack the project.

    The supervisory board of Hromadske said that Roman Skrypin, a co-founder and former journalist of Hromadske, has allegedly refused to turn over $200,000 that viewers donated to Hromadske through Skrypin’s bank account. He also allegedly claims ownership of the domain name

    Skrypin, however, denied the allegations and said they were “based on the fantasies of the supervisory board.”

    One of the eight journalists who co-founded Hromadske in 2013, Skrypin owns the rights to the domain name, which he registered in 2012. He was the head of until May, when the board members voted for Natalya Gumenyuk to replace him.

    Hromadske is an online TV and news platform that is financed by grants, including from the European Commission, US and Canadian governments, the Soros Foundation and donations. Since the beginning of its work in 2013, the donations were coming to a PayPal account linked to the personal bank account of Skrypin in Czech Republic.

    Skrypin explained in a Facebook post on Jan. 19 that he was the only co-founder who had a bank account abroad, required to receive money via PayPal. PayPal is not fully operative in Ukraine.

    In its statement, released on Jan. 19, the supervisory board of said that Skrypin has ignored demands to surrender the rights for the website’s domain name that he owns, as well as the donations.

    Dmytro Gnap, an investigative journalist with, said that the Skrypin took control of 150,000 euros in donations and $36,000 that Hromadske received from YouTube ads.

    Skrypin said he is ready to transfer the money to Hromadske as soon as he is given a bank account abroad to transfer the money.

    “As of now, I’ve been waiting seven hours for an account to send Hromadske the money,” he wrote sarcastically on Facebook on the evening of Jan. 19.

    He is also ready to rent out or sell domain name to the media he co-founded.

    “Why do they demand that I gave away the domain name if everywhere in the world such issues are solved through a sale or a rent deal? Now I definitely do not want to give it for free. We can discuss the details though,” he wrote.

    On Jan. 16 Skrypin announced that he was launching Hromadske Kyiv, a separate media under the now popular brand.

    Hromadske said that Hromadske Kyiv was Skrypin’s initiative and it had nothing to do with it.

    The freshly created Hromadske Kyiv Facebook page said that the new media would be financed with the money, donated during the last two years mostly by Ukrainians who live abroad.

    The board of said in a statement that Skrypin may be using the donations that he took hold of to launch Hromadske Kyiv.

    “The money that belongs to the Hromadske NGO can be used to finance the project that is not accountable to the NGO neither as its structural unit, nor as a third party that received the right to use the Hromadske brand,” read the statement by Hromadske.

    In a commentary to the Kyiv Post, Skrypin said that the funds of would not be used for Hromadske Kyiv. He confirmed he was ready to return the donations to Hromadske.

    Gumenyuk seemed skeptical about the negotiations.

    “We have been talking with him for a long time in the ‘I will do this’ format. I think though that it is important for everyone to show some specific actions,” she told the Kyiv Post.

    Bohdan Kutiepov, a journalist, compared the situation to a family crisis.

    “It is a story of a man quietly leaving his family, and post-factum calling his wife and children to say, ‘Sorry, but I left you to start a new family, so I took the family’s savings. You are not poor anyway,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “But those are the money that thousands people have been giving during two years…to the television that can be trusted, and that appreciates the viewers’ trust, following the statute and rules.”

    This isn’t the first domain name scandal for Skrypin.

    Almost 10 years ago, after leaving the 5 channel, he took the initial with him. The channel then started Перший український інформаційний — 5 канал, which is active since then.

    The website that Skrypin said “he would not give away for any money” is now dead. Scandal shakes donor-funded Hromadske TV

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • Timothy Ash: Is Ukraine-Russian peace deal brewing behind the scenes?
      KYIV POST Timothy Ash Jan 18, 2016

      Something significant might be happening in the Ukraine peace process.

      First, we had the appointment of Boris Gryzlov, a real Kremlin heavyweight as Moscow’s representative to peace talks. One read is that the appointment of a serious Kremlin insider to such a role suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin is now willing to seriously negotiate towards some kind of settlement, which might just be acceptable to Kyiv – rather than the previous policy which seemed to be to demand concessions which were never really deliverable in Kyiv, and which were just meant to destabilize domestic politics in Ukraine, or to undermine the security situation and macro stability and financing with it.

      Second, President Petro Poroshenko last week spoke about securing control over Ukraine’s borders again this year – with some suggesting that he would not have made this claim unless he thought there was a reasonable chance of delivering on it.

      Third, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, Victory Nuland, had a meeting late last week in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, with Vladislav Surkov, another close adviser to Putin. The session was described as a “brainstorming” session over possible resolutions over the crisis in Ukraine, and generally feedback from both sides was that the discussions were “constructive.” U.S. officials also spoke about the prospect of sanctions on Ukraine over Donbas being relieved if they see Minsk implementation – albeit retaining those over Crimea.

      Fourth, French and German envoys to the Ukrainian “Normandy” peace process are due in Kyiv this week for high-level discussions.

      Fifth, Russia seems to be holding back from pursuing the nuclear, legal, card over the $3 billion in monies lent to the former Yanukovych regime, due in December, but now in effect in default.

      Now both sides still seem to be maneuvering for position – e.g. with Russia’s imposition of a transit ban on Ukrainian exports to Kazakhstan, and Ukraine’s decision to hike gas transit fees on Russian gas transit to Europe – the latter bringing a tripling of the tariff, and hitting Russian when it is already smarting over the drop in oil prices. But we have consistently seen some escalation by the sides in the run up to key negotiations, and it might be the same this time around.

      So why the sudden move on the part of Moscow to deal?

      First, I think what is clear is that Russia is now facing a much more difficult economic outlook than even a few months ago. The drop in oil prices over the past month, amid the Saudi-Iran schism, seems to have been the game-changer for Moscow – and survival of the regime seems to now be the name of the game (or at least there is serious concern how long Russia’s balance sheet can hold up to ensure social stability).

      Remember, only a month ago the budget was being based on the assumption of $50 a barrel average oil prices, a flat real gross domestic product growth performance, even growth, and the ruble holding at around 63 to to the dollar.

      Now with oil sub-$30 a barrel, perhaps going lower, but now more likely to stay here or go lower, the Kremlin seems to have gone into “regime survival” mode.

      Imagine, oil at or below the $30 a barrel level likely means a deepening or extension of the recession (minus 2-3 percent real GDP growth downturn, after 3.5-4 percent loss in 2015), a budget deficit of 5-6 percent of GDP, the depletion of the Ministry of Finance's’s various reserve funds, and a drop in the ruble to beyond ruble 80 to the dollar, with unpredictable consequences for consumer and business confidence, capital flight, inflation and the durability of the banking sector.

      GDP has dropped from over $2.1 trillion in 2013 when the crisis over Ukraine started to likely less than $1 trillion this year. This means that per capita GDP has dropped from over $15,000 to just over $7,000. And while opinion polls still suggest strong popular support for the Putin regime, experience suggests that they do not take this for granted, and rather are very sensitive to the potential for social and political unrest – and colored revolutions.

      Recent bans on Russian tourist visits to Turkey and Egypt will at least limit the potential for Russia’s middle and skilled working classes to realise just how far their foreign spending power has been crushed. But eventually Russians will realise that they are in fact a lot poorer, and the Putin Potemkim village was not built on very much.

      Second, and related therein I think there is recognition by Moscow that the period of high oil and commodity prices (2000-2013) is gone, and that the Saudi-Iran shism is likely now to usher in an extended period of low oil prices and hence a much more challenging outlook for Russia – I think only a few weeks back Russian policy makers were overly sanguine over a speedy “bounce-back” in oil prices, and perhaps were surprised by the fact that Moscow’s recent Syrian intervention failed to have much impact in terms of oil prices or leverage extracted for potential concessions over Ukraine. There is now new realism in Moscow over likely oil price trends, what this means for the Russian economy and the social and political risks now building domestically. So I think the willingness to partake in high-risk foreign adventures, such as in Ukraine, is now moderating.

      Third, recognition that Western sanctions against Russia are working after all – and despite all the skepticism in the West and elsewhere that they were pointless.

      True, they may not have been the main factor forcing Moscow back to the negotiating table over Ukraine (oil was), but they have made a brutally difficult economic situation for Russia – because of low oil prices – that much more painful, arguably now to breaking point. So faced by a now acutely difficult domestic economic situation, Moscow is desperate for some light relief – and does not want to be seen as still being in the sanctions bad boy corner, while Iran has been let out of detention.

      Fourth, perhaps recognition that Moscow’s policy towards Ukraine has essentially failed – Putin might have secured Crimea, but at the price of the loss of the rest of Ukraine.

      The military option largely failed In Donbas – as Moscow was unwilling to deploy the required massive military deployment to ensure victory and to engage in total war, while the Ukrainians proved willing to fight, and as time goes by their capability to defend Ukraine (they don’t need an offensive capability) is growing, taking the military option off the table for Moscow in effect.

      Meanwhile, other efforts to extract leverage by Moscow – including the energy, debt and trade accounts are all weakening over time.

      In energy Ukraine has cut imports from Russia – in gas to near zero, while low oil and energy prices reduce Russia’s leverage further.

      The trade channel has similarly been cut off for Moscow, by the collapse in Russia-Ukraine trade over the past 2-3 years, and Russia’s efforts to impose a transit ban is now viewed as somewhat desperate, and trade/transit bans now threaten to hurt Russia more by threatening key supplies of military inputs.

      Even the debt-default channel has been nullified by the private sector restructuring, provision of International Monetary Fund financing, leaving Moscow now with the prospect of a long-drawn out, and still possibly fruitless legal battle over the $3 billion in Eurobonds lent to the former Viktor Yanukovych regime.

      The harder that Moscow now presses Ukraine in the trade, economy, debt and energy fields, the more independent of Russia Ukraine becomes, and the weaker foothold that Russia will have for the future in Ukraine. Thus having lost the battle for “heart and minds” in Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea and the military intervention in Donbas, there will be little reason for Ukrainians to economically interact with Russia – and even more to develop other economic relationships Westwards.

      Fifth, there is perhaps a final hope that the best way to keep Moscow’s options open now in Ukraine is to adopt a less confrontational approach and to assume that Ukrainian politicians revert to script over the past 20 years and self-destruct under their own momentum.

      Reviewing the above the question is still whether Russia’s long-term strategic objectives towards Ukraine have changed – i.e. to bring it back within its sphere of influence – but in the short term Moscow seems to be signaling a desire to compromise, and to deal.

      The question then is how far it is willing to back down over issues stalling Minsk II implementation.

      For the US, the key issue remains as Poroshenko says, control over its borders, which for Russia would mean cutting off military supplies/resupply to the (separatist) regimes, and the potential that these authorities could collapse when cut from support lines to Moscow.

      Ideally Moscow still seems to be pushing for assurances over some form of enhanced autonomy (Kosovo-style) or a federal-style solution – which are still clearly unacceptable to Kyiv.

      But importantly, Moscow seems to be willing to deal – and this was likely the topic of discussion for Nuland/Surkov, and also for Boris Gryzlov in his recent trip to Kyiv. The question will be how far Poroshenko wants to push Moscow at this stage, and will the West be cajoling him along to accept a compromise which still might be difficult for him to sell back home, and could still destabilize domestic politics in Ukraine. Many in Ukraine would be nervous over the speedy return of (Russian-controlled territories in the Donbas ) to Ukrainian control over fear that they could act either as a Trojan horse within Ukraine, and/or provide a huge drain again on an already weak state. Timothy Ash: Is Ukraine-Russian peace deal brewing behind the scenes?

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • Celebrating Vodokhreshch (Epiphany), the last of the Ukrainian Christmas and New Year cycle
        EUROMAIDAN PRESS Christine Chraibi 2016/01/18

        It is believed that traditions linked with this festive day appeared more than 2,000 years ago. The emphasis at this feast is on the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Second Person of the Trinity at the time of his baptism. It is also celebrated because, according to tradition, the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist marks one of only two occasions when all three Persons of the Trinity manifested themselves simultaneously to humanity: God the Father by speaking through the clouds, God the Son being baptized in the river, and God the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove descending from heaven.

        On the day before Vodokhreshche, people observe strict fasting, going without food until dinner when they can partake of meatless dishes, borshch, varenyky, cabbage and fish. Kutya – a traditional sweet grain dish – is ritually enjoyed. The family sits down to the festive dinner after nightfall.

        Tradition requires that as much noise as possible is to be made after dinner — children and grown-ups take up sticks and strike wooden fences, empty pots or anything else. It is believed that all this racket will bring well-being, fertility of the land and cattle. The Didukh, a beautifully decorated sheaf of wheat, which has been kept in the house since before Christmas, is taken out and burned “to warm the air” — an invitation for spring to come as quickly as possible.

        As the faithful gather, priests normally perform the Great Blessing of the Waters twice – once on the Eve of the Feast (usually in the church) and then again on the Day of Vodokhreshche (January 19), outdoors at a body of water. Following the Divine Liturgy, the clergy and people go in a procession with the cross to the nearest body of water, be it a beach, harbour, quay, river, lake, swimming pool, water depot, etc. (ideally, it should be a body of “living water”). In the cities, the blessed water is dispensed through faucets and barrels where the faithful can fill up their bottles, containers and jars.

        The priest blesses the waters at the end of the ceremony. In Ukraine, where winters are severe, many villages still observe traditional customs: a hole (usually in the shape of a cross) is cut into the ice of the nearby river or lake so that the waters may be blessed. The cross is held securely by the priest and dipped three times into the water.

        Believing that on this day water becomes holy and is imbued with special powers, many Ukrainians take to bathing or dipping in the freezing water. This practice is said to have flourished since the 1990s.

        Participants in the ritual must dip themselves three times under the water, praying and pronouncing the words “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, thus symbolically washing away their sins from the past year and experiencing a sense of spiritual rebirth.

        The holy water is taken home by the faithful, and used with prayer as a blessing. People will not only bless themselves and their homes by sprinkling each room with holy water, but will also drink it and offer it to all members of the family. The Orthodox Church teaches that holy water differs from regular water in that the very nature of the water is changed, that is, the water becomes incorrupt and all-healing.

        In fact, sacred “Yordanska” (Jordanian) water has long been known for its healing properties. Many Christian rites use blessed water. Newborns are baptized and homes, buildings and institutions are blessed with holy water. It is used to fight sickness and disease. It is believed that holy water has many extraordinary properties that help combat negativity and protect from all evil.

        Holy water is carefully stored in Ukrainian homes and, believe it or not, it never spoils or goes stale! Scientists attribute this to the silver particles that fall into the water from the cross during the actual blessing. As a rule, priests use silver crosses to perform this ritual. However, it is difficult to explain this phenomenon when large expanses of water are sanctified. It is obvious that the amount of silver on a cross would not suffice for so much water! And so the purity and clearness of holy Jordanian water remains a mystery to scientists to this very day.

        Priests advise the faithful to drink holy water on an empty stomach. It will then have the greatest effect on a person’s health and well-being.

        Khrystos Rozhdayetsya! Christ is Born!
        Slavite Yoho! Let us glorify Him!

        Celebrating Vodokhreshchа (Epiphany), the last of the Ukrainian Christmas and New Year cycle -Euromaidan Press |

        æ, !

        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • RADIO FREE EUROPE Anna Shamanska January 19, 2016
          Former Commander Of Pro-Russian Separatists Says He Executed People Based On Stalin-Era Laws

          For most of his 42-minute appearance on a radio talk show, former Russia-backed separatist commander Igor Girkin sounded like nothing more than a fanatic discussing a dream now widely dismissed as fantasy.

          He spoke of hopes for the creation of a "Novorossia" -- a New Russia stretching across much of Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Odesa, and one day joining a Russian empire including all of Belarus and Ukraine.

          It wasn't until the last minute that the interview with Girkin went from surreal to chilling.

          Referring to his time commanding separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk in 2014, a host asks him how he stopped the rampant looting.

          "With executions," Girkin said matter-of-factly.

          According to Girkin, separatist "authorities" installed a military court and introduced 1941 military laws implemented by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

          "Under this legislation we tried people and executed the convicted," Girkin said.

          "While I was in Slovyansk four people were executed. Two among the military for looting, one local for looting, and one for killing a serviceman," he said on the Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, which is affiliated with a leading pro-Kremlin Russian tabloid.

          One of the people killed was an "ideological" supporter of the Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector, he said.

          Key Separatist Commander

          Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, was a key commander in the Russia-backed separatist forces in the early stages of the war against Ukrainian government troops that has killed more than 9,000 civilians and combatants since April 2014.

          Ukraine's government has called Girkin a Russian agent and accused him of war crimes. He resigned as a rebel commander in August 2014 amid reports that he had been wounded in battle.

          Later that year, he told an interviewer that he was a colonel in the Russian FSB, or Federal Security Service -- a statement that was edited out of the interview published by state-run Rossia Segodnya.

          In October 2015, the Brussels-based International Partnership for Human Rights provided the International Criminal Court with more than 300 testimonies about alleged military crimes and crimes against humanity that it said had been committed by Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine.

          It said that "while crimes committed by both sides of the conflict have been documented, the collected evidence primarily concerns crimes committed by separatists because of security issues related to accessing separatists-controlled territories of Ukraine."

          In the radio appearance, Girkin said he was not concerned about the possibility of international prosecution.

          "I am not at all bothered by international law, because it's a tool in the hands of winners," he said. "If we are defeated, well then, the norms of these laws will be applied to me."

          Fighting has lessened since a February 2015 deal on a cease-fire and steps toward peace, but the Russia-backed separatists still hold large parts of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

          Girkin, a former military reenactor, appeared to have the support of both the hosts and those calling in.

          "God forbid," one host said, referring to the possibility of Girkin being sent to an international court for prosecution on war crimes charges.

          As for his feelings about Stalin, Girkin said he dislikes the dictator as he was in his younger days, but believes that he was a great statesman at the end of his life.

          "You can discuss for a long time how much blood and where Stalin spilled it, but at least you can confidently say that he did it not for himself but for the sake of an idea," he said.Former Commander Of Pro-Russian Separatists Says He Executed People Based On Stalin-Era Laws

          æ, !

          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • RADIO FREE EUROPE Tony Wesolowsky January 20, 2016
            Tatar Leader Vows Crimea Blockade Will Continue

            A leading Crimean Tatar activist has vowed that a months-long, civilian-led blockade of the annexed peninsula will continue until it is freed from Kremlin control, stressing that only concrete action can be effective.

            "We showed the Tatars in Crimea, Ukrainians, and all pro-Ukrainian people that there is a genuine movement under way to free Crimea," explained Lenur Islyamov to RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service in a video interview.

            Crimean Tatars have been at the forefront of an independent campaign to push for the peninsula's return to Ukrainian rule after it was seized by Russia in March 2014.

            The Crimean Tatars and other groups have blocked road links from mainland Ukraine to Crimea since September and are suspected of blowing up electricity pylons in November, disrupting power supplies from Ukraine to the peninsula for weeks. The incident heightened tensions between Moscow and Kyiv, with Russia retaliating by cutting off coal exports to Ukraine.

            The blockade has also meant hardship for much of the peninsula's 2.3 million people, about 250,000 of whom are Crimean Tatars whose presence on the peninsula dates back centuries. Amid shortages of basic items, including food, some are questioning whether the strategy could backfire and make enemies of potential allies.

            However, Islyamov, a former deputy prime minister of Crimea, while acknowledging the blockade "may be harsh in some ways," is insistent that it should continue.

            "Crimea is the land of the Crimean Tatars. It is our land," he said. "Therefore, when we organize an economic blockade, or an energy blockade, we are completely within our rights. We are Crimean Tatars. Crimea is our land."

            Far-Right Allies

            Besides questions over tactics, Islyamov has also been grilled about some of the allies in his camp. Members of the ultranationalist Right Sector group, for example, have helped Tatars maintain the road blockade.

            But Islyamov said sharing the same goals was more important than political leanings.

            "It doesn't matter if they are ultraright, or ultraleft, it doesn't matter. They are people that feel the same way as we do. That's it. For us, they are patriots of Ukraine."

            Instead of pulling back, Islyamov said in mid-December that the blockade would be extended to the sea early this year.

            "We have several stages," Newsweek quoted him as saying. "At the beginning it was a product blockade and we did it. Next came the energy blockade. We did that too."

            "We would like to make the occupation of our land as expensive and complicated as possible. We will squeeze out and burn out the occupiers from Crimea, because this is our land, our graves, and our history," Islyamov was quoted as saying. "They have nothing to do there, get out of there, this is our home."

            Speaking to RFE/RL, Islyamov said it made absolutely no sense to cooperate in any way with the "occupier," Russia.

            "If an occupier has taken over your territory, then let him supply his own housing, food, medicine and everything else," Islyamov said. "Why should we trade with a government that occupied our land, and is holding us, our relatives, kids, and other loved ones as hostages?"

            In The Kremlin's Crosshairs

            Russia does not have direct land access to Crimea, forcing the Kremlin to ferry supplies to the region. However, Moscow does have plans to build a bridge that is scheduled to be completed by 2018.

            Islyamov's defiance and actions have put him in the crosshairs of the Kremlin, with the de facto leaders in Crimea charging him with sabotage following the blowing up of the energy pylons.

            "Islyamov was one of the leaders [of the blackout]. Citizen Islyamov has now been charged with sabotage in absentia," Crimea's Prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya said in an interview with Rossia 24 television on December 21.

            Islyamov, a successful businessman, has already paid dearly for his actions, with all his assets seized by the Crimean leaders in early December.

            Islyamov was the owner of ATV, the sole television channel broadcasting in the Crimean Tatar language in Crimea. Independent Crimean Tatar-language media have suffered under the new authorities, with all but one such independent outlet shuttered in 2015 under a Russian law requiring them to reregister, according to Amnesty International.

            Other assets stripped away were Islyamov's transport company, SimCityTrans; a bank, Just Bank; and shops selling high-tech gadgetry.

            Islyamov, however, has no regrets for what he has done, and says he and other Tatar Crimean leaders, such as Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, were motivated by extraordinary circumstances.

            Dzhemilev, the 71-year-old veteran leader of the Crimean Tatars, now resides in Kyiv after being banned from his home in Crimea, a fate shared by fellow activist Chubarov.

            "We were all peaceful people, businessmen, or teachers, or doctors," Islyamov said. "Chubarov was an archivist, the most peaceful of professions. We were forced to be what they portray us to be, not because we chose it, but because life came to a halt."
            Tatar Leader Vows Crimea Blockade Will Continue

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            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • Tripwire for Bank of Russia Seen Closer as Oil Slump Sinks Ruble
              BLOOMBERG Josh Robinson & Anna Andrianova January 19, 2016

              =Ruble at 90 a dollar may trigger interventions, economists say
              =Central bank hasn't sold currency since floating ruble in 2014

              The ruble is fast descending toward the danger zone that may trigger the first foreign-currency sales by the Russian central bank in more than a year, according to a survey of economists.

              The Russian currency would need to weaken about 13 percent to 90 against the dollar for the central bank to step in, according to the median of 15 analysts polled by Bloomberg. Two respondents put the threshold at 80. Currency sales in support of the ruble were the likeliest course of response for the Bank of Russia, followed by verbal interventions and an emergency interest-rate increase, the economists said.

              Oil’s drop of about 21 percent this year is heaping pressure on the central bank, which has pledged to avoid interventions unless the ruble’s swings threatened financial stability. The ruble is the second-worst performer in emerging markets this year, threatening to rekindle inflation that’s slowed for four months and putting further strain on an economy at risk of its longest recession in two decades.

              “The central bank may not be able to tolerate for much longer the rapid pace of the ruble’s depreciation, which after all will have negative implications by slowing down the disinflationary process,” said Piotr Matys, a strategist for emerging-market currencies at Rabobank in London. “The risk of a verbal intervention followed by direct intervention will continue to rise if the ruble-dollar rate maintains its upside momentum and extends its gains beyond yet another psychological barrier of 80.”


              Oil, Ruble

              The lifting of international sanctions on Iran has helped move the correlation between Brent and the ruble toward its strongest since October. The currency strengthened for the first time in three days on Tuesday after oil rebounded, trading 0.9 percent stronger against the dollar.

              “Only in a situation of drastic deterioration and market panic would we expect strong and decisive action by the central bank,” said Andreas Schwabe, an economist at Raiffeisen Bank International AG in Vienna. “As long as oil remains in a downward trend, we don’t see strong action by the central bank in support of the ruble, for example large-scale FX reserve sales, as it would be likely costly and with limited effect to swim against the tide.”
              ‘Least Serious’

              Russia relies on oil and natural gas for almost half its budget revenue and collapsing crude prices have weakened the ruble about 6 percent versus the dollar this year, the most among developing nations after South Africa’s rand. The central bank, which responded to the currency crisis a year ago with an emergency 6.5 percentage-point rate increase in the middle of the night, hasn’t sold foreign exchange since allowing the ruble to float freely in December 2014.

              “It’s likely that monetary authorities will try to apply the least serious and distorting measures first,” said Sergey Narkevich, an analyst at Promsvyazbank PJSC in Moscow. “And only in case of a precipitous fall of the ruble value and a subsequent substantial increase in risks to the financial system will they use an emergency rate hike or install capital controls.”

              Bank of Russia First Deputy Governor Ksenia Yudaeva said Thursday that the regulator doesn’t “completely” rule out a rate increase as it looks to meet its 4 percent inflation target by the end of next year. Annual price growth decelerated to 12.9 percent in December after reaching a 13-year high of 16.9 percent in March. The central bank has held its benchmark at 11 percent since July after five rate cuts last year.

              “The Bank of Russia is walking on a knife’s edge, needing to stem inflation, while at the same time allowing the ruble to depreciate gradually with oil to support federal government budget revenue,” Per Hammarlund, the chief emerging-markets strategist at SEB AB in Stockholm, said by e-mail. “Unless households start selling rubles in panic as in December 2014, the central bank is unlikely to intervene heavily.”
              Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
              Tripwire for Bank of Russia Seen Closer as Oil Slump Sinks Ruble - Bloomberg Business

              æ, !

              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • NSDC confirms fake Azov regiment video product of Russian propaganda
                20.01.2016 | 08:00 UNIAN

                Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) has confirmed that a fake video allegedly showing Azov regiment fighters who are threatening the Netherlands is a product of Russian propaganda, the NSDC press service reported.

                The Russian special services continue using tools of hybrid warfare against Ukraine and Europe to discredit the Ukrainian National Guard units that are involved in the Anti-Terrorist Operation in the east of Ukraine, it said.

                Recently, a fake video appeared on YouTube showing armed men dressed in military uniform, hiding their faces and presenting themselves as members of the Azov regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine who were threatening to mount a terrorist attack in the Netherlands in case that country refuses to ratify the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.

                "Having analyzed the footage, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's cyber specialists have found out that it originated from Russian territory and was sent out from numerous Russian-based IP addresses," the NSDC's press service said.

                The NSDC says this is another attempt to discredit Ukraine with the use of hybrid warfare techniques, hamper Ukraine's integration with the EU, intimidate Europeans and cover up terrorist acts that are being prepared by the Russian special services.
                NSDC confirms fake Azov regiment video product of Russian propaganda : UNIAN news
                UTUBE FAKE
                Azov denounces Russian propaganda's fake video with "threats to the Netherlands" : UNIAN news

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                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Israel to respond to delivery of Russian weapons to Middle East militants - Ambassador
                  20.01.2016 | 13:10 UNIAN

                  Israel will respond to the facts of Russian arms supplies to its adversaries, according to the Ambassador of Israel to Ukraine, Eliav Belotserkovsky, reported.

                  "If this situation happens (or if it's happening), the issue will be raised by the relevant authorities," the ambassador said at a press conference in Kyiv, according to the report.

                  The diplomat declined comment on whether the information of such supplies is confirmed: "I cannot talk about it."

                  Previously, foreign media released an interview with Hezbollah militants, who claim that they get their weapons directly from Russia. Last week, the a batch of Grad P portable MLRS was revealed in Donbas (produced in the occupied areas of Donetsk region and heading towards the border with Russia) aimed for the Middle East, with manuals in Arabic and appropriate coloring. Israel to respond to delivery of Russian weapons to Middle East militants - Ambassador : UNIAN news
                  Activists: Russia produces Grad P portable MLRS in occupied Donbas to arm terrorists
                  14.01.2016 | 17:40 UNIAN

                  The coordinator of the Information Resistance online activist group claims a “direct link” between the Russian-terrorist forces in Donbas and ISIL.
                  Activists: Russia produces Grad P portable MLRS in occupied Donbas to arm terrorists : UNIAN news
                  Israel opposes sanctions against Russia
                  EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/19

                  Israel considers sanctions against Russia an ineffective tool for resolving the conflict in Ukraine and believes that the diplomatic approach to Russia has not been exhausted, Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Eli Belotserkovsky said on Tuesday, January 19.

                  “We do not consider that sanctions are measures that can lead to the resolution of the conflict,” he said, as cited by Ukrainian News.

                  Furthermore, Belotserkovsky stated that Israel needs to remain on good terms with Russia. “We cannot put relations with Russia at risk,” he said. However, he added that Israel does support the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

                  Israel has not joined the international sanctions regime against the Russian Federation, which is occupying sections of Ukrainian territory. Additionally, Israel’s diplomats were not present during the March 2014 vote on the US-supported UN resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea. However, Israel has long supported sanctions against Iran. When asked if this were not a double standard, the ambassador stated that Israel believes that the “diplomatic approach has not been exhausted with Russia, but that it has been exhausted with Iran,” according to Interfax-Ukraine.

                  Nonetheless, Belotserkovsky acknowledged that sanctions can be “an effective approach if all other approaches are exhausted.”

                  Meanwhile, he said Israel will respond to any reports of arms supply to its enemies by Russia. “If this situation occurs (or is occurring) then this issue will be raised with the appropriate authorities,” he said. However, he refused to discuss any information on such reports.

                  Earlier, international media published interviews with Hezbollah militants who said they received weapons directly from Russia. Last week Ukrainian security services seized a batch of the Grad-P portable mobile missiles with operating instructions in Arabic. According to the Ukrainian NGO Information Resistance, the missiles used to be produced by the Kovrov Mechanical Works plant in Russia, but are now being manufactured in the occupied areas of the Donetsk Oblast.

                  Last January, the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberban told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that his country was ready and well-positioned to mediate between Ukraine and Russia to resolve the conflict in the Donbas because of its “neutrality.”

                  However, Ukrainians remember that last year Israel refused to sell drones to Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin opposed the sale in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as reported by Bloomberg News, citing an unnamed Israeli official.

                  Ukraine had reached an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the largest manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles in Israel, to import the drones to monitor compliance with the Donbas ceasefire agreements by Russian-supported “separatists.” However, the deal was cancelled after the Israeli government objected. The offices of Netanyahu, the Defense Ministry and IAI refused to comment on the matter at the time. Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov also did not respond to requests for comments.

                  In September 2015, The Jerusalem Post reported on a story published in the Russian newspaper Vedomosti, September 4, that the Russian Defense Ministry had purchased 10 intelligence-gathering drones from Israel Aerospace Industries. Israel opposes sanctions against Russia -Euromaidan Press |

                  Source: BLOOMBERG NEWS
                  Articles speak for themselves...
                  Last edited by Hannia; 20th January 2016, 15:52.

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                  • First step in Ukraine’s strategy on Crimea
                    20.01.2016 | 13:30 UNIAN Kostyantyn Honcharov Part 1

                    In 2016, Ukraine will continue to look for mechanisms of de-occupation of the Russian-annexed Crimea. UNIAN has asked the experts, how realistic can be the Geneva Plus format of negotiations recently proposed by President Poroshenko.

                    At his first press conference after the New Year’s holidays, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said that Ukraine is considering setting up a new negotiating format for the de-occupation of Crimea - "Geneva plus." Poroshenko noted that the struggle for the return of Crimea remained on the agenda and Ukraine would suggest an international mechanism of de-occupation of the peninsula. The optimal format is “Geneva Plus”: with the participation of our partners from the EU, USA and, probably, signatory countries of the Budapest Memorandum,” the president said.

                    Poroshenko has already tried to return the "Crimean issue" on the international agenda in October 2015 at the Normandy Four meeting in Paris. The activists’ move on a blockade of at the de-facto border with the peninsula has also contributed to it. At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the Minsk format does not include restoration of Ukraine's sovereignty over Crimea.

                    Roughly speaking, for the period of the Minsk process, the West turned a blind eye to the question of Crimea. But while the parties to the Minsk-2 claim relative success in the framework of the Minsk deal, it is also time to return to negotiations on the Crimean issue.

                    Ukraine’s ex-Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko said that, to achieve this goal, the Geneva Plus format would be the most appropriate and effective one. Ohryzko believes that participation in talks of guarantor states of Ukraine's territorial integrity, inviolability of its borders, and national security is crucial to the success of the dialogue. "Of course, the EU should also be part of these talks, being represented by a country, or countries, which Brussels will appoint. At present, the EU is represented in the Normandy format by Germany and France. It is possible that this option will also work for talks on Crimea, or maybe the EU will be represented as a separate structure. Then the conversation will be really serious and will have a practical outcome," said Ohryzko.

                    "We need exactly the format that will let the parties make decisions," he said.

                    At the same time, the ex-minister admits that Russia will not agree to such a format. However, such a position will only prevail as long as the Russian Federation has the economic "safety cushion." Given that Russia's economy is "deflating" at a frantic pace, there will be nothing left of this cushion pretty soon. And by the time, the Geneva Plus format will have to tell the aggressor state, what, how and when it should do in order not to get new sanctions over Crimea.

                    "That's when we'll have a fast and efficient progress toward the restoration of the status quo as it was in February, 2014," said Volodymyr Ohryzko.

                    The thing is that that the restrictions over Crimea, as compared to the anti-Russian sanctions over Donbas, are essentially cosmetic. In particular, this is a ban on entry to the different countries against nearly 400 people, including Crimean officials and citizens of the Russian Federation related to the annexation of the peninsula. In addition, 40 Crimean companies are prohibited from operating on the territory of the countries that have imposed sanctions. At the same time, there are no painful sectoral sanctions, financial, economic and trade restrictions against Russia over Crimea.

                    A signal to the West

                    Actually, the idea of Geneva Plus was voiced within a framework of preparing to such a scenario. In fact, this is Ukraine’s first clear proposal to international partners as to how to address the "Crimean issue." "That is, this proposal explains what can be done after Donbas settlement is complete," said political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Volodymyr Horbach.

                    According to him, Petro Poroshenko looks ahead, referring to the first Geneva negotiation format, turning to the guarantors of Ukraine’s territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum. "This is just probing the soil at the moment. Now he is just offering such format to the international partners, this is a proposal for consideration," the expert said.

                    Horbach believes that the establishment of such format, in principle, looks quite realistic. But there is one condition – consent of the aggressor state, Russia, to work in this format.

                    The official position of Russia today is that the Kremlin simply refuses to discuss the issue of Crimea and return of the Ukrainian sovereignty over the territory of the autonomy. However, echoing Ohryzko, Horbach said that, as the economic crisis deepens and the internal contradictions in Russia increase, the Kremlin officials will realize that they not only need the Western anti-Russian sanctions lifted, they need financial assistance from international organizations. Then Russia will actually sit down at the negotiating table to discuss the future of the peninsula.

                    "In this regard, Russia is in a completely different situation today than it was two years ago. And there is a totally different global context of world politics and especially the economy now," said the analyst.

                    In this regard, in his opinion, even the removal of the anti-Russian sanctions over Donbas will not save the Russian economy. And if the process of Crimean settlement does not start, the West may impose new sanctions, already bound to Crimea.

                    In any case, it shouldn’t be expected that Geneva Plus will work in parallel with the Minsk process. Establishment of an effective mechanism for solving the Crimean issue is a longer-term prospect.

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                    • First step in Ukraine’s strategy on Crimea
                      20.01.2016 | 13:30 UNIAN Kostyantyn Honcharov Part 2

                      Offensive position

                      At the same time, in order to retain the Crimean issue on global agenda, Ukraine needs to go to the international courts, putting forward and defending its claims, first of all, with respect to material losses inflicted by the Russian occupation. Horbach believes that an important factor in the information policy over Crimea can also become Ukraine's membership in the UN Security Council in 2016. This platform allows Kyiv to appeal constantly to its Western partners, as well as to mention the Russian annexation of Crimea in any communication with the Russian officials.

                      Horbach is positive this will strengthen Ukraine strategically, while the Russian side will be weakened. The longer the struggle for Crimea, the bigger Ukraine’s chances to reclaim the peninsula. "Russia will continue to weaken and will be able to afford to abandon Crimea, if the price will be the preservation of Russia’s integrity without Crimea. In this global context, the Crimean issue can be resolved,” the expert says.

                      Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies Ihor Semyvolos also believes that the Geneva Plus initiative can only be implemented if Russia is ready to accept the fact that this is actually the problem. "It is clear that the time has not come yet for Russia, but we need to articulate the approaches, so that in the future, when the time comes for establishing such a group, it would be clear what Ukraine wants and how it wants to achieve this," he said.

                      Semyvolos considers that such a statement by the president of Ukraine is a sort of a signal to Ukraine’s allies and the signatories of the Budapest memorandum that Ukraine begins a more active political game in this direction. "We remain in a strategic game, and we offer an option of developments in this game. This is already an offensive position for Ukraine," he said.

                      In addition, the expert believes that such talks must involve the United States: "It comes from the Budapest Memorandum, so they simply cannot dismiss it. This is a ball we threw at the pitch of EU and the U.S. And they need to respond accordingly. They can’t say “no, we won’t do anything” just by definition because it would destroy the entire system of international law.”

                      According to Semivolos, such a position of Ukraine is a win-win game. But it should not be expected that quick results will be harvested. "We need to understand that this involves certain depth, like any strategy game. Obviously, there will be all sorts of political bargaining, various talks, and visits. We see that diplomacy has intensified, and that is good. Because when diplomats talk, the guns remain silent," he said.

                      The agenda of talks

                      In turn, the diplomat and former Consul General of Ukraine in Istanbul and Edinburgh, chairman of the Maidan of Foreign Affairs foundation, Bohdan Yaremenko, also believes that the format of Crimea talks must include the actors that can influence the situation the most. However, the main thing Ukraine needs to achieve in his opinion is not just separate meetings over Crimea, but the discussion of the complex issues related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. And perhaps the complex issues regarding Russia’s aggressive foreign policy in the Caspian and the Black Sea regions. "The problems of Ukraine are not unique. Both Moldova and Georgia are affected by the same problems, as well as Azerbaijan, partially. It’s very important to formulate the agenda. The question of the format of talks is important but it’s secondary priority compared to that of the agenda," the diplomat said.

                      “If the EU and the United States set out to achieve this agenda and format of talks, then Russia might have no other choice, being subject to sanctions, given the situation in the economy and plunging energy prices," said Yaremenko. In addition, the card can be played of Russia's desire to expand the list of participants in the negotiations or diplomatic consultations on Syria, according to the expert.

                      In other words, the opportunities are emerging to make Russia agree to start a dialogue on Crimea, and there will be more of such opportunities.
                      First step in Ukraine’s strategy on Crimea : UNIAN news

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                      • Putin's ex-spokesman speaks of Russian troops in Donbas
                        19.01.2016 | 16:20 UNIAN

                        Mikhail Kozhukhov, former spokesman for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has recognized presence of Russian troops in Donbas.

                        "I'm totally a civilian. And I had a period in my life when I have been for four years in the war. I know perfectly well that no "Motorola" [one of pro-Russian militant leaders] is able to set in motion a 20,000-strong army and organize the "pocket" near Ilovaisk or Mariupol. I know this not because I was told so, but because it can't be any other way, but such army being led by people who at least have a diploma of the General Staff. These must be people who work together, know each other, people familiar with each other," Kozhukhov said in a video published on YouTube.

                        "Had the border been closed, the problem of the south-east would have ended very quickly," he said.

                        Earlier, Putin said that he would be ready to return control over the border to Ukraine if the amendments to the Constitution were adopted.
                        Putin's ex-spokesman speaks of Russian troops in Donbas : UNIAN news

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                        • Ukraine will seek expansion of IMF financing at Davos Economic Forum – expert
                          20.01.2016 | 14:10 UNIAN

                          Chairman of the Economists Committee of Ukraine Andriy Novak says the Ukrainian delegation headed by President Petro Poroshenko will seek to negotiate the expansion of the IMF Extended Fund Facility program for Ukraine or the acceleration of the next tranche disbursement during the planned meetings with representatives of the International Monetary Fund in Davos, RFE/RL reported.

                          "It is obvious that, without the IMF funds, Ukraine can neither stabilize the hryvnia exchange rate, nor ensure the fulfillment of budget items, even the so-called guaranteed budget items. Ukraine will ask to accelerate the disbursement of the next tranche, or even expand the IMF bailout package," Novak said.

                          At the same time, he expects no specific agreements to be reached during the meetings in Davos.

                          As known, the mountainous town of Davos in Switzerland hosts the 46th annual World Economic Forum (WEF) between January 20-23, 2016. More than 2,500 participants from over 100 countries are expected to take part in various sessions of the Forum. The Ukrainian president will also participate in the WEF, where he expects to meet leadership of the IMF and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

                          Experts say the Ukrainian issue will unlikely top the meeting's agenda in view of the recent developments around the world.
                          Ukraine will seek expansion of IMF financing at Davos Economic Forum – expert : UNIAN news

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                          • Kasko explains difficulties with recovering assets stolen by Ukraine's ex-officials
                            20.01.2016 | 15:29 UNIAN

                            Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine Vitaliy Kasko said in an interview with BBC Ukraine that the investigation had not yet reached the stage at which Ukraine's investigating authorities are able to recover assets stolen by former officials of the regime of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych.

                            "A political decision may be taken to extend the EU sanctions [against former Ukrainian authorities], in general, or in part," Kasko said.

                            The official added that it was difficult to predict whether the European Union would extend for another year its sanctions against all 18 high-ranking officials or some of them, due to it being a matter of ongoing debates in the EU.

                            In this regard, he said: "To be honest, the investigating authorities have not yet reached the stage that will enable them to recover assets in the near future."

                            Kasko also said the Main Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General's Office (PGO) was involved in the investigation against former high-ranking officials that had been included in the sanctions list.

                            Kasko is convinced that the EU decision to extend sanctions will be guided by political will to support Ukraine rather than by the Ukrainian investigators’ work.

                            Kasko also did not specify the amount of seized funds held abroad.

                            "It's not just about the arrested funds in the banks, but also property, yachts, land and real estate, which have not been assessed," Deputy Prosecutor General said.

                            As UNIAN reported earlier, Kasko said he expected the EU to lift in March 2016 its sanctions against former Ukrainian officials imposed after the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, because Ukrainian law enforcement agencies had not yet provided evidence confirming that the funds were obtained in a corruption-related way.

                            In 2014, the PGO launched over 30 criminal proceedings against the ousted Ukrainian ex-president, Viktor Yanukovych, and his allies.

                            The Council of the European Union imposed sanctions against 22 former Ukrainian senior officials and affiliated individuals, with the governments of the U.S., Canada and Switzerland following suit. Bank accounts of Ukraine's former senior officials in Switzerland, Latvia, Liechtenstein were also frozen.
                            Kasko explains difficulties with recovering assets stolen by Ukraine's ex-officials : UNIAN news

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                            • Bloomberg ranks Ukraine among world's 50 most innovative economies
                              UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan. 19, 2016

                              South Korea dominates the index, with Germany and Sweden taking silver and bronze

                              In the world of ideas, South Korea is king.

                              Germany, Sweden, Japan and Switzerland rounded out the top five in the 2016 Bloomberg Innovation Index, which scored economies using factors including research and development spending and concentration of high-tech public companies.

                              South Korea notched top scores worldwide for manufacturing value-added as well as for tertiary efficiency — a measure that includes enrollment in higher education and the concentration of science and engineering graduates.

                              While the country's No. 39 ranking for productivity might pass for mediocre, it was second for R&D intensity, high-tech density and patent activity and ranked sixth for researcher concentration.


                              Bloomberg ranks Ukraine among world's 50 most innovative economies - read on -
                              FULL STORY

                              These Are the World's Most Innovative Economies
                              South Korea dominates the index, with Germany and Sweden taking silver and bronze
                              These Are the World's Most Innovative Economies - Bloomberg Business

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                              • Ten books Putin loyalists should burn – according to Russian ‘Maxim’ magazine
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/20

                                If Russians are going to go in for book burning, the editors of “Maxim” say, there are some books they as Putin loyalists should consider setting fire to first. In the current issue of the magazine, they offer a list of ten which either because of their subjects or their authors make them appropriate targets.

                                Herewith the Moscow magazine’s list, compiled by its regular author, Oleg ‘Orange’ Bocharov, and tagged as “satire,” that will allow his readers to catch up with the latest fashion in Putin’s Russia today:

                                1. Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls.” A harmful book written by “a psychologically unhealthy” person from Ukraine. “In every Russian fire, there should be something Ukrainian!”

                                2. Astrid Lindgren’s “Karlsson on the Roof.” A candidate for burning because it tells of the unnatural interest of a pedophile in a child of the same sex. Still worse, its author is “an activist of the [Swedish] social-democratic party” and that can’t be good.

                                3. Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” It isn’t important what this huge book is about. Its size alone will help the fire burn brightly. Moreover, its author was “an aging hippy” who was alienated from the Church.

                                4. Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita.” A satanist distortion of Jesus’s life written by a drug addict and native of Kyiv.

                                5. George Orwell’s “1984.” Not only does this book reflect a lack of understanding of “that key role which its wise power plays in the life of the individual … it contains a false interpretation of the tested and reliable methods of popular enlightenment.” And in addition, it “was written in London by the son of an opium producer.”

                                6. J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” “A cheap and long-winded invention in which the place of gays and emigres in Europe are occupied by gnomes and elves, and the entire territory of Russia is covered by volcanoes and its population by Orcs. The author is a commander of the Order of the British Empire and this says it all.”

                                7. Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” This story, written by “a British spiritualist and charlatan,” not only promotes murder but “awakens hatred to a social group,” in this case, “dogs.”

                                8. Mikhail Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Times.” A book intended to spark international tension between Russians and persons of Caucasus nationality, written by an adventurist whose death tsar Nicholas I cleverly predicted: ‘To a dog, a dog’s death.’”

                                9. Vladimir Sorokin’s “The Norm.” A novel that “propagandizes a negative attitude toward the honored by every Russian practice of eating sh.t,” whose author earlier refused to join the Komsomol.

                                10. Korney Chukovsky’s “Fly Tsokotukha.” The author grew up in Odesa and associated with Soviet dissidents so one can expect nothing more than a tale of immorality directed at children.

                                Ten books Putin loyalists should burn – according to Russian ‘Maxim’ magazine - EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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