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  • How I stopped worrying and learned to love Ukraine’s system
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS Lucy Sohryu 2016/01/20

    People in Ukraine and elsewhere like to decry the ‘system’ that exists in Ukraine, that Maidan apparently stood against and which wasn’t destroyed. But they ignore the fact that this same ‘system’ had, in Spring 2014, ultimately saved Ukraine.

    Back before the recent anti-opposition craze, some of the more reasonable Russians often quipped that Maidan succeeded because it had an actual parliamentary opposition at its back, something the Russian protest movement didn’t have. Indeed, the best use for an opposition MP back during the Revolution was as a battering ram. Opposition parties brought many of their members to Maidan and generally constituted at least part of Maidan’s core. However, it was a core that tolerated them reluctantly.

    The giants and stooges of Maidan
    It seems to be forgotten that nobody, back during Maidan, liked the triumvirate of Yatseniuk, Klitschko, and Tyahnybok all that much. Actually, nobody liked them at all. Besides the obvious distrust that comes with the ZRADA mentality (indeed, the modern ZRADA craze started during Maidan), none of the three were exactly revolutionary leader material. There was some hope in certain corners for Tyahnibok at the beginning, since Svoboda used to bill itself as the radical actions-before-words right-wing party, but ultimately it amounted to nothing. Klitschko, then fronted as a possible presidential candidate, got a fire extinguisher to his face. Yatseniuk was scoffed at thanks to his history of government service, notwithstanding the fact that with his rabbity features he was easy to laugh at. Indeed, Maidan did not have any leaders. But it had a face, and it was an important face.

    When Yanukovych fled the country, however, the opposition neatly slotted into the voids left by the former regime’s departure. Opposition leaders and MPs helped assemble the Rada and impeach Yanukovych (despite Ukraine’s lack of an impeachment mechanism), get the riot police and Interior Troops off the streets, and elect a new speaker, who also became Acting President and, essentially, Ukraine’s dictator. That person was Oleksandr Turchynov.

    Under observation, under threat
    The government of Ukraine was non-existent, and the system would remain in shambles for months to come. During these months, Russia pounced on Ukraine, taking away Crimea and then instigating the insurgency in Donbas. It is clear that Russia was goading Ukraine’s new government into responding with force, so that it could steamroll Ukraine in a few days. It should be remembered that along with Crimea, Russian troops remained poised along the border from the north as well as the east for the better half of 2014. In essence, Ukraine was under constant threat of Russian invasion.

    Yet despite this, Ukraine managed to get its government working, with an understandable priority on security services, and managed to receive international recognition – something Russia worked to undermine. At the same time, it had to keep radical tendencies within the country contained, while at the same time stemming the undercurrent of pro-Russian protests sweeping parts of the country. This had the unfortunate side effect of creating the impression that the government wasn’t doing anything – selling the country down the river, as many Ukrainians concluded. This was why Ukrainians cheered on May 2nd in Odesa: at the time, it was not seen as a tragedy, but as a blow struck against separatism. It also helped plant the idea that the government are sellouts and only ‘common people’ were doing anything to fight Russian aggression, which is seriously biting us in the ass right now. But at the time, Ukraine simply had no other choice.

    Unlikely saviours
    The bottom line is that the corrupt and imperfect ‘system’, which brought Yanukovych to power and which Maidan, in part, rallied against, ultimately helped save Ukraine. Opposition became the government: opposition figures, some of them with experience in the corridors of power, slotted into key positions: thus Turchynov, one-time head of SBU, became Speaker and Acting President; former Speaker Yatseniuk became Prime Minister, former Kharkiv governor Avakov became Interior Minister, and so on. Of course, imperfect as it is, some parts of the system lagged behind, Svoboda in particular, but the point is that it worked. Ukraine had achieved a succession of power that allowed it to soldier on, elect a legitimate President and start fighting back Russian personnel engaged in military acts and its proxies, one step at a time.

    While this is not particularly revolutionary (if we take that any revolution should be like the October Revolution, complete with the Avrora and revolutionary sailors), the result is that Ukraine continues to exist. While troubles, political infighting, legacies of the old regime, and cargo-cult approaches to corruption fighting, press freedom, and civil society continue to hound it, and while Ukraine had to make bad decisions and commit balancing acts, there is still a Ukraine around to do all that. On the other hand, if Maidan had violently dismantled the established system of power back in the day, Ukraine would most likely be occupied and would cease to exist. Nobody in the West would support an anarchy of radicals and revolutionary committees. Russian troops would be lauded as saviors and peacemakers. Nobody would dispute Russia’s right to do as it pleased, and Ukraine would either become a servile client state under a reinstalled Yanukovych or a part of Russia altogether. That this had not come to pass is ultimately thanks to Ukraine’s much-reviled ‘system’.

    The truth is that things are rarely in black and white, and while Ukraine’s establishment is responsible for its many modern woes, in the end it saved Ukraine, even if unwittingly so. And, in part, the system allowed Ukraine to survive so that Ukraine can finally dismantle it and put it to rest.

    Same old faces? Maybe. But there’s too much at stake to gamble.
    How I stopped worrying and learned to love Ukraine's system -Euromaidan Press |
    -------------------------------
    Source: The Ukraine Today

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    • Russian Space Agency Scales Back Plans as Crisis Shrinks Budget
      VOICE OF AMERICA Reuters Jan 20, 2016 7:50 PM

      MOSCOW—

      Russia will spend 30 percent less on its space program in the next decade and scale back a slew of projects to save money in the face of tanking oil prices and a falling ruble, a plan presented by the country's space agency showed on Wednesday,

      According to the blueprint, presented to Russian media by Igor Komarov, head of space agency Roscosmos, the space program budget for 2016-2025 will be cut to 1.4 trillion rubles ($17.36 billion), down from 2 trillion rubles.

      That means plans to launch a manned flight to the moon will be pushed back five years - to 2035 from 2030 - and that development of a reusable space rocket meant to be built by 2025 will, for now, be abandoned.

      "Russia is certain to implement this project, but at the moment the launch of a booster rocket with a reusable first stage is not economically viable," local media cited Komarov as saying. He did not elaborate. A Roscosmos spokesman told Reuters the agency would return to the matter after 2025.

      Russia's Cold War-era rival, the United States, has already successfully tested similar vehicles. Re-using the first stages of rockets, designed to return to Earth after launch, would make commercial rocket launches cheaper.

      A new cosmodrome currently under construction in the country's Far East will also suffer under the slimmed down program. It will now get only one launch pad instead of the two originally planned.

      The government is due to sign off on the new space program in March. It is unclear whether it could demand more cuts before then.

      Heavily dependent on oil revenues, Russia has been forced to scale back spending plans across a range of sectors as it tries to navigate an economic crisis compounded by a weakening ruble and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

      The ruble hit a record low on Wednesday.

      President Vladimir Putin has spoken many times of rekindling Soviet-era space glory. The USSR launched the first artificial "Sputnik" satellite in 1957, sent the first man into space in 1961, and conducted the first-ever space walk in 1965.

      But the United States made six manned landings on the moon between 1969 and 1972, while the Soviet-built N-1 heavy rocket, designed to take cosmonauts to the moon, failed to make a single successful flight.Russian Space Agency Scales Back Plans as Crisis Shrinks Budget

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      • Putin recalls Stalin’s secret police chief when discussing Internet anonymity at business forum
        MEDUZA 09:15, 20 January 2016 RIA Novosti

        At a business forum in Russia today, Vladimir Putin addressed Internet anonymity, saying online complaints and negative reviews about private enterprises should be “identifiable.”

        Putin was responding to a question from Alexander Kalinin, the president of a small-business association, who expressed concerns that complaints about businesses are often written under false names.

        “If a person has a certain view, or has certain claims, let the person say them, but identify themselves, too… Otherwise these are neither claims nor complaints. These are [like] anonymous letters [submitted to security services in Soviet times]. And only one inspection officer ever managed to make this work: Lavrentiy P. Beria,” the president said.
        → RIA Novosti

        Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria (1899–1953) was the chief of the Soviet security and secret police apparatus under Stalin during World War II. He also served as deputy premier after the war, until 1953, when he was executed, following Stalin's death.
        https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/01/20...business-forum

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        • Russian state news agency reportedly isn’t paying its staff
          08:53, 20 January 2016 Meduza

          Wage arrears have been reported at Russia's state-owned news agency TASS. Pavel Bednyakov, a photographer for the agency Sinkhua, wrote on Twitter today that TASS has informed him of a delay in his pay. According to Bednyakov, TASS is also holding salaries for its staff photographers.

          On condition of anonymity, a TASS employee told Meduza that salaries are indeed being held back. According to the source, the news agency's management has promised to pay its staff by the end of the month. TASS doesn't have money to pay its employees because of an interruption in funding from the government, which is busy reducing its allocations to the news agency, according to Meduza's source.
          According to the newspaper Vedomosti, the federal government planned to allocate 1.8 billion rubles ($22.2 million) in 2016.

          In early 2015, TASS reduced its staff, dismissing roughly a quarter of all employees.
          https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/01/20...ying-its-staff

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          • The Kuril Islands’ ghost town Life in the military town the military forgot. A photo series
            14:22, 20 January 2016 Meduza

            The military town Gornoe was built in the early 1980s on Iturup, one of the Kuril Islands, facing Kasatka Bay. It was settled by the families of artillery, helicopter pilot, and fighter pilot regiments, which were stationed nearby. To this day, Kasatka Bay on Iturup Island is thought to be “the most suitable landing point for a potential adversary.” In the 1990s, however, two of the regiments were disbanded, and part of Gornoe's residential area and administrative buildings were abandoned and later looted. An earthquake in 1994 completely destroyed the town's infrastructure.

            Kasatka Bay, once called Hitokappu Bay by its former occupants, has played a significant role in world history. On November 26, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy led two dozen ships with six aircraft carriers from Hitokappu Bay toward Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, where Japan would mount a surprise attack 11 days later, bringing the United States into World War II. The fleet never returned, and, in 1945, the Potsdam Agreement transferred sovereignty over Iturup Island to the Soviet Union. The island's population was then repatriated to Japan.

            Today, the Russians living in Gornoe often say it's a ghost town, and sailors call it a Fata Morgana (a mirage), in honor of the sea fairies who, as legend has it, live on the ocean floor, deceiving travelers with phantom visions. By the last count on December 1, 2015, there were 635 people living in Gornoe—128 of them children. Late last year, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to build new military towns on Iturup Island. In December 2015, photographer Oleg Klimov visited Gornoe, observing life in the “ghost town,” and speaking to the people who live there.>>>>>>>>>
            continue read and view photos
            https://meduza.io/en/galleries/2016/...d-s-ghost-town

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            • Court in Russian-occupied Crimea orders arrest of Mustafa Dzhemiliev
              21.01.16 | Halya Coynash HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

              Almost two years after Russia banned world-renowned Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev from his native Crimea, a court in Simferopol has ordered his arrest. In applying for the detention order, the prosecutor argued not only that there were three charges against the Ukrainian national under Russia’s Criminal Code, but that Mustafa Dzhemiliev « is hiding from the investigators and the court »

              News of this ‘arrest warrant’ was announced by lawyer Dzemil Temishev who was clearly present in the Simferopol court on Jan 20. It was he who reported the grotesque grounds given for the order, with the investigators and prosecutor also claiming that Dzhemiliev does not have a permanent place of residence in Crimea. This is a particularly cynical lie since there is no problem with place of residence, but with the aggressor nation which seized control and exiled Dzhemiliev from his homeland.

              Temishev reports also that Russia has declared Dzhemiliev on the federal wanted list. It can be safely assumed that Moscow would not succeed in getting the 72-year-old Ukrainian MP, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe representative, former Soviet political prisoner and laureate of numerous international awards on the international wanted list.

              Temishev does not report what the three articles of the Russian Criminal Code refer to, but Radio Svoboda’s Crimean Service writes that Mustafa Dzhemiliev is accused of illegally crossing the border and of unlawfully holding weapons and ammunition.

              Russia and the leaders it installed in Crimea reacted with aggression and repressive measures to the civic blockade first of goods, then also of electricity, which began on September 20, 2015. They have particularly gone for anybody linked with Mustafa Dzhemiliev, Refat Chubarov and the third initiator of the blockade Lemur Islamov. Dzhemiliev’s wife Safinar was summoned for interrogation, and Russia recently refused, in clear breach of a bilateral agreement, to return Dzhemiliev’s son Khaiser to Ukraine from a prison inside Russia.

              Instead of responding to the legitimate human rights demands put forward as conditions for removal of the blockade, including the release of all political prisoners, Russia has resorted to absurd accusations and smear campaigns. There have even been hysterical claims that Dzhemiliev and Chubarov are recruiting fighters for ISIS and threats to prohibit the Mejlis or Crimean Tatar representative body as an ‘extremist’ body.

              Mustafa Dzhemiliev was just 6 months old when the entire Crimean Tatar people were deported from their native Crimea. He devoted decades of his life to the peaceful struggle for his people’s right to return to their homeland. He spent 15 years in Soviet labour camps. There and later he gained world renown for his unwavering commitment to his people and to peaceful methods of defending fundamental rights. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize at least twice, and has received countless honours throughout the world.

              It was just months before the seventieth anniversary of the Deportation that Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. When attempts to convince Crimean Tatar leaders that this was not a catastrophe failed, Russia banned first Mustafa Dzhemiliev, and then Refat Chubarov from Crimea. There have since been systematic attempts to crush the Mejlis and intimidate Crimean Tatars, and the highest-ranking Mejlis leader remaining in Crimea, Akhtem Chiygoz has been in detention for a year on absurd charges.

              Mustafa Dzhemiliev has yet to respond to this latest move, however Refat Chubarov writes on his Facebook page that Dzhemiliev laughed when Chubarov was declared on the same wanted list, saying this was not right that he had been ignored. Unfortunately, no longer.

              The arrest warrant against Chubarov was issued in October 2015, some 15 months after Russia had banned him from the territory covered by the federal wanted list. He was accused of “encroaching on Russia’s territorial integrity” by insisting that Crimea is Ukraine.

              The thugs who invaded and annexed the men’s homeland have now ordered the arrest of Mustafa Dzhemiliev whom they wish to charge with seeking to enter his native Crimea.
              Court in Russian-occupied Crimea orders arrest of Mustafa Dzhemiliev :: khpg.org

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              • Ukrainians worldwide to commemorate Act of Unity on January 22
                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Olena Makarenko 2016/01/20

                Around three million people in Ukraine took each others hands and connected Kyiv and Lviv via a real human chain. It was 22 January 1990 when Ukrainians, still being a part of the Soviet Union, marked the 71st anniversary of the Unification act of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic and Ukrainian People’s Republic, the fledgling independent states that appeared after the fall of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires. Unity was a dream of many generations of Ukrainians who throughout centuries were engulfed by different empires on their borders.

                http://euromaidanpress.com/wp-conten...6/01/unity.jpg

                This chain has been one of the largest in the world’s history and became a significant step towards Ukraine’s Independence. Is it possible now to support Ukraine’s Unity and Independence in such a great way? The Ukrainian World Congress joins the call for Ukrainians around the world to participate in the flashmob #UnitedUkraine on 22 January to mark the historic Unification Act of this day in 1919, which united Ukrainian territories into a sole, sovereign state. To understand what the Act means for Ukrainians, one needs to recall the historical context in which it was signed. Then, Ukraine was in even worse conditions than now: it experienced aggression not only from the side of Russia, but also from its western neighbors.

                West Ukrainian People’s Republic
                On the eve of the World War One, a large part of the territories of modern Ukraine, in particular eastern Galicia, Bukovyna and Transcarpathia, were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

                In October 1918, the Empire ceased existing because of the defeat of Austro-German bloc in the War and because of the struggle of nations that were part of it for their independence.

                Western Ukrainians also started creating the own state. In the end of 1918, a military commissariat was established in Lviv to plan a military uprising against the Austrian government. On 18 October 1918, in Lviv at the meeting of all Ukrainian deputies of Austrian Parliament, Ukrainian members of Galicia and Bukovyna Seims, representatives of the parties of Galicia and Bukovyna, clergy and students created the Ukrainian National Rada (a Council) which became a political representative body of Ukrainian people in Austro-Hungarian Empire. In October 19, according to the right of people to self-determination, the Rada claimed the creation of a Ukrainian state on all ethnic territories of Galicia, Bukovyna and Transcarpathia. On this meeting Yevhen Petrushevych was appointed as the President, and the decision to create a democratic constitution was made. The Rada also raised the question on giving all the power to Ukrainians, however, the Austrian side rejected it.

                http://lh6.googleusercontent.com/zWd...kTXvg4hoMrHcqY

                Then, on the evening meeting of 31 October 1918, a decision to seize power in Lviv in a military way was made. Rifle regiments captured the buildings of important state institutions. A temporary body of executive power was created, and the law on “The basic temporary law on state independence of Ukrainian lands of ex Austro-Hungarian Empire” was approved. According to this law, the new state was called Western Ukrainian Peoples Republic (ZUNR), which included Ukrainian ethnic lands and covered Galicia, Bukovyna and Transcarpathia. The population of the state was 6 million people. National symbols also were approved and the main law later was complemented by the number of laws directed on political and economical aspect of life of the new republic.

                As a result of active foreign policy, embassies were opened in Austria, Hungary and Germany and diplomatic representations were opened in Czechoslovakia, Canada, USA, Brazil, Italy and others.

                However, the movement of the new republic towards independence was interrupted.

                The Poles initiated hostilities against the Ukrainian government. Simultaneously, Romanian troops crossed the border of ZUNR. As a result, despite the local population’s resistance, Romanians captured the city Chernivtsi and later all South Bukovyna. After bloody battles, Polish troops captured Lviv. Ukrainian Government moved to Ternopil, and later to Ivano-Frankivsk (then, the city was called Stanislav). A new government headed by Sydir Golubovich was formed.

                Ukrainian People’s Republic
                Ukrainian Peoples Republic (UNR) is the name of the Ukrainian state during 1917-20 years.It was declared by the Third Universal of Ukrainian Central Rada (council). In the circumstances of military aggression of Bolshevist Russia, Ukraine’s Central Rada declared the independence of UNR as a free sovereign state. According to the third Universal, the republic included Kyiv, Podil, Kharkiv, Katerynoslav, Kherson and Tavr (excluding Crimea) gubernies, the administrative units of that time.

                The highest legislative body Ukrainian Central Rada was headed by the president Mykhailo Hrushevsky. The new Republic was facing the obstacles on the way towards it’s development, the main one being aggression of Bolshevist Russia.

                One important diplomatic action of UNR was signing the Brest Agreement in February 1918 with the countries of Quadruple Alliance which defined UNR as an independent state. It was also recognized by Romania. The new republic opened embassies in Berlin, Constantinopol, Vienna, Sofia, and Bucharest. Also here, national symbols and currency – hryvnya, the same currency as in modern-day Ukraine, were introduced. Ukrainian Central Rada elected the president – Mykhailo Hrushevsky, and the constitution was adopted. However, at that time Ukraine was plagued by an internal power struggle. In April 1918, the Central Rada was removed from power by the Ukrainian Congress of Farmers and Petro Skoropadskyi was elected as the new Hetman of Ukraine. As a result of anti-hetman uprising in 1918, UNR was replaced by the Directoria.

                The Act of Unity
                http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/CI1...MLRR_p9mBqwxqG

                The authorities of ZUNR considered the unity with UNR as the main state priority. This position was supported by the population. Ukrainian Central Rada sent its representatives to Kyiv to talk to the Hetman Petro Skoropadsky. After the beginning of anti-hetman upheaval the negotiations were conducted with the Directoria. A Preliminary agreement on Unity was signed in the end of December 1918.

                In 22 January 1919, the Act of the Union claimed that UNR and ZUNR are united in one independent state. It was stated in the Universal that this state include Galicia, Bukovyna, Hungarian Rus and Central Ukraine. At the same time, on Sofia Square in Kyiv, in official atmosphere the delegations of the both republics read this decision to people.

                The decision was not implemented on practice because of martial law. Later, it also became clear that the two republics have different strategic visions. However, from today’s perspective, the Union had a significant meaning for Ukraine and for its people, showing that for a long time Ukrainians were struggling to be united, not separated.

                In 1990, Ukraine celebrated its largest Act of Unity; nowadays, each year activists in Ukraine recreate the event. In Kyiv, people usually link the two banks of the Dnipro river with a human chain on the bridge of Paton. The place is symbolic as it unites the right and the left sides of Dnipro river which divides Ukraine roughly into two. The largest event there took place in 2011, when over 1000 people came to the bridge. Also that year people from more than 20 cities created human chains.

                http://lh5.googleusercontent.com/31t...YCVA2mHwJQwXHR

                2016 is not an exception. Activists are planning to meet on 22 January at the same bridge in Kyiv. For the second year in a row the event has a special meaning in the context of the war in eastern Ukraine.

                “Last year for the first time, displaced people from the occupied Donbas took part in our event. They hand-crafted Ukrainian flags with the inscription of the cities that were forced to leave because of the war. These yellow-blue flags were presented to the other participants of the event from other regions of Ukraine, symbolizing that Ukraine is United, geographically and mentally, culturally and historically,” said Vadim Vasylchuk, the organizer of the event.

                The campaign also will take place in other cities of Ukraine, including Lviv, Odesa, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Rivne, and abroad – in Germany, the Baltic countries, Poland, Czech Republic,and UK. “Only national symbols, blue and yellow flags and ribbons will be used during the event. Party or any other symbols are forbidden because the political strife does not let us have have the real unity, which our ancestors sought and which we are looking for,” is written in the invitation for the event.

                Simple steps to support Ukraine now

                Read what you can do>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Ukrainians worldwide to commemorate Act of Unity on January 22 -Euromaidan Press |

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                • Deshchytsia challenges Polish PM's claims on Ukrainian refugee
                  UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan. 20, 2016 VIDEO

                  Beata Szydlow's ultra-conservative government have condemned the EU over migrant crisis

                  A top Ukrainian diplomat in Poland is disputing a statement by that country's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. In a recent session with the European Union lawmakers Szydlo claimed about a million refugees from Ukraine reside in Poland.

                  It was a comment challenged by Andrii Deshchytsia, Ukraine's top envoy to Warsaw.

                  In an interview with Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform, he said:

                  "In fact, there are no refugees from Ukraine in Poland. There are perhaps up to a million people - Ukrainian workers, who came and are here legally, who hold jobs and fill vacancies that became free after millions of Poles went abroad in search of better jobs."

                  Deshchytsia speculates the Polish government is using Ukraine as a counter arguement to accept more migrants from the Middle East. He stressed Ukrainian workers in Poland don't burden the benefiits system, do pay taxes and have a good reputation and high qualifications. According to the Polish Migration Service, only two Ukrainians recieved refugee status last year - despite over a million being displaced by war in eastern Ukraine.

                  Deshchytsia challenges Polish PM's claims on Ukrainian refugees - watch on - uatoday.tv

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                  • Russia prepares for a Crimean blockade at sea
                    EUROMAIDAN PRESS Alex Leonor 2016/01/20

                    The Ukrainian law banning almost all trade with Russian-occupied Crimea is now in force. Activists began taking down their Crimean blockade checkpoints in December, and according to the Crimean Tatar leader Lenur Islyamov they have largely achieved their goal: “The government has finally heard us, and the directive it has adopted, one-legged and vague though it is, is generally consistent with the spirit in which we’d like to see it, and therefore we are removing all checkpoints.” In a recent interview he said that activists would continue to work as observers on Ukrainian government checkpoints (presumably to police smuggling enabled by bribery.)

                    The Crimean Tatar activists have been speaking about conducting a maritime blockade for some time now. This would be very difficult, as the Russians have naval superiority in the Black Sea. Furthermore, the most crucial checkpoint for the Crimean peninsula is the Kerch Strait, which separates Crimea from Russia. This area will probably be closely watched and heavily fortified by the Russians, making any attempts to cut power cables or interfere with ferry traffic etc. very difficult if not impossible. However, a more limited operation only off the west coast of Ukraine may cause a great deal of trouble for Crimea’s Russian occupiers and some corrupt Ukrainian collaborators. According to a recent statement by Lenur Islyamov there is some smuggling to Crimea run out of Odesa. Some boats leaving Odesa either transfer cargo at sea to a ship coming out of Crimea, or turn off their transponders, sprint to Sevastopol and unload their cargoes, and then continue on their way as if nothing happened. Maritime monitoring and interdiction of such activity in the waters off the west coast of Crimea would interfere with this kind of trafficking.

                    The Russians may already be preparing to block any activist activity at sea. First, there is the propaganda preparation. Russian propaganda has already called this potential blockade “terrorism” and they are sliding it into their larger false narrative of the Crimean Tatars as proxies of ISIS/Turkey. For example, see this Sputnik headline: (Turkish President) “Erdogan Meets With Crimean Blockade Organizers: Naval Provocation Imminent?” Russian propagandists are particularly sensitive about the Kerch Strait. Russian commentator Ivan Konovalov said that any reaction to a Crimea blockade would be harsh, stating in Sputnik news: “if an action is carried out [in the Kerch Strait] bearing the signs of a terrorist attack, it will affect Russia’s relations with Ukraine…If some deranged lunatics want to provoke a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, it will be in Kyiv’s interest not to allow this to happen. If Islyamov’s declarations should scare anyone, it is Kyiv.”

                    As well as media preparations for countering a Crimea blockade, Russia may also be preparing for trouble in the physical world. Very shortly after the interview where Islyamov mentioned possibly interdicting illegal traffic from other Ukrainian ports bound for Sevastopol, the Russian governmentannounced that new FSB “counter-terrorism headquarters” in selected coastal towns to fight terrorism in “the territorial sea, the (maritime) exclusive economic zone, and on the continental shelf of the Russian Federation.” One of these five new headquarters is located in occupied Crimea.

                    The other parts of the country where Russia will establish maritime anti-terror units are Dagestan which does have a problem with terrorism, Murmansk (in Russia’s far northwest, near Norway) Sakhalin, and Petropavlovsk (in Russia’s far east.) Of all these locations, only Dagestan can reasonably be said to have an actual terrorist threat (and not a maritime one at that.)

                    The Russians may have moved quickly to put naval “anti-terror” forces in Crimea to ward off any activist blockade. A little over a week after the announcement of the new FSB “counter-terrorism headquarters” in Crimea a few sharp-eyed observers noticed a new Russian naval special forces base in Crimea. The arrival of a BK-16 high-speed patrol boat was what caught the attention of folks watching social media. The commentator H I Sutton noted that the small base has been in use since at least May 2014, and his article has commercial satellite imagery with what are probably rigid inflatable boats. The BK-16 may be a recent addition.

                    An FSB “anti-terrorism” operation around Crimea would be a way for Russia to combat any Crimean blockade without using its navy and therefore keeping the whole thing as a “counter terrorism” operation short of war. Of course, this would continue to be wrapped up in the larger Russian narrative of Crimean Tatar activists as terrorists. The volume and the vociferousness with which Russian propaganda is warning about consequences and the very public manner that a “Maritime counter-terrorism headquarters” was established may be a hint that the Russians are trying to scare off the Ukrainian government from permitting this activity. Alternatively, an ongoing “counter-terrorism” operation by the Russians in the Black Sea could be expanded to interfere with legitimate traffic in and out of Ukraine. Russia prepares for a Crimean blockade at sea -Euromaidan Press |

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                    • Problem of departing presidents
                      21.01.2016 | 09:25 UNIAN Roman Rukomeda

                      Vladimir Putin’s dream has come true. He began to discuss the fate of Europe and the Middle East directly with Barack Obama. Without mediators. Further meetings between Surkov and Nuland, Kerry and Lavrov were just the development of some of the agreements reached between the two leaders both set to leave office soon.

                      Let's try to understand what the United States and Russia may agree on in the present circumstances, as Washington begins confident export of hydrocarbons, while Moscow is in a "pre-stroke" state because of oil prices.

                      By the end of Barack Obama’s second presidential term, the United States is in quite an ambiguous position. On the one hand, the United States firmly hold the palm of technological leadership, setting the tone in the projects on human space exploration and the creating new industries of the future based on 3D-Printing. American technology and the U.S.-based companies have turned upside down the world’s energy industry, accelerating the end of the era of oil and gas with shale revolution. Now the United States are actively developing solar energy, nuclear fusion, and a host of other energy technologies, eliminating the need for traditional coal, oil and gas. The American military machine knows no equals, being able to conduct several wars in different war theaters, if necessary, and to deploy the U.S. troops anywhere around the world in less than 24 hours.

                      On the other hand, many internal issues, including migration, health system, and social support remain in an ambiguous state.

                      But it’s the foreign policy that turned out to be the weakest point of Obama administration. The U.S. has failed to fulfill its guarantees to Ukraine under the Budapest memorandum. Instead of a hard confrontation with Putin's Russia after the Kremlin began an open aggression in the Donbas and hybrid war against Europe, rejecting international law, the White House opted for a strategy of smothering Moscow slowly with economic sanctions. At the same time, it creates additional preconditions for the new oil lows. Moreover, the Obama administration has failed to prevent revolutions in the North Africa and the Middle East that brought Islamists to power. After years of campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. has not been able to qualitatively improve the situation with the development of state institutions and security systems in these countries.

                      As a result, in political terms, the United States’ influence has decreased in Eastern Europe and North Africa, in the Middle East, and Asia. U.S. President-peacekeeper was unable to offer the world an exit plan from the most severe security crisis in the last few decades. Now the Obama administration is trying to at least not exacerbate the current level of escalation with Putin's Russia and not to plunge the world into a chain of regional conflicts and, in the long term, a global conflict with unpredictable consequences. The paradox is that at present, the main contenders for the post-Obama White House – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump –have no clear plan on how to completely neutralize the Putin regime and, most importantly, what to do with Russia after the change of the Kremlin’s master.

                      There is a high possibility of a change of power in Russia this year, either by a new consensus of internal elites (a “rock to the head" scenario), or by Putin’s quiet early departure from power, with transmission of power to some group, agreed with the West.

                      Of course, Putin may try to play to the end, but this game will not last too long (up to two or three years) and it is likely to end similar to those of Hussein, Gaddafi and Milosevic.

                      According to the latest estimates of Russian economists and government officials, there is less than $100 billion left in Russia’s foreign exchange and financial reserves. At best, this will be enough until the end of this year. At worst - to the middle of 2016. The Russian economy has now halted. Import substitution is just not working. The main export field - oil and gas extraction and processing – has been knocked out by the plunging price of the "black gold" below $30 per barrel. The price is most likely not to go up in the coming year, due to the U.S. and Iran both entering the export market, as well as to Saudis dumping hard. Protest sentiments across Russia are escalating. Last year, there were 40% more labor protests in Russia than in previous years. 2016 will see even more of those. The collapse of the ruble is underway, and no one risks to predict, where the bottom is. It is possible that we will see RUB 100 to the dollar pretty soon.

                      Against this background, the Russian authorities sign an agreement on abolishing double taxation with Hong Kong. This means that the Kremlin has in fact launched the evacuation of the financial assets from the sinking ship of the Russian statehood.

                      In such circumstances, Russia and Putin simply have no resources for any confrontation, even for trench warfare in Donbas with the escalation of the internal political situation in Ukraine. Kremlin only has a couple of moves left until it suffers a checkmate.

                      Amid this crisis, there goes the first long conversation between Obama and Putin, then there is a meeting between Nuland and Surkov, and then – the talks between top diplomats John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov. What may be the real agenda of all these negotiations given the current position of the U.S. and Russia?

                      It is likely that the departing presidents have agreed on de-escalation before and during the period of their transition from power. For Obama, it means the preservation and transfer of control over the situation to the next leader of the White House. For Putin, it means the ability to ensure personal security, wealth (albeit in a cut form), and to avoid responsibility for all the crimes committed. For Russia, it will mean withdrawal from the annexed territories (first Donbas, then - Crimea); wrapping up its Middle Eastern military campaigns; and a radical change of the government team. At the same time the United States will try to help keep Russia in its current form, fearing the collapse of the state with the second-largest nuclear arsenal, as well as the unpredictable people and elite. Washington should have time to build up the ranks of its chess pieces before the big geopolitical game with China, where the grand prize is Europe. At this, the U.S. is also tasked with preventing a sharp strengthening of China due to the rapid collapse of the Russian Federation.

                      This is likely what the departing presidents have tried to agree on. The first quarter of 2016 will show whether such assumption has the right to life. Problem of departing presidents : UNIAN news

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                      • RADIO FREE EUROPE January 21, 2016
                        Ukrainian Hacker Pleads Guilty In Massive 'Botnet' Conspiracy

                        A Ukrainian computer hacker accused of trying to frame a prominent cybersecurity expert has pleaded guilty to using more than 13,000 computers to steal log-in and credit-card data.

                        U.S. prosecutors said January 20 that Sergei Vovnenko faces a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison and may face additional prison time.

                        Prosecutors said Vovenko, whose aliases included "Flycracker," "Centurion" and "Darklife," was part of an international conspiracy to hack into computers belonging to individuals and companies between September 2010 and August 2012.

                        They said Vovnenko admitted to operating a "botnet" that used more than 13,000 computers that had been infected with malware to gain unauthorized access.

                        The group then used malware known as “Zeus” to steal banking information from and record keystrokes of people using infected computers.

                        Vovnenko was detained by Italian authorities following his June 13, 2014, arrest and had fought extradition.

                        At the time of the extradition, Brian Krebs, a well-known cybersecurity blogger, wrote that Vovnenko had been behind a 2013 plot to have heroin sent to Krebs' Virginia home, and then tell police when the drugs arrived. Ukrainian Hacker Pleads Guilty In Massive 'Botnet' Conspiracy 

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                        • RADIO FREE EUROPE Claire Bigg & Tetiana Iakubovych Jan 21, 2016
                          Seeking Asylum In Ukraine, Russian Dissidents Get Cold Shoulder

                          When Russian psychologist Pyotr Lyubchenkov started receiving telephone threats and was detained by the police for 10 days after posting several online comments denouncing Moscow's support of separatists in eastern Ukraine, he knew it was time to leave.

                          In June 2014, he fled Russia for what he thought would be a better, safer life in Ukraine.

                          But a year and a half later, his successive applications for political asylum have all been rejected and the Ukrainian authorities are now seeking to extradite him to Russia.

                          Lyubchenkov, who faces prison on extremism charges in his home country, has a word of warning for other embattled Russian opposition activists. "I strongly advise them against traveling to Ukraine and asking for political asylum," he said in a telephone interview from Odesa. "If you are in danger, you had better ask another country. Ukraine is not a safe place for refugees from Russia.

                          Amid a deepening Kremlin crackdown on dissent, more than 200 Russians who have fallen afoul of the authorities in their country have fled to Ukraine since the beginning of 2014, according to the Ukrainian State Migration Service.

                          Only a handful have been granted political asylum or other forms of protection by Ukrainian authorities.

                          For the rest, the apparent freedoms gained since the pro-democracy Maidan protests in Kyiv toppled Ukraine's Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 remain elusive.

                          Ukraine's migration service insists that its screening procedure for asylum applications is fair and impartial. "We are open," spokesman Serhiy Hunko told RFE/RL. "If it is the applicant’s wish, we are ready to consider each case together with the United Nations' refugee agency and human rights organizations, and to listen to the opinion of independent experts."

                          Some local rights groups are nonetheless alarmed by the massive legal hurdles facing Russian political emigres in Ukraine. "It is unacceptable to not provide asylum for people facing persecution for peaceful opposition activities in their own country," the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group said last week on its website.

                          "Incredibly, given the ongoing imprisonment of [Nadia] Savchenko, [Oleh] Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, and other Ukrainians, as well as long sentences passed on Russians for peaceful protest, the Migration Service is still claiming that Russia is a democratic country to which activists can be returned," it added.

                          Prisoner Of Conscience

                          Russian opposition activist Vyacheslav Martynov, who fled to the northeastern city of Kharkiv in 2014, is among the lucky few. After a protracted legal battle, he was finally granted special protection by Ukrainian authorities several weeks ago.

                          Martynov landed in hot water with Russian authorities after attempting to organize a rally demanding broader autonomy for the part of southern Russia known as the Kuban together with Lyubchenkov and a third activist, Darya Polyudova.

                          The three were briefly detained, placed on a terrorist watch list, and charged with extremism.

                          Polyudova, who chose to stay in Russia, was sentenced to two years in prison in December 2015 on charges of "calling for Russia's territorial integrity infringement" -- a sentence that sparked an outcry from rights groups around the world.

                          Russia's leading Russian rights organization, Memorial, has since declared Polyudova a prisoner of conscience.

                          If sent back to Russia, Lyubchenkov risks a similar fate.

                          Several weeks ago, Russian prosecutors officially asked Ukraine to extradite him at the behest of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

                          He says he is now hiding from prosecutors in Odesa, who issued a warrant for his arrest in mid-December. "Odesa prosecutors are trying to arrest me and hand me over to Russia because I called for the Kuban to join Ukraine," he said. "This is how absurd the situation is."

                          Like Martynov, Lyubchenkov has won several court appeals overturning earlier decisions by migration authorities to deny him political asylum. But under Ukrainian law, judges cannot force migration authorities to deliver asylum status, only to reconsider applications.

                          Olga Kurnosova, another Russian opposition activist who is trying to rebuild her life in Ukraine, attributes the Migration Service's reluctance to help Kremlin critics to what she says is the large number of Moscow sympathizers still serving in its ranks since Yanukovych's ouster.

                          "The migration service has not undergone any lustration," she said. "People there already served under Yanukovych and they are doing their jobs dishonestly, just like they did under Yanukovych." Seeking Asylum In Ukraine, Russian Dissidents Get Cold Shoulder

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                          • Ukraine battles deadly outbreak of swine flu
                            UT UKRAINE TODAY Video Jan. 21, 2016

                            12 people have died in eastern regions occupied by Russian-backed militants

                            Ukraine is fighting an outbreak of swine flu. Across the country, at least 51 people have died as a result of the virus. Here in east Ukraine 12 people have lost their lives. This region is beyond the control of the government. It is occupied by Russian-backed militants. At one local hospital doctors say they lack crucial drugs.

                            Elena Baun, senior doctor at Donetsk hospital: "The supply of medication today is enough in general. The only thing we are short of is anti-virus medication - Tamiflu - which is in drug stores today, but, unfortunately, we do not have it in the hospital. That's why patients have to buy it themselves."

                            Residents of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic are doing what they can to stay healthy. They often queue at local pharmacies to buy respiratory masks and medicine. Ukraine's Health Minister says the situation in occupied eastern regions is more severe than elsehwere in the country.

                            Alexander Kvitashvili, Health Minister: "The situation is awful there with medicine and infrastructure. We need to understand that, unfortunately, those good high-tech centres which were built are either not functional or were blown up or robbed."

                            Schools in Ukraine have been closed since January 16. Authorities hope such measures will stop the H1N1 virus from spreading.
                            Ukraine battles deadly outbreak of swine flu - watch on - uatoday.tv

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                            • 10:07 21.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                              Kyiv reports 29 attacks by militants on Ukrainian army positions over past day

                              The militants conducted 29 attacks on Ukrainian army positions over the past day, and most violations were observed in the Donetsk airport area, the army operation press center wrote on Facebook on Thursday morning.

                              The militants fired grenade launchers and small arms on Ukrainian positions near Pisky, Opytne and the Butivka mine.

                              A large-caliber machine gun shelled a Ukrainian army stronghold near Starohnativka.

                              Ukrainian army positions near Talakivka (in the Mariupol area) came under a mortar attack, and precision fire was conducted by use of grenade launchers, small arms and infantry combat vehicles near Luhanske, on the border between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

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                              • Close to panic: Russian currency falls more than RUB 3 in half hour
                                21.01.2016 | 11:15 UNIAN

                                The dollar exchange rate reached RUB 84 to the dollar on the Moscow Stock Exchange for the first time since the denomination in 1998, rising to a maximum of RUB 84.81 to the dollar, which is RUB 3.41 or 4.19% higher than yesterday's closing level, Russian news agency RBC reported.

                                The euro exchange rate also rose more than RUB 3 in the first half hour of trading. The cost of a single European currency reached RUB 92.555 to the euro, which is RUB 3.909 or 4.4% higher than the closing level of the previous trading session. However, the euro has not yet reached its all-time low – on December 16, 2014 the cost of a single European currency rose to RUB 100.74 to the euro.

                                The collapse of the ruble is due to falling world oil prices. During today's trading on the ICE stock exchange, March futures for Brent crude fell to $27.54.


                                The Central Bank of the Russian Federation set the official exchange rate for Thursday, January 21, at RUB 79.4614 to the dollar, RUB 87.0314 to the euro.

                                In turn, speaking at the Russian forum of entrepreneurs, Russian President Vladimir Putin said optimistically that the depreciation of the ruble would open "additional opportunities" for Russian businessmen.
                                Close to panic: Russian currency falls more than RUB 3 in half hour : UNIAN news

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