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  • Donbas militants create "political system," prepare for "elections" - head of ATC
    23.01.2016 | 15:10 UNIAN

    “LPR-DPR” terrorist groups, the self-styled breakaway republics, are creating political systems that should become the main "pro-government parties." The local population will be forced to vote for them in case local elections are held, according to Vitaly Malikov, head of the SBU Anti-Terrorism Center, ZN.UA reported.

    The official has told about the so-called public associations "The Donetsk Republic" and "Peace to Luhansk" led by the militant leaders Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky respectively.

    According to Malikov, people in the occupied areas of Donbas are denied employment, especially those applying for posts in public service, unless they become members of these organizations.

    "At the same time, to create an image of “democracy” in case local elections are held, a number of sham political forces, actually controlled [by the militant leaders] are being created. The Republican Party of Donbass is already operating, as well as the public movements called the Union of Left Forces of Donbas and Volunteer Union of Donbas. The Luhansk Economic Union, People's Union, Luhansk District of Don Cossacks VVD, Liberation Front, United Russian Land, The Military Community of Luhansk region, The League of Communists of Luhansk region, and Luhansk Guard are registered in the so-called “LPR.” On the basis of former regional Communist Party cells are created, "the Communist Parties of “DPR-LPR” are created on the basis of the local cells of the former Communist Party. The newly-formed structures are in fact controlled by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation,” said Malikov.

    The head of the ATC states that the main moderators of the political process in the occupied areas of Donbas are the special services of the Russian Federation, while the cost of political activity is covered with the funds once siphoned from Ukraine by ousted ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, and his allies Vitaliy Zakharchenko and Oleksandr Klymenko, all of whom have fled to Russia.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • 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

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • Ukrainian interest. Davos candor, EU approval, and deadlock in Minsk
        23.01.2016 | 19:10 UNIAN Yevgeny Magda

        The World Economic Forum in Davos was a perfect opportunity for the Ukrainian authorities to compare notes with the world's elite. The European Union approved the ongoing reforms in Ukraine, although hinting that they mustn’t be halted. The Tripartite Liaison Group in Minsk seems to be stuck. Moldova is challenged with a severe political crisis.

        Every January, Davos brings together the representatives of the world's elite to discuss the pressing problems of the world. The Ukrainian issue can hardly be called today’s worldwide priority. However, the fact that George Soros and Sir Richard Branson were present at the "Ukrainian breakfast" is encouraging. The event was held under the "Chatham House rules," minimizing the risks of the leak of the agenda. However, it would be naïve to try to conceal the problems of Europe’s largest stated in today’s globalized world. They remain on the surface - corruption and the inability of the authorities to respond to the citizens’ high expectations.

        As for the formal assessment by the European Union, both EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini, and the European Parliament praised the current efforts of the Ukrainian authorities in reforming the country. For obvious reasons, the Ukrainian public was quite skeptical about the European assessment, but the MEPs also noted the success of Moldova and Georgia. Another thing is to understand that the times of large-scale political concessions for those who wish to become members of the European Community are over.

        However, the officials of the major western powers do not forget to address the issue of the Donbas settlement. For example, French President Francois Hollande sees the need to restore Ukraine’s control of the Ukrainian side of the border with the subsequent lifting of sanctions against Russia. The U.S. State Secretary John Kerry doesn’t rule out this scenario either, in case the Kremlin implements the Minsk deal while his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier bolsters the official Kiev to the adoption of the law on elections in Donbas. However, the Germany’s top diplomat did not specify, how it can be implemented, while none of the Minsk-2 provisions are not fully implemented.

        Perhaps, the West is expecting more flexibility from Russia amid the dramatic plunge of oil prices and the hiking ruble volatility. The Kremlin gives an asymmetric response, engaging Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov against the opposition as if to show that there are politicians in stock, less negotiable than Putin. The accelerating reduction of Russia’s international reserves facilitates planting the atmosphere of a besieged fortress in the Russian society, which Russians take for granted. By the way, the reduction of the funding of the army and the security services will only be the Kremlin’s last resort.

        The conclusion of the Royal Court in London on Putin’s probable complicity in the murder of ex-Russiam spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 is certainly not a verdict. But at the same time, the prestige of British Justice suggests that the West has black-marked the Russian president.

        Moldova is going through the real turbulence, as a billion euros scam had a really painful impact on the internal political situation. As a result of the confrontation between the corrupt “supporters” of the European integration and the pro-Russian leftist forces, an angry mob stormed the parliament building in Chisinau, albeit with a lesser damage to the political environment than a few years ago. Today, no one takes to predict a favorable end to the current crisis.
        Ukrainian interest. Davos candor, EU approval, and deadlock in Minsk : UNIAN news

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        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • The unorthodox path of a Ukrainian Jew in the 'new' Ukraine
          Agence France-Presse Jan 23, 2016 @ 10:32 PM

          Asher Cherkasskiy lived a modest life in peaceful southern Ukraine, observing Orthodox Jewish custom and putting his three children through religious school.

          But when war against pro-Russian insurgents broke out in 2014, everything changed.

          Cherkasskiy became one of the few religious Jews to join a pro-Kiev militia and his bearded, bespectacled face -- so different from the others -- turned him into an unlikely icon of the conflict.

          "I had to protect my children," said the 45-year-old former handyman whose fame has since propelled him into politics. "If the territorial integrity of your country is broken, you have to defend it."

          Cherkasskiy left his small town of Feodosia in Crimea after the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March 2014. Its new status, he said, "went counter" to his conscience and convictions.

          He moved to the industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, the heartland of the Jewish community in the country's east. There he joined the Dnipro battalion, a group fighting the pro-Russian insurgency in the region.

          The Dnipro militia was established by Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoyskiy, also a Jew, who like Cherkasskiy ridicules allegations by Russian state media that pro-Kiev militias are full of "fascists".

          - Symbol of a new Ukraine -

          Cherkasskiy conceded that his Orthodox practice and kosher diet were difficult to observe at the front.

          But he says he never encountered anti-Semitism from fellow fighters in this mainly Christian country, where Jews have been massacred and faced extreme anti-Semitism over history.

          "We acted as a single unit without any suspicion of one another," he told AFP in an interview at a Jewish centre in Dnipropetrovsk.

          He also says he has "a good relationship" with ultranationalist lawmaker Dmytro Yarosh, whom Moscow brands a neo-Nazi and wants on an international arrest warrant on charges of "inciting terrorism".

          Yarosh, former head of the Right Sector which is both a party and a militia, is the point man between pro-Kiev volunteer battalions and the army general staff. He defends groups like his as "nationalist not fascist".

          But he is infamous for espousing the views of World War II Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera, a man Israel blames for colluding with the Nazis to murder thousands of Jews who had survived the pogroms first practiced by Russia's tsars and then continued with abandon by its first Communist leaders.

          Historians believe that the Holocaust erased the lives of up to 900,000 Jews living in modern Ukraine, leaving slightly more than 800,000 survivors in the first decade after the war.

          The country's Jewish population remained largely unchanged until the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. But tacit -- if not overt -- anti-Semitism witnessed in the more nationalist western and other parts of country saw hundreds of thousands of Jews flee to the United States, Israel and other countries when the Cold War's borders evaporated.

          Jews today account for just 0.2 percent of Ukraine's population of slightly more than 40 million, or about 80,000 citizens.

          Yet some see Cherkasskiy as the symbol of a new Ukraine that has parted ways with its Moscow-tied past and is eager to fall into the West's embrace.

          It was Cherkasskiy's looks, in striking contrast to his comrades, that shot him to fame thanks to a video filmed on the frontline in late 2014. He stood proud with his bushy orthodox beard, a Jewish warrior in combat fatigues.

          "Cherkasskiy is one of the symbols of a new Ukraine, he is a link between the nations that consider Ukraine their motherland," local journalist Dmytro Rozmeritsa told AFP.

          His beard became "a bridge", he said, a potent, if ironic, symbol of unity.

          "Russia attacked Ukraine. It's a full-scale war," Cherkasskiy said of the 20-month conflict that has claimed more than 9,000 lives.

          - 'Not very typical' -

          Some of the country's Jewish community leaders say their members support Kiev against pro-Russian rebels.

          "We are all citizens of Ukraine and we have to fight for our country," said Iosif Zisels, who heads the Association of Jewish Organisations and Communities of Ukraine.

          But he admits that "Asher Cherkasskiy's position is not very typical".

          Few Orthodox Jews have flocked to join volunteer battalions. In general, religious Jews worldwide -- as in Israel -- shun military service as an institution of secular society that disrupts religious practices.

          While sporadic clashes continue on the frontline, a series of truce agreements have significantly reduced fighting in eastern Ukraine.

          Cherkasskiy, meanwhile, has traded combat for politics, winning a seat on Dnipropetrovsk's city council in November local elections, beating out powerful businessmen and politicians.

          His new enemy: corruption plaguing Ukraine's economy.

          This is also the primary foe of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was recently urged by US Vice President Joe Biden to fight the "cancer" of government graft that has hounded a succession of Ukraine's post-Soviet governments.

          That campaign has so far had mixed results, although men like Cherkasskiy and those who spearheaded Ukraine's 2014 pro-European revolution vow to never give up.

          Cherkasskiy is still, above all, a militia member. "But if I feel military service is preventing me from being an effective city councillor, I will opt for being a lawmaker because I think I can do more in this job," he said.
          Agence France-Presse News: Breaking News and Headlines from Agence France-Presse | GlobalPost

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          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • RADIO FREE EUROPE January 24, 2016
            Poroshenko Says 'Torpedoing' Minsk Deal Could Lead To Full-Scale War With Russia

            President Petro Poroshenko has warned Ukrainian politicians that the collapse of the Minsk agreements aimed at ending a war with Russia-backed separatists could set off a "full-scale conflict" with Russia.

            Poroshenko was speaking at a conference of local leaders in Kyiv on January 23.

            "Those political forces that want to torpedo the Minsk agreements at any cost...and to block the constitutional process, must clearly understand the consequences of their actions," he said.

            "They will lead to the resumption of the 'hot phase' of the conflict, including a full-scale -- and not local, as it has been so far -- conflict with Russia," he added.

            His words appeared to be aimed at foes of "decentralization" legislation that Ukraine is required to pass under the peace deal signed in February 2015 by Ukraine, Russia, and separatists who hold parts of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

            The Minsk deal is crucial for Kyiv because it calls for the restoration of Ukrainian control over the state border between the separatist-held territories and Russia, which has backed the separatists in a conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014.

            Ukraine's parliament gave preliminary approval to constitutional changes granting more power to the regions in August, but their adoption requires a two-thirds vote in the 450-seat legislature.

            Poroshenko said he hopes the legislation will be passed in the first half of this year, in the next parliament session, which begins after February 1.

            However, some lawmakers say the legislation must be passed during the current session to be valid, but that is highly unlikely to happen. As a result, Poroshenko's allies have asked the Constitutional Court for a ruling that would effectively extend the deadline for the vote indefinitely.

            Poroshenko also said that adopting decentralization obviates any need to for laws granting "special status" to the separatist-held regions or any others, a remark that is not likely to please the separatists.
            Poroshenko Says 'Torpedoing' Minsk Deal Could Lead To Full-Scale War With Russia

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            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • Punitive psychiatry returning with a vengeance in Putin’s Russia
              EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/25

              Chechnya governor Ramzan Kadyrov’s call for incarcerating members of the Russian opposition in psychiatric prisons much as the Soviets did has attracted widespread attention, but what makes the Chechen leader’s words even more worrisome is that officials elsewhere are already using psychiatry against their opponents.

              Today, the portal, drawing on a report by RBC-Tyumen, says that officials in the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District are working to put critics of the authorities in psychiatric prisons much as Brezhnev-era officials did.

              Recently, the Tyumen outlet reported, officials in the city of Kogalyma, angered by complaints by a Russian woman about corruption in communal services, forcibly broke into her apartment, electro-shocked her husband who tried to protect her, and carried the woman away “on an invented pretext” to a psychiatric clinic 250 kilometers away.

              The doctors who examined her concluded that there were no reasons to hospitalize her, but, the report says, “the bureaucrats are continuing their efforts to send [the woman] to a psychiatric facility and she has again been sent for a new forced examination” of her condition.

              Such cases are “increasing in number daily,” reports. Another resident of Yugorsk was sent to psychiatrists for possible incarceration in a hospital after publishing information about problems with Putin’s health “optimization” campaign that has led to severe hardships in many places.

              And a former school teacher there after being dismissed from her job for reporting on the way in which employees at her college had illegally pocketed money for work they didn’t do was subsequently sent for psychiatric examination as well.

              A month ago, reported that in Chelyabinsk oblast, young men who had medical certificates exempting them from military service were sent to psychiatric dispensaries as well, with the officials involved threatening them with criminal prosecution.

              If Putin does not explicitly and publicly overrule Kadyrov on such practices, it is likely that such cases will multiply – and the only defense those officials go after will be the protests of Russian human rights groups and of Western organizations, just as was true when Soviet psychiatrists at the notorious Serbsky Institute diagnosed dissent as “sluggish schizophrenia.” Punitive psychiatry returning with a vengeance in Putin’s Russia -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

              Sunday, April 5, 2015 Window on Eurasia -- New Series Paul Goble
              Putin Regime Abusing Psychology the Way Soviets Did Psychiatry, Russian Psychologist Says
              Window on Eurasia -- New Series: Putin Regime Abusing Psychology the Way Soviets Did Psychiatry, Russian Psychologist Says

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              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • Lenin watches on over increasingly indifferent Russians
                Agence France-Presse Jan 23, 2016 @ 10:20 PM

                To reach the gigantic statue of Vladimir Lenin that overlooks Moscow's October Square, pedestrians can stroll down streets named after the Bolshevik revolutionary's wife or mother, or cross Lenin Avenue that intersects with a road named after his brother.

                More than a quarter of a century has passed since the fall of Communism but reminders of the Soviet Union's founding father Lenin -- who died on January 21, 1924 -- are still easy to find.

                Yet the man himself seems increasingly to mean little to many people in Russia, the cradle of his revolution.

                Lenin monuments, busts and eponymous streets commemorating the leader of the 1917 October Revolution still dot cityscapes across the country and his body still lies embalmed for tourists to visit in the mausoleum on the capital's iconic Red Square.

                "On July 19, 1918, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin met in this building with the party members from factories of the Zamoskvorechye neighbourhood," reads a plaque in the centre of the Russian capital.

                Down the street, another plaque reminds passersby that the Communist leader addressed workers from the Yaroslavl and Vladimir regions from a balcony above their heads.

                And Moscow's sprawling subway system -- which carries an average of seven million passengers every day -- also officially bears Lenin's name.

                - 'Relics from our history' -

                In some other former Soviet republics, most prominently Ukraine, many statues of Lenin have been dismantled, toppled or vandalised since the fall of Communism.

                But for ordinary Russians the lingering presence of the Communist leader among the advertising hoardings and shopping malls of their consumerist society appears to stir mixed opinions -- or more often just indifference.

                Every year on the key Communist holidays such as May 1 or the anniversary of the revolution on November 7 dwindling groups of ageing supporters gather with portraits of Lenin at monuments to him across the country.

                But while some who are old enough to remember the Soviet epoch view these vestiges of another era with nostalgia, others look on them with resentment.

                "These monuments bother me," said 60-year-old Muscovite Viktor Dzyadko, whose hostility toward the Soviet revolutionary is tangible. "They should all be sent to some museum."

                For the younger generation, who have grown up outside the Soviet system, the presence of Lenin is often little more than a historical oddity.

                "During the Soviet era, all these monuments had an ideological role but now they are just relics from our history," said Alexander Polyakovsky, a 20-year-old student.

                "We are witnessing growing indifference," sociologist Lev Gudkov, the head of independent pollster Levada Centre, told AFP.

                "Lenin does not represent anything to the young generations, who only have a vague idea that he was the founder of the Soviet state."

                In a poll conducted by the Levada centre about views of Lenin in 2015 only five percent of people said they thought his ideas will influence people in the future.

                - 'Atomic bomb' -

                In the heady days of the early nineties during the collapse of the Soviet Union, some of the key symbolic statues of Soviet leaders -- most famously secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky outside the KGB headquarters -- were toppled.

                But as the new country plunged into chaos, Russia's first president Boris Yeltsin -- often keen not to alienate the large chunk of the population that looked back on the Soviet era with fondness -- left most of the Lenin statues untouched.

                President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent whose rule has seen the revival of Soviet traditions and controls, followed in Yeltsin's footsteps and just let Lenin be.

                That includes leaving the embalmed remains of the leader on display outside the Kremlin, despite polls showing that the majority of people are in favour of finally saying goodbye Lenin and burying his body.

                But that does not mean that Putin, who has surrounded himself with ex-Soviet security agents and been accused of playing down the crimes of Stalinism, is harking back to the ideals of Lenin.

                "Allowing your rule to be guided by ideas is right, but only when that idea leads to the right results, not like it did with Vladimir Ilich," Putin said in a rare reference to Lenin on the anniversary of his death.

                "In the end that idea led to the fall of the Soviet Union," he added.

                "They planted an atomic bomb under the building called Russia and it later exploded. We did not need a global revolution." Lenin watches on over increasingly indifferent Russians | GlobalPost

                æ, !

                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Plugging the 'black hole' of Ukraine's corrupt public procurement system
                  UT UKRAINE TODAY Jan. 24, 2016 video

                  Around EUR 2 billion lost annually as a result of bad deals in public tenders

                  Ukraine's Deputy Economy Minister Maksym Nefyodov joined us in the Viewpoint studio.

                  Over the past year he's been charged with reforming Ukraine's notoriously corrupt public procurement system.

                  It's estimated that some EUR 2 billion is lost annually through graft. Among the innovations brought in by Nefyodov and his team is an electronic auction system for public tenders. It's currently in pilot mode but will soon be in wider use.

                  Since Ukraine's pro-EU uprising of 2013-14 the country's progress on reforms has received mixed reviews.

                  But Nefyodov's work is one area which has been widely praised. He says there is already interest from other countries in the new system.

                  He hopes that one day it might even be exported abroad.

                  Plugging the 'black hole' of Ukraine's corrupt public procurement system - watch on -

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                  Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                  • More than a quarter of Russians are afraid to respond honestly to polls about the nation
                    MEDUZA 08:58, 22 January 2016 Kommersant

                    About 26 percent of Russians are afraid to express their personal opinions in public opinion polls concerning circumstances in Russia, reports the newspaper Kommersant, referring to a new study by the Levada Center.

                    Speaking of surveys in general, 49 percent of respondents expressed the view that the Russians are reluctant to respond to sociological surveys. More than half of respondents said they believe Russians fear the consequences of answering sociological surveys honestly. 20 percent of the survey participants believe Russians are uncomfortable about the situation in the country today.

                    “The problem of socially acceptable responses in surveys is nothing new,” says political consultant Konstantin Kalachev. “This is called a social spiral of silence. People follow the majority. They are afraid to stand out, superstitiously prefer not to stir the pot, and they answer with pre-readied, upbeat mantras.”
                    → Kommersant

                    The Levada Center is an internationally respected independent polling and sociological research organization, based in Moscow.
                    The center is named after its founder, the first Russian professor of sociology, Yuri Levada.

                    æ, !

                    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                    • Originally posted by Hannia View Post
                      12:53 23.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                      Kyiv says its military positions in Donbas 37 times under militants' fire

                      Kyiv said the Ukrainian military positions in Donbas came under fire from militants 37 times in the past 24 hours.

                      According to the press center for the military operation headquarters, the Ukrainian military positions came under fire from grenade launchers and firearms near Maryinka, and shooting was also registered near the Donetsk airport and Shyrokyne.
                      Another year passes and the Ukrainian military is stuck fighting in the winter with insufficient equipment. Brave men.

                      See whats been posted in the past day.

                      Contact forum moderators here.


                      • Poroshenko announces suits against Russia over Crimea
                        25.01.2016 | 08:30 UNIAN

                        Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced a number of suits in two weeks to defend Ukraine's state interests in Russian-occupied Crimea.

                        "In a span of two weeks, you will see a number of litigation initiatives with which Ukraine and those enterprises we will support will be defending Ukraine's state interests in court," he told Ukrainian TV channels about a Crimea de-occupation road map on Sunday.

                        In his words, the suits will be lodged with various international courts.

                        Earlier, Poroshenko announced that the government had prepared a package of lawsuits to be lodged with international courts in connection with Russia's annexation of Crimea, "starting from the Maritime Arbitration [Association] and ending with the court in The Hague." The president explained that the lawsuits were related to a broad range of issues – from the protection of property rights to personal responsibility of certain individuals.

                        In particular, state-run Oschadbank, oil giant Ukrnafta and state railway company Ukrzaliznytsia have launched arbitration cases due to losses of Crimean assets.

                        Ukrainian Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko said earlier that more than 700 Ukrainians, namely internally displaced persons from Crimea and Donbas, had filed private lawsuits at the European Court of Human Rights against Russia's annexation of the Crimea and aggression in Donbas.
                        Poroshenko announces suits against Russia over Crimea : UNIAN news

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                        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                        • The Great Debate - It’s Russia’s turn to learn that stealth warplanes are hard to do
                          REUTERS David Axe January 20, 2016

                          After confronting serious technical and economic difficulties, Russia has dramatically cut back its air force program to field its first radar-evading “stealth” fighter jet. By delaying large-scale acquisition of the Sukhoi T-50 fighter, the Kremlin is tacitly acknowledging a truth that the U.S. military learned decades ago — and that China might also learn in coming years: developing stealth fighters is hard.

                          But fortunately for the Russian air force, and unfortunately for Washington and its allied air arms that are Russia’s chief rivals, Moscow has a backup plan. Instead of counting on a new stealth jet to outfit its fighter squadrons, the Russian government is buying heavily upgraded versions of older planes — an approach the Pentagon has dismissed as wasteful. It could, however, help Russia maintain its aerial edge.

                          The T-50, like practically all stealth aircraft before it, has proved expensive to develop, although exactly how expensive remains a closely guarded secret. Radar-evading warplanes require careful design work, extensive testing and exotic materials for their construction — all features that can double or triple their cost compared to conventional, non-stealthy planes.

                          Even with their high cost, air forces all over the world are scrambling to acquire stealth aircraft because their ability to avoid detection can, in theory, offer a big advantage in air-to-air combat and during bombing runs.

                          But a competing theory of aerial warfare argues that stealth is overrated — and it’s better to buy greater numbers of cheaper, non-stealthy planes. Moscow’s troubles in developing the T-50 have compelled it to adhere to the competing philosophy.

                          Russia arrived late to the stealth-warplane party. The U.S. Air Force fielded its first radar-evading warplane — the F-117 attack jet — in 1983. It added the B-2 stealth bomber to its inventory in 1997 and then the F-22 stealth fighter in 2005. The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was the first U.S. military branch to introduce the latest F-35 stealth fighter, in July 2015. The Air Force anticipates declaring its own F-35s operational in 2016.

                          The F-117 retired in 2008, but the Pentagon still possesses hundreds of stealth planes and plans to acquire hundreds more in coming years via large-scale purchases of F-35s and the new Long-Range Strike Bomber, a successor to the B-2. Its economy and military crippled by the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse, Russia didn’t begin serious work on the T-50 until 2002. The first prototype took off on its inaugural flight in January 2010, a year before China’s first stealth prototype — the J-20 — made its debut.

                          All the U.S., Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft possess special features for minimizing their detectability on radar and other sensors. These include rounded or angular shaping that can scatter radar waves, plus special materials that absorb radar instead of deflecting it.

                          Stealth plane design is a balancing act. The aircraft must be able to avoid detection while also flying fast and far enough, and carrying a big enough payload, to make them militarily useful. They cannot be so expensive that an air force can’t actually afford to buy them in meaningful numbers. In the 40 years it has been working on stealth technology, the United States has never stopped struggling with this balance.

                          The B-2 is hard to detect and flies well, but at more than $2 billion each, it proved too expensive for mass purchase. The U.S. Air Force managed to buy 21 of the bat-shaped planes from manufacturer Northrop Grumman. Lockheed Martin designed the F-35 to be affordable, but that compelled the company to cut back on the fighter’s stealth features. In any event, developmental difficulties have driven up the F-35’s cost to more than $100 million a plane — hardly cheap.

                          Neither the Russian government nor Sukhoi, the company that makes the T-50, have said how much the twin-engine, single-seat supersonic fighter has cost to develop or how much it might cost to buy once the design is complete. It’s safe to say, however, that development could consume tens of billions of dollars. And each plane could set back the buyer $100 million.

                          And that’s assuming the T-50 actually works. There are signs that it doesn’t — at least not very well. In six years, the six T-50 prototypes have completed just 700 test flights, according to a recent article in Combat Aircraft magazine by Piotr Butowski, an expert in Russian military aviation. By comparison, Lockheed and the U.S. Air Force built eight F-22 test planes and flew them 3,500 times between 1997 and 2005. It looks like the T-50s aren’t even reliable enough to undergo intensive testing.

                          That was dramatically apparent on June 10, 2014, when the fifth T-50 prototype — then less than a year old — suffered a catastrophic engine fire while taxiing on the ground. The damage was so bad that Sukhoi had to halt production of the sixth prototype and use its parts to rebuild the burned plane. The Indian air force, which is considering buying a version of the T-50, complained of “shortfalls … in terms of performance and other technical features

                          Events overtook the T-50’s slow and costly development. With many foreign governments imposing sanctions in the wake of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, and oil prices plummeting amid a global supply glut, in 2015 Russia entered a recession that saw its economy shrink 3 percent in one year. Perhaps not surprisingly, in March 2015, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov announced that Russia would reduce its order. The Kremlin said it would buy just a dozen T-50s by 2020, instead of the 60 it originally planned.

                          By then the United States should have more than 500 stealth planes in frontline service. China finished the first production-standard J-20 in December 2015 and is expected to acquire dozens more in the next few years — though it’s unclear how much the J-20 costs and how happy Beijing is with its performance.

                          To make up for the cuts to Russia’s T-50 program, the Kremlin has boosted production of the Su-35 and Su-30, the latest upgraded versions of the Cold War-vintage Su-27, a powerful twin-engine fighter whose various models are now the standard warplanes of the Russian, Chinese and Indian air arms. The Su-35 and Su-30 aren’t stealthy, but they are fast, far-flying and capable of carrying heavy payloads of missiles and bombs.

                          The Su-35, in particular, is a very capable warplane. Moscow ordered 48 planes in 2009 and is widely expected to soon place a second order for another 48. “It would be fair to describe this aircraft as the pinnacle of current conventional-fighter design,” wrote Carlo Kopp, an analyst with the Air Power Australia think tank, “blending a superb basic aerodynamic design with advanced engine, flight control and avionic technology”

                          Based on a proven design, the Su-35 is reliable. It’s also comparatively cheap, as low as $50 million a plane. Which is half as much as a T-50 or F-35. An upgraded classic fighter is at a disadvantage compared to a stealth plane in one regard: the ability to avoid detection under certain circumstances. But the classic fighter actually holds the advantage over a stealth plane when it comes to reliability and cost and some performance parameters, including maneuverability and payload.

                          Whether the stealth jet’s advantage is worth its disadvantages is a philosophical question for military planners. The Pentagon decided in favor of stealth planes, even cancelling upgrades to older F-15s and F-16s to free up more money for more F-35s. In Russia, circumstances largely settled the issue, forcing the Kremlin to bet on classic fighters over their stealth counterparts.

                          The world might never know who’s right unless Russia and the United States go to war against each other — a proof of concept no one actually welcomes.
                          It’s Russia’s turn to learn that stealth warplanes are hard to do

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                          • Putin mania: Russian personality cult obsessed with powerful president - Approving populace from St. Petersburg to Siberia expresses love for leader through perfume, hip-hop odes
                            ALJAZEERA Matthew Luxmoore Jan 24, 2016 5:00AM ET

                            MOSCOW — It’s not every day you see President Vladimir Putin with Joseph Stalin, taking a break and counting wads of cash in a Moscow café. So a walk through GUM, a popular department store in Moscow, on a weekday afternoon may well force a double take.

                            A few months into his new job as a Putin impersonator, Siberian native Valentin Sergeyev continues to turn heads. His Putin — complete with receding hairline, dapper black suit and trademark sunglasses — is the newest addition to a host of lookalikes posing with tourists on Red Square.

                            “People come to me to bare their problems and concerns. Just look at how they react,” he says, breaking off to pose with two Chinese tourists. “I am Putin for them. They thank me for returning Crimea and making Russia great again.”

                            In GUM, an elegant kiosk attracts a curious crowd. Black boxes of cologne decorated with the president’s profile stand neatly arranged in shiny glass cases. And below them are the words “Inspired by Vladimir Putin.”

                            Leaders Number One is the name for a limited release of 2,000 cologne bottles, produced in France and dedicated to the Russian president. A saleswoman, Ekaterina, says some 70 boxes have moved each day since the Dec. 23 release, at 6,500 rubles (about $83) each. A new shipment is on its way.

                            Putin, the former KGB officer who has effectively run Russia for the past 16 years, is everywhere these days. His sullen gaze follows you around Moscow, from T-shirts sold in patriotic clothing stores to iPhone cases displayed in kiosks that fill underground passages in the capital. His portrait hangs on walls in government buildings across the vast country, with some communities erecting monuments in his honor. “Words That Change the World” is a 400-page book of Putin quotes sent to members of the Federal Assembly as a new year’s gift from the Kremlin.

                            Muscovites enjoy citing his latest approval ratings, which have soared since his internationally condemned but domestically celebrated annexation of Crimea in 2014. The phenomenon is not new. As early as 2002 a Russian girl band sang about chasing out loser boyfriends and replacing them with strong men like Putin. But the Putin mania has never before hit such a high level.

                            And GUM is not alone in cashing in and giving the presidential obsession a place to flourish.

                            At his small workshop in Moscow’s Kitai Gorod district, artist Andrei Budayev has been winding down since putting finishing touches on his latest batch of political calendars. He produced seven for 2016 — far more than for any prior year. Each depicts Putin as the hero in popular movies and Western leaders as a squabbling bunch who fall victim to his schemes.

                            One calendar, based on the cult Soviet-era film “White Sun of the Desert,” features digitally altered images of Putin and other members of the Russian elite outwitting Barack Obama and his allies on the Caspian Sea’s desert coast. A special role is reserved for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who sticks his parched mouth out of the sand in February to drink water from Putin’s hands.

                            Budayev reflects the popular view. While he insists his work has often been critical of Russia’s leaders — over 20 years, he has satirized most of its politicians — he says Putin’s latest actions, especially in Crimea, have earned the authoritarian president widespread respect.

                            He sees his artistic duty as supporting Russia in tough times. “There’s a war on, an economic and information war. At such a time, what choice can an artist have? I’m a patriot, and I’ve chosen my side.”

                            Events in Ukraine have boosted demand, but Budayev is unable to take full advantage. At 1,000 rubles each, his calendars are a luxury in economically trying times. To boot, they’re available only on his website. Despite their patriotic slant, he says, storekeepers are afraid to stock them.

                            Their fears are likely unfounded. Budayev and others may work without the state’s imprimatur, but their art embodies the self-confident image that the president and his handlers wish to project. Putin, plucked from obscurity to replace ailing President Boris Yeltsin in 1999, has gone out of his way to establish an imperious persona in a country with a history of authoritarian leadership. In carefully staged photo ops, Putin has been pictured riding horseback bare-chested in Siberia, testing weaponry developed by Russia’s vast military-industrial complex and overseeing tiger-tracking expeditions in the country’s far east. Official speeches have aided that macho image, with defiant pronouncements against a U.S.-led world order fueling support at home.

                            Putin has been known to oppose moves to tarnish his image. In 2002, Gazprom Media–owned NTV was forced to terminate its popular puppet show “Kukly” (“Dolls”) after one episode reimagined the president as Klein Zaches, an unsightly creature from a 19th century tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann. According to one of the show’s writers, Victor Shenderovich, the reportedly 5-foot-7 Putin took offense that attention was drawn to his short stature. “Kukly” was the last TV show to needle him in this way, and NTV fell under Kremlin control shortly thereafter.

                            To some critics, the Putin personality cult is similar — albeit in a much more limited way — to the one surrounding Stalin, the Georgian-born Soviet leader whose mustachioed visage was ubiquitous in the USSR. Frenzied devotion to him reached its peak in the 1930s, when Soviet press heralded him as the “omniscient father of nations” and children’s choirs marked his birthday on Red Square.

                            Putin has been largely silent on his growing presence in the Russian mind. In 2011 in an appearance before Western press when he was prime minister, he denied the existence of a personality cult in Russia and dismissed any comparisons with Stalin as inappropriate, AFP reported at the time.

                            Vasily Gatov, a Russian media critic, emphasizes a clear distinction between the two eras. He says, “Stalin was a symbol of both the proletariat’s hegemony and the USSR itself. He was as close to divinity as a living person can be. Putin’s aides, facing economic upheaval and polarization in society, are trying to replace political discourse with ideology. Today’s cult covers the regime’s weaknesses.”

                            For some, explicit endorsement of the new orthodoxy functions as a kind of insurance policy. According to Lev Kantor, the owner of a Moscow construction company with 95 employees on its books, a framed portrait of the president is a standard feature in company directors’ offices. Even if the person opposes Putin’s policies.

                            “It’s a sort of safety measure, in case the tax inspector or police come. And they can, at any moment,” he says. “Having Putin on your wall won’t get you off the hook, but it creates a certain atmosphere. It may just spare you that one extra uncomfortable question.”

                            Regardless, Putin continues to dominate the country’s public consciousness like no other, and the work of artists like Budayev is in sync with the zeitgeist.

                            As is Russia’s music industry. “My best friend is Vladimir Putin” is the refrain of a sycophantic hip-hop tune released by Timati, Russia’s most famous rapper, to coincide with Putin’s 63rd birthday, on Oct. 7. “The whole country is behind him. You know he’s a superhero,” raps Timati, who is half Tatar and half Jewish. “He’s the main man, so everything will go to plan.”

                            Timati, who has been photographed with Putin at official events, has given his blessing to another track extolling the president’s manly virtues. Since its release in mid-2014, “Go Hard Like Vladimir Putin” has catapulted AMG — Moscow-based Victor Matinyarare of Zimbabwe and Benson Aginga of Kenya — into the spotlight of Russia’s fledgling hip-hop scene. The two have lived in Russia since arriving as students in 2000; both attribute the positive change they’ve witnessed since then to the man at the helm.

                            In AMG’s video for the song, Putin is shown ascending the steps to the Kremlin’s Grand Palace as Russian tanks course through the deserted streets of eastern Ukraine. A version with Russian subtitles has millions of YouTube views, suggesting AMG’s impact is largely confined to a domestic audience. It’s clear why: Aside from songs about Putin, the duo’s new album, “Niggaz in Moscow,” contains songs about supporting Russia’s falling currency and life in the vibrant capital.

                            MG, Timati, Budayev, Sergeyev and others are riding a wave of patriotic fervor sweeping Russia at a time of growing international isolation and enduring differences with the West over Syria and Ukraine. News reports on Russian TV paint a picture of a volatile world that revolves around Moscow, with heads of state clamoring for Putin’s backing. In Russia he has gained a reputation as the front man willing to stand up to the West when others don’t dare.

                            All this fuels Putin’s larger-than-life presence on Russia’s streets. Amid economic uncertainty and stalemated wars, the question is how long his overwhelming popularity will last.

                            “Russia was in a bad state when we came, and we’ve seen the growth since Putin became president,” says Matinyarare. “Western press coverage is unjust, and we want to put the record straight. ‘Going hard’ means being intolerant to haters and just doing you to the maximum.”
                            Putin Mania: Russians Obsessed With Dear Leader | Al Jazeera America

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                            • 12:30 25.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                              Soros calls on compromise in temporarily strengthening of Ukrainian president's powers for court reform

                              The temporarily enlargement of powers of the Ukrainian president to fight corruption in the judicial system and Prosecutor General's Office and their reformation is acceptable, and a compromise with the Ukrainian parliament should be achieved on the issue, famous philanthropist George Soros has said.

                              The powers of the Ukrainian president for a period of only two years to conduct the reform should be extended, and then the presidential powers will be terminated and the new Constitution will start working, he said at the Ukrainian Breakfast in Davos (Switzerland) organized by Victor Pinchuk Foundation on January 22.

                              He said that parliamentarians significantly resist to enlarging of the presidential powers.

                              He said that he discussed the necessity of the judicial reform with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a meeting in Davos on January 21.

                              The philanthropist, whose International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) has been operating for 25 years in Ukraine, said that the Venice Commission made a decision that is beneficial for Ukraine: the comprehensive judicial reform and amendments to the Constitution are required.

                              Soros welcomed the statement of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble that a new Marshall plan for Europe is needed for the problem of migration and the plan for Ukraine should be part of it.

                              Ukraine is one of the most valuable assets the EU has both from the point of military protection and restoration of values and principles used to built the EU's idea, Soros said.

                              He said that if Ukraine loses in fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression and conducting reforms, it will be another source of migration and instability in Europe.

                              Ukraine must fulfill its part of work in conducting reforms that would justify the necessity of further support of the country.

                              Soros said that the additional support would make sanctions against Russia more efficient. Soros calls on compromise in temporarily strengthening of Ukrainian president's powers for court reform

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                              • ATLANTIC COUNCIL James Brooke January 25, 2016
                                Ukraine’s Economic Revival Starting in the West

                                What do coastal China, northern Mexico, and western Ukraine have in common?

                                After Beijing dropped Maoist economics in the 1970s, low-wage China began to thrive. The economic boom started with the coast, the area closest to the Pacific coast ports of Canada and the United States, with its access to a huge market.

                                Low-wage northern Mexico boomed after the January 1, 1994, start of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

                                Like those two other countries, Ukraine is about to benefit from its own proximity to Western consumer markets, beginning with the region closest to the European Union. Little noticed in today's news of dropping oil prices and terror bombings, the country has recently won duty-free access to the European Union for most of its products.

                                Once a dead region on the Soviet Union's western frontier, western Ukraine woke up on the first day of this year to find its factories one day by truck from the European Union's 500 million consumers.

                                Western Ukraine is similar to northern Mexico: products from Ukrainian factories can reach that huge market by road and rail. And monthly wages in Ukraine are low. In dollar terms, wages in coastal China are twice as high. In Poland, they are five times as high. In Germany, France, and Italy, they are fifteen times higher than in Ukraine.

                                Without fanfare, pioneering European manufacturers are quietly moving production to western Ukraine.

                                Roman Waschuk, Canada's Ambassador to Ukraine, says that Canada's single largest source of hockey sticks is a factory located in western Ukraine. It is operated by Fischer, the Austrian sporting goods company. Geoffrey R. Pyatt, US Ambassador to Ukraine, fresh from Lviv, talks of visiting Eleks, a firm in that city's technology park that creates computer code for Cirque du Soleil's spellbinding performances and Hollywood special effects.

                                Already the European Business Association of Ukraine has its biggest regional chapter in Lviv, Ukraine's seventh largest city, located in the country's far west. With fifteen thousand tech workers, Lviv is already building its second technology park. Another western city, Ivano-Frankivsk, plans to build its own tech park. In contrast, Kyiv, in central Ukraine, does not yet have one.

                                European investors in western Ukraine are also encouraged by the influence of Samopomich, a pro-development, low-corruption political party that dominates Ukraine's west. Literally meaning "self reliance," this party encourages citizen involvement and government transparency.

                                Although the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has opened an office in Lviv, its only office outside of the capital, European investment in the region is slowed by fears of conflict in Ukraine's far east.

                                But Lviv, a graceful, former Hapsburg Empire city, is 1,200 kilometers—or a fourteen hour drive—from Donetsk, the former Soviet mining and steel center that Russia incited to break away from Ukraine. In American terms, that translates into fretting about a risk of opening a factory in southern Oregon because of riots in Los Angeles, 1,200 kilometers to the south. Unfortunately, images from Ukraine's conflict—though it is now isolated in the nation's far southeast—shape the world's views of this country.

                                But the real news from Ukraine in 2016 may be business. The nation seems to be turning the corner after two tough economic years. Economic development and investment are expected to come from the West.

                                It is not fair to compare Ukraine's eastern rebels to the indigenous guerillas of southern Mexico, or neighboring Russia to Guatemala. But the economic parallels with Mexico are there. Ukraine's development will not come from its war-torn east—and will not happen there in the short and medium term.

                                After all, the two secessionist regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, have lost half of their populations. With much local industry and infrastructure in ruins, many refugees will never return. It is hard to imagine Europe and American political leaders going to their voters and asking for billions of taxpayers' dollars to rebuild eastern Ukraine.

                                Meanwhile, on rebuilding the separatist areas, the Kremlin shows no intention of following Colin Powell's precept, "You broke it, you fix it." With oil prices one quarter of what they were in 2014, Russia now is broke, and Vladimir Putin's regime is adopting an isolationist, locked-down mode.

                                Russia and Ukraine should be natural economic partners, much like the United States and Canada. Russia and Ukraine will again become economically close, but probably not until the 2020s.

                                Today, economic ties between the two Slavic giants are minimal. On January 1, as the West opened its doors to goods from Ukraine, the Kremlin closed its doors to almost all trade with Ukraine. Ukrainian travelers to Russia, especially men, undergo thorough security checks on arrival. In contrast, later this year, the EU is to give Ukrainians the privilege of visiting Europe for ninety days without visas.

                                This spring, the first green shoots of Ukraine's economic revival will be best seen in the western part of the country, and they will come from the West. Ukraine’s Economic Revival Starting in the West

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