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  • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Sergii Leshchenko Jan 25, 2016
    Ukrainians Need to Stop Waiting for Their White Knight

    My source leaned forward and said with a muffled voice: "The latest news is that grey cardinal Igor Kononenko's men have been placed inside Ukrainian Railways, and Member of Parliament Sergei Fayermak of the People's Front is now in charge of all the seaports." This conversation with a government insider took place in the middle of January. Three months had passed since President Petro Poroshenko declared that "the decisive work on reforming the country will begin" after the October 25 elections. Instead, the only thing that's begun is the exchange of one network of state cash flow with another.

    The air smells of rigged elections, and that means it's time for politicians to make money with double the vigor. The legacies of the Polish reforms have been perversely misconstrued in Ukraine, and the country is enduring shock but no therapy. Time is running out and the people's trust has been squandered. The level of public support for Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has fallen to 1 percent. Poroshenko's approval rating is around 5 percent.

    Most citizens consider the fight against corruption the President's responsibility. His inability to sacrifice the little things—like the general prosecutor—for the sake of the bigger picture is dragging his ratings to rock-bottom. The procuracy is hoping for the collapse of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) with its fingers crossed: At the end of 2015, Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin wrote an angry letter to Artem Sytnik, the head of NABU, asking him to investigate dozens of cold cases that had been lying around for decades. Thankfully, a new law saved NABU from this avalanche of unfinished prosecutorial casework, finally giving NABU a chance to fight corruption.

    Of course, one could write an entire dissertation on corruption in Ukraine. A group of French diplomats recently shared with me their experiences in dealing with Ukrainian cronyism. In one case, a Rada Deputy allegedly arrived at French bank with 100 million stolen dollars. He was not punished, and in a previous Ukrainian parliament he was appointed head of a group on interparliamentary cooperation between the Rada and France's National Assembly. French supermarket firm Lerua Merlen has been struggling for many years to get our justice system to pay to attention the monopoly set up by competitor Epicenter. One of the deputies from the National Front has been trying to engineer a takeover of the beverage company Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits for several months now, and French diplomats are forced to attend court hearings, hoping that their presence will keep the judges from handing down corrupt rulings.

    This has been going on for decades. Many have forgotten that in the middle of the 1990s Motorola announced its departure from the Ukrainian market because of Pavlo Lazarenko. In the 2000s, agrobusiness group Alfred C. Toepfer International gave out tens of millions of dollars in bribes to avoid paying taxes (to have a reimbursement of VAT). Years later it admitted the crime to the American courts and paid a fine of nearly $18 billion. It is no surprise, therefore, that in Ukraine there is still no IKEA, a company that refuses to operate in corrupt countries.

    It is often said that in order to defeat corruption, we must do whatever it takes to ensure that no bribes are given whatsoever. However, no less is important is the necessity to set a precedent of harsh punishments for those who engage in bribery. This is what Italy did in the 1990s when it began the "Mani Pulite" or "Clean Hands" investigation. After years of cronyism between politicians and local clans, investigators began to sense they had the support of the people. Refusing to back down, they eventually defeated corruption. The name of Milan's prosecutor, Antonio di Pietro, can now be found in the nation's history books.

    Today we have a similar situation in Ukraine, when society is ready to give carte-blanche to the leader who will fight corruption until the end.

    On January 18, a public anticorruption forum in the city of Kharkiv took place for the third time. Three thousand people showed up, despite the fact the city was covered in snow, that the event occurred at the end of a work day, and that it was hosted outside of the downtown area. This proves that the people are worried about more than just cheese and sausage. They understand that we've lost our army and territory directly due to corruption. Because of corruption the hryvnia has collapsed and the economy has spiraled into a depression.

    Still, we must remember that even the brightest leader cannot fight corruption alone. Recently, I went to the regions to study the public's reaction to Mikheil Saakashvili, the Odesa region's local governor and ex-president of Georgia. Our electorate very easily creates idols out of men. People are reacting to Saakashvili the way they reacted to Viktor Yushchenko twelve years ago, and to Yulia Tymoshenko eight years ago. They forget that Saakashvili is famous not for sweet speeches, but for unpopular reforms.

    We continue to wait for our "messiah," who will fix all of our problems. We don't realize that every person is responsible for a small personal mission to pressure the government anyway he can to fight corruption. Anticorruption forums must start to appear in every city. Those who fight corruption must sense our support. That is how Clean Hands defeated corruption in Italy. Thus we must prepare for a lasting battle—one we are obligated to win.
    Sergii Leshchenko is a member of parliament in Ukraine and former deputy editor of Ukrayinska Pravda. This article was originally published in Russian by Novoe Vremya. Joshua Solomon translated the article.

    Ukrainians Need to Stop Waiting for Their White Knight

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    • EU seeks more controls for Schengen borders
      26.01.2016 | 09:31 UNIAN

      Several EU states plan to prolong their temporary border controls for as much as two years, because many migrants are continuing to head north from Greece, according to the BBC.

      The announcement came after a meeting of EU interior ministers in Amsterdam, the BBC reports.

      The temporary border controls imposed by Austria and Germany are set to end in May. But they can get EU permission to extend the controls until 2018.

      The migrant crisis has put the Schengen passport-free travel zone at risk. Most migrants want to settle in Germany.

      Article 26 of the Schengen Borders Code allows states to keep temporary border controls in place for a maximum of two years, "in exceptional circumstances."

      "Member states invited the [European] Commission to prepare the legal and practical basis for the continuance of temporary border measures through Article 26," said Dutch Migration Minister Klaas Dijkhoff, after the Amsterdam talks.

      A Commission proposal to that effect is expected to be presented to EU leaders at a Brussels summit next month.
      EU seeks more controls for Schengen borders : UNIAN news

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      • World
        Kremlin calls claim of corruption against Putin "pure speculation and defamation"
        26.01.2016 | 15:31 UNIAN

        Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the claim of corruption laid against Russian President Vladimir Putin is "pure speculation and defamation," Russian news agency TASS has reported.

        "The contents of this BBC report is pure speculation and defamation, which has no ground," Peskov said on Tuesday, as reported by TASS.

        "All in all we've got used to media hoaxes, which are either related to lack of qualifications or rush toward gutter news, or are orchestrated campaigns," spokesman said, adding that "in this case of course we unwittingly notice that the reports coincided with quasi-judicial exercises in certain countries, publications of like tenor in very reputable media."

        According to Peskov, "in the case of the BBC film everything would have looked like another example of patent irresponsible journalism but for the official comment presented in the film," meaning the comment made by the representative of the U.S. finance ministry. "Here the situation is different – those are official charges," Kremlin spokesman said.

        Peskov has also denied Western reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin owns a luxury yacht.

        The Kremlin spokesman thus commented on an assertion made in a BBC film.

        "I know that the president does not own a yacht. I know this," the Kremlin spokesman said, adding that he didn't know about other details relating to this kind of property.

        "I'm ascribed a deep knowledge of yachts but this is not so," the Kremlin spokesman said, referring to media reports last summer claiming he had spent his vacation aboard an expensive yacht.

        Speaking generally about the owners of particular yachts, Peskov said: "these are absolutely public data, which can be checked simply."

        As UNIAN reported earlier, the U.S. Treasury told a BBC investigation that it considered Russian President Vladimir Putin to be corrupt.
        Kremlin calls claim of corruption against Putin "pure speculation and defamation" : UNIAN news

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        • Ukraine seeks consultations of Budapest Memorandum signatories
          26.01.2016 | 23:20 UNIAN

          Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says Ukraine is proposing to hold consultations between the Budapest Memorandum signatory states following Russian FM Sergey Lavrov’s statement that Moscow never violated it.

          "Given the fact that “the question of obligations” under paragraph 6 of the Budapest Memorandum arises in connection with the statements of the official representative of the Russian Federation, we are proposing once again to hold consultations with the participation of all [signatory] countries of the Budapest Memorandum," Klimkin said, according to MFA of Ukraine twitter.

          The minister reminded that Russia had violated paragraph 1 of the Budapest memorandum, which obliges to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.

          "Russia has violated and further violates paragraph 2 of the Memorandum which stipulates that none of the weapons of the signatory states will be used against Ukraine," Klimkin said.

          He also said that the Russian Federation has been violating over the recent years paragraph 3 of the Budapest Memorandum, putting economic pressure on Ukraine.

          In this regard, the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has raised the question: "Someone who is sure that does they do not violate the Memorandum shouldn’t be concerned about holding such consultations."

          As UNIAN reported earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday that Russia had not violated the Budapest Memorandum, because it never threatened Ukraine with nuclear weapons.

          In particular, answering the question on how the Russia’s neighbors can ensure their security while the Russian Federation at any time can break its commitments, Lavrov said: "Budapest Memorandum includes a single commitment -- not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. No one has, and the threat of use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine has never been voiced," said Lavrov.
          Ukraine seeks consultations of Budapest Memorandum signatories : UNIAN news

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          • Militants hide banned weapons in occupied Ternove - OSCE
            26.01.2016 | 22:00 UNIAN

            Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it recorded heavy weapons banned under the Minsk agreements amassed in the militant-controlled village of Ternove in Donetsk region, that’s according to the mission’s report of January 25 released on Tuesday.

            “In violation of respective withdrawal lines, on 22 January aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of 17 self-propelled howitzers (heavy weapons) at a training area near “DPR”-controlled Ternove,” reads the report.

            Additionally, aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed a concentration of military hardware was observed on 22 January: 12 towed artillery pieces, 55 military-type trucks, 120 armoured vehicles, and 115 pieces of unidentified equipment at a training area near “DPR”-controlled Ternove; 53 armoured vehicles, 35 military-type trucks, and 30 pieces of unidentified equipment near Buhaivka.

            The SMM monitored the presence of other hardware as follows: two armoured personnel carriers (APCs; BTR-80) and three infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs; BMP-2) near the government-controlled part of Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk), two IFVs (BMP-1) and one anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23) mounted on a military-type truck on the “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk), 13 military-type trucks and one multipurpose armoured vehicle (MT-LB) in “LPR”-controlled Yuvileine (10km west of Luhansk), one IFV (BMP-2) near “LPR”-controlled Pionerske (19km east of Luhansk).
            Militants hide banned weapons in occupied Ternove - OSCE : UNIAN news

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            • RADIO FREE EUROPE January 26, 2016
              Ukraine To Get Up To $10 Billion In Foreign Aid In 2016

              Ukraine's finance minister says the cash-strapped country expects to receive up to $10 billion from foreign sources this year, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

              Natalie Jaresko was quoted by Ukrainian media as making the statement during a cabinet meeting on January 26.

              "If we are focused on our program of reforms, then including the IMF and other bilateral and multilateral sources, it will be up to $10 billion," Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform quoted Jaresko as saying.

              The IMF plans to extend at least $1.7 billion in credit to Ukraine next month for the country to replenish its gold reserves, Ukrinform reported.

              Ukraine is using international loans and financial aid to stave off bankruptcy as the country struggles to bring its economy out of Russia's direct influence and quell a pro-Russia separatist rebellion in the east of the country. Ukraine To Get Up To $10 Billion In Foreign Aid In 2016

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              • Database seeks to connect all Ukrainians worldwide
                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Anastasiia Chornohorska 2016/01/27

                Michael Karaszkewycz arrived to Australia in 1950. He was 3 years old, and he together with his parents arrived to Melbourne as refugees. However, Michael did not forget his Ukrainian roots and tries his best to help Ukraine and Ukrainians. In 1987, he established the Ukrainian Directory project, which aims to connect all Ukrainian organizations worldwide, and is now looking to bring it to a new level.

                The Ukrainian Directory: history of creation

                The Ukrainian Directory was first set up as a printed booklet and ran until 1997. 5,000 copies were printed and distributed at the churches across Australia during Easter each year. In 2010 the Directory broadened to an Internet based source Ukrainian Business and Community Directory. This online project was very successful. At its peak, before the system was hacked several times, it had 80,000 hits per month. Michael Karaszkewycz has made several attempts to repair the Directory at considerable cost, but finally he decided to rebuild the system to be larger, better, and more informative. In addition, the system got more protected. In the event of further hacking, its creator would be able to resurrect the system within an hour. The new version of the Directory was released in recent and is available at Ukrainian Directory.

                Connecting the Ukrainian community worldwide

                The Ukrainian Directory has been developed to provide a means of communication for the Ukrainian community worldwide at the community, business, and professional levels, as well as on a personal level. The main idea is to encourage Ukrainians worldwide to support each other in our everyday activities in an endeavor to be more united and to embrace the true spirit of “צ ,” which means that Ukrainians by origin cooperate with Ukrainians by origin all over the world. Thus, it helps to develop Ukrainian community worldwide and to strengthen support for Ukraine from far abroad.

                “We, as Ukrainians, need to show the world that we are creative and productive and are leaders in this world. We, especially in the Diaspora, have to demonstrate, encourage and educate our fellow Ukrainians in Ukraine that Ukraine can once again be a major player in Europe,” is how Michael Karaszkewycz explains his idea of the Ukrainian Directory. It is intended that this directory would be a living and up–to–date resource. The project needs Ukrainians worldwide to assist by providing information that they see as relevant to Ukraine and Ukrainians.

                The new directory has approximately 150 categories and sub-categories. They will be expanded as the directory grows. There are nearly 2,000 individual listings linking directly to the individual organizations or business website, thereby minimizing details within the Directory. The intent is that each organization and business maintain their own website, making information current. However, if the organization or business does not have a website, the Ukrainian Directory would provide one page of detail for them at the website.

                If a company or organization wants to be listed in this directory, they have to provide their details including a brief description of their activities, logos, photographs and websites. Community listings will be free of any charges. Business listings will incur a small once-off establishment fee and a minimal annual service charge. However, should this project become financially viable, all profits will be channeled back into the community in support of Ukraine.

                Motivation and inspiration for the project

                «My motivation behind the Ukrainian Business and Community Directory started back in the early 1980’s when I saw the Ukrainian Community slowly dispersing and becoming assimilated into the broader Australian community,” Michael Karaszkewycz told Euromaidan Press. Today, according to the Australian Census there are some 38,000 persons of Ukrainian descent in Australia and yet there are barely 1,200 persons who are members of any Ukrainian Organization in Australia. The majority are elderly and committed Ukrainians, who are dwindling very fast. In fact, there are only about 150 persons who actually actively participate and organize Ukrainian activities.

                The creator of the project will be glad for any help with maintaining the Directory. “Over the years I had many offers of assistance; sadly none have come into fruition. It is an ungrateful task, but I am enjoying every moment and can see the larger picture emerging,” he explains. Besides the Ukrainian Directory, given the current situation in Ukraine, Michael is keeping Ukrainians in Australia and in other countries informed about events and progress that is occurring despite the increasing negativity the Russians are forcing on the world about Ukraine. He believes that strong and connected diaspora can make Ukraine stronger as well.

                If you want to participate in the Ukrainian Directory project, please email your information to Join the Directory! Let us build strong Ukrainian community all over the world together!
                Database seeks to connect all Ukrainians worldwide -Euromaidan Press |
                Ukrainian Directory

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                • Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch. The British left must speak out
                  THE GUARDIAN Owen Jones 26 Jan 2016 07.25 EST

                  A rightwing authoritarian leader who attacks civil liberties, stigmatises lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, indulges in chauvinistic nationalism, is in bed with rapacious oligarchs, and who is admired by the European and American hard right. Leftwing opposition to Vladimir Putin should be, well, kind of an obvious starting point. Now BBC One’s Panorama has broadcast allegations that the Russian leader has secretly amassed a vast fortune. However accurate, there is no question that Putin is close to oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich, who profited as post-Soviet Russia collapsed into economic chaos thanks to western-backed “shock therapy”.

                  Last week, a British public inquiry concluded that ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was likely to have been murdered at the personal behest of Putin. We don’t know exactly who is behind all the murky killings of journalists in Russia, but we know that some of those critical of the government – like Anna Politkovskaya, who courageously opposed Putin’s war in Chechnya – met violent ends.

                  Putin has become something of an icon for a certain type of western rightwinger. Donald Trump is a fan: when Putin called the rightwing demagogue a “very colourful, talented person”, Trump called it a “great honour” and described Russia’s strongman as “a man highly respected within his own country and beyond”. When challenged on the alleged role of Moscow in the murder of journalists, Trump engaged in what is typically known as “whataboutery” (or the “look over there!” approach to debate), responding: “Our country does plenty of killing also.” Last year, a delegation of French rightwing MPs visited Russia to fight “disinformation from western media”, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front which was given a multimillion-euro loan from a Russian bank – is a Putin fan. Our own Nigel Farage assailed opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, suggesting Putin was “on our side” in the war against terrorism, while Ukip MEP Diane James celebrated him as a strong leader and for being “very nationalist”.

                  Sure, the west’s attitude towards Putin is hypocritical. When Putin prosecuted his savage war in Chechnya, there was none of the western outrage later meted out when the Russians annexed the Crimea. Bill Clinton once lavished Putin for having “enormous potential”; Tony Blair, meanwhile, continues to call for the west to work with Putin against Islamic fundamentalism and last year attended a Putin “vanity summit”.

                  But for the left, opposition to Putin should go without saying. Those who claim the left as a whole is soft on Putin are disingenuous at best: as, indeed, this article illustrates. But why are some silent, or even indulgent? Firstly, some profess a fear that – by critiquing those who are already supposedly bete noires of the west – the left will provide cover for western military expansionism. We become cheerleaders for western foreign policy, in other words, feeding the demonisation of foreign foes that is a necessary precondition for conflict. Secondly, it is seen as hypocritical: look at, say, the calamities of Iraq or Libya. Should we not focus on what our governments get up to, rather than what foreigners get up to elsewhere, which is in any case well covered by the mainstream press and political elite?

                  Yes, there is something rather absurd about the baiting of the anti-war left for not protesting against, say, Putin or North Korea. The baiters are always free to organise their own demonstration (I would be happy to join), and protest movements can only realistically aspire to put pressure on governments at home, whether it be on domestic policies or alliances with human rights abusers abroad (whether that be, say, the head-chopping Saudi exporters of extremism, or Israel’s occupation of Palestine). In democracies, protests that echo the official line of governments are rare. If the west was actively cheering Putin on and arming him to the teeth, we might expect more vociferous opposition.

                  But for universalists – those of us who believe democracy, freedom, human rights and social justice are universal principles that all humans should enjoy, irrespective of who or where they are – that shouldn’t be good enough. We shouldn’t have to wait for a possible western-Russian alliance in, say, Syria to speak out. We should express our solidarity with Russia’s embattled democrats and leftists. We don’t have to choose between critiquing our own foreign policy and opposing unjust foreign governments. In a sense, critics of western foreign policy have more of a responsibility to speak out. While supporters of, for example, the Iraq calamity can be more easily batted away by Putin apologists, nobody can accuse people like me of hypocritically failing to critique western foreign policy. Russia is ruled by a human rights abusing, expansionist, oligarchic regime. The Russian people – and their neighbours – deserve better. And the western left is surely duty-bound to speak out. Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch. The left must speak out | Owen Jones | Opinion | The Guardian

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                  • “Not one country reacted”: 71 years since the Liberation of Auschwitz
                    27.01.16 HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

                    Remembrance ceremonies are taking part in many countries, including Ukraine, today to mark the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

                    There are every fewer survivors of the death camp among us, and the seventieth anniversary on January 27, 2015 was an occasion for the world’s leaders to remain silent while the voices of some of those survivors were head. 300

                    One of the earliest prisoners was Władysław Bartoszewski, who later became an active member of Żegota - the Polish Council to Aid Jews which is believed to have helped around half of the Jews who survived the Holocaust in Poland. One of the members was Jan Karski, who tried in vain to get the reaction of western governments to the Holocaust. Another – Irena Sendler, who saved 2, 500 (yes, two thousand, five hundred) children from the Warsaw Ghetto.

                    On the eve of last year’s anniversary, Władysław Bartoszewski wrote:

                    “This year in the world’s largest cemetery without graves, Polish prisoner No. 118 Kazimerz Albin and Polish Jew, and Israeli citizen, Halina Birenbaum will speak on behalf of the prisoners. They will speak in Polish, on Polish soil remembering which people – of which nationality and ideology – prepared this fate for other people.

                    For us a fundamental question is: how much truth about those terrible experiences has already been taken in, and how much truth about the crimes of any totalitarian regimes we can managed to pass to younger generations. I think a lot, but not enough. It’s never enough!”

                    Five years earlier, he had spoken words that in 2016 seem terrifyingly relevant:

                    “If Poles and Russians in Auschwitz-Birkenau were unterMenschen for the Germans, Jews from France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Austria, from the countries of the then Yugoslavia, from Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were not even seen as people, but as pernicious insects. The Polish Resistance movement informed the free world, tried to raise the alarm. The governments of Great Britain and the USA were already in the last quarter of 1942 well aware of what was happening in Auschwitz-Birkenau, in the first instance thanks to the Polish emissary Jan Karski, as well as though other channels.

                    Not one country in the world reacted as the seriousness of the situation required to the note of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Polish Government in Exile in London from 10 December 1942 to the governments of the League of Nations, calling on them to not only condemn the crimes being committed by the Germans and to punish the perpetrators, but also to find ways of preventing Germany from continuing to use methods of mass murder.

                    They found no effective means, and in fact didn’t try to find them. And that was at a time when more than half of the future victims were still alive. The only result of the Polish initiative was a brief declaration by 12 states published on 17 December simultaneously in London, Moscow and Washington. In that declaration, where incidentally the name “Auschwitz-Birkenau” was not mentioned, the governments of Belgium, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland the USA and USSR, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the French National Committee signal that they are aware of the terrible fate of Jews in Poland which the Nazis have made their main torture chamber, and promise to punish the perpetrators.

                    The last surviving prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau, present here today, will probably not be able to honour the memory of the victims in the coming decades. However they have the right to believe that their suffering and the death of their close ones was of real significance for a better future for all people in Europe and even in the whole world, regardless of their ethnic origin or religion.” (the full speech can be found here)

                    Władysław Bartoszewski’s passing on April 24, 2015 was mourned by people throughout the world. The words he had spoken in a recent interview apply just as well to him.

                    “You can expect bravery, heroism, from people, you even should expect it, however you also need to allow for the fact that they’re people. The Catholic Church expects holiness from believers, yet what percentage fulfils those expectations? I don’t know. However I know that there were and are such people. There are few of them, but they exist. And I’m glad of that.”

                    Please view the video here and hear the words spoken by Jan Karski that the world once preferred not to hear

                    Not one country reacted: 71 years since the Liberation of Auschwitz ::

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                    • Ever more Russians are at risk of repression as Putin’s Russia heads toward totalitarianism
                      EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/27 Paul Goble

                      There is an old observation that in a democracy, anything that isn’t prohibited is permitted; in an authoritarian system, anything that isn’t permitted is prohibited; and in a totalitarian one, anything that is permitted is compulsory and any failure to go along can result in arrest or worse.

                      Judging from recent developments, Russia is rapidly moving from an authoritarian to a totalitarian system; and as a result, two analysts say, ever more Russians are at risk of running afoul of the authorities and subject to repression, a danger signal indicating where Vladimir Putin is taking their country.

                      In a comment for RFE/RL, Kseniya Kirillova says that “it is becoming ever easier in today’s Russia to end up behind bars only because one thinks differently;” and she offers a typology of the reasons ever more Russians are being arrested for their views than at any time since the end of the USSR.

                      She says that the number of victims is growing so fast that even the restoration of the Soviet-era “Chronicle of Current Events” is not capable of keeping up with what is going on. Despite that, “the defenders of the regime continue to assert that there are no repressions in Russia,” either denying that any exist at all or insisting that they aren’t “massive.”

                      Kirillova offers four categories of such repression based on the reasons behind such official actions, although she is quick to point out that her list is provisional and undoubtedly incomplete.

                      --First of all, she says, are repressive actions that the authorities take against anyone who questions their status or authority, actions that constitute a kind of revenge and are intended to dissuade people from repeating such activities. So far, however, like the proverbial fighting an oil fire with water, repression has only spread the problem as far as the authorities are concerned.
                      --Second are official repressive actions against those who are viewed as having “gone over to the other side,” either by supporting Ukraine or complaining about the violation of rights in Russia itself or continuing to maintain contacts with foreigners even when the authorities signal that they must break such ties off.
                      --Third are repressive actions against those who accept foreign grants, engage in protests or other forms of anti-government political activity, or call attention to corruption or other problems in the ruling circles.
                      --And fourth are those who don’t openly cooperate with foreign organizations but whose work against official malfeasance is especially effective.

                      Kirillova says that this “system of struggle with those who think differently is far from as consistent and all embracing as it was in Soviet times; therefore, in each of these categories are many exceptions. However,” she writes, “the vector of what is happening shows that the persecution of those who think differently is getting worse with each month.”

                      And as a result, those who fall into one or another of these categories are in danger “if they continue to live in Russia.”

                      Moscow commentator Yevgeny Ikhlov even more directly addresses the ways in which what is happening now recalls the totalitarian past. In an article on the “Vestnik Civitas” portal, he says “one of the main signs of a totalitarian state” has to do with whether it respects the difference between the political and the private.

                      Totalitarianism obliterates the distinction and makes everything into a political issue and thus a subject to evaluation and punishment by the authorities. And that is exactly what the Russian justice ministry is doing with its plans to revise the laws governing non-governmental organizations. It makes any organization potentially political regardless of what its members actually do.

                      Thus, Ikhlov says, “the law returns us to the principle of totalitarian statehood, according to which policy is the prerogative of any official, but any influence on his decisions is in effect political activity.” To the extent that happens, the brand “‘foreign agent’” will soon “be replaced by the brand ‘politics.’” Ever more Russians are at risk of repression as Putin’s Russia heads toward totalitarianism -Euromaidan Press |

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                      • RADIO FREE EUROPE Pete Baumgartner January 27, 2016
                        Last Year Saw Biggest Slide In Freedom In A Decade, Says Monitoring Group

                        Last year saw a greater decline in global freedom than any other in the past decade, according to a leading rights monitor.

                        The U.S.-based organization Freedom House says freedom ebbed in 72 countries around the world in 2015, while just 43 countries witnessed an increase.

                        A key finding of the report was that "fear of social unrest" led Russia, China, and "other authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent."

                        Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also received special attention for joining a group of 10 other countries the authors regard as the "Worst of the Worst" as far as political rights and civil liberties are concerned.

                        It was the 10th straight year that Freedom House has reported an overall decline in global freedom.

                        "This [year's] decline was the result of several factors, including the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as other areas which are not only intensifying the humanitarian crises in these countries but also generated unprecedented numbers of refugees and fostered terrorist groups that inspired or organized attacks," Jennifer Dunham, the director of research for the report, told RFE/RL.

                        In its report, Freedom In The World 2016, released on January 27, Freedom House said wars and other violent conflicts "fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries."

                        Balkan Concerns

                        Among other important findings in the report was that Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia were deemed to have "suffered from crippling government dysfunction in 2015" that prevented democratic progress and assured those Balkan countries that joining the European Union remains "a distant prospect."

                        The report warns that Bosnia-Herzegovina could see even worse government paralysis if a planned referendum takes place in Republika Srpska, the majority-Serb entity within that country, on the legitimacy of Bosnia's national courts.

                        Dunham said there were "concerning declines in governance" in the Balkans in 2015.

                        She cited Macedonia's ruling party being implicated in electoral fraud and a wire-tapping scandal and nonstop battles with the opposition that required EU intervention; the fragile and still-pending approval of a "normalization" agreement between Serbia and Kosovo; a "factionalized" Bosnian government that is hampered by the Republika Srpska leadership's moves for greater autonomy; and the administration of Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's "continued harassment" of the independent media.

                        Freedom House also cited Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula -- which was forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014 -- as experiencing "dramatic setbacks" in freedom.

                        Dunham said Russian authorities in Crimea continued in 2015 to suppress dissent, including shutting down independent media and civil-society groups, particularly those representing the Tatar community.

                        She added that many opponents of the Russian seizure of Crimea have been arrested or driven into exile.

                        Ukraine Stymied

                        Dunham said that, although Ukraine "retained the democratic gains" achieved after the 2014 ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, further progress was stymied in 2015 by fighting in the Donbas region between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists, controversy over decentralization reforms, and rivalry among the country's leading political figures and oligarchs.

                        Dunham said Russia's involvement in the conflict in Syria seemed to "deflect attention from what it was doing in Ukraine" but that its actions in eastern Ukraine are still a big concern for Freedom House and a major reason for its low designation for Russia.

                        She said the Russian government in 2015 also expanded the role of propaganda within state-controlled media and ratcheted up its domestic control by declaring some NGOs foreign agents, part of "increased [government] repression on independent activism, the media, and civil society."

                        Turning to Central Asia, Dunham said that, along with Uzbekistan coming in just ahead of North Korea at the bottom of the world rankings and Turkmenistan only two places ahead of its neighbor on the list of the world's least-free countries, Tajikistan had a "watershed year for getting worse."

                        She pointed to the Tajik government's banning of the last remaining opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which Dunham said was a violation of the accord that ended the Tajik civil war in 1997.

                        Tajikistan also clamped down further on independent media sources and any type of public criticism of the government in 2015, Dunham said.

                        She added that Tajikistan is "really moving toward the category of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan," which she called "very disturbing."

                        Iran Executions

                        In Iran, Dunham said there was unfortunately a spike in executions and the shutting down of several civil-society groups as well as the arrest of journalists as government hard-liners seemed to be trying to "tamp down public expectations that there would be [democratic] openings" following the landmark nuclear deal Tehran inked with global powers that cleared the way for increased mutual trade and diplomacy.

                        The Freedom House report noted that Afghanistan was unable to hold scheduled parliamentary elections in 2015, but Dunham added that there was "a slight improvement" in the area of government intervention in the media under President Ashraf Ghani compared to his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.

                        The Freedom House report said the situation in Pakistan remained largely unchanged in 2015 but cited a government clampdown on NGOs. Dunham added that there is still "some pressure from the government" on Pakistan's media.

                        Bad Year For Baku

                        In the Caucasus, Dunham said "Azerbaijan had a pretty bad year" that included parliamentary elections that "foreign observer groups didn't even bother" attending because "it was pretty clear who was going to win."

                        She said Azerbaijani elections were followed by "another intense round of repression" of civil society that included the detention of journalists and the barring of foreign journalists from covering the European Games, which Azerbaijan hosted in 2015.

                        Belarus is "improving in the eyes of the international community," Dunham said, adding that she doesn't think "anything is actually improving" inside the country. The presidential election "was more of the same" and was neither free nor fair, she said.

                        "Moldova suffered a pretty big decline [in its rating] this year," said Dunham, pointing to the corruption scandal involving the disappearance of more than $1 billion from several banks and the resulting mass demonstrations against the pro-European government.

                        Among countries in RFE/RL's broadcast regions, classifications were as follows:
                        Not Free
                        Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan

                        Partly Free
                        Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Pakistan, and Ukraine.

                        Croatia and Serbia

                        Among disputed territories, Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia and Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh were rated by Freedom House as Partly Free. Crimea, Kashmir, Moldova's Transdniester, and Georgia's South Ossetia were deemed in the report to be Not Free.

                        Despite the global setback in freedom in 2015, Freedom House reports that 74 percent of the 195 countries analyzed are still considered to be Free (86 countries) or Partly Free (59 countries).

                        The remaining 50 countries were determined to be Not Free.

                        Overall, the report concluded that, in the past 10 years, 105 countries have seen a net decline in their freedom ratings while only 61 have experienced an improvement. Last Year Saw Biggest Slide In Freedom In A Decade, Says Monitoring Group

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                        • 09:18 27.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                          PACE decided to punish European parliamentarians for visiting Crimea, Donbas without Ukraine's authorization

                          The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has adopted a resolution according to which European parliamentarians will bear responsibility for visiting Crimea and Donbas bypassing Ukrainian laws, Heorhiy Lohvynsky, deputy chairman of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE and a member of the People's Front faction, said.

                          "Today, PACE has adopted a resolution and a recommendation on what precise sanctions may be applied against European parliamentarians. I am thankful to all members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe who supported our delegation and voted for 'our amendment'," Lohvynsky said on Facebook.

                          He also noted that PACE members are given certain immunity if they fulfill their duties associated with PACE membership. "For example, if they work as election monitors or as PACE reporters," Lohvynsky said.

                          "In all other situations, European parliamentarians have a duty to act in accordance with the national legislation. If it says that entry of the territory requires the authorization of the Ukrainian authorities, it means one has to obtain authorization before planning the visit. If you enter without authorization, bear liability. According to our legislation, criminal [liability]," Lohvynsky said.

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                          • 09:58 27.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                            Yatseniuk's Cabinet with key successful ministers will remain in office

                            The incumbent Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers chaired by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk and key successful ministers will for now keep their posts and will continue work, Director of the Institute for Global Strategies Vadym Karasiov says.

                            "Possibly, there will be a certain reshuffle among the ministers, new posts will be introduced, for example, the vice-prime minister for European integration. However, the key ministers, who have proved to be successful against the backdrop of the government's failures and who have been conducting serious reforms in their sectors, namely Finance Minister [Natalie] Jaresko, Economy Minister [Aivaras] Abromavicius, Agrarian Policy Minister [Oleksiy] Pavlenko, will remain in office. In the first half of 2016 the government with the premier and the key ministers will remain and keep working, and major issues in a resolution of the looming parliamentary coalition crisis have been postponed until autumn 2016," he said at a press conference at Interfax-Ukraine on Tuesday.

                            In Karasiov's opinion, Samopomich's statement on the withdrawal of Agriculture Minister Oleksiy Pavlenko is a consequence of political intrigues and misunderstanding of what needs to be done in the current "stalemate" situation. "Because the government is inefficient, no coalition can exist without it. And if there is no coalition, either a new coalition [has to be formed] or early elections [should be held]. As the People's Front is a key player in the coalition, it will not give Avakov and Yatseniuk up," Karasiov added.

                            Director of the Situations Modeling Agency Vitaliy Bala in turn pointed to the fact that Samopomich had given no reasons for the withdrawal of the minister in the mentioned statement. Besides, the party initially positioned itself as bringing new quality, the one that supposedly opposed the quota principle, Bala said, adding that by their statement Samopomich showed that it "was just like any other party."

                            According to Bala, one has to rely on Ukraine's agenda in the new year rather than on someone's names if the government is at stake. "If there are no early or snap parliamentary elections, then at the moment we need to have the government with new people having no political ambitions and belonging to no political party. Of course, our political elite won't agree to this. If politicians do not rein in their ambitions, there will be a parliamentary crisis, which will translate into an early parliamentary election," the expert said.

                            Political expert Volodymyr Tsybulko in turn says that since it has cleared up that the incumbent government and the coalition are getting exhausted, then each faction has started to develop its own scenario of how to avoid responsibility. "The Radical Party has abandoned the coalition on time, having Batkivschyna and Samopomich in a bind. The Batkivschyna faction has withdrawn into the shadows – it remains unnoticed, as Sports Minister Ihor Zhdanov alone cannot be the party's political face," Tsybulko noted.

                            "Having sufficiently promising and professional minister of agrarian policy Pavlenko, Samopomich has suddenly gone to war for Kryvyi Rih. They have got so much involved in it, that they found themselves in a certain stretch. To get Kryvyi Rih means to get long-term prospects, but at the same time it means to lose the post of the ambitious minister and the possibility of influencing the government and the coalition. It is a risky game. Even if the faction continues to insist on the withdrawal of the minister, he is not obliged to resign, and there won't be enough votes for that, and that is an extremely hazardous game, which will obviously take its toll on political prospects," Tsybulko said. Yatseniuk's Cabinet with key successful ministers will remain in office

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                            • Separatist Leader Admits To Razing Ukrainian Village, Hails ’Good’ Soviet Ideology
                              28.01.16 | Anna Shamanska HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

                              A separatist leader in eastern Ukraine has admitted to burning down a village at the height of fighting more than a year ago, while praising a proposal for restoring the place.

                              Aleksandr Zakharchenko’s remarks came as his pro-Russian separatist group, which calls itself the Donetsk People’s Republic, held a Youth Socio-Political Forum that was billed as a platform for local students to present a range of project proposals.

                              Students from the so-called Donbas National Academy of Construction and Architecture presented their concept for the tiny village of Kozhevnya, once home to around 69 residents, according to Census data.

                              The area was the site of some of the fiercest battles between Ukrainian national forces and separatists in the summer of 2014.

                              The Russia-backed separatists held the village until July 23, 2014, when troops loyal to Kyiv forced them to retreat. At the time, a separatist representative told Interfax news agency that the populated areas had been abandoned and that no separatists had been killed in action.

                              It was not until his January 25 admission that Zakharchenko explained how they pulled it off: by burning everything to the ground.

                              "This village was a milestone for me. ... It was our first offensive. Unfortunately, in the course of fighting we practically destroyed this village, " he said. "By burning down houses, we saved our lives and the lives of our people":

                              Fighting in eastern Ukraine broke out in April 2014, and more than 9, 100 people have been killed in the conflict. More than 1.4 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while more than 600, 000 others have fled to neighboring countries.

                              Russia-backed separatists continue to control swaths of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and a shaky, internationally brokered cease-fire is largely holding, but a long-term solution remains elusive nearly two years after the onset of the separatism-fueled violence.

                              New Republican Values

                              In his eight-minute speech, Zakharchenko spoke not only about physical rebuilding but also about the return of what he called "cultural values."

                              "In the Soviet Union, which the majority of you don’t remember...the ideology of that state was good. Of course, there were some exaggerations, a lot of shortcomings, but the things that were done were done for the people, " he said.

                              Zakharchenko went on to suggest that children were raised on "true" values back then -- those of "family, loyalty, brotherhood, and love for the motherland."

                              Millions of Ukrainians died during Stalin’s orchestrated famine known as the Holodomor in 1932-33, when the Soviet leadership aimed to collectivize land and labor and at the same time eliminate its perceived opponents.

                              But according to Zakharchenko’s reading of history, the West imposed its own values on the Ukrainian people after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

                              "Now we understand that we are raised on Coca-Cola, Mickey Mouse, blue jeans, and so on, on Playboy, on a democracy that implies that the family could have two dads or two moms, " he said. "This is absolutely unacceptable."

                              The latest Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the situation in eastern Ukraine accuses the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of killings, torture, ill-treatment, illegal detention, and forced labor.

                              A former commander of separatists in Donetsk, Russian Igor Girkin, recently said that he executed four people in the city of Slovyansk in 2014 -- killings he said were carried out in accordance with Stalin-era laws.

                              Zakharchenko, a university dropout with a technical-school education, tried to end his speech on an inspiring note. He said that creating the so-called "republic" -- which is not recognized as an independent state by any country -- should be a source of pride.

                              "You are proud of us for doing it and we will be proud of you for having done it, " he said.
                              Separatist Leader Admits To Razing Ukrainian Village, Hails Good Soviet Ideology ::

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                              • A Crimean Kafkaesque Trial Hidden from Council of Europe Eyes
                                28.01.16 | Halya Coynash HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

                                The Jan 27 hearing in the trial in Russian-occupied Crimea of Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz and other Crimean Tatars ended within minutes on Wednesday, with the presence in the peninsula of a Council of Europe fact-finding delegation suggested as a likely reason. There certainly is a lot the Russian occupation regime has reason to conceal.

                                What are the charges and whose ‘public security’ is supposed to have been jeopardized? These were just two of the questions put to the Crimean Supreme Court on Jan 25 by one of the defendants facing a prison sentence over a demonstration held before Russia annexed Crimea. He received no answers and the trial is continuing, with a prosecution which breaches Russian law being run by the de facto Crimean prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya. There is also maximum security, with the armed guards clearly designed to mislead the public into believing that criminals are on trial, not the highest-ranking Crimean Tatar leader in Crimea, and other Crimean Tatars.

                                Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis is charged in Russian-occupied Crimea with organizing ‘mass riots’ on Feb 26, 2014, the day before Russian soldiers seized control in Crimea. He and two other Crimean Tatar – Mustafa Degermendzhy and Ali Asanov, who are accused of having taken part in the alleged riots, remain in custody despite the lack of any legal grounds for the criminal prosecution or for their detention.

                                Only Crimean Tatars have been targeted, although there were also a large number of pro-Russian demonstrators outside the parliament buildings on Feb 26, 2014.

                                The men are on trial under Russian law over an event in Ukraine. This openly breaches Russia’s Criminal Code (Article 12 § 3), which states unequivocally that foreign nationals who committed an offence on the territory of another country can only be prosecuted under Russian law if “the crime was directed against the interests of the Russian Federation or a citizen of the Russian Federation.”.

                                There is video footage proving that like all other members of the Mejlis present, Chiygoz actively worked to prevent conflict, and no evidence against any of the three men who remain in custody.

                                Novaya Gazeta reports that Mustafa Degermendzhy stated in court on Jan 25 that he does not understand the charges against him.

                                “The indictment says that I’m charged with committing a serious crime against public safety, without any specification as to whether the crime was allegedly against the public safety of Russia, or of Ukraine. It also says that between 11 and 17.00 on Feb 26, 2014 I was on the square outside the Crimean parliament where, carrying out the criminal orders of Akhtem Chiygoz, I flagrantly violated public order and did not obey the legitimate demands of police officers.

                                I’d like to know what specific demands were presented by police officers, which specifically were not carried out, and where is this recorded? I also don’t understand, which specific orders by Chiygoz I allegedly carried out, and where is the proof of any link between the alleged orders and my actions. I would inform the court that I am in no way connected with Chiygoz.

                                I am also charged with committing crimes against Russian Federation nationals. Please explain which of the people outside the Crimean parliament on Feb 26, 2014 were Russian nationals.

                                Please explain the essence of the charges against me in detail since I cannot fully exercise my right to defence without knowing the details of the charges.”

                                Ali Asanov made a similar statement to the court. Chiygoz also reiterated their demand, but added a request to explain the “plan for mass riots” that he had supposedly drawn up, and what it was supposed to entail.

                                Poklonskaya claimed that the answers would be provided during the trial, and proposed going on to the questioning of ‘witnesses’.

                                Another crucial application was submitted during the heading. Chiygoz demanded that Poklonskaya be withdrawn from the trial. He cited her interviews given to the media when she referred to Chiygoz as “a common criminal” and “a murderer”.

                                Two people died during the demonstration on Feb 26, 2014. One seemingly of a heart attack, the other was crushed in the pro-Russian crowd.

                                None of the men on trial are facing charges linked with those deaths. The other defendants and their lawyers supported Chiygoz’ application, and articles were presented to the court proving that Poklonskaya had indeed hurled such claims around in the media.

                                Russia’s Criminal Procedure Code states that a prosecutor should be withdrawn if there are grounds for believing that s/he has an interest in a specific outcome of a case. Poklonskaya has publicly asserted Chiygoz’s guilty with the claims having nothing to do with the case material. Chiygoz’s lawyer Nikolai Polozov (who is also in the team representing Nadiya Savchenko) suggested that Poklonskaya is hoping to get promotion from the Russian authorities for her role in this case.

                                The application was rejected.

                                The court, under presiding judge Viktor Zinkov, also rejected (and not for the first time) the application from the defence to terminate the prosecution over which Russia according to Russian legislation, as well as international law, has no legal jurisdiction.

                                The only application that was allowed was Poklonskaya’s – extending the detention of Chiygoz, Asanov and Degermendzhy to March 8.

                                The protest

                                There were around 10 thousand Crimean Tatars and Maidan supporters who gathered outside the parliament building in Simferopol on Feb 26, 2014, fearing that plans were underway to push through a bill changing Crimea’s status. They were opposed by a smaller, but still considerable, number of pro-Russian demonstrators led by Sergei Aksyonov, then the leader of a marginal pro-Russian party in the Crimean parliament. Aksyonov was installed as self-proclaimed leader on Feb 27 after Russian soldiers seized control of government buildings, etc.

                                Radio Svoboda reported at the time of Chiygoz’s arrest that their video footage clearly showed all representatives of the Mejlis seeking only to calm the crowd and prevent bloodshed. This was also confirmed by a Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin, writing for Novaya Gazeta, and present during the demonstration on Feb 26, 2014 He reports that Refat Chubarov used a megaphone to call for calm after the first scuffles broke out. Later, after the parliamentary session believed to be planning to take control was cancelled, Chubarov and Aksyonov came out together and called for calm and for the demonstrators to disperse. Kanygin adds that the Crimean Tatars heeded this call, not the pro-Russian demonstrators who remained and kept chanting “Russia!”

                                There are supposed to be 83 people with ‘victim’ status in this case. It is worth recalling the Novaya Gazeta report that the Russian Investigative Committee was short of ‘victims’ and witnesses, and on February 2, 4 days after Chiygoz’s arrest and 11 months after the events, invited Simferopol residents to come forward “even in the absence of bodily injuries”.

                                Please write to Akhtem Chiygoz, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy !

                                The Mejlis will pass on all letters to the men and even just a few words will tell them that they are not forgotten. Letters should be sent to the Mejlis office in Kyiv: - 01014, , . , 22/14 (Ukraine, Predstavitel’stvo Medzhlisa krymskotatarskogo naroda v Kieve – 01014, Kiev, ul. Sedovtsev, 22/14)

                                Please write the name of each of the men on the letter or card to them (the number at the end is their year of birth; it’s required for passing on letters to people in detention)

                                Akhtem Chiygoz

                                , 1964 ..

                                Mustafa Degermendzhy

                                , 1989 ..

                                Ali Asanov

                                , 1982 ..

                                If you can write in Russian, please do, but avoid any discussion of the case or politics. If not, the following would be fine:

                                ! (Hello!)

                                , , .

                                (I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released). A Crimean Kafkaesque Trial Hidden from Council of Europe Eyes ::

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