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  • Lviv is not Donetsk - The Ukrainian economy is not terrible everywhere
    Jan 20th 2016, 14:32 by C.W. | LVIV THE ECONOMIST

    IN 2014 Ukrainian GDP fell by 7%; in 2015 it shrunk by an astonishing 12%. The whole economy is indeed in trouble; the hryvnia, the currency, has lost about 70% against the dollar in the past two years. Inflation is very high (though it is now subsiding). However, what's often lost in analysis is that different parts of the country are doing very differently.

    The war has been concentrated in the east of the country (Donetsk and Luhansk). To show the economic damage this has caused, we've looked at how much construction is going on in different provinces (this is a decent proxy for GDP growth). Data from a warzone are hardly reliable, but there is a regional pattern to Ukraine's economic woes. In January-November 2015 Donetsk's construction shrank by an astonishing 60% on the previous year.

    http://cdn.static-economist.com/site...130_wom985.png

    But western Ukraine is clearly doing decently. In the first three quarters of 2015 Lviv, a city in the west from where your correspondent is writing this, had one of the biggest jumps in employment of any province in Ukraine. And construction is doing rather well (luxury flats are popping up across the city and hipster bars are opening).

    Of course, such a contrast is not terribly surprising. Lviv is well over 1,000km away from Donetsk; and its economy, with a heavy concentration of services like IT, is a world away from the coal-mining and steel of the east. Basically they are entirely different economies, which talk of "Ukraine" ignores.

    The IMF has highlighted this pattern before. In 2014, across Ukraine as a whole industrial production fell by 10%. In Donetsk and Luhansk, which normally account for about 16% of Ukrainian GDP, it fell by 32% and 42% respectively.

    Now this has implications for Ukraine's overall GDP growth. Take away Donetsk and Luhansk, and industrial production fell by "just" 4.6% in 2014.

    Using industrial production as a proxy for GDP, some back-of-the-envelope calculations would suggest that the "non-war" parts of Ukraine saw a GDP drop of about 4% in 2014. Imagine similar ratios for 2015, and you're looking at a GDP decline of maybe 8-9%. Now obviously this is still a severe recession, but remember: the country is at war. (Ukrainian growth is roughly comparable to Greek growth in 2011-12.)

    All this goes to show that while the Ukrainian economy is really struggling, things are not equally bad everywhere.
    Lviv is not Donetsk: The Ukrainian economy is not terrible everywhere | The Economist

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    • Putin's Silenced Critics: A ‘Murder Machine’
      KYIV POST Allison Quinn Jan. 28, 2016 23:59

      After a decade-long delay, a British criminal inquiry on Jan. 21 found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘probably’ ordered the 2006 polonium-210 poisoning that killed ex-Russian security service agent Alexander Litvinenko in London. But Litvinenko is just one of many Putin critics who have been killed or who have died suspiciously. Most cases remain unsolved. Some of the slain critics had accused Putin of many crimes, including support of terrorism and state-sponsored murder. The Litvinenko findings, coming after Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and ongoing war against Ukraine, have reignited calls to ostracize Putin and tighten economic sanctions against Kremlin insiders.

      Alexander Litvinenko figured out who fatally poisoned him with polonium-210 in 2006. A British judge finally caught up a decade later.

      High Court Judge Sir Robert Owen, summarizing a 327-page inquiry, found that Russian President Vladimir Putin and ex-Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) head Nikolai Patrushev “probably” gave the order to kill British citizen Litvinenko, a former Russian spy-turned-Kremlin critic.

      The finding marks the first time a Western court echoed allegations that Putin and his cronies run a mafia state. Litvinenko was among the first to challenge the Kremlin leader’s rise to power in 2000. He also predicted a reign of brutality that has, to date, seen at least a dozen other Russian dissidents killed since Putin became president in 2000.

      In 1998, when Putin headed Russia’s FSB, Litvinenko challenged his leadership by holding a news conference and accusing him of ordering contract killings.

      He continued antagonizing Putin in the years to come, fleeing Russia in 2000 and co-writing a book published two years later, “Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within,” which accused Putin and the FSB of orchestrating a series of terrorist bombings against the Russian people in 1999 to boost support for a renewed war in Chechnya. He also accused Putin of supporting global terrorism, ordering contract murders in Russia and abroad and pedophilia.

      The book prompted death threats against Litvinenko and his co-author Yuri Felshtinsky, and has largely been viewed as the motive for Litvinenko’s murder, the first-ever assassination by a rare and lethally radioactive poison in London.

      ‘Murder machine’
      The British court’s verdict now “proves that Putin’s regime is a dangerous murder machine aimed at depraved suppression of its opponents,” said Felshtinsky, a friend of Litvinenko’s and one of the last people to speak to him before his death.

      If true, Putin didn’t want to just kill Litvinenko, he wanted him to die a painful death and send a signal to silence other would-be whistleblowers against the Kremlin.

      During the final three weeks before his death on Nov. 23, 2006, Litvinenko’s bones rotted, his skin turned yellow, his hair fell out and his mouth became so inflamed with sores that his tongue no longer fit inside. All the while his wife, Marina, and 12-year-old son, Anatoly, looked on.

      Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, the two Russian agents who met with Litvinenko in London and allegedly administered the poisoning by getting the victim to drink polonium-laced tea on Nov. 1, 2006, have been treated as heroes in Russia. Putin has refused to extradite them to the U.K. for questioning.

      Victim’s vindication
      Litvinenko’s co-author, Feltshinsky, said that “the thrill of the verdict is that 10 years after the death of Litvinenko, we heard a verdict from the lips of a British judge, and that verdict was accusative.”
      Alex Goldfarb, a Litvinenko friend who helped him flee Russia in 2000, said Litvinenko’s last words have now become a reality.

      “You may succeed in silencing me,” Litvinenko wrote two days before he died, addressing the Russian president, “but a howl of protest from around the world will resound in your ears for the rest of your life.”

      Goldfarb told the Kyiv Post: “Foreign affairs do not usually influence the wider public. … But now, if you grab a person on the street and just say ‘Putin’ to see his associations, he will most likely say Litvinenko.”

      “When he wrote those letters, it seemed like such a crazy declaration (to blame Putin), because we didn’t even know at that time about the polonium,” Goldfarb said. “But now, not only is Putin’s role in the murder an issue acknowledged by wider society and seen as a legal fact, but so is his role in criminal activity in general,” Goldfarb told the Kyiv Post.

      Litvinenko’s wife, Marina Litvinenko, and his friends welcomed the verdict on Jan. 21, cheering the “very important message” to the world about Putin’s criminal methods.

      The verdict vindicated the claims made by Litvinenko in his final letters, Goldfarb said.

      State-sanctioned murder
      The final results of the public inquiry by Sir Robert Owen ruled that it is highly unlikely Kovtun and Lugovoi would have acted without prior approval from the highest echelons of power in the Kremlin.

      The judge noted that secret evidence shown during closed hearings formed part of his reasoning.
      Goldfarb, a witness in the inquiry, told the Kyiv Post he believed the evidence had been intercepts of Lugovoi’s telephone conversations recorded by Western intelligence agencies.

      Suspects doing well
      Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mocked the inquiry’s findings on Jan. 21. But for many, that comes as no surprise. Russian officials had obstructed the British investigation from the start, with Kovtun and Lugovoi refusing to cooperate with the inquiry.

      Putin praised the suspects. Lugovoi’s career took off. He is now a wealthy member of parliament running a private security firm. In March, as the British inquiry listed all the evidence against Lugovoi, Putin gave him an award “for services to the motherland.” He also hosts his own TV show on Russian television called “Traitors.” The program focuses on spies who turn against their own countries.

      So what?
      International leaders have reacted to the inquiry’s verdict with dramatic words of condemnation for the Kremlin, but so far, that’s about it.

      U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the “appalling crime” on British soil but said U.K.-Russian relations needed to continue to resolve the conflict in Syria.

      Some doubt that Putin will face sanctions.

      “Targeted sanctions against named individuals could be extended, but the government is clearly most reluctant to include Putin in that list. Economic sanctions over Ukraine are already in place and causing difficulties for the faltering Russian economy,” said Michael Bowker, an expert on Russian foreign policy and Russia-U.K. relations at the University of East Anglia.

      U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said just days after the Litvinenko verdict that sanctions against Russia could be lifted within a few months, and Paris has also spoken in favor of lifting the sanctions.
      Political scientist Andreas Umland told the Kyiv Post that the British court’s findings are still “a problem for Russia, as they further damage the reputation of the current regime. … Russia’s image is getting close to that of a rogue state.”

      For Felshtinsky, Russia’s reputation is already so bad that “if you show documentary video of Putin eating babies alive on Russian television, it would make no difference.”

      Marina Litvinenko has called on Cameron to impose economic sanctions on the individuals suspected in her husband’s murder.

      Felshtinsky said authorities could – and should – go even further and throw Russian employees out of embassies in the U.K., or ban all Aeroflot flights in the country.

      “If it didn’t happen after the murder of Litvinenko, after the invasion of Georgia, after the invasion of Ukraine, after the downing of the Malaysian airliner, after Russia’s involvement in Syria – then it will ha
      ppen a bit later, when Russia moves on to the next stage of its foreign policy program, which Putin is only now starting,” Felshtinsky said.

      Other victims
      Litvinenko was not the first and not the last to fall victim to an increasingly ruthless dictatorship.
      Felshtinsky said no one should forget all the other figures who were killed or died under mysterious circumstances.

      “That in 2013 in strange circumstances they found (Boris) Berezovsky himself dead (one theory said he hanged himself, another – that he was hanged, and no serious investigation was conducted); that also in 2013, they found businessman Alexander Perepilichny dead. Initially they thought he’d just died, but a bit later, after an investigation, it became clear he’d been poisoned,” Felshtinsky told Ukrainian journalists on Jan. 26.

      continue read
      21. Putin's Silenced Critics: A ‘Murder Machine’

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      • A mysterious house builder
        KYIV POST Olena Goncharova Jan 28, 2016

        Research into the ownership structure of Housebuilding Company No. 7, which is constructing a 13-building housing complex ordered by the Security Service of Ukraine, has revealed little.

        The project is controversial because it is taking place on donated government land and, while the 3,269 units are supposed to go to war veterans, it appears that only 327 apartments will go to them and the rest will be sold at market rates.

        The security service, or SBU, hasn’t yet responded to Kyiv Post questions about the complex.
        Current records name Roman Bielik, a resident of Stovpyahy village in Kyiv Oblast, as the ultimate owner of the company since September. Bielik’s profile can still be found on the website of Kyiv-based law firm Prokopenko, Chyuko and Partners, where Bielik is described as “curator of financial consulting” with 15 years of experience.

        When the construction firm was chosen to develop the SBU residential project, it was majority-owned by Mykola Doychev, an experienced builder. In September, the SBU again favored Doychev, this time as the director of Compas Group, awarding a Hr 126 million deal to complete the construction of two residential buildings in Kyiv.

        Housebuilding Company No. 7 and Compas Group are registered in Kyiv at the same address.
        The court registry offers additional information on the SBU’s construction partner.

        It contains a curious ruling on April 22 by the Solomiansky District Court in Kyiv.

        It involves a Hr 1.25 million loan that Kyiv-based Terra Bank made to Housebuilding Company No. 7 in January 2014. During the year, the named lender, as well as its guarantors, changed three times, while the bank that originally issued the money was declared insolvent by the central bank. In the end, the court ruled that the construction company, jointly with Traektoria Llc, a company owned by the bank’s board chairman, Serhiy Klymenko, should repay the loan to an individual whose name was redacted from the ruling.

        In September, the state Deposit Guarantee Fund accused Klymenko of embezzling depositors’ money. Klymenko, the bank’s supervisory board and shareholder was placed in pre-trial detention and reportedly released on bail in November. According to the deposit fund, Klymenko in January-February 2014 abused his office to funnel more than Hr 1 billion in depositors’ money to proxy firms as unsecured loans.

        Research into the ownership structure of Housebuilding Company No. 7, which is constructing a 13-building housing complex ordered by the Security Service of Ukraine, has revealed little.

        The project is controversial because it is taking place on donated government land and, while the 3,269 units are supposed to go to war veterans, it appears that only 327 apartments will go to them and the rest will be sold at market rates.

        The security service, or SBU, hasn’t yet responded to Kyiv Post questions about the complex.
        Current records name Roman Bielik, a resident of Stovpyahy village in Kyiv Oblast, as the ultimate owner of the company since September. Bielik’s profile can still be found on the website of Kyiv-based law firm Prokopenko, Chyuko and Partners, where Bielik is described as “curator of financial consulting” with 15 years of experience.

        When the construction firm was chosen to develop the SBU residential project, it was majority-owned by Mykola Doychev, an experienced builder. In September, the SBU again favored Doychev, this time as the director of Compas Group, awarding a Hr 126 million deal to complete the construction of two residential buildings in Kyiv.

        Housebuilding Company No. 7 and Compas Group are registered in Kyiv at the same address.
        The court registry offers additional information on the SBU’s construction partner.

        It contains a curious ruling on April 22 by the Solomiansky District Court in Kyiv.

        It involves a Hr 1.25 million loan that Kyiv-based Terra Bank made to Housebuilding Company No. 7 in January 2014. During the year, the named lender, as well as its guarantors, changed three times, while the bank that originally issued the money was declared insolvent by the central bank. In the end, the court ruled that the construction company, jointly with Traektoria Llc, a company owned by the bank’s board chairman, Serhiy Klymenko, should repay the loan to an individual whose name was redacted from the ruling.

        In September, the state Deposit Guarantee Fund accused Klymenko of embezzling depositors’ money. Klymenko, the bank’s supervisory board and shareholder was placed in pre-trial detention and reportedly released on bail in November. According to the deposit fund, Klymenko in January-February 2014 abused his office to funnel more than Hr 1 billion in depositors’ money to proxy firms as unsecured loans.
        A mysterious house builder

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        • UN Security Council discusses statements by Russia's President on Donbas
          28.01.2016 | 10:07 UNIAN

          On January 27, 2016 the delegation of Ukraine brought to the attention of the UN Security Council recent statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Donbas, the press center of Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations has reported.

          Ukraine's UN Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko stated that it was unacceptable that the higher leadership of the Russian Federation was trying to rewrite the history, publicly questioning the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Ukraine. He said that Putin's statement violated a number of fundamental international documents, in particular the UN Charter and 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the press center said.

          The Ukrainian delegation drew the attention of the members of the UN Security Council to the fact that such statements were made by the president of the country which was a party to the Budapest Memorandum on security assurances. Ukraine's PR also underlined that Russia violates its obligations under the Memorandum by continuing the illegal annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and unleashing an unprecedented military aggression in Donbas.

          "The Ukrainian delegation stated that Ukraine considered the statement by President Putin completely unacceptable and called on the Russian leadership to stop the hostile rhetoric and aggressive actions against the Ukrainian people," the report says.

          Ukraine's Ambassador renewed the call to all parties of the Budapest Memorandum, including Russia, to urgently hold consultations to address the blatant claims questioning the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine, as provided for in Article 6 of the Memorandum.
          UN Security Council discusses statements by Russia's President on Donbas : UNIAN news

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          • The vast gulf between Russians and Ukrainians - Russia has been sending conciliatory signals to Kyiv, but many Ukrainians are skeptical. The general consensus among Ukrainians is that a revival of the old friendship with Moscow will be difficult.
            DEUTSCHE WELLE Roamn Goncharenko Jan 28, 2016

            War experiences have shaped Ukraine

            Russian embassies in Ukraine still encounter great suspicion. "What friendship with Russia?" criticized a popular Ukrainian blogger at the beginning of January. "Look at our men who have lost arms and legs in this war! Stop looking at Russia as a 'brother nation'."

            Quite a few people in Ukraine agree with the young Kyiv poet, Anastasia Dmytruk. Her poem addressing Russians after the Crimean annexation called "We will never be brothers" is still very popular in the country. The video of Dmytruk reciting the poem has been viewed on YouTube over six million times.

            Volodymyr Paniotto does not believe that the Ukrainians will soon love the Russians again. "This is a very difficult process," said the director of the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KMIS). Too much damage has been done. According to his institute's survey, the Ukrainians' positive attitude toward Russia declined dramatically after the annexation of Crimea: from 78 percent in February 2014 to 30 percent in May 2015.

            Hostility and antipathy in Russia

            At first glance it may seem all the more surprising that the negative attitude towards the other side in Russia is even more pronounced than in Ukraine. In a recent survey conducted by Moscow's Levada Center, 59 percent of Russians said their perception of Ukraine is negative. Only 27 percent disagreed. The reason for this was Russian propaganda against Ukraine and the people who live there, says Lev Gudkov, head of the center.

            The Moscow sociologist views recent Russian overtures to Ukraine as a tactical maneuver. "I believe that these signals are a game, an attempt to soften the West's sanctions and the pressure on Russia," says Gudkov, "it does not help resolve the confict with Ukraine."TSCHE WELLE Roman Goncharenko 28.01.2016

            The gigantic metal rainbow still stands on the hilly bank of the Dnipro River in Kyiv. Built during the Soviet era, the monument is a reminder of the "union of Ukraine with Russia" in 1654, when Ukrainian Cossacks sought protection from the czar in Moscow. Since the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the war in eastern Ukraine, the monument pays tribute to something that no longer exists: friendship between the two countries.

            The sculpture shows solidarity between a Russian and a Ukrainian. Today, the base of the monument is adorned by obscene words directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

            Serhiy Zelowalnik would like to have the arch demolished. "What kind of a friendship is it, when Russian troops have come here with tanks," defiantly states the former chief architect of the Ukrainian capital in an interview with DW in September 2015. However, authorities in Kyiv have probably decided that the monument – "the yoke" as the people derisively refer to it – should stay there. In the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, however, a column symbolizing Russian-Ukrainian friendship was dismantled in November.

            Conciliatory messages from Moscow

            Yet the Russian side has been increasingly sending signals of reconciliation to Kyiv. "In the end, normal relations between our countries will certainly be restored," said Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian Security Council and Putin confidante, on Tuesday in a newspaper interview. Similar messages were also heard from the Kremlin and from the Russian foreign ministry. "Moscow is ready for a constructive dialogue with Kyiv." In the core issues, however, Russia remains adamant: the status of Crimea is not negotiable.

            At the end of December a "page of friendship" went online in Russia. The URL already suggests that Russians and Ukrainians are one people (Сайт дружбы) and should thus put conflicts aside. The page portrays itself as a platform "without politics and propaganda" and promotes a direct dialogue with citizens. It is unclear who is behind the project – there is no site notice on the website.
            The vast gulf between Russians and Ukrainians | Europe | DW.COM | 28.01.2016

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            • REUTERS WASHINGTON Jan 28, 2016 1:53pm EST
              White House backs Treasury view that Russia's Putin is corrupt

              A U.S. Treasury official's assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin is corrupt "best reflects the administration's view," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a daily briefing on Thursday.

              Earlier this week, the BBC reported that Adam Szubin, acting Treasury secretary for terrorism and financial crimes, said in an interview the United States considers Putin corrupt. The Kremlin later described the remarks as an "official accusation."
              White House backs Treasury view that Russia's Putin is corrupt | Reuters

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              • Road transportation between Russia and Poland may stall
                29.01.2016 | 13:46 UNIAN

                Russia's Transport Ministry claims Poland is unwilling to carry out international road transportation services in the territory of Russia under Russian legislation.

                It is noted that transport permits for Russian and Polish carriers to drive through each country's territory will expire on February 1, 2016, but new agreements on the prolongation of transport permits have not been reached yet.

                Two rounds of negotiations between Russia and Poland have been held, the ministry said. However, the Polish side is said to have expressed disagreement with new requirements of the Russian legislation, which aim at toughening state controls on transportation operations.

                It is reported that the Russian Transport Ministry has sent Poland a proposal to extend the validity of transport permits of 2015 until February 15, 2016.

                Russia argues the Polish side "refuses to provide specific proposals regarding the exchange of permits for the current year in response to the Russian proposal."

                As UNIAN reported earlier, more than 60 Moldovan trucks carrying Russian goods had to wait for a few days at the Russian-Ukrainian border crossing point Troyebortnoye-Bachivsk, as Ukrainian customs officers denied transit transportation of Russian goods via Ukraine.
                Road transportation between Russia and Poland may stall : UNIAN news

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                • Russian Bank Says Nothing to Be Done for Foreign-Currency Mortgage Holders
                  THE MOSCOW TIMES Jan. 28 2016 18:23

                  One of the largest Russian banks to offer hard-currency mortgage loans has said it cannot help clients struggling to service debts after new falls in the value of the ruble.

                  Hundreds of borrowers have protested in recent weeks demanding debt relief as the Russian currency touched record lows against the dollar, raising the cost of repayment.

                  But Denis Kovalev, deputy board chairman at DeltaCredit bank, on Thursday said their demands could not be met. “Before we lent the money, we borrowed that money in the same currency,” he said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

                  “The bank has employees that also have families, clients that trusted us with their money, [and] investors that also employ people and to whom we have obligations,” he said.

                  Thousands of Russians took advantage of lower interest rates on dollar- and euro-denominated home loans, but have seen repayment costs spiral as the ruble halved in value over the past 18 months.

                  Police dispersed dozens of mortgage holders blocking Moscow's central Tverskaya Ulitsa on Wednesday. Groups of borrowers have also protested at banks including DeltaCredit, which is owned by French banking group Societe Generale.

                  Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that while authorities are aware of the suffering of mortgage holders, there are no easy solutions. The government is facing a huge shortfall in tax revenue due to low oil prices and an economic slump.
                  http://www.themoscowtimes.com/busine...rs/557367.html

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                  • Russian Bank Says Nothing to Be Done for Foreign-Currency Mortgage Holders
                    THE MOSCOW TIMES Jan. 28 2016 18:23

                    One of the largest Russian banks to offer hard-currency mortgage loans has said it cannot help clients struggling to service debts after new falls in the value of the ruble.

                    Hundreds of borrowers have protested in recent weeks demanding debt relief as the Russian currency touched record lows against the dollar, raising the cost of repayment.

                    But Denis Kovalev, deputy board chairman at DeltaCredit bank, on Thursday said their demands could not be met. “Before we lent the money, we borrowed that money in the same currency,” he said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

                    “The bank has employees that also have families, clients that trusted us with their money, [and] investors that also employ people and to whom we have obligations,” he said.

                    Thousands of Russians took advantage of lower interest rates on dollar- and euro-denominated home loans, but have seen repayment costs spiral as the ruble halved in value over the past 18 months.

                    Police dispersed dozens of mortgage holders blocking Moscow's central Tverskaya Ulitsa on Wednesday. Groups of borrowers have also protested at banks including DeltaCredit, which is owned by French banking group Societe Generale.

                    Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that while authorities are aware of the suffering of mortgage holders, there are no easy solutions. The government is facing a huge shortfall in tax revenue due to low oil prices and an economic slump.
                    Russian Bank Says Nothing to Be Done for Foreign-Currency Mortgage Holders | Business | The Moscow Times

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                    • 09:49 29.01.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                      Kyiv ready to file claim against Russia's violation of UN convention on law of sea, no political decision of authorities

                      The materials for filing claims to international courts by Ukraine against Russia's violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea due to the annexation of Crimea have been drawn up and only the political decision of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is left to launch the process, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine for European Integration Olena Zerkal has said.

                      "In October 2015, the Ukrainian delegation proposed that consultations are held with Russia, but there is still no response. This does not stop us in preparing the claim. We've been doing this recently. Now we're at the final stage of the preparations," she said in an interview with ZN.UA (Dzerkalo Tyzhnia. Ukraine).

                      She said that all claims of Ukraine could be narrowed down to four key points.

                      "First, the seizure of fields with mineral reserves and illegal oil and gas on the continental shelf of Ukraine in the Black Sea. Secondly, the unlawful seizure of power to regulate fish catch, unlawful fish catch and not allowing Ukrainian fishing companies to catch fish in the offshore zone near the Crimean peninsula. Third, construction of a gas pipeline, a power line and a bridge across the Kerch Strait without the consent of Ukraine, the unlawful blocking of transit of Ukrainian vessels across the Kerch Strait and the unlawful seizure of navigation rights. Fourth, the conducting of studies of archeological and historical sites in the Black Sea bed without the consent of Ukraine," Zerkal said.

                      She said that these are key points and Ukraine could expand the list of claims.

                      Zerkal said that in the past 18 months the ministry was collecting information on the infringements and drawing up the claim and all materials that are to be submitted to court.

                      She said that Poroshenko at the latest conference clearly formed his position regarding the issue that the interests and rights of Ukraine violated due to the annexation of Crimea and Russia's aggression Ukraine will protect in international courts.
                      Kyiv ready to file claim against Russia's violation of UN convention on law of sea, no political decision of authorities

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                      • 11:56 29.01.2016 INTERAX-UKRAINE
                        A total of 2,269 Ukrainian servicemen killed in Donbas – Poroshenko

                        Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that 2,269 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed during the fighting in Donbas.

                        "A total of 2,269 of our warriors have been killed defending Ukraine from the Russian aggression," he said on Friday at the Ivan Bohun Kyiv Military Lyceum's 'Lesson of Courage' dedicated to Kruty Heroes Memory Day.

                        Poroshenko said that as of late 2015, there were 21 men younger 18 years and 650 persons from 18 to 25 years old among killed in the anti-terrorist operation (ATO).

                        Besides, it was said that for the ATO period, 121 servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine obtained a status of the participant of military actions.

                        "Almost 10,000 men were awarded by decorations and medals. Twenty-six men and one woman, Nadia Savchenko, were conferred a title of the Hero of Ukraine, 14 of them – [were granted titled] after life," the president added.

                        The head of state also reiterated that there were times when "almost the whole Donbas was under enemy's control, but its bigger part was liberated."

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                        • The Donbass protests you haven’t heard of
                          EUROMAIDAN PRESS Olena Makarenko 2016/01/29 Part 1

                          The Euromaidan protests are usually seen as the largest Ukrainian mass movement which changed society and the country. However, it was not the largest one in Ukrainian history. In the 90s Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts were shaken by the miners strikes. The miners of Donbas became an important political force which took important steps towards Ukraine’s independence. Also, their movement could have given birth to a real civil society in Ukraine, but unfortunately it didn’t. So, what is similar and what is different between miners strikes and Euromaidan? Why did the former fail and how can the latter avoid the same mistakes?
                          The name of the Donbas region is a shortened form of “Donets Basin.” The Donets is the river which flows through the region. To Ukrainians, the “Donbas region” includes both Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which together are generally considered a major industrial region. The territory of the oblasts is pocked with mines and for the long time miners were the main labor force in Donbas. In 1989 groups of miners protesting working conditions began to vocally disagree with the policies of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. This was the first wave of the movement.

                          Sergiy Shevchenko was a student, not a miner; but he was an active participant of the Donbas protest movement. He and his fellow students organized the political group based on the ideology of anarcho-syndicalism, according to which workers ought to get control of the economy and then use that control to influence the broader society. They were trying to promote their ideas in the miner’s movement. Later, Sergiy and his colleagues set up a press and published the newspaper “Golos Truda” [The Voice of the Labor] which was designed to inform the movement’s members, unlike the official newspaper of the official trade union which was controlled by the Communist Party. Also Sergiy was one of those who discreetly tried to unite the miner’s movement in the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk. Recalling that time, he compares the ideas of Euromaidan and the earlier miner’s movements.

                          “I see many commonalities in the ideas – If one takes into consideration only the grass-roots ideas, not those which are voiced by the politicians, but those ideas that people wanted. They wanted to live a worthwhile human life. It is the simplest idea in a movement. They wanted what we now call self-organization. So that one can solve problems by himself or herself with his peers, but not with the authorities who would not do anything anyway.”

                          Part one: Great Hopes
                          The first miners protests started in Kuzbass, Siberia in the summer of 1989. Than the initiative was endorses by other parts of the USSR. The First Congress of the miners of the USSR took place in Donetsk in the summer of 1990. At that time miners were the working elite, with some of the highest wages in the country. However, they could not buy anything with these wages because the shelves in the shops were empty. This was one of the main reasons for disaffection among the Soviet people, and the miners expressed this dissatisfaction. During the First Congress of the miners, the participants also made political demands.

                          First, they demanded that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union would no longer have its leading role. According to the 6th Article of the Constitution of the USSR the Communist Party played the leading role in forming political, cultural and ideological life of Soviet society. It also meant the party exercised total control over people’s lives. Changing this article would have totally changed the structure of society.

                          “So the first wave of miners’ strikes had political point, it was against the monopoly on ideological and spiritual life. They also wanted to separate production from ideology. There have been very powerful ideas about (workers) self-organization, but totalitarian regime can not exist together with (workers) self-organization”.

                          The second demand was to ratify the economic independence of Ukrainian SSR. At first miners were talking about autonomy in forming the budget of the Republic, but it was the first step towards total independence for Ukraine. The miners were also demanding the independence of the worker’s movement from the Communist Party.

                          The second Congress of the miners of the USSR was held in October 1990, also in Donetsk. The miners became more confident and this time they decided to unite all miner’s movements into one process. At that time there was a system of state trade unions, but it did not serve the interests of the working class. So the miners created an Independent Union. At first, the Union was the same organization in both Ukraine and Russia. Later, when there was no Soviet Union, Ukrainian activists conducted their own Congress. The miner’s movement was functioning parallel to the Government’s structure. The leaders of the movement used to solve all the problems with which volunteers are dealing nowadays. Just like today, society did not want to be ruled by oligarchs, but at that time they did not use this word. The Communists Nomenklatura (the highest levels of the Communist Party) were playing the role of oligarchs. Later, these people merged with criminal circles in the newly-independent Ukraine, and that is how the country received its new political “elite”.

                          Part Two: The Great Disappointment
                          The next wave of activity started in 1993. The expectations people had after the collapse of the Soviet were not fulfilled. The country faced hyperinflation and the miners faced a new problem: poverty. However, they were not alone. Teachers, doctors and other specialists could also barely make ends meet. In 1993 the largest strike in Ukraine’s history was started in Donetsk. A million and a half people of different professions came out onto the streets. The miners were in the core of the strikers. The city of Donetsk was covered with people in hard hats. The protests became permanent.

                          During this period the idea of economic autonomy of Donbas was actively supported. However, this was not “separatism” as there were no anti-Ukrainian aspects of this idea. Moreover, at that time the miners were hated by the Communists, who accused them of destroying the Soviet Union. Autonomy for Donetsk workers at that time meant that the oblast could feed itself.

                          “There were demands for the autonomy of Donbas – but do not be confused with the current requirement for the autonomy of Donbas. These are two different things. Then, the idea was to allow the oblasts of Ukraine to determine their own budgets. In fact, yes it’s decentralization. We understand that now what is meant by “decentralization” is creating new centers that will eventually result in losing control over Ukrainian territory. That time there were no separatist ideas like we are with Russia, it was not that like. These words sound the same, but the meaning was different”, says Sergiy.

                          The coal mining is very important for the region and especially for the cities which are centered around large industrial enterprises. So that when on top of all the other problems of the mid-90s, many mines were closed because of the demands of the IMF, it became a real tragedy. Many small cities in Donbas withered away.

                          The people in power in Kyiv found a way to give hope to the Donbas miners: by making the miners’ leaders representatives in the Ukrainian central government.”


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                          • The Donbass protests you haven’t heard of
                            EUROMAIDAN PRESS Olena Makarenko 2016/01/29 Part 2

                            Part Three: The Final Compromises
                            The hope brought by sending representatives to Kyiv could not last forever. Inflation was growing. People were receiving millions in cash but could not buy anything with it. With a month’s wages people across the country could buy only a week’s worth of products. The situation was aggravated by the fact that workers stopped receiving their wages. There were mines were people have been paid their full wage for 12 months. Some months they received part of their pay, sometimes they did not receive any. The people of the country were working as slaves without any guarantees that they would eventually be paid. Some found a way to at least feed themselves and their families by stealing, for example, metal from factories. And these were people who did not usually steal.

                            In this catastrophic situation, the miner’s movement served as a kind of constraining factor for the political elite. The miners were fighting for their rights and for the rights of millions of their fellow citizens.

                            In 1996 the Strikes Committee called for new protests. Thousands people from the mines came on to the streets again, but it did not help. They then started to block railways and highways. They stopped the traffic arteries all across Donbas. There was no transport around Donetsk. Only ambulances and trucks with bread and some necessary products could reach the city.

                            In a manner almost the same as what took place during the Euromaidan and Orange revolutions, pro-governmental militias were also present in the Oblast, waiting to disperse the protest movement. That time this coercive power was not used and only the leaders of the movement “paid” for the protests when they were arrested.

                            Also the TV propaganda machine was working against the miners. They were depicted as people who did not want to work, and journalists were saying that going on strike was criminal. Meanwhile in 1997, the court proceedings against the leaders of the miners’ strikes started. They were accused with anti-governmental actions. The movement could not survive without its leaders, and that is how railway strikes ended.

                            In 97-98 the movement was already dying. However, one episode of the strikes in Luhansk region which is not often mentioned in Ukrainian history is worth examining. In the summer of 1998 miners from across the oblast organized a permanent protest in Luhansk. They set up a camp and people rotated in and out of the camp. Their demands were simply to receive what they had earned. This protest was dispersed by the Berkut, the unit which is now sadly famous for attacking Euromaidan activists.

                            “…The Berkut attacked the people. There were shouts. Sticks were flashing in the air, they beat heads and shoulders. People were knocked down. All the strikers merged into a shouting clump of about 100 men with a large dark blue epicenter. 6 or 7 Berkut surrounded every miner knocked to the ground …”, wrote a member of the Independent Miners Trade Union about the events of 24th of August 1998. A few months later the movement experienced another sad event. One miner burned himself alive in protest against the sardonic policy of the mine where he used to work.

                            Even though at that time the miners started protest marches towards Kyiv, the movement was dying. Sergiy described the mood of the people in late 90s:

                            “People were tired. They did not believe anyone. It seems that they wanted to, but they already could not. This was the period when the leaders of the miners movement started to participate in elections. They started to create political alliances with unworthy political parties. For example, one of the leaders of the Strike Committee, the legendary Mykhail Krylov, who had been in prison in 1996 because of the protests, formed a bloc with people whom we now call oligarchs. They were the people who were ultimately responsible for our lack of wages, who were ultimately responsible for mine explosions taking place because of security lapses, who were ultimately responsible for our poverty. It was the period of degradation for the miner’s movement, when its leaders started to be interested in their political careers, and not in the interests of their constituents, who chose them to be leaders of this movement”.

                            Still, some protests took place in the 2000’s, but they were not influential. The main role of the movement in history was to lead Ukraine towards independence. Nevertheless, more than a decade of the fighting for their rights did not bring miners anything except the false compromises.

                            The story of the miner’s movement teaches us a lot. Looking deeper into it, today’s activists can learn how to avoid repeating the miners’ mistakes and ensure that the spirit of the Euromaidan protests remains effective.
                            The Donbass protests you haven’t heard of -Euromaidan Press |
                            --------------------------------------------------------
                            This historical story is based on the lecture conducted by Sergiy Shevchenko in the center for the displaced “The House of Free People” In Kyiv.

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                            • West less afraid of a new Munich than of Kremlin collapse, Shevtsova says
                              EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/29



                              In 1991, a cartoon appeared in one Western newspaper showing Mikhail Gorbachev holding a gun to his head and saying “Do what I demand or your friend gets it.” That explains why the West continued to back him long after he had ceased to be a force for progress.

                              Now, Lilia Shevtsova suggests something similar may be at work in the West’s assessment of what is happening in Russia as a result of the combination of Western sanctions, the collapse of oil prices and the ruble, and Vladimir Putin’s own policies.

                              The analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says that the international community has applied sanctions many times typically without notable success. But “the sanctions against Russia have turned out to be embarrassing in terms of their impact” – and less in the economic realm than in the political one.

                              First of all, she points out, “the sanctions have demonstrated Russia’s dependence on developed countries and the lack of its independence even in carrying out its service role as a raw materials supplier.”

                              Second, “the failure of the foreign policy of the Kremlin which has been directed at undermining the unity of the West has become an obvious failure.”

                              Despite expectations and the work of Kremlin lobbyists, “the liberal democracies have demonstrated the ability to preserve their unity as far as the sanctions regime is concerned.” But third, there is growing concern that the impact of sanctions on Russia could lead to its collapse – and that is something the West fears almost as much as the Kremlin does.

                              “Since the fall of 2014, the Kremlin (through Minsk 1 and then Minsk 2) began to search for a path out of the war with Ukraine and the lifting of sanctions but under the condition that it be allowed to save face. Today, what is being discussed are the means of saving [the Kremlin’s] face: how to present a defeat as a victory.”

                              According to Shevtsova, Moscow’s demonstrated aggressiveness is “only an attempt to force the West to accept the Kremlin conditions for making that happen. And apparently, many in the West are ready for a deal, for the collapse of the Kremlin is more frightening than accusations of a new ‘Munich.’”

                              The Moscow analyst doesn’t say, but her words clearly suggest that the world is at the point of precisely a new Munich, one in which a second-tier power is sacrificed because of the threats of a larger one and in which that larger one learns a very dangerous lesson: with the Western countries, aggressive behavior and threats work.

                              A new Munich does appear very much at hand, given the continuing statements by Western leaders that they want to end sanctions if only Moscow will show “good will.” But history suggests that what everyone should be worrying about is not a Munich itself but instead rather what will come after it.

                              Munich 1 was a crime; but it was so in the very first instance not because Britain and France betrayed their principles and sacrificed Czechoslovakia. Instead, it was a crime because it convinced Hitler that he could continue to intimidate and win out without war. He was proved wrong, and the world was plunged into World War II.

                              It is thus far more important that the West worry now less about accusations of a second Munich or the collapse of Putin’s criminal regime than about the possibility that making a deal with him for short-term benefits will entail what could easily be an even more tragic set of long term consequences. West less afraid of a new Munich than of Kremlin collapse, Shevtsova says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                              • ‘They put us in the pot and slammed the lid’ What people in Crimea have to say about the peninsula’s mood
                                MEDUZA Georgii Pereborshchikov 10:39, 29 January 2016 Pt 1

                                Crimea has become one of the most problematic provinces of the Russian Federation. The main difficulties on the peninsula this winter have been power outages. Regional deputies blame Ukraine and consider the supply cuts to be an “act of genocide,” and a survey conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) on New Year's Eve and Day (at the request of Vladimir Putin) even indicated that Crimeans are willing to endure further inconveniences, in order to remain indisputably Russian. Despite rising prices and a falling standard of living, most residents are still happy about their republic joining Russia. Interested in the other side of this story, Meduza spoke with some of the Crimeans who dissent from the majority view.

                                Alisa, philologist (Simferopol)
                                As we've discovered, shuffling the order of the addends doesn’t really change the sum. As part of Ukraine there was much we were missing, but just the same is missing even now. The lines got longer, a great number of new bureaucrats appeared. Basically the only thing I like now [about having joined Russia] is that we no longer have the hypocritical “donations” in hospitals that the Ukrainian authorities used to plug gaps in the free medical system. But the alcohol isn’t good, and tobacco products got worse. The juices are disgusting. Rent for apartments is exorbitant. The prices are like Moscow, but not the wages. In spite of that, many people are happy. They’re constantly organizing one festival or another with dancing and fireworks for the grannies. But Simferopol has always been provincial, and entertainment here has always been hard to come by.

                                Since I have a diploma certifying that I’m a Russian language and literature teacher, I haven’t really experienced any changes in the professional sense.

                                In many ways, I’ve even been lucky; I got a bonus Russian Masters’ [in addition to my Ukrainian degree].

                                The situation with electricity is pretty interesting. In some parts of the city, there was no light whatsoever, and in others they weren’t even aware that there were any problems. Then they started more or less uniformly cutting everybody off. I was really “lucky”; I live in the center of Simferopol, and my building got power at the exact time I was away at work.

                                Businesses, by the way, never stopped operating. Despite the state of emergency, all of my friends kept going to work, as usual. I’m not sure what they all did there without power, but there were no extra holidays. The authorities put a curfew in effect for the city, and eating establishments were open until 8 p.m. It doesn't seem like a big deal, except if you cook on an electric stove and your stomach wants warm food not only when there’s power—then it can be a problem. When I found out all the cafes were closed, I thought they must be punishing us for the fact that we have no electricity.

                                As far as the New Years’ survey by VTsIOM, nobody asked me then. If they had asked me, I would have said that I wouldn’t give up electricity. But you see they called my mom, and she really did come out against the conditions Ukraine put forward. [Ukraine would only agree to continue supplying electricity if Crimea's authorities agreed to a contract stating that the peninsula remains part of Ukraine.] Her objection was on principle and she had no regrets. The brainwashing on television is thorough. Everybody is very proud for some reason that they’ve become “Russians.” As if it were a badge of personal honor.

                                Sevastopol was always proud of its “Russianness.” I myself was raised in a family that respected Ukrainians, but always considered itself distant relatives with a completely different culture, traditions, and worldview. When [Russia’s reunification with Crimea] had just happened, I saw a friend of mine give up his seat on public transit to a grandma who then chattered with delight about how he “must be Russian,” just for acting so nobly. It seemed like the highest of compliments to her.

                                It just so happened that I was acquainted with Aleksandr Kolchenko [accused of participating in a terrorist plot and imprisoned for 10 years last summer]. It was terrifying to be that close to danger. We waited, expecting them to raid our home at any moment. The first signs showed that it was worth conducting yourself more carefully. Then a world-class professor was fired from the university. Doesn’t that make you stop and think? It’s scary and strange. From a relatively free Ukraine we wound up in a country that is famous for its punishments.

                                After the unification, people frequently said, “That's it with Ukraine—now we’re really living!” All the wonder fell silent when they encountered reality.


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