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  • Germany working on 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine
    29.02.2016 | 15:15 UNIAN

    Germany is working on a 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine, Karl-Georg Wellmann, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and head of the German-Ukrainian parliamentary group, said in an interview with the newspaper Segodnya.

    "We have been working on a new strategy for Ukraine's stabilization and development with much greater financial and political efforts. This is something new, and it will supplement the Association Agreement," he said.

    According to Wellmann, the new strategy is just being elaborated, it has not been incorporated into official policy.

    "This is the idea of a solid 'Marshall Plan' for restoring the economy, management, the judiciary, etc. If this 'Marshall Plan' ever starts working, that will happen only under full control and monitoring [by Germany]," he said.

    UNIAN memo. The Marshall Plan was an American initiative named after Secretary of State George Marshall to aid Western Europe, in which the United States gave $13 billion in economic support to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, make Europe prosperous again, and prevent the spread of communism. Germany working on 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine : UNIAN news

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    • Woman in black burka 'holding child's severed head' shuts down Moscow metro station
      29.02.2016 | 13:23 UNIAN


      A station in Moscow has been closed amid reports a woman dressed in a black burka was holding the severed head of a child, The Daily Mail has reported.

      Eyewitnesses say the woman shouted 'Allahu Akbar' as she emerged near Oktyabrskoye Pole metro station in the northwest of the Russian capital, according to The Daily Mail.

      Earlier today there were reports that officers had found the headless body of a child aged about three or four at a block of flats in the city.

      There are local reports that the woman has been detained by police.
      Woman in black burka 'holding child's severed head' shuts down Moscow metro station : UNIAN news

      ============================================

      Video emerges showing Moscow nanny carrying four-year-old’s severed head, before arrest by police
      MEDUZA 08:31, 29 February 2016 REN TV

      The television network REN TV has published horrifying surveillance camera footage of police outside the Moscow metro's Oktyabrskoe Pole station detaining a woman carrying a four-year-old child's severed head.

      According to REN TV, the woman was threatening to blow herself up. According to reports by the news agency RBC, the woman was yelling “Allah akbar!” before she was detained. The news agency TASS says the woman worked as a nanny in the city.

      The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reports that the woman has been identified as 38-year-old Gyulchekhra Bobkulova, a native of Uzbekistan.

      The footage, obtained from surveillance cameras, shows how a police officer runs up to the criminal. He tackles her to the ground, and at this moment more police officers approach. The woman was then detained.
      → REN TV

      The same morning, on Monday, February 29, there was a fire reported at an apartment in Moscow. After the fire, the charred remains of a headless child were discovered.
      https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/02/29...rest-by-police

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      • Officials in Crimea present newborn boys with military enlistment papers for 2032
        MEDUZA 09:22, 29 February 2016 Crimea's Ministry of Justice

        Last week, Russian authorities in Crimea's Simferopol district formally presented three newborn boys with draft notices, in addition to their birth certificates. The infants are expected to report for military enlistment in 2032, when they turn 16, according to a news release published on the Crimean Justice Ministry's website.

        According to Russian law, registration in the armed forces is required between January 1 and March 31 of the year that a man turns 17 years old. This being the case, the infants born in Simferopol last week should have been told to report at an enlistment center a year later, in 2033.

        The Crimean government handed out draft notices to newborn boys as part of a holiday promotion on February 23, when Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day. The Justice Ministry says it wanted to observe “the solemn rite of registering the births of ‘Russia's glorious sons.’” It's unclear from the ministry's press release if similar draft notices were handed out throughout Crimea, or just in Simferopol.

        Military recruitment officers and several combat veterans also attended the ceremony honoring Russia's future soldiers.
        https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/02/29...apers-for-2032

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        • THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL Emmet Tuohy February 29, 2016
          The Real Fight for Ukraine’s Future

          As rain clouds sweep in from the west on a winter morning, the Ukrainian Black Sea town of Mykolayiv does not present the most welcoming picture. Up to three feet of standing water obscure the city’s main intersections, where stray dogs and homeless people rush to traverse four lanes of traffic before the next taxi driver hydroplanes through. Local newspapers are filled with advertisements touting the “dignified, legal pay” of $60 per month for janitorial work, or seeking “women 18-35” who can earn $120 per month as “online chat hostesses, English language skills preferred.”

          Given the city’s economic struggles, it is perhaps not surprising that 33-year-old IT-sector entrepreneur Alexander Senkevich attracted an unprecedented outpouring of volunteer enthusiasm this past October with a successful mayoral campaign built on promises of economic and political reform. Indeed, as Oleksandr Ukhmanovskyi, Mykolayiv’s director of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, told me, Senkevich became “the hope, even the love interest” of young people frustrated with a system ruled by “bandits” and highly dependent on industries like shipbuilding that have fallen on hard times. “For the first time in their lives,” Ukhmanovskyi added, “the volunteers felt in their bones that positive changes would happen.”

          Unfortunately, those positive changes aren’t taking place fast enough. “Even though I was very happy when he won...there [has not been] much progress,” said Mykhaylo Zolotukhin, director of the Development Fund for the City of Mykolayiv (DFCM), an independent watchdog NGO. “His new advisers are not familiar with public procurement procedures and the selection criteria for new city department heads are simply not transparent,” he added, concluding that “our hope is now decreasing that these reforms will ever be implemented.”

          Indeed, as Ukhmanovskyi put it, “For many volunteers, love has now turned to heartbreak,” calling into question whether the “Senkevich phenomenon” described by Ukrainian journalists exists anymore.

          When confronted with such criticism in his city hall office, the affable Senkevich smiled and said, “Of course some activists are disappointed, but you can’t build new roads in just a few weeks! We’re doing things step by step here.”

          One obstacle, he acknowledged, is the difficulty of attracting high-quality staff to city government. Ideally, civil service salaries should be raised, because “people have to have motivation. If someone works well but is paid poorly, then performance suffers.” Nonetheless, for Senkevich, who regularly referred to the oath of office prominently displayed over his desk, government service is not a job “where people will make lots of money” (the mayor himself earns just over $250 per month) “but a calling and a mission” that he believes qualified people are willing to fulfill.

          One key challenge is all the more remarkable for not being raised by the mayor or anyone else in Mykolayiv: the threat posed by separatism along the lines of Crimea, or of Luhansk and Donetsk to the east. Certainly, there have been tensions in the past—as evidenced by the occasional Ukrainian flag mural defaced by SS runes, echoing the accusations of “fascism” leveled by Moscow against Kyiv. But a survey of graffiti reveals a predominantly pro-Ukrainian bent, with even the single “Mykolayiv is Russia” slogan spotted by the author replaced overnight.

          This lack of separatist sentiment in the city is perhaps not from a lack of effort. After all, Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, endorsed Senkevich’s second-round electoral opponent, Ihor Dyatlov of the Opposition Bloc, something Ukhmanovskyi described as a “gift” to the Senkevich campaign. While Zolotukhina warned that there is a risk of separatism if reforms are not implemented quickly, for his part Senkevich has pointed to the fact of his election as proof that separatist sentiment among the population is small and “not worth paying attention to.”

          It is still true that one rarely hears Ukrainian in Mykolayiv, despite its use on all official signage in the city. Even though many residents speak it fluently, the language divide became an issue in Senkevich’s campaign because of his affiliation with the Samopomich Party, which has its main support base in Lviv, the intellectual and cultural center of the Ukrainian-speaking west of the country.

          Asked why he would leave himself open to charges of being a Ukrainian-language chauvinist and “Lviv import” (despite being born and raised in Mykolayiv) by associating himself with a party that had previously enjoyed little support in the city, the mayor responded by first pointing to the energetic support of the party’s volunteers, adding, “I wanted to choose something that hadn’t been associated with corruption or the problems of the past—and that had principles and ideas I could support.”

          Indeed, as a Lviv-based analyst told me, thanks to the reforms he proposed and implemented, three-term mayor and Samopomich head Andriy Sadoviy “created a great image of Lviv that has attracted people all over the country,” an image the source described as a “brand that is now synonymous with the idea that you can live in Ukraine like they do in Europe—with a government that works.”

          As the morning rainstorms fade and the sun peeks through the clouds, a different face of Mykolayiv emerges. Just like in Kyiv, Lviv, and other major cities, a newly-trained police force wearing American-style uniforms patrols the city, striding with a sense of purpose totally unlike the bribe-seeking shuffling of the previous militsiya—but similar to that exhibited by representatives of the huge military presence in and around the city that some residents credit with “saving” them from the fate of Crimea, a mere two hours’ drive away.

          Near city hall, a large mural declares, “Wherever Ukraine lives, peace prevails.” While world peace might be too tall of an order from local government, if the people of Mykolayiv can live in a city with reliably paved roads, working public transport, and effective animal control services, the “Senkevich phenomenon” might have something to it after all. The Real Fight for Ukraine’s Future

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          • Snap elections, the worst scenario for Ukraine — Parubiy
            EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/02/29

            Andriy Parubiy, the first deputy speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, discussed the Russian threat to global security and the need to maintain sanctions against Russia during an interview with Voice of America, February 25, during his brief stop in the U.S. following an official visit to Canada. He also shared his views on the current political turmoil in Ukraine and the dangers posed by snap elections.

            For Parubiy, the leadership role of the United States is critical in countering Russian aggression.

            “The role of the United States as a global player and, in the end, as the guarantor of the security of our country is based not only on the fact that the U.S. alone could extend sanctions. This question will be reviewed soon, in June. And I appeal to our American partners to exert maximum influence on our partners from the European Union –because there are real problems with many countries there — so that we have another consensus decision in June regarding the extension of sanctions,” he said.

            He added that most of the sanctions against Russia are tied to the implementation of the Minsk agreements but that it was important not to forget about Crimea.

            “Actually, the sanctions were imposed after the annexation of Crimea and there can be no discussion, as certain European diplomats are suggesting, about removing sanctions tied to the Minsk agreements. This is a complex issue; this is all Ukrainian territory, seized by Russian invaders. And the question of removing sanctions for the partial freeing of a part of the territory is not acceptable,” he said.

            Parubiy related that during his meeting with Deputy Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter the discussion had to do with the fact that the civilized world wants to see a plan for putting an end to the crisis that has developed around the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

            “When we speak, for example, about the paragraph in the Minsk agreements that has to do with changes to the Constitution, I find that it is very controversial at present and that it generates a great deal of opposition in society,” he explained. “The point is that it must be a clear, phased plan and that Ukraine needs to formulate it. The fact is that we believe — and we do believe it — that the borders of Ukraine need to be controlled by the Ukrainian army. That for any elections to take place, all the freedoms must be protected and such a thing as democracy must exist on this territory. Elections are simply tools of democracy and not a political action. Ukraine needs to outline its conditions very clearly so that it can demonstrate them and so we can together gradually carry out the necessary steps.” he said.

            According to Parubiy, Ukraine is being pressured even by its European partners for whom the most important thing is to solve the Ukrainian problem as soon as possible.

            “In fact, certain European partners, politicians, and diplomats would like to move the Ukrainian question to the side and to forget about it, so it does not hurt their business, their international relations. The U.S. has the duty to defend European values and the security system on which post-war Europe was built. And the U.S. understands that Putin is a global threat for all. This is why they understand and support Ukraine’s position and they have ways of influencing our European partners to jointly take a tough stance regarding Putin and the Russian Federation in order to continue to lead and intensify the anti-Putin coalition. In fact, this is what I called for when I was secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. ” he said.

            Andriy Parubiy also expressed his views on resolving the problems that have emerged in the Ukrainian government, in the parliamentary-governing coalition.

            “First, my position is that this crisis has been somewhat manufactured and histrionic. It turned into a real crisis when two factions wrote statements of withdrawal from the coalition. This issue is of extreme concern to our partners here in the U.S. (They question) if Ukraine will be able to get through these tests and if we will be able to maintain stability in Ukraine and to carry out reforms. And when we speak about early elections, I am deeply convinced that that would be the worst scenario possible for Ukraine at present. It would mean bringing the country to a standstill and stopping reforms,” he said.

            Parubiy gave the example of neighboring Moldova, where, after long years of struggle between the pro-Russian and pro-Europeans forces, the pro-European force won, as in Ukraine.

            “After this the crisis began, a month before Moldova was to receive the IMF tranche, the government resigned, there were three government in a year, and there were snap elections. There were huge protests in the streets. However, the leaders of two of the three political entities who are managing these protests report to the Kremlin every other week, and do so officially, without hiding. Opinion research indicates that if we have early elections again, the pro-Russian forces will have a majority.”

            Andriy Parubiy calls (the push for snap elections) an element of the hybrid war and considers such a scenario the worst one for Ukraine. Snap elections, the worst scenario for Ukraine - Parubiy -Euromaidan Press |
            =================
            Source RADIO SVOBODA

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            • Moscow’s pursuit of imperial greatness may again end with disintegration of Russia, Rubtsov says'
              EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/02/29

              As the 100th anniversary of the 1917 revolution that led to a partial disintegration of the empire and the 25th anniversary of the 1991 events that led to the demise of the USSR approach, Russia appears to have entered “another round” of a cycle in which the pursuit of imperial greatness “will lead to foreign pressure and internal disintegration.”

              That is the judgment of Aleksandr Rubtsov, the head of the Moscow Center for the Analysis of Ideological Processes, who says this outcome is even more likely because Moscow’s “current imperial pretensions in large measure are virtual and extremely limited in the resources” as far as the resources available to pursue them are concerned.

              In addition, there is a clash between “the sources of today’s hysteria about great power status” and the changing “nature of empire” in the post-modern period. The first reflects a longing for the past; the second, the fact that “geographic closeness and the occupation of land means much less” than it did in the past.

              Physical geography, Rubtsov continues, “does not have its former importance;” and traditional empires based on borders and control of territory “are giving way to information, financial, technological, research, cultural and other former of empire.” In this new world, “annexation of territory and hybrid wars don’t give very much.”

              Worse, they are quite expensive, based on “extremely primitive instincts” and mostly are “calculated in terms of their psychological effect.”

              Rubtsov points out that “the disintegration of the USSR did not immediately become the geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” as Vladimir Putin has termed it. For the first decade or so after 1991, Russians focused on survival, development and modernization rather than on “global greatness.”

              “The new imperial spirit” arose, he continues, partly as a result of propaganda that benefited Putin by distracting the attention of Russians from problems he wasn’t solving and present him as a real leader and partly as “the product of an unconscious striving to compensate” for what Russian really felt was the denigration of their status.

              But the sources are even deeper than that, Rubtsov says, and reflect the way Russian rulers have looked not only at foreign affairs but at areas already within their borders, considering all as either under Russian power and influence or potentially so in the future, he suggests.

              “The idea of rehabilitating a great power spirit matured and was prepared gradually,” he continues. Moscow’s actions in Serbia, Chechnya and Georgia reflected its growth, “but the official ideology in the main for a long time was concentrated on other themes, on modernization, the overcoming of technological backwardness, and a reduction of dependence on oil and gas.”

              After Putin returned for a third term, it became obvious to all that escaping dependence on the sale of oil and gas abroad had failed as a political project and that “dependence on the export of raw materials had only grown.” That made the promotion of imperial pride and ensuing foreign aggression especially useful as ways of distracting attention.

              But there is much in the current cycle that recalls earlier ones, Rubtsov says. “Such is the evolution of the idea of empire in Russia: a strong power with a clear imperial mission – a place des armes of world revolution – a bastion of progress and hope for humanity” and as a result disasters for the population because those in power ultimately have nothing else to offer them.

              “The imperial spirit compensates for the lack of resolution of real problems and informs domestic policy, including modernization of a post-Soviet type,” he concludes. But the retreat from modernization categorically raises the question about the survivability of the empire even in its residual form.”

              Whether Russia can break out of this vicious circle is an open question, Rubtsov says. “The symbolism of dates doesn’t mean anything, but ahead are the anniversaries of the disintegration of the USSR and of a revolution which almost put a cross over the [Russian] empire.” Moscow’s pursuit of imperial greatness may again end with disintegration of Russia, Rubtsov says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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              • Continuation of Western sanctions on Russia increasingly depends on Ukraine, Ohryzko says
                EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/02/29

                The maintenance of Western sanctions is contingent upon Ukraine’s willingness to reform itself, according to former Ukrainian foreign minister Volodymyr Ohryzko. If Ukraine does not act, the West will ultimately lift the sanctions; and Ukraine will have only itself to blame for its resulting isolation.

                In a commentary today, the diplomat argues that the West is ready “to forgive us a very great deal, both in regard to the Minsk process and to questions related to it, if we demonstrate in our domestic policy good tempo, real changes and so on. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening.”

                “The West is terribly afraid of a repetition of the situation of 2005 when such dissension led to the loss of all the achievements of the Maidan. Alas, this too influences the attitude of the West toward Russia, which has not missed a chance to cover Ukraine with dirt, to say that we are failures and incapable of living without administration from the outside.”

                Moscow, of course, “wants this external administration to come from Moscow and not Washington or Brussels,” Ohryzko adds. But both because of Ukrainian slowness and Moscow’s propaganda effort, “pessimism about the future possibilities of Ukraine is growing in the West,” and thus more questions are being raised about lifting sanctions against Russia.

                If Ukraine itself does not want to take a tough line, then the question logically arises in the West as to why it should be more Catholic than the pope and do everything for [Ukrainians],” the Kyiv diplomat says. “Alas, this tendency is appearing ever more clearly in recent times.”

                But he concludes on a more optimistic note saying that sanctions will continue for a time; but “this extension cannot be infinite without active moves by Ukraine. If reforms, the struggle with corruption and genuine Ukrainian sanctions against Russia don’t occur, then the currently expected extension of sanctions may be the last.”
                Continuation of Western sanctions on Russia increasingly depends on Ukraine, Ohryzko says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                • How journalism died in Russia. A Russian journalist describes'
                  EUROMAIDAN PRESS Olena Makarenko 2016/03/01 Part 1

                  In recent years the term “propaganda” has become more and more associated with Russia’s media and the work of Russian journalists. However, things were not always like this.

                  Around twenty years ago, Russia experienced a flowering of real journalism in place of propaganda, and even for Ukrainian journalists Moscow was a desirable place to work, and not just for financial reasons.

                  Russian journalist Aleksandr Shchetinin worked during that time. In 1997, he founded a news agency called Noviy Region (New Region), which had offices across Russia and abroad, including Ukraine. Aleksandr used to work in Ukraine a lot, and devoted a lot of time to the Euromaidan. It subsequently became clear to him that working in Russia was no longer possible.

                  Along with pressure on Aleksandr’s news agency, another reason to leave the country was his personal disagreement with the Putin regime. In 2014, Aleksandr sold his shares in the Russian network and focused his attention on the Ukrainian office, which now has nothing in common with the Russian parent agency. A few months after Euromaidan, the journalist attempted to obtain Ukrainian citizenship, something which has proven unsuccessful due to the complicated procedure.

                  leksandr has personal experience of contact with security services, having been almost arrested during one of his last trips to Russia, and he was lucky to remain free. As he no longer has any business in Russia, Aleksandr has no intention of returning to the country.

                  In a conversation with Euromaidan Press, he describes where and why there was such a dramatic change in Russian journalism.

                  How do you remember Moscow back then?

                  After Perestroika [“restructuring”, the term used for the reforms in the Soviet Union from 1985-1991], Russian society was full of hope. I remember very clearly how people’s eyes were shining, how they were creating different projects without any signs of danger.

                  I remember all the squabbles under Yeltsin, and the time when a group of oligarchs almost usurped power and Yeltsin to a large extent had to listen to them. I remember informational wars on TV. I remember free, democratic NTV.

                  During those times, society still had hope, and the most important thing was that people were optimistic, they were looking forward.

                  I remember Moscow at that time. I recall it shining with lights and hopes, with large numbers of foreigners. When Putin came to power, they were the first who disappeared – from coffee shops, from meetings with friends, from communication at work, although at that time nothing foretold the troubles to come.
                  April 2001, people gathering in support of NTV

                  April 2001, people gathering in support of NTV

                  If back then someone had told us what would happen ten years later, no-one would have believed it. I remember very well how the Yedinaya Rossiya [United Russia, pro-Putin political party] was a dwarf and an organization without influence. And when they held their congress and were saying from the stage what they are now saying publicly (as they have not changed at all), for us, for journalists it was some kind of mirror. Because behind the walls of the congress there was Moscow, which wanted to develop. And here [at the congress] there were very tough speeches and statements. Later they implemented what they were saying.

                  How NTV and ORT fell under government control?

                  In 1996, Russian media magnates and the overwhelming majority of journalists united against the threat of a communist takeover. They acted as a united front in support of President Boris Yeltsin, who was running for a second term.

                  How did their influence start spreading?

                  I remember the time when the media were completely independent, in Moscow and even regional media. For example in Yekaterinburg, where we opened our first editorial office, there were 18 TV channels. That was more than in Moscow. Each of them had its own information policy.

                  After Noviy Region, in Yekaterinburg dozens of news agencies appeared. All of them found their niche and, most importantly, every news agency earned money, the same as TV channels. It was money which, tentatively speaking, was from paid institutions or businessmen close to Putin.

                  At the beginning the media were lured, and during that time they tasted big money. Taking the example of Yekaterinburg, as it is located in the oil- and gas-rich north and the city is the first point for siphoning off money, journalists from some media outlets there received wages upwards of $3,000 (under Putin). The media were completely bought up. I do not mean that somebody bought shares in a media organ, but they were bought by “jeansa” (supposed “news stories” serving advertising purposes), which appeared in 2001-2002. The media got used to it and did not have to do anything to get this money – just a little kick against this or that person. Later, to get the money they were asked to do some more difficult things, like fully praise Yedinaya Rossiya, Putin’s institutions, the FSB [Federal Security Service] etc.

                  Putin played the democrat for a very long time. He did it for a decade. He used to say that he wouldl not leave the path the country had started on.

                  Speaking of the old NTV, it really was democratic, but it rebelled not because there was a sea of freedom of speech, but because there were endless oligarchic wars. People no longer needed freedom of speech, and they did not need this democratic NTV. This is my personal opinion, but I think that people were not ready for freedom.

                  It turned out that they do not have a need for it and it is much more comfortable to live in a society where people do not decide anything, and the state takes care of them. It came from the Soviet Union. Nobody wants to build, nobody wants to do anything by himself. They need stability and that’s all. Hence, we see the idealization of the Soviet Union, which now has acquired a surprising form.

                  Who is responsible for the situation: the authorities, or society that let these authorities come to power?

                  Of course it is a mutual process. However, there is a phrase that a fish begins to stink from the the head down, and everybody starts blaming the authorities and the leaders. I believe that it depends on which head the fish has. When in April 2014, I made a public statement that I had renounced Russian citizenship, I said that it is not so much a protest against the government and Putin, but a protest against the people who supported this war, the occupation of Crimea, and the bringing of troops to Donbas. Many in Russia stick to the position “we are separate from the government and we do not assume any responsibility for them.” I say guys you are assuming it. I who is not there am responsible for them, and you are all the more responsible. A citizen is responsible for the authorities he has, and to a certain extent it depends on him what kind of authorities they are.

                  In addition, even when we talk about the free and democratic Russia back then, at the same time we clearly remember that Transnistria was taken away from Moldova and it was during the time of the absolutely democratic Boris Yeltsin. The war in Chechnya was under the absolutely democratic Yeltsin.

                  Why has Russian society let this happen?

                  Slowly comprehending how this could have happened, I came to the very clear conclusion that during Perestroika and later during the years of freedom and democracy, the question of the destruction of empire and imperial ideology, along with the psychology of the masses, was never raised, because all the democrats believed that Russia should be a great, powerful “elder” towards those countries that emerged from the Soviet Union and became democratic. Whatever Václav Havel, Mahatma Gandhi or other Russian equivalents come to power there, within a very short time they will turn into a second Putin, perhaps even more brutal. Here many people hope that if you put pressure on them with sanctions, normal democrats will come to power. I always say, guys, don’t even think about it. If Putin goes away now, in six months, if free democratic elections are held, his even tougher equivalent will win. For Ukraine, it will be much worse. And this is confirmed by the words of Alexei Navalny, who said that Crimea is not a sandwich and you cannot give it back all the time, and by the words of Khodorkovsky, who said the same in a softer way.

                  Have the views of your circle changed?

                  As for all of us, 90% of my communication consists of professional communication, and when we have friends, these friends are from the field of professional journalism; for me it is also the field of political consulting as I have been engaged with for many years. It is a huge number of people who came down on the side of the authorities, so they have a pronounced anti-Ukrainian stance. Some of them did it for money, others had already formed views. I have always been saying: in order to justify his actions, a person will change his beliefs. It will be much easier, because he does not do it for “mulla”, but because he sincerely believes that Nazis are in Ukraine and that the Russian language is prohibited there. For many years, a journalist with [independent] views will not be able to work there.

                  Which media there do you consider as more or less free?



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                  • How journalism died in Russia. A Russian journalist describes'
                    EUROMAIDAN PRESS Olena Makarenko 2016/03/01 Part 2

                    I am very suspicious towards people who publish pro-Ukrainian texts or anti-Putin texts there. I know very well that while you are there, you cannot be uncontrolled there. In this regard I am very lucky because I have lived in Ukraine for quite a long time. However, I would often go to Russia as I had editorial offices there and everything else. And even I had a so-called “curator” from the FSB, who decided to get acquainted through friends. He introduced himself and said which institutions he represents. “You’re a journalist, working abroad, we could exchange opinions. The only thing is that you have to understand that our conversations should be kept confidential.”

                    I replied that I am a journalist and I am ready to talk to anybody. However, there cannot be any private conversations because of the fact that I am a journalist.

                    I have been taught by the old dissidents, who had been in prisons in the Soviet Union, that any contact with the secret services needs to be spoken to as wide a range of people as possible, which I always did.

                    It was a constant pressure and constant recruitment. You have to be attentive and control yourself all the time. When the people there say they have never communicated with the FSB, I do not believe it. Being there and able to write articles, to support Ukraine and condemn the regime, it is necessary to have some very strong protection in such institutions, which allows you to do it for some purpose.

                    Because the real opposition in Russia is at the same time sitting in prisons under awful conditions, no one writes about it seriously except niche sites. These people are serving 20-25 year sentences. Meanwhile, someone is sitting in Moscow and writing articles. This leads to some very clear ideas. It is not that if some media has written something positive about Ukraine it will be closed, but it’s Russian roulette.

                    And what about Novaya Gazeta, TV Rain?

                    All remnants of the so-called freedom of speech are permitted by the authorities in their own interest. I was talking about Novaya Gazeta. I will give an example: up to 1943 Germany had the anti-fascist newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung, where all anti-fascists were grouped together, and the newspaper was printed and sold in Nazi Germany. And if one had the wish to, one could buy it just like Novaya Gazeta. So that it was a kind of an island for Hitler to show Europe and America: why are you accusing us of totalitarianism?

                    I would like to correct myself: there are journalists, but in general, the media, Novaya Gazeta and Dozhd serve Russian propaganda and at Ekho Moskvy only 1-3 principled journalists remain. More about Dozhd, Novaya Gazeta, Ekho Moskvy

                    Are you going to return to Russia?

                    I am absolutely not going to return to Russia. Of course, in Ukraine, especially after I made the final decision, when the site was blocked in Russia completely, my financial shape has not improved if to put it mildly. However, I do believe that I have paid a low price to get out of there.

                    I have friends and acquaintances here. There are already even more of them here than there. Of course I would not be able to betray them. And I will not accept any offer from that side, no money or anything else. I am saying that I will go to Russia only when the question of independence of my Siberia arises. Originally I am from there. I have a bit of a different attitude to Siberia, I do not consider it as a part of Russia. I believe that it also was occupied by force, and at that time there were no Russians; only indigenous peoples lived there.

                    Now Ukrainian Noviy Region is not related to Russia at all.

                    From time to time we find out that on Ukrainian territory a very long way from the border Noviy Region is blocked. There [in Russia] it is blocked by Roskomnadzor [The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications] and nobody reads it. However, now we have 2,000 visitors a day from Russia. The situation in Russia now is so tough that I do not believe that there can be any small, naughty providers that disobey orders from Roskomnadzor. There is constant informing: if it happened, somebody would immediately rat and it would be shut down. None of my friends there told me they opened the site without an anonymizer. It means that there were 2,000 people who had special permission. So in Russia we are read by 2,000 FSB agents. However, even here very often we receive information that Noviy Region is blocked. Rinat Akhmetov [Ukrainian oligarch] started to run Russian traffic for Ukrtelecom [Ukrainian national telecommunication operator]. One day in Kyiv I came home, opened a website, and the window which was saying that Roskomnadzor blocked the Noviy Region popped up. We did not have time to write about it, because it disappeared. It was not only noticed here. We know about it from people who went to Turkey as they were unable to access Noviy Region. I was informed about it from Croatia and other countries.

                    What can you say about the work of journalists in Ukraine?

                    I always say that here, in contrast to Russia, freedom of speech exists and compared to Russia, for a journalist it is much more comfortable to work here. However in general, if we talk about the media, most of the media are owned by Ukrainian oligarchs.

                    Here, for the media that do not have such owners, it is extremely difficult to compete. Moreover, it is no secret that planted stories, which at the time of the Maidan had almost disappeared, are now prospering, even exceeding the level under Yanukovych.

                    Recent elections have shown that all the media are with great pleasure taking money for material, even from those politicians and parties whose stance they do not share. On the other hand one should not idealize Europe either. I have just returned from Vilnius and there I also heard talk that the one who has more money wins the election. The one who has more money has access to more powerful media. Therefore, I can say only for myself, for me as the head of a media organ that to work here is much freer and more comfortable than it used to be in Russia.

                    Another thing is that the free and democratic Ukrainian media do not implement the function of the fourth power. Everything is subordinated to the interests of the owners, but despite the common Russian audience fallacy that the West pays huge amounts of money, I do not know a person in Ukraine who receives such money.
                    How journalism died in Russia. A Russian journalist describes -Euromaidan Press |

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                    • Prominent Crimean Azov Civic Corps Leader Arrested & Accused of Working for Russia
                      01.03.16 | Halya Coynash HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

                      Ukraine’s SBU [Security Service] have arrested Stanislav Krasnov, a close friend of Crimean political prisoner Oleksandr Kostenko and himself wanted on politically motivated charges in Russian-occupied Crimea. The SBU accuse the former commander of the volunteer Krym Battalion and now leader of the Azov Crimea Civic Corps of spying for Russia’s FSB.

                      The allegations are at very least startling. Krasnov is known not only for his role in the Krym Battalion until its dissolution in the Spring of 2015, but for many public appearances in the media. These have sometimes been over Russia’s attempts to prosecute him, and harassment of his mother, but there has also been strong criticism of Ukraine’s government. In September 2015, for example, Krasnov announced that he was lodging an application against both Russia, as occupier, and Ukraine with the European Court of Human Rights. He accused the Ukrainian authorities of “facilitating the occupation of both Crimea and Donbas”. Krasnov’s Azov colleagues, including MP Andriy Biletsky, have rejected the accusations and, after a first demonstration outside SBU on Sunday, are promising further protests.

                      At a press briefing on Monday, SBU representative Oleksandr Tkachuk reported the arrest last Saturday night of Krasnov and Oksana Shelest. He said that Krasnov had been transferring grenades and explosive devices equivalent to 42 kilograms of trotyl from one hiding place to another near a petrol station in the Kyiv oblast.

                      Tkachuk mentioned at least twice that Krasnov had shown resistance and that force had been used to detain him. Krasnov asserts that he and his girlfriend were seized near the petrol station, she was beaten and he – beaten and tortured.

                      The SBU accuse Krasnov of having planned an attempt on the life of one of the leaders of the Crimean Blockade. This was allegedly on the instructions of Russia’s FSB who “were planning to use this to destabilize the situation in the region”.

                      The SBU accuse Krasnov of having planned an attempt on the life of one of the leaders of the Crimean Blockade. This was allegedly on the instructions of Russia’s FSB who “were planning to use this to destabilize the situation in the region”.

                      It alleges that Krasnov leaked a list of all members of the Azov Regiment to Russia, and that he had earlier in February been in Belarus where, SBU claims, he met with the FSB officer in charge of his actions. SBU asserts that this contact began back in 2014 and that he has been to Belarus for the same purpose many times. On this last visit, he is alleged to have discussed the possible use of the above-mentioned explosives. Tkachuk says that they know the name of the Russian and will reveal it as soon as the investigators give permission. Despite presentation of such serious accusations, Krasnov has only been charged at present with illegal possession of weapons.

                      At the briefing, Tkachuk showed photos of the explosives allegedly found, as well as a recording from a video register without either date on it or time. This has three voices, one a woman’s, discussing the transportation of a bag weighing around 40 kilograms and containing something that looks like plastid.

                      Tkachuk asserts that their operational information has been “verified”. Oleksandr Alferov from the Azov Civic Corps has, however, told the Radio Svoboda Crimean Service that the list of fighters was stolen by hackers in 2015 and that the names of around 600 fighters from the Azov Regiment (by then part of the Interior Ministry’s National Guard) were posted on a Donbas militant website in March – April 2015. Alferov says that Krasnov had no access to the staffing service and he can’t imagine why the SBU is trying to pin the disappearance of the data on him.

                      As mentioned, Krasnov asserts that he was held outside and subjected to beating and torture for around 7 hours. He says that he lay in the dirt and mud in sub-zero conditions, and periodically lost consciousness. “They didn’t ask any questions about any crimes, just said that they would kill me, that because of our Maidan they had only problems, that all volunteers, in particular the OUN [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists] Battalion are thieves and looters, that they didn’t fight, and that they should all be eliminated”. He says he was then taken to the SBU where they continued to beat and torture him until a lawyer arrived.

                      Krasnov asserts that all of this is part of repressive measures against volunteers and Maidan supporters and that a direct commission from Russia to remove him is being carried out.

                      Krasnov, together with Oleksandr Kostenko, first attracted public attention in September 2013. The two Crimean police officers publicly stated that the Simferopol police management were putting pressure on them and trying to cover up the abduction and sale into sexual slavery in Moscow of two Crimean women.

                      Both men were driven out of the police force and it seems likely that this incident contributed to the choice of Kostenko as target for a politically motivated prosecution. Kostenko and Krasnov were both active supporters of Euromaidan in Kyiv, and the main charge brought against Kostenko in Feb – March 2015 pertained to an alleged incident on Maidan on Feb 18, 2014. This was before Russia invaded Crimea and unequivocally on Ukrainian territory and under Ukrainian law, yet Kostenko was sentenced on that charge and another, no less fabricated, to 4.2 years imprisonment. This has just been reduced to 3.5 years, yet the court upheld the legally nihilistic charges and also ignored compelling evidence of the use of severe torture (see: Crimean Maidan activist’s insane conviction upheld, sentence reduced).

                      Worth noting that Kostenko’s lawyer Dmitry Sotnikov has reported that during this extraordinary trial, Natalya Poklonskaya, installed as prosecutor by the occupation authorities, claimed that Kostenko and Krasnov had tortured ‘Berkut’ officers and burned their bodies in a crematorium established in the basement of the Kyiv City Administration (occupied at that time by some Euromaidan activists). No proof was provided.

                      Kostenko was sentenced in May 2015. Then in June 2015 Russia’s Investigative Committee initiated criminal proceedings against Krasnov, accusing him of “inciting enmity or hatred towards people of a certain social group, with the use of the media” (article 282 § 1 of the Russian criminal code). He was supposed to have made public statements on two TV channels from April 2014 to Jan 2015 which ‘incited enmity’ towards former Ukrainian citizens who had expressed the wish to take on Russian citizenship. Since Krasnov was at the time out of reach, fighting Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas, the de facto authorities harassed his mother (details here).

                      Russia has reportedly initiated four criminal prosecutions against Krasnov so far. Now Ukraine is charging him with having been a Russian FSB officer since 2014.
                      Prominent Crimean Azov Civic Corps Leader Arrested & Accused of Working for Russia :: khpg.org

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                      • A natural disaster or a safety lapse? What happened and why at the deadly collapsed mine in Russia’s Komi Republic
                        MEDUZA 15:05, 29 February 2016

                        On February 25, a series of deadly explosions hit a mine in the town of Vorkuta, in Russia's Komi Republic (about 1,000 miles northeast of Moscow). The disaster has claimed 36 lives, killing both miners and rescue workers. On the morning of Monday, February 29, the mine was still on fire, and there was another powerful explosion (though no one was killed in this latest blast). Meduza recaps the tragic events, and examines the leading explanations for why this happened.
                        What happened?
                        -------------------------
                        The first explosions occur on Thursday, February 25. At a depth of 780 meters (2,559 feet), there is a sudden release of methane gas, leading to two blasts that collapse the mine shaft. These explosions also start a fire. At the time of the incident, there are 111 people in the mine. Initial reports from the miners, while they still have communication with the surface, say there are no fatalities. Soon, however, the bodies of four miners are discovered. The miners also report that nine of their crew have been injured and exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Contact with the miners is lost on February 26, after which the men are officially listed as missing.

                        Rescuer workers die in the mine. In the early morning hours of Sunday, February 28, there's another explosion; it kills five rescuers and another miner. Because of the blast, rescue efforts are suspended. The company that owns the mine, Rostekhnadzor, says it's become impossible to carry out any kind of work in the mine.

                        The miners still trapped underground are declared dead. Vladimir Puchkov, the head of Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations, announces that there is no longer any chance of rescuing the buried miners. Puchkov says the area is without oxygen and at extremely high temperatures.

                        The family of a deceased miner says there were known safety violations at the mine. The daughter and widow of a killed miner say it was known roughly three weeks earlier that the mine was at risk of an explosion because of dangerous gas leaks. The women say the mine's administrators asked their crew to shut down and bury the mine's gas detectors. Rostekhnadzor denies these claims, calling the explosions “a natural phenomenon.”

                        They might flood the mine. The mine's technical director, Denis Paikin, says emergency crews are currently considering two ways to put out the fires: flooding the mine with water, or sealing the mine to cut off the air supply.

                        The Komi Republic has declared three days of mourning. The region will officially mourn from February 28 until March 1. Cultural institutions and entertainers are being encouraged to cancel or reschedule public events. Acting Mayor Sergei Gallikov has ordered the state to assist victims' families.
                        How did it happen? (Four theories)

                        The preliminary theory: a rock burst. Immediately after the first explosion on February 25, the media reported that there had been a “rock burst”—a spontaneous, violent fracture of rock that can occur in deep mines. Heavy pressure on brittle rocks causes rock bursts, releasing minerals, loud shock waves, and strong air currents into mines.

                        The official theory: a natural disaster. On February 26, the mine's owner announced that the results of its laboratory studies showed the reason for the catastrophe was a methane explosion. Three days later, a local official from Rostekhnadzor said, “According to the materials we've received and the preliminary data, the accident resembles a natural occurrence and was mining-geological event.” According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, an analysis of data from Rostekhnadzor and the Federal Investigative Committee revealed that there was a sudden release of methane. There was no record of any gradual buildup of methane gas, which the mine's gas detectors would have sensed.

                        The union's theory: a breach in security protocol. Alexander Sergeyev, the head of the Independent Trade Union of Russian Miners, discussed in an interview some of the standard safety measures taken in mines to prevent rock bursts and methane emissions. In particular, Sergeyev described the practice of drilling methane drainage boreholes, on which he says the mining company skimped, in an effort to save money. (Sergeyev claims they drilled in places one or two holes “for show,” instead of the mandatory ten.) The publicist Vladimir Golyshev has argued that the mine's owner started violating safety protocols after the arrest of the Komi Republic's governor, Vyacheslav Gaizer, whose administration had clashed with the company.

                        The victim's families' theory: the mining company ignored evidence recorded by the methane detectors. Daria Tryasukho, the daughter of one of the deceased miners, said in an interview with the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that her father mentioned—as long ago as three weeks before the disaster—high concentrations of methane recorded in the mines and the danger of an explosion. She says the mining company asked workers to bury the gas detectors responsible for recording methane levels. Any miners who opposed the policy, Tryasukho says, were invited to find work elsewhere. The relative of another victim in the tragedy has confirmed Tryasukho's claims.

                        Alexey Mordashov, the general director for Severstali (the mine's parent company), told reporters that tampering with the gas detectors is impossible, as they're all linked into a single monitoring system that's designed to make it impossible to move them or hide their signals. https://meduza.io/en/feature/2016/02...a-safety-lapse

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                        • Aerojet Rocketdyne, ULA win Air Force propulsion contracts
                          SPACENEWS Mike Gruss — February 29, 2016 Aerojet Rocketdyne, ULA win Air Force propulsion contracts - SpaceNews.com

                          WASHINGTON – The U.S. Air Force will invest up to $536 million in Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 rocket engine and as much as $202 million in United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket as a way to end dependence on the Russian rocket engine used to launch most U.S. national security payloads, according to a Feb. 29 announcement from the Pentagon.

                          Aerojet Rocketdyne will use the money to help develop its AR1 rocket engine. ULA will develop a prototype of its Vulcan launch vehicle with the BE-4 engine and work on its next-generation upper stage engine known as the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, or ACES.

                          The contracts are among the Air Force’s top space acquisition priorities for 2016.

                          Following the Crimean crisis of 2014, Congress directed the Defense Department to develop domestic propulsion systems that would enable the Air Force to end its reliance on the Russian-built RD-180 by 2019. That engine powers ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is used to launch a majority of national security satellites.

                          The Air Force said in June it intended to award a total of $160 million to fund work on both main- and upper-stage rocket engines. Industry would be required to cover at least one-third of the costs of their proposed development efforts, but the actual size of the government investment would vary from proposal to proposal. But once the Air Force awarded four contracts the initial total was $242 million, including $115 million to Aerojet Rocketdyne.

                          “Having two or more domestic, commercially viable launch providers that also meet national security space requirements continues to be our end goal,” Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said in a press release. “These innovative public-private partnerships with industry as they develop their rocket propulsion systems are a key part of the [Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle] acquisition strategy to assure access to space and address the urgent need to transition away from strategic foreign reliance.”

                          Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 that, like the RD-180 it is intended to replace, is fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene. The initial value of the contract the Air Force awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne Feb. 29 is $115 million but options could raise the potential government investment to $536 million. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s share of development costs, under that scenario, would top $268 million.

                          “AR1 will return the United States to the forefront of kerosene rocket propulsion technology,” Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s chief executive officer, said in a press release. “We are incorporating the latest advances in modern manufacturing, while capitalizing on our rich knowledge of rocket engines to produce a new, state-of-the-art engine that will end our reliance on a foreign supplier to launch our nation’s national security assets.”

                          Aerojet Rocketdyne executives say they plan to test the first AR1 development engine in 2017, followed by additional testing in 2018 and to provide a certified engine in 2019.

                          Following the Pentagon’s announcement, the company said Huntsville, Alabama-based Dynetics will become a subcontractor for the work and supply elements of the engine’s main propulsion system, ignition system and ground support equipment.

                          ULA announced in September 2014 that its first choice for a new engine for its Vulcan rocket is the BE-4, a liquid-natural-gas fueled engine that cannot be used on the Atlas 5 as currently designed. Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is developing that engine using its own funds.

                          The Air Force awarded ULA a $46 million contract Feb. 29 to develop a prototype of the Vulcan rocket using the BE-4 and the upper stage engine. With options, the potential government investment in Vulcan could reach $202 million. ULA, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, would be expected to contribute as much as $134 million under that scenario.


                          ULA said the Air Force funding would help integrate the BE-4 with the Vulcan launch vehicle.

                          “While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.

                          ULA has said the Vulcan’s first flight could be as early as 2019 and that the ACES upper stage engine could fly as early as 2023. Last year, ULA officials said an ACES-equipped Vulcan, augmented by strap-on boosters, would have 30 percent more lift capacity than the Delta 4 Heavy, currently the largest vehicle in the U.S. fleet.

                          ULA has a contract with Aerojet to retain the AR1 as a backup in case the BE-4 effort falters. ULA is expected to choose which engine it will develop for Vulcan late this year.

                          The Feb. 29 announcement is the Air Force’s second round of contract of awards for rocket propulsion systems. On Jan. 13 the service announced it would invest at least $46.9 million and perhaps as much as $180 million, to develop three technologies for a new rocket from Orbital ATK. In addition, SpaceX received at least $33.6 million, and perhaps as much as $61 million, to continue development of its reusable methane-fueled Raptor engine.Aerojet Rocketdyne, ULA win Air Force propulsion contracts - SpaceNews.com

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                          • NBU cuts official exchange rate to UAH 27.09 to dollar
                            01.03.2016 | 09:11 UNIAN

                            The National Bank of Ukraine on Monday evening lowered the official hryvnia exchange rate by four kopiykas, bringing the national currency to UAH 27.09 to the dollar.

                            The Central Bank set the following official exchange rates of the hryvnia against leading foreign currencies for March 1:

                            $100 costs UAH 2,709.4802 (on February 29, it was UAH 2,705.4389);

                            EUR 100 costs UAH 2,950.0820 (on February 29, it was UAH 2,977.6061);

                            10 RUB costs UAH 3.5698 (on February 29, it was UAH 3.6029).

                            On Monday, February 29, hryvnia quotations against the dollar on the interbank currency market by the close of trade settled at UAH 26.70/26.95 to the dollar.

                            Hryvnia quotes against the euro settled at UAH 29.0840/29.3530, while those against the Russian ruble settled at UAH 0.35300/0.3570.

                            According to the National Bank of Ukraine, the weighted average exchange rate of the hryvnia as of 17:00 was UAH 27.0948 to the dollar, with 612 deals concluded by this time worth a total of $385.02 million.
                            NBU cuts official exchange rate to UAH 27.09 to dollar : UNIAN news

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                            • Ukraine in talks on visa liberalization with more than 30 countries
                              29.02.2016 | 18:47 UNIAN

                              Ukraine has been holding talks with more than 30 countries on the liberalization of the visa regime for Ukrainians, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

                              "Negotiations on the simplification of procedures for our citizens' trips are being held with more than 30 countries in Latin America, the Persian Gulf, South and Southeast Asia," Director of the Ministry's Consular Service Department Andriy Sibiha said during a Facebook conference.

                              As UNIAN reported earlier, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry suggests the introduction of visa-free travels for citizens of Australia and New Zealand.
                              Ukraine in talks on visa liberalization with more than 30 countries : UNIAN news

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                              • Poll: Most Ukrainians oppose referendum on Donbas
                                01.03.2016 | UNIAN

                                More than half of Ukrainians oppose the referendum on amending the Constitution of Ukraine in terms of the special order of the local government in the temporarily occupied areas of Donbas, according to findings of a public opinion poll conducted by Gorshenin Institute.

                                The sociologists asked respondents whether it was necessary to hold a referendum on amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine in terms of granting a special status to Donbas.

                                A total of 51.2% of respondents voted against the referendum. In particular, 29.6% of respondents said "definitely no," while 21.6% said "rather no."

                                A total of 35.9% of respondents expressed support for such a referendum. In particular, 15.9% of respondents said "definitely yes," while 20% of respondents answered "rather yes." Another 12.9% of respondents could not answer.

                                The poll was conducted on February 8-17, 2016. A total of 2,000 people aged from 18 were questioned in all regions of Ukraine (except for Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions). The poll's margin of error is no more than 2.2%.
                                Poll: Most Ukrainians oppose referendum on Donbas : UNIAN news

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