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  • Russia to send its 50th "humanitarian convoy" to Donbas soon
    16.03.2016 | 22:58 UNIAN

    Russia plans to send its 50th "humanitarian convoy" to Donbas, eastern Ukraine, on March 24, according to Russian news agency TASS.

    "The next humanitarian convoy is in the pipeline; all procedures are under way, being agreed with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The convoy is to set out on March 24," Russian Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said on Wednesday.

    According to him, the freight of the convoy will contain "food and goods of prime necessity."

    "We plan to send convoys every month, including this April," he added.

    As UNIAN reported, the 49th Russian "humanitarian convoy" violated Ukraine's territory on February 18, 2016.

    The Russian side does not allow Ukrainian customs and border officers to inspect its "humanitarian" aid.

    The Ukrainian side has repeatedly reported that it has proof that boxes with food and other freight delivered by Russia's convoys contain weapons, ammunition and anti-tank grenades.

    Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has demanded that Russia stop violating Ukraine's sovereignty by sending the so-called humanitarian convoys.Russia to send its 50th "humanitarian convoy" to Donbas soon : UNIAN news

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    • Ukraine's Central Election Commission: No local election in Donbas within two years
      17.03.2016 | 08:30 UNIAN

      Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine Andriy Mahera says that it is impossible to hold local elections in separate districts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in occupied territory in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, within the next two years.

      "I don't believe it's possible to hold elections in separate districts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in June 2016, I even doubt it could be done in June 2017," he said on Channel 5 on Wednesday.

      Director General of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine Oleksiy Koshelia confirms that the local elections in Donbas "aren't realistic in the near-term outlook."

      He says it may happen not earlier than in five years if it's a base-case scenario, and a lower-case scenario suggests it may happen in a decade or even later.

      As UNIAN reported, the political subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement of the Donbas conflict met on March 10 to discuss conditions for holding the local elections in Donbas, but it failed to reach any agreement.Ukraine's Central Election Commission: No local election in Donbas within two years : UNIAN news

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      • ATO HQ: 52 attacks on Ukraine troops in last day
        17.03.2016 | 10:15 UNIAN

        The combined Russian-separatist forces attacked Ukrainian army positions in eastern Ukraine 52 times in the past 24 hours, including 39 times in the Donetsk sector, 11 times in the Mariupol sector, and twice in the Luhansk sector, the press center of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) reported on Thursday.

        "The militants more and more attacked the Ukrainian fortified positions in the village of Zaitseve and the town of Avdiyivka, using various types of weapons, including banned 120mm and 82mm mortars, having launched more than 130 mines," the report says.

        The occupiers fired antitank missile systems on the Ukrainian fortified positions near the town of Popasna and the village of Troyitske, as well as infantry fighting vehicles near the village of Luhanske and thrice near Avdiyivka.

        It is noted that the militants also fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns on the Ukrainian positions in the villages of Novhorodske and Mayorsk.

        "In the Mariupol sector, the Russian-backed mercenaries fired 82mm mortars, antitank missile systems, and small arms on ATO forces near the village of Shyrokyne. Enemy snipers were shootin on the Ukrainian positions near the village of Nevelske, and the towns of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka," the headquarters said.

        At 19:15 local time, in the vicinity of Popasna, a sabotage and reconnaissance group of militants of about 10 people made an attempt to enter the territory controlled by ATO forces, but it was spotted by an observer. The Ukrainian military opened fire and the militants had to retreat. At midnight, the militants stopped shelling.
        ATO HQ: 52 attacks on Ukraine troops in last day : UNIAN news

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        • The Power Vertical Brian Whimore March 17, 2016
          The Daily Vertical: A Coincidence? I Think Not!
          The Daily Vertical: A Coincidence? I Think Not!

          The Power Vertical Brian Whimore March 17, 2016
          The Daily Vertical: Back To The Ukraine Front
          The Daily Vertical: Back To The Ukraine Front

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          • Behind the scenes of civic society’s battle with corruption in Ukraine
            EUROMAIDAN PRESS Alya Shandra 2016/03/17

            Denouncing corruption in Ukraine is a lucrative trade. Fighting corruption is not. The ubiquitous recommendation given to Ukrainian civic society to “kick out all the corrupt officials” is difficult to implement in practice. The story of one anti-corruption institution, the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption (NAPC), shows what stands behind the words “Ukraine is making slow progress in tackling corruption,” and what it takes for civic society to not give up.
            -------------------------------------------
            Corruption didn’t emerge with Yanukovych, and did not disappear when he left. Let’s start at the beginning…
            Why is there corruption in Ukraine?

            According to political researcher M.Johnson, there are four main universal causes of corruption:

            1. low political competition;
            2. low and uneven economic growth;
            3. a weak civil society; and
            4. the absence of institutional mechanisms to deal with corruption.

            Unfortunately, Ukraine has all four, as well as a widespread disregard for the law, as a consequence of its totalitarian past. Authorities in the USSR were to be hailed, not questioned, and civic activity was most often a direct road to prison. When the USSR fell apart, those that ended up in power were free to misuse it – there was no experience in society of keeping the powerful in check. As a result, the majority of civil servants and politicians officially living on miniscule salaries are part of a complex interconnected system of squandering public money and trading justice for bribes.

            A small number of Ukrainian reformers from its narrow sliver of active civil society now faces the challenge of changing the decades-old patterns of a system of values and networks under the tight control of those with the most wealth, i.e. the oligarchs.

            Two new instruments: National Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Agency for Prevention of Corruption

            Anti-corruption legislation has been passed thanks to the efforts of civil society, namely, experts from the Reanimation Package of Reforms and Transparency International. A number of instruments for combating corruption have been created, the most important of which are the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which will prosecute law-breakers, and the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption (NAPC), which will act as a center for all initiatives to prevent corruption and employ up to 600 people.

            Here is a glance at what they’re up against and the solutions that are proposed.

            Examples of corruption nowadays-----------------Solutions reformers are creating

            1. Civic servants/politicians own undeclared property – a classic method of covering corruptioN >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>continue read: Behind the scenes of civic society's battle with corruption in Ukraine -Euromaidan Press |

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            • The propagandist’s translation dictionary How Russia’s pro-Kremlin media ‘translates’ the news
              08:20, 17 March 2016 MEDUZA

              Earlier this month, the newspaper Izvestia ran a story titled “Obama Says Putin is ‘Polite, Honest, and Punctual,’” based on Jeffrey Goldberg's piece, “The Obama Doctrine,” published in the Atlantic. But Obama never uttered this phrase. (What the US president actually said is that Putin is “scrupulously polite, very frank,” and “not completely stupid.”) Curious translations like this one, moreover, are anything but rare in Russia's pro-Kremlin media. At Meduza's request, Alexey Kovalev, the man behind the propaganda-busting website Noodleremover, presents some other notable examples of the Russian media's creative approach to translating news reports.
              -----------------------------
              What Expert said: “Speaking before the Vekhovna Rada, Joe Biden announced that, in his opinion, Ukraine is the most corrupt country in the world. ‘Nowhere else in the world is there a country where corruption is as rampant as it is in Ukraine.’”

              What actually happened: Speaking before deputies of the Rada on December 9, 2015, Joe Biden did in fact remark on Ukraine's difficult struggle with corruption. But he never compared Ukraine's situation to circumstances in other countries. Here's the line in Biden's speech that Expert was likely “translating”:

              “But I can tell you, you cannot name me a single democracy in the world where the cancer of corruption is prevalent.”

              RIA Novosti: DWN says Soros admits the EU faces collapse without help from Russia

              RIA Novosti: Media reports that a CBS journalist's comments about Putin's leadership angered Obama

              What RIA Novosti said: “During an interview with the television network CBS, Barack Obama behaved rather nervously, the Western media noted. The president finally lost his cool when he was asked about the ‘challenge to US leadership’ from Russia, and gave a ‘strange’ answer.”

              What actually happened: During an interview on October 11, 2015, CBS journalist Steve Kroft asked Obama about President Putin challenging US leadership. But there was nothing aggressive or strange about Obama's response. Here's what he actually said:

              “Well Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change [...]. My definition of leadership is mobilizing the entire world community to make sure that Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon.”

              Expert: US Vice President calls Ukraine the most corrupt country in the world

              What RIA Novosti said: “Soros has supported the plan to solve the immigrant problem, proposed earlier by [German] Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. The plan calls for the investment of billions in the countries from which refugees are coming. Like the German statesman, the billionaire [Soros] calls it his ‘Marshall Plan,’ while specifying that Russia would play a significant role. ‘Russia should absolutely be part of this Marshall Plan,’ Soros said.”

              What actually happened: The publication Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, which RIA Novosti cited, was actually quoting an interview with Soros conducted by the news agency Bloomberg. In the interview, Soros addressed the sorry state of the European Union today and the need for a new “Marshall Plan” to confront the refugee crisis. But Soros mentioned Russia in an entirely different context. He's what he actually said:

              “I have been in favor of it [a new Marshall Plan] all along. I proposed a Marshall Plan for Eastern Europe more than 25 years ago, in 1989 in Potsdam, when Potsdam was still in East Germany, and I said this would be a Marshall Plan for Eastern Europe, including Russia, and it should be financed by the Europeans, for a change.”

              In this case, the translation mistake appears to belong to DWN, though RIA Novosti would have avoided recirculating the blatantly inaccurate report, if it had tracked down the original source, when researching the story.

              REN-TV: Cameron has to defend comments about the crash of the Airbus A321

              What REN-TV said: “Today, Cameron literally had to make excuses for a member of his staff, the British Interior Ministry head, who yesterday said publicly that the reason for the crash of the A321 [in Egypt] was likely an explosion, and that is why all flights between Great Britain and Sharm el-Sheikh were suspended. The British prime minister today corrected London's position, saying the version [of events] presented by British officials on Wednesday is ‘uncertain.’”

              What actually happened: On November 5, 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the A321 plane crash in an interview with Reuters, but he said nothing about correcting London's position on the matter, not did he apologize for any statements by his cabinet. He is what the prime minister said:
              “Look, we cannot be certain that the Russian airliner was brought down by a terrorist bomb, but it looks increasingly likely that that was the case. And so I act on the intelligence, I act on the advice of experts, and it's the right thing to do—to suspend these flights, until we can safely bring people home [from Sharm el-Sheikh].”

              Izvestia: The US fears the successes of Russian television networks

              What Izvestia said: “After some time, it's become clear that media outlets like Chinese state television, LifeNews, and RT are capable of really influencing their audiences.”

              What actually happened: Izvestia was citing an article by Christopher Walker, the vice president of the National Endowment for Democracy, published in the January edition of the Journal of Democracy. In the article, titled “The Hijacking of ‘Soft Power,’” Walker discusses the influence of state media outlets in China, Iran, and Russia. While Walker does mention LifeNews, he doesn't include it in the list Izvestia cites. Izvestia also ignores the fact that Walker directly accuses Russian TV networks (Pervyi Kanal, NTV, Rossiya-24, and none other than LifeNews) of mendacious reporting.

              “For a long time, the West did not worry about authoritarian international media enterprises. Over time, however, it has become clear that outlets such as CCTV and RT are able to exert real influence.”

              Most amusing of all, however, is that LifeNews published its own report on Walker's article, citing Izvestia's story. The headline read “LifeNews is recognized in the US to be the main threat to the American media's propaganda.” https://meduza.io/en/feature/2016/03...ion-dictionary

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              • REUTERS BRUSSELS Robin Emmott Mar 17, 2016 8:57am EDT
                Ukraine vows swift end to political crisis, wins EU offer of visa-free travel

                Ukraine's president tried to reassure the European Union on Thursday that his country would soon overcome a political crisis that has rattled Western lenders and he won support for Kiev's cherished goal of visa-free travel in Europe for its citizens.

                Ukraine's unpopular prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, survived a parliamentary vote of no-confidence last month but three parties have quit his coalition and Western creditors who are keeping Ukraine's economy afloat are frustrated with the slow pace of reforms.

                "We have a political crisis in Ukraine and I hope that by the end of the month we will find a solution," President Petro Poroshenko told reporters, alongside European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

                "There will be no early parliamentary elections and the political coalition will remain, will be responsible, orientated on reforms," Poroshenko said after his talks with the two top EU officials, adding an EU-Ukraine summit would be held on May 19.

                Western donors, who include the European Union and the United States, are urging Kiev's leaders to remain unified to pass the reforms needed to secure a further $1.7 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund and to do much more to tackle rampant corruption.

                Diplomats said Tusk and Juncker had repeated this message to Poroshenko on Thursday and had also argued against new elections which would only further delay reforms.

                But in happier news for Kiev, Juncker said the European Commission, the EU's executive, would formally propose next month ending the requirement for Ukrainians to get visas to visit EU member states. The proposal would have to be approved by the EU's 28 national governments and the European Parliament.

                While lifting the EU visa requirement will be sensitive, especially in Germany, as Europe struggles with its migration crisis, the step would be the most tangible sign for Ukrainians that their 2014 Western-backed uprising against a pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich, was finally paying dividends.

                After Yanukovich fled to Russia, Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea region and gave support to armed separatists in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine in a conflict in which more than 9,000 people have been killed and is still simmering.

                Moscow denies sending arms or troops into Ukraine but has demanded greater autonomy for the country's heavily industrialized eastern region. Ukraine vows swift end to political crisis, wins EU offer of visa-free travel | Reuters

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                • Ukraine's Central Election Commission: No local election in Donbas within two years
                  17.03.2016 | 08:30 UNIAN

                  Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine Andriy Mahera says that it is impossible to hold local elections in separate districts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in occupied territory in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, within the next two years.

                  "I don't believe it's possible to hold elections in separate districts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in June 2016, I even doubt it could be done in June 2017," he said on Channel 5 on Wednesday.

                  Director General of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine Oleksiy Koshelia confirms that the local elections in Donbas "aren't realistic in the near-term outlook."

                  He says it may happen not earlier than in five years if it's a base-case scenario, and a lower-case scenario suggests it may happen in a decade or even later.

                  As UNIAN reported, the political subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement of the Donbas conflict met on March 10 to discuss conditions for holding the local elections in Donbas, but it failed to reach any agreement.Ukraine's Central Election Commission: No local election in Donbas within two years : UNIAN news

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                  • SBU: Vinnytsia regional police chief accused of separatism caught fleeing to Russia
                    17.03.2016 | 23:38 UNIAN

                    The SBU Security Service of Ukraine has prevented head of the Main Police Department in Vinnytsia region Anton Shevtsov, who was suspended from duty in connection with accusations of separatism, from fleeing Ukraine to Russia.

                    "Officers of the Security Service of Ukraine have detained the former head of the police in Vinnytsia region, Anton Shevtsov, who was going to flee Ukraine," SBU Press Secretary Olena Hitlianska wrote on Facebook on Thursday evening.

                    She also wrote that more details would be provided later.

                    Chief of the National Police of Ukraine Khatia Dekanoidze signed an order on Shevtsov's suspension on March 14.

                    Ukrainian activists earlier claimed that Shevtsov allegedly supported separatism and the annexation of Crimea by Russia, in particular, he participated in the Victory Day parade in Sevastopol on May 9, 2014. Later Shevtsov submitted a document to prove he had successfully passed a lie detector check by the SBU Security Service of Ukraine.
                    SBU: Vinnytsia regional police chief accused of separatism caught fleeing to Russia : UNIAN news

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                    • Germany, France confirm anti-Russia sanctions until full Minsk implementation
                      17.03.2016 | 19:59 UNIAN

                      The leaders of Germany and France have confirmed that the European Union's sanctions against Russia will remain in place until the full implementation of the Minsk peace agreements by Moscow.

                      The Minsk implementation was on top of the agenda of Petro Poroshenko's meeting with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Brussels on Thursday, the Ukrainian president's service said.

                      What is more, the parties expressed concern over recent escalation in Donbas, the east of Ukraine. They underlined the importance of observing a truce, withdrawing Russian military equipment and ensuring full and unhindered access for OSCE monitors to the entire occupied territory and uncontrolled sections of the Ukrainian-Russian border.

                      The parties also pointed out the importance of holding local elections in some areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions under the Ukrainian legislation and the OSCE principles provided that the security component is ensured.

                      The three leaders also called on Russia to immediately release Nadia Savchenko, who is illegally remanded in custody.

                      They emphasized the importance of freeing all prisoners of war, as is stipulated in the Minsk agreements.

                      Merkel and Hollande reaffirmed that the EU does not recognize the occupation of Crimea by Russia.

                      They also expressed support for the Ukrainian reforms.
                      Germany, France confirm anti-Russia sanctions until full Minsk implementation : UNIAN news

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                      • Bodies of 60 Russian military shipped from Donbas to Russia in five days – Ukraine intel
                        17.03.2016 | 16:45 UNIAN

                        A total of 60 dead bodies of Russian military killed in Donbas has been transported over the border to the Russian Federation near the village of Diakove in Luhansk region in just five days, according to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

                        Ukraine's military intelligence revealed other losses of the 1st Army Corps units (Donetsk) of the Russian armed forces that were participating in military clashes in the Volnovakha and Donetsk sectors.

                        "On March 16, six soldiers of the 11th separate motorized rifle regiment were killed and another seven were wounded. At the same time, eight soldiers of the 3rd separate motorized rifle brigade (Horlivka) were wounded," the report says.

                        It is also reported that "from March 10 to March 15, 60 dead bodies of servicemen of the Russian armed forces were transported over the border in the area of the village of Diakove (Ukraine) to the village of Kuybyshevo (Russia's Rostov region)."
                        Bodies of 60 Russian military shipped from Donbas to Russia in five days – Ukraine intel : UNIAN news

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                        • Tatar Mejlis hearing branded ‘kangaroo court' begins in Russian-occupied Crimea
                          17.03.2016 | 15:50 UNIAN Video

                          In the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula a court case is being heard into a ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis while the peninsula's so-called prosecutor says it should be labeled as “extremist” and shut down, Ukraine Today reported.

                          Head of the Mejlis Refat Chubarov says the proceedings a sham and is calling on the UN to intervene, according to Ukraine Today.

                          The indigenous population of the Black Sea peninsula has been subject to repressions, disappearances and imprisonment since Moscow's internationally unrecognized annexation two years ago in March, 2014.

                          Tatar Mejlis hearing branded ‘kangaroo court' begins in Russian-occupied Crimea : UNIAN news

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                          • After year of stalling, anti-corruption agency is launched hours before Poroshenko goes to Brussels
                            KYIV POST Alyona Zhuk Mar. 17, 2016 12:00

                            Ukraine’s authorities have finally taken a step that, according to President Petro Poroshenko, was the last one for the nation to be granted the visa-free travel to the European Union.
                            ====================
                            They elected the board of directors for the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption, thus launching the crucial body that has existed only on paper since its creation in March 2015. They did so mere hours before the deadline set by the EU and Poroshenko's trip to Brussels, the EU's administrative capital.

                            The agency is a vital component finalizing the anti-corruption efforts of post-EuroMaidan government and civic activists. It will oversee the execution of the law on electronic assets declarations for officials, adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on March 15.

                            The agency has been idle for a year since its creation, as the special commission could not select enough members to the agency’s board of directors.

                            Andrei Marusov, the head of Transparency International Ukraine and a member of the selection commission, said that the selection has been stalled because the civic activists on the commission could not reach agreement with the representatives of the government, who are loyal to Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

                            In December, after months of fruitless meetings, the commission elected two board members. At least two more were needed to launch the agency.

                            Early this week, the commission members still had no compromise, but the time was tight. On the evening of March 16, Poroshenko was scheduled to fly to Brussels to present the country’s progress to the EU leadership, including the adopted declarations law and the working anti-corruption agency to execute it.The missing two members were finally elected on the afternoon of March 16. About two hours later, Poroshenko’s plane took off to Brussels.

                            The compromise was made after the government representatives on the commission agreed to vote for Ruslan Riaboshapka, a candidate favored by civic activists that they previously opposed.

                            After the special commission selected Ruslan Radetzky (L) and Ruslan Riaboshapka (R) into the board of directors of the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption on March 16, the body can start working.

                            Riaboshapka is an anti-corruption expert with the Reanimation Package of Reforms. He is also a former deputy justice minister, a job he says he quit from “over the personal conflict with Ukraine’s Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko.”

                            Ruslan Radetzky, another candidate selected on March 16, is a lawyer. In 2015, Radetzky served as a deputy head of the prosecutor’s office in Kyiv’s Desnyanskiy district.

                            Natalia Korchak and Oleksandr Skopych have been selected during the first round of selection.

                            Korchak is an associate professor of administrative law disciplines in the National Prosecution Academy of Ukraine. Skopych, who has been serving as a civil servant through almost his entire career, is a deputy head of the National Agency for Civil Service.

                            Vitaliy Shabunin, head of the board of directors of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, welcomed the launch of the agency. However, he said that only one of the selected members, Riaboshapka, is completely independent from the authorities, and he will need to confront another three so that neither of the decisions made by the agency would favor the political elite.

                            “Many forget that the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption won’t be focusing only on the asset declarations,” he told the Kyiv Post. “It will have plenty of functions, including the audit of political parties’ finances. Its political price is extremely high.”

                            Oleksandr Danylyuk, deputy head of the President’s Administration, who was also one of the commission’s members, in his cheerful post on Facebook shortly after the vote on March 16, said that “it was the last step of meeting the requirements for the visa-free travel.”

                            “We fulfilled 138 out of 138 requirements,” he wrote. “In an hour we are taking off to Brussels with good news!”

                            Tough compromise

                            According to Marusov, during the first round of competition in December, 2015, when two candidates were already selected, he suggested a compromise – activists would support Natalia Korchak, favored by the pro-government members, and they will in turn vote for Fedir Venyslavskiy, supported by civil activists.

                            After Korchak got enough votes, and Venyslavskiy was left behind one vote short from being elected, the selection process was stalled, and the commission announced another round of selection process.

                            Yatsenyuk said on Dec. 11, 2015 that three board members were enough to run the agency.

                            However, one of three appointed members, independent lawmaker Viktor Chumak, resigned on Jan. 28, citing the number of violations during the selection process and saying that it was impossible to choose an independent agency’s head if there are only three members on board of directors.

                            During the second selection round, the commission shortlisted 11 candidates.

                            Two of them stepped down to endorse another candidates, including Riaboshapka.

                            During the meeting on March 15, the commission voted on each candidate, but neither of them received required six votes. Civil members in the commission said they won’t support anyone, until Riaboshapka is elected.

                            Shabunin said only their principal stance on the matter made it happen, as “the political elite made everything possible for him not to be elected.” After year of stalling, anti-corruption agency is launched hours before Poroshenko goes to Brussels

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                            • 13:28 17.03.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                              Tusk assures Poroshenko: Policy of non-recognition of Crimea annexation remains in place

                              President of the European Council Donald Tusk has assured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that the EU's policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia remains in place.

                              "Tomorrow marks two years since the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation. I assured President Poroshenko that our policy of non-recognition will remain in place," Tusk said during a joint statement with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday.

                              "When we last met in December, I pledged that Europe would stay the course on Ukraine, and I asked the same of Ukraine. Since then, we have delivered on that commitment," he said.

                              According to him, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area is now provisionally applied, which will contribute to improving Ukraine's economy and strengthen its economic reform agenda.

                              "I am also happy to note that further steps have been taken on visa liberalization. Following the positive report by the Commission in December, Ukraine has taken the key steps in meeting its outstanding commitments. I trust it will soon be possible to take the next steps towards finalizing this process," he said.

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                              • Two Years After Crimea Annexation, Ukraine Struggles to Forge Peace
                                VOICE OF AMERICA Carla Babb Published March 17, 2016 VIDEO

                                Friday marks two years since Russia's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. As VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports, the recent uptick in fighting against Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's east has shifted the political focus for both Ukraine and the West.
                                Two Years After Crimea Annexation, Ukraine Struggles to Forge Peace

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