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  • Theft by employees of state-owned enterprises goes largely unpunished
    KYIV POST Josh Kovensky Mar. 28, 2016 14:42

    One perennial complaint among Ukraine’s reformers is that no matter what labor legislation gets passed, it will be ineffective as long as much of the country’s workforce is employed unofficially, working in the shadows.

    Without having contracts or legal work status, employers and employees in the private sector can sidestep Ukraine’s current, Soviet-era labor code – and its replacement, when it comes.
    But the roughly one million employees at the country’s 3,000 state-owned enterprises find themselves in a legal loophole for a different reason.

    Many of these employees operate under the purview of government ministries, use state funds in their daily operations and are regulated by the country’s Soviet-era labor code. But non-officer employees of state-owned corporations are not civil servants, and so current

    Ukrainian anti-corruption legislation, which defines governmental bribery as improper payments made to civil servants, doesn’t apply to them.

    No corruption prosecutions?
    According to Ivan Khilobok, an adviser on questions of civil service reform at the Presidential Administration, applying equal treatment to state and private companies is a matter of principle: “There should be no difference between private companies, and (companies) that are owned by the state,” Khilobok said.

    Khilobok added that a state-owned enterprise’s employees should be paid out of the company’s own profits.

    But that leaves open a loophole in corruption legislation for employees at state companies. While they operate with state support, they cannot be held accountable under anti-corruption laws, and their workers cannot be prosecuted as recipients of official bribery under Ukrainian anti-corruption legislation.

    Mikhail Samus, the deputy director of the Center for Army, Conversion, and Disarmament Studies, gives the notoriously corrupt Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s state-owned defense manufacturer, as an example.

    Ukroboronprom officials cannot be prosecuted for corruption, as they are not public officials, he said.

    “In the anti-corruption legislation – it’s always about civil servants,” Samus said. “Workers at Ukroboronprom are not civil servants, so they don’t fall under anti-corruption legislation. It’s a state concern, but since they are not civil servants, they can go outside the bounds of this legislation.”

    In fact, many foreign international anti-corruption laws are stricter than domestic Ukrainian legislation on the definition of who constitutes a government official. For instance, under the

    U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribery in exchange for business with foreign governments, foreign officials are defined as anybody acting on behalf of the interests of a government.

    U.S. federal prosecutors often target businesspeople who make improper payments in order to win contracts with state-owned enterprises.

    Circular problem
    In a sense, the problem is circular.

    Workers at state-owned enterprises are subject to the labor code but not the civil service code, because state-owned enterprises are supposed to function like normal companies.

    But these companies have a continual need for financial support from government ministries, draining public funds.

    Khilobok said the companies need financial support from the government “due to corruption schemes" which get covered by the state budget via subsidies.

    In turn, the government can’t prosecute those involved in corrupt schemes at state companies because they aren't civil servants, and thus not subject to the civil service code, under which they could be charged with bribery.

    Meanwhile, the labor code, which is skewed heavily in favor of workers, means it’s virtually impossible to oust corrupt managers from state-owned companies.

    Experts say that additional regulations could be passed to solve the problem. However, until the underlying issues of low salaries and the lack of systematic prosecution of state corruption are addressed, the problem will likely continue. Theft by employees of state-owned enterprises goes largely unpunished

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    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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    • Protesters demand independent Prosecutor General
      29.03.16 Halya Coynash>Kharkiv HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

      200 or more protesters gathered outside the President’s Administration on Sunday demanding the removal of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin whose resignation once again seems in doubt.

      The reasons for dissatisfaction with Shokin are legion, including his blocking of reform of the prosecutor’s office and of anti-corruption measures. The immediate impetus was however the news that a court in Kyiv had allowed investigators from the Prosecutor General’s Office to remove documents and other items from the Anti-Corruption Action Centre [AntAC]. This was, incredibly, claimed to be part of an investigation into the disappearance of money donated by US and European partners for reforming the prosecutor’s service.

      That and the increasing indications that Shokin’s apparent resignation might be nothing of the sort. Given criticism beyond Ukraine, this would seriously damage confidence, already challenged, in the government’s commitment to reform.

      Among those protesting on Sunday were members of the Advocates Advisory Council who represent the families of Nebesna Sotnya, those killed during Euromaidan. At a recent press conference, they, the relatives and civic activists publicly demanded an end to behind-the-scenes bargaining and an open competition for the post of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General. Political parties have demonstrated that they are not up to the task.

      Oleksandra Matviychuk, Coordinator of Euromaidan SOS, pointed out, that all three prosecutor generals so far (Oleh Makhnitsky; Vitaly Yarema; Viktor Shokin) had failed to carry out the tasks they promised on taking office. All claimed that they would return the assets plundered by Viktor Yanukovych and his people; that they would carry out a proper investigation into Euromaidan crimes and bring those responsible to answer; and that there would be real reform of the prosecutor’s office.

      The activists asked that the candidacy of Serhiy Horbatyuk be considered, since any progress made in investigating Maidan crimes is thanks to him and the Special Investigation Department which he has headed since late 2014.

      Ominously, over the last week Horbatyuk was offered a post in Lviv. He rejected it and there was outrage among civic activists who interpreted this as an effort to isolate one of the few people in the Prosecutor General’s Office who has achieved progress and who inspires public confidence.

      Another was Vitaly Kasko who recently resigned in disgust. Back in November last year, Kasko had said that “while the Prosecutor General spends so much time in the President’s Administration, we will not create either a European prosecutor’s office or a European state.”

      Confidence that Ukraine’s leaders even want this is wearing thin.
      Protesters demand independent Prosecutor General :: khpg.org

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      • Russian Stalinists recognize Putin as one of their own
        EUROMAIDAN PRESS Vitaliy Portnikov 2016/03/28


        Political cartoon by Oleksiy Kustovskyi

        Putin has begun to act like Stalin openly — and the Stalinists have recognized him as one of their own.

        Russian sociologists from the Levada Center have confirmed that most of their compatriots have a positive opinion of one of the most terrifying leaders of the past – Joseph Stalin. According to the most recent opinion polls, 54 percent find that Stalin played a positive role in Russian history, and 67 percent believe the notorious murderer was a wise leader. At the same time, 62 percent also think Stalin was a cruel tyrant but apparently they find no contradiction in these views. Shouldn’t a wise leader be a cruel tyrant? In Russia this statement does not seem at all strange.

        This same Stalin worked diligently to bring back the image of the tyrant and murderer Ivan the Terrible to people’s awareness again. He ordered a film about the tsar from the famous director Sergei Eisenstein. And when the director filmed the second part, where the madness and cruelty of the insane monarch were depicted accurately, Stalin forbade its screening. Ivan the Terrible actually destroyed Russia’s civilizational prospects and turned the country into the periphery of Eurasia — forever, in fact. However, he is still viewed by Russians as an outstanding statesman.

        Russian history and political thought have always glorified the link between reform and repression and have disdained politicians who tried to modernize society without violence. Therefore, the popularity of Stalin — even after several decades of honest discussion about his crimes — is quite understandable. The demographic factor is also evident. During the Stalinist years, a great number of people who exhibited even the slightest inclination towards resistance and the rejection of totalitarianism ended up in the camps. It turns out that the people who were capable of raising a generation of free citizens were just snatched from life. And those who were ready to accept the fate of slaves and to raise their children and grandchildren in the same spirit received preferential treatment from the regime.

        It is no accident that even after the collapse of communism no one has tried to investigate and condemn those who served in the KGB or even in the Gulag. The executioners remained and continue to remain honored members of Russian society. And the ones who speak the truth — the defenders of human rights and the members of the opposition — are held in contempt or simply hated by most of Russians. Therefore, the slave mentality of the Russian citizens is the result of Stalinist selection.

        However, 60 percent of Russians would not want to live under Stalin. This could have less to do with fear of repressions than with the fact that the fans of tyranny already have their own modernized Stalin — Putin. It is no accident that the number of people who view Stalin positively exceeded those who view him negatively for the first time precisely in March 2014, after the occupation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in the Donbas. Putin began to act like Stalin openly — and the Stalinists recognized him as one of their own. Russian Stalinists recognize Putin as one of their own -Euromaidan Press |
        ===============
        Source: RADIO SVOBODA

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        • Only "strategic interests:" Kerry says Russia not ally of U.S. in Syria
          28.03.2016 | 16:20 UNIAN

          U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Russian Federation is not an ally of the United States in Syria, according to CBS News.

          In an interview with CBS News, asked if Russia is an "ally" in Syria, Kerry said "no," adding that the country is helping the U.S. with other things in the "strategic interest" of the United States.

          "Russia has helped bring about the Iran nuclear agreement. Russia helped get the chemical weapons out of Syria," he said. "Russia is now helping with the cessation of hostilities. And if Russia can help us to actually affect this political transition, that is all to the strategic interest of the United States of America," Kerry said.

          Kerry, who spent part of last week in Russia meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders, said the Russians are "not wedded to Assad."

          Putin has supported Assad, providing military support to his regime, but announced earlier in March that Russian forces would begin to withdraw from Syria.

          Has Russia gotten more of a "foothold" in the Middle East because of its involvement in Syria? Kerry called that idea "ridiculous."
          Only "strategic interests:" Kerry says Russia not ally of U.S. in Syria : UNIAN news

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          • STOPFAKE.ORG March 28, 2016 VIDEO

            Andriy Sawchuk hosts the latest edition of StopFake News. This week’s fakes include a dubious poll about the annexation of Crimea, a fake ban of the Russian language in Kyiv, the mystery of the disappearing Russian flags in Spain and would Kharkiv and Odessa really welcome Russian invaders?

            StopFakeNews #77 [ENG] with Andriy Sawchuk

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            • Ukraine Parliament Accepts Prosecutor's Resignation
              VOICE OF AMERICA SOURCE - REUTERS March 29, 2016 8:23 AM

              Ukraine's parliament has accepted the resignation of the general prosecutor, who had been criticized for not doing enough to tackle corruption.

              The move comes a day after several hundred protesters rallied outside the parliament building calling for Viktor Shokin to step down.

              President Petro Poroshenko had asked Shokin, who was considered one of his closer allies, to quit.

              Poroshenko has also asked Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign because of failures to deal with government corruption. Yatsenyuk survived a February confidence vote in parliament, but continues to face pressure to step down.

              Economic Development Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, who has openly criticized the role of corrupt elites in politics, sent a Twitter message shortly after Shokin's dismissal, saying “Hallelujah! Finally!”

              Abromavicius submitted a letter of resignation last month because of government’s perceived attempts not to pursue high-profile corruption cases. Parliament has yet to decide whether to approve his departure.
              Ukraine Parliament Accepts Prosecutor's Resignation
              ===================================
              ===================================
              11:11 29.03.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
              Rada agrees to dismiss Ukrainian Prosecutor General Shokin

              The Verkhovna Rada has agreed with President Petro Poroshenko's motion to dismiss Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin.

              A total of 289 MPs voted for the measure on Tuesday in parliament.

              The parliamentary faction of the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko gave 114 votes in favor of the motion. It was also supported by 72 MPs from Arseniy Yatseniuk's People's Front Party faction, 24 MPs from Andriy Sadovy's Samopomich Party faction and two MPs from the Opposition Bloc.

              As was reported earlier, the Verkhovna Rada committee for legislative support of law enforcement activity on March 16 recommended that parliament should support a draft resolution giving the consent to the dismissal of Shokin. Out of the committee members who were present at the meeting, 10 voted for the decision, four were against and three refrained.

              President Poroshenko said in his address to the nation on February 16 that he had asked Shokin to step down.

              On February 19, presidential press secretary Sviatoslav Tseholko confirmed that Shokin's letter of resignation had arrived at the presidential administration.

              On the same day, Poroshenko tabled a motion in parliament to dismiss Shokin. On February 22 a draft resolution on MPs' consent to dismiss the chief prosecutor was registered on the parliament's website.

              Shokin, born in 1952, was appointed Prosecutor General in February 2015.

              Under the Ukrainian Constitution, the Prosecutor General should be appointed and dismissed by the president with the parliament's consent. However, lawmakers could hold a vote of no-confidence, after which the Prosecutor General should resign if there is a required number of votes.
              Rada agrees to dismiss Ukrainian Prosecutor General Shokin


              Last edited by Hannia; 29th March 2016, 17:55.

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              • Ukrainians feel badly served by government
                KYIV POST Euan MacDonald Mar. 29, 2016 17:35

                http://www.kyivpost.com/media/images...al_new-top.jpg

                Most Ukrainians are proud of the city they live in, and wouldn’t move away from their hometown if given the choice.

                But they don’t like the way they are run.
                -----------------------------------------
                That’s the key result from the 2016 Ukrainian Municipal Survey poll released by the International Republican Institute on March 28. The nationwide poll of 19,200 Ukrainians aged 18 or older was carried out for the institute in 24 cities between Jan. 20 and Feb. 8 by Rating Group Ukraine. Funding for the poll was provided by the Canadian government.

                Polling was not conducted in the occupied parts of Ukraine – Crimea, and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

                Two years after mass public protests ousted the corrupt and nepotistic regime of former President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainians still see corruption and nepotism as serious problems in city government, with 91 percent saying corruption was a serious or quite serious problem, and 85 percent saying the same for nepotism.

                In none of the cities polled did a majority of the public think the municipal authorities were doing enough to root out corruption.

                Only in Lviv, in western Ukraine, did a majority of those polled think their city was moving in the right direction. In Severdonetsk, which was polled in place of Luhansk, where Russian-backed armed groups have seized control from the local authorities, only 11 percent of those polled thought their city was going in the right direction, while 44 percent said things were regressing in their town.

                In only seven out of the 24 cities surveyed are a majority of voters satisfied with the performance of the mayor they elected. Voters in Kharkiv are most satisfied, with 69 percent approving of the work of Gennady Kernes, while in Kyiv only 40 percent think Mayor Vitali Klitschko is doing a good job.

                Support for a city mayor was lowest in Severdonetsk, where Mayor Valantin Kazakov, elected on Nov. 17, 2015 with a 62.4 percent majority, now has an approval rating of just 14 percent.

                Approval of the work of city councils is even lower. Only in Kharkiv and Lutsk did 50 percent or more approve of their performance. Those polled in Zaporizha were most dissatisfied with their city council, with 77 percent saying they were unhappy with its work.

                In none of the cities did a majority of those polled think that the local authorities were open and transparent, had involved the public enough in the decision-making process, or had been responsive to citizens’ priorities.

                On the plus side, most of those polled in Lviv, Ternopil, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskiy, Vinnytsya, Dnipropetrovsk and Ivano-Frankivisk think the local authorities have managed to improve the image of their city (highest majority Lviv, with 79 percent, lowest majority Ivano-Frankivisk, with 54 percent.)

                But in Kherson 70 percent of those polled said the local authorities had not improved the image of their city, while in Poltava it was 68 percent.

                While dissatisfaction with municipal government was spread evenly across the country, there are clear regional divisions among the public on questions of Ukraine’s future relations with the European Union and Nato, attitudes to which were also polled.

                While support for joining the EU nationwide is 57 percent, support ranges from a high of 93 percent in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, to a low of 26 percent in Severdonetsk, in the south-eastern region of Ukraine.

                Support for Ukraine joining Nato, at 44 percent nationwide, shows a similar west-east split: Support is highest in Ternopil (89 percent), Ivano-Frankivsk (85 percent) and Lviv (79 percent) -- all cities in the west of the country -- and lowest in Kharkiv (23 percent), Mariupol (20 percent) and Severdonetsk (18 percent) – which are all located in the south and east.

                The survey was carried out in face-to-face interviews in respondents’ homes. The margin of error of the poll does not exceed plus/minus 3.5 percent. Ukrainians feel badly served by government

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                • 09:34 29.03.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                  Environmentalists draw up bill to protect ancient Carpathian forests

                  World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Ukraine, the Kyiv Ecological and Cultural Center, and Ukrainian Bird Protection Society are drawing up a bill that will give a protected status to all the Carpathian primeval forests.

                  As of today, there are almost 48,000 hectares of pristine forests in Ukrainian Carpathians, while 30,000 hectares of them already lie within natural preservation areas, protected by law, WWF representative Roman Volosianchuk said during a press conference at Interfax-Ukraine.

                  Some of these forests are listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe". At the same time, other forests are located within in areas without protected status, and thus may be destroyed as a result of economic activity.

                  "Apart from the established pristine forests, there are 35,000 hectares of forests which should be examined as potential primary or ancient ones. WWF and Ukraine' Ecology Ministry have also prepared and submitted to UNESCO a justification to include additional 6,000 hectares of primary and ancient Ukrainian forests into the category "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe," Volosianchuk added.

                  In his turn, director of Kyiv Ecological and Cultural Center Volodymyr Boreiko stressed that primeval forests are today being destroyed for commercial and business purposes within natural preservation areas – sanctuaries, national parks and protected areas.

                  Primeval forests are natural forests unsullied by humans during the course of their development. Environmentalists draw up bill to protect ancient Carpathian forests

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                  • The Great Debate - The three powerful scholars fueling Islamic State’s hate
                    REUTERS Mohamad Bazzi March 29, 2016

                    After Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for last week’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, a now common debate ensued on social media and elsewhere: does Islam condone violence against civilians?

                    With its extreme violence and nihilistic mindset, Islamic State seems a death cult bent on senseless destruction. But the group justifies its violence, especially against civilians, with selective interpretations of Islamic texts and scholars that are rejected by the vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. According to a long-term survey by the Pew Research Center, at least three quarters of the world’s Muslims reject terrorist tactics such as suicide bombing or other attacks on civilians.

                    Like other militant movements, especially al Qaeda and its offshoots, Islamic State is inspired by a group of religious scholars across Islam’s history who advocated the idea of declaring other Muslims as infidels or apostates, and justifying their killing. This notion of takfir is central to the ideology of most contemporary Islamic militant groups, who have killed far more Muslims than non-Muslims. Islamic State’s leaders cherry-pick the sources and scholars they choose to imitate, so they end up with austere interpretations of Islamic texts that run counter to a millennium of moderate understandings, including tolerance for other faiths. Three scholars, in particular, have had an outsized influence on Islamic State’s religious ideology.

                    The first dates back to the 13th century, a period when Islam’s early empires began to decline after five centuries of expansion. As the Mongols swept across Asia and sacked Baghdad, the Mongol warrior Hulagu, a grandson of Genghis Khan, threatened to overrun the Levant, an area of the eastern Mediterranean centered around modern-day Syria and Lebanon. While many Muslim scholars at the time lined up to support the Mongols, one jurist forcefully rejected the invaders. Ibn Taymiyya, an Islamic scholar from Damascus, issued several fatwas (religious rulings) against the Mongols — and al Qaeda, Islamic State and other militants still quote those rulings today.

                    After Hulagu, some Mongol leaders nominally converted to Islam, but Ibn Taymiyya considered them infidels. He also argued that it was permissible for believers to kill other Muslims during battle, if those Muslims were fighting alongside the Mongols. Ibn Taymiyya is the intellectual forefather to many modern-day Islamic militants who use his anti-Mongol fatwas — along with his rulings against Shi’ites and other Muslim minorities — to justify violence against civilians, including fellow Muslims, or to declare them infidels, using the concept of takfir. Islamic State often quotes Ibn Taymiyya in its Arabic tracts, and occasionally in its English-language propaganda, as it did in its magazine, Dabiq, in September 2014.

                    Ibn Taymiyya also inspired the father of the Wahhabi strain of Islam that is dominant in Saudi Arabia today, the 18th century cleric Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who decreed that many Muslims had abandoned the practices of their ancestors. Wahhab believed Islamic theology had been corrupted by philosophy and mysticism. Many of the practices he banned were related to Sufism and Shi’ism, two forms of Islam he particularly abhorred.

                    Wahhab argued that Islamic law should be based on a literal interpretation of only two sources: the Koran and the Sunnah, a collection of the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and stories about his life. (The word Sunnah means path, and it’s the root of the designation “Sunni” — those who follow the prophet’s path — the dominant sect in Islam.) Wahhab dismissed analogical reasoning and the consensus of scholars, two other sources that had helped Islamic law evolve and adapt to new realities over time.

                    Today, Saudi Arabia is built on an alliance between two powers: the ruling House of Saud and clerics who espouse Wahhabi doctrine. Wahhabis seek to return the religion to what they believe was its “pure” form, as practiced by Muhammad and his followers in 7th century Arabia. The Saudi regime has also used its oil wealth to export Wahhabi doctrine by building mosques and dispatching preachers throughout the Muslim world.

                    But radicalism needs more to breed than just rhetorical and religious inspiration. As Arab nationalist leaders and military rulers rose to power in parts of the Middle East in the 1950 and 60s, they violently suppressed Islamic movements, including peaceful ones. In Egypt, the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser clamped down on the populist Muslim Brotherhood, and that helped lay the ideological foundations for the emergence of violent Islamic movements in the following decades.

                    The most militant thinker that emerged from that period was Sayyid Qutb, a Brotherhood leader who was swept up in Nasser’s crackdown. After enduring nine years of prison and torture, Qutb published a manifesto in 1964, Milestones Along the Road, in which he argued that the secular Arab nationalism of Nasser and others had led to authoritarianism and a new period of jahiliyya, a term that has particular resonance for Islamists because it refers to the pre-Islamic “dark ages.” Qutb declared that a new Muslim vanguard was needed to restore Islam to its role as “the leader of mankind,” and that all Arab rulers of his time had failed to apply Islamic law and should be removed from power. Qutb argued that it was not only legitimate, but a religious duty for “true” believers, to forcibly remove a leader who had allegedly strayed from Islam.

                    Nasser’s regime executed Qutb in 1966, but his ideas lived on and they inspired a new generation of militant leaders, especially Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is now the leader of al Qaeda after bin Laden’s death. And while Islamic State’s ideologues do not quote Qutb as frequently as al Qaeda’s leaders have, he clearly inspired the group’s rejection of contemporary Arab regimes and its effort to create a transnational state in parts of Syria and Iraq.

                    Like its predecessors, Islamic State reads Islam’s history and its foundational texts selectively, choosing the parts and thinkers who fit into its vision of Sunni dominance, brutality and constant war with pretty much everyone else. The three powerful scholars fueling Islamic State’s hate

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                    • 10:51 29.03.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                      Ukrainian troops in Donbas survive 72 attacks in last day

                      Militant forces have opened fire on Ukrainian military positions in Donbas 72 times in the past 24 hours, the press center of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in eastern Ukraine said on its Facebook account on Tuesday morning.

                      "The heaviest shelling was recorded in the Donetsk sector, to be more precise in the town of Avdiyivka," the press center said.

                      Ukrainian military positions came under mortar fire on 21 occasions, it noted.

                      Weapons banned by the Minsk agreements were used against the villages of Luhanske, Leninske, Zaitseve and Mayorsk.

                      Small arms and grenade launchers were fired at Ukrainian military positions in the town of Maryinka, near the Ukrainian-controlled strategic port city of Mariupol. The village of Popasna in Luhansk region came under fire as well.

                      In the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have opened fire ten times in order to deter militants and stop them from advancing, the press center said.

                      "In general, the situation in the ATO zone remains tense and tends to escalate," the ATO HQ said. Ukrainian troops in Donbas survive 72 attacks in last day

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                      • Trump hires Yanukovych's former strategist
                        29.03.2016 | 14:40 UNIAN

                        Donald J. Trump, girding for a long battle over presidential delegates and a potential floor fight at the Cleveland convention, has enlisted the veteran Republican strategist Paul J. Manafort to lead his delegate-corralling efforts, according to people briefed on Mr. Trump’s plans, The New York Times reports.

                        Mr. Trump confirmed the hire in a brief telephone interview with The New York Times. “Yes,” he said, “it is true.”

                        Mr. Manafort, 66, has drawn attention in recent years chiefly for his work as an international political consultant, most notably as a senior adviser to disgraced former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven from power in 2014.
                        Read more on UNIAN: Trump hires Yanukovych's former strategist : UNIAN news

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                        • Canada wants anti-Russian sanctions to be maintained or strengthened
                          29.03.2016 | 19:46 UNIAN

                          Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion says Canada insists that collective sanctions against Russia either be maintained or strengthened, according to portal Macleans.

                          "The sanctions imposed on Russia in retaliation for its aggression against Ukraine are effective only because they are being imposed by a large number of countries. Canada must continue to require that these collective sanctions be maintained, or even strengthened," Dion said, Macleans wrote.

                          But Canada must stop being essentially the only one practising an empty chair policy with Russia, because by doing so, it is only punishing itself, according to him.

                          "As long as we refuse to engage Russia through diplomatic and political channels, we preclude any opportunity to support Ukraine through negotiations," he said.

                          "Canada will continue to oppose Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its aggression in Eastern Ukraine, and we will continue to stand strongly with our NATO allies. But doing so is entirely consistent with re-establishing diplomatic discussions with Russia, just as our allies do," he said.

                          According to him, this reengagement will aim to help Ukraine, help Europe and help stabilize the situation in the center of the continent.
                          Canada wants anti-Russian sanctions to be maintained or strengthened : UNIAN news

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                          • ‘Laughable’: US rejects a proposal to exchange Nadiya Savchenko for the ‘Lord of War’
                            MEDUZA (The Real Russia Today) 05:11, 29 March 2016 Interfax

                            US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt has denied reports earlier today that Russia might exchange imprisoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko for two Russian citizens now jailed in the United States.

                            “The proposal for an exchange is simply laughable. Savchenko is being held illegally in Russia. She was captured illegally, and according to the Minsk accords she must be freed. Period,” Pyatt said.

                            According to earlier reports today, negotiations were underway between Moscow and Washington for the release of Ukrainian military helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who was recently sentenced by a Russian court to 22 years in prison. The list of Russians who might be exchanged for Savchenko was a group that included Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, according to the news agency Interfax.

                            Bout and Yaroshenko are both serving prison terms in the United States.

                            Along with Bout and Yaroshenko, the list alledgedly included “Russians whose activities are not publicly reported,” said one of the sources for Interfax.

                            Savchenko's lawyer, Mark Feigin, told Interfax he was unaware of any exchange negotiations that included Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko. If any such negotiations did indeed take place, the lawyer assumed they may have been discussed during US Secretary of State John Kerry's recent visit to Moscow.

                            On March 22nd, Ukrainian military helicopter pilot Nadezha Savchenko was sentenced by a Russian court to 22 years in prison for her role in the murder of two Russian journalists, Igor Korneliuk and Anton Voloshin, and for her repeated illegal crossings of the Russia–Ukraine border.

                            In 2011, Russian citizen Viktor Bout was sentenced by a US court to a 25 year prison sentence for his participation in illegal arms trades. The 2005 movie “Lord of War” is partly based on Bout's exploits.

                            In 2013, Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot, was sentenced to 20 years by US courts for attempting to smuggle a large amount of cocaine
                            https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/03/29...ler-and-others

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                            • On April 1, Russia’s rehabilitation centers for the blind are shutting down. But it’s no joke.
                              MEDUZA 08:28, 29 March 2016 Православие и мир

                              There are more than 280,000 blind people in Russia, but rehabilitation specialists in Altai, Kursk, and Moscow are only able to treat 600 patients a year. Blind persons across the country sometimes wait up to four years to receive treatment from these experts. Now it appears there will be nothing left to wait for. Russia's rehabilitation centers for the blind have lost their federal funding, and they're suspending operations next month, on April 1.

                              The shutdown is the result of cutbacks in federal subsidies. In mid-January, the Russian government adopted a new budget that reduces the amount of money sent to “certain public and other nonprofit organizations.” https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/03/29...t-it-s-no-joke

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                              • The New York Times and The Guardian included on list of the most anti-Russian media
                                06:38, 29 March 2016 MEDUZA

                                The Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISS) recently published a report “Foreign Media in 2015: The Anti-Russian Vector.” The report cites the leading mass media organizations from around the world—from countries such as the UK, the United States, Germany and France—that are most aggressively anti-Russian. A correspondent from Meduza attended the presentation of the RISS report.

                                In the report, the authors develop an “Aggression Index,” which is calculated by dividing the number of “negative” articles on Russia against the number of “neutral material.” Among media organizations to rank most highly in the Aggression Index include Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from Germany, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal from the US, The Guardian, The Financial Times and the BBC from the UK, and Le Monde and Le Figaro from France.

                                The report ranks the countries producing the most anti-Russian as the Czech Republic, followed by Poland, Germany, Ukraine and the United States. https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/03/29...-russian-media

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                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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