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  • Russia receives billions in new weapons contracts after its operations in Syria
    MEDUZA 07:56, 29 March 2016 Kommersant

    Following Russia's operations in Syria, the Russian Federal Service for Military and Technical Co-Operation has received a whole series of new weapons orders from Asian and African countries, reports newspaper Kommersant citing various sources.

    Countries issuing large billion dollar orders include Algeria, Indonesia and Vietnam. Pakistan also plans to place a $500 million order for SU-35 fighter jets. Su-32 bombers, Su-35S fighters and helicopters appear to be popular among the new orders.

    According to rough estimates, experts believe marketing impact of the Syrian campaign may result in about $7.6 billion worth of new weapons contracts.

    On March 17, President Vladimir Putin stated operations in Syria had cost the Russian budget around $480 million.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • Latvia has begun installing barriers along its border with Russia
      MEDUZA 08:29, 29 March 2016 Delfi

      Latvia has recently begun building a fence to aid in preventing illegal migrants from entering via its largely unprotected border with Russia. The installation of new barriers was confirmed by the Representative for Latvia's State Border Guard Service, Evgenya Pozniak.

      Construction of the fence began in early 2016. It is expected the fence's total length will be 92 kilometers.

      Latvian authorities have repeatedly detained illegal migrants from Russia, a great number of whom are Vietnamese.

      Pozniak says 3 kilometers of the fence have already been built along the border with Russia's Pskov region.

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      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL Alexander J. Motyl March 29, 2016
        Sick of the Ukraine Crisis? Then Arm Ukraine
        Building Up Ukraine’s Military is the Counterintuitive Solution to Peace

        Western policymakers who believe the Minsk accords would work if only Ukraine made the requisite constitutional and electoral concessions are missing a key point: that they, and Russia, forced Ukraine to make security its priority by violating the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.

        Russia brazenly invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine in complete violation of the memorandum. But the United States and the United Kingdom were also complicit in the breakdown of Budapest: their assurances of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity proved hollow. Sanctions are nice, but hardly an adequate response to Russian imperialism.

        The violation and non-enforcement of Budapest underpins Ukraine’s approach to the Minsk accords and, indeed, to any peace deal. As constructed, Minsk institutionalizes Russia’s invasion and permanent meddling in Ukrainian affairs. It doesn’t matter whether Ukrainians do or do not make constitutional changes providing the occupied Donbas with autonomy, and it doesn’t matter whether fair and free elections are held in the region. All that matters is that Minsk guarantees that Russia’s proxies will remain in control of the occupied Donbas, and that Russia will remain in control of the Russo-Ukrainian border and will use whatever arrangement exists to infringe on Ukrainian security, stability, and sovereignty.

        Needless to say, Ukraine cannot accept such an outcome. It’s one thing for Ukraine to live in the shadow of Russia or to be mindful of Moscow’s security concerns—as it was for the last twenty-five years. It’s quite another for Ukraine’s security and survival to be permanently hostage to an imperialist power that routinely invades its neighbors and has annexed Ukrainian territory.

        Since the failure of Budapest means that formal international security assurances are effectively meaningless, Ukraine’s first priority has to be preserving its own security. No one can or will guarantee it, and even if they did, Ukraine would be crazy to believe a second Budapest.

        Even if Putin were to sign a document guaranteeing Ukraine’s security with his blood, Ukraine could not accept his word. Mendacity has become business as usual for Russia’s President. But neither could Ukraine accept the West’s word. Its long-standing indifference to independent Ukraine’s security does not inspire confidence that this time the United States and the United Kingdom will really mean it.

        Membership in NATO won’t do the trick either, both because it’s not in the cards for Ukraine anytime soon, and because Article 5 is squishy. The first part sounds bold: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” But the second part adds a qualifier (“as it deems necessary”) that undermines the resoluteness of the first part: “They agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

        In a word, Ukraine will be secure only if it can guarantee its own security.

        Since nuclear weapons are out of the question, Ukraine’s security can be assured only if Ukraine has the requisite armed forces to guarantee its own security. Ukraine must have the capacity, not to defeat Russia, but to deter it from further imperialist encroachments on Ukrainian territory.

        Once Ukraine is certain that its security is assured, all manner of negotiations and compromises become possible. Indeed, the Minsk accords become potentially workable. A strong and secure Ukraine might even countenance neutrality.

        The implications for the West are obvious. Only a secure Ukraine will put its name to grand bargains crafted by Russia and the West. And a secure Ukraine can only be a militarily strong Ukraine. No Western deal with Russia can possibly work if it fails to take Ukraine and its justified security concerns into account.

        Ukraine has already made enormous progress since the spring of 2014 when it had no more than 6,000 battle-ready troops to face Putin and his proxies. Even though the very imperfect “ceasefire” mandated by Minsk is routinely violated by Russian troops and results in daily Ukrainian deaths, it represents a tactical victory for Ukraine’s army. Despite its defeats in several key battles, Ukraine has actually won the war—at least thus far—by stopping Russia’s armed forces and Putin’s 35,000 proxies.

        Now Ukraine needs to gain the capacity to stop a full-scale Russian invasion. Although a massive land war would produce savage Ukrainian partisan resistance and lead to enormous losses for Russia, it would be far better to deter Russia than to embroil it in a costly quagmire. And for Ukraine to deter Russia, it needs to have the clear ability to stop Russian air power and tanks.

        Arming Ukraine—building up its military to the point that it can defend itself, but not threaten Russia—is the only way to secure a durable peace there. The sooner the West learns this lesson, the sooner Budapest will fade as a bad memory—and the sooner Minsk or its successor will have a realistic chance of resulting in peace.Sick of the Ukraine Crisis? Then Arm Ukraine
        Alexander J. Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark, specializing on Ukraine, Russia, and the former USSR.

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        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL James Brooke March 29, 2016
          US Presidential Politics Play Poorly in Ukraine

          US President Barack Obama’s refusal to militarily defend Ukraine against Russian aggression has sent a chill halfway around the world to Odesa, the Black Sea port only 200 kilometers by warship from Crimea.

          In the April issue of The Atlantic, Obama says: “The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do.”

          This statement sounded like dangerous defeatism to many experts gathered here March 24-25 for the Odesa Security Forum, sponsored by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the Odesa Regional Council, and Ukraine Today.

          “Essentially, President Obama just took Ukraine and threw it under the Russian bus, along with Moldova and Georgia,” said David J. Kramer, a former official in the George W. Bush administration and currently senior director for human rights and democracy at The McCain Institute.

          From Georgia, Gela Bezhuashvili, a former defense and foreign minister, said: “It’s a direct message from Obama: Ukraine is not in my direct interest, seize the momentum.”

          Mikhail Saakashvili, Georgia’s former President and current governor of Odesa Region, shared similar concerns.

          “If Ukraine fails, Georgia can be wiped off the map,” he warned.

          Turkey’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Yönet Can Tezel, said Turkey is committed to increasing security and trade ties with its Black Sea neighbor. Noting reciprocal visits this month by leaders of both nations, he said: “We need a Ukraine able to stand on its own feet, a stable, independent, and democratic Ukraine that follows its own choices.”

          These comments were made before The New York Times published a foreign policy interview with Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate.

          “Why is it that countries that are bordering the Ukraine and near the Ukraine—why is it that they’re not more involved?” Trump asked, saying that Washington is stuck doing the heavy lifting to defend Ukraine. Asked in a follow-up question if he agreed with Obama’s contention that history and geography dictate that Russia will have greater influence over Ukraine than the West, Trump responded, “I would agree.”

          On March 29, it became public that Trump has hired Republican strategist Paul J. Manafort to lead his delegate-corralling effort at the Republican National Convention. Previously, Manafort worked as a senior adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President driven from power by the Revolution of Dignity in 2014.

          Another Trump adviser is retired US Army Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn. An advocate of closer ties with the Kremlin, Flynn stepped down eighteen months ago as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Last December, Flynn attended a small dinner in Moscow marking the tenth anniversary of RT, Russia’s multilingual overseas television arm that many experts consider sophisticated propaganda. The keynote speaker was Russian President Vladimir Putin.

          In Odesa, the conference was held five kilometers from a government building that was the scene of a major clash on May 2, 2014, between Novorossiya separatists and Ukrainian nationalists. That confrontation left forty-six dead, two hundred injured, and extinguished the separatist movement here—for now.

          Since then, Putin’s surprise military moves—the sudden dispatch and then abrupt removal of half of Russia’s fighter jets from Syria—had left many here wary of the Russian leader’s next moves.

          Several attendees found the American President’s comments unsettling coming at the start of the lame-duck phase of the presidency. Europe increasingly is distracted by terrorism and is divided by massive immigration from Syria and North Africa.

          One Lithuanian participant worried about the vulnerability of the Suwalki Gap, the 103-kilometer Polish-Lithuanian border. This largely flat region constitutes NATO’s only land bridge between Poland and the Baltics. A Russian tank thrust, of the kind seen last year in eastern Ukraine, could link Belarus, Russia’s closest military ally, with Kaliningrad, Russia’s heavily militarized exclave on the Baltic Sea. To complete the isolation of the Baltic nations, Kaliningrad has anti-aircraft missiles that could deny access to a NATO airlift from Poland and Germany.

          One conference participant warned that Europe is “militarily anorexic.” Another called for building the kind of Western military deterrence that kept Moscow at bay during the Cold War. To this end, all eyes were on political trends in Washington.

          The US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt spoke forcefully to counter worries about any weakness of resolve in the White House.

          “The United States government continues to pay great attention to what is happening here in Ukraine,” he said. “We have done so based on the understanding that what happens here in Ukraine will play a critical role in securing what has been a goal of American foreign policy for a quarter century now—that is, a Europe whole, free, and at peace.”

          “Ironically, Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, its invasion of Donbas, and its support of Syria’s Assad have actually moved most of the countries in the region further away from Moscow’s reach,” said Pyatt, who has served here since 2013.

          He picked up a theme that also dominated the conference: Ukraine’s slow moves on reform are weakening Ukraine in front of Russia.

          “Ukraine’s best response to Russian aggression is to continue firmly on its European trajectory, to continue to implement real reforms that fundamentally and irreversibly destroy the corrupt practices of the past,” said Pyatt. The nation’s parliament “must continue to represent the people’s interests and not the parochial interests of individual members or oligarchic clans.”

          For the last month, legislative work has been paralyzed as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tries out various names and various coalition formulas to replace Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Forum participants worried that this paralysis will play into the hands of Russia, which waits in the east. US Presidential Politics Play Poorly in Ukraine

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          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL Anders Åslund March 29, 2016
            Shokin’s Revenge: Ukraine’s Odious Prosecutor General Fires Honest Deputy Before Parliament Sacks Him

            On March 29, the Ukrainian Rada finally approved the resignation of Ukraine's disreputable Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. He was voted out with an overwhelming majority of 289 votes, including 114 of the 134 deputies of the Poroshenko Bloc. On February 16, Shokin was forced to submit his letter of resignation in connection with the failed vote of no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

            The amazing thing is not that he was sacked but that it has taken so long. President Petro Poroshenko appointed Shokin to the role in February 2015. From the outset, he stood out by causing great damage even to Ukraine’s substandard legal system. Most strikingly, Shokin failed to prosecute any single prominent member of the Yanukovych regime. Nor did he prosecute anyone in the current government.

            Shokin skillfully blocked reform. He was in charge of implementing the 2014 law on prosecution, which the European Union had insisted on for years. It aimed to reduce the role of the prosecutors, who were absurdly superior to judges in the Soviet legal system that persisted in post-Soviet Ukraine. The law also involved a reevaluation of all prosecutors with the intention of weeding out corrupt and incompetent prosecutors. Shokin manipulated the process so successfully that the old prosecutors prevailed and minimal renewal occurred.

            For these reasons, Shokin has stood out as the most obvious obstacle to judicial reform. US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt called for his ouster in all but name in a speech last September, and Vice President Joe Biden did so explicitly during his visit to Ukraine last December.

            To an outsider, it seems strange that Shokin was allowed to do so much damage for so long, but he has clearly enjoyed Poroshenko’s full confidence and is even godfather to one of Poroshenko’s children.

            The reason for the delay became clear today. Minutes before his demise, Shokin sacked Deputy Prosecutor General Davit Sakvarelidze, who has actually fought corruption. Vitaliy Kasko, another young deputy prosecutor general, gave up and resigned in mid-February, understanding that the prosecutor general’s office could not be reformed from within. As a consequence, Shokin has cleansed it from young intruders who want to prosecute wrongdoing. First Deputy Prosecutor General Yuriy Sevruk, a reliable old Shokin hand, has become acting prosecutor general.

            The ousters of Sakvarelidze and Kasko are more significant than the long-overdue retirement of the 64-year-old Shokin. These two young prosecutors became famous for arresting the top prosecutor in Kyiv after finding vast amounts of cash, gold, and precious stones in his office. Shokin responded by prosecuting them for this and Kasko just had his assets frozen. Shokin has also instigated a case against a leading anticorruption activist in Kyiv, Vitaliy Shabunin, and the Poroshenko Bloc has expelled two deputies, Mykola Tomenko and Yegor Firsov, from parliament under a controversial law it recently adopted. Their crime was their protests against corruption.

            While few will miss Shokin, his belated ouster is unlikely to help the battle against corruption in Ukraine. Instead, a fight against anticorruption activists has been launched. What a sordid story to say the least. Shokin’s Revenge: Ukraine’s Odious Prosecutor General Fires Honest Deputy Before Parliament Sacks Him
            Anders Åslund is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of “Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It.”

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            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • Europe - Memo From Moscow
              Russia Shows What Happens When Terrorists’ Families Are Targeted
              NY TIMES ANDREW E. KRAMER MARCH 29, 2016

              MOSCOW — Donald J. Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, was widely condemned when he called for the United States to “take out the families” of terrorists.

              His approach — even after he clarified that he was not talking about killing the relatives — was dismissed by many as immoral and unlawful. Yet, it is the very tactic that Russia has pursued for decades.

              It is the signature, though officially unacknowledged, policy behind Moscow’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategies, and Russia’s actions in smashing a Muslim separatist rebellion in the Caucasus provide a laboratory for testing Mr. Trump’s ideas.

              The family ties that bind in terrorist groups came into focus last week after the police in Brussels disclosed that two of the three suicide bombers in the attacks there were brothers, Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui. All told, analysts estimate that a third of the participants in terrorist acts are related to another attacker.

              In the conflict that began in Chechnya and has since metastasized into a loosely organized Islamic rebellion throughout the Caucasus region, Russian security services routinely arrest, torture and kill relatives, rights groups say.

              The Russian approach, enough to make supporters of waterboarding wince, has by some accounts been grimly effective. Abductions of family members unwound the rebel leadership in Chechnya, for example.

              And siblings have a bloody track record here, as elsewhere.

              In 2004, Chechen sisters blew themselves up in an airplane and a subway station a week apart. In 2011, the police say, a teenager and his older sister from Ingushetia, another troubled region, helped build a bomb that their brother exploded in the unguarded arrivals hall of Domodedovo Airport in Moscow, killing himself and 36 other people.

              In the Russian view, the family is the thread that needs to be pulled to unravel the terrorist group.

              “He should understand his relatives will be treated as accomplices,” Kirill V. Kabanov, a member of President Vladimir V. Putin’s human rights council, said of a potential suicide attacker.

              “When a person leaves to become a terrorist, he can kill hundreds of innocents,” he said. “Those are the morals we are talking about. We should understand, the relatives must fight this first. If the relative, before the fact, reported it, he is not guilty. If he did not, he is guilty.”

              By law, Russian security services have no authority to specifically target relatives. But the intelligence forces seldom let a detail like the lack of a legal basis interfere with their activities.

              In Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan, they routinely burn or demolish the houses of people suspected of being insurgents or terrorists. Most strikingly, whole extended families are rounded up in high-profile cases, and are often held until the militant either gives up or is killed.

              Maryam Akmedova, from Kabardino-Balkaria region in the North Caucasus, has seen it firsthand. Distressing though it was, she says she understood when Russian prosecutors accused her eldest son of participating in a terrorist attack, as he had never denied his involvement.

              But her woes hardly stopped there.

              Soon enough, security agents were questioning her younger son, though there was no evidence linking him to the attack his brother was accused of in the city of Nalchik in 2005. Eventually, the younger brother was shot and killed in 2013 by Russian security forces during an attempted arrest under murky circumstances.

              “He had no involvement with anything,” Ms. Akmedova said in a telephone interview. “They killed him because his brother was in prison.”

              The most sweeping application of the tactic came during the pacification of Chechnya, after Mr. Putin engineered the recapture of the separatist territory early in his tenure.

              Relatives were used as “hooks” to lure in militants. If the militant did not switch sides, the family member disappeared. Chechnya had about 3,000 to 5,000 unresolved disappearances from 2000 to 2005 or so. The policy, executed by the Chechen leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the scion of a prominent Chechen family that itself switched sides, broke the organized resistance.

              The Russian security services have also manipulated relatives for various ends, such as to inadvertently pass poisoned food to suspected militants on the run.

              The practice, not surprisingly, has spawned dozens of cases in the European Court of Human Rights and widespread criticism of tactics that, while seemingly effective in the short term, have deeply alienated extended families whose members bear grudges to this day.

              “There is systematic abuse of the family members of insurgents,” Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, and an expert on the Caucasus, said in a telephone interview.

              “There can be short-term results, but I wouldn’t call it success,” she said. “You can prevent some episodes of violence at the moment, but you are radicalizing whole communities.”

              “When innocent Muslims are targeted for the expediency of security services, this legitimizes the jihadist cause,” she said.

              Ms. Akmedova explained how the sense of injustice and outrage develops. After her younger son was killed in 2013, she said, the police came by and told her and her son’s widow that the grandchildren, despite being in kindergarten and elementary school, would be put on watch lists.

              “The children go to kindergarten,” Ms. Akmedova, 63, a retired drugstore clerk, said. “They are no different from any other children.”

              In perhaps the highest-profile operation, Russian security services detained in 2004 several dozen members of the extended family of the Chechen rebel defense minister, Magomed Khambiyev, including the wives of his brothers. Aslanbek Khambiyev, a 19-year-old cousin with no known ties, other than familial, was abducted from a university, beaten semiconscious and shoved from a car in the rebel leader’s home village.

              “Yes, they detained my relatives,” Magomed Khambiyev told the Kommersant newspaper after he surrendered to save their lives. “But they were guilty. Do you understand? Because they were my relatives.”

              “If I’m a bandit, then they’re bandits, too,” he explained.
              It's no wonder that one can frequently hear Russian spoken among some ISIS members.

              æ, !

              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • REUTERS MOSCOW Mar 29, 2016 11:43am EDT
                Putin: Russian arms exports hit $14.5 billion in 2015, more than planned - agencies

                Russia's arms exports totaled $14.5 billion last year, more than originally planned, Russian news agencies quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying on Tuesday.

                The total portfolio of foreign orders for Russian arms has exceeded $56 billion, Putin told a meeting of the presidential commission on military-technical cooperation, which is a term used in Russia for arms exports.

                He also said that the Defence Ministry had started preparations for demining of Syria's city of Palmyra liberated from Islamic State militants.
                Putin: Russian arms exports hit $14.5 billion in 2015, more than planned - agencies | Reuters
                The Russians already have 25% of the world military weapons market and the recent purchases by India, China, Iran and Syria will just bring that number higher.

                Last edited by Hannia; 29th March 2016, 21:54.

                æ, !

                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Political Stability in the Balance as Ukraine Ousts Top Prosecutor
                  NY TIMES ANDREW E. KRAMER MARCH 29, 2016

                  MOSCOW — Bowing to pressure from international donors, the Ukrainian Parliament voted on Tuesday to remove a prosecutor general who had clung to power for months despite visible signs of corruption.

                  But in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment, veteran observers of Ukrainian politics said that the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, had played an important role in balancing competing political interests, helping maintain stability during a treacherous era in the divided country’s history.

                  The United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite. He was one of several political figures in Kiev whom reformers and Western diplomats saw as a worrying indicator of a return to past corrupt practices, two years after a revolution that was supposed to put a stop to self-dealing by those in power.

                  As the problems festered, Kiev drew increasingly sharp criticism from Western diplomats and leaders. In a visit in December, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said corruption was eating Ukraine “like a cancer.” Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, which props up Ukraine financially, said last month that progress was so slow in fighting corruption that “it’s hard to see how the I.M.F.-supported program can continue.”

                  With this pressure mounting, Parliament on Tuesday voted by a comfortable margin to remove Mr. Shokin.

                  In the final hours before Parliament voted him out, Mr. Shokin had fired his reform-minded deputy prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze, with whom he had been feuding. It was not immediately clear whether that firing would remain in force.

                  With the prosecutor’s office in turmoil throughout Ukraine on Tuesday, one of Mr. Sakvarelidze’s appointees in the Odessa regional office was arrested by military prosecutors, assumed to be loyal to Mr. Shokin.

                  Foreign donors had complained about rot in the prosecutor’s office, not least because much of the money suspected of being stolen was theirs.

                  In one high-profile example, known in Ukraine as the case of the “diamond prosecutors,” troves of diamonds, cash and other valuables were found in the homes of two of Mr. Shokin’s subordinates, suggesting that they had been taking bribes.

                  But the case became bogged down, with no reasons given. When a department in Mr. Shokin’s office tried to bring it to trial, the prosecutors were fired or resigned. The perpetrators seemed destined to get off with claims that the stones were not worth very much.

                  For many Ukrainians, the case encapsulated a failure to follow through on the sweeping promises made during the heady days of the revolution to root out corruption and establish a modern, transparent state. Instead, there has seemed to be a return to business-as-usual horse-trading and compromise among the tightly knit Ukrainian oligarchic and business elite.

                  Since his appointment a year ago, Mr. Shokin had been criticized for not prosecuting officials, businessmen and members of Parliament for their roles in corrupt schemes during the government of former President Viktor F. Yanukovych. He also did not press cases for sniping by the police and opposition activists during the street protests in 2014 that killed more than 100 people and wounded about 1,000.

                  To a certain extent, analysts say, accommodations of this sort are necessary if the government is to get anything done in Parliament, because supporters of the Yanukovych government remain a political force in Ukraine, coalesced around the Opposition Bloc party. It represents Russian-speaking southeastern areas of Ukraine and the former elite, whose support in Parliament President Petro O. Poroshenko needs to push through reforms and to try to implement a peace accord with Russia.

                  “There are prices the new political establishment has to pay,” Tymofiy Mylovanov, the president of the Kiev School of Economics, said in an interview. “How do they pay? They guarantee some security for their opponents’ business interests.”

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                  Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                  • Fighting Corruption in Ukraine or Those Who Fight It?
                    30.03.16 | Halya Coynash HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

                    Left to right: David Sakvarelidze, Vitaly Kasko

                    Relief that Viktor Shokin has finally been removed from his post as Prosecutor General was tempered on Tuesday by a final blow against the reform camp through the dismissal of David Sakvarelidze and criminal charges against his former colleague Vitaly Kasko, with concern mounting that Shokin’s successor may only differ in passport details

                    The crucial and long-overdue vote in parliament came just hours after Shokin dismissed Sakvarelidze, the last remaining reform-minded Deputy Prosecutor General. And a day after fellow reformer Vitaly Kasko’s flat in Kyiv was frozen as part of criminal proceedings initiated just before Kasko resigned from his analogous post in February. It was also announced on Tuesday that one of the prosecutors whom Sakvarelidze appointed in Odesa, Aleksandr Modebadze had been arrested and charged over alleged bribe-taking.

                    President Petro Poroshenko was reported to have specially asked for a meeting with Sakvarelidze and told him that the dismissal had not been agreed in advance with him. Sakvarelidze himself says that Poroshenko had just a few days ago asked him if he would like to resign, making it difficult to believe that the President was unaware of Shokin’s plans.

                    Sakvarelidze has played a major role in corruption cases, including that of the so-called ‘diamond prosecutors’, Volodymyr Shapakin and Shokin’s friend Oleksandr Korniyets. He has come into conflict both with Shokin, and with Yury Sevruk, current acting Prosecutor General and Yury Stolyarchuk, another deputy. Both men are seen as close to Shokin, and both are being discussed as likely candidates for the main post.

                    Vitaly Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre [AntAC] which has frequently criticized both Sevruk and Stolyarchuk, believes that President Petro Poroshenko is currently considering two options. One would be to leave Sevruk as indefinitely acting Prosecutor General. The other would be to make Stolyarchuk the head, and Sevruk his first deputy. That, he says, would be “a reincarnation of Shokin with other faces”.

                    As reported, the Prosecutor General’s Office last week obtained two court orders allowing them to remove documents and other items from AntAC, and to demand access to confidential information from the NGO’s bank. The claim was that this was part of an investigation into the disappearance of money given by the USA for reform of the prosecutor’s office. Shabunin condemned the move as overt pressure on the NGO which had never had any contact with that money, as Shokin knew very well. They had, however strongly criticised the work of both Sevruk and Stolyarchuk.

                    It was Vladislav Kutsenko from the PGO who first reported the investigation into the missing funds which for some reason targeted an anti-corruption NGO, though the claim to fame here lies with Stolyarchuk who told Ukrainska Pravda that he could not exclude the possibility that the US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt would be summoned for questioning.

                    Kutsenko was not to be outshone. On Tuesday he announced that Modebadze had been detained, allegedly while receiving a bribe. Just to raise public confidence that this had nothing to do with Sakvarelidze’s dismissal, Kutsenko added that “this is the daily work of the prosecutor’s office, the military prosecutor, the Prosecutor General’s Office. And it’s not one “diamond prosecutors” came which is all unfortunately that David can boast of talking about how he’s working for new Ukraine”.

                    The order dismissing Sakvarelidze speaks of “flagrant infringement of prosecutor ethics” which was presumably linked with his involvement in a protest outside the Prosecutor General’s Office and had supposedly breached ethical principles.

                    It also mentions several collective MPs’ appeals and a court suit brought by an MP. It does not mention another suit brought by Korniyets, one of the two ‘diamond prosecutors’.

                    It is their prosecution which Sakvarelidze has repeatedly alleged was being blocked. One letter from Odesa MPs has been reported. The signatories include Serhiy Kivalov, who played an active role in the worst judicial distortions under Viktor Yanukovych and others who, according to MP and investigative journalist Serhiy Leschchenko, should themselves “be Prosecutor General’s Office clients”.

                    Vitaly Kasko
                    A criminal investigation against Kasko was initiated on Feb 12, 2016, three days before Kasko resigned from his post as Deputy Prosecutor General saying that he did not wish to be part of a body where “total lawlessness is tolerated”. Under the present leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office, he added, he saw no possibility, of creating a European-style prosecutor’s office able and willing to effectively investigate corruption and other cases.

                    Kasko had also not concealed his frustration at the sabotage of efforts to reform the prosecutor’s office. In November last year he 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.”

                    Kasko was viewed, like Sakvarelidze, as a key reformer and his resignation was widely regretted and only fuelled calls for Shokin’s removal.

                    On March 28, a flat in Kyiv which is the subject of the criminal investigation was frozen. Kasko writes that he learned of this from the media and he directly accuses Shokin of carrying out a reprisal attack on him. Perhaps coincidentally, the court order was issued on exactly the same day and by the same Pechersk Court as those allowing the search and removal of material from the Anti-Corruption Action Centre.

                    The watchdog Nashi Hroshi [Our Money] has outlined the property relations in question here. It also points to the counter-accusations of corruption made by Kasko.

                    In a blog on Tuesday, Kasko rejects the charges and points out that he underwent a lustration check in 2015 which included a check on whether property had been lawfully obtained. This, he says, was signed by Shokin who has now personally dealt with the writ on the flat. Kasko names a whole range of actions linked to this which he says shows that this is an act of revenge.

                    It is not our place to judge the merits of any charges. It is, however, true that both Kasko and Sakvarelidze were widely seen as promoting vitally needed reforms in the prosecutor’s office and were constantly under fire for this. Civic activists have called for public discussion of the choice for a new Prosecutor General. They fear, and with reason, that without open competition, the fourth prosecutor general since EuroMaidan will prove as unwilling to reform and as meagre on any progress as his or her predecessors. Fighting Corruption in Ukraine or Those Who Fight It? ::

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                    • Another separatist official dismissed as the power struggle in the so-called LPR continues
                      UA WIRE March 30, 2016 1:16:00 AM

                      Last week, members of the People’s Council of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic voted to dismiss Chairman Aleksey Kariakin, who was also one of the leaders of the “Army of the South-East”, which was instrumental in seizing parts of the Luhansk region in the beginning of the war, Radio Svoboda reported. Kariakin’s removal is the latest in a series of forced resignations of commanders of so-called LPR forces, the majority of whom were involved in the early battles of the war.

                      Moreover, some individuals in leadership positions of the self-proclaimed republic who were critical of the leader of the so-called LPR, Igor Plotnitsky, have been found dead under mysterious circumstances.

                      In May of last year, for example, the leader of the “Prizrak” battalion, Aleksey Mozgovoy, was killed by a car bomb. Several days before his death, Mozgovoy accused the Plotnitsky regime of corruption and contributing to the rising crime rate in the region.

                      “I don’t see the Government doing anything to make the Republic ‘transparent’, or doing anything for the people, that is why crime is returning, and taking its usual place, as in the past,” the former battalion leader stated before his death.

                      The authorities of the so-called LPR blamed Kiev for Mozgovoy’s death. “Indeed, he was the leader, many people respected and supported him, although it was consistent with our common understanding that it [the murder] was profitable for Ukraine only,” Plotnitsky stated.

                      Similarly, the leader of a Cossack regiment, Pavel Dremov, was killed by a car bomb in the fall of last year. Like Mozgovoy, Dremov openly criticized the leadership of the breakaway region.

                      “Mr. Plotnitsky steals coal every day. There is relevant documentation. How long will Plotnitsky keep ripping us off?” Dremov asked before his death.

                      Some analysts believe that the head of the so-called LPR is afraid of what’s known as the ”first wave”- commanders who were involved in the early operations in the spring of 2014- and considers them a threat to his position.

                      “Plotnitsky is afraid of commanders of the so-called ‘first wave’, since they enjoy authority among separatists,” Realnaya Gazeta journalist Alexander Belokobylsky wrote.

                      “In my opinion, the top leadership of the ‘LPR’ is trying to remove opponents. The vertical authority headed by Igor Plotnitsky is being strengthened. The power struggle is in its final stages, there are almost no opponents,” wrote the journalist, who has monitored the political situation in the so-called LPR since the beginning of the war

                      Recently, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) started criminal proceedings against Plotnitsky in absentia. He is charged with several crimes, including illegal imprisonment and kidnapping, the illegal movement of people across borders, and inciting the public to commit terrorist acts. UA Wire - Another separatist official dismissed as the power struggle in the so-called LPR continues

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                      • Bild: Putin's shadow government for Donbas exposed
                        KYIV POST Mar. 30, 2016 09:06

                        (Von Julian Röpcke) has obtained a document containing the true plans by Russia for the occupied territory of the Donbass

                        The records of the "Inter-ministerial Commission for the Provision of Humanitarian Aid for the affected Areas in the Southeast of the Regions of Donetsk and Luhansk" from 23rd October 2015 reveal what observers have long feared: The Russian government is steering all affairs of the "separatist areas" in the east of Ukraine.
                        Russian ministries are responsible for Ukrainian politics
                        In this regard, the concrete plans extend far beyond "humanitarian issues". In six working groups, the subject areas of "Finance and tax law", "Defining wage policies as well as residential and public service matters", "Restoration of industry", "Trade with energy sources", "Establishment of a market for electricity" and "Transportation infrastructure" are being planned down to the last detail. The regions are consequently being treated as parts of Russia's sovereign territory.

                        Experts to whom BILD showed the document saw practically no difference from commission records concerning the Russian state itself. Deputy leaders of five ministries of the Russian Federation head the relevant cross-departmental working groups; the secret service "FSB" has supervision over each working group.

                        Even four members of the Russian homeland (!) secret service "FSB" are named. Only the Commission Chairman and the Liaison Officer to the Government of Russia are above them in terms of hierarchy.

                        Numerous other Russian authorities, such as the Federal Customs Office and the Anti-Monopoly Service attend the regular sessions of the Commission in the Russian Duma.


                        Explosive: As the sole Ukrainian, a representative of the Ukrainian energy giant "DTEK" owned by the oligarch Rinat Achmetov was present at the meeting in October last year, according to the record.

                        In contrast, absolutely no member of the so-called separatist governments of Luhansk and Donetsk was present at the session, the puppet politicians were only informed about the results of the meeting. Common practice, as was confirmed to BILD from expert circles.

                        Concrete tasks of the Russian ministries are for example the "an assessment of the effectiveness of the collection of taxes and dues by the tax authorities of the (Ukrainian) territories and the development of proposals for the improvement of their function and strengthening of the budget discipline".

                        Another working group deals as an example with the "development of proposals for a further support of the restoration and maintenance of the public transport system in the territories for 2016". This includes the delivery of spare parts for "busses, trams and trains" as well as "proposals for the optimization of the transport logistic".

                        In conclusion, the five involved Russian ministries address their respective genuine tasks with the remarkable anomaly of controlling the fate of Russian-ruled areas in eastern Ukraine.

                        The leading figures of the shadow government
                        The commission, which an insider referred to as "shadow government of the Donbass" while talking to BILD, is chaired by the Russian politician Sergey Nazarov. Nazarov began his political career in the Rostov region, which neighbours Ukraine. He was active there in various functions in the coal business before he was summoned to Moscow.

                        The Deputy Minister for Economic Development of the Russian Federation reports the results of the meeting directly to Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and close friend of Vladimir Putin.

                        Officially, Kozak and Nazarov work together within the framework of the "Commission for the Socio-economic Development of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol". This commission met, amongst other dates, on the 15th October 2015, only a few days before the secret session of the Donbass Commission.

                        The Deputy Commission Head of the Donbass Commission is Leonid Gornin, also Deputy Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation. Gornin has continually championed the fiscal consolidation of Russia in recent years, but spoke out, amongst other things, against a financial reallocation in favour of the annexed Crimean Peninsula. With him, it appears, as cost-effective as possible a governance of the occupied Donbass is to be realised.

                        Ensuring the authenticity of the Russian paper
                        To not endanger the source of the secret paper, BILD will not publish the document itself. However, BILD was allowed to see the original document and owns a digital copy, which it provided to several experts for verification.

                        BILD checked the authenticity with the help of numerous sources and informants. Ukrainian oligarchs, who had fled to Russia in 2014 with the pro-Russian ruler Viktor Yanukovych, indicated they knew about the objectives of the Duma Commission. They too were asked for money to implement the plans.


                        BILD also showed the document to high-ranking government representatives of the Russian Federation, Russian journalists and secret services of several countries. The unanimous assessment of all experts: The paper in the hands of BILD is genuine.

                        The commission's work is already bearing fruit.

                        The Donbass Commission, or de facto government of the Russian-occupied areas in eastern Ukraine, was established in December 2014. Officially: on account of "the urgent need and critical humanitarian situation" in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.Yet directly after its foundation, the Commission disappeared from the scene, officially never meeting again.


                        As BILD has found out, regular meetings of the Commission were actually held at intervals of two to four weeks. But nothing was known about their content - until now.

                        Just five months after the commission was founded, the entire occupied areas began to be supplied with Russian roubles, as BILD reported exclusively in January 2016. It is to be assumed that this measure came about as a direct result of the commission's work. The plans now unveiled extend far beyond maintaining financial support for the so-called Peoples' Republics.

                        Evidently, the Russian government has assumed control over all areas of state responsibility for the Ukrainian regions – and this without Ukrainian involvement, not even the separatists! This not only determines the present destinies of the regions with roughly three million inhabitants. The long-term planning for the future of the territory is also pressing ahead.

                        Intelligence agency sources have confirmed to BILD that it actually appears as though Moscow is completely controlling the Ukrainian region. The still contested part of the Donbass appears "like a satellite state of Russia", is how experts interpreted the situation.

                        The commission is taking the Minsk Agreement to the absurd
                        Put simply, this means that Moscow is only promoting the implementation of the Minsk Agreement as a show for the West. Behind the curtains, a separate plan for the controlled areas in the Donbass has been put into effect since the end of 2014 (only three months after signing the peace plan Minsk).

                        Rather than envisaging a reintegration of the regions in the Ukraine over the medium term, this plan aims to secure its long-term existence under complete Russian control. The aims of the commission coincide with the events observed locally, which BILD brought to light in January 2016, but extend far beyond this.


                        Russia is planning a permanent stabilisation of the political, social and economic situation in the Donbass under its control. That will make the Donbass a puppet state of the Russian Federation, whose future is set to be decided exclusively in Moscow. This is confirmation of the failure of the Minsk Agreement, adherence to which by Russia is merely pretence.

                        Furthermore, the west's demand that Ukraine should enable democratic elections in the areas not under its control is taken to the absurd by the revelation. The political figures up for elections in such vote would not be the ones in charge for the development of the area. Those that hold on to power are located in Moscow. BILD exclusive | Secret document exposes Putin's shadow government for Donbass - Politik Ausland -

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                        • 09:28 30.03.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                          Bribe-taking judge opens fire, escapes arrest in Ukraine

                          Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) Artem Sytnyk has told President Petro Poroshenko about a failed attempt by NABU detectives to catch a judge who took a bribe and opened fire amid detention, the Ukrainian president's press secretary Sviatoslav Tseholko said.

                          "The NABU director told the president about a special operation to apprehend a judge who received a UAH500,000 bribe. The judge opened fire from a firearm and, using his immunity, fled," Tseholko wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

                          Poroshenko has already instructed the Security Service of Ukraine to take all measures to apprehend the judge.

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                          • 16:32 30.03.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                            Israel slaps full economic blockade on Crimea – expert

                            Israel does not recommend doing business in occupied Crimea, notwithstanding the fact that Israel is not trying stir up the war issue, this is actually a full blockade from point of Israeli business' view, the expert in Ukrainian-Israeli relations and Israeli editor-in-chief of the Forum Daily newspaper (the United States), Shimon Briman, has said.

                            "In the general, the official position of Israel is neutral, but it mainly aims at developing Ukraine in practice," he said at a press conference in Kyiv on Tuesday.

                            He said that Israel has not recognized the annexation of Crimea, but Tel-Aviv said that this is not their conflict. Israel is trying to have friendly relations both with Ukraine and Russia. Israel's suspension of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) supplies to Russia and the non-delivery of UAVs to Ukraine is evidence of this.

                            Israel closed the Honorary Consulate in Crimea as soon as their consul backed the occupation. The country opened the Honorary Consulate in Lviv instead.

                            "This was a particular signal for Moscow," Briman said.

                            Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Eliav Belotserkovsky warned Israeli businessmen that Israel does not recommend doing business in occupied Crimea and large Israeli insurance companies stopped insuring deals in the peninsula.

                            The country provides all kinds of assistance to Ukraine. Medical assistance, medical officer and army psychologist training programs are being implemented.

                            A large program to introduce Israeli reclamation and irrigation solutions in the southern regions of Ukraine (Kherson, Mykolaiv and Zaporizhia region) has been started: 35,000 Ukrainian farmers will have access to advanced Israeli solutions with support of the Canadian government.

                            "This is directly linked to Crimea. It will show that recognized Ukrainian territories are developing, while the occupied territories remain a mess," the journalist said.

                            A movement to support Ukraine has also appeared in Israel - Israeli Friends of Ukraine collected tonnes of food, medicines and other assistance to Ukraine.

                            "I saw how girls in Tel-Aviv sewed camouflage screens for the Ukrainian military," he said.

                            A large scandal in Israel erupted over the visit of Knesset member Yakov Margi to Crimea. The Knesset speaker finally apologized for this trip. Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office opened a criminal case against Margi. Israel slaps full economic blockade on Crimea – expert

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                            • 09:55 30.03.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                              Ukraine to create National electronic library – strategy

                              Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers has approved a Strategy for Librarianship Development until 2025.

                              The plan foresees a set up of Ukraine's National Electronic Library, full computerization of Ukrainian libraries with Internet access.

                              The Cabinet endorsed the Strategy by its order No 219-r dated March 23, 2016, and published it on the governmental website.

                              As of today, only 3,300 Ukraine's public libraries have access to the Internet, which accounts for 21% of all the public libraries in Ukraine, the Strategy reads. There is on overage only one computer per public library.

                              Overall, there are around 40,000 libraries of state and municipal ownership in Ukraine, while every third Ukrainian uses them, the document said.

                              The Strategy stipulates that it should be implemented by state authorities; local self-governments; librarian, educational, scientific and cultural institutions, as well as public organizations.

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                              • 11:09 30.03.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                                New chief prosecutor will be consulted about Sakvarelidze's reinstatement

                                Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will talk with the new prosecutor general about the return of recently dismissed Deputy Prosecutor General and Odesa Region Prosecutor Davit Sakvarelidze and his team. Sakvarelidze made the announcement in an interview with the Novoye Vremia weekly.

                                "The president has said he will talk with the new prosecutor general, and he will discuss our reinstatement," he said.

                                As was reported earlier, Sakvarelidze was dismissed in the morning of March 29 in connection with disciplinary liability. His position was scrapped.

                                Later on that day, the parliament voted to dismiss Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Some 289 MPs voted in favor of the measure.

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