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  • The Power Vertical Brian Whitmore
    The Morning Vertical, April 1, 2016
    ON MY MIND

    So another report has come out about corruption in Vladimir Putin's inner circle. Truth told, they're all beginning to blur into each other. It's almost become a ritual. The "shocking" report. The attention-grabbing headlines. (The Property Manager And Putin's Friends.) The Kremlin's denunciation of an information war by the West. And then? Nothing.

    The corruption of this regime has been well documented -- in Russia and in the West and in ways big and small -- for years. But allegations that would bring down any Western government, and even some non-Western governments, just doesn't ever seem to resonate with the Russian public.

    Part of this is cynicism. Corruption is part of the fabric of Russian politics and most people just accept this. Part of it is propaganda. The Kremlin has successfully dismissed these reports as foreign attacks on Russia. And part of it is nihilism. There is a belief among Russians, encouraged by the regime's spin masters, that every government is corrupt and theirs is no different.

    But with the economy deteriorating, you have to wonder when people will begin to get angry at the kleptocracy that governs them. Or if they ever will.

    IN THE NEWS
    The Russian Embassy in London has expressed "surprise" over British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond's remarks this week that Russia is a threat to the world.

    A Russian journalist has been found dead of stab wounds in St. Petersburg.

    Moscow has promised an "asymmetric response" to NATO's military buildup in Eastern Europe.

    Russian and Serbian foreign ministers meet in Moscow.

    Russia's Supreme Court is holding a hearing on a challenge to a European Court ruling.

    The Security Council is considering a proposal to make the Federal Migration Service and the Federal Antinarcotics Service part of the Interior Ministry.

    WHAT I'M READING
    Wow! The Truth On Russian Television

    I did today's Daily Vertical on liberal politician Leonid Gozman's remarkable comments on Russian television in which he said Russia was responsible for a war in eastern Ukraine that has killed thousands of people and that as a citizen of the Russian Federation, he bears responsibility for this.

    Before being shouted down by guests, Gozman also called on Vladimir Putin to release Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko and appealed to Ukrainians, saying that all Russians do not support the "barbarism and cruelty" that Moscow has unleashed on their country.

    You can watch the whole exchange here.

    News Flash! Putin Is Corrupt
    So now we know what Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was probably talking about when he said the Western media is preparing an "information attack" on Vladimir Putin and his cronies.

    Separate reports by Reuters and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) look at the activities of Grigory Baevsky, a 47-year-old business associate of Putin's judo partner Arkady Rotenberg.

    "Baevsky not only helped Putin handle some of his most delicate personal situations but also made a fortune from questionable deals with the Russian state," according to the OCCRP report.

    And Reuters noted that he "provided properties to multiple women who share one common theme: President Vladimir Putin."

    Nuclear Insecurity
    Vladimir Putin's absence from this week's nuclear summit in Washington is raising eyebrows.

    John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, has a piece in The National Interest titled How Russia Undermines Nuclear Security.

    And Foreign Policy has a report on: U.S.-Russia Tensions Jeopardize Effort to Lock Down Loose Nukes.

    New Charges For Ukraine Library Director
    New charges have been filed against the director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow that could land her a five-year prison sentence. Natalya Sharina initially faced charges of "extremism" and "incitement." But those charges have been dropped and she is now being charged with misappropriating 1.4 million rubles of state funds.

    The new charges were first reported by LifeNews, which is widely reputed to have ties to the security services.

    Beware Of April Fools
    The funny thing about April Fools' jokes in the Russian media is that, lately, it's difficult to tell if they are true or not. Case in point: This "report" in Gazeta.ru about how Moscow is exploring the legal possibilities of reclaiming Alaska from the United States. They actually had me for a few seconds -- which is a sign of the times.
    The Morning Vertical, April 1, 2016

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    • RADIO FREE EURIOE April 01, 2016
      White House Promises Ukraine $335 Million In 'Security Assistance'

      The White House announced that it will provide Ukraine with $335 million more in "security assistance" after a meeting on March 31 between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

      The aid is badly needed as Ukraine has faced an acute economic crisis since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and fomented a separatist revolt in Ukraine's east.

      While Washington supports Ukraine's pro-Western government, it has been concerned about corruption in Kyiv. Those concerns were addressed in part earlier this week when Ukraine's parliament sacked the country's chief prosecutor, who allegedly was stalling high-profile corruption investigations.

      The White House said Biden told Poroshenko that more aid will come if he keeps up efforts to install a new reform-minded government.

      An attempt earlier this week to form a new governing coalition failed after one faction raised demands that would have rolled back some reforms sought by the West.

      "The vice president welcomed the efforts...to form a stable, reform-oriented government, and stressed that this step, as well as the enactment of needed reforms, are critical to unlocking international economic assistance, including the third $1 billion U.S. loan guarantee," the White House said.
      White House Promises Ukraine $335 Million In 'Security Assistance'
      Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

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      • Gen. Breedlove: NATO switches to deterrence policy in Eastern Europe
        01.04.2016 | 09:20 UNIAN

        The United States and NATO are switching their defense policy from assurance to deterrence in Eastern Europe, according to commander of U.S. European Command Gen. Philip Breedlove who spoke in the Latvian capital Riga Thursday, Defense News reports.

        Breedlove commented this way on Pentagon’s intentions to deploy an additional 4,200-strong armored brigade in Eastern Europe in 2017 in a response to Russia’s foreign policy in the region, according to Defense News.

        “To the east and north we face a resurgent and aggressive Russia, and as we have continued to witness these last two years, Russia continues to seek to extend its influence on its periphery and beyond.”

        “We are prepared to fight and win if we have to ... our focus will expand from assurance to deterrence, including measures that vastly improve our overall readiness,” Breedlove said following talks with Baltic region NATO commanders.

        Russia has repeatedly warned against the permanent positioning of substantial forces from NATO along its border.

        And some NATO members, like Germany, have been skeptical about any substantial permanent deployment, saying it could breach a 1997 agreement between the military alliance and Russia.

        But the new U.S. deployment avoids the issue because it is not technically permanently stationed in Eastern Europe, with brigades rotating in and out, U.S. officials say.

        Gen. Breedlove: NATO switches to deterrence policy in Eastern Europe : UNIAN news

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        • Russians plan provocations against ATO forces, civilians Apr 4-9: Ukraine intel
          01.04.2016 | 17:55 UNIAN

          From April 4 to April 9, the command of the 2nd Army Corps of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are planning provocative attacks on the Ukrainian army leading positions and civilians in the settlements close to the demarcation zone under the guise of military drills, according to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

          "The plan is to carry out armed provocations against the Armed Forces of Ukraine in order to accuse the Ukrainian side of violating the Minsk agreements and the international humanitarian law. The provocations will be led by Commander of the 2nd Army Corps Armed Forces, Major-General Yevgeny Nikiforov," the report says.

          According to the collected intelligence, in order to divert the attention of the OSCE monitors, the occupation forces are planning to conduct simulation of military drills of the 2nd separate motorized rifle brigade (Luhansk) with the participation of the commander and mediators from among the commanders of units and formations near the villages of Shymshynivka and Uspenka.
          Russians plan provocations against ATO forces, civilians Apr 4-9: Ukraine intel : UNIAN news

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          • 16:57 01.04.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
            Yatseniuk's revenues in 2015 up to UAH 2 mln from UAH 1.1 mln in 2014

            Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatseniuk has declared UAH 1.966 million of gross income for 2015, whereas in 2014 his total revenues amounted to UAH 1.147 million.

            According to the premier's declaration posted on the government's website, his wage totaled UAH 81,700, interest on bank deposits UAH 1.2 million, income from property lease UAH 600,000, as well as other income UAH 44,200.

            The total income of premier's spouse Terezia Yatseniuk for 2015 amounted to UAH 1.134 million, including UAH 802,400 of business income and UAH 331,600 in interest on bank deposits.

            The declaration also indicated military bonds in the amount of UAH 100,200, which the prime minister acquired in 2014.

            The property of Yatseniuk includes a land plot of 3,031 square meters, a house and a garage with a total area of 343.5 square meters, three apartments with a total area of 342 square meters (two apartments in Kyiv and part of an apartment in Chernivtsi), a garden house of 114.5 square meters, a parking place of 13.4 square meters in Kyiv. The premier owns a 2010 model of Mercedes S, his wife a Range Rover of a 2012 model. As follows from the declarations, the Yatseniuk family did not acquire any new property or cars in 2015.
            Yatseniuk's revenues in 2015 up to UAH 2 mln from UAH 1.1 mln in 2014

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            • 09:44 01.04.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
              Obama confirms readiness to extend $1 bln tranche after Ukrainian govt formed

              Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., gave special attention to the need to establish Ukraine's reform-oriented coalition and government.

              "President Obama confirmed the readiness to extend the third tranche of loan guarantees in the amount of $1 billion upon completion of the process to form a government in Ukraine," the Ukrainian leader's press service reported on Friday.

              The two presidents also discussed the situation in Donbas and coordinated their efforts to secure the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, the press service said.

              Among other topics, Poroshenko and Obama spoke about ways to further promote the strategic partnership between Ukraine and the United States, it said.

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              • 15:01 01.04.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                Kharkiv Frunze Plant enters Austrian market

                Frunze Plant (Kharkiv), the leading Ukrainian manufacturer of fencing systems, first entered the Austrian market after shipping a batch of punched screens for Austria's Fa Biokorn.

                The company said in a press release on Friday that the punched screens are of innovative design made jointly with Kharkiv National Technical University of Agriculture.

                The screens are made for screening buckwheat. The holes are epicycloidal instead of triangular. The solution helps increasing screening efficiency by 40%.

                The press service said that Frunze Plant is the world's only producer of these punched screens.

                Fa Biokorn bought a test batch and the contract could be signed after the tests.

                Frunze Plant, founded in 1885, produces screens for agriculture machinery, flooring grills, netting and fencing systems for the construction industry, elements of urban environment (waste baskets, benches), storage racks and others.

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                • The Netherlands and Ukraine - Dissociative disorder
                  A Dutch referendum threatens an EU trade deal with Ukraine
                  Apr 2nd 2016 THE ECONOMIST



                  UKRAINE’S efforts to reach an association agreement with the European Union have led to revolution, poisoned relations with Russia and caused war with Russian-backed separatists. After years of negotiations, Ukrainian and EU leaders at last signed the agreement in Kiev in March 2014, just after the Maidan revolution. But the deal may yet founder in a surprising place: the Netherlands. Dutch Eurosceptics have forced a plebiscite on whether to ratify it. The EU’s other 27 states have already done so; the Netherlands is the lone holdout, and most polls show that on April 6th “no” will probably win.

                  The referendum is not binding, but the Dutch government will have to respond to the outcome. Rejection would hobble European diplomacy and suggest that the EU is too fractured to maintain a common foreign policy in the face of Russian interference in Ukraine. And it would send a signal to Ukrainians that however much they want to be part of Europe, many Europeans want no part of them.

                  The campaign to block the association agreement began last summer when GeenPeil, a Eurosceptic social-media group, selected the issue as a test of the referendum law, which came into force on July 1st. It quickly gathered 470,000 online signatures, far more than the 300,000 needed to force a vote. Since the referendum was announced, it has transformed into an active campaign group, using volunteers to ensure that turnout reaches the 30% needed for the result to be valid.

                  Opponents of the Ukraine agreement regard it as forcing them into an alliance with a corrupt country requiring billions of euros in aid. Though it is largely a trade deal and does not allow Ukrainians to work in the EU, many Dutch, ignoring reassurances from the likes of Mark Rutte, the prime minister, regard it as a step towards EU membership and fear losing jobs to low-wage Ukrainians. “There’s a lot of distrust,” says Frank van Dalen, a political consultant who is working with GeenPeil. The referendum is, he says, one of the few ways for Dutch citizens to feel that “at least for once we have some control”.

                  The opposition is all the more remarkable, given that the Netherlands has suffered more than anywhere else in the EU from the Russian-backed war of secession in Donbas. In 2014, 193 Dutch passengers were killed when flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, most likely by Russian-backed rebels. A furious Dutch public firmly supported EU sanctions against Russia in response. But the referendum campaign has become a forum for those who mistrust the official Dutch government inquiry into MH17, or who subscribe to conspiracy theories about the crash’s cause.

                  Others say the association agreement itself caused the Ukrainian conflict, and hold the EU to blame. “It’s a very bad scheme that we’re imposing on a country where we’ve either bought or brought oligarchs into our camp by false promises,” says Thierry Baudet, a prominent Eurosceptic. In his telling, Ukraine remains divided between pro-Russian and pro-European regions, and it was the West’s promises of EU membership that led to the violence. Trade with the EU, he argues, cannot make up for the loss of economic ties with Russia, which in any case is open to a three-way deal; the idea that Ukraine must choose between Russian or EU spheres is “a spin that Eurocrats have been imposing on us, reinforced by the Americans”.

                  In fact it was Russia that ejected Ukraine from its customs union, annexed Crimea and supported separatists in Donbas. In recent decades Europe has been as important a market as Russia for Ukraine, and with exports to Russia now collapsing, the turn towards Europe was inevitable. But even though the “no” camp’s claims can be refuted, focus groups convened by supporters of the trade agreement demonstrate that such factual arguments cannot win the referendum. Instead, the “yes” side is concentrating on one message that did show promise: that to block the agreement would be to give Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, just what he wants.

                  “People are driven by emotions when it comes to referendums,” says Michiel van Hulten, a former chair of the Labour Party now heading the “Vote Yes” campaign. “Our main focus in the final ten days is the big choice: do we bow to Putin’s will?” Two polls show the “yes” camp may be gaining ground. But most analysts still expect it to lose. Defeat would be felt far beyond the Netherlands’ borders. Dissociative disorder | The Economist

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                  • Phantom op-eds and Russia’s ‘Secret Thousand-Year Plan’ too daring to publish
                    10:28, 1 April 2016 Meduza

                    On the evening of March 30, an opinion piece written by Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia's Federal Investigative Committee, appeared on the news website Vecherny Chelyabinsk.

                    In the text, Markin discusses the West's information war against Russia, and argued that only unstable people support the Ukrainian soldier Nadiya Savchenko (sentenced last month to 22 years in a Russian prison for aiding in the murder of two journalists), though he allows for her possibly being exchanged for some “good, honest people now confined in Kiev.” He also mentions a “Secret Thousand-Year Plan” to revive Russia.

                    Markin's op-ed concludes with great pathos: “And, again, about the Plan. Only culturally underdeveloped people, like the sheep in Kiev and their zombie pals, could believe that Putin or his ‘cunning plan’ are to blame for everything, everywhere. In fact, we're looking at something else altogether: a Secret Thousand-Year Plan that's otherwise called Russia's Fate.”

                    On Twitter, Markin wrote that Vecherny Chelyabinsk was “the only news outlet brave enough” to publish his text.

                    The next morning, however, Markin's text disappeared. Editors at Vecherny Chelyabinsk said simply, “We removed it and that's that.” Speaking to the liberal television station Dozhd, Markin said, “Well how do you like that. Talk about intrigues! The only publication that would run it, and then they pull it.”

                    As it turn out, the article also disappeared from the Federal Investigative Committee's own website, where it had been republished.

                    And then, as suddenly as everything had vanished, it all reappeared. The text is back up at Vecherny Chelyabinsk and the Investigative Committee republished the article a second time.

                    What the heck happened? Maybe it's all part of Markin's secret thousand-year plan...
                    https://meduza.io/en/lion/2016/04/01...ing-to-publish

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                    • Why are Russian officials so eager to warn the public about ‘information attacks’? Meduza asks a PR specialist to explain
                      12:58, 1 April 2016 MEDUZA Ani Oganesyan

                      In late March, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's official spokesman, warned that an “information attack” by the West against the Kremlin was imminent. Just a few days later, on March 31, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published a report detailing suspicious real estate dealings involving individuals thought to be close to Putin. OCCRP claims that businessman Grigory Baevsky transferred property to relatives of Alina Kabaeva (Putin's rumored long-time paramour), and says Baevsky owns the home where Katerina Tikhonova, Putin's rumored younger daughter, is registered to live. On March 31, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko also warned about an “information attack,” saying German journalists are preparing to release a report next week that claims Russia bribed its way to hosting the 2018 World Cup in soccer. Meduza asked political PR specialist Andrei Sharomov to explain why state officials feel it's necessary to notify the public about “information attacks.”
                      ---------------------------
                      Andrei Sharomov
                      Executive director at Pro-Vision

                      When the president's press secretary warns the public that some event in the public space is being prepared in the next few days, it means that he's acting like a professional and using the tools at his disposal.

                      With Mutko and his announcement, we'll have to see how that case develops. For now, his statements are just evidence that his PR team is trying to get the situation under control.

                      The tactic itself of forecasting shocking events is nothing new. It's been a feature of Russia's communication space since the 1990s. As I recall, Gleb Pavlovsky was one of the first political analysts to use this technique, when he was still working for Boris Yeltsin's team. He was thought to have authored newspaper articles under pseudonyms that announced information attacks before they hit and political changes yet to be unveiled. But, of course, none of this looked as outright as it does today.

                      When we're doing trainings with deputies, businessmen, and politicians, teaching them how to overcome a crisis situation, we talk to them about “preemptive strikes.” Every spin doctor has their own terminology, but when I'm doing a training session, I tell them: if you know you've got some skeleton in the closet, and you know your opponents are going to pull it out during an election, then please launch a ‘preemptive strike’ and offer voters and journalists your own interpretation of the story, before they can offer theirs. If you get your version out first, it lets you manage the negative stories. If you're only reacting to what your opponents and the media are doing, you're always playing catchup with events.”

                      Another similar case is the recent controversy surrounding tennis star Maria Sharapova [who held a press conference admitting that she took the banned drug meldonium]. Personally, I think that was some brilliant PR work. She went right into crisis mode, and she handled the situation.
                      https://meduza.io/en/feature/2016/04...mation-attacks

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                      • Federal transport authority attributes growth in traffic accidents to better roads
                        MEDUZA 07:07, 1 April 2016 TASS

                        The Federal Road Transport Agency says roads with smooth riding surfaces enable drives to break the speed limit more often, which may be leading to an increase in road traffic collisions. The agency is citing a study it conducted using figures for 2015.

                        “Improving the transport and operating condition of federal roads often leads to an increase in accidents in some areas. On a good road, drivers often exceed the speed limit and venture into the oncoming lane. These infractions are among the most frequent causes for road accidents,” the study concludes.

                        At the same time, the transport agency notes that in 2015 the number of highway collisions overall decreased by 11 percent and road fatalities dropped by 15 percent.

                        Studies from Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration report that 40 percent of road collisions in Russia are due to poor quality roads. The academy believes 70 percent of Russia's federal highways are in need of repairs. https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/04/01...o-better-roads
                        ===========================================
                        One can't make this stuff up...

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                        • From Hope to disenchantment (and perhaps back again): Ukraine’s arduous road toward the EU and NATO
                          EUROMAIDAN PRESS Jared Feldschreiber & Anguelina Piskova 2016/04/02

                          Following Yanukovych’s ouster, Ukrainians trusted Petro Poroshenko with their future giving him 54% of the national vote. Two years after the revolution it appears much of the initial faith and enthusiasm have led to a degree of unexpected disenchantment.
                          -------------------------------------
                          “Ukraine will definitely not be able to become a member of the European Union in the next 20 to 25 years, and not of NATO either.” European Commission Chief Jean Claude Juncker, March 3, 2016.

                          In his blistering speech at The Hague, Juncker underscored to Dutch voters that this year’s free-trade agreement between Ukraine and the EU would not represent a first step toward joining the politico-economic union of 28 member states. The European Commissioner’s sentiments likely dashed the hopes for many Maidan protesters who braved the cold winter in Kyiv two winters ago, which led to the subsequent resignation of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president.

                          “Maidan’s our big hope for a better life,” Tetyana Gomon, a wide-eyed 36-year old piano teacher explained at the time of the protests. “And this hope gathered [throngs of] people every day and night… at the Square of Independence for three months in freezing temperatures…” After the violent protests in February 2014 ended, Yanukovych and many other high government officials fled the country.

                          One of the main reasons protesters endured the harsh wintry climate was their indomitable commitment to stand up to Yanukovych’s increasingly authoritarian rule of law, abuse of power and his deliberate methods of centralizing political corruption. Following Yanukovych’s ouster, hopeful Ukrainians who had been gearing for revolutionary change remained enthusiastic all through the presidential elections, which saw Petro Poroshenko receiving 54% of the national vote.

                          Two years later, however, it appears much of the initial faith and enthusiasm for a peaceful revolution and the fruits of democracy have led to a degree of unexpected disenchantment.

                          This level of disappointment has been exhibited largely by a stalemate with the citizens’ standard of living. It remains the same as during the Yanukovych reign, and Ukraine is far from achieving necessary reforms for a true democracy.

                          Corruption has been pervasive in Ukraine “fed by close-knit ties between politicians and oligarchs and a weak justice system,” read a New York Times editorial on Thursday. The Times also cited a speech by Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador who said last September that corruption was as dangerous for Ukraine as was Russian support for a military insurgency in the East. Vice President Joe Biden also recently described rampant corruption in Ukraine as “like a cancer.”

                          Maksim Belousov, a Maidan protester and photojournalist, told us that his compatriots “did not believe that Poroshenko would recycle many of the political bureaucrats as during the Yanukovych era.”

                          The Chocolate King, as President Poroshenko is sometimes cynically known as for his oligarchic past, has not kept his promise to relinquish his previous business ventures, which made him a billionaire. The chasm has only widened between the wealthy and the average Ukrainian. Oligarchs like Rinat Akhmetov and Igor Kolomoisky remain as powerful as they have been in the past, and the economic system also has proven to be corrupt and inefficient. It remains beholden to the International Monetary Fund for loans, especially in the last nine months.

                          Above all, peace has not come to the volatile East region where pro-Russian separatists continue to quarrel with Kyiv’s forces. The Minsk Agreements have largely failed.

                          In February 2015, at a 2-day summit, leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany signed on to a package of diplomatic measures in hopes of alleviating the ongoing war in the Donbas region. The talks were overseen by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Last August, while meeting with Juncker, Poroshenko stressed that Russia needed to abide by the Minsk agreements and to immediately implement a ceasefire.

                          “Minsk – III cannot happen. We have the Minsk agreements and it is necessary [for Russia] to fulfill them. The meetings were among other things devoted to the fact that Russia [has not] respected its own commitments,” declared Poroshenko. “The support of the EU is essential for us. War and Russian aggression against Ukraine are not the reasons for avoiding reforms. As President, I firmly stand on the position of an effective continuation of reforms,” he added.

                          The violence in the East has led to squabbles domestically. The ruling coalition formed after the parliamentary elections last October broke down following a series of misunderstandings on all sides. This dissension led to Poroshenko asking for the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk since he lost the support of his coalition. Later, that same day, however, the Ukrainian parliament voted the cabinet’s work as unsatisfactory but rejected a call for a vote of no confidence.

                          It was announced on Tuesday that Ukraine’s three major parliamentary parties agreed to form a new coalition and nominate parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Hroysman to be the country’s new prime minister, as reported by Reuters.

                          This deal is said to potentially quell some of the domestic political unrest of recent months, which has included new corruption allegations, which stymied reforms demanded by the West and derailed negotiations for a new $1.7 billion loan from the IMF. Hroysman is a 38-year-old former mayor and an ally to Poroshenko.

                          Some Maidan supporters like V. Liagushko, an Ukrainian émigré in the U.S., however, does have some degree of sympathy for Poroshenko’s arduous responsibilities. “The situation he has is a difficult one and it is in the best interest of Mr. Putin to paint Poroshenko with the wide black brush [in order] to further destabilize the situation in Ukraine,” she told us.

                          Some of Ukraine’s newly minted fears remain that withdrawn Russian forces in Syria could be redirected to the East to fight Kyiv’s army. During the 2008 NATO Summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a rather telling remark: “If Ukraine joins NATO, it will be without Crimea and the East,” Putin ominously said. Sure enough, Putin’s guarantee was fulfilled in March 2014 as Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

                          Bulgaria, a former communist country like Ukraine, had a better chance to join NATO and the EU before Putin grew stronger with his territorial ambitions, and his overall mission to restore the vaunted Russian empire. Putin has only felt emboldened in the past few years as he continues to exert the Kremlin presence on former countries of the Soviet Union. Aside from confronting Putin’s Russia, disillusionment persists in Ukraine, as the chasm between its society and government appears to be growing.

                          Nonetheless, as part of any true revolution, one must remain idealistic:

                          “The world changes and recent events [may] give Ukraine the hope that its situation will not freeze as it did in Georgia, Moldova and the former Yugoslavia,” Belousov reminds us.
                          From Hope to disenchantment (and perhaps back again): Ukraine’s arduous road toward the EU and NATO -Euromaidan Press |
                          ------------------------------
                          Jared Feldschreiber chronicles press freedom cases, ambassadors and dissidents. He also writes cinema and theater analyses, is a published poet, and continues to pursue his film projects.

                          Anguelina Piskova is a working journalist with Bulgarian National Radio since 2000 where she serves as news anchor and editor, largely dealing with foreign affairs. She covered Ukraine’s 2014 presidential and parliamentary elections.

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                          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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                          • Ukrainians overwhelmingly support European Integration | Infographics
                            EUROMAIDAN PRESS Anastassia Chrnohorska 2016/04/01

                            One of the factors that unite Ukrainians nowadays is their ambition for eurointegration. The best example of Ukraine’s struggle for European values, namely, democracy, rule of law, and human rights was Euromaidan. The decision by president Yanukovych not to sign the Association Agreement gave impulse for the Euromaidan revolution that united different regions of Ukraine and different segments of population. Ukrainians chose their European future.

                            Support of the European vector in numbers

                            http://euromaidanpress.com/wp-conten...4/Info-2-1.jpg

                            Due to its Soviet past, Ukrainians were not always unanimous about the European vector of development. According to social surveys conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation in 2006 43,7% of Ukrainians thought that the country needs to join the European Union, while 35,9% said “o” to the EU. At the same time, 55,3% of people supported the idea of joining the Custom Union with Russian Federation, Belorus, and Kazakhstan, and only 22,7% were against it. However, during the last decade the situation has changed dramatically.

                            In 2011, the level of support of the European vector was the same, while only 30,5% of Ukrainians supported joining the Custom Union. In March 2014, right after the Euromaidan revolution, 45,3% of people supported the EU direction of development, and only 21,6% supported joining the Customs Union. One year after the beginning of Russia`s aggression against Ukraine, even more Ukrainians ascertained the need of the eurointegration, and more Ukrainians lost their illusions about the Customs Union, namely 52% of eurosupporters against 13% supporters of the Customs Union, according to the data by the Sociological service of the Razumkov Center.

                            http://lh6.googleusercontent.com/X9r...9mcH06CSc2IWUP

                            According to the survey by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation held in summer 2015, the majority of the Ukrainian population (57%) is convinced that eurontegration is in the interests of Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, Ukraine’s western region (83%) supports the eurointegration vector the most, while the population of Donbas supports it the least (39%).

                            53% of citizens sees interest of the European Union itself in deepening its relation with Ukraine. In the opinion of 40% of Ukrainians, the European Union understands the needs of Ukraine, while 32% say the opposite. 51% of the population of Ukraine believed that deepening bilateral relation with the EU does not pose a threat to the development of Ukrainian culture. Additionally, 56% of Ukrainians believed that coordinating closer relations with the EU is important for the successful economic development of Ukraine.

                            During the named surveys there were no questions about the Association Agreement itself. However, support for the pro-European vector of development allows saying that the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union will also be supported. A recent survey conducted by GFK in March 2016 showed that the majority of Ukrainians support the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement: 64% of Ukrainians say that ratification of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU was a right decision. Only 24% of respondents do not agree with this position. Even in the East and South of the country 45% of people support the Agreement, while 39% are against it. Moreover, 72% of Ukrainians appeal to the Dutch to vote “Yes” at the referendum in regard of the Association Agreement, while only 13% wish them to vote “No.” In Ukraine’s South-East, a smaller fraction supports a yes-vote but the result is still overwhelmingly positive: 57% of the respondents want The Netherlands’ support on the referendum and 21% are against a Yes-vote.

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                            A previous survey conducted in October 2013, just before the Agreement had to be signed, by the Office of the Ukrainian research institute, IFAK, showed that 50% of Ukrainians supported the Agreement, while 33% did not.

                            These studies give reason to believe that the idea of European integration unites Ukraine like never before.

                            Previously pro-Russian East and South shifting to favor of EU

                            A survey held by the GfK Ukraine company in autumn 2015 in the South and East of Ukraine shows that 77% of the population of these regions want to build Europe in Ukraine. The residents of these areas have in mind the introduction of European standards and raising the living standards to European ones. The study showed a mostly positive attitude in the East and South of Ukraine towards the EU, namely 59%. The least positive attitude to the EU at 51% recorded in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (excluding occupied territories), and the most positive, namely at 71%, in Kherson oblast. However, only 29% of respondents believe that cooperation with the EU should be a priority of foreign policy of Ukraine, while 55% of respondents support the idea of neutrality in foreign policy.

                            Among the main arguments, why residents of the East and South of Ukraine support integration with the EU is the possibility of increasing living standards, wages and pensions to European level. They would also like to see Ukraine adopting European experience in the reform of medicine, transport, housing services and education. They are ready to accept the idea of European integration in those areas where they are experiencing problems in their daily lives. The reasons why the East and the South do not support rapprochement with the EU, are fear that it will lead to the decline of the Ukrainian economy due to non-competitiveness of Ukrainian goods in comparison with European ones.

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                            Another survey by GfK Ukraine conducted in Kharkiv, the administrative center of oblast in eastern Ukraine, also shows more support for the European vector. 35% of Kharkiv residents have positive opinion for the EU while 22% have a negative one. When asked the same question about Russia, 31% answered that they have positive attitude, and 30% – a negative one.
                            Benefits of the Association Agreement with EU for Ukraine

                            One of the reasons for the high level of support of the European vector of integration in the recent years is caused by the more and more clear understanding how Ukraine can benefit from cooperation with the European Union. Among the benefits are new trading opportunities and easier access to the largest market in the world, but this is not the comprehensive list.

                            Every chapter of the Association Agreement is directed to the fight with corruption in the state and private sectors. The public finances sphere and planning of state budget will become more transparent. Small and medium business will benefit from easier procedures of exporting goods. Soviet standards and norms of manufacturing will be cancelled. Instead, modern European norms will be implemented, and safe production will not need certification at all. Consumers will also benefit from the new standards of manufacturing, because they will be able to buy goods of better quality.

                            Additionally, independent studies suggest that the simple implementation of the agreement would bring benefits of +6% of additional GDP over the medium run and +12% in terms of increased welfare for the Ukrainian people.

                            Among the other positive changes that the Association Agreement will bring to Ukraine is cooperation in the spheres of science, space, and information technologies, new standards for quality of air and water, and possibilities to decrease environment pollution, possibilities for better standards of medicine and education.

                            The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement also envisions an effective method of control over the Ukrainian authorities: the EU can suspend the Association Agreement in case human rights and freedoms or rule of law are endangered in the country. This will give civic society activists leverage on pressuring their authorities to conform to the requirements of EU integration.

                            The Association Agreement between Ukraine and European Union does not mean that Ukraine is joining the EU. The EU countries will not be forced to deal with Ukraine’s problems and to provide financial aid. The EU does provide financial aid to Ukraine, but the Association Agreement does not. It only means that Ukraine and the EU countries will have more possibilities for cooperation that will be beneficial for the both sides of the agreement. Ukrainians understand the benefits of the cooperation with the European Union, which is reflected in the high level of support of the European vector. Pro-European ideas unite Ukraine, and Ukrainians need support in their European ambitions. Ukrainians overwhelmingly support European Integration | Infographics -Euromaidan Press |

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                            • EUROMAIDAN PRESS Maryna Korneva 2015/12/02
                              Ukrainian ethnic jewelry and ornaments

                              Ukrainian ornaments have always had two functions – ensure protection (oberih) and information. Amulets and ritual jewelry – rings, bracelets and crosses – were worn close to the skin. Ornaments worn over clothing testified to the owner’s wealth – six strands of coral beads could cost as much as a pair of oxen.

                              We look more closely at the design of these ornaments to understand why and when they were worn by our grandmothers and ancestors.

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                              gerdans

                              Gerdan – two long strips of beaded patterns joined by a medallion which lies on the wearer’s solar plexus (an important power chakra). They were worn by both men and women. In Bukovyna, a small mirror dangled from the ends of gerdan ornaments.

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                              slylyanki

                              Sylyanky or pletinky – parallel lines of beads tied behind the neck. The name comes from the manufacturing process (sylyannya – way of stringing beads). Women wore narrow sylyanky (two to three centimetres) every day as a talisman (the power of each sylyanky was determined by the intricacy of its design). Hutsuly (Carpathian mountain people) sewed these beaded talismans onto red canvas ribbons. The traditional beaded designs were shaped like geometric diamonds with simple or complicated contours, triangles branching out at the corners, zigzags and curved lines – symbols of infinity.

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                              kryza

                              Kryzy – wide (20 cm) round beaded collars that covered a woman’s neck, chest and shoulders. Lemkos and Boykos wore them on special festive days. Several multicoloured collars of different length and width were worn from the neck down to the waist. 200 hours were needed to make such a collar.'

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                              Zharda

                              Zhardy – metal necklaces consisting of two or three strands strung on a red or metal base of crosses. Two discs connected the two ends behind the neck – cheprahamy, which are larger than the crosses on the necklace. The cheprahamy are covered with solar symbols – a wheel with four, six or eight spokes (the modern version is a cross), a rosetta or concentric circles.

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                              Shelest

                              Shelest – metal necklace with small round bells, which were made and worn by Hutsuls. It is the most ancient Slavic ornament

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                              Patsyorky

                              Patsyorky – glass beads. Craftsmen used smalt – an opaque alloy of different coloured glass – dark blue, turquoise, white, green, brown, black and red. Round beads were encrusted with gold and decorated with bright-coloured inks.

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                              Dukach

                              Dukach (lichman) – pectoral shaped like a medal-like coin with a metal bow decorated with stones. It was a central piece of breast ornaments. It was pinned in the middle of many strands of beads. The face of the most ancient dukach shows the “portrait” of a person who hired Ukrainian Cossack warriors, and the reverse side shows the battle scene in which the person took part. Dukachi with Biblical scenes were very popular.

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                              Korali

                              Bunt or coral (korali) ornament – necklace of cylinder- or barrel-shaped coral beads strung on a thread. Women would wear from one to 25 strands of coral beads. Ukrainian ethnic jewelry and ornaments -Euromaidan Press |
                              =================
                              Translated by: Christine Chraibi
                              Source: Infokava.com

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                              • Flowers and ribbons in the Ukrainian vinok
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/03/31

                                Each flower and ribbon in a Ukrainian wreath (vinok) has a meaning because it is not only a thing of beauty, but also a talisman

                                One of the oldest Ukrainian symbols is the head wreath woven from grasses and flowers and decorated with bright ribbons. There can be up to 12 different flowers in one wreath. Each flower or grass means something: roses stands for love, lilies are symbols of purity and innocence, cornflowers – simplicity and modesty; heathers – independence, field bells – gratitude, laurels – success and fame; hollyhocks – beauty and coldness, peonies – longevity, daisies – peace and tenderness, immortelles – health and guelder roses – symbols of maiden beauty, the symbol of Ukraine.



                                The vinok was always decorated with different coloured ribbons, which were cut lower than a girl’s braids in order to hide them. The central ribbon was usually light brown, symbolizing the land and soil, then came yellow ribbons, symbolizing the sun, followed by light green and dark green – beauty and youth, light blue and dark blue – sky and water, which give strength and health, orange, symbolizing bread, violet – wisdom, crimson – truth and sincerity and pink – prosperity. White ribbons were intertwined only if they were embroidered with silver and gold (the sun on the left side of the vinok and the moon on the right). Non-embroidered ribbons were not added to the vinok as they commemorated the dead. Girls used red ribbons to intertwine poppies into their wreaths – symbols of grief and magic.

                                Orphans wove blue ribbons into their hair and wreaths. People bestowed lavish gifts, bread and money on young girls wearing these decorative head wreaths and wished them happiness and prosperity. The girls, in turn, expressed their gratitude by giving them a ribbon from their wreath.

                                In Ukraine, the vinok is a solar symbol. Girls wearing a vinok were linked to the rising sun. The vinok was also a symbol of glory, victory, holiness, success, power, peace, sun and authority. It signified purity and maiden youth. Flowers and ribbons in the Ukrainian vinok -Euromaidan Press |
                                ------------
                                Translated by: Christine Chraibi
                                Source: Discover Ukraine
                                Last edited by Hannia; 2nd April 2016, 05:35.

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