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  • Gates: The West did not fulfill its obligations to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum
    UAWIRE ORG September 17, 2016 12:08:00 PM

    The Budapest Memorandum became one of those international agreements which is not implemented in the way that they should be, as stated by the former United States Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, at the YES summit in Kyiv.

    "The Government which was working in the U.S.A. at the time of signing of the Budapest Memorandum, was working without me,” Gates said.

    “But the deal was that if Ukraine abandoned nuclear weapons, their security would be guaranteed. And if we look at this in the context of where we are now, I can say that the West has not fulfilled its obligations," he stated.

    At the same time he added that he doesn’t know why France and Germany are participating in the Normandy Group, but Britain and the U.S.A., who were guarantors of Ukraine’s integrity under the Budapest Memorandum, are staying on the sidelines.

    Yesterday, at the opening of the first day of the YES Summit, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called for the countries of the Budapest Memorandum to sign new agreements. The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances as a result of Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was signed on 5 December 1994 by the leaders of Ukraine, the U.S.A., Russia and Great Britain.
    UAWire - Gates: The West did not fulfill its obligations to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum

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    • Ukraine and Kazakhstan to extract uranium
      UAWIRE ORG September 16, 2016 5:33:24 PM

      Ukraine and Kazakhstan are planning to establish joint ventures to extract uranium in the territory of both countries, as reported by Minister of Fuel and Energy of Ukraine Ihor Nasalik at a "round table" on Thursday, September 15th.

      "We have prepared the documents. On Monday, (September 19th) representatives of Kazakhstan will arrive to sign a memorandum on the establishment of the joint venture for uranium mining in both Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” Nasalik said.

      Earlier, the National Atomic Company of Kazakhstan, “Kazatomprom” announced its readiness to develop with Ukraine projects in the nuclear field including the production of nuclear fuel for the needs of Nuclear Power Plants.

      In August, the Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine, “Energoatom” and the British-German-Dutch company URENCO signed a three-year contract for supply of enriched with uranium for the needs of Ukrainian nuclear power plants.
      UAWire - Ukraine and Kazakhstan to extract uranium

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      • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Rachel Ansley September 16, 2016
        Anti-Terror Law Casts Shadow Over Russian Election

        A combination of suspicions of Russian government involvement in the theft of Democratic National Committee e-mails and new anti-terrorism measures recently signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin bode ill for Duma elections scheduled for September 18.

        The DNC hack, while not confirmed as an attempt by the Kremlin to manipulate the results of the US presidential elections, testifies to the strength of Russian technological capabilities, according to panelists who participated in a discussion at the Atlantic Council on September 16.

        The Yarovaya laws, anti-terrorism measures signed into law by Putin on July 7, curtail civil liberties. More specifically, they impose broad restrictions on Internet use and religious practice.

        In 2011, the Russian people widely protested Putin. Since then, according to Hannah Toburn, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, the Kremlin has “become extremely concerned that they’re going to lose control of the political situation in the country.” It is this fear that has pushed the Kremlin toward adopting more repressive measures, she said.

        Toburn joined Catherine Cosman, senior policy analyst at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Miriam Lanskoy, senior director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy, in a discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council. Alina Polyakova, deputy director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, moderated the event.

        The Yarovaya laws “are just another in a long laundry list of events, decisions, and laws…that have slowly been eroding the civil rights, civil liberties of Russians,” said Toburn.

        An early example of regulatory legislation, the Foreign Agent Law, passed in 2012, allowed the Russian government to designate nongovernmental organizations that accept funds from abroad as foreign agents. With 157 organizations on the list, this law demonstrates how closely the Kremlin monitors the activities of civil society groups.

        On September 5, the Kremlin declared the Levada Center, an influential polling organization, a foreign agent after the organization reported that support for United Russia, the ruling party, had fallen to 50 percent. This designation effectively put a stop to the center’s political activities two weeks before parliamentary elections.

        “[B]ecause of the way these laws have been implemented slowly over time, they’ve gotten used to the government being in their business. If you have lived through the Soviet era, it’s not that strange anyway,” said Toburn.

        However, asserted Lanskoy, the Yarovaya laws are distinct in that they apply to all people, presenting broad strokes of legislation that allows for manipulation. Masking government control under the aegis of protecting the nation and public security, these laws stipulate that Internet providers must collect and store all data for six months, and must provide encryption codes to the government. The Kremlin does not need a warrant to access the information. This “system of total surveillance,” said Lanskoy, makes privacy and anonymity impossible. Akin to the model set in China, “the Russians are trying to build their own system of a controlled Internet,” according to Toburn.

        Toburn asserted that the Russian people are accustomed to the use of an unrestricted Internet, and infringing upon this freedom could trigger protests. To avoid such a response, the Kremlin is not shutting down access, but regulating activity. According to Toburn, surveillance, rather than prevention, is their solution.

        This need for increased control in the form of regulating online activity, Lanskoy asserted, originates from the Kremlin’s belief that protests can break out anywhere. In 2013, the Maidan protests in Ukraine were organized through Twitter and Facebook. The Internet, therefore, has become a threatening space to the Kremlin. According to Polyakova, “the online space in Russia is one of the last spaces for public open discussion. Now we’re seeing that that is also closing.”

        These laws designed to target extremists have particularly affected religious communities throughout Russia. According to Cosman, if any religious community has been ruled by a court to be extremist, “any person active in this legally liquidated community is liable for legal prosecution for illegal activity.” By requiring religious communities to register with the state, the Kremlin has alienated most groups outside of the Russian Orthodox church, Cosman said.

        The most disconcerting facet of the Yarovaya laws, according to Cosman, is that the definition of “terror” in this context is too broad, and all groups are brought under the thumb of government regulation and control.

        “A closing space for proselytizing, a closing space for different religious groups has a tendency to trickle down to other of the post-Soviet countries,” Toburn said. She described the ways in which Russian activity sets the political tone in the region. “There’s certainly a trend in which countries who are interested in clamping down on their populations, whether it’s Belarus, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, they tend to take their page from what the Russians do,” she said.

        In consideration of this trend, Toburn asserted that a strong response from the international community is necessary. “If Russia can get away with it, if no one cares about what Russia does, then all of these other countries in turn tend to feel as though, ‘Well, we can get away with it too,’” she said.

        Regardless of concern, according to Polyakova, the United States will not interfere with laws drafted in the name of fighting terror. The use of the word “anti-terror” problematizes a US response to the laws in the context of the ceasefire agreement brokered by the United States and Russia in Syria. “Because these laws are put out there under the name anti-terror…and this current administration does see Russia as an ally in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham…we’re perhaps not paying as much attention to it as we should,” said Toburn.

        Cosman claimed that the enforcement of these laws will be costly for the technology companies required to execute them. Consequently, Internet providers have been given extensions to prepare for the regulations to take effect. Though the Yarovaya laws are “not in an enforceable form today,” according to Lanskoy, they can take on “an equally dangerous form” in the future.

        Toburn also expressed concern, saying, “I have a hard time thinking that the country will ever completely go all the way back to the 1930s, but the fact that those symptoms are there is something that I think we should be extremely worried about.” Anti-Terror Law Casts Shadow Over Russian Election

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        • Ukraine's illegally annexed Crimea votes in Russia’s parliamentary elections
          KYIV POST Sep. 18, 2016 14:41

          Russian citizens are voting in elections for the State Duma - Russia’s parliament - on Sept. 18.

          Polling stations are also open in occupied Crimea and in Russian diplomatic offices in Ukrainian cities.

          In Kyiv and Odesa, activists with the right-wing parties Svoboda and Right Sector protested the elections, blocking entrances to the embassies.

          In Odesa, four people were detained after they clashed with police. In Kyiv, protesters damaged the fence of the embassy and attacked one of the voters. The clashes left two protesters detained.

          Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said during a Sept. 17 speech at the 13th annual Yalta European Strategy in Kyiv that elections in Crimea were illegal, Interfax reported.

          Klimkin also said that “an attempt to organize the elections in the occupied Crimea, and on the territory of the diplomatic institutions was a conscious provocation.”

          Deputy Minister for Occupied Territories Heorhiy Tuka said on 112 TV Channel on Sept. 18 that he would address the Interior Ministry and the Security Service of Ukraine about opening criminal proceedings against “those people, who were involved in organizing elections for Russia’s State Duma in Ukraine.”

          He also said that there are no international observers in Crimea who would be able to monitor the elections there.

          Mariana Betsa, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, said in her Twitter account that the Russian elections in Crimea were illegitimate, and their results - worthless.

          “The sanctions have to be strengthened,” she wrote.

          Halyna Lomakina from the activists movement “Crimean anti-corruption front Taygan” told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Crimea Realities news outlet on Sept. 17 that the electoral campaign in Crimea was held under unfair conditions with full domination of the candidates from the ruling party.

          Yedinaya Rossiya (United Russia) is the biggest party in Russia’s Duma. It supports Russian President Vladimir Putin.

          Russia’s State Duma has 450 lawmakers, half of whom are elected in the single nationwide constituency through party lists, and another half in local constituencies.

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          • What Breaking News? Mass Vote Rigging As Expected in Russian Parliamentary Elections
            19.09.16 | Halya Coynash HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

            The ‘breaking news’ headlines on the BBC, Sky News and others would have been comical, were they not so misleading. These were not ‘elections’ which President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party was ever going to lose, and if you want even exit polls to be credible, you don’t effectively outlaw the Levada Centre, the main independent pollster, two weeks before voting day. Perhaps the brazenness of the methods used to achieve such a victory were also not headline material, but they would have been closer to the truth.

            There are numerous reasons, including the exclusion of many opposition candidates and almost total lack of independent media for questioning the legitimacy of these elections. One is new and insurmountable. Moscow insisted on holding the elections in occupied Crimea and that alone invalidates the outcome. There were no international observers in Crimea and democratic countries have said that they will not recognize the vote.

            Even Russia’s Central Election Commission acknowledged that the turnout was down on the last election, at 39%. Vedomosti reported that there had been a record low turnout in Moscow, and also gave a breakdown of turnout percentages in other regions. It is noticeable that those regions which seem most likely to use administrative resource and / or fiddle the records had high turnouts (Chechnya, for example, had almost 84% two hours before the polling stations closed). Voter apathy was not, however, universal. At least not if you believe that the 85 – 90% of Moscow remand prisoners and people in psychiatric hospitals who are reported to have voted did so of their own free will.

            Political observer Dmitry Oreshkin noted that everybody had expected a lower turnout, due to general apathy and disillusionment with the election system, though they didn’t expect it to be so huge.

            Interestingly, he believes that the amount of rigging was actually lower and suggests that this was thanks to the efforts of the new head of the CEC Ella Panfilova.

            Mass violations were undoubtedly seen during the 2011 elections. The protests which broke out over those elections, then later over Putin’s third presidency, were fairly violently crushed. Since then various legislative measures have been passed, including most recently, draconian ‘anti-terrorist’, ‘anti-extremist’ laws, which must certainly increase apathy. Since those elections, chief Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov was gunned down almost opposite the Kremlin and many activists have either served or are serving long sentences.

            There have certainly been numerous reports, photos and videos of vote rigging. The methods are all standard: ‘carousels’ with people being taken by bus to ‘vote’ many times; multiple ballot papers being thrust into the ballot boxes, etc.

            Oleg Kozyrev reported, for example, that in Khimki locals had not been able to vote because of the huge queues of ‘carousel voters’.

            Panfilova has promised that ballot papers will be rejected. If the rigging got recorded, presumably.

            In Rostov on the Don, for example, multiple ballot papers were thrust into the box with the election commission staff appearing to be covering the colleague carrying this out.

            All of this was seen in Ukraine during the elections which led to the first Maidan – the so-called Orange Revolution. Under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, various amendments were made to electoral legislation, with all of them effectively aimed at making it easier to rig the results. One particular method was ensuring that ‘reliable people’ ended up on the election commissions which oversee the voting and the vote count.

            There are also, of course, the ways that are much harder to prove, such as buying people’s votes. There is an ever-mounting number of Russians, especially pensioners, who are desperately poor and could very easily be persuaded.

            As of 20.25 on Sunday evening, the Map of Electoral Violations had recorded 3, 250 infringements.

            Whether this is fewer or not requires a detailed comparison. One Novosibirsk voter’s experiences, however, suggest that reporting infringements can be fraught. OVD info reports that the police took a voter, identified only as Vladimir, to the police station to write an explanation. He had phoned to report that people were standing outside the polling station offering money if people voted for United Russia. It was Vladimir who received a visitation from the police. What Breaking News? Mass Vote Rigging As Expected in Russian Parliamentary Elections ::

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            • Ukraine Today: Ukrainian Chief of Staff says Russian Army is a 'colossus with feet of clay'
              UT UKRAINE TODAY Sep. 18, 2016 17:16

              Ukrainian Army commander analyzed Russian forces' strategic drill ‘Caucasus-2016'

              Ukrainian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Viktor Muzhenko revealed his summary of massive and notorious Russian Army's strategic drills "Caucasus-2016".

              "The question arose: "How Russians deal with a setting of formations and units of reservists in Kuban, Ukrainian Crimea and other regions? "The response is: we saw ‘colossus' feet of clay'. We have information that they were able to gather only 10% of the planned number of reservists. They have no enough people willing to serve as reservists," he wrote on Facebook.

              Muzhenko sums up: "It is a positive signal for Ukraine. Conscious Russians and Ethnic Ukrainians don't want to be victims and human junk to satisfy expansionist ambitions of the Kremlin. A good indicator for predicting the real enemy capabilities in providing quality human resources for his bellicose aggressive rhetoric". Military drills "Caucasus-2016" showed the weakness of Russian Army: Russian Army is a ‘colossus with feet of clay' – Ukrainian Chief of Staff

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              • Russia’s elections - Duma-day machine
                Vladimir Putin has the country’s ballot under control
                Sep 17th 2016 THE ECONOMIST

                SINCE Russia’s last parliamentary election in 2011, when widespread fraud triggered mass protests, millions of Russians have fallen into penury. Wages have plunged, and labour protests are on the rise. Vladimir Putin’s forces are fighting openly in Syria and secretly in Ukraine. Polls show that 33% of Russians believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, though 82% approve of Mr Putin. With so much at stake, why are so many ignoring the parliamentary election due on September 18th? Golos, an election monitoring group, calls the campaign the “most sluggish and inactive” of the past decade.

                This sterility is the Kremlin’s strategy. The election will be seen as a success if it is uneventful. The vote was moved forward from December to September, a move that critics contend was designed to keep turnout low, as summer holidays and the new school year keep people preoccupied. While some dissidents have been allowed to run, the strongest opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been convicted on trumped-up charges to keep him out of the race. As Mr Navalny points out, many of those running have been around since 1993. Russian voters are bored: 43% say they are not paying attention to the campaign, compared with 31% in 2011.

                Nonetheless, the Kremlin needs the elections to retain a veneer of legitimacy. Keen to avoid accusations of vote-rigging, the government replaced the odious head of the Central Election Commission, Vladimir Churov (nicknamed “The Magician” for his ability to make results come out just right), with Ella Pamfilova, a respected former human-rights ombudsman. The ratings of United Russia, Mr Putin’s ruling party, have been falling. Mr Putin calls this a sign of “an active election campaign”.

                It will not threaten his grip on the Duma. While half the seats will be elected by proportional representation, half will be head-to-head contests in individual districts, most of which will go to United Russia candidates. The nominal “opposition” parties that are gaining ground—the Communists, the Liberal Democratic Party and A Just Russia—are largely under the thumb of the Kremlin.

                The real drama lies not in the election’s results, but in the jockeying around it. The campaign has served as a testing ground for a more important vote: the presidential elections in 2018. Mr Putin has been shaking up his team following the dismissal of his powerful chief of staff last month. More changes are expected after the elections. Bigwigs are attempting to secure their roles in the new political season, argues Tatiana Stanovaya of the Centre for Political Technologies, a think-tank: the Duma contest is “turning into elections for the future elite of Putin’s fourth term”.

                So far, the more conservative forces within the regime seem to have the advantage. In recent weeks, Mr Putin has replaced his education minister and children’s rights ombudsman with figures close to the Russian Orthodox church. The Levada Centre, Russia’s last independent polling agency, was declared a “foreign agent”, a ploy the government uses to harass organisations it dislikes with red tape. Lev Gudkov, the centre’s director, says the designation makes it “impossible to work”. There have been 31 such rulings this year.

                Despite mounting budgetary pressure, painful but necessary economic reforms are unlikely to be taken up before the presidential elections. Facing no pressure from the Potemkin electoral system, Mr Putin has little reason to rush.

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                • NY bombing suspect arrested in shootout - media The man believed to be responsible for the explosion in Manhattan on Saturday night and an earlier bombing in New Jersey, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was taken into custody on Monday after he was wounded in a gunfight with the police, according to law enforcement officials, according to The New York Times.
                  UNIAN 19 Sept 2016

                  The dramatic episode came after the police issued a cellphone alert to millions of residents in the area telling them to be on the lookout for Mr. Rahami, 28, who was described as “armed and dangerous,” NYT reports.

                  The showdown started at around 10:30 when a local resident spotted Rahami sleeping in the doorway of a bar, according to officials.

                  After the suspect fired at police officers, the law enforcers returned fire, wounding Rahami several times.

                  The ambulance was seen taking the suspect away from the scene.

                  Rahami was identified by officials on surveillance video planting the bombs in Chelsea, both the device that exploded on 23rd Street and another that did not detonate a few blocks away. His fingerprint was also found on one of the pressure cooker bombs in Manhattan, according to a senior law enforcement official.

                  The police believe that he was also responsible for a backpack full of pipe bombs found in Elizabeth, N.J., late Sunday.
                  NY bombing suspect arrested in shootout - media | UNIAN

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                  • EU to abolish visas for Ukrainians in October - Commissioner Hahn The European Union will lift the visa regime for the Ukrainian citizens as early as next month, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn has told in an exclusive comment to Deutsche Welle.
                    UNIAN 19 Sept 2016

                    "I hope and I am convinced that it will happen in October. There are very positive signals from both EU member states and from the European Parliament. That is why it should happen," he said, commenting on the prospects of a visa-free travel for Ukraine, DW reported.

                    As UNIAN reported earlier, the issue of granting Ukraine visa-free regime should be considered at the meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union, according to Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Olena Zerkal.

                    Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin earlier said he expected to see a positive decision of the European Parliament on a visa-free regime for Ukraine until November.
                    EU to abolish visas for Ukrainians in October - Commissioner Hahn

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                    • Ukraine takes to court in a bid to return Scythian gold Ukraine has embarked on a legal battle in a bid to return hundreds of artefacts lost after the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, according to Ukraine Today.
                      UNIAN 13 Sept 2016

                      On October 5 the Amsterdam District Court is set to hold the first hearing in a high-profile Scythian gold case, Ukraine Today reports.

                      The collection, featuring some 565 exhibits from four Crimean museums was dispatched to the Netherlands in February 2014 for the exhibition entitled "The Crimea. Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea", just before Russian sent its troops to seize Crimea.
                      The artefacts were exhibited at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, but after the Crimean peninsula was illegally incorporated into the Russian Federation in March 2014, the museum decided not to return the Scythian gold to either Ukraine or Russia.

                      Russian-appointed Crimean authorities claim the exhibits back because they have been found in the peninsula's territory and have been kept in its museums.

                      Ukraine, which last year was found eligible to claim rights for the disputed objects, demands the entire collection to be returned to Kyiv.

                      Ukrainian lawyers say the return of the collection to Ukraine was guaranteed not only by the terms of the contract, signed by Ukraine's National History Museum and Allard Pierson Museum, but also by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

                      Since The Netherlands does not recognise the annexation of Crimea, Kyiv claims it is clear where the precious artefacts should be returned to. The Allard Pierson Museum said in a statement it had decided to not make a decision as to which of the parties the disputed objects should be handed over to: "The Allard Pierson Museum will abide by a ruling by a qualified judge or arbitrator, or further agreement between parties. The disputed objects will be safely stored until more becomes clear."

                      Ukraine takes to court in a bid to return Scythian gold

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                      • ALANTIC COUNCIL Melinda Haring & Kateryna Smagliy Sept 19, 2016
                        Ten Things the New US Ambassador to Ukraine Should Do

                        On August 18, Marie L. Yovanovitch became the US Ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch is not new to the country; she served as the deputy chief of mission in Kyiv—the second in command—under Ambassadors Carlos Pascual and John Herbst months before the Orange Revolution erupted. She spent the bulk of her career working in the Eurasia region, with ambassadorial posts in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

                        The man who held the job before Yovanovitch, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, is one of the United States’ most talented diplomats; despite a lack of previous experience working in the former Soviet Union, he aced his post. Pyatt’s sunny disposition, relentless optimism, strong relations with civil society, and round-the-clock hours made him one of the best known foreign faces in Kyiv, and one of the most trusted interlocutors. His strong relationship with Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland ensured that Ukraine was a top priority in Washington. Pyatt was also a social media sensation. He tweeted constantly, in English, Russian, and Ukrainian, and his Twitter account became a must-visit site because Pyatt read everything and wrote about it.

                        Ukraine has massively changed since the last time Yovanovitch served in Ukraine, and the world has massively changed. We respectfully offer the following advice directly to Ambassador Yovanovitch to bring her up to speed:

                        1. Get on Twitter, ASAP. Pyatt’s tenure demonstrates the importance of the medium. Everyone, including the presidential administration, will read what you write. It’s your chance to set the agenda and define what issues you care about as ambassador.
                        2. Spotlight the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs), meet with IDP families and students, and constantly remind the Ukrainian authorities to prioritize IDP-related social policies. Ukraine has nearly two million internally displaced persons. Those who live in the grey zone, the dividing line between Ukraine and the so-called separatist republics, live in unimaginably inhumane conditions. Yet the government of Ukraine has been tone deaf on this issue. When asked about the situation of IDPs in Ukraine, former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said, “The situation is more or less under control.” The situation is not under control. The country’s IDPs haven’t been able to vote in the previous three elections. Nearly 400,000 people have been cut off from government assistance for stupid bureaucratic reasons. Make this your issue: you can make a real difference in the lives of thousands of elderly and poor Ukrainians.
                        3. Stand up for the media loudly and often. The West has a tendency to act as if the Russian infowar is the biggest threat facing Ukrainian media. In so doing, it echoes the Ukrainian government’s own stance and empowers it when it fails to protect Ukrainian journalists or represses them itself. The United States should take an unambiguous stand in defense of press freedom. If reforms are to succeed, the Ukrainian press must remain free, not a patriotic mirror image of Russia’s.
                        4. Recognize how different the political environment is now. Ukraine’s political class is wiser and more mature, but also more Machiavellian and astute. During the Orange Revolution, it was easier to ascertain the big players’ motivations. While reformers now sit in parliament and in the government, old habits are still in place, including at senior levels; the governing coalition remains fragile. The most reformist members of the cabinet left in February.
                        5. Don’t overpersonalize relationships; be on the constant lookout for new faces and friends. US ambassadors have a tendency to glom on to the “good guys.” In the case of Ukraine, the previous ambassador had close relationships with three reform-minded parliamentarians: Sergii Leshchenko, Svitlana Zalishchuk, and Mustafa Nayyem. While these individuals are committed to real reform and deserve our respect and admiration, there are plenty of others with the same zeal and drive, especially outside Kyiv, who would benefit from the new ambassador’s attention and resources.
                        6. Be bullish on reform and make sure that President Petro Poroshenko’s “de-oligarchization” policy is applied fairly and evenly. While recognizing the country’s enormous achievements since the Euromaidan, continue to push for more. Make US and IMF assistance conditional on further reform. The thousands of brave ordinary people who stood on the frozen Maidan risking life and limb deserve nothing less. The elites aren’t fooling anyone: most Ukrainians don’t feel or see any of the much-vaunted reforms. Don’t hesitate to hold oligarchs accountable for the lack of reforms, even when US policy interests may require a warm relationship with the country’s rich, especially those representing eastern Ukraine. Be consistent and thus trustworthy, avoid double standards, and do not fall into a trap of dividing oligarchs into competing camps of “good” (read: US-government friendly) and “bad” guys.
                        7. Get out of Kyiv as often as possible, but not necessarily to visit the usual suspects in Lviv and Odesa. Go the extra mile! Do not hesitate to visit small towns and villages: meet with university students in the provinces, talk to schoolchildren in the most deprived territories, and stop by kindergartens for informal discussions with mothers and educators. It is by talking to them, not to Hrushevskogo and Bankova people, that you learn about the fabric of society and the real speed of reforms in Ukraine.
                        8. Put the major civil society organizations and independent think tanks on speed dial. The Reanimation Package of Reforms is a unique Ukrainian platform that monitors parliament closely and won’t hesitate to sound the alarm when Old Ukraine and its old ways of doing business tries to undermine New Ukraine. It is similarly important to support “think” and “do”-tanks that are capable of thinking outside the box, generating actionable policy ideas, and serving as trusted platforms for debate.
                        9. In supporting the growth of civil society in Ukraine, rely on the vast network of graduates from US government-sponsored academic programs. The Ukrainian Fulbright Circle, the Kennan Institute Alumni League, as well as the independent associations of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton graduates can always help embassy staff identify pressing issues and propose solutions to US policy needs. Meet with these groups on a regular basis.
                        10. Be active in cultural diplomacy and cultural reforms. Opened in 2015 under Pyatt, America House in Kyiv grew into one of the friendliest organizations in town. Today it is a lively hub of educational, cultural, and civic activism, which helps a new generation of Ukrainians to understand what made America America. So do push the US government to open similar centers in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Lviv, and Odesa, in order to strengthen bonds between Ukraine and the US.

                        We wish you all the best in your new post.

                        Ten Things the New US Ambassador to Ukraine Should Do

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                        • KGB 2.0? Report says Kremlin plan afoot for major Security-Service Shakeup
                          20.09.16 | Tom Balmforth HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

                          Back to the future? After the dissolution of the KGB, its Moscow headquarters housed the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is reported to be the center of a reconstituted superagency.

                          Russia plans to create a super security agency called the Ministry of State Security (MGB), the name once given to Josef Stalin’s Soviet spy apparatus before it was renamed the KGB after his death, Kommersant newspaper reports.

                          The business daily’s September 19 story is based on anonymous sources and could not be independently verified. The report has been neither confirmed nor denied officially, and President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has declined to comment.

                          Speaking to RFE/RL, two leading experts on Russia’s security services and a former KGB lieutenant colonel now in the opposition said variously that the reform was "entirely possible, " "certainly plausible, " and "very likely."

                          "I think this is one of the projects that appear to be on the president’s table, because in principle the idea of some kind of enlargement of the power agencies has been coming up recently, " said Andrei Soldatov, the editor and founder of the investigative website

                          The Kommersant report suggested the changes could make the management of security and law enforcement agencies more "effective" and help stamp out corruption inside the agencies.

                          In July, the paramount domestic security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), carried out searches of the Russian Investigative Committee’s Moscow headquarters and arrested senior employees over allegations they were shielding a crime boss from prosecution in return for bribes.

                          Return Of The KGB?
                          Kommersant claimed the reform would be carried out before the presidential election due in March 2018 that could also be brought forward following the ruling party’s landslide victory in parliamentary polls on September 18.

                          The report said the monolithic new ministry would be shaped around the FSB and would also comprise the Federal Protection Service (FSO) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

                          It said the agency would effectively resemble the Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security (KGB), where Putin served from 1975 to 1990, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. The KGB was broken up into separate agencies in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

                          "Essentially, this is a case of bringing the band back together, " said Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and an expert on Russia’s security services. "The suggestion is that a presidential security service will remain outside it. But basically speaking, this ministry would reconstitute the KGB in all its aspects."

                          The MGB would be given sweeping new powers not only to provide investigative material for cases opened by law enforcement, but also to supervise the cases, the report said. Its investigative department would take charge of the most resonant criminal cases of the day, it continued -- and a Kommersant source specifically said that would include corruption investigations.

                          The report follows a major law enforcement shakeup in April with the creation of the National Guard, a new body that oversees Interior Ministry troops, OMON riot police, and SOBR special forces. The Federal Migration Service (FMS) and Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) were also folded into the Interior Ministry at the time.

                          "Earlier, Putin believed in a form of bureaucratic pluralism, " Galeotti said. "Multiple agencies overlapping that could be played off against each other and that also could keep each other honest."

                          "Now we’re seeing a different model of governance with a handful of superagencies under people he feels he can trust. I think that’s where this fits. It’s really more about concerns over the elite, " he said.

                          ’Monopolization Of Power’

                          The report also said that the Investigative Committee -- which styled itself as a Russian version of the FBI but whose star appears to be waning -- may be folded into the Prosecutor-General’s Office. If true, that development would appear to chime with a Russian media report on September 14 predicting Aleksandr Bastrykin’s imminent departure from his post as chief of the Investigative Committee.

                          Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB colonel and liberal opposition politician who was expelled from the last convocation of the State Duma, told RFE/RL’s Russian Service that he believed the Kommersant report.

                          "I think this news is very likely, since last night the country made a decision -- to pursue the worst-case scenario. It is entirely clear that the country has gone from authoritarian to totalitarian. This happened on the night from September 18 to 19, " Gudkov said in a reference to the ruling party’s victory in weekend parliamentary elections.

                          Putin’s United Russia party secured a constitutional majority with 76 percent of seats in the State Duma, while not a single independent opposition voice was elected. "The monopolization of power today has evidently reached a peak, " Gudkov said.

                          The MGB was the abbreviation given to the security service under Stalin from 1946 to 1953.

                          The Kommersant report noted that the reform would be costly and that simply paying compensation to employees unprepared to work in a new structure might cost tens of billions of rubles.

                          There is speculation on social media that the possible creation of a powerful KGB-style agency indicates that Putin fears protests during the 2018 elections. Soldatov, however, said that serious reform might conversely spawn transitional chaos in security structures, with staff trying to hold onto their jobs rather than actually work.

                          "To be honest, I don’t understand why they would create this chaos ahead of an event like the 2018 election, which is crucial for the Kremlin. I have a feeling there is a desire to demonstrate the trend of strengthening the special services in order to calm the first man -- and that is all, " Soldatov said in a reference to Putin.

                          Galeotti also said the creation of a super security agency could pose dangers to Putin. He noted that in the Soviet period the Communist Party was careful to maintain control over the KGB.

                          "You haven’t got those institutions now. There will be nothing really significantly outside this ministry that Putin can use, short of the army, to actually control the ministry, " Galeotti said.

                          "Secondly, one of Putin’s biggest problems at the moment is that essentially people tell him what he wants to hear. And I think the more you narrow the range of agencies providing information for Putin, the more the politicization of intelligence is going to be a problem."
                          KGB 2.0? Report says Kremlin plan afoot for major Security-Service Shakeup ::

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                          • Pro-Putin Party Wins Duma Elections Decisively Despite Low Turnout
                            VOICE OF AMERICA Joy Kovpak 9/18/2016

                            MOSCOW —

                            Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party pulled off a landslide victory in Sunday's elections for seats in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament.

                            Putin's party won 54 percent of the vote with a historically low voter turnout — just 48 percent. The victory gives United Russia an additional 105 seats in the 450-seat Duma. Trailing far behind were the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), each with around 9 percent.

                            While longtime Russia watchers saw little significant in this year's Duma election, it did feature some notable changes compared to the previous one, held in 2011. The biggest change was the decision to move the election's date from December 4 to September 18. That decision forced candidates to do some of their campaigning during the summer, a time when many Russians are on vacation.

                            The second peculiarity was a controversy over candidates running for office in Crimea. This was the first election since Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014. The election of Crimean deputies to the Russian Duma has not only provoked outrage in Ukraine, but also poses serious questions for foreign governments, the majority of which recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine.

                            Finally, the election was characterized not only by record low voter turnout, but also the absence of opposition demonstrations in response to the results. By contrast, allegations of rigged voting in the 2011 election brought thousands of Russians onto the streets of Moscow, kicking off a wave of protests that lasted into the following year.

                            This time, while there have been reports of the usual vote-tampering practices such as ballot stuffing and carousel voting, protests have not materialized.

                            Mobilizing voters
                            Russia's "non-systemic" opposition parties — so-called because they operate outside the official political establishment — failed to make the 5 percent threshold required to win seats in the Duma. This time around, however, that opposition was joined by a new face — Maria Baronova, an outspoken activist who narrowly avoided a prison sentence for her part in the opposition demonstration on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012.

                            Baronova ran under the auspices of Open Russia, a project by exiled Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Rather than focus on winning or losing, Baronova's campaign was directed at mobilizing people to get involved in politics and gain experience in campaigning.

                            "We managed to get on the ballot — this is already a huge experience," Baronova told VOA.

                            "This is the first time in the history of the country a person has gathered that quantity of signatures — 15,000 real signatures in the most difficult place to get them. That's 3 percent of the electors [voters] in that district. That's a very big number. Basically, in any case, this is a victory."

                            Baronova vowed that her political activities would continue whatever the results at the polls.

                            Apart from its novelties, Sunday's election provided none of the drama or surprises of the December 2011 vote. While United Russia made massive gains, the Duma has long been seen as a rubber-stamp parliament, where initiatives put forth by the president are often passed with no significant opposition, even from nominal opposition parties such as the KPRF and LDPR.

                            In 2018, however, Russia will have its next presidential election. Although Putin has not yet declared his intention to run for another six-year term, it is widely believed that he will not only run, but win.

                            If so, Putin's next term will last until 2024, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in Russian history.
                            Pro-Putin Party Wins Duma Elections Decisively Despite Low Turnout

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                            • Canada becomes another country to not recognize the Russian elections in annexed Crimea Canada won't recognize elections to Russia's State Duma, which took place in occupied Crimea, according to a statement by Canada's Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, Ukraine Today reports.

                              Previously, a range of European countries, such as Sweden, Romania, France and the UK, alongside the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the EU all have declared the same statements, according to Ukraine Today.

                              Ukrainian diplomats were the first to claim their intent to recognize the Russian elections illegitimate. They called the elections "a gross breach of international law".

                              Moscow doesn't react to any accusations. The ruling party "Yedinaya Rossiya" will hold that position later on with a majority in the parliament. Canada becomes another country to not recognize the Russian elections in annexed Crimea

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                              • Real human costs of Russian aggression in Ukraine still uncounted, UN says
                                EUROMIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2016/09/21

                                As a result of the Russian occupation, about 1.5 million of Donbas residents are at risk of hunger reported the United Nations press service in April 2016.

                                At a minimum, 9640 people have been killed and 22,431 wounded as a result of military actions in eastern Ukraine, according to the United Nations monitoring mission’s latest quarterly report. But the document notes that the indirect costs of the clashes there on the civilian population remains “unknown.”

                                The report which includes losses both among Ukrainian defenders and Moscow’s military forces, was released in Geneva on September 15, is available online and is discussed in detail.

                                Particularly disturbing is the UN’s finding that the number of combat losses for the last three months has gone up by 66 percent to 28 killed in action and 160 wounded.

                                The report says that most of these losses were along the front line but adds that there were more losses as a result of mines laid near those lines.

                                And it specifies that “the number of civilians who have died as a result of secondary consequences of military actions, including the lack of water, medicines or healthcare institutions remains unknown,” implicitly suggesting that the numbers involved in this category is likely quite large.

                                As the UN has done in earlier quarterly reports, the international organization also points to “the deteriorating situation with regard to human rights” in occupied Crimea. In particular, it notes that law enforcement organs there “continue to question and persecute people for the expression of views which are considered extremist.”
                                Real human costs of Russian aggression in Ukraine still uncounted, UN says | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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