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  • The Next Secretary of State
    Oily Diplomacy - Rex Tillitson could be one of the more competent members of the next cabinet
    THE ECONOMIST Dec 17, 2016

    “A DIPLOMAT that happens to be able to drill oil.” That is how Reince Priebus, Donald Trump’s incoming chief of staff, described Rex Tillerson, the boss of ExxonMobil, who was nominated this week as America’s next secretary of state. In fact, Mr Tillerson, 64, is an oil driller through and through, has spent 41 years furthering the ambitions of one of the world’s largest companies, and has sometimes sidelined the American government because he felt ExxonMobil was better able to look after world affairs itself.

    Yet Mr Tillerson also has a reputation for dependability and small-town Texan values that has enabled him to stand up to, and win respect from, some notoriously slippery world leaders. Making someone with no experience of government service secretary of state is a risk. But unusual is better than incompetent. Depending on what his confirmation hearings reveal about his views on Russia when not serving Exxon’s shareholders, and assuming he severs his financial ties to the company, Mr Tillerson could be one of just two or three members of Mr Trump’s cabinet whom it is possible to see serving in a normal administration.

    For a leader of the world’s corporate elite, Mr Tillerson has parochial roots. Born in Wichita Falls, Texas, he grew up as a Boy Scout, went to the University of Texas, and rides horses in a cowboy hat in his spare time. He has worked at ExxonMobil since 1975, never lived for long outside America, and speaks with a drawl. Jack Randall, a friend from university who is also an oil-industry veteran, recounts how Mr Tillerson still spends time after work fixing up the decking on his lakeside home, despite having numerous employees who would do it for him. “He’s a regular guy who has lived the American dream,” he says. “He’s a Texan, an engineer and a Boy Scout. That is where his values come from.”

    Yet as an oilman and ExxonMobil’s chief executive since 2006, he has run operations in some of the most inhospitable parts of the world, from ice-encrusted Sakhalin in the Russian Far East, to poverty-stricken Chad. That has meant dealing with populist strongmen, from Vladimir Putin to Venezuela’s late leader Hugo Chávez, without bargaining away his principles on the importance of markets and the sanctity of oil contracts.

    In a book on ExxonMobil, “Private Empire”, Steve Coll recounts Mr Tillerson’s early dealings with Mr Putin during efforts to rein in an unruly Russian partner, Rosneft, on the Sakhalin development. When Mr Putin offered to write an executive order pushing ahead with the project, Mr Tillerson refused, saying that the Russian president lacked the legal authority to live up to his company’s standards. Though Mr Putin “blew his stack”, he gave in to Mr Tillerson’s demands.

    In a later oil era, in 2011, ExxonMobil and Rosneft struck a deal to develop oil in Russia’s Kara Sea, which Mr Putin said could lead to a whopping $500bn of Arctic co-developments. In 2013 Mr Putin awarded Mr Tillerson Russia’s Order of Friendship. The Arctic deal was scuppered because of American sanctions against Russia, following its annexation of Crimea in 2014, which were opposed by Mr Tillerson. James Henderson, an expert on Russian oil at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, says the Kremlin came to respect ExxonMobil under Mr Tillerson because, although it was uncompromising about ensuring all deals were above board, it was also “dependable”.

    Mr Tillerson’s ties to Mr Putin are likely to complicate his confirmation hearings, especially after Russian hackers interfered with America’s presidential election to help Mr Trump. But decades of business in the country mean he is almost bound to understand the way it works better than some of his predecessors at the State Department. Moreover, his defenders are adamant about his integrity. “The chances are better that Mother Teresa was stealing money from her charity than Rex Tillerson will do anything with Putin that is not in the best interests of the United States,” says Mr Randall, the friend from college.

    What is less clear is how he will deal with America’s traditional allies, such as Europe, who fear Russian meddling in Ukraine, for example. His appointment will rekindle suspicions that American diplomacy is about securing oil and other scarce resources. NGOs allege that ExxonMobil has a poor record of promoting human rights in countries where it operates, and has flip-flopped on climate change.

    Yet as well as having an oilman’s resource-hungry mindset, he could also bring useful industry traits to the State Department and to a Trump presidency. Finding and drilling oil requires elaborate modelling—both of underground geologies and messy aboveground geopolitics—to make money over the long-term. Reputedly his engineering background makes him a stickler for evidence-based decision-making. He is also considered “patient and unemotional” on ExxonMobil’s side of the negotiating table.

    Such traits would make him very different from Mr Trump, who lives by the gut. “Rex is not a guy who wets his finger and puts it up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing, and he’ll tell Mr Trump what he thinks,” Mr Randall says. In some respects his opinions differ from Mr Trump, too. Though once a climate-change denier, he now believes mankind has helped cause global warming. This year ExxonMobil applauded the Paris agreement on climate change. In the past he has strongly rebuffed calls (recently supported by Mr Trump) to make America energy independent. With luck, he will not only have the tactical skills to further America’s interests abroad. He will also have the integrity to talk sense into his boss. Give Rex a chance | The Economist

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    • The ugly things Moscow might do if Ukraine is consigned to a Russian sphere of influence
      EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/12/29 Paul A. Goble
      http://euromaidanpress.com/wp-conten...5e6da59a01.jpg

      All too many people in the West are casually talking about recognizing Ukraine as lying within a Russian sphere of influence without reflecting what that might mean for Ukraine and Ukrainians. Such people might want to revise their thinking after hearing what well-connected Russian commentator says should be done in that event.

      Mikhail Khazin, an economist, a former official in the Russian Presidential Administration, and a member of an experts commission of the Moscow Patriarchate, outlines what he believes Moscow would want if the West acknowledged that Ukraine is in Russia’s sphere of influence.

      Once Ukraine is acknowledged as part of Russia’s sphere of influence, Khazin says, “everything will depend on what we want. If we want to keep Ukraine whole but loyal to Russia, then it will be necessary to return the Donbas with a change of leadership in Kyiv … Further, counter-propaganda will begin. The population there won’t be delighted in fact.”

      “There, crudely speaking, will be several million people whom it will be impossible to correct. Well, it will be necessary to liquidate part of them and drive out the rest,” the Moscow commentator says.

      On the other hand, Khazin says, Moscow may decide to dismember Ukraine. Then, “the picture would be the following.” The eastern portion of Ukraine now “should go into Russia as oblasts with complete de-Nazification and de-Ukrainianization, with a complete prohibition of the use of Ukrainian alphabet, Ukrainian texts, broadcasts and teaching in Ukrainian.”

      Moreover, he continues, the rest of Ukraine “must become an agrarian state,” one which will not be allowed to have its own “army or industry.” If there is overpopulation, then people should be sent to the Russian Far East. And the Western four of five oblasts of Ukraine “should be given to Poland.”

      That is, Khazin says, “all of the Banderite people must be driven there and handed over to the Poles. The thing is that, in the division of the world, Poland will also go to us. We must secure the loyalty of Poland and have them occupied by someone or other.”
      The ugly things Moscow might do if Ukraine is consigned to a Russian sphere of influence | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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      • Ukrainians Reflect Bitterly On 'Betrayed Hopes' Of Euromaidan
        RADIO FREE EUROPE Christopher Miller Dec 29, 2016

        KYIV -- Between classes in Kolkata, India, 17-year-old Svyatoslav Yurash was glued to a video stream of almost a million of his compatriots rallying in Ukraine's capital when he decided to join the protest that would soon swell into a revolt.

        The night before in Kyiv -- on November 30, 2013 -- hundreds of demonstrators, most of them students, had been bludgeoned by riot police. The idealistic Yurash couldn't stand by any longer. He flew home and rushed to Independence Square -- better known as simply the Maidan. Soon, he would launch the influential Euromaidan PR agency that amplified voices from the barricades in half a dozen or so languages across almost as many platforms.

        Out on the Maidan, the "loss of hope" that had driven Yurash out of Ukraine after the 2010 election victory of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych faded. As he and his fellow protesters pressed their case for closer ties to the West and greater transparency, fighting back the ranks of riot police, passion swelled within him. He sensed that his country was finally on the right track, which for him meant the path toward Europe as a thriving new democracy and away from Russia's smothering sphere of influence.

        Three years later, that passion has turned to frustration.

        Yanukovych might be in Russian exile, but many of Ukraine's would-be revolutionaries say they are disillusioned by the lack of progress and complain that the country is now dangerously close to being rerouted from the European track set out by the uprising.

        The past year has seen the collapse of the second postrevolutionary government and the departure of a number of reform-minded ministers and other officials. For the most part, they have been replaced by old-guard politicians -- including some with close ties to the president, Petro Poroshenko -- who critics say have resumed the opaque ways of Ukrainian politics.

        "The post-Maidan leadership has betrayed our hope for rebuilding Ukraine anew," Yurash, now 20, tells RFE/RL. "These people kept the country together, but there has been little desire to change. Instead, they've worked in the usual corrupt way."

        Indeed, corruption remains rampant in Ukraine. Moreover, prosecutors have failed to bring current or former senior officials to justice for serious crimes, including the killings of more than 100 protesters during the unrest.

        And Ukraine's economy is still reeling from the 2014 chaos and subsequent conflicts with Russia and Russia-backed separatists. Its currency, the hryvnya, has plunged to historic lows. Some three-quarters of Ukrainians, who make just $200 a month on average, consider themselves poor; almost 82 percent think their lives are worse since the revolution, according to recent surveys.

        Meanwhile, the passionate idealism that drove many Euromaidan demonstrators to hit the streets three years ago might have ebbed; only around 1 in 4 Ukrainians in a fresh study by pollster SOCIS expressed a willingness to participate in Euromaidan today. But the perception remains that something is amiss; nearly half of respondents in the same poll think such a protest is "likely" or "very likely" in the first half of 2017.

        Chants of "Bandits out!" and "Shame!" -- popularized during the 2013-14 uprising -- are again being shouted during street protests aimed at the government and president. More than 1,000 demonstrators at a Ukrainian Federation of Trade Unions rally in front of Ukraine's parliament on December 8 chided lawmakers, saying they should be ashamed of themselves for not doing more to increase social benefits for workers as utility costs rise. Members of far-right groups returned to Independence Square on November 21, the anniversary of the start of the uprising, to demand the resignation of Ukraine's "criminal" leadership. Kyiv, which has been ground zero for two revolutions in 12 years, has been rife for months with talk of a third revolt.

        "I have a strong feeling that if you leave everything as it is, awaiting us is a counterrevolution," Mustafa Nayyem, a former journalist turned lawmaker whose Facebook post on November 21, 2013, is widely viewed as the catalyst for Euromaidan, as the movement came to be called, wrote on that same social media platform on its third anniversary.

        Many Ukrainians have placed the blame for the slow pace of progress on one person in particular: President Poroshenko. Several embittered reformers who have quit government accuse him and his perceived cronies of blocking their efforts to fight graft and nepotism. Most recently, a member of parliament now in self-exile accused the president and his inner circle of massive corruption -- which his administration vehemently denies.

        Aivaras Abromavicius, the Lithuanian-born former economy minister, quit Ukraine's government in February, saying he wouldn't be a "puppet" for Poroshenko allies, whom he accused of blocking economic reforms and pressuring him to appoint "dubious people" to senior positions in state-controlled companies.

        Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili last month resigned from his presidential appointment as governor of Odesa in the south, accusing Poroshenko and his circle of unbridled corruption. Saakashvili ally Yulia Marushevska, known for her English-language "I am a Ukrainian" video before Poroshenko appointed her to head the Odesa customs department, tells RFE/RL that in the Black Sea port city she and Saakashvili found their "green light [to reform the region] turned to a red light." Almost immediately, she says, they were confronted by "a complete absence of political will and an absence of any real desire to change" from Poroshenko's allies in government, especially Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman. Marushevska resigned a week after Saakashvili.

        Anticorruption campaigner Oleksandra Drik, president of the Kyiv-based Civic Lustration Committee, an NGO that monitors anticorruption reforms, says that Poroshenko and the government of Volodymyr Hroysman are toeing the line between making "just enough" changes to appease Ukraine's Western backers and preserving the "old, corrupt system" that has enriched oligarchs and bled state coffers since the country's independence in 1991.

        Of course, some impediments are beyond Kyiv's control. The ongoing, Russia-backed war in Ukraine's east, which exploded in the weeks after Yanukovych's ouster, and the Kremlin's forcible annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, are also strangling Ukrainian reform efforts. Poroshenko announced during a trip to the front line on December 6 that after 31 months of fighting, the conflict had reached a grim milestone: More than 10,000 people, including at least 2,500 troops and 7,500 civilians, have been killed since April 2014. Moscow has used the war as a lever to destabilize Kyiv, dialing up when it sees fit a war that Poroshenko has said costs Ukraine about $5 million a day.

        The West has sought to be supportive of Kyiv. But Washington and Brussels have become increasingly annoyed by the slow pace of reforms in Kyiv and Poroshenko's personal lack of commitment to change, two diplomats from Western embassies tell RFE/RL. Officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Kyiv in November but left without assuring it another aid tranche, saying decisive steps must first be taken to combat corruption and prosecute and convict corrupt high-level officials. A European Court of Auditors report published on December 7 said that EU funds meant to help Ukraine reform have had "limited impact."

        Dmytro Shymkiv, a deputy head of the presidential administration, tells RFE/RL that keeping a steady pace is more important than being speedy.

        "If we stop, that's going to be a challenge for the country," he says. "I don't think there is a way back."

        It hasn't been all gloom and doom. Ukraine has managed to launch new government anticorruption agencies, introduce electronic systems for the disclosure of public officials' assets and public procurement, modernize its military, and decrease its energy dependence on Russia (Kyiv has not purchased Russian gas for over a year), among other things.
        >>>>>

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        • Betrayed Hopes Pt 2

          Perhaps the most visible reform has been that of its police forces, infamous for being corrupt and violent.

          "Three years ago, we were standing against the police, and now we are standing for them," says Kateryna Kruk, 25, an activist who gained notice outside of Ukraine by informing the world of Euromaidan events through Twitter.

          And in December, the government adopted a series of landmark reforms that the current health minister, U.S.-born Ulana Suprun, tells RFE/RL will overhaul Ukraine's notoriously bureaucratic and corrupt health-care system. Suprun, who played an instrumental role in the makeshift medical services provided at Euromaidan, says the "revolutionary" improvements being unveiled on January 1 will guarantee that all Ukrainians have access to primary health and emergency care.

          Ukrainian officials have hoped it is all enough to convince the European Union that it is worthy of a special relationship -- including a freshly minted deal to allow Ukrainians visa-free travel to the EU's Schengen zone, a key demand of Euromaidan.

          But it may not be enough to convince many disaffected Ukrainians that there's still momentum for change here.

          "The chance for real reforms died with the breakup of the 'Dream Team,'" Abromavicius says, in a reference to the technocratic government that he was a part of under former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. It also included an American-born finance minister, Natalie Jaresko, another favorite in Washington. That government was ousted in April.

          Now, as 2016 rumbles to a close and Yurash sits in the shadow of the burned-out Trade Unions building that once housed his Euromaidan PR operation, he says he remains optimistic, despite everything. But, he adds, he is disappointed in Ukraine's leadership and what he sees as a squandered opportunity.

          "Those now in power don't realize that they missed their chance to go down in history as the new Ukraine's founding fathers," he says. "Poroshenko could have been the Ukrainian George Washington. He's lost that chance." Ukrainians Reflect Bitterly On 'Betrayed Hopes' Of Euromaidan

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          • Grizzly Steppe - Russian Malicious Cyber Activity Report
            NCCIC FBI 12/29/2016

            Excerpt from Summary:

            This Joint Analysis Report (JAR) is the result of analytic
            efforts between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This document
            provides technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence Services (RIS) to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. electi
            on, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities. The U.S. Government is referring to this malicious cyber activity by RIS as GRIZZLY STEPPE.

            Previous JARs have not attributed malicious cyber activity to specific countries or threat actors. However, public attribution of these activities to RIS is supported by technical indicators from the U.S. Intelligence Community, DHS, FBI, the private sector, and other entities. This
            determination expands upon the Joint Statement released October 7, 2016, from the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security.

            This activity by RIS is part of an ongoing campaign of cyber
            -enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens.These cyber operations have included spearphishing campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure entities, think tanks, universities,
            political organizations, and corporations leading to the theft of information. In foreign countries, RIS actors conducted damaging and/or disruptive cyber-attacks,including
            attacks on critical infrastructure networks. In some cases,
            RIS actors masqueraded as third parties, hiding behind
            false online personas designed to cause the victim to misattribute the source of the attack. This JAR provides technical indicators related to many of these operations, recommended mitigations, suggested actions to take in response to the indicators provided, and information on how to report such incidents to the U.S. Government.

            Complete Report:
            https://www.uscert.gov/sites/default...R_16-20296.pdf

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            • Russian Senator: Trump will probably reverse latest round of sanctions
              UAWIRE ORG December 30, 2016 8:17:17 AM

              According to the First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Committee for Defense and Security, Frants Klintsevich, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will most likely reverse Washington’s latest round of sanctions which were imposed on Thursday in response to the Kremlin’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election, TASS reported.

              "There is a big chance that Donald Trump will reverse the latest anti-Russian sanctions after he takes office," Klintsevich told reporters.

              The Russian senator explained that if Trump does not lift the latest round of sanctions, it would mean that his administration admits that Russia did, in fact, influence the elections by conducting cyberattacks.

              "Trump would not be willing to accept this allegation, particularly as it is untrue," he said.

              “This kind of scheming gives the U.S. no credit,” Klintsevich added.

              On Thursday, Washington imposed new sanctions against Russia over the Kremlin’s alleged cyberattacks against U.S. political institutions in the lead up to the presidential election. Sanctions were applied to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Intelligence Agency of Russia’s General Staff (GRU), and 35 Russian diplomats were ordered to leave the U.S. by the end of the day on January 1st.

              On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin expel 35 U.S. diplomats in response to Washington’s actions.

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              • Four Ukrainian radio companies will be able to broadcast to Crimea from Chonhar
                UAWIRE ORG December 29, 2016 5:30:07 PM

                The National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine identified four winners of a competition that will be able to broadcast to the Crimea from Chonhar. This information was released by the Council’s press service.

                Ukrainian Radio, Atlant-SV, Krym.Reallii and Sofia radio stations will be able to broadcast to the Crimea. "This is the first such competition for broadcasting to the Crimea since its occupation. Broadcasting will be possible after the completion of a new tower in Chonhar town of the Kherson region, located 15 km from the passage monitoring checkpoint," National Council Member Sergiy Kostinsky said.

                According to Kostinsky, due to the shutdown of analog TV next year, radio companies will have more chances to get a license. Executive Director of Ukrainian Radio Anatoly Tabachenko noted that the future public broadcaster will have three new radio frequencies, which will soon be mastered.

                Ukrainian TV channels broadcasting in the Crimea were completely discontinued in the spring of 2014, immediately after the annexation of the peninsula by Russia. On December 2, construction of a 150-meter tower started in the south of Kherson region for the organization of FM-broadcasting to the Crimea.

                The Russian-Crimean authorities of the peninsula have promised to jam the signal from the new Ukrainian radio tower. UAWire - Four Ukrainian radio companies will be able to broadcast to Crimea from Chonhar

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                • Montenegro issues international arrest warrant for two Russians and three Serbs for involvement in coup attempt
                  UAWIRE ORG December 29, 2016 3:30:00 PM

                  Montenegro has issued an international arrest warrant for two Russians and three Serbs who are allegedly involved in a coup d’état attempt in order to overthrow the Montenegrin government, Radio Svoboda reported.

                  On the 27th of December, the Montenegrin Prosecutor’s Office reported that five people are wanted on suspicion of terrorist activity, including the plot to murderthe Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović, and seize of the Parliament building on Election Day in October.

                  The two Russians are reportedly members of Russian military intelligence, who, according to the prosecution, carried out surveillance over the Prime Minister of Montenegro from neighboring Serbia.

                  Local media reported that one of the wanted Serbs is Nemanja Ristic, who appeared in a photo standing near the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, on the 12th of December during his visit to Belgrade. The Kremlin denies its involvement in the Montenegrin coup. However, it actively supports local political groups that oppose the pro-NATO Government.

                  Montenegro received an invitation to join the Alliance last year, but the decision has not yet been ratified by several Member States.

                  The Montenegrin authorities stated that there is no evidence of the involvement of high-level Russian officials in a plot against NATO. Approximately 20 people, mostly Serbs and Russians, are already held in custody in Montenegro on charges of involvement in this scheme. Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jens Stoltenberg, previously assured the security of Montenegro.
                  UAWire - Montenegro issues international arrest warrant for two Russians and three Serbs for involvement in coup attempt

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                  • Ukrtransgaz claims Gazprom does not provide sufficient gas pressure in pipeline at entrance of Ukraine's gas transport system
                    UAWIRE ORG December 29, 2016 1:12:50 PM

                    PJSC Ukrtransgaz has documented Gazprom’s contract violations with regard to pressure in the pipeline at the entrance to Ukraine’s gas transport system, Ukrtransgaz press secretary Maksym Bilyavskiy posted on Facebook.

                    "Gazprom continues to violate contract pressures, anyway. A sharp decline by 9% from the norm was recorded at the Russian station Sudzha. In spite of this, Ukraine fulfills transit application and provides necessary pressures at the western border,” he wrote.

                    NJSC Naftogaz of Ukraine and Ukrtransgaz in 2016 repeatedly recorded systematic “failures” of gas pressures from the Russian side of the border below the contract level. In doing so, Gazprom significantly complicated the implementation of its gas transport applications to Europe.

                    Naftogaz noted that in such circumstances, the Ukrainian GTS operator has to significantly adjust its work, bearing extra expenses to balance transit. UAWire - Ukrtransgaz claims Gazprom does not provide sufficient gas pressure in pipeline at entrance of Ukraine's gas transport system

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                    • Polish Foreign Ministry expressed protest over previously unknown recordings from Kaczynski crash
                      UAWIRE ORG December 29, 2016 12:12:21 PM

                      The Polish Foreign Ministry demanded that Russia turn over their allegedly previously unknown recordings from the cockpit of the Polish President’s plane that crashed near Smolensk. The relevant note was sent to the diplomatic agency of the Russian Federation, Ekho Moskvii reports. The Foreign Ministry reiterated the request to hand over the debris of aircraft as well.

                      The request for recordings relates to a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin from the press conference on December 23. Putin said that they read the transcript of the conversation in the cockpit of the Polish aircraft.

                      The Russian Embassy in Poland replied that such demands were groundless. The embassy claimed that there was no previously unknown recording. Its statement also reads that Polish investigators are not limited in their access to the debris of the aircraft; they may come to Russia and work with it at any time.

                      Earlier, the Polish Defense Ministry requested Russian authorities to immediately hand over recordings from the cockpit of theTu-154 carrying then Polish President Lech Kaczynski that crashed near Smolensk in 2010.

                      “Russian authorities have a transcript of the conversation between the pilot and passengers that has never been available to Poland,” the agency’s statement reads.

                      President Kaczyński’s plane crashed in 2010 while landing at the Smolensk North airport. There were 96 people on board: 88 passengers and eight crew members who were on their way to the Katyn massacre commemoration ceremony. Everyone aboard the flight was killed. Poland is not satisfied with the results of the investigation of the International Aviation Committee. UAWire - Polish Foreign Ministry expressed protest over previously unknown recordings from Kaczynski crash

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                      • Moscow’s Dorogomilovsky Court recognizes Maidan as a 'coup'
                        UAWIRE ORG December 28, 2016 3:00:47 PM

                        On the 27th of December, the Dorogomilovsky Court of Moscow recognized the events of February 2014 in Ukraine as a coup. According to the court, the cessation of human rights in the country resulted in a coup d’état. As a result, the residents of the Crimea held a referendum to reunify with the Russian Federation, due to their spiritual origins, inextricable relationship with Russia, and alienation from Ukraine, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

                        The former Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada, Vladimir Oleynik, who currently lives in Moscow, filed a claim with the Dorogomilovsky Court of Moscow to recognize the events which took place in February 2014, as a coup d’état. According to his claim, the dismissal of Viktor Yanukovych from the office of the President of Ukraine and the early presidential elections in May 2014 were both illegal.

                        The Moscow Court decided that this issue is within its jurisdiction because Oleynik and other former Ukrainian officials were allegedly forced to seek amnesty from persecution by Ukrainian authorities and fled to Russia.

                        In the Court’s view, the coup d’état is confirmed by the testimonies from the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, the former Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, the former head of the Presidential Administration, the former Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Security Service of Ukraine, Andriy Klyuyev, the former Minister of Internal Affairs, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, the former head of Security Service of Ukraine, Oleksandr Yakymenko, and also the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Viktor Pshonka.

                        The court officials believe that unique relationships were established between the people of Russia and Ukraine that obligate the Russian court to make a legal assessment of events which have occurred in a neighboring State, as stated in the court’s decision. Vladimir Oleynik was a member of the Party of Regions parliamentary faction that ruled in Ukraine. In December 2014, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine put him on the wanted list due to suspicion of organizing an illegal vote in the Verkhovna Rada in January 2014.

                        Moreover, Oleynik was the co-author of the so-called dictatorial laws, which were adopted in a single action without discussion on the 16th of January 2014. These dictatorial laws triggered a wave of discontent in Ukrainian society. Those laws were partially copied from Russian legislation: in particular, the definition of foreign agents, the criminalization of defamation, extremist activity, reinforcement of state control over mass media, and rules regarding rallies and demonstrations.

                        The majority of these laws were subsequently repealed and condemned by the international community who also did not recognize the annexation of the Crimea by Russian authorities.
                        UAWire - Moscow’s Dorogomilovsky Court recognizes Maidan as a 'coup'

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                        • McCain Joins Colleagues In Calling For Tougher Russia Sanctions
                          RADIO FREE EUROPE 12/30/2016 VIDEO

                          U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has called for significantly tougher sanctions on Russia, beyond those imposed by President Barack Obama this week. During a visit to Kyiv on December 30, McCain joined Senate colleagues Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) in saying they expected Congress to act in the new year. Graham told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that Russia's energy and financial sectors, as well as President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, would be targeted, and that he hoped President-elect Donald Trump would sign the measures. The moves come after the CIA, the FBI, and the broader U.S. intelligence community concluded that computer hackers, likely operating with the authority of the highest levels of the Russian government, interfered in November's U.S. presidential election.
                          McCain Joins Colleagues In Calling For Tougher Russia Sanctions

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                          • No matter how much Trump may want to, he can’t ‘give’ Ukraine to Putin, Piontkovsky says
                            EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2016/12/31

                            http://euromaidanpress.com/wp-conten...master7681.jpg

                            “However much he may desire it, no [US president including Donald] Trump can give Ukraine [to Russia]” because Vladimir Putin by his actions has alienated all Ukrainians and failed to provide a single compelling reason why they or anyone else should want to live under Kremlin rule, according to Andrey Piontkovsky.

                            In a commentary today, the Russian commentator suggests that many in Moscow think that the coming of Trump to office will represent a complete change in the situation, thus ignoring both the limits of any one leader to achieve that and the limits Russia has imposed on itself by its failures and its aggression.

                            Piontkovsky argues that Russians have suffered from this “pleasant delusion” since Trump won office on November 8 and that some of them have behaved the way Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels did when he learned on April 13, 1945 that Franklin Roosevelt had died. “The whole course of the war is changing,” he told Hitler in the bunker.

                            Russian officials have some reason for maintaining their view of Trump, the commentator says. After all, Trump has been unceasing in his enthusiasm for Putin and for establishing close ties with the Kremlin in order to fight terrorism. “We need the Russians,” the incoming president has repeatedly said.

                            This is “sweet music … not only for the power holders in the Kremlin but for the entire Russian political class, from ‘Yabloko’-types like Arbatov and Lunkin to open neo-Nazis like Dugin and Prokhanov,” Piontkovsky says. They all believe a new Yalta is ahead, one in which Trump will recognize “at a minimum” the former Soviet space as Russia’s sphere of influence.

                            But they should all stop this silly dreaming because “nothing of the sort is going to happen.” The reason lies not with Trump but with Russia and Russians, he argues.

                            “All American presidents over the last quarter of a century – Clinton and Bush and Obama – began with efforts to reach agreement with [Moscow] because this really would correspond to the interests of both the US and Russia. But all of them were seriously disappointed” because of the position Moscow has adopted.

                            Moscow has again and again “demanded the impossible.” It has demanded more than that Americans should love Russia; it has demanded that the Americans ensure that all of Russia’s neighbors will love it to. And when the US can’t deliver on that, as it certainly can’t, Moscow gets angry and blames the US for the outcome.

                            The reason Moscow has failed to win friends lies not with Washington but with Russia itself. No one on the post-Soviet space needs Moscow; indeed, no one “in any other region of the world” does either. Russia has been and remains an aggressor and a supporter of vicious dictators like Syria’s Assad.

                            “Putin’s Russia cannot be attractive for anyone, not for the millions of Ukrainians and Georgians who have chosen a European vector of development and not even for the Central Asian dictators who do not need a master in the Kremlin,” he writes. Russia has lost Ukraine “forever,” regardless of who is president of the US.

                            Trump doesn’t have the power to “give Moscow the love of Ukrainians.” No one does. And when he seeks to make Putin an ally against the Islamic state, he is going to discover that the Kremlin leader is anything but a useful one given Putin’s games with the Iranians and with radicals in the Middle East.

                            The incoming president will certainly be told about all that by US intelligence agencies, and it is thus likely, being a tough-minded businessman who wants to make a deal, that he will have “serious doubts about the usefulness of such an ally in the struggle against ‘the Islamic State.”

                            Trump may then try to make a deal with Putin as an ally to help contain the rise of China. In this, he would have the same ally Richard Nixon did more than 40 years ago, except that then Henry Kissinger wanted a US rapprochement with China in order to contain the Soviet Union, Piontkovsky continues.

                            Because of Russia’s own problems, that is unlikely to lead to a grand bargain of the kind so many are talking about. Instead, what is likely to happen after an initial burst of activity is what has happened before: disappointment on both sides and anger among the leaders of each against those of the other.

                            And there is an additional reason for doubting that Trump will deliver something without getting something back: the attitudes of the US Congress. These people aren’t “’the lame ducks’” and “political corpses” that the Russian foreign ministry is complaining about. They are people who are going to be around and that Trump will have to take into consideration.

                            The American legislators will insist that the US get something if it gives up something and thus they will reinforce Trump’s own inclination to make demands for a real exchange. If Russia can’t offer anything of value – and it seems unlikely that it can – then there won’t be a new Yalta or anything like it, regardless of what Moscow and its allies abroad think. No matter how much Trump may want to, he can’t ‘give’ Ukraine to Putin, Piontkovsky says | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                            • The Kissinger effect
                              EUROMAIDAN PRESS Vitaliy Portnikov 2016/12/30

                              New information about the possible involvement of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the development of some plan of mutual understanding between the administration of Donald Trump and the Russian leadership sends us back to events of 40 years ago, when Kissinger, the main diplomat in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, sought a détente in the tense relationship with the Soviet Union. But I would hesitate to draw parallels between Kissinger’s tasks then and now.

                              The main conflict between Moscow and Washington at that time was the preservation of the spheres of influence by the two superpowers, which had been marked off after WWII. In order to keep the Kremlin from trying to extend its zone of influence, Nixon and Kissinger took the unprecedented step of dropping the full-scale support of the government of the Republic of China in Taiwan and recognizing the regime of Mao Zedong in Beijing. In this fashion, Nixon and Kissinger hoped to create an effective counterbalance to Soviet ambitions. It must be said that this tactic was not especially successful. The USSR, in fact, did agree to conduct disarmament talks with the United States, but absolutely did not refrain from enlarging its spheres of influence. Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Grenada, Afghanistan — all this happened after the Chinese-American reconciliation. After that, Moscow was ready to penetrate Latin America, in addition to Africa and Asia.

                              Incidentally, some of these regimes established through Soviet interference have remained Russian allies right up to today — for example, the regime of Daniel Ortega. The war in Afghanistan put an end to the arms reduction as well. So the policies of Nixon and Kissinger during the Soviet area can be described with one all-encompassing word: fiasco. The real winner turned out to be Ronald Reagan, who was not afraid to help opponents of the Kremlin and who even sent a landing force to destroy the pro-Soviet (more accurately — pro-Cuban) regime in Grenada. And then the Soviet Union simply decayed, and its ugly effigy simply fell to the feet of the Americans. No Kissinger would be able to bring this piece of rotten rags back to life.

                              Moreover, the goals of Vladimir Putin cannot be compared to the goals of Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev already had a sphere of influence — as well as the resources to preserve and expand it. Putin does not have a sphere of influence — and he also lacks the resources to establish and preserve it. But this does not keep Putin from dreaming about Brezhnev’s possibilities. The Russian president does not need some Crimea, or a piece of mutilated Donbas, or even Ukraine. He needs the Soviet Union with Moscow’s post-war sphere of influence. With Putin, it is absolutely ridiculous to negotiate to “close eyes” to Crimea in exchange for withdrawal from the Donbas. Putin does not need a “neutral” Ukraine, dreamed up by the “pragmatists” on Trump’s team. He needs an obedient Ukraine. An obedient Belarus. An obedient Kazakhstan. Obedient Baltic States. Obedient Central European states. I would like to see Kissinger’s magic wand. Perhaps he really is a magician, and I have simply misunderstood his biography.

                              And most importantly, if Trump’s administration is really ready for a serious conflict with China, it cannot count on the assistance of Russia, even if it agrees to all of Putin’s demands. Russia has not been the Soviet Union for some time. The Soviet Union was an equal partner of the US, and China was their enemy and rival. Russia is only the junior partner of China. It can afford a confrontation with the United States, with the European Union, with Turkey. But not with China. The confrontation with China is the end of Russia. And if Washington really fails to understand this in theory, then it will realize it in practice.

                              If Donald Trump really wants to succeed in his relations with Vladimir Putin, he needs to handle the Kremlin as did Ronald Reagan — with confidence, toughness, boldness, and without compromise. And he will win everything — and even more. But no one in the world can prevent Donald Trump from repeating the political experience of Richard Nixon.

                              One only needs to remember how this experience turned out for the US president and for the relations between Moscow and Washington.
                              The Kissinger effect -Euromaidan Press |
                              Translated by: Anna Mostovych
                              Source: Radio Svoboda

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                              • Putin’s Busy Week
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2016/12/31

                                Even as Russian propagandists say that the Kremlin leader was not involved in the Russian doping program, something improbable on its face, Vladimir Putin had the kind of busy week in which he acted in ways that show he is involved in almost everything that goes on in Russia – and regrettably in other countries as well.

                                Asserting that no one in the world can create problems for Russia that it can’t overcome, Putin took a number of steps showing that he is quite able to do so on his own, including these:

                                --He signed the so-called Sadist Law allowing jailers to beat prisoners with impunity.
                                --He vetoed a Duma-passed measure – for the first time since 2012 – that might have helped local governments.
                                --He gave a grant for patriotic education to his biker buddies.
                                --He ensured that a journalist who had reported about assassination attempts against him was fired from Moscow television.
                                --He promised to help build a Buddhist shrine in Moscow.
                                --He denounced the practice of using Islam and terrorism in the same sentence. (It will be interesting to see if those in the US who so criticized President Barack Obama for making a similar argument will say anything about the Kremlin ruler’s declaration.)

                                But not all the news for Putin was good:

                                --Polls showed that Russians were paying less attention to war and more to economic problems at home.
                                --Russians are watching television less and turning to the Internet more, thus reducing the impact of his chosen means of maintaining control
                                --Putin has Russia in so many wars now that Muscovites aren’t sure whom they’re fighting. A survey of Russians in the streets of Moscow by Radio Liberty journalists found that Russians are far from sure just whom they are fighting now.
                                --And he can’t have been happy that the Parisian satirical journal published a cartoon about the crash of the Russian plane over the Black Sea with the legend that “the bad news is that Putin wasn’t on board.”
                                He said that the death of 75 people in Irkutsk from drinking an alcohol surrogate is a tragedy and justifies raising taxes on alcohol and restricting the sale of alcohol and surrogates during the holidays but that there is no reason to try to ban drinking in Russia as its problems are no worse than those in Scandinavian countries. The Russian president also blamed foreigners for what happened in Irkutsk, although he provided no evidence for that assertion. Meanwhile, Russian officials have banned the sale of some surrogates and restricted the sale of alcohol in Moscow during the upcoming holidays.
                                --Russian economists say that the Russian economy can’t easily recover until domestic demand increases.
                                --More than 15 million pensioners are now working illegally.
                                --Teachers in the Transbaikal say they won’t go back to work in January until they are paid at least half of their December salaries.
                                --Nearly a quarter of all Russian regions are virtually bankrupt.
                                --Unemployment went up in 81 of Russia’s regions last week.
                                --Russian officials announced that they have now destroyed 9000 tons of food Putin has banned from entering the country.

                                But Putin is looking ahead: his officials declared that in the upcoming elections, they want 70 percent of all voters to take part and 70 percent of those who do to vote for the Kremlin candidate. Putin’s Busy Week | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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