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  • Ukrainian interest – 2017. Frozen Donbas, disappointment in Europe, and surprise overseas The Donbas conflict remains an unresolved problem, and tactical successes are not enough to ensure the positive dynamics. The strategy of Crimea and Donbas return has not been revealed to the public and expert community. European vector of Ukraine’s foreign policy received a positive evaluation only for the work in the PACE. The victory of Donald Trump stunned Ukrainian political elite, and it seems it has not yet recovered fully.
    UNIAN Yevgeny Magda 21 Dec 2016

    The occupied territories of Donbass remain a problem to the whole Ukraine. Despite the fact that hostilities in eastern Ukraine have been scaled down, they continue to claim lives. The Donbas infrastructure is in a continuous collapse. The death of Arsen Pavlov (aka Motorola) has not led to any fundamental change in attitudes among the separatist units. The Normandy Four and the Trilateral Contact Group are unable to achieve an actual solution to the conflict in Donbas, while Western diplomats, given the Russian factor, say that this would only be possible at the expense of Ukrainian interests. Therefore, we should not overestimate the findings of the joint investigation team on the causes of MH17 crash, where they expressly blamed the Russian Buk anti-aircraft system. The conflict in Donbass is gradually freezing, and this fact will bring serious consequences for Ukraine.

    Obviously, Ukraine needs a plan of Donbas and Crimea return, which would be clear and transparent to its citizens. So far, these intentions are all about rhetoric rather than technological algorithms. Further delay in this issue could be disastrous for Ukraine as Moscow is dead serious about increasing pressure on Crimea and retaining Donbas within its sphere of influence, applying a variety of techniques to this end. The hunt for subversives, propaganda indoctrination and the injection of the "Russian world" ideas in huge doses are the most notable of them, as well as holding in the occupied peninsula of elections to the State Duma. The return to Ukraine of the so-called "Scythian gold" from the Netherlands has rather been a pleasant surprise than the evidence that the Europeans realize the risk of changing the post-war borders across the continent.

    Ukraine’s relations with the European Union in 2016 have lost their drive and confidence. European integration remains a popular theme for Ukraine’s politicians, but a visa liberalization delay and Dutch whims have revealed to many that our country is too big for a smooth rapprochement with the EU without taking into account European interests and protecting those of Ukraine. Are Ukrainian officials ready to speak with Europe boldly and assertively? The positive answer, perhaps, regards only the PACE meetings, but even there, Ukraine’s triumph may soon be replaced by disappointment because of the willingness of many European politicians to return to business as usual with Russia. Brexit has seriously worsened the climate within the European Union, and this fact can not be discounted.

    In this situation, Ukraine should learn from the European experience and ensure further transformation within the country, being aware that the European integration will be a long process with plenty of problems on the way. The rapprochement with the EU is possible, rather, in a more targeted manner, with our closest neighbors being a priority. However, the trends in relations between the Visegrad Four and Brussels seem alarming, while some aspects of Poland’s internal politics (it’s not only about the issue of Volyn tragedy, skillfully put on top agenda) limit the space for diplomatic maneuver.

    The post-Soviet space has not become a springboard for Ukraine’s breakthrough. A positive thing is Kyiv’s warm relations with the Baltic states, but the trend in Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova are worrying. By the way, new Ukrainian ambassadors have not been appointed to Minsk and Tbilisi for over a year. It would be naive to believe that all the former Soviet republics are ready to take up arms against Russia, so it is necessary to use other arguments and facts in Ukraine’s communication with them.

    The victory of Donald J. Trump in the U.S. presidential campaign has become an unpleasant surprise for many people from Ukraine’s political beau monde. Apparently, they are yet to learn the skill to lay eggs in different geopolitical baskets. The foreign policy of the next U.S. president remains a mystery, not only for the Ukrainian politicians, but they still have to choose the right tone in a dialogue with Mr Trump. Obviously, this mustn’t be positioning Ukraine as Europe's largest problem, but searching for arguments for mutually beneficial cooperation.

    Ukrainian interest – 2017. Frozen Donbas, disappointment in Europe, and surprise overseas

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • Trump card Moscow keeps up its sleeve: Gerashchenko says Russia blackmails Ukraine with prisoners Russia has been blackmailing Ukraine with prisoners whom Moscow refuses to release despite earlier agreements, however the talks on hostage liberation should continue with Russia, not with the militant leaders, according to First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's representative in the humanitarian subgroup of the Trilateral contact group Iryna Gerashchenko, reports.
      UNIAN 31 Dec 2016

      "The issue of hostages has become one of the most emotional and difficult ones. This is that one issue, the trump card that Moscow holds up its sleeve, trying to blackmail Ukraine and the whole world with it, demanding amnesty [for militants detained in Ukraine]," said Gerashchenko.

      "The decision on whom to release, when to release, and how to release, is not taken by ‘Igorek’ and ‘Sasha’ [the reference to the manner Nadiia Savchenko called Donbas militant leaders Igor Plotnitsky and Alexander Zakharchenko, with whom she held unsanctioned talks in Minsk] but by Moscow. That is why it is very important to talk specifically with Moscow: to find a way how to demand from Moscow the release of our prisoners," she said.

      On December 23, during the Skype conference of the humanitarian subgroup on Donbas settlement, the Ukrainian side once again raised the issue of the release of prisoners, but according to Gerashchenko, Russia was not ready to release the hostages.

      Trump card Moscow keeps up its sleeve: Gerashchenko says Russia blackmails Ukraine with prisoners

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      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • Le Pen Party Needs Cash, Could Turn to Russia Again
        VOICE OF AMERICA Source:AP Dec 31, 2016

        PARIS —

        Money, and how to get it, has dogged French far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen for years.

        Now, as her National Front party’s treasurer says it’s looking “everywhere” for the 20 million euros ($21 million) needed to fund upcoming campaigns, she may be looking to Russia for cash — again.

        While foreign donations to French political parties are barred, loans are not. But it’s still a daring prospect for a party whose finances have drawn unwanted scrutiny.

        Investigations, a trial
        Alleged funding irregularities have prompted multiple legal investigations and an impending trial for several party officials and associates. Also, a 2014 loan from a Russian bank raised concerns over Moscow’s potential influence on French democracy. Not to mention the U.S. decision this week to impose sanctions and expel Russians over alleged cyber-meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

        The French National Front says it’s the target of a smear campaign, and notes that other candidates have also had financial troubles.

        Le Pen’s firm rejection of foreign influence would make fishing for finances outside French waters a no-go, were it not for her Russia-friendly stance and what party officials say is the refusal of French banks to lend money to the anti-immigration National Front.

        Funds are needed to finance campaigning for the April-May presidential vote and June parliamentary elections. Party officials deny recent reports that they have received a new loan from a Russian establishment, but no one is denying that the party may be asking for one.

        “We are looking everywhere. We are working discreetly,” party treasurer Wallerand de Saint Just told The Associated Press. They’re not ruling out funding requests from sources including Russia, the United Arab Emirates, or even the United States, he said.

        Moscow may be called
        The party borrowed 9 million euros in 2014 from the small First Czech Russian Bank, but the bank’s license was revoked this year, Saint Just said. Other Russian banks might consider a new loan.

        Moscow has courted far-right parties in Europe in an influence-building campaign as friction between Russia and the West has mounted over Ukraine and the Syrian civil war. Some leaders like Le Pen have hobnobbed in Moscow and at embassy events at home. Chieftains of Hungary’s anti-Semitic Jobbik and Austria’s Freedom Party also have made the trip.

        In a shifting of views in Russia’s favor, some mainstream politicians, from France’s conservative Francois Fillon, a top presidential contender, to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, are sympathetic to a friendly approach to Moscow.

        There is concern now that any new effort to tap Russian banks for loans could do just that, however, by making France vulnerable to influence from the Kremlin. Le Pen Party Needs Cash, Could Turn to Russia Again

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        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • 13:48 31.12.2016 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
          Ukrainian army will switch to NATO standards by 2020 and get new logistics system

          The new state program of development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for the period until 2020 is aimed at the army achieving criteria for acquiring membership in NATO, according to the official website of the Defense Ministry of Ukraine.

          "As a result of the execution of the provisions of the state program, the military administration system will be built based on the principles adopted by NATO member states. The transition to the new system of planning the development of the Armed Forces based on capacity planning, and focusing on the threat will take place," the statement reads.

          In addition, as a result of the program, the army structure will be improved and its numbers optimized. The military will undergo the necessary training and will be fully equipped with weapons, military equipment and other materials and technical means.

          There will also be a unified system of logistics and improved system of medical provision of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. "The experience gained by the Ukrainian army during the anti-terrorist operation, and the relevant NATO standards will be taken as a foundation for this," the report says.

          The program will ensure the Armed Forces of Ukraine will develop to respond effectively to threats to national security in the military sector, Ukraine's defense and protection of its sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability, as well as to achieve Euro-Atlantic standards and criteria necessary for the acquisition of a membership in NATO, the Defense Ministry said.

          As reported, on December 29, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine approved the draft state program of development of the armed forces of Ukraine for the period of up to 2020. Ukrainian army will switch to NATO standards by 2020 and get new logistics system

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          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • Ukrainian Ambassador to the US criticizes oligarch Pinchuk's article in The Wall Street Journal
            UAWIRE ORG January 2, 2017 10:18:10 AM

            The Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, Valeriy Chaly, criticized the oligarch Victor Pinchuk for his position in a The Wall Street Journal article.

            The diplomat wrote on his Facebook page, that big businesses should focus on supporting Ukraine, rather than "helping the enemy."

            "People ask me: what is your opinion on Victor Pinchuk’s article in the WSJ. I honestly do not see the need to respond. An attempt to take advantage of the situation and business as usual," Chaly said.

            He added that he would like to hear the opinions of Ukrainian soldiers who are at the front line, or at least from those who have been there, in the US media.

            "What a shame we here, in the United States, are trying to counteract the Russian information attacks, while they are receiving help from Ukraine. No resources are enough. I hope, in 2017, our major businesses will finally invest in their own survival in Ukraine and support our partners, instead of helping the enemy," the ambassador wrote.

            On December 29th The Wall Street Journal published Victor Pinchuk’s article "Ukraine Must Make Painful Compromises for Peace With Russia''. This article has already caused widespread criticism in Ukrainian society. UAWire - Ukrainian Ambassador to the US criticizes oligarch Pinchuk's article in The Wall Street Journal

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            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • Ukraine Must Make Painful Compromises for Peace With Russia
              Crimea should not get in the way of a deal that ends the war. The lives that will be saved are worth it.
              THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Victor Pinchuk Dec 29, 2016

              Many Ukrainians are worried about the new U.S. administration because it has promised a different approach to Russia—which invaded and forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and then initiated and supported a so-called “separatist” movement to also gain control over parts of eastern Ukraine. We additionally worry that amid anti-establishment currents in Europe, coming elections across the Continent will usher in leaders who will want to make a deal with the Kremlin.

              There will not be a solution over the heads of the more than 40 million Ukrainians. Our citizens have demonstrated since the end of 2013 that they will fight if the prospect of living in a free, democratic, tolerant and fair country is taken away. Those looking for a “realist” solution would be well advised to take this into account.

              But the instinctive response of many Ukrainians to the new circumstances—to demand the same as before, but with greater intensity and urgency—may not work. Instead of issuing ever-shriller appeals, we must also adapt to the new reality, and help our international friends help us.

              The new administration in Washington can be an opportunity for Ukraine to contribute to the solution of Russia’s intervention.

              Yes, we must stand up for the fundamental principles of our struggle—Ukraine’s right to choose its own way, safeguard its territorial integrity and build a successful country. Moscow must implement its obligations under the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. It must ensure enforcement of the cease-fire and the withdrawal of its fighters and heavy weapons, which it has failed to do.

              But this can be part of a larger picture in which we make painful compromises for peace. Consider the following ideas.

              • Ukraine should consider temporarily eliminating European Union membership from our stated goals for the near future. We can build a European country, be a privileged partner, and later discuss joining.

              • While we maintain our position that Crimea is part of Ukraine and must be returned, Crimea must not get in the way of a deal that ends the war in the east on an equitable basis. It will take Ukraine 15 to 20 years to generate enough economic growth and stabilize our infrastructure, social safety net and financial system. Everyone from Crimea will then want to live in this future Ukraine—just as East Germans wanted to become part of West Germany.

              • Conflict in the east was initiated from abroad and is not a genuine autonomy movement or civil war. There will not be conditions for fair elections until Ukraine has full control over its territory. But we may have to overlook this truth and accept local elections. Such compromises may mean letting down Ukrainians from the east who have suffered enormously. But if this is what it takes to demonstrate Ukraine’s commitment to peaceful reunification, then we may have to make this compromise to save thousands of lives.

              We must focus on helping those who had to leave their hometowns, and cannot return to live under repressive and unsafe conditions, by offering them all possible support to rebuild their lives in a new reality.

              • Finally, let’s accept that Ukraine will not join NATO in the near- or midterm. The offer is not on the table, and if it were, it could lead to an international crisis of unprecedented scope. For now, we should pursue an alternative security arrangement and accept neutrality as our near-term vision for the future.

              Ukraine will need security guarantees. In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China gave security assurances in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal. We trusted this agreement but learned painfully when Russia invaded Crimea that assurances are not guarantees.

              Ukraine must offer realistic, detailed proposals on all of these points. We should also make clear that we are ready to accept an incremental rollback of sanctions on Russia as we move toward a solution for a free, united, peaceful and secure Ukraine.

              The Ukrainian lives that will be saved are worth the painful compromises I have proposed. We must reiterate that Ukraine can be part of solving its own problems and addressing global challenges as part of a broad international coalition.

              When I hosted Donald Trump as a speaker by video link at the 2015 Yalta European Strategy annual meeting, he expressed great respect for Ukraine and the belief that we were not getting the support we deserved. I am hopeful that his sympathy for Ukraine can be the basis for meaningful negotiations, agreements and eventually a peaceful settlement.
              Ukraine Must Make Painful Compromises for Peace With Russia - WSJ

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              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • U.S. Senators Conclude Georgia Visit Pledging Tougher Russia Sanctions
                RADIO FREE EUROPE Georgia 1/2/2017

                Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and a delegation of U.S. senators have discussed the Caucasus country's aspirations for joining Western institutions and the Georgian-U.S. strategic relationship in Tbilisi.

                The president's office said Margvelashvili thanked John McCain (Republican-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina), and Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota) on January 2 for their support of Georgia's "sovereignty and territorial integrity" during talks in the Georgian capital.

                The senators included talks on their two-day trip with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze. McCain said he also met with some opposition leaders.

                The U.S. delegation stopped on January 2 at the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Center near Tbilisi and earlier at Khurvaleti, the boundary with the breakaway Georgian territory of South Ossetia that has been controlled by Russian forces since a brief war was fought in 2008.

                "Our message is that 2017 will be a year of 'more' -- more American military support, more trade, more economic integration, and more push-back against Russia for the aggression not only here, but throughout the world, more sanctions," Graham said.

                "Now is the time to let [Russian President Vladimir] Putin know that we as a world have had enough."

                McCain added: "It is clear that Russia has attacked the United States of America; all of our intelligence agencies will affirm that that'd been the case. We will work in the Congress to have stronger sanctions [against Russia] in order to prevent further attacks on the United States of America."

                The senators had also visited the Baltic states and Ukraine on their trip.
                U.S. Senators Conclude Georgia Visit Pledging Tougher Russia Sanctions

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                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Trump Says He Has New Information About Alleged Russian Hacking
                  RADIO FREE EUROPE 1/1/2017

                  U.S. President-elect Donald Trump says he has unrevealed information about alleged Russian hacking during the presidential election that he plans to present next week.

                  Speaking briefly to reporters on his way to a New Year's party in the U.S. state of Florida, Trump responded to a query about the alleged hacking by saying, "I know things that other people don't know" and "you will find out on Tuesday or Wednesday [January 3 or 4]."

                  He also said that he still believes the hacking of e-mails of U.S. Democratic Party officials could have been carried out by "somebody else" other than Russia. He said he knew a lot about computer hacking and that it's "a very hard thing to prove."

                  Last week, the U.S. government expelled 35 Russian diplomats and imposed sanctions against Russian security officials and agencies over the alleged hacking. U.S. intelligence agencies have said they believe Moscow ordered the hacking in order to help Trump win the election.

                  Asked whether he would meet with the president of Taiwan if she traveled to the United States, Trump refused to rule it out, saying merely, "We'll see."

                  The United States does not recognize Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

                  Trump said that under his presidency, the United States will have "great relationships" with many countries around the world, including Russia and China.

                  He also said that Israel was "very, very important to me." Trump Says He Has New Information About Alleged Russian Hacking
                  Trump is a luddite !!!
                  Donald Trump's complicated relationship with technology - POLITICO

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                  Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                  • A Century After Russian Revolution, Will Putin Bury Lenin?
                    RADIO FREE EUROPE Steve Gutterman 1/2/2017

                    Even for flamboyant firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the remarks seemed strikingly provocative: "God save the tsar!" he said, raising his hands high in an ornate Kremlin hall where President Vladimir Putin had just hung an eagle-and-cross Service to the Fatherland medal around his neck. "Reign for our glory, reign to strike fear in our foes, Orthodox tsar. God save the tsar!"

                    Putin's reaction is not visible in footage from the ceremony on September 22, four days after tightly controlled elections handed the loyal United Russia party more seats that ever before in the State Duma -- easily enough to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing presidential term limits, should Putin seek to stay in power for life.

                    But whether Zhirinovsky quoted from an imperial-era national anthem off the cuff or under orders from the Kremlin, his outburst neatly complemented an image Putin seems to have cultivated assiduously over 17 years in power -- that of a Russian tsar.

                    The image-making is evident in words and actions both large and small, from his sumptuous surroundings in the Kremlin and a lavish Sochi summer headquarters to surprise decrees and dismissals, as well as efforts -- such as an hourslong annual call-in show -- to cast himself as the only hope for everyday Russians beleaguered by craven tycoons and indifferent bureaucrats.

                    Abroad he has also acted with a tsarlike assertiveness, particularly in his third term, seizing Crimea from Ukraine -- a move he claimed righted a historical wrong by restoring Russian control over a region previously annexed by Empress Catherine the Great, in the 18th century -- and challenging Western leaders while seeking to bolster Moscow's power in Europe and beyond.

                    The Empire's Glaring Flaw
                    But the picture of Putin as a tsar has one glaring flaw, and it's plainly visible at the heart of Russia: The embalmed corpse of Vladimir Lenin, whose seizure of power following the Bolshevik Revolution sealed the fate of the Romanov dynasty and ushered in more than 70 years of communist rule, lies on view in a squat stone mausoleum just outside the Kremlin walls.

                    Visited by tourists from the Russian provinces and the rest of the world, the tomb on Red Square is a stark reminder of a big break in any line drawn from the Russian tsars to Putin, who was born smack in the middle of the Soviet era -- in a city that then bore Lenin's name -- and served for 16 years as an officer of the KGB.

                    The blot Lenin's body places on Putin's image as a tsar is particularly obvious every year on May 9, when the mausoleum is hidden from view as the president addresses a military parade commemorating what for many Russians is the proudest moment of the troubled Soviet era -- the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

                    Putin has drawn on aspects of both the tsarist and Soviet eras in his efforts to shape Russia. Many critics accuse him of echoing practices of Soviet times -- and even of dictator Josef Stalin -- in his quest to tighten his grip over Russia.

                    But he has done more to link his image to the long history of tsars than to the relatively brief, badly checkered Soviet experiment -- seven oppressive decades that began with the kind of upheaval Putin seems bent on ensuring does not threaten his rule.

                    "We've seen a long-term buildup of the sense that the real model is to be found not so much in the Soviet times, but actually in tsarist times," says analyst Mark Galeotti, a senior policy fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague.

                    "And I can't help but wonder if while once upon a time Putin was willing to say that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, he might well now actually be saying that 1917 was," Galeotti adds.

                    Time To Consign Soviet Era To History?
                    Amid intermittent calls from Russians to put Lenin in the ground, Putin -- who is often described as pragmatic -- may have been weighing the possibility for years. And 2017, the centenary of the revolution, would seem like the time to do it.

                    For one thing, burying Lenin could drive home the message that revolution is bad.

                    He criticized Lenin last January, accusing him of planting a "time bomb" beneath the state and sharply denouncing brutal repressions by the Bolshevik government.

                    Others have gone further. Natalia Poklonskaya, a Russian lawmaker and former prosecutor in the Russian-imposed government of Crimea, lumped Lenin together with Hitler and Mao Zedong as "monsters" of the 20th century. And ultranationalist Zhirinovsky has called for Moscow's Leninsky Prospekt -- Lenin Avenue -- to be renamed after Ivan the Terrible.

                    In a reference to the Bolshevik Revolution during his state-of-the-nation address on December 1, Putin said that coups invariably lead to "the loss of human life, casualties, economic decline, and misery." He warned against "speculating on tragedies that occurred in nearly every Russian family" as a result of the revolution -- a warning, at least in part, not to try anything like it again.

                    No Regime Change Here
                    Putin's fear of revolution appears to be rooted partly in his dismay at the protests that have brought down governments in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine in the past 13 years -- political change that he accuses the United States of fomenting.

                    Analysts say he was rattled by the big street protests that erupted in Moscow over widespread evidence of fraud in a December 2011 parliamentary elections and anger over his plan to return to the presidency after four years as prime minister.

                    Putin weathered those protests and, back in the Kremlin in May 2012 for a six-year term, swiftly took steps to narrow the scope for street demonstrations and clamp down on dissent. Now he is gearing up for the next presidential election, due in March 2018.

                    Putin is widely expected to run and to win. But the future will be clouded from the moment he takes the oath, because the constitution bars him from seeking a third straight term in 2024, when he will be 71.

                    At the very least, burying Lenin months before the election would inject a jolt of energy into the tightly controlled political process.

                    It could also help Putin dispel a potential future threat from the Communist Party, which Galeotti says is the only major independent political machine in Putin's Russia and may be revitalized by a new generation of leaders and supporters. "It makes a statement that the Kremlin is in charge and is moving forward, and that it's time to forget the past," he explains.

                    More broadly, burying Lenin would add substantially to Putin's legacy, etching him in history as a leader who made a big break with the Soviet past. It could help him replace Lenin as a father figure and aid his quest to unite Russian citizens around some overarching national idea -- a goal that has so far been elusive.

                    And on a practical, political level, it could help pave the way for a constitutional change or some less formal arrangement that would keep him in power past 2024. Or, if Putin prefers to step off center stage and help Russia forge a political system more reliant on institutions than on a single ruler, removing Lenin would give that process a symbolic boost.

                    Communist Martyr?
                    But it could be risky.

                    There have been calls for Lenin's burial since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. In 2013, a poll by the independent Levada Center found that only 25 percent of Russians believed his body should remain in the mausoleum on Red Square.

                    But the Kremlin has always been cautious, concerned about offending those who feel nostalgia for the Soviet era and about angering the Communists -- who have come in second in every parliamentary election since 1995, when they came in first.

                    Just as the Bolsheviks feared that revealing the location where the bodies of Tsar Nicholas II and his family were dumped after they were shot in a provincial cellar in 1918 would give them posthumous power as martyrs and spark protests, post-Soviet leaders have worried that moving Lenin's body from its prominent place could give leftist Kremlin opponents more force and focus.

                    Putin will want to avoid any step that would "unleash forces that are going to get out of control very fast," Anna Arutunyan, author of the book The Putin Mystique: Inside Russia's Power Cult, said in a Power Vertical Podcast on RFE/RL in November. "Such an emotional thing as this -- it could actually backfire in terms of creating more support for the Communist Party instead of less."

                    Galeotti believes, however, that Putin's government could seek to put paid to such a threat -- and also clear the body off Red Square -- by publicly casting his burial as a "final gesture of respect" for a man who played a crucial role in Russian history, good or bad.

                    But as 2017 approached, Russian officials made it clear that Putin plans to use the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution as an occasion to plug the idea of national unity. While Putin may see Lenin's burial as a chance to do just that, he could also decide that Russia is still not ready for such a step.

                    "There is this backlash against Lenin, but he is still in the mausoleum, and I'm not really seeing him being taken out of the mausoleum any time soon," Arutunyan said.
                    A Century After Russian Revolution, Will Putin Bury Lenin?

                    æ, !

                    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                    • The Year The Collective Putin Died
                      THE POWER VERTICAL Brian Whitmore Dec 29, 2016

                      Sergei Ivanov and Viktor Ivanov have a lot in common.

                      In addition to sharing a last name, both are KGB veterans, both are longtime cronies of Vladimir Putin -- and both were thrown under the bus by the Kremlin leader this year.

                      Viktor Ivanov got the boot in May when Putin liquidated the Federal Antinarcotics Service he ran, merging it into the Interior Ministry, leaving his once-influential pal out of a job and on the outside looking in.

                      And in August, it was Sergei Ivanov's turn.

                      With the stroke of a pen, Putin put his longtime cohort out to pasture, firing him as Kremlin chief of staff, one of the most powerful posts in Russia, and exiling him to the meaningless job of special assistant to the president for ecology and transportation.

                      It was a spectacular fall for a man who had served as Security Council secretary, defense minister, and deputy prime minister; and who was widely seen as a potential successor to Putin.

                      The fall of the Ivanovs made it crystal clear that 2016 would be the year the "collective Putin" died and big changes were in store for the way Russia was governed.

                      As political analyst Vladimir Pastukhov noted at the time, it demonstrated that "the age of the collective rule of Putin's friends is coming to an end" and that "in place of a prince who ruled with his entourage, there is now a tsar who rules over his servants."

                      Touching The Untouchables
                      Until this year, Putin's 16-year rule had been characterized by the dominance of an inner circle of about a dozen men who had worked with the Kremlin leader for decades, either in the KGB or in the St. Petersburg city government in the 1990s.

                      Known colloquially as the "collective Putin" or "Putin's Politburo," they were widely viewed as Russia's untouchable ruling clique.

                      When one of their number, Vladimir Yakunin, was fired as head of Russian Railways in August 2015, it became clear they were, in fact, quite touchable.

                      And this year's deeper culling of the inner circle put to rest any notion of a ruling clique.

                      Russian politics essentially became a one-man show and Putin became its solitary man.

                      Moscow-based political analyst Nikolai Petrov wrote that Putin was abandoning a model of collective leadership reminiscent of Leonid Brezhnev in favor of one oriented on a single leader, as in the time of Josef Stalin.

                      And in case anybody failed to get the message, in April, Putin set up a powerful National Guard, a 400,000-strong force that absorbs Russia's Interior Ministry troops, the OMON riot police, and the SOBR -- or SWAT -- forces.

                      The guard force is run by Putin's uber-loyal former bodyguard, Viktor Zolotov, and answers to the Kremlin leader alone.

                      And in September, Russian media reported that plans were in the works to reconstitute the old KGB in the form of a new Ministry of State Security, which would unite Russia's main security agencies under one roof and have the charming Stalin-era acronym MGB.

                      "The Kremlin and the Russian government now resemble an old-world royal court, more than a modern state," Mikhail Fishman wrote in The Moscow Times.

                      "Putin is remodeling the institutional power of Russia’s presidency into a force under his personal control."

                      Ideologues And Kleptocrats
                      But the story of 2016 is about more than the death of the collective Putin and the rise of the personalized rule of the individual Putin.

                      The primary reason Putin scrapped his old system of ruling through elite consensus and balancing clan interests was because in a shrinking economy Russia's kleptocratic elite risked undermining Putin's ideological project of restoring Russia's great-power status.

                      And in this sense, 2016 was also the year when the Kremlin took a decisive ideological turn.

                      It was the year when what Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague calls "ideological Russia" became ascendant over "kleptocratic Russia."

                      According to Galeotti, kleptocratic Russia is "the realm of the embezzling senior officials, the pampered sons and daughters of the mighty, the business people who depend as much on sweetheart deals and covert cartels as any real acumen."

                      Ideological Russia, on the other hand, is Putin's "vision of a nation restored to its due place in history and the world."

                      Both of these Russias have been present, and in constant tension, throughout Putin's long rule -- and indeed, through most of Russia's history.

                      And while kleptocratic Russia reigned supreme for most of Putin's 16 years in power, this year it was forced to take a back seat to the Kremlin leader's grand ideological project.

                      But by making examples of some of his old cronies, and by replacing them with younger sycophants who owe their careers to him, like the obscure new Kremlin chief of staff, Anton Vaino, Putin has transformed the Kremlin from a collective band of thieves into a one-man band.

                      And instead of protecting the interests of the collective Putin regime, the system appears now to be geared toward preserving the power of Putin the man -- and advancing his ideological dream of a great Russia.
                      The Year The Collective Putin Died

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                      • U.S. Senators Vow No 'Faustian Bargain' With Russia, Pledge To Target Putin 'Harder'
                        RADIO FREE EUROPE Dec 30, 2016

                        KYIV -- Senator John McCain says that the United States will not strike a "Faustian bargain" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid speculation that President-elect Donald Trump could scrap sanctions in a bid to improve ties.

                        Speaking in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service in Kyiv on December 30 along with two other U.S. senators, McCain (Republican-Arizona) said any possible deal with Putin "would interfere with and undermine the freedom and democracies that exist today."

                        The U.S. Congress imposed sanctions on Moscow shortly after Russia forcibly annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and for its ongoing support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

                        Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) said Congress would pursue in 2017 more sanctions against Russia, targeting the energy and banking sectors, as well as "Putin and his inner circle."

                        "We're going to do two things: We're going after Putin harder with tougher sanctions and we're going to be more helpful to our friends, like here in Ukraine," Graham said.

                        McCain, Graham, and Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota) said there is strong support in Congress to provide Ukraine with "lethal defensive weapons" to help Kyiv in its fight against Russia-backed separatists in the east.

                        The senators faulted Moscow for failing to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk accords -- a February 2015 agreement aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where more than 9,750 people have died since April 2014.

                        "How can you have a free and fair election or debate about the power-sharing with eastern Ukraine when you have 700 Russian tanks [in eastern Ukraine]?" Graham said.

                        Asked whether Trump may recognize Crimea as part of Russia, Graham said Congress would block any such move.

                        "The president alone can't do this. And the reason the Congress will reject such a notion is because it undermines the rule of law," Graham explained.

                        McCain also called for tougher action against Moscow for its alleged involvement in hacks into Democratic Party e-mails before the November 8 U.S. presidential election.

                        "We can make them a lot tougher, ranging from travel to identifying individuals who have been involved in this hacking and specific organizations. There are a lot more stringent measures we should take," McCain said. "After all, it was an attack on the United States of America and an attack on the fundamentals of our democracy. If you destroy the elections, then you destroy democracy."

                        U.S. President Barack Obama on December 29 ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over what the administration says was their involvement in the hacking.

                        Putin said on December 30 that Moscow would not respond in kind and would not expel any Americans from Russia, accusing the U.S. administration of "irresponsible 'kitchen' diplomacy."

                        On December 30, Trump praised Putin on Twitter for holding off on retaliatory actions, calling him "very smart."

                        Trump has brushed aside allegations from the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the cyberattacks. But it is unclear whether he will seek to roll back Obama's actions.

                        "If you have a hard time figuring out who is behind this, that doesn't speak well of you," Graham said. "The Russians are doing it all over the world."

                        Klobuchar said it wasn't only the United States that was being targeted by Russian cyberattacks.

                        "We have learned on this trip visiting Estonia and Lithuania and hearing about these cyberattacks in Ukraine -- it has happened for years and years and years. And it's a technique that can be used in the French elections or the German elections," Klobuchar said, referring to two key upcoming elections in Europe in 2017.
                        U.S. Senators Vow No 'Faustian Bargain' With Russia, Pledge To Target Putin 'Harder'

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                        • Ukraine increased export of Christmas toys
                          UAWIRE ORG January 2, 2017 10:47:00 AM

                          During 2016, Ukraine increased its export of New Year’s toys and decorations, opened a number of new markets, and also reduced trade levels of these goods with Russia, as was stated by a Sales Representative of Ukraine, Nataliya Mykolska, in her column published in Yevropeyska Pravda.

                          "Our toys are available in 25 countries and their exports are growing. For the last 10 months of this year, we have exported goods worth $4.5 million, while exports during the same period last year grew at only 16.7%,” Mykolska announced.

                          According to her, almost all of Ukraine’s seasonal exports are glass toys. The main export market is the EU; almost two thirds of all goods were exported there.

                          The Netherlands have become the leading importer of Ukrainian holiday goods. "Almost 31.1% of the total exports of Christmas decorations that are sold abroad by Ukrainian manufacturers and 49.9% of our total exports to the EU were sent to this country," Mykolska said.

                          New markets have also appeared this year, including the Maldives and Iceland. UAWire - Ukraine increased export of Christmas toys

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                            • With reforms impossible, some Russians predict revolution, Baklanov says
                              EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2017/01/03

                              Given that Vladimir Putin has signaled that any serious reforms in the near term are unlikely or even impossible, ever more Russians are predicting revolution, especially as that country enters the centenary of the two revolutions of 1917, Aleksandr Baklanov says.

                              That doesn’t mean that a revolution will happen – indeed, it may be an indication that none will occur – but it does define the kind of discourse that is offered ever more frequently by Moscow analysts and commentators and one that will help shape public debate even if it does not prove to be an accurate prediction.

                              The news editor of the portal says that some Russians are predicting that “a convulsion awaits Russia in 2017, a social explosion or even a revolution. Some even name a precise date” when this will happen, “others advise buying dollars,” and a third group says it is a mistake to “look for a mystical link between 1917 and 2017.”

                              In fact, Baklanov points out, Russians have been predicting a revolution in Russia for quite some time. “One of the first” to do so, he was former Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov who in December 2005 said “a new revolution will begin in October 2017.”

                              Others have followed. In November 2012, political analyst Sergey Chernyakhovsky said that there is every reason to think that there will be a revolution in Russia in 2017 because “the situations of 1917 and 2017 are very similar,” a position KPRF activist Andrey Sartakov shared in November 2013.

                              In 2015, economist Yevgeny Gontmakher made the same argument and suggested that a revolution could break out in 2017, and later in the same year, former Yukos head and émigré activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky said “revolution in Russia is inevitable,” although he gave no date.

                              As 2017 approached, ever more Russians made such suggestions and made them more concrete. Saratov deputy Vyacheslav Maltsev, for example, not only said that there would be a revolution in Russia in 2017 but gave a precise date that he said it would break out: November 5.

                              “On that date, a revolution will occur in Russia,” he said. What it will look like, however, will depend on “how many people want to return to a constitutional arrangement.” If their numbers are large, it could lead to a peaceful transfer of power; if they are smaller or if the regime remains confident, it could be “bloody.”

                              Baklanov suggests there are three main scenarios suggested by those who see a revolution ahead.

                              The first is a popular rising, and it is clear that the Kremlin is “already preparing for that.” It has been conducting exercises to get its force structures ready and it is seeking to measure the protest potential of young people.

                              That is a reasonable precaution, of course, but some analysts, including sociologist Natalya Tikhonova say that the protests the regime is likely to face in the coming spring and summer may be far larger than anyone now thinks and thus challenge the ability of the regime to contain them.

                              The second favored scenario, Baklanov continues, is a more prolonged crisis without the explosion of a popular rising or revolution. According to one survey of leading economists from various countries, half think there will be protests but far fewer think there will be a revolution. One argued that “the political reaction to poverty will be apathy rather than revolution.”

                              And the third scenario is “a revolution in people’s minds” rather than in the streets. MGIMO professor Valeriy Solovey is one of the supporters of this idea. He says that “a bloody revolution” is excluded because it would lead to the disintegration of the Russian Federation.

                              But public attitudes may change in significant ways and these changes “will begin precisely in 2017,” not because of the “magic of numbers” but because of the coincidence of factors, he argues.

                              “If we say that everything today is in the hands of the powers that be,” Solovey says; “we must not forget that the authorities who have no competitors will inevitably make ever more mistakes. Plus the general situation will feed that: the country’s resources will begin to run out, and dissatisfaction will increase.”

                              “It is one thing when you have to wait a year or two, but when you are given to understand … that you may have to wait your entire life (20 years of stagnation and then what?), your worldview begins to change” and you begin to think about radical means of achieving that change.

                              Russians “experienced a similar situation at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of ht 1990s, just before the destruction of the USSR. Because at first revolutions take place in people’s minds. This isn’t even a readiness of people to speak against the authorities.” Rather, it is one where people begin to question the legitimacy of those who are holding them back.

                              Of course, Baklanov says, there is a fourth scenario these visionaries of revolution don’t offer. It is that “nothing” will change at all in 2017. Political analyst Dmitry Travin is among those who doubts that any revolution in Russia is possible anytime soon.

                              According to Travin, “the current political situation is not like the events of 1917.” Rather it is Brezhnev’s stagnation but with shops full of food and a generally accepted view that Russia has been forced to live as “a besieged fortress,” an attitude that leads people to support the regime and the regime to take steps to make sure Russians continue to feel that way. With reforms impossible, some Russians predict revolution, Baklanov says | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                              • Where Russia is already beginning to collapse – the Permafrost Zone in the Far North
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2017/01/03

                                A building in the center of Yakutsk, Russia (Image: The Siberian Times)

                                The Siberian Times newspaper has called attention to a study showing that the melting of permafrost zone in the northern two-thirds of Russia is already beginning to undermine infrastructure in the northern portions of the country and will lead to “the collapse” of many buildings and pipelines over the next several decades.

                                The study, prepared by a group of Russian and American scholars, appears in the current issue of The Geographical Review (Vol. 107, no. 1 (January 2017), pp. 125-144, available online). The Russian paper has summarized it and provided pictures of the collapse so far.

                                he permafrost study examined four Siberian towns and cities: Salekhard, Norilsk, Yakutsk and Anadyr. It concluded that several of them are at risk of collapsing infrastructure within the next decade. (Image: The Siberian Times)

                                According to the study which examined four Siberian cities in detail, the paper says, several of them are at risk of collapsing infrastructure within the next decade and that under “a worst-case scenario” there could be “a 75 to 95 percent reduction in bearing capacity throughout the permafrost region by 2050.”

                                That would have a “devastating” impact not only on the ability of people to live and work in the Russian North but also on efforts to extract oil, gas, and other natural resources from the region or to maintain control over the region and the adjoining Northern Sea Route in which Moscow has placed so much hope.

                                The scholars examined the situation in Salekhard, Norilsk, Yakutsk, and Anadyr, but argues that their findings in these locations can be extrapolated to others and that they underscore the need to adopt new construction methods, some of them extraordinarily expensive, to prevent infrastructure collapse. Where Russia is already beginning to collapse – the Permafrost Zone in the Far North | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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