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  • Year’s milestones. Commotion in political elites, lost hope in Nadiia Savchenko, and shocking e-declarations of assets Ukraine in 2016 has seen so many political events, which in normal life would be enough for several years. Moreover, we shouldn’t forget that Ukraine is going through the crisis, the biggest one in its recent history, so the country’s achievements and failures are measured in strategic terms.
    UNIAN Yevgeniy Magda 02 Jan 2017

    Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s fight to retain premiership ended in a predictable defeat, but the Popular Front leader managed to retire voluntarily with a view to save his political face. Although his ratings are not very different from a statistical error, his political party is too early to write off. And it's not just about a massive political advertising campaign in the end of 2016. It’s also about the fact that the demand for new political faces is hardly stronger than the voters’ habit to bet on the well-known parties with polished rhetoric.

    Having switched from the Rada Speaker’s chair to that of Ukraine’s Premier, Volodymyr Groysman said good-bye to his image of the president's protégé and has kept pledging a better life for Ukrainians ever since. Doubling the minimum wage would not be enough to this end, because utility costs have also jumped significantly, while loyalty of the IMF remains an open question. The government managed to promptly adopt the budget for 2017 at the cost of compromising with the deputy groups beyond coalition, but implementing this budget will be a no easy task.

    The reform of the legislature, which Groysman had presented at the European Parliament back when he was a Rada Speaker, never came to life. Although the parliament is now chaired by a politician who does not reflect on the Soviet regime - Andriy Parubiy - his fellow legislators could not abandon the rush and wishful thinking, both traditional features of the Soviet parliament. Reformatting the coalition led to the fact that the list of its members became a well-guarded secret, while the number of opposition factions is twice that of the pro-government forces (in absolute numbers, the situation is opposite). However, the opponents of the current coalitions never made it to push through the idea of snap elections.

    Yuriy Lutsenko changed the vector of his political career dramatically, shifting away from heading the largest parliamentary faction to become the country’s prosecutor general. Now, instead of heart-piercing conversations with the BPP renegades, Lutsenko focused on the fight against high-level offenders. He actually succeeds much better than his predecessors with a legal background, but his efforts are still not enough to make his political opponents and frenemies from the NABU stop criticizing him. In 2017, the prosecutor general vows to set up a trial against Ukraine’s disgraced ex-president Vikot Yanukovych, who has already returned to the courtroom this year, but this was only via a video conference from Russia’s Rostov, when he testified as a witness, not a suspect. In this context, it will be interesting to see the outcome of the judicial reform, adopted last year, as such large-scale amendments to the Constitution are not a frequent occurence.

    "The offshore scandal" and the revelations of Oleksandr Onishchenko, who forced the old-timers remember the statements of Major Melnichenko (by the way, where has the heroic officer disappeared?), got on Petro Poroshenko’s nerves, but they are unlikely to worsen his political situation considerably. The head of state still holds his ground among the leaders of the presidential ratings and he is not going to give up power. Changing the head of the presidential administration (a non-public figure, Ihor Rainin, came in to take over the post of Borys Lozhkin) only confirms the hypothesis that Bankova is actively preparing for the presidential elections.

    Opposition ranks were rather cramped up in 2016. Yulia Tymoshenko was traditionally dominating. She did not risk to go for the escalation at the time of the rallies of Mykhailivsky Bank’s fooled depositors and chose to wait for the opportunity to hit Poroshenko’s positions for sure.

    Lyashko’s Radical Party at the end of the year began drifting toward the coalition’s positions amid their leader’s criticism of Ms Tymoshenko. The Opposition Bloc created Za Zhyttia Party as the vanguard of the struggle for power. Samopomich was forced to lurk in shadows because the Lviv waste site scandal. Mikheil Saakashvili is definitely going to give everyone a master class in the struggle for the highest posts, but it his "Rukh [movement] of the new forces" is more like a club of admirers of political talent of former Georgian president and ex-Governor of Odesa region.

    Transformation of Nadiia Savchenko’s political image largely reflects public attitude to the Donbas conflict. The return of the Kremlin’s prisoner was initially seen as the overall success. However, Savchenko’s statements quickly sobered the Ukrainian society. The MP and Hero of Ukraine called on Ukrainians to "understand Donbas", announced her intention to reform the Ukraine’s state structure (by a strange coincidence, on the patterns designed by Putin’s friend Viktor Medvedchuk) and said she did not see anything wrong in direct talks with separatist “leaders”. Although the conflict in eastern Ukraine claimed lives of hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen, people are gradually growing accustomed to it. There is no more bravado in the Donbas-related statements of Ukrainian politicians while the strategy for the return of Donbas and Crimea has not yet been published.

    For the process of restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity to be unlocked, Ukraine needs to be strong, and some actual transformations are needed. The effect of the reform of the National Police was a bit spoiled with a resignation of police chief Khatia Dekanoidze and even more so – with the police shootout in Knyazhichi near Kyiv. The investigation into the assassination of a journalist Pavlo Sheremet is still underway and neither are there any public developments in the case of the Maidan killings. The attempts are continuing to evade the Prozorro e-procurement system at all levels. Decentralization is going at a scheduled pace. However, is does not always find a reflection in the understanding by Ukrainians of benefits of transferring authority from Kyiv to the regions. It is obvious that the authorities have not yet learned to communicate effectively with millions of Ukrainians; otherwise, there would be no such deafening figures on the number of citizens who believe that the country is going in a wrong direction.

    On January 1, 2017, the second stage of the electronic declaration of assets was launched. It should be noted that the first stage was a shocker, revealing some unprecedented figures regarding financial well-being of those in power. It is unlikely that someone in Ukraine seriously supports Vladimir Lenin’s idea that any cook could run the country, however, piles of cash jewels stashed in the homes of Ukraine’s officials are unlikely to strengthen public confidence in the government. It seems that Ukrainian politicians should take self-sacrifice training courses in order to learn how to serve the state, which is going through difficult times.

    Year’s milestones. Commotion in political elites, lost hope in Nadiia Savchenko, and shocking e-declarations of assets

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    • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Oksana Bedratenko December 21, 2016
      Why I’m Optimistic about Ukraine’s Reforms in 2017

      Following decades of neglect, there is real progress in Ukraine’s healthcare sector. Thanks to the efforts of reformers in the Ministry of Health, pressure from civil society, and the support of international donors, the sector is seeing reduced corruption and clear prospects for reform.

      The healthcare sector had been a magnet for large-scale corruption for decades. The Global Fund’s suspension of its program in Ukraine in 2011 because of procurement corruption was indicative of the situation. Virtually all state procurement of medications was stalled in 2013-2015 over corruption concerns. Following the Euromaidan, the new government made a radical decision: only the UNDP, UNICEF, and the international company Crown Agent could procure major medications for the state. It worked: A recent Ministry of Health report indicates that procurement through these international organizations since the initiative began in 2015 has saved over $4 million, which is now being used to purchase additional medications and medical supplies.

      The new procurement system has also allowed Ukraine to establish a reserve for vaccines. “Buying vaccines has been a reliable source of corruption for some health professionals and pharmaceutical companies in the past resulting in expensive and unattainable vaccines for most Ukrainians,” said Michael Getto, a Kyiv-based international public affairs consultant.

      Since independence, there have been numerous attempts to reform Ukraine’s healthcare system; they have usually aimed to introduce large legislative initiatives, with unclear prospects of implementation. The new Ministry of Health team lead by Ukrainian-American Ulana Suprun took a different approach by focusing on low-hanging fruit, and it has already brought important improvements.

      For example, in September the Cabinet of Ministers canceled Soviet-style Decree 33, which limited the discretion of hospitals in determining personnel needs, and on November 30 it gave hospitals greater discretion in managing their spending. Skeptics argued that the hospitals were not ready to make planning decisions on their own. However, the reform’s outcome has proved them wrong. Cancellation of the decree has paved the way for hospitals’ increased independence and improved planning efficiencies.

      In contrast to previous attempts at reform, the Health Ministry has demonstrated an open and inclusive approach. It has cooperated with the public, other government reform programs, and the international community to build on such important projects as the establishment of the unified healthcare information management system, e-Health. The ministry admitted that the government is not able to do this task alone, and signed a memorandum of cooperation with IT companies, the e-governance reform agency, and experts, to jointly modernize the healthcare system.

      The ministry recently unveiled its three-year healthcare reform plan that would bring Ukraine’s healthcare system more closely in line with European practices by transferring most patient care from hospital treatment to primary care and prevention, increasing the efficiency of healthcare spending, stimulating better practices among doctors and hospitals, and ensuring citizens’ access to a package of primary healthcare services free of charge.

      Specific plans for 2017 include establishing contracting mechanisms for primary care in line with the principle “money follows the person,” and turning away from the current inefficient funding mechanism based on the number of hospital beds. All public healthcare services will be administered by one institution, the Public Health Center, which will develop healthcare contracts with hospitals for budget-funded healthcare services.

      Additionally, in line with the decentralization reform being pursued by the current government, hospitals should begin to exercise greater local control over the healthcare systems servicing their communities. In Dnipropetrovsk and Vinnytsia in 2016, reformers experimented with a new system of primary care that was successful; doctors signed contracts with patients and funding was allocated based on the services provided. The government took the flexible and reasonable approach of allowing regions to define the best model for them, and this approach will be expanded in the new year.

      The picture isn’t perfect, however. The current discussion about the 2017 budget has highlighted the risks of an “unfunded mandate” in the healthcare sector, in which the responsibilities transferred to the local level from the central budget do not have a matching revenue source at the local level. Regions are at risk of facing difficulties of funding energy bills and maintenance of healthcare institutions servicing their communities.

      As the ministry’s reform team embarks on a comprehensive overhaul, it will need to ensure a wider political consensus and consolidated political will across political parties. MPs on the Rada’s Health Committee, including deputy chairman Oleh Musij, have voiced concerns that the progress achieved so far is not yet irreversible. Musij, a doctor-activist who came to politics following the Euromaidan, says that in order for the healthcare system to be permanently modernized, the reforms must be fixed in legislation, and he’s right. Why I’m Optimistic about Ukraine’s Reforms in 2017

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      • Ukraine reports 32 militant attacks, two non-combat casualties near Maryinka in Donbas Over the past day the invaders continued to fire at Ukrainian positions in the zone of the Anti-Terrorist Operation in all directions, the Headquarters of the Anti-Terrorist Operation reported Tuesday, adding that two military servicemen were killed and another two got wounded near the village of Maryinka as a result of weapon mishandling.
        UNIAN 03 Jan 2017

        "Militants fired 120mm mortars and weapons installed on infantry fighting vehicles on Shyrokine. 82mm mortars were fired on Shyrokine and Vodiane. Grenade launchers and small arms - on Pavlopil, Shyrokine, Maryinka, Hnutove and Lebedynske," reads the statement.

        Sniper was active near Hnutove, while anti-tank missiles were used by militants near Talakivka.

        In the direction of Luhansk, the Russian occupation forces fired grenade launchers and small arms on Novozvanivkf, Lobacheve and Stanytsia Luhanska.

        In the Donetsk direction - Luhanske, Severne, Avdiyivka, Troitske, and Zaitseve were shelled.

        A total of 32 militant attacks were recorded over the past day.

        "January 2, 2017 as a result of a violation of the rules for handling weapons, two soldiers were killed and another two were wounded in one of the military bases in the zone of the ATO near Maryinka," reads the statement.

        It is noted that the authorities have launched an investigation into the deadly incident.

        As UNIAN reported earlier, over the past day, four Ukrainian troops were wounded in the ATO zone.

        Ukraine reports 32 militant attacks, two non-combat casualties near Maryinka in Donbas

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        • Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande not going to attend this year's Davos economic forum German Chancellor Angela Merkel is steering clear of the World Economic Forum in Davos, a meeting expected to be dominated by debate over the looming presidency of Donald Trump and rising public anger with elites and globalization.
          UNIAN 03 Jan 2017

          Merkel has been a regular at the annual gathering of political leaders, CEOs and celebrities, traveling to the snowy resort in the Swiss Alps seven times since becoming chancellor in 2005.

          But her spokesman told Reuters she had decided not to attend for a second straight year. This year's conference runs from Jan. 17-20 under the banner "Responsive and Responsible Leadership". Trump's inauguration coincides with the last day of the conference.

          "It's true that a Davos trip was being considered, but we never confirmed it, so this is not a cancellation," the spokesman said.

          Deutsche Welle reported that French President Francois Hollande would not attend the forum, either.
          Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande not going to attend this year's Davos economic forum

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          • Year of major banking cleansing Ukraine’s banking system in 2016, the year so dramatic for the sector, has lost 18 financial institutions, while the country’s largest bank, PrivatBank, was transferred to 100% state ownership. Will these measures adopted by the National Bank and the government result in the improvement of the national banking sector, and what should depositors and bankers expect in 2017?

            UNIAN Olha Hordienko 03 Jan 2017
            Year of major banking cleansing - News about economy | UNIAN

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            • FORBES Kenneth Rapoza Jan 2, 2017 @ 02:18 PM
              Russia's Gazprom Starts Off 2017 Lobbying For New Baltic Sea Pipeline

              Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom started the year off right, at least in the eyes of the Kremlin. It took a roundabout swipe at its former ally Ukraine in lobbying Europe through the press that another Baltic Sea pipeline was needed due to record breaking deliveries into Europe via the Nord Stream line.

              Gazprom and its partners, including Shell Oil, were recently blocked from laying the Nord Stream II pipeline basically right along side the existing pipe after Poland's anti-monopoly board cancelled the deal. Poland said the European companies involved would have too big a market share in Poland, which has spent hundreds of millions investing in liquefied natural gas as a Gazprom alternative.

              The only guys whose alternatives are working are the guys at Gazprom. Ukraine used to be their preferred way into Europe. But a bitter divorce between the two former Soviet buddies began in February 2014 and hasn't ended since. Ukraine has been buying gas from other countries even as gas production at home barely increases by 1% year over year. The country is still dependent on Russian gas, and its state owned Naftogaz makes money from Russian gas transit fees into Europe.

              But with the two sides locked in political turmoil, Gazprom's alternative to use Nord Stream has left Naftogaz on the hook. Ukraine will have to find other sources eventually if it is to remain a big participant in European gas markets.

              "The Nord Stream (delivery) rate clearly demonstrates that the northern corridor for Russian gas supplies into the European market is of high demand. And once again it confirms the importance and the urgency to approve and build the Nord Stream II pipeline. The customer has spoken," Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller told the TASS news agency on Monday.

              Over the weekend, Naftogaz said it signed an agreement with lenders Citibank and Deutsche Bank for $500 million in loans backed by the World Bank for the purchase of gas. Off-record, Ukraine and European investors in the oil and gas space say that the government is not doing enough to make the market viable for independent producers. And Naftogaz remains hostage to political power plays in the capital. Ukraine is stuck with Russia, as Russia pushes Nord Stream II.

              Meanwhile, Gazprom is currently building the Turkish Stream pipeline with BOTAS Petrolem of Turkey. That pipeline replaces the old South Stream line with Italian and French energy companies. Those deals were shut down because of sanctions and have never resuscitated. It is unclear how Nord Stream II is still on paper considering companies from anti-Russia Germany and the U.K. are involved in the deal.

              On Monday, Bloomberg reported that Russia would be a top market for emerging market money this year.

              We predicted this in the FORBES Investment Guide back in December 2015, saying Russia was the boldest investment bet of the year.

              Last year, the Market Vectors (RSX) Russia ETF rose 44.85% while the Market Vectors Russia Small-Cap (RSXJ) ETF rose 99.4%.

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              • No more timber exports from Ukraine Exporting all kinds of unprocessed timber from Ukraine has been banned from January 2017, BBC Ukrainian Service reports.
                UNIAN 03 Jan 2016

                The law imposing a moratorium on the exports of unprocessed pine for the next 10 years, that is, until January 1, 2027, has entered into force on January 1, according to BBC.

                Previously, from November 1, 2015, an export ban was introduced for the so-called "solid wood".

                At the moment, only sawn timber is allowed for exports.

                The authors of the bill, including former MP Mykola Tomenko, believe that the moratorium should facilitate the development of wood processing in Ukraine and prevent illegal deforestation.

                However, banning exports of round timber was generally criticized by the European Union institutions.

                The EU named lifting the moratorium a condition for granting Ukraine the next tranche of macro-financial assistance worth EUR 600 million.

                President Petro Poroshenko earlier assured the European leaders that the moratorium would eventually be lifted.

                No more timber exports from Ukraine - News about economy | UNIAN

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                • Ukraine and the United States to produce small arms in joint arrangement
                  UAWIRE ORG January 3, 2017 11:22:00 AM

                  Ukroboronservice State Enterprise, which is a subsidiary of the Ukroboronprom State Enterprise, will produce small arms that meet NATO standards in Ukraine, as was reported by the press service of Ukroboronprom.

                  The production is planned to be a joint arrangement with the American company, Aeroscraft, as stipulated in a memorandum of cooperation signed by the two companies.

                  Earlier, Ukroboronservice came to an agreement with the Slovak company, Grand Power S.R.O., on the co-production of small arms in Ukraine.
                  UAWire - Ukraine and the United States to produce small arms in joint arrangement

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                  • Mogherini: Ukraine is among Europe's priorities for 2017
                    UAWIRE ORG January 3, 2017 2:30:00 PM

                    One of the priorities in the work of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, in 2017 will be continuing the efforts towards reforms in Ukraine and the cooperation with the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), as stated in the list of objectives and priorities of the head of the European diplomacy for the year, which was posted on her website.

                    It is noted that the past year was a year of constant work in support of the reforms, economic growth, and peace and stability on the eastern borders of the EU. First in Ukraine, where significant joint efforts were undertaken for the country's reformation, the fight against corruption, and, of course, the efforts made towards the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and an end to the conflict in the eastern part of the country.

                    "We have made important steps towards the liberalization of the visa policy with Ukraine and Georgia," Mogherini reminded.

                    In addition to Ukraine, the priorities listed by Mogherini include: a global strategy for the EU's foreign policy; addressing the questions of migration and cooperation with Africa; responses to terrorism and joint work for the future of Syria; EU security and defense; a partnership with Colombia; relations between Palestine and Israel; implementation of the agreement with Iran; the development of closer relations between the EU and the Balkan countries; the resumption of cooperation with Cuba; continuing close cooperation with the United States; and facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan.

                    Earlier Mogherini stated that the economic sanctions by the European Union against Russia will continue to be associated with the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, whatever the position of the future U.S. administration might be.
                    UAWire - Mogherini: Ukraine is among Europe's priorities for 2017

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                    • Victor Pinchuk wants Ukraine to capitulate to Russia
                      EUROMAIDAN PRESS Taras Kuzio 2017/01/04

                      Oligarch Victor Pinchuk presented Ukrainians with a New Years gift by revealing his inner thoughts about the Donbas and Crimea, Russia, EU and NATO. Pinchuk clearly sees himself as an intermediary, like Henry Kissinger, between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Pinchuk’s American advisor Doug Schoen has been seen at several Trump events. Pinchuk’s opportunism is evident from his donation of $150, 000 to Trump’s election campaign after over a decade of supporting the Clinton’s.

                      The main conclusion one can make from his commentary in the Wall Street Journal is that oligarchs cannot be trusted with Ukraine’s national interests. President Petro Poroshenko’s cosy relationship with Ukraine’s rapacious oligarchs will undermine Ukraine’s reforms and fight against corruption and derail its integration into Europe. Pinchuk is quite the opportunist, as usual.

                      Pinchuk’s latest commentary comes exactly a decade after he wrote a similar commentary for The New York Times. A decade ago Pinchuk stressed Ukraine’s cultural, linguistic, economic and energy ties to Russia and proposed a Leonid Kuchma-style foreign policy of ‘building bridges’ between Europe and Russia and Ukraine’s ‘integration into Europe with Russia.’

                      In 2006, Pinchuk rejected NATO membership because a majority of Ukrainians were opposed to it. This argument was repeatedly made by President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia. Today, a majority of Ukrainians support NATO membership and according to this logic therefore the goal should be pursued by Ukraine. But, logic was never a strong point and they all continue to argue against Ukraine pursuing NATO membership.

                      A decade ago Pinchuk talked of the goals of building a ‘more robust democracy,’ strengthening the rule of law and creating a market economy that is ‘free from political interference.’ The trouble with these goals is that Pinchuk, similar to other oligarchs, did the exact opposite. In the 2010 elections, Pinchuk’s ordered Arseniy Yatseniuk to replace his Ukrainian political consultants led by Rostyslav Pawlenko who is today a senior member of Poroshenko’s presidential administration in favour of Russian political technologists. They transformed Yatseniuk’s election campaign into the worst in Ukraine’s history either to prevent Yatseniuk entering the second round or because of Pinchuk’s naïve Russophilism.

                      Pinchuk supported Yanukovych in the second round of the 2010 elections and had good relations with his cabal throughout his presidency. Pinchuk’s cooperation with Yanukovych contradicts his alleged support for democracy, the rule of law and reducing ties between politicians and big business.

                      In Pinchuk’s current commentary he moves one step further by calling for Ukraine to drop the goal of EU membership which raises three questions.

                      Firstly, EU membership has always been supported by a majority of Ukrainians and if public opinion polls is Pinchuk’s main criteria why is he backing away from it in the case of the EU? Secondly, Pinchuk wrote in 2006 that it is in the interests of the EU to have a ‘thriving, democratic neighbor,’ a truism which lay behind the EU’s launch of the Eastern Partnership in 2009. But, it is not true of Vladimir Putin’s Russia which has viewed the EU as a hostile organisation since 2010 in the same way it had earlier of NATO. In the last few years, Putin has been openly seeking to destroy the EU through Russia’s alignment with Europe’s anti-EU extreme right, as seen in the recent signing of the cooperation agreement between the United Russia party and Austria’s neo-fascist Freedom Party.

                      Thirdly, if Pinchuk no longer supports EU membership he should close the Yalta European Strategy (YES) which he launched in 2004 to lobby for this goal. Why, after all, should he waste money on an organization that was meant to lobby the goal of EU membership that he no longer believes in? Since 2014, YES s no longer held in Yalta, it no longer can be about joining Europe, and he doesn’t believe in strategy, just a series of short-term accommodations for personal profit and vanity.

                      Pinchuk’s current commentary rejects the Realist approach to Ukraine while at the same time proposing ‘we must also adapt to the new reality.’ In other words, Ukrainians should come to realize that their country lies within Russia’s sphere of influence. This proposal would be opposed by a majority of Ukrainians because of the deep-seated changes in national identity since Russia’s aggression.

                      Towards the Realist prescription, Pinchuk proposes a number of domestic and foreign policies.

                      On the domestic front, he calls for the holding of elections in the separatist enclaves before Russia has fulfilled the Minsk accords. In other words, before there has been de-militarisation, withdrawal of Russian forces and the return to Ukrainian control of its border with Russia. Pinchuk’s proposal would be opposed by the US, EU, OSCE and, according to opinion polls, by the majority of Ukrainians. Pinchuk proposes taking the step as exiled Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov in accepting that the Crimea is lost (temporarily can become permanently). All of the above proposals would be a threat to Ukraine’s political stability because of opposition from nationalists, veterans and soldiers serving on the front line.

                      In the realm of foreign policy, Pinchuk has dropped EU membership after his earlier opposition to NATO membership. This is irrespective of the fact that there is a majority support for both goals. Pinchuk also follows President Yanukovych and the Party of Regions in proposing non-bloc status for Ukraine although he describes this as ‘neutrality.’

                      Pinchuk’s proposals should be read in the context of three factors.

                      The first is that the most important goal for oligarchs is money and not Ukraine’s national interests. The second is that Pinchuk has repeatedly contradicted himself in his domestic and foreign policies. Multi-vectorism is not a viable way to achieve end goals. The sooner Ukraine pursues a long overdue policy of de-oligarchisation the better – although this will be impossible as long as Ukraine is led by an oligarch.

                      The final point is that history has taught Ukraine and the West that Putin and Russian leaders cannot be trusted or believed in any shape or form. Putin’s military aggression has destroyed naivety within Ukraine about the ‘brotherly Russian people’ but it continues to find adherents among exiles in London’s exclusive regions of Kensington and Knightsbridge.

                      P.S. Ukrainian patriots should boycott Pinchuk’s events at Davos in January and the YES summit in September. Victor Pinchuk wants Ukraine to capitulate to Russia -Euromaidan Press |

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                      • 15:16 04.01.2017 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                        Poroshenko signs law granting right to early pension to ATO participants

                        Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed the law on amendments to some laws of Ukraine regarding the provision of pensions for certain categories of people from among participants in the anti-terrorist operation (ATO), the president's press service reported on Wednesday.

                        The document amends the law on compulsory state pension insurance. It gives right to appoint old-age pension upon reaching 55 years of age for military men, 50-55 years of age for military women who were directly involved in the ATO in the area of its holding provided that men have at least 25 years of pensionable service, women – at least 20 years.

                        The same right will be granted to those who participated in military actions to defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as part of volunteer units, which are included in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Interior Ministry, the National Guard and other lawful military formations and law enforcement agencies, as well as soldiers (reservists and conscripts), regular servicemen and volunteer soldiers who have become disabled due to an injury or a shell-shock received in the ATO.

                        Their wives or husbands, if they have not remarried, and parents of the above categories of citizens, who were killed or disappeared, or died as a result of an injury or a shell-shock received while participating in the ATO or its organization are also given the right to the above-mentioned early old-age pension.

                        This law will come into force one month after its publication.
                        Poroshenko signs law granting right to early pension to ATO participants

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                        • 14:28 04.01.2017 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                          Ukrainian-Polish strategic partnership has no alternative, will continue to develop – Poroshenko

                          In his greetings on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Poland, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko noted that the two countries and nations have built a strong foundation of partnership, have repeatedly proven their common willingness to work together for a successful European future in the united Europe.

                          Poroshenko stressed that he highly appreciated the support of Poland, which has been the first country to recognize Ukraine's independence and sovereignty. He said he is particularly grateful for consistent and deliberate efforts of Poland in the enhancement of international unity and solidarity with Ukraine amid Russian aggression, the presidential press service reported.

                          "Today's high level of Ukraine-Poland relations is due to the wisdom and maturity of our nations that have learnt to appreciate mutual friendship and fraternity after tragic historic challenges. I believe that the Ukrainian-Polish strategic partnership has no alternatives and will develop further in the spirit of trust, respect and mutual support," Poroshenko said in his greetings to Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda.

                          Poroshenko wished Duda strong health, inexhaustible energy and further achievements for Poland. He also wished peace, harmony and prosperity to the friendly Polish nation. Ukrainian-Polish strategic partnership has no alternative, will continue to develop – Poroshenko

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                          • 13:59 04.01.2017 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                            Government spreads pilot project on relaxed marriage registration to eight more Ukrainian cities

                            Ukraine's Cabinet of Ukraine has spread a pilot project on the relaxed marriage registration to Vinnytsia, Dnipro, Lutsk, Mykolaiv, Kamianets-Podilsky, Rivne, Zhytomyr and Kharkiv.

                            According to resolution No. 1068 dated December 28, 2016, the government added these cities to the list of cities where the pilot project on relaxed marriage registration is implemented.

                            Earlier the project was implemented only in Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, Kherson, Mariupol and Severodonetsk.

                            Over 3,000 pairs used the shortened marriage registration service. It is popular among consumers. The spread of the pilot project to the territories of other Ukrainian regions would help to make the service closer to the population, creating the convenient conditions for realizing the right to marriage by citizens.
                            Government spreads pilot project on relaxed marriage registration to eight more Ukrainian cities

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                            • About 800 Ukrainian cars in lines on border with Poland As of the morning of January 4, some 780 vehicles from Ukraine are standing in lines on the border with Poland, the Western Regional Office of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine has reported.
                              UNIAN 04 Jan. 2017

                              In particular, there were 200 vehicles at the Yahodyn customs checkpoint, 120 cars at the Hrushiv checkpoint, 100 cars at the Rava-Ruska checkpoint and 100 cars at the Uhryniv checkpoint.

                              Also, there were 80 vehicles at the Krakovets customs checkpoint, 70 cars at the Ustyluh checkpoint, 60 cars at the Smilnytsia checkpoint and 30 cars waiting to cross the Shehyni checkpoint

                              In addition, 20 vehicles are standing in a queue at the Kosyno checkpoint, and 10 cars waiting to cross the Luzhanka checkpoint on the border with Hungary. There were no lines on the border with Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova.

                              About 800 Ukrainian cars in lines on border with Poland

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                              • Ukraine’s Security Service Calls for Travel Ban on Marine Le Pen
                                NEWSWEEK Damien Sharkov 1/4/17 at 7:51 AM

                                Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) is calling on the government to blacklist French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen and stop her entering the country after comments she made Tuesday about Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

                                The French presidential candidate and leader of the far-right National Front party angered Kiev by claiming that she did not view the annexation as illegal.

                                Russia took control of Crimea in controversial fashion in 2014, shortly after Ukrainian protesters in Kiev toppled a pro-Russian government in the city’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti square. Moscow initially denied commanding the masked troops that seized public buildings in Crimea, but have since admitted official Russian military assistance in acquiring Crimea.

                                A snap referendum held in the territory in March 2014 was rejected by a majority of United Nations countries including Ukraine, which still claims Crimea as its own. Russia, however has ratified in in its own legal system and has controlled Crimea since.

                                Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Le Pen’s words on Tuesday night, accusing her of “disrespect of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty” and “reiterating Kremlin propaganda,” but a representative of the SBU went even further.

                                Speaking to channel 112 on Wednesday, the SBU’s chief of staff Alexander Tkachuk said the service had already sent a letter asking the government to ban Le Pen from traveling to Ukraine.

                                “I think that it is possible, as soon as today, we will be given a positive response and our initiative will be supported as Ms. Le Pen needs to be banned from entering our country,” Tkachuk said.

                                Le Pen is one of the most prominent euroskeptic and pro-Russian politicians in EU countries and is widely regarded as part of a growing trend in populist leaders across the bloc.

                                She has topped some polls ahead of this year’s presidential election in France and is likely to make the final runoff, though many expect a similar result to that in 2002, when a so-called “Republican Front,” united most mainstream parties against National Front. Ukraine’s Security Service Calls for Travel Ban on Marine Le Pen

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