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  • Ukraine vs. Russia in The Hague: key arguments
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2017/03/10

    On 8 March, the Ukrainian representatives took the floor once again in the International Criminal Court in The Hague to answer Russia’s legal arguments and rebuttals to Ukraine’s accusations of funding terrorism and discriminating against Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, which included clear fakes and lies.

    Here we publish the condensed version of the key speech of the Ukrainian side, given by Professor Harold Hongju Koh.
    Overview of the case:

    Ukraine has filed a lawsuit against Russia due to violations of the international law by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, specifically – of breaching the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (Terrorism Financing Convention) by funding and supporting militants in the Donbas, and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
    Russia has claimed that the court has no jurisdiction over the case and that it has not violated the abovementioned conventions.
    According to Ukraine’s Agent Olena Zerkal, Ukraine’s strategy is to prove that Russia violates numerous UN conventions and show that ICJ has the necessary jurisdiction to rule on the subject. Russia, it its turn, tries to outline the case as the armed conflict, so that it would be regulated by international humanitarian law—the ICJ has only limited jurisdiction in this sphere.

    Although the ICJ has no means to enforce its decisions, if its prima facie in this case will be definitively established, the international community would not have to beg Russia to stand down. It would be able to demand doing this instead.

    If the ICJ takes on the case, its hearings could take several years, which is why Ukraine is requesting to apply provisional measures to Russia immediately, among which is enforcement of the Russian-Ukrainian border and the cessation of the ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis.

    Professor Harold Hongju Koh’s speech on 8 March 2017
    President, Members of the Court: In its opening presentation, Russia challenged Ukraine’s request by twisting the law and distorting the facts.

    Russia’s Agent opened by saying that this case seeks to merge two disparate cases, concerning terrorism financing in eastern Ukraine and violations of the Race Discrimination Convention in Crimea.
    But as I noted in my opening presentation, the treaty violations here stem from a common source: the Russian Federation’s profound contempt, during the course of its illegal intervention, for the human rights of the Ukrainian people.

    We do not ask you to pass on the merits of this case. Nor do we—or will we–ask you to determine the legality of Russia’s aggression or to confirm Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea, notwithstanding the staged “referendum.”

    But it does not take a deep investigation to see why provisional measures are warranted.

    The Terrorism Financing Convention
    Yesterday, in a remarkable display of legal gymnastics, Russia’s counsel asked you to read two treaties that squarely bar terrorism financing and all forms of racial discrimination to allow those acts.

    Wordsworth argued that somehow, in times of armed conflict, the Terrorism Financing Convention does not bar Russia from sending lethal weapons to Russian-backed armed groups in eastern Ukraine.

    This is so, he suggested, even when those groups then deliberately use those weapons to target and attack innocent civilians in peaceful Ukrainian cities, and even when they fire Russian-supplied missiles to shoot civilian airliners out of the sky, killing nearly 300 civilians, including three tiny infants.

    Wordsworth never denied an absolutely critical fact: that Russia has been knowingly supplying lethal weapons to groups that attack civilians in eastern Ukraine.

    By his silence, he apparently conceded such weapons supply is happening, but because of multiple intent requirements that he imposed on the Convention’s language, he claimed that the provision of such lethal weapons did not rise to the level of a Convention violation.

    In seeking to minimize its legal violations in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s counsel sought to brush aside – but did not ultimately deny – undisputed facts offered by Ukraine in its opening presentation, which have been authoritatively found by the United Nations Secretary-General, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, OSCE monitors, the Dutch Safety Board, reputable human rights groups, and respected investigative journalists.

    When there is “armed conflict,” Mr. Wordsworth suggested, there cannot be “terrorism.”

    Even indiscriminate acts of shelling innocent civilians “are not correctly—or even to the standard of reasonable possibility” he claimed, “characterised as terrorist acts within” the meaning of Article 2 of the Terrorism Financing Convention.

    But on its face, this is not a plausible reading of Article 2 of the Terrorism Financing Convention. That provision makes it an offence under the Convention if a person “by any means” “provides … funds” ‒ defined as “assets of every kind”, tangible or intangible ‒ “in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out”

    (a) a violation, inter alia [of the Montreal Convention which bars unlawful acts against the safety of civil aviation, or]
    (b) “[a]ny other act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context is to intimidate a population… ”

    Article 2.1(a) renders Russia’s providing Buk missile launchers to fighters who would shoot down the civilian aircraft MH17 a flagrant offence under the Convention, and 2.1(b) makes it an offense for Russia to provide Grad missiles to fire upon civilian neighborhoods in Volnovakha, Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Kharkiv, and Avdiivka when in context, such launches inevitably have the effect of intimidating and demoralizing the civilian population of those areas.

    Wordsworth claimed that in times of armed conflict, international humanitarian law (IHL) is the sole “body of law [that] prohibits the spread of terror among the civilian population.” But as Ms. Cheek noted in her opening presentation, “the Convention recognizes that acts of terrorism and a state of armed conflict are not mutually exclusive.”

    By defining a terrorist act as one “intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict,” Article 2.1(b) makes clear that –even in times of armed conflict– civilians living far from conflict zones who are not taking an active part in hostilities can still be victims of terrorist attacks financed by external suppliers of war materiel.

    Thus, the fact that the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DNR) may engage in armed conflict with Ukrainian forces in active warzones in no way exonerates Russia from liability under the Convention when it provides rockets to fighters who then launch them indiscriminately to kill civilians and others who are not taking part in active hostilities in residential neighborhoods far from “hot battlefields.”

    Attacking civilians for political ends is terrorism, whether or not an armed conflict is also ongoing. Russia’s proxies in Ukraine both fight Ukraine’s armed forces and conduct terrorism against civilians, as defined in the Convention, intimidating the Ukrainian people to give in to their demands.

    Mr. Wordsworth makes the bold allegation that “the indiscriminate shelling that appears to be such a feature of this conflict is at least as much down to acts of, or attributable, to Ukraine.”

    Of course this is a matter of considerable doubt and factual dispute, which will surely be the subject of evidentiary debate as this case proceeds to the merits. But any fair-minded observer of the eastern Ukraine situation knows that the overwhelming victims of such indiscriminate attacks have been Ukrainian civilians. And make no mistake: The Government of Ukraine takes its obligations under international law seriously. It has prosecuted, for example, the volunteer battalions mentioned by the other side for crimes against civilians.

    Regrettably in armed conflict, some civilian casualties cannot be avoided. But that does not mean that Russia may supply weapons to an illegal armed group that indiscriminately shells civilian areas, on the mere pretext that a possible military objective may be spotted somewhere nearby.

    When Russia’s proxies have just been raining down rockets on Avdiivka from within residential areas, it is ironic to say the least, for Russia to focus on photographs of tanks defending a Ukrainian city from armed groups.

    Yet another red herring is Russia’s repeated, misleading reference to the ongoing Minsk Process as an impediment to this Court’s grant of provisional measures under the Terrorism Financing Convention.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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    • Ukraine vs Russia Pt 2

      Wordsworth finds it “inconceivable” that the parties or the Security Council would have agreed to the pardon and amnesty provision for events in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions “if the acts of indiscriminate shelling on which Ukraine now focuses were truly acts of terrorism.” Professor Zimmermann adds that “Russia submits that there is an imperative need to demonstrate sensitivity to the ongoing political processes, and that the Court should refrain from indicating measures, which would undermine such processes…”

      But Ukraine did not agree to such an amnesty, which excluded grave breaches.

      Certainly no amnesty agreement was ever intended to foreclose prosecution for the perpetrators of the MH17 shootdown or other heinous terrorist acts.

      Ukraine has made clear that it does not consider the “DNR” or “LNR” to be official parties to the Minsk process, although it is historically quite common for States to negotiate with terrorist groups—as Colombia did with the FARC for many years– in an effort to reach a peaceful resolution to a longstanding conflict.

      Professor Zimmermann never explains precisely how provisional measures would interfere with the Minsk process.

      To the contrary, if anything, the judicial relief Ukraine requests would bring Russia into compliance with its Minsk obligations.

      More broadly, this Court has heard this argument before and has not been moved – in the case of Nicaragua v. United States 30 years ago.

      Perhaps the most startling piece of legal gymnastics in Russia’s opening presentation, was Professor Zimmermann’s ingenious extraction from the text of Article 18 of the Terrorism Financing Convention of an elaborate seven-part cumulative test for when states actually have a legal obligation to cooperate to prevent terrorism. The key element of his ornate multi-pronged test was his claim that the Terrorism Financing Convention was never intended to address state action, as opposed to individual violators.

      To accept Professor Zimmermann’s novel reading of the Convention as not reaching state-sponsored terrorism would perversely allow private actors to funnel funds to collusive government entities to support terrorist acts, while shielding that terrorism financing from scrutiny under the Convention.

      But even assuming direct state responsbility were not implicated, Russia may still be held responsible under the Convention for its failure to prevent any individuals, including those employed by its government—who under Article 2 plainly constitute “any person…providing or collecting funds” for terrorism–from providing financing to armed groups who attack civilians in eastern Ukraine.

      If Russia knows of particular individuals within its territory who, for example, aided the movement of the Buk missile launcher into Ukraine and back to Russia again after the MH17 shootdown, it has obligations to investigate and prosecute them under various provisions of the Convention. And if it knows such individuals are still providing powerful weapons to the same groups, Russia must take “all practicable measures” to stop them.

      For a country such as Russia, simply controlling its own borders to block the flow of Buk missiles and Grad rockets into Ukraine would constitute an eminently “practicable measure.”

      In short, notwithstanding Mr. Wordsworth’s and Professor Zimmermann’s novel legal theories, Russia cannot so easily escape its obligations – if individuals within the Federation, inside or outside the government, gave support to armed groups committing terrorist acts in eastern Ukraine, Russia is directly liable under the Terrorism Financing Convention.

      The Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
      Discrimination (CERD)
      Similarly, Russia distorts the facts and twists the law when it claims that it does not violate the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Crimea.

      The Russian Federation has no lawful basis to occupy Crimea. But so long as it does, it is legally bound to respect the multi-ethnic population that lives there.

      Ukraine’s claims under the CERD simply ask that Russia keep its commitment not to discriminate on grounds of race and ethnicity.

      The occupation authorities in Crimea have installed a policy of “russification” that inflicts collective punishment and pervasive discrimination against other cultures. Together, these acts amount to a campaign of cultural erasure: a concerted effort to deny non-Russian groups their cultural identities.

      By promoting ethnic Russian dominance, Russia targets for discrimination non-Russian groups, particularly the Crimean Tatar and ethnic Ukrainian populations. These facts have been widely documented by authoritative human rights organizations.

      Just a few months ago, the United Nations condemned the persistent pattern of discrimination in occupied Crimea. But apart from the Agent’s breathtaking praise yesterday for Russia’s “great effort to promote the harmonious development of all ethnic groups in Crimea,” you heard no plausible defense of Russia’s campaign of cultural erasure—

      a concerted effort to intimidate Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, to disappear and kidnap Tatar leaders without serious investigation, to exile or persecute Crimean Tatar leaders, to dismantle the Tatar media, and to ban the Mejlis, culturally significant Ukrainian gatherings and Ukrainian language schools.

      In his presentation yesterday, Professor Forteau engaged in legal gymnastics that would twist that treaty out of shape. Strangely, he claimed that the CERD does not forbid the cultural erasure by Russian authorities of the language, culture, and political independence of Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, because not all of these acts of persecution against the Tatars were “based on” race. They were instead, he suggested, motivated by some other reason. As Professor Forteau put it:

      “It does not suffice, then, to allege that a prejudice has been suffered by someone or that one of his rights has been infringed. It must be shown that this prejudice or this infringement of a right is of a discriminatory nature. Ukraine must therefore establish that Russia had adopted these measures that affect in a discriminatory manner the Tatar and Ukrainian communities in comparison with the fate reserved for other residents of Crimea. “

      Simply put, Professor Forteau’s defense to the claim of Russian discrimination in Crimea is that Russia is actually violating human rights on an equal-opportunity basis.

      As if to underscore his own point, Professor Forteau curiously seeks to defend Russia’s performance by noting the four times that the CERD Committee has had to meet in emergency session with regard to Russia’s discriminatory practices.

      Professor Forteau concludes from this sorry history that the role of the CERD Committee—which the Russian Federation has conspicuously ignored—suggests that this Court has no business granting provisional measures with regard to Russia’s discriminatory conduct in Crimea.

      Of course, in Georgia v. Russia, this Court granted provisional measures against similar Russian arguments.

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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      • Ukraine vs Russia Pt 3

        The Urgency of the Situation in Ukraine
        President, Members of the Court,
        In short, this Court faces a tragic and urgent situation. Russia’s brutal response to the Revolution of Dignity has brought about an interrelated campaign of human rights violations on its own soil. International law cannot tolerate support for the state sponsorship of indiscriminate targeting of civilians and cultural erasure by a nation that claims to forbid terrorism financing and racial discrimination.

        As Ukraine’s recounting of the facts on the ground has demonstrated, the situation is urgent, in both eastern Ukraine and Crimea. As in the previous request brought here against Russia by Georgia, this Court should indicate provisional measures, because

        --the circumstances are “unstable and could rapidly change;”
        --there is a manifestly “vulnerable” population in need of your protection–the innocent civilians of Ukraine; because there is “ongoing tension” without any “overall settlement to [an ongoing] conflict;”
        --attacks and similar “incidents have occurred on various occasions . leading to fatalities, injuries and the displacement of local inhabitants.”

        As in the recent case of Equatorial Guinea v. France, provisional measures are necessary because not only have past violations of international law occurred, it is “not inconceivable” that they will recur if provisional measures are not soon indicated.

        Professor Zimmermann claims that there is no urgency because MH17 has already been destroyed and the attacks on civilians that Ukraine refers took place months ago.

        But in so saying, he conspicuously ignores the facts that unless Russia is ordered to police its borders, more dangerous weapons could arrive again in eastern Ukraine tomorrow, and that the horrible attack on civilians in Avdiivka is only weeks old.

        In closing, let me reiterate that Ukraine has not sought to bring all of Russia’s many violations of international law before this Court. Ukraine has not come here seeking either relief for Russia’s acts of territorial aggression in violation of the U.N. Charter, or to seek confirmation of Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea.

        Your task today is not to determine the merits of the claims Ukraine has brought, to determine whether these treaties have been violated, or even whether you have jurisdiction. Your only task is to decide whether Ukraine should be afforded temporary measures of protection while this case proceeds.

        Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of yesterday’s opening Russian presentations was what it revealed about Russia’s broader attitudes toward the Court and rules of international law. The legal acrobatics you have heard from Russia’s clever counsel all mask an apparent conviction that the international rules that apply to other nations simply do not apply to Russia.

        All Ukraine asks is for this Court to invoke its legal authority to protect innocent Ukrainian civilians threatened by indiscriminate terrorist attacks and cultural erasure. Without provisional measures from this Court, the Russian Federation will continue to play by its own rules and do the opposite of what these two Conventions requires, and innocent Ukrainian civilians will pay the price.

        President, Members of the Court: Ukraine asks you to order Russia to stop the flow of weapons and assistance across its borders to groups that launch terrorist attacks against civilians and to cease its campaign of cultural erasure.

        Let me repeat: if Russia is not committing these illegal acts, it would suffer absolutely no inconvenience by refraining from doing them while this case proceeds. If Russia will not refrain, it must be because its behavior is neither innocent nor legal.

        Your Excellencies, I have explained why the correct legal reading of these two treaties, and a basic grasp of the relevant facts establishes the urgency for the indication of provisional measures here. From Ukraine’s perspective, this Court’s award of provisional measures will be a matter of life and death for many innocent people. With that, Mr. President, I ask you to invite Mr. David Zionts to the podium, to explain why this Court has prima facie.
        Ukraine vs. Russia in The Hague: key arguments -Euromaidan Press |

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        • Peoples of Russia have nothing in common except loyalty to Putin, Kashin says
          EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2017/03/10

          Historians have often observed that one of the fundamental weaknesses of tsarist Russia was that the country was held together only by personalist ties of loyalty to the tsar and so that when the tsar was removed from the equation, Russia had little or no reason to continue to exist.

          And more recently, commentators have routinely pointed out that Chechnya is linked to the rest of the Russian Federation only on the basis of the personal loyalty of Ramzan Kadyrov to Vladimir Putin, an arrangement that the actuarial tables make clear cannot possibly last forever.

          Now, Russian commentator Oleg Kashin argues that this pattern holds for the peoples within the borders of Russia as a whole and that “except for mass loyalty to Putin personally, the peoples it unites have nothing in common,” something that makes that state’s future anything but secure.

          “In the West,” he writes, “Vladimir Putin is often called a nationalist, but in Russia such a title sounds ambiguous as does the very word ‘nation.’” The political class in post-Soviet Russia rejects nationalism as a form of “ultra-right-wing radicalism” and thus not something on which the state must rely.

          Thus, Kashin continues, “the idea of a legal formulation of ‘a civic Russian nation’ in this sense could have been something completely revolutionary, but judging by the fact that the working group preparing the last has announced its actual capitulation, nation building 25 years after the establishment of the state in its current form is all the same too late.”

          The problem of defining the people of Russia only intensified with the annexation of Crimea. Moscow talked a lot about an ethnic Russian world, but it became increasingly obvious that a more appropriate term would be a civic Russian world – even if that did not correspond to the emotional needs of ethnic Russians.

          That is because the term “civic Russian” can be used for a Chechen or a Buryat and not just an ethnic Russian. But both these nations and other non-Russians, not to speak of many ethnic Russians aren’t comfortable with the idea of sacrificing their national identities as peoples for something else.

          In the aftermath of the Soviet collapse in 1991, “post-Soviet Russia was concerned with a plethora of much more immediate issues than nation building,” Kashin says. And as a result, it retained “the Soviet administrative divisions, the most important characteristic of which were national autonomies,” in which ethnocracies rapidly arose.

          “Their existence,” he continues, “do not allow Russia to be called a state of the ethnic Russian people: official rhetoric uses the term ‘multi-national state’ presupposing that Russia belongs to all the ethnoses which are included within it.” And “at this stage, nation building stopped in 1991, possibly forever.”

          For Russians to this day, the word “nation” retains its ethnic content and even suggests to most something related to background by blood. That is why the Soviets introduced the concept of “the Soviet people,” an identity that was not so limited and that was supposed to supplant ethnic identities over time.

          According to Kashin, “the bankruptcy of this theory became manifest under Mikhail Gorbachev when ‘the Soviet people’ in Azerbaijan and Armenia began between itself a real inter-ethnic war.” It became clear that national identities had not disappeared or even grown weaker.

          That pattern has been replicated in the period since 1991 in the fighting between Ingush and Ossetians as well as in other conflicts. For the time being, such “inter-ethnic contradictions are suppressed by a strong centralized power; and Vladimir Putin evidently understands this perfectly well.

          But he remains a nationalist wannabe without a nation, and the failure of the project to define a civic Russian one underscores not only the resistance of the population to such a change but also the weakness of a political system based on personalist ties rather than any serious collective identity.

          Putin almost certainly would like to be a nationalist if only he could create a nation. But that isn’t happening. As long as he is in power, the personalist ties of the peoples of the Russian Federation will likely hold the country together; as soon as he isn’t, the prospects that such arrangements will continue decline precipitously.
          Peoples of Russia have nothing in common except loyalty to Putin, Kashin says | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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          • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 09:19 10.03.2017
            Georgian, Ukrainian, Azerbaijani, Moldovan premiers to meet in Kyiv on March 27

            The prime ministers from member countries of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova) will meet in Kyiv on March 27, the Azerbaijan Export and Investments Promotion Foundation said.

            "A session of the prime ministers of the GUAM member countries will be held in Kyiv on March 27. A business forum involving entrepreneurs from Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova will take place as part of this event," the foundation said on its website.

            Georgian, Ukrainian, Azerbaijani, Moldovan premiers to meet in Kyiv on March 27

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            • Ukraine reports 80 enemy attacks in Donbas, 5 WIA's in last day Russia's hybrid military forces attacked Ukrainian army positions in Donbas 80 times in the past 24 hours with five Ukrainian soldiers reported as wounded in action (WIA), according to the press service of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) Headquarters.
              UNIAN 10 March 2017

              "The Russian occupation troops continued to attack our positions, using heavy weapons. The towns of Krasnohorivka and Maryinka, and the villages of Novotroyitske, Vodiane, Pavlopil, and Bohdanivka in the Mariupol sector came under mortar fire. Grenade launchers and small arms were used to shell Maryinka, and the villages of Lebedynske, Starohnativka, Taramchuk, Novohryhorivka, Shyrokyne, Chermalyk, Vodiane, and Hnutove. Additionally, a sniper was active in the village of Talakivka," the report says.

              The town of Popasna, and the villages of Krymske and Novo-Oleksandrivka in the Luhansk sector also came under mortar fire, while grenade launchers and small arms were used to attack the villages of Novozvanivka, Novo-Oleksandrivka and Stanytsia Luhanska.
              "In the Donetsk sector, the invaders opened fire from mortars of various calibers on the town of Avdiyivka, and the villages of Nevelske, Maiorsk, Dacha, and Luhanske. They also fired grenade launchers and small arms on Avdiyivka, and the villages of Opytne, Kamianka, Luhanske, Pisky, Nevelske, Zaitseve, and Troyitske. Moreover, enemy snipers were working in Avdiyivka and Zaitseve. Furthermore, Troyitske was attacked with the use of anti-aircraft guns," the ATO headquarters said.

              https://www.unian.info/war/1816447-u...-last-day.html

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              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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              • U.S. Congress passes resolution on $150 mln for arming Ukraine – Rada member Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada member Iryna Friz, who chairs the information systems security subcommittee of the Rada committee for national security and defense, announced that a resolution introduced by Rep. Liz Cheney on arming Ukraine passed the U.S. House of Representatives on March 8, 2017.
                UNIAN 10 March 2017

                H.Res.174 titled "Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1301) making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, and for other purposes," which foresees the allocation of US$150 million for the military support of Ukraine was backed by 371 representatives, Friz wrote on Facebook on Thursday, March 9.

                Forty-eight representatives voted against the document.

                "The document says these funds will be available to the Pentagon in order to provide Ukraine with military support, including the provision of lethal weapons of defensive nature and equipment, logistics support, intelligence support of the Ukrainian army and national security forces, training of Ukrainian military personnel and similar purposes," Friz wrote.

                She stressed that the document provides for the supply of defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine. The document must be approved by the U.S. Senate. Friz said she was sure that the senators might have remarks as to the budget of the U.S. armed forces only.

                https://www.unian.info/politics/1816...da-member.html

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                • CNN: FBI investigates 'odd' computer link between Russian bank and Trump Organization Federal investigators and computer scientists continue to examine whether there was a computer server connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, sources close to the investigation tell CNN.
                  UNIAN 10 March 2017

                  Questions about the possible connection were widely dismissed four months ago. But the FBI's investigation remains open, the sources said, and is in the hands of the FBI's counterintelligence team – the same one looking into Russia's suspected interference in the 2016 election, CNN reported.

                  One U.S. official said investigators find the server relationship "odd" and are not ignoring it. But the official said there is still more work for the FBI to do. Investigators have not yet determined whether a connection would be significant.

                  The server issue surfaced again this weekend, mentioned in a Breitbart article that, according to a White House official, sparked President Trump's series of tweets accusing investigators of tapping his phone. CNN is told there was no Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on the server. Internet data shows that last summer, a computer server owned by Russia-based Alfa Bank repeatedly looked up the contact information for a computer server being used by the Trump Organization – far more than other companies did, representing 80% of all lookups to the Trump server. It's unclear if the Trump Organization server itself did anything in return. No one has produced evidence that the servers actually communicated.

                  https://www.unian.info/world/1816511...anization.html

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                  • Election in occupied Donbas no longer on Minsk agenda – Ukraine's negotiator Expert of the political subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement of the Donbas crisis Olga Aivazovska claims that the issue of holding local elections in Russia-occupied Donbas is no longer on the agenda of Minsk peace talks due to the efforts of the Ukrainian side, according to a Ukrainian television channel.
                    UNIAN 10 March 2017

                    "In fact, the negotiation process is sometimes much more complicated in terms of wins and fails than it could seem, as such issues as [local] elections and [related] amendments to the [Ukrainian] Constitution have been removed from the agenda, including due to achievements and position of the Ukrainian side," Aivazovska told Channel 5.

                    In her words, the de-facto authorities of the occupied Donbas and the Russian Federation are now pressing for one issue – the so-called Steinmeier formula. Frank-Walter Steinmeier is Germany's former Minister of Foreign Affairs who actively participated in the Minsk peace process, being a party to the Normandy format, including Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France. He has recently been elected president of Germany whose inauguration is scheduled for March 19, 2017.

                    The formula foresees that the law on the special status of self-government in separate areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions should become effective on the day of local elections in Donbas.

                    "Just proceeding from this position that the jurisdiction of the adopted law on the peculiarities of local self-government [in Donbas] expires in September, we need to minimize internal political debates having no content, being aware that everything is much more complicated and being wiser in these matters," she said.
                    The Ukrainian side insists that the local election in Donbas could be held only after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the east of Ukraine.

                    "In spontaneous debates with our partners in recent days, we have once again clearly emphasized that the political provisions of the Minsk agreements [which also cover the local elections] can be implemented only after obvious and unquestionable progress in terms of security," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko once said.

                    https://www.unian.info/politics/1816...egotiator.html

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                    • Poll reveals one-third of our readers would sue Russia for Crimea annexation
                      EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2017/03/11

                      http://euromaidanpress.com/wp-conten...t-russia-2.png
                      Total votes:178

                      The UN International Court of Justice in The Hague held hearings on Ukraine’s case against Russia; a court ruling is expected by the end of April. Ukraine accused Russia of financing terrorism and racial discrimination in Crimea. In this regard, we asked our readers what they would accuse Russia of, if they could file a lawsuit.

                      The majority of respondents to our online poll (30%) would sue Russia for the illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea, 23% of poll participants would file a lawsuit for the war in the Donbas. 14% support suing Russia for its crimes in Syria, 13% of respondents voted for suing the Russian Federation for the occupation of Georgia, 12% for the war in Chechnya. Seven more readers would file a lawsuit against Russia for all the above mentioned options.

                      Among other suggestions from survey respondents:
                      --Russia’s interference in the US election
                      --Occupation of Transnistria region in Moldova
                      --The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17
                      --Illegal occupation of Finnish Karelia and Königsberg

                      Following are some of the comments by our readers:
                      Paul Pascalau: Wrong approach, Euromaidan. What would you NOT sue Russia for in the Hague Court? That list is way shorter…
                      Avery Scottson: I wrote “Election infringement in the USA” as concern in my country.

                      178 respondents participated in the poll.
                      Poll reveals one-third of our readers would sue Russia for Crimea annexation -Euromaidan Press |

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                      • LIMA NEWS March 11, 2017 Mark Figley - Guest Columnist
                        Forgotten war in the Ukraine looms large

                        As is customary following inaugurations, new presidents telephone various world leaders among their first official acts in office. So early on Donald Trump rang up Vladimir Putin. The very next day, Russian forces intensified military action upon the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka. Was this a simple coincidence or something more sinister?

                        While the Trump administration deals with an increasing number of obvious foreign policy headaches, the forgotten war in the Ukraine looms large. This conflict has already claimed 10,000 dead and displaced 1.7 million others from their homes on the southeastern border with Russia; and the world media has largely failed to even cover it as the conflict escalates. In Avdiivka alone, Russian artillery and rocket attacks have left 16,000 civilians without basic necessities in sub-zero temperatures. Another 17,000 people have fled there since April, 2014.

                        Experts say that Russia’s intent is to sabotage a February 2015 cease-fire with the Ukraine by provoking a major government counter-attack. More than 500 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since then, and another 3,000-plus wounded following over 11,000 Russian cease-fire violations. American and European Union sanctions against Moscow have had little impact, while western calls for a stoppage of hostilities have been largely ignored.

                        All this comes during President Trump’s call for improved relations with Russia.

                        Yet despite Trump’s best efforts, Putin’s Eastern European strategy and his continued escalation of military activity in Ukraine are clear tests of American resolve. And no attempt at goodwill alone on the part of Trump will lessen Moscow’s pursuit of past glory in reconstructing its former Soviet empire. So, why should we be concerned?

                        Following Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and his subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014, countries across Eastern Europe began efforts to build up their conventional military capabilities against a similar threat from the Russians. According to Nolan Peterson of “The Daily Signal,” Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia each came to this realization after it became apparent they could no longer depend on the U.S. or NATO to maintain their security. Unlike the United States, they are well aware that they are viewed by Russia as former territories of the Soviet Union, and thus still coveted as part of the Russian Bear’s centuries-old domination of the region.

                        According to the well-respected British intelligence and defense firm, IHS Jane’s, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia (all members of NATO) increased their combined military spending from $210 million to $390 million from 2014 to 2016. By 2018, the total is expected to reach $670 million with no end in sight. Despite such flashpoints as North Korea, Iran and Syria, Jane’s states that military spending in the Baltic region is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. And Russia itself increased military spending by 28.6 percent in 2015; their largest hike since 2002. The natural danger is that a wider conflict could spread across Eastern Europe; ultimately drawing in the United States. And history records that World War I was precipitated in this region of the world following the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Serbia.

                        Despite the fact that NATO plans to deploy four combat battalions in Poland and the Baltics in 2017, this fact has not deterred Putin from harassing American military ships and planes, launching assorted cyberattacks/propaganda at the U.S and within the countries at risk, and massively increasing Russia’s presence in Syria. In addition, a Russian intelligence gathering ship was recently identified 70 miles off our east coast, while it was confirmed that Moscow has secretly deployed cruise missiles inside its borders in violation of a 1987 U.S./Russian treaty.

                        These acts have also not gone unnoticed across Eastern Europe. As a result, civilian militias have sprung up inside the Baltic states. Lithuania has reinstituted a military draft and issued to its citizens a manual on guerilla warfare. Estonia’s civilian Defense League now holds weekend military training for 25,000 volunteers. And in places such as Sweden and Finland, mistrust of Russia runs high as well.

                        Historically, Moscow has always taken advantage of weakness on the part of its adversaries to increase its power and influence. Ronald Reagan understood this completely and once famously uttered the old Russian proverb, “Trust, but verify,” in characterizing U.S.-Russian relations. Clearly, this was e that Barack Obama, and George W. Bush to a lesser degree, ignored to our country’s detriment. The sooner President Trump comes to acknowledge its truth in his dealings with Russia, the better off Eastern Europe, and ultimately, the United States will be. The Lima News | Mark Figley: Forgotten war in the Ukraine looms large

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                        • Organizers of the Donbas blockade give Ukrainian government two weeks to close the subsidiary of Russia’s Sberbank
                          UAWIRE ORG March 11, 2017 5:14:00 PM

                          The organizers of blockade of the Donbas announced their intention to stop the work of Ukrainian subsidiary of Russian Sberbank within two weeks, as announced at a press conference by the second commander of the Donbas Battalion, Anatoly Vinogorodsky.

                          "In two weeks, if the government does not close this bank, we will close it ourselves and all its branches in Ukraine," he said.

                          "We are giving two weeks’ notice to all clients of Sberbank of Russia, so that they can withdraw all their deposits. We support Minister Avakov (Minister of Internal Affairs), who said that the bank's actions are anti-Ukrainian and illegal," Vikogorodsky said, adding that government and law enforcement agencies have to make sure that the funds from the bank wouldn't be transferred to the "aggressor country."

                          At the same time, in answering journalist's questions about the blockade's headquarters’ plan to shut down the bank's branches or stop their work, Vinogorodsky said that he is not going to announce the details yet.

                          Earlier it was reported that the President of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers, and the NBU (The National Bank of Ukraine) are considering imposing sanctions against the Ukrainian subsidiary of Sberbank of Russia after its parent, Sberbank of Russia, started recognizing passports issued by the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, called for the closure of Sberbank branches in Ukraine.

                          Sberbank of Russia announced that starting on March 7th all branches of the bank are ready to provide services to customers with passports issued by the DPR and LPR. UAWire - Organizers of the Donbas blockade give Ukrainian government two weeks to close the subsidiary of Russia’s Sberbank

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                          • Ukrainian Ambassador: Ukraine may receive lethal weapons from Canada
                            UAWIRE ORG March 11, 2017 11:18:00 AM

                            Ukraine is waiting for an affirmative answer from Canada on the supply of lethal weapons, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko said.

                            “We need both lethal weapons and satellite reconnaissance data; nothing has changed in this regard since 2014, when we first put forward such a request. And the recent flare up in the East [of Ukraine] confirms this need,” Shevchenko said.

                            He added that he ultimately expects an affirmative answer from Canada to Ukraine's request of arms supplies.

                            “They have never told us ‘No’ and we still hope to hear ‘Yes.’” In order to receive weapons and other necessary equipment, we are trying to be resourceful,” the Ambassador said.

                            According to the Ambassador, Ukraine hopes to receive weapons from other NATO member countries as well.
                            “We hope that our NATO partners and our partners from all the free world will help us to defend ourselves and receive the necessary weapons,” Shevchenko said.

                            The Government of Canada recently announced its decision to extend the military training mission of UNIFIER in Ukraine for two years until March 31, 2019.

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                            • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Taras Shevchenko March 9, 2017
                              The Fight for Justice Is the Fight for Ukraine’s Future

                              Attempts to implement judicial reform in Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 have had no impact on the public’s level of trust in the judiciary; as of November 2016, four out of five Ukrainians did not trust the judicial branch. Foreign investors have a similar attitude; in a September 2016 poll, investors mentioned the judiciary as one of three key barriers to investment in Ukraine’s economy. These entrepreneurs see no sense in investing in Ukraine unless there are mechanisms in place to protect private property.

                              Civil society and international partners agree that comprehensive judicial reform should be implemented as soon as possible. To meet this need, the Verkhovna Rada adopted amendments to the constitution and some secondary laws in June 2016 that will depoliticize judges and strengthen their independence, simplify the judicial system, and reboot the judiciary. But will this historic opportunity be properly used?

                              Real renewal or a mere façade?
                              Simplifying the judicial system is one of the most revolutionary concepts within the constitutional amendments; it should result in the establishment of a single new Supreme Court to replace four old ones. The judges of this new Supreme Court will be selected by a competition currently in progress that is open not only to judges, but also to attorneys and legal scholars with ten years of experience. This novel idea grew from the need to bring in “fresh blood.”

                              However, not many attorneys and legal scholars enrolled in the competition, while half of the candidates unaffiliated with the system were disqualified on formal grounds during a prequalification stage. As a result, over 600 candidates competed for 120 vacancies, of which only 154 persons—less than one-fourth—are non-judicial candidates.

                              Several stages of the competition have already been conducted, and now 524 candidates are left. Today, the future of the competition is balanced between unprecedented victory and complete failure, and further progress of the reform depends on how quickly and fully the public’s concerns are taken into account and resolved. It’s possible that the liquidation of the old courts and establishment of a new one may neither eradicate corruption nor restore trust in the system, but will simply select new judges according to their loyalty to the authorities. Judicial reform in 2010 under Viktor Yanukovych was conducted in the same manner.

                              Untrustworthy judges choosing new judges
                              In countries with a long-standing tradition of independent courts and a high level of trust in the judiciary, decisions concerning judges’ professional careers can be adopted by self-governing judicial bodies; but in a country that needs to destroy its corrupt judiciary and build an independent, depoliticized system, this approach guarantees only the continuation of existing problems.

                              The Higher Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ)—the key agency organizing the competition to the Supreme Court—consists of sixteen members, ten of whom are judges. In the process of selecting Supreme Court candidates, the public has only an advisory role; a special Public Integrity Council (PIC) was established by the new law on the judiciary and is empowered to verify the candidates’ professional integrity and to issue negative opinions about those who do not meet this criterion. At the last and the most important stage of the selection—the interviews with the candidates—the HQCJ will have to consider the PIC’s opinions, but will be able to reject them with eleven affirmative votes out of sixteen.

                              However, the HQCJ has already prevented the PIC from researching the candidates properly and preparing opinions. Although Ukrainian law requires that the candidates’ dossiers be published on the HQCJ website, the commission has failed to do so. The public therefore has no opportunity to see the candidates’ non-electronic asset declarations, information on their previous rulings, or complaints filed against them.

                              After several months of negotiations, the HQCJ did agree to give the PIC access to the dossiers—but only a few weeks before the deadline for the PIC to submit its opinions.

                              Seven sins of the candidates
                              Since the law does not provide clear-cut criteria to determine a judge’s integrity, the activists behind the campaign “Chesno. Filter the Judiciary!” opted to help the PIC. The group analyzed the profiles of all the candidates competing for spots on the Supreme Court, having singled out seven characteristics typical of unfair practices:

                              --Evidence of corruption
                              --Services provided to Yanukovych’s regime
                              --Cover-ups that ensure judges’ impunity for crimes committed
                              --Dubious rulings provoking doubts as to their fairness
                              --Dubious assets and property
                              --Family or other connections which could result in conflicts of interest or nepotism
                              --Open criminal cases


                              The group provided these analyses to both the PIC and the HQCJ. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine has also screened Supreme Court candidates by collecting information from public registries and databases, and gave these materials to both institutions. Now it is essential to make sure that the HQCJ takes this information into account; the appointment of tainted candidates will discredit the reform in the eyes of the public.

                              Ensuring 100 percent transparency
                              The HQCJ’s methodology for candidate assessment is debatable.
                              http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/image...0309_taras.jpg

                              First, the passing score is determined after the end of each competition stage. (For example, in the follow-up of the first stage of testing, the examination passing score was 54 for the criminal chamber and 60 for all other chambers). But the criteria used to assess candidates are neither transparent nor impartial. Judicial exams provide objective results, but the assessments used in the competition to determine professional integrity, personal or social competency, and ethics are subjective—and those aspects can be awarded 700 out of a total 1,000 points.

                              Making information public is the best safeguard against corruption, and it’s particularly crucial in this situation. Only complete openness and transparency of the selection process can guarantee public trust in its results, particularly when the selection panel includes mostly judges distrusted by the public.

                              Therefore, civil society demands that the public should have access to the candidates’ dossiers. It also demands that:
                              --The results of individual voting and scores awarded by the HQCJ members should be open and transparent;
                              --HQCJ should provide live webcasts of all interviews with the candidates, or grant civil activists an opportunity to do so;
                              --HQCJ's voting on the negative opinion of the PIC should be open;
                              --The PIC should be allowed to pose questions to the candidates during interviews.

                              Close observation and monitoring of the selection process by international partners is also essential; the independence of the selection panel and monitoring of its activity by the public and international partners will be key factors to the reform’s success.

                              According to the law, the Supreme Court should be established by April 1, 2017, but the deadline will likely be shifted to the beginning of May. Ukrainian society and the international community should pay the utmost attention to the formation of the Supreme Court in the coming months. The future of the judicial system, and indeed the entire country, depends on it.
                              The Fight for Justice Is the Fight for Ukraine’s Future

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                              • UN warns of possible threat of chemical disaster in eastern Ukraine The United Nations has raised the alarm over the threat of a possible chemical disaster due to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.
                                UNIAN 11 March 2017

                                A UN human rights expert said in a statement issued on March 10 that fighting has been underway in areas where large chemical and industrial facilities are located, according to RFE/RL.

                                "Battles are now being fought in cities, close to industrial centers, with factories increasingly becoming at risk of being hit: the consequences for anyone living close-by would be severe," said Baskut
                                Tuncak, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes. Tuncak said that a storage building containing more than 7,000 kilograms of chlorine gas was hit by shelling on February 24.

                                No storage container was damaged in the shelling, Tuncak said. But he warned that if one single 900-kilogram container had been broken, it could have killed everyone within a 200-meter radius and could have resulted in severe health damage for those living as far as 2.4 kilometers around the damaged facility.

                                "In case of extensive damage, people living within 7.4 kilometers downwind of the facility would need to be moved away within 24 hours," the statement said.

                                The UN statement did not specify the location or the name of the chlorine storage facility.

                                But in a statement on February 25, the monitoring mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported having noticed damage caused by shelling at the Donetsk Water Filtration Station, in an area controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

                                The OSCE statement said a drone in the area had established the damage was caused by 82 mm mortar rounds, but did not say who had fired them.

                                Most of Ukraine's industrial facilities are located in the eastern part of the country, where fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014.

                                https://www.unian.info/society/18187...n-ukraine.html

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