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  • South Sudan, Haiti and Ukraine Lead World in Suffering
    GALLUP Linda Lyons March 23, 2017

    --47% in South Sudan rate their lives poorly enough to be suffering
    --Poverty, natural disasters prolong pain in Haiti, where 43% suffering
    --41% suffering in Ukraine is highest in Europe

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Amid the focus on happiness this week with the release of the 2017 World Happiness report, it's important to acknowledge the places in the world where it is in short supply. While the three happiest countries are in northern Europe -- Norway, Denmark and Iceland -- Gallup's World Poll finds three countries with the highest "suffering" rates in the world in 2016 span three continents. More than four in 10 people rate their current and future lives poorly enough to be categorized as suffering -- in South Sudan (47%), Haiti (43%) and Ukraine (41%).

    Gallup classifies people as "thriving" if they rate their current lives a 7 or higher and their lives in five years an 8 or higher on a ladder scale (based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale) with steps numbered from zero to 10, where zero represents the worst possible life and 10 represents the best possible life. People are considered "suffering" if they rate their current and future lives a 4 or lower. The U.N. World Happiness report, in comparison, ranks countries on their happiness and subjective well-being based only on a three-year average of people's ratings of their current lives from Gallup's World Poll.

    Civil War, Crime and Famine Plague South Sudan

    Civil war erupted in South Sudan shortly after it gained independence in 2011; high crime rates and food shortages -- that eventually became famine -- followed. Suffering rates in the new country increased significantly from 33% in 2014 to 47% in 2016 -- the highest level of suffering worldwide.

    According to the most recent Gallup data, more than four in 10 (46%) South Sudanese in 2016 report having money or property stolen in the past 12 months, the second-highest percentage in the world after Uganda, and one in four, 24%, have been assaulted, reflecting crime rates that are among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. And last month, the United Nations declared a famine in two sections of the country while warning that half of the population of South Sudan is facing starvation. Because of the dangerous conditions, emergency relief agencies struggle to deliver food and water to the most desperate areas. In 2016, seven in 10 South Sudanese say they did not have enough money to buy needed food for themselves or their families -- an increase of nine percentage points from 2015 (61%).

    Haitian Suffering Has Barely Abated Since the 2010 Earthquake

    Even before Hurricane Matthew ravaged Haiti in late 2016, the small Caribbean nation was already in deep distress, with more than four in 10 Haitians (43%) rating their lives poorly enough to be considered suffering in recent years (just 3% are deemed thriving). Long recognized as the poorest country in the Americas, Haiti is prone to natural disasters that put further stress on its infrastructure and vulnerable population. A devastating earthquake in 2010 triggered a major cholera epidemic that put intense pressure on Haiti's already fragile healthcare system. Even before the recent hurricane, satisfaction with the availability of quality healthcare had dropped to a new low of 9%.

    The 2010 earthquake further exacerbated the scarcity of affordable housing in Haiti. Six years later, just 17% of Haitians told Gallup that they are satisfied with the availability of affordable housing in the city or area where they live. Those figures have not likely improved since Hurricane Matthew struck the island last October; according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the storm left nearly 140,000 Haitians homeless.

    Ukraine's Suffering Is the Third Highest in the World

    Ukraine is the only European country near the bottom of the World Happiness rankings this year -- and the 41% of the population that is considered suffering is the highest Gallup has recorded among post-Soviet states; fewer than one in 10 Ukrainians (9%) are thriving.

    The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatist forces have further damaged already poor economic growth in the nation. A solid majority of Ukrainians (57%) believe their personal standard of living is getting worse. Nearly half of Ukrainians (46%) say there were times in the past year when they did not have enough money for food for themselves or their families -- the highest figure Gallup has ever recorded for Ukraine and one of the highest in all Europe.

    Bottom Line

    Not surprisingly, all three countries fall toward the bottom of the U.N. World Happiness rankings: Ukraine is No. 132, Haiti comes in at No. 145 and South Sudan is No. 147. These nations' low life evaluations will only improve with an end to conflicts, an increase in economic growth, and good governance that is focused on upgrading and enriching the lives of every resident.

    The data in this article are available in Gallup Analytics.

    Survey Methods

    In Haiti, results are based on face-to-face interviews with 504 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted May 18-26, 2016. In Ukraine and South Sudan, results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults each, aged 15 and older, conducted in Ukraine June 1-July 15, 2016, and in South Sudan April 14-May 27, 2016. Because of insecurity reasons, geographic exclusions represent about 44% of the estimated national population in South Sudan. Exclusions for similar reasons in Ukraine were 10% of the population in 2014 and 2% in 2015 and 2016. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±3.8 to ±5.1 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

    For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.
    South Sudan, Haiti and Ukraine Lead World in Suffering | Gallup

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    • Ukraine reports 84 enemy attacks, 1 KIA, 1 WIA in last day Russia's hybrid military forces attacked Ukrainian army positions in Donbas 84 times in the past 24 hours, with one Ukrainian soldier reported as killed in action (KIA) and one as wounded in action (WIA), according to the press service of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) Headquarters.
      UNIAN 23 March 2017

      In the Mariupol sector, the situation was most tense near the village of Shyrokyne where the enemy opened fire from 120mm and 82mm mortars, infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers of various systems and heavy machine guns. Additionally, the militants used 122mm artillery systems and Grad MLR systems to shell the Ukrainian Marines' fortified positions near the village of Vodiane.
      The occupiers used grenade launchers and heavy machine guns near the villages of Pavlopil, Lebedynske, Hnutove, and Chermalyk, while the Ukrainian positions in the town of Maryinka came under sniper fire.

      In the Donetsk sector, the "hottest" situation was in the town of Avdiyivka whose defenders were attacked by the Russian occupation forces with mortars, grenade launchers, machine guns and anti-tank missile systems. The enemy also launched heavy 152mm artillery barrages against Ukrainian troops' positions near the village of Zaitseve. Moreover, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns were used to fire on the fortified positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine near the villages of Luhanske, Troyitske, and Verkhniotoretske.

      In the Luhansk sector, the Russian-backed mercenaries used 120mm mortars, grenade launchers and machine guns to attack the defenders of the village of Novozvanivka. The enemy also fired 82mm mortars on the Ukrainian positions near the village of Krymske, as well as grenade launchers and small arms near the village of Stanytsia Luhanska. Given the situation, the Ukrainian military was forced to fire back.

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      • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 09:49 23.03.2017
        Ukraine, Poland working on defense cooperation under European Narew defense program

        Ukraine and Poland are working on the defense cooperation plans under the European Narew short range air defense program, the PolUkr portal has reported, referring to the Polish agency Altair.

        According to the report, during the negotiations held in March 2017 Ukroboronprom State Concern proposed to the Ministry of National Defense of Poland to cooperate under the Narew short range air defense program being implemented by Poland's PGZ jointly with the European defense consortium MBDA. Ukraine's project has the draft name R-27 ADS (Air Defense System). It envisages the joint creation of the air defense system using Ukrainian R-27 missiles made by Artem (Kyiv). The publication recalled that in 2016, Poland signed a contract with the Ukrainian company to deliver R-27R1 missiles for Polish MiG-29 fighter aircraft.

        According to Altair, some elements of the system, including airborne radar, missile radar, mobile firing positions, missile tracking and control systems, and command and communication systems will be made in Poland. According to preliminary information, tests of R-27 ADS with participation of Polish military servicemen are scheduled for 2018.

        As reported, in summer 2016, the consortium formed by Ukraine's Spectechnoexport and Poland's WB Electronics won a tender to supply R-27P1 medium-range air-to-air missiles for MiG-21 fighter jets of the Polish Air Force. In December 2016, Ukroboronprom and Poland's WB Electronics S.A. signed a cooperation agreement on creation of new samples of antiaircraft and surface-to-air missile weapons. Ukraine, Poland working on defense cooperation under European Narew defense program

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        • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 09:45 23.03.2017
          Some 15,000 people being evacuated from area near Kharkiv region military depot

          Explosions with varying degrees of intensity were recorded on the premises of a military warehouse in Balaklia in Ukraine's Kharkiv region as of 7:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, the press service of the Ukrainian State Service for Emergency Situations said.

          Around 15,000 people are being evacuated from the possible danger area. Passenger traffic via the Balaklia railway station has been suspended and has now been arranged using a reserve route.

          Ukrainian Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios, for his part, said on Facebook that these depots stored 138,000 tonnes of ammunition and were located on an overall area of 368 hectares.

          "Given the possibility that the ammunition detonation areas may increase and it [ammunition] may scatter, an evacuation of the local population has been organized from the populated localities of Verbivka and Yakovenkove," he said. Some 15,000 people being evacuated from area near Kharkiv region military depot

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          • SBU arrests nine suspected saboteurs in Odesa – media The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) says it has uncovered a network of saboteurs in Odesa working for Russia, arresting nine men with Ukrainian passports, according to Radio Poland.
            UNIAN 23 March 2017

            "We conducted a multi-stage special operation to defang the network overseen by Russian special services. It worked in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine," SBU department chief Oleksandr Tkachuk was quoted as saying by a Ukrainian news agency, Radio Poland reported.

            "According to our information, Russia's Military Main Intelligence Directorate [Foreign military intelligence agency, known as GRU] was involved," he added.

            The Polish PAP news agency said that the nine who were arrested were current or former Ukrainian military personnel.

            It added that the group were instructed to gather information on important infrastructure and military facilities.

            "They were also instructed to organize terror attacks on Ukrainian citizens in southern districts," PAP quoted Tkachuk as saying.


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            • Putin critic gunned down in Ukraine VIDEO

              Situation Room
              Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian lawmaker and Kremlin critic who fled to Ukraine last year, was shot dead in Kiev. CNN's Brian Todd has the latest.
              Source: CNN Putin critic gunned down in Ukraine - CNN Video

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              • Russia cut financing of the Crimea by 1.5 billion rubles
                UAWIRE ORG March 23, 2017 6:22:30 PM

                On March 22nd, the Russian Parliament in the annexed Crimea approved amendments to the budget for 2017 which will reduce the revenues and expenditures of the peninsula’s budget by 1.55 billion rubles (27 million USD). The budget bill was published on the official website of the Crimean Parliament.

                As reported by Kryminform, the Minister of Finance of the peninsula, Irina Kiviko, said during a committee meeting that "this amount is approved, less the receipts under the federal target program."

                "There is a proposition to reduce the total amount of revenues and the total amount of expenditures in the amount of 1,545,588,000 rubles (27 million USD)." We have already signed an agreement on the federal budget, and this amount is approved less the receipts under the federal target program," she said.

                Previously, Kiviko explained that expenditures will be reduced by this amount under the federal target program on the development of the Crimea and Sevastopol until 2020. At the end of December 2016, a budget for 2017 was adopted in the annexed Crimea. At that time, the government reported a "record" future revenue growth. According to the adopted document, the revenue part of the treasury of the peninsula will be almost 132 billion rubles (2.29 billion USD), and the expenditure part, almost 135 billion rubles (2.3 billion USD).

                The Crimea was annexed by Russia in March 2014. This was preceded by an invasion of Russian troops into the peninsula and a referendum in the presence of armed people. Kyiv and many western countries do not recognize the referendum as legitimate, and as a result sanctions were imposed on Russia. Initially, the restrictions were directed against the individuals and legal entities, but later the sanctions were expanded and they affected entire sectors of the Russian economy.
                UAWire - Russia cut financing of the Crimea by 1.5 billion rubles

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                • Security Service of Ukraine: Russian espionage ring was uncovered in Odessa
                  UAWIRE ORG March 23, 2017 5:22:00 PM

                  The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and military counterintelligence announced the detention of several members of a Russian spy ring in Odessa, as reported by the press service of the SBU.

                  As counterintelligence states, the leader and coordinator of the group is a Ukrainian citizen. She was trained in the annexed Crimea, and participated in the events at Kulikovo Field on May 2, 2014.

                  "The detention of all active members of the group in Odessa was carried out during a transfer of important documents," the head of the military counterintelligence service of the SBU, Levchenko added.

                  The SBU said that overall nine members of the group were detained on the 19th of March. As a preventative measure, four of them have been detained, the rest are under the control of the SBU.

                  "We know that every one of them has a Ukrainian passport. We do not know yet whether they have passports issued by other countries," the head of the SBU's Chief of Staff, Oleksandr Tkachuk, said.

                  He also added that the purpose of the network was to penetrate critical infrastructure facilities in the southern regions and military facilities. The agents were to receive information regarding the deployment and movement of military units.

                  "The second task that was issued by the General Staff of the Russian Federation was supposed to be sabotage and terrorist attacks against Ukrainian citizens in the southern regions," Tkachuk noted.

                  According to Levchenko, they were able to prevent the transfer of information. He also noted that the network operated not only in the southern regions, but also in the area of the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone). The network included both active and discharged servicemen.

                  Earlier the Security Service announced the exposure of 10 administrators of anti-Ukrainian social media groups which were coordinated by Russian special services. UAWire - Security Service of Ukraine: Russian espionage ring was uncovered in Odessa

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                  • Moldova discloses details of $22 billion money laundering case
                    UAWIRE ORG March 23, 2017 4:21:00 PM

                    Criminal cases were brought against a number of judges, bailiffs and employees of the National Bank of Moldova. Through a statement posted on their official website, the Prosecutor General's Office of Moldova described the details of an ongoing investigation about the laundering and removal of $22 billion from Russia.

                    According to the statement, charges were brought against 16 judges, four bailiffs, four employees of the National Bank of Moldova including the deputy head, as well as nine employees of a commercial bank through which money laundering operations were conducted.

                    The Prosecutor General's Office report named it the “Laundromat” case.

                    On March 20, The Guardian exposed an international money laundering scheme in Russia under the name "The Global Laundromat.” According to the edition, around $20 billion was diverted out of Russia in 2010 to 2014 although the actual amount may reach as high as $80 billion. An important element of this portfolio is the Bank of Moldova.

                    In February, information about a money laundering scheme in Russia began to emerge, the key element being the Federal Bailiff Service. The Guardian revealed that the new method of fraud is a modification of an already-known Moldovan money laundering scheme aided by judicial decisions.

                    In the middle of 2016, a former employee of the anti-corruption department of Moldova spoke about money laundering more than $23 billion of Russian origin through the country’s commercial banks.

                    The German edition Süddeutsche Zeitung also reported that dozens of German banks have laundered money from Eastern Europe and Russia.
                    UAWire - Moldova discloses details of $22 billion money laundering case

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                    • The Morning Vertical Brian Whitmore March 24, 2017

                      ON MY MIND

                      Billions of dollars in black Russian cash siphoned through thousands of companies with accounts at hundreds of banks in scores of countries.

                      A massive money laundromat exposed.

                      An important investigation released this week by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) pulled back the curtain on how Russian officials and organized crime figures wash their money.

                      And it also raised disturbing questions about what these billions are being used for.

                      On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we take a deep dive into the OCCRP report. Joining me are co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and author of the blog In Moscow's Shadows; and Paul Radu, co-founder of the OCCRP and the lead investigator on this week's report.

                      It promises to be a good show, so be sure to tune in later today!

                      IN THE NEWS

                      Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian lawmaker who defected to Ukraine and aired damning criticism of Russia's leadership, has been gunned down in broad daylight in the heart of Kyiv in what Ukraine's president called "an act of state terrorism by Russia."

                      Ukrainian officials say a woman's body has been found under debris at the site of a massive munitions-depot fire near the eastern city of Kharkiv.

                      Visiting Russia amid a highly charged presidential election campaign in France, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has called for closer ties between the two countries and the removal of sanctions Western governments have imposed on Moscow over its interference in Ukraine.

                      Russian news agencies say six Russian national guard troops and six assailants have been killed in an attack on a military unit in Chechnya.

                      A Kremlin military aide said that Russia is in negotiations to supply Turkey with S-400 defense systems, even though Turkey is a NATO member.

                      A U.S. board overseeing the finances of the bankrupt territory of Puerto Rico announced that it is hiring Ukraine's former finance minister, Natalie Jaresko, to steer the Caribbean island out of crisis.

                      Moldova has received no formal response from Russia to complaints that members of Russia's security apparatus were sabotaging its investigation into a money-laundering operation, parliament speaker Andrian Candu said.

                      Russia's Channel One refused an offer by Eurovision Song Contest organizers to have singer Yulia Samoilova participate by satellite after Ukraine blocked her from entering the country to take part in the popular event.

                      Moscow police have announced that a rally planned by Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny for March 26 is "illegal" and have warned potential participants that their safety could be in danger.

                      Russian Academy of Sciences President Vladimir Fortov, a vocal critic of the Kremlin, has been relieved of his duties by the Russian government.

                      NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, has said that Russia may be helping to supply Taliban militants that are fighting Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.

                      State television reports in Belarus say the country's security agency, the KGB, has detained an unspecified number of people suspected of plotting mass disorder.
                      The Morning Vertical, March 24, 2017

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                      • Putin Meets Le Pen, Says Not Seeking To Influence French Vote
                        RADIO FREE EUROPE 3/24/2017

                        President Vladimir Putin has met with French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin and told her that Moscow reserves the right to meet any French politician it wanted.

                        At the unannounced meeting on March 24, Putin also said that Russia is not seeking to influence the upcoming French election.

                        "We by no means want to influence the current events, but we reserve the right to communicate with all representatives of all political forces of the country," the Interfax news agency quoted Putin as saying.

                        He said "our partners in Europe and the United States" have the same right.

                        At earlier talks with Russian lawmakers, Le Pen called for closer ties between the two countries in the face of “two gigantic, monumental challenges, namely globalism and Islamic fundamentalism."

                        Visiting Russia amid a highly charged presidential election campaign in France, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has called for closer ties between the two countries and the removal of sanctions Western governments have imposed on Moscow over its interference in Ukraine.

                        "It is absolutely inconceivable that because of the sanctions, Russian and French lawmakers are not able even to meet to discuss issues that are of the great importance for protecting peace and the lives of our citizens," Le Pen told the foreign affairs committee of the State Duma, Russia's lower parliament house, on March 24.

                        The European Union, the United States, and other countries have imposed sanctions on Russia over its seizure of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in March 2014 and its support for separatists whose war against government forces has killed more than 9,900 people in eastern Ukraine.

                        Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front (FN) party, has repeatedly called for closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said she does not consider Moscow's annexation of Crimea illegal.

                        Her one-day visit comes a month before the April 23 first round of the French election, one of a series of votes in EU countries this year that are seen as a test of Russia's influence in the West. After U.S. intelligence agencies released a report in January saying they assessed that Putin ordered an "influence campaign" to interfere in the presidential election, there are fears that the Kremlin has been seeking to sway elections in France, Germany, and other countries.

                        'Courageous' Visit
                        Duma committee head Leonid Slutsky said Le Pen's visit was "courageous," the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

                        State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin told reporters that Le Pen would visit an exhibition of French Gothic art at the Kremlin. It was unclear whether she would meet Putin or senior government officials.

                        Opinion polls ahead of the French election suggest that Le Pen is likely to reach a second-round run-off vote on May 7, but would probably lose to a centrist candidate.

                        Conservative presidential hopeful Francois Fillon has also called for better relations with Moscow. Frontrunner Emmanuel Macron, an independent who backs the EU sanctions against Russia, has accused the Kremlin of being involved in cyberattacks.

                        Le Pen has made multiple trips to Russia in the past, receiving positive coverage in the Russian state media.

                        Her relationship with Russia has been in the spotlight during the election campaign, partly because of a $9.7 million loan the National Front took from a Russian bank in 2014. Her party said that French banks had refused to lend it any money.

                        National Front members have said they are seeking millions of euros to fund presidential and parliamentary elections this year, but treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just said Le Pen's visit was not a cash-raising exercise.

                        Russia has denied reports that it is trying to influence the French election campaign.

                        On March 23, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said allegations that Russia was interfering in electoral processes in France and Germany as "absolutely fictional."

                        Lavrov said Le Pen was not a "populist" or "marginal" but a "realist or anti-globalist" figure.

                        The French presidential election is followed by parliamentary elections in June.

                        German voters will elect the members of the Bundestag in September, with Chancellor Angela Merkel facing a tough fight.
                        Putin Meets Le Pen, Says Not Seeking To Influence French Vote

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                        • Black Cash And Black Ops
                          RADIO FREE EUROPE Brian Whitmore March 22, 2017

                          Some of the laundered Russian money was used to buy fancy cars. Some of it to purchase furs. Some of it paid for elite prep-school fees. And some of it was spent on real estate.

                          But at least some of the Russian black cash also helped finance political mischief.

                          The latest investigation into Russian money laundering by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) exposed the inner workings of a vast criminal conspiracy to siphon at least $20 billion out of Russia and launder it through foreign banks.

                          The Guardian cites unidentified law-enforcement officials as saying the total amount that sloshed through this massive money laundromat could be as high as $80 billion.

                          Most of this appears to be the run-of-the-mill fraud, tax evasion, and capital flight of a kleptocracy.

                          But for Russia, crime and corruption are also often simultaneously used as weaponized tools of statecraft.

                          And it's hard to imagine a money-laundering operation of this magnitude, involving major Russian banks and figures with ties to the Russian government and security services, that isn't at least tacitly Kremlin-sanctioned.

                          Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian organized crime and security services and a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, notes that "most of this $20 billion haul was, of course, just the corrupt proceeds of corrupt people doing corrupt things," but some of it "seems to have been put to political use by the Russian security services."

                          According to the OCCRP report, for example, some of the funds went to the Center for Geopolitical Analysis, a think tank in Poland that pushes the Kremlin's agenda in Europe.

                          The center is run by Mateusz Piskorski, who leads the Euroskeptic political party Zmiana -- and who was detained last year on charges of spying for Russia.

                          So far, that's the only documented case of the laundered funds being used for political purposes.

                          But Moldovan officials told Reuters that some of the money was used to advance Russian state interests.

                          Moreover, OCCRP's co-founder, Paul Radu, who led the investigation into Russian money laundering, told me that "we don't know where 80 percent of the money went," adding that it was largely distributed to "ghost companies" without clear owners.

                          "It's like a Tor network of financial transactions," he added, referring to the popular Internet anonymizer.

                          That's a lot of untraceable black cash.

                          And this black cash is sloshing through some of the world's top banks as the Kremlin's active measures in the West are becoming ever more active: as Russia is suspected of stealthily funding political movements, NGOs, and so-called "alternative" media outlets in Europe that stoke fears about the migrant crisis, advocate a Euroskeptic agenda, and otherwise promote the Kremlin's agenda.

                          "Putin's corrupt system functions as a network of business relationships," political commentator Leonid Bershidsky writes in his column for Bloomberg.

                          "It's a kind of secondary nervous system inside the Russian bureaucracy, running parallel to the official one, creating parallel chains of command and serving different goals than the official system whose tools it uses."

                          But often the goals overlap. And when they conflict, there is little question whose interests have priority.

                          The security services tolerate, monitor, and recruit hackers from Russia's digital underworld. Intelligence and law-enforcement agencies run protection rackets. And organized crime is allowed to flourish, so long as it doesn't embarrass the state.

                          And yes, money-laundering schemes are allowed to operate.

                          The condition on all this is that the Kremlin can reach in at any time to use crime and corruption it has tolerated and nurtured to advance its geopolitical goals.

                          And you can stir up a helluva lot of mischief, buy a lot of influence, stealthily fund a lot of fake-news-spewing media, and secretly finance a lot of xenophobic political parties with $20 billion. Black Cash And Black Ops

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                          • The Kremlin’s show executions in Kyiv
                            EUROMAIDAN PRESS Vitaliy Portnikov 2017/03/24

                            The murders of key figures in Kyiv are occurring not in order to remove competitors, for revenge, or by accident. They are designed specifically as show executions.

                            The murder of the former Russian State Duma deputy Denis Voronenkov cannot be called unexpected. The only thing that can be considered unexpected is perhaps the quality of the work of the Ukrainian intelligence services that allowed for the murder of such an important witness to the crimes of the former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and Russian leaders to take place.

                            But the fact that Voronenkov would be dealt with could have been foreseen when the former Russian deputy and his wife first appeared in Ukraine’s capital. By and large, there was no other option for the organizers of this murder.

                            They are well aware that the state they are heading is weakening. That there is no hope for a change of course and for a relatively painless way out of the situation in which Russia finds itself. And this means there will be more and more defectors.

                            And these defectors need to be shown that they cannot expect any safety if they separate from the pack. The punishing hand of former friends will get them anywhere. And the fear of possible exposure will not stop the organizers of the murders. They have already fouled up too much to be afraid.

                            This is why the murders of the system’s key figures in Kyiv do not occur in order to eliminate competitors, for revenge, or by accident. They are organized specifically to serve as show executions. A heart attack is the privilege of those who have not gone beyond the bounds — the way people usually die in America.

                            In Ukraine, people are killed differently. This is why the murder of Denis Voronenkov in its scope and audacity is similar to the murder of another Russian — Pavlo Sheremeta. Each crime was a signal, but addressed to different audiences of potential defectors who had been closely tied to the system.

                            Another important symbol may be addressed not to defectors but colleagues. Voronenkov’s family in Moscow was known for its real or imaginary closeness to Vladislav Surkov, the Russian president’s advisor and the “curator” of the Ukrainian project in the president’s administration.

                            And though Surkov has denied this connection as best he could through his faithful assistants, Voronenkov himself never said a single bad word about his former friend. Furthermore, he insisted that Surkov did not support the annexation of Crimea, and that the decision that sooner or later may result in the trial of war criminals was made by Putin himself.

                            Against the background of the deteriorating economic situation in the country and the collapse of its foreign policy calculations, the Kremlin operatives cannot avoid sensing the shadow of this process. And quite a few may not like the fact that some are being excused and others are made to bear the entire responsibility.

                            No, Putin and his associates from the intelligence services want for everyone to be responsible for what has been done. And even better, for everyone, together with all the Russians. Like Hitler, who wanted to respond together with all the Germans. Because only this collective responsibility provides a chance to avoid a fair trial.

                            All these considerations do not cancel one simple fact. Voronenkov should have been protected as the apple of one’s eye. One might think that the effectiveness of the intelligence services was based on decisions of who can come to Eurovision.

                            But it is based on the security of those who have decided to break with the Kremlin. It is clear that no one will come to us from the Kremlin now. And another thing is also clear. The murder of Voronenkov did not accidentally coincide with events in the Kharkiv Oblast. (In the town of Balaklia, on March 23, a massive explosion occurred at one of Ukraine’s largest military warehouses, containing over 10,000 tons of munitions and missiles — Ed.) We are not on the verge of a war of sabotage. The war of sabotage has already begun. The Kremlin's show executions in Kyiv -Euromaidan Press |

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                              • Ukrainian mayor eager to open Europe’s first center for hemp therapy
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Alya Shandra 2017/03/25

                                Ukraine may soon open Europe’s first center for hemp therapy. The industrial variety of Cannabis sativa, the drug-less brother of marijuana, has been used as a traditional source of fiber in Ukraine for ages. Now it may become a center for alternative cancer therapy – if Michel Tereshchenko, the mayor of the provincial city of Hlukhiv gets his way.

                                In Soviet years, Ukraine made a splash in the hemp industry with its Hemp breeding department at the Institute of Bast Crops in Hlukhiv which opened in 1932 and has been one of the world’s largest centers for developing new hemp varieties, focusing on improving fiber quality, yields, and diminishing the content of tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC, the psychoactive component of Cannabis sativa. In 2009 it created the world’s first and only non-narcotic varieties of hemp, and before that – the first varieties with insignificant amounts of THC.

                                It’s located in what was once the residence of Mykhailo Tereshchenko, a Ukrainian industrial magnate and philanthropist who lost everything after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Nowadays, his grandson Michel Tereshchenko, who returned from France to his ancestral homeland and landed a victory in Hlukhiv’s mayoral election, is seeking to breathe a second life into Ukrainian hemp. And into Ukraine’s cancer patients. His facebook post announcing that the center will open in three months, on time for the new harvest of hemp, and will look more like a beauty center than like a hospital, spread like wildfire and has attracted many potential investors – although it is too early to reveal their names, Mr. Tereshchenko says.

                                The science behind the idea

                                Although it’s too early to say that cannabis cures cancer, research in that direction is ongoing. Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory, and cannabis-derived drugs have been approved to use to relieve side effects of cancer treatment. The secret lies in cannabinoids, active chemicals in cannabis which activate cannabinoid receptors in the body, playing a role in immune system generation and re-generation. The main active cannabinoid in Cannabis is delta-9-THC. Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which may relieve pain and lower inflammation without causing the “high” of delta-9-THC. Cannabinoids are plentiful in both hemp and cannabis, with hemp having lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of CBD.

                                According to the National Cancer Institute of the USA, cannabinoids may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, as well as providing other possible positive effects such as increasing anti-inflammatory activity, blocking malignant cell growth, preventing the growth of blood vessels that supply tumors, increasing antiviral activity, and relieving muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis. Exploring the further health effects of cannabinoids is a prospective research avenue.

                                Inspired by Cuba

                                Since he became Mayor of Hlukhiv, Mr. Tereshchenko faced a long line of people ill with cancer asking for financial aid at his weekly reception. At best, the city could provide them with a one-time payment of $185 – peanuts compared to the prices patients need to pay for chemotherapy which they can’t afford. “Our help is insufficient and those people are ruined, hopeless, and stressed by very heavy medical treatments leaving them in a very distressed condition,” he shared with Euromaidan Press.

                                “So I reminded myself of the story of Cuba. When it was under US blockade in the 60’s and could not get medications from the West anymore, the Cuban doctors saw that they had ample supply of bees and beekeepers in Cuba, and developed apitherapy with success, using the natural properties of the inexpensive and abundant bee products: honey, propolis, bee venom, royal jelly,” Tereshchenko said, referring to the alternative medicine practice the efficacy of which is nowadays disputed.

                                Hlukhiv, he says, like all of Ukraine, today is in a position like Cuba: most Ukrainians don’t have the money for Western medications. “So why could we not try to build an efficient, human-friendly, inexpensive medicine based on our Hlukhiv non-narcotic hemp? That would be really needed by all those Hlukhivchani suffering from illnesses that they just cannot fight properly with traditional means of our heavy state medicine. This was the basic thinking at the origin of our initiative. It was taken by my team around the Hlukhiv City Hall.”

                                Tereshchenko’s objective is now to create an affordable, innovative and efficient therapy. Unlike similar existing experimental luxurious spa and relaxation centers in the California, the envisioned facility will not aim to serve wealthy people but specialize in helping people with very limited material means, and it will be the first one of the kind in Europe. “We have to adapt this idea to our country Ukraine, and make it available for everyone,” Tereshchenko stated. A noble cause, considering that over 50% of Ukrainians now live beneath the poverty line, following the economic crisis resulting from the Russian-instigated conflict in Donbas.

                                So far, the plan is to adapt existing premises in a quiet part of the city center, with massage cabinets, offers for healthy food, a small diagnostic center as well as a prophylactic center to be able to trace the illnesses early or at least to evaluate the existing risks, and a relaxation room. Tereshchenko predicts that Ukrainian clients would pay a little bit as it is unlikely that the state will compensate for “soft medicine” treatments, food, and massage, but that the price will be “extremely reasonable” for Hlukhiv residents. Ukrainians from other places foreigners could also come, but pay slightly more.


                                “I am not a doctor, and I have not the pretention to say that it will save lives or cure severe illnesses forever, but I could say that it would help getting an early diagnosis, it would provide a human-friendly and pleasant way to fight the malady, and in many cases it would slow the progression of the illness and by far improve the resistance of the soul and body of the patient. Also, it will help many patients in good health to stay longer in good health and good shape and to stay mentally positive and hopeful,” Tereshchenko shared, adding that althought the center will be manned by medical staff, it will not aim to replace conventional treatment bur “offer pleasant human-friendly additional help to all the clients.”

                                Research sorely needed

                                Although the Hemp breeding department of the Hlukhiv Institute has a brilliant history of breeding and was the first in the world to create a non-narcotic sort of hemp and even received royalties from the French Hemp federation allowing to grow the USO-31 sort in France, it has done practically nothing to explore the possible medical uses of cannabinoids. Now, the Institute, which was a flagship and important employer for Hlukhiv in the past, is “almost dead,” according to Tereshchenko, due to the incompetence of the leadership which took over after 2011.

                                This means Ukraine will literally have to start from scratch.

                                “Our project could probably give a new life to the Institute, but we would need for this to appoint a new honest and competent director,” Tereshchenko assumes.

                                For now, he is searching for investors and partners for this project. It’s likely that the laboratories of the Swarog West Group agricultural company will be used for R&D, as well as for establishing cooperation with international laboratories and research institutes. The plans for this year include cultivating bio-hemp, the basis of further medical and cosmetical uses.

                                Nothing to do with pot

                                Growing and storing cannabis is illegal in Ukraine, although possessing small quantities of the substance has been decriminalized. But Tereshchenko’s idea has nothing to do with the narcotic varieties of cannabis – the hemp they will be using will have minimal quantities of THCs, thus being fully legal according to Ukrainian laws.

                                Our Hlukhiv Hemp is the first non-narcotic hemp in the world – this is our speciality and our image, and we we’ll fully respect it. No one is going to “smoke” or “get high” in our hemp-center – we will just use the non-contestable benefits of our Hlukhiv non-narcotic hemp,” he stressed. Ukrainian mayor eager to open Europe's first center for hemp therapy -Euromaidan Press |

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