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  • Saakashvili announces unification of the democratic forces of Ukraine
    UAWIRE ORG March 26, 2017 10:15:34 AM

    The ex-head of the Odessa regional state administration and leader of the New Forces Movement (Rukh Novyh Sil), Mikheil Saakashvili, has announced the unification of a number of democratic political forces, and predicts early elections in Ukraine in 2017.

    He said this during a forum organized by the Volya party in Kyiv, reports Interfax-Ukraine.

    "I think we will find a formula [for unification]; we need to unite all these people. It's ridiculous and untenable when they all individually hold frame ... The people must unite and within one force compete with each other ... You will see, in the near future there will be a big unification," he said.

    According to Saakashvili, the matter concerns the unification of the political forces whose representatives took part in the forum – an initiative of New Forces Movement, Hvylya, the Demalyans party, Volya, and some other forces.

    Speaking about the probability of early elections in Ukraine, the ex-head of the Odessa Regional State Administration admitted that such elections could occur as early as 2017.

    "Given that we have zero economic growth this year, the government does not have a safety margin, and that there are many other unfavorable international factors. I think that in Ukraine the events will develop very quickly and in this year ... Everything will end with elections,” Saakashvili said.

    The New Forces Movement was created as a social movement in November 2016. At the first rally of Rukh, Saakashvili demanded early elections to the Parliament per new electoral legislation, with a new composition of the Central Election Commission and the abolition of parliamentary immunity.

    In the summer of 2016, Saakashvili's associates announced the establishment of the Hvylya party, but already in November Saakashvili stated that "there is no new ‘Hvylya’, as ‘Hvylya’ is a process. How can a process be called a party?”
    UAWire - Saakashvili announces unification of the democratic forces of Ukraine

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    • McCain "optimistic" over prospects of U.S. lethal aid to Ukraine Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. John McCain at a joint press conference with Sen. Ron Johnson in Brussels has expressed optimism regarding possible provision of lethal aid to Ukraine by Donald Trump’s administration, according to an UNIAN correspondent.
      UNIAN 26 March 2017

      "Obviously, for many years, I have approved of at least the modalities of Ukraine’s entry into NATO. I would say, the first priority for Ukraine and the United States is to give Ukraine lethal weapons, defensive weapons with which to defend themselves, such as Javelin, counterbattery radar, and other capabilities," McCain said

      Answering an UNIAN reporter’s question on the time frame of lethal aid provision, McCain expressed hope that the current U.S. administration could implement such decision as at least some officials are inclined to do so.

      "I cannot predict that result but I’m optimistic because I have to be optimistic, because Vladimir Putin has recently stepped up their military activities in eastern Ukraine, as we know. And he will continue to do that as long as he thinks he could get away with it." McCain said.

      At least we owe these people the ability to defend their sovereign nation which has been invaded by the so-called ‘separatists,’ and we know who they are," the U.S. Senator said.

      Commenting on the violent death of a lawyer in Magnitsky case in Moscow and the latest assassination of Russia’s exiled former MP Voronenkov, McCain said that "Vladimir Putin is behaving with impunity, like the thug and gangster that he is." As UNIAN reported earlier, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in July 2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine needed 1,240 anti-tank Javelin missiles to deter Russian aggression, noting that it was a “fair” request. Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly earlier said Ukraine expected to receive at least 1,000 Javelins in case of Russia’s full-scale offensive in Donbas.

      https://www.unian.info/politics/1842...o-ukraine.html

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      • Russian Opposition Leader Arrested Amid Mass Protest in Moscow
        Howard Amos and Jim Heintz / AP
        TIME MAGAZINE Mar 26, 2017

        MOSCOW — Russia's opposition, often written off by critics as a small and irrelevant coterie of privileged urbanites, put on an impressive nationwide show of strength Sunday with scores of protest rallies spanning the vast country. Hundreds were arrested, including Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic.

        It was the biggest show of defiance since the 2011-2012 wave of demonstrations that rattled the Kremlin and led to harsh new laws aimed at suppressing dissent. Almost all of Sunday's rallies were unsanctioned, but thousands braved the prospect of arrests to gather in cities from the Far East port of Vladivostok to the "window on the West" of St. Petersburg.

        An organization that monitors Russian political repression, OVD-Info, said it counted more than 800 people arrested in the Moscow demonstrations alone. That number could not be confirmed and state news agency Tass cited Moscow police as saying there were about 500 arrests.

        Navalny, who was arrested while walking from a nearby subway station to the demonstration at Moscow's iconic Pushkin Square, was the driving force of the demonstrations. He called for them after his Foundation for Fighting Corruption released a report contending that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed a collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards.

        Navalny is a persistent thorn in the Kremlin's side. He has served several short jail terms after arrests in previous protests and has twice been convicted in a fraud case, but given a suspended sentence. He intends to run for president in 2018 — an election in which Putin is widely expected to run for another term — even though the conviction technically disqualifies him. Putin has dominated Russian political life, as president or prime minister, since 2000.

        No overall figures on arrests or protest attendance were available. Some Russian state news media gave relatively cursory reports on the demonstrations; the state news TV channel Rossiya-24 ignored them altogether in evening broadcasts.

        Police estimated the Moscow crowd at about 7,000, but it could have been larger. The one-hectare (2.5-acre) Pushkin Square was densely crowded as were sidewalks on the adjacent Tverskaya Street.

        In St. Petersburg, about 5,000 protesters assembled in the Mars Field park, shouting slogans including "Putin resign!" and "Down with the thieves in the Kremlin!"

        Russia's beleaguered opposition is often seen as primarily a phenomenon of a Westernized urban elite, but Sunday's protests included gatherings in places far from cosmopolitan centers, such as Siberia's Chita and Barnaul.

        "Navalny has united people who think the same; that people don't agree with the authorities is obvious from what is going on in the country today," Anna Ivanova, 19, said at the Moscow demonstration. "I am a bit scared."

        Scuffles with police erupted sporadically and the arrested demonstrators included a gray-haired man whom police dragged along the pavement. Police cleared the square after about three hours and began herding demonstrators down side streets.

        "It's scary, but if everyone is afraid, no one would come out onto the streets," 19-year-old protester Yana Aksyonova said.

        The luxuries amassed by Medvedev include a house for raising ducks, so many placards in Sunday's protests featured mocking images of yellow duck toys. Some demonstrators carried running shoes — a reference to Navalny's assertion that tracking shipments of running shoes for Medvedev helped reveal his real-estate portfolio. Others showed up with their faces painted green, a reminder of a recent attack on Navalny in which an assailant threw a green antiseptic liquid onto his face.

        "People are unhappy with the fact that there's been no investigation" of the corruption allegations, said Moscow protester Ivan Gronstein.

        There were no comments reported from Putin, Medvedev or other top Russian politicians, leaving in doubt what the Kremlin's strategy may be for countering the protests. Previous waves of demonstrations have dissipated through inertia or the intimidation of increasingly punitive measures; under a 2014 law, holding an unauthorized protest is punishable by 15 days in jail, or five years imprisonment for a third offense.

        In Vladivostok, police forcefully detained some demonstrators near the city's railway terminal, in one case falling down a small grassy slope as they wrestled with a detainee.

        News reports and social media reported demonstrations in large cities throughout the country, including Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk. At least 25 people were reported arrested in Vladivostok and 12 in Khabarovsk.

        About 40 people were detained in a small protest in the capital of Dagestan, a restive republic in the Russian Caucasus, according to Tass. http://time.com/4713352/protests-in-...alflow_twitter

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        • Two Dictators and Two Responses
          EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2017/03/28

          For more than two decades, many governments and commentators in the West have allowed themselves to feel morally superior by denouncing Alyaksandr Lukashenka as “the last dictator in Europe,” a title that at least some of them will continue to use following his brutal suppression of demonstrations in Belarusian cities this week.

          But these very same governments and commentators have generally been unwilling to apply the epithet of dictator to Vladimir Putin, preferring instead to keep their options open by calling him a “hybrid” leader, even though his actions including this weekend against protesters across the Russian Federation are quite comparable to Lukashenka’s.

          This represents a kind of double standard that Moscow doesn’t complain about, one driven by the fact that Belarus is a small country while Russia has nuclear weapons. But it is shameful because, as Nadezhda Mandelshtam put it so well a half century ago, only “happy is that country where the despicable is at least despised.”

          Lukashenka merits condemnation for his dictatorial ways but so too does Putin for his. And indeed as horrific as the Belarusian dictator’s behavior has been, there can be no question that the Russian dictator has been as bad or worse not only in his treatment of his own people but far more in his aggression against Russia’s neighbors and the West.

          The Belarusian dictator showed his true colors yesterday by his suppression of demonstrations in Minsk and other Belarusian cities on the 99th anniversary of that country’s independence. Pictures and stories about his actions are filling the airwaves and the world wide web. (For some examples, see newsland.com, and graniru.org).

          On cue and with complete justification, the European Union and the United States called on Lukashenka to release those he has arrested. And human rights groups in Ukraine have called for the reinstitution of EU sanctions on Belarus.

          But as Ukraine’s Euromaidan Press points out, these feel-good declarations may not lead the West to act out of either selfish economic or transparent geopolitical calculations.

          Meanwhile, in Putin’s Russia, the government not only has banned many protest meetings but has arrested many who have showed up at them. So far the stories about these repressions concern only the Russian Far East, but as the day goes on, more such incidents are likely.

          What isn’t likely to happen is a clear denunciation of what Putin is doing from most governments or commentators. (There are some happy exceptions like Senator John McCain in the US.)

          Instead, one is likely to hear that any “excesses” in the handling of Russian demonstrators should be blamed on local officials rather than the Kremlin.

          That already appears to be happening on another Putin-inspired action: the execution after capture of Islamists who attacked in Chechnya. Blaming Ramzan Kadyrov for such horrors is a convenient way of not making Putin, the person responsible for such actions, accountable.

          And if the blame can’t be shifted to regional officials, Moscow can dissipate it in a fog of contradictory stories designed to obscure Putin’s guilt be it for the murder of Voronenkov in Kyiv, the continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine, or the subversion by means of economic clout of Western governments and politicians.

          Putin’s regime and its Western backers frequently say that it is time to end “double standards” in the treatment of Russia. One can only agree: Putin should be held to the same standards as Lukashenka; and if he is, it will be hard to decide which of them deserves the title of “the last dictator in Europe” more.
          Two Dictators and Two Responses | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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          • Norvik Banka discloses names of buyers of Sberbank's Ukrainian subsidiary Latvian-based AS Norvik Banka, a participant in a consortium to buy Russian Sberbank's Ukrainian subsidiary has disclosed the names of the buyers of the Ukrainian assets, among them is reportedly the son of a Russian oil tycoon and an owner of the crude oil producer Russneft.
            UNIAN 28 March 2017

            "Today, AS Norvik Banka and its main shareholder, British citizen Grigory Guselnikov, have signed an agreement on participation in an investment consortium to acquire the Ukrainian subsidiary of Russia's Sberbank," the Latvian bank said in a statement.

            "British citizen Said Gutseriev and his Belarusian company have become a majority shareholder in the new consortium," the Latvian bank said in the statement published on Monday, March 27.

            The statement does not mention any family relations of the shareholder, but his biography – graduation from Harrow School and Oxford University, and employment with Glencore – coincides with that of the son of the owner of the Russian oil producer, Russneft.

            Said Gutseriev, 29, is the son of Mikhail Gutseriev, a Kazakh-born oil and media tycoon who owns Russian-based oil company Russneft.

            Said, who was born in 1988, was educated at Harrow and then the University of Oxford where he studied archaeology and geology. He also completed a master's degree at the University of Plymouth, focusing on management of oil and gas industries, before returning to Russia to join the family business.

            Russneft's Investor Presentation dated November 2016 lists CEO of ForteInvest Said Gutseriev as a member of the Board of Directors and Mikhail Gutseriev as Chairman of the Board.

            Mikhail Gutseriev was reported to have spent several years with his son in Britain after Russian authorities opened a criminal case against him in 2006. Later, the charges were dismissed and he was able to return to Russia. It was head of Russia's Sberbank, German Gref, who Mikhail Gutseriev thanked, among others, in an interview with the Russian newspaper Vedomosti for assistance in getting the charges cleared.

            Russneft is the Russian oil producer in which Glencore holds a 25% stake. It is currently Russia's sixth-largest oil producer by volume. Its daily output in 2015 was about 150,000 barrels.

            Its assets are located in Volga region, Western and Central Siberia, and Azerbaijan. It holds 109 licenses and operates 123 oil fields.

            AS Norvik Banka ranks seventh in Latvia in terms of assets, it is in the lead in terms of the size of its branches. Its clientele exceeds 150,000 individuals and entities.

            Guselnikov became a majority stockholder in Norvik Banka in 2014.

            https://www.unian.info/economics/184...ubsidiary.html

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            • Energy Community reveals biggest obstacle to Ukraine's gas sector reform The Energy Community says that the unbundling of transmission and distribution system operators is the biggest obstacle to Ukraine's gas sector reform, according to a comprehensive assessment of Ukraine's progress with respect to the Gas Sector Reform Implementation Plan.
              UNIAN 28 March 2017

              "At present, the biggest obstacle towards successful gas market reform is the unbundling of transmission and distribution system operators. The significant delay exists as for now in the unbundling of natural gas transmission and storage activities of the state owned gas incumbent Naftogaz," the Secretariat of the Energy Community said in its assessment titled "Gas Sector Reform Implementation Plan: 2 Years After," published on March 27, 2017.

              While acknowledging Ukraine's progress in terms reforming its legislative framework, the Secretariat's assessment points to serious shortcomings linked to the implementation of the adopted measures.

              The Energy Community recognizes that since the adoption in July 2016 by the Cabinet of Ministers of the restructuring plan on Naftogaz, limited progress has been achieved in drafting and submitting to Parliament the necessary legal amendments to ensure unbundling is implemented as per the approved Gas Market Law.

              According to it, the Naftogaz Unbundling Plan sets out concrete steps for the company restructuring in line with the chosen ownership unbundling model to separate the natural gas transmission activities from natural gas storage. The plan foresees the establishment of two new entities in charge of transmission and storage operation: Main Gas Pipelines of Ukraine (MGU) and Underground Storage Facilities of Ukraine (UGS) to fall under the management of the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry. A set of preparatory actions has been agreed to be put in place prior to the final decision on the ongoing cases with Gazprom at the Stockholm Arbitration Court.

              "As for now, Main Gas Pipelines Company has been established on the basis of approved Charter and headed by an acting chief. However, the company exists so far only on paper. The existing challenge is the efficient transfer of assets and staff to the Main Gas Pipelines and setting up necessary legal basis for the effective and independent separation between the public bodies in charge of supervision and management of the state-owned transmission and supply entities pursuant to Third Energy Package criteria," the Energy Community said.
              Distribution system operators, unbundled legally from supply in 2015, have submitted compliance programs to the National Commission for State Regulation in the Energy and Utilities of Ukraine (NEURC) for its assessment. The actual status of unbundling is yet to be verified against Third Package requirements. At present, the wholesale and retail market indicators do not bear the evidence that competition is at a satisfactory level, it concluded.

              What is more, new instruments will have to be designed to motivate Ukraine to live up to its obligations from the Energy Community Treaty and apply its national legislation in practice, it added.

              https://www.unian.info/economics/184...or-reform.html

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              • Chechen military police battalion has returned from Syria
                UAWIRE ORG March 27, 2017 6:10:06 PM

                TASS news agency reported that the Chechen military police have returned home from Syria. The battalion was in Aleppo for three months, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said.

                "You carried out the protection of military facilities, ensured the safety of the peaceful population of Syria during humanitarian actions, supported public order in the streets and squares of Aleppo," the Head of the republic said at a rally in honor of the soldiers' return, and added that the Chechen military successfully fulfilled the tasks and did not suffer losses.

                According to media reports, during the ceremony Kadyrov received a medal "For Services in Ensuring the Rule of Law and Order". The head of the Main Directorate of Military Police of the Russian Defense Ministry, Vladimir Ivanovsky, presented the award to the Chechen leader.

                The deployment of military police units from Chechnya to Syria was reported in early December 2016. It was reported that the servicemen were instructed to guard Russian military facilities. UAWire - Chechen military police battalion has returned from Syria

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                • Italian investors want to invest $2 billion in new gas transport company in Ukraine
                  UAWIRE ORG March 27, 2017 7:11:07 PM

                  The national company Naftogaz Ukraine is planning to hold negotiations with potential investors to create a public company “Ukraine Main Gas Pipelines” in the next three months, ZN.UA reports.

                  The article notes that the Italian company Snam, which is interested in importing Russian gas, is among the most realistic potential investors.

                  “According to ZN.UA’s information, the Slovaks are also interested in this. But the Italian company Snam is prepared to invest $2 billion in the Ukrainian gas transmission network, most importantly – to provide the feed to the Ukrainian gas transmission network, which Gazprom is threatening to leave without transit gas after the so-called transit gas contract with Naftogaz expires on December 31, 2019.”

                  At the same time, the article specifies that the close relationship of the Italian candidate to Gazprom is alarming in and of itself, and the danger that the company might prove to be a Trojan horse should be taken into account.

                  In October last year it was reported that two European companies are prepared to take over management of the Ukrainian main gas pipelines. Gas companies from Italy and Slovakia sent commercial proposals outlining their activity as the operator of the Ukrainian gas transmission network. In order to collaborate with them, there would have to be a separate main gas pipeline structure.

                  As reported, the national company Naftogaz Ukraine is planning to start transferring assets to the newly created public company “Ukraine Main Gas Pipelines” after the ruling of the Stockholm arbitration in spring next year.

                  On November 9, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted decree No. 801 “on creation of the ‘Ukraine Main Gas Pipelines’ PLC”.

                  In addition, the Cabinet of Ministers has approved the reorganization of the subsidiary company “Gas Ukraine” by joining it to the parent company Naftogaz Ukraine. UAWire - Italian investors want to invest $2 billion in new gas transport company in Ukraine

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                  • Canadian Parliament received petition asking to give weapons to Ukraine
                    UAWIRE ORG March 27, 2017 5:10:00 PM

                    The Canadian parliament has registered an electronic petition urging the government to begin deliveries of lethal weapons to Ukraine.

                    The petition lacks just 400 more signatures in order for to be submitted to the parliament for discussion, the report says.

                    On his Facebook page, Conservative Party deputy James Bezan called for signing the petition and sending a signal to the government.

                    "The fighting in Eastern Ukraine has increased in the battle against Russian-backed rebels. Ukraine needs lethal defensive aid to protect its citizens and its sovereignty. Sign the petition and send a message to the Liberals!" Bezan wrote on his Facebook page.

                    Earlier in March, Canada assured Ukraine of continued support. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland stressed the importance of the Canadian military training mission in Ukraine.

                    The Verkhovna Rada also appealed to the United States with a request to grant Ukraine the status of Major non-NATO ally.
                    The Canadian parliament has registered an electronic petition urging the government to begin deliveries of lethal weapons to Ukraine.

                    The petition lacks just 400 more signatures in order for to be submitted to the parliament for discussion, the report says.

                    On his Facebook page, Conservative Party deputy James Bezan called for signing the petition and sending a signal to the government.

                    "The fighting in Eastern Ukraine has increased in the battle against Russian-backed rebels. Ukraine needs lethal defensive aid to protect its citizens and its sovereignty. Sign the petition and send a message to the Liberals!" Bezan wrote on his Facebook page.

                    Earlier in March, Canada assured Ukraine of continued support. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland stressed the importance of the Canadian military training mission in Ukraine.

                    The Verkhovna Rada also appealed to the United States with a request to grant Ukraine the status of Major non-NATO ally.

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                    • Belarusian opposition leader Statkevich mysteriously disappeared
                      UAWIRE ORG March 27, 2017 4:08:00 PM

                      Mikola Statkevich, one of the leaders of the Belarusian National Congress or BNK, has disappeared and has not contacted anyone since March 23, his wife, Marina Adamovich told Deutsche Welle.

                      Statkevich was supposed to be in Minsk near the Academy of Sciences for Freedom Day on Saturday, March 25. As the BNK organizer for the event, he had planned for a procession to start along the main avenue of the Belarusian capital but he never showed up.

                      "The last time I saw Mikola was on Thursday morning, March 23. After that, I received a message that said he was all right. Since then, his phone has not responded and no one who can tell me where my husband is," Adamovich said.

                      She stressed that Statkevich's main goal was not to get arrested before the 25th of March. "We discussed a system of security signals and he left so that he would not be arrested before that time." Adamovich is convinced that if Mikola Statkevich was not arrested, he would "do everything possible to come to Minsk for a rally, to participate in an event which he himself invited other people to attend."

                      Adamovich said that on Monday, March 27, she and her lawyer intend to file an official request to the KGB of Belarus to investigate the whereabouts of Mikola Statkevich. According to her, she had already applied for information from the KGB pre-trial detention center, from the Minsk detention center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Volodarka and from the temporary detention center on Akrescina Street but she was told that Statkevich was not in any of those places.

                      "The absurd statements that Mikola fled to Paris or somewhere else, as it was said in 1999 about the disappeared Belarusian oppositionists, the ex-head of the Central Election Commission Viktor Gonchar and General of the Interior Ministry Zakharenko can be regarded as direct involvement of the authorities in the disappearance of my husband," Adamovich added.

                      Mikola Statkevich’s name does not appear on the list of people detained by the special services on charges of preparing "mass riots" in accordance with Part 3 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code, which is maintained by the Belarusian human rights center.

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                      • Ukrainian President orders to disassemble and sell the unfinished Ukrayina missile cruiser
                        UAWIRE ORG March 27, 2017 2:22:23 PM

                        Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a decree to demilitarize the unfinished Ukrayina missile cruiser which is stationed in the anchorage area of the 61 Communards Shipyard in Mykolaiv.

                        Vyacheslav Bonia, Deputy Head of Mykolaiv City Administration, made a statement to this effect at a staff meeting, Hronika.info reports.

                        At the staff meeting, Bonia told the workers how the authorities plan to deal with the matter of the salaries they are owed.

                        “You have the cruiser Ukrayina here, and there is a presidential order to demilitarize it. If you remove the weaponry and sell it, whatever remains will be enough for your salaries, and three times that left over. It has a frame and turbines, and they are in demand,” he said.

                        According to the demilitarization plan, all the weapons and equipment belonging to the cruiser will be transferred to the ministry of defense, and the frame and turbines will be put on sale.

                        A source at the Ministry of Defense confirmed this information, adding that the cruiser is on the balance sheet of Ukroboronprom, and it cannot be completed due to the absence of a missile armament.

                        The Ukrayina missile cruiser was constructed in 1984 by order of the Navy of the former Soviet Union. In 1990, the cruiser was placed in the water, and in 1996 its further construction was suspended. In 2000-2001, the cruiser was supposed to be added to the Ukrainian Naval forces, but this ultimately did not happen.
                        UAWire - Ukrainian President orders to disassemble and sell the unfinished Ukrayina missile cruiser

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                        • Russian authorities 'imprisoning Crimean Tatars in psychiatric hospitals' - Since annexation many ethnic Tatar activists have been detained in outdated mental institutions, rights activists say
                          THE GUARDIAN Madeline Roache 28 March 2017

                          Lawyers and human rights activists say Russian authorities in Crimea are increasingly imprisoning human rights activists in psychiatric hospitals and submitting them to psychological abuse.

                          Since the annexation of the region three years ago many ethnic Tatar activists who oppose the occupation have been arrested and subjected to abuse and imprisonment in outdated mental institutions, said Robert van Voren, a Dutch human rights activist and political scientist.

                          “The number of cases has increased considerably over the past few years, in particular against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian activists who oppose Russia’s annexation,” he added.

                          Emil Kurbedinov, a prominent Crimean lawyer, said that between December and March 10 Crimean activists had been forcefully sent to a psychiatric hospital in Crimea. Four of them remained there, while the other six had been transferred to prison.

                          According to Kurbedinov, Crimean activists face appalling conditions in psychiatric hospitals. “Some are placed in isolation and are denied their basic needs, such as access to a toilet. Others are housed with multiple people suffering from severe mental health conditions.

                          “The activists are interrogated about their alleged involvement in ‘extremism’ and their views of the government. They are also deprived of the right to speak with their family, or meet their lawyer on a one-to-one basis without a guard being present. All of this violates international law,” Kurbedinov said.
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                          All the Crimean activists were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Hizb ut-Tahrir organisation, which Russia has declared a terrorist group.

                          The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) asserts that there is no evidence to suggest that the organisation is connected to terrorism, nor is there any proof that the men were involved in the group.

                          According to KHPG, a further 19 Crimean activists are currently in custody, accused of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.

                          Memorial, a Russian human rights organisation, has described all the activists in custody as political prisoners.

                          A new report presented on by Crimea SOS, a Ukrainian advocacy group, claimed a total of 43 Tatar activists have been abducted since the annexation – allegedly by Russian authorities. Of those, 18 are still missing and six have been found dead.

                          On 26 January, Kurbedinov, a defence lawyer, was himself detained in Crimea and accused of “circulating extremist material”. Amnesty International said Kurbedinov was targeted because of his human rights work and called for his immediate release.

                          Kurbedinov said his eventual release was due to the support of ordinary people, activists and colleagues who “showed me that civil society is alive; that people are not indifferent to the violations of human rights”.

                          Last year, Kurbedinov defended Ilmi Umerov, a Crimean Tatar activist who openly opposed the Russian occupation and was forcefully confined in a psychiatric hospital last August. Human Rights Watch criticised the case, calling it “a shameful attempt to use psychiatry to silence him and tarnish his reputation”. Umerov was released 20 days after his confinement.

                          In the later decades of the Soviet era, psychiatry was used to systematically confine and punish dissidents. Under the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, various cases of alleged punitive psychiatry have resurfaced, leading many to believe that the Soviet-era practice has returned.

                          The abuse of psychiatry in Russian criminal trials is not uncommon, according to Yuri Savenko, a psychiatrist and the head of the Independent Psychiatric Association (IPA) in Russia.

                          “Psychiatry is now part of a frequent procedure in criminal trials where there is no concrete evidence. [Rather than gather evidence] it is more economical in terms of effort and time to acquire a psychiatric evaluation,” he said. https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...tric-hospitals

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                          • It's Putin's aide Surkov, not spokesman Peskov, who arrived in occupied Luhansk – media Ukraine's intelligence community is not aware of Russian President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov's visit to the occupied Luhansk; however, it is reported that Putin's adviser Vladislav Surkov is paying a visit there, Ukrainska Pravda wrote, citing its sources.
                            UNIAN 28 March 2017

                            "According to our data, Surkov arrived in the occupied territories on March 28," an Ukrainska Pravda source said.

                            "We do not have any information on Peskov's arrival," he added. The representative of the Security Service of Ukraine Yuriy Tandit could not confirm information about Peskov's visit either, noting to UNIAN that this information was being verified.

                            "We have not commented on this information yet. However, we heard from open sources of the alleged visit to the occupied Luhansk of a press secretary of the head of a neighboring country. We are checking this information," he said.

                            In turn, Dmitry Peskov in his comment to Gazeta.ru given by phone dismissed reports on his visit to occupied Luhansk as a hoax.

                            As reported earlier, Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov has reportedly arrived on a secret visit to Luhansk on March 27. One of the possible versions is a potential change in the leadership of the "Luhansk People's Republic" (LPR) terrorist organization, OstroV online news outlet has reported today.

                            https://www.unian.info/politics/1846...nsk-media.html

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                            • Ukraine placed Russian general on wanted list
                              UAWIRE ORG March 28, 2017 2:17:00 PM

                              The Military Prosecutor's office of Ukraine charged Major General Alexei Zavizyon, the commander of the 41st Army of the Central Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, with committing a number of crimes.

                              According to the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine (GPU), the Russian General, during the period from February to July 2015, commanded the so-called "1st Army Corps" in the Donetsk region.

                              "Zavizyon by giving orders, monitoring their implementation, and coordinating actions through the subordinate officers of the Russian Armed Forces, ensured that the positions of ATO [Ukrainian] forces were fired upon daily by illegally armed units, and ordered armed attacks on servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, other military units, and law enforcement agencies," the GPU's statement says.

                              As a result of his committing these deliberate acts, at least 3,000 were killed and more than 8,000 Ukrainian servicemen were wounded. In addition, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were occupied and the state of Ukraine suffered significant material losses.

                              As a result, Alexei Zavizyon was charged with committing crimes under part 3 of Article 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (intentional acts committed with the goal to change the borders of the territory and the state border of Ukraine in violation of the procedure established by the Constitution of Ukraine, which led to the death of people and other serious consequences), Part 2 of Article 28, part 2 of Article 437 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (conducting an aggressive war), Part 1 of Article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (participation in a terrorist organization).

                              "The suspect has been placed on the wanted list, and a petition to detain him is being prepared as a preventative measure to ensure he will be present for the hearing," the GPU noted.

                              According to public sources, Zavizyon Alexei Vladimirovich is a Russian military commander, Major General (2007), and commander of the 41st Army of the Central Military District of the Russian Armed Forces (since 2015).

                              President Petro Poroshenko has said that there are 9,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine. UAWire - Ukraine placed Russian general on wanted list

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                              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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                              • Protests and political schizophrenia in Russia
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Vitaliy Portnikov 2017/03/29

                                If Russians really want change, they should first focus on the authoritarianism of Putin. Corruption is only a wonderful lightning rod, a beautiful “vaccination” against the real political struggle.

                                Many Ukrainians may be less surprised by the fact that thousands of Russian have taken to the streets than by their reason for doing so.

                                The well-known chauvinist blogger Alexei Navalny, who sided with the Russian government at the time of Russia’s attack on Georgia and who discounts even the possibility that Russia could give up the occupation of Crimea, has been tirelessly repeating the “fight against corruption” theme to his supporters.

                                It was Navalny himself who flung his contemptuous “Crimea is not a sandwich” at Ukrainians. It was Navalny who prepared the investigation of the corrupt practices of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. It is specifically Medvedev and not the real head of Russian corruption, president Vladimir Putin, who has become the main protagonist of the unauthorized protests.

                                The paradox resides in the fact that most of the protestors are representatives of Moscow’s so-called “creative class,” which as recently as a few years ago saw in Medvedev the hope for the liberalization of the regime and viewed that famous “castling move” — the exchange of positions between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin — as a real political disaster.

                                If Medvedev had remained head of state at the time, many Muscovites would have greeted such a decision with enthusiasm, despite the recent war in Georgia and the complete absence of any signs of liberalization. And Medvedev’s corruption would not have bothered them because they were well aware of it even before Navalny’s notorious investigation.

                                How can the protestors not be bothered by the fact that the transformation of Medvedev into the main target of the “anti-corruption fight” is setting the stage for the complete seizure of the government and the financial flows by Putin’s security forces.

                                I will not say that Putin does not control the government now. He does. And when it comes to the financial flows, not fully. This means that the Russian president may simply lack the funds to implement his own plans, which may include a great war.

                                If the Russians really want change, Putin should be at the center of any action. And the protest should be directed against war, against authoritarianism and the occupation of foreign lands. Corruption is simply a wonderful lightning rod, a beautiful “vaccination” against the real political struggle.

                                But I would not accuse the Russians of political schizophrenia because you and I have also lived in a country with political schizophrenics before 2013. Even now, three years after the beginning of the war, we have not freed ourselves of the psychology of the past.

                                Ukrainians also were not eager to participate in mass protests when the real authoritarianism based on the Putin model was being established. Ukrainians agreed to the usurpation of power, to the illegal formation of the government, the replacement of the Constitution, the trials of political leaders and their unlawful conviction, the liquidation of self-government in Kyiv — and these were only the obvious signs of dictatorship.

                                The people who protested against the idiotic trial of Yulia Tymoshenko were marginalized, while politicians who remained free rushed to Savik Shuster’s government-managed show, and citizens who remained free convinced themselves that this was “freedom of speech.”

                                The first real mass demonstration in Kyiv and other cities in the country– together with the encampment on Maidan — began only after the government rejected the course of European integration, which the government itself had carefully promoted. But even then the demonstrators explained that they did not want any confrontation with the government and were not even demanding that it reject selective justice.

                                Not only activists but even ordinary students said they would have no problem with the illegal imprisonment of Tymoshenko, which outraged the European Union, if only Yanukovych signed the agreement that many viewed as the way to a better life. Even Tymoshenko herself urged that her fate not be linked with the fate of the agreement — as if the issue had to do with her and not with principle.

                                The country was moving inexorably toward disaster because, as we can now say with certainty, a real disaster would have happened if Yanukovych had signed the agreement and if authoritarianism and selective justice had been preserved. The example of Moldova, whose citizens, after signing the association agreement, voted for a pro-Russian president who supports the rejection of the agreement is a perfect example of what would have happened in Ukraine.

                                But here the Yanukovych regime committed a fatal error — fatal for himself and a salvation for the country — when he decided not to sign the agreement and to disperse the students by force. The political schizophrenia ended and the Maidan began. A real Maidan.

                                What is happening in Russia now (and, incidentally, in Belarus) is what we had in Ukraine before the real Maidan. And Alexei Navalny with his investigations and appeals to take a walk in the center of Moscow is simply an imitation of Mustafa Nayem with his trips to Mezhyhiria and his appeals to come to the center of Kyiv. Nothing new is happening; the circumstances are the same.

                                What happens now will depend on the behavior of the Russian authorities and the Russian society. For a real protest to begin, it will be necessary for the authorities to act with unwarranted harshness and to ignore any demands by the citizens, and for these citizens to be supported by millions of their compatriots who are ready to come out in the street and protect those who have been detained and beaten.

                                The Russian government always acts with unwarranted harshness. The dispersal of students on Maidan is child’s play for Putin. But there is no indication there are millions of Russian compatriots who are ready to protest against such behavior by the Kremlin on the streets of Moscow and other cities. And for a real protest, for the collapse of the regime, these millions are necessary, as they were necessary in Kyiv.

                                This is why the student protest in November 2013 led to a real Maidan and the collapse of the regime of the enemy of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. But the outing on Tverskaya Street (main street in Moscow — Ed.) in March 2017 will be limited to a review of the strength of the Moscow intelligentsia that, even during this demonstration, has not dared to issue a real challenge to the real enemy of Russia — Vladimir Putin. Protests and political schizophrenia in Russia -Euromaidan Press |

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                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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