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  • REUTERS Mar 29, 2017 | 2:44am EDT
    Polish consulate attacked in Ukrainian town: media

    Unidentified attackers have struck the Polish consulate in the western Ukrainian town of Lutsk, damaging the roof and windows, local media said on Wednesday, citing witnesses.

    The incident took place at around midnight, according to Volyn24 internet newspaper.

    The newspaper said there were no casualties. It was not immediately clear whether the building was shot at or shelled.

    Police were not immediately available to comment.

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    • The Morning Vertical Brian Whitmore March 29, 2017

      ON MY MIND
      After last weekend's protests in Russia it is easy to have a sense of deja vu.

      On one hand, just as in 2011-12, there is a sense that something very important has changed. There is a sense that the Kremlin's aura of omnipotence has been pierced.

      But on the other hand, everybody knows how 2011-12 ended: with a harsh crackdown on dissent followed by a military adventure in Ukraine.

      There's suddenly a sense that Vladimir Putin's regime feels threatened. But there is also a sense that the regime is very dangerous when it feels threatened.

      Aleksei Navalny unexpectedly managed to land a punch last weekend. And now we are awaiting the Kremlin's counterpunch.

      IN THE NEWS
      The U.S. Senate has given final approval of Montenegro's bid to join NATO, an enlargement of the alliance that is likely to further anger Russia.

      A senior U.S. official says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will discuss at an upcoming NATO foreign ministers meeting the need for the alliance to pressure Russia over "aggression against its neighbors" and fulfill its commitments to end the war in Ukraine.

      An instructor at the Moscow Conservatory has resigned after a video came to light showing her leading a class session in which various opposition political parties, activists, and others were labeled "fifth columnists" and "traitors."

      Maksim Senakh, a Russian man extradited from Finland to the United States two years ago on computer-fraud charges, has pleaded guilty to spreading malicious software and netting millions of dollars for himself.

      More than two-thirds of Russian believe that President Vladimir Putin is "entirely" or "significantly" responsible for massive corruption among state officials, according to a new survey by the Levada Center.

      Moldovan President Igor Dodon has said he will sign a cooperation memorandum with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union at a conference in Chisinau on April 3-4.

      Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin-connected billionaire, has accused the Associated Press of generating a "massive and misleading campaign" against him with its recent report on his ties to U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

      The Kremlin says it was unaware of what it called "routine business" activity between U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and officials from state-owned Russian development bank Vneshekonombank.

      Authorities in the Russian capital have fenced off Pushkin Square two days after an anticorruption protest drew thousands of protesters to the spot in central Moscow.

      A municipal court in the Russian city of Novocheboksarsk has fined a man 1,000 rubles ($18) for posting on social media information that a previous accusation against him of posting "extremist" information had been annulled.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rohani, have held wide-ranging talks in Moscow.

      Uncertainty continues to surround the status of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov a day after the World Chess Federation said the controversial Russian had resigned as its president.

      The top European Union court has ruled that EU sanctions imposed on Russian energy giant Rosneft over Moscow's seizure of Crimea and involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine are lawful.

      The head of the Russian Interior Ministry's construction department has reportedly been shot dead in Moscow.

      The largest Russian bank, Sberbank, is selling its Ukrainian branches amid increasing pressure from the Ukrainian government and protesters in Ukraine. The Morning Vertical, March 29, 2017

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      • Polish Senate excludes lifting sanctions on Russia
        UAWIRE ORG March 29, 2017 4:29:51 PM

        The Polish Senate supports sanctions against the Russian Federation and does not consider their abolition possible, as stated by the Marshal of the Senate, Stanisław Karczewski, during a meeting with the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Parubiy, as reported on the website of the Verkhovna Rada.

        In turn, Parubiy noted that the active inter-parliamentary dialogue is evidence of a mutual understanding of the importance of Ukrainian-Polish relations and their prospects.

        "In my opinion, cooperation at the parliamentary level, including the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of Ukraine and Poland, as well as the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Ukraine-Poland-Lithuania, create an effective platform for the development of international dialogue and inter-parliamentary diplomacy. Our task is to multiply inter-parliamentary developments,” the Chairman noted.

        The representatives also discussed the format of the appeal by the heads of the parliaments to the US Congress, as well as the possibility of a joint visit to Washington to meet with the leaders of the legislative and executive branches.
        UAWire - Polish Senate excludes lifting sanctions on Russia

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        • IMF's current calendar skips Ukraine The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) does not plan to consider a new disbursement to Ukraine, at least before April 7, 2017, according to the IMF's website.
          UNIAN 29 March 2017

          The IMF has not included the issue of a new tranche of Ukraine's loan in the updated Calendar of the IMF Executive Board meetings planned until April 7, an announcement on the website said.

          From March 29 to April 7, the IMF is holding consultations with Nigeria, the Netherlands and San Marino, as well as regional hearings on economic and monetary policy. It will also consider a world economic outlook along with a global financial stability report.

          As UNIAN reported earlier, the IMF announced on March 23 that it was ready to shortly appoint a new date for an IMF Executive Board meeting on a Ukrainian disbursement. It said the postponement of a previous meeting initially scheduled for March 20 was not unusual and concerned the need to clarify some details of the cooperation program with Ukraine.

          According to Ukraine's Finance Ministry, the delay was related to the need to update macroeconomic indicators after the introduction of a trade blockade of the occupied areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The measure was introduced in keeping with a decision taken by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.

          https://images.unian.net/photos/2017...90037-7621.png

          https://www.unian.info/economics/184...s-ukraine.html

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          • A Russian propaganda site incites breaking up Baltic countries
            EUROMAIDN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2017/03/29

            http://euromaidanpress.com/wp-conten...corruption.jpg
            World War III: Putin's hybrid war of Russian secret services, propaganda journalism and foreign corruption

            Arguing that the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians are more russophobic than any other nation in the world, the Russian propaganda site, SputnikPogrom, outlines how Moscow must work to split up the three countries into smaller units dominated by ethnic and linguistic minorities to put them on course for re-absorption into a Russian empire.

            The 3500-word unsigned article entitled “How We Will Reorganize the Baltic Region” is one of the most detailed offerings of its kind, something intended to support Moscow’s claim that the three Baltic countries are not full-fledged states and to sow fear and division in each of them.

            The article begins with a broad attack on the three: “The Balts to this day,” it says, “are conducting an ethnocide against the Russian people,” they supported Chechen separatists in the 1990s, and “applaud” Ukrainian separatists now. They are a NATO place des armes against Russia, and they all have “territorial claims” against Russia.


            A Russian propaganda site incites breaking up Baltic countries
            World War III: Putin's hybrid war of Russian secret services, propaganda journalism and foreign corruption

            World War III: Putin's hybrid war of Russian secret services, propaganda journalism and foreign corruption

            2017/03/29 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

            Arguing that the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians are more russophobic than any other nation in the world, the Russian propaganda site, SputnikPogrom, outlines how Moscow must work to split up the three countries into smaller units dominated by ethnic and linguistic minorities to put them on course for re-absorption into a Russian empire.

            The 3500-word unsigned article entitled “How We Will Reorganize the Baltic Region” is one of the most detailed offerings of its kind, something intended to support Moscow’s claim that the three Baltic countries are not full-fledged states and to sow fear and division in each of them.

            The article begins with a broad attack on the three: “The Balts to this day,” it says, “are conducting an ethnocide against the Russian people,” they supported Chechen separatists in the 1990s, and “applaud” Ukrainian separatists now. They are a NATO place des armes against Russia, and they all have “territorial claims” against Russia.

            Despite what their governments claim and what many in the West believe, the portal says, “the countries of the Baltic region are not monolithic. Each has its own wound which Russia not only can but must exacerbate … in order to completely reform the political space [there] in the national interests of Russia without war or a clash with NATO.”

            The way forward, SputnikPogrom says, is to “support regionalists” in each of the three, to “assist” those in various parts of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, to recover their genuine identities that Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius have sought to repress, to promote the rights of Russian speakers, and to transform the historical narratives of the three countries.


            But the portal argues that “the most likely points of potential instability and thus for the application of soft force are [the three Baltic capitals] where a significant part of the population consists of representatives of national minorities, and chiefly of the Russian-language community.”

            Next, it says, Moscow should focus on “existing regional projects” like Latgale in Latvia, the Narva region in Estonia, and Vilno kray in Lithuania” even as it promotes new regional movements like Klaipeda (Memel) kray, Suvalkia (Yatvyagia), and Zemaitiia in Lithuania, Courland in Latvia, and the islands of Hiiumaa and Saareman (Oessel and Dago) in Estonia.

            The article discusses in detail the situation in each of these places, the levers Moscow can use, and what it descries as “the best outcome for Russia” in each case. And then it turns to a discussion of how to “strengthen pro-Russian influence among the three titular nationalities by promoting a broad rewriting of the national narratives of those peoples.

            The article concludes that Moscow will likely have the greatest success in promoting its ideas in Latvia, given the high rate of inter-ethnic marriage – “20 percent of Latvians are married to representatives of other nationalities, in the overwhelming majority of cases with Russian speakers – and the large share of Russian speakers among Latvians.

            Moscow will face more problems in dealing with the Estonians, the article continues, because the rate of inter-ethnic marriage is much lower – only seven percent – and Russian language knowledge is less as well. It recommends that Moscow promote itself as “the chief homeland” of the Finno-Ugric peoples as a way around this.

            To get this process moving, the SputnikPogrom portal says, Russians should stop using Baltic toponyms and replace them in every case with Russian names in order to stress the Russianness of the region. Thus, “not Tallinn but Reval of Kolyvan, not Tartu but Yuryev, not Ventspils but Vindara” and so on.

            And it suggests that Russians are fully justified in doing so given that the Balts substitute their national names for Russian ones in the areas they claim: thus, Latvians call Putalovo in Pskov oblast ‘Abrene,’ Estonians call Ivangorod ‘Yaanillinn,’ and Lithuanians refer to Kaliningrad as ‘Karalyaucius.’

            What is striking and undoubtedly intended to be striking is the level of detail this article offers. While decision makers in the Kremlin may not do everything the article calls for, clearly there are many in Moscow who have been thinking long and hard about how to break up three NATO member countries by using soft power and other means.

            That should be a matter of concern given that Moscow has demonstrated elsewhere that it views regionalism in other countries but not of course in its own as an important resource it can use to promote Russian interests by weakening the countries where such regionalism exists or can be created.
            A Russian propaganda site incites breaking up Baltic countries | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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            • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Peter Dickinson March 28, 2017
              Putin Is a Prisoner of His Own Hybrid War

              April will mark the third anniversary of Russia’s hybrid war in eastern Ukraine, with no end in sight to a tragedy that has already claimed over 10,000 Ukrainian lives. The conflict has devastated and transformed Ukraine in ways that will not be fully apparent for decades. Crucially, it has also brought little of value to the Russian Federation, while leaving a trail of self-inflicted wounds. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s secret war has mauled the Russian economy, isolated Russia internationally, reinvigorated the NATO alliance, and plunged the Kremlin into an escalating confrontation with the West that it cannot realistically expect to win.

              Nevertheless, there is little sign of Moscow seeking a face-saving exit. On the contrary, the Kremlin recently signaled its refusal to back down by announcing its decision to recognize passports issued by its separatist proxies. Why is the Russian leader so ready to accept the spiraling costs of his disastrous Ukraine policy?

              At first glance, Putin’s dogged determination seems to defy all logic. After all, Russia’s attempt to partition Ukraine has clearly fallen short. This much was already obvious by the summer of 2014, when the popular uprisings in support of Russian intervention that were anticipated by the Kremlin failed to materialize across eastern and southern Ukraine. Faced by a citizen army of Ukrainian volunteers and a population suddenly united by a shared opposition to Kremlin aggression, Putin’s hybrid invasion plans soon began to unravel. In the end, only a large-scale intervention by the Russian army prevented a complete rout and allowed Moscow to maintain a foothold in the Donbas. This led to the first Minsk peace accords of September 2014.

              At that point, some expected Putin to begin negotiating his way toward an honorable settlement. He has done nothing of the sort. Instead, Russia has kept the conflict smoldering along, presumably in the hope that the West will eventually lose interest or Ukraine itself will collapse under the weight of its own internal divisions. Neither of these prospects has materialized. The Euro-Atlantic sanctions regime has proved surprisingly durable, while Ukraine has remained remarkably steadfast in its resolution to confront Russia despite all manner of political chaos and continued corruption in Kyiv.

              Even geopolitical earthquakes like the UK’s Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the United States have failed to change the overall picture, leaving the Kremlin still in search of a breakthrough. The absence of any obvious weakening in Western resolve should have created fertile ground for a diplomatic solution, but the situation in occupied eastern Ukraine appears to be moving in the opposite direction. A frozen conflict now looks to be the most likely future scenario, leaving Russia and the Western world trapped in a long-term confrontation, with Ukraine caught in the middle.

              In reality, Putin probably has far less room to maneuver than many observers might imagine. He is currently riding the tiger of Russian imperialism and knows only too well what might happen if he attempts to cage the beast. Ordinary Russians have so far proved broadly accepting of the hardships imposed over the last three years, but this has only been possible thanks to regular doses of jingoism. There are already signs that the euphoria generated by the seizure of Crimea is wearing off. A subsequent retreat from eastern Ukraine as mandated by the Minsk Accords might spark a nationalistic backlash that could bring down the regime.

              There are also practical concerns to consider. An end to the occupation of the Donbas would open up the region to Ukrainian authorities, aid agencies, and the international media. They would encounter a landscape littered with evidence of Russian war crimes and a population that would at least in part be ready to demonstrate its renewed loyalty to Ukraine by recounting the realities of the occupation. Kremlin denials of direct involvement in eastern Ukraine have long since earned the contempt of the international community, but this would be an entirely different matter altogether, with the devastation, torture chambers, and mass graves of Putin’s secret war laid bare for all the world to see.

              Even if these thorny issues could somehow be resolved, it would not be enough to end the war. Ultimately, Putin’s refusal to compromise over Ukraine is rooted in his rejection of the post-1991 status quo and his fear of a genuinely independent Ukraine. For Putin, as for a great many Russians, Ukraine is not really a separate country. He has repeatedly stated his belief that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people,” by which he means that Ukrainians are a component part of a larger, Moscow-led Russian world. It is therefore entirely logical for Kremlin policymakers to view a democratic and European Ukraine with undisguised dread. If Ukraine’s revolution succeeds, it is only a matter of time before a similar uprising takes place in Russia. The Kremlin has always maintained that European-style representative democracy is alien to the Russian people. The emergence of a democratic and prosperous Ukraine would invalidate this argument. Democracy would have decisively bridged the continent’s last great civilizational divide, leaving the Kremlin with no more excuses.

              Putin understands the implications of a Ukrainian success story. He must also appreciate that he is now the prisoner of a hybrid war he initiated but can no longer win. Instead, he must wage a war of attrition in which everybody loses. Russia will lurch further into authoritarian isolation while seeking to undermine Western institutions and keep Ukraine as unstable as possible.

              The only way the region can break out of this grim predicament is if the West dramatically increases its financial, diplomatic, and military support for Ukraine. Putin is not a rational partner seeking a negotiated settlement. He is a zero-sum dictator trapped in a downward spiral of hybrid hostilities whose future survival depends on the failure of his enemies. Unless he finds himself confronted by the overwhelming might of the democratic world, he will continue the current conflict until his dying day. Direct military confrontation with Russia remains unthinkable, but Western leaders must understand that until they show the necessary collective resolve, their Putin problem is here to stay.
              Putin Is a Prisoner of His Own Hybrid War

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              • Ukraine's ambassador to Poland sees Russian hand in attack on consulate in Lutsk Ukraine's Ambassador to Poland Andriy Deshchytsia suspects Russia is certainly responsible for an attack on Poland's Consulate General building in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk, according to RMF24.
                UNIAN 30 March 2017

                This is an attack on Poland's Consulate General in Lutsk, but at the same time it is an attack on Polish-Ukrainian relations, which have been developing very well. Apparently, vandalizing monuments wasn't enough – this did not help to drive a wedge between Ukrainians and Poles, and now we see a new phase of attacks on the consulates and diplomatic relations," the ambassador told journalists on arrival at the Polish Foreign Ministry's building where he was invited in connection with the incident, RMF24 reported.

                An investigation into the case has been launched already, he said.
                "The parties that are not interested in good Polish-Ukrainian relations are behind the attack. Undoubtedly, it's Russia," Deshchytsia concluded.

                As UNIAN reported earlier, there was an explosion on the fourth floor of the building of Poland's Consulate General in Lutsk in the early hours of March 29.

                The SBU Security Service of Ukraine said that a shot from an RPG-26 grenade launcher had reportedly caused the damage. No victims were reported. The SBU is probing several theories behind the incident, including a terrorist attack. "Only one side benefits from provocations against the Republic of Poland, which happen from time to time in Ukraine – this is the Russian Federation whose 'pattern' is seen from afar," the agency said.

                Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko instructed law enforcement agencies to urgently take all measures to investigate into the attack on Poland's Consulate General. He also ordered to beef up security at foreign diplomatic offices to prevent further provocations.

                "It has just become known that the special services have already traced the terrorists – there is a lead, but details are not disclosed in the interests of the investigation," the television news service TSN reported on Wednesday.

                Poroshenko also had a telephone call with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda during which he suggested that Polish specialists be involved in the investigation of the attack on the Consulate General in Lutsk. Both leaders agreed that the friendly Polish-Ukrainian relations should not be affected by any provocation.

                Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, in turn, expressed his indignation at the provocation against Poland's Consulate General. "It's a mean act committed by those who stand against our friendship with the Republic of Poland. We are doing our best to have the guilty punished," he stressed.

                Meanwhile, Polish prosecutors have started their own investigation into the incident, Radio Poland said. https://www.unian.info/politics/1849...-in-lutsk.html

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                • Poroshenko concerned over statements by some Hungary officials on creating autonomies in neighboring countries Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, during the summit of the European People's Party in Malta, held a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, expressing concern over the recent statements of certain Hungarian officials on the establishment of separate territorial autonomies in countries neighboring with Hungary, the president’s press service told UNIAN.
                  UNIAN 30 march 2017

                  "The Ukrainian president expressed concern over the statements of Hungarian officials on the establishment of separate territorial autonomies," the report said.

                  The sides also exchanged views on topical issues of bilateral relations. Also during the meeting, the importance of intensifying bilateral political dialogue at the highest level was noted.

                  As UNIAN reported, on March 22, the Ambassador of Hungary was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine over the calls by Vice Prime Minister of Hungary Zsolt Semjen to create autonomies of the Hungarian minority in neighboring countries.

                  The Foreign Ministry urged Hungary to resist attempts to exploit the issue of securing the rights of national minorities only to create an atmosphere of distrust and misunderstanding, as has been repeatedly done by the Russian aggressor.

                  https://www.unian.info/politics/1850...countries.html

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                  • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 09:50 30.03.2017
                    Poroshenko sees next decade as decisive for EU: Russia will attempt to destroy it

                    President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko says the next decade will be decisive for the European Union.

                    "These ten years will be of decisive importance to the EU and to my country. Europe's opponents won't calm down. The anti-European forces are still in action. Russia will do everything possible to push the EU off the cliff," Poroshenko stressed in his speech at the summit of the European People's Party (EPP) in Malta on Wednesday.

                    Poroshenko claims the Kremlin is still trying to create an "alternative Europe." "And thus they will be spreading uncertainty and distrust in our societies," he said.

                    Therefore, Poroshenko emphasizes, it is time for decisive leadership with an effective action plan that would include a more cohesive and resolute Europe that defends its common values, does not make compromises regarding Russian aggression, including in the policy of sanctions, as well as the EU that provides strong support to its European partners and allies.

                    "I strongly believe that there cannot be a safe and prosperous future for Europe without peace and stability in Ukraine. Let's join our hands to return Donbas and Crimea to Ukraine, and make the Russian aggressor leave Ukraine," Poroshenko said.
                    Poroshenko sees next decade as decisive for EU: Russia will attempt to destroy it

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                    • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 14:21 30.03.2017
                      Procedure on granting visa-free regime with EU to Ukraine running according to plan

                      The Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin has said that April 6 is the valid date of voting by the European Parliament on the decision to grant a visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens.

                      "This date remains on the agenda, everything is going according to the plan," Klimkin told the Kyiv based Interfax-Ukraine in St. Julian's on Thursday.

                      The minister said that on the margins of the European People's Party summit he had held a number of meetings with representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament, and one can say that the procedure for granting a visa-free regime to Ukraine runs to the plan.

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                      • Ukraine to continue defending its case in "Yanukovych debt" litigation with Russia – Finance Ministry At the following stages of proceedings in Russia’s claim against Ukraine over the so-called "$3 bln Yanukovych debt," Ukraine will continue defending its case and protecting the state interests consistently using all avenues available to it under English law, the Ministry of Finance reported on its website.
                        UNIAN 30 March 2017

                        The ministry stresses that, despite the fact that the High Court of Justice in London has not supported the position of Ukraine with respect to the so-called Russian debt, it has permitted an appeal.

                        The Judge also granted Ukraine's request for a provisional suspension of execution of the handed down judgment.

                        “Ukraine respects this decision which was handed down in the context of very complex and uncertain law. Furthermore, we welcome the fact that the Judge has recognized the acts of economic and military aggression that have been perpetrated by Russia against Ukraine and its people on a continued, indeed escalating basis since 2013, as also recognized and condemned by the international community,” the ministry wrote.

                        The Judge recognized that Ukraine’s case was strong and had merit. Despite this, the Judge found that he was prohibited by English legal doctrine specifically relating to the competence of the English courts to adjudicate in the sphere of high international politics, from taking Russia’s illegal actions and the ‘duress’ by Russia into consideration as part of Ukraine’s defense.

                        Therefore, the Judge ultimately decided to apply certain technical rules of English law to determine the application against Ukraine.

                        “It is important for us that the English Court has recognized the wrongful and egregious acts perpetrated by the aggressor state against Ukraine and its people,” the report reads.

                        The Ukrainian side is set to analyze thoroughly consequences of the judgment handed down Wednesday, March 29.

                        As UNIAN reported earlier, the High Court of Justice in England on January 19 completed hearings on Russia's request for the acceleration of a verdict on its lawsuit against Ukraine over the $3 billion debt taken by the government of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych in the last months in power.

                        Ukraine deems the loan as Kremlin’s bribe to the former Ukrainian authorities for giving up on Ukraine’s European integration path, while Russia insists that the debt be repaid in full.

                        The High Court of Justice in England on Wednesday, March 29, approved a motion for expedited consideration of Russia’s lawsuit against Ukraine regarding the so-called "$3 billion Yanukovych debt," having not recognized the validity of Ukraine's arguments in this case.

                        https://www.unian.info/economics/184...-ministry.html

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                        • REUTERS Mar 30, 2017 | 2:51am EDT
                          IMF says will decide on Ukraine aid tranche on April 3

                          The International Monetary Fund executive board will meet on April 3 to decide whether to disburse a $1 billion aid tranche to Ukraine as part of its $17.5 billion bailout program for the country, it said in a statement on Thursday.

                          The IMF had delayed the disbursement from March in order to assess the impact of a blockade that Kiev imposed on separatist-held territory.

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                          • U.S. intel chief: Russia interfering in French, German elections The American Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr warned Russia is “actively involved” in the upcoming French and German elections, Politico.eu reported Thursday citing AFP.
                            UNIAN 30 March 2017

                            "What … was a very covert effort [to interfere] in 2016 in the United States, is a very overt effort, as well as covert, in Germany and France," he told a press conference Wednesday, according to Politico.eu. "The Russians are actively involved in the French elections."

                            Burr said Russian methods of interference had "already been tried in Montenegro and the Netherlands."

                            Montenegro suffered a series of coordinated cyberattacks during its election in October and again in February. Fears of interference in the Dutch election this month compelled the government to issue paper ballots.

                            The U.S. "feel part of our responsibility is to educate the rest of the world about what’s going on," Burr said, because Moscow was launching "character assassination of candidates".

                            French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen met Russian President Vladimir Putin — with whom she is close — last week in Moscow, where Putin told her: "We do not want to influence events in any way, but we retain the right to meet with all the different political forces, just like our European and American partners do."

                            https://www.unian.info/world/1850569...elections.html

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                            • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 13:44 30.03.2017
                              Poroshenko, Tusk confirm importance of EU keeping sanctions against Russia until Ukraine's territorial integrity restored

                              Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during his working visit to Malta has met with European Council President Donald Tusk, in the framework of which the interlocutors discussed the events in Donbas, the EU's sanctions policy against Russia, as well as the issues of the Ukraine-EU agenda.

                              "The leaders discussed the latest developments in Donbas and condemned Russia's actions aimed at violating the Minsk agreements and undermining the peace process. The interlocutors confirmed the importance of maintaining European Union's sanctions against Russia until Ukraine's territorial integrity, including Crimea, is fully restored," the presidential press service said on Thursday.
                              Poroshenko, Tusk confirm importance of EU keeping sanctions against Russia until Ukraine's territorial integrity restored

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                              • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Maxim Eristavi March 29, 2017
                                Ukraine Is in the Middle of a Counterrevolution Again. Is Anyone Paying Attention?

                                While the world is distracted by multiple crises, Ukraine’s ruling elites are trying to undo the modest progress the country has achieved since the Maidan Revolution.

                                Despite the mainstream narrative, when it comes to reforms in post-revolutionary Ukraine, the record has been anything but black and white. But if you need a consensus on the most outstanding achievements, most Ukraine watchers would probably agree on four: the establishment of market prices on gas, a globally hailed e-procurement system, the creation of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, and the launch of an electronic declaration system that discloses the assets of public officials. The last two are now at the epicenter of the biggest attempt to rollback reforms since the Maidan Revolution.

                                Ukraine has fallen out of focus in the last year. Local rent-seeking elites haven’t wasted the opportunity and have started rolling back reforms that impede the profitable coexistence of big business and politicians. Ukrainian oligarchs, whose positions were damaged by the popular uprising of 2014, still managed to retain control over many key state institutions.

                                The real picture started to emerge last year with the government’s almost full purge of reformers. Around mid-2016 almost all key reforms in the country had come to a halt. But things quickly escalated this spring. In March 2017, the newly created National Anti-Corruption Bureau indicted Roman Nasirov, the head of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine. Nasirov’s arrest is the biggest anticorruption case in history and a huge embarrassment for the General Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko had been promising to launch big anticorruption cases but never did.

                                The retaliation was swift: the president’s parliamentary majority, in a bipartisan effort with key oligarchic groups and opposition politicians tied to former President Viktor Yanukovych, sped up the nomination of the auditor for the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU). The auditor must determine whether the current management of the two-year-old institution was successful enough in fighting corruption. Anticorruption activists see this move as a disguised tactic to sack Artem Sytnyk, the 37-year-old head of NABU, and install someone less eager to prosecute graft. Auditor candidates from civil society were brushed off and a virtually unknown protégé from the ruling party was pushed forward through procedural violations. Only an uproar among key reformist MPs, foreign allies, and Ukrainian civil society stopped the candidacy. But another vote is soon to follow.

                                The next step was to curtail civil society, which plays a crucial watchdog role. It was cunningly combined with an attempt to water down the key reform of electronic declarations. Packaged in manipulatively formulated legislation, the same bipartisan group exempted junior officers, sergeants, and rank-and-file combatants who fought in eastern Ukrainian from the e-declaration requirements. One can easily see how bureaucratic maneuvering can add virtually any official to this group. This vote happened with procedural violations, too. The same amendment forces Ukrainian nongovernment organizations and their sub-contractors as well as journalists who write about corruption to declare their assets the same way officials do. Like Russia’s foreign agent laws, the move puts severe operational restrictions on Ukraine’s vibrant civil society. By adopting the amendments, “the authorities have openly declared war on civil society” for the first time since the Maidan Revolution, Mykhailo Zhernakov, an expert at the Reanimation Package of Reforms, wrote, and he’s right.

                                With Ukraine awash in a record amount of foreign aid and grants in recent years, there’s no doubt that enhanced transparency for NGOs is a must. At the same time, the new law exploits the drive for transparency in an effort to weaken the anticorruption movement. As someone who works extensively with NGOs in Ukraine, I find the environment in Kyiv one of the harshest in Eastern Europe. Already facing a human resources deficit, such a substantial increase in the operational obligations the new law requires will push plenty of civil society initiatives over the edge. Corrupt elites have marshaled enormous wealth in Ukraine in the last twenty-five years of their unchecked rule. For example, during pre-trial hearings, Nasirov had nine lawyers arguing on his behalf. NABU had just two detectives making their case. So, forcing the same transparency requirements on the anticorruption movement as the corrupt officials they are supposed to expose will make for a tragically unfair game.

                                Poroshenko signed the controversial amendment on March 27 amid growing calls from civil society and foreign allies to veto it. In a rare move, even the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy criticized the law. Some of my anonymous high-profile sources in Brussels told me that it has the potential to endanger the implementation of Ukraine’s pending visa-free regime.

                                Buoyed by the passage of this amendment, Ukraine’s ruling elites will keep at it. A lack of international attention and ineffective diplomatic strategies on the part of Ukraine’s allies will embolden the counterrevolution forces. Things could quickly get out of control, with the rise of populism and the blockade in eastern Ukraine threatening the country’s recently restarted growth and the IMF’s $17.5 billion program.

                                It is time for Ukraine's friends and donors to call the bluff of the country’s ruling elites by making clear that recent counterrevolutionary moves must be rolled back and Ukraine's political leadership will face serious consequences in terms of political and economic support for any future ones. Trivial statements and tweets won’t work this time; old-school political pressure is needed. One of the main lessons of the Maidan Revolution for Ukrainian allies has been that local civil society is the best partner in delivering progressive change in Ukraine. Now is the time to reaffirm strong vocal support for it. And making sure that Ukraine’s ruling elites know the exact price for attacking reforms. Ukraine Is in the Middle of a Counterrevolution Again. Is Anyone Paying Attention?

                                æ, !

                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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