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  • Acclaimed Russian Poet Yevtushenko Dies in Oklahoma
    VOICE OF AMERICA Source: AP April 01, 2017


    Acclaimed Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, whose work focused on war atrocities and denounced anti-Semitism and tyrannical dictators, has died. He was 84.

    Ginny Hensley, a spokeswoman for Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, confirmed Yevtushenko's death. Roger Blais, provost at the University of Tulsa, where Yevtushenko was a longtime faculty member, said he was told Yevtushenko had died Saturday morning.

    "He died a few minutes ago surrounded by relatives and close friends," his widow, Maria Novikova, was quoted as saying by the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. She said he'd died peacefully in his sleep of heart failure.

    Yevtushenko gained notoriety in the former Soviet Union while in his 20s, with poetry denouncing Josef Stalin. He gained international acclaim as a young revolutionary with "Babi Yar," the unflinching 1961 poem that told of the slaughter of nearly 34,000 Jews by the Nazis and denounced the anti-Semitism that had spread throughout the Soviet Union.

    Heard by huge crowds

    At the height of his fame, Yevtushenko read his works in packed soccer stadiums and arenas, including to a crowd of 200,000 in 1991 that came to listen during a failed coup attempt in Russia. He also attracted large audiences on tours of the West.

    With his tall, rangy body, chiseled visage and declaratory style, he was a compelling presence on stages when reading his works.

    "He's more like a rock star than some sort of bespectacled, quiet poet," said former University of Tulsa President Robert Donaldson, who specialized in Soviet policy during his academic years at Harvard.

    Until "Babi Yar" was published, the history of the massacre was shrouded in the fog of the Cold War.

    "I don't call it political poetry, I call it human rights poetry, the poetry which defends human conscience as the greatest spiritual value," Yevtushenko, who had been splitting his time between Oklahoma and Moscow, said during a 2007 interview with The Associated Press at his home in Tulsa.

    Yevtushenko said he wrote the poem after visiting the site of the mass killings in Kyiv, Ukraine, and searching for something memorializing what happened there — a sign, a tombstone, some kind of historical marker — but finding nothing.

    "I was so shocked. I was absolutely shocked when I saw it, that people didn't keep a memory about it," he said.

    It took him two hours to write the poem that begins, "No monument stands over Babi Yar. A drop sheer as a crude gravestone. I am afraid."
    FILE - Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko looks at photographs of Jewish Holocaust victims during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Nov. 15, 2007. During his visit, Yevtushenko read the poem "Babi Yar," a poem against anti-Semitism he published in 1961.

    FILE - Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko looks at photographs of Jewish Holocaust victims during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Nov. 15, 2007. During his visit, Yevtushenko read the poem "Babi Yar," a poem against anti-Semitism he published in 1961.

    Native of Zima

    Yevtushenko was born in the Siberian town of Zima, a name that translates to winter. He rose to prominence during Nikita Khrushchev's rule.

    His poetry was outspoken and drew on the passion for poetry that is characteristic of Russia, where poetry is more widely revered than in the West. Some considered it risky, though others said he was only a showpiece dissident whose public views never went beyond the limits of what officials would permit.

    Dissident exile poet Joseph Brodsky was especially critical, saying, "He throws stones only in directions that are officially sanctioned and approved." Brodsky resigned from the American Academy of Arts and Letters when Yevtushenko was made an honorary member.

    Donaldson invited Yevtushenko to teach at the university in 1992.

    "I like very much the University of Tulsa," Yevtushenko said in a 1995 interview with the AP. "My students are sons of ranchers, even cowboys, oil engineers. They are different people, but they are very gifted. They are closer to Mother Nature than the big city. They are more sensitive."

    He was also touched after the 1995 bombing of a federal government building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. He recalled one woman in his class who lost a relative in the blast, then commented that Russian women must have endured such suffering all their lives.

    "This was the greatest compliment for me," he said.

    Blais, the university provost, said Yevtushenko remained an active professor at the time of his death. His poetry classes were perennially popular and featured football players and teenagers from small towns reading from the stage.

    "He had a hard time giving bad grades to students because he liked the students so much," Blais said.

    Yevtushenko's death inspired tributes from his homeland.

    Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on the Russian social media site Vkontakte: "He knew how to find the key to the souls of people, to find surprisingly accurate words that were in harmony with many."

    A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said the poet's legacy would remain "part of Russian culture."

    Natalia Solzhenitsyna, widow of the novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, said on Russian state television that Yevtushenko "lived by his own formula."

    "A poet in Russia is more than a poet," she said. "And he really was more than a poet — he was a citizen with a pronounced civic position."
    Acclaimed Russian Poet Yevtushenko Dies in Oklahoma

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    • Belarus refuses to pay Russia $700 million gas debt
      UAWIRE ORG April 1, 2017 4:40:20 PM

      Belarus will neither acknowledge nor pay a “debt” of $700 million for gas supplies, according to the press secretary of the Prime Minister of Belarus, Vladislav Sychevich.

      According to Sychevich, all statements by Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak about the existence of such a debt are ineffectual.

      "Regarding the statements of the Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak about the unwillingness of Belarus to repay Russia the so-called debt for gas, Belarus does not consider these funds a debt. In particular, Mr. Novak noted the position of Minsk on the gas dispute is insufficiently constructive. In this regard, we, in turn, see the statement of the Minister as unconstructive. It does not correspond to what was actually discussed at the meeting. It looks more like propaganda than simple fact," Sychevich said.

      He also recalled that Minsk has been repeatedly expressing its interest in the prompt resolution of the current situation.

      "Belarus insists on the unconditional implementation of the intergovernmental agreement on gas pricing signed in November 2011 and the accompanying regulatory and legal framework. Otherwise, we must agree on mutually acceptable changes to the agreement," he added. UAWire - Belarus refuses to pay Russia $700 million gas debt

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      • Head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine: authorities are trying to prevent the creation of an anti-corruption court
        UAWIRE ORG April 1, 2017 1:41:54 PM

        Artem Sytnyk, Chairman of the NABU (Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine), believes that authorities are trying to prevent the creation of an anti-corruption court through manipulation.

        "The creation of this court is now at the stage of huge manipulation by the acting authorities," he said at a briefing in Lviv.

        In so doing, Sytnyk mentioned the conclusions of the High Council of Justice regarding the unconstitutionality of the draft law (No. 6011) on the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court, as well as the statement of Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko that he does not see the need to create such a court.

        Sytnyk believes that the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court should take place in parallel with judicial reform. In his opinion, this court could be created before the end of 2017 under pressure from the West.

        The cases investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau are currently being considered by the Solomensky District Court of Kyiv (the ofice of the NABU is located in this district of the capital). The Bureau repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the decisions of this court and demanded the creation of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court. According to the idea, this court will investigate all NABU cases, and it will be possible to appeal its decisions only in the Supreme Court. UAWire - Head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine: authorities are trying to prevent the creation of an anti-corruption court

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        • $148 billion siphoned from Ukraine to offshore jurisdictions since 1991 - media
          UNIAN 01 April 2017

          Reforming the fiscal system aimed at de-offshorization and deshadowing of business can become one of the sources of raising funds for the industrial development of Ukraine she wrote.

          "According to various estimates, starting from 1991, $148 billion has been siphoned from Ukraine to offshore jurisdictions. Not all these funds were withdrawn from the country by corrupt kleptocratic authorities. The business uses offshores to legally reduce the tax burden and risk reduction (such as the loss of funds in bankrupt banks, and raider seizures, simplification of judicial protection of its interests against unreasonable tax claims)," the article reads.

          Shovkun notes that the creation in Ukraine of favorable fiscal conditions will facilitate the return of capital in the form of foreign direct investment and loans.

          "Even now, offshore funds play an important role in industrial investment. In particular, the share of Cyprus in foreign direct investment, accumulated in the industry of Ukraine, was 19.3%, or $2.6 billion (as of October 1, 2016), the Netherlands had 12.8%, or $1.7 billion. Funds come from offshores to the economy also in the form of debt financing," the expert stressed.

          She states that now, the funds circulating in the informal sector of the economy account for approximately 35-40% of the official GDP.

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          • Conflict sparks between police, illegal amber diggers in Rivne region Over 200 illegal amber diggers on April 1 harshly resisted a police operation near the village of Belska Volia in Rivne region’s Volodymyretskiy district, local police department has told UNIAN.
            UNIAN 01 April 2017

            Local residents blocked the movement of police vehicles by dismantling a wooden bridge as the units moved in to stop the illegal mining of amber.
            Aggressive perpetrators demanded that the law enforcement officials allow them to continue extracting amber and not interfere with their illegal activities.

            Through negotiations, the police managed to neutralize the conflict.

            After the road was unblocked by the police, the bridge was restored.

            During the conflict, no weapons or special equipment were used.

            Criminal proceedings were launched into the resistance to police officers on duty.


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            • One of Ukraine’s largest companies is under investigation for financial fraud and support of separatists
              UAWIRE ORG April 1, 2017 9:15:00 AM

              The Prosecutor General's Office uncovered the scheme of a particularly large tax evasion and the illegal withdrawal of billions of hryvnias abroad, including for financing of terrorism, as reported by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko on his Facebook page.

              According to him, 1000 law enforcement officers conducted searches and other immediate investigative actions in the offices of Ukraine’s largest distributor of tobacco products, TEDIS Ukraine.

              "The economic crimes department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, together with the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office, with operational support of the National Police units, revealed a scheme of particularly large tax evasion and illegal transfer of billions of hryvnias abroad, including for financing of terrorism. Pre-trial investigation found that from 2012, a Russian citizen Kesaev was one of the actual owners of the monopoly distributor of tobacco products Megapolis Ukraine LLC (currently TEDIS Ukraine). He was previously sanctioned by the NSDC (National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine) and banned from transferring funds out of Ukraine," reported Lutsenko.

              Lutsenko added that “following Kesaev’s orders, the key positions in LLC TEDIS were given to persons who coordinated all their decisions with a member of the board of directors of the Russian V.A. Degtyarev Plant, one of the suppliers of weapons for the Luhansk and Donetsk separatist republics.”

              “Despite the ban by NSDC and NBU (National Bank of Ukraine), during 2015-2017, 2.5 billion were transferred out of Ukraine through the accounts of intermediary companies,” Prosecutor General said.

              According to him, the firm also received assistance from certain government bodies which helped Kesaev’s enterprise to maintain its monopoly position.

              According to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, 100 searches have been carried out all over Ukraine.

              TEDIS Ukraine controls the entire market for the distribution of tobacco products in the country. Its services are used by all four major producers: Philip Morris Ukraine, JTI Ukraine, Imperial Tobacco Ukraine and BAT Ukraine, which occupy 98% of the cigarette market. In 2014 and 2015, 100% of cigarettes produced in Ukraine were sold to TEDIS (earlier Megapolis). This allowed TEDIS Ukraine to become one of the top 20 largest Ukrainian companies. UAWire - One of Ukraine’s largest companies is under investigation for financial fraud and support of separatists

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              • European Commission: Putin is dividing Europe by supporting the ultra-right
                UAWIRE ORG April 1, 2017 8:17:00 AM

                Russian President Vladimir Putin is supporting ultra-right parties in order to divide Europe. It was for this purpose that he received Marine Le Pen, a candidate for the presidency of France and leader of the National Front, at the Kremlin.

                First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans stated this in Madrid, reports RTBF news agency.

                "The reason why Putin supports the ultra-right in Europe is that he knows how it weakens and divides us," he said. "If the EU is divided, it is assumed that Russia will become the leader on the continent."

                According to Timmermans, the possible victory of Le Pen in France will be a challenge for the European Union.

                "We must wait for the verdict of the French people. I continue to believe in France," the First Vice-President of the European Commission summarized.

                Last week, Marin Le Pen went to Moscow. Initially, she had planned to meet with the leadership of the State Duma. However, it later became known that Le Pen met with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

                Out of 11 candidates seeking the post of French president Vladimir Putin has only found time for Le Pen.

                The presidential elections in France will be held in two rounds - April 23 and May 7. 11 candidates are in the running for the post of head of state.
                UAWire - European Commission: Putin is dividing Europe by supporting the ultra-right

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                • German textbook for migrants shows Crimea Russian territory (Photo) German government-supported organization has published a German language textbook, where Crimea is shown on a Europe map as part of Russia, Europeiska Pravda media outlet reports with a reference to its readers in Germany.
                  UNIAN 31 March 2017

                  The textbook was developed TELC (The European Language Certificates) which is guided by the goals of multilingualism established by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, according to the TELC website, Europeiska Pravda reports.

                  The erroneous image of the annexed Crimea appeared in the "workbook" intended for the training of foreigners who immigrated to Germany and had to integrate into the society (language level B1.1).

                  The textbook's political map of Europe shows Crimea painted in the colors of Russia. It is noteworthy that the authors do not deny the territorial integrity of Cyprus. Read also Cuba textbooks show annexed Crimea simultaneously as part of Ukraine and Russia.

                  In Germany, TELC acts on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior in cooperation with the Goethe Institute, developing tests in German language for immigrants. The company also issues similar tests for Austria with the support of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Austria.

                  Passing such tests is part of the integration courses for migrants, allowing them to qualify for a residence permit.
                  Europeiska Pravda applied for a comment to TELC and reported this incident to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which promised to find out the details and demand that the publisher fix the error.

                  The Foreign Ministry also recalled that it had launched a special project late 2015, to collect messages about errors regarding Crimea in foreign publications and seek their elimination.


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                  • Wife visits Kremlin-jailed Ukrainian journalist in Moscow
                    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2017/04/02

                    Ukrainian journalist and Ukrinform’s correspondent Roman Sushchenko is in Russian jail for 6 months already. The FSB is illegally detaining him for espionage. The journalist’s wife met him in Russia for the first time since he was arrested, and she went to UATV’s studio to disclose the conditions of his detention.

                    An hour’s walk a day, two cameras filming 24/7 and rare letters to relatives, welcome to the cell of Roman Sushchenko. It’s been six months that the Ukrinform’s correspondent is being illegally detained in Russia.

                    He was allowed to see his wife for the first time since last September. Angela Sushchenko explained to UATV that she only received 8 letters from him since he got arrested. She also said that authorities recently allowed him to have a fridge where he can stock goods from his supporters. The reporter’s wife strongly insisted that Roman Sushchenko can only be released through an exchange for another prisoner. Wife visits Kremlin-jailed Ukrainian journalist in Moscow -Euromaidan Press |

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                    • The Pentagon promises to respond to Russia's violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
                      UAWIRE ORG April 2, 2017 8:00:18 AM

                      In the near future the US intends to make a decision concerning their reaction to Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Reuters reports.

                      Three weeks ago the Pentagon accused Russia of deploying missiles prohibited by the INF treaty of 1987. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis made a statement to this effect at a press conference in London with the British Defense Minister Michael Fallon.

                      Mattis pointed out that this problem is a “matter of highest-level of concern”, and hence the Pentagon is currently consulting with allies and exploring various ways to respond to the violation of the treaty.

                      The British Defense Minister in turn said that he is expecting a “more formal response” from the US. UAWire - The Pentagon promises to respond to Russia's violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

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                      • Kremlin talks about similarities between Putin and Trump
                        UAWIRE ORG April 2, 2017 3:00:26 PM

                        The Kremlin has said that Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are similar in their principled approach to international relations. The Press Secretary of Russian President, Dmitry Peskov, spoke about this on a broadcast of TV channel ABC.

                        "One defends the national interests of the United States, and the second - the national interests of the Russian Federation. And they understand very well that sometimes it is better for the national interest to maintain good relations with a colleague," stressed Peskov.

                        According to him, the establishment of bilateral ties between Moscow and Washington is possible.

                        "If the two presidents meet, exchange points of view and decide that they want to resume dialogue, then there will be a chance to improve relations," assured Peskov.

                        At the same time, the Kremlin believes that the Trump administration needs time to work out more precise formulations of its views on Russia, but "Moscow has enough patience to wait for it." UAWire - Kremlin talks about similarities between Putin and Trump

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                        • Ukraine's new Antonov An-132 made its inaugural flight
                          UAWIRE ORG April 2, 2017 1:39:00 PM

                          The new Ukrainian An-132 transport aircraft took off for the first time on Friday, March 31, reported a correspondent of from the Kyiv Svyatoshin airfield.

                          Later Antonov’s press service reported that the flight lasted 1 hour and 50 minutes. It was performed by a crew of Ukrainian pilots, Viktor Goncharov and Bohdan Zagorulko and engineer Volodymyr Nesterenko. Mohammed Ayash from the Arabian Taqnia Aeronautics was also among the crew.

                          The An-132D aircraft was developed for Saudi Arabia. Its carrying capacity is 9.2 tons. It is 24.5 meters long, 8.8 meters in height and has a wingspan of 29.2 meters.

                          Antonov signed a memorandum on the intention to jointly produce eighty An-132 aircraft for Saudi Arabia. Part of the aircraft will be produced in Ukraine—the prototype was assembled at Antonov—but the plane and its components will mainly be manufactured in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

                          The intellectual property ownership of the aircraft is divided equally between the two parties. The cost of the aircraft has not been revealed yet. The decision to sign a firm contract for 80 aircraft will be made after the delivery of the first sample aircraft. UAWire - Ukraine's new Antonov An-132 made its inaugural flight

                          The An-132 is the first Antonov aircraft manufactured without Russian components. The aircraft is designed for flights on the short- and medium-haul routes. It can carry out a wide range of cargo transportation tasks. It will have a cruising speed of 500 km/h and a maximum cruise altitude of 9000 meters with a maximum load of 9.2 tons.

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                          • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Ashish Kumar SenMarch 30, 2017
                            Putin is Not Russia
                            US senators, Russian opposition activist call for calibrated pressure on Vladimir Putin

                            Two US senators—one a Republican and the other a Democrat—and a Russian opposition activist who has survived two apparent attempts on his life made a call for greater international pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect human rights. Speaking at the Atlantic Council on March 30, all three stated quite clearly that even as this pressure is applied, care must be taken not to hurt the Russian people in the process.

                            Vladimir Kara-Murza, an ardent critic of Putin who has twice slipped into a coma after mysteriously falling ill—once in 2015 and more recently in February—said it was important to turn up the heat on Putin and his cronies, but noted that it is equally important not to equate Putin’s regime with the Russian people.

                            “We’re against sanctions on Russia. We’re against sanctions on the Russian people,” said Kara-Murza, vice chairman of Open Russia. “It is essential that the US is not seen as seeking to punish the Russian people for the actions of a regime that they can neither unseat in a free election—because we don’t have any—and cannot hold to account through independent media or a legitimate parliament—because we don’t have any either,” he added.

                            Kara-Murza was preceded in his remarks by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). He later participated in a discussion with Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, and Tom Malinowski, who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor in the Obama administration. Alina Polyakova, director of research for Europe and Eurasia at the Atlantic Council, moderated the discussion.

                            Cardin, who, along with Rubio, is a cosponsor of the Countering Russian Hostilities Act, accused Russia of violating the rights of its citizens; attacking the United States over the course of the 2016 election cycle; and interfering in the sovereignty of countries such as Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia. “We need to make it clear to Russia that that is not acceptable,” Cardin said. The Countering Russian Hostilities Act also aims to fight Russian propaganda and fake news.

                            The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. These sanctions have been effective and should be strengthened, said Cardin, while noting that the Countering Russian Hostilities Act can achieve this goal by targeting areas such as the energy sector, how Russia finances its sovereign debt, and how it deals with privatization. “We can strengthen the resolve against Russia, and our European allies understand the importance of this,” he added.

                            Putin’s administration has cracked down on the opposition—by Kara-Murza’s count, there are currently one hundred political prisoners in Russia—silenced independent media, and intimidated nonprofits by designating them as foreign agents. Besides interfering in the US elections through cyberattacks, Russia has also been accused of meddling in elections in Europe this year.

                            Malinowski said the heightened level of repression in Russia is a sign of the insecurity of its government. “The strong façade that Putin projects, underneath that façade there must be a tremendous amount of insecurity,” he said.

                            While the space to support democratic movements inside Russia has shrunk, Malinowski said the United States can still work with Russian activists who are outside the country and Russian-speaking populations in Russia’s neighborhood, including the Baltic States and Ukraine.

                            Russia’s actions should be a cause of concern because corruption and human rights violations will lead to the instability of the regime, making the world less safe, and because Putin has shown a willingness to attack the United States, said Cardin.

                            “He did attack America. That’s not even being disputed anymore,” the Democratic senator said. “He is trying to bring down our way of government to create more space so he can expand his influence, his type of leadership in Europe and around the world. We cannot allow that type of gap to exist.”

                            Putin wants to establish spheres of influence in Europe and the Middle East, said Rubio, noting Russian support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. “He is actively working to drive a wedge between Western allies and within Western institutions such as NATO and the European Union. He directly interferes in nations looking to further align themselves with democratic values and with the United States,” the Republican senator added.

                            Gershman contended: “We’re up against something really very, very serious here.”

                            “People in the West have to get over the illusion that we are dealing with a normal country. We are not. We have to protect ourselves more. We also have to deal with our own internal problems,” he added.

                            Trump and Russia

                            US President Donald Trump’s commitment to taking a strong stand against Russia has, however, been called into question by his own praise for Putin and by revelations of links between his advisers—including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn—and the Kremlin. These connections are the subject of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as well as House and Senate committees.

                            Given this reality, Malinowski said, “we do have to be brutally honest… about political developments inside the United States.”

                            He noted that Trump has repeated Russian propaganda about the absence of US moral authority to condemn others. “It’s exactly what Russian diplomats would say to me,” he said.

                            In the absence of a leader who will take a strong stand against Russia’s malign intentions, the onus is on the citizens, said Malinowski. He suggested that the US Congress take steps to shut safe havens for dirty money coming out of Russia. Malinowksi was confident that his former bureau at the State Department will continue to support civil society in Russia, but, he added, “our duty is to make sure [the State Department] get the resources despite a very, very clear intention from the president to deny them.” Trump’s budget plan includes massive cuts to foreign aid.

                            US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, is expected to visit Russia in April.

                            Rubio said that the Trump administration must make human rights and democracy key pillars of its foreign policy and national security strategies. He said it is also important to consider new measures to target state-sanctioned corruption at the top echelons of the Russian government.

                            Anti-corruption protests

                            On March 26, thousands of Russians protested against government corruption in almost ninety cities across Russia. The protests were sparked by an investigative video released by Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation, which alleged that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had amassed vast realestate holdings through bribery. Navalny was one of those arrested during the protests.

                            Kara-Murza admitted being surprised by the size of the protests, but not by the fact that the protesters were mostly young Russians—what Kara-Murza described as “the Putin generation” that has grown up knowing only one leader. Putin has been in power for the past seventeen years.

                            While describing corruption as the “lubricant” of the Putin government, Cardin said he was hopeful that the protests will bring about a change in Russia. “Human rights are not a Western imposition, but a Russian demand,” he said. “This is not about the Russian people; it is about Mr. Putin and his corrupt system that we are fighting.”

                            Rubio said the protesters realize that their country can once again become a great nation that respects democratic values, the rule of law, and the rights of its citizens. “Sadly, Russia’s current leader has chosen a path of aggression and instability,” he said. “His actions in his own region and his country pose a national security threat to the United States and undermine our interests and the interests of all freedom-loving people.”

                            “As long as he continues to choose to go down this path, we must choose to strengthen the relationship with our allies in the region and with the Russian people, and to support them as they confront these aggressions. Our country, the United States of America, must stand with the Russian people in their fight for freedom,” he added.

                            The Magnitsky Act

                            In 2012, then US President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act. Cardin was a co-sponsor of the act under which the US assets of human-rights abusers in Russia would be frozen and they would be banned from receiving US visas. The act was named for Sergei Magnitsky, a thirty-seven-year-old lawyer who died in a Moscow detention center in November of 2009. Magnitsky had claimed that he had uncovered a $230 million tax fraud involving Russian government officials. In 2016, the US Congress expanded the act’s scope when it passed the Global Magnitsky Act, which blacklists anyone who has committed gross violations of human rights against anti-corruption activists or human rights defenders. So far, forty-four people have been blacklisted under the act.

                            Inspired by this act, Estonia’s parliament voted in December 2016 to bar any foreigners deemed guilty of human rights abuses from entering the country. In the United Kingdom, a significant safe haven of Russian oligarchs’ ill-gotten wealth, lawmakers are debating similar legislation.

                            Kara-Murza called the Magnitsky Act a more “effective and principled” approach to dealing with Russia.
                            Putin is Not Russia

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                            • Russian military’s spring draft shaped by demography and economics
                              EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2017/04/03

                              The declining size of the prime draft age cohort in Russia everywhere except in Muslim areas and the continuing economic crisis are pushing Moscow toward a more professional and less draft-based military, experts say; but the country’s size and foreign policy priorities mean that there are currently no serious plans to do away with the draft.

                              An article in the current issue of Kommersant-Vlast by Aleksandra Dzhordzhevich and Anastasiya Kurilova surveys these problems now that Vladimir Putin has announced a spring draft quota of 142,000 and an expansion in the size of the Russian military to a level near where it was at the end of Soviet times.

                              This half-year draft figure is approximately half of what it was in 2000, a shortfall that has been largely made up by an increase in the number of those volunteering to serve as “contract,” that is, professional, soldiers. Some are making this choice because of the absence of work in the civilian sector; others because of an upsurge in patriotism, experts say.

                              There are three changes in this round of the Russian draft from last fall’s. First, deferments have been restored to those studying in technicums [technical colleges – Ed.]. Second, young men in occupied Crimea will be drafted. And third, the Russian Far North will now be subject to a military draft only once a year, not twice as elsewhere.

                              Valentina Melnikova, the head of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee, says that problems with the draft itself after declining in the 2000s have increased again since 2012-2013, with “the main problem” being “the health of the new draftees.” Many young men are being taken because their “documented” health does not reflect the real situation.

                              Given the economy, this situation must be corrected, she continues, because each month that a draftee has to spend in hospital because of ill health costs the government approximately 100,000 rubles (1,800 US dollars) not counting any operations or other medical procedures that must be carried out.

                              Many young men and their families are worried that draftees will be sent into combat situations even though Russian law says this will not happen. At the same time, many wonder whether the government will eventually raise the upper age limit at which they can be drafted or change the length of service at some point.

                              The Russian military’s increasing reliance on professional soldiers has other consequences, some good like a reduction in dedovshchina among them, as shown by the positive changes in those units where professionals have replaced draftees and some less so, because young men with more education are more resistant to integration into the services.

                              The situation in the North Caucasus is particularly fraught now that Moscow is increasing draft quotas there after drafting only very few or none at all in some places (in Chechnya in particular) for most of the last two decades. But there are still far fewer men from the North Caucasus being drafted than in neighboring Russian regions with far smaller draft-age cohorts.

                              For example, during last fall’s draft, 500 men were drafted in Chechnya, 300 in Ingushetia, and more than 4,000 in Rostov oblast. To the extent that happens again, there is likely to be anger among both the North Caucasians and the Russians.

                              The North Caucasians are likely to be upset because without military service, young men cannot hope to serve in the force structures, a major employer in that region and elsewhere as well; and the Russians are certain to be upset because they are paying a higher “tax” than Muslims, the result of the reluctance of many officers to have too many Muslims in their units. Russian military's spring draft shaped by demography and economics | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                              • Putin’s wars come home to Russia — despite Moscow’s efforts to hide the bodies
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2016/12/07

                                Russian combat losses in Ukraine are sufficiently large that they have already had an impact on demographic statistics, pushing up to anomalous heights the number of dead in three Russian regions in 2014-2015 and possibly prompting Moscow to send bodies to various places to conceal just how large these losses are, Tatyana Kolesova says.

                                Kolesova, who works with the Petersburg Observers group, told Radio Liberty’s Tatyana Voltskaya that the official figures were striking because the usual causes of mortality from accidents and alcoholism had not increased and yet the number of dead had soared in Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod and Krasnoyarsk oblasts.

                                She says that the only conclusion she could reach was that “the start of this anomalous mortality in May 2014 was connected with the fact that a significant number of Russians were participating in military actions on the territory of other countries,” in this case Ukraine.

                                In these three oblasts alone, she says, there were 6312 “excess” deaths in 2014 and 2015 than one would have expected on the basis of figures for the pre-war year of 2013. Moreover, increases in the number of deaths was marked in every month and not in one or two as one might have expected from an accident or an epidemic.

                                And there is another problem: officials clearly registered these deaths in these three places even if it may not have been the case that the people who died were from there, Kolesova says. That leads to suspicions that officials in these regions, but perhaps not in others, were prepared to cooperate with Moscow in seeking to hide these combat losses.

                                Given how many problems there are with official statistics in Russia, no final conclusions can yet be drawn, although one other expert confirmed Kolesova’s findings that the death numbers she points to were truly anomalous.

                                There is no reason to assume that the Russian government isn’t continuing to do the same thing now to hide continuing losses in Ukraine and Syria lest Russians come to recognize what the true cost of Putin’s wars are for them, especially given Moscow’s denial of Russian involvement in the former and downplaying of its ground role in the other.

                                But there is another reason to suspect that Moscow is trying to hide these losses: The Kremlin has a long tradition of seeking to cover up losses it doesn’t want anyone to talk about, not only in its reports about deaths from the Holodomor and the GULAG but in other far more recent events as well.

                                The author of these lines was exposed to a horrific example of this after the violent clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Sumqayit in February 1988 when Soviet officials shipped the bodies of victims to morgues across the USSR, so that no one place would know just how many died and in this case how they died.
                                Some of these older articles well-worth the reread...

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                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp