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  • Brawl breaks out between pro-Ukrainian, pro-Russian activists in Odesa (Photo) On April 10, a brawl between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian activists took place near the monument to the Unknown Sailor in Shevchenko Park in Odesa.
    UNIAN 10 April 2017

    The police prevented the conflict from developing. Six activists were detained, the Odesa-based Dumskaya newspaper has reported.

    After the detention of six activists, another scuffle took place at the monument to the Unknown Sailor. This time, the police detained another 15 activists. One of the detainees had smoke bombs and a gas canister.

    Representatives of Ukrainian patriotic organizations, including Serhiy Sternenko, former leader of the Right Sector's Odesa unit, also came to the scene, according to an UNIAN correspondent.

    Participants of the rally accused pro-Ukrainian activists of provocation as they branded those who came to the Alley of Glory "separatists."

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    • G7 Ambassadors vow support of Suprun's healthcare reform in Ukraine The G7 Ambassadors have vowed support of acting Health Minister of Ukraine Ulana Suprun's support of her healthcare reform plan.
      UNIAN 11 April 2017

      "We believe that the passage of this plan, which defines State guarantees for the financing of insured medical services and medicines through the National Health Service of Ukraine, is a sign that Ukraine is ready and committed to moving forward with its vital reforms, in healthcare and anti-corruption, for the benefit of its citizens," the G7 Ambassadors said in a statement on Tuesday.

      According to them, legislation related to the healthcare reform is an important step toward changing the way Ukrainian citizens interact with the State medical system, for the better, to ensure that they receive the services they need and deserve in a rational and legal manner.
      "Under the current leadership, much has already been achieved in terms of good governance, as accountability and public oversight has led to increased transparency, though more work still needs to be done," the statement said.

      "We therefore respectfully underscore our hope that Dr. Suprun and her team at the Ministry of Health will be enabled to continue their work in reforming healthcare in Ukraine, including through the passage of the abovementioned legislation. The Ministry and all Ukrainian institutions involved have our support in this important endeavor," the G7 Ambassadors said.

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      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • 27,000 forced to attend “mobilization assembly” in occupied Donetsk Oblast
        EUROMAIDAN PRESS Yuri Zoria 2017/04/10

        On April 6 the occupation authorities of the “Donetsk people’s republic” forced 27,000 to attend a strange rally at an artillery range in the middle of nowhere calling it “a mobilization assembly” to check combat readiness of reservists and train them.
        The last pro-Ukrainian rally in Donetsk was violently broken up by so-called “pro-Russia militants” wielding baseball bats, iron bars and knives on 28 April 2014. After combined Russian-separatist troops wrestled a part of Donbas out of Ukrainian control, the only democratic mass rally took place a year later, on 15 June 2015, as about 500 residents of the Oktyabrskyi Market micro-district blocked the main street of Donetsk demanding “DNR head” Aleksandr Zakharchenko stop the war and withdraw military equipment from the neighborhood. The equipment was a particular source of concern, since it is used to shell Ukrainian strongholds, drawing return fire upon residential areas, and even shelling the houses on occupied territory for a “proper” TV picture. Zakharchenko promised to lodge the residents in a sanatorium but said there was no chance “to stop the war” or withdraw military hardware from the neighborhood.

        Since summer 2014, all other Donetsk mass “protests”, “rallies”, “marches” were staged by the occupation authorities. To stage a “spontaneous protest” or “all-national rally” they send out attendance quotas to state-financed organizations and enterprises demanding a specific turnout for an event.

        April 4: High-ranking official arrived from Russia?
        On April 4, rumors that a high-ranking Russian curator was visiting the proxy “Donetsk people’s republic” were swirling. The building of the Donetsk Oblast Administration, where occupation authorities are lodged, was under enhanced security, and one of the central streets was blocked by the military:

        English Lugansk @loogunda
        09:03 #Donetsk: [forum] #Shevchenka Blvd blocked betw/non-ferrous metals institute and #Ulyanovoi Ave, the St blocked for cars & passers-by
        8:03 AM - 4 Apr 2017

        English Lugansk @loogunda
        09:35 #Donetsk: [Lots of RU] in green in the whole city. Assault riflemen every 20m secure perimeter of RegAdm. #Shevchenka blocked near MGB
        7:59 AM - 4 Apr 2017

        This usually happens when a high-ranking official arrives from Russia. The same security measures were taken in Luhansk a week before, on March 28, later Luhansk residents spotted a cortege heading to Russia with a police escort. Ukrainian media suggested that a Russian official who visited occupied Luhansk and Donetsk could be a puppet master of Russian-run “republics”, Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov.

        April 5: Attendance quotas for a guaranteed turnout
        A day before the “mobilization assembly” Donetsk “authorities” sent out an order for combat-fit men from 18 to 55 years old to “state”-funded organizations in Donetsk, Makiivka, Horlivka and other occupied cities.

        One of Donetsk residents tells, “State employees and students were forced to attend by the administrations of the organizations. On the 5th of April, heads ordered to attend a meeting at 15:00 and announced the assembly there.”

        Healthcare staff was also informed at their job location. Some individuals received personal draft notices.

        A teacher of one of Donetsk colleges on condition of anonymity provided additional details, “They announced it a day before having said [the plans are] to clean up Savur-Mohyla [a hill with a Soviet memorial complex – YZ], all men from 18 to 55. But 17-year-olds went there too. All but the first-year students.”

        It is worth noting that on the next day Russian news agency Ruptly also mentioned Savur-Mohyla hill, “Up to 30,000 people, all over the age of 18, took part in a parade near Savur-Mohyla.” Actualy, the rally was held about 15 km away from the hill.

        April 6: “Mobilization assembly”
        On April 6, occupation authorities of Donetsk shuttled thousands of “reservists” to an artillery range south of Chystyakove (formerly Khartsyzk, east of Donetsk) for a staged rally called “a mobilization assembly of DNR reservists,“ head of DNR terrorist organization Aleksandr Zakharchenko stated that “27,000 of combat-fit men” have been mobilized, according to him the total “DNR army” end strength is 2 million, “all residents of the republic will defend it.“ Russian TV Channel Lifenews reported that “everyone who underwent general and special military training at a range in DNR would receive a weapon” to keep it at home. However, local residents who participated in the event denied claims about the weaponization, reportedly, only guards were armed.

        English Lugansk @loogunda
        #Torez area @666_mancer "A flock of sheep and a shepard from #Severodvnsk, Russia"
        4:49 PM - 6 Apr 2017

        27,000 forced to attend “mobilization assembly” in occupied Donetsk Oblast
        April 6, "one-day mobilization assembly" near occupied Ternove village east of Donetsk. Credit: Youtube

        April 6: “Mobilization assembly”
        On April 6, occupation authorities of Donetsk shuttled thousands of “reservists” to an artillery range south of Chystyakove (formerly Khartsyzk, east of Donetsk) for a staged rally called “a mobilization assembly of DNR reservists,“ head of DNR terrorist organization Aleksandr Zakharchenko stated that “27,000 of combat-fit men” have been mobilized, according to him the total “DNR army” end strength is 2 million, “all residents of the republic will defend it.“ Russian TV Channel Lifenews reported that “everyone who underwent general and special military training at a range in DNR would receive a weapon” to keep it at home. However, local residents who participated in the event denied claims about the weaponization, reportedly, only guards were armed.

        This so-called mobilization one-day military assembly was different from other rallies that the occupation authorities held in Donetsk Oblast. Previously, civilians were not involved in military mass events in Donetsk. They could be onlookers at parades in Donetsk or participate in civil rallies, but never participated in military events.

        Ruptly called this civilian crowd a “huge DNR [‘Donetsk people’s republic’ – YZ] military parade”:

        What for?
        Here is a propagandist video published by so-called “ministry of information of DNR” following the results of the assembly:

        The video draws upon one of the most widespread propaganda myths of the Russian-backed conflict in Donbas – the memory of the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is called in Russia, which plays a key role in Russia’s expansionist policy. It equates “DNR reservists” to the Soviet military in World War II, contrasting both to the modern Ukrainian nationalist Azov battalion, which the video equates to the 14th Division of the SS. Nazi Germany created the military formation mostly from Ukrainian volunteers amid WWII. In the video leader of the terrorist “republic” Aleksandr Zakharchenko summarizes the reason why thousands of civilians were herded in the middle of nowhere:

        Every day the Kyiv junta says that sooner or later they will sweep away all of us, and occupy [our land]. Every day the Ukrainian mass media tell how brave Ukrainian army has to kill us all. And today on this field we have shown them all that not only our army is fighting in the Donbas, but the entire people are fighting in the Donbas,” Zakharchenko said.

        Zakharchenko did not specify how the gathering of civilians in a field could show that “the entire people is fighting.”

        So-called DNR defense minister Vladimir Kononov said that the assembly was aimed at “checking the combat readiness of the reservists in case if Ukrainian forces would attempt to commit a perfidious attack on the Donbas.” His deputy Eduard Basurin explained that the job was to train 27,000 reservists “in the event of a large-scale aggravation of the situation in the Donbas.” They both didn’t specify what kind of training got the unarmed participants standing in a field all day.

        Can civilian reservists without a military background be useful for military purposes? Hardly. In fact, the “DNR military assembly” could be the first human shield drills in the occupied territory of the Donbas. The “authorities” could have held this rally to show how fast they can gather obedient local residents to shield themselves from Ukrainian army. 27,000 forced to attend "mobilization assembly" in occupied Donetsk Oblast -Euromaidan Press |

        æ, !

        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • REUTERS Crispian Balmer LUCCA, Italy Apr 11, 2017
          U.S. asks G7 ministers why it should care about Ukraine conflict

          U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked his European counterparts on Tuesday why American voters should care about the conflict in Ukraine, France's foreign minister said.

          The new U.S. administration under President Donald Trump has indicated it might be less engaged on the international stage than some of its predecessors, telling its allies that it would put U.S. interests first.

          French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Tillerson had openly questioned why "American taxpayers" should be concerned about Ukraine, which has been racked by a separatist conflict for the last three years.

          Ayrault told reporters he had replied: "It is in the interests of the U.S. taxpayers to have a Europe that is secure and is strong politically and economically ... You don't want a weak Europe, broken into bits and feeble.

          The West slapped sanctions on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and its support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, in a conflict in which more than 10,000 people have been killed.

          Kiev and NATO say Moscow has fueled the fighting by supporting the separatists with troops and weapons, a charge it denies.

          Tillerson posed the question at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations. The former oil executive flew to Russia immediately after the gathering and was not immediately available for comment.

          In its closing communique, the G7 said a Ukraine ceasefire agreement, struck in Minsk in 2015, had not been fully implemented, adding that Russia was not doing enough to help restore peace.

          "Russia's behaviour is not consistent with the rules-based international order," the G7 statement said.

          "We remain united in using a wide array of foreign policy tools, including restrictive measures and sanctions, with the goal of persuading Russia to return to a path of shared respect of those principles."

          German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters a ceasefire was due to take effect over Easter.

          "We must convince both sides ... that a ceasefire in Ukraine is the key precondition for getting back into a political process," he said.

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          • Occupied Donbas risks becoming like South Ossetia EUROMAIDAN PRESS Vitaliy Portnikov 2017/04/11

            Russian-controlled South Ossetia held so-called “presidential elections” on April 9. Observers and journalists — only Russian ones, of course — came to the self-proclaimed “republic.” However, even the Russian reports from the “republic” leave no doubt about the poverty and devastation that exists only a few dozen kilometers from Tbilisi. But the main issue is the lack of choice that no “elections” can mask.

            In South Ossetia today only a third of its prewar population has remained. Georgians were expelled as a result of the ethnic cleansing carried out by the occupiers and their accomplices. There is nothing to do for the remaining Ossetians in their “republic.” Most of them work and live in neighboring Russia. But even those who have remained would like to have the right to choose their own future.

            In 2011, Moscow had already chosen their future president — General Anatoly Bibilov, who is now known in Ukraine for his contacts with the Donbas militants and his constant travels both to the “people’s republics” and to Crimea.

            However, unexpectedly for Moscow and the Tskhinvali government, the opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva won the “presidential elections.” When the authorities refused to recognize her victory, people began to protest — the so-called “snow revolution.” But the residents of South Ossetia were not able to defend their right to free elections. After all, such things are not so simple in the occupied “republic.” The results of the “elections” were cancelled, and Alla Dzhioyeva was not allowed to participate in the new “elections.” Leonid Tibilov, a KGB alumnus, became “president.” Incidentally, the self-proclaimed Abkhazia is also headed by an alumnus of the KGB. As is Russia itself. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

            This transformation of a poor, hopeless region into the property of the next Russian security operative is the fate awaiting any territory occupied by Russia. If the occupied part of the Donbas is not liberated soon, Vladimir Putin will sooner or later “gift” it to some representative of state security. Elections will become fiction, there will be no development, and most of the residents will go to Ukraine or Russia. And the ones who remain will languish in poverty and despair.

            It simply will become South Ossetia.
            Occupied Donbas risks becoming like South Ossetia -Euromaidan Press |

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            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 18:48 11.04.2017
              Ukrainian transport aircraft breaks new world record

              A transport aircraft designed by Antonov State Enterprise (Kyiv) has broken a new world record.

              The press service of the enterprise reported that on Tuesday, April 11, An-2-100 transport aircraft, the modernized version of famous light biplane An-2, made a test flight in the presence of a representative of the World air sports federation (FAI) at the test base of the Antonov enterprise.

              "The plane lifted a cargo weighting 3,202 kg, a record-breaking for its class, to the height of 2,700 meters," the press service said. The highest commercial burden for An-2-100 is 1,500 kg.

              An-2-100 can carry passengers, cargos at local routes. The plane can be used at small airfields in simple and difficult climate and weather conditions. An-2-100 has MS-14 engine made by Motor-Sich (Zaporizhia).
              Ukrainian transport aircraft breaks new world record

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              • THE LONG READ
                The money machine: how a high-profile corruption investigation fell apart - After a revolution overthrew Ukraine’s disgraced president, Theresa May promised to help the country’s new leaders recover stolen assets. But the UK’s first case collapsed within a year
                THE GUARDIAN Oliver Bullough 12 April 2017

                On 11 March 2014, a London branch of the French bank BNP Paribas received a request from a Ukrainian lawyer. He asked the bank to close accounts belonging to his client and transfer their balances to Cyprus.

                The accounts contained a mere $23m, and the transaction should have been routine. But although the amount was unremarkable by the standards of the City, the times were not. Ukraine had just overthrown its president, Viktor Yanukovich, and the world was on the lookout for money that Yanukovich and his associates had stashed abroad.

                Yanukovich was a man whose corruption had to be seen to be believed. The colossal greed of the president and his cronies beggared the Ukrainian state and infuriated ordinary citizens. Tens of thousands of people protested in central Kiev throughout the winter of 2013-14, until Yanukovich fled Ukraine that February. After the revolution, protesters who broke into his private residence found vintage cars, ostriches, a drinking den shaped like a galleon. There were stacks of treasures in the garage; he had had no space left for them in his $30m, six-storey, log-built palace.

                The country’s new government accused its predecessors of stealing $100bn, and the west – perhaps embarrassed that so much of this money had ended up in its banks – promised to do what it could to help return it to Ukraine.

                At the end of April 2014, London hosted a summit that would – in the words of then-home secretary Theresa May – “provide practical leadership and assistance to the Ukrainian government as they identify and recover assets looted under the Yanukovich regime ... It is the tangible manifestation of our shared determination to end the culture of impunity, and prevent our open societies and open economies from being abused by corrupt individuals to launder and hide stolen funds.”

                Dozens of countries sent representatives to the summit, from the United States and the United Kingdom down to the tiniest tax havens: Bermuda, Monaco, the Isle of Man. On the summit’s final afternoon, Britain’s then-attorney general, Dominic Grieve QC, made a dramatic announcement: the UK had already joined the fight. A transfer had been flagged as suspicious, and British authorities had frozen the account and initiated a money-laundering investigation.

                “This week the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced that it is investigating allegations of corruption linked to the Yanukovich regime and has obtained a court order to restrain assets valued at approximately $23m,” Grieve told the assembled delegates. “There will be no effective deterrent for corruption whilst levels of detection of illicit financial flows and recovery of misappropriated assets remain small.”

                If the frozen $23m was indeed linked to corruption in Ukraine, it would still be only a fraction of what Yanukovich and his associates had been accused of embezzling. But the case was intended to send a message – about the west’s determination to make sure Ukraine could regain what had been stolen, and that its looters be punished. This pleasingly specific number, $23m, dominated headlines from the summit, where it was held up as concrete proof that the rulers of the west were finally helping the rest of the world fight corruption.

                “The message is clear,” May said. “We are making it harder than ever for corrupt regimes or individuals around the world to move, hide and profit from the proceeds of their crime.”

                For decades, hundreds of billions of dollars have vanished from the world’s poorest countries, finding their way – via the tax and secrecy havens of Europe, south-east Asia and the Caribbean – into the banking system, real estate and luxury goods markets of the west. According to the World Bank, between $20bn and $40bn is stolen each year by public officials from developing countries. Rich countries returned only $147.2m worth of these assets between 2010 and 2012 – far less than one cent out of every misappropriated dollar. And that may even understate the scale of the problem. Some lawyers involved in asset-recovery cases estimate the volume of money embezzled globally at around $1tn a year, which makes the tiny amount of money recovered look even feebler.

                As both a financial centre that launders an estimated £100bn a year and a prime real estate market for the investors of crooked cash, London has a special responsibility in the fight against corruption – one that it has rarely accepted. The 2014 summit – much like David Cameron’s highly publicised global Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016 – was intended to show Britain’s determination to live up to its responsibilities.

                Instead, the case of the $23m collapsed within a year – when a British judge ruled that the SFO had built its case on “conjecture and suspicion”, and ordered the money returned to its owner. This is the story of how a very high-profile corruption investigation fell apart – and what it means for Ukraine and the UK.

                Yanukovich was not the first Ukrainian politician to engage in corruption, but he was certainly the best at it. In fact, the word corruption is a misleading one for Ukraine, since it implies a dishonest cancer afflicting an otherwise healthy organism, whereas in this case it was the other way round. Corruption was the system, and it metastasised into any parts of the state apparatus that remained healthy.

                In the three years after Yanukovich took office in 2010, Ukraine slipped from an already disastrous 134th on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index down to 144th – putting it level with countries such as the Central African Republic and Nigeria, which are synonymous with shadiness and mismanagement. But the financial damage that Yanukovich and his predecessors did to Ukraine is hard to measure in simple numbers. At the time of its independence in 1991, Ukraine’s economy was almost as large as Poland’s; now, it is a third of the size.

                Yanukovich and his allies controlled the country’s legal system, within which prosecutors have broad discretionary powers to initiate or block investigations – providing unlimited opportunities for extortion. They could deny export licenses, delay tax rebates, inflate medicine prices – and demand bribes in return. To outside observers, it seemed that the only opposition came from investigative journalists and activists who revealed the backroom deals that had carved up Ukraine’s economy.

                To frustrate any potential investigations, Ukraine’s rulers became masters of the offshore world’s network of tax havens. Once money was stolen, it was invested in European and American assets hidden at the end of intricate chains of shell companies, registered through tax havens in the Indian Ocean, Europe and the Caribbean. It is Cyprus, rather than Russia, Germany or America, that dominates the Ukrainian economy: an astonishing 92% of Ukraine’s outward investment flowed into the Mediterranean tax haven in 2014.

                The secrecy of these offshore centres allowed the oligarchs around Yanukovich to keep the precise details of their deals hidden from the public – but ordinary Ukrainians knew enough to be angry. If Ukraine’s 2014 revolution was about any one thing, it was about this corruption. Yanukovich and his allies had stolen as much as they could; more than they could ever need. And even the most apolitical citizens could see that infrastructure was rotting, medicines were scarce, schools were falling apart. The armed forces were so demoralised by the degeneration of the homeland they were supposed to defend that when Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea, a Ukrainian admiral defected as soon as Russia asked him to.

                The UK government trumpeted the freezing of the $23m for two reasons. First, it was meant to be the initial installment of many billions that would eventually help to rebuild Ukraine. If that sum could be confiscated and returned, perhaps so too could the hundreds of millions stashed in London, Latvia, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and elsewhere. Second, the successful prosecution of a regime insider would send a message to the world’s kleptocrats: your money isn’t safe in London any more.

                The $23m was held in bank accounts at BNP Paribas belonging to two companies, which were in turn controlled by a Ukrainian politician named Mykola Zlochevsky. A large man with a shaved head, Zlochevsky wears boxy suits, dislikes fastening the top button of his shirt, and has been a fixture of Ukraine’s public life for two decades. In 2013, according to the Ukrainian news weekly, Focus, which almost certainly understated his fortune, he was Ukraine’s 86th richest man and worth $146m.

                In 2010, after Yanukovich won the election, Zlochevsky became natural resources minister. That position gave him oversight of all energy companies operating in Ukraine, including the country’s largest independent gas company, Burisma. The potential for a conflict of interest should have been clear, because Zlochevsky himself controlled Burisma. But there was no public outcry about this, because almost no one in Ukraine knew about it. Zlochevsky owned his businesses via Cyprus, a favoured haven for assets unobtrusively controlled by high-ranking officials in the Yanukovich administration.

                COMPLETE READ

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                • Can Ukraine Win Over Pro-Russian Citizens in the East—and Finally End the War with Separatists?
                  NEWSWEEK Jack Losh 4/12/17 at 8:29 AM

                  On a sunny afternoon in Toretsk, a mining town near the front lines in eastern Ukraine, a small, wiry man in his 60s staggers down a potholed street, playing the accordion and busking for change. He’s unshaven and disheveled, sporting a camouflage cap, baggy sweatpants and a grubby telnyashka —the striped undershirt worn by Soviet and Russian troops. He passes by as I chat with a group of Ukrainian government soldiers on a corner opposite the local barracks. The men eye him with disdain; one tosses him a cigarette, and he drifts off.

                  “Lumpen proletariat ,” says Aleksandr Lubichenko, a Ukrainian military press officer. “He’s an old separatist—I can tell a mile off. Small man, big gun.”

                  “But he’s only holding an accordion,” I say.

                  “He’s only holding an accordion now. But give him some money, and the first thing he’ll buy is an AK-47.”

                  Strained encounters like this are common here in Donbass, Ukraine’s easternmost region on the Russian border. This is the nation’s industrial heartland—a windblown steppe of coal mines and smokestacks that tower over vast fields of sunflowers. For three years, government forces and Russian-backed separatists have been locked in a war that’s killed roughly 10,000 and forced 2 million from their homes. Despite a 2015 peace deal, the two sides continue to trade fire along a 280-mile front line.

                  The unrest began in March 2014, not long after massive, pro-European demonstrations in Ukraine toppled the authoritarian government of Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin loyalist. In response, Russia seized Crimea and stirred up counterprotests in Donbass. These morphed into a full-fledged insurrection as the Kremlin sent arms, soldiers and intelligence to help separatist forces.

                  War has turned large swathes of the area into a militarized rust belt full of contested ghost towns, bombed-out factories and flooded mineshafts. But even before the conflict, jobs were scarce in eastern Ukraine, which had been crumbling since the fall of the Soviet Union. Many here feel abandoned by their government (despite the billion-dollar subsidies Kiev has injected into the region’s ailing coal-industry). While activists in the capital’s Maidan Square rallied against corruption and Kremlin influence, striving to become a part of Europe, many in the east have more in common with their neighbors in Russia. Some in government-held Donbass see the Ukrainian soldiers patrolling the streets as guardians against the Kremlin’s machinations, but others regard them as part of an unwanted, even foreign, occupation.

                  The divisions in Donbass put Ukrainian lawmakers in a bind. Privately, some admit they would like to discard the territory, to jettison any hope of a unified nation. But losing the east could create more dysfunction and even encourage further uprisings, leading to more lost territory and a return to full-blown war.

                  To secure the region, the Ukrainian military and civilian activists are trying to win over their eastern compatriots who may secretly back the separatists. This effort has acquired a new sense of urgency; despite the recent U.S. airstrike in Syria, Kiev still fears the Trump administration could align itself with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In this volatile climate, Ukrainian troops are using classic hearts-and-minds tactics—like the ones the U.S. has tried in Iraq and Afghanistan—on their own soil.

                  The problem: Neither of those conflicts has turned out well.

                  In a backyard on the outskirts of Toretsk, surrounded by run-down cottages with corrugated roofs, two Ukrainian soldiers kick a soccer ball around with a dozen children. At sunset, the group heads into a large, neighboring home that two missionaries from Florida have turned into a youth center. Clad in full army fatigues, one of the soldiers—Aleksandr Drol—sits chatting with the kids while his stocky, bearded colleague hands out freshly baked cupcakes.

                  A quiet, intelligent major in his mid-30s, Drol works as an outreach officer in Toretsk with the Civilian Military Cooperation, an offshoot of Ukraine’s armed forces, funded by the country’s Defense Ministry and trained by NATO instructors. He is among 120 personnel tasked with gaining the trust of the populace along the front—from the port city of Mariupol in the south to the small, battle-scarred Stanitsa Luhanska in the northeast.

                  One of the group’s biggest tests is in Toretsk, a town that’s a microcosm of the wider crisis. In 2014, separatists grabbed this coal-mining town, with a prewar population of around 35,000; Kiev’s troops retook it that summer. Today, it has some of the largest pro-separatist support in government-controlled Donbass. Even its former mayor, Vladimir Sleptsov, stands accused of assisting pro-Russian militants several years ago. Authorities have since hung a bevy of Ukrainian flags around the city, and occasionally hold patriotic concerts in its main square, but tense undercurrents run beneath this town’s seemingly calm surface. “Many people keep their views to themselves,” Drol says. “If asked whom they support, they just say, ‘I’m for peace.’ [But] the militants didn’t even have to fight for the town in 2014.”

                  In Toretsk, Drol runs a multipronged charm offensive: holding town halls, delivering aid, evacuating civilians from front lines, clearing unexploded munitions and helping repair damaged power lines, homes, hospitals and schools. In the early days of the conflict, before the West sent nonlethal military aid to Kiev such as Humvees, combat trainers and body armor, Ukraine’s army—plagued by years of corruption and neglect—could barely support its troops, let alone help the local population. This caused “much bitterness and disappointment in eastern Ukraine, where the fight for hearts and minds is crucial,” says Gustav Gressel, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin-based think tank.

                  Drol wouldn’t be able to do his job without the help of activists like Sima Dzhoy , who moved from Kiev to manage the youth center. She supervises after-school classes—from history to dance—to keep teenagers out of trouble and convert them into patriots. “Locals tend to have a bad opinion about Ukrainian soldiers—they resent the constant military presence and find their guns intimidating,” says Dzhoy. “They regard our boys as an occupying force, even though the soldiers are in their own country.”

                  Activists in Toretsk say the town is still run by a cabal of pro-separatists in Moscow’s thrall, despite the arrest of the former mayor. I ask another Civilian Military Cooperation officer, Captain Alexander Teslenko, how best to root out these individuals. Deadpan, he replies: “Slam their fingers in the door till they change.”

                  Rolling his eyes, Drol explains how he once renovated a playground after the authorities ignored a teacher’s request for help. “Small acts like that go a long way here,” he says. “We can’t stop the shelling, but if we can turn just five civilians to the Ukrainian side, then, for us, that’s a victory.”

                  Fake News and Patriotic Power Ballads

                  Some 20 miles from Toretsk, in the half-deserted, government-controlled village of Karlivka, soldiers at an army checkpoint hunch over in the morning rain as military trucks rumble past them toward the front lines. Nearby, down a muddy lane, there’s a derelict water utility converted into a pirate radio station. Inside the studio, hard rock music blares out amid a jumble of wires, turntables, cologne and family photos. On the walls, a calendar of topless models hangs next to Ukrainian flags and patriotic slogans.

                  This is the headquarters of Tryzub (Trident) FM. On the ground floor, Igor Yaschenko, an activist and part-time dentist, offers free care to servicemen and civilians. Upstairs, in his cramped bedroom, he wages a one-man information war against Russia’s powerful, state-run media that dominates the airwaves in Donbass. “Patriotic songs for a patriotic impact!” he yells with a grin, cranking up the volume of a Ukrainian song.

                  Despite Yaschenko’s enthusiasm, his efforts only highlight the limitations of Ukraine’s attempts to win over the denizens of Donbass—tough working-class people who have long lived in Russia’s orbit. In the late 19th century, when Czar Alexander II ruled the area, tens of thousands of Russians—along with Greeks, Croats, Poles and other European migrants—poured into the region to extract coal, construct railways and toil in steel foundries. In the 20th century, Soviet authorities glorified Donbass as the utopian powerhouse of the USSR, but the collapse of Communism hit the region hard. The chaotic 1990s ushered in a predatory class of gangster capitalists who blurred the lines between business, politics and the criminal underworld.

                  Despite living in Ukraine, many in Donbass still heavily identify with Moscow, and most speak Russian as their first language. Yet figures also show how this populace prizes its independence. As of the 2001 census—the only survey in post-Soviet Ukraine—more than half of Donetsk province’s inhabitants saw themselves as Ukrainian, but nearly 40 percent saw themselves as Russian, compared with 17.3 percent across the country. When given the option of a regional identity —as the journalist Tim Judah notes in his book In Wartime — 41 percent here opted for Ukrainian, 11 percent for Soviet and 48 for a local reference such as Donbass. “The population [of government-held territory] don’t welcome the Ukrainian army and they wouldn’t welcome separatists” explains Mikhail Minakov, a Ukrainian philosopher and political scientist. “For them, any kind of authority is foreign and unwelcome.”

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                  • NEWSWEEK Pt 2
                    Yet given their ties to Russia, it is natural for some in Donbass to look east, not west. And in the years since 1991, when Ukraine gained its independence from the USSR, industrial paralysis and subsequent war have left many to romanticize the old Soviet order. This puts them at odds with their western countrymen eager to join the European Union. As Galina Studelkova, a pro-Ukrainian activist in Toretsk, tells me: "They’ve never known Europe or what it stands for—even less so when they watch all this [Russian] propaganda."

                    Tryzub FM airs only “morale-boosting” news, rebroadcast from other local reports. If a bulletin mentions Ukrainian casualties, Yaschenko drowns it out with any music he can find. “We only want positive news for the soldiers,” he says. “We must give the impression that everything is improving.”

                    Despite Yaschenko’s lofty ambitions, the transmitter has just a 10-mile range, making Tryzub FM mostly a symbolic gesture. Ukraine has far bigger broadcasters, of course, but many in the east tune in to Russian stations. These include Rossiya-1, which routinely deploys half-truths and outright falsehoods to sow division and demonize the Ukrainian army. Kiev’s forces have made terrible mistakes during the war—including shelling civilian areas in botched attempts to dislodge their enemies—but Russian state media’s horror stories of child crucifixion and far-right death squads are nothing more than fake news. Moscow’s barrage of broadcasts, however, is expertly produced and delivered in the language of preference of Donbass—Russian, not Ukrainian—putting Kiev firmly on the defensive.

                    As activists like Yaschenko try to win over Donbass residents, Ukraine can draw an important lesson from the U.S.-led, counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan. According to experts like Jason Lyall, a political scientist at Yale University, an individual’s allegiance is swayed far more by acts of violence than by aid donations. And even if a military power takes “great pains to minimize civilian suffering,” this is “no guarantee that civilians can be won over.” Lyall argues that ingrained biases make individuals prone to favor certain armed groups over others. In many cases, these biases can’t be fully overcome but can be “dampened on the margins” by a range of tactics. These include providing compensation directly after an attack, promoting a counternarrative that clarifies your intentions and dividing groups so that some members join your side thus disrupting simple us-vs.-them portrayals. If authorities fail to engage these prejudices, Lyall warns, campaigns to charm hostile populations are likely to be expensive, protracted failures.

                    So far, Ukraine’s response to the war has been consistently clumsy, draconian and self-defeating. In January, Kiev blacklisted the independent Russian channel, Dozhd (TV Rain), an organization that has given balanced coverage of the war and provided a platform for Kremlin critics. Elsewhere, red tape has hindered many civilians living on the front lines from accessing pensions and aid. Meanwhile, Kiev’s program to encourage separatists to defect has had limited success; news of these desertions rarely gets a mention in breakaway territories, where Ukraine would like to convince people to switch sides.

                    These shortcomings have accompanied a deepening linguistic divide. Before the war, language wasn’t a major issue, but propaganda has thrust it to the center of this conflict. In March, a law requiring at least 75 percent of national TV broadcasts to be in Ukrainian passed its first parliamentary reading. While some view the Ukrainian language as central to the country's identity, critics warn that such regulation will simply alienate Russian speakers, including many in Donbass.

                    In these far eastern reaches, Tryzub FM’s Yaschenko knows how language can divide a nation. In his makeshift clinic, he manages a team of volunteer dentists who treat servicemen from the front lines. Civilians occasionally get help too. But this free health care comes at a price. “Some dentists say they’re only here to help soldiers,” Yaschenko explains. “I tell them, ‘Listen, these civilians can barely afford heating and electricity. How can we refuse?’ And they reply to me: ‘Fine. But on one condition: These patients speak Ukrainian during the checkup.’”
                    Making Donbass Great Again

                    In a trench dug into the base of a volcano-like slag heap, a Ukrainian soldier named Vasily eats his dinner, beef-and-buckwheat soup, before the night’s battles begins. This redoubt provides a fine view of the fields near rebel-held Horlivka strewn with land mines, though the threat of sniper fire means most men keep their heads down. Looming over Vasily (who gave only his first name due to security concerns), this mountain of detritus is cast in a warm, orange glow as the sun sets on the plains of Donbass.

                    This desolate outpost captures the tragedy of the region’s downturn and descent into war. Long the economic lifeblood of Donbass, the coal industry has been in free fall since Ukraine left the Soviet Union. Yet the conflict has also offered quick, easy money to some unemployed miners, albeit temporarily. Vasily, a soldier in his 40s, gestures towards a group of silhouetted figures working beneath the headframe of the mine shaft, which has been ravaged by repeated artillery attacks. We watch the former miners dismantle the tracks and girders of their ruined workplace in hopes of selling the hardware as scrap metal. This will earn them money—in the short term. After that, their future is far less certain.

                    The military’s efforts to win over locals will not succeed unless the government can find a way to revive the economy and provide steady work for people like these miners. But rebuilding the region will costs billions, so—with Kiev’s finances squeezed by war and inflation—the bulk of support must come from international donors and private investors. “People need a good standard of living—a decent salary paid on time; destroyed houses repaired without delay,” says Yuri Yevsikov, Toretsk’s acting mayor.

                    A former miner, he took over Toretsk last summer after special forces arrested his boss for allegedly colluding with separatist militants. I tell him it seems remarkable that his predecessor could cling to power for so long, even after Ukrainian forces had recaptured the town. “We needed a strong man who could deal with problems during times of war,” responds Yevsikov, an introverted official who helped run Toretsk while under rebel control. “I needed to keep working and look after my family. I was a hostage of events.”

                    Yevsikov seems typical of the region’s pragmatic leaders who have mastered the art of survival. Likewise, his decaying Toretsk is typical of towns across Donbass that could have benefited from the subsidies and investment that the ruling class siphoned off for years. Yet any urge to start throwing money at the region’s problems must also involve attempts at inclusion. Chaos in the east has prompted an outpouring of patriotism across the country but there are peculiar—even creepy—elements to this resurgent nationalism.

                    A friend in Kiev showed me an odd questionnaire her son’s nursery teacher had given out to assess whether the kid’s upbringing was sufficiently pro-Ukrainian. Questions included: “Do you attend events dedicated to the day of the city?” and “How often do you and your children sing or listen to poems about your motherland and nature?”

                    This siege mentality is the natural product of three years of armed conflict. It’s also deeply damaging. Polls suggest that around half of all Ukrainians favor stronger ties with the EU. Yet less than a quarter of people in government-controlled Donbass prefer this route. War fatigue exacerbates this divide. “Ukrainians are tired of the conflict—society is poorer and much less tolerant,” says Minakov, the political scientist. “This tiredness leaves many people looking for internal enemies, and the usual suspects are Russian speakers.”

                    The country cannot succumb to more division. Kiev cannot make Donbass Soviet again, but it must somehow resuscitate its rust belt and help its eastern inhabitants thrive. The stakes are too high. If Ukraine loses the region for good, it could set a dangerous precedent for further separatist uprisings. This would force the state to funnel more funds into defense—money that could be used to weed out corruption and finance education and health care.

                    Publicly, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s administration demands the return of the eastern breakaway territories, but privately, Kiev’s pro-European leaders worry that re-integrating the self-proclaimed “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” would bring back hostile voters, thus weakening their grip on power. “There is an unspoken consensus among lawmakers that the occupied Donbass should not return to Ukraine. They feel it may hinder their electoral future,” Minakov tells Newsweek . “Re-integrating Donbass presents many challenges. But, if we don’t do this, we threaten the integrity of the entire country.”

                    Back on the front lines, Vasily watches the crew of unemployed miners finish their work. It’s pitch black outside, save for the flashes of exploding mortars. “There’s still coal in the mine, but the war has destroyed their machinery, so they can’t get it out,” he says. “This is the only way they can make any money now. The poor bastards are out of options.”

                    Much like the Ukrainian government itself.
                    Can Ukraine Win Over Pro-Russian Citizens in the East—and Finally End the War with Separatists?

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                    • UKRAINE CRISIS MEDIA CENTER

                      Kyiv, April 12, 2017
                      Ukrainian schoolgirl wins Mathematical Olympiad for the third time

                      Kyiv, April 12, 2017.

                      Ukraine won the European Mathematical Olympiad among girls. Team of schoolgirls from Kyiv and Kharkiv outranked Russian team by 1 point and won first place.

                      This was told by Ukrainian mathematician, doctor of physical and mathematical sciences, professor of Computational Mathematics with Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv Bohdan Rubliov.

                      The schoolgirls on Ukrainian team who this year won first place were Olha Shevchenko (Kharkiv), Alina Harbuzova (Kharkiv), Alina Yan (Kyiv), Yuliia Zdanovska (Kyiv). Young Ukrainians were led by Yulia Kravchenko, a graduate of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and Andrii Anikushin, associate professor of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

                      During the competition, the team was solving three mathematical problems for 4.5 hours two days. Forty-four countries took part in the competition, with four representative from each country participating. Their results were added and thus determined the winning country.

                      European Mathematical Olympiad among girls is a mathematical competition for schoolgirls, which was first held in 2012 in Cambridge, UK.

                      This year the competition was held in Zurich, Switzerland.
                      Ukrainian schoolgirl wins Mathematical Olympiad for the third time | UACRISIS.ORG

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                      • ZIK.UA 12 April, 2017, 8:20 Politics
                        Kyiv hails G7 decisions

                        Ukraine's foreign ministry hailed the joint communique adopted by G7 summit of foreign ministers that indicates their full support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as their commitment to make Russia stop its aggression, Apr. 11 foreign ministry statement runs.

                        The militarization of Crimea and use of the peninsula for military operations in Syria poses a serious threat to European security, foreign ministry's statement says. "There cannot be security and stability in Europe until Russia stops its belligerent foreign policy aimed at grabbing new territories and establishing Cold War spheres of influences. Russia is fully responsible for worsening the safety and violations of human rights in occupied Donbas and Crimea," the statement runs. Kyiv hails G7 decisions
                        Last edited by Hannia; 12th April 2017, 20:27.

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                        • Goulden represents Canadian cities during Ukraine Trip
                          YORKTON THIS WEEK April 15, 2017 05:43 AM

                          Yorkton City Councillor Randy Goulden recently spent a week in Ukraine talking to municipal officials in that country on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

                          The trip was arranged through Partnership for Local Economic Development and Democratic Governance Program (PLEDDG) between FCM and Ukraine. The program aims to strengthen Ukraine’s municipal sector by increasing capacities in sixteen cities to advance local democracy and economic development. The project will also create an atmosphere enabling local environment for small/medium business and local economic development (LED), support the development of new related services in the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC) and disseminate project knowledge and experience with all Ukrainian cities.

                          The project is also designed to create an effective democratic governance and economic development at the local level that contributes to democracy, sustainable communities and long-term social and economic growth and prosperity in Ukraine. More specifically, the project’s expected results include:

                          Strengthen local governance and management practices are advancing democracy and enabling innovative, sustainable economic development at the local level; Enhanced business-friendly, local government policies, partnerships and services are attracting, retaining and increasing the productivity and voice of small/medium enterprises (SMEs) with a focus on women entrepreneurs and; A more enabling inclusive support system is helping build sustainable economic foundations in Ukraine.

                          Goulden said her presentations, visiting three cities in a week, focused on women-friendly cities: safety, comfort and inclusion, the experience from Yorkton, and then a second presentation on gender equality as a means of democratic governance.

                          Goulden said when it comes to cities in Ukraine money is a constraining factor. They do not raise funds through local property taxes, but instead are given money from the central government to provide specified programming.

                          “They were very interested in hearing about some of the things that we do that are cost-effective,” she said, adding “they are very concerned about safety.”
                          Goulden said their safety issues begin with the age of their cities. The cores of Ukraine cities are century’s old, meaning streets are narrow. She said when vehicles meet one has to actually pull over to allow the other by.

                          When it comes to parking, cars just pull over onto the sidewalk.

                          Older streets are also often cobblestone that now is very rough.
                          The combination of rough streets and traffic issues make something as simple as riding a bicycle to work, or going out with a baby stroller, being issues of safety, offered Goulden.

                          Goulden said she gained a new perspective on the importance of local legislation such as Yorkton’s Zoning Bylaw after visiting Ukraine.

                          “You don’t understand the importance of it until you see a country that has none of it,” she said.

                          Goulden said the general safety of Canada and Yorkton came into focus as she returned, driving into the city late on a good highway and being greeted by well-lit, safe city streets.

                          Goulden said she talked a lot about local resources which are not necessarily municipally operated, but are seen as partners in providing services, including SIGN and the Family Resource Centre in Yorkton.

                          Councils have to be able to work with service clubs and non-governmental organizations to provide many services, she said, adding at was certainly part of her message in Ukraine.

                          When it comes to women being included in governance, Goulden noted city councils in Ukraine are quite a bit different, with 30 to 40 people sitting on them.

                          Goulden said the talks actually dovetailed with her own efforts locally here in Yorkton.

                          On a semi-regular basis Goulden said she has lunch meetings with women to discuss topics such as health care and women entrepreneurs to better understand issues being faced by women so that she can be an informed voice on Yorkton Council.

                          Beyond the official workshops, Goulden said she made some interesting contacts.

                          “When I was in Kiev I had an opportunity to meet Canadian Ambassador Roman Waschuk,” she said, adding that door was opened in part because Yorkton hosted the Ukraine Ambassador last year.

                          “They (the embassy) are looking for some partners for what the Canadian government is doing in Ukraine,” she said, adding she will now be setting up meeting with local manufacturers, and organizations such as Parkland College to perhaps facilitate some Yorkton-area involvement.

                          In terms of agriculture, Goulden said Ukraine is not as modern as Canada, but they are seeking smaller, often used, equipment, which fits their needs.

                          Then while in Lviv at a workshop she met a Rotarian from that city. As a member of Rotary in Yorkton, Goulden said, “We may be looking at a sister chapter.”

                          Goulden said it was certainly a chance to learn as much as she provided in her talks.

                          “You go over there to provide some assistance, but you bring back a lot more,” she said. - See more at: Goulden represents Canadian cities during Ukraine Trip

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                          • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 18:51 12.04.2017
                            Coca-Cola invests $490 mln in Ukraine over 25 years

                            The American company Coca-Cola, one of the world's largest producers of soft drinks, has invested $490 million for 25 years of its presence in the Ukrainian market, which is 1% of total foreign direct investment in Ukraine, the director of the strategic studies department at GfK Ukraine international research company, Tetiana Sytnyk, has said at the forum.

                            In 2015, Coca-Cola's investment in Ukraine amounted to $15 million, while its share in the total volume of direct foreign investment in Ukraine was 1.13%.

                            "We call the economic effect of Coca-Cola activities in Ukraine "effect 12," which means that each hryvnia of Coca-Cola additional value generates about UAH 12 for the Ukrainian economy," company CEO in Ukraine Constantinos Spanoudis said.

                            At the same time, the total added value created by Coca-Cola in 2015 is estimated at UAH 4.9 billion, which is 0.25% of GDP and is approximately equal to the planned budget of Odesa in 2015 (UAH 4.6 billion).

                            According to GfK Ukraine, for this period Coca-Cola paid UAH 140 million in taxes.

                            The company ranks 21st in terms of income in Ukraine among 5,500 food industry enterprises. Coca-Cola invests $490 mln in Ukraine over 25 years

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                            • Czech Republic calls for maintaining sanctions on Russia until Minsk agreements are implemented
                              UAWIRE ORG April 12, 2017 3:17:00 PM The Czech Republic supports the preservation of sanctions against the Russian Federation until the Minsk Agreements on the settlement of the situation in eastern Ukraine are fully implemented, as stated by the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lubomir Zaoralek.

                              "The Czech Republic supports the sanction policy until the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Our sanctions are linked to the illegal annexation of the Crimea and the use of force after that,” said Zaoralek at a joint news conference with the Ukrainian, Slovak, and Hungarian foreign ministers in Kyiv on Tuesday, reports Interfax-Ukraine.

                              The Czech Minister added that the military threat against Ukraine that started three years is also a threat to peace and security in Europe.

                              “Since the Cold War, the security of Europe has not been subjected to such a threat as it is now,” the minister stressed.

                              The head of the Czech Foreign Ministry noted the importance of combating corruption in Ukraine, as well as the continuation of the reform process.

                              UAWire - Czech Republic calls for maintaining sanctions on Russia until Minsk agreements are implemented

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                              • Chronicles of heroic Ukrainian Donetsk Airport “Cyborgs” soon on the big screen
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS Tom Bell & Romeo Kokriatskiy 2017/04/12

                                The 2014–2015 Battle for Donetsk International Airport will long be remembered in Ukrainian history. The Ukrainian soldiers who repelled intense daily gunfire and artillery attacks became a symbol of resistance. In fact, the opposing combined Russian army units and separatist forces labelled the Ukrainian troops ‘cyborgs’, for their superhuman effort in stopping any enemy advance on the airport complex. In the final gruelling days before Ukrainian soldiers left Donetsk Airport, dozens were killed in combat or taken hostage as prisoners of war. Now, a new film chronicling the Ukrainian soldiers’ fight and sacrifice for Ukraine is being produced for the big screen.

                                The movie called ‘Cyborgs’ in English, following the daily lives of one Ukrainian volunteer battalion, just after government-led forces established full control over Donetsk International Airport for the first time in four months.

                                Film director Akhtem Seitablaiev took on the challenge of putting the story on the big screen. His goal is to showcase the bravery of these Ukrainians legends to the whole world.

                                Akhtem Seitablaiev, Director of film ‘Cyborgs’

                                “I want to express a thought of mine, that especially young men like these are the future of our country, these smart, worldly, patriotic men, and those who know the price of life, death, dignity”

                                To ensure the film accurately portrays the struggles of the Ukrainian soldiers, they are constantly consulting the “cyborgs” themselves — as well as other Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers.

                                Roman Yasynovskyi, Actor in film ‘Cyborgs’

                                “Kyrylo Nedria, who’s callsign is ‘Docent’, works with us frequently. He was in a company at Donetsk Airport. I also have friends who served in the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone). A friend of mine is a sniper. We spoke with very many acquaintances of mine, who were there before filming began”

                                The full-length film ‘Cyborgs’ was one of the winners of a competition by the State Cinema Committee of Ukraine. The budget of the film is more than 1.5 million U.S. dollars, 50 percent of which was provided by the state.

                                The theatrical release of ‘Cyborgs’ is planned symbolically for December 6th, 2017, the third anniversary of the fall of the old airport terminal.
                                Chronicles of heroic Ukrainian Donetsk Airport "Cyborgs" soon on the big screen -Euromaidan Press |

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