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  • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 17:58 04.02.2019
    Poroshenko enacts food labeling law

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on February 4 signed the law providing consumers with information about food products (No. 8450), according to the Ukrainian parliament's website.

    "This law will ensure a high level of protection of the health and interests of consumers by providing all the necessary information for consumers to make a conscious choice of food products and introduce the responsibility of market operators responsible for information about food products, for misleading consumers," Deputy Head of the parliament's agrarian committee, Member of Parliament Oleksandr Bakumenko (the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction) said on his Facebook page.

    According to him, bill No. 8450 was developed in accordance with the Comprehensive Implementation Strategy of Chapter IV "Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. This document is aimed at bringing Ukrainian legislation in accordance with the provisions of EU Regulation No. 1169/2011 of October 25 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.

    As reported, on December 6, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a bill in second reading and in general to regulate the procedure for labeling food products and imposing fines for providing false information on packaging, titled "On Information for Consumers on Food Products."

    Some 231 lawmakers voted for the corresponding decision.

    The law provides for informing consumers about the content of food additives, auxiliary substances used in processing and other substances or products that may cause allergic reactions or intolerance.

    The document establishes a requirement to provide the consumer with information on whether a food product has been defrosted, given that freezing and subsequent defrosting of certain products limit their future use and may affect their safety, taste and physical qualities.

    The law also cancels the requirement under which the producer provides nutritional information with respect to certain categories of food products that have not been processed or for which nutritional information is not a determining factor for consumers to make purchasing decisions or whose packaging area is too small to contain all details.

    Violation of the requirements of the law by providing inaccurate, misleading information about a product, change by a market operator of necessary information about the product entails a fine on legal entities in the amount of 15 sums of the minimum wage, while a fine for individual entrepreneurs is set at 10 sums of the minimum wage.

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    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 14:37 04.02.2019
      Bill on impossibility of participation of observers from Russia in Ukraine's elections registered in Rada

      A group of deputies registered a draft law in the Verkhovna Rada on the impossibility of the participation of Russian observers in the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine, First Deputy Chairwoman of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Iryna Gerashchenko has reported.

      "Together with my colleagues we registered a bill on the impossibility of the participation of observers from the aggressor-country of the Russian Federation in the Ukrainian presidential and parliamentary elections," wrote Gerashchenko on her Facebook page on Monday.

      She also said that at the conciliation board of the leaders of factions and groups she called on deputies to support the position of Ukrainian diplomacy and adopt a bill that would make impossible the presence of Russian observers in international missions at elections in Ukraine.

      Bill No. 9524 "On Amendments to Certain Laws on Observing the Electoral Process in Ukraine" was registered in parliament on Monday. Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Andriy Parubiy, presidential representative in parliament Iryna Lutsenko, leader of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction Artur Herasymov, and first deputy chairman of the People's Front faction Andriy Teteruk are among the authors, the website of the Verkhovna Rada said.

      The next presidential election in Ukraine will be held on March 31, the parliamentary elections should be held in the fall.

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      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • INTERFAX-UKRAINE 11:33 04.02.2019
        Mass exodus of Ukrainians abroad deemed biggest threat to Ukraine poll

        KYIV. Feb 4 (Interfax-Ukraine) More than half of Ukrainians think the mass exodus of Ukrainians abroad and economic collapse is the biggest threat facing Ukraine, according to a poll conducted by the Sociological Monitoring Center, the Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute of Social Research, Info Sapiens and the Rating Group Ukraine.

        According to the results of the survey presented at the Kyiv-based Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Monday, 55% of respondents said the mass exodus of Ukrainians abroad is the biggest danger to Ukraine, with 52% saying economic collapse is a threat.

        Some 47% of respondents said the pauperization of the population is the biggest threat, with 39% saying devaluation of the hryvnia and inflation posed the biggest risk.

        Some 35% said full-fledged war with Russia posed the biggest risk, with 34% saying declining health of Ukrainians poses the biggest danger.

        Every third persons polled said the country's collapse is the biggest threat facing Ukraine.

        The poll was conducted from January 19 through January 30, 2019. Some 10,000 persons aged 18 and older were questioned in all regions of Ukraine, except occupied Crimea and occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The margin of error of the survey does not exceed 1%.

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        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Oleksandr Danylyuk January 30, 2019
          Ukraine Needs Carrots and Sticks to Fight Corruption

          There is no silver bullet when it comes to defeating systemic corruption in any country.

          Despite many opportunities, Ukraine has failed to achieve economic success due to its entrenched corruption which offsets the positive effects from many of the hard-earned and difficult reforms we have implemented since independence.

          Since 2014, Ukraine has built an entirely new anti-corruption infrastructure that was meant to replace old corrupt institutions. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) is a law enforcement agency that investigates corruption and prepares these cases for prosecution. The National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption is a government body that scrutinizes the electronic asset declarations of public officials and oversees political party financing. And now the High Anti-Corruption Court is being created.

          But have these new institutions delivered? No, and its nave to expect otherwise given such fierce resistance. No high-level crooks have been jailed, and this record has triggered a public discussion over whether too much emphasis has been placed on building a punitive system and not enough on prevention. However, Ukraine is not in a position to pick and choose if it wants results. It needs both.

          Over the last five years, weve seen successful examples of policies that prevent corruption, but they are rare and difficult to put into place.

          At the Ministry of Finance, we outfoxed our corrupt and influential opponents by introducing a transparent VAT refund registry on the Ministry of Finance website. In the past, VAT refunds had been the cash cow for the corrupt political elite. The new website provided business with an effective tool which made interference impossible to hide. VAT payments were automatically cleared thirty days after submission, which eliminated the ability of the State Fiscal Service (SFS) to delay payments. It was a policy masterpiece, but the impression that it was easy and everyone was supportive, except for the system, is an illusion. The system is not anonymous. It consists of people, and often very influential people, who try to obstruct good measures.

          We faced resistance and threats from within. Its no wonder that many people avoid this route. The implementation was sabotaged by Roman Nasirov, the head of the SFS who faces charges of defrauding the state of 2 billion hryvnyas ($70 million). I had to go head-to-head with Nasirov, which meant declaring war on the political elite. I cannot even begin to imagine what would have been the outcome, had it not been for the support of NABU, which arrested Nasirov for his alleged corruption.

          As Ukrainians begin to reflect on the last five years, and how much or how little progress has been made on corruption, its important to keep three principles in mind:

          First, in order to believe in the seriousness of the governments intentions, there should be appropriate penalties for corrupt officials. Ukrainians are right to expect this since corruption has taken their future and hope of prosperity.

          Second, prevention has its limits and not everything can be prevented. For example, steps were taken to reduce the opportunities for corruption among judges, including the introduction of automatic case distribution which was supposed to break established corrupt relationships. However, the establishment has learned how to bypass this. The same argument applies elsewhere. The police cannot prevent all crimes and the threat of punishment acts as a strong deterrent.

          Third, prevention can only be achieved by putting proper policies in place, therefore it depends on politics, which is often corrupt and self-protecting. Plus, anticorruption policies can always be reversed.

          On the other hand, punishment without prevention does not either. I cannot prove this point based on Ukrainian examples, as there have been no punishments to date. However, Romania offers some relevant lessons. Many influential people have been jailed for corruption-related offenses, including former prime ministers and ministers. This hasnt put an end to corruption. It is too lucrative and too tempting. This also sends the wrong message; if imprisonment doesnt stop corruption, then punishment is not enough.

          Ukraine needs both prevention and punishment to finally tame its endemic corruption. Both are equally important and interdependent, and Ukraine needs to put in place a proper and independent Anti-Corruption Court and resolve the deadlock between the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Office and NABU, which is caused by the political dependence of SAPO leaders and subsequent lack of trust in the institution. In addition, we need to make legislative changes that reduce the space for corruption. It will not be an easy journey.

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          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Andreas Umland February 1, 2019
            Russia Looks to Strike at Ukraines South Again?

            Moscow captured three Ukrainian navy vessels and arrested twenty-four Ukrainian sailors on November 25, 2018, near the Kerch Strait. The maritime clash indicates that the focal point of the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict may gradually switch from the Donbas to the Azov Sea and Crimean peninsula in 2019.

            More conflict in the south would further throttle Ukraines already battered economy. According to Vitaliy Kravchuk, senior researcher at the Institute of Economic Research and Policy Consulting in Kyiv, If there are further marine incidents, it could mean the closure of the Azov ports for shipping. Such a development would have grave economic repercussions for the port cities of Mariupol and Berdyansk, which handle approximately 5 percent of Ukraines foreign trade. Ukraine has only limited alternative transport infrastructure to redirect trade flows. An escalation at the Azov Sea will threaten social stability in southeastern Ukraine. It might also lead to a significant reduction or even curtailment of Ukrainian economic growth in 2019 and beyond.

            Four factors make further tensions between Russia and Ukraine along the shores of Crimea and mainland southern Ukraine probable. They include the Wests lack of reaction to the recent tensions, the absence of international organizations in the Azov Sea, the functionality of the Kerch Strait Bridge and its symbolism for Putin, and the unresolved issue of supplying fresh water to occupied Crimea. All four of these factors distinguish this area from the Donbas, where the OSCE is heavily present, a more or less stable front line has emerged, and the conflict has become partially frozen. Also, the EUs most serious sanctions introduced in the summer of 2014 have later been linked to the fulfillment of the Minsk Agreements concerning exclusively the Donbas.

            A major factor currently enabling escalation in the Azov is the Wests lack of reaction to the November 2018 naval confrontation. The West has done little beyond condemning the aggression and such symbolic measures as US President Donald Trump canceling an official meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (while still meeting him unofficially). The EU has not reacted and probably will not react materially, as it did after the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 in July 2014 to the confrontation and capture of Ukrainian sailors either.

            Second, the absence of any relevant international organizations on the Azov Sea or on Crimea makes Russian actions against Ukraine there less risky and more likely. There are no international monitors, like the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in the Donbas, to alert the international community. Russia has been far more lenient in allowing international organizations, with their respective ties to the diplomatic community, into the Donbas.

            A third factor potentially motivating the Kremlin to behave more adventurously between the Azov and Black Seas could become technical malfunctioning or the economic ineffectiveness of the new Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Russia and Crimea. This prestige object has strong symbolic value for the legitimization of the Putin regime in the eyes of the Russian population. For one reason or another, this bridge might not provide a sufficient boost for Crimeas social development or integration into the Russian economy, as promised. The Kremlin may start searching for excuses and try to stage an escalation that can be spun to explain a partial or full dysfunction of the bridge.

            This would be especially the case if the bridge starts to crumble. Since its opening in May 2018, there have been repeated reports in the Ukrainian media about the bridges engineering issues and geological challenges. A closure or even collapse of the bridge would be a catastrophic blow to Putins post-annexation image, and make deceptive maneuversincluding military onesby the Kremlin more probable.

            A final urgent problem for the Kremlin is Crimeas precarious situation with fresh water. In 2014, Kyiv stopped the delivery of water to the peninsula via the North Crimean Canal. Constantly declining aquatic reserves, in combination with a continuing dearth of energy supply, are a virtual time bomb with potentially far-reaching economic and social consequences for Crimeas residents. In a surprising geoeconomic gaffe, Moscow has done little to resolve this issue, such a building at least one large desalination plant.

            Should there be no solution, Crimeans will soon experience insufficient water supplies, which complicates business and daily life. A rise of social tensions on the peninsula may provide yet another potential trigger for escalation between Russia and Ukraine. Moscow may try to capture the closed channel between Crimea and the Dnipro River. This would lead Russian regular troops deep into Ukraines southern mainland and start a second high-intensity and then official war between the two countries.

            These factors constitute only some of the possible scenarios for escalation between Russia and Ukraine. Yet, given that these four conditions are present in Crimea, the Kerch Strait, and the Azov Sea, they make rising tensions in this area likely. The Azov Sea ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk will continue to operate under various limitations and risks. Will Ukraine and its Western partners be willing to provide some plausible stability guarantees and security mechanisms to those businesses engaged in the region? If not, Ukraine as well as various national and foreign companies should start preparing for a gradual decline of Mariupol and Berdyansk as well as for the grave social and political consequences this will have for southern Ukraine and eventually the whole country.

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            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Mykola Vorobiov February 1, 2019
              Two Big Problems with Ukraines Elections that No One Else Has Spotted

              There are many reasons to worry about Ukraines elections this year. The 2019 elections may be as defining as those in 2014, when Ukraine left the Russian world for good. However, so far, most analysts have missed two factors that may play an outsized role. First, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov is not only a sitting minister but also a politician who wants to remain in power. The police force, which will oversee much of the conduct around the elections, report to him. Second, decentralization created more money and players on the local level, and these actors may exert a greater role as we approach the elections.

              As a Ukrainian journalist with over ten years experience covering elections, I started to worry when I read Interior Affairs Minister Arsen Avakovs recent blog.

              Apart from the title, everything seemed normal at first; Avakov warned all presidential candidates to refrain from violating the election process. He noted that the national police have received 91 allegations of rule breaking from citizens and civic organizations since the campaign officially began on December 31, 2018.

              Avakov also warned that nobody will get a deal with the Interior Ministry or national police about turning a blind eye on disgusting vote buying.

              Its important to bear in mind that Avakov remains one of the most powerful ministers and influential politicians in Ukraine. Approximately 300,000 policemen, including members of the National Guard and even paramilitary civic organizations report to him. (A year ago, some of them marched down Kyivs major thoroughfare calling for the Ukrainian order to be established without any interference from the police.)

              At the end of 2018, the Ukrainian parliament approved a record defense budget, including 12,893 billion UAH (about $463 million) for the National Guard, which reports to Avakovs Interior Ministry.

              Despite his powerful position, Avakovs political fortunes arent bright, and this is a reason for concern. Hes a member of the Peoples Front political party, which managed to take 22 percent in the 2014 parliamentary elections but only gets 0.5 percent in todays polls. This reality forces Avakov to seek political patrons among those politicians who can achieve better results in the upcoming elections.

              Vote buying has a long history in Ukraines elections, and one should expect no change this year. Given the countrys economic stagnation and slow economic growth estimated at a little over 3 percent, theres plenty of people who need money. And theres plenty of ways to bribe voters, from creating charity foundations which provide support to potential voters on behalf of a candidate and his or her political party, to buying members of elections commissions who count votes on election day, to bringing prepared voters to certain election districts.

              In both elections, hundreds of thousands of policemen will be the key watchdogs. Of course, the Central Election Commission and local commissions oversee voting, but as soon as a voter leaves a polling station, the police are in charge of fixing potential violations. Therefore, it's hard to overestimate the role of the Interior Ministry on election day.

              Back to the minister. To preserve his position after the fall parliamentary elections, Avakov must make nice with key players. It seems Avakovs recent blog was meant to underline his important role as the key arbitrator, warning everyone to beware of any wrong moves against his ministry and reinforcing the point that he holds the keys to electoral success.

              Theres a second factor that Western experts also miss. As a result of decentralization reform, Ukraines regional elites have received unprecedented authority which wasnt seen during even the Yanukovych regime. Local budgets are larger, theres greater political autonomy and even physical power which is represented by local paramilitary and other civic patriotic organizations without any subordination to Kyiv.

              During a December 4 press conference, Avakov named Odesa the criminal capital of Ukraine where local activists are routinely subject to violence, including at least two murder attempts in recent years. Over the last year, a dozen activists in Odesa have been attacked without any further investigation, despite clear evidence that most of the attacks were orchestrated by the local authorities. Neither Avakovs Interior Ministry nor the General Prosecutors Office have been able to prosecute the guilty parties. This means that local elites enjoy absolute immunity through possible agreements or have enough power to disregard authorities in Kyiv.

              The upcoming elections will be marked by unprecedented power on the side of Avakov and local authorities, who no longer completely obey Kyiv. Physical power may determine much more than Ukraines actual law who rules Ukraine.

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              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Melinda Haring February 6, 2019
                Q&A: Why Are Ukraine's Last Reformers Being Kicked Out?

                Less than two months before Ukraines presidential election, two independent-minded officials are being forced out. On February 5, Kyivs Regional Administrative Court ruled to suspend Detroit born physician Ulana Suprun's authority to make any decisions or sign any documents as the acting minister of health. The court pointed to a regulation that limits an acting ministers term to one month. Suprun has held the post since 2016. On February 1, the supervisory board of Ukraines public broadcaster dismissed CEO Zurab Alasania two years before his contract was set to expire. Suprun has been praised as one of the leading reformers remaining in the cabinet and for championing health care reform, while Alasania received good marks as well.

                Last June, parliament canned outspoken and reform minded Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk. By most counts, theres only one reformer left in Ukraines cabinet.

                UkraineAlert asked a range of experts whats going on? Whats behind the sacking of Suprun and Alasania? Are the motives behind the sackings similar? Is the government trying to remove independent minded people before the elections, or are there other motives?

                Taras Berezovets, CEO of Berta Communications, Founder of Free Crimea, and TV host of Pryamyi: The motivation behind the sackings is not the same. After Suprun was attacked, President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Groisman gave her their full support. Anti-reformist factions such as the Opposition Bloc, Batkivshchyna, and Radical Party and some MPs targeted Suprun for her determination to destroy old corruption schemes.

                But the attack had the opposite effect. Suprun received support from the governing coalition in parliament and is likely to become a minister. Supruns situation is an important reminder that reforms are not irreversible. The attack was possible because judicial reform is incomplete; there are a lot of corrupt judges still in the system.

                For Zurab Alasania, the biggest problem is the timing. The public broadcaster has very low ratings and his dismissal was a matter of budget spending. If there were reasons to fire him, doing so during the presidential campaign was not the right time.

                Michael Bociurkiw, global affairs analyst and a former spokesperson for the OSCE: This is another black eye for Ukraines image. The legal ban of Dr. Suprun and the sacking of Alasania will go down as one step forward, two steps backward for Ukraine.

                No minister has done more than Suprun to introduce reforms that have tangibly improved the lives of ordinary Ukrainians. At great risk to herself, Ministry of Health-led reformsalbeit controversialhave already eased the financial pain of seeking health care, cut out corruption and middlemen in such areas as drug procurement, and made health services more accessible and streamlined.

                The abrupt firing of Zurab Alasania has the unmistakable fingerprints of the dark side of the administration of President Poroshenko. If nothing else, it demonstrates their inability to allow freedom of speech and transparency at a broadcasting outlet that reaches well over 90 percent of Ukrainians. With Poroshenkos camp strengthening their hold on the public broadcaster, my fear now is that theyll drop such corruption watchdog programs as Schemes (). That, in itself, is a huge loss for a democratic Ukraine.

                Brian Bonner, chief editor, Kyiv Post: The ruling against Ulana Suprun exposes twin problems: the failure of judicial reform and the ongoing drive by corrupt and vested interests to remove genuine reformers. Since the Euromaidan Revolution, Ukraine has watched reformers get picked off, one by one, slowing or reversing positive changes, until now we see fewer and fewer remaining in government. While I don't know all the details of Zurab Alasania's dismissal, the justifications given so far violate the principle of editorial independence. The establishment of a well-financed, independent, and high-quality news operation on a public television station will be resisted and sabotaged by Ukraine's oligarchs, who still control the Ukrainian airwaves, or their backers in parliament.

                Oleksandr Danylyuk, former Finance Minister of Ukraine from 2016 to 2018: I dont think the sackings are really connected.

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                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Reformers Kicked Out Pt 2
                  Both of them are reform minded and the right people for Ukraine. Alasania was removed for trying to be too independent and not letting the public broadcaster be used by political forces during the election campaign. This was the next step after public funds for the public broadcaster were cut three years in a row. They deliberately cut his financing to make him more flexible and willing to negotiate. So when that didnt work, they just removed him.

                  I think Ulana is being used. I think there is a political game happening. Someone wants to make political dividends around her situation. Potentially one candidate will try to use [the situation] during the political campaign. Overall, I think its much more complicated than just removing her. Removing her isnt a good result for anyone. Artificially creating a crisis and then saving her looks like a political game to me.

                  Its a ridiculous situation. The countrys leadership is expressing support for her (which she deserves) but not calling for reform of the court. Thats the real problem. There are many similar judgments that were done by the same court. But there was much less public outrage.

                  Andrew J. Futey, President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America: The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America is deeply troubled by yesterdays ruling of the Regional Administrative Court in Kyiv, which bans Dr. Ulana Suprun from carrying out her duties as acting minister of health of Ukraine.

                  Since the governments approval of Dr. Supruns health care reform package in late 2016, which reinforced the countrys overall reform agenda, the Ministry of Health has implemented a host of reforms that not only improve the quality of medical services, but also address the entrenched problem of corruption in the medical field.

                  UCCA recognizes the significant accomplishments of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. We encourage Ukraine to continue down the path of reform, as exemplified by the work of Dr. Ulana Suprun, and not succumb to the political agenda of populist candidates and party leaders to stymie reform. We thank President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Groisman, and Speaker Parubiy for their strong support of Dr. Supruns leadership and reforms, and call upon the parliament of Ukraine to confirm her as minister of health.

                  Sergii Vysotskyi, Member of Parliament, Peoples Front: Lets divide these cases. Supruns case is the fight for money flows. Alasanias is the fight over control for the public broadcaster. Personally, Im not a fan of the policies that he made. But the timing and form was inappropriate. So the motives are different. The government is not the government. There is no such thing as a united government. There is no centralized program of removing such people from positions. Its just how the system works. You can fight it. Or you can make it your ally for keeping power. If you do so, the actors of the system will behave as they are used to.

                  Poroshenko even protected Suprun publicly, which doesnt change the fact that some of the people close to him tried to fire Suprun. And he is the hostage of those people for now. Because he has no other allies and needs to lean on someone in order to keep his position. This is Poroshenkos great dilemma.

                  Volodymyr Yermolenko, editor in chief at Ukraine World Group, senior expert at Internews Ukraine, and journalist at I think sacking of Suprun and Alasania are different.

                  The Suprun case primarily shows that Ukraine's judiciary system remains unreformed and that some courts voluntarily make illegitimate rulings. The complaint against Suprun came from the Radical Party, which is allegedly linked to oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, so one can suspect financial interests are at stake. The fact that Poroshenko and Prime Minister Groisman supported Suprun might show that at least they are not behind this court ruling. Suprun is one of the genuine reformers, and she did a lot to make the Ukrainian healthcare system function.

                  In the case of Alasania, we witness a different phenomenon: the political class is dissatisfied that the public broadcaster under Alasania tried to distance itself from political interests. The public broadcasters supervisory board has representatives from political parties and civil society, but some civil society representatives also hiddenly represent interests of some political players.

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                  Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                  • Reformers Kicked Out Pt 3
                    This explains why a large majority of the supervisory board (9 to 3) voted to fire Alasania. But the important thing is that the decision was made with substantial procedural violations, which will invite legal challenges. And it will test Ukraines judiciary again. Alasania can be criticized for slow managerial progress, for a lack of strategy, low ratings, and the public broadcasters lack of influence on Ukraines social and political agenda, but he is truly committed to making the public broadcaster independent.

                    Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, Head of the Board of Transparency International-Ukraine: Ulana Suprun and Zurab Alasania are not the first independent professional representatives of the government who have been attacked. It is worth mentioning the former head of the National Bank Valery Gontareva, Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, and Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau Artem Sytnik were under constant attack. Politicians of the old system, dependent on oligarchs, are attacking new politicians who are destroying oligarchic schemes. The president and political leaders, in isolation from these processes, support the silence of corrupt officials. And then are forced to justify their actions. Systemic reforms can change this: real judicial reform based on the selection principles of the Anticorruption Court, new electoral rules with more criminal responsibility for those who violate them and a competitive system with open party lists, and the privatization of state support. Unfortunately, there were few chances to put these changes into place before the elections.

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                    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                    • After Slip In Polls, Tymoshenko Goes Low In Ukraine Campaigning
                      RFE/RL Christopher Miller February 07, 2019 14:15 GMT

                      KYIV -- As she slipped from the top spot in preelection polls, Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko has offered explosive and seemingly unsubstantiated claims this week in an apparent effort to climb back atop an expanding field.

                      The first accusation came on February 4, when the former prime minister accused President Petro Poroshenko's reelection campaign of attempting to buy Ukrainians' votes for 1,000 hryvnyas ($36). Without providing proof, she urged Ukraine's interior minister and prosecutor-general to launch probes into the matter.

                      Members of Poroshenko's party, in turn, accused Tymoshenko's camp of bribing voters and improperly collecting their personal data.

                      But it was at the kickoff of Tymoshenko's nationwide campaign tour on February 5 in her hometown of Dnipro that especially resonated with her critics on social media. She told a crowd of supporters waving blue-and-yellow posters adorned with her "I Believe!" slogan that U.S.-born acting Ukrainian Health Minister Ulana Suprun was "sent by foreigners" who want to "experiment on Ukrainians."

                      The full video of the campaign stop was published on Tymoshenko's Facebook page.


                      But it was a clip that highlighted the "experiment" comment shared by activist group EuroMaydan that quickly spread across Ukrainian social media.

                      Tymoshenko's campaign has not commented on the remarks since.

                      Earlier that same day, a district administrative court in Kyiv had ruled that Suprun could no longer head the Health Ministry. It cited a Ukrainian regulation that says a person may be acting minister for only one month and another that stipulates that government officials may not hold foreign passports.

                      Suprun, who was born in Detroit, Michigan, was granted Ukrainian citizenship by Poroshenko in July 2015 and appointed acting health minister in August 2016. She has been hailed by officials and activists in Ukraine and the West for implementing crucial health-care reforms that reportedly have dealt a blow to corrupt practices within the industry.

                      Tymoshenko's allegations came after five of six independent polls showed her falling behind Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a comedian who portrays a president on a popular TV series and is now running to be the actual president of Ukraine. Many of the same polls showed Zelenskyy defeating Tymoshenko should the two advance to a second round.

                      Poroshenko, a businessman and compromise candidate in a special election after pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych fled and war with Russia-backed separatists broke out in 2014, has polled third in four of the same surveys and second in the other two. All of them put his popularity below 18 percent.

                      'Distorted' Data

                      The first round of Ukraine's presidential election is set for March 31, with a possible two-candidate runoff on April 21.

                      Critics, including some who have researched her tactics in two decades of politics, suggest Tymoshenko's colorful accusations were not necessarily out of character.

                      Tymoshenko occupied the top spot in an analysis of "populists and liars in Ukrainian politics" conducted by the Kyiv-based think tank Vox Ukraine in February 2018.

                      Vox Ukraine wrote that Tymoshenko "corroborates her statements with statistics: 70% of her quotes contain data." However, it continued, "patent untruth can be found in 26% of Tymoshenko's statements" and "manipulations were discovered in nearly half of [the Fatherland party] leader's quotations."

                      "[Tymoshenko]'s favorite rhetorical technique is to take correct statistical data and distort it beyond recognition," Vox Ukraine alleged.

                      Among the issues that Vox Ukraine accused Tymoshenko of speaking about manipulatively: health care. It cited Tymoshenko as having said, "Today, Ukraine is Europe's leader in terms of infant and maternal mortality rates."

                      But that's not the case, according to Vox Ukraine.

                      "Maternal mortality rate in Ukraine is close to that in other CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries: 24 maternal deaths per 1,000 births and 5.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births," the think tank wrote. "But in Romania, for example, the situation is much worse: 31 maternity deaths and 6.3 infant deaths per 1,000 births."

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                      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                      • Record 44 Candidates To Run In Ukraine's Presidential Race
                        RFE/RL February 08, 2019 18:44 GMT

                        Ukrainian election officials said a record 44 candidates have registered to run in the country's March presidential election.

                        President Petro Poroshenko is seeking a second five-year term and has vowed to press for European Union and NATO membership for the country.

                        Recent polls indicate former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky will be Poroshenko's closest rivals in the March 31 election.

                        The 53-year-old Poroshenko, one of Ukraines richest men, came to power in the aftermath of the pro-European Maidan protests that pushed Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych out in February 2014.

                        He has vocally advocated closer integration with the West and criticized Russia following Moscow's seizure of Ukraines Crimea region and amid a continuing war against Russia-backed separatists in the eastern region known as the Donbas.

                        Tymoshenko, 58, was a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution but was defeated by Poroshenko in the 2014 presidential election.

                        Former Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boyko is also among those who registered.

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                        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                        • Dutch 'Confident' Moscow Will Agree To Talks on Findings Of MH17 Downing Probe
                          RFE/RL February 07, 2019 23:29 GMT

                          The Netherlands says it is "increasingly confident" Russia will agree to formal talks about the findings of an international investigation that Moscow bears legal responsibility for its role in the 2014 downing of a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine.

                          The Dutch Foreign Ministry on February 7 said initial diplomatic contacts with Russia took place in "a positive atmosphere" and that it was hopeful the discussions will lead to formal talks on the matter.

                          "We are in contact with Russia over national accountability via diplomatic channels," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. "We are increasingly confident that we will sit down with the Russians shortly."

                          Foreign Minister Stef Blok told reporters that "there are diplomatic contacts to see if we can begin formal talks about national responsibility for shooting down MH17."

                          He said it was too early to speculate on where and when formal talks might be held.

                          A Dutch-led international criminal investigation has concluded that the Buk missile that shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014 came from Russia's 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade.

                          The Joint Investigative Team (JIT) "has come to the conclusion that the Buk-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from the 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia," top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen told reporters on May 24. "The 53rd Brigade is part of Russia's armed forces."

                          The JIT comprised authorities from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine.

                          MH17 was shot down over the conflict zone in Ukraine's Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

                          About two-thirds of the people killed were Dutch citizens. The Netherlands has been one of the main driving forces behind seeking accountability for the attack.

                          Following the announcement of the JIT findings, Russia's Defense Ministry reiterated it had nothing to do with the downing of the plane.

                          The Russian Foreign Ministry said the findings were based on "fake data" presented by bloggers and that Moscow's information regarding the case was largely ignored.

                          Months after the downing, the Russian military made a new claim, asserting that the missile that brought the flight down was sent to Soviet Ukraine after it was made in 1986 and never returned to Russia.

                          Kyiv swiftly disputed the Russian assertion, which a senior Ukrainian official called an "awkward fake," while the JIT said that it was still waiting for Russia to send documents it requested long before and that Moscow had made "factually inaccurate" claims in the past.

                          If Russia were ultimately to acknowledge some form of legal responsibility, it could lead to compensation claims from relatives of the people killed.

                          The United States, Britain, and other allies have backed the JIT findings.

                          "It is time for Russia to acknowledge its role in the shooting down of MH17 and to cease its callous disinformation campaign," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at the time. With reporting by Reuters, Meduza, and AP

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                          • Crimea Is Ours: Russia Up In Arms After Google 'Incorrectly' Maps Peninsula
                            RFE/RL Matthew Luxmoore February 08, 2019 21:29 GMT

                            MOSCOW -- Amid threats of being suspended in Russia, Google has become embroiled in a series of disputes with the Kremlin that may be causing the international technology company to bend to Moscow's pressure and adhere to its growing demands.

                            On February 7, Russian media reported that Google has begun to censor search results in Russia after a protracted standoff with the country's powerful communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor. One anonymous official at the agency claimed the U.S.-based company was blocking some 70 percent of the websites blacklisted by Russia.

                            Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky told state news agency RIA on February 7 that "we have developed a constructive dialogue with Google and this dialogue currently satisfies us."

                            Meanwhile, Vasily Piskaryov, the chairman of the Russian Duma's Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, said after meeting with a Google representative the same day that the company was taking extra measures to ensure its maps in Russia display Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula as Russian territory.

                            Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegitimate by at least 100 countries, after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power by protests.

                            Piskaryov said Marina Zhunich, Google's director for government relations, told him during the Moscow meeting that the "incorrect information" that some Google users in Russia may see was the result of a technical error and that resolving this "was her priority."

                            When Crimea is accessed on Google Maps in Russia, Crimea is shown as belonging to Russia -- at least most of the time. There are some reports that people see it marked as disputed territory on some smartphones and other devices.

                            Reports that people in Russia are seeing Crimea marked in Google Maps as disputed territory on some smartphones and other devices instead of being designated as Russian territory has landed the tech giant in hot water with the Moscow authorities.

                            The inconsistency is seemingly responsible for the most recent spat, which dates to January 25 when a Russian lawmaker reported that Google was incorrectly marking Crimea on its maps when viewed within Russia. Parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said lawmakers claimed then that Google was not following Russian law and instructed them to summon a company representative for questioning.

                            "We have these [legal] options, let's use them," he said, according to a video report from the session. "Otherwise they'll tear another piece [of land] from us and assign it to a different country."

                            In response, the search-engine giant told TASS that some users in Russia may see Crimea marked as foreign territory, but that the company's branch in Russia endeavors to follow Russian law.

                            "We are doing everything we can to present objective data when it comes to disputed territories," TASS cited the company as saying on January 25.

                            But deputies in the Duma were not convinced.

                            The head of the lower house's Informational Politics Committee promised to carefully monitor the legality of Google's operations in Russia.

                            "A week has passed and we've noticed the situation hasn't changed," Piskaryov said in his statement. He added that Google has one month to correct the perceived mistake, after which lawmakers will turn to the Prosecutor-General's Office to determine further measures against the company, RBC reported.

                            Google did not respond to requests from RFE/RL for comment for this article.

                            On February 7, the business daily RBC cited the company's press service repeating verbatim the comments Google made to TASS on January 25.

                            Steep Rise In Removal Requests

                            If accurate, Google's move to censor search results is the latest stage in a protracted battle between the Russian government and the world's largest Internet search engine, which until now has been reluctant to filter its results in line with Russian demands.

                            In July 2018, Russia introduced a law mandating fines of up to 700,000 rubles for search engines that fail to censor content blacklisted by Roskomnadzor. Google has since received several warnings and in December the company was fined 500,000 rubles ($10,600) for noncompliance.

                            Earlier this year, Roskomnadzor issued an official warning that the website may be blocked in Russia, Vedomosti reported.

                            In its latest Transparency Report on government requests to remove content, Google noted a steep rise in the number of such requests from Russia.

                            In the first half of 2018, 19,192 were received from Russian authorities, representing over 75 percent of the 25,534 requests made in that six-month period. Almost three-quarters concerned content on YouTube, the video-sharing site owned by Google.

                            In the latest high-profile case, Ukraine alleged on February 6 that Roskomnadzor was pressuring YouTube to remove a video showing a Crimean Tatar activist being detained on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized and annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.

                            In a statement, Amnesty International said "Youtube should uphold its responsibilities according to international human rights standards and push back on the Russian government's censorship demands. YouTube's stated company values include protecting freedom of expression and freedom of information and we call on them to uphold these values today."

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                            • Polygraph: Russian state media decries Ukraine for renaming its own cities
                              KYIV POST Feb. 16 at 5:32 pm
                              RIA Novosti
                              Russian state-owned media outlet

                              Not Odessa, but Kotsyubeyev! Why does Kyiv erase the real names of cities
                              Source: RIA Novosti website
                              Ukraine is a sovereign country that can rename its cities as it sees fit: there are no real names.

                              On February 11, the Russian state-owned media outlet RIA Novosti published an op-ed criticizing Ukraines renaming of towns and other toponyms in accordance with the countrys law on de-communization.

                              RIA Novostis headline read: Not Odessa, but Kotsyubeyev! Why does Kyiv erase the real names of cities. According to the article, Alexander Vasiliev, a former deputy of the Odessa (Ukrainian: Odesa) city council and historian, implies Ukrainian nationalists would prefer Odessa be called Khadjibey-Kotsyubeyev, as it was known before the Russian empire conquered it from the Ottomans in the late 18th century. Although he admits that it's unlikely that anyone will actually decide to change the name. Vasiliev does not identify the Ukrainian nationalists (or any Ukrainians at all, for that matter) who supposedly prefer the old name. found no indications that anyone in the Ukrainian media, or among Ukrainian politicians or government officials, have discussed such a proposal regarding changing Odesas name. In fact, the idea seems to have been absent from Ukraines public discourse.

                              The changing of names is part of the Law of Ukraine No. 317-VIII "On condemning Communist and National-Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and banning propaganda of their symbols, adopted in 2015. Under this law, the names of cities and other geographic features originating from the Soviet period must be changed. In some cases, the names have reverted back to their pre-revolutionary names, but in other cases new names have been devised, as the law does not require the new names to be historic names. For example, Dnipropetrovsk, named for both the Dnipro river and the Ukrainian Bolshevik leader Grigory Petrovsky, did not revert to its last pre-revolutionary name, Yekaterinoslav, which was in honor of Russian Empress Catherine the Great (Yekaterina in Russian) and thus reflected the legacy of Ukraines colonization by Russia. Instead, the city was simply renamed simply Dnipro.

                              The RIA Novosti article also questioned a recent initiative to rename Dnipropetrovsk region -- named after Dnipropetrovsk city -- to Sicheslavska region. It noted that the Rada deputies who proposed the name change claimed that in 1918-1921, residents of then Yekaterinoslav intended to change the citys name to Sicheslav -- derived from the term sich, which denoted a military-administrative organ used by Zaporozhian Cossacks.

                              The town of Komsomolsk in the Poltava region was renamed in 2016 because it was named after the Komsomol -- the Communist youth league of the Soviet Union. In accordance with Law No. 317-VIII, it was renamed Horishni Plavni. In this case, the city had no pre-revolutionary name, given that it was founded in 1960 as a mining town.

                              Incidentally, the same cannot be said for Odessa: while the city was renamed under Catherine the Great, the name derives from the ancient Greek city of Odessos, which is believed to have been located in that region.

                              Ukraines decommunization law and many of its provisions have been criticized both inside and outside the country. Legitimate complaints tend to focus on its top-down implementation and the substitution of Soviet-approved history with equally distorted, politicized narratives. Still, it is ultimately up to each country to decide how it names its cities and geographic features.

                              It's also worth noting that Russia has also changed the names of many cities, particularly when they conquered them as the Tsardom of Moscow expanded and evolved into the Russian Empire. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some cities such as Leningrad and Sverdlovsk were changed back to their pre-revolutionary names of St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. In the Soviet era, Stalingrad was given the generic name of Volgograd (city on the Volga) rather than its historic name, Tsaritsyn.

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                              • EuroMaidan Revolution
                                Ukraines US diaspora commemorate 5th anniversary of EuroMaidan Revolution
                                By Askold Krushelnycky.
                                Published Feb. 14. Updated Feb. 14 at 10:32 am

                                A protester stands on a police vehicle on Independence Square in Kyiv on Feb. 22, 2014. Ukraine's parliament on Feb. 22, 2014, voted to hold early presidential elections on May 25, 2014, passing a resolution stating that Viktor Yanukovych had failed to properly fulfil his duties as president. The resolution said that Yanukovych "is removing himself (from power) because he is not fulfilling his obligations, and (that parliament) is setting elections for May 25, 2014.

                                WASHINGTON, D.C. Ukrainian-Americans are commemorating the fifth anniversary of the end of the EuroMaidan Revolution, which ended after security forces shot dead more than 100 demonstrators in Kyiv in February 2014, the same month that Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych fled power.

                                The biggest diaspora organization in the U.S., the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, held its main event to mark the anniversary at the Cannon Office Building in the nations capital on Feb. 8. The speakers, including members of Congress, talked about various aspects of the EuroMaidan and how it dramatically changed Ukraines course.

                                UCCA president, Andriy Futey, and Michael Sawkiw, director of the Ukrainian National Information Service, hosted the event and described how the protests were triggered in the fall of 2013 when Yanukovych suddenly reversed his pledges to bring his country into closer formal relations with the European Union and instead embraced Kremlin dictator Vladimir Putins plans for a Moscow-led economic union.

                                Angry Ukrainians believed Putin was trying to crush their countrys aspirations for the rule-of-law and democracy epitomized by the European Union. They also believed the Kremlin strongman needed Ukraine as the lynchpin of his desire to rebuild a new Russian empire.

                                Nearly 100 days of mass demonstrations followed in Kyiv with protesters camped out in the capitals central Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, from which the term EuroMaidan was derived.

                                The protests gradually took on the character of a revolt against Yanukovychs rule. His security forces failed to break the popular uprising, despite shooting dead scores of demonstrators who subsequently became known as The Heavenly Hundred.

                                Yanukovych fled to Moscow, after having looted billions of dollars from Ukraines treasury, and following what also is known as the Revolution of Dignity, Putin invaded and annexed Crimea and Russia occupied part of eastern Ukraines Donbas region.

                                Other speakers included Marta Farion, president of the Kyiv Mohyla Foundation and vice president of UCCAs branch in the state of Illinois, home to a large Ukrainian-American population; Irena Chalupa, a leading member of the StopFake team debunking the Kremlins anti-Ukrainian propaganda; Phillip Karber, president of the Washington-based think tank, the Potomac Foundation and an expert on the EuroMaidan and Ukraines war against Russia; Ukraines Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly.

                                Farion, talking about the Heavenly Hundred and the challenges that Ukraine faces, referred to the words of the president that many regard as Americas greatest leader, Abraham Lincoln, saying: It is for the living to dedicate themselves to the unfinished work for which the ones who perished fought.

                                U.S. Congress support for Ukraine

                                Republican House of Representatives member from the state of Maryland, Andy Harris, who is a co-chairman of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, said that U.S. lawmakers took a great interest in Ukraine and those who seek to fight for freedom there.

                                He said: Never forget the ideal of keeping Ukraine free and knowing you have a partner in the U.S. Congressthat works with the administration and any entities we need to work with to ensure that Ukraine stays free. Whether its dealing with the situation in Crimea or Donbas whatever it takes you have a partner here.

                                Chalupa said the Heavenly Hundred were not just an abstract concept but fathers, grandfathers, sons, husbands, brothers, ranging in ages from 17 to 83.

                                She lamented though that bringing justice for the Heavenly Hundred by identifying and prosecuting those who killed them has been very slow in coming.

                                These people have become part of Ukraines mythical narrative of nation-building, of sacrifice, of heroism, said Chalupa. She said she subscribes to that legend and believes the diaspora should not only remember those who died but propagate their cause by encouraging support for Ukraine.

                                Another Republican co-chair of the Ukrainian Caucus, U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, has visited Ukraine as part of his interest in anti-corruption and cyber-security matters in the country.

                                He said: Im of Irish descent but I see Ukraine as my third country after the United States and Ireland and I deeply care about the Ukrainian nation and its people.

                                He spoke of the need for unequivocal and unapologetic seamless relations between the United States and Ukraine in terms of military, intelligence, financial support from Washington for Kyiv. Fitzpatrick promised to continue being a voice for Ukraine within the U.S. Congress.

                                Heavenly Hundreds fight continues

                                Carl Gershman is president of the National Endowment for Democracy, funded by both major political parties in America Democrats and Republicans to promote democracy around the world.

                                He talked about the organizations considerable work in Ukraine which had been spearheaded by the NEDs vice president, Nadia Diuk, a U.S. citizen, born in the U.K of Ukrainian origin, who died of cancer last month (see the Kyiv Post obituary about her).

                                Gershman said that the sacrifice of those who died on the EuroMaidan must inspire Ukrainians to continue to build a sense of responsibility in civil society. Why did that Heavenly Hundred die if not for the freedom of Ukraine?

                                He said continuing their cause entailed fighting corruption and creating vibrant civil society. He believes that democracy in Ukraine will ultimately influence a turn toward democracy in Russia.

                                Gershman said more progress had been made since the EuroMaidan than in the previous decades since 1991 independence in building civil society in Ukraine. He said: We know there are problems: stalled structural reforms, Russian disinformation, Ukraine has been fighting a two-front war since the EuroMaidan a hot war in the east and then a war against corruption and for democracy in society and she has to win on both of these fronts.

                                Phillip Karber has visited many times since 2014 the front lines where Ukrainian troops have defended their country against Russian regular military invaders and Moscows puppet separatist fighters.

                                He suggested that the Heavenly Hundred are more accurately the Heavenly Thousands because so many Ukrainian fighters have stood up against evil and died defending the country since Russia invaded.

                                U.S. Representative Brendan Boyle from Pennsylvania has worked on the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee on Ukrainian security issues.

                                He said Putins invasion of Ukraine was for the first time since the end of World War II an attempt to redraw the borders of Europe by force. If we allow that to happen that is not where Putin will stop.

                                America will stand with Ukraine

                                U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, until recently the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, said: U.S. citizens and the U.S. government stood with Ukraine five years ago during the Revolution of Dignity, we stand with them now, and we will stand with Ukraine in the future.

                                He pointed to the decentralization of government power so that local authorities, and thusordinary people, have more control over their destinies as one of the most important consequences of that revolution. Kent believes that when people have the ability to resolve their own problems, good things happen.

                                He said that Our pledge as the United States is that we will continue to partner with the Ukrainian government and civil society on this path.

                                Successful anti-corruption reforms and accountable institutions are critical to Ukrainians ability to pursue lives of dignity at home; to attract the foreign investments, including from U.S. investors that will create value and give jobs to Ukrainians.

                                On the immediate practical front, Kent said that Washington would continue to press Moscow to release the Ukrainian Navy sailors and vessels it took prisoner after Russias unprovoked attack last November in the Kerch Strait channel leading to the Azov Sea and would step up demands for the release of Ukrainian political prisoners held by the Kremlin.

                                Ukraines acting health minister, Ulana Suprun, was to have been the keynote speaker but did not attend because of her court battle against attempts to remove her from office by Radical Party member of Ukraines parliament, Ihor Moysichuk.

                                Ukrainian communities in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere across the U.S. will hold events around Feb. 20 to remember the shootings on the Maidan.

                                The Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic churches will hold prayer services and have organized exhibitions to mark the tragedy as well as victory of five years ago.

                                This Feb. 17 there will be a candlelit vigil at the Holodomor Monument in Washington, not far from the U.S Capitol building.

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