Saturday, March 30, 2019

General Hodges: If West does nothing with annexation of Crimea, Odesa may be next

March 30, 2019 (Ukrinform) Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the United States Army Europe, made a corresponding statement at the conference in Prague dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the membership of the Czech Republic and other Visegrad Four countries in NATO, the Czech news channel STK reports. “If we are not fully united, it will immediately induce them [Russians] to resort to aggression,” the General said, adding that Moscow would use any “cracks” in the Alliance.

Hodges is convinced that NATO needs to build up capacities in the Black Sea region. "It is the area where Russia commits the greatest and strongest acts of aggression. If the West does nothing with the annexation of Crimea, it is quite possible that Odessa and, probably, Romania will be occupied next," he said. According to Hodges, the Alliance must clearly understand the threats it faces in order to continue to be successful. In this context, the General noted that terrorism is “dreadful”, but NATO must also counter potential threats posed by Russia and China.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Ukraine ranks 40th in 2019 Henley Passport Index

March 29, 2019 (UNIAN) Henley & Partners has published the latest 2019 Passport Index, which ranks the countries in terms of visa-free travel, according to which Ukraine is 40th among all countries in the world. According to the report, Ukraine shares the 40th line with Nicaragua and Tuvalu with visa-free travel to 128 countries. 

Vanuatu ranks 39th with visa-free travel to 129 countries. Japan, Singapore and South Korea top the list with visa-free travel to 189 countries. The second place is occupied by Germany, whose citizens may visit 188 countries without a visa or with a visa upon arrival. Denmark, Finland, France, Italy and Sweden rank 3rd, followed by Luxembourg and Spain (both 4th), and Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (all 5th). Afghanistan and Iraq are at the ranking's bottom (104th) with its nationals allowed visa-free travel to only 30 countries.

Russia to Bolster Flanks With New Military Units in 2019

March 29, 2019 ( Russia will reinforce its western, eastern and southern flanks this year in response to increased Western military exercises near its border, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Wednesday. Moscow has bolstered its military capabilities since its relations with the United States and the NATO military alliance deteriorated over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Speaking at a Defense Ministry board meeting, Shoigu said Russia’s move to bolster its flanks comes in reaction to NATO forces “more than doubling the scope and intensity of [their] exercises” near Russian borders. Shoigu announced plans to create one new division and four new regiments in western Russia in 2019, the ministry’s Zvezda news channel reported. The newly deployed troops there will receive weapons and special equipment as part of Russia’s state armament program, he added. The south will be reinforced with a new division for coastal missile defense, two regiments and a missile brigade, the defense minister said. Another missile brigade and a mixed aviation division will be formed in Russia’s eastern military district, Shoigu said.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A new life of the Poltava airport

March 28, 2019 ( The first charter flight on the route Poltava - Sharm el-Sheikh was made by the new Ukrainian company SkyUp Airlines. The Boeing 737-700 with 149 passengers departed on March 26 at 13:10. Local authorities suggest that charter flights from Poltava will soon become regular. The first flight to Turkish Anatolia is scheduled for May 2.

Airport "Poltava" was built in the 50-60s of the twentieth century. The new passenger terminal was built in 1985. The airport is located 7 km south-west of Poltava, near the Kiev-Kharkov highway. The airport has a runway with a length of 2550 m and a width of 42 m, equipped with a light signaling system for landing aircraft. Poltava airport renewed its activity in 2018. 

Not long ago Poltava airport received international status and began to serve tourist charter flights.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Central Election Commission: 2,344 international observers to monitor presidential elections in Ukraine

March 26, 2019 (UKRINFORM) The Central Election Commission (CEC) has registered 324 more official observers from foreign countries for the presidential election in Ukraine scheduled for March 31, 2019.
The relevant decision was approved at the commission´s meeting on Monday evening, an Ukrinform correspondent reported. In particular, the Commission registered one observer from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, one from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, one from Switzerland, one from France, 129 from the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), 13 from the European Parliament, three from the Kingdom of Norway, 32 from the international organization Silba - Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy, three from Slovakia, 76 from the US National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, 38 from the International Republican Institute (IRI), six from the European Platform for Democratic Elections, 20 from the Committee for Open Democracy.

Thus, on March 25, the Central Election Commission completed the registration of official international observers for the presidential election in Ukraine. A total of 2,344 official observers from 19 international organizations and 17 foreign countries were registered.
As reported, the presidential election campaign started on December 31, 2018. On February 8, the CEC completed the process of registration for the post of head of state in Ukraine's presidential election. A total of 44 presidential candidates were registered. Five candidates later withdrew from the presidential race.

Monday, March 25, 2019

U.S. Ambassador urges Ukrainians to vote in presidential election

March 25, 2019 (UNIAN) U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has urged Ukrainian citizens to cast their ballots on election day a week from today. "If you haven't already made a plan to vote in the Ukrainian presidential elections, I urge you to do so," Yovanovitch said in a video address posted on the embassy website Sunday.

 "Democracy only works with the active participation of its citizens. And elections are how we decide who are leaders will be and tell them what we expect them to do," she said. The diplomat recalled that it was President Barack Obama who had appointed her to head the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine and, after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, she continued in the position to "promote and carry out the policies" of the new president and his administration. "This is one of the marks of a true democracy. After the elections, whether an incumbent is re-elected or a new president comes to office, citizens come together and reaffirm their support for the nation and for the will of the voters," Yovanovitch said.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Ukraine and Sweden to cooperate to counter security threats

March 20, 2019 (UKRINFORM) Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasyl Bodnar during a meeting with the delegation of the Defense Commission of the Swedish Parliament discussed further consolidation of efforts in countering Russian aggression, the Foreign Ministry’s press service reported. "Ukraine's experience in countering Russian military and hybrid threats, as well as cyberattacks, is of considerable interest to Stockholm. During the meeting, the sides said that Russia's aggressive policy towards Ukraine is also part of the Kremlin’s plans to destabilize the European continent and undermine public trust in democratic institutions," the ministry’s press service reported.
Vasyl Bodnar also informed the Swedish delegation about the current situation in Donbas and stressed the importance of further consolidation of international community to put more pressure on Moscow so that to return to occupied territories. The deputy minister thanked the Swedish delegation for the strong support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and said that "this support is particularly noticeable in the EU and the UN, where our Swedish partners are co-initiators of all important decisions, resolutions and other documents in support of Ukraine." Members of the Swedish delegation, in turn, assured that Sweden remains a reliable partner of Ukraine in advocating its sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as a sincere friend in providing practical assistance in conducting reforms.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Putin In Crimea Five Years After Moscow Seized Peninsula As West Denounces 'Illegal' Takeover

March 19, 2019 (RadioFreeEurope) President Vladimir Putin has marked the fifth anniversary of what Moscow considers the day Crimea became part of Russia by visiting Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula, as NATO, the United States, and the European Union again condemned what they called the "illegal" land grab. On March 18, 2014, Putin signed a treaty that Moscow claims made Ukraine's Crimea region part of Russia, after Russian forces seized control of the peninsula and organized a referendum that was not recognized by the international community. Ukraine and the West have slammed Russia's move as an "illegal" annexation, leading to sanctions against Russian individuals and entities. The annexation of Crimea and Russia's role in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been fighting against Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, sent ties between Moscow and the West plunging to post-Cold War lows. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has left around 13,000 people dead, some 30,000 injured, and uprooted well over 1 million Ukrainian citizens, according to UN and Ukrainian officials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the launch of two thermal power plants in Crimea on March 18.

The Western military alliance's North Atlantic Council criticized Russia's "ongoing and wide-ranging military build-up" in Crimea, and raised concerns over its "efforts and stated plans for further military build-up" in the Black Sea region. The allies also accused the "Russian de facto authorities in illegally annexed Crimea" of carrying out human rights abuses against "Ukrainians, the Crimean Tatars, and members of other local communities," including "extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, violence, arbitrary detentions, arrest, and torture."
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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Ukrainian Foreign Minister: Number of Russian military in Crimea nears 50 thousand

March 10, 2019 (Ukrinform) The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign, Affairs Pavlo Klimkin stated that the militarization of the Donbas territories which are not under Ukraine’s control, continues and in the next few years the number of Russian military personnel may reach 50 thousand people, reports Ukrinform. “The militarization of the Crimea has reached a certain limit, but it will continue. We know that in the following years there will be almost 50 thousand Russian personnel [ in the Crimea],” said Klimkin.

The Foreign Minister recalled that Russia prepared the infrastructure of the annexed for nuclear weapons. According to him, to a large extent, Russian expansion into Syria and the Middle East comes precisely from the annexed Crimea. The UN Monitoring Mission noted violations of human rights in Crimea from the occupying Russian authorities. In particular, in the Crimea, religious rights suffer, especially for the Crimean Tatars. Also, freedom of speech is limited to the peninsula by Russia’s misuse of anti-terrorism legislation. There are many restrictions for peaceful assemblies, in particular for Crimean Tatars.  The internationally recognized Ukrainian territory of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation in March of 2014 in the wake of the Ukrainian revolution. The Kremlin has faced international condemnation for its annexation of the Peninsula, leading many western countries to impose economic sanctions against Russia. In the United Nations, only Afghanistan, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Syria recognize Crimea as a legitimate federal subject of Russia

Friday, March 8, 2019

Pence Asked Merkel to Provoke Russia by Sending Warships to Crimea

March 8, 2019 (Bloomberg) The U.S. leaned on German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month to conduct a naval maneuver in Russia’s backyard aimed at provoking President Vladimir Putin, according to three people familiar with the talks. At a Feb. 16 meeting at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged Merkel to send German warships through a narrow channel between the Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia to show Putin that Western powers won’t surrender their access to those waters, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The German leader refused, they said, citing reservations from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. A spokesman for the chancellor declined to comment.

Angela Merkel shakes hands with Mike Pence in Munich on Feb. 16.Photographer: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

The two-mile (three kilometer) wide Kerch Strait is a critical flashpoint as Putin looks to consolidate his control over the Crimean peninsula and eastern Ukraine in defiance of sanctions from the European Union and the U.S. Merkel had indicated she was willing, in coordination with the French, to send a convoy through the waterway as a one-time maneuver but President Poroshenko said that wasn’t enough to solve his problem -- he wants to ensure the strait is open permanently, the people said. France also refused to take part, judging the idea as an unnecessary provocation, according to another official who declined to be identified.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Comedian leads in the polls

March 7, 2019 ( According to recent opinion polls, Vladimir Zelenski, a comedian and leader of the Servant of the People party, named after his TV show, is far ahead of other candidates with around 23 percent of popular support.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister and presidential candidate in 2010 and the current president Petro Poroshenko tend to come second or third, depending on the poll.
Less successful candidates are Yuriy Boiko, former vice prime minister and minister of fuel and energy during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, Anatoliy Hrytsenko, former minister of defence and a candidate that might be considered to represent a "democratic camp" without oligarchic backing and Oleh Liashko from the Radical Party. Polls suggest they will corner between six and 10 percent of support. The programs and public statements of these candidates are not elaborate on judicial reform or fighting corruption. In this respect, a coalition of civil society organizations has published a justice reform agenda with a list of questions, calling on the presidential candidates to outline their vision and plans.
Significantly, the majority of candidates did not disclose the sources of funding for their campaigns, although experts claim that the strongest candidates would have to invest some $80-90m [€70-80m], whereby half of this money will not appear in the campaign budget, as they are from shadow sources. At the same time, there are many indications that oligarchs are behind some of the candidates. Zelenski is believed to be linked to Ihor Kolomoisky, while Tymoshenko was seen meeting Viktor Pinchuk several times; Poroshenko has funding of his own, while Boiko is linked to Dmytro Firtash. Apart from the latter, these oligarchs are among the ten-richest Ukrainians.
The analysis of broadcasting on central TV channels belonging to these oligarchs confirms the links between certain candidates and oligarchs. In other words, in this electoral cycle we are unlikely to see a renewal of the political system, with politicians running with genuine reform agendas, rather than representing powerful economic interests. Yet, the pace of reforms will depend less on a particular candidate wining presidential elections and more on sustained civil society control and Western pressure. As the Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2018 Country Report on Ukraine put it, "although Ukraine made important breakthroughs in its reform process, thanks to progressive pressures from inside, below and outside, the achievements so far are not sustainable and need to be defended every day". It will only be through ongoing pressure and the daily hard work of reform-minded actors that a new president will be forced to take reforms seriously.

Turkish Bayraktar unmanned combat aerial vehicles delivered to Ukraine - Ukrinform

March 6, 2019 ( President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has announced that Turkish Bayraktar unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) are already in the territory of Ukraine.

"We are going to test new powerful Bayraktar UCAVs. I agreed on the deliveries of the vehicles with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. I can even say that they are already in the territory of Ukraine," Poroshenko said during a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, an Ukrinform correspondent reports. In January, the representatives of the State Company Ukrspecexport, which is part of the State Concern "Ukroboronprom", and the Turkish company Baykar Makina, signed the agreement on the purchase of Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs for the Ukrainian army.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Putin sees Ukraine elections as "general battle for our state" – President Poroshenko

March 4, 2019 (UNIAN) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Russian leader Vladimir Putin sees Ukrainian elections 2019 as a “general battle” for Ukraine, which he has a “manic will” to return to the Russian sphere of influence.  “Putin’s plan is obvious - to destroy the independent Ukrainian state and democracy, to deprive Ukrainian of the right to live in peace and security,” Poroshenko said, addressing the All-Ukrainian public forum "Open Dialogue" held in Kyiv Saturday, according to an UNIAN correspondent. Putin's plan is obvious - to destroy an independent Ukrainian state and democracy, deprive Ukrainians of the right to live in peace and security.
"For Putin, the elections of 2019 are like a general battle for Ukraine, which he maniacally strives to return," he said. The president noted that "Russia is trying to interfere in our elections in the same way as it did during the elections in the USA, France, Germany, during the referendums in Britain and the Netherlands". "Now they are planning to use these technologies in Ukraine, because their motivation is much stronger," he said, adding that "Ukrainians will not allow that".
"Ukrainians won't allow a Russian agent to get in the office of the Ukrainian President, as it was from 2010 to 2014," Petro Poroshenko said, adding that "Ukrainians don't need a president and supreme commander-in-chief who will kneel down before the Kremlin", who will "flirt or chuckle with Putin," and whose "first document to be signed will be the act of surrender to Moscow."