Wednesday, February 13, 2019

World’s largest unfinished aircraft hidden in Ukraine warehouse

 The massive unfinished fuselage towers over everything in the giant warehouse, with its wings and other parts stored nearby.
February 13, 2019 ( On the outskirts of Kiev, somewhere between the city's Nyvky and Sviatoshyn metro stations, sits a drab industrial building that you could drive past a thousand times without guessing it contains an extraordinary secret. Inside can be found the unfinished chapter of one of the greatest feats of Soviet aviation ever conceived. The only clue is the building's size. It's gargantuan. It needs to be. Because it contains something equally vast - the largest airplane that was never completed.

The world's largest incomplete aircraft, the Antonov An-225 lies in pieces in a giant warehouse on the outskirts of Kiev. (Pavlo Fedykovych / CNN)
The aircraft is an Antonov An-225, conceived by Soviet engineers in the dying days of the Cold War as a gigantic, gravity-defying workhorse that would help communism's ongoing race into space and assert the East's dominance of the skies. Only one An-225 was ever built by the Kiev-based Antonov company, which came up with the design. Romantically named Mriya, (Ukranian for dream), it first took flight in 1988 and has been in service ever since, drawing crowds of admirers wherever it spreads its huge wings. Construction was begun on a second plane, a sister for this aerial leviathan. But while Mriya is breaking world records in the skies, her twin still lies in pieces, only able to dream about leaving the ground. The fate of Mriya's hidden sister is a fascinating story about big ambitions and even bigger frustrations caught up in the turbulent history of modern Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sweden says it built a Russian fighter jet killer — and stealth is totally irrelevant

February 12, 2019 ( Swedish military claims Gripen E fighter aircraft potentially capable of fighting Russia's Sukhoi fighter jets. Business Insiderlooked into what the Swedish air force considers to be a valuable contribution to opposing the cutting-edge Russian aircraft.  The commander of Sweden's air force, Mats Helgesson, recently made the bold statement that his country's Saab Gripen E fighter could beat Russia's formidable fleet of Sukhoi jets with none of the expensive stealth technology the US relies on.
"Gripen, especially the E-model, is designed to kill Sukhois. There we have a black belt," Helgesson told Yle at a presentation in Finland, where Sweden is trying to export the jets. Russia's Sukhoi fighters have achieved a kind of legendary status for their ability to out-maneuver US fighter jets in dogfights and pull off dangerous and aggressive stunts in the air, but Gripen may have cracked the code. The Gripen can't carry the most weapons and has no real stealth. And it isn't the longest-range, the fastest, or even the cheapest jet. But it has a singular focus that makes it a nightmare for Russia's fighter jets.

Saab Gripen-E, Swedish Air Force fighter jet.
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Monday, February 11, 2019

Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland Give $14 Million To UN Aid For Eastern Ukraine

February 11, 2019 (KyivPost) The governments of Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland have announced they will pledge some $14 million over the next three years to a UN project to promote social cohesion and strengthen regional governance in eastern Ukraine. More than 10,300 people have died since fighting erupted in April 2014 in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces. Thousands have been wounded and more than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced. In a press release on February 8 to announce the new initiative, the three states said the “breakdown in trust” in the conflict-hit region “can only be overcome by job creation, poverty alleviation, anti-corruption measures, law enforcement and judicial reform, and the promotion of human rights.”
"The trust of citizens in conflict-affected areas in governmental institutions will improve and they will feel safer if administrative, law enforcement, and security capacity are strengthened, and it becomes easier for them to access justice and environmental protection. This project will help to support these changes,” said Victor Munteanu, the manager of the UN’s Recovery and Peacebuilding Program (RPP).
According to the press release, Denmark has pledged to contribute more than $9 million; Sweden $3 million; Switzerland $2 million. RPP has addressed priority needs in eastern Ukraine since the armed conflict erupted in the spring of 2014 after Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. According to the UN, the RPP is aimed at strengthening community security and social cohesion, supporting the economic recovery of conflict-affected communities. It also works to further decentralize and reform the health-care system in government-controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The RPP is being implemented by four United Nations agencies and is supported by the European Union, the European Investment Bank and the governments of Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Japan. Its total budget for 2019-2022 is over $50 million.

Two men walk along the main road through the village of Nikishino, Donetsk oblast, eastern Ukraine, on April 21, 2015. Photo by AFP

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ukraine's parliament backs changes to Constitution confirming Ukraine's path toward EU, NATO

February 10, 2019 (UNIAN) The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, has backed amendments to the Constitution on Ukraine's path to the European Union and NATO, according to an UNIAN correspondent. A total of 334 deputies of 385 registered in the session hall have supported the law. As UNIAN reported earlier, the Verkhovna Rada on September 20, 2018 sent to the Constitutional Court a presidential bill amending Ukraine's Constitution regarding the strategic course of the state for obtaining full membership of Ukraine in the EU and NATO (No. 9037). On November 22, 2018, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine green-lighted the bill. The same day, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the bill in its first reading.
The law proposes that Ukraine's irreversible course toward European and Euro-Atlantic integration be stipulated in the preamble of the Fundamental Law along with the confirmation of European identity of the Ukrainian people. Article 85 suggests defining that the powers of the Verkhovna Rada include determining the foundations of domestic and foreign policy, implementing the state's strategic course for obtaining full membership of Ukraine in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Article 102 is supplemented with the provision that "the president of Ukraine is the guarantor of the implementation of the state's strategic course for obtaining Ukraine's full membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization." Read also Ukraine elections one of Central Europe's most serious challenges in decades – Rzeczpospolita Article 116 is amended with a new clause, according to which the Cabinet of Ministers "ensures the implementation of the state's strategic course for obtaining Ukraine's full membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization." At the same time, Clause 14 of Section 15 "Transitional Provisions" is proposed to be excluded from the Constitution. It says that the use of existing military bases on the territory of Ukraine for the temporary stationing of foreign military formations is possible on a lease basis in the manner determined by international treaties of Ukraine ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

Ukrainian members of parliament of the Verkhovna Rada, the Supreme Council of Ukraine, vote on a bill in Kyiv on Dec. 6, 2018, to terminate the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership with Russia from April 1, 2019.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

UNIAN: Ukrainians spend almost half of their income on food

February 6, 2019 (UNIAN) The State Statistics Service of Ukraine says Ukrainians spent 44.5 percent of their income to purchase food and non-alcoholic beverages, on average, in the third quarter of 2018 (Q3). One household spent UAH 3,332.29 (US$122) per month for foodstuff.

Man cooks hot wine in food-zone in Sofiyska square at New year celebration on Jan. 1 in Kyiv. Photo by Oleg Petrasiuk

Thursday, January 31, 2019

EU again urges Moscow to release Ukrainian sailors – media

January 31, 2019 (UNIAN) The European Union has again called on Russia to immediately and unconditionally release the 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors seized along with their three naval vessels last year near the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The message was delivered on January 30 by EU envoy to Moscow Markus Ederer to Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko, according to spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, RFE/RL wrote.
"The Ambassador reiterated the EU's well-known position as regards the continued illegal detention of Ukrainian servicemen by Russia, as elaborated in the Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU, as well as several public statements, including on 17 January," Maja Kocijancic (EU's Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policysaid in a statement. The Ukrainian servicemen have been held since 25 November 2018, when Russia seized three Ukrainian vessels and their crews and fired shots at them, wounding several Ukrainian sailors near the Kerch Strait.
"The European Union expects Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage through the Kerch Strait to and from the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law," the statement said, adding that Russia's use of force was "unacceptable." "We expect Russia to immediately and unconditionally release the 24 captured Ukrainian sailors, to respect their right to legal representation and unhindered access by consular authorities, and to ensure that the injured crewmen receive appropriate medical treatment," it said.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Ukraine's ex-president Viktor Yanukovych found guilty of treason

January 29, 2019  (The Guardian ) A Ukrainian court has found the former president Viktor Yanukovych guilty of treason for his efforts to crush the 2014 pro-western demonstrations that eventually toppled his government. Yanukovych was also charged with asking Vladimir Putin to send Russian troops to invade Ukraine after he had fled the country. The verdict came almost five years after Yanukovych was overthrown, and could serve as an important symbolic conclusion to the events of 2014. More than 100 people were killed, many by sniper fire, on Kiev’s Maidan Square in clashes between protesters and police.

The charges will have little real effect on Yanukovych, 68, who has lived in exile in the Russian city of Rostov since fleeing Ukraine under armed guard nearly five years ago. A panel of three judges in Kiev’s Obolon district court on Thursday sentenced Yanukovych to 13 years in prison. He was found guilty of “a crime against the foundation of Ukraine’s national security”, according to RFE/RL. He was also found guilty of committing “a crime against peace, namely aiding in the conduct of an aggressive war”, the judge, Vladyslav Devyatko, said. Yanukovych’s prison term would begin “the moment he is detained”, Devyatko added.
The events of 2014 presaged some of the most troubling years for Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia annexed Crimea months after Yanukovych fled, and Moscow has backed separatists fighting in the country’s south-east. Their main city, Donetsk, is a traditional Yanukovych stronghold. Yanukovych was invited to testify by video link in November but failed to appear. His lawyers said he had injured his spine and his knee during a tennis match. Although Yanukovych officially lives in Rostov, he is said to spend time at a luxury residence outside Moscow.