Outrage In Ukraine Over Activist Lawyer’s Murder

People take part in a rally to protest against the murder of Ukrainian lawyer Iryna Nozdrovskaoutside the Kiev police headquarters on Junuary 2, 2018.                                                Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

The murder of a Ukrainian lawyer who helped convict her sister’s well-connected killer sparked public outrage and a warning Tuesday from the foreign minister that the slaying marked “a challenge to the state”.

Activist attorney Iryna Nozdrovska spent two years working on the case against Dmytro Rossoshansky — a Kiev judge’s nephew convicted of driving under the influence in a fatal car crash in September 2015.

Rossoshansky was jailed in June 2017 but immediately filed an appeal.

The high-profile case was seen a test of the Ukrainian justice system’s ability to fairly prosecute people with links to the upper echelons of power who had seemed untouchable prior to the pro-EU revolution that swept Kiev in 2014.

“She had succeeded in demonstrating to the court that there was plenty of evidence that Rossoshansky had been under the influence of drugs when he caused the accident,” the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group said in a statement.

Rossoshansky was sentenced in June to seven years behind bars.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group said Nozdrovska had received constant threats during the trial “from Rossoshansky himself, and from his mates”.

A Kiev court turned down Rossoshansky’s appeal last Wednesday and ordered him to remain in a detention centre for another 60 days while the case underwent further hearings.

Kiev police said the 38-year-old mother of one was reported missing on Friday and that her body was discovered Monday.

“Iryna Nozdrovska’s body, reportedly naked, was found in a river in the Vyshhorod district near Kiev,” the rights group said.

Parliament member Mustafa Nayyem — a prominent leader of the 2014 street protests that pulled Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit — wrote on Facebook that Rossoshansky’s father “warned Irina during (Friday’s) hearing: This won’t end well for you”.

The Kiev region’s police chief Dmytro Tsenov denied having received any reports of intimidation or other complains from Nozdrovska.

But more than 100 people rallied outside the Kiev police headquarters shouting “shame” and demanding an impartial investigation into Nozdrovska’s death.

Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin underscored the national significance of the incident by calling it “a challenge to the state”.

This is “a test of our society’s ability to protect female activists and to ensure justice as a whole”.

 US ‘shock’ 

The former Soviet republic has come under growing criticism from its Western allies for failing to implement the institutional changes promised by the new brand of leaders who replaced the Russian-backed leadership nearly four years ago.

Diplomats and economists both identify Ukraine’s corrupt court system as one of the biggest impediments to foreign investment and public trust in the authorities.

The US embassy issued a blunt statement Tuesday saying it was “shocked and saddened” by the activist lawyer’s death.

“Those responsible must be brought to #justice,” the US embassy said on its official Twitter account.

The Kiev region’s police said it had already interrogated 50 people and suspected that Nozdrovska’s murder was linked to her work on Rossoshansky case.

“We have ascertained that this murder happened because of the last court case in which she played such a big role,” the Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted police spokesman Mykola Zhukovych as saying.

But Zhukovych added that he could not yet rule other motives.

AFP

US Welcomes Ukraine-Russia Prisoner Swap But Says More Can Be Done

The United States on Thursday welcomed the mass prisoner swap by Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist rebels, but called on both sides in the conflict to go farther, asking Moscow to help put an end to the fighting.

On Wednesday, authorities in Kiev and the rebels who control large parts of eastern Ukraine exchanged more than 300 prisoners, in one of the largest such exchanges since the outbreak of the insurgency almost four years ago.

“This exchange is one step toward implementation of the Minsk agreements” signed in February 2015, the US State Department said in a statement.

The peace deal, brokered by Germany and France, led to a reduction in fighting but is still violated almost daily.

The US called on both sides to “fully implement their Minsk commitments including through a true ‘all-for-all’ detainee exchange; a full ceasefire; the withdrawal of heavy weapons; safe and secure access for OSCE Special Monitoring Mission monitors; and humanitarian access to the conflict zone.”

“Russia, which started this conflict and perpetuates it through active leadership of military units on the ground that attack Ukrainian positions daily, must commit to bring it to an end,” the State Department said.

The war in the former Soviet republic broke out in April 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea the previous month. It has already claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funneling troops and arms across the border.

Moscow has denied the claims despite overwhelming evidence that it has been involved in the fighting and its explicit political support for the rebels.

The United States reiterated its call for a peacekeeping force with a “broad mandate for safety and security across the entire conflict zone” that would also include “control of the international border, and responsibility for ensuring the cantonment of heavy weapons.”

The West and Moscow are currently in talks about the eventual deployment of such a force and the extent of its mandate, with Russia favoring a more restrained role.

AFP

Merkel And Macron Call For ‘Peaceful Settlement’ In Eastern Ukraine

French President of Republic Emmanuel Macron (L) talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) during the family photo after the Reinforcing European Defence meeting on first day of a European union summit in Brussels at the EU headquarters on December 14, 2017. European leaders will discuss the migration crisis and defence on December 14, followed by Brexit the day after.
JOHN THYS / AFP

The leaders of Germany and France called on Saturday for all sides in the Ukraine conflict to “face their responsibilities” after a rise in ceasefire violations in the east of the country.

A recent spike in fighting between Ukraine’s army and Russian-backed rebels has resulted in casualties on both sides, despite ceasefire deals supposedly being in place.

“There is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful settlement of the conflict,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement issued by the Elysee, referring to “the recent unacceptable increase of ceasefire violations”.

“It is necessary to implement agreements on disengagement and the withdrawal of heavy weapons behind the agreed withdrawal lines, withdrawal of tanks, artillery and mortars to the agreed storage sites,” the statement added, listing requirements to end the conflict.

It said the two leaders “urge the parties to face their responsibilities and to implement as soon as possible the decisions they have already agreed upon, in order to alleviate the suffering of the populations most affected by the present situation.”

A ceasefire was agreed in Minsk in February 2015 as part of a broader peace plan, but its terms haven’t been fulfilled.

Violence has frequently broken out and UNICEF this month warned that hundreds of thousands of children are at imminent risk of being hit by mines and other explosive weapons in the war-torn east.

The conflict in the former Soviet republic broke out in April 2014 and has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

AFP

Fighting Kills Five In Ukraine’s Separatist East

Supporters of former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, angered at his detention, clash with police during a rally outside a detention centre in Kiev late on December 8, 2017. Ukrainian police rearrested Saakashvili after a similar attempt to detain the foe of President Petro Poroshenko had failed. Sergei CHUZAVKOV / AFP

The latest spike of fighting between Ukraine’s army and Russian-backed rebels has killed five people, in the heaviest daily toll over the past weeks of the simmering conflict, officials said Saturday.

The Ukrainian military reported the death of four soldiers in clashes in the area north of the insurgents’ de facto capital of Donetsk, while a separatist news agency said one rebel fighter had been killed.

“The situation in the anti-terrorist operation zone has deteriorated,” the Ukrainian army said in a statement, referring to the conflict in two breakaway provinces in the country’s industrial east.

Another two soldiers were wounded in mortar fire, it said, accusing rebels of using heavy weapons banned by ceasefire agreements.

A series of periodic truce deals have helped lower the level of violence but not fully end bloodshed in the European Union’s backyard.

The war in the former Soviet republic broke out in April 2014 and has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Europe’s only active conflict has plunged relations between Moscow and the West to a post-Cold War nadir and unsettled other Russian neighbours.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border to fan the flames of the conflict.

Moscow has denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence that it has been involved in the fighting and its explicit political support for the rebels.

AFP

Ex-Georgian President Saakashvili On Hunger Strike After Ukraine Arrest

Supporters of former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, angered at his detention, attend a rally outside a detention centre in Kiev late on December 8, 2017. PHOTO: Genya SAVILOV / AFP

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has gone on hunger strike to protest his arrest in Ukraine on charges of trying to stage a coup sponsored by Russia, his lawyer and supporters said Saturday.

Kiev police rearrested the foe of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday after an attempt to detain him earlier in the week dramatically failed when supporters swarmed the van where he was being held.

“Saakashvili has announced an indefinite hunger strike,” journalist and close ally Vladimir Fedorin wrote on Facebook, in comments echoed by the former leader’s lawyer Ruslan Chornolutskyi to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

The 49-year-old denounced the “false accusations” against him, Chornolutskyi added.

Around 100 supporters of Saakashvili, the man who pulled Georgia out of Russia’s orbit in a 2003 revolution before becoming a governor in Ukraine, gathered outside a security service detention centre shouting “shame” on Friday following his arrest.

A court hearing on the case is expected be held in Kiev on Monday.

Prosecutors would ask for Saakashvili to be held under pretrial house arrest, prosecutor General spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said.

Since Saakashvili escaped detention on Tuesday he has continued leading protests outside parliament demanding Poroshenko’s impeachment over his failure to fight high-level corruption.

Saakashvili denies committing any crimes and says his actions have been peaceful and legal.

Tuesday’s drama marked the latest chapter in the dizzying career of a man who spearheaded a pro-Western “Rose Revolution” in Georgia in 2003 and fought a disastrous war with Russia five years later that eventually prompted him to flee the Caucasus country.

Saakashvili returned to the spotlight as a vocal champion of the three-month street uprising in Kiev that toppled a Moscow-backed government in 2014 and turned Ukraine on a pro-EU course.

Poroshenko rewarded Saakashvili for his efforts by appointing him governor of the important Black Sea region of Odessa in 2015.

But an ugly falling out between the two men saw Saakashvili stripped of his Ukrainian passport — only for him to defy the authorities and force his way back into the conflict-riven country with the help of supporters in September.

AFP

Ukraine Protesters Set Up Tent Camp Outside Parliament

Hundreds of disgruntled Ukrainian activists gathered on Wednesday in a tent camp outside parliament to demand a more forceful fight against government graft.

Some had spent the night there following a rally on Tuesday that drew nearly 5,000 people and saw calls for President Petro Poroshenko to resign.

The protesters have set up several dozen khaki-green tents in a park and street that run alongside the parliament building — and they appeared intent on staying put until their demands were met.

An AFP team saw activists sip tea and chat outside parliament while hundreds of riot police officers with batons watched.

But national police chief Sergiy Knyazev and Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said they had no intention of touching the tents.

Lutsenko called the right to protest “one of the main achievements” of the February 2014 pro-EU revolution that toppled Kiev’s Kremlin-backed regime and pulled Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit.

Large tent camps featured prominently during that revolt as well as one in 2004 that forced the authorities to annul the results of a disputed election claimed by the Kremlin-backed candidate.

Their return underscored a growing sense that the promises made during the 2014 uprising have gone unfulfilled by Poroshenko and his Western-backed team.

“Elements from Ukraine’s ‘old’ system are defending their interests and seeking retribution against anti-corruption actors,” the London-based Chatham House international affairs institute said in a report on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman meanwhile reaffirmed his commitment to the fight against corruption.

But Groysman also accused some of those leading the rallies of having a “thirst for power and — what is worst of all — trying to use their slogans to destabilise the situation in the country”.

AFP

U.S. Pledges To Strengthen Ukraine Army


Members of the U.S. military listen to President Donald Trump deliver remarks on American involvement in Afghanistan at the Fort Myer military base on August 21, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia.  Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday that the U.S. is committed to help Ukraine’s military, also saying sanctions against Moscow will remain in place until it stops supporting rebels and returns Crimea.

“Mr President, we continue to support Ukraine and remain committed to building the capacity of your armed forces,” Mattis said after meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

He said Washington has recently approved delivery of military equipment worth $175 million (148 million euros) to Ukraine that would boost its defence capacities.

But the issue of lethal weapons is still under consideration, he added.

“On the defensive lethal weapons, we are actively reviewing it,” he said.

“Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you are an aggressor. And surely Ukraine is not an aggressor.”

“The United States stands with Ukraine,” Mattis said, accusing Moscow of “seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”

Sanctions against Russia “will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them,” he said.

Kiev is battling a pro-Russian insurgency in the eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.

Parts of these regions declared independence in 2014, shortly after Moscow seized the Black Sea Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.

More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict. Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of orchestrating and fuelling it with weapons and troops brought across the porous border.

AFP

Ukraine Points Finger At Russian Security Services In Recent Cyber Attack

cybercrime, NigeriaUkraine said on Saturday that Russian security services were involved in a recent cyber attack on the country, with the aim of destroying important data and spreading panic.

The SBU, Ukraine’s state security service, said the attack, which started in Ukraine and spread around the world on Tuesday, was by the same hackers who attacked the Ukrainian power grid in December 2016. Ukrainian politicians were quick to blame Russia for Tuesday’s attack, but a Kremlin spokesman dismissed “unfounded blanket accusations”.

Cyber security firms are trying to piece together who was behind the computer worm, dubbed NotPetya by some experts, which conked out computers, hit banks, disrupted shipping and shut down a chocolate factory in Australia.

The attack also hit major Russian firms, leading some cyber security researchers to suggest that Moscow was not behind it.

The malicious code in the virus encrypted data on computers, and demanded victims pay a $300 ransom, similar to the extortion tactic used in a global WannaCry ransomware attack in May. But Ukrainian officials and some security experts say the ransomware feature was likely a smokescreen.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia went into freefall after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent outbreak of a Kremlin-backed separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people.

Hacking Ukrainian state institutions is part of what Ukraine says is a “hybrid war” by Russia on Kiev. Russia denies sending troops or military equipment to eastern Ukraine.

“The available data, including those obtained in cooperation with international antivirus companies, give us reason to believe that the same hacking groups are involved in the attacks, which in December 2016 attacked the financial system, transport and energy facilities of Ukraine using TeleBots and BlackEnergy,” the SBU said.

“This testifies to the involvement of the special services of Russian Federation in this attack.”

The SBU in an earlier statement on Friday said it had seized equipment it said belonged to Russian agents in May and June to launch cyber attacks against Ukraine and other countries.

Referencing the $300 ransomware demand, the SBU said “the virus is cover for a large-scale attack on Ukraine. This is evidenced by a lack of a real mechanism for taking possession of the funds … enrichment was not the aim of the attack.”

“The main purpose of the virus was the destruction of important data, disrupting the work of public and private institutions in Ukraine and spreading panic among the people.”

A cyber attack in December on a Ukrainian state energy computer caused a power cut in the northern part of the capital Kiev.

OSCE Observers Inspect Shelled Houses In Eastern Ukraine

Monitors on Sunday inspected a household in the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiyivka which was damaged by artillery fire a day earlier.

Members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission, inspected the attack site and spoke with local residents who witnessed the incident.

Ukrainian authorities said that on Saturday May 13, four civilians were killed in renewed artillery attacks in the east of the country which they blamed on pro-Russian separatists.

Shelling has persisted in eastern Ukraine despite a ceasefire agreement signed in February 2015 in Minsk that aims to end the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and the rebels.

Each side accuses the other of violating the truce.

Fighting between the pro-Russian separatists and government forces first broke out in April 2014 after a pro-European uprising in Kiev ousted Ukraine’s Moscow-backed president. About 10,000 people have been killed in the three-year conflict.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko on Sunday blamed Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin for non-fulfillment of the Minsk agreements.

Merkel Meets Putin Over Syria, Ukraine Crisis

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has begun talks with President Vladimir Putin on her first visit to Russia since 2015.

The meeting, at Mr Putin’s summer residence in Sochi, comes at a low point in bilateral relations over the war in Syria and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

They are expected to discuss both issues during their meeting – but no breakthroughs are expected.

Mr Putin will then meet Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday.

Ties between Russia and Germany have worsened since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea in Ukraine, with Germany being a driving force behind the European Union sanctions imposed in response.

Nigeria, Ukraine To Collaborate In Science And Technology

Nigeria, Ukraine To Collaborate In Science And TechnologyThe Nigerian government is partnering with the Ukrainian government to commercialize research findings in the country.

At a meeting with the Ukrainian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Valerii Aleksandruk; Minister for Science and Technology, Mr Ogbonnaya Onu said that as Nigeria is determined to diversify its economy, commercializing of research by scientists in the country is the way to go.

According to him, three research findings are already in the works through a public-private partnership.

On his part, the Ukrainian Ambassador said that his country is open to hearing how Nigeria wants to collaborate with his country, especially in the areas of space and agricultural technology.

Manchester United Risk Europa Exit After Fenerbahce Defeat

Fenerbahce, Europa League, Manchester UnitedEnglish side, Manchester United are close to elimination from the Europa League after losing 1-2 to Fenerbahce.

Moussa Sow’s 65th second goal was the opener as Jose Mourinho’s side travelled to Turkey on Thursday night.

The visitors dominated possession but saw world record signing Paul Pogba go off with a leg injury in the first half.

Jeremain Lens also curled in a brilliant free-kick in the second half as the Red Devils struggled harder to get a goal.

Their effort later turned to celebration as Wayne Rooney smashed in a 25-yard consolation goal in less than two minutes to the end of the game.

Manchester United are now third in Group A with one point behind leaders Feyenoord and Fenerbahce.

They have two games left against the Dutch side at Old Trafford and away to Ukraine’s Zorya Luhansk.