Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Russian court extends detention of Belarussian model

January 20, 2019

A Belarusian model who claimed she had proof of Russian collusion with the Trump election campaign, had her detention in Moscow extended by three days by a Russian court on Saturday.

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Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, has been held for questioning since Thursday after she was deported from Thailand as part of a group convicted of participating in a “sex training course.”

Anastasia Vashukevich, a Belarusian model and escort who caused a stir last year after she was arrested in Thailand and said she had evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is pictured at the immigration detention center before being deported in Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 2019. (REUTERS)

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“The court has decided to extend her detention by 72 hours,” judge Natalya Borissenkova was cited as stating by the Ria Novosti news agency.

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She denied the accusation of prostitution, telling the court that “I am not guilty of what I am accused,” Interfax reported.

Model Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, who was deported from Thailand to Russia after her arrest and pleading guilty to charges including conspiracy and soliciting, is escorted before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2019. (REUTERS)

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In a case that veered between salacious and bizarre, Vashukevich has said she had traveled to Thailand after becoming embroiled in a political scandal with Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska — a one-time associate of US President Trump’s disgraced former campaign director Paul Manafort.

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She then set tongues wagging by promising to reveal “missing puzzle pieces” regarding claims the Kremlin aided Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.

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But the material never surfaced and critics dismissed the claims as a publicity stunt.

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Both Washington and Moscow publicly shrugged off Vashukevich’s story, which the US State Department described as “bizarre.”

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She had been in custody in Thailand since a police raid in the sleazy seaside resort of Pattaya early last year.

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She was arrested at Moscow airport on Thursday after being deported from Thailand where she had spent a year in prison for participating in a “sex training course.”

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During the hearing in Moscow, she said she did not want to “in any way compromise Oleg Deripaska.”

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“I have had enough,” she added, according to Interfax.

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Her lawyer Dmitry Zatsarinsky, told reporters that his young client “has committed no crime” and had “nothing to do with” Deripaska and “still less with Donald Trump.”

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On Friday he denounced her arrest, which happened while she was in transit from Thailand on her way to Belarus.

AFP

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Belarusian model who claimed she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump deported from Thailand

January 17, 2019

Anastasia Vashukevich was running a “sex training course” Pattaya, Thailand — a place that hardly needs sexual instruction…..

A Belarusian model who claimed she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win office was deported from Thailand on Thursday after being convicted of participating in a “sex training course”.

Anastasia Vashukevich, known by her pen-name Nastya Rybka, was held with several others in a police raid last February in the sleazy seaside resort of Pattaya.

Image result for Anastasia Vashukevich, pictures

Anastasia Vashukevich

In a case that veered between salacious and bizarre, Vashukevich said she had travelled to Thailand after becoming embroiled in a political scandal with Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska — a one-time associate of Trump’s disgraced former campaign director Paul Manafort.

She then set tongues wagging by promising to reveal “missing puzzle pieces” regarding claims the Kremlin aided Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.

But the material never surfaced and critics dismissed the claims as a publicity stunt.

In the risque Pattaya seminar led by Alex Kirillov, a self-styled Russian seduction guru, some participants wore shirts that said “sex animator” — though one person at the time described it as more of a romance and relationship course.

Vashukevich pleaded guilty alongside seven others to multiple charges, including solicitation and illegal assembly at a Pattaya court on Tuesday, which ordered the group be deported.

Kirillov, who has served as a quasi-spokesman for the mostly Russian group, told reporters as they arrived at court Tuesday that he believed they were set up.

“I think somebody ordered (our arrest)… for money,” he said.

Vashukevich looked sombre as she entered the courthouse and did not respond to questions from the media.

On Thursday afternoon, Vashukevich and the majority of the convicted were put on an Aeroflot flight for Moscow, bringing to an end the Thai side of a baffling case.

Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said the last of the group would leave the country this evening.

They are also blacklisted from returning to Thailand.

It was unclear what would happen to them on arrival in Moscow but the two Belarusians on the afternoon flight — which would include Vashukevich — are expected to not stay overnight and transit to Belarus.

That may be preferable for Vashukevich, who has more than 120,000 followers on Instagram and penned a book about seducing oligarchs, because she also faces legal problems in Russia.

Deripaska won an invasion of privacy lawsuit against her and Kirillov in July after a video apparently filmed by the model showed the tycoon vacationing with an influential Russian deputy prime minister at the time.

“I don’t think she wants to get out in Moscow,” a Russian friend in Thailand who helped with the case told AFP on Thursday.

Both Washington and Moscow publicly shrugged off Vashukevich’s story, which the US State Department described as “bizarre”.

Kremlin-connected Deripaska and Manafort, Trump’s ex-campaign manager, did business together in the mid-2000s.

Manafort has since been convicted in the US of financial crimes related to political work he did in Ukraine before the 2016 election as well as witness tampering.

burs-apj/joe/mtp

AFP

US pressures Germany over Russian gas pipeline

January 13, 2019

A transatlantic tiff over Europe’s natural gas supply came to the boil Sunday, as Donald Trump’s ambassador to Germany threatened firms involved in a pipeline from Russia with sanctions.

At stake is a mixture of economic and security interests for Moscow, Washington, Berlin and Paris — with equally direct consequences for Ukraine and other eastern European nations.

A letter envoy Richard Grenell sent to several businesses “reminds that any company operating in the Russian energy export pipeline sector is in danger… of US sanctions,” an embassy spokesman told AFP.

The letter by Grenell, a close ally of President Donald Trump, “is not meant to be a threat, but a clear message of US policy,” the spokesman said.

US President Donald Trump accused Germany last year of being "totally dependent" on and a "captive" of Moscow because of the natural gas supply

US President Donald Trump accused Germany last year of being “totally dependent” on and a “captive” of Moscow because of the natural gas supply.  AFP/File

Pressure has been mounting on Berlin for months to turn away from the under-construction pipeline, which is set to double the capacity of an existing connection beneath the Baltic Sea.

Trump accused Germany last year of being “totally dependent” on and a “captive” of Moscow because of the natural gas supply.

But the louder the volume of complaints from Washington, the more Berlin has dug in its heels.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, backed by France and Austria, has in the past insisted the pipeline is a “purely economic project” that will ensure cheaper, more reliable gas supplies.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also weighed in on the transatlantic row last week, saying “European energy policy should be decided in Europe, not in the United States.”

The confrontation echoes European leaders’ sticking to a 2015 deal with Iran to limit that country’s nuclear programme.

Trump has renounced the pact and threatened sanctions against EU firms doing business with Tehran.

– ‘Blackmail’ –

In an angry reaction from Russia Sunday, senator Alexei Pushkov tweeted that Trump was using “direct threats” to sell “more expensive American gas to Europe.”

The US embassy spokesman said that “the only thing that could be considered blackmail in this situation would be the Kremlin having leverage over future gas supplies.”

American officials argue that routing more gas through the Baltic and the planned TurkStream pipeline under the Black Sea will deprive Ukraine of vital transit income and isolate it from its allies.

That could be bad news for Kiev, which saw the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014 and is battling Moscow-backed separatists in a conflict that has so far claimed over 10,000 lives.

“Firms supporting the construction of the two pipelines are actively undermining the security of Ukraine and Europe,” ambassador Grenell wrote.

US objections are shared by “nearly 20 European countries” such as vital EU member Poland, as well as the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives, the embassy spokesman said.

Merkel — a key player in Moscow-Kiev peace talks — says Ukrainian interests will be protected as some Russian gas will still be transported via the country once Nord Stream 2 is online.

– Gas ahoy –

But Germany has also appeared to make concessions to Trump by looking into construction of liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals on its north coast to accept sea shipments from the US.

Berlin was “studying options” to help fund gas facilities, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said in October — although he denied the government was caving to US pressure.

Beyond Ukraine, Trump has explicitly linked his complaints over Russian gas to his push to get European members of the NATO alliance to spend more on defence.

“Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline,” he tweeted in July. “Not acceptable!”

Merkel has long since committed to reach the NATO defence spending target of 2.0 percent of GDP — albeit by 2024.

Last year, just 1.24 percent of Germany’s output went on its military, compared with 3.5 percent for the US.

AFP

Needed in the Russia investigation: More skepticism of Manafort and the media (Lynch Mob Doesn’t Need a Rope, At Least Not Yet)

January 11, 2019

Don’t fall for the media “bombshells,” and never count Manafort as a friend.

The Russia-collusion story manages to be at once frenetic and humdrum. Apparent bombshell revelations arise but without advancing the public’s knowledge beyond a couple of truths we all knew back in 2016: First, when it comes to President Trump, the media can’t control itself. Second, Paul Manafort is no friend.

In perhaps the 1,000th “ bombshell” report on the Russia investigation, the New York Times reported earlier this week that Manafort, as Trump’s campaign chairman, had sent internal polling data to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is “close to the Kremlin.”

Washington Examiner
Editorial

This revelation perturbed us. Seeing how close Manafort and Michael Flynn were to both Russia and Trump, we have kept an open mind about the investigation into collusion. We don’t know all the facts, and so we try to process all new information on its merits.

Oleg Deripaska — Credit Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Yet while many media outlets — see Esquire, Talking Points Memo, and others — took the Times report as conclusive proof of collusion, we held our fire. Why? Because while we have tried to keep cool about this investigation, the largest media outlets have not. We recall ABC reporting that Flynn met with the Kremlin during the campaign. That was a “bombshell” of the first order. Except that it turned out to be false.

And so it was with the latest Times report. Manafort was sending the polling data to Ukranians, it turns out, not to Russians as the Times claimed.

Former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn leaves after the delay in his sentencing hearing at US District Court in Washington, DC, December 18, 2018. - President Donald Trump's former national security chief Michael Flynn received a postponement of his sentencing after an angry judge threatened to give him a stiff sentence. Russia collusion investigation head Robert Mueller had proposed Flynn receive no jail time for lying to investigators about his Moscow ties. But Judge Emmet Sullivan said Flynn had behaved in a "traitorous" manner and gave the former three-star general the option of receiving a potentially tough prison sentence now -- or wait until Mueller's investigation was closer to being completed to better demonstrate his cooperation with investigators. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP or licensors

Mike Flynn outside the courthouse

This incident confirmed both of our general operating assumptions on the Russia investigation: Don’t fall for the media “bombshells,” and never count Manafort as a friend.

Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016. Trump wasn’t paying Manafort, which should have been a clear warning sign. Manafort was free to Trump for the same reason Facebook is free to you: You are not the customer; you’re the product. Manafort was working for Ukrainian oligarchs and other shady foreign clients, and part of the value he was delivering was proximity to the Republican presidential nominee and the information, such as internal polling, that proximity allowed him.

We have repeatedly warned Trump about this. “Manafort is not your friend,” we wrote in an editorial addressed to the president. “Manafort is a shady foreign agent who tried to exploit you. And if he had never been involved in the Trump campaign, there may not be a Russia investigation at all.”

Image result for donald Trump, Trump campaign, photos

There’s some worry that Trump has considered pardoning Manafort. At the very least, we’ve seen Trump praise Manafort. This praise is unwarranted.

Trump should turn his back on this double-dealer who has caused him so much trouble. And we all should show more skepticism of the media “bombshells” that have caused commentators and other reporters so much trouble.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/needed-in-the-russia-investigation-more-skepticism-of-manafort-and-the-media

Ecumenical Patriarch signs decree granting Ukraine church independence

January 5, 2019

The spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide formally granted independence to the Ukrainian church on Saturday, marking an historic split from Russia which Ukrainian leaders see as vital to the country’s security.

The decree, granting “autocephaly”, was signed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at a service with the head of the Ukrainian church Metropolitan Epifaniy and President Petro Poroshenko in St George’s Cathedral in Istanbul.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) and Metropolitan Epifaniy (2nd L), head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, attend a ceremony marking the new Ukrainian Orthodox church's independence, at St George's Cathedral, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in Istanbul, Turkey, on 5 January 2019

Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been granted independence, marking a historic split from the Russian Church.

“I want to thank the millions of Ukrainians around the world who responded to my appeal to pray for the church to be established,” Poroshenko said at a ceremony accompanied by solemn liturgical singing.

“I want to thank the generations of Ukrainians who dreamed…and finally God sent us the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” he told the congregation in the crowded church.

The patriarchate, the seat of the spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, endorsed Ukraine’s request for the new church in October. The decree, or Tomos, will be handed to Epifaniy at a ceremony on Sunday, completing the process of recognition by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul. (file photo)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul. (file photo)

Ukraine last month chose 39-year-old Epifaniy to head the new church, in a move which Poroshenko compared to Ukraine’s referendum for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The move incensed Moscow, and prompted President Vladimir Putin to warn of possible bloodshed in his annual news conference. Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea in 2014.

Ukraine imposed martial law in November, citing the threat of a full-scale invasion after Russia captured three of its vessels in the Kerch Strait.

People pray on a square in front of Kiev's St Sophia Cathedral, Ukraine. Photo: 14 October 2018
Many Ukrainians welcomed Constantinople’s ruling last year, holding a prayer in Kiev. EPA photo

BITTER RUSSIAN OPPOSITION

The Ukrainian Orthodox church has been beholden to Moscow for hundreds of years, and Ukraine’s leaders see church independence as vital to tackling Russian meddling.

Kiev says Moscow-backed churches on its soil are a Kremlin tool to spread propaganda and support fighters in the eastern Donbass region in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people. The churches strongly deny this.

“Tomos – is just a paper, the result of restless political and personal ambitions. It was signed in breach of canonicity and this is why it has no power”, Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Synodal Department for Church-Society and Media Relations, posted in Telegram messenger.

Epifaniy was chosen by a council at the St Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, built by the son of Prince Volodymyr whose baptism in 988 led to the spread of Christianity in the region.

The new church may boost pro-Western leader Poroshenko, who lobbied hard for its creation and faces a tight election race in March.

Newly elected Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Yepifaniy Sergiy Dumenko conducts the first liturgy since the creation of a new Ukrainian church independent from Russia in the Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral in Kyiv on Dec. 16, 2018.
Photo by AFP

Russia bitterly opposes the split, comparing it to the Great Schism of 1054 that divided western and eastern Christianity. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill made a last ditch appeal against the process last month.

“Huge win for Ukraine, defeat for the Kremlin,” economist Timothy Ash wrote on Twitter. “(It) will make Moscow’s hope of some future pull of Ukraine back into its ‘orbit’ nigh on impossible without the use of overwhelming (catastrophic) military force.”

Religious divisions deepened in Ukraine after 2014 and two Orthodox factions vie for dominance.

The church known as the Moscow Patriarchate, aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, sees itself as the only legitimate church in Ukraine. On Dec. 20, Ukrainian MPs passed a law that could force the church to add “Russian” to its name.

The rival Kiev Patriarchate was born after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its popularity has grown since 2014. It favors European integration and championed the independent church but the Moscow Patriarchate denounces it as schismatic.

Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kiev and Maxim Rodionov in Moscow; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Angus MacSwan

Reuters

See also:

Bartholomew Signs ‘Tomos’ Granting Independence To New Orthodox Church In Ukraine

https://www.rferl.org/a/ukrainian-church-to-get-autonomy-this-weekend-in-istanbul/29692716.html

Democracy is under assault

December 31, 2018

Some governments are using the basic institutions of modern society to undermine democracies

The West’s victory in the Cold War was not just the product of a superior military. The real source of Western strength was its ideals and values, and their embodiment in a political and social system that valued the individual and their dignity as human beings. Democracy was the reason that the West prevailed in that titanic struggle. It is supremely ironic then that democracy has become a vulnerability as the West squares off against authoritarians in yet another great-power competition. The lesson of 2018 is that democrats around the world must rethink the basic operating procedures of their societies if they are to combat the threat to them that is generated by the very openness that they cherish.

The West believes that openness is a source of strength. Our societies are founded on the notion that open competition in the marketplace of ideas will separate truth from falsehood, fact from fiction. Only in the most extreme circumstances do we allow the government to meddle in that media sphere, fearing that legitimation of one intervention will create a slippery slope that inevitably undermines the entire system.

Editorial
Japan Times
December 31, 2018

That core belief has been tested in the last year as evidence has mounted of campaigns by some governments to use the basic institutions of modern society to undermine democracies that they consider hostile. Only the willfully blind cannot see the political disinformation campaign that Russia waged in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to exploit divisions in that country and discredit its political processes and media institutions.

The U.S. is not the only target — France, Ukraine, Germany and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom have been manipulated — nor is Russia the only offender. China has interfered in Taiwanese politics, and is charged with especially aggressive behavior in the recent elections. In each case, the objective was not to create certain outcomes, but to sow distrust and unravel the social fabric that made those targets such formidable opponents. Increasingly, strategists consider such tactics another form of warfare, and they view the internet as the ultimate weapon of disinformation.

While almost all countries have developed offensive cyber capabilities, the intensifying focus on the institutions of governance is a unique threat to democracies. It is an especially ironic development since it was widely assumed that digital technologies were enablers of democracy — the Arab Spring of 2010 was anticipated to propagate a new democratic movement worldwide. Instead, social media have become means to inject vitriol, widen divisions and tear countries apart. No medium is immune. Facebook has been used to whip up racial hatred in Myanmar. Reportedly, even Pokemon Go was used to antagonize when participants were encouraged to pick especially offensive usernames.

Facebook’s War Room unit at their Menlo Park headquarters in California.
Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

Those techniques will become more sophisticated with the deployment of artificial intelligence and the development of “deep fakes” — deep-learning computer applications which generate fake video and audio recordings — that are virtually impossible to distinguish from the real thing. The capital needed to launch such offensives is relatively small, making the acquisition of those capabilities a very cost-effective tactic.

They are becoming more effective as democracies are increasingly dissatisfied with themselves. The wave of populism that has produced Brexit, authoritarian leaders in Europe and Latin America, and U.S. President Donald Trump reflects a gnawing doubt about the logic and desirability of democracy itself. There is a growing vogue for authoritarianism, and social media are an invaluable tool in the rise of the autocrats. Even here, just 40 percent of Japanese are satisfied with how democracy works in this country, a 10-percentage point drop in the last year, although there is little evidence of any appetite for the extreme measures being adopted elsewhere in the world.

There is no easy solution to this problem. The business model of social media firms, and increasingly much of the internet, is premised on expansion that emphasizes popularity and the propagation of memes; there is little regard for the truth or falsity of messages being spread. Moreover, policing content is virtually impossible.

More troubling still, the divisions that are being exploited are real. The social contract in many liberal democracies is fraying under the strain of increasing inequality and “the rise of the rest.” The world is changing and groups that are used to having power find their authority under siege. This is not unprecedented but it is invariably a messy and fraught process. The speed with which digital technologies spread messages compounds the potential for chaos and instability.

Ultimately, responsibility rests with ordinary citizens. They must be informed and educated, not only capable of distinguishing between fact and fiction, but preferring the former to the latter. Ensuring that they are prepared is the most important challenge for the year to come, and one that inspires little optimism.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/12/31/editorials/democracy-is-under-assault/#.XCofMVxKhaQ

See also:

Why Social Media’s Misinformation Problem Will Never Be Fixed

https://slate.com/technology/2018/11/facebook-twitter-midterms-fake-news.html

Related:

2018’s Biggest Loser Was the Liberal International Order

December 31, 2018

The runners-up are China, the U.K., France’s Macron and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed.

2018's Biggest Loser Was the Liberal International Order

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It’s been a year of tumult and chaos in world politics. In Japan, a national poll selected the kanji character sai, meaning disaster, as best reflecting the national mood. Perhaps 2019 will bring better news. In the meantime, here are the states, individuals, institutions and ideas that were 2018’s biggest losers. Next week: the winners.

• China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In 2018 Beijing began to learn how hard it is to build an international system. The BRI isn’t only a massive infrastructure project intended to build an integrated commercial area centered on China; it is an attempt to translate China’s economic might into geopolitical power.

After Beijing forced Sri Lanka to hand over control of its Hambantota port facilities for 99 years to satisfy its debt in late 2017, this year saw China’s most important BRI targets cancel existing agreements (Malaysia), demand better terms (Pakistan)and scale back projects (Myanmar). Chinese ties to South Africa’s Gupta family (widely blamed for facilitating the corruption of the former president Jacob Zuma) and other corrupt figures have contributed to a more  skeptical view of Beijing’s intentions in Asia and Africa. The pushback has only begun. China’s debt-trap diplomacy will face more obstacles in 2019.

Britain. The United Kingdom slowly twisted in the wind in 2018….

Mohammad Bin Salman. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia…..

President Trump’s sudden decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria was good news for the two powers Saudi Arabia fears most — Iran and Turkey …

Emmanuel Macron. The French President, whose 2017 election animated hopes of a “new political center” in the West, had a horrible year…

Liberal International Order.

A modern Voltaire might quip that the old system was neither liberal nor international nor an order, but its absence will be felt if it disintegrates.

Read the rest:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/2018s-biggest-loser-was-the-liberal-international-order-11546199900?mod=hp_opin_pos3

All 24 Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia declare themselves prisoners of war

December 28, 2018

The last two sailors announced their POW status on December 27.

Image result for Ukrainian sailors, captured by Russia, photos

Three Ukrainian ships are seen as they are docked after being seized by Russia on  November 25

All 24 Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia near the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea on November 25 have declared themselves to be prisoners of war (POW).

Image result for Ukrainian sailors, held by russia, photos

“As of December 27, all 24 captured Ukrainian sailors told the investigation that they were prisoners of war,” Russian lawyer Nikolai Polozov, who defends the Ukrainians in a pool of lawyers, wrote on Facebook.

The last two sailors, Andriy Eyder and Andriy Artemenko, who were wounded during Russia’s attack on their boats, announced their POW status on Thursday, December 27.

fsb

Captured Ukrainian naval vessels in Crimea, November 2018 (FSB Press Service)

As UNIAN reported earlier, Russia on November 25 blocked the passage to the Kerch Strait for the Ukrainian tugboat “Yany Kapu” and two armored naval boats “Berdyansk” and “Nikopol,” which were on a scheduled re-deployment from the Black Sea port of Odesa to the Azov Sea port of Mariupol. The Ukraine Navy Command noted that the Russian side had been informed of the plans to re-deploy the vessels in advance in accordance with international standards to ensure the safety of navigation.

Related image

The Russian coast guard ship “Don” rammed the Ukrainian tugboat, damaging the Ukrainian vessel. As the Ukrainian boats were heading back in the Odesa direction after being rejected passage via the Kerch Strait, Russian coast guards opened aimed fire on them.

All 24 crew members on board were captured and later remanded in custody for two months, being charged with “illegal border crossing” (the sailors are facing up to six years in prison). Three crewmen were wounded in the attack. Russian-controlled “courts” in occupied Crimea ruled that all 24 detainees should be remanded in custody, after which they were transferred to the Moscow-based Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Tishina detention centers.

Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/politics/10393323-all-24-ukrainian-sailors-captured-by-russia-declare-themselves-prisoners-of-war.html

Related:

Captured Ukrainian Sailors Lose Court Appeal

https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/captured-ukrainian-sailors-lose-appeal

US abandonment of Kurds sends bad message to allies in East Asia

December 28, 2018

Once again, Washington has left allies to face greater regional powers on their own; the implications for East Asia are stark

 DECEMBER 28, 2018 2:12 PM (UTC+8)
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Taiwan soldiers take part in a drill at the Ching Chuan Kang airbase in Taichung, central Taiwan, on June 7, 2018, simulating a Chinese attack as Beijing stepped up military and diplomatic pressure on the island amid growing tension. Photo: Sam Yeh / AFP

Taiwan soldiers take part in a drill at the Ching Chuan Kang airbase in Taichung, central Taiwan, on June 7, 2018, simulating a Chinese attack as Beijing stepped up military and diplomatic pressure on the island amid growing tension. Photo: Sam Yeh / AFP

Russia expands economic sanctions on Ukraine

December 26, 2018

Russia on Tuesday expanded its economic sanctions on Ukraine, adding more than 250 people and businesses to a blacklist first announced at the start of November.

According to a decree by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, 245 individuals and seven companies, mostly in the energy and defence sectors, were sanctioned by Moscow.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (file photo)

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (file photo)

Relations between Moscow and Kiev have deteriorated since a pro-Western government came to power after the 2014 revolt against a pro-Russian leader, Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine.

A total of 567 individuals and 75 Ukranian companies now face Russian economic sanctions, which put a freeze on any assets they have in Russia.

On his Twitter account, Medvedev said the sanctions were “to defend the interests of the Russian government, businesses and people.”

Tensions between the two neighbours have worsened since November when Russia’s coastguard captured three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews off the Crimean coast.

Among those sanctioned on Tuesday were Ukrainian defence, energy, insurance and logistics companies as well as Odessa’s mayor and other high-ranking Ukraine officials.

Since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, Kiev has taken a series of measures against Russian interests, including blocking Russian internet services and social media.

The conflict pitting pro-Russian separatists against Ukrainian government forces is estimated to have claimed more than 10,000 lives — one third of them civilian — since it broke out four years ago.

AFP

See also:

Russia Expands Targeted Sanctions Against Ukraine

https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-expands-sanctions-ukraine/29675861.html