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Biden supports Ukraine’s decision to unilaterally release 15 militants. Will Obama deliver his final blow to Putin?.  Putin calls Russian-Syrian efforts in Aleppo "definitely successful". VIDEO (in Russian).  Russian hackers behind averted cyberattack on US Republican National Committee.  Batkivshchyna party will not initiate depriving Savchenko of MP seat, - Tymoshenko.  Russian, pro-Assad forces abandoned great number of hardware and weapons in Palmyra. Russia out to legalize Crimea’s grab.

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Germany’s Siemens Company accused of scam to bypass Crimean sanctions

A new twist has been reported in the story of Siemens gas turbines which could be used to deliver the turbines to Russian-occupied Crimea without Germany’s Siemens openly bypassing EU sanctions.  A check is urgently needed since the scam suggested would cast a shadow over Siemens and demonstrate serious failings in sanction controls.

Vedomosti reported back on June 30, 2015 that Siemens Gas Turbine Technologies LLC, a St Petersburg subsidiary of Siemens, was set to provide gas turbines for a new power station in Crimea.  The deal was supposed to have been reached in Spring with the Siemens turbines officially contracted for a station on the Taman Peninsula (Krasnodar region, Russia) but in fact destined for Crimea.

Vedomosti’s unnamed sources suggested a conscious fiddle with the alleged new power station in Taman used as a smoke screen.  The turbines were to be purchased by Technopromexport, a subsidiary of Rostec which Russia contracted a year ago to build power stations in Simferopol and Sevastopol, with 25 billion roubles of the cost funded by the Russian state.

Siemens dismissed the allegations, and insisted that its joint venture was making turbines for a separate Taman power station.   Reuters, however, reported in early August 2016 that three separate sources had told them that builders of two power plants in occupied Crimea were finalizing plans to install the Siemens turbines.  “The sources, who were all familiar with the technical details of the plants, said they are compatible only with Siemens turbines.”

The report went on to say that “there was no suggestion that Siemens knew of or condoned the planned transfer of its turbines to Crimea”.

In fact, the report by Ihor Maskalevych in Ukraine’s Dzerkalo Tyzhnya suggests a ruse designed to protect Siemens’ reputation, while also getting the turbines that Russia desperately needs.

The author points out that with 90% of Crimean energy coming from Ukraine, Russia needed to come up with some solution after its invasion and annexation.  The decision was taken back in 2014 to build new electricity cables across the Kerch Strait and to build power stations in Simferopol and Sevastopol.  

Russia, which has sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, is not capable of producing the gas turbines required, however these fall under the ban on supplying equipment from the EU to occupied Crimea.

Maskalevych believes that the story about a Taman power station was a front from the outset, aimed at ensuring that Siemens was not accused of violating sanctions.

The tender for building a Taman power station was only announced in the summer of 2016, and “ended due to the lack of any bids”.  Four gas turbines were ordered from the Siemens joint venture, although the tender specifications for the purported Taman power station only envisaged two.  Two turbines have already been provided.

Maskalevych believes that when the plans were first drawn up, the Kremlin was convinced that sanctions would soon be removed or that Ukraine itself would soon not exist.

Russian President Vladimir Putin miscalculated on both scores, and the plan needed to be adjusted.

The first indicator of the new arrangement was seen in the somewhat nominal change of contractor for the power stations in Crimea.  It was and remains  Technopromexport, however the latter ceased to be a part of Rostec, and became a daughter company, with a share value of under 10 thousand USD.

Then, lo and behold, Technopromexport suddenly proved to be facing bankruptcy, with Rostec initiating the procedure.  At a meeting of the creditors at the end of October 2016, all attempts to avert the move were rejected.  The reason, the author says, is obvious: the property of a company made bankrupt goes up for sale.  This ‘property’ now includes four Siemens turbines, worth 167 million EUR.

Maskalevych suggests that Siemens does not want to lose the promising Russian market which it has profited from for over 100 years, but does not want scandal for violating sanctions.

Siemens has, therefore, gone further than simply making public assertions that its turbines are intended for a non-existent power station on the Taman Peninsula, and has even imposed various conditions.   The agreement with Technopromexport stipulates that the turbines must not be used on power stations with direct power supply to Crimea.

Any company that buys the turbines if sold as part of bankruptcy procedures could, Maskalevych believes, refuse to comply with the conditions of the contract between Technopromexport and Siemens.  It could, in short, provide the turbines to Crimea where they have been awaited since September 26 this year.

In late November, Radio Svoboda’s Crimean Service spoke with Igor Yuskhov, a leading analyst from the Russian Foundation for National Energy Security. He commented that the supply of the Siemens turbines for the two power stations in occupied Crimea would “demonstrate the effectiveness of the sanction policy against Russia”.  He suggested that the information had been fed to the media to see if there was a reaction from the EU, and claims that so long as the turbines are passed to Rostec and unloaded in Krasnodar, they would not fall under sanction restrictions...............

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EU agrees Dutch demands on Ukraine deal to avoid 'present for Russia'

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to spell out limits to a landmark cooperation accord with Ukraine to address Dutch concerns and prevent the landmark deal from unravelling.

The so-called association agreement establishes closer political ties and aims to free up trade between Ukraine and the bloc as the former Soviet republic moves closer to western Europe and away from Moscow's orbit.

But the leaders agreed it did not make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, and did not entitle Kiev to financial aid or military assistance from the bloc. Neither did it give Ukrainians the right to live and work in the 28-nation union.

By imposing caveats on the deal, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte aims to ease the concerns of his voters, who rejected it in a referendum in April.

Failure to secure the agreement of his fellow EU leaders would effectively have doomed the accord, which Rutte said would have been "an enormous present for Russia".

He told reporters: "It is in the Dutch interest that Europe is strong in its relationship with Russia, with Russia being increasingly aggressive in its foreign policy."

The Netherlands is the only EU country that has yet to ratify the deal, which would become void without its endorsement. Rutte will now take Thursday's agreement to the Dutch parliament in an attempt to win its approval and overwrite the referendum result.

"Now the responsibility lies with the Netherlands. The ratification is important not only for Ukraine, but also for Europe's geopolitical standing and credibility," said Donald Tusk, the chair of EU leaders' meetings.

TACKLING CORRUPTION...................

Access complete text of the editorial: In English

There's NO other country giving Ukraine hell, but the Netherlands. Mark Rutte is wetting his pants and scared of Putin's influence in his country. He should be more afraid when Putin doesn't give a rats ass about him and his safety and invades The Netherlands. Instead of joining the fight against Putin he's covering for him, against of the rest of Europe which are embracing Ukraine. I hope he gets what's coming to him.
on Fri Dec 16, 2016 10:19 pmAdmin
Russia casts shadow over European Union summit

Russia had no seat at the European Union's table Thursday but it cast a shadow over the summit as a target for criticism of its role in the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence over the wars that have dragged on for years deeply frustrated a Europe limited to diplomacy, money or humanitarian aid to try to change facts on the ground.

"Faced with the brutality of the Syrian regime and its supporters, notably Russia and Iran, we are not as effective as we would like to be," EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters. "Unfortunately, I know who is effective enough, not in humanitarian assistance, but in bombing."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "We are all seeing something in the 21st century that is shameful, that is heart-breaking, that shows we haven't been able to act politically how we would like to act."..............

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Russia may introduce strict immigration control of Ukrainians who visit occupied Crimea

The Federal Agency for Nationalities (FAN) of the Russian Federation proposes to introduce a mechanism of strict registration of those who enter the territory of the occupied Crimea from Ukraine, TASS reported citing the agency official.

FAN official Andrey Komissarov noted that migration regime in the occupied Crimea should be built, given the peninsula’s "strategically important location and conflict with a neighboring Ukraine," TASS wrote. "Just recently, December 13, the FSB chief made a statement about the growing threat of terrorist attacks by Ukrainian subversive groups in Crimea. In this regard, there is an obvious need to develop measures for the ultimate registration of individuals arriving in Crimea from Ukraine, and monitoring of their stay on the peninsula," he said............

Scaparrotti surveys Ukraine's front lines against Russia

In a signal to Moscow of U.S. and NATO resolve, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. "Mike" Scaparrotti ended a two-day visit to Ukraine earlier on Thursday in which he toured the combat positions of Ukrainian troops facing off against a combined Russian and separatist force, according to

On his second visit to Ukraine within three weeks, Scaparrotti, the dual-hatted Supreme NATO commander and head of U.S. European Command, went to eastern Ukraine, "where he visited Ukrainian military units involved in combat operations with Russians and their proxy forces" along what is called the "line of contact," EuCom said in a statement, reports. Scaparrotti also met with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Stepan Poltorak and Chief of the General Staff Viktor Muzhenko on the continuing training of Ukrainian forces by NATO and the supply of "non-lethal" aid by the U.S.

The EuCom statement said Scaparrotti's visit underlined the U.S. and allied commitment to Ukraine's defense. "The United States continues to call for an immediate end to Russia's occupation of Crimea and for Russia to cease its destabilizing actions in Ukraine and honor its commitments in the Minsk agreements," it states.................
Dutch PM Confident Parliament Will Pass EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

Rutte’s government on December 16 prepared legislation clearing the way for parliament to approve the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, despite the rejection of the trade pact by Dutch voters in an April advisory referendum.

The fresh legislation comes a day after EU leaders offered additional guarantees about the trade pact demanded by The Netherlands.

In a special statement, EU leaders who met in Brussels on December 15 said Ukraine’s Association Agreement "does not confer on Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the union, nor does it constitute a commitment to confer such status to Ukraine in the future."

The statement also says the pact "does not contain an obligation for the union or its member states to provide collective security guarantees or other military aid or assistance to Ukraine."........
Gazprom's threats to cut off gas to EU indicate Russia plots another gas crisis

Naftohaz Ukrainy PJSC sees a statement by Russia's state-owned gas producer Gazprom on possible halt in gas supplies to European consumers as a preparation for another gas crisis.

Censor.NET reports citing the Naftohaz press service.

According to an official statement by Naftohaz, the Russian side will try to blame the crisis on Ukraine, as was the case in 2006 and 2009. Both Russia's recent public statements and the unwillingness of Gazprom to sign a standard additional agreement with Naftohaz, which the parties have already signed three times, indicate this intention.

"In particular, the agreement stipulates that Gazprom pledges to supply the full volume of prepaid gas, not to apply the disputed take-or-pay principle, not to count prepayment as payment for unauthorized supplies to the occupied territory of Ukraine, as well as to introduce a flexible procedure for Naftohaz to order necessary volume of gas," the statement reads.

"The Ukrainian side is fully aware of the critical importance of EU gas supplies for the energy security of the state as well as the importance of preserving our Western partners' support," Naftohaz CEO Andrii Koboliev said, stressing that Naftohaz has never violated its transit obligations.

"An artificial crisis provoked by Gazprom can be used by Russia to exert pressure on the EU to support the construction of bypass pipelines or termination of the anti-monopoly investigation maintained by the European Commission," Naftohaz concluded. , In Ukrainian / на українській мові
Russia's General Staff announces completion of Aleppo operation

Government troops are wiping out scattered groups of radicals who have refused to leave the city.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation has announced the completion of the operation to retake the city of Aleppo, Сensor.NET reports citing TASS.

"The operation to clear Aleppo of terrorists is over," chief of the Russian General Staff's main operations directorate, Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy said.

He added all civilians and the bulk of militants had left the blocked quarters of eastern Aleppo.

As also reported, more than 3,400 gunmen of Syria's moderate opposition have voluntarily laid down arms in the course of the operation to liberate Aleppo's eastern quarter.

Previously, Russia's Defense Ministry said the whole of 5,000 fighters and their family members were to be removed from the eastern part of the city. Yesterday, ambulances were reported to have come under fire during the evacuation of people., In Ukrainian / на українській мові
Moscow deliberately corralling Arab fugitives to Europe

Syria has become a testing ground for Russia’s hybrid war on Europe. Moscow deliberately pushing flows of fugitives to impact Europe’s safety, National Security and Defense Council head Olexandr Turchynov believes.

 “Destroying Syria’s infrastructure, Moscow deliberately corrals fugitives to Europe. It is not merely a big social and economic problem for Europe but enhances the coming to power of pro-Russian political parties,” he said.

Besides, speaking about the military help for the Assad regime, Russia has created big military bases in the Mediterranean where it can deploy missiles of any types. What can our allies do, except imposing sanctions and making political declarations?” he asked.

“It would be irresponsible to speak about the lifting of sanctions now. Given the present situation, the sanctions must be toughened, not loosened. Imposed 2 years ago, the sanctions are only now beginning to kick in. Only now Russia has started to have serious problems in its economy. 

Recall the bravado declarations of the Russian leaders that the sanctions will merely stimulate Russia’s economy. Today, they cannot hush up the negative consequences of the sanctions

 “Of course, Russia is not a democratic country and it is easier for Moscow to tighten up the budget and increase poverty than to cut military spending. However, the social programs cannot be cut indefinitely and sooner or later there will be a big bang in Russia,” Turchynov said.
Investors pile in as Russia comes in from the cold

Post-Opec oil surge and signs Donald Trump may thaw US-Russia relations aid sentiment

Investors have ploughed the most cash into Russian equity funds over the past week since 2011, as a higher oil price and signs US president-elect Donald Trump will seek to thaw relations with Vladimir Putin encouraged flows.

Russian stock funds recorded inflows of $451m in the week to December 14, the biggest haul since the first quarter of 2011, according to data tracker EPFR. Mutual funds and exchange traded funds invested in Russian bonds had their largest inflows since February 2015.

The sharp rise in the oil price since the Opec cartel’s agreement to cut supply last month is proving a boon to ETFs and mutual funds with mandates to invest in Russian assets. Some of the largest funds have seen assets rise by as much as a third since late November, when Opec ministers struck their accord.

Assets, for example, within the VanEck Vectors Russia ETF have swelled 33 per cent to $2.5bn since November 29, while the iShares MSCI Russia ETF has seen a 16 per cent rise in assets to $438m. The size of JPMorgan Funds’ Russian equity fund has climbed 9 per cent over the same period.................

Access complete text of the editorial: In English
Netherlands, EU Reach Deal On Ukraine Association Agreement

European Union leaders have reached an agreement about a demand from the Netherlands on a deal that would establish closer ties between the EU and Ukraine.

The EU’s so-called Association Agreement with Ukraine is vital to Kyiv’s efforts to establish closer ties with the West since mass protests toppled pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014.

The Netherlands is the only country that has not ratified the deal, with Dutch voters rejecting it in a referendum in April.

The Dutch government has asked the EU for additional guarantees to ensure that ratification of the association agreement does not lead to EU membership for Ukraine.

On December 15, EU leaders meeting in Brussels agreed to issue a special statement saying Ukraine’s association agreement "does not confer on Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the Union, nor does it constitute a commitment to confer such status to Ukraine in the future."

The statement also says the pact "does not contain an obligation for the union or its member states to provide collective security guarantees or other military aid or assistance to Ukraine."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will now take the proposal to the Dutch parliament for a vote on whether to override the April referendum results.

The agreement came as EU heads of state and government met for a one-day summit to discuss what a senior EU official called a "minefield" of issues faced by the bloc.

EU leaders also agreed at their summit to extend economic sanctions against Russia by another six months, until July 31 2017, for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists who are fighting Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine...................

Access complete text of the editorial: In English
on Fri Dec 16, 2016 8:51 amAdmin
Will Obama deliver his final blow to Putin?

Writing in his blog on Obozrevatel Dec. 16, economist and blogger Yevhen Platon says:

“Bloomberg laid its hands on insider information that Barak Obama is going to bang the door leaving his office and publicize documents on Putin and his buddies.

Thus, Deputy Finance Minister for terrorism and financial intelligence Adam Shubin says his agency has credible information on the size of Putin’s wealth the Russian president amassed and funneled away from Russia.  

Similarly, Admiral James Stavridis has said US intelligence tracked down the channels via which Russian leaders had moved their money to off-shores and further on.

This information, if made public, will make Russian leaders the embodiment of greed and corruption and will influence Putin’s partners in the West, Donald Trump including.

Following the release of this information Putin will be cold-shouldered in any decent country and Gazprom, Rosneft and other Russian companies will become unwelcome partners on world markets.

Thus, at the end of his presidential tenure, Barak Obama can launch a program to completely wipe out Russia’s standing in the world – in retaliation for Moscow’s hacker attacks and meddling in the US presidential election.

Will Obama dare to deliver such killing blow to Putin and Russia?

The first two shots have already been fired:
1. The deal with Iran allowing its return to world oil markets.
2. The permission by the Congress to sell US strategic oil reserves.”

on Fri Dec 16, 2016 8:49 amAdmin
Russia out to legalize Crimea’s grab

Russia is looking for ways to legalize its grab of Crimea. This is evidenced by declarations about the ‘honest’ referendum repeat emanating from Russia’s leaders and, surprisingly, from opposition politicians, analyst Oleksandr Palij told ZIK Dec. 16.

“First, such referendum is not envisaged by the Ukrainian constitution. Second, even if, hypothetically, it is held, the Russian troops and state organs of power that can influence the referendum are to be withdrawn from the peninsula,” Palij said.

 “An area with more or less loyalty to any state can be found in any country. However, this is no reason to revise its borders,” he said.

“Meanwhile, the proposals of a referendum show that Russia is feverishly looking for ways to legalize its annexation of the peninsula.

Even the Russian opposition politician and would-be presidential candidate Olexy Navalny assured that, in case of his win in 2018, he will push for ‘an honest’ referendum in Crimea.
Russian, pro-Assad forces abandoned great number of hardware and weapons in Palmyra. VIDEO
The detachments of the combined Russian and pro-Assad forces retreated from their positions in the Syrian city of Palmyra leaving a lot of military hardware and weapons that were subsequently captured by the Islamic State militants.

Censor.NET reports referring to the footage posted on the Internet.

Censor.NET Chief Editor Yurii Butusov wrote in his blog that the Russian and pro-Assad troops left at least 13 tanks, four howitzers, a Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicle, a Vystrel armored vehicle, two infantry fighting vehicles, an armored personnel carrier and a lot of other equipment and weapons as they retreated from Palmyra besieged by the Islamic State militants. , In Ukrainian / на українській мові
Biden supports Ukraine’s decision to unilaterally release 15 militants

The United States hopes Ukraine's intention to free 15 militants will give Russia a boost in terms of implementation of the Minsk agreements reached in Belarus in February 2015.

As reported by Censor.NET, this is stated in readout of Vice President Biden's calls with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Hroisman.

The vice president voiced strong support for the Ukrainian government's decision to unilaterally release 15 individuals taken prisoner during the conflict, expressing hope that Russia and Russian-backed separatists would respond in kind to this goodwill gesture and give momentum to the prisoner exchange process stipulated in the Minsk agreements.

The leaders reiterated their unwavering support for full implementation of the Minsk agreements and underscored the need to reinstitute a full cease-fire and ensure full access for OSCE monitors to enable further disengagement of forces along the line of contact in the Donbas.

As reported, before Dec. 21, Ukraine intends to release 15 out of 228 individuals taken prisoner during the conflict in Ukraine's east, whose swap was requested by "DPR" and "LPR".

Earlier, Ukraine expressed readiness to exchange 228 militants for 42 Ukrainian prisoners held by the terrorists in the Donetsk region., In Ukrainian / на українській мові
Batkivshchyna party will not initiate depriving Savchenko of MP seat, - Tymoshenko

MP Nadiia Savchenko has the right to continue working in the Rada as she had been elected by the people.

This was announced by Batkivshchyna party leader Yuliia Tymoshenko, Censor.NET reports citing 112 Ukraine.

"Batkivshchyna party will not initiate depriving Nadiia Savchenko of her MP status as she was elected by the people and has the right to work in the Rada," Tymoshenko said. , In Ukrainian / на українській мові
Russian hackers behind averted cyberattack on US Republican National Committee, - WSJ

Investigation calls this cyberattack a less aggressive and much less persistent than the hacks of the Democratic National Committee.

As reported by Censor.NET citing The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. officials who have been briefed on the attempted intrusion say the Russian hackers tried to penetrate the computer networks of the Republican National Committee (RNC) using the same techniques that allowed them to infiltrate its Democratic counterpart.

But the intruders failed to get past security defenses on the RNC's computer networks, the officials said. And people close to the investigation said it indicated a less aggressive and much less persistent effort by Russian intelligence to hack the Republican group than the Democratic National Committee. Only a single email account linked to a long-departed RNC staffer was targeted.

The disclosures came as a political furor grows over suspected Russian hacking of U.S. political organizations. The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Russian hackers, whom analysts say work for that country's military and intelligence apparatus, stole emails from the DNC, as well as another Democratic organization and the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, to harm her candidacy and boost RepublicanDonald Trump's chances of winning. Russia has denied the allegations.

The possibility that Russians tried and failed to infiltrate the RNC doesn't necessarily conflict with the CIA's conclusion. A senior U.S. official said analysts now believe what started as an information-gathering campaign aimed at both parties later took on a focus of leaked emails about Mrs. Clinton and Democrats. , In Ukrainian / на українській мові
Putin calls Russian-Syrian efforts in Aleppo "definitely successful". VIDEO (in Russian)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russian-Syrian troops in Aleppo were successful and hopes Bashar al-Assad's units will be able to entrench in the city.

"I really hope that the Syrian army is able to entrench after these definitely successful combat activities in Aleppo, and that civilians are able to start living normal life. Several thousand people have returned to their houses, some half-demolished," Putin said at a press conference in Tokyo.

See more: "My Palmyra's fate in your hands," - Syrian girls pictured by Kremlin propagandists for calendar express gratitude to Russian soldiers. PHOTOS

Earlier, the Defense Ministry of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad showed destroyed and seized by Russians city of Aleppo. U.S. Administration demanded immediate cease-fire and access for humanitarian aid. , In Ukrainian / на українській мові
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