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Russian military rob Aleppo refugees as they exit ruined city.  Russian hackers linked to US election interference used malware to attack Ukrainian artillery units.  Rada approves Savchenko's exclusion from Ukrainian delegation to PACE.  Foreign Ministry analyzing possible Russia's countermeasures on visa regime introduction by Ukraine - Klimkin.  Netherlands to complete EU-Ukraine Association Agreement ratification in Jan 2017.  Psychological, physical pressure imposed on Ukrainians at Russian border checkpoints.

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State Department rejects Russia's claim that all dialogue has ended

The State Department on Wednesday rejected Russia's claim that all dialogue between the U.S. and Russia has ended.

"Dialogue has not been broken," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.

That contradicts Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who said that communication with the U.S. was "frozen" on Wednesday. "Almost every level of dialogue with the United States is frozen," Peskov said, according to Russian media. "We don't communicate with one another, or [if we do] we do so minimally."

Kirby indicated the U.S. was confused about that statement, and noted that Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke Tuesday about the Syrian civil war. The Defense Department and Russian military officials also had a "deconfliction" videoconference Wednesday as part of an ongoing effort to avoid a clash between American and Russian fighters flying in Syria.

"Certainly on the major issues and the issues that matter most, I mean, there continues to be dialogue," Kirby said. "I'm not clear I understand what he meant by his comments."...............

Access complete text of the editorial: In English
In Ukraine, infected Android app provides more evidence of a hacking group's Kremlin ties
An infected Ukrainian Android app provides additional evidence linking Russia to the hack of the Democratic National Committee, according to a cybersecurity firm.

CrowdStrike on Thursday released a report describing how a widely used cellphone application developed by a Ukrainian artillery officer to conduct strikes faster may have been altered by the Russian government to gain intelligence such as the whereabouts of Ukraine’s military forces.

The app, developed in 2013 and distributed initially over social media, was ultimately hijacked by the Fancy Bear hacking group — believed to be affiliated with Russian military intelligence agency or the GRU. In 2014, Fancy Bear created a malicious variation of the Android application for download and posted it on a Ukrainian military forum. Officers using the infected application on the battlefield provided the Russian hackers with their general location as well as potentially valuable intelligence, such as access to their contacts, text messages, call logs and internet data, the report states.

The malicious software known as X-Agent, which was used to help turn the clash with Ukrainian forces to Russia’s advantage, is the same malicious software that was used to hack the DNC, said Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike. His company was hired to investigate the DNC hack and over the summer publicly attributed it to Fancy Bear...............

Russian Foreign Ministry Not Amused By Ukrainian Diplomat's Jokes About Alcohol Poisoning
The death toll in the Siberian region of Irkutsk resulting from people drinking tainted bath oil has risen to 71, stunning a country accustomed to high rates of alcohol-related deaths and prompting an angry response from President Vladimir Putin.

It also prompted some acidic trolling from a Ukrainian ambassador and, not surprisingly, a rebuke from a clearly unamused Russian Foreign Ministry.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Finland earlier this week found amusement in the story out of Irkutsk, where city officials believe a type of alcohol found in antifreeze was used in the manufacture of body lotion, instead of more typical industrial-grade alcohol like that used in aftershave or perfume.

In a series of posts to Twitter, Ambassador Andrii Olefirov sent out photographs from classic Soviet-era films, along with biting captions referring to the herbal bath lotion known in Russia as "Boyaryshnik" (Hawthorn) and believed to have medicinal properties.

Two of the films were based on the writings of beloved Soviet satirists Ilf and Petrov; one was a 1970s children's cartoon. In one of the ambassador’s posts, he depicts a character from one of the films asking another, "Hey, Pops, you got any 'Boyaryshnik' in your town?"...............

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US Ambassador Yovanovitch called Kolomoiskyi during negotiations on Privatbank nationalization

Businessman and former Privatbank co-owner Ihor Kolomoiskyi had a conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before he made final decision on the bank nationalization.

As reported by Censor.NET, a source told

According to the source, it was quite a tough talk which became a "point of no return" in the process of Privatbank's transition from private to the state property.

Furthermore, the news outlet found out that a private agreement between the Finance Ministry and National Bank on the one hand and Kolomoiskyi and Boholiubov on the other hand stipulated for the ex-owners to fulfill their commitments to secure loans by pledged assets within six months and set off the losses of the state after that.

On Dec. 18, the Cabinet of Ministers announced its decision to nationalize Privatbank, the largest privately-held bank of Ukraine. The government intends to issue 30-year domestic government loan notes worth 150 billion hryvnia ($5.54 billion) and become a 100-percent owner of the bank. The bank's first deputy CEO announced the decision was made after an unprecedented information attack on the bank and a threat it posed to its clients. The bank's leadership assured the clients their savings will be safe, naming it the key condition in the talks. In his turn, Minister of Finance Oleksandr Danyliuk confirmed the clients' money will be safe and protected by the state. Due to the nationalization procedure, Privatbank halted corporate transactions for one day, till 9 a.m. Dec. 20.

According to the National Bank of Ukraine, Privatbank needs 148 billion hryvnia in additional capitalization. The finance minister said that after Privatbank is stabilized, the state plans to sell it. In turn, President Poroshenko said the state guarantees safety and integrity of the client's funds.

On Dec. 19, the National Bank of Ukraine allocated 15 billion hryvnia to maintain the liquidity of Privatbank.

The decision on the Privatbank nationalization has been supported by IMF, EBRD, the G7 countries, the EU and the U.S.

Minister Danyliuk claims the bank was made insolvent and those guilty should be held accountable.

The Ministry of Finance will issue treasury bonds worth 116.8 billion hryvnia to refinance Privatbank. According to NBU Head Hontarieva, the amount will be attributed as a public debt., In Ukrainian / на українській мові
on Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:17 pmAdmin
Putin and Trump call for stronger nuclear forces

Russia president says military now ‘stronger than any potential aggressor’

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump on Thursday called for the strengthening of their countries’ nuclear capabilities.

Speaking at a meeting of defence chiefs in Moscow, Mr Putin said Russia needed to “strengthen the strategic nuclear forces, for that we should develop missiles capable of penetrating any current and prospective missile defence systems", according to the Tass news agency.

Mr Putin claimed Russia’s military was able to repel any possible threat. Russia was now “stronger than any potential aggressor”, he said.

A few hours after the Russian president spoke, Mr Trump tweeted that the US needed to expand its nuclear capabilities. “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” the US president-elect wrote.

The Trump transition team did not respond immediately to questions about whether Mr Trump was referring to the current US nuclear modernisation programme, which will not result in an increase in the number of warheads in the nuclear arsenal................

Access complete text of the editorial: In English
Savchenko commented on their exclusion from the PACE: I have enough work

In the People's Deputy in any case, remains a large scope of work, said MP

People's deputy of Ukraine Hope Savchenko said it would continue to do the work of parliament after the exclusion of the PACE delegation, reports Reporter .

"In any case, if I am not re-elected the next time the PACE, in the People's Deputy of Ukraine is still a very large scope of work, also international, Group cooperation with different countries. So I think that the work I have enough, for that, I do not worried ", - said Savchenko.

She added that new elections take place every year new members of the group in PACE are elected every year more and more new members.

She herself was "still not interested in how this procedure takes place because last time it passed in absentia.", In Russian / На русском
Foreign Ministry analyzing possible Russia's countermeasures on visa regime introduction by Ukraine - Klimkin

"We have several millions of our fellow citizens living or working in Russia. And Russia knows what provocations it can implement in the case of introduction of a visa regime by our state. Now we are analyzing it and then we will make a proposal on the mechanism and the time frames, "the minister said in the air of 1 plus 1 TV channel........
Rada approves Savchenko's exclusion from Ukrainian delegation to PACE

Some 237 deputies voted for the decision to exclude the item from the decision adopted in 2015, by which the parliament decided to elect Nadia Savchenko out of the quota as a member of the permanent delegation of the Ukrainian parliament to PACE, an Interfax-Ukraine correspondent reports.......
Psychological, physical pressure imposed on Ukrainians at Russian border checkpoints
Citizens of Ukraine, who under various circumstances are compelled to make frequent trips to Russia, complain of psychological and even physical pressure from the law enforcement agencies of the aggressor state, according to the press secretary of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, Oleh Slobodian.

He noted that the Russian special services keep records of citizens of Ukraine, who regularly travel to the Russian Federation, in a border guards’ database "Kaskad-Potok." According to the Ukrainian official, it’s the people who constantly cross the Ukrainian-Russian border in private affairs; those who have relatives in border regions of Russia, and owners of Russian registration plates for vehicles are facing the highest risk. As the Kaskad-Potok database identifies the person of interest, Russian border guards seize their Ukrainian passport and report to the supervisors or initiators of a database entry, Slobodian wrote, adding that after a following questioning by the special services, Ukrainian citizens are intimidated and threatened to be banned from entry to Russia. Sometimes there are cases of money extortion. The basic questions the citizens are asked relate to the personal involvement or participation in the ATO (or that of their relatives), social and political situation in Ukraine, and possible cooperation with the SBU Security Service of Ukraine..............
[Netherlands to complete EU-Ukraine Association Agreement ratification in Jan 2017][/b]

Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine on European Integration Olena Zerkal relies on the completion of the process of ratification of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU in January 2017.

"Yesterday hearings were held at the Dutch parliament, where Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte delivered a speech and all political parties had the opportunity to express their positions on the further completion of the ratification of the Association Agreement. I am optimistic now about the completion of this procedure as early as in January," she said at a press conference in Kyiv on Thursday.........
Russian hackers linked to US election interference used malware to attack Ukrainian artillery units

The findings are the latest to support a growing view among Western security officials and cyber security researchers that Russian President Vladimir Putin has increasingly relied on hacking to exert influence and attack geopolitical foes.

Censor.NET reports citing Reuters.

A hacking group linked to the Russian government and high-profile cyber attacks against Democrats during the U.S. presidential election likely used a malware implant on Android devices to track and target Ukrainian artillery units from late 2014 through 2016, according to a new report released Thursday.

The malware was able to retrieve communications and some locational data from infected devices, intelligence that would have likely been used to strike against the artillery in support of pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, the report from cyber security firm CrowdStrike found.

The findings are the latest to support a growing view among Western security officials and cyber security researchers that Russian President Vladimir Putin has increasingly relied on hacking to exert influence and attack geopolitical foes.

The hacking group, known commonly as Fancy Bear or APT 28, is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to work primarily on behalf of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency.

Both the CIA and FBI believe that Fancy Bear and other Russian hackers were responsible for hacks during the election that were intended to help President-elect Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, according to two senior government officials.

Russia has repeatedly denied hacking accusations, and Trump has also dismissed the assessments of the U.S. intelligence community.

The malware used to track Ukrainian artillery units was a variant of the kind used to hack into the Democratic National Committee, CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch said in an interview. That link, in addition to the high rate of losses sustained by the type of Ukrainian artillery units targeted by hackers, creates high confidence that Fancy Bear was responsible for the implant, he said.

"This cannot be a hands-off group or a bunch of criminals, they need to be in close communication with the Russian military," Alperovitch said.

The implant leveraged a legitimate Android application developed by a Ukrainian artillery officer to process targeting data more quickly, CrowdStrike said.

Its deployment "extends Russian cyber capabilities to the front lines of the battlefield", the report said, and "could have facilitated anticipatory awareness of Ukrainian artillery force troop movement, thus providing Russian forces with useful strategic planning information".

Downloads of the legitimate app were promoted on pages used by Ukrainian artillery on vKontakte, a Russian social media website, CrowdStrike said. There is no evidence the application was made available in the Android app store, limiting its distribution, the firm said.

The implant used on the legitimate app appears to be the first observed case of Fancy Bear malware used on the Android platform, according to the report. , In Ukrainian / на українській мові
Russian military rob Aleppo refugees as they exit ruined city, - Syrian journalist.

During the evacuation from East Aleppo civilians facing violence and brutality of the Iranian and Russian soldiers controlling the checkpoints on the outskirts of the city.

As the Tsenzor.NET of one of these cases, "Public" said Monzer Syrian journalist, who a few days ago left the Eastern Aleppo.

"On Monday, December 19, we received permission to evacuate, I became ill while living these days in the car, people around the burned their way to keep warm. I was in one of the buses, but one of the roadblocks Russian officer took my laptop , drone, camera. Then let us and we got to the zero zone - neutral territory ", - he said.

According to the journalist, some rebels are still in eastern Aleppo, along with their families.

"But there are still some civilians who remain in Aleppo, they want to be evacuated, along with opposition fighters because they do not trust the Russians and the Iranians carrying out the evacuation. They want to be protected, but the UN and the Red Cross, who watch the evacuation can not provide protection. They can not prevent people arrested, "- he said. , In Ukrainian / на українській мові
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