Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Ukraine / Russia Ad Hoc Media Update (79)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

Get out the popcorn and watch the discussions, arm-twisting, and final outcome of Nordstream 2. Lots of moving parts in these discussions, lots of people are already duking it out.  There are fortunes to be made and lost, but hopefully not by the people in positions of authority in government (don’t hold your breath, however).  I can only hope the news media is diving into this highly critical issue in a big way.

A few acronyms you may not know in the following summary.

  • FP = Foreign Policy
  • IADS – Integrated Air Defense System
  • AFU = Armed Forces of Ukraine
  • FTA = Free Trade Agreement

The Kurile discussion between Russia and Japan is interesting only in that Russia has ignored those islands and now is basically demanding ransom for their return as well as trying to outmaneuver the United States by setting conditions for their release.

An eye-opening article: James Brooke | Ukraine Emerges from Isolation | Atlantic Council

</end editorial>



Whelan hostage play continues. Nordstream 2 may be legislated against by EU, while EC negotiates a gas transit contract with Russian and Ukraine. INF update. Russia escalating toxic language over Kurile islands. Three more superb digests by Prof Goble on Russia’s unraveling internal state – Solovey, Eidman and others suggest the Chekist regime has blown its credibility domestically like no Russian regime since Gorbachev’s in 1992, and Solovey suggests the outcome could see the regime collapse very abruptly. Yakemenko makes some apt observations on the alternate realities of Russian propaganda and fake news. Facebook propaganda update.

EU sanctions Salisbury assassins and the Head and Deputy Head of the GRU.

FP now also arguing for stronger measures over Kerch attack. Two Tanzanian-flagged LPG tankers involved in smuggling gas to Syria since 2016 catch fire and sink, while anchored near the Kerch Strait, 14 dead reported. It is unclear why the fires broke out. Updates on Azov Sea defenses and Crimea – Russian overuse of Artesian water bores could lead to a life-threatening water shortage possibly as soon as May 2019 according to the Institute of Water of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Donbas update. AFU conference on IADS enhancement:  “One of the issues discussed was an improvement in the air defense system, its enhancement at the expense of additional forces and equipment, including air defense units, namely air defense missile units, radio-radar troops, fighter aircraft units and other formations to combat unmanned and manned air forces of Russia”.

Ukraine signs FTA with Israel and engages politically on a number of matters. Israel has a very large Ukrainian-Jewish diaspora, often claimed to be similar in numbers to the Russian-Jewish diaspora, so this is significant both economically and politically.

Discussion continues on Ukraine breaking off all diplomatic relations with Russia. Brooke on the revival of air travel to Ukraine. Updates on politics and economy, and the Hryb abduction case.


Russian Court Rejects American Paul Whelan’s Request For Release

A Russian court has refused to release U.S. citizen Paul Whelan on bail, leaving him in a Moscow jail through the end of February ahead of a possible trial on espionage charges he denies.

Paul Whelan: British ‘spy’ had materials containing Russian state secrets, his lawyer says | The Independent

A former US marine being held in Moscow on suspicion of spying had classified Russian materials in his possession when he was arrested, his lawyer has said. Paul Whelan, who also has UK citizenship, appeared in court on Tuesday for the first time since he was detained in Moscow late last year.  Judges rejected his application for bail during a short hearing in the Russian

Paul Whelan had Russian ‘state secrets’ when he was arrested, lawyer says – CNN

Paul Whelan, the US citizen accused of spying in Russia, was found with “evidence that constitutes state secrets,” his state appointed lawyer told CNN on Tuesday.

American charged with spying in Russia allegedly had classified docs

The lawyer for Paul Whelan, the American man being held on suspicion of spying, said that classified Russian materials were found on him when he was arrested.

European Commission notes progress in changes to legislation on Nord Stream 2 – 112.international

Maroš Šefčovič, the Vice-President of the European Commission noted the progress in changes to legislation which would complicate the construction of Nord Stream 2, as EU Integration reported. “The European Commission remains completely committed to the changes in gas directive. To be honest, we are very impressed with the Bulgarian and Austrian chairmanship in this regard. As progress that we expected from the commission has never been reached,” he said. He told that the European Commission has new offers from Romania. The offers have been observed. The commission concluded that they are about some unsolved issues which the member states raised. “I believe that the common approach with these offers is possible in early February, and this will open the door to negotiations and to elections in the European Parliament in May,” Šefčovič added. According to him, the European Commission intends to get an agreed set of EU energy regulations, which would be applied to marine pipelines, as it works with the overland ones. “We are in a situation when the commission does not see any obstacles to implement such EU rules,” he noted.

Nord Stream 2 will allow Russia to force terms for gas supply and transit both to Europe and Ukraine – Vitrenko

The Ukrainian side believes that if Russia puts into operation the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Moscow will strengthen its ability to dictate terms of gas supply and transit both to Europe and Ukraine.

There are risks Russia may create new gas crisis – Naftogaz CEO

Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev has said that given Russia’s tactic in trilateral negotiations, there is a risk of a repetition of events connected with a halt in gas supplies, as was the case in 2006 and 2009. — Ukrinform.

Russians delaying gas talks as they spur work on Nord Stream 2, says Naftogaz | UNIAN

Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz on Monday said Russia had been delaying gas transit negotiations in order to get its Nord Stream 2 pipeline built first. The European Union on Monday chaired a three-way meeting in Brussels with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

European Commission proposes Ukraine sign ten-year gas transit contract with Russia

The European Commission has proposed that Ukraine sign a ten-year natural gas transit contract with Russia, which would provide for transit volumes that would be economically viable for a high-profile European investor, NJSC Naftogaz’s press service has said. — Ukrinform.

European Commission gives Kyiv, Moscow concrete gas transit proposals

The European Commission has given Ukraine’s Naftogaz and Russia’s Gazprom concrete proposals on the parameters of a future natural gas transit contract that should replace the current contract that expires at the end of 2019. — Ukrinform.

EU’s Sefcovic Says Russia-Ukraine Gas Deal Possible By End Of 2019

Ukraine and Russia should be able to reach an agreement by the end of 2019 on the transportation of natural gas to the European Union, a top EU official has said.

EC VP for energy: Duration of new contract for Russian gas transit via Ukraine should be 10+ years | UNIAN

Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Energy Union Maros Sefcovic says that the duration of a new contract for Russian gas transit supplies via Ukraine should be over 10 years. Gas transit volumes should be commercially viable.

Europe offers Ukraine new gas transit contract for 10 years – 112.international

Maroš Šefčovič, the Head of the European Commission, made an offer to Ukraine concerning the new contract on Russian gas transit after 2019, as he said after the trilateral talks about Ukraine-EU-Russia gas transit on Monday, January 21 in Brussels, as Ukrainian News reported. The EU Commissioner said that the new contract should be signed for at least ten years, and the amount of an annual transit should reach the level which Ukraine provides usually – 80-90 cubic meters a year. Related: Ukraine’s Naftogaz’s claims against Russian Gazprom exceed $12 billion Negotiations on gas transit through Ukraine after 2019, which were held in Brussels on January 21at the level of the ministers of Ukraine, Russia and European Commission leadership, lasted for around 40 minutes instead of planned three hours. The negotiations were held with the participation of “Naftogaz-Ukraine” Executive Director Yury Vitrenko, Russian Energy Minister Alexandr Novak and “Gazprom” Head Alexey Miller. The Russian side offered the only option – to prolong the current contract since 2009 without any consultations.

One should not wait for concrete results from Ukraine-EU-Russia gas talks – Naftogaz CCO

Ukraine does not count on achieving results during the trilateral Ukraine-EU-Russia talks regarding Russian gas transit after 2019 due to the absence of real negotiations, Naftogaz Ukrainy Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Yuriy Vitrenko has said.

U.S. Envoy Blasts Russia’s ‘Irresponsible’ Behavior, Calls For ‘Demonstrable Steps’ To Save INF Treaty

Washington has again called on Moscow to take “demonstrable steps” to save a key Cold War arms-control treaty, and reiterated claims that Russia’s behavior is not that of a “responsible state actor.”

Russia confirms new missile, disputes treaty breach | TheHill

Russia is reportedly arguing that its new cruise missile system does not violate a Cold War-era treaty with the U.S.

The Kuriles Question: Not So Fast On Russia-Japan World War II Peace Treaty

Russia and Japan have talked up efforts to finally sign a treaty formally ending World War II. But as Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe prepare for talks in Moscow, few analysts expect a breakthrough o…

Kremlin Dampens Hopes For Quick Deal With Japan Over Kurile Islands

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are meeting in Moscow on January 22 for talks on four disputed Kurile Islands that have prevented a peace treaty to formally end World War II.

Putin hosting Abe for talks to break 70-year island deadlock | Japan News | Al Jazeera

Tokyo and Moscow are locked in territorial dispute over four islands taken by Soviet army in last days of World War II.

Russia and Japan at odds over seven-decade-old Kuril Islands dispute – CNN

On Tuesday, the leaders of Japan and Russia will hold talks on what remains one of the world’s longest-running unresolved international disputes.

UAWire – The Kremlin accuses Japan for complicating the Kuril Islands negotiations

Russian Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov commented on the statement made by Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe on before the talks with Vladimir …

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Crisis ‘Almost Equivalent to a Revolution’ Now Looming in Russia, Solovey Says

Paul Goble Staunton, January 21 – There has been “a very serious shift” in public attitudes in Russia over the last year, Valery Solovey says, one that has opened a break between society and Vladimir Putin and the rise of negative attitudes not only to the Kremlin leader but to the powers that be as a whole as show in the September gubernatorial races. Few, including himself, expected the situation to develop in this direction so rapidly, the MGIMO professor says; and now Russia faces the prospect that these attitudes will be lead to mass demonstrations or altrnatively many smaller ones in the coming months (afterempire.info/2019/01/20/solovey/). “From my point of view,” Solovey says, “the crisis will extend for two years into 2021 or perhaps the beginning of 2022 and as a result, I think, a new Russian Republic will be created.” That makes all the talk now about how Putin will extend his time in power one way or another almost certainly irrelevant. Such predictions, he continues, may appear to be something fantastic; but one should remember how things appeared in Ukraine in 2013, the Russian Federation itself in 1991, and in many other countries. When such changes occur, they tend to come to a head far more quickly than anyone thinks likely. And there is a particular reason to think that in the case of Russia now, Solovey argues. 1991 was “a real revolution,” but it was a revolution which “was not completed,” in much the same way that the Orange Revolution was not completed in Ukraine and was ultimately followed by the Revolution of Dignity. Russia now requires a new revolution not so much to start from scratch but to fulfill the promise of 1991, he suggests. The country desperately needs a state system which is “more effective and more, I would say, friendly in relation to the people” than the one that now exists in the Russian Federation. An increasing number of people are inching toward that conclusion, he says, including many in the regime itself; and in private conversations at least, they are making predictions about the future which are considerably more “radical” than any they would have offered only two or three months earlier. The Kremlin,, of course, views “everything in order,” because although it is “tense,” it is “under control.” But the further one goes from the Kremlin and the lower down the official ladder, the more worried are the expectations,” with people at that level concerned about what may happen and not doing anything that might get them in trouble after a change in regime. That is exactly the same strategy that lower-level officials adopted at the end of Soviet times, Solovey says; and it brought the end more quickly because it ensured that the quality of governance would decline as officials made these personal calculations. Once again the administration of the country is deteriorating more rapidly than those on top admit. Solovey cites as an example of such “re-insurance” by lower-ranking people the decision of the editors of Komsomolskaya Pravda, the only newspaper Putin is known to read regularly, to publish a summary of the MGIMO professor’s apocalyptic comments a few weeks ago. (For an analysis of that case, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/01/russia-may-not-come-out-of-crisis.html). Exactly what the reformation of Russia will entail, of course, is unclear, Solovey says. Much of what needs two be done is to implement what the constitution calls for rather than allow things to be governed as now by “understandings.” One thing is critical, however, the regions and localities must be allowed to keep more of their own tax revenues. With greater resources, the analyst argues, the leaders of entities at that level will become more interested and more responsible because Russians will see whether they are good stewards of the funds the people have paid in rather than simply obedient servants of the central government in Moscow.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Collapse of Putin’s Rating Irreversible and Spreading – Five Articles Highlight Extent of Crisis

Paul Goble Staunton, January 21 – Five articles over the last several days call attention to what is already the biggest crisis Vladimir Putin has faced during his almost 20 years in power: the collapse in public trust in Putin personally with Russians blaming him and not just lower-level officials for their problems. · A commentary on the Nakanune news portal says bluntly that the Russian people and the Russian elites are tired of Putin and thus prepared to be ever more critical of his performance (nakanune.ru/articles/114805/). · New polls show that popular dissatisfaction with the authorities has reached a six-year maximum (politsovet.ru/61544-nedovolstvo-vlastyu-v-rossii-dostiglo-shestiletnego-maksimuma.html).· Vedomosti says that unlike in the past, Putin is no longer exempt from the anger Russians feel at the government and officials in general (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2019/01/20/791905-reiting-putina). · A New Times commentary points out that even pollsters historically close to the Kremlin are saying openly that there has been a collapse in Putin’s standing with Russians (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/176125). · And an analysis in Nezavisimaya gazeta says that there are no obvious reasons why the ratings of the government or of Putin should recover and go up anytime soon (ng.ru/politics/2019-01-20/1_7486_reiting.html). Such a drumbeat of negative stories is the most unprecedented aspect of the current system. There have been times in the past when this or that writer or pollster has had negative things to say about Putin, but now there is a chorus – and it both comes across the political spectrum and involves not just mass publics but the elites as well. Putin may ignore these signs that he is in trouble. He may even succeed for some time. But those around him will have even more reasons to assume that the transition to a post-Putin future could occur faster and in a more radical way than anyone had thought possible only a few weeks ago. If that happens, Putin and his regime will be weakened, if not fatally then at least to the point that members of the elite may begin to coalesce around others even as an increasingly alienated population will take the most important step toward a post-Putin future: imagining that it could happen despite all the resources the Kremlin leader has at his disposal.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Real Trust Rating is ‘No Higher than 25 Percent,’ Eidman Says

Paul Goble Staunton, January 20 – Many have been shocked that only a third of Russians now trust Vladimir Putin, a record low. But “if you analyze the results of this research,” Igor Eidman says, “it becomes clear that the real rating of the president is lower still” because many Russians are still afraid to tell pollsters what they really think. This becomes clear, the Russian sociologist says, when one considers that the same poll which found that 33.4 percent of Russians “trust” Putin reported that 62.1 percent of them approved of his activities. Thus, “about 30 percent don’t trust Putin but approve him” (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2213484578714509&id=100001589654713). “How can anyone approve someone he doesn’t trust?” Eidman asks rhetorically. “This is not some strange Russian phenomenon or schizophrenia as it might appear to be on first glance.” Instead, it reflects the fact that “many Russians simply are afraid to speak the truth when answering the questions of sociologists.” In this particular poll, he continues, “the question about approval was closed – one had to choose from proposed answers – but the one about trust to politicians was open – one had to offer an answer oneself.” When answers are offered, Russians choose the one they think their interlocutor wants to hear; when they aren’t, they are more likely to offer their own views. As a result, Eidman says, the sociologists obtained the results they did, with trust “essentially lower than approval.” Of course, he continues, “ratings of politicians are always lower when open questions are used than when closed are.” In the Russian case, this has nothing to do with memory loss: it has to do with fear of speaking the truth about the top man. “The level of fear varies among various categories of respondents,” he says. But a reasonable allocation of those who say they approve but don’t trust means that “the real trust rating of Putin may be about 20 to 25 percent,” certainly not higher. And this level of trust means two important things. On the one hand, Eidman says, it means that “the protest potential of society is quite high; and on the other, it indicates that “Putin would lose any free elections” should they ever be held in Russia.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Fake News Doesn’t Hide Reality: It Seeks to Replace It, Moscow Scholar Says

Paul Goble Staunton, January 20 – Those in the Duma who want to pass a law banning fake news do not understand the nature of the problem they face and the essential difference between lies as they are traditionally employed and fake news which has become “an inalienable part of political discourse,” according to Boris Yakemenko. “The task of the traditional lie,” the historian at Moscow’s Friendship of the Peoples University says, “is to conceal the truth; the task of contemporary fakes is to replace reality” altogether in the minds of those it is directed against and “to organize political discourse as such” (realtribune.ru/news/authority/1526). Consequently, Yakemenko says, “the fake becomes the framework with which political discourse develops and by means of it is possible to distinguish reality from illusion. Now one is speaking not about hiding or distorting particular factors but about eh intentional and systematic replacement of reality by fakes.” Because such a replacement works, there are ever more fakes on offer, he continues, just as “freaks ever more often replace ordinary people.” That is “a trend,” and trying to reverse it by declaring fakes illegal is a fool’s errand. “Millions of people live in this reality as in a genuine world since one must use one’s brains to distinguish life on the net from real life and the majority simply aren’t interested in doing that.” Given that and given that fake news will be accepted by so many, there is no useful purpose served by banning it. Indeed, except as yet another means to selectively persecute members of the media and the population, there is no real reason to think that such a ban would have any significant effect beyond making its authors feel they were doing something.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kremlin Media Try to Reduce Focus on Possibility of Terrorism By Increased Reporting on Technogenic Disasters, ‘Forbidden Opinion’ Says

Paul Goble Staunton, January 20 – Something remarkable has occurred in the time since Magnitogorsk: Kremlin media are now reporting on other lesser technogenic disasters earlier left entirely to local outlets, and at the same time, the government-controlled media in the capital are reporting more often about public unhappiness concerning these infrastructure problems. But according to the Forbidden Opinion Telegram Channel, this is not a sign of a turn to greater media freedom but rather of something else: By reporting on many technogenic problems, the Kremlin hopes to prevent Russians from concluding that any of them were the work of terrorists (charter97.org/ru/news/2019/1/20/320586/). If there are numerous reports about gas explosions, the Telegram Channel suggests official thinking goes, Russians will increasingly assume that there is no basis for suspicions that any of the disasters were caused by terrorism, a judgment that the Kremlin fears would be transformed into a finding against the powers that be. “Putin fears terrorist acts to the point of panic,” the Chanel continues: they come to him in nightmares together with dreams about a Russian Maidan and the murder of Qaddafi beause a terrorist act puts paid all ‘the achievements’ of the country under his leadership regarding the struggle with terrorism” abroad and at home. The Kremlin leader is even more worried about the possibility Russians will conclude that some disaster is the result of terrorism now that his ratings have fallen so fast and so far. If many Russians came to believe that this or that disaster was the result of a terrorist attack, that could in his mind be “the last straw” as far as his support within the population is concerned. This suggests that Putin and his aides have concluded that the situation in the country is far more dire than many assume and that they could be in serious political trouble that could lead to radical change in the near future, the Forbidden Opinion Telegram Channel suggests. Otherwise they wouldn’t take the risk of such additional reporting of “bad” news. But there is another risk of more reporting of bad news, and it is this: once Russians become accustomed to reading about collapsing apartments and falling bridges, they may begin to connect the dots and recognize that it isn’t terrorists who are the biggest threat to their way of life but rather the men in the Kremlin who are trying to manage the news.

Facebook’s WhatsApp Fights Fake News by Curbing Message Forwarding – WSJ

The app is limiting users’ ability to forward messages across the platform, after criticism it has been used to spread misinformation and rumors, and sometimes has led to violence.

WhatsApp tightens limit on the number of people you can share messages with – CNN

The Facebook-owned messaging platform is imposing a stricter global limit on forwarding messages after a six-month experiment in India.

Russia Accuses Facebook, Twitter of Failing to Comply With Data Laws – WSJ

Russia launched administrative action against Facebook and Twitter for failing to comply with its data laws, days after Facebook removed the accounts of what it said were two Russia-based misinformation campaigns.

Amnesty Sees New Level Of Repression In ‘Open Russia’ Cases

Russian authorities have raided the homes of six activists of the Open Russia civic movement in Rostov-on-Don and Kazan and opened a criminal investigation against one of them, according to Amnesty…

EU Foreign Ministers OK Sanctions On GRU Chiefs, Novichok Suspects

European Union foreign ministers have approved targeted sanctions against Syrian and Russian nationals and entities suspected of involvement in chemical attacks.

EU Approves Sanctions on Novichok Poisoning Suspects – WSJ

EU ministers imposed sanctions against four Russian military intelligence officials, including the two men Britain accused of poisoning a former Russian spy in the U.K. last year.

EU sanctions Skripal suspects, Russia threatens retaliation – CNN

Russia has threatened “retaliatory measures” after the European Union slapped sanctions on senior members of its intelligence agency over last year’s poisoning of ex-Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.

It’s Time to Stand Up to Russia’s Aggression in Ukraine – Foreign Policy

Putin’s latest ploy in the Kerch Strait must be countered fast. Five years ago, Russia rolled into Crimea, orchestrated a swift and one-sided referendum, and annexed the Ukrainian territory. The West was blindsided by the attack and slow to provide any response. As a result, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a second invasion of Ukrainian soil—this one in the country’s east. This attack met stronger resistance, and eventually the West swung into gear to push for a cease-fire and to impose sanctions on Russia. Yet the conflict rumbles on and has killed over 10,300 Ukrainians so far. Today, the world is facing another challenge. Russia has seized unilateral control of the Kerch Strait, and the West has done nothing. This may tempt Putin—who is already massing forces—to seize even more Ukrainian territory, attempt to subvert the Ukrainian presidential election, or both. U.S. President Donald Trump is right to say that Putin took Crimea and the West did nothing. But now that Putin may have bigger designs, what will Trump do? On Nov. 25, 2018, Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on Ukrainian naval ships in international waters in the Black Sea, damaging the vessels and wounding a handful of Ukrainian sailors. Russia then took possession of the ships and imprisoned the sailors. The Ukrainian ships had attempted to pass from Ukraine’s port at Odessa to its port at Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov. Doing so requires transiting the very narrow and shallow Kerch Strait, over which Russia has now built a road and rail bridge connecting Russia with Russian-occupied Crimea. The Ukrainian vessels refused to recognize Russia’s assertion of unilateral control over the strait or to comply with the instructions of the Russian Coast Guard to wait outside the strait. The ships proceeded anyway and were first blocked, then attacked by the Russian Coast Guard.

Ukraine’s ministry: Two LPG tankers that sink near Kerch illegally supplied gas to Syria since 2016 | UNIAN

Ukraine’s Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons says that the two LPG tankers, the Maestro, built in 1990, and the Venice (formerly the Candy), built in 1992, that sank near the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea after they had caught fire because of an explosion, were involved in illegal gas supplies to Syria since 2016. At least 14 sailors were reported dead. Ukraine’s Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons says that the two LPG tankers, the Maestro, built in 1990, and the Venice (formerly the Candy), built in 1992, that sank near the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea after they had caught fire because of an explosion, were involved in illegal gas supplies to Syria since 2016. “According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury (OFAC), the Venice and the Maestro had been involved in illegal gas supplies to Syria since 2016,” the ministry said late on Monday, January 21. According to international monitoring systems, the Venice tanker left the Russian port of Temryuk on January 20, 2019, but its automatic identification system (AIS) was not working at the moment of the incident. “The situation with the Maestro tanker was the same – the latest information about the vessel was recorded by the AIS on January 9, 2019,” the ministry said. The AIS allows “not only to respond in a timely manner to ship accidents and provide assistance to victims, but also to monitor violations of navigation rules and illegal border crossings,” the ministry said. “Such actions of foreign companies engaged in transportation by sea are an attempt to shun liability under Ukrainian legislation and avoid possible international sanctions for such violations,” the ministry said. “Now it is difficult to establish the origin of the gas that was transported, but according to the available information, the Venice and Maestro vessels were involved in the supply of gas both produced [by Russia illegally in] the Ukrainian shelf and delivered from other countries,” it said. According to the ministry, the said vessels used to enter the ports closed by Ukraine in occupied Crimea and they were thus violators of the regime of the temporarily occupied territories. As UNIAN reported earlier, the two vessels caught fire after an explosion. The violation of safety rules during a ship-to-ship fuel transfer is said to be the cause behind the incident, according to one of the preliminary theories. The fire occurred on the two ships flying the flag of Tanzania at 18:00 Moscow time on January 21. The vessels were anchored in the neutral waters, outside Russia’s territorial waters. The scene is located 15 nautical miles from Cape Takil. Read alsoAt least 11 sailors die after two foreign vessels catch fire in Kerch Strait – Russian media (Video) According to preliminary data, there were 31 sailors on board the vessels. They were citizens of Turkey and India. There were nine citizens of Turkey and eight citizens of India on board the Venice, and there were seven citizens of Turkey and India each on board the Maestro. The people are said to have jumped overboard. At least 14 people were reported dead, another five were missing, according to the local media Kerch.FM. Both vessels later sank.

Vessels burning in Kerch Strait illegally supplied gas to Syria, – Ukraine – 112.international

Gas tankers Maestro and Venice (earlier Candy), which caught fire near Kerch Strait were involved in the illegal supplies of gas to Syria starting from 2016 as Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs reported. “According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department, the vessels Venice and Maestro were involved in the illegal supplies of gas to Syria starting from 2016,” the message said.

Ten Confirmed Dead, 10 Missing From Burning Ships Off Kerch Strait

Russian authorities say a fire that broke out on two Tanzanian-flagged commercial vessels off the Crimean Peninsula has killed at least 10 people, while 12 sailors have been rescued and 10 others a…

At Least 14 Dead After Ships Catch Fire Off Crimea

A fire on two Tanzanian-flagged commercial vessels has killed at least 10 sailors off the Crimean Peninsula, Russian authorities say.

Fire in Kerch Strait: No chances to find survivors left – 112.international

The operation for the sailors from burning vessels in the Black Sea near Kerch Strait was transferred from rescue to search, as there is no chance to find anybody alive, as the press office of Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport (Rosmorrechflot) reported. It was decided today in the morning. The interlocutor of the agency added that fire was not put out.

Russia opens criminal case due to victims of burning vessels in Kerch Strait – 112.international

The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened the criminal case due to negligent homicide upon the death of people in the result of the fire on the board of gas tankers near Crimea as the press service of South Investigation Department reported. “The criminal case is opened upon the death of two and more persons on the vessels in the neutral waters of the Black Sea due to the negligent homicide of two and more people,” the message said.

Two of 3 Ukrainian sailors injured in Kerch Strait recover, can be transferred to Lefortovo prison – Moscow ombudsman

Two Ukrainian sailors injured in the Kerch Strait, Andriy Artemenko and Andriy Eider, have recovered at the Matrosskaya Tishina infirmary and can be transferred to the Lefortovo prison upon rehabilitation, Moscow human rights commissioner Tatyana Potyayeva told Interfax on Tuesday.

Ukraine presents evidence of Russia’s violations of international maritime law

The Ukrainian delegation reported on Russia’s violation of the basic principles and norms of the international maritime law to the representatives of the International Maritime Organization in London. — Ukrinform.

Kerch Strait crisis: European Commission to send special mission to Mariupol

The European Commission will send a special mission to the city of Mariupol, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Rikard Jozwiak wrote on Twitter. — Ukrinform.

Denmark’s FM warns Russia of new EU sanctions over capture of Ukrainian sailors | UNIAN

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen has warned the European Union may impose new sanctions on Russia over the capture of Ukrainian sailors near the Kerch Strait in November 2018. Samuelsen says that Russia’s behavior at the Sea of Azov is unacceptable.

Ukrainian paratroopers hold drills near Mariupol (Photo, video) | UNIAN

The unit reaffirmed readiness to perform combat tasks as intended.

Disaster looming: Scientist comments on drinking water shortage in Crimea | UNIAN

Senior fellow at the Institute of Water of the Russian Academy of Sciences, hydrogeology engineer Yuriy Medovar warned that the Russia-seized Crimea could exhaust its drinking water reserves as early as in May 2019. Russia needs to negotiate with Ukraine on water supplies to the peninsula, the expert believes.

UAWire – Kremlin considers possibility of imposing fines for ‘wrong designation’ of annexed Crimea

The Russian Federation Council is discussing the possibility of drafting and submitting a bill to the Russian State Duma, introducing …

Ukraine beefs up air defense amid massing of Russian troops near Ukrainian borders | UNIAN

The Armed Forces of Ukraine are beefing up their air defense while Russia has been massing its troops near the Ukrainian borders. The Chief of the General Staff is in charge of air defense. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are beefing up their air defense while Russia has been massing its troops near the Ukrainian borders. “Given the build-up of the aggressor country’s troops near the Ukrainian borders, the Air Force and other types of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been increasing combat capabilities of the state’s air defense,” the press service of the Ukrainian Air Force Command said on Facebook, citing materials of a conference on air defense prospects. The conference took place in Kyiv and was chaired by Commander of the Air Force Colonel-General Serhiy Drozdov. Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force Command Colonel Oleksandr Zharyk said in turn that the conference had focused on air defense issues in the context of growing armed aggression of the Russian Federation, the deployment of additional forces of the Russian army near the borders of Ukraine – not only in Russian-occupied Donbas in the east, but also in other sections of the Ukrainian-Russian border. Under laws in Ukraine, the Chief of the General Staff is in charge of air defense. The Air Force Command is tasked with direct planning and control of anti-aircraft warfare, as well as documents preparation. “One of the issues discussed was an improvement in the air defense system, its enhancement at the expense of additional forces and equipment, including air defense units, namely air defense missile units, radio-radar troops, fighter aircraft units and other formations to combat unmanned and manned air forces of Russia,” Zharyk added.

JFO: Ukraine reports two enemy attacks in Donbas in past day | UNIAN

Russian-led forces mounted two attacks on Ukrainian troops in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, in the past 24 hours. There were no casualties among Ukrainian troops in the past day.

Russian proxies in Donbas threaten to shoot down OSCE SMM’s UAVs | UNIAN

The illegal armed groups in Donbas have threatened to shoot down the UAVs of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine. The move by the illegal armed groups is based on instructions from their superiors.

Russian proxies in Donbas capture Ukrainian soldier | UNIAN

Occupation forces of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) have captured a Ukrainian military serviceman, Stanislav Panchenko, and on January 21 published a video showing the captive. The Brigade says all reports disseminated by pro-Russian mercenaries are nothing but an element of information warfare.

British instructors train Ukrainian marines under operation ORBITAL. Photos

The marines of the Armed Forces of Ukraine started preparation for the conduct of combat operations according to the standards of NATO member states under the leadership of British instructors within the framework of the operation ORBITAL. — Ukrinform.

UK launches training course for Ukrainian marines under Operation ORBITAL | UNIAN

The Government of the United Kingdom has launched a training course for Ukrainian marines in Odesa region under Operation ORBITAL Operation ORBITAL began in 2015.

SMM mid-range UAV spots recent impact craters near Luhanske

An OSCE SMM mid-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted recent impact craters near Luhanske, according to the report posted on the OSCE SMM website. — Ukrinform.

Donbas war death toll rises up to nearly 13,000 – UN | UNIAN

From April 2014 to the end of 2018, some 12,800 to 13,000 people were killed in Donbas hostilities, according to the UN Monitoring Mission on Human Rights. Up to 30,000 people were wounded and injured as a result of hostilities.

Transnistrian “leader” promises not to attack Ukraine – 112.international

So-called “leader of unrecognized Transnistria Vadim Krasnoselsky has promised that Ukraine would not face the attack from his territory as “European Truth” reported. “The first guarantee is the military logic. The armament, forces and means are needed for any annexationist actions are needed and there are any of them. I have a military education and I perfectly understand it. If you want you can ask your observers,” Krasnoselsky said. Moreover, Transnistrian “leader” provided “his own guarantees”. “And the second is my personal guarantees that Transnistria will not do any aggressive actions against Ukraine. Including, from the side of the Russian troops in Transnistria,” he added. Earlier he said that Transnistria’s consulate might appear in Kyiv. Krasnoselsky stated that it is quite possible to open its consulate in Kyiv, even though they can not get support. If there will be such need and desire, Transnistria will have its representation in Ukraine. Transnistria is a self-proclaimed state, which the international community recognizes as part of Moldova. The independence of it is only partially recognized by the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as by the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

U.S. Embassy again calls on Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity

On the Day of Unity, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine once again called on Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, including Crimea. — Ukrinform.

Ukraine, Israel sign agreement on free trade area | UNIAN

Ukraine’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade Stepan Kubiv and Israel’s Minister of the Economy and Industry Eli Cohen have signed an agreement on a free trade area between the two countries. The Ukrainian president was also present at the official signing ceremony.

Ukraine, Israel sign free trade agreement. VIDEO

22.01.19 10:28 – Ukraine, Israel sign free trade agreement. VIDEO Ukraine and Israel government representatives have signed a free trade agreement between the two countries on Monday. View news.

Ukraine, Israel sign free trade agreement

Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Development and Trade Stepan Kubiv and Israel’s Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen have signed a free trade agreement between the two countries. — Ukrinform.

Ukrainian infrastructure minister expects great prospects in digital field from FTA with Israel

The signing of the Ukraine-Israel Free Trade Agreement opens up great prospects for cooperation in digital infrastructure. — Ukrinform.

Poroshenko invites Netanyahu to visit Ukraine and speak at parliament

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko invited Prime Minister of the State of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Ukraine and speak at the Verkhovna Rada. — Ukrinform.

Groysman calls FTA with Israel another economic victory

Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman has welcomed the signing of a free trade agreement with Israel and expressed gratitude to the government team for efficient work.   — Ukrinform.

Ukraine remembers victims of Holocaust — Poroshenko after visit to Yad Vashem memorial

Ukraine remembers those who died in the Holocaust, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine has said.

Poroshenko hopes that Knesset will recognize Holodomor as genocide

As part of an official visit to the State of Israel, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko met with Speaker of the Knesset of Israel Yuli-Yoel Edelstein. — Ukrinform.

Poroshenko prays for Ukraine near Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, – photo – 112.international

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko prayed near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, as Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman wrote on Facebook. “Prayer for the welfare of Ukraine and Israel near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem,” he wrote.

Maryna Poroshenko and Israel Foreign Ministry to develop inclusive education in Ukraine

President’s wife Maryna Poroshenko and the leadership of the Agency for International Development Cooperation MASHAV of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have signed an agreement on cooperation and implementation of the best practices of inclusive education in Ukraine. — Ukrinform.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kyiv Moving toward Breaking Diplomatic Relations with Moscow

Paul Goble Staunton, January 21 – When one country invades another and occupies part of its territory, the victim normally breaks diplomatic relations with the aggressor. But despite the fact that Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, has illegally annexed part of Ukraine’s territory and continues its aggression, Ukraine still maintains diplomatic relations with Russia. There are at least two reasons for that. On the one hand, the governments of many countries which support Ukraine do not want to see Kyiv take a step that would deny them the ability to deny the obvious and even accept the Kremlin’s constant muddying of waters via fake news and outright lies. And on the other, many in Ukraine feel that their country is still so intertwined with Russia that Kyiv would lose more than it would gain by taking an action that would leave Ukraine without a diplomatic presence in Russia both to negotiate and to offer consular services to the millions of Ukrainians in the Russian Federation. But in recent weeks, the Ukrainian government has been moving in the direction of annulling many of the agreements it has with Moscow, having cancelled 49 so far and announcing plans to denounce 50 more. After doing so, there will be fewer reasons to maintain diplomatic ties (lb.ua/news/2019/01/18/417469_ukraina_razorvala_49_dogovorov.html). On Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin said that Ukraine had not yet moved to break diplomatic relations with Russia completely because it has not been able to find another country whose embassy in Moscow will represent the interests of Ukraine in Russia (2000.ua/novosti/ukraina_novosti/klimkin-ukraina-ishet-formulu-dlja-razryva-dipotnoshenii-s-rf.htm). The Ukrainian diplomat said that Kyiv is continuing to seek a country who will play this role and has talked to many. “I will not name the countries because this is a question of politeness.” But there must not be any confusion in Ukraine’s plans: It intends to break relations with Moscow as soon as it finds “a formula” that will allow it to do so. In most such cases, prominent non-aligned countries such as Switzerland are quite prepared to play this role. But in this case, it is highly likely that Moscow has put out the word that Russia would view the willingness of any country to represent Ukraine’s interest as an unfriendly act. One very much hopes that a major Western country will step up and play this role, allowing the victim of Russian aggression and occupation to break relations with the regime responsible.

Russia annexed Crimea, tried to split Ukraine to make Kyiv abandon idea of joining EU, NATO – Poroshenko | UNIAN

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said Russia annexed Crimea and tried to split Ukraine to make the country drop the idea of joining the European Union and NATO. Ukraine has firmly embarked on the path of strengthening its freedom and independence, the president said.

Poroshenko: Ukraine unitary state, no federation possible here

22.01.19 13:11 – Poroshenko: Ukraine unitary state, no federation possible here President Petro Poroshenko says that Ukraine will not become a federation and no special status will be permanently granted to its regions. View news.

Poroshenko: No “federations” or “special statuses” to emerge in Ukraine | UNIAN

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Ukraine is a unitary state and there will be no federations and special statuses for individual regions. The president stressed Ukraine should protect and strengthen national unity.

The first five: who are they? – LB.ua news portal

The first five: who are they?. Apart from the obvious frontrunners, politicians from the category of “statistical error” also register for the presidential run. LB.ua explains who of them are going to play a dummy role, or pull the carpet from under potential leaders, or improve their parties’ rating ahead of the parliamentary election. Political – LB.ua news portal. Latest from Ukraine and the world today

Moscow’s interference in Ukraine’s elections could be unprecedented – Horbulin

First Vice-President of Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences Volodymyr Horbulin has said Russian influence during presidential and parliamentary election campaigns in Ukraine during 2019 could be unprecedented.

James Brooke | Ukraine Emerges from Isolation | Atlantic Council

Transportation links provide advance warnings as to where a society is going physically and mentally. Until five years ago, all of Ukraine’s roads led to Moscow. Now they go west. On land, more Ukrainians traveled by train to Europe than to Russia last year for the first time since Czarist railroads were built in the late nineteenth century. Traveling on 20 new EU-bound trains launched last year, Ukraine-EU passenger traffic doubled. By contrast, Ukraine-Russia rail passenger traffic contracted by 15 percent. For cars, Poland and Slovakia are building four lane divided highways that will reach Ukraine’s western borders in the early 2020s. Even without these highways, ads in the Kyiv metro advertise one way bus tickets from Kyiv to Warsaw for the equivalent of $8. Three years ago, Moscow pundits smirked that Ukraine was shooting itself in the foot when Kyiv banned flights between Ukraine and Russia. Now Ukraine enjoys the biggest aviation boom in Europe today. Take Kharkiv airport. In the Soviet era, it was built to fly Ukrainians to Moscow and Leningrad. Three years after losing all Russia routes, Kharkiv air traffic nearly hit a record 1 million passengers last year–20 times the 2002 level. Instead of flying workers to jobs in Russia, a whole generation of Russian-speaking Kharkivites are flying on LOT Polish Airlines to Warsaw, on Wizz Air to Gdansk, Katowice, and Wroclaw, or on Ernest Airlines to Milan and Rome. From east to west, Ukraine’s airports are adding new direct flights to Europe, pulling the nation out of its historical isolation. Last year, passenger traffic at Kherson jumped by 42 percent, at Lviv by 48 percent, and at Kyiv Sikorsky (Zhuliany) by 52 percent. In 2018, Kyiv Sikorsky handled 2.8 million passengers, 100 times more than in 2010. As a growing Wizz Air hub, Kyiv Sikorsky now offers Kyiv residents direct flights to 51 cities. Of these, 41 are in the EU. Across the river, Kyiv Boryspil attracted 10 new airlines, opened 25 new destinations, and added 2 million passengers last year. With Ryanair unleashing its full service this spring to 17 EU cities, Boryspil plans to reopen terminal F and to invest in expanding terminal D. In the west, Lviv has direct flights to 30 cities, all but two in the EU. At Lviv and Kyiv Sikorsky, about 90 percent of passengers fly internationally. Spreading cheap EU flights across the country, Ryanair and Wizz Air are expected to expand this summer, starting with Odesa and Kharkiv. Last March, when President Petro Poroshenko attended the signing agreement with Ryanair at Boryspil, he enthused that Europe’s largest airline would help millions of Ukrainians discover the EU. Indeed, in a societal shift unprecedented in Ukrainian history, millions of Ukrainians are experiencing Europe first hand–for work, tourism, and study. In 2017, at the start of the 90-day visa-free regime, Ukrainians accounted for the top nationality winning foreign temporary residency permits in the EU. In another case of trading places, Poland after 2014 has topped Russia as the top source of wage remittances from Ukrainians working abroad. For outbound tourism the impact of the open borders regime with the EU is so strong that one Odesa hotelier told me in September that he lost many of his upper end visitors last summer. Why vacation in Odesa when you can go to Rimini? Last year, at the Ryanair signing ceremony at Boryspil, Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary corrected Ukraine’s president. The Irishman said, in effect, that his airline does not want to become a flying bus for Ukrainian gastarbeiters. Ryanair’s business model–and its powerful marketing machine–calls for bringing millions of Europeans to Ukraine. Eight months later, on November 20, Ryanair chief commercial officer David O’Brien updated Poroshenko on his airline’s plans: investment of $1.5 billion in Ukraine routes, raising passenger flows from 1 million in 2019 to 5 million in 2023. The next day, on November 21, Wizz Air CEO József Váradi met with Poroshenko and promised to invest $2.5 billion on Ukraine routes, to base up to 20 Airbus here, and to carry 6 million passengers by 2025. Meanwhile, Ernest Airline, an Italian discounter, has carved out Italy as its turf, offering scheduled flights between Kyiv Sikorsky and six Italian cities. SkyUp, the new Ukrainian discount airline, is offering scheduled flights to Cyprus, Spain, and Portugal. A generation of Ukrainians is growing up without ever visiting Moscow or St. Petersburg. Their points of reference are cafés in Krakow, a beach on the Adriatic, a museum in southern France. This spring, when Ukraine turns green again, the second shoe will drop. While Ukrainians–and Ukraine watchers–obsess about politics, Europeans will be studying their email alerts for deals on weekend city breaks. They will discover a new destination, soaked in history, with no visas, minimal street crime, and very low prices–all within a 2-3 hour flight of most EU cities. In the dead of winter, few in Kyiv today realize the implications of the economic models of the discount airlines. One British friend groaned to me recently that Kyiv will become a destination for stag parties. Maybe. But what I see from where I live, one block from Kyiv’s Golden Gate, are groups of foreigners listening to tour guides, who talk in different languages about Yaroslav the Wise. Last October, my son William and I flew to Sofia, Bulgaria, for a weekend. We checked into an Airbnb apartment one block off Sofia’s equivalent of Kreschatyk. Walking the city center in the balmy weather, we kept encountering groups of foreign tourists—largely couples of all ages—following guides holding wooden paddles marked: “Free City Tour.” What’s up? I asked one volunteer guide, a university student. He replied: “Ryanair started flying here in 2016.” Today, Ryanair flies from 23 EU cities to Sofia. What do they find? A history-soaked walkable city, with low crime, no visas, and cheap prices. The stage is set for 2019 to shape up as the year when Europeans discover Ukraine. James Brooke is editor-in-chief of the Ukraine Business News, a forward looking weekday morning email of Ukraine business deals and economic trends.

Ukraine loses seats in PACE Rules Committee

22.01.19 12:12 – Ukraine loses seats in PACE Rules Committee The Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has changed the rules for committees formation and excluded Ukraine from the Rules Committee dealing with Russia sanctions. View news.

Hero In Ukraine, Hated In Belarus

Mikhail Zhyzneuski, who was shot dead five years ago, on January 22, 2014, during the Euromaidan protests, is considered a hero in Ukraine. But in his home city of Homel in Belarus, his grave has been vandalized and his family say they have been treated as pariahs. (Originally published December 5, 2018)

UAWire – Poroshenko: We will restore Donetsk airport under the Ukrainian flag

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that Ukraine would liberate the Donbas and would be able to restore the Donetsk airport, Interfax- …

Possession of weapons should be legalized in Ukraine – Prosecutor General Lutsenko

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has said he believes that it is necessary to liberalize rules for possession of weapons in Ukraine.

Ukrainian prisoner Hryb in Russia needs urgent medical care – Ukrainian ombudsperson | UNIAN

Human Rights Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, Liudmyla Denisova says Ukrainian citizen Pavlo Hryb, who is illegally imprisoned in the Russian Federation, needs urgent medical care. He is almost blind and suffers from memory loss.

Abducted Ukrainian hostage likely tricked by FSB pretending to be his internet “girlfriend” | UNIAN

Pavlo Hryb was just 19 when he was abducted by the FSB from Belarus after going there, he thought, to meet a young woman he had met, and fallen in love with, on the Internet.  On 18 January, the now 20-year-old told a Russian court that he believes the person he met in Belarus, who is the prosecution’s ‘key witness’, to be an FSB set up, and not the young woman he originally corresponded with. He also gave disturbing details of the violence he was subjected to following his abduction to force a ‘confession’ from him. The court has paid no heed to Hryb’s allegations or to the shocking discrepancies in his case.

Suspected instigator of Handziuk murder declared wanted. PHOTO

21.01.19 14:31 – Suspected instigator of Handziuk murder declared wanted. PHOTO The SBU has declared Oleksii Levin (Moskalenko), suspected instigator of public activist Kateryna Handziuk murder, wanted. View news.