Thursday, April 28, 2016

Chernobyl's legacy 30 years on

April 28, 2016 (BBC News Europe) Children are still being born with severe birth defects and rare types of cancer in areas near to Chernobyl, according to a British charity, three decades on from the world's worst civil nuclear disaster. The accident on 26 April 1986 contributed to the downfall of the Soviet Union, changed the way the world thinks about nuclear energy and has affected an unquantifiable number of people in the region. For British pediatrician Dr Rachel Furley, the "desperately sad" reality is that women who have spent their entire lives exposed to high levels of radiation are now having children. She says that in the most severe cases babies have limbs missing and in one case a baby was born with two heads. When Dr Furley is not treating children in Bury St Edmunds, she helps 800 youngsters in Gomel, a region of Belarus. She set up the charity Bridges to Belarus when she was still at medical school. It now gives families clothing, school materials and accommodation, as well as food during the harsh winter, English lessons and healthcare. The organization also provides pain relief, palliative care and potentially lifesaving blood tests for the unusually high number of children with cancer, in a region where state healthcare is often lacking.

The concrete graveyard that is a city of Pripyat today

Thousands of inhabitants abandoned their homes

The full article is available at

Friday, April 15, 2016

This is Why the Navy didn't Shoot Down Russian Jets

April 15, 2016 (NavyTimes) United States Navy Destroyer USS Donald Cook operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea experienced several close interactions by Russian aircraft on April 11 and 12. Russian pilots rattled nerves aboard the destroyer Donald Cook, buzzing within yards of the ship in the Baltic Sea. Provocative, sure. But they weren't a credible threat.
So concludes a retired Navy commanding officer, who reviewed photos and videos from the run-ins on Monday and Tuesday, when unarmed Sukhoi Su-24 fighters flew within 1,000 feet of the ship - once coming as close as 30 feet in what U.S. officials called "simulated attacks." On Monday, a low-flying Russian Ka-27 Helix helicopter also appeared to take photos of the ship. This was definitely provocative, but it doesn't amount to a threat, said the retired frigate and cruiser CO.
"Well, we’re not at war with Russia," Capt. Rick Hoffman said. "It would be one thing to be operating and have a threatening attack profile from someone who might not recognize me - that’s not the case here." If you have visual identification of the jet, can see it isn't carrying weapons, and don't detect any electronic emissions suggesting there was a missile lock on the ship, there's nothing to be done. And ultimately, the rules of engagement put the CO in charge of how to respond. "You don’t get to kill people just because they’re being annoying,"
said Hoffman, who commanded frigate DeWert and cruiser Hue City. Cruisers are the fleet's foremost air defense platform and are tasked with guarding flattops from incoming threats.
Read the full article and see the video at

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Cabinet formed in Ukraine

April 14, 2016 (UNIAN) The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Thursday appointed Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Groysman to the post of Prime Minister of Ukraine, having dismissed from this post Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Then the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution on the formation of the Cabinet of Ministers. According to UNIAN, voted 239 deputies out of 367 MPs registered in the session hall voted for the move. As noted by Rada Speaker Andriy Parubiy, the motion proposes appointment of nominations offered by President Poroshenko (meaning, candidates for the posts of Defense Minister and Foreign Minister), and the candidates promoted by Prime Minister Groysman. The proposed composition of a new Cabinet was personally voiced by PM Groysman at the session hall. “I’d like for it to be the government, which, having your support, would return confidence of the people in the authorities in general,” said Groysman.

The following officials were named:
Stepan Kubiv is to become First Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Economic Development and Trade (Presidential envoy in parliament, MP);
Deputy Prime MinisterVolodymyr Kistion (first deputy chief of staff in Rada);
Deputy Prime Minister for European and EuroAtlantic IntegrationIvanna Klympush-Tsintsadze (first deputy chief of Rada Committee on Foreign Affairs, MP);
Deputy Prime MinisterPavlo Rozenko (Minister of Social Policy in Yatsenyuk’s government);
Deputy Prime Minister for Humanitarian AffairsVyacheslav Kyrylenko (Minister of Culture in Yatsenyuk’s government);
Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Regional Development, Construction and HousingGennadiy Zubko (retains his post);
Minister of the Cabinet of MinistersOleksandr Saenko (Rada’s chief of staff);
Finance Minister – Oleksandr Danylyuk (former adviser to Viktor Yanukovych; headed the coordination center on implementation of economic reforms since 2010; in July 2014 appointed representative of Petro Poroshenko to the Cabinet; in September 2015, the president appointed him Deputy Head of Presidential Administration)
Interior MinisterArsen Avakov (retains his post);
Justice MinisterPavlo Petrenko (retains his post);
Defense MinisterStepan Poltorak (retains his post);
Foreign MinisterPavlo Klimkin (retains his post);
Minister of Social PolicyAndriy Reva (Deputy Mayor of Vinnytsia);
Youth and Sports Minister Ihor Zhdanov (retains his post);
Minister of Information PolicyYuriy Stets (retains his post);
Ecology MinisterOstap Semerak (minister of Yatsenyuk’s Cabinet, MP, first deputy of Rada Committee on Euro integration);
Minister of EducationLiliya Hrynevych (Chairman of Rada Committee on science and education, MP);
Minister of Agrarian Policy and FoodTaras Kutoviy (head of Rada’s Committee on Agriculture and Land, Deputy chief of BPP faction);
Infrastructure MinisterVolodymyr Omelyan (Deputy Infrastructure Minister in Yatsenyuk’s government);
Culture MinisterYevhen Nyshchuk (Deputy Minister of Infrastructure in Yatsenyuk’s government);
Minister on temporarily occupied territories and IDPsVadym Chernysh (expert on fighting money laundering and financing terrorism, member of ACAMS – Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists) since May 2010);
Minister of Energy and Coal IndustryIhor Nasalik (between April 2002 and March 2005 – MP, used to be chairman of subcommittee on oil industry and petroleum products supply of the Rada Committee on fuel and energy complex, nuclear policy and nuclear security).
At the same time, the nomination for the post of Minister of Health has not been voiced.
After this, the ministers vowed allegiance as Groysman voiced it from the rostrum.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The West Is Enabling Graft in Ukraine

April 12, 2016 (The New York Times) This article was written by Oliver Bullough who is a writer specializing in corruption, tax havens and the former Soviet Union. Here you can read just a few most bright quotations taken from this article. 
Corruption on such a scale, economy-wide, would cripple any state, let alone one as fragile as this one. In 1991, Ukraine’s G.D.P. was about two-thirds of Poland’s G.D.P.; now, it is less than one-quarter. Corruption has ruined this country, dooming a generation of Ukrainians to poor education, unsafe streets and blighted careers.
In August 2014, when Ukrainian soldiers were trapped under artillery bombardments during the battle of Ilovaisk, President Petro Poroshenko, a candy magnate, was setting up a corporate vehicle in the British Virgin Islands. While young men were dying to defend Ukraine, their commander-in-chief was looking for ways to deny Ukraine taxes from his own business empire.
In 2006, a court in California sentenced Pavlo Lazarenko, Ukraine’s prime minister in 1996-97, to nine years in prison for misusing his post to extort tens of millions of dollars from Ukrainians. By the time he was released in 2012, hundreds of millions of dollars more had been stolen from Ukraine.
It’s difficult to chart the precise dimensions of this corruption. It is a submerged leviathan, and small bits of it are only occasionally exposed by brave Ukrainian investigators or forensic probes from abroad.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign

April 11, 2016 (BBC Europe) The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has announced he will resign next week, blaming politicians' failure to enact "real changes". Mr Yatsenyuk, in office since former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February 2014, said he would inform parliament on Tuesday. The current President, Petro Poroshenko, asked him to quit in February, saying he had lost support. His government has been accused of inaction and corruption. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has threatened to withhold aid money if it does not carry out reforms.
Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Groysman has been nominated by President Poroshenko's party to replace Mr Yatsenyuk. US Vice-President Joe Biden, in a call to Mr Yatsenyuk on Sunday, congratulated him on "accomplishments over the past two years", including economic reforms, but said "these changes must be irreversible".

Mr Yatsenyuk came to power promising to tackle corruption and implement economic reforms but has increasingly become the focus of accusations of corruption, even though no concrete evidence was produced. Western governments have expressed concern over the resignation of reform-minded figures from the government. President Poroshenko himself came under scrutiny this week after leaked documents suggested he had set up an offshore company as a tax haven using Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca. He said he had done nothing wrong and Ukrainian prosecution officials said there was no evidence of a crime but there were calls for his impeachment.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Panama Law Firm’s Leaked Files Detail Offshore Accounts Tied to World Leaders

April 4, 2016 (New York Times) A group of news media outlets published articles on Sunday based on what they said were 11.5 million leaked documents from a Panama law firm that helped some of the world’s wealthiest people - including politicians, athletes and business moguls – establish offshore bank accounts. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said its reporters had obtained the documents from a confidential source. The newspaper then shared the files with other media organizations, like The Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In an article, the investigative journalism organization said the documents revealed the offshore accounts of 140 politicians and public officials, including a dozen current and former world leaders and several individuals with close ties to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The organization said reporters at 100 news media outlets working in 25 languages had used the documents to investigate the law firm, Mossack Fonseca, and its clients, including political figures in countries like Iceland, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. 

The revelations also touched Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, who was elected in the aftermath of the political upheaval in the country in 2014 that led to the annexation of Crimea and open conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Poroshenko, a tycoon with assets in television and a chocolatier before his entrance into politics, pledged to divest himself of his holdings but instead moved the assets into an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands, according to the consortium’s reporting. It said that Mr. Poroshenko, who has received political support from the United States, had not disclosed the arrangement.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ukraine’s Unyielding Corruption

April 1, 2016 (The New York Times) The Ukrainian Parliament finally voted to oust Ukraine’s odious prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, on Tuesday. The United States and European countries that have provided aid to Ukraine had long pressed for his dismissal; in his year in office, Mr. Shokin became a symbol of Ukraine’s deeply ingrained culture of corruption, failing to prosecute a single member of the deposed Yanukovych regime or of the current government while blocking the efforts of reform-minded deputies. Alas, nothing is likely to change unless President Petro Poroshenko and Parliament agree to install some real corruption fighters and approve serious judicial reform.
Corruption has been pervasive in Ukraine since independence, fed by close-knit ties between politicians and oligarchs and a weak justice system. The protests in 2014 that led to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych were largely fueled by popular fury at his monumental corruption and abuse of power. Yet his overthrow has yet to show results.
In a speech in Odessa last September, the United States ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, said corruption was as dangerous for Ukraine as was the Russian support for a military insurgency in eastern Ukraine. And on a visit last December, Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. said corruption was eating Ukraine “like a cancer.” Among the examples Mr. Pyatt cited was the seizure in Britain of $23 million in illicit assets from the former Ukrainian ecology minister, Mykola Zlochevsky; Mr. Shokin’s office, however, declared that there was no case against the minister, and the money was released.
In his last hours in office, Mr. Shokin dismissed the deputy prosecutor general, David Sakvarelidze, a former prosecutor in Georgia brought in by President Poroshenko to fight corruption. And before that, Mr. Shokin had systematically cleansed his office of reform-minded prosecutors. The acting prosecutor general now is Yuriy Sevruk, a crony who can be trusted to continue Mr. Shokin’s practices.
Mr. Poroshenko, himself a product of the old system, has had his hands full with the Moscow-backed separatists in the east and unceasing political turmoil in Kiev, where Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government is hanging by a thread.
Ukrainians protested government corruption in Kiev on Monday.