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Russia reacts to Javelin missiles 

Russia is taking urgent measures in light of reported deliveries of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, National Deputy Dmytro Tymchuk (People’s Front) has said. Mr. Tymchuk and his Information Resistance group said Russia’s military have been “tasked with developing anti-Javelin missile protection for armored vehicles vulnerable to the heat-seeking missile.” Mr. Tymchuk said plans are under way to establish serial production of military equipment of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps based in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics.” Russian occupation forces in eastern Ukraine have also ordered brigades and regiments under their control to conceal their whereabouts from reconnaissance missions conducted by unmanned U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk flights. As reported earlier, U.S. officials have approved a plan to sell anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainian government. The package of $47 million includes the sale of 210 anti-tank missiles and 35 launchers. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2014, the U.S. has provided $600 million to Ukraine in military assistance, which has included Humvee vehicles, counter-radar equipment, small drones and electronic warfare gear. (Interfax-Ukraine)

Militants break Christmas ceasefire 

On January 7 at 9 p.m., militants broke the Christmas ceasefire with an attack on Verkhnyotoretske in the Donetsk sector. “Russian proxies fired 15 82-mm mines and used small arms, firing at Ukrainian troops for more than half an hour,” reported Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, at a press briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center. He said the Armed Forces of Ukraine maintained the ceasefire and did not return fire. As a result of the militants’ shelling, no Ukrainian troops were killed. One Ukrainian soldier was injured by an unidentified explosive device near Lopaskino. “He is in serious condition and was taken to the military medical facility, where he is now being provided the necessary treatment,” Col. Motuzyanyk said. In the Luhansk sector, no ceasefire violations were recorded that day. (Ukraine Crisis Media Center)

Svitolina wins, now ranked No. 4

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina defeated Belarusian qualifier Alyaksandra Sasnovich in the Brisbane International tennis final in a warm-up tournament for the upcoming Australian Open. Ms. Svitolina topped Ms. Sasnovich 6-2, 6-1 on January 6 in the Australian city of Brisbane – a victory that boosted the Ukrainian star’s world ranking to No. 4. Svitolina, 23, said her off-season workouts helped improve her game. “I’ve started to play more consistently, and there’s lots of things that changed,” she said. “I’m stronger physically. I have a different look to my game.” Ms. Sasnovich, also age 23, will likely rise to 53rd from 88th in the rankings. The Australian Open is scheduled to begin on January 15. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by AP and AFP)

Lithuania promotes investment in Ukraine

The Globe and Mail reported on January 7, that Lithuania is urging Canada to sign on to a long-term package of support for Ukraine that would funnel more investment into the Eastern European country and strengthen its ties with the West. The newspaper reported: “The Lithuanian government in concert with Ukraine is championing what is provisionally called a ‘European Plan for Ukraine’ and would disburse an estimated $7.47-billion annually to Ukrainian recipients for a period of 10 years. Lithuania remains concerned about Russia’s continuing efforts to destabilize Ukraine and the idea, spearheaded by former Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, has been likened to the Marshall Plan aid initiative that helped rebuild Western Europe after the second world war.” A key goal, according to The Globe and Mail report, would be to replace aging Soviet-era infrastructure in Ukraine and “make other highly visible investments that demonstrate to Ukrainians the West is playing a key role in their recovery and help prevent the rise of anti-European politicians. The disbursement of capital for investment projects would be linked to further reforms of governance and Ukraine’s investment climate. This proposal remains in the formative stages and financing and partners are still being assembled. A Lithuanian government delegation, which visited Washington and Ottawa near the end of 2017 to press its case, hopes that Canada, which will serve as chair of the Group of Seven countries throughout 2018, can make Ukraine a priority for its tenure.” Canada, the United States and other potential donors and international financial institutions, from the European Union’s European Investment Bank to the World Bank’s International Finance Corp. and Scandinavia’s Nordic Investment Bank, have been invited to an upcoming “Invest Ukraine” conference in Brussels to discuss the project, including the establishment of a central agency to manage this initiative, the newspaper noted. (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing)

Cypriot court freezes Akhmetov assets

A court in Cyprus has issued an order to freeze $820 million in assets held by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, as part of a legal battle with a rival over the ownership of fixed-line telecoms group Ukrtelecom, The Financial Times reported. The court’s decision against Mr. Akhmetov and nine others was handed down on December 27, 2017, the London-based newspaper reported on January 5, adding the Ukrainian oligarch can appeal the decision until January 8. Quoting a court document provided by Raga Establishment, owned by Denis Gorbunenko, the newspaper said the case seeks money for the sale of Ukrtelecom to Akhmetov’s SCM Financial Overseas (SCM FO) by Raga in 2013 for $860 million. Under the court order, Mr. Akhmetov and other respondents can manage their property as long as assets worth at least $820.5 million – the amount sought by Raga in the litigation – is preserved and that Raga is notified in advance of certain larger transactions. Raga claims it received only $100 million up front for the sale and nothing since. Further complicating the case, in October 2017 a Kyiv court terminated the original privatization contract that sold Ukrtelecom to ESU, a unit of Mr. Gorbunenko’s Raga, saying it failed to fulfill the obligations set out in the sale. Assets held by Mr. Akhmetov, listed by Forbes magazine as having amassed a fortune of $4.6 billion through various business interests including mining and real estate, could be part of the freeze. He also has holdings in the coal, steel, and energy sectors, as well as the Shakhtar Donetsk football club. (RFE/RL)

Georgian court sentences Saakashvili 

The Tbilisi city court has found former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili guilty of abuse of power in connection with a 2006 murder case and sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison. Judge Giorgi Arevadze on January 5 announced the verdict against Mr. Saakashvili, Georgia’s president from 2004 until 2013, convicting him of abusing his presidential powers by trying to cover up evidence about the murder of Georgian banker Sandro Girgvliani, and issuing pardons for four men who were convicted of the killing. Mr. Saakashvili, who rejects the charges as politically motivated, said on January 5 that his conviction was the result of pressure from one of his major political opponents in Georgia, former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whom Mr. Saakashvili linked to Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom. “The so-called ‘ruling’ against me by a Georgian court that is fully under control of Gazprom-shareholder Ivanishvili is absolutely illegal and contradicts all international and domestic regulations and common sense,” Mr. Saakashvili wrote on Facebook from Ukraine, where he currently resides and is an opposition politician. “The trial of a president for using his right to pardon, which is not limited by any means, shows that the case is fully politically motivated,” Saakashvili said. “It also shows that Georgian authorities have not been able to find anything against me in the last five years – neither facts of corruption nor other violations of the law.” Mr. Saakashvili said a simultaneous court hearing against him in Kyiv showed that “oligarchic authorities in Ukraine and Georgia are operating in synchronicity and in full coordination with each other” against him because he is “the leader of a battle against corruption, oligarchs, and the robbery of the people.” Mr. Saakashvili said the world knew that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has been demanding both Georgian and Ukrainian authorities to implement repressive measures” against him. Mr. Putin “repeated that in his recent press conference,” Mr. Saakashvili said, claiming that talks aimed at “neutralizing” him were conducted between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Mr. Ivanishvili in Georgia several days before Mr. Poroshenko issued an order to strip him of his Ukrainian citizenship last summer. “According to my sources, [the issue was also discussed] by Poroshenko and Putin in a telephone conversation on December 29, 2017,” Mr. Saakashvili wrote. Mr. Saakashvili’s government-appointed lawyer, Sofio Goglichidze, said after the ruling that the court violated “a number of legal provisions and the constitution” in convicting former Georgian president. “It is obvious that political persecution is going against Mikheil Saakashvili. It was impossible to deliver a guilty verdict in the case in accordance with the law,” Mr. Goglichidze said. Khatia Dekanoidze, a member of Mr. Saakashvili’s United National Movement party in Georgia, said the January 5 verdict in Tbilisi might help Ukrainian authorities extradite Mr. Saakashvili to Georgia. “Nobody doubts that the charge was motivated and ordered,” said Ms. Dekanoidze, who served as the head of the Ukrainian National Police when Mr. Saakashvili was governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region in 2015-16. “I do not exclude Mikheil Saakashvili’s extradition [to Georgia] because the administrative resources of the two countries are working together” against him, Ms. Dekanoidze said in Tbilisi. But Mr. Saakashvili’s lawyer in Ukraine, Ruslan Chornolutskiy, told RFE/RL on January 5 that his client’s legal status should prevent his extradition to Georgia. “According to Ukrainian laws, a person who was a Ukrainian citizen and for the last several years resided in Ukraine cannot be extradited,” Mr. Chornolutskiy told RFE/RL. (RFE/RL’s Georgian and Ukrainian services, with reporting by Apsny.ge and Newsgeorgia.ge)

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