October 27, 2017



Kyiv moves to extradite Saakashvili 

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has called upon his supporters in Ukraine to protect him from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “Poroshenko wants to extradite me,” Mr. Saakashvili said in a statement broadcast on the NewsOne television outlet on October 24. “I ask Kyiv residents and all other honest people for protection.” Earlier in the day, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko announced that the country’s migration service had rejected Mr. Saakashvili’s application for refugee status. “As a result, he is now a stateless person and there are no special obstacles excluding him from deportation or extradition,” Mr. Lutsenko said. Mr. Saakashvili’s lawyer, Pavlo Bohomazov, told Russia’s RIA Novosti that his client has not received a rejection from the migration authorities. Mr. Saakashvili is wanted in Georgia on suspicion of trying to organize a coup there, allegations he denies. In 2015, Mr. Poroshenko appointed Mr. Saakashvili as governor of Odesa Oblast. He surrendered his Georgian citizenship in order to take the post. In November 2016, however, Mr. Saakashvili resigned, saying that his reform efforts had been blocked by Poroshenko’s allies. In June of this year, Mr. Poroshenko revoked Mr. Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship, saying that he had withheld information during the application procedure. Mr. Saakashvili re-entered Ukraine in September, even though his Ukrainian passport was invalid. Mr. Lutsenko said on October 24 that Kyiv was preparing to expel 20 Georgian supporters of Mr. Saakashvili who have set up tents for a ‘round-the-clock protest outside Ukraine’s Parliament. He said the men had received residence permits under false pretenses and were now planning a “forcible seizure of power.” (RFE/RL, with reporting by Meduza, RIA Novosti, and DPA)

Pro-Ukrainian Russian activist released

A Russian activist imprisoned for Internet posts criticizing Russia’s interference in Ukraine has been released from a penal colony after serving her two-year sentence. Darya Polyudova was released on October 20 from Penal Colony No. 10 in the southern Russian city of Novorossiysk, where she was sentenced on charges of propagating extremism and separatism online. Ms. Polyudova said upon her release that she will continue to engage in political activities after a short period of rest. Ms. Polyudova conducted several hunger strikes at the penal colony to protest conditions there. She was charged in 2014 for Internet posts in which she criticized the Russian government’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and the Kremlin’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center designated Ms. Polyudova as a political prisoner. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by Grani.ru and Kommersant)

Nonproliferation group meets in Kyiv

The United States and Ukraine held a Nonproliferation Working Group Meeting in Kyiv on October 24. The regularly held meeting is one of several exchanges the United States and Ukraine hold each year to strengthen bilateral cooperation to address the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, advanced conventional weapons and sensitive dual-use technologies. Interagency experts from both sides met to discuss a range of nonproliferation, counterproliferation and strategic trade control challenges, and how the countries can best cooperate to address those challenges. In light of the growing threat from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, this meeting put special emphasis on promoting effective and robust implementation of strategic trade controls and all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. (U.S. Department of State)

Odesa mayor’s home, office are raided

Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators have raided the home and office of the mayor of the Black Sea port city of Odesa, who is at the center of an embezzlement probe. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) said the searches were conducted on October 23 at the premises of Odesa Mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov and his associates. Odesa authorities are suspected of embezzling funds from contracts assigned for repairing a highway and approving loans meant to help refurbish the local airport but which vanished. “Since detectives are also checking the possibility of the Odesa mayor’s involvement in these criminal offenses, the searches are being held at his home and office,” NABU said in a statement. In comments to RFE/RL, Mr. Trukhanov confirmed that his office was searched by NABU agents. However, he denied that his home was also raided. The raids came nearly a week after the start of anti-government rallies in Kyiv, which are currently being spearheaded by Mikheil Saakashvili –the former Georgian president who became governor of Odesa Oblast in February 2015. Mr. Saakashvili accused Mr. Trukhanov of being one of Odesa’s corruption bosses and pledged to bring him to justice, but eventually became frustrated about his inability to tackle bribery and resigned last year. (RFE/RL, with reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and AFP)

Pussy Riot protests Sentsov imprisonment

Members of the Russian performance-art collective Pussy Riot have carried out a protest in support of jailed Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov at Trump Tower in New York City. On October 24, Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina posted on social media photographs and video of three masked women unfurling a large banner with the slogan “Free Sentsov” inside the skyscraper that is owned by U.S. President Donald Trump and is where he lived before moving to the White House in January. The action, which occurred October 23, was stopped by tower security guards shortly after the banner was unfurled. The protesters were not arrested since the area is considered public space. Mr. Sentsov was arrested in Crimea in 2014, following its illegal annexation by Russia. A Russian court in 2015 convicted him and co-defendant Oleksandr Kolchenko of planning to commit terrorist acts. Both men deny the accusations. Mr. Sentsov is currently serving a 20-year term in a Russian prison, while Mr. Kolchenko is serving a 10-year term. Western governments and rights organizations have called for Sentsov and Kolchenko to be released, and the Russian Memorial human rights center considers both men political prisoners. Ms. Alyokhina is currently touring with a play about three artists in prison, one of whom is Mr. Sentsov. (RFE/RL, with reporting by AP)

Report: NATO insufficiently ready 

NATO would not be able to rebuff a potential Russian attack on its eastern flank, according to an internal report cited on October 20 by German weekly Der Spiegel. The paper, titled “Progress Report on the Strengthened Deterrence and Defense Capability of the Alliance,” pointed to significant deficiencies. “NATO’s ability to logistically support rapid reinforcement in the strongly expanded territory of the European commander’s area of responsibility has atrophied since the end of the Cold War,” Der Spiegel quoted the report as saying. Even the strengthening of the NATO Response Force (NRF) has failed to ensure that it could “react rapidly and – if necessary – sustainably,” it said. The report cited a downsized command structure since the fall of communism as one of the paramount elements that has undermined the alliance’s defense capabilities, Der Spiegel quoted the report as saying. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu declined to comment on the German magazine report but said that alliance “forces are more ready and able to deploy than at any time in decades.” Ms. Lungescu said that efforts are “under way to ensure that the NATO command structure remains robust, agile, and fit for purpose.” The alliance’s command structure is to be discussed at a meeting of NATO defense ministers next month. NATO’s relations with Russia are at their lowest since the Cold War over the conflict in Ukraine. (RFE/RL, with reporting by AFP)

Parubiy seeks probe into Kharkiv accident

Verkhovna Rada Chairman Andriy Parubiy has called on law enforcement authorities to “immediately and objectively investigate” a deadly traffic accident in the eastern city of Kharkiv. Mr. Parubiy on October 19 urged police to “bring the person responsible… to justice,” a day after a woman reported to be the stepdaughter of a wealthy businessman plowed the car she was driving into a crowd of pedestrians, killing six people. Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov said that the suspect was arrested. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were hospitalized with severe injuries, Mr. Avakov wrote on Facebook. Kharkiv regional police spokeswoman Olena Barannyk identified the suspect as 20-year-old Olena Zaytseva, adding that a criminal investigation into possible driving-safety violations was launched. According to Ms. Barannyk, Ms. Zaytseva drove her Lexus SUV into the pedestrians after it collided at high speed with another car, whose driver is being questioned as a witness in the case. The identity of that driver was not disclosed. Local media reports say Ms. Zaytseva is a stepdaughter of a successful Kharkiv businessman, Vasyl Zaytsev, and the Lexus was registered to him. Relatives of wealthy people and officials in Ukraine, Russia, and other former Soviet republics often avoid punishment for misdeeds or crimes partly due to widespread corruption. (RFE/RL, with reporting by UNIAN, Pravda.ua, and 112 Ukrayina TV)

Ukraine detains Kazakh blogger 

A Kazakh blogger who fled to Ukraine after criticizing President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s government has been ordered held in custody amid fears she could be extradited, her lawyer says. Zhanar Akhmet was detained in Kyiv on October 21, based on a Kazakh arrest warrant that accuses her of fraud, and was ordered held for 18 days on October 24, attorney Vladyslav Hryshchenko said. Mr. Hryshchenko said that Ms. Akhmet announced a hunger strike after the Kyivo-Sviatoshyn District Court ruling was pronounced. Kyiv regional police spokesman Mykola Zhukovych said earlier that Ms. Akhmet might be placed under arrest while Ukrainian authorities consider Kazakhstan’s request for her extradition. Ms. Akhmet fled Kazakhstan in March with her 9-year-old son, saying she feared for her safety if she remained in the Central Asian country. She told RFE/RL she decided to flee when she learned from sources that she could face charges of “organizing an illegal group” that uses the Internet to advocate self-immolation. Ms. Akhmet previously faced a series of court hearings in Almaty for alleged legal violations, including jaywalking, that she considered to be harassment by Kazakh authorities. She says all of the accusations against her have been politically motivated retaliation for her writing. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by Hromadske and UNIAN)