October 28, 2016



Russian Ukraine plans ‘authentic’ 

KYIV – A Ukrainian official has said leaked e-mails outlining plans to destabilize Ukraine that purportedly came from Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov are authentic. Yuriy Tandit, an adviser to the chief of Ukraine’s SBU security service, told the Kyiv-based Channel 5 television station on October 26 that it is investigating the materials allegedly taken from Mr. Surkov’s e-mail account and many of them “have been confirmed to be original.” Earlier the Ukrainian hacker group Cyberjunta claimed that it hacked Mr. Surkov’s e-mail and found materials with plans for the “destabilization of the political situation in Ukraine” with the goal of forcing Kyiv “to hold early parliamentary and presidential elections.” The Kremlin on October 26 said the leak is fake because Mr. Surkov “does not use e-mail.” The previous day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr. Surkov is “a talented man” and “many allegations against him by hackers in Russia and elsewhere are mainly false.” Mr. Surkov is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal adviser on the West-leaning former Soviet countries of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. (RFE/RL with reporting by TASS, UNIAN and Interfax)

Kerry to Lavrov on Aleppo asssault

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on October 24 that he is concerned about renewed fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo after a break of several days, according to the State Department. Mssrs. Lavrov and Kerry discussed the situation in Syria in a phone call and agreed that experts from several countries meeting in Geneva would continue searching for ways to resolve the Aleppo crisis, the department said. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Mr. Lavrov told Kerry that the United States must fulfill its obligation to separate moderate opposition groups from “terrorists” in Syria. The geographic proximity between moderate Syrian rebels and groups designated as terrorist, such as Islamic State, was one factor in the failure last month of a cease-fire negotiated by Moscow and Washington. During the call, Mr. Kerry expressed concern about the renewal of attacks on Aleppo by Syrian government forces and Russian warplanes after a pause in the fighting last week, State Department spokesman John Kirby said. He noted that humanitarian aid had still not made it through to people under siege in Aleppo, because Russia and Syria failed to provide security guarantees to the U.N. during the pause. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

Trump: I’d meet Putin before inauguration

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump said he would be willing to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin before Inauguration Day if he is elected president, The Washington Post reported. “Putin has no respect at all for Obama. And I think that you have potentially a really catastrophic situation here, I’ll be honest with you,” Mr. Trump told conservative radio host Michael Savage during an interview. “I will say this, if I win on November 8… I think I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration. I think it would be wonderful.” Mr. Trump said that U.S.-Russian relations are at their worst since the Cold War, for which he and blamed President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The problem is Putin has no respect for Obama, at all, doesn’t like him and doesn’t respect him. And Obama doesn’t like Putin. They have a great dislike for each other,” Mr. Trump said. “They insult him constantly. I mean, no wonder he can’t stand Obama and Hillary Clinton.” (The Washington Post)

Azov Battalion enters political arena 

KYIV – Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion has officially created a political party. Greeted by chants of “Death to enemies!” at an inaugural party congress in Kyiv on October 14, Azov’s new political head, Nazar Kravchenko, told some 300 attendees, many in military fatigues, that the party would work to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression. The gathering coincided with traditional nationalist events marking the creation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and to celebrate Ukrainian Kozaks. It also marks the second annual Day of Defenders, a holiday established following Russia’s seizure of Crimea and interference in eastern Ukraine, where a war has killed more than 9,600 people since April 2014. Credited with recapturing the strategic port city of Mariupol from Russia-backed separatists in 2014, Azov is a former volunteer militia now included in the National Guard. Due to members’ far-right ideology and militancy, detractors believe the fighting force might also pose a threat to President Petro Poroshenko and the stability of the state. Mr. Kravchenko told the Hromadske news site he hopes forming a party will give Azov greater political influence. “There are several ways of coming to power, but we are trying something through elections, but we have all sorts of possibilities,” he said. Azov’s symbol is similar to the Nazi Wolfsangel but the group claims it comprises the letters N and I, meaning “national idea.” (RFE/RL)

Lawyer prevented from leaving Russia

MOSCOW – The lawyer for a Ukrainian journalist held in Moscow on charges of espionage says he was briefly prevented from leaving Russia. Attorney Mark Feigin says Russian border guards at a Moscow airport refused to allow him to board a flight to Vilnius on October 13, saying he was banned from leaving Russia under a request by the Federal Bailiff Service. Mr. Feigin initially said he thought the ban was linked to his professional activities. But Mr. Feigin said later on his Twitter account that he was informed by the Federal Bailiff Service that the travel ban was the result of a technical error in its computer database. Mr. Feigin is currently defending journalist Roman Sushchenko, a Paris-based correspondent from Ukraine’s Ukrinform news agency who was detained in Moscow for allegedly collecting classified information. Mr. Sushchenko was formally charged with espionage on October 7. Mr. Feigin has also defended other high-profile clients at trials in Russia – including Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, members of the protest art collective Pussy Riot, and Crimean Tatars jailed in Russia on terrorism charges after Moscow’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. (RFE/RL, with reporting by TASS and Interfax)

Bloomberg on Ukraine’s agricultural potential

NEW YORK – Bloomberg Businessweek reported on October 13 that Ukraine sold $7.6 billion of bulk farm commodities worldwide in 2015, quintupling its revenue from a decade earlier and topping Russia, its closest rival on world markets. By the mid-2020s, “Ukraine will be No. 3 after the U.S. and Brazil” in food production worldwide, the news service quoted Martin Schuldt, the top representative in Ukraine for Cargill, as saying. Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader, is investing $100 million in a new grain terminal in Ukraine. Bunge, the world’s biggest soy processor, opened a port this year at a ceremony with President Petro Poroshenko – another vote of confidence in Ukraine. The Bloomberg story also noted that about one in every six acres of agricultural land in Ukraine isn’t being farmed. Of land in production, John Shmorhun, CEO of AgroGeneration, says only about a quarter is reaching yields on the level of those in the developed world because of lower-quality seeds, fertilizers and equipment. President Petro Poroshenko supports creating a market for farmland, but the Parliament regularly extends the ban on selling agricultural property. Earlier in October, legislators backed a bill prolonging the moratorium through 2018, but the president has yet to sign it. The fear is that large Ukrainian companies and foreign investors will gobble up the land and displace small farmers, Bloomberg explained. “Despite the difficulties, Ukraine’s emergence as a global agro powerhouse may be a safe bet for a simple reason: The world needs more food, and Ukraine can produce it,” the news service reported. The full story is available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-14/that-boom-you-hear-is-ukraine-s-agriculture. (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing)

Ukrainian Canadian to head investment office

OTTAWA – Ukrainian Canadian lawyer Daniel Bilak was appointed director of Ukraine’s newly formed Investment Support Office. Mr. Bilak, managing partner at CMS Cameron McKenna in Kyiv, has over 25 years of experience working in the private and public sectors in Ukraine. Between 1995 and 2006 he was a senior United Nations Development Program governance expert, providing advice and assistance on rule of law, anti-corruption and regulatory issues to the Ukrainian government, including the president, the prime minister and the minister of justice. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman presented the Investment Support Office at a government meeting on October 19. The Office “will serve as a mechanism to solve problems of businesses and to fulfill all organizational activities to accompany new investment projects,” the Cabinet of Ministers reported. (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing)