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«Це історичне рішення» – Порошенко про перемогу «Нафтогазу» в судовій суперечці з «Газпромом»

«Сьогоднішнім рішенням Стокгольмського арбітражу Україна виграла 4 мільярди 600 мільйонів доларів США»

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Facebook: No New Evidence Russia Interfered in Brexit Vote

Facebook Inc has told a British parliamentary committee that further investigations have found no new evidence that Russia used social media to interfere in the June 2016 referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Facebook UK policy director Simon Milner in a letter Wednesday told the House of Commons Committee on Digital, Culture Media and Sport that the latest investigation the company undertook in mid-January to try to “identify clusters of coordinated Russian activity around the Brexit referendum that were not identified previously” had been unproductive.

Using the same methodology that Facebook used to identify U.S. election-related social media activity conducted by a Russian propaganda outfit called the Internet Research Agency, Milner said the social network had reviewed both Facebook accounts and “the activity of many thousands of advertisers in the campaign period” leading up to the June 23, 2016 referendum.

He said they had “found no additional coordinated Russian-linked accounts or Pages delivering ads to the UK regarding the EU Referendum during the relevant period, beyond the minimal activity we previously disclosed.”

At a hearing on social media political activity that the parliamentary committee held in Washington earlier in February, Milner had promised the panel it would disclose more results of its latest investigation by the end of February.

At the same hearing, Juniper Downs, YouTube’s global head of public policy, said that her company had “conducted a thorough investigation around the Brexit referendum and found no evidence of Russian interference.”

In his letter to the committee, Facebook’s Milner acknowledged that the minimal results in the company’s Brexit review contrasted with the results of Facebook inquiries into alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics. The company’s U.S. investigation results, Milner said, “comport with the recent indictments” Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller issued against Russian individuals and entities.

Following its Washington hearing, committee chairman Damian Collins MP said his committee expected to finish a report on its inquiry into Social Media and Fake News in late March and that the report is likely to include recommendations for new British laws or regulations regarding social media content.

These could include measures to clarify the companies’ legal liability for material they distribute and their obligations to address social problems the companies’ content could engender, he said.

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США: обрання голови Нацслужби здоров’я – ключовий крок для продовження медичної реформи

Національна служба здоров’я – це новий орган, створений у рамках медичної реформи

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Прес-конференція Порошенка. Виклики та складні запитання – ранковий ефір Радіо Свобода

Аеропорт у Білій Церкві. Лоукост прийде;

Звільнення Донбасу. План Тимошенко;

Прес-конференція Порошенка. Виклики та складні запитання.

На ці теми говоритимуть ведучий Ранкової Свободи Юрій Матвійчук і гості студії: засновник компанії «Авіаплан» Євген Трескунов та експерт громадської кампанії «Європатруль» В’ячеслав Коновалов; громадський діяч, політик Андрій Сенченко та політолог Кирило Сазонов; політичний аналітик Агентства моделювання ситуацій Валерій Гончарук та директор Інституту практичної політики Богдана Бабич.

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US Calls Out Russia for Playing ‘Arsonist and Firefighter’ in Syria

A top U.S. general is accusing Russia of sowing the seeds of instability in Syria and across the greater Middle East, part of an ongoing attempt to expand its influence at the expense of the United States and the international community.

“Diplomatically and militarily, Moscow plays both arsonist and firefighter, fueling tensions among all parties in Syria,” the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, told lawmakers Tuesday.

Votel further accused Russia of then offering to serve as a mediator in an effort to “undermine and weaken each party’s bargaining position.”

The criticism, though worded more sharply than in the past, is in line with previous warnings from U.S. and Western intelligence officials, who have said Russia views Syria as an opportunity to reassert Moscow’s central place on the world stage.

It also echoes concerns laid out in the most recent U.S. National Security Strategy, which called Russia a “revisionist power” intent on tearing down the current international order.

“It is clear that Russia’s interests in Syria are Russia’s interests and not those of the wider international community,” Votel said. “Their role is incredibly destabilizing at this point.”

But the general’s words may also reflect a growing disconnect with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has often sought to emphasize areas of cooperation.

While administration officials say there are areas in which Russian activity is impinging on U.S. interests, and in which the U.S. is pushing back, they say the Middle East is not one of them.

“Is there a threat to us, a direct threat to us from Russia emanating from the Middle East? Obviously, the threat there is the terrorist threat and Iran,” a senior administration official said recently on the condition of anonymity.

Blaming Russia

In Syria, the U.S. and Russia have found themselves on different sides of the ongoing Syrian conflict, with Moscow backing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the U.S. backing the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group of moderate rebels, who have until recently largely been focused on efforts to defeat the Islamic State terror group.

Both Washington and Moscow have made concerted efforts to avoid conflict, setting up a deconfliction line in order to make sure their forces on the ground in Syria did not engage each other by mistake.

Still, Central Command’s Votel said Russia’s actions in Syria are actively undermining efforts to roll back IS and, ultimately, find a political solution to the larger conflict. 

“Russia has placed this progress at risk with their activities which are not focused on defeating ISIS but rather on preserving its own influence and control over the outcome,” Votel said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Votel also criticized Russia for its failure to follow through on its self-declared “humanitarian pause” in Syria’s eastern region of Ghouta on Tuesday.

Residents said at least six civilians were killed after just a brief pause in fighting, when Syrian government warplanes resumed their bombing of the region.

Russian officials blamed the resumption of fighting on rebel groups, but the U.S. State Department put the blame on Moscow.

“They’re not adhering to the cease-fire because they continue to sponsor and back Bashar al-Assad’s government. That is tragic,” the State Department’s Heather Nauert told reporters.

In his testimony Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Central Command’s Votel was equally blunt.

“Either Russia has to admit it is not capable or that it doesn’t want to play a role in ending the Syrian conflict,” Votel said.

‘Clever game’

There are also concerns Russia is increasingly willing to use proxies and allies in Syria and across the Middle East to confront the U.S. as part of a larger, great power competition with the U.S.

Earlier this month, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. and U.S.-backed forces in Syria. 

U.S. defense officials have refused to comment on who directed the attack. But audio recordings obtained from a source close to Kremlin by Polygraph.info, a fact-checking project by Voice of America, indicate some of the forces were part of CHVK Wagner, a Kremlin-linked private military company.

Analysts also see Russia’s hand in Turkey’s decision to launch an incursion into the Afrin region of northern Syria last month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the time that Ankara had a deal with Moscow, and Russian media reported Russian troops in the area had withdrawn prior to the incursion.

“Russia’s played a very clever game here by being the newfound friend of Erdogan,” said Luke Coffey, a former British defense adviser now with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. “Then, of course, you throw Iran into this and [Syria’s] Assad and you see this sort of deadly cocktail that is present that makes it more difficult for the U.S. to act and act in a coherent and strategic manner.”

Top U.S. defense officials, like Votel, worry that with Moscow’s help, the stage is being set for more and bigger problems.

“Russia is a party to this and they have responsibilities to ensure that the tractable partners that may be in this area are under control,” he said Tuesday. 

Still, there are those who worry that as long as Trump administration officials are more focused on terrorist groups like IS and al-Qaida, and on Iran, Russia has the upper hand.

“We never saw what’s happening in Syria as a [great power] competition, but [Russian President Vladimir] Putin always did,” said Anna Borshchevskaya, a fellow specializing in Russian Middle East policy at The Washington Institute.

“We basically ceded Syria to him without even realizing it,” she said. “With dictators, you always have to show strength. Putin will push until someone pushes back.”

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PM: Macedonia Has Four Options to Resolve Name Dispute With Greece

Macedonia is looking at four options to settle a decades-long dispute with Greece over its name, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told Reuters in an interview Tuesday.

The small ex-Yugoslav republic and its southern neighbor Greece have agreed to step up negotiations this year to resolve the dispute, which has frustrated Skopje’s ambition to join NATO and the European Union.

Athens, which like all members of both organizations has a veto over admissions, objects to the use of the name Macedonia, arguing that it, along with articles in Skopje’s constitution, could imply territorial claims over a northern Greek region of the same name.

Macedonia hopes the issue can be resolved in time for an EU meeting in June and a NATO summit in July, and is proposing a geographical “qualifier” to ensure there is clear differentiation in the two names.

“The suggestions are Republic of North Macedonia, Republic of Upper Macedonia, Republic of Vardar Macedonia and Republic of Macedonia (Skopje),” Zaev said in a television interview after attending a summit on the Western Balkans in London.

Asked whether Greece would be happy with one of these options he added: “Yes … they have more preferred options and some not so preferred options [in terms of the name].”

He said the question that remained was whether there was “a real need” to change Macedonia’s constitution, something Greece had also asked for in recent months.

Dignity

Greece’s demand for an amendment of references to the “Republic of Macedonia” in the national constitution could prove the toughest issue, although there seems to be some room for maneuver.

The foreign ministers of the two countries are due to hold further talks and Zaev also plans to meet Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in March.

“Of course, we hope we would find a solution [on the constitution]. But we must take care about the dignity and identity of both sides because friends take care of each other,” he said.

Several thousand people gathered in Skopje on Tuesday evening to protest negotiations with Greece. They waved Macedonian flags and held banners reading “Stop Greek racism” and “Stop negotiations.” A Greek flag was set on fire during the protest.

Asked what changes Greece wanted to the name in the constitution and what issues Skopje might have with that, Zaev used the examples of Germany and Greece which also have national variations in their own constitutions.

“We are prepared to do a change [of the constitution],” Zaev said, adding that it would not be by very much “because it is very difficult.”

“They [Greece] don’t have a region of the Republic of Macedonia, they are the Republic of Greece. And inside [our country] how we use it to communicate, from ministries to municipalities and other institutions, is really our right and doesn’t have implications for anybody.”

Referendum

The Macedonian government later said in a statement that Zaev had not stated there could potentially be a small change to the constitution but was referring instead to the broader name issue that had been discussed earlier.

If an agreement between the two countries can be found, Macedonia will hold a referendum to ask its population of around two million to back the change.

“I think if we save dignity — that is the important thing — of course the citizens will support it. Why? Because it is that [on which] depends our integration in NATO and the European Union.”

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Britain Hit by ‘Beast From the East’ Blizzards

Snow fell over swaths of Britain on Tuesday as freezing weather dubbed “the Beast from the East” swept in from Siberia, forcing some schools to close and snarling the travel plans of thousands.

Parts of eastern Britain have seen up to 10 cm (4 inches) of snow this week and temperatures could fall towards minus 10 Celsius in some rural areas, Britain’s weather service said.

“Bitterly cold easterly winds maintain their grip across the U.K. and we will see further snow showers in some places,” said Aidan McGivern, a meteorologist at the Met Office. “It is bitterly cold out there.”

Train services and some flights were cancelled while police warned drivers to take care as they battled blizzards and ice.

In London, snow covered some parts of Westminster and a blizzard briefly swept through the Canary Wharf financial district.

The freezing weather was expected to last for the rest of the week.

 

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Адвокат з посиланням на представників колонії заявив, що Сенцова нікуди не перевозили

Український режисер Олег Сенцов, як і раніше, перебуває в колонії російського міста Лабитнангі, його нікуди не перевозили, заявив «Крим.Реалії» із посиланням на адміністрацію закладу адвокат Сенцова Дмитро Дінзе.

«Я зв’язався з офіційними представниками колонії. Вони мені сказали, що Сенцов нікуди не перевозився й перебуває зараз у колонії», – сказав адвокат.

Вдень 27 лютого стало відомо, що на лист на адресу Сенцова за останнім відомим місцем перебування ув’язненого (колонія), відправник отримав відповідь про те, що «одержувач не перебуває в цій установі».

В українських ЗМІ з’явилась інформація про можливий швидкий обмін режисера Олега Сенцова й журналіста Романа Сущенка на ув’язнених в Україні. Офіційного підтвердження такої інформації немає.

Представник України в гуманітарній підгрупі Тристоронньої контактної групи, перший віце-спікер Верховної Ради Ірина Геращенко заперечувала наміри обміняти засуджених у Росії громадян України Романа Сущенка й Олега Сенцова на колишніх українських військовослужбовців Олександра Баранова й Максима Одинцова.

Перед цим адвокат засуджених у Києві колишніх українських військовослужбовців Баранова й Одинцова Валентин Рибін заявив, що найближчим часом може відбутися обмін на ув’язнених у Росії українців.

Українського режисера Олега Сенцова затримали представники російських спецслужб у Криму в травні 2014 року за звинуваченнями в організації терактів на півострові. У серпні 2015 року російський Північно-Кавказький окружний військовий суд у Ростові-на-Дону засудив Сенцова до 20 років колонії суворого режиму за звинуваченням у терористичній діяльності на території Криму. Він не визнав свою провину. Правозахисний центр «Меморіал» вніс Сенцова до списку політв’язнів.

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До Сенату США внесли законопроект про співпрацю з Україною щодо кібербезпеки – посольство

Дзеркальну версію проекту «Закону про співробітництво з Україною з питань кібербезпеки» внесла до Сенату США група американських сенаторів, повідомляє на сторінці у Facebook посольство України у США.

«Двопартійна група американських сенаторів на чолі з демократом Шерродом Брауном та республіканцем Патриком Туумі представила на розгляд Сенату дзеркальну версію проекту «Закону про співпрацю з Україною з питань кібербезпеки», схваленого Палатою представників 7 лютого цього року. Документ спрямований на надання допомоги Україні в удосконаленні власної стратегії кібербезпеки, зокрема, що стосується посилення захисту комп’ютерних мереж органів державної влади, зменшення залежності України від російських інформаційних та комунікаційних технологій», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Для набрання чинності документ має бути підтриманий Сенатом і підписаний президентом США, зазначили в посольстві.

Раніше українські дипломати в США повідомляли, що Палата представників Конгресу США 404 голосами 7 лютого схвалила законопроект про підтримку кібербезпеки України в умовах російської агресії. Повідомлялося, що співавторами документа стали конгресмен-демократ Брендан Бойл та конгресмен-республіканець Браян Фітцпатрик.

5 жовтня 2017 року Верховна Рада ухвалила закон про основні засади забезпечення кібербезпеки України. Він визначає основні об’єкти кіберзахисту, які в сукупності складають критичну інфраструктуру, принципи забезпечення кібербезпеки і нацсистему кібербезпеки. 7 листопада документ підписав президент України Петро Порошенко. Закон набере чинності 9 травня 2018 року.

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Учасницю Pussy Riot Альохіну знову затримали в анексованому Криму

В анексованому Росією Криму учасницю Pussy Riot Марію Альохіну знову відвезли в поліцію, повідомляє кореспондент Радіо Свобода.

Активістка встигла надіслати відео, на якому в неї намагаються забрати телефон бійці так званої «самооборони Криму». Вони також зажадали від Альохіної і місцевого активіста Олексія Єфремова пройти з ними.

Зв’язок з Альохіною перервався після того, як вона попросила адміністрацію кафе, в якому перебувала разом з Єфремовим, викликати поліцію. Пізніше активісти повідомили, що їх везуть у відділення поліції.

Напередодні Альохіну і ще двох учасників Pussy Riot – Ольгу Борисову і Олександра Софєєва – затримали в різних частинах Сімферополя і відвезли на медичний огляд у диспансер. Усіх трьох відпустили ввечері, не пояснивши, в чому їх підозрюють.

Для Борисової і Софєєва це було вже друге затримання в Криму за останні дні. Поліцейські повернули їм вилучену техніку, але вона виявилася зламаною. Ввечері 26 лютого активісти перестали виходити на зв’язок. У літаку, на якому вони повинні були прилетіти в Москву вдень 27 лютого, їх не виявилося.

Активісти планували акцію протесту в Криму на підтримку ув’язненого в Росії режисера Олега Сенцова.

Підконтрольна Росії влада анексованого Криму офіційно не коментувала затримань.

 

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Поліція порушила справу через сутички під парламентом (фото)

Поліція Києва повідомляє про відкриття кримінального провадження через сутички біля Верховної Ради України вранці 27 лютого.

Кримінальне провадження відкрили за статтею «погроза або насильство щодо працівника правоохоронного органу». Санкція статті передбачає до п’яти років позбавлення волі.

У поліції додали, що правоохоронці продовжують оглядати місце події і встановлюють всіх учасників, причетних до інциденту.

Речник Нацполіції України Ярослав Тракало раніше повідомив Радіо Свобода, що внаслідок ранкових сутичок поранені 11 поліцейських.

«У них травми різного ступеня тяжкості, є і переломи ключиці, щелепи, носа і гематоми. Комусь допомогу надали на місці, когось шпиталізували. Остаточні висновки дадуть медики», – заявив він.

Тракало також підтвердив попередню інформацію про дев’ятьох затриманих під час сутичок, яких доправили до Печерського відділку поліції.

У повідомленні на сайті поліції Києва уточнили, що вранці 27 лютогоучасники мітингу принесли під стіни будівлі шини і хотіли їх підпалити. «Працівники поліції намагалися припинити їхні дії, однак учасники акції почали агресивно себе поводити: вони кидали каміння та пляшки із запалювальною сумішшю у бік правоохоронців», – заявили в поліції.

За даними правоохоронців, біля Верховної Ради27 лютого відбуваються «масові заходи, згідно із раніше поданими заявками».

Із трибуни парламенту народний депутат України з фракції «Народний фронт» Антон Геращенко заявив, що під Верховною Радою була організована провокація. Він звинуватив у подіях «Рух нових сил» Міхеїла Саакашвілі, який перебуває за кордоном.

Водночас Саакашвілі і його організація відкидають причетність до сутичок під парламентом.

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Президент Порошенко 28 лютого дасть прес-конференцію

Президент України Петро Порошенко 28 лютого о 15:00 проведе прес-конференцію.

Як повідомляє прес-служба голови держави, її тема: «Виклики – 2018».

Захід відбудеться у Національному культурно-мистецькому та музейному комплексі «Мистецький Арсенал».

Попереднє спілкування Порошенка зі ЗМІ відбувалося 14 травня 2017 року.

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Stalinism Resurgent in Russia as Critics Warn Against Whitewashing Soviet History

Decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is fierce debate over the legacy of one of its most brutal dictators.

Josef Stalin, who ruled from the 1930s until his death in 1953, is held responsible for the deaths of millions of his countrymen. Yet, an opinion poll last year crowned him as the country’s most outstanding historical figure.

Russia’s recent decision to ban the satirical British film “The Death of Stalin” appears to have fueled divisions over the legacy of the dictator.

The Gulag State Museum in Moscow attempts to convey the scale of the atrocities carried out under Stalin’s rule, alongside the individual tragedies. Anyone deemed “an enemy of the people” — from petty criminals to political prisoners — could be condemned to years of forced labor in concentration camps known as gulags, which were established across the Soviet Union.

“Twenty million people came through the concentration camps. Over a million were shot, and 6 million were deported or re-settled by force,” said museum director Roman Romanov.

Watch Henry Ridgwell’s report:

Stalin is lionized by many Russians for leading the Soviet Union to victory over Nazi Germany. His reign of terror led to the deaths of millions of his countrymen.”This was no natural disaster. This is a well-planned crime by the state against the people. And now, people do not want to accept such an idea, because people do not like thinking this way about their country, about their government, Nikita Petrov, vice chairman of the human rights group Memorial, told VOA in a recent interview. 

“Every year, resentment against studying this subject [of Stalin’s atrocities] increases, because it hinders the glorification of the Soviet period of history.”

From the dozens of monuments to memorial plaques that are springing up in towns and cities across Russia, critics say Stalin nostalgia is permeating everyday life.In St. Petersburg, young Russian political blogger Victor Loginov organized the funding for a privately run bus emblazoned with a portrait of a smiling Stalin. It has not been universally welcomed — the bus has been vandalized several times, and the portrait painted over.

Loginov denies he’s glorifying Soviet history.

 “While Stalinism was undoubtedly and endlessly cruel, without this repression, and this shocking number of victims, there would have been no transformation of this country’s civilization — its transformation from an agricultural to an industrial nation, from economically backward to developed,” he said.

Romanov said younger generations are not taught the reality of Stalin’s rule.

“There are people still alive who came through the concentration camps, and I felt there is such gap between us. With all the programs we pursue in the museum, we try to make a sort of ‘small bridge’ between the generations.”

Deep divisions remain. During a recent debate on Stalin’s legacy aired on Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda radio, two prominent journalists began brawling after one accused his opponent of “spitting on the graves” of Soviet World War II soldiers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has in the past called Stalin a “complex figure.” The president opened a monument last October to the victims of Stalin-era repression, warning that “this terrible past must not be erased from Russia’s national memory.”

Meanwhile, critics accuse him of cynicism and claim political freedom is once again under attack in modern Russia.

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Stalinism Resurgent in Russia as Critics Warn Against Whitewashing History

Russia’s recent decision to ban the satirical film The Death of Stalin has fueled a fierce debate in the country over the legacy of Josef Stalin, who ruled from 1929 until his death in 1953. As Henry Ridgwell reports, some in Russia argue Stalin’s crimes against humanity should be weighed against his achievements for the former Soviet Union.

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Iconic Gondola of Venice Could Disappear in the Future

The iconic and romantic symbol of Venice, Italy – the gondola – ferries tourists along the city’s scenic waterways. But for how long? The traditional workmanship that have made these gondola’s so unique is in danger of disappearing. But as VOA’s Deborah Block reports, a workshop in the “city of water” has made it its mission to create and preserve gondolas for future generations.

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Російська правозахисниця Свєтова просить президента Франції допомогти у звільненні Сенцова

Російська журналістка і правозахисниця Зоя Свєтова звернулася до президента Франції Емманюеля Макрона з проханням посприяти у звільненні українського кінорежисера Олега Сенцова, засудженого в Росії.

У листі до Макрона, опублікованому 26 лютого французькою газетою Liberation, Свєтова пише, що не було ніяких терактів в Криму, як і не було жодного пам’ятника Леніну, в підриві якого російський суд звинуватив Олега Сенцова.

Звернення російської правозахисниці з’явилося у зв’язку з проведенням сьогодні в Парижі заходу на підтримку українського кінорежисера, яку організувала група «Нові дисиденти». На акцію з демонстрацією фільму «Суд: Російська держава проти Олега Сенцова» запросили французьких та інших іноземних діячів культури та кіно.

Олег Сенцов разом з Олександром Кольченком були затримані російськими спецслужбами в анексованому Криму в травні 2014 року. Їх звинувачують в організації терактів на півострові.

У серпні 2015 року суд у російському Ростові-на-Дону засудив Сенцова до 20 років колонії суворого режиму за звинуваченням у терористичній діяльності на території Криму. Кольченко отримав 10 років колонії. Обвинувачені провину не визнали.

Сенцов і Кольченко визнані правозахисним рухом «Меморіал» політичними в’язнями.

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АП: президент нагородив орденами 108 воїнів, 43 – посмертно

Президент України Петро Порошенко відповідним указом відзначив за участь в АТО державними нагородами 108 воїнів, серед яких 43 посмертно і 62 – поранених, інформує сайт президентської адміністрації 26 лютого.

«Бійці відзначені орденами «Богдана Хмельницького» та «За мужність» III ступеня, медалями «За військову службу Україні» та «Захиснику Вітчизни», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Повідомляється також, що нагороджені двоє співробітників МВС, представлені до нагороди посмертно, та один поранений військовослужбовець Нацгвардії.

Раніше в інтерв’ю Радіо Свобода начальник Генерального штабу ЗСУ Віктор Муженко заявив, що від початку бойових дій у Збройних силах України 50 людей отримали генеральське звання.

Збройний конфлікт на сході України почався навесні 2014 року після російської анексії Криму. За даними ООН, за час конфлікту загинули понад 10 тисяч людей. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у підтримці сепаратистів на Донбасі, Москва ці звинувачення відкидає і заявляє, що на непідконтрольних Києві територіях можуть бути хіба що російські «добровольці».

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Троє військових поранені упродовж дня через обстріли бойовиків на Донбасі – штаб

У штабі української воєнної операції на Донбасі 26 лютого повідомили, що через обстріли підтримуваних Росією бойовиків троє українських військовослужбовців зазнали поранень. Згідно з повідомленням на сторінці штабу у Facebook, від початку доби і до 18-ї години понеділка бойовики здійснили 4 обстріли позицій ЗСУ.

Згідно з повідомленням, обстріли бойовиків тривали неподалік Лебединського, Пісків та Кам’янки.

Повідомляється, що під час збройних атак бойовики використовували 82 та 120-міліметрові міномети і стрілецьку зброю.

В угрупованні «ДНР» стверджують, що українські військові обстріляли в понеділок із мінометів Докучаєвськ. Як йдеться на сайтах бойовиків, пошкоджено три житлових будинки. Бойовики з угруповання «ЛНР» на своїх сайтах не пишуть про порушення режиму тиші упродовж дня.

Тристороння контактна група щодо врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі оголосила черговий «режим тиші» з півночі 23 грудня 2017 року. Нинішнє нове перемир’я, як і попередні, порушується практично щодня. Сторони заперечують свою вину в цьому і звинувачують противників у провокаціях.

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Merkel’s Party Backs Coalition Deal to Form new Government

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has voted in favor of a deal to form a new coalition government with the center-left Social Democrats.

Delegates at a convention in Berlin voted overwhelmingly Monday in favor of the agreement despite criticism from some conservatives in the party.

Disquiet among the Christian Democratic Union’s members has been growing following a weak election result last September that forced Merkel into complicated coalition negotiations with smaller parties.

The agreement still requires approval from the Social Democrats. The result of a postal ballot of that party’s membership will be announced March 4.

 

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Turkish President Heads to Africa in bid to Extend Regional Influence

On Monday,Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan starts a five-day visit to northern and West Africa. The tour is the latest effort by Turkey to project its influence across the continent and enhance its global presence. Observers are voicing concerns that the Turkish leader, with his emphasis on Islamist themes, could be stoking regional rivalries and even tensions.

Erdogan is scheduled to visit Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali in his tour of the region.  Since  2005,  as then-prime minister, Erdogan has made developing deepening ties with Africa a priority, according to Emre Caliskan a Turkey, Africa analyst at Oxford University.

“Since he became prime minister he has been in Africa 24 times. Since 2009, when he became president, he has been in Africa 12 times. There are several ambitions: economy, being a global leader, and the use of Islam,” said Caliskan.

Earlier this month, Istanbul hosted African ministers for a week of meetings. Such gatherings are a regular occurrence and are part of Ankara’s efforts to court African leaders.  Turkey has tripled the number of embassies across the continent in less than a decade. Despite such investments, the economic returns have been disappointing and that has led to Ankara to shift its priorities, says Africa expert professor Mehmet Arda of the Istanbul think tank Edam.

“When you look at the Turkish trade with Africa its  basically the same as ten years ago. So, it’s more a way of projecting itself as a power in the world,” said Arda. “Moreover, Turkey puts itself as the friend of the countries that are left behind, the destitute and all that. I think from the point of view it fits with that the model (of) projecting on the world stage.”

President Erdogan has in recent visits to Africa increasingly inserted Islamic themes in his speeches, which have sometimes been colored with anti-Western rhetoric and focused on the West’s colonial past, even though the Turkish Ottoman empire once also extended to Africa.   Analyst Caliskan says courting Africa Muslims offers Ankara potential important diplomatic gains, as well as risks.

“50 percent of African countries come from the Muslim background and this gives leverage to Turkey in the eyes of Europe in the eyes of the West and in the eyes of Africa. But there is a rivalry between different Islamic groups,” said Caliskan. “These countries are Iran ,Saudi Arabia and Egypt – historically these countries are very influential in the region among the Islamic communities. Now Turkey is a latecomer, but a newcomer and strong comer and Turkey wants to be more influential.”

Last September, Turkey opened its largest overseas military base in Somalia. The opening of the base has been interpreted as a signal that Ankara is sending to the region of its growing aspirations. The Turkish navy is rapidly expanding with even plans for the construction of an aircraft carrier. Ankara’s agreement with Khartoum to redevelop the Sudanese Suakin Island that was once the Ottoman empire’s main naval base, has sent alarm bells ringing in Cairo, which is concerned about increasing Turkish military encroachment. Ankara insists its development plans on the island are non-military.

But analyst Caliskan says such denials will do little to defuse tensions given the level of mistrust between Erdogan and Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el Sissi.

“Turkey has a difficult relationship with Sisi regime and they are both trying to influence on the areas that actually historically Egypt had been powerful,” said Caliskan. “So actually it is a direct challenge to Egyptian hegemony in the region. If Turkey would be moving to the region more then [there] will be more rivalry with the Egyptian government as well.”

Analysts warn the rivalry in the Middle East is already spilling into Africa, a process that is likely to continue with Turkey’s growing commitment to the continent in its bid to become a global player.

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Hong Kong Catholics Condemn China-Vatican Deal

At a recent all-night prayer vigil, nearly 100 Roman Catholics gathered in a church ground floor chapel to pray the rosary in Cantonese for their fellow worshippers in mainland China.

 

On their minds as they recited the prayer: a possible deal between the Holy See and China’s communist leaders that is worrying many Catholics.

Lucia Kwok, a care worker stepped out of the chapel and spoke of her dismay over the recent news. Pope Francis, she said, was making deals with the government in China. “We don’t trust the PRC because they are dishonest. They lie, they do bad things and never keep their promises,” Kwok said. “China is not worth our trust.”

 

Many Catholics in Hong Kong are confused and upset with the Vatican’s recent steps to resume relations with the Chinese government even as Beijing has continued to silence critics.

In the nearly seven decades since its establishment, the People’s Republic of China has not had formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See, a condition rooted in the Vatican’s tradition of appointing its bishops worldwide — a practice the mainland Chinese leadership has historically viewed as interference in its internal affairs.

Patriotic Catholic Association

China’s Catholics have been allowed to practice their religion under a government-supervised entity known as the Patriotic Catholic Association in which the government officially names bishops. Some — but not all — of those bishops have been quietly approved by the Vatican as well.

The Holy See has considered sacraments administered in the patriotic church valid, but the existence of the entity and the government’s tight control of it has for decades has prompted many observant Catholics to practice their faith in a parallel, “underground” Catholic church, whose members see themselves as true followers of the church in Rome. The underground church is declared illegal and its members have been routinely subjected to arrest and ruthless persecution.

Critics say an agreement between the Holy See and the Chinese government would allow the Vatican to operate more openly in China, but grant greater control to Beijing over the church’s decisions.

 

Zen expresses frustration

At the prayer gathering in Hong Kong, Kwok’s frustration was echoed by Cardinal Joseph Zen, the retired bishop of Hong Kong and a longtime critic of Beijing, who prayed quietly with the group. In recent weeks he has termed any agreement between the Vatican and Beijing that would allow China control over the church as “evil.”

News reports have said the agreement would legitimize the government-appointed bishops and force those in the underground church to retire. The reports say the pope in Rome would have a final say over the approval of bishops, but Zen has voiced concern that Beijing would only name bishops loyal to the communist leadership.

“It’s something important for the whole church, this attitude of fidelity and disrespect for our faith. The faith and the discipline. It’s a very serious matter to disregard centuries of doctrine,” Zen said. “They want everybody to come into the open and obey the government. They never say how they would deal with bishops in the underground. It’s obvious what they are going to do… They will not only eliminate bishops, but in some dioceses have no bishop, but some kind of [government] delegate.”

 

The Vatican has asked Catholics for time to work out details. Pope Francis, speaking to reporters in early December, said: “It’s mostly political dialogue for the Chinese Church… which must go step by step delicately,” he said. “Patience is needed.”

 

Changing political landscape 

Several Catholics in Hong Kong have said the move can be seen as an appeasement, coming at a fraught moment when China has grown more authoritarian under President Xi Jinping.

 

On Sunday, China’s ruling party announced it would end presidential term limits, an extraordinary move by a government that sought to avoid the dangerous one-man control exerted by former leader Mao Zedong. The move will, in effect, allow Xi to serve for life. During his five years in office, Xi’s policies have attacked economic corruption as well as curtailed the work of human rights attorneys, labor organizers, investigative journalists and bloggers.

 

In December, the Vatican asked two bishops in the underground church in China to relinquish their roles to men approved by the government. Vatican envoys asked Bishop Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou to step down and cede control to Huang Bingzhang, an excommunicated bishop and a member of China’s acquiescent legislature, the National People’s Congress, according to asianews.it.

Guo Xijin, another underground bishop in Fujian province, was asked to serve as an assistant to Zhan Silu, another government appointed bishop. Previously, the Vatican had said that both men had been elevated illegally by the government.

 

Opponents see it as an unusual intrusion, even violation, of the church’s authority. They are also concerned about signs that the government has restricted religious practice, such as orders that followers not bring children to worship.

 

News of the Vatican’s negotiations prompted several professors to start a petition against any agreement that would cede control to Beijing. More than 2,000 people have signed.

 

“We think the Catholic Church has appeal [for] the Chinese people exactly because it has refused to compromise with the Chinese authority,” said Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a retired political science professor in Hong Kong, and one of the petitions organizers. “The first Christians of China were the very, very poor peasants in the cultural revolution days. My argument is if the Vatican makes a compromise with Beijing, the Catholic church loses that moral and spiritual appeal. And it doesn’t benefit the church.”

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Blast Destroys Shop in Leicester, England

An explosion in Leicester, England, destroyed a store and house, which British police declared a “major incident.”

Pictures of the blast showed flames shooting up from the rubble where the two-story building once stood, while neighbors frantically tried to get close to the site to help.

Police and rescuers have closed down the street and evacuated several nearby buildings. They are urging people to stay away, saying it is unclear if anyone was in the store.

The cause of the blast is unknown. Leicester is about 177 kilometers north of London.

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Catalan Separatists Protest Visit of Spanish King to Barcelona

Flash protests for and against secession from Spain marked Spanish King Felipe’s visit to Barcelona to inaugurate an international exhibit of cell phone producers.  It was his first trip to the Catalan capital since an October regional vote for independence.

Separatists poured onto streets, plazas and balconies Sunday banging pots in what has become a ritual act of defiance since Spain’s central government imposed direct rule in November, dissolving the regional government.

A swelling crowd of protestors surrounded the city’s Baroque Music Palace as the King arrived for the inaugural dinner, forming a symbolic yellow ribbon around the building to highlight the detention of leaders.

But flag waving supporters of unity with Spain also held rallies in the city center to welcome the king, leading to street clashes with separatists indicating the extent to which Catalonia’s society is divided. At least two arrests had been reported by Sunday evening.

Tensions have grown in recent days, after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suggested using direct rule provisions to reintroduce Spanish as the main language in Catalan schools.

 

Catalan teachers’ unions have threatened strikes and mass protests to block the measures.  “It would be a pedagogic disaster if Madrid tried to control our educational system through a kind of inquisition”the head of the Catalan Teachers’ Union, Ramon Fonts, told VOA.

Echoes of Franco

Separatists have equated efforts to impose central control on education to the dictatorship of Francisco Franco of a half a century ago that banned speaking Catalan.  But proponents of the measures say post-Franco governments have devolved too much power to regional authorities, which have used the local language to promote separatism and advance their own political interests.

“It’s about allowing parents the right to decide in which language they want their children to be educated” said Raquel Cavisner,spokesperson of Convivencia Civica, a Catalan organization promoting unity with Spain. She says that Catalan language “immersion” in schools is a “discriminatory system” that puts children from Spanish speaking families at a disadvantage.

Current Catalan legislation fixes the portion of class time in which teaching can be conducted in Spanish at 25 percent.  Such basic courses as mathematics are taught in Catalan, as is Spanish history.  “Spanish is generally taught as a foreign language”a Barcelona school teacher said.

While secessionists continue to control the regional parliament, following emergency elections last December, polls consistently show Catalan opinion to be about evenly split. Pro-independence parties received 47 percent of the vote,but the largest vote getter of all seven parties competing in the elections was a unionist center right group, Ciudadanos, which proposes Spanish as main language.

Mixed responses

Resistance to the imposition of Catalan was manifested by hospital workers last week in the Balearic Islands, which would be encompassed in a projected Catalan state.  They protested against legislation requiring Catalan for jobs in the health service.  “You cure with medicine not with language” chanted about 3,000 nurses and doctors.

But thousands of Catalan independence supporters filled a theater in Barcelona Sunday to hear their exiled leader Carles Puigdemont say via video from Belgium that King Felipe would only be welcomed in the Republic of Catalonia if he “apologized” for opposing independence.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau and the president of the Catalan parliament Roger Torrent snubbed Felipe, by boycotting the inauguration of the Mobile World Congress, despite earlier assurances to international sponsors they would not to allow politics to interfere with the event.

Radical Committees for the Defense of the Republic associated with the “anti-capitalist” Catalan Unity Party, scuffled with police as they tried to block access to the convention hall, following a video address by their exiled leader Ana Gabriel.

Secessionist spokesmen blame the exile and jailing of their leaders for their inability to form a government since winning elections two months ago. Marcel Mauri of the pro independence Omnium Cultural says their united opposition to Madrid’s moves to take control of education could influence pro-independence parties to resolve their differences and announce a government in the next few days.

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Thousands Commemorate Murdered Russian Opposition Leader Ahead of Elections

A month ahead of presidential elections, thousands of Russians rallied in the capital city of Moscow Sunday in honor of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered on this day three years ago.

In a rare sanctioned opposition gathering in Russia’s capital, many carried flags, portraits of Nemtsov, placards and flowers in frigid temperatures as low as minus 14 degrees Celsius.

Moscow police, who are often accused of underestimating opposition crowd sizes, said that 4,500 people attended the rally. Pro-opposition monitors said the figure was over 7,000.

Former presidential candidate Alexey Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who has been blocked from participating in the elections over legal problems widely seen as manufactured to keep him out of the race, was reported to have been in attendance.

Nemtsov, one of Russian president Putin’s most vocal critics, was shot in the back late at night while walking across a bridge just meters from the Kremlin in 2015. He was working on a report examining Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine at the time of his death.

Last year, a Russian court sentenced Saur Dadayev to 20 years in prison and four accomplices between 11 and 19 years. Dadayev initially pleaded guilty, but later recanted, saying he was tortured into the confession.

While the verdicts were welcomed by supporters of Nemtsov, the investigation and trial were condemned for failing to uncover the masterminds of the killing or addressing the motive, which is widely believed to be political.

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Chileans Lose Faith as Vatican Revisits Sex Abuse Charges

To understand why Chile, one of Latin America’s most socially conservative nations, is losing faith in the Roman Catholic Church, visit Providencia, a middle-class area of Santiago coming to terms with a decades-old clergy sex abuse scandal.

Providencia is home to El Bosque, the former parish of priest Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing teenage boys over many years, spurring a chain of events leading to this week’s visit by a Vatican investigator.

A Chilean judge in the same year determined the Vatican’s canonical sentence was valid, but Karadima was not prosecuted by the civil justice system because the statute of limitations had expired.

So many Chileans were shocked in 2015 when Pope Francis appointed as a bishop a clergyman accused of covering up for Karadima, and defended that choice in a visit to Chile last month.

​Socially conservative

Chile remains largely conservative on social issues. It only legalized divorce in 2004, making it one of the last countries in the world to do so. Chile’s ban on abortion, one of the strictest in the world, was lifted in 2017 for special circumstances only. Same-sex marriage remains illegal.

Yet El Bosque, like many other Chilean parishes, no longer has the large crowds attending Mass that it did in the 1970s and 1980s, when Karadima was a pillar of the Providencia community.

“Karadima did a lot of damage to the Catholic Church,” said Ximena Jara Novoa, 65, a hairdresser who lives in a neighboring community but has worked in Providencia for 45 years. She once counted Karadima’s mother and sister as clients.

“If I had been from this neighborhood, I would not let my son go to church anymore,” she said in an interview.

​Empty pews, less trust

A poll by Santiago-based think tank Latinobarometro in January 2017 showed the number of Chileans calling themselves Catholics had fallen to 45 percent, from 74 percent in 1995.

In the same survey, Pope Francis, who hails from neighboring Argentina and is the first Latin American pontiff, was ranked by Chileans asked to evaluate him at 5.3 on a scale of zero to 10, compared to a 6.8 average in Latin America.

The pope surprised many Chileans last month by defending the appointment of Bishop Juan Barros, who considered Karadima his mentor and is accused by several men of covering up sexual abuse of minors committed by the priest.

Barros, of the southern diocese of Osorno, has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing by Karadima.

Just before leaving Chile, the pope testily told a Chilean reporter: “The day I see proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. There is not a single piece of evidence against him.

“It is all slander. Is that clear?”

The comments were widely criticized and just days after his return to Rome, Francis made a remarkable U-turn and ordered a Vatican investigation into the accusations.

Challenging the church

Residents of Providencia, once dotted with mansions belonging to the most powerful families in Santiago but now home to largely upscale high-rise apartments, said the abuse of children by the charismatic Karadima was an open secret as far back as the 1970s.

“It was always rumored, everything was talked about. People knew,” Novoa said quietly.

But challenging the powerful church in the once predominately Catholic society was not previously accepted.

That is changing.

The Vatican special envoy sent by the pope is scheduled to hear testimony from more than 20 sex abuse victims before he leaves Santiago.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s most experienced sex abuse investigator, also spent four hours in New York speaking to Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima’s most vocal accusers.

On Thursday, a group of people who say they were sexually abused by members of the Marist Brothers congregation in Santiago asked Vatican officials to investigate their cases, too.

The Vatican’s defense of Barros has been compounded by the perceived lack of punishment of Karadima.

Miguel Angel Lopez, a professor at the University of Chile who grew up in Providencia and met Karadima several times when the priest visited his Catholic school, said the legal loophole that allowed the clergyman to escape punishment had infuriated Chileans.

“The fact that Karadima didn’t go to jail is one of the reasons people don’t trust the church much,” Lopez said. “They were very angry.”

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French Farmers Heckle Macron at Agricultural Fair

President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday faced heckles and whistles from French farmers angry with reforms to their sector, as he arrived for France’s annual agricultural fair.

For over 12 hours, Macron listened and responded to critics’ rebukes and questions — only to return home to the Elysee Palace with an adopted hen.

“I saw people 500 meters away, whistling at me,” Macron said, referring to a group of cereal growers protesting against a planned European Union free-trade pact with a South American bloc, and against the clampdown on weedkiller glyphosate.

“I broke with the plan and with the rules and headed straight to them, and they stopped whistling,” he told reporters.

“No one will be left without a solution,” he said.

Macron was seeking to appease farmers who believe they have no alternative to the widely used herbicide, which environmental activists say probably causes cancer.

Mercosur warning

He also wanted to calm fears after France’s biggest farm union warned Friday that more than 20,000 farms could go bankrupt if the deal with the Mercosur trade bloc (Brazil, which is the world’s top exporter of beef, plus Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) goes ahead.

Meanwhile, Macron was under pressure over a plan to allow the wolf population in the French countryside to grow, if only marginally.

“If you want me to commit to reinforce the means of protection … I will do that,” he responded.

And he called on farmers to accept a decision on minimum price rules for European farmers, “or else the market will decide for us.”

But it wasn’t all jeers and snarls for Macron at the fair.

He left the fairground with a red hen in his arms, a gift from a poultry farm owner.

“I’ll take it. We’ll just have to find a way to protect it from the dog,” he said, referring to his Labrador, Nemo.

It was a far cry from last year, when, as a presidential candidate not yet in office, Macron was hit on the head by an egg launched by a protester.

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Juncker Heads to Western Balkans to Discuss EU Strategy

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is embarking on a Western Balkan tour to promote the EU’s new strategy for the region.

Juncker’s tour to the six Balkan countries that remain outside the European Union starts in Macedonia, where he will hold talks with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Sunday.

Earlier this month, the European Commission unveiled its new strategy to integrate Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

Among the six countries, the commission considers Serbia and Montenegro as current front-runners toward accession and the new strategy says they could be allowed in by 2025 if they meet all the conditions.

Juncker has warned that this was an “indicative date; an encouragement so that the parties concerned work hard to follow that path.” 

“The EU door is open to further accessions when, and only when, the individual countries have met the criteria,” the EU road map said.

It insisted that the six countries still have many obstacles to overcome before joining the bloc, including regarding corruption, the rule of law, and relations with their neighbors.

EU member states Croatia and Slovenia are still locked in a border dispute stemming from the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Macedonia and EU-member Greece are engaged in UN-mediated talks to resolve a 27-year-old dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav republic.

The EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has produced agreements in areas such as freedom of movement, justice, and the status of the Serbian minority in Kosovo — as well as enabling Serbia to start EU accession talks and Brussels to sign an Association Agreement with Kosovo.

Juncker’ strip to the Western Balkans comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov traveled to Belgrade this week for a two-day visit aimed at bolstering longstanding ties with Serbia.

During the visit, Lavrov welcomed Serbia’s drive to join the EU, but also vowed that Moscow would remain engaged with the Balkan country no matter what happens.

“We always wanted partners to have a free choice and develop their political ties,” Lavrov said at a news conference with President Aleksandar Vucic, who is leading Serbia through a delicate balancing act.

Although Serbia is seeking to join the EU, it continues to nurture close ties with Moscow and has said it will not join the EU’s economic sanctions against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine.

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Російська прокуратура у Криму викликала представників Українського культурного центру – активістка

Підконтрольна Кремлю прокуратура Криму викликала для перевірки представників Українського культурного центру, а також прийшла з перевіркою в бібліотеку Сімферополя, де активісти проводили свої заходи, повідомляє проект Радіо Свобода «Крим.Реалії» з посиланням на представницю центру Ольгу Павленко.

«Співробітники прокуратури перевіряють бібліотеку, де ми займалися вишиванням. Уявіть, тільки вишиванням!» – зазначила Павленко.

Крім того, активісти розповіли, що друкарні відмовляються друкувати газету, яку видає центр, посилаючись на листи від правоохоронних органів Росії, де газета «Кримський терен» українською мовою називається «екстремістським матеріалом».

Активісти Українського культурного центру в Криму 26 серпня минулого року презентували перший експериментальний випуск видання «Кримський Терен» українською та російською мовами.

У першому випуску була опублікована інструкція для вступу до вищих навчальних закладів материкової України, матеріал про блокування інтернет-ЗМІ в Криму, фрагменти останнього слова у суді кримського політв’язня Володимира Балуха, а також історичне дослідження.

У доповіді міжнародної правозахисної організації Amnesty International цього року йдеться про утиски свободи слова, переслідування зібрань, які тривають в анексованому Криму. Окрім того, зазначається, що російські спецслужби обшукували домівки десятків кримських татар, що є частиною ширшої кампанії залякування, при цьому мало хто з адвокатів може наважитися на захист прав критиків Росії, адже вони також стають об’єктом переслідувань. 

В оприлюденому у січні цього року звіті міжнародної правозахисної організації Freedom House, яка займається підтримкою та дослідженням стану демократії, політичних свобод і дотримання основних прав людини в різних країнах світу, Україна залишається в розділі «частково вільних» країн, а Крим отримав статус «невільної» території, яку окупувала Російська федерація.

Серед країн, де рівень свобод є найнижчим, – Сирія, Південний Судан, Північна Корея, Туркменистан, Сомалі, Лівія, Узбекистан.

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