Tag Archives: Ukraine

Why Ambassador William Taylor’s Testimony Was So Damaging to Trump

News photos of Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr., leaving Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening showed him to be a white man with light-gray hair. He was wearing steel glasses and a dark suit. If you had to pick him out of a police lineup, about the only distinguishing feature that would help you are his thick eyebrows. But the chief diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev is no longer anonymous. With his testimony to House lawmakers, Taylor has made it a racing certainty that Democrats will bring impeachment charges against Donald Trump. Arguably, he has also removed the automatic presumption that Trump will survive an impeachment trial.

To be sure, impeachment charges have been likely ever since the House Intelligence Committee released a complaint from an anonymous intelligence whistle-blower, on September 26th, which alleged that the White House put a hold on military aid to Ukraine at the same time that Trump and his sidekick Rudy Giuliani were demanding that the recently elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, launch a pair of investigations—one into Ukraine’s possible involvement in the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, the other into Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter Biden. It was the whistle-blower’s complaint that prompted Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, to announce that an impeachment inquiry had officially begun, and to shift its focus from the purview of the Judiciary Committee to that of the Intelligence Committee.

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Posted by on October 28, 2019 in Europe, North America


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The Bridge to Nowhere: A Trip to the Pro-Russian Pseudo-State of Luhansk

The coffin wobbles slowly across the bridge, four men carrying it with a fifth following along behind bearing a decorated cross. The coffin tips forward as they carefully make their way down the steep wooden staircase. It then tips backward as they make their way up the other side. Not even the dead have an easy time of it in Stanytsia Luhanska.

The destroyed bridge spanning the Donets River is symbolic of divided eastern Ukraine. The war may have come to an end, but peace hasn’t yet begun. The driving surface has collapsed, and the resulting chasm has been made navigable on foot with the help of two wooden staircases. Every day, thousands of people struggle across, primarily pensioners. The sick and the crippled are carried across, as are baby strollers and sacks full of plums and apples. It is the only crossing far and wide over a border that divides families, friendships and business partnerships.

North of the Donets flies the blue-and-yellow national flag of Ukraine, signifying territory under the control of Kiev. South of the river and on the bridge itself, a kind of Russian tricolor is flapping in the wind, with a light-blue stripe in place of white. It is the flag of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, which split off from Ukraine with the help of Russia — an unrecognized state entity that legally belongs to Ukraine but which is a de facto appendage of Russia, with 1.5 million residents, 17 ministries and a Soviet star in its coat of arms.

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Posted by on October 23, 2019 in Europe



Why Didn’t Chernobyl Kill All the Plants?

Chernobyl has become a byword for catastrophe. The 1986 nuclear disaster, recently brought back into the public eye by the hugely popular TV show of the same name, caused thousands of cancers, turned a once populous area into a ghost city, and resulted in the setting up of an exclusion zone 2600km² in size.

But Chernobyl’s exclusion zone isn’t devoid of life. Wolves, boars and bears have returned to the lush forests surrounding the old nuclear plant. And when it comes to vegetation, all but the most vulnerable and exposed plant life never died in the first place, and even in the most radioactive areas of the zone, vegetation was recovering within three years.

Humans and other mammals and birds would have been killed many times over by the radiation that plants in the most contaminated areas received. So why is plant life so resilient to radiation and nuclear disaster?

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Posted by on August 8, 2019 in Uncategorized


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Zelenskiy’s election proves Ukraine is a healthy democracy. Putin hates that

On the night of Ukraine’s presidential election last weekend, Vladimir Putin did not pick up his phone to congratulate the winner. Nor has he since. Putin is in waiting mode. Perhaps that’s because what Ukraine has achieved – a free and fair, genuinely pluralistic election, and the prospect of a democratic transfer of power – is something the Russian president has trouble getting to grips with in his own country.

But surely nothing will have struck Putin more than the words Ukraine’s new president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, uttered on the night of his victory: “To all countries of the post-Soviet Union: look at us. Anything is possible!” That particular call for change, and for an overhaul of old power structures, even beyond Ukraine, will not have gone down well in the Kremlin.

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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Europe



Ukrainian election and thorny politics of language

As Ukraine fast approaches its March 2019 presidential election, nationalist and populist politics are heating up. Recently, President Poroshenko signed a new law on education stipulating that all secondary education should be taught in Ukrainian. In a period of heightened tensions with Moscow over Donbas, the law seems patently designed to shore up the Ukrainian language in opposition to Russian speakers. However, in seeking to bolster Ukrainian, politicians could alienate not only the Russian minority but also other groups such as Hungarians. What is the mood on the ground and how does the public perceive Kyiv’s more assertive moves? Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Ukraine where I interviewed political experts, Ukrainian speakers, and minorities to get a handle on such matters.

In light of previous efforts to impose the Russian language in Ukraine, it is entirely understandable that Kyiv would seek to reform its language policies. For more than two centuries and continuing on into the Soviet period, Ukrainians were forced to learn Russian. Today, Ukrainian speakers represent the majority in the country, followed by Russian speakers, Hungarians and Romanians respectively. To get a sense of the Ukrainian “mood on the street,” I caught up with Gennady Kanishchenko who used to own a café, Bar Baraban, located just a stone’s throw away from Maidan square.
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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Europe



The Guardian view on Ukraine: a forgotten crisis flares up

Russia’s attack on and seizure of Ukrainian navy ships and personnel in the Sea of Azov is an alarming escalation of an ongoing but neglected crisis. Now it has decided to charge crew members. Though Sunday’s events took people by surprise, Moscow has been attempting to destabilise Ukraine and consolidate its control of Crimea since illegally annexing it in 2014 after Ukraine’s pro-western Euromaidan protests. It has increasingly flexed its muscles at sea, particularly since the Kerch strait bridge connecting the Russian mainland to Crimea opened in May. Whatever the precise chain of events, this fits into a clear pattern.

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Posted by on December 11, 2018 in Europe



Here’s A Totally Incredible Story About Pro-Russian Mercenaries And A Close Aide To Italy’s De Facto Leader

A close aide to Italy’s hard-right de facto leader has links to mercenaries fighting alongside pro-Russian and neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, according to court documents seen by BuzzFeed News that will increase concerns about the Italian government’s relationship with Moscow.

The documents say that Gianluca Savoini has had contact with one of 10 people Italian prosecutors have accused of recruiting and supporting far-right mercenaries in Donbass, a region in Eastern Ukraine.

As previously reported by BuzzFeed News, Savoini is a longtime aide to Matteo Salvini — who in June became Italy’s interior minister and deputy prime minister — and accompanied him on an official government visit to Moscow in July in an unclear capacity.

European diplomats have already expressed concern about the relationship between Italy’s new government — a coalition between the nationalist Lega party, which Salvini leads, and the populist antiestablishment Five Star Movement — and Russia.

Russian-backed militias have occupied Eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region since 2014, in a war with Ukraine that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people, and which followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea. The conflict is still ongoing, and Donbass is home to two separatist republics, neither of which are recognized internationally.

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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Europe, European Union


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The Killers of Kiev: How Putin Created an Assassin’s Metropolis

Adam Osmayev—his hand on the wheel, his gaze out the window—was trying hard to make sense of where he was headed. As he nosed his car down a quiet street on the industrial outskirts of Kiev, he noted the tableau of blight: grim warehouses, hulking Soviet-era apartments. In recent weeks, he’d begun adjusting to life in the city, to life far from the battlefield. But he still carried a soldier’s sense of unease. Something out here felt strange. Of course, in Kiev, nothing ever feels quite right.

In the backseat, his wife, Amina Okuyeva, studied the hardscrabble neighborhood too. Like Adam, she wasn’t expecting trouble, though she’d been trained to stay alert to its potential. The couple was due soon at an appointment at the French Embassy, but they couldn’t possibly be headed in the right direction, she thought. Why would an embassy be way out here?

Up front sat Alex Werner, a French journalist for Le Monde, the Parisian daily, providing directions and sounding reassuring. Don’t worry, he told the couple, he knew the way. In fact, he told them, they were running a bit early. And so, Werner asked Adam to pull the car over. They could wait for a bit, Werner explained, as the car rolled to a stop on a patch of grass beside a bus stop.

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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Europe



Ukraine proposes a law that infuriates Russia

AFTER nearly four years of war in eastern Ukraine, and more than 10,000 deaths, reports from international monitors in the region sound like a grim broken record. On January 19th: 340 explosions. On January 20th: 240 explosions. On January 21st: 195 explosions and two middle-aged civilians hit by rifle fire while travelling in a bus near a separatist checkpoint in the town of Olenivka. “One had blood covering the left side of his face and was holding gauze to it and the other had gunshot wounds in his neck and left cheek,” the monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported this week. One of the men ended up in hospital; the other died at the site of the attack.

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Posted by on February 15, 2018 in Europe


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A Bakery in a War Zone

MARIINKA, Ukraine—

It’s a very small cup: blue dotted with yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. But for Yelena, it holds a lot of history. It’s a reminder of almost thirty years’ labor, and of the day they ended in summer 2014, when an artillery shell landed on the bread factory where she’d worked all her life in Mariinka, east Ukraine.

Now, the cup sits on a table beside an Orthodox icon in Mariinka’s small, local bakery; a survivor of the on-going war in east Ukraine. “We went back [to the factory] after it was bombed,” Yelena tells me, “and I saw my cup there. I cried. And my little stool was still there… The icon too, our icon. We had a table in the workshop, like now, and it was above the table all the time.”

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Posted by on December 20, 2017 in Europe, Reportages