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Volker was appointed Special Representative for Ukraine negotiations in July 2017, by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and has been “mediating” the Ukrainian crisis on behalf of the US ever since in much the same way his colleague Elliott Abrams has been doing with Venezuela.
The twist is that Volker is doing this “on a voluntary basis without compensation” and “not taxing the taxpayers,” drawing a salary from his day job as executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Arizona. Named after the late and hawkish US senator John McCain, the think tank is dedicated to "advancing leadership… in the United States and around the world." The two positions are very much aligned, Volker has said, allowing him to get his "hands dirty and actually solve our problems."
In practice, that means things like taking part in the "Occupied Crimea: 5 years of resistance" conference in Odessa – the same city where US-backed nationalists burned alive their political opponents in May 2014 – and parroting Bellingcat talking points on the Kerch Strait incident, themselves cribbed from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
@SpecRepUkraine The does not and will not accept Russia’s claimed annexation of Crimea. has committed numerous human rights abuses in furtherance of its occupation. We will continue to maintain and strengthen sanctions until Crimea is returned.
@SpecRepUkraine Interesting analysis by Bellingcat with this key conclusion: “the shooting of the ‘Berdyansk’ most likely took place in international waters” Investigating The Kerch Strait Incident via
This is not surprising, however, since the list of donors of the McCain Institute includes something called the “BGR Foundation.” It shares the same Washington, DC address – and name – with Barbour Griffith Rogers, a high-profile lobbying firm that lists Volker as “Senior International Advisor” and former international managing director.
According to its filings to the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), BGR is a registered agent for none other than President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, whose ascension to Ukrainian presidency was brought about by the Maidan revolution of 2014, a coup cheered on most fervently by John McCain himself.
The “National Reforms Council of Ukraine,” which officially retained BGR's services, is led by none other than Dmytro Shymkiv, “Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine,” as per the filing BGR sent to the DOJ in January 2017.
It remains to be seen whether this relationship will change in June, when TV personality Volodymyr Zelensky takes office, having triumphed in a landslide runoff election this past weekend. Judging by Zelensky’s official Facebook account of his February meeting with Volker – “a friend of Ukraine” with whom he “reached full understanding on all questions” – that seems unlikely, however.
Volker was very close to the late Senator McCain, who was himself intimately involved with the 2014 "revolution" in Kiev, visiting the demonstrators and personally sharing the stage with Socialist-Nationalist Party leader Oleg Tyahnibok, for example. McCain was even offered an advisory job with Poroshenko, back in 2015, but declined because that was not allowed under US law.
Turns out another McCain confidant, David Kramer, also works at Volker’s institute, listed as "senior director for Human Rights and Democracy." Kramer was identified as the individual who during the 2016 campaign spread the "Steele Dossier" (accusing Trump of ties with Russia) to the press and a number of other people in Washington, including the "midwife of Maidan" herself, Victoria Nuland.
Among the McCain Institute’s other donors are George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, as well as Saudi Arabia – though Volker had to disavow them last year, calling it a one-time donation and saying he won’t accept any more Saudi cash after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
All of this adds up to the question no one seems to have asked yet: Whose interests in Ukraine is Kurt Volker actually representing – those of the Trump administration, or those of his donors and the ghost of John McCain?
Nebojsa Malic, RT
The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.
Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.
Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.
Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?
Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.
That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.
Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.
What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.
Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)
Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.
But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.
The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).Also on rt.com Ukraine nationalizes biggest bank to maintain financial stability...
There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.
The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.
Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.
But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.
Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.
Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.
It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).
Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.
Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.
What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky's presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.
The serial numbers found on debris of the Buk missile which downed Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine show it was produced in 1986, the Russian military said. The projectile was owned by Ukraine, they added.
There are two serial numbers found on fragments of the missile, which shot down the passenger airliner in June 2014 according to an international team of investigators led by the Netherlands. The numbers were marked on the engine and the nozzle of the missile.
The Russian military on Monday said they had traced them to a missile which had the producer serial number 8868720.
Speaking to journalists, Gen. Nikolay Parshin showed a document trail of the Buk missile. According to the documents, some of which have been declassified for the presentation, it was produced at a military plant in Dolgoprudny in the Moscow region in 1986.
The missile was shipped from the plant on December 29, 1986 and delivered to military unit 20152 located in what is now Ukraine. It is now called 223rd anti-aircraft defense regiment of the Ukrainian armed forces, the report said. The unit took part in Kiev's crackdown on rebels in eastern Ukraine in June 2014, the general said.
The evidence disproves the accusations by Ukraine and some other parties, which claim that a missile fired by a launcher, secretly delivered from Russia, was responsible for the downing of MH17, the Ministry of Defense report said. All the materials have been sent to the Dutch investigators, the Russian military added.
The Russian military also challenges video footage used by the UK-based group Bellingcat, which calls itself a citizen journalism organization, to back its allegations about the delivery of the Buk launcher from Russia. The Defense Ministry showed a video clip with some of the footage, highlighting inconsistencies, which it said proved that the footage had been manipulated to place images of the launcher into background which were not in the original.
The Bellingcat investigation was featured in the latest update by Dutch prosecutors involved in the MH17 investigation, prompting the Russian military to study it in detail, they said. The Russian video showed an example of how an Abrams tank can be shown to be carried by a trailer in the streets of Ukraine in the same way.
The third part of the presentation was what the Russian officials called a record of intercepted communications of Ukrainian officials discussing, in 2016, the risk of flying through restricted airspace over Ukraine. Among a barrage of complaints one phrase says unless the restrictions are respected "we'll f***ing f**k up another Malaysian Boeing".
The Russian military say the complaints came from Col. Ruslan Grinchak, who serves in a brigade responsible for radar control of the Ukrainian airspace. His unit tracked the MH17 flight in 2014, so he may have information which is not publicly available about the disaster.
Gen. Igor Konashenkov, who hosted the briefing, said that Ukraine failed to provide radar data from its stations to the Dutch investigators. He also suggested that archive documents from the Ukrainian unit, which received the Buk missile back in 1986, would be of use to the probe, unless Kiev claims that they are no longer available. He stressed rules are in place which mean that such documents should still be stored in Ukraine.
The Russian military said they had no evidence to disprove a scenario, involving the Ukrainian rebels capturing the missile from the Ukrainian army, but pointed out that Ukrainian officials publicly denied anything like this had ever happened.
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, falling in the rebel-held part of the country. The crash claimed the lives of 283 passengers and 15 crew members, most of them Dutch nationals. Russia was blamed by Western media in the first days after the tragedy, even before any evidence had been collected on the ground.
The Joint Investigation Team, which is lead by the Netherlands, includes Ukraine, but not Russia. Moscow believes that the investigation is biased, failing to obtain all necessary evidence from Ukraine and relying on questionable sources while ignoring evidence provided by Russia, which doesn't fit the theory favored by Kiev.
Alex Oronov, who had family ties to President's lawyer, reportedly organised meeting aimed at helping give Russian President control of Crimea.
A Ukranian-born millionaire businessman with links to Donald Trump has reportedly died in unexplained circumstances.
Alex Oronov, a 69-year-old naturalised American citizen who ran an agricultural business in his native Ukraine, died on 2 March, according to a Facebook post by Ukranian politician Andrii Artemenko.
Mr Oronov is reported to have set up a secret meeting between Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen – to whom he had family ties - and Russian officials where a “peace plan” is said to have been hatched to give Russian President Vladimir Putin control of the Crimea.
Read more Kissinger 'advises Donald Trump to accept' Crimea as part of Russia
Mr Cohen is understood to have an extensive network of personal and business relationships in the Ukranian-American community – and his associates included Mr Oronov, a partner in the ethanol business the lawyer’s brother, Bryan, set up in Ukraine.
The “peace plan” meeting brought together Mr Artemenko, Mr Cohen and Felix Sater, an American-Russian long-time business associate of Mr Trump who is reported to have ties to the Russian mafia.
Details of this meeting are believed to have ended up on the desk of Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s former security adviser who was forced to resign last month over his alleged secret dealings with Russian officials.
The New York Times – which Mr Trump has repeatedly accused of producing “fake news” - reported the meeting between Mr Artemenko, Mr Cohen and Mr Slater.
In his lengthy Facebook post, Mr Artemenko describes himself as a pawn in a diplomatic game and said the stress created by the article and the negative attention that followed the article was too much for Mr Oronov.
The post, written in Russian, translates loosely: “Yes, I’m guilty... Alex Oronov, my partner, my friend, my mentor, Alex was a family member of Michael Cohen. And he organised all kinds of stuff, including an introduction and a meeting for me with Michael Cohen.”
It adds: “Unfortunately, his heart could not endure it. He died... Friend, your death will not have been in vain, nor will the deaths of tens of thousands of Ukranians and Russians, Alex Oronov, during this wild, undeclared war! Rest in peace and forgive me if you can, as difficult as that may be!”
The Ukrainian MP points the finger of blame at “overexertion, the nerves, from injustice, from suspicion, from sorrow of misunderstanding”.
The remembrance website legacy.com has a listing for Alex Oronov of New York, with dates that match those of the businessman.
One friend and business associate has so far left a tribute on the site, which reads: “Alex had a huge heart and he did a lot for those who were part of his family and part of his company.”
Conspiracy theorists have pointed to a number of recent deaths of Russian diplomats in the past four months.
Russia’s permanent ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, died last month in New York after suddenly becoming ill on his way to work the day before his 65th birthday.
It was initially reported he had suffered a heart attack but an autopsy proved inconclusive.
The Russian Consul in Athens, Andrei Malanin, 55, was found dead on the floor of his apartment in Greece in January. Greek police said there was no evidence of a break-in and he was believed to have died of natural causes.
Russia’s Ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, 67, was reported to have died of heart failure in January after a “brief illness” according to Indian media.
Russian diplomat Sergei Krivov, 63, was found unconscious having suffered severe head injuries at the Russian consulate in New York on US election day.
According to BuzzFeed, Mr Krivov was initially said to have fallen to his death following a suspected heart attack, but a subsequent report from medical examiners was inconclusive.
Mr Krivov is believed to have been responsible for the security of the consul from American intelligence, although he was initially said to have been “a security guard”.
The Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated in Ankara by a policeman at a photography exhibition on 19 December and another diplomat, Peter Polshikov, was shot dead in his Moscow apartment on the same day.
Former KGB chief Oleg Erovinkin, who was suspected of helping British spy Christopher Steele draft a dossier on Donald Trump, was found dead in the back of his car last Boxing Day.
Mr Erovinkin was also an aide to former deputy prime minister Igor Sechin, who now heads up state-owned oil company Rosneft and is said to have been named in the dossier.
His death was initially reported as a suspected murder – but officials later claimed he had died of a heart attack.
Russian pranksters who called Jens Stoltenberg in early February, one of them introducing himself as Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, did indeed reach the NATO Secretary General, Life.ru reported, citing US experts.
After Life.ru initially published the conversation, NATO accused them of disinformation, the Russian tabloid says. It then decided to contact an American investigative agency to prove the authenticity of the recording.
Life.ru gave VIP Protective Services Inc., a company that employs former agents from FBI, CIA and a number of European agencies, their recordings that featured a conversation between the pranksters and, allegedly, NATO chief Stoltenberg.
The phone talk in question happened earlier this month, when prankster Lexus, who works in tandem with another man known as Vovan, introduced himself as Poroshenko and asked the supposed Jens Stoltenberg whether Ukraine could become a NATO member within the next two years, “as advised by American partners.”
The prankster posing as the Ukrainian leader was then told that there might have been “a misunderstanding,” as to be “able to meet the standards which are required for a NATO membership,” Kiev officials “have to do more” and “focus on reform.”
The person who the prankster spoke to was indeed Stoltenberg, the US agency concluded, according to Life.ru. Having analyzed the files they received for voice identification comparison, “one known and one unknown speaker are the same speaker,” it said.
A number of features including pitch, mannerisms and even breath patterns have been used for the voice identification analysis, it added, saying that “the most precise approach” has been taken to identify if the person making comments on Ukraine's NATO membership is Stoltenberg.
Earlier, a Russian expert came to the same conclusion, Life.ru reported.
The pranksters gained popularity in Russia after they managed to speak over the phone with a number of high ranking officials and celebrities. Lexus and Vovan once made Elton John believe he had spoken to President Vladimir Putin about gay rights – which later led to a Kremlin promise to meet with the British pop icon for real.
Moscow, Feb 21 (Prensa Latina) Russia condemned today Ukraine''s decision to block a UN Security Council resolution devoted to honor the country''s late ambassador to the international body, Vitali Churkin.
That is the current Ukrainian government: nothing good can work, it can only hurt, including himself, said the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zajarova, in his Facebook account.
For the Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, the significance of the figure of Churkin and the fact of his death outweigh the decision of Ukraine, which this month chairs the Security Council.
In April of 2006, Ambassador Churkin, who turned 65 this day, assumed the leadership of the Russian representation before the United Nations.
On Monday, on hearing about the diplomat's death in his office in the Russian office at the UN, Zajarova stressed that even officials from countries with large differences with Moscow respected him.
During Churkin's stay at the UN, the United States and some Western powers assaulted Libya in March 2011, financed the terrorist war since that date in Syria and supported the coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
“Four years ago, just 16 percent [of Ukrainians] advocated NATO membership for Ukraine. Now it is 54 percent,” Poroshenko said in an interview with German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, published on Thursday.
“As president, I will act in accordance with the opinion of my people – and will hold a popular vote on the issue of NATO membership. And if Ukrainians vote for it, I will do everything to secure our membership in the alliance,” Poroshenko said, adding that in his opinion the alliance “is indispensable” and “the only functioning organization of collective security” in the world to date.
Meanwhile, NATO itself might not be so keen on strengthening ties with Ukraine. According to a new report by the Wall Street Journal, the alliance has recently postponed a planned meeting with Ukrainian officials regarding missile defense systems, allegedly to avoid provoking Russia.
“There is some political sensitivity in the engagement of Ukraine because obviously that could fuel an overreaction by the Russians,” an unnamed NATO diplomat told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
NATO was considering meeting with Ukraine – as it has done in the past with Japan and European partners – to discuss the possibility of debris or an errant interceptor falling on the country’s territory, were the alliance to use its missile defense system stationed in nearby Romania.
According to NATO officials, the bloc intends to use the system only to defend the allied nations and does not plan to intercept missiles headed to Ukraine. The NATO diplomat cited by the Wall Street Journal said the decision to put off talks does not preclude future discussions on the issue with Ukraine, although the bloc intends to move cautiously to avoid irking Russia.
NATO’s missile defense system in Romania consists of a radar and a number of interceptors on land and at sea. It came under NATO full control last year, with officials repeatedly stressing that the system is solely designed for defense, mostly to intercept any ballistic missiles potentially fired from Iran.
However, Moscow has viewed statements of this kind with suspicion, urging NATO to agree on limits to its missile shield, which set up dangerously close to Russia’s borders.
According to the WSJ, officials familiar with internal NATO discussions claimed that as relations with Moscow were already tense, the move to discuss missile defense with Ukraine – Russia’s immediate neighbor – could be misunderstood.
Reports contradicting the WSJ’s claims have also emerged.
“We did not cancel any negotiations with any country whatsoever,” an anonymous alliance official told RIA Novosti.
“We will continue to exchange information, consult and cooperate with our neighbors and partners, as and when necessary, doing it gradually and in stages.”
According to the official, “with regard to NATO missile defense, [we] recognize and respect the interests of other countries. […] In recent years we have been discussing missile defense with our partners, and we continue to work with them on this issue.”
Apart from NATO broadening its missile defense, the alliance and Russia have been increasingly at odds over the bloc’s general military buildup in Europe. In the latest move, US troops and heavy weapons began arriving last month in Europe as part of ‘Operation Atlantic Resolve’, a mission designed to curtail a perceived ‘Russian threat’ to Europe. Eighty-seven US battle tanks, 144 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 3,500 soldiers arrived near Russia’s borders as part of the buildup agreed upon at the alliance’s summit in Warsaw last July. NATO has also been holding military drills ever closer to Russian territory, most recently in Poland and Lithuania.
This policy towards Moscow, repeatedly slammed by Russia as a threat to the country’s national security, has been growing in scale since Crimea voted to split from Ukraine and rejoin Russia in a referendum in the wake of the Ukrainian coup in 2014. NATO supported Ukraine's coup-instated government over the issue, and still considers the Crimea transition an annexation. Furthermore, NATO and EU countries also imposed an array of economic sanctions on Russia’s banking, energy and defense sectors, to punish Moscow for the Crimea transition and its alleged, but never proven, support of the anti-government rebels in east Ukraine. These were recently extended for another six months, despite negative reactions from Italy and France.
In his interview with Berliner Morgenpost, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko urged for sanctions to remain in place, as they are allegedly the only thing keeping “Russian aggression” at bay.
“Do you know who wants the lifting of the sanctions most? President Poroshenko. But before that, Russia must withdraw all its troops from our territory so that Ukraine can restore its territorial integrity and sovereignty. A premature loosening of the sanctions would strengthen the Russian aggression against Ukraine – putting Europe at risk. Who knows where Putin would next want to help a Russian minority? In the Baltics? In Bulgaria? Or maybe in Germany?
Anti-Russian sanctions cost Western countries over $60bn - research — RT Business
Countries that backed sanctions against Russia have suffered significant export losses with products targeted by the Russian embargo accounting for only a small fraction of the loss, according to the...rt.com
“The sanctions work. Russia pays a high price for its aggression. The standard of living has fallen considerably, the Russian currency is losing its value. It is the sanctions that will keep Putin at the negotiating table and will force him to fully implement the Minsk Accords,” Poroshenko said.
Recent studies show however that sanctions against Russia have backfired, affecting instead the countries that supported them. In addition, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the rift created by anti-Russian sanctions has severely affected cooperation in battling other crucial crises, including international terrorism – “driv[ing] apart states” and preventing international partners “from joining forces in combating a common evil.”