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By On September 22, 2018

Estonia's Foreign Affairs Committee: Ukraine needs support to be strong, stable state governed by rule of law

Estonia's Foreign Affairs Committee: Ukraine needs support to be strong, stable state governed by rule of lawThe visit of the Foreign Affairs Committee to Ukraine took place on September 16-20.flickr.com/photos/bewellandthriveflickr.com/photos/bewellandthrive

After their visit to Ukraine, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) Marko Mihkelson and members of the Committee Barbi Pilvre and Henn Põlluaas think that the war in Ukraine has to be ended peacefully and diplomatically, and Europe needs to contribute to building up of Ukraine more than it has done so far.

Chairman of the Committee Marko Mihkelson said that Ukraine needed Estonia's and also inte rnational support to be a strong and stable state governed by the rule of law, according to the official website of the Parliament of Estonia.

"Ukraine has a place of priority in Estonia's development aid programs, and it has to remain so also in the future," Mihkelson emphasized.

Read alsoMFA Ukraine spox becomes Ambassador to Estonia

Mihkelson thinks that it is important that the presidential and parliamentary elections held next year in Ukraine were conducted openly, democratically and without interference. In his opinion, there is a threat that at the elections, Russia will support the forces who would like to see the discontinuation of the reforms in Ukraine.

Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee Barbi Pilvre said that it was necessary to draw the attention of international community constantly to the events in East Ukraine, because in the abundance of news, much could be forgotten and people tended to get used to war. "The fact is that the war in East Ukraine goes on," Pilvre pointed out. She emphasized that the conflict had to get a diplomatic and peaceful solution. "In order to achieve that, pressure has to be exerted on Russia through sanctions and the Government of Ukraine has to be helped in solving the humanitarian crisis," she said.

In the opinion of members of the Committee Henn Põlluaas, it is sad that there is a war in the middle of Europe, and Europe has closed its eyes to it. He thinks that Estonia and other European countries have to help the people of East Ukraine to restore their homes, so that they could return to their homeland. It is also necessary to help the children overcome the trauma of war. "The contribution of Ukraine alone is not enough to end the war and make the country liveable again," Põlluaas said. Estonia, and also the rest of Europe, have to contribute considerably more to support Ukraine."

The visit of the Foreign Affairs Committee to Ukraine took place on September 16-20. They went to Donetsk region in East Ukraine, where they visited Mayorsk checkpoint and Luhanske village on the frontline. In Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, they met with the Governor of Donetsk region and representatives of international aid organizations.

They also had meetings with First Deputy Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's Parliament) Iryna Herashchenko, Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Hanna Hopko, and Oleksandr Turchynov, Head of the National Security and Defense Council, an advisory body to the President of Ukraine. The delegation of the Foreign Affairs Committee also met with the new generation politicians of Ukraine Serhiy Leshchenko, Mustafa Nayyem and Svitlana Zalishchuk, and representatives of think tanks and citizens association Vostok-SOS, which cooperates with the Estonian development aid organizations.

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By On September 22, 2018

Donbas update: Ukraine reports 3 WIA's amid 18 attacks in past day

Donbas update: Ukraine reports 3 WIA's amid 18 attacks in past dayAccording to intelligence reports, one enemy troop was killed and another five were wounded.REUTERSREUTERS

Russia's hybrid military forces mounted 18 attacks on Ukrainian army positions in Donbas in the past 24 hours, with three Ukrainian soldiers reported as wounded in action (WIA).

"Three Ukrainians soldiers were wounded in the past day. According to intelligence reports, one occupier was killed and another five were wounded," the press center of Ukraine's Joint Forces Operation (JFO) said in an update on Facebook as of 07:00 Kyiv time on September 22, 2018.

Read alsoUkraine's army retakes another village in Russian-occupied Luhansk region (Video)

Russian occupa tion forces opened aimed fire from grenade launchers, heavy machine guns, and small arms to attack the defenders of the towns of Avdiyivka and Maryinka, and the villages of Krymske, Troyitske, Luhanske, Chermalyk, Pavlopil, Hnutove, Vodiane, and Shyrokyne.

In addition, the enemy resorted to 82mm mortars to shell the Ukrainian positions near Vodiane, as well as 120mm mortars near Shyrokyne. Moreover, the Ukrainian positions near Hnutove came under fire from both types of mortars.

The invaders also used weapons of infantry fighting vehicles near Vodiane and Shyrokyne. Furthermore, the Ukrainian positions in Vodiane were attacked with the use of an anti-tank missile system, while those in Shyrokyne came under fire from a Zu-23-2 anti-aircraft system.

"Since Saturday midnight, Russian-led forces have mounted four attacks on the Ukrainian positions near Krymske, Novotoshkivske, Pavlopil, and Vodiane, using heavy machine guns and small arms. The occupiers also emplo yed heavy mounted, automatic, hand-held and under-barrel grenade launchers," the report says.

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By On September 22, 2018

In struggle over Ukrainian Orthodox communion, a political hornet's nest

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Why We Wrote This

In an international conflict, one nation often will want to nullify influence another has within its borders. But what if doing so means upsetting fundamental tenets like separation of church and state?

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (r.) and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople hold a liturgy in the southern Serbian city of Nis in 2013.

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Since the Soviet era, Ukraine’s Orthodox community has been essentially split in two. On one side there’s the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which though functionally independent gives its spiritual allegiance to the Patriarch of Moscow. On the other is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), a breakaway church with its own self-proclaimed patria rch but not recognized by the greater Orthodox community. Both have been jostling for the hearts and minds of believers in Ukraine for decades. But amid Kiev’s conflict with Russia, the religious turf war has become a political one as well. Backed by the Ukrainian government and Orthodox authorities abroad, the UOC-KP looks set for what would effectively be a hostile takeover of the UOC. That would mean the dissolution of the UOC, the seizure of its property by the UOC-KP, and â€" backed by force of law â€" the requirement that all Ukrainian Orthodox churches switch their allegiances to Kiev. People will have their weddings and baptisms in the same old church in the same old way. But some estimate that about one-third of UOC clergy will refuse to switch allegiances in an already troubled country, potentially leading to legal and perhaps physical conflict.

Moscow

For decades, Orthodox leaders have been at odds over wh ere the loyalties of clergy in Ukraine should lie: in Moscow, or within Ukraine’s own borders. While deeply meaningful to religious authorities, it is the sort of complicated detail that ordinarily would be of interest to few outside Orthodox circles.

But now, the long-simmering jurisdictional dispute is coming to a head â€" and could add a new layer to Ukraine’s internal tensions amid its ongoing geopolitical strife with Russia.

Encouraged by the government in Kiev, Orthodox leaders in Ukraine are attempting to create a national church by severing the ties of many Ukrainian Orthodox churches to their traditional spiritual headquarters in Moscow. And with the foremost patriarch of the overall Orthodox Church apparently set to throw his weight behind Kiev’s cause, a new Ukrainian patriarchate seems likely sooner rather than later.

With a new national patriarchate, however, would come a hostile takeover of the country’s traditional Orthodox body by a newer br eakaway church. And while the change would have no practical impact on parishioners â€" weddings and baptisms would go on the same way as before â€" it would likely result in a political schism, as churches that once spiritually allied to Moscow were legally forced to orient toward Kiev. The Orthodox debate would be subsumed by political concerns that should not touch it, critics say.

“We have separation of church and state in Ukraine, and any attempt by the state to meddle in our affairs would be reminiscent of totalitarian days,” says Vasily Anisimov, official spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate. “Why our church doesn’t please the Ukrainian authorities is a mystery to us.”

Once banished by czars, a centuries-old sect finds new life in modern Russia

Ukrainian Orthodoxy

The Ortho dox world has 14 autocephalous â€" functionally independent but spiritually connected â€" units, mostly nation-based, each with its own local head, or patriarch. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church has no pope-like figure to definitively settle issues. But the Patriarch of Constantinople (now Istanbul, where the church was born) is considered “first among equals” and enjoys a few privileges as such.

About two-thirds of Ukraine’s 43 million people identify as Orthodox believers, although they are divided among three separate churches that do not vary in their beliefs or practices but which attract very different political passions.

The vast majority of parishes â€" about 7,000 out of a total 12,000 â€" are affiliated to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). The church is legally and financially autonomous, but has no patriarch of its own. Rather, it is part of the world’s largest Orthodox congregation, the Russian one, headed by Patriarch Kirill o f Moscow. In recent years the UOC has steadily been losing followers, but is still supported by at least 20 percent of Orthodox believers, mainly in the east and south of Ukraine.

Though it has fewer parishes, the breakaway Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) is in fact a larger congregation than the UOC: about a third of Ukrainian Orthodox believers. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UOC-KP was formed under the leadership of the Soviet-era Metropolitan (Archbishop) of Kiev, Mykhailo Denysenko, who had failed in a bid to become Moscow Patriarch. He took the name Patriarch Filaret, the designated spiritual head of the new church. It is Filaret who is the primary spiritual figure behind the drive for a Ukrainian national church, which began in its modern form when Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.

There is also a Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which was formed after the Bolshevik Revolution, and has the support of about 3 per cent of believers. To confuse matters further, in the west of Ukraine (which was under Polish domination for centuries) there is also the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is basically Orthodox but owes allegiance to the pope in Rome, and commands the support of just under 10 percent of Ukrainians.

‘A united, equal Ukrainian Church’

The effort to create a unified, independent Ukrainian church has intensified greatly since the Maidan Revolution four years ago, and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea, triggered violent geopolitical conflict between Moscow and Kiev.

Earlier this month Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople prompted what will certainly be a heavily contested process aimed at eventually granting autocephaly to Orthodox Ukrainians. He sent two leading Orthodox officials from North America, which is under Constantinople’s jurisdiction, to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and others to discuss the move. The Russian Orth odox Church, which accuses Bartholomew of having “pope-like ambitions,” heatedly disputed his right to initiate such a procedure, and dramatically broke off some contacts with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It’s probably not as bad as it sounds, since the Kremlin has vowed to stay out of the quarrel, and there is little evidence that most Ukrainian believers care very much whether their local priest owes spiritual allegiance to a patriarch in Moscow or in Kiev. But with presidential and parliamentary elections on Ukraine’s 2019 horizon, it seems certain to be a fixture on the political agenda for some time to come.

“Ukrainian authorities regard Russia as an enemy, and the task of separating all Ukrainian churches from any ties with Moscow has become an important political goal,” says Vadim Karasyov, director of the independent Institute of Global Strategies in Kiev. “They want the Ukrainian Church to be a national one, which is loyal to the national au thorities. The Russian Orthodox Church would then cease to be a trans-national one, and become just another national one itself.”

The Kiev Patriarchate, which Filaret heads, has not yet been recognized as canonical (i.e. a legal jurisdiction) within the Orthodox community. The outcome that Mr. Poroshenko and Filaret are hoping for in this situation is that the entire Ukrainian Orthodox community will be declared by Constantinople as one united and independent Orthodox jurisdiction, with Filaret as its patriarch.

Four years ago in Kiev, as the current geopolitical crisis was breaking, Filaret sat down with the Monitor to explain his goals.

“This task of unifying has become urgent, particularly now that there is tension between Russia and Ukraine, and Russia committed aggression by annexing Crimea,” he explained. “We want a united, equal Ukrainian Church, which is independent of the Moscow Patriarchy. It will happen [amid these political events] because God c reates such conditions that, even if [Moscow] doesn’t want it, they will come to it.”

Church and state

Yevgen Kharkovshchenko, chair of religion studies at Kiev National University, says the drive for an autocephalous Ukrainian church is a natural front in the ongoing struggle for Ukrainian independence. “This idea has a lot of supporters in Ukraine,” he says. “An independent state on its own independent territory has to have an independent church.”

He adds that it seemed unlikely to happen until the Patriarch of Constantinople stepped in and Moscow reacted with harsh countermeasures. “Now, for the first time, I am beginning to think that Ukraine will get its autocephalous church, after a thousand years of aspiration.”

Ukraine’s individual Orthodox churches have been battlegrounds for three decades already, as the Kiev and Moscow Patriarchates struggle to win the allegiance of each parish, which owns its own brick-and-mortar house of worsh ip under Ukrainian law. But the creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian church would likely intensify that battle. And it would also likely spur President Poroshenko or the Ukrainian parliament to change the laws to make Kiev allegiance mandatory for all.

“Will politicians get involved? Of course they will,” says Mr. Kharkovshchenko.

The Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, former official spokesman of the Moscow Patriarch, argues that the ambitions of Bartholomew and Filaret are driving the present situation, and that it will only create more disunity in already troubled Ukraine. He says that most clergy and believers will probably accept whatever Ukrainian authorities demand, since it won’t affect church doctrine or religious practice. But it is estimated that about one-third of UOC clergy will refuse to switch allegiances, he says.

“So, even if this comes to pass, it will only create one more church jurisdiction, and that is not a step to unity,” Father Vsevolod says . “And if there is state involvement, with legal measures or pressures by local authorities upon parishes to promote Kiev affiliation, how is that a good thing?”

It is likely to take a long time, he adds, since there will be push-back, and it doesn’t suit most players â€" including Bartholomew in Constantinople â€" to see any of this quickly settled.

Mr. Anisimov, the UOC spokesman, sounds quite defiant. He says the church is already autonomous from Russia and has no connections with the Moscow Patriarch other than spiritual ones.

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“I personally think this campaign for autocephaly has a lot to do with the upcoming election campaign,” he says. “Our Ukrainian authorities don’t have much to offer the people in their material realm, so Poroshenko wants to pose as the founder of a new church. Our authorities conceive of a church as a political organization, marching shoulder to shoulder with the state. But that road leads back to totalitarianism.”

“The authorities should concentrate on their tasks, which is things like ending the war and improving peoples’ lives,” he adds. “Our mission is to save souls. We don’t interfere with the state, and they shouldn’t interfere with us.”

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Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine

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By On September 22, 2018

Ukraine 2019 elections could shift Ukraine to EU and US

The Russia-Ukraine war has continued from 2014 to today. Russian troops in uniforms without identifying insignia occupied and took Crimea. Russian intelligence and military services provided leadership, funding, ammunition, heavy weapons and regular units of the Russian army to launch and sustain a separatist conflict in Donbas.

More than 10,500 have died.

A substantially improved Ukrainian military has managed to stabilize the line of contact that separates it from Russian and Russian proxy forces.

Ukraine’s 2019 elections could shift Ukraine to the EU and US but will the reforms in Ukraine happen and will the EU and the US make the financial commitments?

Sea of Azov

The Sea of Azov increasingly represents a point of contention between Ukraine and Russia. On March 25th Ukraine’s maritime border guards detained a Crimean-registered fishing vessel, Nord, chargi ng the captain with entering illegally from Crimea (special immigration procedures are in place between Ukraine and Crimea). Since the end of April, Russia has been conducting a concerted campaign of detentions and inspections of commercial vessels in the area. The shallow-water ports of the Sea of Azov are generally used by small ships to supply Ukrainian- and Russian-produced grain, mainly to Turkey. The fact that the Sea of Azov is legally shared by Ukraine and Russia complicates the issue, making the prospect of a resolution of the conflict remote.

The latest controversy adds to existing issues caused by Russia’s construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge, which has allegedly restricted some Ukrainian sea traffic. The bridge allows for the transit of ships with a maximum height of 33 metresâ€"much lower than is customary for such bridges. Russia claims that it took ship dimensions into account when it built the bridge. In return for fewer maritime restrictions, Russia cou ld well be trying to force Ukraine into resuming water supplies to Crimea, cut off by Ukraine in 2014 after Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula. Crimea relied heavily on these supplies, and drought on the peninsula is currently a concern.

Economics and Politics

In March 2018, Ukraine gas company, Naftogaz, was awarded $2.5 billion in a lengthy, ugly legal battle with Russian gas behemoth Gazprom. The Stockholm Arbitral Tribunal ruled in favor of Naftogaz. The tribunal in Stockholm found that Gazprom defaulted on its shipment obligations and awarded damages of $4.63 billion. The award means Gazprom has to make payments to Naftogaz in the order of $2.56 billion after residual payments for gas delivered in 2014 and 2015 have been settled.

Ukraine has a GDP of about $120 billion. About $2-4 billion depends on Russia’s natural gas.

Talks between the European Commission, Russia and Ukraine are working on Russian gas transit via Ukraine post-2019.

Moscow hopes to have its 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 2 pipeline and its 31.5 Bcm/year TurkStream link ready to flow gas to Europe by the end of 2019, leaving only limited volumes for transit via Ukraine.

Russian gas company Gazprom estimated its sales to Europe and Turkey may reach 205 Bcm or more in 2018.

The Danish government has come under fierce lobbying by Russia, EU allies and the United States over the 9.5 billion euro (£8.5 billion) Nord Stream 2 project led by Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and financed by five Western firms. The United States opposes the project while some eastern European countries fear it will make the EU a hostage to Russian gas. Sweden has given a permit. Russia thinks they can get a route for the pipeline that would avoid Denmark.

In Sept 13 2018, the US said it repeated threats to impose sanctions over the construction of Nord Stream 2 between Russia and Germany, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said.

Gazprom sent 94 Bcm throu gh Ukraine to Europe last year, the highest amount since it brought its 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream gas pipeline to Germany online in 2011.

Gazprom has previously said volumes through Ukraine could fall to 10-15 Bcm/year after 2019, assuming Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream come online before then.

Economic reforms in 2014-2015 helped secure a program with the International Monetary Fund worth $17.5 billion in low interest credits over four years.

The pace of reform, however, slowed in 2016 and has not rebounded. As Ukraine has failed to deliver on measures such as land privatization and harmonization of gas prices, the IMF’s program has disbursed no money for 10 months. IMF officials now seem especially concerned about the need for more effective steps to combat corruption, which continues to plague many areas of Ukrainian life. They have focused in particular on establishing a special court to try corruption cases.

Ukraine will have elections in 2019. Polling shows the current President Poroshenko in third place with 9.4 percentâ€"a dramatic decline from the 55 percent he won in 2014.

Tymoshenko is in the lead with 18-20%. She wants for Ukraine’s integration into the European Union and strongly opposes the membership of Ukraine in the Eurasian Customs Union. Yulia Tymoshenko supports NATO membership for Ukraine.

She says that Ukraine must complete anti-corruption reforms and obtain more precise defensive lethal weapons. Ukraine must become stronger economically. Economic growth is the soft power that can convince people to stay in Ukraine.

Anatoliy Stepanovych Hrytsenko is in second place with about 10%. He is in the current Ukrainian parliament, former Minister of Defence, member of the Our Ukraine political party and leader of the Civil Position party.

In April, 2018, Ukraine received $250 million in actual military aid from the USA. They got some Javelin anti-tank missiles and other weapons.

Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine

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By On September 22, 2018

Ukrainian town places a ban on all things Russian

Marc Bennetts, Moscow

The Times

Councillors in Lviv say the ban would remain in place as long as Russia continued to provide military support for pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine
Councillors in Lviv say the ban would remain in place as long as Russia continued to provide military support for pro-Moscow separatists in UkraineALAMY

A region in western Ukraine has banned all Russian language books, films and songs in response to the presence of Kremlin-backed troops in the east of the former Soviet country.

The decision was taken by councillors in Lviv, which has a population of 2.5 million and is widely regarded as Ukr aine’s cultural capital, to overcome what they called “linguistic Russification”. They said that the ban would remain in place as long as Russia continued to provide military support for pro-Moscow separatists, who have carved out two “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine.

Although Ukrainian is the predominant language in the Lviv region, Russian is widely spoken in the city. Councillors did not specify how they would enforce the ruling.

Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, called…

Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine

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By On September 22, 2018

Ukraine's army retakes another village in Russian-occupied Luhansk region (Video)

Ukraine's army retakes another village in Russian-occupied Luhansk region (Video)The operation itself took half an hour.Khutir Vilny is located on the outskirts of Zolote / Photo from facebook.com/iryna.gerashchenkoKhutir Vilny is located on the outskirts of Zolote / Photo from facebook.com/iryna.gerashchenko

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have retaken another village, Khutir Vilny (literally "Free"), in the Russian-occupied district of Luhansk region.

A Ukrainian reconnaissance group has conducted a quick and effective operation, the TSN news service said.

They ousted Russian-led forces from the village in the northeastern outskirts of the town of Zo lote. The Ukrainian national flag was raised over the village.

Read alsoTwo members of Ukraine's Joint Forces wounded in skirmish in Donbas on Friday

No casualties were reported during the operation. Preparations for the operation lasted for almost three days, but the operation itself took half an hour, the commander of the group said.

Now eight dozen villagers, who were used by the occupation forces as a human shield, again live in their native country.

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Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine