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    Ukraine Tag

    A report from Politico shows that national security officials warned former President Barack Obama of Russian interference in Western political systems, including the United States. Politico reported:
    As early as 2014, the administration received a report that quoted a well-connected Russian source as saying that the Kremlin was building a disinformation arm that could be used to interfere in Western democracies. The report, according to an official familiar with it, included a quote from the Russian source telling U.S. officials in Moscow, "You have no idea how extensive these networks are in Europe ... and in the U.S., Russia has penetrated media organizations, lobbying firms, political parties, governments and militaries in all of these places."

    Russia, Russia, Russia. We're here to talk about Trump/Russia: get it? Don't go distracting us with talk of the DNC working with Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump! This morning on CNN, Alisyn Camerota and John Berman co-hosted a segment with Jason Miller, a former Trump campaign aide, and Dem consultant Hilary Rosen. Miller tried to raise this Politico story, which reported that Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary, meeting with a DNC consultant to research damaging information on Trump and his advisers.

    The Petya ransomeware took off yesterday across the globe, affecting state-owned and private businesses in Russia, Europe, and the U.S. The BBC has now reported that it "may have started via corrupted updates on a piece of accountancy software." The ransomeware hit Ukraine hardest since it attacked the country's "power grid, banks and government offices" and disrupted some flights at Kyiv's Boryspil Airport. Other companies hit included pharmaceutical giant Merck and Russia's state owned energy company Rosneft.

    Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike recently revised a report from December that insisted that the group "Fancy Bear," which has ties to Russian intelligence, used malware to hack into Ukrainian artillery. In the same report, the firm said "Fancy Bear" used the same malware to "hack" into the American election. Well, British think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) found that CrowdStrike "erroneously used IISS data as proof of the intrusion." This also calls into question its findings of meddling in our election.

    A shooter assassinated former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov, who was also a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, outside of a hotel in Kiev, Ukraine. Voronenkov, former member of the Communist Party, fled to Ukraine last fall with his wife when he found out he would face fraud charges "over the alleged misappropriation of a Moscow building in 2011." The Ukrainian government granted him citizenship and he provided evidence against former Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych, who ran to Russia after parliament ousted him on February 22, 2014.

    Vice President Mike Pence attended the Munich Security Conference in Germany where he told Europe that America will stand behind its NATO allies. Pence also met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to assure him that America remains committed to Ukraine and that Russia upholds the Minsk Agreement. President Donald Trump rattled some cages on the campaign trail when he stated his beliefs that NATO was obsolete, leading many to believe America will abandon the organization. Pence said that will not happen:

    International prosecutors have concluded that a Buk missile from Russia shot down Malaysia Airlines MH17 over east Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board. Russia has constantly denied any involvement in the incident, which came months after Ukraine spiraled into a civil war after parliament ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. East Ukraine split from the pro-Europe west and pledged allegiance to Russia.

    Prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet died in a car bombing in Kiev, Ukraine, today. The Belarusian journalist went to Ukraine from Russia after the Kremlin clamped down on the media and his cameraman was murdered. The authorities do not have any suspects. However, the car belonged to Sheremet's partner Olena Prytula, the founding editor of their publication Ukrainska Pravda, a well respected outlet. Sheremet's colleagues believe the perpetrators targeted Prytula.

    The Kremlin has officially pardoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko after two years of imprisonment and a farce trial in exchange for two Russia Special Forces servicemen. The Ukrainian and Russian governments did not offer any details about the exchange. But journalists in Ukraine "noted that a Ukrainian presidential aircraft had flown to the airport of Rostov-on-Don, a southern Russian city close to the Ukrainian border." It came back at 3PM local time with Savchenko on board.

    A few Russian officials have demanded a Ukraine boycott after singer Jamala won Eurovision with her song "1944," which is about the USSR deportation of the Crimean Tatars. Well, maybe if Russia did not invade east Ukraine or annex Crimea, people would not hate them so much. Jamala, a Crimean Tatar, drew inspiration for the song from her great-grandmother. USSR dictator Josef Stalin deported over 200,000 Crimean Tatars to central Asia on suspicion of corroborating with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The 72nd anniversary of the deportation falls on May 18.

    Gen. Philip Breedlove, the top military commander of NATO, has warned the organization they need to focus on Russia before he leaves his position at the end of May. “We see that Russia has not accepted the hand of partnership but has chosen a path of belligerence,” he stated. “We need to readdress where we’re heading.” Breedlove leaves his position "this month after three years in the top military job at NATO." His statements come after NATO announced they will send 4,000 troops to the Baltic States - Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia - and Poland. “The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right up against the borders, with a lot of troops,” Robert Work, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, told The Wall Street Journal. “From our perspective, we could argue this is extraordinarily provocative behavior.”

    In a move symbolic of the nation's rejection of Communism and the Soviet era, Ukraine has removed one of the last large statues of Vladimir Lenin from public view. The Guardian reported:
    Ukraine topples biggest remaining Lenin statue It took two days and a giant crane, but Ukraine has finally managed to lift its biggest remaining statue of the Soviet founder Lenin off its pedestal and consign it to the dustbin of history.

    Since February 2014, the Russian military has been taking steps to secure portions of eastern Ukraine; forces successfully annexed the Crimea, and Russian separatists in Ukraine have continued their attacks. Nations including the United States have advocated for providing Ukrainians with the means to defend themselves---that means tanks, weapons, and training---but Russian officials claim that such a move would constitute a threat to national security. The situation is quickly devolving, but world leaders are still holding out a sliver of hope that a compromise can be reached. At the Munich Security Conference this past weekend, Vice President Joe Biden met with European leaders to address continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine. Via CNN:
    Biden met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko earlier Saturday to discuss the situation in Ukraine. "We must judge ... any future agreement with Russia by the actions Russia takes on the ground, not by the paper they sign," Biden said. "Given Russia's recent history, we need to judge it by its deeds, not its words. Don't tell us, show us, President Putin. Too many times President Putin has promised peace and delivered tanks, troops, and weapons." While he's echoing much of what White House press secretary Josh Earnest has been saying during recent daily press briefings, neither Biden nor President Barack Obama has weighed in directly this week since tensions escalated. He would not discuss the possibility of U.S. ground troops in the region, but re-asserted the Ukrainian people's right to defend themselves. "We will continue providing Ukraine with security assistance, not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself," he said. "Let me be clear: We do not believe that there is a military solution in Ukraine. Let me be equally clear: We do not believe Russia has the right to do what they're doing."

    The recent flood of illegal immigrants across the southern border has caused many Americans to wonder why our country is seemingly incapable of border security. A fence is in place in some areas while others are completely open. With that in mind, many Americans will be surprised to learn that the State Department is now funding the construction of a border fence in Ukraine. Jeryl Bier of The Weekly Standard reported:
    Feds Buy Border Fence ... for Ukraine As part of the U.S. Crisis Support Package for Ukraine announced by the White House in April, the State Department awarded a $435,000 contract to B.K. Engineering System in Kyiv for razor wire to help "defend the newly imposed borders between Ukraine's mainland and the Crimean peninsula." The contract was awarded on June 12, but was just posted online this week. An $8 million "non-lethal assistance" package was announced at the same time as a larger $50 million aid package for Ukraine to "help Ukraine pursue political and economic reform and strengthen the partnership between the United States and Ukraine." The razor wire (Concertina) is included under "[e]ngineering equipment, communications equipment, vehicles, and non-lethal individual tactical gear for Ukraine’s Border Guard Service" that was spelled out in the April Fact Sheet.
    Meanwhile, back here in America, Mexico is protesting the presence of the Texas National Guard on the border.

    In another of his frequent 'announcement drops' before entering Marine One, President Obama yesterday declared that the United States and the European Union had agreed to a new round of sanctions against Russia. These new sanctions come within two weeks of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 being shot from the sky over Ukraine. From The Wall St. Journal:
    The EU targeted the energy, arms and finance sectors, with details due soon. It's not a profile in courage: The EU only blocked future arms business with Russia, not past deals. The U.S. restricted the access of three additional Russian banks to American capital markets and blocked future technology sales to Russian oil companies. The U.S. stopped short of broader sectoral sanctions on Russia's banks. Vladimir Putin himself could be included on a future asset and travel ban list.
    The question remains whether these latest moves by the West are enough for Vladimir Putin to give up his support of the pro-Russian separatists still battling the Ukrainian government on the ground in Eastern Ukraine. It is possible that the West still isn't willing to do what it needs to do to maximize the economic pressure on Putin's Russia. Again, from today's Wall St. Journal:
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