Daily: 24/12/2021

Зеленський провів відеозустріч із конгресменами США – Офіс президента

Окремо порушувалася тема посилення санкційного тиску на Росію та українсько-американської взаємодії у безпековій сфері

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Ukraine Lawmaker Says Prosecutor Seeks Arrest of Former President Poroshenko

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office has asked a court to arrest former President Petro Poroshenko on suspicion of high treason and financing pro-Russian separatists, a lawmaker from Poroshenko’s faction in parliament said Friday.

“On Christmas Eve, the prosecutor general office confirmed the information … that the prosecutor general had approved a motion to arrest Poroshenko with the possibility of bail set at 1 billion hryvnia [$37 million],” Iryna Gerashchenko said on Facebook.

The prosecutor general’s office declined to confirm Gerashchenko’s claim.

On Monday, the state investigative bureau said Poroshenko, who is visiting Poland, was suspected of “facilitating the activities” of terrorist organizations in a preliminary conspiracy with an unnamed group of people, including some top officials in Russia.

The next day, Poroshenko dismissed as unacceptable a decision by authorities to investigate him for high treason. His party said the accusation was fabricated on the instructions of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“Our political team views the recent actions [of the presidential office] and its fully controlled security forces as political repression against the opposition and its leader, selective justice, intimidation and pressure,” Gerashchenko said.

Ukraine has been at war with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region since 2014. Moscow has unnerved the West with a troop buildup near Ukraine in recent months.

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Харківську область очолив Олег Синєгубов – указ Зеленського

Синєгубов народився в 1983 році в Харкові

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МЗС Росії поскаржилося в ООН на США через «захоплення російської дипвласності» – Захарова

Москва закликає до запуску арбітражного трибуналу проти США, заявила речниця МЗС Росії Марія Захарова

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Затриманий у Білорусі журналіст Радіо Свобода Олег Груздилович перебуває в СІЗО

Адвокатка затриманого журналіста Грузділовича мала зустріч зі слідчим. Він повідомив захисниці, що допиту у найближчі кілька днів не буде через вихідні

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ОГП погодив клопотання про арешт Порошенка – ЗМІ

У Печерському районному суді Києва відбулося закрите засідання, під час якого суддя розглянув і погодив клопотання прокуратури про дозвіл затримати Порошенка, щоб доправити до суду для обрання запобіжного заходу

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Зеленський скликає засідання РНБО на 29 грудня

Засідання проводитиметься на тлі концентрації російських військ поблизу кордонів України, про яку повідомляють військові розвідки України та західних держав

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Satellite Images Show Russia Still Building Up Forces Near Ukraine

New satellite images captured by a private U.S. company show that Russia has continued to build up its forces in annexed Crimea and near Ukraine in recent weeks while pressing the United States for talks over security guarantees it is seeking.

Reuters could not independently verify the latest images from U.S.-based Maxar Technologies. The Kremlin reiterated on Friday that it reserves the right to move its own forces on Russian territory as it sees fit and that Western countries were carrying out provocative military maneuvers near its borders.

U.S., European and Ukrainian leaders have accused Russia of building up troops again near Ukraine’s border since October after an earlier brief buildup in April, when Maxar also released images. U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders say Moscow appears to be weighing an attack on Ukraine as soon as next month, something Moscow has repeatedly denied.

The images released late on Thursday showed a base in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, packed with hundreds of armored vehicles and tanks as of Dec. 13. A Maxar satellite image of the same base in October showed the base was half empty.

 

Maxar said a new brigade-level unit, comprised of several hundred armored vehicles that include BMP-series infantry fighting vehicles, tanks, self-propelled artillery and air defense equipment, had arrived at the Russian garrison.

“Over the past month, our high-resolution satellite imagery has observed a number of new Russian deployments in Crimea as well as in several training areas in western Russia along the periphery of the Ukraine border,” Maxar said in a statement.

It cited increased activity at three sites in Crimea and at five sites in western Russia.

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia wanted to avoid conflict, but needed an “immediate” response from the United States and its allies to its demands for security guarantees. Moscow has said it expects talks with U.S. officials on the subject to start in January in Geneva.

 

When asked on Friday about the build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was acting to defend its own security.

“Russia is moving its own troops around on its own territory against the backdrop of highly unfriendly actions by our opponents in NATO, the United States and various European countries who are carrying out highly unambiguous maneuvers near our borders,” said Peskov.

“This forces us to take certain measures to guarantee our own security.”

Biden has threatened strong economic and other measures if Russia invades Ukraine, building on sanctions imposed over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and backing for an ongoing separatist rebellion by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. A U.S. official has said new retaliatory measures could include tough export controls.

Russia says it wants NATO to halt its eastwards expansion and is seeking guarantees that the Western military alliance will not deploy certain offensive weapons to Ukraine and other neighboring countries.

Other Maxar images showed a build-up at the Soloti staging ground in Russia close to the Ukrainian border, with photos shot at the start of December showing a larger concentration of military hardware than in September.

Other pictures showed continuing build-ups at Yelnya, a Russian town around 160 miles (260 km) north of the Ukrainian border, and at the Pogonovo training ground near the southern Russian city of Voronezh.

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Росія продовжує стягувати війська до кордонів України на тлі підготовки до переговорів зі США – Bloomberg

Як зазначає агентство, незважаючи на обмежену кількість військ на кордоні, Росія зможе швидко «зміцнити ці сили», відправивши великі формування на поїздах і літаках

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Місяць операції «Полісся» – ДПСУ прозвітувала про заходи безпеки на кордоні з Білоруссю

Нині Україна постала перед низкою викликів щодо безпеки своїх кордонів у звʼязку з військовою присутністю Росії біля кордонів з одного боку, і міграційною кризою на кордонах сусідніх Польщі та Білорусі – з іншого

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58% українців вважають, що переговори з Путіним слід вести лише за участю Заходу – опитування

Близько 50% українців вважають реальною загрозу вторгнення Росії

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У Гонконгу прибрали ще два пам’ятники протестувальникам, вбитим на площі Тяньаньмень

Напередодні Університет Гонконгу демонтував скульптуру на честь продемократичних демонстрантів, убитих під час розгону на площі Тяньаньмень у 1989 році в Пекіні

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James Webb Space Telescope Launch Set for Saturday

“White-knuckle” — That’s how Rusty Whitman describes the month ahead, after the launch of the historic James Webb Space Telescope, now tentatively set for Saturday. 

From a secure control room in Baltimore, Maryland, Whitman and his colleagues will hold their breath as Webb comes online. But that’s just the beginning. 

For the first six months after Webb’s launch, Whitman and the team at the Space Telescope Science Institute will monitor the observatory around the clock, making tiny adjustments to ensure it is perfectly calibrated for astronomers across the world to explore the universe.

The most crucial moments will come at the beginning of the mission: the telescope must be placed on a precise trajectory, while at the same time unfurling its massive mirror and even larger sun-shade — a perilous choreography.   

“At the end of 30 days, I will be able to breathe a sigh of relief if we’re on schedule,” said Whitman, flight operations system engineering manager. 

He leads the team of technicians who set up Webb’s control room — a high-tech hub with dozens of screens to monitor and control the spacecraft. 

In the first row, one person alone will have the power to send commands to the $10 billion machine, which will eventually settle into an orbit over 1.5 million kilometers away. 

In other stations, engineers will monitor specific systems for any anomalies. 

After launch, Webb’s operations are largely automated, but the team in Baltimore must be ready to handle any unexpected issues.   

Luckily, they have had lots of practice. 

Over the course of a dozen simulations, the engineers practiced quickly diagnosing and correcting malfunctions thought up by the team, as well as experts flown in from Europe and California.   

During one of those tests, the power in the building cut out. 

“It was totally unexpected,” said Whitman. “The people who didn’t know — they thought it was part of the plan.” 

Fortunately, the team had already prepared for such an event: a back-up generator quickly restored power to the control room.   

Even with the practice, Whitman is still worried about what could go wrong: “I’m nervous about the possibility that we forgot something. I’m always trying to think ‘what did we forget?”

In addition to its job of keeping Webb up and running, the Space Telescope Science Institute — based out of the prestigious Johns Hopkins University — manages who gets to use the pricey science tool. 

While the telescope will operate practically 24/7, that only leaves 8,760 hours a year to divvy up among the scientists clamoring for their shot at a ground-breaking discovery. 

Black holes, exoplanets, star clusters — how to decide which exciting experiment gets priority? 

By the end of 2020, researchers from around the world submitted over 1,200 proposals, of which 400 were eventually chosen for the first year of operation. 

Hundreds of independent specialists met over two weeks in early 2021 — online due to the pandemic — to debate the proposals and pare down the list. 

The proposals were anonymized, a practice the Space Telescope Science Institute first put in place for another project it manages, the Hubble Telescope. As a result, many more projects by women and early-career scientists were chosen. 

“These are exactly the kind of people we want to use the observatory, because these are new ideas,” explained Klaus Pontoppidan, the science lead for Webb.   

The time each project requires for observations varies in length, some needing only a few hours and the longest needing about 200.   

What will be the first images revealed to the public? “I can’t say,” said Pontoppidan, “that is meant to be a surprise.” 

The early release of images and data will quickly allow scientists to understand the telescope’s capacities and set up systems that work in lock step.    

“We want them to be able to do their science with it quickly,” Pontoppidan explained. “Then they can come back and say ‘hey – we need to do more observations based on the data we already have.'” 

Pontoppidan, himself an astronomer, believes Webb will lead to many discoveries “far beyond what we’ve seen before.”  

“I’m most excited about the things that we are not predicting right now,” he said. 

Before the Hubble launched, no exoplanets — planets that orbit stars outside our solar system — had been discovered. Scientists have since found thousands. 

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Кремль витратив на організацію пресконференції Путіна понад півтора мільйона доларів

У тому числі 1,4 мільйона рублів (понад 19 тисяч доларів) витратили на дезінфекцію журналістів засобами зі сріблом

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US Chipmaker’s Apology to China Draws Criticism

U.S. chipmaker Intel is facing criticism in China after it apologized Thursday for a letter the firm sent to suppliers asking them “to ensure that its supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region.”

On Thursday, Intel posted a Chinese-language message on its WeChat and Weibo accounts apologizing for “trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public. Intel is committed to becoming a trusted technology partner and accelerating joint development with China.”

Intel’s apology came as U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans the import of goods produced by Uyghur slave labor. Under the measure, a company is prohibited from importing from China’s Xinjiang region unless it can prove that its supply chains have not used labor from Uyghurs, ethnic Muslims reportedly enslaved in Chinese camps.

Beijing denies complaints of abuses in the mostly Muslim region.

Intel is just the latest multinational firm to be caught up in the struggle over the Uyghurs issue as China prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February. Intel is among the International Olympic Committee sponsors. According to Reuters, 26% of Intel’s 2020 total revenue was earned in China.

Earlier this month, Intel’s letter to suppliers asking them to be sure not to use labor, products or services from Xinjiang cited restrictions imposed by “multiple governments.”

That sparked a backlash in China, with calls for a boycott and criticism of the company in state and social media. Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, called Intel’s request to suppliers “arrogant and vicious,” according to reports.

Wang Junkai, also known as Karry Wang, a singer with the popular boy band TFBOYS, said on Weibo on Wednesday that he would not serve as an Intel brand ambassador. “National interests exceed everything,” he said, according to wire service reports.

Chinese officials acknowledged Intel’s apology.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a daily briefing in Beijing that “we note the statement and hope the relevant company will respect facts and tell right from wrong,” according to Reuters.

The White House also appeared to note the company’s apology.

Without naming Intel, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at a briefing Thursday that U.S. companies “should never feel the need to apologize for standing up for fundamental human rights or opposing repression,” according to reports.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

 

 

 

 

 

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White House Vows Diplomacy as Russia’s Putin Ratchets Up Rhetoric 

The White House said Thursday that Washington is keeping a keen eye on Moscow and remains committed to diplomacy during upcoming high-level talks. This comes amid increasingly heated rhetoric from Russia’s leader, who on Thursday accused U.S. and NATO allies of undermining his country as he continues to mass troops near Russia’s border with Ukraine.

“You expanded NATO to the east,” President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, during his customary marathon end-of-year press conference, where he also accused Western intelligence services of trying to break up the Russian federation by using terrorist groups. “Of course, we asked you not to do it, as you promised you wouldn’t. 

 

“But we were told: ‘Where is this written on paper? It isn’t, so you can buzz off. We don’t give a damn about your concerns.’ This happened year after year, and every time we pushed back and tried to prevent something or express our concern, [we were told], ‘No, buzz off with your concerns, we’ll do as we please.’ ” 

“Facts are a funny thing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, responding to reporters’ questions about Putin’s accusations. “And facts make clear that the only aggression we’re seeing at the border of Russia and Ukraine is the military buildup by the Russians and the bellicose rhetoric from the leader of Russia.”

Psaki said the U.S. will hold high-level talks with the Russian government in early January, but she did not give further details on when the talks may happen, where they will take place or who will be involved. Administration officials have declined to respond publicly to Moscow’s demands, which include that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and that the security alliance reduce its deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. 

 

“However Russia has chosen to handle things, we don’t plan to negotiate in public,” a senior administration official told reporters Thursday. “It does not strike us as constructive or the way that progress has been made in such diplomatic conversations in the past. We are not going to respond to every proposal or comment that is made, including from the Russian president.” 

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden held a virtual call with Putin. During that call, the two men discussed the estimated 100,000 troops gathered on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine.

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited troops in the eastern Donetsk region earlier this month and said his forces are capable of fending off a Russian offensive.

 

Biden hosted Zelenskiy at the White House in September, and he assured him then that the U.S. was “firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression.” 

 

The White House also has made clear there will be “significant consequences” if Russia invades. These include harsh economic sanctions and increased security support for Ukraine.

 

“All that planning is well underway on our side, and we are ready to act if and when we need to,” the administration official said. 

 

But does Putin plan to cross that border? Analyst Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute doesn’t think the Russian president does: For one thing, Kagan wrote, it would be “by far the largest, boldest and riskiest military operation Moscow has launched since the 1979 inva­sion of Afghanistan.” 

 

“It would be a marked departure from the approaches Putin has relied on since 2015, and a major step-change in his willing­ness to use Russian conventional military power overtly,” he wrote, in an assessment published earlier this month. “It would cost Russia enormous sums of money and likely many thousands of casualties and destroyed vehicles and aircraft.” 

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AP Exclusive: Polish Opposition Senator Hacked With Spyware 

Polish Senator Krzysztof Brejza’s mobile phone was hacked with sophisticated spyware nearly three dozen times in 2019 when he was running the opposition’s campaign against the right-wing populist government in parliamentary elections, an internet watchdog found.

Text messages stolen from Brejza’s phone — then doctored in a smear campaign — were aired by state-controlled TV in the heat of that race, which the ruling party narrowly won. With the hacking revelation, Brejza now questions whether the election was fair. 

It’s the third finding by the University of Toronto’s nonprofit Citizen Lab that a Polish opposition figure was hacked with Pegasus spyware from the Israeli hacking tools firm NSO Group. Brejza’s phone was digitally broken into 33 times from April 26, 2019, to October 23, 2019, said Citizen Lab researchers, who have been tracking government abuses of NSO malware for years. 

The other two hacks were identified earlier this week after a joint Citizen Lab-Associated Press investigation. All three victims blame Poland’s government, which has refused to confirm or deny whether it ordered the hacks or is a client of NSO Group. State security services spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn insisted Thursday that the government does not wiretap illegally and obtains court orders in “justified cases.” He said any suggestions the Polish government surveils for political ends were false. 

NSO, which was blacklisted by the U.S. government last month, says it sells its spyware only to legitimate government law enforcement and intelligence agencies vetted by Israel’s Defense Ministry for use against terrorists and criminals. It does not name its clients and would not say if Poland is among them.

Citizen Lab said it believes NSO keeps logs of intrusions so an investigation could determine who was behind the Polish hacks.

EU response 

In response to the revelations, European Union lawmakers said they would hasten efforts to investigate allegations that member nations such as Poland have abused Pegasus spyware.

The other two Polish victims are Ewa Wrzosek, an outspoken prosecutor fighting the increasingly hardline government’s undermining of judicial independence, and Roman Giertych, a lawyer who has represented senior leaders of Brejza’s party, Civic Platform, in sensitive cases. 

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Wednesday dismissed revelations that Giertych and Wrzosek were hacked as “fake news.” Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said he had no knowledge of “illegal actions aimed at the surveillance of citizens” but also said Poland was “not helpless” in taking action against people suspected of crimes. 

Giertych was hacked 18 times, also in the run-up to 2019 parliamentary elections that the ruling Law and Justice party won by a razor-thin margin. That victory has continued an erosion of democracy in the nation where the popular 1980s protest movement Solidarity presaged the eventual collapse of the Soviet empire. 

The intense tempo of the hacks of Brejza and Giertych “indicates an extreme level of monitoring” that raises pressing questions about abuses of power, Citizen Lab senior researcher John Scott-Railton said. Pegasus gives its operators complete access to a mobile device: They can extract passwords, photos, messages, contacts and browsing history, and activate the microphone and camera for real-time eavesdropping. 

“My heart sinks with each case we find,” Scott-Railton added. “This seems to be confirming our worst fear: Even when used in a democracy, this kind of spyware has an almost immutable abuse potential.”

Other confirmed victims have included Mexican and Saudi journalists, British attorneys, Palestinian human rights activists, heads of state and Uganda-based U.S. diplomats. 

An NSO spokesperson said Thursday that “the company does not and cannot know who the targets of its customers are, yet implements measures to ensure that these systems are used solely for the authorized uses.” The spokesperson said there is zero tolerance for governments that abuse the software; NSO says it has terminated multiple contracts of governments that have abused Pegasus, although it has not named any publicly. 

Despite any measures NSO might be taking, Citizen Lab notes, the list of abuse cases continues to grow. 

Doctored texts

Brejza, a 38-year-old attorney, told the AP that he has no doubt data stolen from his phone while he was chief of staff of the opposition coalition’s parliamentary campaign provided critical strategy insights. Combined with the smear effort against him, he said, it prevented “a fair electoral process.”

Text messages stolen from Brejza’s phone were doctored to make it appear as if he created an online group that spread hateful anti-government propaganda; reports in state-controlled media cited the altered texts. But the group didn’t exist. 

Brejza says he now understands where TVP state television got them. 

“This operation wrecked the work of staff and destabilized my campaign,” he said. “I don’t know how many votes it took from me and the entire coalition.” 

Brejza won his Senate seat in that October 2019 race. But since the ruling party held on to the more powerful lower house of parliament, it has steered Poland further away from EU standards of liberal democracy. 

Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said at the time that control of state media gave the ruling party an unfair advantage but called the elections essentially free. They were unaware of the hacking. 

Brejza has been a Law and Justice party critic since it won power in 2015. For example, he has exposed large bonuses paid to senior government officials. In another case, he revealed that the postal service sent tens of thousands of dollars to a company tied to ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Brejza fears the hacking could have compromised whistleblowers who had reached out to him with evidence. 

NSO Group is facing daunting financial and legal challenges — including the threat of default on more than $300 million in debt — after governments used Pegasus spyware to spy on dissidents, journalists, diplomats and human rights activists from countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and the United States. The U.S. blacklisting of NSO has effectively barred U.S. companies from supplying technology to the Israeli firm.

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Столтенберґ обговорив із високопосадовцями США, ФРН та Британії ситуацію на кордоні України та Росії

Держдепартамент США оприлюднив заяву, в якій ідеться, що Блінкен і Столтенберґ провели бесіду і обговорили двосторонній підхід до Росії,

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Таліби заборонили лікарям приймати жінок без супроводу чоловіків

Раніше жінки могли приходити до лікарень у супроводі родичок

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Країни Заходу засудили розгортання «вагнерівців» у Малі

Автори комюніке запевняють, що у них «є дані про те, що Росія сприяє розгортанню групи в Малі»

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