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Experts: Arming Ukraine Via US Could Worsen South Korea’s Ties with Russia

South Korea, with a world-class arms industry, is facing mounting pressure to find a way to get needed arms and munitions to Ukraine without unduly angering Russia, which has hinted that it could resume military cooperation with North Korea.

Experts interviewed by VOA say the most likely solution under consideration in Seoul is for the nation’s commercial arms manufacturers to make private sales to the United States, allowing the U.S to ship more of its own armaments to Ukraine without depleting its stockpiles.

A spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs told VOA Korean Service on Wednesday that the administration in Seoul “has been providing humanitarian support to the people of Ukraine” but “there has not been a change” in its position that it “will not send lethal weapons to Ukraine.”

Depleted stockpiles

Since the Russian invasion, Washington’s military aid to Kyiv has depleted U.S. weapons stockpiles.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a U.S.-led coalition of about 50 countries, has been sending Kyiv weaponry ranging from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to howitzers. The U.S. and Germany announced Wednesday that they will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks and 14 Leopard 2 tanks, respectively. Additional tanks have been promised by other NATO countries.

Ukraine is using about 90,000 artillery rounds per month while the U.S. and European countries are producing only half that amount among them, according to The New York Times, citing U.S. and Western officials.

The U.S. has asked the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) to route some of its equipment stockpiled in South Korea to Ukraine, USFK spokesperson Isaac Taylor told the VOA Korean Service on Jan. 19.

And Washington “has been in discussion about potential sales of ammunition” from South Korea’s “non-government industrial defense base,” said Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners to the VOA Korean Service on Jan. 18.

“The Republic of Korea has a world-class defense industry which regularly sells to allies and partners, including the United States,” Meiners added. South Korea’s official name is the Republic of Korea (ROK).

South Korea’s arms sales

Experts said arms sales from South Korea’s private defense companies to the U.S. could elevate South Korea’s standing as “a global pivotal state,” a stated foreign policy aspiration of President Yoon Suk Yeol since he took office in May.

Yoon said in August that South Korea’s goal is to become one of the top four global arms sellers. He reiterated the goal of boosting weapons sales in November.

South Korea was the world’s eighth-largest exporter of weapons in 2017-21 according to a 2022 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which said the United States, Russia, France, China and Germany are the top five sellers.

“President Yoon has called South Korea a global pivotal state,” David Maxwell, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said. “… Providing support to Ukraine directly or indirectly is an example of that.”

Putin’s warning

Experts said that by allowing the private arms sales to proceed, South Korea could shore up its alliances with Western powers and help to demonstrate to authoritarian neighbors like China and North Korea that the kind of aggression launched by Russia in Ukraine will not succeed.

But the move will likely come at the cost of further deterioration in Seoul’s relations with Moscow, which are already fraying over South Korea’s support of the sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

“South Korea has the same interest about peace, stability, territorial sovereignty, protecting [against] states that are invading through outright aggression,” said Terence Roehrig, a professor of national security and Korea expert at the U.S. Naval War College.

“It is about South Korea making the decision that it needs to stand with the West on those issues with some degree of hedging by being reluctant to send direct military assistance to Ukraine,” he added.

“You will not see South Korea directly contributing arms to Ukraine. It will only be about backfilling other states who might be doing that.” That, he said, is because of concerns that Russia could “play a role on North Korea” through potential technology transfers and weapons development.

In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned South Korea that sending ammunition to Ukraine would ruin their relations.

“We have learned that the Republic of Korea has made a decision to supply weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. This will destroy our relations,” said Putin as reported by Russian state-owned Tass. “How would the Republic of Korea react if we resumed cooperation with North Korea in that sphere?”

Until it collapsed in 1991, the Soviet Union provided military support to North Korea. The Ukraine war has drawn Russia and North Korea closer together. On Friday, the U.S. released a photo of what it said was evidence of North Korea sending weapons to the Wagner Group, a Russian private military organization, via trains to Russia.

VOA Korea contacted the Russian embassy in Washington and Foreign Ministry in Moscow for comment, but they did not respond.

Andrew Yeo, the SK-Korea Foundation chair at Brookings Institution, said the proposed private weapons sales to the U.S. “would suggest greater support for the Ukrainian cause and further sour relations with Moscow, although Moscow has already placed Seoul on its list of hostile countries.”

In March, Russia placed South Korea on a list of countries that commit “unfriendly actions,” according to Tass. According to the Tass report, countries on the list imposed or joined the sanctions imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

“Seoul is eager to preserve a workable relationship with Moscow, so in some way drawing down U.S. weapons in [its bases in South] Korea is more palatable than selling them directly,” said Patrick Cronin, the Asia-Pacific security chair at Hudson Institute.

“But South Korea also has an abiding interest in ensuring that Russian aggression in Ukraine cannot prevail,” he added. “That would be a bad precedent for South Korea’s neighbors.”

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Залужний подякував генералу США Міллі «за потужну підтримку»

25 січня Німеччина і Сполучені Штати оголосили про рішення надати Україні танки Leopard і Abrams відповідно

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Trump Reinstated to Facebook After 2-Year Ban

Facebook parent Meta is reinstating former President Donald Trump’s personal account after a two-year suspension following the January 6, 2021, insurrection. 

The company said in a blog post Wednesday it is adding “new guardrails” to ensure there are no “repeat offenders” who violate its rules. 

“In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” said Meta, which is based in Menlo Park, California. 

Trump, in a post on his own social media network, blasted Facebook’s decision to suspend his account as he praised his own site, Truth Social. 

“FACEBOOK, which has lost Billions of Dollars in value since “deplatforming” your favorite President, me, has just announced that they are reinstating my account. Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!” he wrote. 

He was suspended on January 7, a day after the deadly 2021 insurrection. Other social media companies also kicked him off their platforms, though he was recently reinstated on Twitter after Elon Musk took over the company. He has not tweeted. 

Banned from mainstream social media, Trump has been relying on Truth Social, which he launched after being blocked from Twitter. 

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Russia, Pakistan Discuss ‘Practical Engagement’ With Afghan Taliban

Russia and Pakistan emphasized in bilateral talks Wednesday the need for “practical engagement” with Afghanistan’s Taliban but ruled out formal recognition of the Islamist rulers until they address international concerns over women’s rights and inclusive governance.

The Russian presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, led his delegation in the talks with Pakistani officials in Islamabad and briefed them on his meetings earlier this month with the Taliban in Kabul.

 

Kabulov said Moscow was continuing to engage with the Taliban but was not considering granting legitimacy to the de facto Afghan rulers “for the time being,” official Pakistani sources privy to Wednesday’s meetings told VOA.

The sources quoted the Russian envoy as saying he “advised” the Islamist Taliban to move toward creating a politically inclusive government and easing curbs on women, saying that otherwise there can be no movement forward on the issue of their legitimacy, nor can Afghanistan get any substantial support from the world.

A brief Pakistani statement posted on Twitter after Kabulov’s meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the two sides “emphasized [the] need for practical engagement with the interim Afghan government.”

The Pakistani side also reiterated that Islamabad was not considering giving the Taliban formal recognition and would do so only collectively with the international community, the sources said.

The foreign ministry in a formal statement issued later offered few details of the meeting and did not mention the issue of recognition of the de facto Afghan authorities.

The statement quoted Khar as urging the international community “to continue extending assistance and support, in order to address urgent humanitarian needs and to provide a sustainable pathway for Afghanistan’s prosperity and development.”

The Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan in August 2021 following the end of almost 20 years of U.S.-led foreign military intervention in the conflict-torn South Asian nation.

The world has not yet formally recognized the male-only Taliban government, mainly over human rights concerns and curbs it has placed on women’s access to work and education.

While the United States and Western nations at large shifted their Afghan diplomatic missions to Qatar after the Taliban captured Kabul, several countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Turkey and Iran, have kept their embassies open and maintain close contacts with the hard-line rulers.

Chinese support

Last week, newly appointed Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang spoke with his Taliban counterpart, Amir Khan Muttaqi, and reaffirmed Beijing’s support for the group to establish what he called “a broad and inclusive political structure” in Kabul.

Afghan women have been excluded from most areas of the workforce and have been banned from using parks, gyms and public bath houses. The Taliban have refused to reopen secondary schools for girls beyond grade six since returning to power.

The hard-line Taliban reject criticism of their administration, saying the government represents all ethnic and political groups in Afghanistan. They also strongly defend restrictions on women, saying the policies are in line with Afghan culture and Islamic law, or Shariah.

Last month, the Taliban authorities closed universities to female students until further notice, and they forbade women from working for national and international nongovernmental organizations.

The Taliban’s curbs on Afghan female aid workers have forced major international charity groups to halt some of their programs in a country where 97% of the estimated population of 40 million lives below the poverty line and nearly half of them need humanitarian assistance.

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  Biden Approves 31 Battle Tanks for Ukraine

President Joe Biden announced the U.S. will send 31 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine just hours after Germany said it will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. The moves are part of a united effort to help Kyiv defend itself against invading Russian forces. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

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Норвегія надасть Україні танки Leopard – міністр

Наразі невідомо, про яку кількість танків може йтися

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Компанія Meta відновить облікові записи Дональда Трампа у Facebook та Instagram – заява

Рішення ухвалене після аналогічного кроку з боку Twitter

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Microsoft Reports Outage for Teams, Outlook, Other Services

Microsoft said it’s seeing some improvement to problems with its online services including the Teams messaging platform and Outlook email system after users around the world reported outages Wednesday. 

In a status update, the tech company reported “service degradation” for a number of its Microsoft 365 services. 

Thousands of users reported problems with Teams, Outlook, the Azure cloud computing service and XBox Live online gaming service early Wednesday on the Downdetector website, which tracks outage reports. Many users also took to social media to complain that services were down. 

By later in the morning, Downdetector showed the number of reports had dropped considerably. 

“We’re continuing to monitor the recovery across the service and some customers are reporting mitigation,” the Microsoft 365 Status Twitter account said. “We’re also connecting the service to additional infrastructure to expedite the recovery process.” 

It tweeted earlier that it had “isolated the problem to a networking configuration issue” and that a network change suspected to be causing the problem was rolled back. 

It comes after Microsoft reported Tuesday that its quarterly profit fell 12%, reflecting economic uncertainty that the company said led to its decision this month to cut 10,000 workers. 

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France to Pull Troops From Burkina Faso Within a Month: Ministry

France has received a request from junta-ruled Burkina Faso to withdraw its troops from the Sahel country and will do so within a month, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

“On Tuesday … we formally received notice from the Burkinabe government of the termination of the 2018 agreement on the status of French armed forces present in the country,” a ministry spokeswoman said.

“According to the terms of the accord, the termination takes effect a month after reception of written notification. We will respect the terms of the agreement by honoring this request.”

About 400 French special forces are currently based in Burkina Faso in a deployment dubbed “Sabre,” part of a broader military presence to fight jihadists across the Sahel region.

But the country has followed a similar course to neighboring Mali, falling out with Paris after a military coup brought a junta to power and the French presence became increasingly unpopular among the public.

The Burkinabe government has assured Paris it will not follow Mali by turning to Russia’s Wagner to back up its army—although a liaison team from the mercenary group has already visited.

A source familiar with French military plans told AFP that while the troops would be gone by the end of February, their equipment would be picked up by late April.

Paris asked for clarification from Ouagadougou’s transitional president Ibrahim Traore on Monday after the government had said it was asking French forces to leave.

“This does not mean the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France,” government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo told broadcaster RTV following the announcement.

In addition, the government has requested that Paris replace its ambassador after incumbent Luc Hallade commented publicly on the worsening security situation in the country.

The landlocked state, a former French colony, is one of the poorest and most volatile in Africa.

Thousands of troops, police and civilians have been killed and about 2 million people have fled their homes since jihadists launched an insurgency from neighboring Mali in 2015.

More than a third of the country lies beyond the control of the government, and frustration within the army at the mounting toll triggered two coups last year.

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UK Reviews Rules After Row Over Wagner Lawsuit Against Journalist

The U.K. said Wednesday it was reviewing how sanctioned individuals are permitted to use the country’s legal services, after reports the government helped the head of Russian mercenary group Wagner sue a British journalist.

The finance ministry currently grants licenses allowing sanctioned people to circumvent restrictions so as to hire U.K. lawyers and pay their fees for lawsuits filed in British courts.

It reportedly allowed Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin — who was sanctioned by Britain and others in 2020 — to launch a libel suit against Eliot Higgins, a journalist for investigative outlet Bellingcat.

The Netherlands-based site had reported extensively on Wagner’s previously shadowy operations, which have been on more public display in the war in Ukraine.

U.K.-based investigative website openDemocracy reported this week that the ministry’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) had granted licenses for a U.K. law firm to work on the case.

The office also approved those lawyers flying business class to Russia to meet Prigozhin’s legal representatives there face-to-face and allowed payments from him by wire transfer into U.K. bank accounts, openDemocracy said.

The revelations are based on a cache of hacked emails and documents from one of Russia’s biggest law firms. Although the lawsuit eventually failed, the revelations have sparked an outcry in Britain.

Government ‘complacent’

Responding to an urgent question on the case in parliament, junior finance minister James Cartlidge refused to comment on the specific case. But he did say OFSI processes were now under review.

“The Treasury is now considering whether this approach is the right one and if changes can be made without the Treasury assuming unacceptable legal risk and ensuring that we adhere to the rule of law,” he told lawmakers.

Such decisions had been taken by officials, rather than ministers, using a pre-established framework, said Cartlidge. “The issuance of licenses for legal fees are not and should not be political,” he added.

The main opposition Labour party, which has persistently criticized the ruling Conservatives for failing to deliver on promises to curb illicit Russian money entering the U.K., called the government “complacent.”

“The government appears to have granted a waiver for a warlord that enabled him to launch a legal attack on a British journalist,” Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman David Lammy said.

Prigozhin’s libel suit, which collapsed last year after Russia invaded Ukraine, was the “perfect example” of trying “to silence critics through financial intimidation,” he said.

The government last year promised a “crackdown on corrupt elites” abusing the U.K. legal system, which would target so-called “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).” SLAPP suits are aimed at intimidating and silencing critics with burdensome legal action.

But the government has not yet introduced any legislation reforming the legal system.

Asked when a draft law could be expected, Cartlidge told lawmakers that was “above my paygrade.”

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У Білому домі повідомили, коли українські військові розпочнуть навчання на танках M1 Abrams

Сам процес такого навчання може тривати кілька місяців – Кірбі

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Резніков розповів CNN про «список побажань» України щодо західної зброї

25 січня Німеччина і Сполучені Штати оголосили про рішення надати Україні танки Leopard і Abrams відповідно

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Olive Pits Fuel Flights in Spain

The war in Ukraine has exposed Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and is spurring the development of new, cleaner-burning biofuels. Spain is emerging as a leader in this effort, with the introduction late last year of airplane fuel made from olive pits. Marcus Harton narrates this report from Alfonso Beato in Seville.

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США нададуть Україні 31 танк Abrams – Байден

Джо Байден повідомив, що США також нададуть необхідні запчастини

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«Далі – танкова коаліція»: в ОПУ прокоментували рішення Німеччини надати Україні танки Leopard 2

25 січня уряд Німеччинипогодився надати Україні бойові танки Leopard 2 для двох батальйонів. В якості першого кроку Німеччина надасть 14 танків зі складів Бундесверу

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Pope Francis: Homosexuality Not a Crime 

Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.

Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.

“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Some 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or do impose the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust, which works to end such laws. Experts say even where the laws are not enforced, they contribute to harassment, stigmatization and violence against LGBTQ people.

In the U.S., more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, despite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling declaring them unconstitutional. Gay rights advocates say the antiquated laws are used to harass homosexuals, and point to new legislation, such as the “Don’t say gay” law in Florida, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as evidence of continued efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to laws criminalizing homosexuality outright, saying they violate rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination and are a breach of countries’ obligations under international law to protect the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Declaring such laws “unjust,” Francis said the Catholic Church can and should work to put an end to them. “It must do this. It must do this,” he said.

Francis quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying gay people must be welcomed and respected, and should not be marginalized or discriminated against.

“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” Francis said, speaking to the AP in the Vatican hotel where he lives.

Such laws are common in Africa and the Middle East and date from British colonial times or are inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops have strongly upheld them as consistent with Vatican teaching that considers homosexual activity “intrinsically disordered,” while others have called for them to be overturned as a violation of basic human dignity.

In 2019, Francis had been expected to issue a statement opposing criminalization of homosexuality during a meeting with human rights groups that conducted research into the effects of such laws and so-called “conversion therapies.”

In the end, the pope did not meet with the groups, which instead met with the Vatican No. 2, who reaffirmed “the dignity of every human person and against every form of violence.”

On Tuesday, Francis said there needed to be a distinction between a crime and a sin with regard to homosexuality.

“Being homosexual is not a crime,” he said. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added.

Catholic teaching holds that while gay people must be treated with respect, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” Francis has not changed that teaching, but he has made reaching out to the LGBTQ community a hallmark of his papacy.

Starting with his famous 2013 declaration, “Who am I to judge?” when he was asked about a purportedly gay priest, Francis has gone on to minister repeatedly and publicly to the gay and trans community. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he favored granting legal protections to same-sex couples as an alternative to endorsing gay marriage, which Catholic doctrine forbids.

Despite such outreach, Francis was criticized by the Catholic LGBTQ community for a 2021 decree from the Vatican’s doctrine office that the church cannot bless same-sex unions “because God cannot bless sin.”

The Vatican in 2008 declined to sign onto a U.N. declaration that called for the decriminalization of homosexuality, complaining the text went beyond the original scope and also included language about “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” it found problematic. In a statement at the time, the Vatican urged countries to avoid “unjust discrimination” against gay people and end penalties against them.

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Зеленський обговорив із Шольцом подальше розширення оборонної підтримки Німеччини

Сторони обговорили також розширення тренувальних місій і «зелене світло партнерам на постачання аналогічної зброї»

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У РФ дозволили депутатам не оприлюднювати дані про свої доходи та майно

Закон набирає чинності з 1 березня

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NYT: усемеро за два місяці побільшало могил на кладовищі «ПВК Вагнера» у Краснодарському краї РФ

Кількість могил на кладовищі в станиці Бакинській Краснодарського краю РФ, що належить «ПВК Вагнера», збільшилася усемеро за останні два місяці, повідомляє видання The New York Times.

За даними з супутникових знімків від 24 січня, журналісти встановили, що на цвинтарі налічується 170 могил. Тоді як на знімках, датованих 24 листопада минулого року, їх було у сім разів менше.

Крім могил, журналісти The New York Times нарахували на одному з відео із керівником «вагнерівців» Євгеном Пригожиним біля каплиці поблизу бази 21-у стіну-колумбарій із 42-ма нішами в кожній.

«Що дає підстави припустити, що сотні загиблих бійців «Вагнера» або поховані там, або щонайменше там увічнена їхня пам’ять. Чи всі вони були вбиті в Україні, чи деінде, незрозуміло, але відео у будь-якому випадку показує масштаб втрат «ПВК Вагнера», – пише газета.

Наприкінці грудня минулого року власник «ПВК Вагнера» Євген Пригожин підтвердив, що нещодавно створений цвинтар у станиці Бакинській Краснодарського краю належить його приватній військовій компанії.

Цвинтар у станиці Бакинській, як і раніше виявлений невеликий колумбарій біля каплиці в Гарячому Ключі (між двома цвинтарями близько 10 км), розташований неподалік бази спецназу ГРУ в Молькині: там, за даними ЗМІ, дислокується центр підготовки найманців «ПВК Вагнера». За повідомленнями, у Гарячому Ключі розташована закрита для сторонніх невелика культова споруда, а навколо неї стоять схожі на колумбарій бокси.

20 січня у британській розвідці заявили, що «майже напевно» зараз «ПВК Вагнера» командує близько 50 тисячами бійців в Україні і стала ключовим компонентом у війні РФ проти України.

Відомо, що «ПВК Вагнера» вербує та відправляє на війну в Україну в’язнів із російських тюрем. Вербуванням займається особисто близький до російського президента власник компанії Євген Пригожин.

«ПВК Вагнера» – російський неофіційний військовий підрозділ, який бере участь у наземних операціях у Сирії, Африці, Латинській Америці та у війні з Україною. Організацію підозрюють у численних воєнних злочинах як в Україні, так і в інших країнах, де вона діє.

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Резніков повідомив комітету Ради про звільнення відповідального за закупівлі в Міноборони – депутати

«Міністр не має юридичних претензій до автора журналістського розслідування. Натомість, звільнено директора департаменту закупівель»

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