Corruption in Ukraine: Drifting Offshore

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is facing a crisis of confidence after his name appeared in the Panama Papers leak and the country’s prime minister, with whom he clashed, stepped down.

Poroshenko rose to power on an anti-corruption platform following the 2014 Euromaidan revolution, but many of his supporters are disappointed in the slow pace of reforms and an apparent unwillingness to crack down on corrupt officials. A confectionery magnate before becoming a politician, Poroshenko promised to sell his candy business during his election campaign to avoid a conflict of interest. But he has yet to do so, and this failure became headline news when the Panama Papers indicated that he had set up an offshore holding company to shield his assets from taxation.

VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky went to Kiev to witness the embattled president push through a new fragile government, as allegations swirled around his offshore holdings.

Read “The Panama Papers: Massive Leak Reveals the Global Elite’s Secret Cash Havens” – http://bit.ly/1qvVwlT

Read “The Vice News Guide to the Panama Papers” – http://bit.ly/1p5JsXJ

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Under Fire with the Right Sector (Excerpt from ‘Ukraine’s Failed Ceasefire’)

On the frontlines in eastern Ukraine, a number of volunteer battalions fight alongside the Ukrainian army, holding the line against separatist attacks.

One of those volunteer groups is the Right Sector, an ultranationalist group who were prominent during the 2014 Euromaidan revolution. Unlike other volunteer groups, the Right Sector has not been absorbed into Ukrainian military structure and so oversight of their conduct is minimal.

Despite allegations of theft, torture, and extrajudicial killings, the group continues to operate on the frontlines in some of the most dangerous locations. But it has recently protested against the ceasefire, and clashed with police in the west of the country over an alleged smuggling ring.

In this excerpt from ‘Ukraine’s Failed Ceasefire,’ VICE News spent time with Right Sector soldiers at their positions outside the strategically important factory town of Avdiivka, just a few miles north of Donetsk International Airport, which is held by Donetsk People’s Republic rebel forces.

Watch “On The DNR Frontline: Ukraine’s Failed Ceasefire (Part 1)” – http://bit.ly/1JbwDhf

Watch “Holding the Line for Another DNR Assault: Ukraine’s Failed Ceasefire (Part 2)” – http://bit.ly/1TLM0D7

Read “In Photos: On the Frontlines of Ukraine’s Failed Ceasefire” – http://bit.ly/1HRglJD

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Thousands Attend Pro-Putin Rally in Moscow

Bikers, teachers, teenagers, veterans, and pro-Vladimir Putin political organizations from all over Russia gathered February 21 in downtown Moscow to mark the one-year anniversary of what they see as a bloody coup of the Yanukovych regime in Ukraine.

The rally, which referenced the iconic Euromaidan protests last year in Kiev, were partly organized by Alexander Zaldostanov, the leader of Russia’s Night Wolves biker gang and public ally of Putin.

VICE News was in Moscow to witness tens of thousands of Russians protesting in support of a unified Russian Federation and against any possible Orange Revolution in their country.

Watch “Civilians Return to Debaltseve: Russian Roulette (Dispatch 96)” – http://bit.ly/1FNSCuz

Read “Russia Says Security Cameras Weren’t Pointing at Nemtsov Shooting — But Blogger’s Photo Suggests They Were” – http://bit.ly/1B1OQNu

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Euromaidan Activists Attacked and Arrested in Kiev: Russian Roulette (Dispatch 67)

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In our latest dispatch from Ukraine, VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky arrives at a scene in Kiev where a group of Euromaidan activists are being detained by a group of men from the Kiev 1 Battalion — a volunteer policing unit made up largely of former Euromaidan activists. The activists have held their camp at Kiev’s Independence Square since this past winter, and were apparently also occupying a restaurant near the square — until the Kiev 1 Battalion was called upon to remove them. Amid differing versions of the story, it becomes clear that a twist in the Ukraine conflict is emerging, as players in the revolution are showing signs of turning against each other.

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Check out “Crimea: A Look Inside the New Russian Territory” – http://bit.ly/1mjdFuH

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Crimea: A Look Inside the New Russian Territory

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Days after Ukraine’s president was toppled from power during the Euromaidan revolution, Russian soldiers and local proxies took control of the strategically important Crimean peninsula and surrounded Ukrainian troops in their bases. Unhappy with the change in government in Kiev and using the unfounded fear of the Russian language being restricted, Russia made a bid for control in the region.

Following an illegal and fraudulent referendum on whether Crimea would become a part of Russia or not, Russia then formally annexed the peninsula — a move which was widely condemned by the international community. Russia had, in one quick and mostly bloodless takeover, reminded the world of its power, and made the West in its poor handling of the situation appear weak.

VICE News headed to Crimea to see how the change in rulers has gone down with the local population. Some residents welcomed Russia and the prospect of a greater economic future, while others feared losing their freedom to speak out, and did not like the idea of becoming pawns in Russia’s military muscle flexing.

Click here to watch “Crimea: March of the Tatars” – http://bit.ly/1sdpgkA

Click here to watch “Ukraine: The Last Days of the Revolution” – http://bit.ly/1AOZZ4f

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Bullets, Not Ballots in Donetsk: Russian Roulette (Dispatch 42)

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Almost 6 months after the Euromaidan revolution that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainians went to the polls to elect a new president in the midst of an anti-terror operation to wrestle Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts back under Kiev’s control.

The separatists of the Donetsk People’s Republic openly threatened the election in the region and had stormed a number of electoral commissions and intimidated electoral workers. In response the Ukrainian military alongside its paramilitary proxies have been working to secure towns across Donetsk to ensure a safe election took place.

On Sunday morning as voting started across the country, Donetsk itself saw no voting take place so VICE News headed out to Krasnoarmiisk where voting was able to take place, under the watchful eye of local loyal-to-Kiev police and another paramilitary force, the Dinipro Battalion.

Back in Donetsk, supporters of the DPR held a rally in the square, denouncing the election and the other DPR bugbears, NATO, the Kiev ‘junta’ and the US. Despite the threats, the election did take place in a few towns across the region and the fact that it took place at all seemingly threatens the advertised control of the region by the DPR.

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The Fight for Ukraine: Last Days of the Revolution

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February 2014, Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution against the government of Viktor Yanukovych had reached another stalemate after the violence in late January. But on the 18th, massive and fatal clashes broke out between police and protesters outside the Ukrainian parliament building, the Rada.

After hours of fierce fighting, the protesters were pushed back onto their last lines of defense in Independence square and just about forced the police back after an attempt to clear the square. Once the dust had settled almost 30 police and protesters had been killed, on a day where firearms were used openly by both sides for the first time.

Vice News arrived a day later to a city on lockdown and Independence square resembling a dystopian protest nightmare, fires burning, everything covered in black ash and the protesters themselves looked tired and desperate as a fragile truce held throughout the night.

The next day however set of a chain of events that would leave dozens of protesters dead, Yanukovych fleeing the country and the protesters firmly in control of parliament. This film tracks the last days of the Euromaidan revolution, from the mass killings of protesters by the police on 20th February, to the day Yanukovych fled his private estate, leaving behind a wealth of incriminating documents linking him to fraud, corruption and possibly even attempted murder.

Within days an interim government, made up of protest figures and opposition MPs was in power and presidential elections were set for the 25th May. However, since the end of the revolution the new government has had to face a nosediving economy, the Russian annexation of Crimea and now a violent bid for independence by pro-Russian separatists in the east. After a violent and chaotic 6 months, the election gives the country a chance to look towards a future of closer links to the EU and a chance to end the corruption that dominates Ukrainian society.

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Rocks and Rubber Bullets in Donetsk Police Standoff: Russian Roulette in Ukraine (Dispatch 32)

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On International Workers Day, pro-Russia protesters marched through central Donetsk in eastern Ukraine calling for a referendum on the region’s future. Some want to join Russia, while others to become a federal republic inside Ukraine — all want to separate from the interim government installed after the Euromaidan revolution. Around 3,000 protesters first gathered on Lenin Square before marching on to lay flowers at a WW1 memorial. The protesters chanted in support of the planned May 11th referendum and denounced the government in Kiev as a “fascist junta” while waving Stalin flags. The crowd wasn’t entirely friendly, with one journalist, who was accused of being a “provocateur,” was bundled into a car and driven away by protesters in body armor, his destination unknown.

The march moved on to a police station where they were able to negotiate installing the Donetsk republic flag before speakers called to take over the nearby prosecutors’ office.

Outside the office, around 60 cops in riot gear were formed up, protecting the entrance. The protesters called for the prosecutor to come and meet them, but after five minutes clashes suddenly broke out. Stones were thrown and the police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Eventually the police were forced back by the onslaught, and there was a brief lull while the wounded were evacuated and the captured police were let go.

The crowd then moved to the back of the building, where about 100 police were gathered. Very quickly the protesters were able to hop the fences and force open the gate, surrounding the police and eventually forcing them to surrender. Police were then humiliatingly forced to hand over their shields, helmets, and batons before being lead out through the crowds, getting kicked and spat upon as they went.

The day before, acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said his government is “helpless” in dealing with the security situation in eastern Ukraine. The events on May 1st clearly backed that up. The police had little fight in them, and morale was surely worsened after such a humiliating clash. Today though, the Ukrainian government re-launched an operation to take the separatist stronghold of Slovyansk. Is this the start of a government fight back?

Watch all of VICE News’ coverage of the conflict in Ukraine here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw613M86o5o7DfgzuUCd_PVwbOCDO472B

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