Chernobyl, Ukraine wildlife on camera traps


This video shows images from camera traps of wildlife in the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. While on the one hand the nuclear radiation has killed and continues to make sick and to kill slowly many birds and other animals, on the other hand human activities disturbing wildlife have stopped, favouring some wildlife.

From Wildlife Extra:

Camera traps reveal Chernobyl’s wildlife

Camera traps set up in the Ukrainian side of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone reveal that the area is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, the BBC have reported.

The 42 cameras were installed in the exclusion zone by The Tree Project in November 2014.  In order to get a true picture the cameras are moved to new, randomly selected, locations at approximately 8 week intervals, which will mean by the end of 2015 the cameras will have been positioned at 84 locations.

TREE is one of three consortia funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Environment Agency (EA) and Radioactive Waste Management Limited (RWM) under the Radioactivity And The Environment (RATE) programme.

“The overall objective of the TREE project is to reduce uncertainty in estimating the risk to humans and wildlife associated with exposure to radioactivity and to reduce unnecessary conservatism in risk calculations,” explains its website.

“This will be achieved through four interlinked science components beginning with improving our understanding of the biogeochemical behaviour of radionuclides in soils through to studying the transgenerational effects of ionising radiation exposure on wildlife. Our studies will combine controlled laboratory experiments with fieldwork; most of which will take place in the Chernobyl Exclusion.”

Four months into the project the team has already captured more than 10,000 images of animals, suggesting the 30km zone, established shortly after the April 1986 disaster when a nuclear reactor exploded, ejecting radioactive material across the surrounding terrain and high into the atmosphere, is thriving in wildlife.

Species captured include Eurasian lynx, raccoon dog, Przewalski’s horse, Eurasian elk and brown bear.

Oppositional journalist murdered in Ukraine


This music video says about itself:

Let Valentina Lisitsa play: Piano by Hussam Ezz Eldin

9 April 2015

Let Valentina Lisitsa play is a piano piece composed by Hussam Ezz Eldin just to stand with Valentina Lisitsa against any kind of controlling her political views.

I dedicate this piece for her and it is an objection for what happened to her.

Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa was paid by Canada’s Toronto Symphony Orchestra NOT to play.

No, it’s not about her skills, it’s about her political views. She’s been extensively twitting on Ukraine from afar and her thoughts don’t really fall in line with the western narrative. On Facebook the soloist appealed to thousands of her fans saying that her scheduled concert in Toronto was cancelled. Lisitsa says that an aggressive lobbyist group claiming to represent the Ukrainian community pressured the orchestra into banning her performance. Her tweets were used as ‘proof’ that she was inciting hatred and the orchestra bought it.

Open letter of Valentina Lisitsa concerning Canadians wanting to block her freedom of speech and embargoing her concern on Ukraine: here.

This video from Canada says about itself:

LET VALENTINA PLAY! Action in Toronto April 8. 2015.

In the week since the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) banned Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa from performing, the corporate media and its music critics have sought to downplay the ban’s significance: here.

From the BBC in Britain:

Ukraine conflict: Pro-Russia journalist Oles Buzyna killed

53 minutes ago

A Ukrainian journalist known for his pro-Russian views has been shot dead in the capital Kiev.

Oles Buzyna, 45, was killed by shots fired from a car, Interior Ministry spokesman Anton Herashchenko said.

Mr Buzyna is the latest in a series of allies of Ukraine‘s pro-Russian former President, Victor Yanukovych, to die in suspicious circumstances.

His killing comes a day after MP Oleg Kalashnikov, who was close to Mr Yanukovych, was shot dead in Kiev.

Mr Herashchenko said he believed both killings were related to the victims’ involvement with Ukraine’s “anti-Maidan” movement, which opposed the popular overthrow of Mr Yanukovych in 2014. …

Mr Buzyna, who was an active blogger and briefly editor of pro-Russian daily newspaper Segodnya, was killed outside his home. …

At least eight other officials connected to Mr Yanukovych’s government have died suddenly in the past three months.

Authorities initially labelled some of the deaths suicides, but later they said it was possible that some of the people were killed or forced to take their lives.

See also here.

By Alex Lantier and Stefan Steinberg:

16 April 2015

On April 9, the NATO-backed regime in Ukraine passed laws rehabilitating Nazi collaborationist forces that carried out ethnic mass murder during World War II, while banning all communist symbols in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

The law, titled “On the legal status and commemoration of 20th century fighters for Ukrainian independence,” officially legitimizes dozens of nationalist groups, including the Nazi-collaborationist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). It requires that state and local governments provide social benefits to members of these organizations and to their families.

The law also makes any public criticism of organizations on this list a criminal offense, stating: “Public denunciation of the role of OUN-UPA in restoring the independence of Ukraine is illegal.”

In the lead-up to the May 9 celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, there has been an accelerating wave of political assassinations targeting critics of the Western-backed, far-right regime in Kiev. Yesterday evening, a group calling itself the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)—the name of a Ukrainian fascist militia that collaborated with Nazi forces in carrying out ethnic genocides of Jews and Poles during World War II—claimed responsibility for the killings. In a statement emailed to opposition legislators and political commentators, it also gave “anti-Ukrainian” persons 72 hours to leave the country or be killed if they stayed behind: here.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday that Canada will deploy 200 armed forces personnel to western Ukraine for two years to train the army and national guard of Ukraine’s rightwing, US-backed government: here.

An article published in Thursday’s New York Times by the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent, Andrew E. Kramer, is a compendium of half-truths, lies and historical falsifications designed to cover up the fascistic sympathies and political crimes of the US-backed regime in Kiev: here.

Last year’s Maidan revolution in Ukraine was meant to usher in a new kind of politics and end official corruption and behind-the-scenes oligarchic influence. But an Austrian court last week heard claims that President Petro Poroshenko had his path to the presidency cleared for him only after a summit in Vienna with controversial oligarch Dmytro Firtash: here.

Video raises concerns over Ukraine’s treatment of Russian prisoners. Release of footage of recently captured soldiers said to violate Geneva conventions. RFE/RL reports.

Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa banned for criticism of Kiev government


This music video is called Valentina Lisitsa – Moonlight Sonata Op.27 No.2 Mov.1,2,3 (Beethoven).

By Roger Jordan in Canada:

Toronto Symphony bans pianist critical of Kiev regime

9 April 2015

Under pressure from right-wing Ukrainian-Canadian groups, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) removed Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa as the featured soloist at two Toronto concerts that were to be held this week. The TSO sought to replace Lisitsa with another pianist, but after a public outcry simply cancelled the concerts.

An internationally recognized pianist who has played with major orchestras in North America and Europe and has a large online following, Lisitsa has drawn the ire of the right wing because she has challenged their false narrative about the “democratic” character of the pro-western Kiev regime.

In Twitter postings stretching back to the weeks following the US-German-orchestrated, fascist-led coup that drove Ukraine’s elected president from office, Lisitsa been heavily critical of the Kiev regime. She has denounced it for its rampant corruption, ties to Nazi sympathizers like the Right Sector, and mistreatment of the Russian minority, and for the brutal war it has waged against the pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

The cancellation of Lisitsa’s performances of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is a brazen act of political censorship.

The management of the TSO, one of the country’s leading cultural institutions, initially sought to cover up why it had cancelled Lisitsa’s performances. It simply said she was no longer available to play in Toronto and had been replaced.

Only after Lisitsa revealed that she had been dumped from the TSO program and instructed by management not to reveal why did TSO President Jeff Melanson acknowledge that the cancellation was due to pressure from Ukrainian nationalists.

Melanson justified the decision by citing “ongoing accusations” from ”Ukrainian media outlets” that Lisitsa has used “deeply offensive language.” In an attempt to intimidate the musician, the TSO had previously forwarded Lisitsa a letter from a prominent lawyer at the country’s largest law firm, Borden Ladner Gervais, that said she could be denied entry into Canada under section 319 of Canada’s criminal code, which makes the “willful promotion of hatred” illegal.

The TSO’s actions threaten artistic freedom and freedom of speech and have ominous implications for musicians and artists everywhere. As Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association put it in comments to the CBC, “I think there is a problem with the message that this sends to artists that they may have trouble getting jobs or keeping jobs if they express views that are unpopular or controversial.”

The TSO’s banning of Lisitsa represents a cowardly capitulation to reactionary political forces—forces that enjoy the strong backing of the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.

Protests against Lisitsa’s appearance came from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), a right-wing organization that purports to represent Canada’s large Ukrainian diaspora community. Heavily influenced by extreme Ukrainian nationalism, the UCC is virulently anti-communist and anti-Russian. Some of its affiliates were founded by veterans of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which collaborated with the Nazis in World War II, including in the mass extermination of Jews, and many continue to venerate OUN leader Stepan Bandera.

Lisitsa has for some time been a target of the Ukrainian right because she has rejected the Western-backed propaganda that the Ukraine crisis has been caused by Russian aggression. Her concerts have repeatedly become the occasion for protests by Ukrainian nationalist groups. Last September, the EuroMaidan Press website published an appeal for supporters to join them in calling for a boycott of Lisitsa’s concerts in Pittsburgh.

The TSO’s ban will encourage these right-wing elements to go after Lisitsa elsewhere, as well as other artists who take a critical position towards the pro-western Kiev regime.

So as to ostracize Lisitsa, her Ukrainian nationalist opponents have labelled her a stooge of Russian president Vladimir Putin. This is a slur. What they object to is her heartfelt challenge to their false narrative.

As Lisitsa explained in the Facebook posting announcing the TSO’s banning, she initially had great hopes that what she terms the “Maidan Revolution” would end the domination of Ukraine by a corrupt oligarchy, but these hopes were quickly dashed.

“I was so proud of my people!” wrote Lisitsa. “But the ruling class doesn’t let go easily. They managed to cunningly channel away the anger, to direct it to other, often imaginable, enemies—and worse, to turn people upon themselves. Year later, we have the same rich people remaining in power, misery and poverty everywhere, dozens of thousands killed, over a million of refugees.”

In her statement, Lisitsa explains that she felt she could not remain silent as “the country of my birth, of my childhood, of my first falling in love…was sliding ever faster in to the abyss. Children die under bombs, old ladies die of starvation, people burned alive”.

She said that she has been seeking to expose the abuses going on in Ukraine, particularly against the Russian-speaking minority. “I took to Twitter in order to get the other side of the story heard, the one you never see in the mainstream media.

“To give you just one example: one of my feats was to confront French fashion magazine Elle who published a glowing cover story about women in Ukrainian army. After the research I have shown to the magazine in my Twitter posts that the ‘cover girl’ they have chosen to show was in fact a horrible person, open Neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semite who boasted of murdering civilians for fun! The magazine issued a written public apology.”

The ability of the UCC and its supporters to aggressively target those hostile to its right-wing positions is made possible thanks to the close collaboration they enjoy with the Canadian government and more generally the unanimous support the ruling class and political elite have given to the US-NATO drive to transform Ukraine into a Western satellite.

Canada has been one of the most outspoken supporters of the Kiev regime since the February 2014 coup and is participating in the build-up of NATO forces on Russia’s borders.

The Harper government is supplying non-lethal military aid to the Ukrainian army. But it is also facilitating the supply of weapons, including guns and drones, to the Ukrainian army and aligned ultra-nationalist and fascist militias through the UCC and its Army SOS organization. Two Conservative MPs attended a recent Army SOS fundraising event in Toronto that raised more than $50,000 to be spent on arms and military gear (see “Canada helping arm Kiev regime to fight Ukrainian civil war“).

At a UCC gathering in Toronto on February 22, Conservative immigration minister Chris Alexander delivered an inflammatory speech in which he gave the government’s full backing for an aggressive course towards Russia. He called the conflict with Russia “the biggest issue facing the world today,” stressed that “ every option” is “on the table” in regards to defeating Putin—a euphemism for all-out war with Russia—and said there was “no scenario” for peace and security for this world” that does not involve defeating Russia in Ukraine.

Such are the sentiments being encouraged by the Harper government among its far right allies in the UCC, and it is in this context that the targeting of Lisitsa must be seen. Anyone who questions the official narrative of the Ukraine crisis is to be demonized as a supporter of Putin and Russian aggression.

That the TSO has bowed to this campaign is a disturbing development. Under conditions in which democratic rights are under sustained attack, the TSO has made it clear that it is willing to sacrifice the rights of freedom of speech and artistic freedom to meet the demands of the Canadian ruling class and its far right allies.

The justification the TSO has provided for its decision could hardly have been more hypocritical. The TSO statement read, “As one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world’s great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive.”

The TSO has not merely provided a platform for groups defending the reactionary politics of the Kiev regime, including the persecution of Ukraine’s Russian minority. Its capitulation to the censorship demands of the UCC has strengthened precisely those forces pushing for the US and its allies to intervene militarily in Ukraine against Russia, a move that threatens to trigger an all-out conflict between the major powers.

Pentagon to train Ukrainian neo-nazi militias


This video is called Battalion Azov: neo-nazis in Ukraine.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

US Army to train Ukrainian fascist militias

1 April 2015

The US Army will begin training Ukraine National Guard battalions on April 20 at a site in western Ukraine, near the Polish border, according to an announcement made Sunday by the country’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov.

“American commandos, numbering 290, will come to Yavoriv training ground, Lviv region, on April 20,” Avakov wrote on Facebook. “This is where a long-term military exercise of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the US Army and combat units of the National Guard will be held.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez confirmed the deployment earlier this month, without giving the exact date of its commencement. “This assistance is part of our ongoing efforts to help sustain Ukraine’s defense and internal security operations,” she said. “In particular, the training will help the Ukraine government develop its National Guard to conduct internal defense operations.”

This suggests that the paramilitary units, most of them created by billionaire oligarchs who financed and recruited fascist and neo-Nazi volunteers, may be used for suppression of popular protests within the government-controlled portion of Ukraine, in addition to joining the battle lines in eastern Ukraine if fighting breaks out again with pro-Russian separatists.

The US role in training and equipping paramilitary forces that openly venerate Ukrainian nationalists and fascists who collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces and facilitated the Holocaust during World War II, and who sport swastika-like insignias, exposes as filthy lies the US claims to be championing democracy and human rights in Ukraine.

The training program will include Washington’s first direct and open provision of lethal weaponry to Ukrainian military units. Pentagon officials said that uniforms, body armor, night vision devices and tactical radios would be supplied—all classified as “non-lethal”—but Avakov revealed that “our American partners” will present “special ammunition” to the Ukrainian National Guard troops at the conclusion of their training.

Before the end of 2015, Ukrainian forces could be killing pro-Russian separatist troops—or Russian soldiers—with American-supplied bullets, grenades and other “special ammunition.” This increases the danger of the conflict over eastern Ukraine and Crimea escalating into a direct military clash between nuclear-armed Russia and US-NATO forces.

A total of 1,500 US troops, 600 soldiers from other NATO-member countries, and 2,200 Ukrainian soldiers will take part in a series of exercises. The first, dubbed Fearless Guardian 2015, will extend over a seven-month period, from April through November. The second, Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident 2015, begins in July and extends through October.

The US troops will be drawn from the 173rd Combat Brigade, the spearhead of US forces in southern Europe, based in Vicenza, Italy. It specializes in offensive and air assault operations, making a mockery of the claim that the Pentagon is training Ukrainian troops for defense against supposed Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Avakov said that agreement on the military exercises was reached in talks between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US Vice President Joseph Biden during Biden’s recent visit to Kiev. He paid special tribute to the role played by Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, and officials at the US embassy in Kiev, saying, “Without their vigor, the important and complicated preparation of training would have been impossible.”

On March 17, the Ukrainian parliament approved a bill submitted by Poroshenko permitting foreign troops to participate in multinational exercises in Ukraine this year. The operations in Ukraine coincide with similar drills being carried out in nearby countries that are NATO members, including Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

A total of 1,200 Ukrainian regular army soldiers and as many as 1,000 from the National Guard will take part in the training. Many of the 50 battalions that comprise the National Guard will send troops. Avakov listed the Azov, Jaguar and Omega battalions, as well as battalions drawn from the cities of Kiev, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia.

The inclusion of the Azov battalion has the most ominous implications. This is a military force of more than 1,000 soldiers founded and led by the neo-Nazi Andriy Biletsky. It carries banners bearing a modified swastika insignia drawn directly from World War II German SS units.

This battalion has played the leading role in fighting in Mariupol, the second largest city in the Donetsk region and the largest still held by the Ukrainian government. It is a center of steel manufacture and the main port on the Sea of Azov, a branch of the Black Sea.

Biletsky has publicly denounced the February 15 ceasefire agreed upon by Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the pro-Russian separatists, and has threatened to march on Kiev and install a pro-war government. His battalion is equipped with artillery and tanks, as well as other heavy weapons.

According to a report by Reuters last week, published in Time magazine, “The Azov battalion originated from Biletsky’s paramilitary national socialist group called ‘Patriot of Ukraine,’ which propagated slogans of white supremacy, racial purity, the need for authoritarian power and a centralized national economy. ‘Patriot of Ukraine’ opposed giving up Ukraine’s sovereignty by joining international blocs, called for rolling back of liberal economy and political democracy, including free media.”

A March 22 article in USA Today describes a visit by a reporter to the Azov Battalion in Mariupol. It carries the headline, “Nazis Among Kiev’s National Guard.” The article includes an interview with a drill sergeant who openly praises Nazi ideology, while quoting a spokesman for the battalion who says, “It’s his personal ideology. It has nothing to do with the official ideology of the Azov.”

The spokesman, Andrey Dyachenko, adds that “Only 10 percent to 20 percent of the group’s members are Nazis,” meaning that at least 100 to 200 Nazis may be about to receive intensive military training from US commandos.

The same article quotes a member of the Armed Forces of Ukraine general staff in Kiev, Col. Oleksy Nozdrachov, who “defended the Azov fighters as patriots.”

A report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights covering a single month, November 2014, found that Ukraine’s Office of the Military Prosecutor had done nothing to investigate a “considerable” number of human rights allegations, “including looting, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment by members of certain voluntary battalions such as Aidar, Azov, Slobozhanshchina and Shakhtarsk.”

An earlier report by Amnesty International described members of the Aidar battalion engaging in “ISIS-style” war crimes, including beheading several pro-Russian separatists and sending the head of at least one victim by mail to his mother. Ukrainian nationalist militants “have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions,” the group said.

But during a recent visit to New York, the first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, said the National Guard battalions consisted of “disciplined Ukrainian warriors about whom films will be made and books will be written.”

These reports underscore the utterly reactionary character of the US-NATO intervention in Ukraine, which has unleashed ferociously anti-democratic and fascistic forces against the Ukrainian people, both in the eastern region and throughout the country.

After a convoy across Eastern Europe from their base in Vicenza, Italy, nearly 300 soldiers from the US 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in Ukraine Monday, to begin training members of the Ukrainian National Guard. They took up positions at a camp in Yavoriv, a few miles outside of the city of Lviv, the main center of western Ukraine. The Ukrainian troops working with the Americans include members of the Azov Battalion and other units notorious for their links to neo-Nazi groups. They have marched with modified swastikas and other insignia modeled on the Waffen SS forces that fought alongside Ukrainian nationalists against the Soviet Red Army during World War II: here.