Ukrainian Prosecutor Opens Investigation into Allegations of Collusion with Clinton Campaign in 2016; On Eve of its Own Presidential Election, Ukrainians More Pessimistic Than Ever About Their Country; Russia Passes New Law Limiting Online Speech

“This striking composite photo from the riots in Ukraine helps put the extreme devastation occurring in Kiev right now [2014] into perspective. The lighter image on the left is of Independence Square in Kiev before the riots and the seemingly post-apocalyptic half of the image was taken in the same square by Olga Yakimovich for Reuters on Feb. 19th [2014]. (via: Imgur)” – Bored Panda

Ukraine’s Top Prosecutor Yurii Lutsenko told Hill.tv in an interview that his office has opened an investigation into claims from a Ukrainian member of parliament that officials in Kiev had colluded with the Clinton campaign in the 2016 U.S. election. As reported in The Hill on March 20th:

Ukraine’s top prosecutor divulged in an interview aired Wednesday on Hill.TV that he has opened an investigation into whether his country’s law enforcement apparatus intentionally leaked financial records during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in an effort to sway the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.

The leak of the so-called black ledger files to U.S. media prompted Manafort’s resignation from the Trump campaign and gave rise to one of the key allegations in the Russia collusion probe that has dogged Trump for the last two and a half years.

Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko’s probe was prompted by a Ukrainian parliamentarian’s release of a tape recording purporting to quote a top law enforcement official as saying his agency leaked the Manafort financial records to help Clinton’s campaign.

The parliamentarian also secured a court ruling that the leak amounted to “an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” Lutsenko told me. Lutsenko said the tape recording is a serious enough allegation to warrant opening a probe, and one of his concerns is that the Ukrainian law enforcement agency involved had frequent contact with the Obama administration’s U.S. Embassy in Kiev at the time.  

To read the full article and watch the interview with Lutsenko, go here.

For the second year in a row, Ukrainians have the lowest confidence in their national government in the world at 9%, according to a recent Gallup poll. The median percentage in the former Soviet states is 48%.

Tomorrow Ukrainians will go to the polls where they can choose their next leader from among the current president Petro Poroshenko (17.4%), Volodymyr Zelensky – a comedian who is the front-runner (24.9%), or Yulia Tymoshenko (18.8%) – a right-wing populist who is notorious for her own corruption as a former prime minister.

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On March 18th, President Putin signed into law two bills that will limit freedom of speech on the internet, informally referred to as the laws on “fake news”and disrespect of society, public officials and institutions. According to the OSCE:

According to the first law, the dissemination of deliberately untrue information through the media or online can result in fines of up to 1.5 million roubles (approximately 20,500 euros) and the blocking of the information resource if it does not “immediately” delete this information at the request of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor).

The second law imposes a penalty of up to 300,000 roubles (approximately 4,100 euros) or up to 15 days’ detention for the online dissemination, in an insulting way, of expression that disrespects society, the state, official symbols, the Constitution, and public bodies.

It’s not unusual in Russia for officials to think that an issue needs to be addressed so they write a law addressing the issue, but it will be poorly written or overbroad. This can make the law in question hard to enforce or ripe for abuse by those lower down the food chain who must implement it. Certain aspects of such laws may also turn out to be unpopular. Within a few years, the Duma (lower body of Russian parliament) will realize that the law needs to be amended or revised.

This is what happened with the foreign agents law which was eventually amended to exclude charities. I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar happens with this law down the road.

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