Good morning. We'll start the live blog today with this item from RFE/RL's news desk which was published overnight:
After Four Years Of Drama, EU-Ukraine Association Agreement Comes Into Force
KYIV -- The Association Agreement strengthening ties between Ukraine and the European Union entered into force on September 1, marking an end to four years of political drama surrounding the accord.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko celebrated the development in a Facebook post.
He called it an "important step in confirmation of the future that we chose in the Revolution of Dignity," a reference to the street protests that drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power after he scrapped plans to sign the EU deal in 2013.
Kaja Tael, the Estonian ambassador to the EU, said that "it goes without saying that this is really a major upgrade in our relations" and that the two sides now have "the full range of all instruments at our disposal."
Tael, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, noted that the European Union and Ukraine have "already been implementing parts of the agreement, some of them for years."
The landmark accord was originally meant to be signed in November 2013 by Yanukovych.
However, in a dramatic turnaround, Yanukovych walked away from the accord under pressure from Moscow, prompting massive protests that pushed him from power -- and into self-imposed exile in Russia -- in February 2014.
Poroshenko, the tycoon and pro-Western politician who came to power in the aftermath, signed the Association Agreement in June 2014.
But the deal -- which required unanimous EU approval -- remained unratified after 61 percent of Dutch voters opposed it in a citizen-driven, non-binding referendum in April 2016.
The Dutch government attempted to ease voter concerns in December by negotiating a legally binding supplement with the other 27 EU member states to underscore that the agreement would not grant Ukraine automatic EU membership or provide any guarantees of military aid.
Both the Dutch lower house and Senate voted in favor of the agreement earlier this year and ratified it in June.
All 28 EU member states formally endorsed the Association Agreement in July.
Many elements of the agreement have been provisionally applied since 2014, but the adoption of the accord will ensure closer cooperation between Brussels and Kyiv in areas such as foreign policy, justice, education, science, and technology.
After Yanukovych abandoned office and fled the country, Russia seized control of Ukraine's Crimea region and fomented separatism in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The Russia-backed separatists seized parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which border Russia, igniting a war that that has killed more than 10,000 people and continues despite a Western-brokered peace deal.
Russia's interference in Ukraine has led the United States, the European Union, and other countries to impose sanctions on Moscow, whose ties with the West have deteriorated to levels unseen since the Cold War.
With reporting by RFE/RL Correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels
That concludes our live-blogging of the Ukraine crisis for Thursday, August 31, 2017. Check back here tomorrow for more of our continuing coverage. Thanks for reading and take care.
Court In Russia Sentences Tatar Activist To Three Years In Prison
By RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service
KAZAN -- A court in Kazan, the capital of Russia's Tatarstan region, has sentenced a local activist to three years in prison for inciting hatred on the Internet, inflicting bodily harm, and hooliganism -- charges which rights groups say are fabricated.
The Vakhit district court found Danis Safargali guilty on August 31 and sentenced him the same day.
Safargali, the leader of the Tatar patriotic movement Altyn Urda (The Golden Horde), denies all charges.
He was arrested in October 2016.
Memorial, a Moscow-based human rights center, has called Safargali a political prisoner.
In an August 29 statement, Memorial said that Safargali is "a victim of a persecution campaign against opposition activists of the Tatar national movement...that has been launched since 2014."
Investigators say his 15 posts on the Internet in which he criticized the Russian government, President Vladimir Putin, and Moscow's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014 can be defined as incitement to hatred.
The two other charges are linked to an alleged brawl that took place in Kazan in April 2016.
Safargali insisted that his son was being beaten by two attackers, who also attacked his pregnant wife. He said he had to intervene in the incident but denied that he had beaten the attackers.
Memorial called on authorities to immediately release Safargali, to drop the charge of inciting hatred, and fairly investigate his involvement in the alleged brawl.
Here is today's map of the security situation in eastern Ukraine, according to the National Security and Defense Council: