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LGBT groups are expected to march in Kharkiv today. (file photo)

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-- The instruction of the Ukrainian language has been virtually wiped out in areas that Moscow-backed separatists control in eastern Ukraine where an armed conflict has simmered since April 2014, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) says.

-- Leonid Kuchma, the Ukrainian president’s envoy for peace talks with Russia-backed separatists, has stressed that Kyiv should not make unacceptable concessions to Russia.

*Time stamps on the blog refer to local time in Ukraine

13:42 17.8.2019
The fire occurred shortly after midnight.
The fire occurred shortly after midnight.

Eight Die In Fire At Hotel In Ukraine's Odesa

Eight people died and 10 were injured in a fire early on August 17 in a private hotel in the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa, Ukraine's emergencies service said.

"Eight people died in the fire and 10 more were rescued," the service said in a statement.

In a statement on his Facebook page, President Volodomyr Zelenskiy said four of those injured were in critical condition

The fire occurred shortly after midnight, the statement said.

It gave no cause for the incident and did not say how many people had been staying at the hotel.

The Tokyo Star hotel has 273 rooms.

It took firefighters about three hours to extinguish the fire, which had raged over an area of about 1,000 square meters, the service said.

Odesa authorities said around 150 people were evacuated from the area.

An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the incident.

"We lost eight lives overnight," Zelenskiy said on Facebook. "And this is not due to war and shelling. It is because of criminal negligence, neglect of elementary safety standards and neglect towards human life."

Zelenskiy added he would "personally make sure" that those responsible are punished "in accordance with the norms of the law."

Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS
13:46 17.8.2019
The acting chief of Ukraine's SBU security service, Ivan Bakanov, who previously headed President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's entertainment studio, Kvartal 95, and his presidential campaign.
The acting chief of Ukraine's SBU security service, Ivan Bakanov, who previously headed President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's entertainment studio, Kvartal 95, and his presidential campaign.

Mission: Impossible? Ukraine's New President Ventures To Reform Powerful State Spy Agency

KYIV -- When Ukraine's domestic security service revealed last year that it had faked the death of a dissident Russian journalist to expose a team of hit men allegedly hired by Moscow to destabilize the country by assassinating high-profile figures in Kyiv, it expected to take victory lap.

Instead, the stunt sparked widespread criticism and turned into a public-relations nightmare --- one of many in the past 28 years that have tarnished the reputation of the Security Service of Ukraine.

A year later, fresh off huge election victories that brought him and his fledgling Servant of the People party to power, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy -- a former comedian who has vowed to end endemic corruption and implement sweeping reforms – may have a chance to do what none of his predecessors was able to do: revamp the agency and restore its credibility.

How successful the 41-year-old Zelenskiy and his young team of reformers are in cleaning up the agency -- arguably the country's most powerful institution -- will be a litmus test of his administration's resolve to bring Ukraine more into line with Western democracies.

On the other hand, failure to reform the security service, critics say, could hobble wider efforts to curb corruption and economic crime, as the agency's activities have much to do with Ukraine's efforts to bolster the rule of law, and its checkered reputation deters foreign investors from bringing business to a country where the security service has enabled economic crime.

"Now there is a real opportunity to reform [the security service]," William Taylor, the current charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and a former ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009, told RFE/RL in a recent interview.


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