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Russian buildup, MH17 tapes, and plans for a Ukrainian Silicon Valley | Weekly news roundup

Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation hopes that its project will help create a Ukrainian-style Silicon Valley and the most powerful IT hub in Central and Eastern Europe.
Article by: Kyiv not Kiev

This week’s news digest from Kyiv not Kiev covers the hottest news from Ukraine, such as Russian troops build-up near Ukrainian borders, new evidence in the case of the MH17 disaster, Ukraine as an IT hub for developers from all over the world.

🔶 Russian military build-up

Russia pressures Ukraine and Western allies and continues its military build-up near the Ukrainian border, provocations along the Line of Contact in eastern Ukraine and in occupied Crimea. Ukrainian intelligence reports that Russia is getting ready for actions that should provoke Ukraine’s military response in the Donbas. They do not exclude attempts to advance Russian occupation troops deep into Ukraine.

CIA Director William Burns said Moscow’s maneuvers near Ukraine could be aimed at attempts to frighten the Ukrainian authorities and send a signal to the United States. The build-up of forces has reached a point where it can become the basis for military invasions.

This week was rich for the news concerning this bold provocation: President Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials held a number of consultations with European partners and the U.S concerning this escalation of the conflict. During the visit of Dmytro Kuleba to Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow to immediately de-escalate the situation and promised to further support Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Joe Biden and Angela Merkel called on Russia to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border.

The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia urged Moscow to ease tensions in the region and return to negotiations. «We call upon Russia to cease its provocations as well as to dispel all concerns by being fully transparent in accordance to the risk reduction mechanism under Vienna document and uphold OSCE principles and commitments», says the joint statement. The foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia praised Ukraine’s commitment to finding a political solution to the conflict.

However, it doesn’t seem to have stopped Moscow’s aspirations to achieve all advantageous negotiating positions. The US President has already claimed his readiness to hold a meeting with Putin in the nearest future. Turkish diplomatic sources state that the US canceled the deployment of two warships to the Black Sea.

All Russia’s threats, pressure, and blackmail are aimed at creating permanent instability in Ukraine. It is not the first time Russia has created crisis regions in the world that are constantly “bleeding”. Kremlin has got profitable places of influence on the international community: Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh.

The current deployment of troops near the border with Ukraine are among attempts to achieve its goal. Either Putin is staging a show of victorious war for the Russians on the eve of the Duma elections, or he is provoking the reaction of the new US President and wants to strengthen his positions on negotiations with the West. One thing is clear: the whole civilized world must show its resilience, determination and consolidation in the face of this bold provocation.

🔶 New evidence in the case of MH17 catastrophe

On April 15, the Netherlands held a court hearing in the MH17 case. Previously, Dutch journalists have published recordings of conversations between anti-Ukrainian militants regarding the downing of a passenger airliner MH17. These conversations prove the transportation to Ukraine from Russia the Buk anti-aircraft missile launcher that shot down the plane. Besides, the talks prove that Russian hybrid forces in the occupied Donbas acted on Moscow’s direct instructions.

The recordings are essential for countering Russia’s disinformation and manipulations; their publication will definitely throw a light on what happened in 2014 and will attract a lot of attention to the court proceedings again. However, an American lawyer in the Hague, Jerry Skinner believes that it will be challenging to use these materials as evidence in court.

In 2019, the Joint Investigation Team named four suspects believed to be involved in the transportation and use of Buk. This is Igor Girkin (ex-FSB officer); Sergey Dubinsky (ex-GRU); Oleg Pulatov (ex-GRU) and Leonid Kharchenko (Ukrainian, who fought on the side of the “Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR)”).

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 flying MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed in the occupied part of the Donetsk region in July 2014. There were 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board, all of whom died.

The Joint Investigation Team has concluded that the plane was shot down by the Buk anti-aircraft missile system, which belongs to the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, in Kursk.

🔶 Adoption of the law supporting DIIA City

On April 15, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted in the first reading a law supporting the DIIA City project. The Ministry of Digital Transformation develops the DIIA City project – as a special legal and tax regime with favorable conditions for developing the IT industry in Ukraine. The Ministry intends to raise Ukraine’s image in the international arena by creating a Ukrainian-style Silicon Valley and the most powerful IT hub in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Ministry of Digital Transformation plans that thanks to DIIA City, the revenues of the IT industry in Ukraine can increase significantly in 3-5 years – from $6 billion to $16.5 billion. The growth in the number of jobs – from 200,000 now to 450,000 in 2025.

Nowadays, Ukrainian companies deal with obstacles to rapid development, such as high taxes, low levels of intellectual property protection, and education that does not meet business needs. Highly qualified specialists go abroad, the judicial system does not provide adequate protection of property rights. All of that creates a serious concern for foreign investment.

There will be no boundaries for investment, job creation, or the development of new technologies. Ukrainians and entrepreneurs worldwide will have the opportunity to quickly implement the most ambitious innovative and business ideas and implement them effectively thanks to low taxes, favorable investment conditions, effective mechanisms for investors’ rights protection.

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