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Amid Ukraine Speeches, Pension Cuts in Donbas As Collective Punishment?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 12 -- On November 7 Ukraine requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council and on November 12 it was held.

 Replacing previous UN briefer Oscar Fernandez Taranco, new Assistant Secretary General Jens Toyberg-Frandzen said, among other things, that "on November 5, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced that pensions would be halted to areas under rebel control."

  Inner City Press, covering the meeting from just outside the Council chamber, spoke to a range of passing diplomats and was left with this question: isn't the halting of pensions to rebel held areas a form of collective punishment?

 Once posed, with the work "accrued pensions," two defenses of the practice came in. First, that pensions in Ukraine are not accrued but are based on taxes collected and none are being collected in Donbas. Second, that trucks with pension payments were being robbed.  The word "Western Union" was bandied around.

 While the UN spoke about the death of children on a playground on Donetsk on Novmeber 5, they didn't say who did it. Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative Pankin said it was Ukraine's army. Later he stated that an adviser to Poroshenko said on October 24 that "the ceasefire is going to work in our favor, tank factories working around the clock."

  Ukraine's Sergeyev mentioned this in his reply, neither confirming nor denying the quote. The meeting ended; Sergeyev headed up the escalator to be interviewed by scribes. And so it goes at the UN.

  Last month, Ukraine was scheduled to speak at the UN about its “Committee on Information” on October 21, but as UN speeches usually go longer than allowed, its turn was postponed until October 22.

That didn't stop the “UN Radio” Russian service from reporting on the speech on October 21 as if it had in fact been given that day. As translated, UN Radio on October 21 reported

The representative of Ukraine accused Russia of using the information strategy of the Cold War

One of the main prerequisites of violence in Ukraine became a propaganda information. This was stated by the representative of the Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, speaking at a meeting of the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly.”

  The UN's Fourth Committee did meet on October 21 - but Ukraine didn't speak. Instead it was the first speaker on the afternoon of October 22. Its speech, delivered in perfect French including the word “rigolo,” linked Russia to Joseph Goebbels.

  In reply, the Russian mission's spokesman brought up the recent Human Rights Watch report of the Ukrainian government using cluster bombs in and against Donetsk, and the lack of clarity on who called the snipers shots in Maidan Square.

  Later in the Fourth Committee meeting, Bolivia slammed “powers” who use information technology to intervene and violate privacy, bringing to mind USAID's “Cuban Twitter” and, of course, the NSA.

  Then Jordan said it was first among Arab nations to enact an Access to Information law, in 2007. The Free UN Coalition for Access has been pressing for a Freedom of Information Act at the UN, click here and here for that.

  FUNCA covers the Fourth Committee, including on Decolonization, and the Committee on Information, where at least theoretically the UN's descent into censorship could be raised and resolved. The old UN Correspondents Association, a part of this trend toward privatization of briefings and even censorship -- ordering Press articles off the Internet, getting leaked copies of their complaints to the UN's MALU banned from Google's search, here -- was nowhere to be seen. We'll have more on this.


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