New Year Celebrations around the World

New Zealand, Australia, and surrounding Pacific Islands were among the first places to ring in 2018 with fireworks displays, parties, and other festivities. Nearly 1.5 million people gathered to watch a rainbow fireworks display above Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and opera house.

У Міноборони заявляють про можливу підготовку підтримуваних Росією бойовиків до наступальних дій

«Російські офіцери, призначені в ході останньої ротації на командні посади у з’єднаннях і частинах незаконних збройних формувань, намагаються підвищити бойові спроможності підлеглих підрозділі»

Fugitive Catalonian Leader Seeks Talks With Spain

Catalonia’s fugitive former president has called for Spanish authorities to open negotiations regarding the restitution of what he calls his “legitimate government.”

Carles Puigdemont said via social media channels from Brussels on Saturday that Spain should “recognize the election results of Dec. 21 and start negotiating politically with the legitimate government of Catalonia.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy deposed Puigdemont and his Cabinet after Catalonia’s regional parliament voted in favor of a declaration of independence from the rest of the country in October.

But pro-secession parties, including one led by Puigdemont, won the most seats in elections last week.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid a judicial investigation into suspicions of rebellion by him and his government. He did not say Saturday if he plans to return to Spain, where an arrest warrants awaits him.

Rajoy said Friday that he plans to convene Catalonia’s newly elected parliament Jan. 17.

In-house rules of Catalonia’s parliament require that a candidate to form a government be present.

Polish Climbers Attempt Record Winter Ascent of K2

A group of Polish mountaineers set off for northern Pakistan on Sunday to attempt to be the first to scale K2, the world’s second highest peak, in wintertime.

K2, in the Karakorum mountains along the border between China and Pakistan, is notorious for high winds, steep and icy slopes — and high fatality rates for climbers. In winter months, scant snowfall means the summit approach can turn into bare ice.

More than 70 people have died climbing the peak, many of them at the Bottleneck, where a wrong step can send a climber hurtling off the South Face, where bodies are unlikely to be recovered.

Team member Adam Bielecki, 34, told Reuters that the chance to make history is a “strong motivation” for the Polish group.

Polish climbers have written a “beautiful chapter” of exploring peaks of more than 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), and scaling K2 in winter would “the last chapter of this book.”

The Polish team includes 13 mountaineers led by Krzysztof Wielicki, 67, who in 2003 headed a winter expedition of K2 that was unable to clear the 8,000 meter threshold.

K2, slightly shorter than Mount Everest, is 8,611 meters (28,251 feet) high.

Wielicki told Reuters that his team would begin their ascent on Jan. 8 or 9 and, if successful, expect to return to base camp by mid-March.

Pakistan is a hot destination for climbers. It rivals Nepal for the number of peaks higher 7,000 meters (22,966 feet) and it has five of the world’s 14 summits higher than 8,000 meters.

Bielecki said the group expects to be away from home for around three months.

“If you ask me what’s the hardest part of the expedition or what I fear the most, it’s actually the separation from my family,” he said.

May Says 2018 Brexit Progress Will Renew British Pride

Prime Minister Theresa May said 2018 would be a year of “renewed confidence and pride” for Britain as it confronts the challenges of negotiating Brexit, in her New Year’s message out Sunday.

Divorce talks between London and Brussels are set to move on to transition arrangements, trade and security next year as Britain prepares to leave the European Union in March 2019.

May said 2017 had been a year of progress for Britain as it struck agreements on its departure bill, Northern Ireland and the rights of EU citizens, in the first phase of Brexit negotiations.

“I believe 2018 can be a year of renewed confidence and pride in our country,” the premier said, “a year in which we continue to make good progress towards a successful Brexit deal, an economy that’s fit for the future, and a stronger and fairer society for everyone.

“And whatever challenges we may face, I know we will overcome them by standing united as one proud union of nations and people.”

However, the British Chambers of Commerce, which represents thousands of firms across the country, warned that business was losing patience while waiting for clarity on what will happen once Britain leaves the EU.

“Businesses want answers,” director general Adam Marshall told The Observer newspaper. “Getting the twin challenges of Brexit and the economic fundamentals right will require leadership, consistency and clarity — after a year in which business has been dismayed by what it sees as division and disorganization.”

Vow on harassment, prejudice

May said 2017 had been a year of progress in which her Brexit objectives had been pursued with a steady purpose.

“Making a success of Brexit is crucial, but it will not be the limit of our ambitions,” she said.

The prime minister said she wanted a “balanced approach” to public spending, reducing Britain’s debt pile while investing in schools, hospitals and state health care.

May also said she wanted to sweep harassment from the workplace and “eliminate all prejudice and discrimination from our society.”

Internationally, she said Britain would work to tackle extremism, climate change and plastic waste in the oceans.

Meanwhile, opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prospect of a “new Britain” was “closer than ever before.”

“We are a government in waiting, while the Conservatives are weak and divided and stuck in an outdated rut,” the veteran leftist said.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable used his New Year’s message to push for a second referendum on EU membership.

“There’s still time to offer people the choice of an exit from Brexit,” he said.

Ukrainian Police Storm Post Office, Free Hostages

Ukrainian police on Saturday freed the remaining hostages being held in a post office by a man believed to be strapped with explosives. They arrested the hostage-taker after an hourslong standoff in the city of Kharkiv.

“All hostages freed in Kharkiv. The assailant was arrested,” President Petro Poroshenko wrote on Twitter, while Interior Minister Arsen Avakov published a picture of the man, with blood streaming down his face, being held by a policeman.

None of the hostages were harmed. A Reuters witness saw special forces police in green camouflage rushing to the entrance of the post office, a yellow-and-white building at a road junction in the northeastern city near the Russian border.

Robbery turned hostage taking

In earlier statements, police said the man had entered the post office wearing a mask and taken 11 people hostage with the intention of robbing the place. Five of the hostages, three women and two children, were released early.

Regional police chief Oleg Bekh told reporters the man had a history of antisocial behavior and drug-related offences.

“He probably needs the help of a psychiatrist,” Bekh said. “During the detention, he received minor injuries. He was not in a normal state … the hostages said he was drinking alcohol.”

Police were able to enter the building after one of the hostages opened the door for them, Kharkiv regional prosecutor Yuriy Danylchenko told reporters.

Police earlier said they had been in contact with the man via the telephones of the hostages, describing his manner as calm and not making any demands.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Avakov, said employees at the post office and customers had been among the hostages. One of them had managed to call the police from inside the building.

“The patrolmen came to the place of the robbery in a few minutes,” Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook. “The robber realized that he could not now safely leave the crime scene with the loot and he decided to declare that he was taking everyone hostage.”

Bomb threat

One of the children released by the man told local media that he put explosives into two bottles and threatened to blow himself up if police did not listen to him.

The man also said he had brain cancer, according to the child.

The man at one point voiced concern about the recent prisoner exchange between the Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists and thought more prisoners should have been released, police said.

Ukraine and the separatists swapped hundreds of prisoners Wednesday in the biggest such exchange since the outbreak of a conflict in the eastern Donbass region that has killed more than 10,000 people.

German Party Leader: Deport Young Refugees Involved in Crime

Germany should be able to deport unaccompanied minor refugees who commit crimes if their families can be identified, the head of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) said in remarks released ahead of publication Sunday.

FDP leader Christian Lindner spoke amid growing debate about unaccompanied refugees after the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old German girl on Wednesday by a suspect later identified by police as her former boyfriend, a 15-year-old Afghan refugee who had entered Germany in early 2016.

Lindner told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that authorities should be able to deport unaccompanied minors who resisted “educational measures” and caused problems, if their families could be identified in their home countries.

The girl who was killed had filed charges days earlier accusing the Afghan teenager of harassing and threatening her after she broke up with him, police officials said.

Migrant numbers down

The number of unaccompanied minors among migrants entering Germany fell sharply in the first 10 months of 2017 to 8,107 from nearly 35,939 in 2016 and 22,255 a year earlier, according to the German Federal Office of Migrant and Refugees (BAMF).

Although seen as a domestic dispute, the stabbing case has touched a nerve as German cities tighten security for New Year’s Eve celebrations amid continued concern about possible Islamist attacks and after the mass groping of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015.

Many far-right commentators have seized on the stabbing and the 2015 Cologne incident to justify their anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In Berlin, police erected a special safety zone for women at the milelong street that runs from the Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column in the capital’s Tiergarten park.

Criticism of Merkel

In the interview, Lindner also renewed his criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open the doors to more than a million migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Afghanistan, without adequate controls.

“We need a new immigrant policy in Europe that ensures that the problems are addressed,” Lindner said, noting that securing borders could help prevent right-wing populists from spreading xenophobic sentiment.

“Our country will only stay tolerant and open to the world if people can rely on our legal system at any time and any place,” he said.

The FDP last month withdrew from talks with Merkel’s conservatives and the environmental Greens on forming a new government after the September election. But migration will also be a key topic in upcoming coalition talks between Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Conservatives want to limit the number of refugees admitted each year to 200,000 or less; the SPD rejects any such cap.

Від початку новорічного перемир’я бойовики стріляли 39 разів – українська сторона СЦКК

Від початку перемир’я, встановленого на час різдвяних та новорічних свят з 23 грудня підтримувані Росією бойовики здійснили 39 обстрілів позицій ЗСУ на Донбасі, заявляє штаб АТО з посиланням на українську сторону Спільного центру контролю і координації режиму припинення вогню на Донбасі. Згідно з повідомленням, з-поміж усіх обстрілів –10 – із застосуванням озброєнь, заборонених Мінськими домовленостями.

«Упродовж минулого тижня НЗФ ОРДО/ОРЛО активно застосовували стрілецьку зброю, великокаліберні кулемети та гранатомети вздовж всієї лінії розмежування. Обстрілів позицій наших військових із артилерії великих калібрів, у тому числі реактивних систем залпового вогню, та танків українською стороною СЦКК не зафіксовано», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Повідомляється також, що від часу оголошення про початок дії нового перемир’я активізувались і снайпери бойовиків – зафіксовано 7 випадків. 

«Підрозділи ЗСУ у районі проведення АТО на території Донецької та Луганської областей безумовно дотримуються Мінських домовленостей та забезпечують виконання усіх заходів щодо дотримання режиму «тиші» по всій лінії розмежування сторін на сході України, незважаючи на брудні провокації проросійських терористичних військ», – йдеться в повідомленні штабу з посиланням на українську сторону в СЦКК.

Росія вивела своїх представників з СЦКК. Вони покинули Україну 19 грудня через, як заявили в російському МЗС, «напружену морально-психологічну ситуацію» і «зневажливе ставлення українських військовослужбовців». Українські представники заявили, що виведення Росією своїх представників з СЦКК є спробою Кремля змусити Київ вести переговори з представниками сепаратистських угруповань «ДНР» і «ЛНР».

Тристороння контактна група щодо врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі оголосила черговий режим тиші з півночі 23 грудня 2017 року. Він змінює оголошений у зв’язку з початком навчального року режим тиші, який не призвів до припинення обстрілів.

Президент підписав зміни до Бюджетного, Податкового та Земельного кодексів України

Президент України Петро Порошенко підписав в суботу зміни до бюджетного, податкового та земельного кодексів України, інформує прес-служба президента.

Змінами до Бюджетного кодексу передбачено уточнення порядку формування і виконання місцевих бюджетів, фінансового забезпечення охорони здоров’я та освіти, соціального захисту громадян тощо.

У новому Податковому кодексі , серед іншого, змінюються правила безмитного ввезення товарів на територію України, у тому числі в міжнародних поштових та експрес-відправленнях.

Зміни до Бюджетного та Податкового кодексів набирають чинності, за винятком окремих пунктів, з 1 січня 2018 року.

Змінами до Земельного кодексу продовжується на один рік термін дії мораторію на продаж чи відчуження земель сільськогосподарського призначення. Документ набирає чинності з дня, наступного за днем його опублікування.

За майже рік статус біженця у Польщі отримали 56 українців – посольство

Упродовж десяти місяців 2017 року компетентні органи Польщі надали статус біженця 56 громадянам України, повідомили у Посольстві України в Польщі. Згідно з повідомленням, торік кількість таких громадян становила 32.

«При цьому, станом на 1 липня 2017 року дійсні дозволи на проживання в Польщі мали більш ніж 128 тисяч громадян України (з них 79 осіб мали статус біженця)», – повідомляється на сторінці посольства у Facebook.

Крім того, польська сторона ухвалила 175 рішень про надання українцям статусу особи, яка потребує додаткового захисту.

За даними дипломатів, протягом першого півріччя 2017 року громадянам України видали понад  91 тисячу дозволів на працю різних типів у Польщі, що майже вдвічі більше, ніж торік. Водночас кількість виданих віз (національні та шенгенські) залишилася практично незмінною у порівнянні з минулим роком – понад 988 тисяч.

Посольство України у Польщі оприлюднило заяву про «реальну кількість біженців» у Польщі після того, як 29 грудня у польській пресі речниця уряду Йоанна Копцінська заявила про те, що Польща прийняла «дуже багато біженців з України, в якій триває війна». Копцінська заявила, що таким чином Варшава допомагає долати «напруженість на східному фланзі ЄС», що не враховують західні партнери.

Court Upholds Ban on Navalny Running for Russian Presidency

Russia’s highest court has upheld election officials’ decision to bar opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president in March’s election.


The Supreme Court on Saturday turned down Navalny’s appeal against the Central Election Commission’s move, saying that the decision to bar him from the race fully conforms to law.


President Vladimir Putin, whose approval ratings top 80 percent, is set to easily win a fourth term in the March 18 vote.


Navalny has campaigned for the presidency all year despite an implicit ban on his candidacy due to a fraud conviction seen by many as politically driven. Election officials formally barred him from the ballot Monday.


Navalny responded to the ban by calling for a boycott of the vote. The Kremlin said authorities will look into whether such a call violates the law.


Beatles’ Ringo Starr Knighted in UK Honors List

Ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr has been knighted in Queen Elizabeth’s New Year’s honors list, along with Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb and author Michael Morpurgo, while ballet dancer Darcey Bussell becomes a dame.

Ringo, 77, real name Richard Starkey, joined the Beatles as a replacement drummer for Pete Best in 1962 and occasionally sang lead vocals, notably in “Yellow Submarine” and “With a Little Help from my Friends.”

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Beatle in 1988 and again in 2015 for his solo career after the group split up.

Gibb, 71, is the British musician who co-founded the Bee Gees with his brothers Robin and Maurice, and went on to record a string of pop classics including “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” from the film Saturday Night Fever.

English author Morpurgo, 74, is best known for children’s novels like War Horse and was Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005.

Bussell, 48, is a former principal dancer with the Royal Ballet and currently one of the four judges in the long-running BBC TV ballroom contest Strictly Come Dancing.

The New Year’s honors have been awarded since Queen Victoria’s reign in the 19th century and aim to recognize not just well-known figures but those who have contributed to national life through often selfless and unsung contributions over many years.

In that category, Margaret Jamieson, of the Blue Door charity shop on the Scottish island of Orkney, is recognized, along with Geoffrey Evans, a local councilor in Falmouth, Cornwall, for over 40 years.

Actor Hugh Laurie receives the CBE medal, as does author Jilly Cooper and the former editor of British Vogue magazine Alexandra Shulman.

England women’s cricket captain Heather Knight is made an OBE while hip hop artist Richard Cowie, aka Wiley, is made an MBE, along with Paralympian athlete Stefanie Reid.

The biannual honors list is released on the Queen’s official birthday in June and at the end of each year.

Порошенко підписав закон про держбюджет на 2018 рік

Президент України Петро Порошенко підписав закон про державний бюджет України на 2018 рік.

Закон набирає чинності з 1 січня 2018 року. 

Голова Верховної Ради Андрій Парубій 22 грудня підписав закон про держбюджет-2018 і передав його на підпис президенту.

Верховна Рада України 7 грудня ухвалила в другому читанні і в цілому законопроект №7000 «Про Державний бюджет України на 2018 рік». Доходи держбюджету на 2018 рік передбачені в розмірі 917,9 мільярдів гривень, видатки передбачені в сумі 991, 7 мільярда гривень.

На 2018 рік прожитковий мінімум на одну особу в розрахунку на місяць встановлено у розмірі з 1 січня 2018 року – 1700 гривень, з 1 липня – 1777 гривень, з 1 грудня – 1853 гривні. Мінімальна зарплата з 1 січня – 3723 гривні. Надходження від приватизації прогнозується у обсязі 21,3 мільярда гривень. 

Крім того, у 2018 році створено Державний дорожній фонд з обсягом видатків у 32,9 мільярда гривень. Всього на розвиток доріг передбачені 47,7 мільярда гривень.

U.S. Urging Kosovo Leaders Not to Abolish War Crimes Court

The U.S. is urging Kosovo leaders to leave unchanged a war crimes court established to hear serious cases arising from the country’s war for independence.

“The United States is deeply concerned by recent attempts of Kosovo lawmakers to abrogate the law on the Specialist Chambers,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Friday. “We call on political leaders in the Republic of Kosovo to maintain their commitment to the work of the Chambers and to leave the authorities and jurisdiction of the court unchanged.”

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on December 21 that “the pursuit of justice in the Balkans is not over,” and the U.S. “remains committed to supporting justice for the victims,” the statement said.

The Kosovo political leaders enacted the law and constitutional amendment in 2015 to establish the Specialist Chambers, a court that would hear cases of alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other serious crimes committed during the 1998-2000 conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

Last week, however, lawmakers from the governing coalition, who hold a majority, pressed for a vote to abolish the court, but they failed twice because of opposition from other parties.

The U.S. and other Western countries swiftly condemned the move, warning that if successful, it would hamper efforts for Euro-Atlantic integration.

The U.S. has been a key ally and financial backer of Kosovo since it broke away from Serbia and declared independence in 2008.