A New Front Opens in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Borscht

“A lot of things were taken away from Ukraine, but they will not take our borscht,” said a chef who is leading a drive to recognize the soup as a Ukrainian cultural heritage.

#borscht, #russia, #soups, #ukraine, #united-nations-educational-scientific-and-cultural-organization, #ussr-former-soviet-union


What We Know and Don’t About Hunter Biden and a Laptop

President Trump’s allies have promoted claims of corruption aimed at the former vice president’s son in an effort to damage the Biden campaign.

#biden-hunter, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #burisma-holdings-ltd, #computers-and-the-internet, #delaware, #ethics-and-official-misconduct, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #giuliani-rudolph-w, #laptop-computers, #new-york-post, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine, #united-states-politics-and-government


U.S. Charges Russian Intelligence Officers in Major Cyberattacks

Prosecutors said the suspects hacked elections in France and the 2018 Winter Olympics.

#cyberwarfare-and-defense, #defense-and-military-forces, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #france, #gru-russia, #justice-department, #olympic-games-2018, #presidential-election-of-2016, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #ukraine, #united-states-politics-and-government


U.S. charges Russian hackers blamed for Ukraine power outages and the NotPetya ransomware attack

Six Russian intelligence officers accused of launching some of the “world’s most destructive malware” — including an attack that took down the Ukraine power grid in December 2015 and the NotPetya gloibal ransomware attack in 2017 — have been charged by the U.S. Justice Department.

Prosecutors said the group of hackers, who work for the Russian GRU and reside in Russia, are behind the “most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.”

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” said John Demers, U.S. U.S. assistant attorney general for national security. “Today the Department has charged these Russian officers with conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group, including by unleashing the NotPetya malware. No nation will recapture greatness while behaving in this way.”

The six accused Russian intelligence officers. (Image: FBI/supplied)

In charges laid out Monday, the hackers are accused of developing and launching attacks using the KillDisk and Industroyer (also known as Crash Override) to target and disrupt the power supply in Ukraine, which left hundreds of thousands of customers without electricity two days before Christmas. The prosecutors also said the hackers were behind the NotPetya attack, a ransomware attack that spread across the world in 2017, causing billions of dollars in damages.

The hackers are also said to have used Olympic Destroyer, designed to knock out internet connections during the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Prosecutors also blamed the six hackers for trying to disrupt the 2017 French elections by launching a “hack and leak” operation to discredit the then-presidential frontrunner, Emmanuel Macron, as well as launching targeted spearphishing attacks against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, tasked with investigating the use of the Russian nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury, U.K. in 2018.

The accused hackers — Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko, 32; Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov, 35; Pavel Valeryevich Frolov, 28; Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, 29; Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko, 27; and Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin, 32 — are all charged with seven counts of conspiracy to hack, commit wire fraud, and causing computer damage.

#articles, #christmas, #crime, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #electricity, #emmanuel-macron, #government, #malware, #petya, #phishing, #ransomware, #russia, #security, #south-korea, #ukraine, #united-kingdom, #united-states


Trump Said to Be Warned That Giuliani Was Conveying Russian Disinformation

President Trump shrugged off the warning from the intelligence agencies, officials said.

#biden-hunter, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #giuliani-rudolph-w, #obrien-robert-c-1952, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #russia, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine, #united-states-politics-and-government


Battling Wildfire and Pandemic, Ukraine Faces a New Foe: Landmines

The blaze is setting off mines and other ordnance littering the war zone in eastern Ukraine, hampering already dangerous firefighting and evacuation efforts.

#explosions-accidental, #ukraine, #wildfires


Trump Has Sold Off America’s Credibility for His Personal Gain

From China to Ukraine, this president has acted at odds with American foreign policy. Imagine what he could do with four more years.

#china, #kyiv-ukraine, #national-security-council, #presidential-election-of-2020, #putin-vladimir-v, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vindman-alexander-s


On Ukraine’s Border, the Coronavirus Ends a Hasidic Pilgrimage

After days of pleading to enter Ukraine despite virus travel restrictions, some pilgrims sang the country’s national anthem, to no avail. Most turned back on Friday.

#belarus, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #jews-and-judaism, #rosh-hashana, #ukraine


Lev Parnas, Giuliani Associate, Faces New Fraud Charges

Mr. Parnas, who participated in a campaign to dig up dirt on the president’s political rivals, is accused of swindling investors.

#campaign-finance, #correia-david-p-1975, #fraud-guarantee, #frauds-and-swindling, #fruman-igor, #giuliani-rudolph-w, #parnas-lev, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #ukraine


Covid Strands Hasidic Pilgrims on Ukraine-Belarus Border

Hundreds of Jewish pilgrims seeking to travel from Belarus to Ukraine to visit the grave of a revered rabbi were barred from entering because of virus restrictions.

#belarus, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #hasidism, #israel, #rosh-hashana, #ukraine, #zelensky-volodymyr


Abducted Opposition Leader in Belarus Averts Expulsion to Ukraine

A plan by security agents to expel Maria Kolesnikova came unstuck at the border when she tore up her passport.

#belarus, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #lukashenko-aleksandr-g, #maria-kolesnikova, #putin-vladimir-v, #tikhanovskaya-svetlana, #ukraine


Report Details Manafort’s Ties During 2016 Trump Campaign to a Russian Agent

The former campaign chairman Paul Manafort kept in close touch with a longtime colleague whom Senate investigators identified as a Russian intelligence officer.

#deripaska-oleg-v, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #kilimnik-konstantin-v, #manafort-paul-j, #presidential-election-of-2016, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #senate-committee-on-intelligence, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine, #united-states-politics-and-government


Armed Man Seizes Hostages on Ukraine Bus

A man with a firearm and explosives called the police to announce he was holding about 20 people hostage in the western city of Lutsk. He made political demands.

#buses, #firearms, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #politics-and-government, #ukraine


In a Death, Details of More Russian Murder-for-Hire Plots

A Chechen man shot near Vienna last weekend had spoken publicly of giving Austrian and Ukrainian authorities information about contract killings. He also said there was a price on his head.

#austria, #beck-martin-d-2020, #chechnya-russia, #informers, #kadyrov-ramzan, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #politics-and-government, #russia, #targeted-killings, #ukraine


I’m a U.S. Citizen, Where in the World Can I Go?

For Americans eager to resume international travel, here are the countries that currently allow U.S. citizens to enter, though there may be restrictions.

#albania, #antigua-and-barbuda, #aruba, #bahama-islands, #barbados, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #ecuador, #french-polynesia-france, #kosovo, #maldives, #mexico, #quarantines, #serbia, #st-lucia, #st-maarten-caribbean, #st-vincent-and-the-grenadines, #tanzania, #travel-and-vacations, #turkey, #turks-and-caicos-islands, #ukraine, #united-states


Russia Denies Paying Bounties, but Some Say the U.S. Had It Coming

Russia’s grievances against what it sees as American bullying and expansion into its own zones of influence have been stacking up for decades.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #central-intelligence-agency, #gru-russia, #kabul-afghanistan, #kgb, #moscow-russia, #obama-barack, #putin-vladimir-v, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #ussr-former-soviet-union


Ukraine’s Backlog of Babies Born to Surrogates Begins to Ease

Eleven foreign couples, previously barred by coronavirus restrictions, have entered the country to meet their newborns. But births are still outpacing pickups.

#argentina, #babies-and-infants, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #kyiv-ukraine, #quarantines, #spain, #surrogate-motherhood, #travel-warnings, #ukraine


A Chess Prodigy’s Return to Health Brings Cheer to the Game

As she endured a difficult recovery from Covid-19, the grandmaster Irina Krush thrived in competition and found familiar support from others in the game.

#chess, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #krush-irina, #marshall-chess-club, #ukraine, #women-and-girls


Volodymyr Zelensky: My First Year as President of Ukraine

Ukraine’s president looks back at what got him through his first year in office.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #democratic-party, #european-union, #politics-and-government, #russia, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine, #united-states-international-relations


100 Babies Stranded in Ukraine After Surrogate Births

Travel bans have prevented the babies’ parents from entering the country. One official says as many as 1,000 babies will be born before restrictions are lifted.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #surrogate-motherhood, #ukraine


Iran Reports One Dead in Naval Exercise

Several other people were injured in the incident, state media reported.

#iran, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #ships-and-shipping, #ukraine


Skadden Said to Have Paid $11 Million to Settle Ukraine Dispute

The law firm paid a former Ukrainian prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, and an associate to avert a suit over its role in a report justifying her imprisonment by a political rival.

#craig-gregory-b, #foreign-agents-registration-act, #legal-profession, #lobbying-and-lobbyists, #manafort-paul-j, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #skadden-arps-slate-meagherflom-llp, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #tymoshenko-yulia-v, #ukraine, #united-states-international-relations, #van-der-zwaan-alex, #yanukovych-viktor-f


Uber subsidiary Careem to slash workforce by 31%, suspends bus transport app

Careem, the Dubai-based ride-hailing and delivery company that was acquired by Uber last year, is cutting its workforce by 31% and suspending its mass transportation business due to affects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The layoffs will affect more than 530 employees. Employees who are laid off will receive at least three months severance pay, one month of equity vesting, and where relevant, extended visa and medical insurance through the end of the year, according to the company’s blog post announcing the reductions.

“We delayed this decision as long as possible so that we could exhaust all other means to secure Careem,” Mudassir Sheikha, the company’s co-founder and CEO, wrote in a blog post Monday.

Careem started in 2012 as a ride-hailing company aiming to compete with Uber rival in the Middle East. In recently years, Careem has diversified its business, expanding into credit transfers, food and package delivery and bus services. Uber bought Careem in March 2019 for $3.1 billion.

Since the COVId-19 pandemic hit, Careem has seen business fall by more than 80%, Sheikha said.

The company made the cuts to preserve the business and its vision to create a consumer-facing “super app” that offers a suite of lifestyle services, including a digital payment platform and last-mile delivery. Those reductions will also affect some previously announced products, namely its mass transportation feature called Careem BUS.

“The economics of the mass transportation business have improved but remain challenging, and at this time, we need to accelerate our investments in deliveries and the Super App,”  We believe Careem BUS is a much-needed offering in some of our core markets, and I predict that the service will reappear on the Careem Super App in the future.” 

The announcement comes just hours after Uber Eats said it will shutter its on-demand food business in several markets, including in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine. Uber Eats said it will transfer its business operations in the in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem.

“Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem  platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” according to a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts.

#careem, #carsharing, #companies, #covid, #czech-republic, #dubai, #egypt, #food, #middle-east, #on-demand-food, #romania, #saudi-arabia, #sharing-economy, #tc, #transport, #transportation, #uber, #ukraine, #united-arab-emirates, #uruguay


Uber Eats exits seven markets, transfers one as part of competitive retooling

Uber Eats is pulling out of a clutch of markets — shuttering its on-demand food offering in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine.

It’s also transferring its Uber Eats business operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem, its wholly owned ride-hailing subsidiary that’s mostly focused on the Middle East.

“Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” it writes in a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts.

“These decisions were made as part of the Company’s ongoing strategy to be in first or second position in all Eats markets by leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others,” the filing adds.

An Uber spokesman said the changes are not related to the coronavirus pandemic but rather related to an ongoing “strategy of record” for the company to hold a first or second position in all Eats markets — which means it’s leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others.

Earlier this year, for example, Uber pulled the plug on its Eats offer in India — selling to local rival Zomato. Zomato and Swiggy hold the top two slots in the market. (As part of that deal Uber took a 9.99% stake in Zomato.)

Uber Eats rival, Glovo, also announced a series of exits at the start of this year — as part of its own competitive reconfiguration in a drive to cut losses and shoot for profitability. It too says its goal is to be the first or second platform in all markets where it operates.

The category is facing major questions about profitability — with now the added challenge of the coronavirus crisis. (Related: Another player in the space, Uk-based Deliveroo, confirmed a major round of layoffs last week.) tl;dr, on-demand unit economics don’t stack up unless you can command large enough marketshare so it looks like the competitive pack is thinning as it becomes clearer who’s winning where.

In a statement on the latest round of Eats exits, Uber said: “We have made the decision to discontinue Uber Eats in Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Uruguay, and to wind down the Eats app and transition operations to Careem in U.A.E. This continues our strategy of focusing our energy and resources on our top Eats markets around the world.”

The discontinued and transferred markets represented 1% of Eats’ Gross Bookings and 4% of Eats Adjusted EBITDA losses in Q1 2020, per Uber’s filing. 

“Consistent with our stated strategy, we will look to reinvest these savings in priority markets where we expect a better return on investment,” the filing adds. 

The Uber Eats spokesman told us that the exits do not sum to any change to the ‘more than 6,000 cities’ figure for the unit’s market footprint — which Uber reported earlier this year.

Asked which markets the company considers to be priorities going forward the spokesman did not respond. It’s also not clear whether or not Uber sought buyers for the shuttered units.

Per Uber’s filing, Eats operations will be fully discontinue in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine by June 4, 2020.

Uber Rides operations are not affected, it adds.

A source familiar with Uber also said the changes will allow the company to focus resources on new business lines — such as grocery and delivery.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the on-demand food delivery business as usual in many markets — with convenience-loving customers locked down at home so likely to be cooking more, and large numbers of restaurants closed (at least temporarily), putting a dent in the provider side of these platforms too.

At the same time there is a demand upside story in the groceries category. And last month Uber announced a tie-up with a major French supermarket, Carrefour, to expand its delivery offering nationwide. It also inked other grocery-related partnerships in Spain and Brazil.

Grocery delivery has been seeing a massive uptick as consumers look for ways to replenish their food cupboards while limiting infection risk.

While other types of deliveries — from pharmaceuticals to personal protective equipment — also potentially offer growth opportunities for on-demand logistics businesses, which is how many major food delivery platforms prefer to describe themselves.

#apps, #brazil, #careem, #czech-republic, #egypt, #europe, #food-delivery, #india, #logistics, #middle-east, #on-demand-food, #on-demand-food-delivery, #online-food-ordering, #romania, #saudi-arabia, #spain, #uber, #uber-eats, #ukraine, #united-arab-emirates, #uruguay, #zomato


Trump Moves to Replace Watchdog Who Identified Critical Medical Shortages

The president announced the nomination of an inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, who, if confirmed, would replace an acting official whose report embarrassed Mr. Trump.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #grimm-christi-a, #health-and-human-services-department, #inspectors-general, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine, #united-states-politics-and-government, #weida-jason-c, #yovanovitch-marie-l


In conversation with Sasha Astafyeva, Atomico’s new consumer-focused investment partner

European VC firm Atomico announced this week that it has hired Sasha Astafyeva as a new investment partner.

Astafyeva previously spent three years as a principal at Felix Capital . In her new role, she’ll lead “sourcing, due diligence, and management” of consumer tech companies, according to a company statement.

Originally from Ukraine, Astafyeva was previously head of business intelligence and strategy at Lyst, a London-based online fashion marketplace. She has also worked at online real estate marketplace VivaReal as the company’s VP of finance and business intelligence and did a stint at Dafiti, a Latin American online fashion company.

We caught up with Astafyeva for a conversation that spanned the coronavirus crisis’ impact on her area of interest, new trends during and potentially after lockdown and how it feels to be a consumer-focused investor in turbulent times.

TechCrunch: Congratulations on joining Atomico as a partner. However, isn’t this a terrible time to be a consumer-focused VC, given that we are facing the worst downturn in many of our lifetimes?

Sasha Astafyeva: Thank you for the congratulations, first of all! I’m very excited to join the team and help lead our consumer-focused efforts. It is absolutely an interesting time to join as we find ourselves in a world with highly elevated levels of uncertainty, tremendous economic hardships across the world and varying, and often fast-changing, responses of countries to this new reality. I think that we are only seeing the beginning of this and time will tell what our new reality will look like.

However, I would respectfully challenge the idea that it’s a terrible time to be a consumer-focused investor today. There are sectors of the consumer space that have been resilient and have even thrived, in the current environment, and speaking in a more macro way, I do think that there will be a trickle-down impact to other sectors of the economy beyond consumer as we continue to see the full effects of the current crisis. The task becomes for all of us, not only consumer investors but investors in general, to think about long-term impacts of the current situation we find ourselves in and adjust accordingly.

#atomico, #consumer-products, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #education, #entertainment, #europe, #extra-crunch, #felix-capital, #health, #lyst, #market-analysis, #online-food-delivery, #physical-retail, #sasha-astafyeva, #startups, #streaming-services, #tc, #ukraine, #venture-capital


Ukrainian Prison Décor

Personalized spaces of the incarcerated.

#doctors-without-borders, #prisons-and-prisoners, #shutdowns-institutional, #ukraine


Trump Proceeds With Post-Impeachment Purge Amid Pandemic

The president’s decision to fire the intelligence community’s inspector general under cover of darkness indicated that his hunt for those he considers disloyal continues.

#impeachment, #office-of-the-director-of-national-intelligence, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine


Online tutoring marketplace Preply banks $10M to fuel growth in North America, Europe

Online learning looks likely to be a key beneficiary of the social distancing and quarantine measures that are being applied around the world as countries grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In turn, this looks set to buoy some relative veterans of the space. To wit: Preply, a 2013-founded tutoring marketplace, is today announcing a $10 million Series A. It said the funding will be used to scale the business and beef up its focus on the US market, where it plans to open an office by the end of the year.

The Series A is led by London-based Hoxton Ventures, with European VC funds Point Nine Capital, All Iron Ventures, The Family, EduCapital, and Diligent Capital also participating.

Preply’s press release also notes a number of individual angel investors jumped aboard this round: Arthur Kosten of Booking.com; Gary Swart, former CEO of Upwork; David Helgason, founder of Unity Technologies; and Daniel Hoffer, founder of Couchsurfing.

The startup said it has seen a record number of daily hours booked on its platform this week. It also reports a spike in the number of tutors registering in markets including the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain — which are among the regions where schools have been closed as a coronavirus response measure.

Also this week Preply said some countries have seen the number of tutor registrations triple vs the same period in February, while it also reports a doubling of the number of hours students are booking on the platform in some markets.

The former TechStars Berlin alum closed a $1.3M seed back in 2016 to expand its marketplace in Europe, when it said it had 25,000 “registered” tutors — and was generating revenue from more than 130 countries.

The new funding will be used to help scale mainly in North America, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK, it said today.

Another core intent for the funding is to grow Preply’s current network of 10,000 “verified” tutors, who it says are teaching 50 languages to students in 190 countries around the world. So tackling the level of tutor churn it has evidently experienced over the years — by getting more of those who sign up to stick around teaching for a longer haul — looks to be one of the priorities now it’s flush with Series A cash.

It also plans to spend on building additional data-driven tools — including for assessments and homework.

The aim is to increase the platform’s utility by adding more features for tutors to track students’ progress and better support them to hit learning goals. “Preply wants to engage and enable tutors to develop alongside the platform, giving them the opportunity to explore training and lessons plans so they can streamline their income and maximize their classes,” it said in a press release.

Another area of focus on the product dev front is mobile. Here, Preply said it will be spending to boost the efficiency and improve the UX of its Android and iOS apps.

​“The new funding allows us to bring a more in-depth, immersive and convenient experience to both tutors and learners all over the world. Today, we are laser focused on language learning, but ultimately, I envision a future where anyone can learn anything using Preply,” said Kirill Bigai, CEO of Preply, in a statement.

“Getting to know Kirill and the team at Preply we were most impressed with their tremendous growth already in the US market as well as the size of the global market in online language tutoring. We believe the team has vast opportunity ahead of it, especially in the English-learning segment of the market where Preply already demonstrates market leadership,” added Hoxton Ventures’ Rob Kniaz in another supporting statement.

To date, Preply says some two million classes have been taken with teachers of 160 nationalities, via its marketplace. The platform maintains a strong focused on language learning, although topic-based lessons are also offered — such as maths and physics.

The business model entails taking a lead generation fee — in the form of the entire fee for the first lesson — after which it takes a revenue share of any lessons booked thereafter. The average price of a lesson on the platform is $15 to $20 per hour, per Preply, with tutors having leeway to set prices (within some fixed bounds, such as a minimum per lesson price).

The company currently employs 125 staff, based out of Kyiv (Ukraine) and Barcelona (Spain) and says its revenues have grown tenfold in the last three years.

A core tech component of the marketplace is a machine-learning matching system which it uses to increase the efficiency of pairing tutors with learners — touting this as a way to make “smarter connections” that “crack the code of effective language learning”.

In plainer language, it’s using automated decision-making to help users find a relevant teacher without having to do lots of search legwork themselves, while the platform can use AI-matching to drive bookings by managing the experience of tutor discovery in a way that also avoids students being overwhelmed by too much choice.

#all-iron-ventures, #artificial-intelligence, #booking-com, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #education, #europe, #fundings-exits, #gary-swart, #hoxton-ventures, #marketplace, #online-education, #online-learning, #point-nine-capital, #preply, #techstars, #ukraine