Kyiv defies Moscow with missile tests, as Putin ignores Ukraine in annual speech

KYIV – Relations between Ukraine and Russia hit a new low last week when Kyiv held a series of missile tests and military exercises on December 1-2 near the Kremlin-annexed peninsula of Crimea. Kyiv had fired more than a dozen mid-range anti-aircraft missiles over the two-day period from Kherson in the south that flew as close as 30 kilometers near Crimean airspace that Moscow considers its own, yet is not internationally recognized. Even though Ukraine had sent out what are called NOTAMs, or aviation notices, on November 24 for sea and air space restrictions, Russia balked two days before the exercises. Russia’s Defense Ministry warned that it would shoot down the rockets and launchers on Ukrainian territory in a note delivered initially to the defense attaché at Ukraine’s Embassy in Moscow, according to the Interfax news agency. The Kremlin later toned its stance on December 1, the first day of the scheduled missile launches.

At the Helsinki Commission briefing on human rights and security violations in Russian-occupied Crimea (from left) are: Paul Goble, Ambassador John Herbst, Orest Deychakiwsky, Oksana Shulyar and Taras Berezovets.

Helsinki Commission focuses on human rights, security violations in Russian-occupied Crimea

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is known as the Helsinki Commission, on November 10 held a briefing whose goal was to discuss how Ukrainians continue to defend Helsinki principles in the face of Moscow’s egregious and unrepentant violations, and how the international community is responding. Panelists were: Orest Deychakiwsky, U.S. Helsinki Commission; Oksana Shulyar, deputy chief of mission, Embassy of Ukraine to the United States; John E. Herbst, director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (2003-2006); Paul A. Goble, editor, Windows on Eurasia, and professor, The Institute of World Politics; and Taras Berezovets, founder, Free-Crimea Project, Kyiv. The Ukrainian Helsinki Group was formed 40 years ago, on November 10, 1976, to monitor compliance of the Soviet regime with the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. Orest Deychakiwsky of the Helsinki Commission noted in his opening statement that among the initiators of the group was Petro Grigorenko, a decorated World War II Soviet Army general who was also a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Because he fought for human rights and the rights of Crimean Tatars, Grigorenko was subjected to repressions and psychiatric abuse by Soviet authorities.

Patriarch Filaret

Patriarch Filaret: ‘Independent Ukraine not possible without an independent Church’

PARSIPPANY, N.J. – “Independent Ukraine is not possible without an independent Ukrainian Church.” These were the words of Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate at the opening of his remarks during a visit to the Home Office of the Ukrainian National Association and its two weekly newspapers. The visit occurred on November 7, during the primate’s most recent pastoral visit to the United States, where he has some 20 parishes. At the UNA, Patriarch Filaret addressed employees, blessed the staff and the premises of the Home Office, and gave an exclusive interview to editors of Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly. The interview was conducted by Lev Khmelkovsky of Svoboda and Roma Hadzewycz, editor-in-chief of Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly. Following are excerpts of the interview in translation from the original Ukrainian.

The Bastion missile system: symbol of power and foreign policy tool

The militarization of Russia has reached such an extent that not only its military force as such has become a foreign policy tool, but even individual weapons systems are also being used for this purpose. In recent weeks, the coastal defense missile system Bastion has acquired the role of a foreign policy tool. It denies the enemy access to a 600-kilometer-long (372 miles) stretch of the coast, covering a maritime area of 150,000 square kilometers (57,915 square miles), and can defend the approaches to a political and administrative district as part of the latter’s joint defensive system. Recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin that Bastion was used in a real battle situation in Syria for the first time. Ironically, it was not fired at sea targets.

Senators call for stand against Russian aggression, support for NATO and Ukrainian sovereignty

Urge increased political, economic and military support for Ukraine

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), co-chairs of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, on December 8 led a bipartisan group of 27 senators to call on President-elect Donald Trump to continue America’s tradition of support for the people of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. “In light of Russia’s continued aggression and repeated refusal to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereign right to choose its own destiny, we also renew our call for the United States to increase political, economic and military support for Ukraine,” the senators wrote. “This includes defensive lethal assistance as part of a broader effort to help Ukrainians better defend themselves, deter future aggression, and implement key structural reforms.”

They added, “Similarly, we believe that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea should never be accepted, nor should we lift sanctions imposed on Russia for its behavior in eastern Ukraine until key provisions of the Minsk agreement are met.” The full text of the senators’ letter follows.  

President-elect Donald J. Trump

Trump-Pence Transition Team

1717 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20006

Dear President-elect Trump,

As members and friends of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, advocates for a strong U.S.-Ukrainian relationship and backers of NATO, we write to convey strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine in the United States Senate.

Deal struck for visa-free travel to Europe for Ukraine, Georgia

BRUSSELS – European Union member states and the European Parliament have struck a deal to end a dispute that had been holding up a decision to allow Ukrainians and Georgians visit the bloc without needing a visa. Writing on his Facebook page, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the “encouraging news from Brussels.”

“This agreement is balanced, and is extremely important for both the effectiveness and credibility of the union’s visa-liberalization policy,” a December 8 statement quoted European Council President and Slovak Internal Affairs Minister Robert Kalinak as saying. “The fact that we have reached an agreement should open the door to further progress on visa-liberalization talks with other countries that meet all the necessary requirements,” said Mr. Kalinak, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency. Separately, European Parliament member Agustin Diaz de Mera said the deal “will facilitate the immediate consideration of the two visa-liberalization proposals for Georgia and Ukraine.”

The statement said EU countries and lawmakers agreed to a compromise text on a regulation to strengthen the suspension mechanism that can be applied to all visa-liberalization agreements in emergencies amid fears over immigration and terrorism. The regulation now has to be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and to the European Council for adoption.

“…Twenty-five years before James Madison wrote the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and 250 years ago to the day, the Riksdag passed the Swedish Press Act – the world’s first law upholding freedom of the press and freedom of information. “’Both our nations understand that information is like oxygen to a democracy. Without it, how can citizens properly assess the challenges and choices before them for collective governance? And if information is like oxygen to a democracy, the press is its lifeblood – the vehicle for synthesizing and transmitting information to every part of the body politic. …

“In Russia, the government spends at least $400 million each year for its propaganda machine of bots and trolls and factories of false content to undermine trust in independent media.

Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea

The following is a guest editorial by Orest Deychakiwsky, policy advisor, U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission). The text is adapted from his opening remarks at the commission’s November 10 briefing on “Ongoing Human Rights and Security Violations in Russian-Occupied Crimea.” 

With Russia’s ongoing illegal occupation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine – where it continues to direct, arm and finance its separatist proxies – Russia continues to flout every single one of the core OSCE principles enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, including territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, sovereignty, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The situation in Crimea is bleak, and continues to deteriorate both from a democracy and human rights, as well as a security standpoint and other standpoints as well. The Russian occupying authorities persistently violate the rights of the Crimean people, first and foremost those who are perceived to oppose the illegal annexation. The Crimean Tatars have been especially targeted, as have been all those Ukrainians who do not remain silent in accepting Moscow’s rule. Examples abound.

December 13, 2014

Two years ago, on December 13, 2014, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act (S 2828/ HR 5859) was passed by unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate, thus passing both houses of Congress after the hotline vote by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 11. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on December 18. A statement by the White House Office of the Press Secretary, noted:

“…Signing this legislation does not signal a change in the administration’s sanctions policy, which we have carefully calibrated in accordance with developments on the ground and coordinated with our allies and partners. At this time, the administration does not intend to impose sanctions under this law, but the act gives the administration additional authorities that could be utilized, if circumstances warranted. …We again call on Russia to end its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, cease support to separatists in eastern Ukraine, and implement the obligations it signed up to under the Minsk agreements.

It’s long past time to identify and shame Holodomor deniers

One of the positive developments of recent decades has been the willingness of historians and those concerned with human rights to identify, shame and isolate those who deny the Holocaust. Today, it is long past time to do the same thing with those who deny the Holodomor, Stalin’s genocidal terror famine against Ukrainians and others. On November 26, Ukrainians and people of good will around the world paused to remember the victims of Stalin’s murderous attack by famine on the Ukrainian people which claimed as many as 10 million lives, intentionally led to the Russification of Ukraine, and thus set the stage for many of today’s problems there. At the time of the famine, Soviet officials and useful idiots in the West like the notorious Walter Duranty denied that any famine was taking place. But the evidence for that crime was too great and was most usefully assembled by James Mace and the U.S. Commission on the Ukrainian Famine in the 1980s (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=583BE13B37921).

Patriarch Kirill at 70: No autocephaly for Ukraine and no multiculturalism for Russia

Patriarch Kirill, who has become the leading promoter of the traditionalist national values in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, says on the occasion of his 70th birthday that the Moscow Patriarchate will never allow an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church or the appearance of multiculturalism in Russia itself. Feted by Orthodox and Russian state leaders, including President Putin, who not only gave the patriarch another award but suggested that it is likely it was Patriarch Kirill’s father who secretly baptized the young Putin many years ago (interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=65227), the patriarch used the occasion not only to reaffirm his hard line but to declare that he has “only just begun” to push it. Patriarch Kirill made that declaration in the course of an extensive interview with the Moscow newspaper Kommersant (kommersant.ru/doc/3148819), which he began in the best traditions of the Soviet background that he shares by providing statistics about the growth in church institutions rather than concern about religious faith itself. “If you’ll permit me,” the Russian Church leader said, “I will begin with statistics.” Since he became patriarch, the number of Moscow Patriarchate churches has increased by 5,000, the number of priests by 10,000, and the number of monasteries by 122. There are now 160 more parishes in Moscow, and the number of bishoprics has gone up from 159 to 296.

What Iskander means

Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian Crimea under cover of the closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics was the most despicable use of the Olympic ideal in the Games’ modern era. The subsequent proxy war in eastern Ukraine, the murder of 298 people on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the human rights abuses by Russia’s agents and proxy thugs, and the stream of lies about all of it have continued the crime begun with Sochi. As these events unfolded I marveled at how quickly elites of both left and right discarded the meager gains of all the blood spilled in Europe in the 20th century – international law, the United Nations and the protection of sovereign nations from the predation of imperial powers. Evil developments, all. But, from the start, the geopolitical catastrophe of Russia’s invasions of Ukraine was the undermining of international nuclear arms control.

25th anniversary of the recognition by Canada of Ukraine’s independence

The statement below was released on December 2 by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Today marks the 25th anniversary of Canada’s recognition of Ukraine’s Independence. On December 1, 1991, the people of Ukraine were asked, “Do you support the Act of Declaration of the Independence of Ukraine?” as was adopted by Ukraine’s Parliament on August 24, 1991. For centuries, the Ukrainian people struggled, fought and spilled their blood for the simple, sacred dream of living free on their own land. For the unalienable right to choose, as a free people, their own future, speak their own language, foster their own culture and traditions.

A Slav fest in Washington

Most readers of The Weekly, one would imagine, have at some point in their lives made a monetary contribution to “Ukrainian studies.” It may have been a hard-earned $5 bill tendered cautiously to an importunate gentleman in a shabby suit carrying a battered briefcase on the steps of your parish church, or it may have been a $50,000 check signed with a flourish in a flush of well-lubricated patriotism at a fancy hotel banquet. It may have gone to fund a chair or an institute in Canada or the United States, or a university in Ukraine. In any case, you may have occasionally wondered whether your contribution has produced tangible results. A few days at the recent ASEEES convention in Washington would have answered your question. Founded in 1948, the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (formerly known by the no less cumbersome name of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies or “Triple A Double S”) publishes the respected academic journal Slavic Review and hosts annual conventions encompassing history, literary studies, linguistics, political science, the arts, and other fields pertaining to the cultural and geographic area indicated by its name.

Marta Baziuk, executive director of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium, addresses conference participants at Knox College, University of Toronto, on October 28.

Empire, colonialism and the Holodomor discussed in comparative historical perspective

TORONTO – Holodomor was a central theme at the conference “Empire, Colonialism and Famine in Comparative Historical Perspective,” held October 28-29 in Toronto. This is the fourth international conference organized by the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (University of Alberta). The first day of the conference, held at University of Toronto, featured presentations on the Irish Famine, the Holodomor and the Bengal Famine of 1943. Liudmyla Hrynevych, from the Institute of History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, presented on “The Ukrainian Holodomor in the Context of Soviet Imperialism.” Dr. Hrynevych noted that the Ukrainian Famine is most often understood through the prism of communism and totalitarianism, with imperialism and colonialism marginal to intellectual discussions. She outlined the colonial policies of the Kremlin and the massive, forcible extraction of grain at the expense of the Ukrainian people, adding that “It was precisely the depriving of Ukrainian authorities of the right to manage the harvest that led to the Holodomor.”

Discussant Mark von Hagen of Arizona State University noted that already by 1921 the political activist Pavlo Khrystiuk had raised the question of Ukraine’s subordinate status, as would the economist Mykhailo Volobuiev in the late 1920s, before an anti-colonial critique in Ukraine became impossible.