Chrystia Freeland, at the time Canada’s minister of international trade, addresses the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations on January 6.

Chrystia Freeland is appointed as Canada’s foreign affairs minister

OTTAWA – Chrystia Freeland has become the most powerful federal government minister in Canadian history following a Cabinet shuffle by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on January 10. Ms. Freeland, who had served as Canada’s international trade minister since the Trudeau Liberals formed a government in 2015, was promoted to foreign affairs minister, replacing Stéphane Dion, who is also a former federal leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Cabinet shake-up – in which three ministers were given new roles, three new persons were appointed as ministers, and three ministers were removed – also reduced Ukrainian Canadian representation on the ministerial team by half through the removal of MaryAnn Mihychuk as minister of employment, workforce development and labor. In an unprecedented move, Mr. Trudeau also gave 48-year-old, Alberta-born Ms. Freeland – only the third female Canadian foreign affairs minister in history – the added responsibility of maintaining the trade portion of the Canada-U.S. file as the Canadian government prepares for Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on January 20, effectively making the Ukrainian Canadian former journalist second only to the prime minister in power and influence. “One of the things that we’ve seen from President-elect Trump is that he very much takes a trade and job lens to his engagements with the world in international diplomacy,” Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters following the swearing-in ceremony of Ms. Freeland and five other Cabinet ministers.

Victor Pinchuk at the 13th Yalta European Strategy annual meeting in September 2016.

Pinchuk’s tone of appeasement toward Russia rattles Kyiv

KYIV – Victor Pinchuk, the billionaire tycoon known for staging Ukraine’s premiere gathering of leaders and thinkers on Ukraine’s European future, drew criticism for suggesting that his country shelve integration with the continent and temporarily sacrifice Crimea in exchange for peace with Russia. He did so in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on December 29. On the commentary titled “Ukraine must make painful compromises for peace with Russia,” Mr. Pinchuk, 56, said that “Ukraine should give up the idea of European Union membership,” including NATO, and that “Crimea is Ukraine, but this position should not be an obstacle on the way of returning Donbas.”

He furthermore advocated for holding local elections in the Russia-occupied Donbas even though there won’t be “conditions for fair elections until Ukraine has full control over its territory.”

For years an advocate for closer ties with the 28-nation European Union, Mr. Pinchuk’s article came exactly three weeks before he holds the Davos Ukrainian Breakfast at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on January 19. CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria is scheduled to moderate a discussion on Ukraine’s future in a “changing world” between former British Prime Minister David Cameron and Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s vice prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration. President Petro Poroshenko won’t attend the yearly meal that Mr. Pinchuk hosts in Davos, online news publication Leviy Bereg reported, citing anonymous sources in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

European allies of U.S. warn Trump about “new grand bargain with Russia”

WASHINGTON – A group of 17 decision-makers and public figures from countries across Central and Eastern Europe sent a letter on January 9 to U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump warning him about any potential “new grand bargain with Russia.”

According to a news story in The Washington Post, they wrote: “Have no doubt: Vladimir Putin is not America’s ally. Neither is he a trustworthy international partner. Both of the presidents who preceded you tried in their own ways to deal with Russia’s leadership in the spirit of trust and friendship. Big mistake: Putin treated their good intentions as opportunities.”

“Russia’s continuing efforts to destabilize Ukraine, and its illegal annexation of Crimea, threaten the peace, predictability and security that Americans and Europeans created together through our victory in the Cold War,” the letter-writers pointed out. “As your treaty-bound allies, we appeal to Americans in the new U.S. Administration and Congress to stand firm in the defense of our common goals and interests: peace, Atlantic strength, and freedom,” the pro-American leaders stated.

The illusion of a restored Russian superpower

For the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States has been declared a “threat” to Russia’s national security. The new Russian foreign policy concept, signed by President Vladimir Putin, was published on December 1, 2016 (, December 1, 2016). It replaced the previous concept adopted in 2013. The Russian financial website candidly named the new foreign policy concept a “Cold War doctrine,” because of its premise of confrontation with the West (, December 1, 2016). Indeed, if in the 2013 foreign policy concept Russia considered itself “an integral part of Europe,” now such language is excluded and replaced instead with accusations of “geopolitical expansion” by the European Union.

Ukrainians reflect bitterly on ‘betrayed hopes’ of Euro-Maidan

KYIV – Between classes in Kolkata, India, 17-year-old Svyatoslav Yurash was glued to a video stream of almost a million of his compatriots rallying in Ukraine’s capital when he decided to join the protest that would soon swell into a revolt.

The night before in Kyiv – on November 30, 2013 – hundreds of demonstrators, most of them students, had been bludgeoned by riot police. The idealistic Mr. Yurash couldn’t stand by any longer. He flew home and rushed to Independence Square – better known as simply the Maidan. Soon, he would launch the influential Euro-Maidan PR agency that amplified voices from the barricades in half a dozen or so languages across almost as many platforms.

Out on the Maidan, the “loss of hope” that had driven Mr. Yurash out of Ukraine after the 2010 election victory of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych faded. As he and his fellow protesters pressed their case for closer ties to the West and greater transparency, fighting back the ranks of riot police, passion swelled within him.

Obama signs law restructuring U.S. international news media

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama has approved legislation that would consolidate oversight of U.S. nonmilitary broadcasting in the hands of a single chief executive – an overhaul that supporters laud as a much-needed reform but critics warn could endanger journalistic independence. The legislation, part of a larger bill on U.S. defense spending in 2017 that the president signed into law on December 23, restructures the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the agency that oversees civilian government broadcasting and media operations such as RFE/RL and Voice of America. The new law will replace the BBG’s bipartisan board with a presidentially appointed advisory board that will not have decision-making powers. Instead, those powers will be placed in the hands of a CEO appointed by the White House and subject to Senate confirmation. Proponents of the law, which was spearheaded by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and backed by the Obama administration, say it will improve performance of U.S. international broadcasting by scrapping a board consisting of members who served part-time and met infrequently.

A Trump-Putin deal on Crimea could trigger a much bigger war

Avraam Smulyevich, a leading Israeli specialist on ethnic issues in the former Soviet space, says that Kyiv might be forced to agree to a Trump-Putin deal on Crimea but that such a deal would “only convince the Russian dictator that he had to invade other countries without being punished” and thus lead him to launch new wars. “Putin himself has acknowledged,” the head of the Israeli Institute for an Eastern Partnership told Kseniya Kirillova in an interview published on January 3 by Radio Liberty, “that the Syrian war is a training ground for his army and that the state of his army has really improved” ( The Kremlin leader is “evidently preparing his country for war” in order, among other things, to preserve his own power by launching aggression abroad. The rest of Ukraine is less likely to be in his sights than the Baltic countries, Poland or “some countries in the South Caucasus such as Azerbaijan.”

And in the current environment, Mr. Shmulyevich says, it is possible that Vladimir Putin will reach an agreement with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan “about the participation of the Middle East or a dash into Central Asia,” a region Ankara has long coveted and one that Moscow would like to rebuild its power in. With regard to a settlement on Crimea, he continues, “the return of Crimea is even more important for some representatives of the West than it is for the ruling Ukrainian elite.” That is because Kyiv wants to end the conflict as soon as possible, while some in the West want to maintain the principle of the inviolability of international borders by force alone.

State of war exists between Russia and Ukraine, Portnikov says

It is a measure of the triumph of Kremlin propagandists, the fecklessness of Western leaders and the fears in Kyiv of angering both that, more than two years after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, a Ukrainian commentator has been forced again to state the obvious: a state of war exists between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian media has been having a field day with a speech by Mikhail Aleksandrov, a researcher at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, who said at a meeting of the Russian Institute for Strategic and International Studies that Moscow should attack Ukraine with missiles and transform Ukraine into “a new Syria.” (For his speech, see

Now, Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov has offered a commentary on what that speech means, what it doesn’t, and why Ukrainians view it as an indication of Moscow’s real intentions toward their country ( Ukrainians read it this way because they can see what Moscow is doing despite all of Moscow’s declarations that “ ‘we aren’t there,’ that there is a civil conflict [between the Ukrainian authorities and the Donbas], and that to punish Russia which seeks exclusively for stabilization of the situation in a neighboring country is the most obvious cynicism of the West.”

Mr. Aleksandrov’s words do not permit an alternative interpretation as to what he would like to see happen in Ukraine: the bombing of Ukrainian cities, rocket attacks and the advance of “the Donbas Army” throughout the country, “cleansing the occupied territory and establishing order.”

“This really is the plan of the Syrian war,” Mr. Portnikov writes, “and this means that Kharkiv, Mariupil, Berdiansk and Melitopil will look like Aleppo, that out of the destroyed cities of the Ukrainian east hundreds of thousands will flee into nearby regions and countries, that the bodies of people… will rot in the streets, and that only ruins will remain.”

Were that to happen, then next door to Russia there would be a pile of ashes, he says, as anyone can conclude having glanced at pictures of Aleppo now or Grozny a decade or two ago. Of course, Mr. Aleksandrov’s speech is not necessarily an indication of what Vladimir Putin will do. The Kremlin leader “is carrying out against Ukraine ‘a hybrid war,’ occupying territory with the help of local collaborationists, imitating civic conflict and using force to destabilize a neighboring country in order to prevent it from carrying out an independent policy.”

“This too is a horrific war,” the commentator writes.

Exit memos from outgoing U.S. Cabinet members

Outgoing members of the Cabinet of President Barack Obama on January 5 submitted exit memos that included references to developments in Ukraine as it continues to face Russian aggression. Below are the relevant excerpts from the memoranda written by Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Secretary of State Kerry, in his exit memo to President Obama, wrote:

“The United States has continued to stand with Ukraine as it pursues the sovereign and democratic future that its people deserve. In the face of Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine and its illegal occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, Ukraine has worked to build stronger and more effective political, economic, and security institutions. The United States has stood with Ukraine as it strengthens its democracy, and we and our European partners have continued to press for the full implementation of the Minsk agreement to end the conflict in Donbas and return the conflict zone and the international border to Ukrainian control.


VP Biden headed on last trip to Kyiv

KYIV – U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, long the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine, will make a farewell visit to Kyiv on Sunday, January 15, it was announced by the Office of President Petro Poroshenko. The Reuters news service noted that the vice-president, one of Ukraine’s strongest political supporters will fly to Ukraine “as the country looks forward with apprehension to the new administration of Donald Trump.” Mr. Biden has visited Ukraine five times (his most recent visit was in December 2015), and he maintains regular phone contact with Mr. Poroshenko. Reuters noted: “Officials in Ukraine have expressed concern that U.S. support could wane following the January 20 inauguration of Trump, who has voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and a desire to improve ties with Moscow. Biden, who last year promised the ‘unwavering support’ of the United States for Ukraine, has nevertheless chastised officials for lackluster reform efforts, warning that endemic corruption risks undermining international will to maintain sanctions on Russia.” (Reuters, The New York Times, RFE/RL)

Tillerson on Russian actions in Crimea

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State-nominee Rex Tillerson said the United States should have had a more robust military response following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Asked at his confirmation hearing on January 11 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) what the U.S. response should have been, Mr. Tillerson said more defensive weapons, intelligence and air surveillance should have been provided.

Dr. Serhiy Kvit with Tetiana Antoniuk and Dr. Peter Mahaffy.

International symposium discusses higher education in Ukraine

EDMONTON, Alberta – The Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta hosted a symposium on December 8-9, 2016, about the progress of reforms in higher education in Ukraine. The event was attended by Dr. Serhiy Kvit, former minister of education and science of Ukraine, along with leading analysts from several countries. It was presented as part of the Research Initiatives on Democratic Reform in Ukraine (RIDRU) project. On the first day, the program concentrated on recent developments in higher education in Ukraine. Dr. Kvit’s presentation focused on how greater autonomy is being promoted in academic, financial and administrative affairs at Ukrainian universities, helping to prevent rectors and senior officials’ participation in the corruption that currently dominates the government and society.

The map titled “Total Direct Famine Losses in Ukraine by Region, 1932-1934,” published by the HURI project “Mapa: Digital Atlas of Ukraine.”

Annual Ukrainian Famine lecture delivered by Plokhy

TORONTO – The 19th Toronto Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture was delivered on November 11, 2016, by Serhii Plokhy, Mykhailo Hrushevskyi Professor of Ukrainian History and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. His presentation, attended by a full auditorium at the University of Toronto, was titled “The Fields of Sorrow: Mapping the Great Ukrainian Famine.”

The event was organized by the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (University of Alberta) with the support of the Petro Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine (Center for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Toronto); the Canadian Foundation for Ukrainian Studies; and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (Toronto branch). Prof. Plokhy provided an overview of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI) project called “Mapa: Digital Atlas of Ukraine.” One of the most striking maps, “Total Direct Famine Losses in Ukraine by Region, 1932-1934,” shows that the area hardest hit by the Holodomor was the central Ukrainian heartland in the Kyiv and Kharkiv oblasts rather than the main grain-growing region of southern Ukraine, which had suffered the most during the famine of the early 1920s when the Soviet Union had accepted food aid. One possible explanation for the lower losses in southern Ukraine in 1932-1934 is that because the region had higher levels of collectivization, the population was not subjected to the same degree of punitive in-kind taxes that meant the seizure of foodstuffs. Prof. Plokhy noted that the Soviet Union was hiring Western expertise for its ambitious industrial projects such as the Dnipro Hydroelectric Station (Dniprohes) in Zaporizhia at a time when the United States was reeling from the effects of the Great Depression.

Presenters at the Holodomor event held at the Embassy of Ukraine (from left): Oksana Shulyar, Bohdana Urbanovych, Dr. Frank Sysyn, Larysa Kurylas, Liudmyla Hrynevych, Marta Baziuk and Bohdan Klid.

Presentations on the Holodomor at the Embassy of Ukraine

WASHINGTON – A number of presentations related to the Holodomor were made at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington on November 17, 2016. The evening event was organized by the Shevchenko Scientific Society, Washington, D.C., chapter, together with the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. Oksana Shulyar, counsellor and head of the Political Section of the Embassy, welcomed the audience to the historic Embassy building and spoke about the importance of the Holodomor to understanding Ukraine. Bohdana Urbanovych, head of the Shevchenko Scientific Society’s Washington chapter, also offered words of welcome. Andrew Sorokowski, secretary of the Shevchenko Scientific Society, introduced the evening’s speakers.

A screenshot of the CIUS Digital Archive Project website.

CIUS Digital Archive Project website is launched

EDMONTON, Alberta – Developed in close cooperation with the University of Alberta Libraries and the Arts Resource Center, the Digital Archive Project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) aims to digitize, systematize and describe the core publications of the institute that have been produced over the last 40 years – essentially, since its founding in 1976. All of the digitized materials are part of the open access University of Alberta Library collections and are freely available online. The CIUS Digital Archive Project website has a search system, which operates on basic criteria such as type of document, year of publication, author, subject, scholarly discipline and chronological coverage. As of December 2016, the CIUS Digital Archive Project website contains the following materials:

• Thirty-three books published by CIUS Press, consisting mainly of out-of-print books and books on Ukrainians in Canada;

• Sixty-five research reports, consisting largely of descriptions of archival collections, rare bibliographies and other guides to researchers;

• All of the back issues of the Journal of Ukrainian Studies. Since its founding, CIUS has published an academic journal containing articles and reviews in the humanities and social sciences on topics in the scholarly field of Ukrainian studies;

• All of the back issues of the CIUS Newsletter, which has been chronicling and summarizing CIUS activities and achievements since its founding in 1976;

• The four issues of Visnyk, a Ukrainian-language newsletter published in the early 1990s for the readership of CIUS donors; and

• A complete set of CIUS press releases.

Cover illustration of the “History of Ukraine-Rus’,” Volume 3: “Christ in His Glory,” from the Egbert (Trier) Psalter (11th century).

Hrushevsky Translation Project Produces Volume 3 of “History of Ukraine-Rus’”

EDMONTON-TORONTO – The Peter Jacyk Center for Ukrainian Historical Research of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, and CIUS Press announced the publication of a new volume of Mykhailo Hrushevsky’s “History of Ukraine-Rus’.” The new English-language Volume 3, like the eight volumes previously published (between 1997 and 2014), was prepared by the Jacyk Center’s Hrushevsky Translation Project. With its appearance in 2016, Volume 3, subtitled “To the Year 1340,” also marks the 150th anniversary of Hrushevsky’s birth. Hrushevsky characterized his multi-volume “History of Ukraine-Rus’ ” as the story of the Ukrainian people’s existence from the earliest times to the modern era. In Volume 3 he deals with one of that history’s least known but most intriguing periods – the time of the preeminence of the Galician-Volhynian state and the spread of Tatar (Mongol) rule over the Ukrainian lands. In this volume the master historian also offers a comprehensive discussion of the political, social and cultural life of the Old Rus’ period, during the flourishing of the princely state centered in Kyiv.