WASHINGTON – During his two days of meetings in the U.S. capital – with President Donald Trump and other senior officials in his administration – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko expressed his satisfaction with the support Ukraine was receiving from the United States, especially with respect to Russia’s aggression.
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan task force made up of former U.S. defense officials, ambassadors, and security experts renewed calls for the United States to give lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. On June 21, the National Security Task Force of the Friends of Ukraine Network urged the United States to provide a range of weapons, intelligence and training. “[T]he purpose of providing defensive weapons is to help Ukraine deter the Russians from carrying out further attacks, and to increase the pressure on Russia to negotiate seriously on implementing the Minsk agreements,” said Alexander Vershbow, a member of the task force and the former deputy secretary general of NATO. “The aim is not to encourage Ukraine to seek a military victory, which Kyiv knows isn’t possible,” he said at the launch event in Washington. The appeal comes the day after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
The European Union has urged international partners to coordinate any new sanctions against Russia, a day after the U.S. Senate proposed additional measures against Moscow that drew a sharp rebuke from Germany and other allies. A spokeswoman for the European Commission told the Reuters news agency on June 16 that it was “important for possible new measures to be coordinated between international partners to ensure their impact internationally and to maintain unity among partners on the sanctions.”
The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on June 15 for new sanctions on key sectors of Russia’s economy and cementing into law existing sanctions on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine and alleged meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Russia denies acting to influence the U.S. election, but the U.S. intelligence community in January issued an assessment affirming that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign” to benefit the candidacy of Donald Trump. Germany and Austria strongly objected to a key provision in the Senate’s legislation, saying it could hurt European businesses involved in a project to bring Russian natural-gas supplies to Europe. The provision enables the United States to impose sanctions on European firms involved in financing Russian energy-export pipelines to Europe, including the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is being built under the Baltic Sea to provide Russian gas to Germany.
Twice in the past several weeks, Russian intrusions put the Baltics on high alert. On June 1, several Russian soldiers, traveling from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad without transit permits, were stopped in Lithuania (Apollo.lv, June 2). A week later, two Goryn-class tugboats – the MB-119 and MB-35 – of the Russian navy were spotted inside Latvia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), nine nautical miles from its territorial waters (La.lv, June 6). Yet, both of these incidents pale in comparison to the expected scope of the upcoming Zapad (West) 2017 Russian military exercise, which will pose an important potential challenge to stability and security in the wider Baltic region this September. According to Belarusian Defense Minister Andrej Ravkov, the joint Russian-Belarusian Zapad exercise, which is conducted every four years, will be held across his country’s territory on September 14-20.
The aggressiveness Moscow has shown in its relations with countries in the former Soviet space reflects Russia’s loss of influence via “soft” power channels. At the same time, the Kremlin’s demonstrated bellicosity simply exacerbates that loss. Consequently, if President Vladimir Putin is going to rebuild Russia’s sway over the region, as he hopes, he will increasingly have to rely on “hard” power, including military and economic pressure. That – more than any of his personal preferences – explains Mr. Putin’s actions up to now, and it sets the stage for the further decomposition of the former Soviet space and for more violence as this process continues. And this trend will necessarily involve outside powers, ranging from China to the Middle Eastern states to the West.
“The United States notes with regret that the June 1 renewed ceasefire commitment, timed to coincide with International Children’s Day, did not last even a full day. The SMM [Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] reported 162 explosions and ceasefire violations throughout the evening of June 1 and into the morning of June 2. “Three years after Russia initiated this conflict, civilians continue to suffer. On the first day of June, a man and two women waiting at a bus stop in central Avdiyivka were gravely injured by an explosion; all three remain hospitalized. On June 5, the SMM reported that shrapnel from an artillery shell killed a mother and wounded her 9-year old son; the boy remains hospitalized.[…] Artillery attacks on critical infrastructure carried out by Russian-led separatists ensure civilians remain on the cusp of a humanitarian crisis….
ByRFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and RFE/RL’s Belarus Service |
KYIV – A Belarusian man who was one of the first protesters killed during the Euro-Maidan protests in Kyiv in 2014 has been posthumously awarded a Hero of Ukraine medal. President Petro Poroshenko handed the medal to Mikhail Zhyzneuski’s parents in Kyiv on June 13, making him the first foreigner awarded the high honor. Mr. Poroshenko thanked the parents for raising a man he hailed as “a hero who was a great Belarusian and a great Ukrainian in his heart.”
“He gave his life for our and your liberty,” the president said at the ceremony. The protests erupted late in 2013, after President Viktor Yanukovych scrapped plans for a landmark pact with the European Union and vowed to strengthen trade ties with Russia instead. Zhyzneuski and another protester Serhiy Nihoyan, a Ukrainian of Armenian origin, were shot dead in central Kyiv on January 22, 2014.
WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Educators from across Canada, the United States and Ukraine assembled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to attend the second Holodomor Education Conference: “Education–Awareness–Action” (HEC-2017) on May 5-7, at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR). The conference was organized by the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta, and held in cooperation with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The organizing committee included Valentina Kuryliw, director of education (HREC) and committee chair, Sophia Isajiw and Oksana Levytska of Toronto, and Val Noseworthy, Irka Balan, Dr. Orest Cap and Dr. Denis Hlynka of Winnipeg. The HEC-2017 conference brought together 120 education professionals, who teach from kindergarten to the university level. Educators of senior grades made up approximately half of the participants, while the primary and middle years were well represented.
It was another good week for Ukraine in Washington. President Petro Poroshenko met with President Donald Trump and other key officials in the U.S. administration to press his case that Ukraine is a success story and that it is fighting for its freedom and democracy. “There never was such a powerful visit,” Mr. Poroshenko was quoted as saying before his meetings. “And precisely in order to have the opportunity to talk about our cooperation in the security, political and economic spheres.” Afterwards, he said, “There was a full, detailed meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. We received strong support from the U.S. side, support in terms of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the independence of our state.”
It is significant that the meeting took place before Mr. Trump is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany on July 7-8.
Twenty-five years ago, on June 27, 1992, 11,815 people gathered at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, N.J., to watch the first international game between the national teams of Ukraine and the United States of America. The 0-0 draw was deemed a triumph for Ukraine. “It was a tremendous, tremendous success for the Ukrainian team,” said Ukrainian coach Victor Prokopenko. “This is the first time this team, which is made up of professional players from Ukraine, played together as a team.”
The team’s main coach, Valeriy Lobanovsky, was completing coaching commitments in Egypt, and resumed coaching duties in August 1992. Mr. Prokopenko said that team was fatigued and jet lagged due to visa delays in Moscow, which further delayed their arrival in New Jersey until late Friday evening.
The indirect costs of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, as well as his military muscle-flexing elsewhere – which resulted in the isolation of Russia internationally and greater repression and human suffering domestically – are perhaps incalculable. But the direct costs for the military can be measured, and they are growing, quite possibly beyond the level of sustainability. That is just one reason behind the Kremlin leader’s declaration during his Direct Line program on June 15 that he plans to cut defense spending over the next few years (novayagazeta.ru/news/2017/06/15/ 132523-putin-zayavil-o-planah-snizit-rashody-na-oboronu). Such cuts appear likely to hit personnel and military retirees, in the first instance, places where a great deal of money can be saved – in Russia today, personnel increasingly is expensive relative to equipment – but there are limits to that, given that such cuts undermine the loyalty of those in uniform (kommersant.ru/doc/3325573). In the June 15 issue of Segodnya, Mikhail Pashkov of the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center argues that Russia is following in the path of the USSR in its military spending, a course that he suggests contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union and is placing ever more unbearable burdens on Russia (segodnya.ua/opinion/pashkovcolumn/cena- rossiyskogo-velichiya- 1029867.html).
Moscow began its efforts to undermine Ukraine, not in 2013 in reaction to the Maidan, as many encouraged by Russia believe, but already in 1991, Kyiv military expert Nikolay Sungurovsky says. And those efforts began because Moscow feared that “a successful Ukraine would threaten the territorial integrity of Russia.”
“Russia reacted aggressively not to the Maidan,” the director of military programs at the Razumkov Center in Kyiv says, “but to the possibility that Ukraine would go along a European path of development.” Moscow has used various methods to try to prevent that (glavred.info/mir/deystviya-rossii-protiv-ukrainy-nachalis-s-1991-go-goda-voennyy-ekspert-439107.html). Indeed, Mr. Sungurovsky says, “attempts at destabilizing and weakening Ukraine from the inside have not ceased over the course of its entire period of independence” – a conclusion for which there is “official confirmation.” As Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of Ukraine, said, “Russian policy always was and always will be anti-Ukrainian.”
Moreover, the Kyiv military analyst continues, Moscow has used a variety of tactics across the former Soviet space, ranging from propaganda directed at the post-Soviet countries and to that directed at the West up to and including the so-called “frozen conflicts” in Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine (glavred.info/chat/nikolay-sungurovskiy-435683.html).
The following statement was released by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. Earlier today, President Donald Trump welcomed Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko to the Oval Office for a frank discussion about recent developments in Ukraine, as well as continuing the United States’ support of Ukraine in defense of its sovereignty and democratic values. Today’s meeting came on the heels of Speaker Paul Ryan and Chairman of Ukraine’s Parliament Andriy Parubiy meeting last week and signing a memorandum of understanding reaffirming the U.S. Congress- Verkhovna Rada Parliamentary Exchange (CRPE). Also today, the United States Treasury sanctioned 38 additional individuals and entities related to Russia’s continued occupation of Crimea. While all of these developments serve to demonstrate to the world that the longstanding strategic alliance between Ukraine and the United States continues on, we can ill afford to sit back while Russia continues to go on the offensive.
A hearing on the Massachusetts Genocide Education Bill, sponsored and drafted by the Greater Boston Committee for the Remembrance of the Holodomor, will be conducted on June 27. The bill aims to require the study of genocide in the public schools of Massachusetts, and the study of the Holodomor is specifically mentioned in the proposed legislation. The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. in Hearing Room A-2 in the State Capitol on Beacon Street in Boston. Proponents will be given three minutes to present their views; they are encouraged to present new information to the Joint Legislative Committee, rather than reiterate what other speakers have said. The Boston Committee for the Remembrance of the Holodomor urges all members of the Ukrainian community to offer their support at this important time.
It’s a small case in a big hall. I have no idea how many people will pause beside it, but millions of visitors will eventually tour through the Canadian History Hall. The first guests entering this newly renovated space within the Canadian Museum of History will arrive on July 1, Canada Day, which this year is the 150th birthday of our country. Odds are that more than a few will stop where I did. That’s good.