Dr. Ulana Suprun

Ukrainian American radiologist tapped as Ukraine’s deputy minister of health

KYIV – Dr. Ulana Suprun, a trained radiologist of Ukrainian descent from Michigan, is slated to be confirmed as Ukraine’s deputy health minister on July 22. According to the Detroit native, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman offered her the job earlier this month, after which she held a publicized meeting with President Petro Poroshenko on July 12 who also supported the high-level appointment. After meeting with the physician, Mr. Poroshenko equated the “health care situation” with “national security” in a statement published on the presidential website. One reason is that Ukraine’s population declines by 82,000 to 110,000 each year, according to statistics cited by Dr. Suprun. If the trend continues, Ukraine’s population will shrink to 35 million by 2050 reverting to levels not seen since 1950.

Bellingcat: Russia used ‘fake evidence’ to point finger at Kyiv in downing of MH17

MOSCOW – The Russian Defense Ministry published doctored, misdated satellite imagery to support its suggestion that Ukraine was responsible for downing a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, the independent investigation group Bellingcat alleges in a new report. The report provides an overview of Bellingcat’s exhaustive open-source investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), which killed all 298 passengers and crew aboard the airliner bound from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. It was published two days before the second anniversary of the July 17, 2014, incident, which drew the world’s stunned attention to the war between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists and added its victims to the conflict’s toll – now more than 9,300 civilians and combatants. Dutch investigators said in 2015 that the airliner was shot down with a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile and identified a 320-square-mile area from which it was fired – most of it held by the separatists – but did not place blame. Britain-based Bellingcat says evidence it has collected shows that the Russian army supplied the missile-launcher that brought down MH17 and moved it toward the Ukrainian border before the shootdown.

A historic moment: Canadian International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, a Ukrainian Canadian, has just signed the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine’s First Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Trade Stepan Kubiv. Looking on are Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman of Ukraine. The signing took place in Kyiv on July 11.

Canadian Minister Chrystia Freeland lauds trade deal with her ancestral homeland

OTTAWA – The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) represents an “endorsement” of the Ukrainian economy and efforts by the Ukrainian government and people to strengthen it and build prosperity, according to the Ukrainian Canadian Cabinet minister who signed the pact on Canada’s behalf. “This agreement is about Canada strengthening and deepening its historically close friendship with Ukraine, and of supporting Ukraine at a crucial moment” in its history, said Canadian International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland in a telephone interview from Lviv last week. “We really understand, as do the Ukrainians, that a very important front on which Ukraine is fighting today is the economic front,” she noted. On July 11, Ms. Freeland and Ukrainian First Vice Prime Minister and Economic Development and Trade Minister Stepan Kubiv signed CUFTA in Kyiv in the presence of President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman of Ukraine, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, who was on his first official visit to Ukraine as prime minister. Mr. Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, announced in July 2015, during then-Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s visit to Canada that a bilateral trade deal had been reached following five years of negotiations.

From assurance to deterrence: The Russia question and NATO’s summit

Be careful what you wish for, because it just might come true. In the past, this author had often heard Russian diplomats complain that the West fails to pay proper attention to Moscow and that Russia’s position is being ignored. But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s recently concluded summit in Warsaw certainly gave no further credence for such complaints. Although Russian representatives did not take part in the summit, Russia was present in almost every speech and each adopted document. Among the 139 paragraphs of the Warsaw Summit Final Communiqué, almost half were directly or indirectly devoted to Russia.

National Deputy Sergii Leshchenko speaks on June 30 about the platform of the new Democratic Alliance party.

Young politicians of Ukraine create new Democratic Alliance party

KYIV – Representatives of Euro-Optimists inter-faction group and civic platform Nova Krayina on June 30 announced they had established a new political party. “A new platform is launched on the basis of the party Democratic Alliance. It will involve, so to say, new forces: social activists, people who were on the Maidan, who sacrificed their time and energy to participate in the new policy. These people are united around the ideals for which we were standing on the Maidan – a new, honest and non-corrupt government,” said National Deputy Sergii Leshchenko (Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction), at a briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. According to Vasyl Hatsko, a leader of the Democratic Alliance, the party will be based on three principal pillars: transparent party financing, collective leadership and intra-party competition.

Russia and the West engage in mutual deterrence

After the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) summit in Warsaw last week (July 8-9), the NATO-Russian Council met in Brussels on July 13 at the ambassadorial level. The meeting did not lead to much progress. Both the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Russian ambassador at NATO headquarters, Alexander Grushko, agreed at separate press conferences that the discussions were “frank” but disagreements persisted. According to Mr. Grushko, NATO’s decision to deploy an additional four reinforced army battalions of around 1,000 soldiers each in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are “ungrounded, excessive, counter-productive and confrontational; [they] undermine security and return us to the days of the Cold War” (Interfax, July 13). Meanwhile, the West insists it was Russia’s enhanced military activity and aggressive actions in Ukraine that compelled NATO to reinforce its Eastern flank in the first place.

Ukrainian cyber-police officers begin fulfilling their mission

KHARKIV, Ukraine – July 18 was the first working day for 84 cyber-police officers, trained by the Project Coordinator in Ukraine of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on the grounds of Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs. Twenty special agents and 64 inspectors make up one-third of the personnel of the new Cyber Police Department, which was created within the National Police of Ukraine as part of the wider law enforcement reforms in the country. The OSCE Project Coordinator helped to organize the selection process by facilitating the integrity testing of over 500 candidates in 2015, developing the 760-hour training curricula and materials, and supporting four months of training for the selected officers. “Cyber security is an important area of efforts for the National Police of Ukraine,” said Khatia Dekanoidze, chief of the country’s National Police. “It took us a lot of time to find good people for this job.

Participants of the Razom annual meeting held in the main hall of the Ukrainian National Home in New York City.

Razom holds its second annual meeting

NEW YORK – Razom, a non-profit organization established in 2014 to support the people of Ukraine, held its second annual meeting on Saturday, June 25, in New York City. More than 140 guests attended #Razom2years and learned about the organization’s progress and six initiatives: Razom IT, Razom Culture, Razom Think with UkrOko.org, Reformers without Borders, Razom Aid with Toy Drive, and Razom Partners. “I was so impressed to see so many new faces in the room,” said Razom board member Dora Chomiak. “Clearly this shows that, even though the headlines may be off the front pages, the drive that brought Razom volunteers together in 2014 is still relevant today.”

The schedule of the day was jam-packed, but the energy in the room never subsided. Given that Razom’s initiatives span different fields, people learned about many projects, and were able to provide their feedback, lend their expertise and enlist as volunteers.

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UNA booth popular with festival-goers

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – The Ukrainian National Association’s booth at the Ukrainian Cultural Festival held at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center proved to be very popular with visitors. On Saturday, July 9, the booth was manned by staffers of the UNA Home Office (from left): Yuriy Symczyk, Oksana Stanko and Nina Bilchuk – all insurance professionals. They were assisted at times by UNA Advisors Nicholas Fil and Luba Walchuk. Mr. Symczyk, the UNA’s deputy national secretary and fraternal coordinator, reported brisk traffic at the booth, as people came by for the latest information about the UNA – including its newly released magazine Guide to Life, as well as UNA goody bags and copies of the latest issues of its two newspapers, Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly. A major hit was the free face-painting for children that was the work of artist Athena Zhe, who is seen here at work on one young visitor, while another young guest shows off her new look.

The GOP platform

As the Republican Party’s National Convention got under way this week in Ohio, there was deeply disturbing news about the party’s platform. As reported on July 18 in The Washington Post by Josh Rogin, “The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.” At the meeting of the national security platform committee, Mr. Rogin reported, a member “proposed a platform amendment that would call for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and ‘providing lethal defensive weapons’ to the Ukrainian military.” Trump staffers intervened, got the matter tabled and then succeeded in scaling back the language to call for “appropriate assistance” instead of “lethal defensive weapons.”

As a result, the adopted platform now reads: “We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning.”

Readers will no doubt recall that Donald J. Trump, who is now the official GOP nominee for president, has expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said he would get along with him, and has opined that the war in Ukraine is “really a problem that affects Europe a lot more than it affects us.” His campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was a lobbyist for Viktor Yanukovych, the Russian-backed ex-president of Ukraine; and he has other advisors who want to cozy up to Russia. Add to this Mr. Trump’s latest assertion that the U.S. would not automatically defend its NATO allies in keeping with Article 5 obligations (when asked about the Baltic states, he said he would first consider an ally’s contributions to the alliance), and you have a troublesome scenario. Two longtime supporters of Ukraine – from opposite sides of the aisle – voiced their deep concern about the GOP’s reversal.

July 21, 2011

Five years ago, on July 21, 2011, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) announced it would be ending its space shuttle program, following the landing of the Atlantis space shuttle (STS-135) – marking the last of the 135 space shuttle missions. Leonid Kadenyuk, a payload specialist with the National Space Agency of Ukraine, who was the only Ukrainian citizen to fly into space on a U.S. space shuttle, expressed regret at the end of the 30-year-old program. “I am sorry that this period is ending. These shuttles could have done a lot more interesting and valuable work in exploring space,” he told RFE/RL from his home in Kyiv. Mr. Kadenyuk made his space flight on NASA’s Columbia space shuttle in 1997, and said the preparation for that flight itself was “the most interesting period of my life.” During the mission, Mr. Kadenyuk conducted experiments designed to study how a weightless environment affects plant growth and biomass.

On the second anniversary of the downing of MH17

President Petro Poroshenko issued a statement on July 17 in Kyiv. Ukraine remembers every victim of the MH17 tragedy. Terrorism is inadmissible in any form and perpetrators of this tragedy must be punished. Civil aircraft Malaysian Boeing 777 was shot down by Russian terrorists who used weaponry produced and supplied by Russia. A lot has been already done to bring the criminals to justice.

“Donald Trump’s continued impacts on the Republican Party seem to know no bounds. I am shocked to learn his campaign worked behind the scenes to water down language supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russian and rebel forces in their party platform. As someone whose top aide has long and deep reported ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, and who had made cavalier compliments for brutal strongmen like President Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump’s rhetoric and actions shows he would be dangerous for protecting human rights and democracy across the globe. Instead of rolling back support for our allies in Ukraine that would strengthen Russia’s hand, it is vital the U.S. act to prevent Ukraine from descending further into chaos. It is time we stand up in support of the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their freedom.”

– U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) commenting on reports about the Trump campaign’s reversal of the GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine.

U.S. elections and Ukrainian American issues

With the upcoming elections in the United States, particularly presidential and congressional, Ukrainian American voters should be raising issues of concern with the candidates. The purpose is to both inform the candidates about those issues and to let the Ukrainian American electorate know the candidates’ positions. It seems to me that the following issues should be of importance to the Ukrainian American voter. Personal and sectoral sanctions have had a significant effect on the Russian economy, but have not compelled Russia to withdraw. One of the reasons for this tepid success has been that the economic woes have affected the Russian population but not the oligarchs.

125 years of Ukrainians in Canada

Nothing, absolutely nothing, convinces me more of the future of Ukrainians in Canada than Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s “Counting Sheep,” a guerrilla folk opera staged in Toronto. The performance was phenomenal – and filled to capacity. The interactive cast and audience sang, danced, battled, shouted, threw bricks and wept. The mostly non-Ukrainian audience lived through the life cycle of Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity in the 99-minute performance. Believe it or not, real borsch was served a la the soup kitchens on Kyiv’s Maidan.