Yanukovych testifies in trial related to Euro-Maidan killings

Former president faces charges of high treason

KYIV – From the outset, post-Soviet Ukraine’s fourth president, Viktor Yanukovych, started lying. “I’ve never committed a crime,” he said via video link from a Russian court in Rostov-on-Don on November 28. It was his first testimony to a Ukrainian court, given as a witness, and related to the trial of five riot police officers who were allegedly involved in the mass killings in central Kyiv during the Euro-Maidan Revolution in 2013-2014. Like Mr. Yanukovych, many of the law enforcement officers who allegedly gunned down some 100 protesters during the uprising either fled to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory of Crimea or to Russia. While giving testimony that lasted over six hours, Mr. Yanukovych failed to mention that he is a twice-convicted felon.

The Executive Committee of the Ukrainian National Association (from left): National Secretary Yuriy Symczyk, President Stefan Kaczaraj, Treasurer Roma Lisovich, First Vice-President Michael Koziupa, Second Vice-President Eugene Oscislawski and Director for Canada Myron Groch.

UNA General Assembly holds 2016 annual meeting

Yuriy Symczyk elected as national secretary

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – The Ukrainian National Association’s General Assembly convened its 2016 annual meeting here at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center on Friday and Saturday, November 18-19. The business sessions were marked by good news about the UNA’s continued progress during 2016 – the fourth year in a row that the fraternal organization has enjoyed net profits. In addition, during the past year the UNA’s surplus has grown by nearly $1 million and is projected to stand at $9.3 million by the end of the year. Reports were delivered by the full-time executive officers of the UNA, President Stefan Kaczaraj and Treasurer Roma Lisovich, as well as Deputy National Secretary Yuriy Symczyk, who was elected by the General Assembly to serve as national secretary. All other General Assembly members – executive officers, advisors and auditors – as well as the editor-in-chief of the UNA’s official publications, Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly, had the opportunity to deliver addenda to their written reports.


Kyiv solemnly remembers the Holodomor

KYIV – Hundreds of Kyiv residents, including Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and First Lady Maryna Poroshenko, took part in a solemn ceremony to commemorate the Holodomor, or death by forced starvation, on November 26 in Park Slavy (Glory Park). Millions of Ukrainians were starved to death in 1932-1933 on the orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin carried out by his henchmen in Ukraine. At 4 p.m. on November 26 – the official Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holodomor – a moment of silence was observed. As the sun set, people nationwide set lit candles on windowsills to remember this act of genocide. Estimates vary, as do methodologies for counting, but researchers say that between 3 million and 10 million Ukrainians died, with approximately 24 dying every minute during the peak period in the early 1930s, according to historians.

Latest Minsk talks fail to reach breakthrough on Ukraine conflict

Talks in Minsk on resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine have ended with the foreign affairs ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany all saying no new breakthroughs were made. German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the November 29 meeting in the Belarusian capital concluded with negotiators far from reaching a political agreement that includes local elections – one of the key points of the February 2015 Minsk Agreement. But Mr. Steinmeier said he still hopes for progress on implementing the Minsk accords in order to bring an end to fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Steinmeier also held out the prospect that full implementation of the measures agreed in Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015 could lead to the lifting of international sanctions imposed against Russia over its role in Ukraine’s conflict. Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin blamed Russia for the standstill at the November 29 meeting, saying Moscow would not agree to any of the key priorities set out in the talks.

Kyiv says Russia has at least 5,000 troops in eastern Ukraine

KYIV – Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has said Russia has between 5,000 and 7,500 regular military troops inside Ukrainian territory, not counting the annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea. Deputy Defense Minister Ihor Dolhov told journalists in Kyiv on November 29 that Russia has 23,000 troops in Crimea, including about 9,000 along the administrative line between Crimea and mainland Ukraine. In addition, he said, Russia has some 55,000 troops stationed very near its border with Ukraine. Moscow did not immediately react to the announcement, but it has in the past repeatedly denied having a military presence in Ukraine, other than Crimea, which Russia forcibly annexed in 2014. Kyiv and Western governments assert that Moscow is providing military, economic, and political support to separatists in eastern Ukraine.

What happened to the Europe Ukrainians died for?

November 23

Three years ago this week, a nation rose up and demanded a better life. Three years ago this week, a middle class revolution commenced. Three years ago this week, the Euro-Maidan was born. And it’s worth remembering the Euro part. Because the popular uprising that eventually overthrew the corrupt and autocratic regime of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was driven by a desire to be part of Europe.

The new confinement structure for the Chornobyl plant, seen on November 14, as the arch sliding began. It took two weeks for the structure to be moved into place.

Massive Chornobyl confinement structure is moved into position

PRYPIAT, Ukraine – A ceremony at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant on November 29 marked the successful conclusion of the erection of a new confinement structure over the stricken reactor No. 4. The process of sliding the arch structure into place via hydraulic jacks took two weeks. The operation is a key milestone before the finalization of the international program to transform Chornobyl – site of the world’s worst nuclear accident on April 26, 1986 – into an environmentally safe and secure state by November of next year, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) noted. Chornobyl’s giant New Safe Confinement (NSC) was moved over a distance of 327 meters from its assembly point to its final resting place, completely enclosing a previous makeshift shelter that was hastily assembled immediately after the 1986 accident.

UCC supports Canadian bill establishing Crimean Tatar Deportation Memorial Day

OTTAWA – The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) stated on November 28 that it fully supports Bill C-306, “An act to establish a Crimean Tatar Deportation (‘Sürgünlik’) Memorial Day and to recognize the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 as an act of genocide.”

Bill C-306 was introduced in the House of Commons by Kerry Diotte (MP for Edmonton Griesbach in Alberta) on September 28. The entire Crimean Tatar People, the indigenous people of Crimea, were exiled to the Soviet east in 1944 by the totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were forcibly and violently deported – almost half lost their lives during the first year of exile – for no crime other than their language, culture and traditions. The vast majority returned home from exile in the early 1990s, thanks largely to the welcoming policy of the government of independent Ukraine. It is for this reason that the Crimean Tatars and their political and civic institutions are fiercely loyal to Ukraine and today live in fear or have been again exiled under illegal Russian rule, the UCC noted in its press release.

“…Ukraine continues its journey to becoming a democratic, fair and prosperous country at the gates of Europe, a vision that so many of my fellow citizens died for during the Maidan Revolution in the beginning of 2014 and continue to die for defending our country against Russia. “What we have achieved in the last two years we could not have done without the hard work and sacrifice of our people at home and, critically, the staunch support of our partners abroad. The partnership and support of the European Union has been very important. But nowhere has Ukraine found a better friend and more committed ally than the United States. …That continued support is more important now than ever.

The UNA General Assembly reports

The Ukrainian National Association recently held the annual meeting of its General Assembly, the highest decision-making body of that fraternal organization (which happens to be our publisher) between its quadrennial conventions. The story that begins on page 1 of this issue notes the most significant news and reports from the annual session, including the key piece of information about the notable increase in the UNA’s surplus and the good news that profits have been up for four straight years. But there is so much more to the reports presented in written and oral form by the organization’s executive officers, advisors and auditors. Allow us to share our reflections upon having read each and every one of them. First of all, it must be noted that, save for the three-in-house executive employees who are full-time employees of the UNA, everyone else on the General Assembly is a volunteer.

December 6, 1996

Twenty years ago, on December 6, 1996, Ukraine’s Parliament passed a resolution in response to the Russian Federation Council’s resolution that questioned the status of the city of Sevastopol in Crimea. The Verkhovna Rada also voted 227-38 with 11 abstentions to introduce a bill on the removal of foreign troops from Ukrainian soil (except those invited by the government of Ukraine). The Russian Federation Council’s statement noted “unilateral actions by the Ukrainian side aimed at severing from Russia a part of her territory are not only illegal from any viewpoint of international law, but are detrimental to Russia’s security.” Russia had refused to officially recognize Ukraine’s borders and respect its territorial integrity until Ukraine had granted Russia permanent basing rights in Sevastopol. Russia had also tied the division of the Black Sea Fleet to basing rights in Crimea. In the weeks prior to the standoff, Russia’s Duma had been concerned about the future basing of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.

On the human rights situation in Crimea

Following is the text of the U.N. Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol (Ukraine), adopted on November 15 by the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural). The vote was 73-23, with 76 abstentions. As noted by the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, “The approved resolution is an important diplomatic, political and legal mechanism by which Ukraine protects the rights of citizens of Ukraine on the territory of temporarily occupied Crimea. The approval of the resolution is planned at the plenary meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in December 2016.”

Ukraine’s Mission also underscored: 

“For the first time in official documents of the U.N., the Russian Federation is recognized as an occupying power and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as a temporarily occupied territory. In addition, the resolution confirmed the territorial integrity of Ukraine and reaffirmed the non-recognition of annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

UWC calls for worldwide support of campaign “Condemn Russia’s Crimes in Ukraine and Syria”

The following statement and appeal was issued by the Ukrainian World Congress on November 19. The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) condemns the military actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine and Syria including the ongoing build-up of troops, weaponry and aircraft in this region. Emboldened by some wavering on the part of the international community regarding sanctions against the Russian Federation in response to its illegal occupation of Crimea and hybrid war on the territory of eastern Ukraine, the Russian Federation continues to escalate its military involvement in the war in Ukraine and Syria in an effort to continue bolstering its imperialist ambitions. It is critical for the international community to understand the parallels between the Russian Federation’s military actions in Ukraine and Syria, including the indiscriminate targeting of innocent civilians, humanitarian aid convoys and hospitals. The UWC calls upon its network of community organizations to support the media campaign launched by the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine titled “Condemn Russia’s Crimes in Ukraine and Syria” designed to reinforce the message that Russian aggression endangers peace and stability in the world.

Russia’s interference in our U.S. elections

Dear Editor:

“In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote,” Eric Chenoweth, co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, wrote in his Washington Post op-ed on November 25. “Most significantly, U.S. intelligence agencies have affirmed that the Russian government directed the illegal hacking of private e-mail accounts of the Democratic National Committee and prominent individuals. The e-mails were then released by WikiLeaks, which has benefited financially from a Russian state propaganda arm, used Russian operatives for security and made clear an intent to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

“On October 7, WikiLeaks began near daily dumps from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s e-mail account, generating a month of largely negative reporting on Clinton, her campaign staff, her husband and their foundation,” Mr. Chenoweth noted. ”With some exceptions, there was little news in the e-mail beyond political gossip and things the media had covered before, now revisited from a seemingly ‘hidden’ viewpoint.”

It is particularly disturbing that among those who choose to look away from the Russian government’s active interference in our elections are Americans of Ukrainian descent. Some, like Myron Kuropas (“Lesia Got it Right,” November 20), seem to have accepted indiscriminately the flood of negative reporting on Mrs. Clinton, to suppress their impression that Mr. Trump is “a narcissistic, vulgar oaf, hardly a person to serve as president of the greatest country in the world” and help justify their support of the GOP presidential candidate.

Why the past matters for the future

As Americans sit down to their Thanksgiving meals, Ukrainians commemorate the memory of millions who were murdered in 1932-1933. The last Saturday in November is Holodomor Remembrance Day in Ukraine, a time to mark the anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s engineered starvation of the nation. In the West, the date should also be remembered as a pivotal event that ensured the viability of the Soviet Union, with its consequent implications for hundreds of millions in the free world. The Holodomor in Ukraine is too often mistakenly grouped together in the West with the generic Soviet collectivization of agriculture. While collectivization was extant throughout the Soviet Union, it was distinct in purpose and result in Ukraine.