Some of the festival’s performers (from left): Oksana Mukha, the Roma Pryma Bohachevsky Ukrainian Dance Workshop and Kozak System.

11th Ukrainian Cultural Festival attracts thousands to Soyuzivka

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – Thousands of people, hailing from venues ranging from California to Ukraine, converged at the 11th Ukrainian Cultural Festival held on Friday-Sunday, July 14-16, at Soyuzivka Heritage Center. The largest Ukrainian festival in the United States, it is organized by the Ukrainian National Foundation (UNF), under the patronage of the Embassy of Ukraine. This year’s sponsors included the Ukrainian National Association (UNA), Ukraine International Airlines, Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union and SUMA Federal Credit Union (Yonkers, N.Y.). The festival truly offers something for all ages, from the stage shows with a wide variety of performers, to the film screenings, intricate crafts of the Ukrainian Village, the myriad Ukrainian embroidery, music recordings and a variety of artwork for sale at the vendors’ court, and the information and fun activities at the Ukrainian National Association’s gazebo. The refreshing swimming pool, the beer garden and even the beach volleyball court were all put to good use.

Ukraine-EU summit in Kyiv focuses on bolstering ties

KYIV – At the European Union-Ukraine summit in Kyiv on July 12-13, both sides hailed strengthening relations in the wake of the EU’s final approval of an Association Agreement with Kyiv earlier that week and the bloc’s decision to grant visa-free travel to Ukrainians last month. “On June 11, precisely one month ago, Ukrainians got the full taste of European freedom – visa-free travel to the EU,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said at a Kyiv press event. “More than 100,000 holders of Ukrainian biometric passports have used their visa-free-travel right already.”

He said these Ukrainians have seen with their own eyes why Kyiv aspires to closer relations with the EU. Mr. Poroshenko also expressed gratitude for the EU’s support in his country’s conflict with Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and then inflamed a separatist conflict in parts of eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. Mr. Poroshenko thanked the EU for extending its economic sanctions against Russia and for its “clearly articulated message that the sanctions will remain in place” until Russia completely abides by its commitments under the Minsk agreements on resolving the war in eastern Ukraine.

“Separatists” criticized over call for creation of “Malorossiya”

Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region have announced what they say is the creation of a new state called “Malorossiya,” or Little Russia – a declaration that was swiftly condemned by Kyiv. The announcement on July 18 appeared to be the latest twist in attempts by the separatists who seized territory with Russian help in 2014 to claim legitimacy and discredit the government of Ukraine. But it was met with silence from the Kremlin and failed to win support from fellow separatists in the neighboring Luhansk region, where one leader said the idea “raises big doubts.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko suggested it was part of a Russian effort to divide and conquer his country, and said that would never happen. Steeped in the history of Ukraine and its perennially troubled ties with Russia, the announcement comes amid a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine and continues despite an internationally backed ceasefire mandated by the 2015 Minsk accords. Aleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the separatists who control the city of Donetsk and part of the surrounding oblast, which borders Russia, read out a declaration on the creation of Malorossiya, according to the separatist-affiliated Donetsk News Agency.

Tired of Trump’s inability to deliver, Russia lashes out

The meeting of Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg on July 7, during the Group of 20 summit (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 10), was awaited in Russia with great hopes that it would mark the beginning of a possible détente in the strained relations between Russia and the United States. Initially, it was hyped as a success. Mr. Trump was quoted saying as much about the meeting, while Mr. Putin told the press, before leaving Hamburg, that he and his U.S. counterpart established personal rapport and that “the real Trump is not like his TV image” – he is serious and “adequate.”

According to Mr. Putin, “If our further interactions will be in the same key as yesterday’s talks, we will be able to rebuild, at least partially, our [countries’] relationship.” Mr. Putin announced an agreement to establish, together with the U.S. and Jordan, a ceasefire or “de-escalation” zone in the south of Syria, adjacent to the Jordanian border and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Mr. Putin insisted he told Mr. Trump that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and that there is no evidence incriminating Moscow. He further announced that Mr. Trump agreed to form a U.S.-Russian “working group” to “jointly control cyber security.” This cyber security group, according to Mr. Putin, could guarantee “international legality and prevent foreign meddling in internal affairs” and end all “speculations” about alleged Russian election meddling (Kremlin.ru, July 8).

Russia-backed separatists confirm they’re holding RFE/RL contributor

WASHINGTON – Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s war-torn eastern Donetsk region have confirmed that they are holding a blogger from eastern Ukraine who contributes to the Ukrainian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), according to a former Ukrainian lawmaker. The journalist, Stanislav Aseyev, who writes under the name Stanislav Vasin, first went missing on June 2. Yehor Firsov, a long-time acquaintance of Mr. Aseyev, wrote on Facebook on July 16 that Mr. Aseyev’s mother was allowed to visit him in separatist custody. Mr. Firsov also wrote that the separatists have accused Mr. Aseyev of espionage and threatened him with up to 14 years in prison. Mr. Vasin also reports for other Ukrainian publications, including Dzerkalo Tyzhnia and The Ukrainian Week.

MH17 victims remembered three years after jet’s downing

More than 2,000 relatives gathered in the Netherlands to unveil a memorial to family members who were killed when a passenger jet was shot down by a missile over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine. Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima on July 17 attended the ceremony to dedicate the memorial to MH17’s victims in Vijfhuizen park, near Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Family members read the names of the 298 passengers and crew killed when the Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down during what should have been a routine flight from Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014. Most of the passengers were Dutch but there were people of 17 nationalities on board the Boeing 777, including Australians, Britons, Malaysians and Indonesians. A total of 298 trees have been planted in the shape of a green ribbon – one for each of the 283 passengers and 15 crew – in what organizers called a “living memorial.” They said the trees will be surrounded by sunflowers, which bloom in July and will “radiate a golden glow” over the site.

Three years on, families of MH17 victims still seeking justice

Evert van Zijtveld doesn’t want to talk about the 2014 plane crash in eastern Ukraine that took the lives of his two teenage children. He wants justice. But three years after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, the bereaved Dutch father – who also lost his in-laws in the crash – is still waiting. As are the loved ones of all 298 passengers and crew killed when the Boeing 777 was shot down during what should have been a routine trip from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. “Whoever did it should be brought to justice.

Three years ago today 298 innocent civilians were killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. The United States again extends its deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.

The United States will continue to support the efforts of the Joint Investigation Team and urges other states to cooperate fully in order to ensure those responsible are brought to justice. As we and the Joint Investigation Team have said, Russian-led forces in eastern Ukraine fired the surface-to-air BUK missile – brought into sovereign Ukrainian territory from Russia – that took down Flight MH17. We welcome the team’s recent decision to grant jurisdiction to the Dutch courts for the prosecution of those responsible for this tragedy. We have full confidence in the ability of the Dutch criminal justice system to conduct a prosecution that is comprehensive, objective and just.

UMANA members and guests, many in Ukrainian “vyshyvanky” at the Ukrainian Embassy.

UMANA conference 2017: “Help Ukrainians help themselves”

CHICAGO – The Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA) held its 44th Scientific Conference and 37th Assembly of Delegates on Wednesday through Saturday, June 14-18, at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va. The theme of the biennial convention was “Rehabilitation and Reintegration – Helping Ukrainians Help Themselves.”

The conference was dedicated to familiarizing participants with Ukraine’s health care challenges in the face of ongoing war, economic instability and political reform. This is a time of great anxiety but also one of great promise and opportunity. Continuing hostilities in eastern Ukraine are inflicting debilitating military and civilian casualties, raising the demand for rehabilitation medicine. Survivors are in need of services to reintegrate them back into society as useful and productive citizens.

Accountability for MH17

It’s been three years since a passenger airliner was shot out of the sky over the beautiful fields of Ukraine in a war zone created by Russian and Russian-backed forces. On July 17, 2014, a terrorist act – plain and simple – was committed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was downed and all 298 passengers and crew were killed. The victims hailed from 17 countries – 189 of them from the Netherlands. A year later, we saw newly released video footage of “separatists” sifting through the wreckage of the Boeing 777, realizing that this was a civilian aircraft, and then callously going through the belongings of the dead. It was a scene that Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said was “sickening to watch.”

Three years after the downing, the world is closer to knowing not only what happened, but also how it happened and who was responsible.

July 29, 2015

Russia’s decision two years ago, on July 29, 2015, to veto a United Nations resolution that would create an international tribunal regarding the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, drew sharp criticism from 11 out of the 15 U.N. Security Council members who backed the resolution. Supporters of the resolution were three of the five permanent members of the UNSC: France, the United Kingdom, the United States; and eight of the 10 non-permanent members: Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria and Spain. The remaining three members, Angola, China and Venezuela, abstained. The tribunal would have been tasked with investigating and trying those responsible for firing the missile that caused the Boeing 777 to crash on Russia-occupied territory of eastern Ukraine. The proposal was backed by Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.

Statement of Ukraine’s foreign minister on third anniversary of airliner’s downing

The following statement by Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, was released by the Embassy of Ukraine in the U.S. on July 18. Three years ago, a world becoming accustomed to the most despicable terrorist outrages was shocked and stunned when 298 passengers and crew members of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were blasted out of the skies over Ukraine. For many around the world, it brought the Russian-fomented war in the Donbas to their attention for the first time. Even for Ukrainians, including those facing death in the Donbas, it was impossible to believe that terrorists had the ability to hit the civilian aircraft 11,000 meters above the ground. Even with all the support Russia was known to be providing, it was simply not credible or believable in any way.

Kremlin talks about Russophobia in West to force Russians to unite behind Putin

Westerners carefully distinguish between Russians and the Russian state, showing sympathy to the former and concern about the behavior of the latter, the kind of distinction even Stalin made between the Nazis and the German people but one the Putin regime does not, instead exploiting the basest nationalistic feelings, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. In an RBC commentary, the Moscow economist and analyst writes that the Russian government is “teaching Russians to be afraid of the surrounding world and, therefore, politicians in Moscow tell tales about how people in this world hate Russians” (rbc.ru/opinions/politics/28/06/2017/59539f189a7947230ea53eb7). “In my view,” Mr. Inozemtsev says, “such rhetoric discredits the Russian political class by demonstrating both the low level of understanding of what is taking place today in the world and a general inadequacy of the [Russian] political elite, which is living in a reality invented by itself” rather than in real reality. Everyone must remember, he continues, that “the term ‘Russophobia’ refers precisely to Russians… and not to the Russian state.” But the Kremlin wants to conflate the two in order to force Russians to think that the West opposes them and not just the policies of Vladimir Putin and his entourage. Any Russians who have travelled or lived abroad can confirm that ordinary people in the West are not hostile to the Russian people.

Celebrating 50 years in support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora

The Ukrainian World Congress is proud to be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017, marking five decades of being the voice of the Ukrainian people within the international community. In 1967, the Congress of Freedom united Ukrainians from 17 countries into a powerful voice of resistance to the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union and created the World Congress of Free Ukrainians (WCFU). Following the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the WCFU was renamed the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC). The UWC’s objectives have always been clear. In 1967 it was the renewal of an independent Ukrainian state.

Celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday: Ukrainian Canadians deserve thanks

Canada turned 150 on July 1. From “a few acres of snow” it has been transformed into one of the world’s most prosperous countries, consistently ranking in the top 10 happiest places to live. It is also a global leader in human rights and multiculturalism. Canadians of Ukrainian descent were instrumental in developing both concepts. Walter Tarnopolsky led the articulation of human rights and civil liberties domestically and internationally.