Kyiv moves to label Russia as aggressor in Donbas war

KYIV – Ukraine last week took a legislative step closer to reflect the fact that Russia is waging war against this nation of 42.5 million people – an unprovoked invasion that saw Crimea annexed and 3 percent of the easternmost Donbas region occupied by Kremlin-led forces nearly four years ago.

On October 6, the Verkhovna Rada passed a law in the first of two readings that names Russia as an aggressor state pursuant to international conventions and enables the armed forces to better defend the nation’s sovereign territory.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the gala reception for Ukraine’s athletes organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress on September 22.

Ukrainian Canadians extend support to Ukraine’s wounded-warrior athletes at Invictus Games

OTTAWA – Team Ukraine took home 14 medals from its inaugural participation in the Invictus Games in Toronto. But the athletes, who competed in athletics, power lifting, swimming, archery, cycling and indoor rowing, reached the top of the podium in terms of the support and admiration they received from within and outside the Ukrainian Canadian community.

Irwin Cotler (left) introduced a Magnitsky bill in the House of Commons back in 2011, but it was never passed. Sen. Raynell Andreychuk (center) took up the cause last year, introducing it in the Senate, and MP James Bezan (right) sponsored it in the House of Commons.

Canada’s Magnitsky bill a vote away from becoming law

OTTAWA – Canada’s long-awaited Magnitsky bill passed unanimously in the House of Commons on October 4 and is expected to receive the same endorsement in the Senate and become law six years after the idea behind it was first introduced in the House by a former Liberal Canadian justice minister and long-time human rights lawyer.

Is Europe’s aviation watchdog about to effectively isolate half of Ukraine?

On September 20, the Kharkiv City Council sent an appeal, addressed to Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, regarding concerns over recent actions by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Specifically, the appeal cites a draft bulletin allegedly sent by the EASA to the Ukrainian State Aviation Service (SAS), proposing restrictions upon international aviation in eastern Ukraine (City.kharkov.ua, September 20). Neither the EASA nor the SAS have released the document in question into the public domain. Though the SAS confirmed receipt of the EASA document, the Ukrainian agency has stated only that it will liaise with the Ukrainian government to adopt an official position (Avianews.com, September 20). To date, the aforementioned appeal by the Kharkiv City Council against the adoption of the EASA proposal is the sole official notification and documentation by a government body that exists in the public domain.

… let us be frank with each other and with ourselves. The aim of the Russian aggression is to destroy democracy, liberal freedoms and human rights. In one place they do this with tanks. In other places – with the help of fake news. …

New U.S. ambassador arrives in Moscow amidst worst bilateral relations since 2014

Veteran career diplomat Ambassador John Tefft, 68, who was pulled out of retirement to man the United States’ Moscow mission in 2014, following the acute crisis precipitated by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the onset of the war in the Donbas, left the Russian capital at the end of September. His replacement, Jon Huntsman Jr., 57, the former Utah governor and ambassador to Singapore and China, arrived from Washington on Monday, October 2, immediately after being confirmed by the Senate. On Tuesday, October 3, he delivered his credentials to President Vladimir Putin, at a ceremony in the Kremlin, with Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov and presidential foreign affairs advisor Yuri Ushakov present. Under Russian protocol rules, the formal introduction of new ambassadors is held twice a year, and some arrivals may wait many months before meeting Mr. Putin. Some 20 ambassadors from various countries assembled in the Kremlin that Tuesday.

Council of Europe’s rights chief decries abuses, says Russia ‘only country not cooperating’

“The worst thing we can do to the people of Crimea is to leave them in isolation from the broader world.”
– Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe. PRAGUE – The Council of Europe’s human rights chief says there is a “lot of work to do” in Russia as he criticized Moscow’s lack of cooperation amid reports of rights abuses in Chechnya and Russia-occupied Crimea. “Russia is the only country that has not cooperated with my office in the last couple of years; every other country has cooperated,” said Nils Muiznieks, the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, which has 47 member countries. “And I would like to see that [uncooperativeness] change. I think there is a lot of work to do in Russia,” he told RFE/RL in an interview in Prague on September 26.

At the reception (from left) are: Eugene Czolij, Andriy Futey, Ambassador Valeriy Chaly, Liudmyla Mazuka, Walter Kozicky, Tamara Olexy, Vasyl Hrytsak, Bohdan Futey, Michael Sawkiw, Paul Grod, Ambassador Valery Hrebeniuk, Ambassador Roman Popadiuk and Walter Zaryckyj.

50th anniversary of Ukrainian World Congress celebrated in New York City

NEW YORK – Over 150 attendees gathered at the prestigious Princeton Club of New York on Saturday, September 16, to celebrate 50 years of success in uniting Ukrainian communities worldwide. Touting New York City as the “place where it all began,” the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) hosted an evening banquet marking the Ukrainian World Congress’ (UWC) golden jubilee following a daylong conference looking back at the history of the Ukrainian diaspora’s international coordinating body. The evening began with a cocktail reception in the Alexander Hamilton room, where participants of the earlier conference mingled with guests just arriving for the evening banquet, including both keynote speakers: former First Lady of Ukraine Kateryna Yushchenko and the current head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Vasyl Hrytsak. Guests also viewed a special video presentation that was projected in the room, recounting five decades of UWC leadership. (The entire series of specially prepared video presentations marking the UWC’s 50th anniversary can be found online at uwc50.org.)

Filing across the hall to the James Madison Room, guests quickly found their seats before the evening’s master of ceremonies, Michael Sawkiw, UCCA vice-president, began the program with a bilingual welcome.

Language and education

On September 5 Ukraine’s Parliament, by a vote of 255 for and 20 against, passed a new law on education, and on September 25 President Petro Poroshenko signed the law. Among its provisions is one that has generated some controversy: the mandate that Ukrainian be the language of instruction in Ukraine’s schools beginning in the fifth grade. Three of Ukraine’s neighbors, Russia, Hungary and Romania, seized on that provision to argue that the law is discriminatory and adversely affects the national minorities in Ukraine who speak their languages. Russia went as far as calling the new law “ethnocide” of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, Hungary has asked the European Union to review its Association Agreement with Ukraine, and the Romanian president cancelled a scheduled trip to Kyiv in protest. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry sent the law on education for review to the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe that comprises independent experts in constitutional law.

October 21, 1992

Twenty-five years ago, on October 21, 1992, the Verkhovna Rada, in a move to appease student protests in Kyiv, voted to create a parliamentary committee to examine the question of a referendum and an election of new municipal council heads. The students, organized as the Union of Ukrainian Students (SUS), demanded Ukraine’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), multi-party parliamentary elections and the formation of a reformist government of “national trust.” The tensions intensified on October 13 and 16 when SUS demonstrators violently clashed with OMON troops and police, with tens of students sustaining injuries. The All-Ukrainian Organization for Workers Solidarity (VOST) announced its support for SUS’s demands. At a joint meeting on October 17 at Independence Square that was attended by 5,000 people, VOST issued a statement calling for the dissolution of Ukraine’s Parliament and the prosecution of officials responsible for militia brutality against the demonstrators. The referendum committee was created during a closed session of Parliament as a compromise to SUS’s modified demand for municipal and parliamentary elections.

Russia’s flick on Crimea takeover gets a lackluster reception

MOSCOW – The public reception of Russia’s new “Crimea” movie blockbuster about its invasion of the Ukrainian peninsula is being hotly contested, with Kremlin-tied media suggesting it’s a box-office hit and independent media and review sites calling it a flop playing in empty cinemas. Backed by Russia’s Defense Ministry, the movie premiered to fanfare in the annexed territory on September 27, but had an inauspicious start amid accusations that hackers had infiltrated a popular Russian movie website to inflate Crimea’s public review ratings. “Nice try,” Yelizaveta Surganova, chief editor of KinoPoisk, wrote on Facebook on September 28, saying her site had deleted tens of thousands of fake reviews that had artificially cranked the film’s rating up to 6.2 out of 10. “It would be better to spend those efforts on the quality of films.”

KinoPoisk now gives Crimea a meager 2.4 rating on a 10-point scale, and ranks it as one of its 10 most-unpopular films ever. IVI.Ru, a Russian online video site, grades the film at 2.1 out of 10, while the popular Internet Movie Database (IMDb) gives the film a 1.1 rating out of 10.

U.S. Embassy statement U.S.-Ukraine cyber dialogue

Following is the text of a statement released on September 29 by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv regarding the first U.S.-Ukraine cyber dialogue. The United States and Ukraine conducted the first United States-Ukraine Bilateral Cyber Dialogue in Kyiv, Ukraine, on September 29, 2017. As a demonstration of the U.S. commitment to supporting cybersecurity in Ukraine, U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch announced at the dialogue that the United States would provide over $5 million in new cyber assistance to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to prevent, mitigate and respond to cyberattacks. The dialogue strengthened whole-of-government bilateral cooperation on cybersecurity and cyber policy matters. Recognizing the important nature of cyber threats, participants shared approaches on organizing cybersecurity policy structures and cyber incident response procedures.

WFUWO at 50th anniversary of UWC in New York

Dear Editor:

Orysia Sushko, president of the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations and the second vice-president of the Ukrainian World Congress, was invited to participate in the September 16, 2017, conference at the Princeton Club to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UWC. Created in Philadelphia in 1948, the WFUWO was a founding member in 1967 of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, the predecessor organization to the UWC. Despite the WFUWO’s 50 years of contribution to the UWC, we regret that neither at the event luncheon, nor at the 50th anniversary gala banquet did the organizers of the event see to the proper introduction of Ms. Sushko as UWC second vice-president while, in turn, choosing to recognize the two other (male) vice-presidents in attendance. The WFUWO and the UWC have a long history of cooperation and equally share a mission to ensure the well-being of our homeland. We expect wider inclusivity and gender equality in our mutual efforts.

Team Ukraine in Toronto, where the 2017 Invictus Games were held on September 23-30.

Team Ukraine’s triumphant debut at 2017 Invictus Games

In its first year competing, Team Ukraine quickly became the star of the 2017 Invictus Games. A joyous gathering of Ukrainian Canadians met the Ukrainian contingent at Toronto’s airport, singing the Ukrainian national anthem. The triumvirate of England’s Prince Harry, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko effusively praised Team Ukraine at the games’ world press meet-and-greet. Team Ukraine was composed of only 15 athletes, but these were 15 fiercely determined to make Ukraine proud in Toronto. The veteran-athletes received much attention, as both Prime Minister Trudeau and President Poroshenko were in Toronto after the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City just days prior.

Plast scouts in front of the Rathaus (town hall) in Munich.

Over 700 Plast scouts participate in international jamboree in Germany

KÖNIGSDORF, Germany – Over 700 Plast Ukrainian scouts came together in Germany this summer for the international jubilee jamboree held every five years. This year it celebrated the 105th anniversary of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization and the 70th anniversary of the first populous post-war Plast gathering at the “Sviato Vesny” (spring camporee) in Mittenwald in 1947. The event took place on August 12-19 at Jugensiedlung Hochland, near the village of Königsdorf, about 50 kilometers from Munich. Plast scouts gather every five years to celebrate their jubilees and to reunite with friends from across the globe – each time in a different location. This year’s jamboree (known by its Ukrainian acronym as YuMPZ) saw participants from 60 different cities in 13 different countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine and the United States.