At the signing ceremony for a new visa-liberalization regime with the European Union in Strasbourg on May 17 (from left) are: Malta’s Interior Minister Carmelo Abela (whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU), Member of the European Parliament Mariya Gabriel, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. In his May 14 press conference, Mr. Poroshenko cited Ukraine’s closer ties with the European Union as a major achievement.

Poroshenko lauds closer ties with EU, admits ‘there’s much left to be done’

KYIV – President Petro Poroshenko touted Ukraine’s deepening integration with the European Union and fielded questions about law and order, corruption, progress on reforms and his businesses on May 14 during his first news conference in 16 months. Speaking of the EU’s decision to waive visa requirements on May 11, the president said: “Only crazy people can consider Ukraine to be part of the so-called ‘Russian world.’ Ukraine is part of a united Europe stretching from Lisbon to Kharkiv. For three years Russia has tried everything to block Ukraine’s path towards the EU. But nothing will stop our path to Europe.”

He said that on May 17 he will visit Strasbourg, where the Council of Europe is located, to attend a signing ceremony of the visa-free travel legislation on the back of a working visit to Malta on May 16. Mr. Poroshenko, 51, will also start a series of meetings with the leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, starting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on May 20.

The winner of Eurovision 2017, Salvador Sobral of Portugal, with last year’s winner, Crimean Tatar singer Jamala from Ukraine.

Portugal wins Eurovision Song Contest, Ukraine touts contest as great success

KYIV – Portugal was the top vote-getter in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, the annual festival traditionally watched by a television audience of an estimated 200 million people. Some 4 million people watched the contest’s grand final, breaking previous records, according to the official website of Eurovision 2017. Singer Salvador Sobral was declared the winner early on May 14 in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, giving Portugal its first victory since it initially entered the contest in 1964. The winner was determined by a combination of points awarded by national juries and voting by telephone and text message from participant countries. The winning song was titled “Amar Pelos Dois,” written and composed by the singer’s sister, Luisa Sobral.

Yuri Vitrenko (at the microphone), chargé d’affairs of Ukraine’s Mission to the United Nations, welcomes guests to the opening reception of the art exhibit “Ukrainian Insights” at the Delegates Entrance Hall of the U.N. General Assembly building. With him (from left) are: Valentin Popov, Iryna Sydorenko with her husband Victor Sydorenko, art director Tamara Shevchenko and exhibit curator Natalia Shpitkovskaya.

Ukraine Mission hosts “Ukrainian Insights” exhibit at U.N.

UNITED NATIONS – The Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations on May 16 officially opened an art exhibit, “Ukrainian Insights,” that featured works by contemporary artists from Ukraine: Victor Sydorenko, Oleg Tistol, Mykola Matsenko and Valentin Popov. The latest example of “cultural diplomacy” by the Permanent Mission, the exhibit aims to show the cultural, political and spiritual aspects of Ukraine and the promise of Ukraine’s future in a global context. The exhibit, curated by Natalia Shpitkov-skaya and art director Tamara Shevchenko, is on display at the Delegates Entrance Hall, is free to the public and concludes on May 26. Nearly 100 people attended the opening of the exhibit and reception, which was paired with a lecture, “A Dialogue with Timothy Snyder About Ukraine,” by Prof. Timothy Snyder of Yale University, also hosted by the Ukraine’s Mission to the U.N. (More information about the lecture and Prof. Snyder’s latest book, “On Tyranny,” will appear in the May 28 issue.)

On display at the exhibit were: “Cupola,” a four-panel ethereal image of people seeming to ascend and descend in midair and a fiberglass/plastic sculpture “Deperso-nalization” by Mr. Sydorenko; an installation of the four-panel painting “Happiness of Labor” by Mr. Tistol flanked by two 12-panel squares using folk motifs, “Neofolk,” by Mr. Matsenko; and three paintings by Mr. Popov, “From… to…,” “Red Candles” and “Life is painful, suffering is optional.”

In his official greeting, Yuri Vitrenko, chargé d’affairs of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the U.N., said that this exhibit is a testament to Ukraine being a vibrant country in the face of Russian aggression. This was the first time, he said, that the exhibit was on display in New York, and at the United Nations Headquarters.

Moscow spoils every opportunity to improve relations with U.S.

The Kremlin continues to cling to hopes that it can build a rapport with the Trump administration; those expectations copiously developed at the start of the year, only to succumb to one cold shower after another since then. Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin’s long-serving foreign policy aide, recently asserted that the “difficult legacy” left by the administration of President Barack Obama was gradually sorted out despite the resistance of “certain forces in the American establishment” (RIA Novosti, May 12). Yet, he could not refrain from warning about the “limits of Russia’s patience” regarding the diplomatic property “confiscated” by the United States in December 2016 (RBC, May 12). This bitter complaint reflects the depth of frustration in Moscow caused by the accumulation of new complications in Washington that block Mr. Putin’s plan for cultivating a beautiful friendship with the inexperienced but open-minded President Donald Trump. This frustration results in Moscow pushing too hard for every opening in the frozen relations and in spoiling the few opportunities that come up.

Trump defends intelligence sharing with Russia amid intense criticism

U.S. President Donald Trump has defended what he called his “absolute right” to share information with Russian officials amid controversy over classified information. Mr. Trump’s comments, made in a series of Twitter posts on May 16, appeared to confirm U.S. media reports that he had disclosed highly classified material to Russia’s top diplomat during a meeting at the White House on May 10. The disclosure, which may have jeopardized intelligence sourcing about the Islamic State extremist group, further roiled lawmakers and policymakers in Washington, which is still grappling with the fallout from Mr. Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey a day before the meeting with the Russians. “As president I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. [White House] meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” he wrote. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he added, using an acronym for the IS group.

Putin, Merkel exchange views on Ukraine in Sochi

The Kremlin’s message to Ukraine is: either concede a negotiated special status for Donetsk and Luhansk (resulting in a state within the Ukrainian state), or accept de facto the definitive separation of that territory from Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the initiative earlier this month to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 2. The German agenda included preparations for the upcoming G-20 summit in Germany (where the presidents of Russia and the United States will meet), the situation in Syria (in the context of preparing for the G-20 summit), and comparing notes on the “conflict in Ukraine,” in that order of German priorities. The four-hour Putin-Merkel talks on May 2 behind closed doors indeed adhered to that order of priorities. In the Putin-Merkel joint news conference, however, international media interest focused heavily on the situation in Ukraine’s east and Russia’s role therein.

Threats to RFE/RL journalists multiply in 2017

WASHINGTON – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists have been targeted in hostile incidents in at least 10 countries in 2017, in what the company called “relentless pressure” on its journalistic mission. Speaking on World Press Freedom Day, May 3, RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said that “today we celebrate the courage of our journalists, who work under relentless pressure.” Mr. Kent continued, “Attacks against them are attacks on the universal value of press freedom.”

The actions targeting RFE/RL are as diverse as the environments in which its reporters work, but reflect a common intent to thwart independent media. A court in Symferopol on May 3 adjourned for the third time the trial of Crimean journalist Mykola Semena, who is facing separatist charges for an opinion piece he wrote opposing Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Also on May 3, the Azerbaijani government continued to press for a court-approved ban on RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service website for content that “poses a threat” to Azerbaijan’s national security. In other cases this year, an RFE/RL reporter in Belarus was arrested for covering mass protests, and journalists were physically assaulted while on assignment in Russia, Armenia and Macedonia.

“RT aims to discredit the United States in a straightforward way. The Kremlin-funded television network – established in 2005, operating in English, Arabic and Spanish – doesn’t report on America and the West warts and all, but rather focuses single-mindedly on warts alone. … “In a post-fact, post-truth world, Vladimir Putin’s Russia revels in exploiting Western vulnerability. …It’s time to push back – with full force.

At the U.N. Headquarters Indonesian Lounge (from left): Lyudmyla Porokhnyak Hanowska, Iryna Lutsenko, Oksana Sushko, Natalia Fedorovych, Marta Kebalo, Andrij Reva, Orysia Sushko, Nadia Shmigel and Iryna Kurowyckyj.

WFUWO participates in 61st session of U.N. Commission on the Status of Women

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations event that annually draws the highest number of participants to U.N. Headquarters in New York City is not the opening session of the General Assembly in September, with the dramatic arrival of diplomats, ministers and presidents, but the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) that is held annually in March. This year, CSW 61, a two-week event on March 13-24, attracted close to 4,000 participants from 580 civil society organizations from 138 countries, 165 U.N. missions and representatives of government and non-governmental organizations. Panels and cultural events were held at more than 100 venues throughout New York City. This annual event, noted Dora Chomiak, a board member of Razom for Ukraine and a participant in this year’s CSW, “is the uber-networking event for women internationally,” a place where bonds and friendships are established and sustained for years. Whereas the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations has been involved with U.N. initiatives for almost 70 years, beginning with the establishment of the WFUWO in 1948, since gaining official affiliation with the U.N. Department of Public Information in November 1990 and with the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1993, the WFUWO has been the lynchpin organization at the U.N. for events of concern for Ukrainian women worldwide.

The strength of the UNWLA

Seen on the front page of our April 16 issue was a story headlined “Charitable Ukraine honors UNWLA as best provider of ‘Aid from Abroad.’ ” It reported that the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America had been honored by the Association of Charities of Ukraine with its top award in the Aid from Abroad category. The annual Charitable Ukraine competition strives to promote development of charitable activities in Ukraine by popularizing charitable work, patronage of such activity and volunteerism. In choosing the UNWLA to receive one of its beautiful “Angel of Goodness” statuettes, the association was recognizing the great body of good works performed by this Ukrainian American organization founded in 1925. And what are those good works? Sponsoring recreational camps for families of soldiers serving in Ukraine’s anti-terrorist operation (ATO); helping to fund training courses on the treatment of traumatic injuries; becoming a major donor to the trauma therapy center at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU); aiding orphanages and orphans; helping the aged and the needy; supporting families of fallen heroes; securing medical treatment for pediatric burn victims; and much, much more.

May 21, 2012

Five years ago, on May 21, 2012, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) concluded its summit in Chicago, which began on May 20. Analyst Vladimir Socor noted how with the exception of Georgia, NATO basically ignored its own immediate Eastern neighborhood, including countries bordering on NATO and the European Union, which faced a deepened security vacuum amid Russian re-expansion. Areas of protracted conflict with Russia included Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and now Ukraine. The aforementioned conflicts resulted in territorial occupations, ethnic cleansing, massive Russian military bases, and failing tests of NATO’s open-door and partnership policies. “Benign neglect,” Mr. Socor said, “tends to grow deeper and even becomes institutionalized with the passage of time.

Last Lenin comes down in Kyiv, as Stalin cult rises in Moscow

Most of those influenced by Samuel Huntington’s ideas about “the clash of civilizations” have focused on the confrontation between the Christian West and the world of Islam. A smaller number have focused on the conflict between the Orthodox world of Eastern Europe and the Catholic-Protestant West of Europe. But perhaps the most important clash of civilizations is in evidence on the territory of the former Soviet space between those who seek to root out the legacy of Soviet Communist oppression and those who celebrate it or even go further and seek to re-impose it on their own countries and others as well. That clash has been very much in evidence in Ukraine and Russia this month. On May 12, the Ukrainian authorities took down the last statue of Lenin in Kyiv, even as the Russian authorities continued, as part of their Victory Day commemorations, to celebrate Stalin and his brutal dictatorship as models for emulation.

Russia’s ideology is ‘traditional great power cleansed of communism,’ notes historian

Both supporters and critics of the Putin regime often say his regime lacks an ideology. Aleksandr Podrabinek is only the latest to make that point (svoboda.org/a/ 28471232.html). But historian Irina Pavlova says the regime does have an ideology: “traditional Russian great power (velikoderzhaviye), cleansed of communism and dressed up in Orthodox clothing.”

Not only should this be obvious to even a casual observer of such events as the just-concluded celebrations of Victory Day, the U.S.-based Russian historian argues that the chord this ideology has struck with the Russian people – much deeper than that of communism – explains support for Vladimir Putin and Putinism (ivpavlova.blogspot.com/2017/05/blog-post_10.html). The majority of the Russian population accepts the idea that Russia must be a great power regardless of the price, because it is surrounded by enemies, Ms. Pavlova says. Indeed, one can say that “if you ‘scratch’ a Russian, you will find a great power chauvinist.” Russians are ready to “talk for hours” about the greatness of Russia and its power, she says.

Info about donating your book collections

Dear Editor:

Several years ago, the newspaper Svoboda wrote about “The difficult life of the Ukrainian book,” editorializing that the passing of Ukrainian Americans left their libraries in danger of being discarded. The children and grandchildren of the deceased do not know what to do with their inherited libraries, nor can they evaluate the treasures left them. Another group of concerned Ukrainian Americans are those who love their books, but are getting older and want to find a meaningful depository for their treasures. They want their books to be actively read and cherished. If these books do not find a home, they are thrown away.

Christian critic’s perspective on the film “Bitter Harvest”

Dear Editor:

I have seen the movie “Bitter Harvest” two times, and each time I walked away impressed by the accurate portrayal of the historical events of the Holodomor. Kudos to the writers Richard Bachynsky-Hoover and George Mendeluk, who also is the Director. I was extremely upset and disappointed at reading the many negative reviews of “Bitter Harvest.” Having worked in the motion picture industry for over 45 years, I don’t recall seeing such trashing of a film. So, I decided to contact my long-time friend, Dr. Ted Baehr, a respected Hollywood critic, founder and chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission and publisher of the book “How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing your Soul” and MovieGuide Magazine for families. I asked Dr. Baehr if he had seen “Bitter Harvest” and if he could give me his opinion of the film.