Scholarly conference marks centennial of Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-1921

NEW YORK – On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian Revolution and the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence, the Shevchenko Scientific Society in America, the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S. and the Ukrainian Institute of America sponsored a two-day conference held on January 20-21 in New York.

Saakashvili deported as public hungers for new political leaders

KYIV – The political standoff between erstwhile allies President Petro Poroshenko and ex-Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili came to a denouement on February 12 – at least on Ukrainian soil – when the latter was forcibly deported to Poland. The former Odesa Oblast governor whom the president had appointed as part of a team of foreign reformers in the wake of the Euro-Maidan revolution was seen being dragged by the hair from a Kyiv restaurant. The Border Guard Service confirmed the same day that the 50-year-old former college chum of Mr. Poroshenko had been flown back to Poland from where he re-entered Ukraine in September after the president stripped him of citizenship. The scene encapsulated an atmosphere devoid of rule-of-law and the nation’s mood – 70 percent of the public, according to multiple polls, are disillusioned with all current political forces in office. Mr. Poroshenko and his allies are seen as moving too slowly on reforms, whereas those in opposition are seen as too radical to replace them.

Putin personally ordered annexation of Crimea, ex-Duma deputy testifies

KYIV – A former Russian lawmaker has testified before a Kyiv court that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014. Speaking at the trial of Ukraine’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, Ilya Ponomaryov said on February 14 that he “knows for sure” Mr. Putin pushed forward the seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in the night of February 22. That’s when Russia-friendly Mr. Yanukovych fled from Ukraine to Russia amid massive pro-European protests known as the Euro-Maidan. According to Mr. Ponomaryov, many Russian officials were against the March 2014 annexation of Crimea, but Mr. Putin pressured them to support the idea. “Putin watched the Maidan events and realized that the man he was supporting was losing.

Russia experiences Olympic Blues, and patriotic bravado brings no solace

About 80 Russian athletes marched in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, on February 9 under the Olympic flag carried by a Korean volunteer. Only 168 individuals were invited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to partake as “Olympic athletes from Russia,” but many opted not to wave to the cheerful crowd, in solidarity with dozens of their comrades who were not granted this privilege. This showing capped the long scandal caused by the massive use of doping in Russian sport, which had resulted in the IOC decision to invite to the 2018 Olympics only those athletes beyond suspicion. Moscow officially accepted that outcome, but nobody in Russia expected the list to be so short. Final hopes were destroyed on the morning of February 9, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) turned down 47 appeals of Russian skiers, skaters, ice hockey players and other athletes (Gazeta.ru, February 9).

Ukraine cuts dependence on Russian nuclear fuel, moves away from coal

Westinghouse will extend nuclear fuel deliveries to seven of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear power units to 2021–2025, in line with a contract signed between this firm and Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company, Energoatom. Deliveries to Ukraine under the new deal are to begin immediately after the current contract expires in 2020. Moreover, fuel components for local nuclear power plants (NPP) will be produced not only in the United States, but also in Ukraine, with assembly to be made at a Westinghouse facility in Sweden. Energoatom President Yury Nedashkovsky said his company is the world’s only operator of the Soviet-designed VVER-1000 reactors to have fully diversified its sources of fuel supply (Energoatom.kiev.ua, January 29). Westinghouse started nuclear fuel deliveries to Ukraine in 2005, first to only one reactor at Yuzhnoukrainsk NPP.

United States accuses Russia of stoking conflict in Ukraine

The United States has accused Russia of stoking the conflict in Ukraine by disregarding its commitments under peace accords. The U.S. State Department said in a statement on February 13 that Russia continues to deny its direct involvement in the violence that erupted in April 2014 and has seen more than 10,300 people killed by fighting between Kyiv’s forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ceasefire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords – September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed to resolve the conflict – have failed to hold. “Sadly, Russia continues to disregard its commitments under the Minsk agreements, stoking a hot conflict in Ukraine,” the statement said. Earlier in the day, Ukraine said one of its soldiers had been killed and two wounded in clashes in the country’s east.

“…Canada and Ukraine have been friends and partners for many years. We were proud to be the first Western nation to recognize Ukraine’s independence in 1991. At the heart of our relationship are the 1.3 million individuals who comprise the vibrant Ukrainian Canadian community in Canada – the second-largest Ukrainian population outside of Ukraine. Ukrainian Canadians and their descendants have left a profound mark on the development of Canada and continue to make contributions in all aspects of Canadian life. …

Smithsonian asked to study new museum about making of the American people

WASHINGTON – The Smithsonian Institution on February 1 was asked to study the feasibility of establishing a new national museum in Washington telling the story about the making of the American people. The request was made by the Coalition for the National Museum of the American People, which is composed of 239 ethnic, nationality and minority organizations. The museum’s story would begin with the first humans in the Western Hemisphere and progress through waves of migration and immigration to today. “We believe that it will be one of the greatest and most compelling storytelling museums in the world as it breathes new life into the first words of our Constitution: ‘We the People,’” said Sam Eskenazi, director of the coalition. “Walking through it would be like walking through a dynamic documentary telling the history of all of the groups that came to this land and nation and became Americans,” he said.

House of Representatives passes Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act

Bipartisan bill heads to Senate

WASHINGTON – Cybersecurity legislation authored by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Brendan F. Boyle (D-Pa.), both members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, passed the House on the evening of February 7. The Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act [H.R. 1997] aims to encourage cybersecurity collaboration between the United States and Ukraine, and requires State Department reporting to Congress on best practices to protect against future cyberattacks. In recent years, Ukraine has been the target of an increasing number of cyberattacks that have infiltrated state institutions and critical infrastructure to the effect of undermining its democracy. “Cybersecurity is a complex and serious national and economic security issue for any nation.

UNA turns 124 in a convention year

Each year around the time of what is now known as Presidents’ Day, we celebrate another significant event: the founding of the Ukrainian National Association on February 22, 1894, on the birthday of George Washington. We do so because not only is the UNA the publisher of our community’s two most important newspapers, but also because of the UNA’s leading role in our community as the oldest, largest and strongest Ukrainian fraternal benefit society. One hundred twenty-four years ago, 10 brotherhoods with a total membership of 439 people and assets of $220 met in Shamokin, Pa., and resolved to establish a fraternal organization. Reporting on the historic convention that was to change the face and the fate of the Ukrainian American community, our sister publication, Svoboda wrote: “It has come to be. …Dear brothers, now that a great number of us have gotten together and founded the association, let us all join it.

February 22, 2014

Four years ago on February 22, 2014, Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, resumed work following the deadly Euro-Maidan Revolution of Dignity that resulted in the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych on February 21. Nominees were already being approved on February 22, and the interim government served until the next government could be formed following the May 25 presidential elections. Parliament approved on February 22 a resolution dismissing Mr. Yanukovych on the grounds that he removed himself unconstitutionally from fulfilling his constitutional authority, which threatens the state’s governability, territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as violated the rights and freedoms of its citizens. The bulk of the appointments for the interim government were made on February 27, with Arseniy Yatsenyuk elected as prime minister. Mr. Yatsenyuk stated: “We stand before inconceivable economic challenges, and in order to conquer them I declare from this high tribune: we don’t have any other way out besides making extremely unpopular decisions,” he said.

Putin invaded Ukraine to prevent ‘Ukrainian’ ideas from spreading into Russia, says commentator

The main reason Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea and the Donbas, Aleksandr Shmelyev says, is that he feared the ideas that had animated Ukrainians at the time of the Maidan would spread into Russia and become the basis of a similar challenge to himself. To prevent that, he acted as he did so as to alienate the two nations from each other. As a result, the former Vzglyad editor and longtime Putin critic says, Russians and Ukrainians viewed each other as the enemy and any contacts between them that might have been the way “Ukrainian” ideas would spread into Russia were effectively blocked (dsnews.ua/world/esli-putinu-nado-budet-sbrosit-atomnuyu-bombu-na-moskvu–09012018220000). That, rather than simply presenting himself as the latest “ingatherer of the Russian lands” or thumbing his nose at the West, Mr. Shmelyev continues, explains that what Mr. Putin has done and how he has done it is because his goal at all times is to defend his position, lest being forced out of it he might be charged with an enormous number of crimes. “Putin couldn’t allow” either the spread of ideas from Ukraine into Russia that might challenge him or the risk that he would be ousted from power and face justice, the commentator says.  “Therefore, he had to immediately break off ‘low-level’ contacts between the residents of our two countries.”

“I am certain,” he continues, “that this was the first and main motive behind everything that followed: The task was to get the two peoples into a fight with each other.” To that end, Mr. Putin was prepared to use all kinds of propaganda and to engage in massive acts of violence against Ukrainians.

Moscow preparing to replace its forces in Donbas with ‘private’ military ones, Kyiv analyst suggests

The Russian Duma is expected to take up draft legislation regularizing the status of nominally “private” military companies, even though such mercenaries are banned by Russian law. And among the first places they may be deployed is Ukraine’s Donbas, according to Kyiv observer Aleksey Kaftan. In the January 19 issue of Delovaya Stolitsa, he says that the way the new law has been proposed highlights the problems Moscow faces whether or not it legalizes these private armies but that the timing represents a Russian response to the Verkhovna Rada’s declaration that Moscow is in occupation of Ukrainian territory. Russian Foreign Affairs Minister  Sergey Lavrov expressed his “personal” opinion that Russia needs a law governing private military companies so that the people taking part in them will be “within the legal field and thus defended” by the power of the state, Mr. Kaftan reports (dsnews.ua/world/novye-ihtamnety-zachem-putinu-legalizatsiya-chvk-18012018220000). A senior Duma member said that the Russian legislature would take up a draft of this measure in late January, an indication Mr. Kaftan says, that a final version either exists or is close to being drafted.  And on January 18, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary supported the idea but noted that it wasn’t within the Kremlin’s purview and thus was not a Kremlin initiative.

How can OSCE observe Russian ‘elections’ being illegally held in occupied Crimea?

There are several reasons why the event on March 18 that will give Vladimir Putin his fourth official term as Russian president can only loosely be termed an “election.” There is one reason, however, that surely invalidates any outcome since Russia is insisting on holding the elections in illegally occupied Ukrainian Crimea.  Even if the OSCE’s acceptance of Russia’s invitation to observe the presidential elections was made with the proviso that it would only be deployed in Russia, the very presence of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is effectively recognizing that the elections are at least legal.

Mute neighbors?

Unlike the United States, Ukraine has more than a couple of neighbors, and they haven’t all been nice. But what is a neighbor? Is it only a nation inhabiting a contiguous space? Or can it be a people that, while sharing no borders, has exerted a strong influence? In fact, one such neighbor has been quite important for Ukraine.  Known in some languages (including their own) by words derived from the tribal name “Teutons,” in others from “Alemanni,” to English speakers they are “Germans,” from the Roman Germania.