A coalition of right-wing groups rallies in front of the Verkhovna Rada on January 16 to demand that Parliament adopt a package of bills that would name Russia as an aggressor state and label lands that Kyiv doesn’t control, including Crimea, as occupied.

Controversial bill on war-ravaged Donbas passes amid human rights concerns

KYIV – Ukraine’s Parliament passed a controversial bill that pro-presidential lawmakers say aligns legislation closer to reality on the ground in war-torn Donbas.

Exactly 280 deputies – 56 more than needed – voted on January 18 for President Petro Poroshenko’s measures to name Russia as an aggressor state and designate areas Kyiv doesn’t control as “temporarily occupied territories” in a law that could potentially limit the human rights of residents in the two easternmost oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Crimean activist Volodymyr Balukh.

Crimean court jails activist in retrial

A court in Ukraine’s Russia-controlled Crimea region has sentenced pro-Kyiv activist Volodymyr Balukh to three years and seven months in a high-profile retrial on a weapons- and explosives-possession charge.

The Rozdolne District Court on January 16 also ordered Mr. Balukh to pay a 10,000-ruble ($175 U.S.) fine.

Marianna Novosolova during her lecture at the University of Alberta.

Scholar lectures on reflective essays by victims of war in Ukraine’s east

EDMONTON, Alberta – The Edmonton branch of the Shevchenko Scientific Society in Canada on December 13, 2017, sponsored a presentation by Marianna Novosolova on the topic “In Search of Their New Selves: Reflective Essays by Victims of the War in Eastern Ukraine.” This open lecture was arranged in conjunction with the University of Alberta’s Department of Modern Languages and Culture Studies (MLCS) and Ukrainian Language Education Center (ULEC) at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, as well as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Government and Ukroboronprom deadlocked over debt, production problems at shipyard

Where there is bureaucracy and waste, inevitably there has been the opportunity for ongoing corruption. And such a situation is only aggravated by misplaced state secrecy. In Ukraine, there perhaps has been no greater symbol of ongoing poor decision making, planning, bureaucracy and waste than the Ukrainian naval vessel Ukrayina. The Ukrayina, a Slava-class missile cruiser, formerly known as the Admiral Flota Lobov, or Project 1164, was laid down in 1983 and launched in 1990, as the Soviet Union imploded. Docked in the Mykolayiv North Shipyard, formerly known as the 61 Communards Plant, this Soviet cruiser was designed to accommodate anti-ship, anti-submarine, anti-air and electronic fire control systems (Flot2017.com, February 1, 2011).

Ukraine faced mixed fortunes, missed opportunities in 2017

Ukraine missed some chances to improve the domestic situation last year, with the fight against corruption not as efficient as Western creditors expected and the economy growing at only a sluggish pace. Among the country’s achievements in 2017 were the long-awaited ratification of the association and free trade agreement plus a visa-free travel bonus from the European Union, and Naftogaz Ukrainy’s victory over Russian Gazprom in an international arbitration court. Nonetheless, there is still no light in the end of the tunnel as far as the conflict with Russia-backed militants in Donbas is concerned, and Ukraine deepened the split by stepping up the economic blockade of the area. The governing coalition led by President Petro Poroshenko proved stable, but it will face challenges ahead of both presidential and parliamentary elections  scheduled for 2019. The year 2017 started with nationalist groups blocking roads leading to the Moscow-backed “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk, and far-right activists vandalizing subsidiaries of Russian banks.

Ukrainian World Congress calls for Ukrainians to join international flash mob #UnitedUkraine

TORONTO – The Ukrainian World Congress is calling on Ukrainians around the world to join the international flash mob #UnitedUkraine marking Ukrainian Unity Day (Den Sobornosty) on January 22.

Organized by the community organizations Ukrainians and Batkivschyna Moloda, this fourth “United Ukraine” flash mob welcomes the participation of every individual who supports Ukraine, and aspires to its unity and the end of the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

…From the Revolution of Dignity came a call for government to stamp out corruption. Once elected, officials, led by President [Petro] Poroshenko and former Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatsenyuk, courageously established independent, corruption-fighting institutions, including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP) and the National Agency for Preventing Corruption (NAPC). Landmark reform required public asset declarations by public officials. ProZorro, the new electronic procurement system, increased transparency and reduced graft. …

And yet, four years after the Maidan, the question lingers:  is the courage to move Ukraine forward faltering?

Credible allegations

The church coffee room – that democratic, egalitarian forum where all the world’s great problems are solved – is filled with long tables and metal folding chairs. At one end, weary volunteers preside over a table spread with plates of sandwiches and donuts, a coffee urn, and a tray full of dollar bills and coins. Parishioners who have just come down from the liturgy are milling about, looking for friends to sit with. In one corner, two men and three women, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s, are settling in around Bohdan, who is already seated, sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup and peering at the screen of his cellphone. “At this rate,” he says, “half of Congress will have to resign.

U.S. assistance to Ukraine

Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly four years ago, I have found a tendency by many to view U.S. governmental assistance to Ukraine largely through the lens of lethal weapons. Indeed, defensive lethal weapons, are critically important for Ukraine in raising the costs to Russia of any further aggression and in reinforcing and amplifying U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Trump administration’s recent decision to provide Ukraine with some of these weapons is to be applauded and encouraged. It is long overdue, given broad bipartisan Congressional support since 2014, which has included bills funding lethal weapons as part of larger security assistance for Ukraine. Notwithstanding their political and practical importance, lethal weapons are only one among many necessary forms of U.S. assistance to Ukraine.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during their joint press availability in Kyiv on January 16. It was the vice-president’s sixth visit to Ukraine and his fifth since the Euro-Maidan Revolution.

2017: U.S.-Ukraine relations: concerns and action

With the new administration of President Donald J. Trump coming into office in January, a group of 17 decision-makers and public figures from countries across Central and Eastern Europe sent a letter on January 9 to the president-elect warning him about any potential “new grand bargain with Russia.” According to a news story in The Washington Post, they wrote: “Have no doubt: Vladimir Putin is not America’s ally. Neither is he a trustworthy international partner. Both of the presidents who preceded you tried in their own ways to deal with Russia’s leadership in the spirit of trust and friendship. Big mistake: Putin treated their good intentions as opportunities.”

Chrystia Freeland, at that time Canada’s minister of international trade, addresses the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations on January 6. She was named minister of foreign affairs on January 10.

2017: Canada: support for Ukraine and community involvement

Canadian-Ukrainian relations received a huge boost at the start of 2017 when Chrystia Freeland – the Ukrainian Canadian star in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet – was named foreign affairs minister and became the third woman in Canadian history to hold the high-profile portfolio. The 49-year-old, Alberta-born former journalist previously served as Canada’s international trade minister, and finalized both the historic Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. As foreign affairs minister, Ms. Freeland retained a portion of the responsibilities from her previous job. Mr. Trudeau tasked her with overseeing the trade portion of the Canada-U.S. file, which became increasingly important through the year during negotiations for a redraft of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Not as lucky in Prime Minister Trudeau’s mini-Cabinet shuffle was MaryAnn Mihychuk, a Ukrainian Canadian Liberal member of Parliament for a Winnipeg riding who was dropped as minister of employment, workforce development and labor.

Attendees at the 20th Toronto Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture at the University of Toronto on November 28, 2017.

Toronto journalist is subject of 20th annual Holodomor lecture

TORONTO – The life and work of Rhea Clyman – one of the few journalists to witness and report on the Holodomor – was the topic of the 20th Toronto Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture delivered by Jars Balan, director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, on November 28, 2017, at the University of Toronto. Following introductory remarks delivered by Dr. Frank Sysyn of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium, a co-organizer of the event, Mr. Balan offered a captivating account of this ambitious and unrelenting journalist. He began by setting the context of Clyman’s childhood years, describing Toronto in the early 1900s when the Clymans, a poor immigrant Jewish family, emigrated from Poland and settled in the city. Born in Poland in 1904 and one of five children, Rhea Clyman encountered adversity early in life – she lost part of one leg in a streetcar accident when she was 6 years old. According to Mr. Balan, it was while being treated for her injury during repeated stays at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto that she was first inspired to become a journalist.

Conquest Prize to be awarded for contribution to Holodomor studies

TORONTO – The Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC), a project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, announced the establishment of the Conquest Prize for Contribution to Holodomor Studies. The $2,500 (Canadian) prize will be awarded on a biennial basis to the author of an outstanding article that contributes to a fuller understanding of the Famine in Ukraine of 1932-1933. HREC has assembled a jury of eminent specialists to determine the winner of the first prize: Olga Andriewsky (Trent University), Andrea Graziosi (Università di Napoli Federico II), Norman Naimark (Stanford University) and Lynne Viola (University of Toronto). Nominated articles will have been published in English, in print or in an online publication, between June 30, 2016, and the submission deadline, which is June 30, 2018. Nominations may be submitted by the author, editor, publisher or colleagues.

Journalist Vitaly Portnikov speaks in Chicago on November 11, 2017.

Acclaimed journalist discusses Ukrainian statehood in his Chicago lecture

CHICAGO – Ukraine is only in its third year of real independence, journalist Vitaly Portnikov told an overflow crowd at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago recently, and it is up to Ukrainians to ensure the development of a successful, modern European state. In his presentation titled “Ukraine: the attempt to build a modern state,” one of Ukraine’s most influential journalists and political analysts used the occasion of his first formal meeting with the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States to outline the reasons for Ukraine’s long stateless existence and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Mr. Portnikov’s presentation in Chicago, on November 11, 2017, was organized by the Chicago Business and Professional Group in collaboration with the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art and financial support from the Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union and the Heritage Foundation of 1st Security Federal Savings Bank. Speaking in Ukrainian, Mr. Portnikov told his listeners that many Ukrainians still treat their own state as a foreign entity, as do their leaders. This is a dangerous habit they must abandon, he said, especially in the face of aggression from Russia, which has always been determined to block any such state-building efforts.

Johnny Bower, among 100 greatest hockey players, dies at 93

Four-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Johnny Bower (born John William Kiszkan) died on December 26, 2017, at the age of 93 from pneumonia. Born to a Ukrainian family led by parents John and Betty Kiszkan in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in 1924, he had one brother and seven sisters. Bower, who prior to his death resided in Mississauga, Ontario, is survived by his wife, Nancy, their son, John Jr., and two daughters, Cindy and Barbara, as well as eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A private funeral service was held in Oakville, Ontario. He used his mother’s maiden name of Bower after his parents divorced in 1946, legally changing his name years later (as he believed Bower was easier for sports commentators to pronounce than Kiszkan).