E-mail leak shows Russia’s plan to destabilize Ukraine

KYIV – Further evidence that the Kremlin engineered the armed uprising in eastern Ukraine surfaced on October 25 when a Ukrainian hacker group published e-mail data allegedly belonging to Vladislav Surkov, the Russian president’s top aide and point man on Ukraine and the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Comprising 2,337 messages, the communication allegedly shows the Kremlin playing a direct role in establishing a puppet government in the occupied parts of Ukraine’s two easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. They also show expense requests to Russia, casualty lists on the combined Russian-separatist side, as well as assessments of the social and political situation during the Euro-Maidan Revolution. A separate set of documents that hacker collective CyberJunta released a day earlier purport to show Moscow’s plans starting in mid-November to destabilize the political situation in Ukraine and spur pre-term parliamentary elections. The Digital Forensic Research Lab attached to the Washington-based Atlantic Council policy center, said that “nearly every bit of information in Surkov’s inbox” could be “verified” and that the “vast majority of them” are “real.”

Ukraine’s Security Service, known as the SBU, also said that the “majority of documents” are authentic.

Former UCCA President Tamara Olexy (right) with the first lady of Ukraine, Dr. Maryna Poroshenko, in Kyiv.

Outgoing president of UCCA reflects on challenges of her eight years in office

Tamara Olexy served two terms (eight years) as president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. The UCCA’s recent Congress of Ukrainian Americans elected Andriy Futey as her successor, and our Kyiv colleague Mark Raczkiewycz spoke with him via Skype about his new role (See “Newly elected president of UCCA speaks about the tasks ahead,” in the October 16 issue of The Ukrainian Weekly). This week, we publish an interview with Ms. Olexy focusing on the accomplishments and challenges of the previous eight years. The interview was conducted via e-mail by Roma Hadzewycz. 

Ms. Olexy holds a master’s degree in political science from The George Washington University; as an undergraduate student she double majored in political science and history at Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. 

She served as the director of the Ukrainian National Information Service (1990-1995); was an American advisor for Burson-Marsteller’s National Market Reform Educational Project in Lviv (1995-1996); and worked as a consultant specializing in project development of health programs, cultural exchanges and humanitarian assistance for such clients as New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Albert Schweitzer Institute for Humanities, and conducted intercultural training programs designed for relocating employees for such companies as Prudential and CARTUS (1996-1998). Ms. Olexy has served as executive director of the UCCA National Office in New York since 1998. 

First of all, we’re curious, how did it feel to be the first woman president of the UCCA?

Baltics to build stronger logistics within the EU and NATO

A new railway has the potential to become crucial to the Baltic states’ defense. Earlier this month, the governments of the Baltic states and Poland finally reached all the necessary political, financial and technical agreements to implement one of the most ambitious projects inside the European Union – linking Finland, the Baltic states and Poland with the unified Trans-European Transport Network (NRA, October 10). The agreed-upon project, which will also have important logistical implications for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), envisions a continuous rail link from Tallinn (Estonia) to Warsaw (Poland), via Riga (Latvia) and Kaunas (Lithuania). The construction of this railway – known as “Rail Baltica” – is planned to start by 2020 and should be completed by 2030. The section from Helsinki to Tallinn will for now be operated by existing commercial ferries.


Russian Ukraine plans ‘authentic’ 

KYIV – A Ukrainian official has said leaked e-mails outlining plans to destabilize Ukraine that purportedly came from Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov are authentic. Yuriy Tandit, an adviser to the chief of Ukraine’s SBU security service, told the Kyiv-based Channel 5 television station on October 26 that it is investigating the materials allegedly taken from Mr. Surkov’s e-mail account and many of them “have been confirmed to be original.” Earlier the Ukrainian hacker group Cyberjunta claimed that it hacked Mr. Surkov’s e-mail and found materials with plans for the “destabilization of the political situation in Ukraine” with the goal of forcing Kyiv “to hold early parliamentary and presidential elections.” The Kremlin on October 26 said the leak is fake because Mr. Surkov “does not use e-mail.” The previous day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr. Surkov is “a talented man” and “many allegations against him by hackers in Russia and elsewhere are mainly false.” Mr. Surkov is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal adviser on the West-leaning former Soviet countries of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. (RFE/RL with reporting by TASS, UNIAN and Interfax)

Kerry to Lavrov on Aleppo asssault

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on October 24 that he is concerned about renewed fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo after a break of several days, according to the State Department. Mssrs. Lavrov and Kerry discussed the situation in Syria in a phone call and agreed that experts from several countries meeting in Geneva would continue searching for ways to resolve the Aleppo crisis, the department said.

Ukraine scores diplomatic breakthrough: ‘Security first, elections next,’ the West concedes

After long resisting Western pressure to implement the political points in the Minsk agreements, Ukraine scored a diplomatic victory last week when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed two important resolutions. The first resolution officially defines the conflict in Ukraine as Russian aggression, countering those who claim it is just a civil war or separatism. Most importantly, it calls on Russia to “allow Ukraine to regain control of Crimea” and “withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine.” The West now also recognizes the impossibility of conducting free and fair elections in the Donbas unless the security situation there improves and Russian military withdraw. The second resolution highlights serious human rights violations in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and calls on both sides to address them. The resolutions’ passage has already prompted a change in rhetoric among top European officials.

UCCA initiates presidential questionnaire on Ukrainian American issues

WASHINGTON – In preparation for the upcoming November 8 presidential election, the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the Washington, D.C. public affairs bureau of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), initiated a questionnaire to the presidential candidates. Several Ukrainian American activists volunteered their services and expertise to create a list of questions and series of documents to send to the candidates about the Ukrainian American issues. The documents consisted of an overview of legislative actions in support of Ukraine, a statistical abstract of Ukrainian American and Central and East European ancestry in the United States, and a five-part questionnaire. The issues covered in the questionnaire include topics that have been a part of public discourse in Washington since the Revolution of Dignity – military assistance to Ukraine; sanctions against Russia for its illegal annexation and invasion of Ukraine; combatting Russian disinformation; NATO membership for Ukraine; and U.S. support for reform efforts in Ukraine. Each question in the questionnaire was preceded with an overall statement about the topic followed by a series of questions.

“We have a situation where Russia does not accept the rules in Europe, and so therefore Europe is the most unstable peace. That is different than the Cold War. They are not a status-quo power. They want to re-establish spheres of influence. Our model is Helsinki.

John B. Gregorovich in 1996 in front of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa.

John B. Gregorovich, 89, lawyer, Ukrainian Canadian community activist

OTTAWA – The Ukrainian Canadian community is mourning the loss of a community leader who inspired others to follow in his footsteps, regardless of the odds, to serve the Ukrainian Canadian people. John B. Gregorovich, known to many as “JB,” lived a life of commitment, leadership and perseverance in the face of discrimination, injustice and deceit. His life was dedicated to serving and supporting Canada’s Ukrainian community. Mr. Gregorovich died on September 26 at the age of 89. “It is with deep sadness that I extend condolences to the family and friends of John B. Gregorovich,” said UCC National President Paul Grod.

Lubov Kolensky at her desk at Svoboda, then located in Jersey City, N.J.

Lubov Lydia Kolensky, 93, writer, former editorial staffer of Svoboda

PARSIPPANY, N.J. – Lubov Lydia Kolensky, a former editorial staff member of the Ukrainian-language newspaper Svoboda, died on August 14 at the age of 93. Mrs. Kolensky was both an author and a journalist. She wrote novelettes, short stories, sketches and dramas, as well as poetry. She continued writing poetry, in both the Ukrainian and English languages, long after she retired and later moved to Sloatsburg, N.Y.

She was an editor for 25 years at Svoboda, where her colleagues knew her as an energetic and creative writer. She was born Lubov Savchak on April 17, 1923, in the Ukrainian city of Stanislaviv (now known as Ivano-Frankivsk), completed school in Lviv and then attended university in Innsbruck, Austria, studying philosophy.

Some of the tennis camp campers, counselors and friends who enjoyed the celebration/reunion at Soyuzivka.

Soyuzivka Tennis Camp celebrates 50 years of memories

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Soyuzivka Tennis Camp, more than 60 former campers, counselors, and friends gathered at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center during the weekend of October 1-2. Those who attended the camp came to reminisce about the good times they had and the friendships they made, as well as to honor those who made it possible. The highlight of the festivities was the banquet, which included a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres, held on Saturday night. The atmosphere was happy, with smiling faces all around as people greeted each other with hugs and kisses. Commencing the program, Petrusia Sawchak talked about how the camp began, what it was like and how it evolved throughout the years.

Ukraine’s physician

Back on July 24, this newspaper’s front page carried a story headlined “Ukrainian American radiologist tapped as Ukraine’s deputy minister of health.” Our new correspondent in Kyiv, Mark Raczkiewycz, reported that Dr. Ulana Suprun – whom most readers will remember as director of humanitarian initiatives for the Ukrainian World Congress and director of the organization Patriot Defence (which has provided combat lifesaver training to Ukraine’s soldiers and has distributed tens of thousands of NATO-standard individual first aid kits to those on the battlefield) – had taken on this challenging new assignment. Then, on August 1, came the announcement that Dr. Suprun was now Ukraine’s acting minister of health. The new leader of the Health Ministry continues to care about saving the lives of Ukraine’s troops. In August, there was news that Dr. Suprun had accepted U.S. government donations of the first batch of field litter ambulances to Ukraine’s armed forces. “The army is short of armored vehicles for fast evacuation of injured soldiers to the hospitals where they can be treated by professional doctors,” Dr. Suprun noted, while expressing hope that, working together with their American partners, Ukrainian armed forces will continue to focus on medical training.

October 29, 2003

Thirteen years ago, on October 29, 2003, Ukrainian communities across the United States answered the call put forth by the Ukrainian World Congress to protest against Russia’s latest violation of Ukrainian sovereignty – the building of a dam from the Russian mainland to Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait of the Black Sea. In Chicago, more than 300 people demonstrated at Daley Plaza at a protest that was organized by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. UCCA Illinois Division President Orest Baranyk said the demonstration had a three-fold aim: “to condemn Russia’s effort to land-grab Ukraine’s Tuzla Island as well as Moscow’s threat to “use bombs” against Ukraine; to demand that the U.S. vehemently protest Moscow’s threat, particularly since America gave Ukraine assurances in 1992 that it would protect Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons to Russia; and to reinforce Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryschenko in his meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Kyiv on October 30. In New York City, protesters, including students of St. George Ukrainian Catholic School, members of the Ukrainian American Youth Association, Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization, the UCCA and the Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine gathered at the Russian Mission to the United Nations.

Putin and Russia both far weaker than many think, three analysts say

Vladimir Putin and the country he heads are far weaker than Moscow propaganda suggests and, what is equally important, far weaker than many in Russia and the West think – the result of a successful combination of propaganda and dramatic action against those within his country and abroad who are intimidated or unwilling to stand up to him. And, while it would be a mistake to underestimate either, it is also a mistake to overrate Mr. Putin’s power and that of Russia because to do so gives him and it victories they do not deserve. Moreover, it leads the population of his country and the leaders of Western countries to underrate their own powers and to assume that there is little or nothing they can do. To fail to understand the weaknesses of Mr. Putin and those of Russia is to ignore one of the major drivers of the Kremlin leader’s behavior and thus to fail to anticipate or respond appropriately to Mr. Putin’s actions, which in the past and even now are driven less by his and Russia’s real strengths than by his and Russia’s profound weaknesses. Russian political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin says that Mr. Putin has nothing to offer his people to gain their support and to consolidate public opinion except “militaristic rhetoric and short victorious wars.” But the effect of those wars – and there have been three so far – quickly exhausts itself (apostrophe.ua/article/society/2016-10-15/u-putina-sereznyie-problemyi-emu-srochno-nujen-podvig/7760).

Petro Grigorenko in 1982 in Washington.

In memory of Petro Grigorenko, a voice in defense of Crimean Tatars

October 16 was the 109th anniversary of the birth of Petro Grigorenko (1907-1987), Soviet general, Soviet dissident, victim of punitive psychiatry and defender of the Crimean Tatar people. His friend Mustafa Dzhemilev is now again in exile, and the Crimean Tatars are facing persecution in their homeland under Russian occupation. Grigorenko served as major general during World War II and could have remained a respected war hero to the end of his life. From 1961, he refused to be silent and paid a high price, first being subjected to repression and then exiled in 1980. From exile he continued to represent the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and remained a voice for those persecuted in the Soviet Union until his death on February 21, 1987.