A military farewell ceremony for the three National Guardsmen killed in the August 31 violence near the Verkhovna Rada. The deceased are: Ihor Debrin, 24, Oleksandr Kostyna, 20, and Dmytro Slastnikov, 21.

Deadly violence erupts after vote to amend Constitution

KYIV – Ukraine endured on August 31 its most serious domestic political conflict since the Euro-Maidan when violent protests erupted on August 31 over the decision of the Verkhovna Rada to approve the first reading of constitutional amendments to shift certain state authority to local governments. The vote prompted simple bombs and explosives to fly towards Parliament from the crowd of hundreds of protesters, the majority being Svoboda party nationalists. The attacks were capped off by a military grenade that killed three National Guardsmen (one immediately) and hospitalized more than 90, news reports said. The conflict drove a wedge in Ukraine’s pro-Western forces, pitting the business-oriented, establishment parties against the populist, nationalist forces, who insisted the amendments betray national interests. Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party announced the next day it was abandoning the ruling coalition in the Verkhovna Rada. Continue Reading

NEW YORK – Ukrainian Americans, representatives of several waves of immigration from Ukraine and their progeny, filled New York’s Times Square with the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s national flag and beautiful Ukrainian embroidery in celebration of the 24th anniversary of the renewal of Ukraine’s independence. They came together as a flashmob on the evening of August 23, carrying Ukrainian flags and banners, singing Ukrainian songs and the national anthem of Ukraine, and greeting each other with the words “Glory to Ukraine – glory to the heroes.” Among those demonstrating their Ukrainian pride was Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, attending in an unofficial capacity. (For photos and information about more community celebrations of Ukrainian Independence Day, see pages 14-15.)

A blue-and-yellow flashmob in Times Square

NEW YORK – Ukrainian Americans, representatives of several waves of immigration from Ukraine and their progeny, filled New York’s Times Square with the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s national flag and beautiful Ukrainian embroidery in celebration of the 24th anniversary of the renewal of Ukraine’s independence. They came together as a flashmob on the evening of August 23, carrying Ukrainian flags and banners, singing Ukrainian songs and the national anthem of Ukraine, and greeting each other with the words “Glory to Ukraine – glory to the heroes.” Among those demonstrating their Ukrainian pride was Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, attending in an unofficial capacity. Continue Reading

U.S. and EU widen sanctions on Russia

The United States and the European Union are widening sanctions against dozens of Russians and Ukrainian individuals and entities with connections to Crimea’s annexation and the ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine. In an announcement published in the U.S. Federal Register on September 2, the U.S. administration said it was adding 29 people to its sanctions list. Some of those added have ties to Kremlin-linked insiders and companies who were previously sanctioned, including Gennady Timchenko, a wealthy oil trader believed to be close to President Vladimir Putin. A total of 33 companies or other entities were cited, including subsidiaries of state-owned oil giant Rosneft, headed by Putin ally Igor Sechin, and the company that manufactures Kalashnikov assault rifles. Crimea’s top ferry operator and several ports on the Black Sea peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March 2014, were also blacklisted. Continue Reading

Kyiv violence steps up pressure to reject ultranationalists

“Those who threw this grenade and injured people are terrorists. No matter what they did yesterday, today they are terrorists.”
– Blogger Oleksiy
Bratushchak, writing on the Ukrayinska Pravda website. The bloodshed during violent clashes between security forces and radical Ukrainian nationalists on August 31 has cast a stark light on a long-standing problem confronting the government in Kyiv. No longer can the post-Maidan government of President Petro Poroshenko deny it has a problem with a small but dangerous ultranationalist contingent that has served as a useful ally in the past, but that also has repeatedly shown a willingness to use violence to push its own agenda. Three National Guardsmen were killed and more than 90 injured by a grenade that was thrown during a violent protest by ultranationalists led by the Svoboda party outside the country’s Parliament. Continue Reading

Newsbriefs

U.S. on women political prisoners

WASHINGTON – The United States has launched a campaign to highlight cases of women who Washington says have been “unjustly imprisoned” by governments around the world. Under the initiative announced September 1 by Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the U.S. State Department will profile 20 cases of women deemed by the United States to be “political prisoners” or “prisoners of concern.” The campaign will profile Ukrainian military pilot and Parliament member Nadiya Savchenko, jailed in Russia on charges of participating in the murder of Russian journalists covering the Ukraine conflict, as well as Leyla Yunus and Khadija Ismayilova, critics of the Azerbaijani government imprisoned on charges widely considered to be politically motivated. Others include Uzbek rights activist Matluba Kamilova, who Human Rights Watch says has been imprisoned for exercising free speech, and Iranian student activist Bahareh Hedayat, who was jailed amid a 2009 crackdown after street protests over a contentious presidential election. “In naming these women, we are sending a message to their governments and others like them: If you want to empower women, don’t imprison them on the basis of their views or on the basis of the rights that they’re fighting for,” Ambassador Power told reporters in Washington. “Free these 20 women and free the countless women and girls like them behind bars,” Power added. Continue Reading

NEWS ANALYSIS: “A grenade thrown at Ukraine”

Three young conscripts have died from the grenade attack outside Parliament on Monday, August 31: Ihor Debrin, 24, Oleksandr Kostyna, 20, and Dmytro Slastnikov, 21. Well over 130 people were injured, most of them conscripts. The protests were over highly divisive amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, but it is not, as at least one headline claimed, the Constitution that is bloodstained, but those far-right politicians and their supporters who are willing to use violence, including a grenade and firearms, at a crowded demonstration. There is video footage of the grenade thrower, who has been identified as a member of the far-right Svoboda party, fighting in the party’s Sich volunteer battalion. Between 20 and 30 other people were also arrested and are in custody. Continue Reading

Poroshenko’s address to the nation on the constitutional amendments vote

President Petro Poroshenko addressed the people of Ukraine on August 31 to speak about the Verkhovna Rada’s vote on constitutional amendments and the violence that ensured. The text below (with minor edits for clarity) was released on August 31 by the President Administration of Ukraine. My fellow Ukrainians! Today the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has approved constitutional amendments on decentralization in the first reading. This has finally happened after more than year-long discussions. Continue Reading

…Sea Breeze is the largest multinational exercise in the Black Sea, and has always occupied an important place for the United States, which in turn reflects the strategic importance of the Black Sea region. But the importance of this strategic space grew substantially last year following the Russian invasion of Crimea, the illegal annexation and all of the events that have come from that development. So it is important that we are here today in Odesa, as the temporary home of the Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy, recognizing the United States’ ongoing and long standing commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. …I remember discussing Sea Breeze almost a year and a half ago when I was in Odesa, back with Admiral [Serhii] Haiduk on board the Hetman Sahaydachnyi, and we talked about the future of Ukraine’s naval forces. Those were the first days after the Russian invasion of Crimea and the first weeks of the aggression in Donbas. Continue Reading

Bearing witness to the Holodomor

On November 7, Ukrainians from near and far are expected to be in Washington for the unveiling and blessing of the long-awaited memorial to the victims of the Holodomor, a genocide long concealed from the world. The message on the expressive “Field of Wheat” monument designed by Ukrainian American Larysa Kurylas will speak to countless passers-by: “Famine-Genocide in Ukraine. In memory of the millions of innocent victims of a man-made famine in Ukraine engineered and implemented by Stalin’s totalitarian regime.” We simply cannot stress enough the historic nature of the Holodomor Memorial’s unveiling – an event that calls for our mass participation. Thirty-two years ago, when we marked the 50th anniversary of the Great Famine of 1932-1933, some 18,000 people from all parts of North America came to Washington on October 2, 1983, for a memorial rally and march. Among them were busloads from many cities where our community was active (a bus from Chicago took 17 hours to make the trip). Continue Reading

September 10, 1999

Sixteen years ago, on September 10-11, 1999, Ukraine’s president, Leonid Kuchma, hosted an international summit at the Livadia Palace in Yalta on the Crimean peninsula, called “International Conference on Baltic-Black Sea Cooperation: Towards an Integrated Europe in the 21st Century Without Dividing Lines.”

The summit attracted leaders from 22 European countries (presidents and prime ministers representing 14 countries, while other countries sent ambassador-level representatives) to the venue, where 54 years prior the leaders of the Allied Forces of World War II agreed on the geopolitical map of post-war Europe that would isolate the eastern half of Europe from the West. Participating states, besides Ukraine, included Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden. Also represented were the European Union, the European Commission, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and NATO. There was some controversy as to whether Belarus had be “un-invited” by Ukraine. Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry claimed that Belarus was not a member of any of the organizations invited, and that relations between Belarus and the European Union had deteriorated. Continue Reading