Poroshenko to make repeat bid for U.N. peacekeepers in Donbas

KYIV – Historically, Ukraine has been in the top tier of contributors to United Nations peacekeeping missions in conflict zones worldwide. Now, one of the intergovernmental body’s truce contingents might land in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has waged an unprovoked war since April 2014, a month after it illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was to leave Kyiv on September 15 to attend the 72nd session of the U.N. General Assembly, and he plans to address the U.N. Security Council next week. At the podium, post-Soviet Ukraine’s fifth president is scheduled to repeat the proposal he made more than two years ago: to send U.N. peacekeepers to the war-torn easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk amid two internationally brokered ceasefires that never took hold since February 2015. Then, the West, namely Germany and France – which were integral in cementing a truce between Kyiv and Moscow – weren’t keen on the idea.

Mikheil Saakashvili in Przemysl (Peremyshl) in Poland before boarding a train bound for Ukraine on September 10. He is seen at a press briefing with Yulia Tymoshenko.

Saakashvili returns to Ukraine

Police serve him with notice on breaching border

LVIV – Ukrainian border-control authorities have formally read out a document to Mikheil Saakashvili on what officials said was his illegal entry into Ukraine on September 10. The ex-Georgian president and former governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region was served the notice on September 12 in front of a group of journalists and lawmakers outside of a hotel in Lviv, with police and border guards on hand. Ukraine’s state-run Ukrinform news agency reported that Mr. Saakashvili signed the document, acknowledging the allegations of an “administrative violation,” during the meeting outside the Leopolis Hotel in central Lviv, where he has been staying since September 10, when he and supporters broke through a line of Ukrainian border guards to cross from Poland to Ukraine. Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry was later quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Mr. Saakashvili was in the country illegally but authorities were not intent on detaining him at the moment. Local media said he was ordered to appear at the Mostyskyi District Court of the Lviv region on September 18 for a hearing over the incident.

Participants of the annual general meeting of the Ukrainian World Congress held in Kyiv.

Ukrainian World Congress celebrates its 50th anniversary in Kyiv

KYIV – The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) held its 50th anniversary commemoration at the Mystetskyi Arsenal in Kyiv on August 26. Joining the UWC leadership and representatives of its international network were Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and First Lady Maryna Poroshenko; Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP); Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC); and other religious leaders, high-ranking officials from Ukraine, diplomats from around the world and representatives of Ukrainian civil society. Speaking on behalf of the UWC, President Eugene Czolij enumerated the international organization’s achievements in furthering Ukrainian interests throughout its 50-ayear history. He particularly focused on the activities of the over 20-million strong Ukrainian diaspora headed by the UWC in support of the restoration and consolidation of Ukrainian statehood, and highlighted the current priorities related to the support of Ukraine in countering Russian aggression, and in the realization of its aspirations for European and Euro-Atlantic integration. President Petro Poroshenko, in his address at the jubilee event, thanked the UWC for its longstanding support of Ukraine and asserted that the UWC is a strong and consolidated voice for Ukraine’s aspirations and its loyal defender worldwide.

Russia’s Kerch Strait bridge: New threat to regional stability

After illegally annexing Crimea in 2014, Russia declared it would build a 12-mile-long road-and-rail bridge across the Kerch Strait, connecting mainland Russia to the occupied Crimean peninsula. And last year (2016), with construction under way, Moscow officials promised that the building of this massive bridge would “in no way limit [maritime] navigation in the Kerch-Enikalsk Channel [a deeper, navigable portion of the Kerch Strait, linking the Black and Azov Seas], ensuring free passage for vessels both during the construction phase and in the period of use” (RIA Novosti, February 19, 2016). But instead of holding to this pledge, freedom of passage via the Kerch Strait – which in fact is protected by international law – is now at serious risk due to Russian actions. In May, Moscow revealed the new maximum dimensions of ships allowed to pass through the strait: due to the unique construction features of the Kerch bridge, to cross underneath vessels can be no more than 160 meters long, 31 meters wide and 33 meters tall, with a draft of up to 8 meters (Ports.com.ua, June 14; 0629.com.ua, June 21). And this past August, Russia for the first time fully closed the Kerch Strait on account of the bridge work, citing construction requirements while it fitted the central arches on the structure (Bsamp.ru, Bsamp.ru.pdf, accessed September 5).

Russia effectively supports North Korea in its standoff with the U.S.

Vladimir Putin’s formula for solving the Korean nuclear problem by appeasement, investment, cooperation and removal of sanctions with little if any preconditions is exactly how Moscow wants itself to be treated by the West. Speaking to journalists after the conclusion of the latest leadership summit of the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), held in Xiamen, China, President Vladimir Putin threatened to continue the tit-for-tat cycle of diplomatic expulsions and diplomatic property takeovers with the United States. Earlier this summer, Moscow ordered the U.S. to recall its diplomats from Russia to match the number of Russian diplomats accredited in the U.S. (455 persons) by September 1. And last month (August), Mr. Putin announced that some 755 U.S. “diplomats” must leave in order for both countries to have parity in the number of personnel (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, August 3, September 5). The U.S. Embassy fired hundreds of Russian employees, while mostly keeping its diplomatic staff intact; in retaliation, the U.S. government demanded the closure of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco and the evacuation of two other diplomatic buildings in Washington and New York.

‘That awkward moment’: Putin cited debunked MH17 claims in Oliver Stone interview

Russian President Vladimir Putin, it seems, didn’t get the memo – or just doesn’t care. A purported “Spanish air-traffic controller” at a Kyiv airport was exposed as a fake almost immediately after that Twitter persona claimed Ukrainian warplanes were flying near Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 before it was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. In comments left out of U.S. filmmaker Oliver Stone’s recent documentary on the Russian leader, Mr. Putin cited claims by a “specialist originating from Spain” in connection with the air disaster, which killed 298 people. “As far as I know, right away after this terrible catastrophe, one of the Ukrainian air controllers – I think he was a specialist originating from Spain – announced that he had seen a military aircraft in the corridor assigned for civil aircraft. And there could have been no other military aircraft than the one controlled by the Ukrainian authorities,” Mr. Putin is quoted as saying in a book based on Mr. Stone’s interviews.

…The treatment of the population in Russian-occupied Crimea remains alarming and is deteriorating. In August, authorities detained an elderly Crimean Tatar activist, Sever Karametov, for 10 days for picketing outside the courthouse in Symferopol in support of his compatriot, Akhtem Chigyoz, deputy chairperson of the banned Crimean Tatar Mejlis, who is the subject of politically motivated persecution. Another activist, Emil Minasov, was sentenced to a year and three months for expressing his opposition to Russia’s occupation on social media. Aleksiy Stogniy and Redvan Suleymanov were accused of spying for Ukraine and sentenced to three years and six months’ imprisonment, and one year and eight months’ imprisonment, respectively; plus a fine of 3.5 million rubles, reportedly on the basis of coerced confessions. Ruslan Zeytullaev had his sentence extended yet again to a total of 15 years’ imprisonment for alleged involvement with the political movement Hizbut-Takhrir, which operates legally in Ukraine.

Akhtem Chiygoz

Crimean Tatar leader sentenced to eight years in prison after sham trial

SYMFEROPOL, Ukraine – A court in Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Crimea region has sentenced prominent Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz, to eight years in prison after what Amnesty International called a “sham trial.”

A court in the regional capital, Symferopol, sentenced Mr. Chiygoz on September 11 after finding him guilty of organizing an illegal demonstration there in February 2014. Mr. Chiygoz is the deputy chairman of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar assembly that was outlawed by Russia after it occupied and seized control of the Black Sea peninsula. In Kyiv, Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a strongly worded protest over the trial, verdict and sentence. It said Mr. Chiygoz was arrested for “his support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and his fight for human rights.”

The case against Mr. Chiygoz was “yet another manifestation of Russia’s repressive policies on the Crimean peninsula aimed at suppressing dissent… and yet more evidence of discrimination against Crimean Tatars,” the ministry said.

On the sentencing of Crimean Tatar activist Akhtem Chiygoz

Statement by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 11 issued the following statement regarding Russia’s sentencing of Crimean Tatar activist Akhtem Chiygoz. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine expresses its resolute protest over the illegal sentencing of Ukrainian citizen Akhtem Chiygoz by the Russian occupation authorities on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to eight years of imprisonment. Akhtem Chiygoz, the deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, was punished by the Russian occupants for his support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and his fight for human rights. This is yet another manifestation of Russia’s repressive policies on the Crimean peninsula, aimed at suppressing dissent and opposition to the Kremlin regime, as well as yet more evidence of discrimination against Crimean Tatars. We demand that the Russian Federation release Akhtem Chiygoz, stop repressions against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians on the territory of occupied Crimea and restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Moscow must mobilize émigrés in U.S. for 2018 elections, says commentator

Zakhar Prilepin, a Russian writer, controversialist and opposition figure, says that Moscow must mobilize the 3 million Russians living in the United States in advance of the 2018 Congressional elections to help ensure the election of pro-Moscow candidates. In a Svobodnaya Pressa commentary, he says that Russian officials must recognize that this community is fundamentally different than it was in Soviet times. Then, it was largely anti-Moscow; but now, he argues, the situation has fundamentally changed – and Russia must take advantage of it (svpressa.ru/world/article/180600/). First of all, Mr. Prilepin writes, “the majority of Russians who’ve moved to the U.S. … vote for Republicans not for Democrats, and the Republicans, as you will understand, are something like the KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation] fortified by the LDPR [Liberal Democratic Party of Russia] and with a sprinkling of ‘United Russia.’ ” That means that “not only in Russia are ‘slaves’ dreaming of ‘a strong hand’ and other ‘militarism’ but there too” – in the U.S.

And second, “it is curious how Russians who want to get an American passport but still haven’t received it continue to vote in elections for the State Duma of the Russian Federation.” In 2011, the overwhelming majority of the Russians who took part voted for the systemic parties in Russia – United Russia, KPRF and LDPR. Only a third voted for Yabloko.

We remember Ilovaisk

In August, Ukraine solemnly marked the third anniversary of the battle of Ilovaisk, which took place on August 7-September 2, 2014. It was the bloodiest battle of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. The battle for this strategically important city located between Donetsk and Luhansk was aimed at cutting off supply lines between the two cities held by Russian-backed insurgents. Ukrainian government forces were on the move during the summer of 2014 and were successfully retaking areas that had not been under Ukraine’s control. They entered Ilovaisk on August 18, and battles in the streets ensued; there were reports that the city was now under government control.

September 21, 2014

Three years ago, on September 21, 2014, more than 26,000 people gathered in Moscow for what was considered at the time the largest opposition protest since Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third presidential term in 2012. Crowd estimates for the protest in Moscow were based on checkpoint results by the independent monitoring group SONAR. Thousands also demonstrated in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities against what they said was a covert Russian war in eastern Ukraine. Aleksandr Ryklin of the opposition Solidarity movement said the slogan for all of the protests was: “Putin, enough lying and making war!”

Yelena Volkova of Moscow said that Russian authorities should “stop this outrageous covert war that they don’t admit” waging.

centennial-of-uoc-usa

Proclamation of the Centennial Anniversary Year of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, immigrants to the United States of America from territories of Kyivan-Rus’ – later identified and recognized as the independent State of Ukraine – began new lives as settlers, steelworkers, farmers throughout the U.S.A. They came seeking a better life for their families free of suppression and oppression they had known in their native land. The first instincts of these new immigrants were to gather themselves together into local communities in order to provide support, comfort and social interaction, but most importantly of all, to worship God Almighty according to their 900+ year-old Ukrainian Orthodox customs and traditions. They sought to establish churches, first in the large cities of the United States around the year 1915, and eventually organized into a solid ecclesiastical structure in 1918. We, by the Grace of God, the present hierarchs of our Holy Church, hereby proclaim the year 2018 as the Centennial Anniversary Year of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. for our clergy, monastics and faithful, and we commemorate all those hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful who came before us, sacrificing so much more than most of us do 100 years later, for the extension of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Through those first 100 years of our history, our founders and benefactors gave of the best of what they had, in order to ensure the preservation of our rich spiritual legacy, inherited from our ancestors, preserving it in a land free of fear, repression and extinction.

Roald Hoffmann

Roald Hoffmann: Ukraine’s Nobel laureate

The small boy peered through the slats of the only window in the attic roof. It was a cold and dark evening – the moon had not risen yet. He was looking for any signs of movement, any shadow at the edge of the woods that would indicate that his father was close by. He was waiting for his father, Hillel Safran, to appear on this night in early April 1943. That night, Roald and his mother, Clara, were to wait in vain, for his father would never again return to their hiding place in the attic of Mykola Dyuk’s schoolhouse.