Poet and publisher Ivan Malkovych receives the Taras Shevchenko National Prize for his contribution to promoting Ukrainian literature from President Petro Poroshenko on March 9. 

Shevchenko Prize laureate Malkovych offers eloquent defense of the Ukrainian language

KYIV – When Ivan Malkovych, the renowned poet and book publisher, took the podium to accept this year’s Taras Shevchenko National Prize for literature, he passionately exalted the Ukrainian language and voiced disapproval for how the award’s namesake is portrayed in society. The selection committee for the nation’s most prestigious state award in the arts had asked him to give a five-minute speech for his prize-winning poetry collection “A Plantain with New Poems” (Podorozhnyk z Novymy Virshamy). Mr. Malkovych, 55, instead spoke twice as long, and very quickly at that, on March 9. He first lamented that school curriculums still portray Mr. Shevchenko as a “serf and peasant poet-martyr.”

Instead, the founder of the A-BA-BA-HA-LA-MA-HA publishing house called the bard “modern and contemporary… because the real meanings of Shevchenko in many of his works sound like heavy, hard rock, and not syrupy pop music.”

The Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast native then called for a law that will predominantly replace Russian with the Ukrainian language in media, including television and radio, and on advertisements by introducing quotas. Noting that “language is the most significant marker of national self-identity,” Mr. Malkovych invoked the 19th century Irish nationalist Thomas Davis by saying that “a nation should defend its language more than its territory…”

He added, “if there’ll be Ukrainian language here, then we’ll have order; and if not, then we’ll have an eternal Putin [a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin], no matter what he may be called.”

Another historical reference was to Winston Churchill.

Ukraine lawmaker calls on U.S. to investigate new ‘evidence’ of secret payments to Manafort

KYIV – Paul Manafort is under scrutiny again after a Ukrainian lawmaker released documents he says show that U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman went to great lengths to hide $750,000 tied to his work for former President Viktor Yanukovych. The documents, made public by National Deputy Serhiy Leshchenko at a press conference in Kyiv on March 21, include an invoice that bears the name of Mr. Manafort’s Virginia-based consulting company, a blue seal and what appears to be his signature. Initially described in a report published by The New York Times on March 20, the document seems to show that $750,000 was laundered through an offshore account and disguised as payment for computers. Mr. Leshchenko called on Ukrainian and U.S. law-enforcement agencies to investigate the payment. “This is money stolen from Ukrainian citizens and has been paid to Manafort for [his work] with our former corrupt president,” Mr. Leshchenko charged in a brief interview with RFE/RL on March 21, speaking in English.

Third anniversary of Russia’s occupation of Crimea

Canada condemns Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland issued the following statement, “Third Anniversary of Illegal Annexation of Crimea,” on March 16. Today we mark three years since Russia’s illegal annexation and invasion of Crimea. We condemn unreservedly this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Since the occupation of Crimea, there has been a severe suppression of human rights, including freedom of expression and association. Canada is deeply troubled by the politically motivated application of “anti-terrorist” and “anti-extremist” legislation; ongoing harassment of human rights activists, journalists and lawyers; arbitrary detentions; disappearances; and the persecution of Crimean Tatars and other minorities.

Ukraine’s navy: Conceptual aspects and cooperation with the West

In late February 2017, the commander of Ukraine’s naval forces, Vice-Admiral Ihor Voronchenko, in an interview with Ukrainian Channel 5, said that the country was considering procuring used combat ships from the West as a way to increase Ukraine’s naval capabilities. The vice admiral stated Kyiv would be willing to purchase minesweepers and littoral-zone ships (Channel 5, February 27). Employing second-hand combat ships to reinforce one’s naval forces is an established international practice. Ukraine’s neighbors Poland and Romania both bought used frigates in the past (Poland from the United States, Romania from the United Kingdom) to strengthen their own maritime security and defense (Navy.pl, IHS Jane’s, March 17, 2016). Several years ago, Ukrainian military authorities reportedly also considered procuring used naval platforms, but these plans were never implemented (Radio Svoboda, March 26, 2009).

Ukraine’s Information Security Doctrine: Breakthrough or veneer of change?

On February 25, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko approved an Information Security Doctrine to address this specific subset of the “numerous national security threats faced by Ukraine” (President.gov.ua, February 25). In describing the main threats to the country in the domain of information security, the document explicitly names the Russian Federation and its “ruinous activities” that fall within the scope of so-called “hybrid warfare,” which mixes military and non-military methods such as active measures, cyberattacks, propaganda and the like. The doctrine, which came into force on the day of its publication, delineates the “separation of responsibilities” between the National Security and Defense Council, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Information Policy. These institutions have been tasked with elaborating, implementing and supervising concrete steps to secure Ukraine’s information space. Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Special Communications Services, and the National Institute for Strategic Studies have been afforded additional powers and responsibilities in the same domain.

Journalist Mykola Semena talks to journalists before his court appearance in Symferopol on March 20.

RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena goes on trial in Crimea

Crimean journalist Mykola Semena has gone on trial on separatism-related charges in the Russian-controlled territory, telling reporters minutes before the hearing that he is innocent. The judge adjourned the trial on March 20 for two weeks shortly after it got under way, following a motion by the defense to provide for a more open and accessible process by holding it in a larger courtroom. The trial is scheduled to resume on April 3. Mr. Semena, an RFE/RL contributor, is being prosecuted for an article he wrote criticizing Moscow’s seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and expressing support for a blockade of the territory initiated by Ukrainian activists. The trial at a Russian court in the Crimean capital, Symferopol, began amid mounting international pressure on Moscow to drop the case against Mr. Semena, 66.

ACTION ITEM: UCCA calls on community to support screening of “Bitter Harvest”

“Bitter Harvest” is a love story, set against the backdrop of the 1932-1933 Holodomor in Ukraine. Produced by prominent Ukrainian Canadian Ian Ihnatowycz, the film brings the tragedy of the Famine-Genocide to audiences around the world. Set between the two world wars and based on historical events, “Bitter Harvest” conveys the untold story of the Holodomor, the genocidal famine engineered by Joseph Stalin, which ultimately killed millions of Ukrainians. The film presents a powerful tale of love, honor, rebellion and survival at a time when Ukraine was forced to adjust to the horrifying territorial ambitions of the burgeoning Soviet Union. With an exceptional cast of established and rising stars, the film epically recreates one of the most dramatic and dangerous episodes in the history of 20th century Europe.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea

Three years ago, Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula, lopping off a part of Ukraine’s territory. Moscow sent troops into Crimea on February 28, 2014, in what the chair of the Verkhovna Rada and Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said was “brazen and unjustified aggression, thinly veiled as ‘protecting Russian speakers’.” The incursion came just a week after the corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych, a vassal of Russia and Vladimir Putin, fled Ukraine. It was a flagrant violation of international law, the U.N. Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, etc. The invasion was soon followed by the March 16 “referendum”– a political farce that was declared illegitimate by the U.S. and the West – in which, according to the occupying “authorities,” voter turnout out was 83 percent and some 97 percent voted for Crimea joining the Russian Federation. The voting was certainly held under duress, and there were questions about who exactly voted.

April 2, 1951

Sixty-six years ago, on April 2, 1951, The Ukrainian Weekly wrote about Russian imperialist propaganda and American Russian advisors. The article cited four varieties of propaganda based on anti-Communist Russian imperialism – the extreme right monarchists, Russian Social-Democrats, Mensheviks and Russian nationalists. In the first few months of 1951, through the American press, radio and other media, as well as university chairs and scholarly publications, there was an observed increase in the message of Russian imperialism, The Weekly noted. “In this vociferous clamor to preserve ‘Holy Mother Russia,’ we see almost every Russian political group and party, such as the extreme rightist Monarchists, who dream of the return of Czardom, and the moderate Russian Social Democrats who, while championing self-determination of the Asiatic peoples, are against the self-determination of the non-Russian peoples, enslaved by Moscow. […] Russian Nationalists… planned to erect a Russian nationalist empire modeled upon that of Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Canada’s unwavering support for Ukraine

We recently announced that the government of Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, Operation UNIFIER, will continue for another two years. By renewing this mission, we not only continue to build upon the strong economic, social, military and cultural ties between Canada and Ukraine, but we publicly send a message of deterrence to Russia. Canada is proud to continue to be at the forefront of the international community’s support to the people of Ukraine as they strive for security, sovereignty and stability. Over the past year, Canadian Armed Forces members deployed on Op UNIFIER have focused on transferring professional soldier skills to members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Over 3,200 Ukrainian soldiers have received training in combat support, weapons and marksmanship, explosive threat recognition, military policing and combat first aid.

UCC statement on 2014 Crimean “referendum”

The statement below, on the “Third Anniversary of Russia’s Illegal, Illegitimate Crimea ‘Referendum,’ ” was released by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress on March 16. Three years ago, on March 16, 2014, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Crimea, Russian “authorities” staged an illegal and illegitimate “referendum.”

In violation of international law and numerous treaties to which Russia is a signatory, the “referendum” was held under the barrels of Russian guns and in the presence of the Russian armed forces. Two days later, the Russian Federation attempted to annex Crimea. Canada, the United States, the European Union and the international community do not recognize the results of this sham “referendum.” Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine. In the last three years, Russian occupation “authorities” in the Crimea have instituted a regime of terror against anyone who dares oppose Russia’s illegal occupation.

Co-organizers of the March 13 benefit lunch in Longboat Key, Fla., for Olha Onyshko’s “Women of Maidan” film project. From left are: Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, Ken Hepburn, Ms. Onyshko, Anisa Mycak, George Mycak and Roma Rainey.

How to make $2,500 in three hours

Here’s a way to make money. You need a fine cause, good friends and a determination to make it happen. This is how it happened in Longboat Key, Fla. Olha Onyshko, M.FA. in film and video from American University and a D.C. area-resident, was in Florida screening her documentary film “Women of Maidan” at the Fort Myers Documentary Film Festival about 100 miles away.

A wondrous weekend!

Lesia and I recently experienced a wondrous weekend beginning with a gala banquet celebrating the 80th anniversary of St. Nicholas Cathedral School in Chicago and concluding with a viewing of “Bitter Harvest” the next afternoon. Some 450 people, mostly graduates, attended the joy-filled banquet. We had the pleasure of being seated with Sisters of St. Basil: Sisters Irene, Girard, Jo Ann, Dorothy Ann and Maria.

Mariana Sadovska is the musical director and composer for the Wilma Theater’s new production “Adapt!” in Philadelphia.

Mariana Sadovska joins production of “Adapt!” in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – Mariana Sadovska, Ukrainian composer, singer and actor, has returned to the U.S. as musical director and composer for “Adapt!” – a new play about a refugee’s journey being presented at the award-winning Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. “Adapt!” tells the story of 22-year-old Lenka who flees authoritarian Czechoslovakia in the 1970s. Written by Wilma Theater director Blanka Zizka based on her own life, “Adapt!” will resonate with many in the Ukrainian diaspora who are refugees themselves or the children and grandchildren of refugees. Ms. Sadovska, originally from Lviv and now living in Cologne, Germany, was invited by Ms. Zizka to collaborate on the play after she saw Ms. Sadovska last year in Philadelphia, at a performance that was almost cancelled by a snowstorm. “I just loved the concert so much, “Ms. Zizka said.