Iryna Nozdrovska in a photo from Facebook.

Ukrainian activist lawyer stabbed to death in Kyiv

KYIV – Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister has called the killing of an activist attorney in Kyiv “a challenge to the state” as the authorities, facing public outrage, opened a murder investigation into the death of Iryna Nozdrovska.

Dr. Andriy Meleshevych, president of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, bestows an honorary doctorate on Anne Applebaum.

Anne Applebaum receives honorary doctorate at NaUKMA

KYIV – Anne Applebaum, journalist, historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, received an honorary doctorate at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (known by the acronym NaUKMA) during a ceremony on December 16, 2017, in a packed university auditorium filled by over 750 students. Many of the students asked excellent questions after Ms. Applebaum’s lecture based on her book, “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine” about the genocidal Holodomor of 1932-1933. Ms. Applebaum’s visit to Ukraine included a NaUKMA fund-raising event at the Kyiv Art Arsenal, a press conference, a book presentation, and meetings with media and civil society reformers, as well as members of the executive and legislative branches of the Ukrainian government. The author also had an extensive private meeting with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

Crimean peninsula as playground for Russian-Ukrainian spy war

A Russian court in occupied Sevastopol back on November 16, 2017, sentenced Ukrainian former military expert Dmitry Shtyblykov to five years imprisonment in a strict penal colony (Regnum, November 16). Mr. Shtyblykov worked at the think tank Nomos, which, prior to the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, operated in Sevastopol. A year earlier, on November 9, 2016, he was apprehended in that Black Sea port city, together with two other suspects – Vladimir Dudtko and Alexey Bessarabov (the latter had also worked at Nomos) (Krymr.com, November 10, 2016). All three men are former Ukrainian officers. According to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), these “subversive and terrorist groups” of the Ukrainian Intelligence Service “were aiming to commit acts of sabotage on the military infrastructure facilities and livelihood of the Crimean peninsula” (Fsb.ru, November 10, 2016).

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch visits young people with disabilities at the Dzherelo Children’s Rehabiliation Center in Lviv.

U.S. ambassador visits children’s rehab center in Lviv

LVIV – U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch visited the Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Lviv on November 23, 2017. She met with the children and young people of the center during a tour of the facility. Dzherelo has been serving children with disabilities in the Lviv Region since 1993. It serves 170 children daily and is the only center of its kind in Ukraine. According to Peace Corps Volunteer Christie Taylor, the ambassador “seemed to be impressed by our participants and staff.

RFE/RL reporters faced ‘relentless pressure’ in 2017

WASHINGTON – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists have been targeted in no fewer than 38 incidents in at least 12 of the countries they cover in 2017, in what the company has called “relentless pressure” on its journalistic mission. “We report on local politics, social issues, corruption, wars and extremist movements in places where both governments and non-state actors would prefer to control the media,” said RFE/RL President Thomas Kent. “Our reporters take enormous risks because they believe their work matters and that free societies need a free press.”

The number of incidents represents an increase over previous years and coincides with a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that says the record number of journalists jailed worldwide this year is indicative of “a global crisis in freedom of the press.” RFE/RL reporters work in many of the countries where CPJ documented imprisoned journalists, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Among the most serious cases, RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena is serving a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence following a conviction on “separatism” charges in Russia-annexed Crimea. On December 18, 2017, the peninsula’s Supreme Court let stand Mr. Semena’s conviction and sentence, but reduced a ban on his “public activities” from three years to two.

UWC calls on international officials to boycott FIFA World Cup in Russia

TORONTO – The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) is calling upon all high-ranking officials of governments and international organizations to boycott the games of the 21st World Cup of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) scheduled to be played in the Russian Federation from June 14 to July 15, 2018.

Participants of the symposium on the Holodomor at California State University, Fresno.

A first in California: symposium commemorates the Holodomor

FRESNO, Calif. – Quoting the Book of Matthew, the Rev. Gregory Zubacz of the Ukrainian Catholic Mission Church in Fresno, Calif., read the following beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

First in Ukrainian, then in English, the Rev. Zubacz stated, “Our hunger and thirst for the truth is why we have come together today, to demonstrate that the truth can never remain hidden, and to tell our story to the world. And by gathering here and doing so, we are plowing a field of justice in the world so that the seeds of true peace may grow for future generations to be nourished with. Where once was sown a bitter harvest may we now sow the seeds of hope so that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness may be satisfied.”

With his homily on the importance of truth the Rev. Zubacz set the tone for the first symposium on the Holodomor to be held in California. Ukrainians as a community share a common fate – the historical trauma of the Holodomor – the genocidal Famine of 1932-1933.

The Rev. Dr. John Kovalchuk

The Rev. Dr. John Kovalchuk, 78, retired leader of Ukrainian Baptists

TREVOSE, Pa. – The Rev. Dr. John Kovalchuk, a retired leader of Ukrainian Baptists in the United States, died on December 19, 2017, at the age of 78. He was born in Argentina on June 23, 1939, and completed studies at the Ukrainian Bible Institute in South America. He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1974 and served for three years as assistant pastor of the Ukrainian Baptist Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Then he was called to become pastor of the Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church in Crum Lynne, Pa.

Natalia Sedletska

Light of Justice award goes to investigative journalist

KYIV – Investigative journalist Natalie Sedletska of the TV program “Schemes” was presented the Light of Justice award on December 2, 2017, at the 10th gala dinner of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). The award was established by the late Dr. Anastasia Shkilnyk, a Ukrainian Canadian philanthropist, author and academic who named it after her father, a renowned lawyer and community and political activist during the liberation movement of Ukraine in 1917-1920, Dr. Mykhailo Shkilnyk. The award is intended to recognize Ukrainians who distinguish themselves for moral, spiritual and ethical leadership. Previous recipients of the award include former Ukrainian dissident Yevhen Sverstiuk; Mustafa Dzhemilev, former chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people; and community activist Larissa Zalyvna. Bishop Borys Gudziak, President of UCU, said as he presented the award: “Anastasia Shkilnyk was a very noble woman.

Finally… lethal weapons for Ukraine

In our last issue of 2017, we reported on the front page that the U.S. State Department had approved an export license for Ukraine to buy certain types of light weapons and small arms from U.S. manufacturers. That decision, announced to the public on December 20 (and to Congress a week earlier) came several months after the State Department and the Pentagon had proposed to the White House that the U.S. help Ukraine defend itself by providing lethal weapons. Two days later came updated news that the administration of President Donald Trump had approved a plan to provide lethal defensive weapons, including the Javelin anti-tank missiles that Ukraine had long sought. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on December 22 that the U.S. had decided to provide “enhanced defensive capabilities” to help Ukraine build its military long-term and deter further aggression. “U.S. assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself,” she underscored.