KYIV – President Petro Poroshenko has warned that Ukrainians may become disillusioned with their pro-European path if the European Union further delays closer integration with Kyiv. The EU agreed to provide visa waivers for Ukrainians last month after weeks of stalling, but the decision has not gone into effect. “To delay further would be flagrantly unfair as Ukraine has paid a high price,” Mr. Poroshenko told foreign ambassadors to Ukraine on January 16. “It would also be dangerous because more unreasonable delays would undermine Ukrainians’ faith in Europe. This is exactly what Russia wants,” he said, adding that Ukraine’s EU Association Agreement also should be ratified.
KYIV – U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, long the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine, will make a farewell visit to Kyiv on Sunday, January 15, it was announced by the Office of President Petro Poroshenko. The Reuters news service noted that the vice-president, one of Ukraine’s strongest political supporters will fly to Ukraine “as the country looks forward with apprehension to the new administration of Donald Trump.” Mr. Biden has visited Ukraine five times (his most recent visit was in December 2015), and he maintains regular phone contact with Mr. Poroshenko. Reuters noted: “Officials in Ukraine have expressed concern that U.S. support could wane following the January 20 inauguration of Trump, who has voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and a desire to improve ties with Moscow. Biden, who last year promised the ‘unwavering support’ of the United States for Ukraine, has nevertheless chastised officials for lackluster reform efforts, warning that endemic corruption risks undermining international will to maintain sanctions on Russia.” (Reuters, The New York Times, RFE/RL)
Tillerson on Russian actions in Crimea
WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State-nominee Rex Tillerson said the United States should have had a more robust military response following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Asked at his confirmation hearing on January 11 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) what the U.S. response should have been, Mr. Tillerson said more defensive weapons, intelligence and air surveillance should have been provided.
KYIV – Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, in his New Year’s address on December 31, stated, “Not only children, but everyone, irrespective of age, believe in miracles. Especially in this festive time, which begins with St. Nicholas and ends with Epiphany. Especially this night, when New Year comes and fills our hearts with joy, faith and hope. There are more grounds for optimism than a year ago.” He went on to note: It still will not be easy, but the worst in the economy is already behind.
UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. General Assembly has passed a resolution that recognizes Crimea as “temporarily occupied” by Russia and condemns the “abuses” and “discrimination” against Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and other groups on the peninsula. The General Assembly vote on December 19 was 70 in favor and 26 against the resolution, with 77 countries abstaining. The resolution also calls on Russia, as an “occupying power,” to end all abuses against people living in Crimea, including arbitrary detentions, torture and other “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.” Serhiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said in a statement after the General Assembly’s vote that the human rights situation on Crimea had “deteriorated sharply” since Russian forces took control of the Ukrainian territory in February 2014 and illegally annexed it. Mr. Kyslytsya noted that the latest report on Crimea by the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, released on December 8, described the situation since Russia took control as a “climate of repression against dissenting voices.” The General Assembly resolution was first approved by the U.N.’s human rights committee on November 15. Russia had lobbied against the resolution, calling it “politically motivated” and “one-sided.” (RFE/RL)
Verkhovna Rada passes 2017 budget
KYIV – Ukraine’s Parliament has approved a budget for 2017, raising its chances of securing more aid from the International Monetary Fund under a $17.5 billion loan package.
KYIV – Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says its website was temporarily knocked out of service by cyberattacks that appeared to be aimed at preventing the release of news about Kyiv’s conflict in eastern regions with Russia-backed separatists. Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said the website was regularly targeted on December 13 by denial-of-service attacks. Mr. Motuzyanyk said it was not clear who was responsible for the latest attack, but the situation had been brought under control. Ukraine’s Finance Ministry and State Treasury websites were attacked a week earlier. The Finance Ministry blamed hackers who it said were trying to discredit the government’s reform drive.
BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called for continued diplomatic pressure and sanctions on Russia until Moscow respects a February 2015 agreement aimed at ending the Ukraine conflict. “The international community must keep pressuring Russia to respect its obligations, especially while the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains so serious,” Mr. Stoltenberg said after talks with NATO and Ukraine foreign ministers in Brussels on December 7. “It’s important that economic sanctions be maintained,” he added. Separately, German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he expected European Union leaders to prolong sanctions on Russia when they meet in Brussels next week. Stoltenberg said there was a “massive increase in cease-fire violations” in Ukraine’s east, where fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,600 people since April 2014.
KYIV – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called for the Holodomor, the Ukraine famine of the 1930s, to be recognized as “genocide.” Mr. Poroshenko spoke at a ceremony in Kyiv on November 26 marking the official Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holodomor, which commemorates the millions who died of famine under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. “I just signed a presidential decree that among other things tasks the Foreign Ministry to continue its work to achieve a recognition of Holodomor among the international community, foreign countries and international organizations as the genocide of the Ukrainian people,” he said. President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, representatives from Ukraine’s churches, and envoys from various countries attended a ceremony to honor the victims. There was also a nationwide minute’s silence observed at 4 p.m. local time. The official Day of Remembrance for the victims of the famine is marked every year on the fourth Saturday of November. (RFR/RL)
Russian forces in Crimea on high alert
MOSCOW – Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reports that Russian air-defense forces in Crimea have been placed on high alert on the eve of planned Ukrainian missile tests near the Black Sea peninsula.
OTTAWA – U.S. President Barack Obama met in Berlin on November 18 with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The White House stated, “The leaders also took stock of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. They unanimously agreed on the continued need for Russia to fully meet its commitments under the Minsk agreements and that Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia must remain in place until it does so. The leaders expressed concern over the continued lack of a durable ceasefire and reaffirmed the importance of creating a security environment that is conducive to moving forward with free and fair local elections in the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing)
Obama wants Ukraine deal
PRAGUE – U.S. President Barack Obama says he wants to reach a negotiated peace settlement in Ukraine before he leaves office in January. During a wide-ranging press conference in Peru on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Mr. Obama also criticized Iran and Russia’s role in Syria’s brutal civil war.
UNITED NATIONS – A United Nations panel has condemned human rights abuses in Crimea and pressed Russia to allow U.N. monitors to visit the Ukrainian territory it annexed in 2014. The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee, in its first action on Crimea, adopted a resolution drafted by Ukraine and backed by the United States, France and Britain by a vote of 73 to 23 on November 15, with 76 abstentions. The resolution next month goes for a vote before the full assembly of 193 members, which is expected to approve it. Russia lobbied hard against the resolution, dismissing it as “politically motivated” and “one-sided.” The people of Crimea “chose to vote in a historic referendum to reunite with Russia,” said Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry official Anatoly Viktorov. “It completely ignores the negative impact that the actions of Ukrainian authorities have had on the residents of Crimea,” who have the same rights and privileges as other Russian citizens, he said.
KYIV – Ukrainians have expressed disbelief and worry after they awoke to discover that a U.S. election outcome many had feared – a Donald Trump presidency – had become reality. “Tell me I’m sleeping and this is a terrible nightmare!” a shocked Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Kyiv-based NGO Anticorruption Action Center, wrote on Facebook on November 9. “Please someone tell me this is not happening…” tweeted civil activist Kateryna Kruk as it became apparent that Republican candidate Trump was closing in on a victory over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Kyiv considers Washington to be its strongest ally in its fight against a revanchist Russia, and Trump’s statements during the campaign have prompted concerns that he may be more accepting of Russia’s actions in Ukraine than the current administration. Many ordinary Ukrainians fear that Trump might end U.S. sanctions against Russia over its interference in Ukraine, formally recognize Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, and allow the Kremlin to restore its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.