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.
The U.S. special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, both warned this week that the situation in eastern Ukraine has significantly deteriorated. Their warnings came a week after the United Nations reported increased fighting in the Donbas between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed “separatists,” saying it has resulted in more civilians deaths and “further aggravated a dire human rights and humanitarian situation” as winter sets in. A total of 10,303 deaths related to the conflict have been recorded between April 14, 2014, and November 15, 2017. Ambassador Volker said on December 19 that 2017 has been the deadliest year since the conflict begun by Russian-backed militants started in April 2014. He added that the night of December 18 – when the village of Novoluhanske was attacked – “was one of the most violent nights, certainly since February, and possibly this year.” The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that eight civilians were injured.
Things in Ukraine are heating up, as reported by our Kyiv correspondent Mark Raczkiewycz, who says the unrest on Kyiv’s streets last weekend is something the capital has not seen since the Euro-Maidan – the Revolution of Dignity. This time, the demands are for Ukrainian authorities to get serious about the fight against corruption, with some calling for President Petro Poroshenko’s resignation or impeachment. (Yes, the Mikheil Saakashvili drama is connected to this political crisis, but we would argue it is not the main element.)
Mr. Poroshenko’s credentials as a reformer are being questioned since his administration is seen as hindering the establishment of an anti-corruption court. Furthermore, pro-presidential parliamentary factions have tried to create obstacles to the work of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), and they have dismissed outspoken anti-graft activist Yegor Soboliev from his post as chairman of the parliamentary Anti-Corruption Committee
The reaction from the United States, the European Union and others was unequivocal. “It serves no purpose for Ukraine to fight for its body in Donbas if it loses its soul to corruption,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
As our readers are fully aware, this year marks the beginning of observances of the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, the Great Famine of 1932-1933 that killed millions in Ukraine – 4 million, according to some sources; 7 million to 10 million, according to others. We will never know the exact number because this genocide organized by Joseph Stalin and his regime was not meant to become known. Contemporaneous reports of hunger in Soviet-controlled Ukraine were denied, and willing sycophants supported those denials. For decades, the Holodomor was a forbidden topic in the USSR. According to historian and Holodomor researcher Stanislav Kulchytsky (writing in 2005), “The Stalinist taboo on mentioning the Famine was broken only after the Ukrainian diaspora succeeded in persuading the U.S. Congress to create a temporary commission to investigate the events of 1932-1933 in Ukraine.” The U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine, whose staff director was the late James Mace, in its final report to Congress in 1988 concluded that the Holodomor was genocide. That determination was actually made much earlier by none other than the coiner of the term “genocide.” Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer, first used the term in 1944 in his book “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe,” and he championed adoption of the Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide that was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
During a whirlwind U.S. book tour in late October, Anne Applebaum – author, journalist, historian, columnist, professor – introduced her groundbreaking new book, “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine,” to diverse audiences, Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian alike, and was featured in quite a few broadcast, print and online news media. Nearly seven years in the marking, “Red Famine” presents conclusive evidence that the Holodomor was genocide committed against the Ukrainian nation; furthermore, it says the Holodomor was part of a larger plan. As Ms. Applebaum told her audience at Harvard, “Within six months [after Stalin decided to increase the grain quotas for Ukraine and to seize everything edible] more than 4 million Ukrainians died. But famine was only half the story. While peasants were dying in the countryside, the Soviet secret police, the same people who were organizing the Famine, simultaneously launched an attack on the Ukrainian intellectuals and political elite.
The following guest editorial is by Michael Sawkiw Jr., chairman of the U.S. Committee for Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Awareness. It is adapted from his remarks at the Holodomor commemoration held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Saturday, November 18. “To defeat the enemy, only one solution was possible: they would have to be starved out.” The preceding statement describes a conclusion about the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide, or Holodomor, from “The Black Book of Communism,” a book that illuminated the unspeakable horrors of Communist tyranny worldwide. For decades in Ukraine, the Holodomor – Stalin’s genocide that took the lives of 7 million to 10 million Ukrainians by starvation in 1932-1933 – was spoken of only in whispers, if at all.
The centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution was marked in various ways around the globe. For example, as noted by RFE/RL, the Russian Communist Party on November 7 staged a celebratory march in Moscow, while in the Baltic states, the date was not marked at all. In Ukraine, the date is solemn and sorrowful, as it recalls more than seven decades of Communist Party rule, oppression, the Gulag and murder on an enormous scale. The number of Ukrainian victims of Soviet repression cannot be fully known; millions died in the Holodomor of 1932-1933. In The Washington Post, columnist Marc A. Thiessen wrote: “The death toll of communism, cited in ‘The Black Book of Communism,’ is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting).
On October 30, Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 criminal charges, among them conspiracy against the United States, failure to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and money laundering. Both men have pleaded not guilty. What makes this case most interesting to our readers is that the FARA charges are related to Mr. Manafort’s work when he represented the interests of the odious Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies. The indictment was the result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. Mr. Manafort, readers will recall, at one time served as campaign manager for Donald Trump. In particular, he was the campaign’s manager at the time of the Republican Party convention.
The following is a guest editorial by Anisa Mycak, a freelance writer and former columnist of The Ukrainian Weekly. Ms. Mycak’s news story headlined “Ukrainian Museum and Library of Stamford marks 80th anniversary” appeared on the front page of our October 22 issue.
In the Ukrainian American community, whose roots in the United States extend back into the late 1800s, the 80th anniversary of one of its venerable cultural institutions is cause for celebration, not just by its own members, but by the community as a whole. Thus, it is with interest and reflection that we have been following the recent 80th anniversary celebration of the Ukrainian Museum and Library of Stamford, both for what it tells us about this particular institution and for what it tells us about the state of affairs of many other cultural institutions in our community today.
Back in August of last year, Dr. Ulana Suprun was appointed Ukraine’s acting minister of health. This Ukrainian American physician was well-known to our readers, foremost as the person behind Patriot Defence, the organization that has provided combat lifesaver training to Ukraine’s soldiers and NATO-standard individual first aid kits for the battlefield. She hit the ground running and soon proclaimed her revamped ministry’s intention to reform Ukraine’s Soviet-era health care system. On October 19, acting Minister Suprun scored a major victory when the Verkhovna Rada, with 240 votes for, approved a comprehensive health care package that promises to advance the health of Ukraine’s people and improve how the health care system operates. It’s also a reform that is seen by the West as further evidence of Ukraine’s movement toward the European Union and away from Russia.